Superstorm Sandy swirls around our home and I ponder the fear and anxiety that so many people must be feeling right now. The year is 2012 and Hurricane Sandy is predicted to be the largest hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic and as I type she blows through the densely populated east coast threatening nearly 60 million people. I say prayers for our home and for all those who may be in Storm Sandy’s path and then I keep typing. We have hunkered down our home and now we much wait. When one is grieving or afraid or worried the advice I remember author and missionary Elizabeth Elliott giving is to:
“Just do the next thing.”
So I keep typing.
Some people deal with severe anxiety all the time. Like my friend Lucy. She shared with me over Mexican food,
“Sometimes I feel there are hamsters running around in my brain” and then she leaned in and whispered , “and lately the hamsters are having a party”.
I smile because even though Lucy deals with ADHD and other learning challenges she has kept her sense of humor. She also has a childlike wisdom. “Ms. Amber, could you write down something I can look at when I am worried?”
So after finishing lunch, I bring Lucy back to my office where I grab a big black marker and a piece of white clean paper and Alice intently watches as I write out the Word of God. She tries to tell me what to write and what she wants to hear but I insist that I cannot make this up but to truly bring peace the words need to be from the book that points always to the “Prince of Peace”. So I write out:
#1– Cast your cares on God, for He cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7)
Just as Peter cast the net out as a fisherman, we need to throw out to God our cares and concerns. Write them down or symbolically open your hands and ask Him to take control and take over your concerns.
#2- There is No FEAR in LOVE, but perfect LOVE casts out Fear. ( 1 Jn. 4:18)
What can help push out our fears and anxieties? Love.
Who is Love? The. Prince. Of. Peace. Jesus.
Lucy, I urge, “If you invite the Prince of Peace into your troubled heart, there will be no room for all your hamsters”.
What about your hamsters? What is running around in your head? Are they having a hamster party? Each day we have new hamsters (anxieties) running around in our heads. So each day we need to sit in quiet and invite God’s perfect Love and truth to drive out those pesky little rodents. We need to write out our cares and cast them out to God. Then we should thank Him for all the storms He as already carried us through.
This is how I concluded my piece seven years ago, “Our electricity is out and as I type the laptop uses up its last juice. Night falls and I will listen in bed as my home creeks under the constant rain and the howling winds rips through the trees. Tomorrow we will pick up the debris and check to see if we have permanent damage from flooding.
I will rest in God’s Love for I have God’s peace in my heart.
Below is a poem dedicated to all my sisters who are facing storms….literal storms and emotional ones as well. Keep your eyes on the King of Heaven who is on His Throne.
Amber had asked me to tell the story of how
we formed our family, and the way God has provided in our lives. Here is our
story of God’s providence and love.
I was blessed to be born into a great family
with faith filled parents. I am the oldest of three, with a younger sister and
brother. I was instructed in the faith from an early age, and God was a part of
our lives, guiding my parent’s decisions as we grew up. I attended Catholic
school for twelve years, and participation in church and the surrounding
activities was a given in our household. I always knew that I was loved by my
parents and by God, and had a relationship with God from an early age. It’s not
that I didn’t, at times, stray from God and my faith, but I always knew where
my center was, and came back to the truths that I knew in my heart.
Infertility – Psalm
27:14 “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and
let your heart take courage, yes wait For the Lord!”
Dan and I met in
college at the University of Cincinnati and dated for a year before getting
engaged. We married in September 1981, right before our senior year, and after
we graduated we both got engineering jobs in Maryland, moving in 1982. Our jobs
were going great, and we felt settled in Maryland, buying our home in 1984, an
old farmhouse which we renovated over the years. Still, we made frequent visits
to see family in Cincinnati, and still considered it home, too.
Although I loved my job, I always felt that my real calling in life was to be a wife and mother. We started trying to have a baby about three to four years into our marriage, but month after month there was no pregnancy. We went to two doctors, including the infertility clinic at Johns Hopkins and went through all of the tests-twice. This was physically and emotionally painful and very distressing. Every month I prayed for a baby, and I became very angry at God, even wanting to stop going to church. It was Dan who insisted that we still attend Mass, saying that since God has given us so much, we should at least give Him an hour a week. At the time I was involved with a prayer group at our church, and the faith filled women there helped me through some very dark times. Over time, I could see that my relationship with Jesus was deepening, in spite of my sadness. I knew that God was with me through this trial, and although I was not less sad, my anger dissipated.
When we went to
Johns Hopkins, the doctors there told us that “they could get us pregnant”.
This seemed very strange to me, since I thought that this was between me and
Dan and God. I just wanted them to find out what was wrong and to fix it. They
never did find out our medical issues in spite of all of the tests and
procedures. In prayer we had a clear sign from God that we weren’t going down
the assisted fertility treatment road (IVF, etc.). Instead, we decided to build
our family through adoption.
through an adoption information class, we were considering adopting from Korea.
We hadn’t been to any home study meetings yet, and at the time were still
finishing up some infertility medication, which had some horrible side effects,
putting me in a perpetual grumpy mood – my poor husband! At one point during
this time, I remember praying and crying out to God to let me know what He
wanted for us. As I was alone in my room, God did give me a sign. Now, I am not
one to have mystical experiences or to be overly sentimental – I’m an engineer
by training – but on that evening in May of 1987 God gave me a vision of a
2-year Korean girl, sitting in the rocking chair in my bedroom.
