Wednesday, May 24, 2017

100 Days – Part 2

Welcome back! If you read yesterday’s 100 days post (part 1), then you know today is a continuation of celebrating the remaining 50 GOOD things we’ve experienced, witnessed, or heard about since Joel went to Heaven 100 days ago (now 101 today). Without further ado, here are the remaining 50…

  1. We’ve been offered and given free haircuts.
  2. A precious friend made pillows for each of my smallest children and both grandchildren, and even for me, out of Joel’s shirts.
  3. Joel’s Valentine’s Day gift to me arrived in the mail the day after he died. What a precious God wink to discover and receive the day after He went home to Heaven!
  4. A friend mailed me a book that she adores and is perfect to share with our children. We love reading The Invisible String Karen! Thank you!
  5. I’ve had friends call on several occasions who felt led to reach out to me in prayer. Without fail, God sent them to me at JUST that moment. He knew I needed people standing in the gap for me, lifting me up to Him during some of my darkest moments.
  6. My youngest son sees his daddy in everything we do. His memory is phenomenal, and I pray this continues, because I was worried he wouldn’t remember his daddy, being so young when he died.
  7. I found 3 other gifts Joel had wrapped for me and was saving for some occasion…Mother’s Day, Christmas, who knows. I unwrapped them, and tears poured as the gifts were perfect for the moment or had been something I had prayed about getting.
  8. My children frequently have pleasant dreams about their daddy. I’m still waiting to dream about my love, and I know it will come when God is ready to allow it. I’ve only dreamed about Chris twice since he died (over 6 years ago), so this doesn’t totally surprise me that I haven’t dreamed about Joel yet. It’s all in God’s timing. I’m thankful, however, my children have been given that gift of “seeing him” in their dreams.
  9. Each of the children were given precious stuffed bears from the hospital system their daddy used to work for.
  10. I’ve had to rely on numerous people to drive me to Asheville for wound checks, surgeon appointments, surgeries, etc. There has been no shortage of people willing and able to help out. So humbling!
  11. Prior to Damaris (the nanny) arriving, we had another family that worked non-stop morning and night between several of their older girls and mother to make sure our children were up and ready for school, taken to school, and picked up. I wasn’t able to climb stairs or drive during those earliest of days, so this was a much needed gift.
  12. Several other ladies from the church have also been willing able to run pick-up duty many times.
  13. A new friend, and fellow adoptive mom, with two special needs girls gave up an entire week of her early morning hours at home to come and care for my family. Becky would wake up the kiddos, get them to school, do things around the house, and then scoot away to her next responsibility. She amazed me that she would offer that sacrifice when she could probably use some of that help herself at times.
  14. I’ve found a wonderful grief counselor to work with. She’ll also be working with a few of the children over time (and as needed).
  15. New friends came over and painted two of the rooms that we weren’t able to get to before moving into the house last October.
  16. One of my pastors and church staff members brought me a chicken sandwich while in the hospital getting checked out after my wreck.
  17. I was a loaned a knee scooter thingy to use after my second surgery (sorry…don’t know the official name of it), and it was a true help in navigating the house.
  18. I’ve been able to share my story of being twice widowed in less than six years with countless numbers of people, many unbelievers. The number one question…how are you even surviving (emotionally speaking)? Each time I answer…it’s not me…it’s Christ in me. Without my faith, I’d be lost on so many levels.
  19. I’ve connected with friends from Joel’s past I never had the privilege of knowing while he was still living.
  20. While I’m not ready to go through Joel’s clothes, at least the ones I’ve seen him wear, I was able to take some clothes with tags still on them and donate them to a precious brother in the Lord from Pakistan. Joel would be pleased, as he spent time in the home of this man and his precious wife.
  21. A speaker/author (that I personally don’t know) donated her earnings from a day spent teaching a local business group to our family after hearing our story. This was just days from Joel’s death.
  22. We received boxed lunches from my precious work family to take with us as we traveled from Joel’s funeral service to the cemetery, since they were nearly three hours apart from each other.
  23. I was gifted a craft table for my craft room from a precious couple from my previous church. They saw a post I put on Facebook with a picture asking if someone knew how to build a craft desk Joel had planned to make for me. The one they ended up purchasing for me looks almost identical to the one he planned to build.
