Sunday, November 21, 2010

Unplugged in Appalachia

Have you ever had an unplugged moment when you saw the world for what it was—its beauty and its downfall?

When I came home from a weekend mission trip in the Appalachian mountains with my church, my world looked different.

It was as though God pulled the plug on all the distractions that were weighing me down and keeping me from Him.  I thought of one of my teenager’s favorite rock songs called Comatose.  The band Skillet wrote it to describe the world around us as filled with people living in a comatose state—minds saturated with media and world messages that keep us from seeing the reality of God.  The CD artwork shows a little boy standing with a spellbound look on his face and a giant plug, which he must have just pulled out from a wall.  When you open the artwork, you see what he’s looking at—a twisted discombobulation of electronics which must have been keeping him in a comatose state, until that moment.

This weekend brought my family to that moment where the bigger picture came into view.  I wanted to describe it for those of you who prayed over us and wanted to know how it went, and for some of you who haven’t yet tried a mission trip, to encourage you to go and see what it does in your heart!

Some of you are visiting from the Proverbs 31 blog, so you already know the introduction.  The details follow.

My two older kids and I joined a team of thirty people from my church who partnered with Samaritan’s Feet to bring hundreds of pairs of shoes to a coal mining town in Virginia.

The little church we worked with in Virginia allowed us to set up in their basement and added their hands to our team. The pastor there has a heart for his town and welcomed us with open arms, encouraging his church members to roll up their sleeves and work side by side with us--one team on a mission.  We set up twenty stations with basins of warm sudsy water and brought the children and teens individually in with their parents.  Each individual received personal treatment from a team member. These are the steps we went through:
·     Greeting them - We greeted them and explained how we wanted to first honor them by washing their feet before giving them new shoes. 
·     Washing - We then began to wash, explaining how Jesus washed the feet of his disciples to show His love and to humble Himself before them. 
·     Bracelet - As we washed, we offer the child (with the parent’s permission) a colorful bracelet that helped us to tell the story of the gospel. 
·     The Gospel - We had the child, teen, or the parent read what’s on the bracelet. Meanwhile, we talked them through the Gospel story—black for sin, red for Christ’s blood, blue for our faith in accepting the gift of Christ, white for forgiveness, green for growth, and gold for Heaven. 
·     Receiving Christ - We ask if they’ve ever accepted Christ and would they like to pray to accept Him into their hearts.  Most wanted to, but we completely respected if someone wasn’t interested and moved on to give them their shoes.
·     New shoes – We dried their feet, placed new socks and a brand new pair of shoes on their feet.
·     Prayer - As we fitted them with new shoes, we asked if there is anything in their lives they would like us to pray with them over.  Most wanted us to.
·     Connection to the church - Many times the final step was to introduce them to the local church (the pastor or one of the church members) to get them connected.

We expected nods and polite gestures as we washed their feet like Jesus did and told them about the Gospel and what Christ did for them.  What we didn’t expect was a rampant grabbing onto the gospel—a more than willingness, a craving to ask Christ into their hearts. 

We expected a need for prayer, what we didn’t expect was the shared stories of abuse and neglect and badly placed foster situations and parents in jail or on drugs.  We didn’t expect open hearts that shared their stories and asked for open prayer. 

We expected smiles over new shoes, but what we didn’t expect was the need—children walking in on bare socks that stuck out through worn soles of old shoes, feet crusted with dirt and grime and shoes so old that mold grew on what was left of the canvas.

Our limited exposure gave some of us an impression that perhaps poor management and oversight in local government only worsened problems of poverty, drugs, abuse and homelessness. We met a woman who had her home razed to make way for a new coal mine. She showed us the photograph of her lost home. She now lives in a trailer like many in the town do. Many children or teens came with no parent. Many don’t live with parents. One downtrodden little girl hardly mumbled to me when I asked if her parents were there. “My uncle,” she whispered as she pointed to an unkempt man in the back of the room. Her little brother explained to my 13-year-old son who was washing his feet, "my uncle kicks me every morning when I wake up.” Brian prayed with him, and walked him through the little bracelet he gave him that explained how Christ died for his sins, and then helped the boy pray to receive Christ.

