The Power of Hope and Compassion: Let’s Git-R-Done

This week has been crazy. We’re getting ready for graduation and open house next weekend. The second time around isn’t so bad, but it’s a great reason to get things done around the house that need to be done.  We’re operating is “Git-R-Done” mode.

photo (91)Like cleaning, painting, and the other “normal” stuff that happens every spring at life on the Back Forty….planting garden, 4-H animals, tending these things while doing the “real stuff”of life like working and raising kids.

Tired has entered our vocabulary just a few time this week.

I love this kind of tired. There’s something meaningful in planning, preparing, “git-r-doning” that brings rest and peace to a soul at night. Getting things accomplished, seeing the fruits of your labor, and having things in order.

But one night this week, I went to bed early after doing nothing but working nine hours and bringing home Little Caesar’s Pizza. I was exhausted that day, mentally and emotionally.

Do you ever have days like that?

It’s one of the hazards of being a counselor.  As I came home from a normal day counseling at an intermediate school, I walked and talked with God while my kids ate Little Caesar’s.

The kids I work with are heavy on my heart this week, but there’s so much more to it.  Because their lives are normal for many families in our community, in your community.  Kids who don’t know their dads.  Kids who witness violence in their homes leaving them scarred and emotionally messed-up.  Kids who understand their parent’s priorities don’t include them.  Kids who are on the brink of making good choices or ones that will set them on a path for self-destruction.

I’ve come to believe one of the greatest powers in human connection lies in words of hope.  Not false hope, but real hope.

Hope in choice.

Hope in what you can control.

Hope in seeing the good in a situation.

Hope in a future that is yet unwritten.

Hope in a God who is personal.

I sat in a meeting with a mother who broke down in front of three other adults. She had been strong and brave all year, but the restraining order she had against her child’s father told me much more.  As she was leaving the administrator’s office, I took a risk, hugged her, and said, “God bless you.”

She sobbed more and clung to me like a life preserver.

The risk of compassionate words in that moment spoke truth to my soul.

We need each other.

The boy in my office cried because he’s not accepted by the Latinos and he’s not accepted by the whites. He’s mixed. He’s not accepted by his mom or his dad. A product of a sexual encounter, he doesn’t know family. He finally said through his tears, “I hurt. I don’t belong anywhere.”

Have you ever felt like you don’t belong anywhere?

As I came home with Little Ceasar’s and put my cleaning clothes on, I longed for each child to know what “home” is.  I longed for each adult walking through life with childhood scars to know what it feels like to belong, to be accepted.  I long for each of us walking through life in difficult places to have someone reach out and say, “God bless you for where are at today. You’re a survivor.”

If you’re a person who can give hope to another, let’s Git-R-Done. MP900387256

Let’s take a risk in caring, in sharing, in reaching out.

Let’s be the hand of Jesus and words of hope that give life to others. 

Will you do that with me today?

Will you stop the busyness for just a moment to give a moment of life to another?

God bless you, my reader, for the places you have walked and have received hope for tomorrow.

If you are walking in hard places today, let me pray with you on your journey. You can email me at yoderbl@gmail.com

Join my for other posts this week:

Mother’s Day Legacy: My Daily Prayer at www.notalonemom.com

Being Intentional About Quality Family Time This Summer …at www.parentsspace.com

The How’s To’s for Making A T-shirt Quilt at www.parentsspace.com

 

Parenting Series: What Have I Gotten Myself Into? By Shannon Dew

It’s my privilege to have Shannon Dew, author at Dewing Life, to guest post today.  Visit her site – it’s full of encouragement and practical advice for parenting blended families. I’m thankful to have her contribute to our parenting series!

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What have I gotten myself into?” The first year I was married to the love of my life and his three children I often had this thought. The first year almost did me in. You see, I am a perfectionist and I don’t ask for help and to top off those positive character traits, I am a people-pleaser. Good golly…just writing that makes me tired…living it nearly killed me.

Our wedding was beautiful and intimate and our honeymoon was lazy and relaxed. We returned home to REALITY! Blending a family of five children with ages that ranged 7 to 19 is no small feat. We felt we had done a good job preparing everyone for our wedding. His girls even came to stay with me and my girls in the house we bought a couple of weeks before the wedding.  A good sign that everyone was excited. A new house, new relationships and a new normal. We were all hopeful as we began this new life together, but it would not be without its challenges. My favorite saying in that first year was, “Change is hard even when it’s good”.