  24. One of the most practical gifts I’ve continued to receive from various people has been the gift of paper goods – plates, cutlery, cups, napkins, toilet paper, etc. It’s made life so much easier, and we’ve had a lot of people in and out of the house, and it’s been a huge blessing!
  25. My push lawn mower wasn’t working, as some men discovered when they went to mow one evening. Most of our lawn requires a riding mower, but the push mower is important for some areas. One of the guys simply took it back to his place and fixed the thing before I could practically blink.
  26. Our local realtor and several co-workers collected money to buy groceries for us and actually did the shopping and delivery of items too.
  27. Joel’s co-workers donated very graciously to our family. I cried and cried upon receiving their gift, knowing how hard it must be to lose a teammate who had been there nearly the longest period of time of all of them.
  28. Joel was buried in his hometown of High Point, NC – just below his daddy. I’ll be in the spot next to him. I was blessed to receive that gift from Joel’s mother.
  29. My children are learning to laugh again. So am I.
  30. God has been clearly speaking to me regarding some bold next steps in my life. I continue to discern his call, but I’ll share more as I feel led to do so.
  31. My little one has learned to ride a tricycle and participated in his first Trike-A-Thon fundraiser for St Jude’s Children’s Hospital. I was a proud mommy, and I know daddy would have been just as proud. I prayed he would be able to see him from Heaven.
  32. I have been able to give away some things that have no purpose in our lives without Joel here. It’s such a blessing to be able to give away anything when I’ve been blessed so greatly during these 100 days.
  33. We were fed by my mother-in-law’s church following Joel’s burial.
  34. Her pastor conducted the graveside service.
  35. I was able to develop a t-shirt design on TeeSpring and use as a fundraiser and a way to get a message across. No matter the pain, no matter the tragedy…God is still good. The #HeIsStillGood shirts are still available to order but have been a huge hit so far!
  36. Many friends and family are now re-looking at their wills, power of attorney documents, etc. to make sure everything is up-to-date. Joel’s sudden passing caused several folks I know to be caught off guard (like we were) and to make sure that doesn’t happen to them.
  37. I have always considered myself to be an independent person. However, Joel took care of so much (and wanted to) that I learned how to be dependent on him during our marriage. I am re-learning how do things on my own again. The blessing in this is that I am ABLE to…even if it wasn’t for which I asked.
  38. My children are learning more about their Heavenly Daddy – Abba!
  39. I have met several new widow friends.
  40. I have seen first-hand the power of corporate prayer on a large level and am humbled to have been the subject of prayer from people who have never even heard of our family prior to this tragedy.
  41. I personally know the funeral director that handled all of Joel’s arrangements (and did Chris’ too). I consider myself very blessed to have been connected to him for many years prior for such a time as this.
  42. Joel’s extended family has become more intimately my own.
  43. I have gotten a couple sweet notes from prior patients of Joel’s at the cancer center. What a blessing to see how treasured and respected he was as a caregiver to them!
  44. One of the first things God made clear to me after Joel’s death was that we were to remain in Hickory and not move back to Asheville. Although it didn’t make sense initially to MANY people, I am starting to see the “why” in this, and I am falling in love with this new place we now call home.
  45. Sometimes, Joel and I would watch a TV series together on Netflix for a little evening entertainment after the kids went to bed. We were in the middle of one when he died that I struggled to go back to watching. I have since been able to finish the series. That might seem silly, but it was important to me to complete something we started together.
  46. My special-needs daughter has been very matter-of-fact about her daddy’s death. She knows he died. She knows he’s in Heaven. But, I’ve never seen much emotion out of her (which might be a blessing, in part, due to her disabilities). However, just last week…she came up to me and said out-of-nowhere, “I miss daddy.” Although they hurt, those words were a joyful sound to my ears.
  47. #TeamStirewalt was created. A group of new friends and strangers who lavished practical love upon us!
  48. One of the things Austyn has missed most since daddy went to Heaven is his wrestling matches with him. He’s tried to get his brothers to participate, but it usually leads to arguments or someone getting hurt. Since I’ve been unable to do much physical activity, it’s been out of the question for me. However, just the other night, I was able to have a “mini-match” with my little man, and the joy that erupted from his heart from something so seemingly simple was beautiful to see.
  49. Damaris (our short-term nanny) has poured herself into our family, and I’ve learned to let someone else “take over” things that I would normally never relinquish doing.
  50. I have a renewed longing for my eternal Home of Heaven.

