Tag Archives: trials

31 days to a better marriage – What about the big things?

31 days to a better marriage - what about the big things?

You may wonder: “What about the big things? It sounds like your husband loves God – What if your husband doesn’t? What if he isn’t saved, doesn’t want to go to church, refuses to get a job, yells at us, or is unkind and abusive?”

Physical abuse.

I will tell you that if he is physically abusive – get help. Do not stay and try to work things out alone.  He has bigger problems than you can fix. When I say ‘leave’, I mean gather your kids and a few things and go to your mother’s house, or a friends house, or something. Once you are in a safe place, you can take some time and counsel to decide what is the best way to go forward. Do not stay with an abuser.

Emotional abuse.

Emotional abuse is different. It is still harmful, and needs worked with, but so much depends on the situation. There is no way for me to give advice through an article! Do you know why? Because many women throw that phrase around far too quickly as an excuse to leave their husband. I’m sorry to say it, but sometimes the wife is the one at fault. I have seen this happen. Yes, the husband may be emotionally abusive, but he was driven to it by his nagging, whining, unsubmissive wife! (no, that is no excuse for his behaviour, but turn the situation around for a minute…)  If a wife  is walking in the fear of God and has a cheerful and respectful demeanor – the chances of a loving husband are much greater.

He won’t take the family to church.

Why? Because YOU picked the church and then demand he go along? Is there a church he would rather attend? Go with him to his church. I have often heard that if won’t go to church – then go without him. But I have a different thought on that… IF it were me,  (I have never been in that situation) I would stay home with him. Yes, the Bible is clear on being part of a local church, but it is also clear on being one with your husband. If you take the high moral ground by insisting on going to church, soon you will have a whole circle of friends whom he doesn’t know. You will have an entire section of your life that he is not a part of!

My suggestion would be: Stay home and watch online. The beauty of this digital age is that there are many churches that broadcast their services, now. Good churches. Find one that is biblically sound, and watch their service online. Don’t go make a big deal about it – just stick in your earbuds and watch on your phone or tablet as you snuggle up beside your husband. He’s over there watching football, you’re watching church – but you still have the connection between you. Or listen to a recorded sermon during the week. There are many. Find some Christian ladies in your community, an hang out with them during the week once in a while. It doesn’t have to be a Bible study – just fellowship is what you’re after.

He won’t get a job.

If he won’t, then you have to. You must pay your debts and feed your children, and if he won’t take his place, then you have to do it. I don’t know what else to say about this. You need money to live, and someone must earn it. If you can get him to counseling – great. Otherwise, go to work and pray that God changes his heart.

He does immoral or illegal things and/or wants me to do them, too.

Nope. Just nope. Yes, I believe strongly in submission to your husband, but when he crosses the line into breaking the law or immorality – then you have an obligation to not join in. Indeed, you must stop him! Call the police if you must. Leave if you’re scared. But don’t join in or assist him in these type of things.

When you should stay and work it out:

When he listens to music you don’t like. This is not the end of the world. Don’t break up a family over music. (I heard this excuse once.) 
When he doesn’t like your church. Or any church. You can teach the kids about God at home. 
When he is unpleasant to live with. You be the light in your home! Check your own heart…
When he has different career goals than you do.  Go with the flow.
When he doesn’t love you as much as you think he should. How are you respecting him? 

This is by no means a comprehensive list or article. It is intended to help you work through what is bothering you, to see if it is a leave-worthy problem, or a stay-and-work-it-out problem. I know there are some pretty terrible guys out there. I know that you can’t work everything out. But I have seen the grace and forgiveness extended by Godly women to their sin-natured  husbands, so I know miracles can happen.

Pray a lot.

Pray all the time. Fast for a time, if you can. Ask your trusted friends to pray wth you. (not your gossipy friends) Study God’s Word and pray some more.

 And a woman who has an unbelieving husband, and he consents to live with her, she must not send her husband away.  For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband; for otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy.  Yet if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave; the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us to peace. For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife? 1 Corinthians 7:13-16

I am not saying that the responsibility is with the wife — husbands make their own choices and will be responsible for them. What I am saying, is that you have the choice to live in a Christlike manner, and perhaps, by your Godly life your example will inspire your man to change. Since I am writing to women, I am not saying what I think the man should do. I am only trying to help you walk in a Christlike way in your marriage.

Read the rest of the series HERE.

My Journey of Faith, part 8 – the end.

