May 24, 2023

The Lord is on Our Side

Psalm 130:1-2 “From the depths of despair, O Lord, I call for your help. Hear my cry, O Lord. Pay attention to my prayer.” Oh those difficult times life throws at us. Sometimes we have those years when everywhere you turn, things just keep going from bad to worse. My husband and I had one of those times. We went through the loss of a business, the loss of our financial stability, and then we faced the worst of all, the loss or our daughter Katie! I felt like we were following in the footsteps of Job. I read Psalm 124 and see how grateful I am that we clung to our faith in the Lord. No problem is too difficult for Him. What if we had turned our back on Him? Psalm 124 describes what could have been our fate if we had chosen to walk away. We would have been swallowed alive in our burning anger. The waters of grief would have engulfed us. The raging waters of grief would have overwhelmed every part of our being. Make no mistake. In those early years, grief was hard, and we often felt outdone by what we faced, but we knew the Lord was on our side. We praised the Lord because He did not let the teeth of the evil one tear us apart. We escaped from his trap and we are free from the one who wanted to destroy us. We were not defeated, but we know we will endure forever. Lord, no wonder my heart is glad and I rejoice. My body rests in safety. For You will not leave my soul among the dead, or allow Your holy one to rot in the grave. You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of Your presence and the pleasure of living with You forever. – Michele

May 20, 2023

My God is With Me EVERYWHERE!!

I had heard enough about an MRI exam to be somewhat apprehensive when my doctor decided it would be a good diagnostic tool to give reason to the aches and pains I was having. The call from the scheduler definitely quieted some of that apprehension, not because she gave me an oh-don’t-worry-about-it, but because she spelled out some of the things patients do get apprehensive about, and just knowing what to expect helped to relieve some of the qualms of the unknown. Still, the morning of my exam had me praying from home to the MRI location. And the forty-five minute wait didn’t help either. And then, my name was called by a cheerful assistant. A few minutes in the dressing room preceded my being introduced to the MRI machine. It dominated the small room I was in, being much larger than I had expected, but that also meant the tunnel I was about to enter, had a far greater diameter than I had expected, and entering in a flat-on-my-back position, much like the position I was cozy in for an afternoon nap, I also entered feet first, so my head was the last part of my body being absorbed by what I then realized was a well lit enclosure. I had been told to be still, but I was also given a squeeze ball, in case for some reason, I needed to exit prematurely of the expected twenty minute exam. I tried napping, and that helped to keep me still, but my thinking needed a place to focus because the nap wasn’t coming. I was praying again, just for a quietness to saturate my spirit. And then suddenly, the hymns of my childhood and the promises from the Gaither songs I had always loved, began to rehearse themselves in my thinking. I lay there, consumed with the goodness of my God, the God who promises His presence and His peace, even in an MRI tunnel. I was totally relaxed, and a buzzer interrupted one of the hymns to tell me my time was over. And it seemed, it all happened so quickly. The next morning, my close friend sent me an online video of a song that was only vaguely familiar, but the words captured my time with God the previous day. I love You, Lord. Oh, Your mercy never fails me and all my days, I’ve been held in Your hands. ... You have been faithful ... You have been so, so good ... You have led me ... You were close like no other ... You are my provider and You lead me and guide me by Your Spirit and Your word. I have never walked alone. I knew my God had stayed with me in the tunnel and He had made His presence known, but I knew too, I have been in tunnels that were much, much darker, and much more threatening. I knew also that a few other friends were struggling in the reality of life – realities that were raw with grief, both already weighing them down with its pain, emptiness, and questioning doubt, and grief that was gnawing because it was still imminent, but it was dark with its imminence. Relationships were being stretched and responsibilities were outweighing available resources. In my MRI tunnel, I just wanted the reminder that my God never leaves and He always, always provides. Even in the middle of doubt and apprehension.. Even in the turmoil that far, far exceeds the MRI. So, I forwarded the song that had encouraged and reminded me yet again, and I prayed that my friends would hear not only a song of warmth, but a song of promises. My God will never, never leave me. And He will always, always, make my impossible reality, possible. – Bev (Related Bible reading: Psalm 139:1- 12; Psalm 23:1-6; Hebrews 13:5,6)