Another child surprised Brian. "Mom," Brian said. "When I went to take the boy's shoes off, I grabbed the bottoms of his shoes but felt socks instead. His shoes had no heels. It was just the top of the shoes and the front-- there was nothing but socks his heels were walking on. The little boy was so happy to get a pair of shoes."

A teen from the church in the town we partnered with joined us in the foot washing. She sat next to my 15-year-old washing feet and praying with people to receive Christ. During a break she shrugged and explained to him what it was like growing up there. "It's really hard to be a Christian here in the school. So many kids are having sex and doing drugs. It's not like they even think its wrong because most of their parents are doing it too. It's hard to not do what everyone else is doing. My brother went to a party and got stabbed and was left to die in a field. A helicopter picked him up and took him to a hospital. That was a while back. I don't know where he is now. I just know he's brain damaged now. I've lived in too many foster homes to count. I'm a lucky one. I'm in church. No one around here goes to church. They're all hooked on meth by the time they're my age and you're lucky just to finish high school." Of course as outsiders, we don't know how much of a teen's story falls to elaboration, but what we saw was the core reason for the poverty.

Our pastor's wife chatted with a little boy while painting his face. He and his two sisters and a brother came with a foster parent. "Baby," she said, "where's your mama?" The boy said as casually as though she was just at the grocery store... "Oh, Mama, she's in jail." His face brightened. "But she'll be home in about 8 years."

A woman who so obviously loves the Lord told us she's a great grandmother (no older than me) who has already raised 18 children. She explained why her five-year-old granddaughter is such a handful. "She was abused in the worst way by a foster dad when she was three. I was so busy raising my other great grandchildren I didn't even know she had been taken away from her mom and dad until a few weeks passed. I got her out of there as soon as I knew she was in the foster care. I knew right away something was wrong with her because she wouldn't talk. It was a year later when another family accused the man of abuse."

Our team drove through the town to pray for it. So many trailer parks, many run down with police ribbons around them because of a drug bust. Methamphetamines run rampant.

The town also has 50 churches-- all close to empty except for the older traditionalists. Anyone thinking they need to go across the world to deal with poverty need to open their eyes. It's a simple car ride to the next state.

Please don’t read this and think the weekend was depressing. We expected the poverty, so we didn’t let it get us down. It’s what God's doing through the beautiful hearts of a tiny church in that coal mining town and what we were allowed to experience with them that’s uplifting. Here are some incredible moments for me...

A teen girl put her feet in the sudsy water and sulked. I wondered if her makeup and clothing was just the style or a sign that she had already headed into a hard life full of the pain of consequences of poor choices. She was friendly enough and wanted the bracelet I offered. She said she'd never been to church but she'd heard of Jesus-- didn't seem interested. I walked her through the black color on the band. She nodded when I spoke of sin, and did a kind of eye roll when I moved on to the red part of the band-- blood. I first described the blood as punishment for sin and her eyes glazed over. No one likes hearing that sins have to be paid for. Then I explained how when I was her age I went to a church that made me feel like I had to live perfectly to get to Heaven and that if I had any sin on me I had to pay for it somehow-- either Hell or something I do here to make up for it. Her eyes still glazed over.

"But that was wrong," I said. I bent down to wash her feet while I kept talking. "Jesus took your punishment for you. He died on the cross so that you don't have to and all you have to do is accept that He died for you and that you're forgiven and it's done. You don't have to do anything else. You don't have to work your way into Heaven." I kept washing and then I heard....

"Really? That's it?" she said. Startled, I looked up at the teen's face. She had a surprised look in her eyes and a tear on her cheek. "Is that really true?" she asked. To see the earnest relief in her eyes choked me up. I didn't want to embarrass the girl so I didn't pry. It seemed obvious her tears were for something she felt ashamed of and that she liked hearing that it's easy to be forgiven.

We take for granted that people have already learned about the gospel. So few know it and so many want and need it. She prayed with me to invite Christ in her life and I told her that many people will try to tell her that there are other things she needs to do to get to Heaven but if she's sincere about accepting God's grace's she's already forgiven. I told her it's true even if her life takes a rough direction and she makes bad choices. God still loves her, no matter what. She got up and hugged me.