“For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? Matthew 6:25-26

My Journey of Faith part 8 the end

In my last Journey of Faith post, I told you how I overcame discouragement and loneliness. And how we found out that my husband would lose his job in a few weeks…

It was early January, cold and snowy. We were living in an old, drafty farmhouse that was hard to heat. (we had moved from the trailer house into a farmhouse in the country, in October) We put a blanket over the staircase, moved the kids’ beds downstairs, and heated only the living room and kitchen. Propane was costing us 450.00 every 4-5 weeks to heat our house – it was eating up our small budget too fast. I remember at one point wondering how we were going to survive the winter without begging for money!

But I learned once again that God never fails His children! He is always faithful to supply our needs. We trusted Him, Cliff worked hard, I tried to be as thrifty as I could, and we always had food to eat. One time a man came to church – just a visitor – and after church he took Cliff out to his vehicle and gave us bags and boxes of food. Produce, mostly, and some dried beans. All from his garden! He said he had ‘way too much garden veggies, and wanted to bless someone with it! As far as I know, he never came back to church – I am certain he was an angel. :) We ate squash, potatoes, carrots, beans, and many other good vegetables for weeks. Sometimes there would be an envelope in our mailbox with a little cash in it. I wish I knew who felt prompted by God to give – we never asked for money or talked about our finances. I would like to thank those dear saints for being sensitive to the Holy Spirit in their lives!

Well, back to the lay-off… When we heard that we’d be out of a job in a couple weeks, we honestly were stumped. What does a person do who gets laid off in the middle of winter with literally no savings, no college degree, no nothing?!

We prayed.

God answered our prayers in a powerful, amazing way!

My sister and her husband used to work on a ranch near Cheyenne, WY, and we used to visit them there. Through them, we learned to know a young man who ran cattle on a couple ranches in WY. Well, when we were considering what to do for a job, Cliff remembered that young man, and decided to call him up.

When Cliff asked him if he had any job openings, the man answered: “Yes, I just leased a new ranch this month and need a another guy to help run it. You can start next week.”

We were blown away! God had lined up the perfect job for us at the exact time we needed it. I tell you, friends, God does things like this all the time. We aren’t special or anything. But I have trained myself to see God’s hand in everything. You can do that too. Write it down. Or tell someone. Don’t say: “Well that was pretty neat!” and forget about it. Notice when God works a miracle for you. Praise Him! Thank Him!

 “…for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.” Matt. 6:8S

So on Monday morning, Cliff packed a sleeping bag and a suitcase and drove up to Wyoming to start his new job. I stayed in CO and started packing. I packed up all our belongings as best I could between caring for three little ones. (the kids were 1, 3 and 5) On Saturday, Cliff came home and we loaded most of our belongings into our trusty pink horse-trailer and headed north.

On Monday, I took the kids and drove down with the truck and trailer for the final load. My sister came along to help, since she was visiting for awhile. She helped me clean the house and pack up the remaining things.

Ranch life was good. Cliff enjoyed the work, the salary was better than we had ever enjoyed before, (that’s not saying much, but while you won’t get rich on a ranch, at least you have a house!) and we all loved the wide open spaces of Wyoming!

Three short months after we moved to Wyoming, our faith was tested in a very different and difficult manner. Our youngest child, Andy, was playing near the irrigation canal and drowned. It was by far the most trying circumstance we had to face. But as always, God brought us through that, too. I am thankful for the grace of God that is give in every situation. I did struggle quite a bit with guilt over Andy’s death. Then I had to learn to graciously respond to people’s ignorant but well-meaning comments. Each part of the trial forced me to lean on God more, and dig deeper in His Word and His wisdom.

If you want to read the story of Andy, you can find it here. Andy

That was ten years ago. We have been living in Wyoming and working on ranches and we still like Wyoming! :) It is our favorite state, despite the brutal winters and mosquito-laden summers.  We  lived on that first ranch (the X-Bar) for 4.5 years, then moved to a ranch north of Cheyenne for 5 years, and currently we are on a ranch in the mountains west of Laramie.

Our children are blessed to grow up in this wonderful ranching community, learning to rope and ride and care for animals. Cliff still enjoys ranching, he also owns a small leather business on the side where he makes saddles, chaps, and other gear for working cowboys.

After our son died, I started reading about foster care, and slowly my heart was drawn to the amazing work of being a safe place for kids who are removed from their homes. After 5 years of my reading and dreaming, we were licensed as a foster home, and received our first placement in May, 2015. Foster care was never Cliff’s dream, but he supported my dream. After 7 kids coming through our home, I can say the honeymoon period is over, haha! but I still have an incredible burden for these kids and this work. Even when it is the hardest, I am reminded how precious each child is to our God, how much He cares about them.