May 11, 2023

He Heals the Brokenhearted

Psalms 147:3-5 “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name. Great is our Lord and mighty in power; His understanding has no limit.” I’ve been thinking a lot about how special and unique the Lord created a mother’s love for her child; it is like no other love found on this earth; it is a protective and fierce love, a deep and unconditional love that belongs only to that child. It is a love that is unequaled and unusual in that a mother is truly willing to lay her life down for that child. And that is exactly what she does the moment that baby comes into the world; she puts herself on the back burner and places her child before her each and every day and every single decision she makes, she makes for the sake of that child’s well-being and for that child’s future. There was a bond that occurred in the womb when the Lord attached my child to me with a life-giving rope called an umbilical cord and that rope forever links me and my son together and from the moment I held him, I knew a completely different and distinctive kind of love. When the Lord took my child to his eternal home in Heaven, a huge piece of me left this earth and only a part of me remains here. The Lord says that He heals the brokenhearted and binds up our wounds, but He doesn’t say how long that process will take. I believe for mothers who have lost children, that part of ourselves will never ever return to us until we see our children once more, face to face in Heaven. But in the meantime, our God is still great and mighty in power and His understanding is limitless. He truly understands this type of love because God sent His one and only Son to earth so that we would know His heart, so that we would understand His protective, fierce love, His deep and unconditional love, that is unique and unequivocal, that is only reserved for His children. The Bible talks a lot about the brokenhearted and those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18 says, “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” After the death of my precious child, I was inconsolable, I cried myself to sleep with guttural cries that came from the deep substrata of my soul; the pain and ache that consumed me as a result of losing my son seemed to me that it would overtake me and that I would truly die. When I woke the next morning, the ache in my heart was even greater and the hole in my family was evident by the fact that he was no longer here on this earth and the knowledge that my family is now incomplete just broke me and for just a moment, my faith wavered. I reached for my phone and there from my pastor was a message telling me there were ten things God wanted me to remember during this time, ten promises He wanted me to know. 1. I will give rest. 2. I will strengthen you. 3. I will answer you. 4. I believe in you. 5. I will bless you. 6. I am for you. 7. I will not fail you. 8. I will provide for you. 9. I will be with you. And 10. I will love you. As I opened the word for my morning devotion and I asked myself, “why do I doubt His love for me, when He is so faithful?” I know if I had His perspective, that I would understand why He took such a beautiful gift He had given me, away; I would understand His purpose and His plan for my life from here on out, but at that moment and time I did not understand; all I knew was the pain and sorrow, the grief and the heartache were fresh and raw. And once again, He brings me to my life verse, “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10.) – Melody

May 3, 2023

Days Turn to Years

Job 3:6 “Let that night be blotted off the calendar, never again to be counted among the days of the year, never again to appear among the months.” Oh how the book of Job speaks truthfully of the pain and struggle of life. July 2,1997 is forever a day I will never forget. It was the day my daughter Katie was received into the arms of the Lord. At the beginning of this trial, I counted the hours of my daughter’s absence. Then came the days. I remember waking up the first morning realizing nothing would ever be the same. Job 3:25, what I had always feared, happened to me. What I had dreaded, had come true. Isn’t that always a parent’s worst fear, to have a child die? Then came the first month. Opening my eyes on that first month, wondering how I have lived a whole month without my daughter. How can I live the rest of my life in this much pain? Job 6:11-13 Job cries out, “I don’t have the strength to endure. I have nothing to live for. Do I have the strength of a stone? Is my body made of bronze? No, I am utterly helpless, without any chance of success.” Soon those hours, days and months turned into a year. My daughter’s death had not destroyed me yet. I was still holding on to the God of comfort. Job 23:10-11, Job writes He knows where I am going and when He tests me, I will come out as pure as gold. For I have stayed on God’s paths; I have followed his ways and not turned aside. Soon my year turned into two and then five and ten. I have now walked through 25 years of walking through July 2,1997. He has been so faithful to me through my 25 and a half years. If you are early in your walk keep on keeping on. It is a long and hard road but I promise you, it is a road worth traveling. That day, July 2 1997, is a day that cannot be blotted off the calendar. It is a day that happened. It is a day that changed me and my life forever. Every year that day greets me with a heart full of gratitude. I am grateful for having Katie in my life for seventeen years. It goes without saying that I would have loved to have had her longer than I did. One day I will see her again. There will be no calendar or counted days. Just forever You turn mourning to dancing You give beauty for ashes You turn shame into glory You’re the only one who can. You turn graves into gardens You turn bones into armies You turn seas into highways You’re the only one who can. Graves into Gardens Brandon Lake – Michele