I know the posts over these two days have been much longer than normal, but I really wanted to focus on 100 blessings to celebrate Joel’s 100 days in Heaven. It’s hard to shorten the word count for such a thing. Thank you for taking the time to read them and join us in this celebration, of sorts.

#HeIsStillGood

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

100 Days – Part 1

You know the trend these days for teachers and their students to celebrate 100 days of school attendance? Typically the celebration involves bringing 100s of various items, and these various items might be used in math games, crafts, etc.

Today I celebrate a different set of 100 days. Today marks the 10oth day since Joel went to Heaven. He’s been in the physical presence of his our Savior for 100 days! Glory! In honor of this day, I’ve created my own “collection of 100”. We’ve had a lot of pain these last 100 days, but this list is to focus on all of the good and glorious things we’ve experienced first-hand or witnessed or heard about as a result of Joel’s death. Since this will end up being a much longer-than-normal post for me, I’m splitting it into two different posts. Today will reveal the first 50 of the 100 glorious and good experiences we’ve had since Joel went Home to Heaven 100 days ago. Check back tomorrow for the remaining 50!

  1. Two of Joel’s sons accepted Jesus as their personal Savior (Benjamin and Josiah)!
  2. All of our little children have been more inquisitive about Heaven and have no fear of death.
  3. God has continued to meet all of our financial needs.
  4. Our Asheville house sold (contract came two weeks after Joel’s death).
  5. We were gifted an all-expenses paid week of vacation to Walt Disney World this July.
  6. I’ve drawn closer to my bonus children (Joel’s bio children) since his death.
  7. Our yard has been mowed and weed-eated every week.
  8. Plants have been planted and the weeding of our natural areas has taken place.
  9. We’ve been fed meals since the day Joel went home to Heaven.
  10. We’ve had our house cleaned several times by friends and strangers.
  11. A group of men from a neighboring church came and cleaned out our garage on a major level.
  12. My bonus son and daughter and their spouses spent an entire weekend at our home doing all sorts of projects.
  13. One of our garage doors wouldn’t open, so a new friend simply fixed it.
  14. I’ve had a precious nanny to help with the children each weekday morning and evening for nearly two months, and it’s been completely funded by people, many of whom I’ve never met in person.
  15. A local church has taken us in and completely cared for us. They are living out God’s mandate for the church to care for widows (and orphans). They have shown love to us in many ways.
  16. God has been boldly teaching me some things from His Word about many of the things He’s working on in my life as a widow.
  17. Our pool was opened and taken care of at the start of the season by new friends in the area. (I’m slowly learning how to be a pool owner.)
  18. A local pool supply store has been so good to us and is working with me to try to save money at every angle. Such a personal touch and already considers me an “insider” and “friend” due to the others who have been there speaking on our behalf.
  19. The children LOVE their new school and have adapted very well.
  20. Katerina attended her first Special Olympics and won a blue ribbon.
  21. I’ve sold more copies of my Rescued and Restored book since Joel went to Heaven than all previously months combined.
  22. Josiah has really stepped up in his roll in our family. He’s an amazing big brother and really tries to help me out with the little kids. While his help is most needed, I also want him to simply be a kid, so we’re both learning balance in this area.
  23. I know the Lord deeper today than I did 100 days ago.
  24. When Joel died in February, I hardly knew anyone in this community. Now…my community of support in my new town nearly rivals my support in my hometown of Asheville. AMAZING!
  25. The temporary beds we had for Josiah and Benjamin when we moved in finally bit the dust. I found two new beds for them, and a group of guys were gracious enough to put them together for me/them!
  26. A precious work friend and her husband came and took the kids out for an afternoon at a local park so I could get some much needed “Mommy time”.
  27. Three separate families in Asheville kept my children for a weekend so that I could be available to work with my bonus kiddos on the house projects they drove from out of town to complete on our behalf.