Our life looks so much different than I ever thought it would, but God’s plans are always best. So many things He said “No” to, and that was best. Then He said “Yes” to many wonderful things that I could never have dreamed of! I am learning to take each experience from His hand of love, and be thankful.

If this series has blessed or encouraged you in any way, I would love if you leave a comment and tell me why! :) Thank you to all who have replied to my stories and encouraged me to write it.

If you missed a post, you can find them here:
My Journey of Faith part 1

My Journey of Faith part 2

My Journey of Faith part 3

My Journey of Faith part 4

My Journey of Faith part 5

My Journey of Faith part 6

My Journey of Faith part 7

My Journey of Faith, part 7.

My Journey of Faith-7We had been living in Pueblo, CO for about 8 months when we heard about a church that might be a good fit. My husband and I believe strongly that a disciple of Jesus needs to have regular fellowship with other like-minded believers. Commitment to a local church is something we take seriously.  We want to be a part of a church family – somewhere we can be accountable to other believers in a closer way than we are with random christians we meet occasionally. We don’t want to be seat-warmers, slipping in and out quietly without anyone really knowing us.

Jesus preached to multitudes; but He had the 12 that He interacted with on a deeper level, teaching, sharing food, traveling.  It seems that in following His example, one should try pretty hard to find and integrate with a local church. We need community, people to do life with, people who have the same vision and goals in their walk with God. Not perfectly alike, mind you, but similar.

Well, we hadn’t found a church fellowship that really spoke life to us in Pueblo – so we were cautiously willing to check out a church in Northern CO. This was a church that we had visited years earlier, but we didn’t know much about it. We knew a couple people there, but again – mostly strangers. So, one bright Sunday morning, I woke the kids early, and dressed them for church, and we piled in our minivan and headed north.

After not being part of a church for over a year, it was like water on dry ground to listen to that sermon! The pastor’s words poured life and truth and love. My eyes filled with tears; I can still remember that morning. We fellowshipped with the church folk afterwards, at their potluck lunch. We talked about how much we enjoyed it on our long drive back home.

We visited again soon, and after the second visit, we knew. Well, actually, after the first visit I knew that we were supposed to move there. But the second visit was a definite confirmation. But we didn’t have any extra money to take off work and drive up to look for work or housing. We weren’t sure what to do. But then one of the men from the church (he was one of the pastors) called us and told us he found Cliff a job in construction, and he found us a house! ( he’d negotiated a 6 month lease for us, if we were interested.)

Well, with that kind of support, what could we say but yes?! The pastor paid the down-payment on the house for us, and set up  the job. He also gathered church folk to be there to help us unload furniture when we moved, and brought us food. This was not a wealthy man, by the way. Just an ordinary, hard-working man with 7 kids of his own. He never said much, but his life spoke more to me than most pastors I have listened to in my life.

We moved to Weld County, CO in March, 2006. It was good to be a part of a church where the sermons gave life, the fellowship was sweet.

But we were still broke. I think Cliff made 13 or 14 dollars an hour, building houses. He is a good carpenter, but he doesn’t really enjoy it. After nearly a year on a ranch, it was even less appealing. But he didn’t complain – just worked hard for our family. I stayed home and did a little custom sewing, stretched our money as best I could. I did struggle with loneliness, because we lived 45 minutes from the church and from most of our friends. I didn’t know people very well yet, and we didn’t have a lot of extra money to spend on gas to drive around.

But, God taught me one of my most treasured lessons while we lived in that trailer-house in Weld County. A few months after we moved, I started feeling unwell. Nothing I could put my finger on,  just tired, sometimes nauseous, aches and pains. I worried and fretted about it. I knew it must be diabetes or cancer or something! I googled it, worried some more, and finally had a breakthrough:  God showed me that it was because I was lonely, discontent,  and verging on depression. Between finances, having three small children, a new church, a new community… I wasn’t handling it all very well. I was stewing and worrying and nervous, instead of trusting in God. I don’t even know when or how it dawned on me, but at some point I realized it was not a health issue at all but merely my body mirroring what was going on in my head.

I had basically made myself sick from discontent and worry. I wanted a house in the country… I didn’t want to have money troubles… I missed my sister…  I felt out-of-place at this new church… Bottom line: it was sin. It was like the parable of the Sower – some of the seed fell on good ground, but it was choked out by the cares and troubles of this world. (Matthew 13) I truly wanted to be a disciple of Jesus, but I allowed circumstances to cloud my vision, hiding the sunshine of God’s glory. When plants grow with little sun, they get sickly and weak. And so do people.Focus on Christ, and let the stuff of his world fade out a little.