My thirteen year old was washing the feet of a teen that was obviously too old to be a teen- like about 21 or so. Brian is a quiet kind of guy—small for his age so that he looks even younger, like 11 or so. But there he was washing this twenty-something’s feet while talking to the guy about Christ. What a moment to see your child doing that!

Once he was done putting new shoes on the guy he asked, "What can I pray with you about?" The young man, goatee on his chin and earring in his brow, gave Brian a list, "well little guy, ya see that girl over there-- she and I have been dating about 3 years now. And we're thinking on moving in together." My eyes got big as this guy went on and on with my little boy who never meets people whose problems are bigger than can their parents afford to get them a cell phone. I'm thinking I'd have to rescue Brian and step in to pray in his place.

Brian didn't need that, and he didn’t skip a beat. He grabbed both the guy's hands and shut his eyes, praying as boldly and articulately as though this guy’s circumstance was normal and simple. "Dear God, please help this guy and his girlfriend set up a happy home and get married, and help them with their choices and protect them." He amazed me. It’s so easy to underestimate what God can do with even the smallest of hearts.

And that’s simply who we are. Serving in such a concentrated way doesn’t increase you, it makes you smaller, as you should be. When we returned home and found ourselves in that moment, unplugged from our routine and from the comatose nature of centering our hearts on the problems of the day, we see the reality. That when we finally allow ourselves to become lesser, God becomes bigger in us and we can finally be used. Like little Brian being used to pray with someone twice his size and pulling it off in a huge way.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Would You Take a Moment to Consider Your Feet? (A Tribute to Marienne, my Sister)

“I took the cast-boot off to give my right foot a sponge bath. When I put my right foot on the bathroom floor next to my left foot, I looked down at them side by side. That’s when I noticed.”

She tried to hide her tears over the phone, but I could hear her fighting them back. 

“My two feet are both straight!”

Isn’t it amazing what we take for granted in our lives?  Straight feet. 

My sister, Marienne, is precious. Now in her fifties, she has spent the first half century of her life looking down at skewed feet—her left straight like everyone else’s, her right turned at a forty-five degree angle to the right.

The crooked feet weren’t just an aesthetic problem.  Marienne was born with cerebral palsy. It affected her entire right side of her body.  Doctors back in the 1950’s told our parents that she would never walk, but she did.  She took her first steps at three years old, her right foot twisted unnaturally so that she stood on the edge of her foot, practically on her ankle. 

But she walked! 

After three surgeries and years of corrective orthotics, doctors still couldn’t get the foot straightened out.  She spent her entire life willing herself to stretch her leg as she walked to minimize the sound of her limp. 

Many never noticed.  You have to convince people she had cerebral palsy, she is so independent.

Marienne finished high school like kids without cerebral pasley.  She went to college.  She even finished nursing school and practiced as a nurse for years.  She married and remains happily married today after almost 30 years.  She took up quilting, surprising everyone with the dexterity she shows in the work of her hands.

Did I mention her right hand is also debilitated due to her palsy?  Significantly to where she has trouble gripping a pencil. Yet she quilts!

Such a hero.  Such will.  Such determination.  So much so, that at 55, she decided to take up daily exercise to shed some middle aged weight.  With her limp in her right leg, she didn’t want to try aerobics or step classes.  She simply walked.  Miles a day.  The pounds were sliding off.  Like with everything she approaches, Marienne met her goals.  We call her the incredible shrinking woman!  She walked and walked.

Until she fell.

I got a call from her. I didn’t understand what the big deal was.  So what, she tripped on something!

“You don’t understand,” she cried.  “There was nothing to trip on.  My right foot simply didn’t lift right.”

I thought she was overreacting. 

Until she called the next week. “I fell again!”  This time, she got help.  Cerebral Palsy specialists studied her gate using high tech equipment that digitized her movements.  They agreed, something was terribly wrong.  Her bones had shifted and would move more and more. 

Marienne was about to enter the second half of her life with a dangerous impediment in her gate!

That’s why they operated.  It’s a tricky surgery.  They literally sawed her foot bone in half—the one that was pointing at a forty-five degree angle.  Then they filed it down (shaped it) and placed a post against it to fasten it together properly.