  28. I had a wreck in April, but praise God nobody was seriously injured, as both vehicles were totaled!
  29. In addition to the many meals we’ve had provided, we’ve had a lot of freezer meals donated for both dinners and breakfasts.
  30. The kids have received some precious “just because” gifts to lift their moods.
  31. I received a gift bag containing 40 gifts, one to open each day – to provide encouragement in these dark days. I’m still in the middle of opening the gifts from this blessing!
  32. I’ve received an enormous amount of “thinking about you” cards! What a blessing for me to receive, as this is one of my major love languages.
  33. My mother-in-law kept my children for three days during Spring Break to allow me time to have to myself and to be able to get some things done that might be hard to do with little feet around.
  34. Flowers – another love language of mine. I’ve received them on my doorstep anonymously as well as brought in by new friends or sent by delivery service.
  35. Joel and I bought a trampoline for our family on Black Friday last year. He had planned to put it together this Spring. My precious son-in-law, Wes, put it together for our family instead.
  36. A precious friend painted the most amazing painting of my husband and sent it to me as a gift. It now hangs in my office, and I smile each time I walk into that room.
  37. Another widow friend came to spend the weekend with my family and cooked meals for us, entertained the kids and spent time simply talking with me. Thank you LeAnn!
  38. My best friend, Kandi, came and spent every weekend with me until late April when we both had all kinds of crazy things going on. What a blessing to count on her presence each weekend…lonely and difficult times for me.
  39. A sweet friend organized a gift card drive for my family, and it was an enormous gift, and we continue to reap the blessings of her selfless efforts. Thank you Heather!
  40. Many ladies’ groups, families, small groups, and work groups have banded together to collect funds to help with the immediate financial needs as we work out the legal aspects of the loss of our Joel. What an immense blessing. This is in addition to the GoFundMe account that was set up on behalf of our family. We are astounded at how God is using so many people to care for us in these dark days.
  41. I’ve had the privilege of connecting with a financial advisor in my new church, who I feel very good about going to, and it doesn’t hurt that his wife has become a precious friend as well.
  42. Benjamin has learned to read, albeit basic, but he’s learning nonetheless…Joel would be so proud.
  43. Katerina can verbally spell her name now. That would be such music to Joel’s ears.
  44. Austyn wants to take care of his mommy as only a 3-year-old knows how to do. His reasoning…when daddy comes to “visit ” us…he’ll be so proud of Austyn. 🙁 Breaks my heart!
  45. Austyn’s 3rd birthday took place 9 days after his daddy went to Heaven. I had a special “Thomas the Train” party planned for him but failed to get it done on account of his daddy’s sudden death. My workplace stepped in and took care of my little boy with a precious party at Hickory Dickory Dock! He love it, and it blessed my heart to see him so happy and enjoying his special day.
  46. We had a similar situation happen again in March with Josiah. I just couldn’t physically and emotionally pull his party together. I had my third (unexpected) foot surgery the day before his party and two others earlier in the month. My precious bonus daughter, Amy, offered to plan and orchestrate the entire event. What a precious gift! Josiah (and the rest of the kids) had a blast!
  47. On two different occasions, a group of ladies planned a time of praise and worship and scripture reading at my house, during my most difficult days post-foot surgery recovery. It was a blessing to corporately worship the Lord together, especially since I was unable to travel to church at the time.
  48. I had the privilege of spending the morning with a previous elderly widow (now remarried after decades of being a widow). She and her second husband continue the missionary work begun by each of them in their previous marriages. She was such a blessing to have in my home. We both cried together, and her tears just glistened on her cheeks, as she smiled so largely each time she mentioned the Lord.
  49. Prayers of healing have been prayed over me in person and from afar from some of the most God-fearing individuals I’ve ever met.
  50. Automobile oil changes have been taken care of for me during my first weeks of this second journey of widowhood.