I came to realize that my happiness could not depend on external circumstances, but had to come from within. I had to focus on Christ, and let the stuff of this world fade out a little. I realized that you can actually become physically ill from worry and discontent. I can’t tell you five steps to victory – it was subtle changes. It was waking up and forcing myself to get up and read the Word of God and praise Him. It was refusing to allow my thoughts to dwell on myself, but to start looking out and up. Out at others who I could bless, and up to God who was and is always worthy of praise and honor!! In a few weeks, I was happier and felt better than I ever had. I had no health problem! It felt like a miracle to me, and indeed – isn’t it always a miracle when God gets a hold of a person’s life and transforms them??!!

If you have slid off the path, fallen in a pit, or are choked up with the weeds of this old world – get up! Take courage! God is on your side! He wants you to be happy and fulfilled in Him. When your gaze is on Jesus, there is nothing in this world that can harm you or entice you. Discontent comes from taking our eyes off our precious Saviour. Start praising God. Look for ways to bless others in your life. Place every trial and problem in God’s hands. You probably can’t fix it anyways, so why hang onto it? :)

Anyways, we lived in Northern CO for nearly a year. Then one day in early January, Cliff’s boss told him that he didn’t have enough work for Cliff. He said that he would have to let Cliff go in two weeks.

Now what?!? We couldn’t afford to go very long without a job, but winter is slow in construction, and where would we find another job? The news was a bit of a shock, for sure.

To be continued…

If you missed a post, you can find them all here:
My Journey of Faith part 1

My Journey of Faith part 2

My Journey of Faith part 3

My Journey of Faith part 4

My Journey of Faith part 5

My Journey of Faith part 6

My Journey of Faith, part 6.

My Journey of Faith-6

 

We lived in Missouri for 5 years, and had many experiences, good and bad.

  • Three children were born to us, a girl – then two boys.
  • Cliff’s dad passed away unexpectedly from a heart attack at age 45.
  • We built a small house mostly by ourselves. It was on my mother-in-law’s property.
  • Cliff started a small rock-laying business on the side.
  • Then he started a leather tack business in our living room. (still going today!)
Building our tiny house! 2005

Building our tiny house! 2005

It was during this time that I grew a lot in the areas of patience, self-control, and unselfishness. Not that I am perfect by any means, (!!!) but the day-to-day responsibilities of being a mother and a wife taught me a lot.

Making ends meet when we lived on $400-500 per week, struggling to pay dental bills and vehicle breakdowns and appliance failures. Thanks to my naturally thrifty nature, and my mother’s example, I often made 20.00 last for a weeks worth of groceries for the two of us. The babies were always breastfed and the toddlers – well, you know how little they eat! :)

Our little family back in 2005.

Our little family back in 2005.

We ate a lot of beans and potatoes, and Cliff shot a deer or two every fall. Often neighbors would give us extra deer they’d shot. One fall we bought a pig and butchered it. That was a huge treat! I cured the bacon myself, to save on butcher house costs. It was great! The Lord blessed us tremendously during that time. I found a man who had lots of grapevines he didn’t use, so my friend and I would go pick bushels of grapes and can the juice. I bought ‘seconds’ of apples and peaches and canned them. I had a generous neighbor who gave me her extra green beans to can, and corn to freeze.

My sister and her husband; Marcel.

My sister and her husband; Marcel.

One year we went on a vacation to Idaho to visit my sister and her family on a ranch. When we got back, my garden was destroyed by the neighbor’s goat herd! I felt pretty defeated, but we made out ok. It was a lot of work gone, though!

I gave birth to several of our children at home, and midwives are not covered by insurance, even if we would’ve had it. (we didn’t) We paid for years for our babies. ($4,000 was a common rate) With one of our sons, we were blessed to be able to trade work towards the cost of the delivery. Cliff worked on their house in the evenings, in trade. (The midwife was a friend, so we were very thankful.)

I say all this – not for pity – but to share the goodness of God who never leaves us, and always provides for us! Always!! Along with learning to be a mother, I was learning to trust God. It was hard, financially. We were always tight. But I grew up like that, so it wasn’t new to me. In fact, I didn’t know any other way to live.

Such a good daddy!

Such a good daddy!

It was difficult having 3 babies so close together, too. Each time, I got pregnant when my baby was 11 months old. So the three of them were all 21 months apart. At one point I had a 3 year old, a 1 year old,  and a newborn! I get quite sick when I am pregnant, so there were many days where I would lie on the couch, nauseated, while my toddler(s) got into mischief. I had two babies in diapers, twice.
As a kid, I had always been my dad’s right-hand-man, so to speak, and never did get along very well in the house. So the transition to a full-time homemaker was a learning curve. The constant stream of dirty dishes, the constant exhaustion from being pregnant and having toddlers, the ever-needy children, the endless laundry and cooking that needed doing… it all wore on me.