The day we returned from our honeymoon my mom told me that all FOUR girls had lice. LICE!! You have to understand that my stepdaughter’s have enough hair between them to cover a small country. It took us nearly a month to be rid of that infestation. To this day when I see the girls scratch their heads I am on top of them looking through their locks to see if I see anything resembling lice as they are screaming and knocking my hands away secretly scared I may find something. We were all traumatized by that experience.

We got married in November so that we could spend the holidays together as a family. Between nit picking hair and buying Christmas gifts for this huge family and extended family, I often wondered often what have we done? That holiday season was stressful. I was doing it all. Super Mom and Super Duper Step Mom. She runs, she buys, she cleans and cooks and nit picks nightly while watching Christmas movies creating the perfect home environment, while asking for help from no one! She IS AMAZING! And she was burning out quickly. We were not even two months in and I was struggling.

I was working hard on building relationships with my stepchildren and I was band-aiding my own children as Mother Kissing Her Daughter for a Present and Red Rosethey had a new school and neighborhood to adjust to since our move. I was in a part of town where I knew no one and I missed my friends and the life I had built on the other side of town for 15 years. I was giving a lot and not receiving much. My husband was trying to be my mainstay, but because I was busy doing it all for everyone else I was on an island. I had cut myself off and was just in “doing” mode. I couldn’t receive. We talked about it, but I just couldn’t stop and I was becoming resentful. I wanted help, but would not ask for it. Why?

Honestly, I loved the attention it gave me. The comparisons the girls gave me to their biological mother were positive. She was smarter than I and was not doing every little thing for them, but I pressed on with my S on my chest doing more and better and cooler things. I soon began to resent my husband for not doing more, but what was left to do? I never asked him to do anything.

That summer I was starting to get really tired. I was sleeping more and doing less. I thought maybe I was depressed. I made an appointment to see my doctor. He found a huge cyst on my thyroid. I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. This was my wake up call and my reflection time. My thyroid and the mass were removed. I was treated successfully and I continue to take replacement drugs, but that time made me realize that I cannot do it all.

Not only had I not been relying on my husband or asking anything from any of the kids, I had not been relying on God. I had set myself up to be the martyr. You know the one who says, “Oh no, I have it”, and then seethes as they perform the task. They enjoy the attention, but loathe the responsibility. Yes, that was me.

As a mom, I think this behavior is a trap so many can fall into. However, a step mom can be special prey because as a stepparent there are always strangers in the house. That means that first year especially, you can feel like someone is always watching and judging your every move. That is how I felt. I don’t know if that was true or not, but because two of my stepchildren were older I was super conscious of my actions.

My advice to new and old step-moms is to take time for yourself. I’m working on this myself.  Don’t allow yourself to get lost in your new normal. Do something that is totally one hundred percent for you. Don’t get caught up in the comparison to the biological mother. Just do what you think is right and stay out of that trap. Keep your focus first on your husband and make time for one another. Talk openly and not defensively. The last and most important piece is to find a Godly woman or women that can walk along side you. If at all possible look for another woman in a blended family. We are unique in our struggles and it is nice to have someone who understands. I have someone I partner with and she and I use one another to grow and keep us honest.

Step-parenting is not for the faint of heart and it is not easy, but almost four years later I will tell you that it is the most rewarding role and I wouldn’t trade my life for any other. I love our new normal and all the ups and downs that go with it. The relationships I have with all my children are ones I wouldn’t trade. My husband and I are closer than ever and he has been my rock. Blending a family can teach you some of the greatest lessons you will ever learn in your life. Each day brings new challenges but now I don’t face them alone.

Silent No More

I can be silent no more.White Flower near Christian Cross

Today’s Easter. For the Christian faith, it’s the most important celebration – more so than Christmas.

It’s not popular to say you’re a Christ-follower.  It wasn’t in the day of Christ and it isn’t now.

Following Christ is different than being religious.

I used to be afraid to say I love Christ.

It wasn’t, and still isn’t, politically correct.

I don’t follow a faith or a person or a church.

I follow a Savior, the Son of God.

He’s changed my life and continues to change me.

He’s pursued me.

He’s led me with gentle grace and love.

His peace is something I wouldn’t trade for the rights I used to demand.

His grace is something I wouldn’t trade for the most gratifying moment of selfishness.