And that’s just the first half…

Reminder: check back here tomorrow to see how God has continued to bless our family even through this horrific tragedy. #HeIsStillGood

Monday, March 27, 2017

We Knew She Was Different

The first time we laid eyes on her, we knew she was special. Katerina had a way of lighting up a room with her huge smile and her pure joy. And…when she met her daddy for the first time…oh the joy, such incredible joy. We didn’t know how Katerina would react to Joel, because many children living in orphanages haven’t had a lot of contact with males (most caregivers are women), but Katerina knew this man was HER daddy, and she loved him immensely, and the feeling was mutual.

Katerina has always been such a special little girl, in many respects. She’s the only girl out of the four we’ve adopted. That, in and of itself, makes her very special. She holds her own with the boys, but she loves to be the girl God has created her to be. She plays with dolls, likes to have her fingernails painted, and loves to wear pretty dresses.

Soon after our adoption of Katerina (and her brothers) was complete, we had them all evaluated at an international adoption clinic and by their local pediatrician. It was clear there was something else going on with Katerina. We learned early on there was a developmental delay (not uncommon coming from orphanage life). But, we were referred to the Fullerton Genetic Center to have her evaluated for Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). Children coming from the part of the world where these children came from are often exposed to alcohol in the womb, and FAS or any of the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) are very strong possibilities for these children.

Upon her genetic testing (which ruled out some other possibilities) and a battery of testing, Katerina was confirmed with FAS. Our hearts broke for our sweet daughter. It wasn’t her fault, but she’ll have to deal with the effects of a choice by another for the rest of her life (as will her new family).

This past December, Katerina was evaluated yet again, and we learned she also has Autism. That somewhat came as a surprise, because many symptoms of FAS are in direct contradiction to Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). However, she scored high enough in the other categories that her diagnosis was clear.

Joel and I knew we were in for a lifetime of parenting this little girl who would grow to be a young lady. What would her future look like? Would she be able to learn enough to live independently? Would she ever be able to work a job? So many questions…

This past Friday, I faced the next challenge alone for the first time. Katerina just went through re-evaluation for her IEP (Individualized Education Plan). She was given a large battery of in-depth tests. The results of the all the testing…our baby girl is mentally challenged. Her IQ is very low, and she is now considered “moderately intellectually delayed”. I think we knew it deep down, but I heard it for the first time, and my heart broke again. I had to grieve for my daughter all over again. But this time, I didn’t have her daddy to grieve and share this news with. I truly felt and thought to myself, “How much more Lord? How much more weight can my shoulders take?” I know I won’t feel this way forever, but for now…I feel the darkness is getting heavier and the pit is getting deeper. I’m still praying and waiting for breakthrough and a glimpse of the light breaking through the tunnel.

But, God has great plans for Miss K! I know He does. She is full of compassion and love and seems to know how to comfort people in pain in ways others don’t. I had a bit of a meltdown a week ago that unfortunately happened in front of the kids. The boys kept asking if I was okay and wanted to help with words. But my sweet girl…she walked up to me and started rubbing my back…she didn’t say a word. She just rubbed my back! God used her mightily in that moment to comfort her hurting mama.