My first two babies.

My first two babies.

Cliff and Andy.

Cliff and Andy.

I loved being a mother, but I had to learn to pull on my big girl boots and just do it. My mother was very practical, and she raised us to have emotional control – which I am ever so thankful for! I knew the only thing to do was get up and do what needed doing.
I can tell you; you don’t need afternoon wine, or chocolate, or me-time, or girls’ nights or anything else our self-inclined society tells you. You need a reverent fear of God and His Word. You need to take control of your thoughts and put to death your selfish desires, and do what needs doing. “I die daily,” the Scripture says. (1 Cor 15)
Death isn’t fun! Death isn’t easy! Death is hard and painful. But the result is sweet acceptance and submission to God’s will. In my case; the raising and nurturing of a family. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with me-time and chocolate. Those things have their (limited) place. But please don’t turn to things to replace what God wants to do in you. He will mature you and grow you in ways you never knew possible, if you are willing to be purified. Seek God, above all! Read His word daily. Die to Self, live for Jesus. God is able to give you ALL you need, I can assure you.

When our 3rd baby was very young, our church went through an upheaval. Due to uncontrollable (by us) circumstances, we were left without a church. It was the first time I felt a bit lost and betrayed. We wanted to serve God, and know Him. Why would He jerk out the church from under us? Why would He leave us hanging, so to speak? I was confused. I wanted to move to Pennsylvania to a church where some of our friends were. I didn’t want to look for another church! I sure didn’t want to sit alone. But sit alone we did – for a while.

Then one day, Cliff was talking to his cowboy friend (my sister’s husband) on the phone. When he hung up, he asked me: “How would you like to move to Colorado and work for Marcel on his cattle operation?”

Of course I wanted to! They talked some more, and I wasn’t sure if it would work out. Maybe August, they said?
It was July, and I had the prettiest garden ever. The tomatoes were just starting to ripen when we got a call. Marcel (my bro-in-law) was taking a trip and needed someone to watch the cattle while they were gone. Could we come out in a week?

Cow country.

Cow country.

Well of course we could! We packed up our belongings and stuffed them into the front of the horsetrailer. We packed the truckbed and minivan full, too. There was just enough room for three carseats. We loaded our horse into the back end of the 4-horse trailer, and headed out one evening. Like any parent of small children – we knew if we travelled at night, they would sleep a good portion of the trip. Since we had a 5 month old baby, we knew it would be best if he was sleeping a lot of the way, since we both had to drive.

I drove the minivan and he drove the truck & trailer. We drove all night, stopping once for a short nap-break for me. I was so tired. I fought sleep so bad! When the sun rose, we were in CO and the scenery had changed. So that was better. I stayed awake pretty good for the rest of the trip. We pulled in to my sister’s place before noon, and I was sleep-drunk. But the babies were awake and hyper by then, so I sat in the cool grass and watched them play. The dry desert air of Pueblo was invigorating!

We lived in Pueblo for 9 months. Cliff rode and did care on yearlings with his brother-in-law. I thoroughly enjoyed living close to my sister, for the first time since I’d been married. We did everything together! We went shopping, canned peaches, did laundry, even went on a double date once, when our men found a sitter for our assorted toddlers!  😀 It was a special time in our lives. I had missed my family, and this living-a-mile-apart was so special.

Cowboys roping and doctoring a yearling.

Cowboys roping and doctoring a yearling.

Round-pen work.

Round-pen work.

It wasn’t easy… as inexperienced ranch hands, and working for a small outfit, we didn’t earn much at all. (1,200/month, plus free housing) The cost of living was higher in CO than it had been in MO. Gas had skyrocketed to over four dollars a gallon, and we were still driving junky vehicles that broke down a lot. Those nine months were the toughest, financially, that we have experienced, to date. I won’t bore you with all the details, but suffice it to say that it was hard. But you know what? God is a good Father. Often, just when money was due, we somehow got the money. We were given food and hand-me-downs, and we never went hungry. Again, I learned that God always provides, that He will always take care of you.

Horsey rides are the best! (Jenni)

Horsey rides are the best! (Jenni)

Your faith can grow in these situations, more than when you are ‘sitting pretty’. But let it be known that being poor is NOT romantic! I have had several people in my life, different times and places, ask me “how it feels?” And, that they think it would be kind of sweet and fun to be poor… “Just working hard together!” “Growing in faith!”