Adoptions – Psalm
30:11-12 – “You have turned my mourning
into dancing, you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that
my soul may praise you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to
you forever. “,
Dan and I completed the adoption paperwork during the summer of 1987 and we had our home study group meetings in the fall. We decided that we wanted to adopt siblings under age five. A colleague at work had adopted his two daughters from Korea at the same time and I thought it was so nice that the sisters had each other. My sister already had two daughters who were two and an infant. We were anxious to start our family, and getting a newborn was not a priority for us. We thought that siblings would be harder for the adoption agency to place and just wanted to open our hearts to children who needed a home. By the end of winter 1988, all of the families in our home study group had been assigned their children. We were still waiting, and it seemed interminable. Finally, on March 28th, 1988 we got the call. They had two little girls for us, sisters, Mee Na, age 3 and Mee Yun, age 13 months. Jill Mee Na and Holly Mee Yun came home on June 16th at ages 3 ½ years and 16 months. Life was wonderful! I quit my job as an engineer and became a stay at home mom, taking care of our daughters and finding new mom-friends in the community.
Jill and Holly finally arrive! Thank you God for answered prayer.
time, I was anxious to adopt again. I was so happy as a stay-at-home mom, and
longed to add to our family. My husband thought otherwise. There was much
stress in our marriage. We put in paperwork to adopt again in 1990, but then
withdrew it. This was so very painful, and I felt so distant from Dan, but I
felt very close to God at this time. I knew that God knew the desires of my
heart and although I didn’t know if we would ever add to our family, I felt
that God was with me. I clearly heard
with an inner voice that Jesus was telling me to offer my pain in this
situation to God for Dan. I rebelled at this – how could I offer my pain for
someone who was causing my pain?! Jesus
quickly told me “That is what I did for you when I offered myself on the cross
for the sins that you committed”. Well, how could I counter this?
softened, especially after he went on a weekend silent retreat. The lawsuit was
over and the financial stress had lessened. We put in our adoption paperwork
again in the spring of 1994, wanting to adopt two children again, since our
daughters by this time were seven and nine. There was a problem, though. After
the 1988 Olympics, Korea had closed their adoption program, and when they
reopened it again, they were only placing children from infants to age two with
American families. We decided to wait
for twins, but it was a longshot.
As we were
waiting for an assignment of children, our good friends had generously offered
to let us stay with them at no charge at the beach house that they rented on
the Outer Banks. We had a wonderful week in North Carolina with our friends,
their five children, our two girls, and the two black lab puppies that we and
our friends had gotten from the same litter. It was a relaxing and prayerful time
as we waited for our paperwork to process. I prayed that God would answer our
prayers for two more children. The beach house where we stayed, which our
friends “coincidently” picked – The Twin Dolphin.
Christmas came and went and we were still waiting. Again, the families in our home study group had all been assigned children and they were even all home with their new families. We were not sure what was going to happen and in January 1995 we were asked by the adoption agency if we would consider another program besides Korea. We decided to wait a little longer. Then in February a double rainbow appeared in the sky after a winter rainstorm. I snapped a picture, and still have it, although it is undated.
Then, on March 28th,
1995 we got the call. We were celebrating that day because it was the
anniversary of the day that we found out about Jill and Holly in 1988. It was exactly seven years later to the day
when our social worker told us that they had one-month old twin boys for us! I
immediately saw the hand of God in our lives. Our social worker was not aware
of the anniversary date, and she was not the same social worker when we adopted
Jill and Holly. God wanted us to wait for these two baby boys so that they
could be a part of our family, and he arranged the dates. The twins were born
on February 20th. Was that the day of the double rainbow?
Our sons, Andrew
Jee Won and Nathaniel Jee Hoon, named after two of the apostles, came home on
June 20th, 1995. Life was busy and full, caring for the twins,
homeschooling our girls and taking them back and forth to gymnastics. Jill and
Holly, now ages ten and eight, were a great help with their baby brothers. With Jill, Holly, Andy, and Nathan we thought
our family was complete. But God had other plans!
The Additions- Mark
9:36-37 – “And he took a child, and put
him in the midst of them; and taking him in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever
receives one such child in my name receives me; and whoever receives me,
receives not me but him who sent me.”
The kids grew and
Jill was off to Ohio State on a gymnastics scholarship in 2002. She married
David in 2004, and had our first grandson, Ryan. The twins were nine, and Holly
was seventeen, finishing up high school. Holly went to Michigan State on a
gymnastic scholarship that fall, and I was homeschooling the boys. When we all
gathered at Christmastime in 2004, with eight of us including Ryan in a car
seat, and with all of the gifts, and a big Christmas tree in the room, there
was just no room! It was early in 2005 that Dan and I decided to build an
addition on the house with a great-room and a garage underneath.
At the time I was
meeting with a group which encourages people to deepen their relationship with
God through prayer and scripture. I had a spiritual director that I met with
monthly. She asked me what God wanted us to do with this new addition to our
home. I said I didn’t know, but deep
down I felt that something big was going to happen.
At an open house
we had for friends at Christmas 2005 several said that we needed an Amish
clothesline out of our new laundry room window to a nearby tree. We already had a long clothesline, so I
didn’t think too much about it. Also, at Christmas that year, Holly had a
friend, Katie, who went to Franciscan U. in Steubenville, and was visiting
after just finishing a semester in Austria. She had gone to Assisi and brought
me back a very nice statue of St. Francis, which I put on the mantle in the new
great room. These two facts might not seem like it, but they do relate to my
this, let me tell you a bit about St. Francis. St. Francis was born in the
1200’s in Assisi, Italy. He lived a worldly life, but then felt God calling him
to serve, and he renounced his wealth. God told him to rebuild His Church, and
Francis thought God meant the church of San Damiano, which was on a hill near
Assisi and had fallen into disrepair. Francis began building the church, but
then God said, that He didn’t mean brick and wood, but He meant to build up the
people of God, and bring them closer to Him.
It was then early
March 2006, on a Thursday and I was walking to the mailbox, thinking that
nothing good ever comes in the mail. It was one of those dreary days in March –
not biting cold, but not warm, when the earth seems like it is just waiting to
green up into spring, but winter is still holding on. I found in the mailbox,
along with the junk mail and bills, a newsletter from Catholic Charities
Adoption. Inside the newsletter was a section on waiting children and I saw two
tiny pictures of two little boys that needed a home. They touched my heart.