April 20, 2023

Joy Comes

Psalm 30:5 “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” In July, 2015, when we went on our Hawaiian vacation just after Elisha passed away, we arrived at the airport, my husband and I and our 18-year old son. As we were waiting for our plane, we saw Drew Breeze, the football player, and his family sitting in the same terminal. They would be taking the same plane as we were to Kauai, however, they were sitting in first class. As I sat and watched their family interact with each other, and how people watched them, smiled at them and wanted to talk to them, I thought to myself “they are special.” I have always loved to travel with my disabled child because when Elisha was with us, I always felt special. When people saw Elisha, he attracted people because he was always full of joy. We were used to having people come and talk to us; they would see him and smile at us and I always felt significant when I was with him. Now, we were just like every other family and I thought to myself, we are not special anymore now that Elisha is gone. As I sat and thought about why Elisha attracted people to himself, I knew it was because of his joy, we always called him our joy boy, because no matter what the circumstances or what the situation, he always had a smile on his face, he always was completely care free and there was never a time when he was not full of peace and full of joy that just spilled out from him. Isaiah 65:14 says, “My servants will sing out of the joy of their hearts, but you will cry out from anguish of heart and wail in brokenness of spirit.” One of the reasons Elisha’s life impacted so many people was because his joy was infectious and people loved to be with him because when they were with him, he made others feel happy and joyful, as well. Now that Elisha is gone, it seemed that my joy went to Heaven with him and now all that is left is an anguish in my heart and a brokenness in my spirit. When I got on the plane, I decided to do a word study on joy. The scriptures are filled with the word joy, but one significant verse I found in the Bible was John 15:11 where Jesus says, “I have told you this so that My joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” I felt special with Elisha because he had Jesus in his heart and there was nothing else there but the purity of the love and joy of Jesus Christ. The cares of this world never crept in and choked out his joy; the stresses of the day never robbed him of his peace, and he never ever took it personally when people were unkind and mean to him. He just loved everyone, no matter who you were and it didn’t matter to him whether you were crabby or not, he just always maintained his joy. In this passage of scripture Jesus maintained that His obedience to the Father was the basis of His joy, and what He was saying is that if you as a believer abide in His love and are obedient to His commandments you will experience the same joy. And as a matter of fact, your joy will be complete. As I was pondering this scripture, I looked up the word “complete” and it is defined as “not lacking anything, not limited in any way, not requiring any more work, entirely done, fully carried out, total, absolute, whole and perfect.” One of my least favorite scriptures in the Bible is James 1:2 which says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds.” James is saying that we are to make a deliberate and careful decision to experience joy in the midst of our troubles and trials. This is not easy for any of us to do, but it is possible. As I was on my way to one of the most beautiful islands in the world, I stepped back and looked at the bigger picture and for just a moment I realized that my suffering and grief, as heavy as it was, would ebb and flow, it would only last for a little while or a season, but joy would come in the morning, or whenever I allowed my Lord to dwell and abide in the depths of my soul. I am special and I will always attract others because the joy of the Lord dwells within me no matter what my situation and no matter what my circumstances. – Melody

April 12, 2023

He is not here!! He is risen!!

