Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Lost and Found

"The LORD has heard my cry for mercy; the LORD accepts my prayer." (Psalm 127:1 NIV)

This has been one of the coldest winters on record for North Texas, and we are due for MORE cold and snow this week. With a cold front blasting its way in our direction, yesterday wasn't the best time for my son to announce he had lost his winter coat. It wasn't in our coat closet (where he said he hung it by the way.) We didn't find it at his taekwando school. And it wasn't at the lost and found at his middle school. The coat had simply vanished. Searching everywhere with no success, I feared Jack's coat was gone for good. Rationally, I figured it had either been innocently misplaced by my son or permanently "borrowed" by someone else. Either way, the coat was gone and we would likely never see it again. My son, however, took another approach, choosing faith rather than fear. "Don't worry Mom," Jack said calmly, "God knows where it is. It will turn up."

I considered the wisdom of his words with care, and decided to take my son's lead. Dropping him at his taekwando class, I drove home and prayed, "God. Please direct us to Jack's coat. He will be so cold without it. Help us to find it. There's a storm coming. I don't want him to be without his coat in this cold." Sure enough, Marty, who was driving home from work, felt led to go to our church and look for Jack's missing coat at the youth area, where Jack spends a great deal of time. Dark and empty, it was unlikely the coat would there. Still, Marty walked through the unlit shadows of the youth worship area and was led straight to Jack's coat. Barely visible, it was hiding behind a speaker on the stage, ripped and in need of minor repair. But, what had been lost, now was found.

I used to mistakenly believe that God was not interested in the mundane details of my life. Underestimating the love of my Heavenly Father, I failed to take my challenges and concerns to Him. Instead, I chose to worry and fret, working feverishly to solve my own problems. Somehow, I had misplaced my trust in my Heavenly Father, as I relied instead on my own strength. Wandering in the darkness of anxiety, I felt lost and alone. Fortunately, God is patient with His children, and He refuses to leave us alone in our misconceptions regarding his generosity. As I learned to pray specifically in all things, I found God was always there to listen and advise. With eyes of faith, I am now able to see the bounty from every prayer I give to God.

For the truth is, there are no petitions too small or too big for God. In His goodness, God hears every prayer and answers every one offered in faith. Sometimes He is able to say, "Yes" and we rejoice. Still, other times, He compassionately says "no" in order to give us something better. Never is a petition or a request ignored or left unanswered. God is never too busy to listen to His children and He delights in our prayers, as it is through prayer that we demostrate our dependence on Him alone. As believers, we are called to obediently pray and faithfully believe that God will indeed answer our cries when we call. Whatever is lost can surely be found when we fix our eyes on Christ.

Dear Heavenly Father,
We are amazed how You love us and listen to our prayers. So often you surprise us with your compassion and love demonstrated towards us with answered prayer. Let us never forget to take our concerns to your loving ears. Help us to watch for your movement as you seek to show us your mercy. Give us faith to see your wisdom when your answer is not what we hope for or expect. Thank you for hearing us from heaven.

Reflection: What do you need God to help you find?

Monday, February 15, 2010


We call her Hope. Our baby, lost to us in late January 2003, was with us only briefly. Eight weeks to be exact. Not long enough to take her first breath, but long enough to be a reality in my heart. Long enough for me to imagine holding her in my arms. Long enough to visualize her face and imagine her personality. But, gone before any of those dreams could be realized this side of Heaven. Though we never saw our baby, and science could not determine whether it was a boy or a girl, my husband and I have always known her name. It was written in our hearts through prayer and she is our daughter that Jesus taught to walk and whom we shall meet in eternity.

Our pregnancy started as any other with one exception. It was unexpected.Our other two children had been strategically planned, four years apart. This pregnancy, however, was a wonderful surprise. Our middle child was just under a year old herself when we learned I was pregnant again. This new baby would be just 19 months younger than our daughter Lily. Clearly,the idea of having two babies in diapers was daunting at first. But, we embraced the challenge with the firm belief that "sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him." (Psalm 127:3 NIV) No doubt, there would be sleepless nights and an empty checkbook, but we rejoiced for our family had new life. During the weeks that followed, I fell madly in love with our unborn child. I planned for her arrival and began to prepare our home for her presence. Yet, our joy passed quickly when we suddenly lost our child to miscarriage. With the dream of my baby now shattered, my heart was torn with her loss. Breathless and grieving, I felt numb and broken. In a word, I felt hopeless.

In the dark hours after our miscarriage, many friends tried to offer words of comfort. "It's for the best." "Nature knows what it is doing." "You can try again." Though their intentions were loving, my heart only ached more as these barbs of "comfort" struck my wounded spirit. Our baby was gone. A piece of my heart was gone with her. And I knew I would never be the same. In the days that followed, I felt myself falling apart and I needed an escape. And I needed it fast! So we retreated to the solace of the home of a friend. A few years earlier, she too had suffered a miscarriage. Surely, I rationalized, she would understand the silence that I craved.