The next day, Dan
and I were outside and I commented that we needed the clothesline tightened
after the usual sagging during the winter. He asked if I wanted to put up an
Amish clothesline, like our friends suggested at our Christmas party. I replied
“No, we don’t have enough kids, like the Amish do, to need an Amish
clothesline. But we could get Joey and Hector.” Dan asked who Joey and Hector
were, and I showed him the newsletter with the information about the two boys who
were biological cousins, ages seven and eight from the Philippines. He didn’t
say any more, and neither did I, but those boys were on my heart all that
Because of my
busy schedule with homeschooling, I would often get up with Dan at 5 a.m. to
pray and ready my school day. That Monday, as Dan was heading down the stairs
to the garage to go to work, he said, “If you want to call about those two
boys, you can.” I really didn’t think I heard him right, since I was half
asleep. I said I would, and called that day and got some information, but
didn’t want them to send me any paperwork. I really wasn’t sure about this and
didn’t want to get too emotionally involved before being sure.
Dan and I talked and talked about whether this was right for our family. I thought about the scripture from Mark 9:36-37, “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me” and I knew what God was telling us to do. I thought about St. Francis, his building of the church of brick and wood, but God calling Him to build up the people of God. We knew this was the right thing to do, but we really had to step out in faith and trust. We would be 47 years old when they arrived, we had two grandchildren, with Jill having her second son in February, I would be homeschooling four boys, I would have to travel to the Philippines, we would have the cost for the adoption, Dan would be close to retirement age when they graduated high school, and most importantly, what would it be like to adopt two foundlings at ages eight and nine? So many unknowns! Still, I could just feel the grace being poured out on us.
We decided to go
forward with the adoption on the weekend of March 18-19. March 19 is the feast
day of St. Joseph, but since it fell on a Sunday that year, the feast was moved
to Monday, March 20th. I called Catholic Charities on Monday, St.
Joseph’s day, to tell them we would like to adopt our Joseph and Hector.
Joey and Hector
visited in July 2006 in a summer program designed for waiting Pilipino children
and we knew that we had made the right decision. All the paperwork was in and I
prayed that they would be home for Christmas. Dan is not a traveler, and he had
to stay home with Andy and Nathan who were eleven. A friend Catherine, from
Birthright Pregnancy Center where we volunteered, told me from the beginning
that she would come with me to the Philippines. I was concerned about her
travel expenses, and she was confident that she would find someone to give her
sky miles to fly free. A woman that I never met, from Catherine’s knitting
group, gifted 120,000 sky miles, enough for one free round-trip ticket. In October, we made the arrangements to leave
the day after Thanksgiving. Since hardly anyone flies the day after
Thanksgiving, Catherine only needed half of the sky miles that were given to
her, so I flew free too. God arranged free airplane tickets for both Catherine
and me. Joseph James and Hector Thomas (two more apostle- the middle names we
gave them) came home on December 2nd, 2006.
continues to grow with three of our children now married and with eleven
grandchildren. We have been truly blessed. God is good!
May you rejoice in the wife (husband) of your youth. Proverbs 5:18
As i was walking down the beach today I overheard an elderly lady chatting with her friends. “Do you know what the number #1 bucket list item is? She paused and excitedly exclaimed,,,,’To fall in Love.” and then she paused, smiled and said “Again”.
Was she a widow? divorced? All I know is that she would put falling in love….Again at the top of her bucket list.
As I continued to walk along the shore, I remembered a simple poem I wrote many years ago (see below) about how God desires for us to fall in Love again and again with our spouse for He came to make all things new. We can’t control our spouse or change him, but we can ask God for help to be the best wife, mistress and best friend to our husband as possible.
How to Fall in Love…………. Again
Oh give my husband a brand new wife One that will serve him lovingly Give him the helpmate he deserves And may that “new wife” always be me
Oh give my husband a hot mistress One that will surprise him lovingly Give her energy and fresh ideas And may that “mistress” always be me
Oh give my husband a new best friend One that will listen lovingly Give her wisdom to find the good And may that “best friend” always be me
Would you like a few practical suggestions on how to spice things up?
A sweet sister confessed over lunch last week that her and her husband were in a bad rut and weren’t communicating ahead of time about their needs.
I told her “How about picking an emoji and sending it so the each other earlier in the day so the night doesn’t go too late and both prepare to get to the room before both our too tired?” Then dear sister when you are in the bathroom preparing for your rendezvous, say a quick prayer “Lord, give me a desire for my husband” Then put on some lipstick, perfume and maybe some high heels to help put you in the mood.
Does your husband work like a microwave in the bedroom? and you are more of a crock-pot? how about communicating using sports analogies. My friends husband loves sports so we thought up a way to relay the message using baseball terms. “Sweetie, you can’t get a home-run with out touching all the bases”.
Consideration and mutual respect needs to go both ways. If one is too tired than make a plan for when a rendezvous will work. “Tonight I’m too tired, but tomorrow morning will work”. If you were the one to postpone then be sure to follow-up and show your husband that you do find him desirable.
Marriage is such a sacred gift and we need to do all we can to nurture and protect it.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the word Love lately as Dave and I just celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary, and so I thought now would be a fitting time to share this poem I wrote last year. The I Corinth. 13 love chapter ends with the words, Love Never Fails…but I prefer the more powerful phrase Love Always Wins. (so much so that it hangs on a plaque above my stove) For our anniversary we went to the newest Sight and Sound production titled JESUS and in this spectacular, state of the art production one quiet scene spoke the loudest. At the last supper, Jesus invited Judas to sit next to him and lovingly he kneels down and carefully washes his feet. Jesus, all God and all man, the Maker of Heaven and Earth kneels down to wash the feet of his betrayer. Isn’t this our own story? While we were yet sinners, the holy God of the universe kneels down to take the form of a human and then rescues us by pouring out his own blood to wash us completely clean. Will you let Him wash your feet? and then Will you wash the feet of those causing you to suffer?
