November 5, 2019

Love, Lessons, and Liberty

woman wearing grey long sleeved top photography

Recently I heard the song, Father-Filtered by Two or More, for the first time and it really ministered to my heart. It begins as follows.

Though the future is uncertain, and fear grips your heart and mind,

You can sleep in peace just knowing Jesus sees when you are blind,

Hears your thoughts and He gently calms you.

In storms just trust Him.

He’ll never leave you and He’ll make your home in Heaven.

 The days since my last journal entry have brought continued definition and clarity to my situation. God is so gracious and merciful. I am continually astounded at the care He takes of me. I am in awe of His timing in providing my needs according to His perfect schedule! Whether it is a song, a devotional, a book, a verse, a friend, a speaker, or some other vessel of Truth, He sends the answers to questions I find it difficult to even verbalize. He sees my heart’s need and ministers to my soul. He wants me to know Him and continues to show me what unmerited favor and undeserved love look like! It is not because I am special; it is because I am His, chosen, through no merit of my own before the foundations of the world were set, for His purposes and to His glory!

My cancer has metastasized and I am stage four. That is a new thing. The doctor probably knew that would dawn upon me. When you know your case is terminal you do not generally need that verbalized, but it came to mind one day. It has added to my sobriety in facing each day. I do not want to waste my time with “stupid stuff.”  But I am also finding that there are a lot of times lately when I take a more Mary-like approach after having been Martha personified for most of my life. (Luke 10:38-42) Stopping my frantic pace and spending time at His feet listening to Him is new to me. I am understanding that He loves me and paid a heavy price to spend time with me. I am accepted, valued, and loved in ways I can never imagine. His patience and perseverance in seeking that relationship with me is unfathomable! It is the inner me He is strengthening so I can know volumes about His love. (Ephesians 3:16-19) He is an awesome God!

Although I still have a great deal to do to set my home in order and to prepare for another winter, I have been given the ability to accomplish some tasks myself, although at a slower pace than normal. I did climb on the ladder, balance the metal frames of glass, and install my storm windows. I had gotten an estimate for new windows, but, given my current situation, it does not seem like a good use of my money. I also was able to remove the last remnant of the split-rail fence. Two of the posts came out of the ground rather easily, but the third one had really become a part of the yard. After about forty years roots had enveloped it underground and were claiming it as theirs! After struggling with it for awhile I remembered Archimedes who said that he could move the world if he had a lever long enough and a place to stand. I found a metal bar my dad left behind, put it through the post-hole and walked around the post in circles – first one way and then the other. I felt a bit like an ox treading grain, but it brought success! The post was liberated and the yard began a new chapter. I did install some wrought-iron pieces to protect my rose bushes. I can only imagine what moving them would have required! They might not have survived! Although not a pantheist, I do try not to hurt my beloved plants. Before leaving for Word of Life last summer I accidentally cut a new, unopened bud. It traveled with me to Schroon Lake via a vase in the cup holder between the seats in my car. It amused me to think that it would not die alone! It opened beautifully and I enjoyed it in my room at the Lodge!

In addition to my home-projects and teaching responsibilities, I also attended three ladies conferences in three months! I was not certain that it was a worthy goal, but it proved to be a treasure!

On September 20 through 21 I attended Renew, the Northeast Fellowship Women’s Conference, in Johnson City, New York. The speaker was Julie Henning, a North Korean orphan who was raised by Pearl S. Buck. Her testimony of God’s leading her to Himself perfectly articulated the conference theme, “Amazing Grace.” The worship and workshops were also enriching but reconnecting with friends was the greatest blessing! Fellowship with sincere servants of the One Who loves us best strengthened and encouraged me in ways that none of them could have imagined! But God knew I needed this!

On October 5 I attended the Aspire Conference at my own church. The worship with Mia Koehne and teaching by Melissa Spoelstra were a blessing, but the Christian comedian, Kristin Weber, was an unexpected delight!