Huh.

Please don’t tell me that lack of money is somehow desirable. All that tells me is you’ve never tried to decide whether to pay your electric bill or buy food. You’ve never gone 6 months with the same razor because you couldn’t afford a new one. That you’ve never looked in your purse and scraped together enough coins to buy a jug of milk. There is nothing – let me repeat – NOTHING romantic about being poor. If you think there is, you probably haven’t been poor enough! 😉 It is definitely a faith-builder, but I would never ask for poverty.

Cowboys

Now I want you to know – we enjoyed life! We weren’t trudging along, depressed and worried constantly. We had our worries and troubles, almost daily, but we were living and working on a ranch, and that was our dream! We worked and played and went to church on Sunday. We didn’t eat out, go to movies, or heat all our bedrooms, but we lived just fine.

Country roads...

Country roads…

Speaking of church… at this time, we were attending my sister’s church most of the time. Not because we were particularly drawn to it, but because it was convenient. We visited several other churches in the area, but nothing really caught our attention. We didn’t know what God had for us.

We prayed about it, and sometimes I felt discouraged, because it seemed like we wouldn’t ever find a church that was right for us. We wanted something with life and vision. We didn’t just want to go to church on Sunday – we wanted to be part of a church family, one that wanted to follow Christ passionately! We kept looking.

If you missed the earlier posts, you can find them here:
My Journey of Faith part 1

My Journey of Faith part 2

My Journey of Faith part 3

My Journey of Faith part 4

My Journey of Faith part 5

The hurting among us.

fern

“I have learned now that while those who speak about one’s miseries usually hurt, those who keep silence hurt more.”   ― C.S. Lewis

 

“I had no idea!”
“You never said anything!”
“Why didn’t you tell me?”

I don’t know. Honestly, I don’t know. I can talk, alright. I talk too much, in my opinion. I say exactly what I think and why. I speak too quickly, too harshly, and all at full volume.

But.

When I am hurting, I don’t say much. (when I am hurt – then I often say something, regrettably) But when the pain is heart-wrenching and deep, when I cry myself to sleep from the pain, those hurts are hard to get out. I stuff them. Bury them under a breezy manner and quick smiles.

I bet you do it too. You feel scared. What people will think, or worse, what they will say. That must be where it starts – this fear of showing our hurts. We tried, when we were younger and full of trust. We shared, and they were not gentle with us. So we learned to stuff it. To hide it well.  Much too well. woodland fern

-If you knew that woman sitting next to you in church just experienced a miscarriage, you would stop judging her for missing 3 Sundays in a row. You might even hug her.

-if you knew that man ahead of you in the checkout line was still in shock over his wife leaving him – you would stop despising his unkempt appearance. You might even pray for him.

-If you knew that awkward girl was trying to recover from sexual abuse, you would stop telling people how ‘pathetic’ she is. You might even take her out for a meal.

-If you knew that person in the car ahead of you was crying from the pain of losing his child, you would not yell at him for driving so slowly. You might even cry too.

No, we do not judge and despise people when they are going through deep hurts. We sympathize. We are understanding and patient. The problem comes when we don’t know. We assume they are on the same busy path through life that we are following. We only see the tip of the iceberg, and like the Titanic – we don’t see the gigantic pain just under the surface.

See, most people don’t purposely add hurt to hurt. (some do, I’m not talking of those wretched people) Mostly, we try to sympathize and help each other. But still, we don’t share. It’s too private. The hurt is too raw, and besides, how and when and why do you even share how it feels to cry yourself to sleep over a pain that is 10 years old? 20 years old?  Isn’t there a statute of limitations on how long you’re allowed to grieve? Aren’t you supposed to ‘heal’ from childhood abuse, and get over it? “She wasn’t good enough for you anyways! Better fish in the sea!

No, my friend.

To you who are sad. Hurt. Grieving. It’s OK. Be happy if you can, grieve when you need to, feel the hurt when it comes. If you can find 1 or 2 strong and true friends who can handle your pain – that is ideal. I don’t know how I would’ve gotten through some of my deep sorrows in life, were it not for my faithful few friends.  Although, there comes a point when only God can comfort you. Only He knows your heart without words. He understands! Don’t hesitate to run to Him with your pain.

To you who are not in a season of sorrow or loss; be aware. Don’t be too quick to judge someone, especially someone you are not very close to. They likely haven’t told you that their job is unbearable, or their health is poor, or their favorite uncle just died. Be sensitive to everyone. Assume that there is more to their story than they’re telling you. Be merciful.