Recovery has been rough.  Marienne has been in a cast all summer, barely able to even stand.  Recently they removed the cast and put her into a boot.  Within weeks, physical therapists will begin teaching her new foot how to walk.

And that brings me to Marienne—seated in her bathroom, washing her new foot, and recognizing for the first time in her life…

That she’s simply like everybody else now.

Would you take a moment today and gaze down at the simple sight of seeing your two feet pointing in the same direction and think of Marienne and praise God for His healing through wonderful surgeons?

Monday, July 12, 2010

Whom do you worship?

As Christians, do my children know who it is they follow?

This week I've let that be the focus of our devotion time because I want to make sure they know where to go in the Bible to nail down a most important foundational truth.

I asked them if they know the difference between Jesus and God.

It took a moment before one of them giggled and said, “Mom! Jesus is God!”

Of course he knew that.  I’ve taught it all along.  But how often do we forget to make certain truths absolutely clear to our kids to a point where they know how to find that truth for themselves in the Scriptures?

There will come a day when my boys will go out into the world armed only with what foundational truth I’ve provided them.  They will face those who will try to water down the Gospel.  Those who will tell them, “Jesus was a teacher.  Jesus was a good man. Jesus was a prophet.”  Those who might even admit, “Jesus is the Son of God,” but stop there.  

Will my kids notice what was missing in those statements?  Can they defend the deity of Christ?

The truth that Christ is not just the Son of God, but one with the Father is our focus with my kids in our family bible study this week.

I started with a simple question.  Does it matter?  After all, those that follow Christ and don’t consider Him God, aren’t they still following Him?


How can you follow someone when you don’t know whom you are following?  

Christ is either God incarnate or not.  If He is (and of course, He is!) and someone doesn’t believe it, then the Christ they are following is not Christ at all, but a mere man.

I guess I picture us one day standing before the real Christ--the Son of God who is God Himself. If it's only then we recognize that He really is God, then we never really knew Him. Those who have denied Who He is will have to answer to Him.  They might say, “But all our lives we said, ‘Lord, Lord’.”  And He will answer, “Go away from Me, I never knew you.” (Matthew 7:22-23)

When the boys and I dug deep, we found some of these truths helpful and nailing down for us that Jesus is one and the same with our Father God...

Isaiah’s prophecy defines Christ as God:
Isaiah the prophet, over 500 years before Christ was born, prophesized Messiah declaring Him in no uncertain terms to not only be the Son of God, but God Himself.  “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)

John’s Prophecy defines Christ as the Word—and the Word is God:
In Revelation (19:13), John talks of the Christ coming down from the Heavens and defines Christ by saying, “His name is called the Word of God.”  So, in many places in the New Testament where it describes the Word becoming flesh, it’s speaking of Jesus.  John says, “The Word was God.”  (John 1:1)

The Pharisees Sought to Kill Jesus for His “Blasphemy” of Asserting He is God:
Jesus healed and then said, “Go, your sins are forgiven.” (several occurrences; Luke 5:23 is one example).  The Pharisees were angered because only God could forgive sins.  Jesus told them before Abraham he was the “I Am”. (John 8:58) The Pharisees accused Him of blasphemy, but Jesus didn’t deny his statements or actions.  If he was misunderstood, why not correct the misunderstanding and avoid the execution?

Thomas Called Jesus God
The disciple Thomas (the doubting Thomas) saw Jesus resurrected and exclaimed, “My God” (John 20:28) to Jesus.

We were Purchased with God's Blood
Paul explained how God purchased the Church with his own blood (Acts 20:28).

The biblical references settled what was already in our hearts. Christ is God.

But why is is so necessary for us that Christ IS God? Isn't it enough to just say Jesus is our Savior and not worry about connecting Who He is to God?

No that's not enough.

Think about why for our salvation, Christ has to be God:
  1. Christ’s deity is necessary for our salvation! The very meaning of being a Christian is to recognize the sinful nature of our souls. We needed a Savior to pay the price for sin. And nothing but a perfect sacrifice would do.  Only God Himself is perfect.  Not a human son of God who isn't one with Him.
  2. If Jesus wasn’t God, what kind of love would that show that the Father has for us?  If you stood at the street while your children were caught in a burning house and asked someone to run in for you, would that be love?  Did God send someone else into a burning house after us?  No. No one but God Himself would be adequate. As our Father, God lowered Himself enough to come down here and take the punishment for us.  That’s love.  Enough to save us.