On November 2 I returned to the campus of Hawthorne Christian Academy for the Fall Conference of Hawthorne Gospel Church. Leslie Vernick, a Christian counselor, shared tremendous wisdom concerning a healthy self-image and mind-set for promoting a healthy inner life and healthy relationships. Although I taught at the school for ten years and have only been gone since August 2018, I did not see many familiar faces. Being alone I still sometimes feel awkward with polite but forced conversation. I actually thought about taking my box lunch to the car and eating it there, but I am so glad I did not. The three ladies who joined me for lunch provided truly sincere and genuine fellowship. I even received several hugs and promised prayer. I did sneak down to the lower hallway during a break to see my beloved classroom. Nothing seemed as it was, but I know that I am not as I was. Fourteen months has brought an incredible amount of change! Just when I thought I would not see anyone I knew I saw one of my former coworkers. Another hug! When I returned to the sanctuary for the final session, I realized that a young man was crouching to speak me as I sat in a pew. Another gift! He was a former student who was apparently providing support for the event. I need not share the sentiments he shared, but it was a wonderful gift. Good memories and affirmation flooded my soul as he spoke. Could any of these five people know they were instruments of God to bring a melody of love and belonging to this weak and weary spiritual refugee divorced from this culture of celebrity and achievement? I have often joked that I am invisible, but those five people out of the hundreds in attendance saw and answered the prompting of His Spirit to notice one so removed from most of the general connections and affiliations.  They were five gifts from my Father! Oh, if I could only be such a gift to others!

All these conferences were complemented by the books I have been reading, two of which I mention in my latest blog post, Sound-Proofing the Soul. The third very impactful book was a second recommendation from my sister, Joan. Recapture the Wonder by Ravi Zacharias has dove-tailed beautifully with all the things that God has been teaching me. It encourages prioritizing wisely. One of my favorite quotes is, “Wonder and music go hand-in-hand. Wonder cannot help but sing. God’s will is to fill us with wonder that makes life enchanting and sacred. We cannot help but sing when that happens. We sing because His name is wonderful!” He is showing Himself to be wonderful indeed during these last chapters of my life, but I know that it is nothing when compared to the wonder that awaits me in my new Home to come!

On October 5 I also had the opportunity to share some of my present wonder with the Stephens Ministry group at my church. My presentation was called Senior Moments. It is one of my favorite themes, developed over time and manifested in various formats and delivered in a multitude of settings. The idea is that we become overwhelmed with stress and anxiety in our lives because we forget who God is and what He can do. Each attendee was given a drawstring bag to which they added token reminders of the person, power, and purposes of God. In addition, they were given pages to add to a book describing the significance and meaning of each token. I was so grateful for the opportunity to share. The preparation also ministers to my own soul, as I also need those reminders. I so hunger for such opportunities to share, but I know I must trust that God will grant them as He wills. As eager as I am, I know I must trust His will and humbly await those open doors of opportunity. It is not about me; it is about Him!

The “not about me” thing may provide context for a bit of much-needed levity in this rather heavy, sobering novel about the novel realizations of the terminally ill! I am finding that my latest purchases have an eye to the future. When I finally bought my much-needed new iPad with Apple pencil!) for making all those support videos, I fell in love with the new version of rose-gold, but thought that whoever might want my iPad when I am gone might not appreciate the color so I went with silver. (My apologies to Marie Kondo! It did give me joy, but I could not keep it!) When I recently decided to purchase the first full-size Christmas tree ever (Yes, I had full-size trees, but they were always someone else’s cast-offs.) I kept in mind that this may be the only year I may use it. I considered this when making my selection. It became not just about the price, but the value to someone else after me. When I purchased a new jacket, I was having trouble deciding between two sizes, but went with the larger size because I knew that it would fit more of the general population.

You may not be laughing, or you may still be trying to get over the rose-bud-dying alone story, but I am who I am. Perhaps I had an unusual perspective even when I did not know I had a terminal disease! But I know that someone will read this and relate! Or maybe they are thinking, “Why is she buying anything; she is dying!” One never knows! And, if you rain on my parade, just remember what rain does to flowers! Well, let’s just say, that it does not generally kill them. They just open their little faces toward the raindrops and anticipate the sunshine! You would never see their tears anyway with the storm you are creating! Maybe they are even giggling! Take that, you cloudy people! Why don’t you look to the Son! He will brighten things up for you! Then you will reflect His love to me! And I will grow stronger and better! Then we can giggle together in the joy He brings! PARTY!!

What a time this is! His time and His timing, for His glory! He knows what lies ahead of me and I can be guaranteed that it is Father-filtered through the sieve of His grace and love! How liberating is that? VERY!

CHORUS

So don’t give up.

There’re footprints in the sand.

 He’s right beside you so take His hand.

 There’s a rainbow in the sky.

Every day is Father-filtered for you and I.