 

Church Camp and Being Real about Guilt.

rocky mountainsLast weekend our church retreated to the Rocky Mountains for its annual camping getaway. What started as a small idea and small group back in 2007, has become a much-anticipated event that includes our growing church group, and has moved from the dusty primitive campsite to a large church camp complete with cabins, showers, and (gasp!) a lodge! 😉 But I insist on cooking my meal over an open fire, because to me – the heart of camping is the meals; smoke burning eyes as we fry sausage and toast marshmallows over moody flames.

bacon frying

We always have good intentions about getting to camp early, because we hate setting up our tent in the dark. But more times than not, we have setbacks and come motoring in after the sun has set and the stars are glimmering through the tall pines. Flashlights to the rescue! We set up camp and the older kids ran over to the group fire to meet their friends. I stayed at the tent because my littlest was sleeping. I sat on a nearby picnic table and did some star-gazing. You have never seen the stars until you’ve seen them away from the light-pollution of civilization. We have some pretty amazing skies here at the ranch, but I too often don’t take time to stand outside at night and just look at them. I get a better sense of my smallness when I look upon the greatness that lies above me.

stars

Days at camp are full of games, hikes, and great food! Several of us enjoy camp cooking, so we get some delicious, smoky food, which always seems to taste better in the fresh air! Laughter and friends, cool breezes – scented with pine musk, wildflowers of every hue, calls of birds, and rushing mountain streams… So many beautiful reasons to spend a bit of time in the outdoors!child with flowers

harebells

church friends

forest teepee

Being real: Hey girls, let me tell you something. I do not always like camping. It is not always magical. There have been several years we went with family or church at a cool time of the year, (30 degrees at night) and I did not enjoy it, and did not act Christlike. I allowed my flesh to dictate my actions, which resulted in my attitude being unbearable and my witness ruined. I have a genetic thyroid condition that causes me to be very sensitive to cold. Cold is not just ‘cold’ to me – it is actually painful. I would rather endure a burn or a cut or a broken bone than to be cold. I know – because I have had many injuries but nothing has been as bad as being cold. (childbirth is in a class all of its own) Anyways. So you could say I have an excuse for being grumpy when I get cold.

But do I?

No.

NO! Jesus died on the Cross to free me from sin. Allowing my carnal flesh and feelings to dictate my attitude and responses is nothing short of sin. We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us, and gave Himself for us. Romans 8:37
We have the victory in Christ! We have power of the Holy Spirit! There is no excuse for descending back into living by my feelings.

forest floraBut I sinned. I grumped and complained and whined about everything in general and the cold in particular. I’m guessing my friends would have been glad for me to just be gone – back to my warm house and away from their tired ears. But of course they didn’t say that.

I went home and soon fell under conviction about the whole thing. I cannot tell you the shame and guilt I struggled with for so long. Weeks. Months!
You see, Satan will distract you from the goodness of Jesus any way He can – whether through sin or guilt. If he can’t get you to sin, He will remind you daily of your sin and how badly you fell, and how much everyone must despise you, and how you will never grow… oh, he goes on and on. I tell you – go to your Father! Repent of your sin, ask His forgiveness, and get up. Get up, dear sister! You have hope in Jesus for the future. You can believe that God wants you to win over your sin more than you do. ( don’t you want your children to succeed even more than they do?!)ferns

If you fall into sin, don’t wallow like I did. The Bible tells us that a righteous man falls seven times and gets back up each time.  Proverbs 24:16 Satan would love to see you defeated and miserable. Jesus wants to see you victorious over sin and guilt. He is praying for you! How can you fail with Jesus praying for you?! 

And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God. Romans 8:27

You must be seeking to be a disciple of Jesus, though. God knows the thoughts and intents of your heart, and He knows if you truly desire fellowship with him, or just rescue from Hell. It is common and easy to want rescue from Hell, and still be totally fine with your carnal, self-seeking ways. You will not get victory over your sin if this is your mindset.mountain stream

I want to have fellowship with my Father – I want victory over every sin in my life, because sin separates man from God. I want to know I am approved by God in my daily life. Like the disciples who followed Jesus everywhere, I want to walk with Jesus, sit with Him, talk with Him, understand what He means, follow Him everywhere! Jesus is the Bread of Life. I need to eat that Bread so my spirit can live!