The lesson was over and we went on with our day with deeper appreciation of Who Christ is. 

Then I had lunch with an old friend. This sweet brother in Christ told me the painful experience of having to go through divorce after his wife had cheated on him over and over. When he described the a awful moment when she was caught in her sin, tears came to his eyes. The evidence too great to deny. He had tried to forgive many times before, but this time the betrayal destroyed his trust in her completely. They both knew there was no turning back.  The marriage was over.

It was a moment when she walked through the door and he had the evidence from an investigator there in his hands.

She saw it and collapsed on the floor in a blood-curdling scream, “Nooooooooooo!”  The scream wasn’t a plea.  She knew his character and that she had been given her last chance.  He no longer trusted her.  Too late. Over. Final. She left the house into the emptiness of no further relationship with him.

To hear the description of her scream made me shiver, but not just for her.  I never met the poor woman.  The tear was for others—for an image I had in my heart.  An image of billions of souls standing before Jesus on that day knowing that they had denied him for so long that it was too late.  No turning back.  Each scream will be hundreds times worse than the woman who betrayed her husband.  I cry now for those individuals and stop to remind myself, who is it we worship?

Monday, June 28, 2010

"You’ll Just Have to Find Something Else to be Afraid of.”

Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, the son of a valiant man of Kabzeel, who had done many acts; he slew two lionlike men of Moab: also he went down and slew a lion in a pit in a snowy day.
1 Chronicles 11:22

Years ago, long before I was widowed, before I was even married to Tom, life threw a huge dose of pain my way.  A marriage I thought was going to last me a lifetime went into a tailspin when an anonymous caller tipped me off to my first husband’s affair.

At that horrible moment, I would never have imagined how the Lord was preparing the way for a new life, a new marriage, and strengthening me for a far deeper loss by teaching me never to fear being alone.

My first reaction was to drop the receiver and dash out of my office into the cool October air to catch my breath.

I didn’t stop there. I got in my car and drove away, beating back tears.  With nowhere to go, I stopped at a phone booth and called Joyce—my no-nonsense, stay cool through any storm friend.

I sobbed over the betrayal.  “This is my worst fear and now it’s happened!”

There was a pause on the other end while I knew Joyce prayed over what words to use.   The ones that slipped off her tongue might strike you as uncaring or rude, but they were perfect. “Well, I guess you’ll just have to find something else to be afraid of.”

I wiped my tears and let her words sink in.  All those years I tried to be the best wife to that man, but secretly harbored a sense that he had one foot out the door.  Was I making every decision to please him out of faith or fear?  What wasted time and effort!  Had I faced my fear and stopped placating to him, he might have respected me more and considered changing his heart towards making a strong marriage.  Or maybe not, but at least I would have been operating as the complete woman God made me to be and not have a nagging feeling that my jellyfish spine had something to do with my marriage falling apart.

Now, without Tom, I never want to avoid my worst fears and set myself up for future regret.

When people ask “what’s your worst fear?” Some think of loss or trauma, but if we’re honest, sometimes it isn’t the big stuff that we fear the most.  After all, as widows, we’ve already experienced some of the worst. Our real fears are rooted in insecurity, wondering if we’re good enough or accepted.

When Joyce told me I need to find something else to be afraid of, I chose God.  I never wanted anything in life to shake me to the core like the betrayal from my first husband did.  I wanted to be absolutely positive that I knew who I was at the core of my being so that whatever is going on around me, I still feel accepted, cherished, powerful.

And I do.  Oh, the deceiver tries to scare that sense of confidence away, but I know the signs of his presence.  It’s that gnawing anxiety….  I’m alone, I’m overwhelmed, my kids don’t have a father. Are they getting what they need?

