Waves of Mercy

Lyla feet in water

I sat on the beach in St. Croix last year on my birthday with my feet in the sand, watching the waves crash over and over. I remember feeling the water wash over my feet and feeling the warmth of the sun. I was surrounded by friends and enjoying the beautiful scenery as I savored that moment.  A few days ago, I celebrated my birthday again, and I woke up humming the tune ‘Every Move I Make’ with the phrase ‘Waves of mercy, waves of grace’ repeating over and over. As the tune drifted through my head, I could see all of the ways God has blessed me throughout my life, but the day-to-day struggles I faced felt pretty overwhelming at times.

When I am in the struggle, it is hard to keep my head above the water, but it helps to remember verses that encourage me and lift my eyes above the storm. In the moment, as I see the steps in front of me, my knees are shaking and I think, “How is this going to turn out?” Just today, I feel like I am in another storm, and I have a choice to make. I can choose whether or not to be swept under the wave of discouragement because I want things to happen my way, or let the waves of mercy wash over me and release my expectations.

Why do we seem to always forget that we have that choice? Is it pride or is it fear? Pride and fear put barriers up between us and God’s waves of grace. The minute we surrender, those walls come down and those waves wash over us. What helps you surrender more quickly at certain times than you have at other times?

I read this verse recently and it is my theme verse for this year, because the Lord continues to do more than I could ever dream in my life. I just slow him up a little bit by wanting to do it my way instead of His!

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21.  

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Banner Over Me

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I remember as a young adult singing these popular lyrics, “He draws me to his banqueting table, His banner over me is love.”

We all deal with labels, some we put on ourselves and others are put on us by other people. Some of those labels are more obvious than others, like what brands we wear or look for when we go shopping. Others are less obvious and can be judgement that we carry around about ourselves or other people.  These labels are the ones we often spend our lives trying to break free from. The harder we try to free ourselves from these labels the more they are magnified.

The more I worry about the way I walk because of my Cerebral Palsy, the worse it becomes. The more that I “try” to hold a glass of water or walk without stumbling, the more awkward I become. We may be under the illusion that career success or financial wealth or social status will bring us great satisfaction, but once we attain these goals, we soon discover that there is still an emptiness in us.

Earlier this month, a group of people from the Portland area were privileged to hear Judy Squire, an author and friend of mine, speak about her book, ‘Living in the Names of God.’ One of the names that popped out at me was Jehovah Nissi, which means ‘banner.’

When we live under the protective banner of God’s love, we can experience the richness of his grace.  He covers us on our journey and gives us protection by ‘keeping the powers of darkness at bay (Ephesians 6:1).’ However, when we chase other things, we come out from under that banner.

It is exciting to lay down the titles or ‘banners’ that I once chased and trade them for the label that the Lord gives me. This Good Friday, we remember when Jesus hung on the cross with the mocking label, ‘King of the Jews’ over him and suffered so that we can all receive the label ‘protected and forgiven’.

Spring is in the air

flowers in the spring

Spring is a time of expectation. Seniors are excited because of their upcoming graduation, people look forward to the warm weather just ahead, and many engaged couples are eagerly planning their summer weddings.

I am sitting on my patio looking at my flower pots on this beautiful day. There are a few particular pots that really make me smile. One has flowers that survived the winter! The flowers were given to me last year, just before my daughter got married. They are from a friend who I’ve known for over 30 years. When she gave them to me, she said, ‘You need something special!’  It was an unexpected surprised when I saw those flowers bloom again this year, because I couldn’t believe they had made it through the cold months.

I’ve learned that when things don’t happen right when we think that they should, it is discouraging, but we have to see it as a time of preparation. This time is so important. Parents look forward to the time when they can meet their baby, but if the baby is born prematurely, there are often complications.  When plans are not coming together, it is like wintertime, we want to see our plans and purposes bloom, but the winter months are needed in order to develop the strength and skills we will need for the coming spring.

Years ago, when I graduated hoping to work in the field of social services, I found out quickly that I needed more than a college degree to be able to get the type of job I wanted. I never did make a living doing this work, but years later, I look back and see that I have used my education in many other ways. At the time, life was as dark as an Alaskan winter, because all I saw were the brick walls I kept hitting. Several years later I realized that even though things did not go the way I had planned or in my timing, God had used my training in other ways and had fulfilled my heart’s desire to mentor others through my work with Good Samaritan Ministries, Border Mountain, and later on Joni and Friends Ministry. I see now that my flowers have bloomed, and they are more beautiful than I could have imagined.

Don’t short-circuit the process because it is where crucial skills and character are developed.

Ecclesiastes 3: 1-2

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: 

a time to be born and a time to die,

a time to plant and a time to uproot.”

 

 

 

Hidden Fruit

Monkey

When I was shopping with my friend Colleen and my daughter Rachael, we found a plaque  that says, “Go out on a limb, that’s where the fruit is!” They bought it for me and said, “That’s exactly what you’re doing.” Sometimes hope feels like you are putting yourself out there on a limb, but that’s where the fruit is!

Hope gives life to people. Our words have power; and they can either give life or they can do the exact opposite. This year at the Joni and Friends Camp, the message will be about hope and I am looking forward to it very much.  A lot of people might look at me and my friends at this camp for families affected by disability and think, “Man, these people have a tough life,” because of our struggles, and they may feel sorry for us.  But they don’t know the power of the hope that lives within us! When we get together, it is quite the opposite atmosphere of what they think.  The struggles each family might face are pushed to the sidelines by being around people who understand their journey; it is a community of hope! Being on life’s journey alone can be isolating, so it is important for us to be together and share hope with each other.

The way that we can find hope again, if we have lost it, is to first admit that we cannot retrieve hope on our own. We have to let go of our plans and surrender them to God. After we have gotten some rest, there is often a flicker of hope that is ignited in us again. Besides, when I surrender my plans to God, they turn out different, and many times actually better, than what I first anticipated.

Going out on a limb might feel ok in the beginning, but it is not long before you start to think, “Oh no, this is not going to work, I am too far out here!” This can lead to doubt and depression if the fruit does not come right away.You may think the fruit  is when you attain your particular goal, but when you take a closer look at your journey, I hope you can see a more important by-product.  Lo and behold, the fruit that is attained on your journey toward your goal is actually more important than the initial goal itself.

Proverbs 3:12

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.”