His power is something I can rest in because my way isn’t really the best.

If you disagree with me, that’s okay.

I don’t need to convince you otherwise.

But I’m not afraid to share about the love of my life.

You may be annoyed, but I’m okay with that.

I love Jesus, the Son of Christ, the Messiah.

I love His Father, the Living God, and His Holy Spirit.

No apologies.

I just will be silent no more.

 

Fear, Security, And Stereotypes

Recently my daughter and I traveled to an East Coast city to look at an internship site she is considering for next summer.  We’ve never been to this city.  We booked a B&B, made arrangements to meet with a mutual friend, and off we went.

I was marked by the experiences we gathered in that twenty-four hour period.  She’ll be interning at a small local charity that ministers to refugees.  In the ninety minutes we were there, we interacted with individuals and families from MP900227710the Congo, Iraq, Nepal, Thailand, and others who, we were instructed, did not know their true nationalities because they have been in so many refugee camps before arriving in the United States.

Each person was at home in this neighborhood ministry.  The ministry provides their clients assistance with food, clothing, and childcare while learning the English language.  In the face of each person I saw my immigrant grandparents.  In the face of the director and her assistant, and soon my daughter, I saw my social hero, Jane Addams.

When my grandmother came to America in 1930, she did not know anyone but my grandfather, of whom she had been Maria Quaranta Lazzaraseparated since 1924.  He came to the United States by himself, leaving his wife and infant children behind.  Both only knew his brother and wife.   When Maria Lazzara came, she left her family and village behind.  She didn’t know the language.  My father remembers going to citizenship classes with her as a small child.  This summer, her great-granddaughter will be teaching English to immigrant refugees.  Full circle, by God’s creative grace.

While we were also on this trip, we worshiped in an inner-city Latino church, attending both their Christmas program and Sunday morning worship.  Though Baby Girl is fluent in Spanish, I am not.  But I didn’t need to be.  I was moved by the joy, the music, the facial expressions of those around me.  I didn’t need a translator.  These individuals loved Christ with their entire being.  I was blessed.

We walked through different neighborhoods.  According to the news, these streets are dangerous.  But as one person said, “They are just regular people going about their lives, going to their jobs, raising their families.”  Good counsel. MC900434912

That same weekend, a place I’m most familiar with experienced heinous violence.  “Just regular people, going about their lives, doing their jobs, raising their families.”  Now, according to the news, the school environment is considered dangerous.

Baby Girl left for Guatemala this weekend.   She’s returning to a place on a mountain that captured her heart this summer.  This time, she will be entering the jungles to translate for medical teams, near villages where drug wars broke out this summer.  Just regular people, going about their lives, doing their jobs, raising their families. 

I hear a lot about stereotypes, fear, and keeping safe these days. If I submitted myself to stereotypes and fears, I would shrink back from encouraging BG to pursue these experiences.   It’s challenging to step outside comfort zones to engage with people and cultures we’re not familiar with.   It’s scary to step into places where dangerous things happen.

But in 2013, where does danger lurk?   What is security these days, where does it lie?

MP900403070For me, danger does not reside with people holding weapons, and neither does security.  Security comes when we get to know one another, when we look into each other’s eyes, seeking to understand each other.  Fear builds when we add another “group” to be afraid of.   In our reach for more security, I’m afraid we’re reaching for more fear.

Mom, anywhere I go, it’ll be dangerous.  I feel safe” she says.

A challenging statement.  Everyday I drive my car, not knowing with whom I’m interacting with on the roads.   It’s potentially dangerous, yet I feel safe.

  A paradox.

Yet, it’s not.  I know in whom my security lies.  It’s my Heavenly Father of whom gives peace in the midst of pain, trouble, and danger. In Him lies my hope, my rest, and trust.

“Perfect love casts out all fear.”   1 John 4:18

I don’t fear death.  But I don’t want to fear life.

  In between, the challenge is finding and receiving peace.

Raising Kids In Favor With God and Man

And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” Luke 2:52

BLYoder photoChristmas is over. Baby Jesus is born. It’s time to go on with our lives, our faith, go on with our families, and perception of the Christ.

God’s Word gives us few glimpses of Jesus between birth and age thirty. At the end the Christmas story in Luke 2, these tender words always bring wonder to my soul.

“And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” Luke 2:52

As a young mother, these words were the hope I had for my children. I wanted my girl and young boys to grow in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.