At first, my friend, Cindy, indeed gave me time. Alone with my thoughts, I sat for hours, in the dark, silent in my friend's home office. I couldn't cry. I couldn't breath. I just sat, bewildered and broken. But after a while, God led Cindy to break my silence. Quietly, she walked into the room. She sat beside me, took my hand gently, and said words I will never forget... "It's okay to be mad at God. He can take it. Tell Him how you really feel." It was the first time any words had brought me any comfort since the nightmare began. I didn't want to admit it, but she was right...I was angry! How could this happen? How could this be His plan? For the first time, I opened up my broken heart to my God, as I sobbed with my sister in Christ, "Oh, that I might have my request, that God would grant what I hope for." (Job 6:8 NIV) Our baby was gone but my God was still on His throne. Hope remained in Him alone. Together, Christ, Marty, and, I stepped out of the darkness of loss and into the hope of tomorrow.

As God pieced together the fragments of our hearts, Marty and I returned to daily life granting Him full access to our suffering. Our pastor, at the time, suggested we name our baby to commorate her life. So, in prayer, we sought a name for our child, and God led us to hope. In quiet moments alone with God, He reminded Marty and I that, "faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see "(Hebrews 11:1 NIV) Hope means believing in what we cannot tangibly grasp. And faith requires us to trust God with His promises. With hope, we let our grief fade into the shadows of yesterday, as the two of us waited for God's restoration.

Forevermore in the arms of Jesus, our baby will be Hope because that is what she brought into our lives. For it was Hope that illuminated the place in our family for another baby. Before Hope came to us, we thought our family was complete. After all, it made perfect sense. We had a boy and a girl. Statistically, we were the perfect modern American family of four. The perfect number to fit in a booth at our favorite restaurant. The best number for deals on vacations to Disney World. It was our plan and everything was in order. Everything made perfect sense. Yet, God in His great wisdom knew better. Losing Hope opened our hearts to the hidden desire for another baby and lit a dream in us both to try again. Just three months after tragically saying good-bye to our Hope, we learned we were expecting our youngest child, Sofie Faith.

She was born tiny, just under six pounds, but her spirit has always been large. Sofie is a strong, independent child with a fierce love for Jesus and a mind of her own. Witty and playful, Sofie brings life into the rooms of our home. And recently, Sofie accepted Christ at the tender age of six. I have no doubt that my daughter will be a powerful force for Jesus as she grows into a woman of faith. She knows of Hope and draws beautiful pictures depicting the sibling she has yet to meet. Still, Marty and I remember that there wouldn't be a Sofie if there hadn't been Hope. For Sofie was the unseen promise linked to the loss of our Hope. Thouroughly, I am convinced that Hope came to bring us Sofie. She left us prematurely in our timing, but fulfilled her purpose in God's kingdom. And in His love, our Heavenly Father took her home where we will all be united with Him. God gave us the gift of Hope.

Life can be painful. Tragedy strikes unexpectedly and fills us with anger and uncertainty during our weakness. But through it all, there is promise in God's blessings of tomorrow. Blessings we have yet to discover. After all, "every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights " (James 1:17 NIV) Indeed, we see his gifts best when we look with faith-filled eyes. Sometimes we just need a little time. Some prayer. And hope.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Little Things

Memory Verse: "Great is your love toward me." (Psalm 86:13 NIV)

Marty and I met when we were both students at Iowa State University. Being just nineteen years old, I wasn't looking to find the love of my life. Yet, love indeed found me when I met my sweet husband. Since he was putting himself through school, Marty didn't have more than a few pennies to rub together when we first met. So, it was little things that first got my attention and captured my heart.

One afternoon, just days after we first met, Marty waited for me after class just to walk me home. As we strolled towards my dorm together, Marty listened intently to my ever word. For the first time in my life, I felt captivating. Weeks later, on our first date, Marty took my hand and led me across the parking lot to his car. Then, being a gentleman, he thoughtfully opened and closed every door for me. Throughout the evening, Marty's polite gestures made me feel safe and protected. And each evening at dinner, as I entered the crowded cafeteria with friends, Marty never failed to greet me with a gentle wave and a warm smile. Small gestures consistently demontrated over time offered me assurance that my heart was safe with his. But it was a bouquet of unique flowers pressed from Lucky Charms marshmallows that truly spoke to my heart and showed me that he was "the one'.

It was a cold January day, just after winter classes had begun and I was very sick with bronchitis. Though Marty had little money for extras, he was determined to lavish me with some get well flowers. With loving creativity, he spent a few thoughtful hours creating a unique arrangement not available through any florist. Those flowers, with their simplistic beauty, touched my heart as none ever had before. The vase was a pill cannister that had been covered in black ink from a permanent marker. A green metal paperclip, carefully outstretched, formed the stem. And colorful pastel marshmallows were pushed together into small delicate flowers. That bouqet, hand-made with love, sat on my desk even after the marshmallows had began to shrivel, for they reminded me of Marty's special love for me.