In my bible lessons this week I learned about a great soldier of David’s named Benaiah.  He was courageous.  Courage means doing what needs to be done in spite of your fears. Can you imagine the fear he had to overcome to get into a snowy pit and kill a lion with his bare hands?
So back to anxieties.  When they whirl, I say…


These are feelings.  They aren’t truth.  I stop, and I refocus on Scripture.  On truth.  I am incredible and loved in the Lord.  Through Him, I’m unstoppable, because He does all I can’t.  He will be the father of my boys, my husband.  He cherishes me and loves me and I will respond with obedience.  I will ignore the anxious thoughts—endure them as a sort of pain like a steady leg cramp and get to work… one foot in front of the other.  I will act accordingly to His grace. I will do all those things I would do as if I were loved and cherished, not because I feel loved or cherished but because I know I am loved and cherished.  It’s truth, and I believe it, so my feet and hands and mouth follow my beliefs, in spite of any lingering anxiety the deceiver tosses at me.

I stop pacing the house and do what I'm asked to do. Clean up my office, get back into the Word, spend time with the kids. Sometimes it's just grabbing a deck of cards and hanging out with the boys.  I pull out five bibles—one for each of us, put on some Christian music, and have quiet reading time in the Word with the boys followed by prayers.

And guess what, the boys LOVE it.  “Thanks, Mom.  Can we do this every day?”  My heart fills with centered clean joy.  I’m back.  I remembered who I am.

The world sees widow, but when I remember who I am, in that moment, I’m not the pitiful widow. I’m Kitty, a woman of God.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Brother's Day

It's Father's Day.  Around our home that means Brother's Day.   We started this tradition after we lost Tom a few years ago.  Our first Father's Day without him was difficult, but we made the best of it by making cards and letters expressing our feelings for him and getting out in the beautiful sunshine to enjoy the type of things that Dad used to do with us.

When the second Father's Day rolled around, I figured it was time for a fresh approach. We came up with Brother's Day. Here's how it works.  I let the boys sleep in while I prepare their Brother's Day breakfast in bed.  This morning it was french toast with sausages and OJ.

The breakfast trays are prepared with colorful messages from me with one particular character trait each one has shown in the past year that reminds me of their father.

And finally, I write a letter to each one of the children explaining that character trait, how I saw it shown in the past year, and how their father had that same trait in him.

My boys are beginning to look forward to Father's / Brother's Day, and I pray that it inspires them to earn their rights to have Father's Day breakfasts in bed when they are old enough to rear a family God's way!

We're not done after breakfast.  They boys consider our chocolate lab puppy a brother too, so after church we're off to a hike with the dog.

Church on Father's Day is always tough on a widow.  I'll most likely choose to sit near the back and step outside when I feel myself missing the presence of a husband in the home.

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Widow Ruth

Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. 2 Peter 1:4.

Sometimes thriving in life as a widow means listening to how God wants you to participate in His divine nature.  It’s different for each of us because a widow’s walk is never carved in stone.  The Lord asks some of us to weather it quietly—grieving and accepting the loss as your heart allows you to—one step at a time. The Lord sometimes asks us to move forward boldly, letting go of fear so that through our boldness, we protect the younger ones He has put in our care from the corruption in the world.

When the Lord leads you to step forward boldly, you might have fear over what the world thinks of you as you move forward and lead your own life into the future without leaning on an earthly husband.  I think of the widow, Ruth, and her obedience to the Lord and how it led to bold steps on her part, choosing to remain with her mother-in-law, choosing to gather grain behind the harvesters in Boaz’s fields, and presenting herself to Boaz in a humble but brazen gesture to petition him to claim her as his wife.
Ruth was brave, and yet so loved by the Lord for her obedience that He blessed her by allowing the bloodline of His only Son to run through her.

Imagine how fear could grip a woman in her situation faced with deciding whom to align herself with, how to provide for herself, and whether to pursue a new marriage.  As a widow, you might feel it too.  Widowhood can be a life full of fear if you allow yourself to get overwhelmed.

I’m reminded today to stop fear in its tracks for it is not from the Lord. I consider what my pastor told me after he took three of my sons on a Gettysburg Father-son retreat. He reassured me that decisions I’ve made since Tom has died have been good ones, evidenced by a Christ awareness my kids displayed on that trip with him.  He told me my children seem to have no trouble going against the grain of the world.  In other words, under my leadership which came straight from the guidance of the Lord, for the time being, they have escaped “the corruption in the world caused by evil desires”.