I’ll be honest. Wishing your children will live as sincere, committed followers of Christ as kids and teens can be risky.  I’ve taught public high school.  It’s one thing to go to church and youth group, but it’s another thing to be a kid who really lives out your faith.  The whole be-kind-and-loyal-and-sexually-pure behavior is not the Microsoft clipartticket for being cool in high school. That’s not even throwing in the in the whole “I actually believe what they teach me at church” stuff.  Living this way can be a spiritual, emotional, and social death sentence. If you question that, spend a week in any high school as a fly on a wall. Then, let’s talk.

When my children were still young and pliable, I began praying Luke 2:52 over them at night. It wasn’t every night, but often.  My prayer? They didn’t need to be the coolest kids in school, but I hoped they would grow in maturity, stature (natural height, importance or reputation gained by ability or achievement) and in favor with God and others.

The secret prayer for my children is that they please their Father God and be respected by others.

The Message version of Luke 2:52 says, “And Jesus matured, growing up in both body and Spirit, blessed by both God and people.”

This is still my prayer as my children are coming of age and making choices for themselves when I’m not around. My teens have had their share of heartaches in their growing up years. We’ve had tears when doing what is right doesn’t pay off, where their eyes have been opened to favoritism, social cruelty and gross moral corruption. In those moments, my prayer has been for God to give them wisdom.  In moments where favor from God or man seems to be lacking, my prayer becomes that growth will take place.

In these moments I’m reminded raising children to be Christ-like does not involve simplicity.  Attending youth group and singing for the elderly is only part of it.  The deeper moments in raising children comes in modeling our reactions when favor and blessing don’t come.  It’s speaking words of forgiveness when words cut deep. It’s pointing them to a God who loves them and has their complete life in their hands when the in-the-moment-circumstances seem unbearable. To a child, preteen and teenager, these moments are real.

Raising Christ-like children also involves helping them understand the power of scripture, in praying to a God who hears and cares for their every need, and walking in the way of Christ, who endured heartache, betrayal, and sorrow. Between the Christmas baby and the Easter Savior, Christ was a boy and a man just like my child. Though He also was God, He lived, walked and breathed every trial we do. Even as a teenager.

Praying God’s word is powerful. As I see my older children reaching adulthood, I see God growing them in favor with Him and others. When The Lord allows me to catch a glimpse of this, I bow in humble praise because I know it is by hard work, constant faithful prayers, and God’s grace, that it is so. Parenting children in 2012 is not easy. Many days in past years I’ve wanted to give up, to go the easy route, or to give pat answers. But in Him, we have persevered. In Him, He’s carried us when the going was too rough. In Him, He answered the prayers at just the right time.  It’s His power, despite our failures.

Wisdom first.microsoft clipart

Then stature.

Favor with God first

Then man.

Wanting my children to be like Jesus means all of it.   It’s risky to pray this, but I’m thankful I have and I continue to do so. We’re still in the children raising business.  With each year, the prayers are more frequent. Looking at 2013, part of my heart is honestly scared for world my children are entering.  But I’m reminded, again, they’re not mine, but His.

Dear Father, in this coming year, will you grow each of our children in divine wisdom, in stature, and in favor with You and others?  Will you cause them to be an influence to those around them for Your honor and glory, being tangible examples of a God of grace, hope, and love in an increasingly fragile world?  Make our children strong for the future you have for each of them, that people will know Christ, the Son of the Living God.”

Food, Hunger, and God

Satisfy: to gratify the expectations, needs or desires of. To fulfill a need or desire. To free from doubt or question.

As a recovered anorexic and bulimic, I pay attention to my body in order to live a healthy lifestyle without struggle or relapse. I take care of my emotional and spiritual health so I don’t use unhealthy behaviors to satisfy longings in my spirit when things are out of whack. Hunger, food, and physical activity need to be kept in delicate balance in my life.  Therefore, I listen to my body.

Macro of bamboo fountainOne side affect of being bulimic for many years is excessive thirst. When I’m not hydrated properly with water and other life-giving fluids, thirst distracts me from tasks at hand. I crave water and am not satisfied until I receive the replenishment it gives me.

That thirst is satisfied only with good things.

It’s the same with food. I eat minimal fried or processed foods and my body receives that well. Over the holidays, it’s harder to eat pristinely when eating out more and attending gatherings with a plethora of fat-induced foods. The other night I felt sick to my stomach from eating foods I normally stay away from. I was full but not satisfied.