Love Always Wins
Oh my sweet friend, True Love Always Wins
Come to The Well
again and again
Fill up to the brim with all that’s true
He came to restore, make All things New
Oh my sweet friend, True Love Always Wins
Oh my sweet friend, True Love Never Fails
Once we sat helpless in death-rows jail
God’s red love lavished to set us free
Long- suffering turns the prison door key
Oh my sweet friend, True Love Never Fails
True love is bloody and sometimes it hurts
True love kneels down and then takes off His shirt
I sat in church that January my heart aching from five years of infertility which had just ended in a second miscarriage. A visiting, itinerant priest, a friend of our pastor’s from seminary, announced he was there to talk personally with anyone who needed to discuss her relationship with God.
Well that wasn’t me!
I went to church every Sunday, prayed with my husband, and
even taught the 8th grade class right there at church, but I didn’t talk to
anyone about my relationship with God.
As Father Fred stood at the back of church shaking hands with people as
they left, I was making a wide arc to avoid him when I felt compelled instead
to go speak with him. Before I knew it,
I found myself saying, “I think I ‘m supposed to talk to you about my
relationship with God.”
I went to meet with him and poured out my heart and ended with,
“I don’t understand what I’ve done that has made God angry with me. I don’t understand why he is punishing me like this.”
Father Fred smiled a big warm smile and chuckled a bit. He went on to explain that ever since the first day he had been ordained a priest God had been sending him infertile couples and he had known when I saw him in the church why I was coming to see him. For decades, he had kept a list of infertile couples and he would pray that they could find their lost fertility. He told me in all the years of his list, he had never had one couple who couldn’t conceive. He asked me if I’d like to be placed on his list. I was so excited. This was all I needed. I could be right with God if I could just be on the list of this holy priest to whom God had given this special ministry. Father Fred prayed over me and I got up to leave. He motioned for me to remain sitting and said, “Now, let’s talk about your relationship with God.”
I was confused. Being
on the list was what I needed. Exactly
what I needed. But God wasn’t leaving me
in the misconceptions of my immature faith so Father Fred couldn’t either.
Father asked if I could picture the most painful memory of
all I had experienced. I said,
“Yes. I see the doctor’s face, hear the
monitor beeping, feel my husband’s hand.
I see it all, Father.” He gently
responded, “No. You don’t.”
“You don’t see where Jesus was in that moment and I promise you that he was there with you.”
He told me to ask Jesus where he was. “Lord where were you?” I cried in a half-sob. I closed my eyes and pictured the scene again and this time I could see Jesus standing by me and when the doctor spoke those cruel words, I could see him bend over me, shielding me.
Then I saw so many of the other scenes from this painful journey and I could see Jesus with me through it all. Father Fred asked, “What is Jesus doing?”
I answered, “He’s
“And why is he crying?” Father asked.
“Because I’m hurting and he’s hurting.”
“Why is he hurting?” prodded Father.
“Because he loves me,” I sobbed.
“That’s right! “Father joyously exclaimed. “Jesus loves you! He’s not punishing you because of something you did wrong. He’s hurting for you because he loves you.”
Father Fred went on to tell me that bad things happen in the world because sin exists and bad things that happen were not even necessarily the result of our own sin. Sin and the sad that resulted from it were never what God wanted, but that he could bring good from it if I would let him.
I felt so much better and thanked him and got up to
leave. Father motioned for me to sit and
said, “Now, I’ll hear your confession.”
I wasn’t ready for that. I liked
to prepare. Father said, “Relieve
yourself of these sins you feel are so great that you believe God is angry with
you and punishing you.”
In Isaiah 40:1-2, God says:
Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed,that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.
God forgave me and I needed to believe it. I have spent years learning that lesson – God has forgiven me of anything I had done. The negative feelings I now felt weren’t an issue with God; I needed to learn to forgive myself.
Father listened to my sins and told me God forgave me.
Then he paused and said, “I’m getting a very strong feeling from the Holy Spirit that you are going to be pregnant by Easter. Yes. Easter. Let’s pray you can carry this baby to term.” We prayed. I thanked Father and left.
I went happily through the season of Lent. The peace my faith had brought me during our
infertility and miscarriage trials had inspired my husband to seek Jesus and he
was preparing to be baptized at Easter, April 16. It was a joyous, hope-filled time. We made a peaceful spiritual retreat to
lovely Savannah, Ga and grew in faith and love of God. Two weeks before Easter, we discovered Father
had been wrong. I was not pregnant, but
I talked to God about that and told him we had so much growth that it was okay
that Father had been wrong and had misinterpreted the message God had sent.
My husband was baptized at Easter. It was a beautiful time and it made it ok that Father Fred had been wrong.
Except, he hadn’t been.
Two weeks after Easter, I discovered I was pregnant and looking back on all those records folks struggling with infertility keep, I was a day or two pregnant at Easter when my husband had been baptized.
I did go on to carry our little girl, not only to term but two weeks past. Savannah was born in January – exactly a year after I had met with Father Fred. Easter Sunday that year was on my birthday and Father Fred just happened to be passing through visiting our pastor for Easter. He gave me the best birthday gift I’ve ever received when he baptized Savannah on that Easter birthday of mine.
In so many ways then and since then God has shown me the
truth of Jeremiah 29:11-13 –
11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you,plans to give you hope and a future.12 You will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”
With my heart broken, I sought a relationship with God, and in finding that relationship, God healed that broken heart.
In the years that followed, I learned: God has good plans for us and they are so much
bigger than our own plans. I learned to
forgive myself if for no other reason because God forgave me and his is a
perfect example to follow. Most of all,
I learned to look for Jesus in my times of hurt because he is there.