Having grown up in a church with its prescribed liturgy, traditions were anticipated and carried out with a heartfelt enthusiasm, bringing life to teachings that could be lacking heart application but rigidly held to established doctrine. The Easter season was truly a “season.” Forty days of Lent were followed by Holy Week, a week in which Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, all held significance and each had its traditions, and they all culminated with Easter Sunday. As a child, I always looked forward to our Easter Sunrise Service, although I’m not exactly sure why. As an adult, many of those childhood traditions have faded in practice, but there’s still a part of me that draws a deep connection with them. Today, I approach Easter knowing the music of the season will especially convey its magnificent, covenant and life changing truths. Jesus, the perfect, complete, eternal sacrifice has conquered death, once, for all time. The curtain in the Temple has been torn in two, from top to bottom, symbolically giving mankind access to our Creator and Sovereign God. And the musicians and congregations triumphantly echo the words spoken at an empty tomb, “He is not here!! He is risen!!” This Easter though I knew our celebration would be even more different. Our family was unable to gather on the Sunday, although we gathered earlier in the week. There were no sunrise services, but there were still services of celebration, but beyond that, it seemed the day would be quiet. Until......... My youngest son was visiting from New York City, staying with the middle son who had a work day on the Sunday. So Jon suggested we go to the gravesite of his uncle, my brother, who had passed away just before Christmas. Jon was with us for Tommy’s funeral, but he hadn’t yet seen the headstone given to him at the National Cemetery in honor of his military background. My heart was full as we left the service at our church, and drove to pick up Jon. We headed to the National Cemetery, planning to also go to the historic cemetery in downtown Charleston to remember too our infant daughter, Tonia, whose ashes were placed there many years ago in memory of her very short life on earth. God was doing what I never expected that Easter Sunday. My emptiness was beginning to shout, “He is not here!! He is risen!!” But there was a strong awareness too that echoed the truth of Scripture. Because He is risen, Tommy is risen!! And then again, because He is risen, Tonia is risen!! I had already shared with a friend that morning that her husband who had prematurely passed away just a few months ago, Jesus is alive, and Justin is alive!! Justin’s life had been an incredible reflection of the God he loved and served. And now, like Tommy and Tonia, Justin too is alive, and the joy of the resurrection, the hope and peace of the resurrection, was flooding my spirit as it never had before. “He is not here!! He is risen!!” For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands. We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long to put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing. For we will put on heavenly bodies; we will not be spirits without bodies. While we live in these earthly bodies, we groan and sigh, but it’s not that we want to die and get rid of these bodies that clothe us. Rather, we want to put on our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by life. God himself has prepared us for this, and as a guarantee he has given us his Holy Spirit. So we are always confident, even though we know that as long as we live in these bodies we are not at home with the Lord. For we live by believing and not by seeing. Yes, we are fully confident, and we would rather be away from these earthly bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord. And it’s all because, “He is not here!! He is risen!!” – Bev (Related Bible reading: 2 Corinthians 5:1-8)

April 5, 2023

I Can’t do it

Psalm 66:16-17 “Come and listen, all you who fear God, and I will tell you what He did for me. For I cried out to Him for help, praising Him as I spoke."

“I can’t do this,”I cried out. I felt my sister embrace me, holding me tightly. These are the words I spoke to her as we found out my daughter Katie was on life support. All those years of  a mother’s greatest fear had become true. I knew in my heart  I could not bear this reality. How could I live on when I could barely catch my breath? Little did I know how my reality hadn’t totally hit me. The reality would come after the shock wore off and my new reality would continue longer than most have patience for.

This journey we have found ourselves on has many twists and turns. The journey can take us to the highest peaks and the lowest of lows. It is in the time of the lowest of lows when we have to fall back on our faith in God. Only His promises give us the hope that we can find a way through and survive the very thing we thought would kill us. So what promises can we stand on?

We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us-even the loss of a child ... Phil 4:13
He is always with us, even unto the end of the world - even after the death of our child ... Matt 28:20
The Lord can free us from life’s burdens - even the burden of loss ...  Psalm 34:19
He gives us strength to go on - even after the loss of our child ... Isa 40:29
Peace, He gives us - even after the death of a child ... John 14:27
He will supply all of our needs - even when we don’t know what we need ... Phil 4:19
He will show us  the way to live - even after our child is no longer here on earth ... John 14:26
He will help us cope - even when we feel the pressures of grief ... Psalm 16:11
He will make the impossible possible ... Mark 10:27
What we think will destroy us, the death of our child, will open ourselves up to knowledge and gifts we might never have learned.- maybe even a new purpose in life ... Romans 8:28
Happiness is found when we trust the Lord - even after the loss of our child ... Proverb16:20
He answers prayers - especially after the death of a child ... Matt 21:22

Dear precious mom, hold on to Him like never before.  
His promises are true.  In trusting in the Lord, even in my darkest days, I not only was able to survive Katie’s death, I thrived, and I found a new purpose in living. If God did that for me, He will do it for you.

Lord, I thought I couldn’t survive the loss of Katie, but with You all things are possible.