I did accept the forgiveness Jesus offers, I laid down the guilt as well as the sin, and this year was so much more enjoyable at camp! It was warmer, so that made it much easier, but I would hope that I have grown over the past several years and would fall on the power of the Holy Spirit to carry me through even a cold camp graciously. It wasn’t perfect this year, is it ever? There were problems. But there were good times too – great conversations and bonding with my sisters from church. Praise God!toes in water

Marriage refreshment.

pine forestMarriage is a wonderful thing.
A listening ear when you are full to the brim.
Loving arms to wrap around you when you are needing some love.
Kind words to encourage you.
Kisses to warm your heart and make you smile.
Dreams, goals, and experiences shared.
Laughing together,
Praying together,
yes –
even crying together.
Hugging, holding, knowing, talking, sharing, eating, whispering, loving, caring, smiling.
Every day with someone you love, and who loves you.

Wow. It sounds magical, doesn’t it?!
Oops.

It isn’t, always. In fact, many times we have seasons of paying bills, being sick, tight on money, vehicle breakdowns, disappointments, hurts, sorrows, losses, and even frustrations with each other.

The thing is, the first list is not separate from the second. They go together. We grimace a bit as we pay the dentist bill, but the next minute we are laughing and kissing and tickling. We share dreams over doughnuts and coffee, but our moments alone are interrupted by the baby’s coughing or throwing up. We cry and grieve together over the loss of a loved one, arms wrapped tight around each other – holding the pain at bay. aspen mountains

Marriage is not about living happily ever after. LIFE is still here – waiting to hit us with all the normal struggles and triumphs. But through it all we have each other.

Sometimes, we need to refresh. Sometimes we go through a season of life so hard it rocks our world and makes us gasp for air. Staggering, we catch our breath and go at it again. But we feel choked. We need a breath of fresh air to get our heads on straight. If you hit a really hard spot, if you’re starting to bend under the weight of Life, maybe you need some marriage refreshment. A time of renewal and fresh vision and sweet connecting. mountain stream

My husband and I had hit such a tough spot this summer. Not with each other, but with LIFE. We went through a real tough season of foster care, medical bills, moving, miscarriage, and on and on. We felt like we needed a few days to recoup and refresh. So we dropped the kids off at a friend’s house, and we headed to the mountains for a weekend away.

It was just what we needed. Sunlit forest, golden aspens, quiet town streets, delicious food… we came home feeling focused and ready to hit the ground running.

If you have never left the kids for a couple days and spent a little time on your marriage – I urge you to reconsider! :) It is a wonderful way to reconnect.

When your camera is sitting in the weeds... haha! Sorry, but it's the only one of us, so I included it - weeds and all! :D

When your camera is sitting in the weeds… haha! Sorry, but it’s the only one of us, so I included it – weeds and all! :D

 

God uses trials to sweeten us.

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28 NASB

When God Smooths us

This is a very familiar verse to me. I have known it since I was a child. But it took many years to really grasp the significance of what it says. When God says something, we know He means it. He doesn’t say things lightly or jokingly.
So when He says that He uses ‘all things‘ to work together for our good, then we can be assured that is exactly what He means. ALL THINGS. All things.

Death of loved ones. Rejection by family. Betrayal by friends. Financial difficulties. Sickness and disease. Chronic pain. Job troubles. Past abuse. And so much more.

These are hard things. But they can all work together – like ingredients in a cake – to make you a sweeter person. A cup of flour is pretty hard to get down, a cup of cocoa is even harder! So bitter! But mix it with the flour, and an egg, and some even more awful baking powder, etc, and soon you have a delicious chocolate cake!

This is how trials in our lives work together. We can sit and taste the cup of cocoa on our tongue for years, every day tasting it again, and every day just as bitter! But when we see that God is using it to make us sweet, we can trust Him with that pain and allow Him to use it in our life story.

The condition, of course, is obedience to God’s commands. 
…to those who love God…
We know from 1 John 2:3-5, that we prove our love of God by our obedience. So then, this promise is for those who obey God. If we are walking in disobedience and living for Self, then we cannot claim this promise. Only those who truly love God can be assured that everything in their life is working together for good.

How do we get past the pain?    We obey God’s commands.
We forgive those who have wronged us.   Luke 6:27-28
We are loving to the unlovely. Matthew 5:44
We depend on God for our livelihood.  Luke 12:28
We give thanks in all things.  1 Thessalonians 5:18
We pray fervently for each other. James 5:16

So be encouraged, my friend! Those hard things in your life are working together for your good. Maybe it seems impossible now, but one day you will look back over your life and understand that through the hardships, you have become more loving, more gentle, more kind and understanding because you were tested and found to be sweet. Instead of bitter cocoa and dry flour, your life will be like a delicious slice of chocolate cake, to everyone who meets you.