Unwholesome foods did not satisfy, though they looked and tasted fabulous.

I’ve thought about our spiritual condition recently in instances of being thirsty and full with food, but not satisfied. How often are we hungry and thirsty for God but replace it with other things that aren’t good for us? We get our fill of them, but they don’t satisfy.

What do you satisfy your emotional and spiritual hungers with? For a period in my life it was food. Is it relationships? Success? Your partner? Control? Your kids? Material things? Technology? Beauty? Sports? A good reputation? Jobs well done? Enabling others? Food? Alcohol? Sex? Self-harm? Medication?

In my quest to live a healthy life physically, spiritually and emotionally, I’ve learned only an imitate relationship with the God who knows everything about me satisfies. Psalm 103 says He satisfies our desires with good things. I know this. He has taken the inner parts of my life and has filled them with himself in ways that draws me back to Him, His word, and His presence.

Nothing compares to Him and the way He satisfies.

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This hasn’t happened overnight. It took years of slowly releasing things to Him. But as I’ve traded insecurity, selfishness, fear and hurt with trust and obedience, old patterns have become like a Diet Coke to a parched mouth.

As much as it momentarily satisfies, it doesn’t quench, doesn’t replenish, doesn’t satisfy.

As you take time to reflect this holiday season, and approach a new year, will you reflect on your present hunger for God? Are there things in your life that satisfy more than Him? What do you run to when you are needy? What do you fill your mind, body, and spirit with that pulls you away from the goodness God wants to satisfy you with?

Receive this element of God’s character today as His gift to you. He wants to satisfy your soul with good things.

Try it. You’ll like it.

Praise the Lord, my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

Psalm 103:1-5 NIV

The First Frost

A light icing of white covered our ground this morning. Part of my heart sunk because I knew it meant death of color soon in our northern Indiana world.  I’m a gardener.  I love the color and beauty of flowers.  I honestly think there’s nothing more beautiful than the vibrant, natural colors of flowers that can’t be reproduced by man. Only God creates things so beautiful.  For the next six months, our world of color will be limited to brown, white, and grey, with a  hint of yellow and blue skies on sunny days.

Brown, white and grey just doesn’t do it for me.

The first frost reminded me of what is to come – winter.  It reminded me of unpleasant things in our life that must come so life can renew and grow.  Harsh things like the sting of frost to growing plants.  For a time and season, death and dormancy comes so new things can grow.

The circle of life as Zazu says in “The Lion King.”

There’s a time and place for seasons in life.  There’s a time and place for seasons in growth. These seasons bring regret, angst, sadness and anticipation.

Anticipation for rest, reflection and preparation for new seasons.

Every fall on our family farm, a  harvest is gathered from tiny seeds sown in the spring.  My brother-in-laws put in hours of hard work.  For them, winter brings a much-needed rest before the work of spring.  A satisfied feeling of hard work, accomplishment, and harvest.

As I looked at my flowerbeds today, some plants are done for the season.  Other plants have a few more days of beauty.  A tinge of relieve comes knowing there won’t be weeds to pull, bugs to worry about, or maintenance for the things I find beauty in.  While the ground rests, so will I.  There’s some peace in that.  Peace in rest.  A sense of comfort in the dormancy.

Beauty in growth, peace in rest.  

Just like life.

Life brings beauty in times of personal or spiritual growth, acknowledging the work it takes for growth to happen.

Life brings rest in times of peace, acknowledging the need for quiet calm and reflection both personally and spiritually.

God is perfect, isn’t He?  Creating seasons for a reason – for the renewing of the earth but also renewing of the soul.

Another reason why I love God so much.

He’s personal in every way.

In my busyness today, I longed for the vibrant colors of summer to remain.  His Word whispered to me that winter and dormancy is not a time to dread, but a time to embrace rest -physically, spiritually, and personally.

How do the changing of the seasons speak to you?  How do you approach winter – physically, personally, spiritually?  How do the seasons minister to you?

I’d love to hear.  I’m going to send my helping hands outside later today to clean up the remnants of summer.  Saying good-bye to the vibrant, but welcoming the calm.

“There is a time for everything, a season for every activity under heaven. Ecclesiastes 3:1

Have a great weekend each and every one of you, resting in the season you are in.