Divorce can be devastating for a single mom, especially knowing that God hates divorce. How do you reconcile this? After being divorced for 20 years, I will cut to the chase and give you the bottom line for me.
God hates divorce, but He loves more!
If you read the story of the woman at the well from the Gospel of John 4:4-26, you will see that Jesus desires the woman’s worship over and above her guilt. This is what set her free to become the first evangelist! This may be comforting to you, but what about your children who grow up without a dad or has a distant father? I’m sure you’ve heard the odds of what happens to boys who are raised without a father. I surely did when my son was only a baby when my marriage ended. Fear and anxiety set in knowing that the distance of his father was going to mean that there would be little to no interaction – the interaction that would keep my son out of serious counseling or even jail. Miraculously, by the grace of God, this didn’t happen. At least not yet, and my son is now 24.
In fact, raising my son was the most enjoyable time of my life, and fruitful indeed! This single mom didn’t experience the normal exasperation of raising a child alone.
In fact, I seemingly enjoyed the easiest teenage years compared to most intact families, resulting in a mature, responsible, deep-thinking, God-fearing young man who also gave me a beautiful, amazing, puts-me-to-shame daughter-in-law.
How did this “fabulous fruit” come to pass when the odds were against it? Here are some spiritual truths that provided the necessary nurturing of my little seed and practical tips that watered and fed this little guy to the wonderful young man that he has become. If you find yourself in this unfortunate, sometimes tragic situation, you may want to try these suggestions.
• First and foremost – Commit yourself, your Child , and your Parenting to the Lord. Realize your child is a miracle and a gift from God, but he/she belongs to Him.
You will never be alone! God says in Isaiah 41: 10
“Fear not for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
I can’t say enough about the peace that I received from the Lord and all His incredible guidance. He provided always with gifts of wisdom, financial means, and forgiveness of my former spouse.
• Delve into the Word. As your young child sleeps, plays, etc., take this time of your singleness to intensely study the Bible. There is much wisdom, and you will need this to parent your child. Personally, I spent the first 7 years of my son’s life in Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) and 3 more years in Community Bible Study (CBS). You can find these classes in most major cities.
Your closeness with the Lord will guide you in your parenting in ways that you could never fathom.
Remember that God loves your child more than you ever can. It’s awesome to see God’s hand on you and your child!
• Pray for “daddy” with your child. (No matter how you feel about your child’s father). This will keep a distant father in your child’s life in an important way. Address God as “Our Perfect Father in Heaven” when you pray, and this will distinguish God as your husband and Father who will love, care, and provide SECURITY for your family and who will never fail you. Keep your emotional and material issues with your child’s father undisclosed. Wait until your child is asleep to call a friend or counselor to discuss any pain you are feeling toward your child’s father and the loss of your marriage.
Christian Counselors are very helpful. They can provide a perspective that you may not see. I was feeling anxious, fearful, and helpless during the early years, and my counselor was able to provide practical ways to get through the day and provide hope for the future.
• Daily Devotions with your child will be like having God in your house! Your child will feel more secure knowing that his perfect Father is listening and guiding each and every day.
• Pray for Godly men in your child’s life. Coaches, teachers, pastors, and neighbors, will provide examples that your child can model.
• You need your sleep. If you are alone with a young baby or child, you will need to teach your baby to sleep. Make sure your child learns that their crib is not for playtime and they will learn to take sleep seriously. Put them down, say goodnight, and walk away. Use a pacifier, if necessary. Expect them to sleep and they will learn to do so…as long as they are not distressed or sick. If they fall asleep outside the crib, make sure they wake up in the crib. Stick to scheduled naptimes. When your child is older, set a time limit for when your child is allowed to get out of bed. For me, it was 7:30 a.m. My son was told that he needed to wait until then.
• Refrain from using the word “no.” Instead say “you may not do that” or “sorry, but that’s not allowed.” Children, unfortunately, will mimic the words you use, and “no” isn’t a very pleasant one to hear from your child. Your tone and words should always be respectful.
• Provide security. Surround yourself with Godly friends and family. Grandparents are great for this. We also had wonderful neighbors who were always there for us. My son knew where to go if he needed someone’s help in an emergency.
• Messaging should be consistent. Your child needs consistency in their world-view. I was fortunate to be able to provide Christian education for my son, and we also attended the same church throughout his upbringing. School, church, and home messaging was consistent and constant. We loved our church, and it was never a thought to miss a Sunday.
• Always be honest. When you hear your little Kindergartener, in his car seat behind you, begin a conversation with “Tell me the truth, Mom” and proceeds to ask about the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, and the tooth fairy all at the same time, give it to him straight. (Yikes ) Also, refrain from sarcasm, bribery, and threats. Trust and respect are crucial.
• Expect obedience. If your child thinks it’s okay to disobey you until a second or third repeated request, you are teaching them to not obey you. This is where the “higher-calling” comes into play. Those daily child devotions are full of life lessons that encourage the importance of obedience.
• Raise your child to be a decision-maker. If my son wished to wear shorts outside in the dead of winter, that’s what he did. I knew that if he was cold enough, he could come inside or change his clothes. He decided when to do his homework while he was in Grammar school. I remember when I was picking him up after school and feeling delighted to see him lying face down on the trampoline at his friend’s house with his books spread out, while his friend was bouncing around. This attitude continued till high school when his homework habits were solidly getting him through those difficult years. Making his own decisions provided the confidence he needed for work (he was an umpire at age 12) and later on in his college years.
In conclusion, notice that the flip side to the Isaiah verse (above) is Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” Let this encourage you. I rejoice happily, for God has blessed me with this fruitful life. He will give you a fruitful life as well, if you commit to give Him the glory.