Our Heavenly Father cares about the routines of our daily lives as well, and blesses us richly through "little things". Scripture tells us"The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the LORD blows on them. Surely the people are grass." (Isaiah 40:7 NIV) Tenderly, God cares for each of us as part of His glorious creation. Every sunrise and sunset reveal God's Sovereign order. The rains and the snows deliver sustenance to the grass and remind us of God's daily provisions And just as God cares for the flowers and the trees, God takes a special interest in the needs of His children. Let us be reminded that Jesus' great miracles happened in the midst of the daily routines of everyday life. God hasn't changed. For He is still working through routines every day to show us His great love while demonstrating His sovereign power.

If we are mindful, we will notice God is perhaps most present in the routine, though we often minimize his gifts as coincidence. God, aware of our every need, positions us to receive his blessings and experience his love anew each day. And yet there is more for us to grasp as we ponder the power of the seemingly insignificant routines of each day. For, love, powerfully demostrated in routine random kindness, is never squandered by God.

In moments of sickness, sadness, or uncertainty, it is often a small routine act of love that brings healing and hope. All it really costs is a little time and effort, but the effects are powerful and eternal. Today we can all make a lasting difference in the life of someone near by being aware of the significance of "little things" done with great love. It may be a phone call. An e-mail. Or maybe even just an understanding smile during a difficult moment. "Little things" change the world one heart at a time.

Dear God,
We are amazed by the great ways you demonstrate your love for us in the routines of daily life. Your faithfullness is so great and your love so deep. Help us to see your love in the routines of our busy days. Likewise, let us be faithful to demonstrate your goodness towards others with small gestures filled with great love. Let us not forget to comfort one another and bring kindness into the lives of those near us daily. Empower us to pour out your love to a lost and lonely world with faithful acts of love and kindness.

Reflection: How is God revealing Himself to you in the "little things"?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Pigs and Pearls

Key Verse: "Do not throw your pearls to pigs." (Matthew 7:6)

Many of us hold an innocent view of pigs thanks in no small part to the children's classic Charlotte's Web. The endearing character Wilbur portrays a picture of friendship that touches the tender hearts of kids and adults alike. And yet, my experience with pigs paints another perspective, far less appealing than the tale of Charlotte and Wilbur.

When I was a little girl, my family raised pigs. And though I found that pigs made good eatin', I was keenly aware to be cautious in their presence. My grandpa, full of experience as a seasoned farmer insisted that I stay away from the pig pen. In fact, I remember my grandfather made it seriously clear the pen was no place for childish games. I was small, and my memories are selective, yet pigs display several character flaws that seemed clear to me even as a child. One they were stinky. Two they dangerous. And three, I wanted no part of being in their pen. It was obvious by the frenzy at feeding time, that "slops" presented a liklihood of being trampled if one got too close. With horrific squeals amidst chaos, the pigs fought violently for dibs of rotten food and left-over scraps from the table. It was a sight truly disturbing, and it filled my young heart with disgust. It didn't take long for me to discover, that though I lived on a farm, I was not really a "farm girl". And while I love bacon, I still detest pigs even now.

It is interesting that Jesus warns us about getting comfortable with pigs as well. Several times in the Bible, we are given references to pigs with caution. And if you have spent much time near a pig pen, it makes sense why we should heed the advice. When given the opportunity, the pig is ruthless. Without exception, the pig wants what the pig wants. Period. End of discussion. Even when nothing more than moldy bread are the spoils in the win. Therefore, our Savior warns us "do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces." (Matthew 7:6 NIV)

It is surely no coincidence that God further illustrates the lowly nature of pigs in the Parable of the Prodigal Son. (Luke 15:11-31 NIV) There among the pigs we find a foolish young man, full of shame. Regretfully, he had traded his family for worldly desires and possessions and it had led him lowly to despair. In short, he traded his pearls for pigs. It is a message worth consideration as we step into the traps of modern life. For whether you live on a farm or not, pigs are all around.

Our pearls are those things in life we most treasure. Marriage. Children. Friendship. Our divine relationship with God. They are precious jewels we must hold with care. For, if we throw them over to the "pigs" of life, certainly they will be trampled. It is not a question of if as much as it when the destruction will occur. Surely, we must heed the warning and be on the lookout for the pigs. Look carefully with wisdom, and you will begin to recognize the pigs in your midst. For they want what they want, regardless of the cost. In the reasoning of the pig, the end, though rooted in destructive hunger, justifies the means. As you walk through your day, be mindful of demands that threaten those heavenly gifts most treasured in life, and commit to proceed with caution. Your pearls are priceless and fragile. Nurture them. Protect them. Refuse to squander them or take them granted. And most of all, never, under any circumstances, let them near the pig pen.

Dear Heavenly Father,
You have blessed us with treasured pearls and they make our lives so beautiful. We praise you for the ways you lavish us in family and friendship, so dear and priceless. Let us be good stewards of our relationships, remembering never to squander the moments we have together. Help us to never take them for granted or allow life to trample them. Give us wisdom to discern the "pigs" that threaten our pearls and give us courage to step away from the "pen".

Reflect: Are you choosing to eat with the pigs?