Brenda

Precious and Honored

On gray, cold, Fall days like today when my kids were little, I loved to have them sit on my lap under a blanket and read them stories.  They would snuggle close to my chest and we’d read book after book while rocking in a rocker.  We felt safe, secure, loved, and cared for.

Today as I entered the pages of Exodus, I felt like this as I read these words:

“Then mount four rows of precious stones…..carnelian, chrysolite, beyrl, turquoise, lapis, lazuli, emerald, jacinth, agate, amethyst, topaz, onyx and jasper. Mount them in gold filigree settings. There are to be twelve stones, one for the names of the sons of Israel, each engraved with like a seal.”

“Whenever Aaron enters the Holy Place, he will bear the names of the son of Israel over the heart as a continuing memorial before the Lord.”

As I sat in my own rocking chair, curled up in a blanket on a cold autumn day, the image of God taking beautiful stones, carving names of His precious children,  and strategically placing them over His heart blessed me.  I felt like a child curled in the lap of my caretaker, feeling secure, safe, loved, and cared for.

Come with me as we crawl into the lap of our High Priest.

The clothing God planned for His High Priest to wear included the placement of His children’s names written over the priest’s heart.  Each name was engraved in precious stones.  Each stone was different, but brilliant in color and composite. Engraved stones were mounted in an intricate, ornamental fitting made of gold.  When worn, these stones would rest securely over the heart of the wearer. A memorial the Lord said.  A reminder to the Lord and the High Priest that the names of these people were precious.  His children, placed closest to His heart.

I wonder if that’s how my children felt as toddlers and preschoolers curled up next to my heart with my arms wrapped around them.  Precious.  Honored. Chosen.

The same God that placed the names of His children close to the heart of the High Priest then, also places their names there today.  As children of the Most High God, He knows each of us.

“This is what the Lord says …. I have called you by name.  You are mine.” Isaiah 43:1

Some days I need to feel God’s favor.  Not just know it, but feel it….. needing to crawl into His lap like a small child and have His arms curl around me and say, You are precious and honored in my sight (Isaiah 43:4).  You are mine.”

I’m encouraged today by this picture of God engraving our names on precious stones.  Your name, your child’s name, your loved one’s name.  Beautifully scripted on a stone representing everything precious about you and your personality. Thoughtfully placed in beautiful, ornate settings of pure gold and fastened securely.  Then placed over His heart.  We can’t get any closer to Him than this.

The High Priest of Israel came into the Presence of God interceding for God’s children.  Jesus Christ is our High Priest today, continually interceding for us (Hebrews 7:25).  God sets us in a place of precious honor over Jesus’ heart as a continuing memorial before Him.

Needing to feel secure, loved and cared for?  You’re placed as precious stone over  Jesus’ heart, where He always intercedes for you.

Some days, I need this assurance.   I don’t always feel precious and honored in His sight.  All I need to do is  step out of my front door for reminders of how unlovely and sinful I am.   My kids and husband remind me.  On a typical day in the Yoder house, they don’t walk around hailing me as precious and honored.

What a blessing and promise we have that God’s favor and care isn’t dependent on our humanness.  The Isrealites had the Presence of God over them day and night and they messed up minute after minute.  Yet God still placed them in a place of honor over His heart.  As He does for you and me. We are His.

If you’re needing Jesus as Caretaker today, one whose lap you can curl up into, know He’s picked you up, placed you gently in his arms, and is reminding you that you are close to His heart.   No matter what you’re experiencing, your name is engraved and firmly held in place where His love radiates eternally.  It never ends.  His Son, your High Priest, is interceding every moment for you.

My prayer for each of you today is that you’ll feel safe, secure, loved, and cared for by your Heavenly Father even when the weather and people around you are cold and gray.  You’re securely placed over the breast-place of His heart.

He’s even holding you now, singing “Jesus Love Me“,

can’t you hear him? 

The rest of the song goes like this,

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;  and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned.  The flames will not set you ablaze.  For I am the Lord for God.  Since you are precious and honored in my sight, I will give people in exchange for you, nations in exchange for your life. Do not be afraid for I am with you.”  Isaiah 4

Lord Jesus, thank you that your Word never fails, that it is living and active.  Thank you for this image of being placed over your heart.  Thank you that you know each of our names and you honor and esteem each of us with an unfailing, never ending love.  Thank you that Your Son is interceding for us each moment, that we are never out of your thoughts or prayers.  Dear Jesus, hold closely today those who need to feel your safe, secure, and loving arms.  Thank you for caring for our every need.  Amen.