Have you ever had to make a U-turn because you missed your destination? Maybe you didn’t realize you missed your destination, so you went miles out of your way before you had to turn around. Or maybe you were going down a one way road? As you drove in the wrong direction, you kept stopping for fuel, bathroom breaks and fast food. You knew all the right things you had to do to keep things going, but you still hadn’t recognized that you needed to adjust your journey? Isn’t that the way life goes sometimes, but not just when we are driving on the highway, but in our day to day too? I found myself there many times, and I have only found one true adjustment that works- will you join me in a short journey today and make a U-turn with me? One April Monday, the Sweet Sisters met for our study on “Trusting God”. We have been sharing specific trust stories in our lives and Monday was my turn to share. As you read this, I hope you are inspired to find Jesus and meet Him where you are. My trust story started when I was twelve years old and accepted Jesus into my heart. I wish I could say the rest was easy, but it has been a long and windy road. Two years ago something happened that motivated me more than any other time in my life. I had my routine mammogram and within two days had the call that we all dread. I needed to come back.
I did two things, I prayed, and then I called my husband. Then FEAR set in. All the what if’s and preparation for the worse. Being a nurse and knowing what I could potentially face increased my fear. Fast forward two weeks and I’ve had an ultrasound, a needle biopsy and been told all clear. These were two very scary weeks. I clung to prayer, I clung to scripture and my faith. I was unable to focus on much else. Then I experienced the sweet relief of answered prayers. In I Thessalonians 5:16 -18 we are encouraged to “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for us in Christ Jesus” (NIV). I was focused on trying to live this verse. I was so happy and thankful when I received the news, I even doubted if it could be totally true. We’ve all heard the saying “timing is everything”, and in this case it really was. This event had coincided with the Sweet Sisters study of the “Purpose Driven Life”. I became deep in thought, as so much was colliding at the same time, causing me to stop and reflect. Throughout the rest of the fall study, I realized how much Jesus had protected me and supported me throughout my entire life and through many difficult times. How much he had blessed me and I was overwhelmed with gratitude for his love and mercy and kindness. I wanted to do more – He deserved more than I had given up to this point. I wanted to be his light to those with whom I encounter in my day to day, family, friends, work, and socially. I wanted to be more faithful than I had been before. I had always been a prayer warrior, but I wanted to be more consistent with church, worship, reading my bible and setting an example for my friends and family. I wanted to emulate Love for others and to others. So…fast forward 2 1/2 years and 5 studies later with the Sweet Sisters and I have grown after each study. I’ve also make small and big changes in my life – trying to be a better listener, trying to make it never about me, trying to incorporate the salvation that only Christ can provide when opportunities arise. Realizing there is nothing perfect about me – I do get up every day with a desire to please him and share his love.
Having been a Christ follower since twelve, I often wonder why I didn’t try harder before – and I came to the conclusion that it was because I thought it would be too hard, I’d have to change too much, people might think I’m over the top – one of those religious freaks. My husband had even said to me during this time your becoming “odd for God”. But, what I’ve come to realize is that when we surrender His will to our will he changes us bit by bit. Once we start the walk of obedience, and we truly pray for his spirit to come alive in us every day – it happens, day by day. It’s just one word – “surrender” that’s the easy part, you follow and He guides. In Jeremiah 29:13, we are told “You will seek me and find me when you search for me with all your heart” (NIV). This verse is so true, as we seek Him more we find more of Him. The holy scripture is the best place to find Him. It’s the best place to go when you need to make a U-turn. Do I sometimes have doubts? Plagued with second guessing or thinking I’m not good enough or worthy? Of course, but then I remember Isaiah 43:18-19: “Forget the former things, do not dwell on the past. See I am doing a new thing! now it springs up; do you not perceive it”?
He wants us to always be moving forward, learning from our past and asking him to guide our future. When we do this He does spring up in our heart and he flows out through all we do. What a relief to know He has all we need, we just have to trust Him more. Sometimes we trust even when we are not sure we can, and He comes through. Wherever you are today, he’s faithful and true and can provide all that you need to help you journey in the right direction. He loves you. John 15:13 (KJV) “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” Grab his hand and watch him change your direction.
Yesterday was my daughters “Heaven day”; the anniversary of when I held her 40 day old perfectly formed body and she breathed her last breath. God’s peace covered me that day. She had been born premature and a staph infection in a blood clot attached to her central line caused her heart to fail. Her body was purple and bloated and she had so many pricks, and my soul knew deep down that she would be “healed in heaven”. This peace continued to cover me, as a soft snow covers a barren tree, days later as we picked her tiny coffin and throughout her funeral.
And then after everyone went back home and on with their lives; my heart and faith began to fail. When I look back on this lowest time in my life, I remember a kind act from a stranger that at just the right time and in the right way gave me hope.
I call these inspired and spirit -led acts of kindnesses: KISSes From God.
Instead of a “Random Act of Kindness” or RAK, I prefer to call these “kisses from God.” I created this acronym recently and wanted to share this with you my sweet sister.
S- spired by the
S- Spirt (The Holy Spirit)
My daughter Megan Elizabeth lived such a short time on this earth and the anniversaries of her birth and death still can brings tears to my eyes and a lump to my throat.
But then I remember how the super kind act of a stranger (KISS) soothed my tired and wounded heart when I needed it the most.
A few months after the funeral, I bundled up my two year old and 3 and half year old daughters and went to the local Harford Mall. How lonely I felt as my husband and I were both so wounded and grieving in our own ways. He threw himself back into his job and spent most of his time working. My sensitive daughters both regressed and acted out sensing the rollarcoster of events and emotions. My oldest, who before Megan’s death had been potty trained, regressed and started to cling to me. They both sought my attention and bickered among themselves and I struggled to care for them as the grieving sapped so much of my energy. I remember standing at the sink one day yelling out to God, “why did you give her to me …. only to take her away?” Underneath the anger was a hurt little girl who felt that God had ignored her prayer
I went to buy ice creeam for my girls in the food court and the cashier explained that they were paid for. He explained “ That a man each day picks someone to buy ice cream for and this day he picked you and your little girls.”