The Lord sometimes speaks through the words of blessings from others, and my pastor’s words were well-timed at a moment when I felt overwhelmed. I marvel at their progress, because many times my decisions go against the grain of this world, to the point of coming under scrutiny of others who aren’t sure what to think when a widow steps out in boldness. Some don’t understand that my choices are not my own. I’ve allowed the Lord to lead.

Sometimes people of the world want to tell you how as a widow you’ve been beaten. You’ve suffered loss. You’re supposed to recoil, curl up in a ball and feel sorry for yourself.

There is that place where you need to be alone and recover.  And sometimes that can take a while, but there was a point after Tom died where the Lord told me, grieve but don’t recoil. Break free. Burst forth in radiance because my four boys will watch and follow. They will be marked forever in their souls by the choices I make as a widow.

They will either see themselves as victims or see themselves as stepping forward by following and staying safely inside the Eye of the storm—accepting that what Satan doles out with the intention of evil, God takes and turns around for His Glory.

If you feel a prompting in your heart to follow a purpose the Lord has laid out for you, I encourage you to pray about it.  Don’t let fear stop you. Let the peace that only comes from the Holy Spirit prevail over you.  He will lead you.  It’s His great and precious promise.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Not Intimidated!

   Don't hold back—you're not going to come up short. You'll forget all about the humiliations of your youth, and the indignities of being a widow will fade from memory.
Isaiah 54-4
When I used to work in the corporate world, I had a friend who was a mover and a shaker.  By now, I’m quite sure Ed is a CEO somewhere in this universe.

Ed’s motto was don’t ask permission.  Do what you’ve got to do and apologize for it later!  He wasn’t a rule breaker, but Ed found success at every corner because people knew whatever he touched was going to get done and in a big way.

Christian, my eight-year-old, has the same motto.   I like the way he thinks.  When I took the boys to the local theme park, Carowinds, he was determined to ride the new roller coaster… The Intimidator.  Never mind that he’s about four inches shy of the height requirement!

Here he is standing as tall as he can with every trick in the book—tall Healey roller shoes that add about an inch and two hats stacked tall on his head. The Carowinds official measured him and sadly shook his head while choking back his laugh. 

Christian didn’t give up, he went to Top Gun next, and then the BORG Assimilator—two of the biggest coasters in the park.  Every time a park official with a big measuring stick shook his head, Christian smiled and stepped away, undaunted. 

“You’ll just have to eat your green vegetables,” I said.

Christian has since become a connoisseur of snap peas and carrots.  “I’ll keep trying,” he says.  “If I keep trying, someone will think I’m tall enough.”

I thought about Christian and Ed.

Then I thought about us ladies who have to take on life with unexpected challenges, like doing it alone when you thought you’d always have your husband by your side.

Sometimes, I think the world expects us to fold, to ask permission for steps we have to take to move forward.  I suppose I don’t think so, I know so.  I remember a decision I made a year after Tom died. I chose to build that sun porch Tom and I always wanted to build. 

I had a close friend question me on it. She worried over my decision to spend the money, and took it upon herself to discuss it among our circle of friends. It shook me up for a bit, not because I wondered whether my decision was sound, but because I wondered whether our friendship could endure her criticism.  It’s a sad reality but some friendships don’t survive when you loose your husband.  When you move forward as head of the household, you might find friends and loved ones unaccustomed to seeing you take on that role.  But you can’t hide behind a husband anymore. You have to become your own mover and shaker.

So I built the sun porch without anyone’s permission but God’s.  And guess what?  He blessed it. I didn’t even have to apologize for it later!  I’ve had it for two years now and the boys love it.  We have it wired with a flat screen and a DVD and it becomes movie central for the kids in the neighborhood on summer nights.  I consider it one of the best decisions we made in these years without Tom.

Lord, Please continue to guide me as I lean on You for direction.  When I seek permission, let it be You and only You I seek it from.  Help me to have the courage to act on Your guidance and not worry about the crowds, just as Christian kept walking unabashed to one ride official after another, going after his goal.

I pray for every woman having to step into that role as head of household, that she know she has You to turn to in all things.