He has great plans for my girl! No doubt in my mind. I just want to make sure I listen to His still, small voice to know what role I play in His plans for her. Without Joel to help me make decisions, I’m trusting God to fill the role of “husband to the widow” He’s promised and guide me through some of the hard decisions I might have to make decades from now or even in the next few weeks.

He won’t let me down. His plan is always perfect and always better.

I’ve been working with Katerina on learning some things about herself that I want to make sure she never forgets. She finally knows them, and will repeat them to me when I ask her to tell me her “I am’s”…and, she’ll say…

I am beautiful.

I am special.

I am smart.

I am loved.

Yes you are my precious! You are so, so loved!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Emotionally Beat-Up

Happy Wednesday afternoon friends! I’ve struggled to post for a few days now, because…well…in all honesty, I’m just feeling emotionally beat-up. Those were the exact words I spoke to a friend who recently called to check on me and see how I was doing, and I struggled to come up with what to stay. Finally…it came to me…I just feel…emotionally beat-up! And then she got it. She knew exactly what I meant.

  • I’m in the process of grieving the death of a second husband in less than 6 years, who’s been gone just slightly over a month. That, in and of itself, is almost too much to bear at times.
  • I have four young, adopted children…two with clinically-defined special needs and one probably, yet to be diagnosed. Throw a little, well a lot, of ADHD into the mix, and you’ve got one keyed up, stretched thin, worn through and through mama.
  • Then, this blasted foot surgery. It’s supposed to help restore life in areas where I’ve needed restoration…the ability to walk well (pain-free) again, and the ability to retreat back to those outdoor activities that bring me such joy hiking, camping, river tubing, etc. It was supposed to be an easy surgery. Key words “supposed to be”. Joel’s surgery was supposed to be easy too, and we see how that turned out. I guess I’m blessed to be alive, but I’m struggling with lots of PAIN, and I mean a ton! And…before the surgery I was given instructions that I could be ambulatory immediately post surgery (while using a surgery shoe) as I felt up to it. I had full, weigh-bearing privileges. Now…I’m not allowed to put any weight on it at all. Did you see the part about having 4 young, rambunctious children at home? Nearly impossible doc.

I’m begging God for a breakthrough, for a release from ALL the pain (even if it’s just temporary)…I just need some relief. I’ve asked Him for a better attitude, because I know I’m struggling in that area too, and I truly don’t want to be…I just want my joy back…even if it’s just a smidgen. It’s that smidgen that will carry me through to the next dose.

Come, Lord Jesus! Rain down bucketfuls of joy upon me, and remove the pain!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Rejoice – Pray – Give Thanks (a Freedom Friday post)

I hope you had the opportunity to join me last week for my first ever Freedom Friday post. If not, you can click here and check it out! For the rest of you, welcome back!

Having gone through a life long roller coaster ride…having experienced extreme highs and what appeared (at times) to be bottomless lows…I can say with all honesty there are 3 verses in scripture that I’ve struggled consistently to obey.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (ESV) 

Rejoice always (v. 16), pray without ceasing (v. 17), give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (v. 18).

Rejoice. Always?

How do I rejoice over the suicidal death of my husband?

How do I rejoice when my dear friend contracts breast cancer?

How do I rejoice upon learning that I tore the meniscus in my knee while simply playing Wii with my daughter and would require surgery?

Pray without ceasing.

How do I continually pray as I struggle to balance the checkbook for the first time after becoming a single mom?

How do I pray without ceasing when I’m so exhausted from the 16 hour work day I just completed and now have an 8-year-old asleep on my office floor that needs to be carried home and put to bed?

How do I offer up continuous prayers when God seems so far away or non-existent at times?

Give thanks in all circumstances.

How do I give thanks while burying my husband on Mother’s Day?