Sisters…..I had money to buy ice cream. My need wasn’t money. But what I needed was to know that God saw me; I needed to know that He cared about me and my sore heart.
As cool, sweet, soothing ice- cream runs down and coats a sore throat, I felt God’s loving and healing touch cool my sore hurting heart.
This act of kindness opened the eyes of my heart. I gradually started to understand that God, who I thought was ignoring me, saw my sore heart. I was not alone I realized. God cared for me and would gently walk with me through my grief.
What did that masked man see in me? Did he see the hurting girl underneath? I’m sure I probably looked like a tired mom (he didn’t know about my grieving heart for the NICU baby) but God did and I am so glad that this man followed this nudge from God. Thank you sweet stranger from the bottom of my heart. My heart wells up with joy so much that I want to collaborate with God and give God KISSES every day just like you dear stranger did for me. Even now, (23 years later) the tears that flow when I remember this lowest time in my life, include tears of gratefulness.
I now realize the importance of doing kind acts in secret. For then the recipient does not have to use up energy on how to repay the person back. And the recipient can truly receive the gift from the hand of God; the one who is the giver of all gifts.
So Sweet sister. Let us keep our eyes open for someone who is struggling.
Let us give anonymously ( if we can) Let’s let God get the credit for our small act of kindness. Everything we have is from Him anyhow. I know that the ice cream cones mean more because of the mystery of who it was from and how he picked me on the day I needed it the most.
God is the one who knows who in our lives is struggling the most and He knows what will help them to realize God’s Love. Just as this wonderful man picked one person a day to give A KISS from God to, why don’t we ask God each morning to show us one person who may cross our paths this day? Also, let us pray for God to give us creativity as to how to bless them.
Our actions shouldn’t be a random scattering of seeds on hard soil but instead intentional seeds of kindness on the soft heart of someone who needs a “Kiss” from God.
So ask God each morning to give you fresh eyes to notice the person around you who needs some cool refreshment.
God’s agape love is one that is not self-seeking but instead spreads outward to help others. God’s love is kind, refreshes others and will be a sweet reminder that God sees their suffering.
What was that thrumming noise overhead? I looked upward and realized it was the pulsing, whirling sound of helicopter wings. A Coast Guard helicopter made a big circle as I waved one hand to signal that I was alive and the reason for the sirens ringing out over the island. However, this chop, chopping was not music to my ears. Awkward visions of having to climb aboard a hanging ladder filled my head and I continued my pleadings with God.
“Lord, I don’t need a helicopter,” I said out loud. “Just
send me a motorboat. I don’t need a helicopter.”
Shivering in the
pre-season Atlantic Ocean, I treaded water, trying to make headway back to the
shore. But the handlebars of this brand new elliptical paddle board having sunk
below the surface, along with the offshore breeze were just too much for me.
Numerous rescue vehicles awaited on the shore: an ambulance, police car, and even a fire truck. As the helicopter also continued to hover overhead, a crowd of people gathered on the shore, and I knew they were wondering the same thing I was – How did this middle-aged woman end up so far off shore alone in the early morning clutching a bright yellow board?
Just an hour earlier when we arrived at the seashore, the
ocean appeared unusually calm. My
husband was so excited for me to use the new toy he had given me as an early
birthday present: a paddleboard with handlebars for steering and bicycle pedals
for more control than the typical paddleboard.
Dave pushed the spanking new paddleboard, with me standing
proudly on top, out over the waves, and I happily used the pedals to move the
Mirage eclipse forward – straight out into the vast sea.
After pedaling straight out to sea for a couple of yards, I
squeezed on the right handle and expected the new hybrid paddleboard to follow
along to the right. Nothing happened. I had been told before heading out that I
would need to pedal fast for the steering to work, so I pumped my legs faster
as I squeezed the handle with all my strength. I wouldn’t find out until much
later, that the screw we tightened before I set off that day was actually
supposed to be loose. Our tightening it prior to my departure was the reason
behind this whole ordeal – a tight screw meant no steering.
My husband kept yelling, “Turn! Turn!” as I moved out
further from him, my daughter, and most concerningly – the shore.
“ I am! I am trying to turn! ” I shouted back.
At this point, I became more and more panicked as my adrenaline increased and my muscles tensed. I thought I must be doing something wrong and not peddling fast enough or squeezing hard enough, so I stayed on the board and pedaled on. I eventually ended up about one fourth of a mile out to sea.
Then somehow, maybe just by leaning my body, I turned enough
so that I became parallel with the shore.
I kept pedaling and squeezing the handlebar, trying with all
my might to turn more so I could ride back into shore. The current was going
out to sea and with a 15 mph offshore wind, it took all my effort to stay on
the board as I traveled parallel 10 beach blocks, while my husband and daughter
Mary ran alongside me on the shore.
My heart beat faster and my panic grew as I continued a
pattern I’d developed as a new driver. You see, as a teenager, if I became lost
while driving, I would drive faster instead of stopping and often made my
situation worse. Similarly, as I pedaled
along in the sea that day, instead of just stopping and regrouping and asking
God for help, I made the situation worse as my adrenaline and panic caused my
legs to pump faster.
I said loud prayers of desperation over and over as I squeezed the handlebar with all my might, “Help!” “Lord Jesus, Help me! Help Me!!”
The board still would not move to the right, and I continued
to move parallel to the shore. The lifeguards were not on duty yet, and I did
not spot any other small water crafts. “Lord Jesus, please Help me,” I begged
again and again.