Lord, Where Are You?

Lord where are you?  We’re going this way.  Where are you?  These were thoughts Nettie Kelsey had as she heard the judge sentence her son to prison for the fatal death of her other son and a friend.  For the first part of Nettie’s story, click here.  Here is the second part of her story.

A little over 10 years later, I’m able to share that God has carried us every step of the way.  When going through tough times it’s hard to remember that the Lord only wants what’s best for us.  When my husband and I look back at where we’ve been, we can see God’s loving hand on all of it.

Josh was given credit for the one year he served in the county jail while waiting for his court date.  He served one year at Wabash Valley Correctional Facility and another year in Westville Correctional Facility.  After completing these years of incarceration, he entered Michigan Teen Challenge where he spent one year in drug rehab.

During this time, God was not just working in Josh’s life but also in mine.  I attended a women’s conference with my sister-in-law where author and speaker Carol Kent shared the story of her only child being sentenced to life without parole for murder.  Hearing her testimony, I was deeply touched and experienced many different emotions.  Many thoughts went through my mind.  Here’s this lady going through so much, and she never missed a beat.  They’ve made this loss their ministry.  They’ve used their heart ache to share the love of the Lord. They’ve set aside their own needs and hurts to reach out to hurting people around them.  They allowed God to use this terrible situation to glorify Him.

After hearing Carol’s story, I thought, “Wow, I blew it.  I missed my chance.  Josh is out of prison now and I was so consumed with our own lives, I never looked past our pain to see anybody else’s pain.”   I am so glad that God never failed me, even though I failed Him. He just kept reminding me that He was in control and that He was waiting for me to reach out to Him so He could reveal that “the road to freedom is always a path of service.”  He reminded me of the hurting people around me in my community, work, church, and even my home.  In response, I reached out to Him.

Time went on and I felt like I just existed.  One morning I was praying and asked the Lord to show me the purpose and plan He had for my life. I learned you need to be careful what you pray for.  That afternoon, I was eating lunch with my husband and I received a phone call.  I was asked if I would be willing to share our story.  I paused and the woman said “Pray about it and let me know later.”  I responded, “I will do it.  You see, I prayed this morning and asked the Lord to show me the purpose and plan He had for my life.  If I say no, then I would be slamming the door in the Lord’s face.  Yes, I will do it.” I hung up the phone, looked at my husband and said “I am doing a talk.” I shared with him the prayer I had prayed but also knew how ill-equipped and insecure I felt.  He assured me the Lord would get me through it.

For several weeks I couldn’t figure out how I was going to do this, thinking “Lord, I know that you told me I would one day share our story, but I can’t do this! Have you forgotten I can’t talk in front of people?”  This was far out of my comfort zone and I was stepping way outside of my box.  I realized I needed to turn it over to God and stop putting Him in a box.  While I did not feel comfortable talking in front of people, He proved to me once again I can do all things through Him, that He is strong enough. When the Lord calls you to do something, He takes care of the details. The more I’ve stepped out in faith, the more strength I find in Him.

While I did share at that event, our story had more chapters yet to come. When Josh graduated from Teen Challenge, I understood that if he had not gone to prison first, he would not have completed rehab.  While at Teen Challenge, Josh accepted Jesus Christ as his personal Savior, was baptized, and started Bible College.  What a miracle.

Then at 1:00 am on October 27th, 2006, we received a phone call.   “Is this Joshua Kelsey’s mother?” My heart sank as I said, “Yes.” “Are you sitting down?” a doctor from Sparrow Hospital in Lansing, Michigan asked.  “Are you aware we have Joshua here from an apparent overdose? He is unconscious and is on life support.  He is alive for now. We are doing all we can at this time.” I said, “We will be there as soon as we can, but it will take about 4 to 5 hours to get there.” I hung up.

Once again, we were putting our entire trust in the Lord.

The final part of Nettie’s story will be posted Sunday morning.  If you would like to finish her story now, click here.

You can contact Nettie Kelsey at nettiekelsey@tds.net or Nettie Kelsey, P.O. Box 204, New Ross, IN, 47968.  Kelsey is willing to share her story with your church, women’s group or youth group.

A reminder if you would like to register to receive a free copy of A Place To Belong, find out more here.