How do I give thanks that my parents divorced and I’m now being whisked away, as a teenager, from the only support “place” I’ve ever known?

How do I give thanks while tears pour down my face following another heartbreaking conversation with someone I dearly love?

Seriously? Is God really asking me to do these things? Rejoice – pray – give thanks?

In short, yes. But, before you exit this post, because you just can’t listen to one more person telling you that God expects you to live up to something so seemingly impossible…please hear me out. Believe me, I know what you might be thinking…I’ve thought it too. I understand how often you’ve tried to be the person that does all three of these things so beautifully and failed time and time again. Yep – me too! But, will you walk with me for just a couple more minutes as I briefly unpack this? Because, maybe…maybe just maybe…God wants to impart a new nugget to you from some old verses that you’ve read time and time again.

REJOICE – always. Too often, we confuse joy with happiness. I know I’ve been guilty of this time and again, however joy for the Christian is something that is not dependent on our circumstances (which change all the time) but IS dependent on the unchanging character of God. I have learned, first-hand, that it is possible to be joyful even while experiencing hardship and sorrow. How can I do that? By focusing on those promises of God that are unchanging and knowing that I can find all-sufficiency in Christ Jesus alone. I rejoice in the future promises of God – eternal life with Him. The life we live on this earth is so brief compared to eternity. That’s so hard to comprehend, but when I pause to actually try and do that…I am able to rejoice that my eternity is secure. The hardships, the trials, the sorrow I may experience during my time on earth are only temporary…my security in my salvation and eternal home is permanent. I can REJOICE over that! The always part of this verse appears to mean the continual practice of a joyful attitude and spirit. What steals that joy from us? Focusing on our circumstances rather than the God over our circumstances.

PRAY – without ceasing. I love how one commentator puts it, “In the Christian life the act of prayer is intermittent but the spirit of prayer should be incessant. It is not in the moving of the lips, but in the elevation of the heart to God…” I love that. It’s not the very act…God doesn’t expect us to walk around uttering prayers all day long. That would be impossible. How would we pray as we sleep? Rather, God wants our spirit to be constantly devoted to a heart of prayer…a desire to walk in sweet communion with Him. Prayer is a way to develop and maintain an intimate relationship with God.

GIVE THANKS – in all circumstances. Oh boy…this is the one that seems to trip people up the most. Give thanks IN all circumstances. It’s that two-letter word – IN – that we tend to gloss over. God is not asking us to give thanks FOR all circumstances. He is simply instructing us to practice a heart of gratitude towards Him for His continual grace, mercy, and loving-kindness. No matter what we are experiencing at the moment…God is still gracious, merciful, and loving. No matter how deep our pain…God never changes. No matter how often we turn our back on Him…He never leaves us. How can we not offer thanks for all that He’s done for us even in the midst of life’s hardships? Much like I shared last in last week’s Freedom Friday post…Paul & Silas were in prison and yet offered up praise & thanksgiving to God, which ultimately resulted in their freedom. Hmmm…could that be key to the “freedom” we might be looking for as well?

I’m certainly no theologian, and I’ve only begun to understand the full meaning of these short verses, but God is not asking us to do something that we’re incapable of doing, or He would have never asked us to begin with. He sees my heart…He knows if I’m truly joyful and if I’m trying to maintain that intimate relationship with Him via prayer. And…He certainly knows if I have a heart of gratitude.

Whew! I don’t know about you, but when I examined these verses a little further, I recognized an ability (only through Christ) to be able to actually put these things into practice. Will it take away my pain? Probably not. Will it diminish it? Perhaps. Will it draw me closer to Him? Most definitely!

Heavenly Father, Please help me to rejoice always, to pray without ceasing, and to give thanks in all circumstances. Help me to be focused on You, the One I know but can’t physically see rather than on those things that I can see and yet do not understand. In Jesus’ precious name I ask and pray, Amen!