I started to use my body more in one last desperate attempt
to move the paddleboard to the right, and splash! the waterboard and I capsized. Shocked by the
cold water, I quickly put my arms around the overturned board (I didn’t want to
lose my new present,) and started to kick to see if I could move myself forward
“Can they see me?” I thought. I prayed not just for myself
but that my husband and daughter would have peace and not worry about me. An
offshore wind pushed the top warm water out to sea leaving me in the frigid Atlantic
and my legs were becoming numb as I tried to kick and move forward. Were they
waiting for me to come to shore by myself? Oh, I hope they are getting help. At
this point, I was cold and exhausted from traveling a half mile along the shore
as my heart palpitations worked overtime.
And then I heard music to my ears. Sirens. The loud
emergency sirens echoed my cries for help and could be heard not just by me,
but by everyone living on the Seven Mile Island calling out to all the rescue volunteers.
I was hoping perhaps a motorboat would come to rescue me. I felt embarrassed
that everyone on the island now knew there was trouble and that someone would
have to come to help me. I waited and held on tight to my floating toy
and hoped that they would hurry.
And that is when I heard the helicopter wings overhead. And
I told the God of the Universe how He should rescue me.
“Lord, I don’t need
a helicopter” I said out loud. “Just send me a motorboat. I don’t need a
And then I heard a calm and authoritative voice in my mind
“I know what you need.”
My panic became peace and my breathing slowed as I waited to see what would happen next. I knew that I was going to be all right and I now just waited with trust to see how God planned to do it. I must have waited at least ten minutes as I clutched the board and faced the shore trying to spot my husband and daughter among the crowd of rescue vehicles and spectators who lined the water’s edge.
And then two
lifeguards came to my rescue aboard a jet ski.
The sun shone
behind their flowing hair and bounced off their kind, handsome faces and strong
shoulders. My relief and gratitude were immense. I keep telling them, “Thank
you so much,” as I gazed into their beautiful glowing faces.
The jet ski had a board
on the back with handle bars and they helped me to lie down stomach first as I
held on to the handles. By this time I was exhausted and shivering and I’m sure
the lifeguards could see my weariness.
“Lie down here,” one
told me, “and I will lie on top of you.”
strong warm body lay on top of me and I felt God’s strength, help, and love
through this unexpected gift of protection and deliverance.
We flew across the ocean waves on the back of the wave runner into shore and I giggled as my body would slip under his and the thought of how I was being rescued made me laugh with delight.
“Yes, this was much better than a motor boat.” I thought with a smile.
As we approached
the crowd of people lining the shore, I continued to giggle at the thought of
being sandwiched between a jet ski and a lifeguard. A warm blanket was placed
over my shoulders. The lifeguards lifted my board, and they (and the crowd), were
especially surprised to see the handlebars underneath.
I believe I felt the reality of God’s feathers of protection as I lay under the lifeguard’s strong body and I rode in giggling with joy. I am thankful that God knows just what we need – and sometimes that means two strong, beautiful angels who know how to drive a jet ski.
He will cover you with His feathers. He will shelter you with His wings. His fatithful promises are your armor and protection. Psalm 91:4
I am so tired of waiting. My prayers seem to no avail, as I wait on God to help a relationship that has grown hard and cold. I feel like curling up in a ball and giving up. What should I do?
Dear Sweet Sister:
My arm felt heavy as I continued to stir the mushroom risotto well past the 25 minutes promised in the recipe. I yearned to cook a rare homemade meal for my husband and my son who was visiting during Christmas break and I decided to try something new. Since I love to order mushroom risotto at restaurants, I decided to give it a try. The secret is to slowly add the boiling stock one ladle at time and to keep stirring and Stirring and stirring. The goal it that the Arborio rice when bitten will be “Al Dente”which means: soft on the outside and firm in the middle. (not too hard on the outside and not too soft either..think goldilocks and how she kept trying to find “just the right bowl, chair and bed”). Mushroom risotto requires the diligence of stirring while tasting and not leaving the stove until it is JUST RIGHT.
I almost gave up. I started to doubt myself. Maybe I didn’t follow the directions correctly I thought to myself. We had another new dish (chicken) that was now sitting on the counter getting cold. Maybe I should just give up and call it quits. I kept tasting the risotto and the rice was grainy and hard. Ten more minutes past the recipe range and I was still stirring.
And then my husband came downstairs to see how things were coming along. He took over the stirring. He kept adding water and stirring and tasting some more. Finally, after 10 more minutes of “long-suffering:)” the risotto was Al Dente. The rice felt so soft on the tongue that it seemed like creamy puffy pasta. Yet the final product was firm enough so that the rice was not mushy and each morsel distinct. The flavors of mushroom and chicken stock blended together perfectly. So delicious and so. worth. the. wait.
So how does this help me Amber with this friend who now won’t speak to me? or This spouse who will not forgive me and is giving me the cold shoulder and silent treatment? Oh and the long suffering of having a child who has such a hard heart and acts so angry at me after I have given so much?
Oh Dear Sister…..your loved ones heart is like the risotto rice kernel that still needs to be stirred. Keep Standing, add some liquid love of kindness, and patiently keep praying for them. I needed my husband to help me along so I didn’t give up. Find a sister to pray with you for your loved one. Stir together in prayer on the phone after sharing your aching heart. Be on guard that your own heart does not become hard but instead trust God’s recipe of Love. My challenge for you this year of 2019 is for you to read I Corinth. 13:4-8 every morning. Read it slow and mediate on this powerful recipe of how to change hardened hearts to perfect Al Dente ones. Ask God for help on how to better love your friends and family. Ask him for the perseverance to not give up and to keep stirring until the hard shell of your loved ones heart becomes soft. (toward you and most of all soft to God and His will)
Don’t leave the stove sister because your loved ones’ heart IS slowly softening. Keep stirring and ask a trusted sister to stir with you. We sisters need each other.
The first ingredient for Love is patience. The last secret ingredients are these: Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres,