Thursday, October 31, 2013

Our Greatest Joy

A walking stick and a cleft in a rock on Raven Run overlooking the Kentucky River
“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no human mind has conceived the things God has prepared for those who love him!" 1 Corinthians 2:9

I really admire Moses. Reading his entire story over the years I think that he's inspired me. Even this morning as I was reading in Exodus I know the Lord was speaking through his word to the unspoken need of my heart.

You know Moses never made it to the promised land (physically anyway). He obeyed God, helped lead the people out of Egypt,  put up with the crankiness of the people he lead for over 40 years. His journey was not easy that's for sure. We know he got frustrated and in his flesh reacted to the grumbling of the people and did not obey God this particular time...he was to speak to the rock and the Lord would show his power by making water come from the rock. (How many of us have ever reacted in our flesh due to frustration with others or circumstances?)  Moses ended up reacting and striking the rock instead.  Just so we are aware that in Exodus 17...the Lord had once before told Moses to strike a rock and water came out...but this Numbers 20...he was told to speak to the rock. I'm a mother, my children at times could drive me to hit a rock...or react in ways I shouldn't. I've had to repent in the past for my reactions in frustration.

Cumberland Gap pinnacle in the early morning hours.
So here is the part that ministered to me today. Moses, was told he would not see the promise land. Numbers 20:12 "But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.” OUCH!

I think the normal, understandable reaction would be to beg for mercy, cry, plead, use the old..."NOT FAIR!" He didn't react like that at all. Oh that we attain that reflection of God!

You see Moses's desire to be in the presence of God far outweighed anything else. I love this:

Exodus 33:18-23 Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.” And the Lord said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.  But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.” Then the Lord said, “There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.”

I LOVE his relationship with God! Once he saw God (even if it was just his back)...I would think that nothing else could come close to that moment! He got to see God!! He persevered through that entire journey in the wilderness..I wonder if in difficult times...he remembered the time He saw the Lord.

You know, things happen along our journey that could very well make us want to throw the towel in and give up. We may at times think...I thought I heard from God, but I must have been mistaken..this is way too hard and not turning out anything like I expected. 

GOD IS FAITHFUL....ALWAYS! I've been through enough to see the hand of God in the ninth hour and even after that to know...HE KEEPS HIS PROMISES! We get to see God all the time! He lives in us...we get to spend time in His presences whenever we choose to!

I want to encourage you, wherever you are not to give up - press on!

In the new testament, many many years after Moses' death he appears with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration. Matthew 17:1-3 "After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus." 

I been taught that this particular place, where this happened, where Moses appears with Jesus, is indeed the promised land. Not only was Moses now in the promised land...but he was face to face, talking with the very son of God. HE ALWAYS COMES THROUGH FOR US!

The Lord knows what He is doing! Even if things don't seem to work out on this side of heaven, we can't even imagine how amazing eternity will be! 

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no human mind has conceived the things God has prepared for those who love him!" 1 Corinthians 2:9

I am pretty sure that the greatest joy in Moses' journey was to see and experience God.  I'm pretty sure that is to be our greatest joy as well.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

He Ain't Heavy...

Brendan and Kyle...I love this picture so much...says so much about their relationship.

He's my brother. We've heard the song, if you haven't check it was made famous by The Hollies in the mid 70s. I know, I'm dating myself. So years ago,when my sweet Kyle was first diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (PDD-NOS) I got myself in a support group where I felt right at home. These people understood me and my world. It was comfortable and I learned a great deal from others who have walked down this road.

Today, I don't have a support group and some say I don't need one. Truly, most every adult I know...absolutely loves my boy, and really cannot see any "special needs". I'm so thankful - he has come a long way!! We see it all, we see what others don't. I've turned to writing as my way of wrestling with the raw feelings that really only others who have walked this path can truly understand. Perhaps if you haven't had to walk this path, you will run into someone who is and can be a source of encouragement.

I have written quite a bit about Kyle. My oldest (by 2 minutes). I have written about the fact that I once prayed for healing...and realized that God made no mistakes when He created Kyle - the healing came in me. I would love for him not to struggle socially or academically, but honestly...the boy shows me Jesus all the time.  Tonight the boys came home and once again I am sitting here with a huge lump in my throat. I do feel for my boy and his challenges and Mr. Incredible and I work hard at trying to give him tools to help him work out those "issues", but it is getting more difficult now that hormones are getting involved, not to mention he is just getting smarter. He knows things now that he wasn't aware of before...and it is starting to hurt.

The lump that is in my throat has to do with his twin brother, Brendan. As we talked about what happened during the car ride tonight Brendan looked at me with tears in his eyes and explained to me that people do look at Kyle differently. People do raise eyebrows and people can be rude to him. Brendan says that often he will step in as his brother and explain "My brother has a form of Autism...he can't help it." He told me that most of the time, almost all of the time, people get it and understand. He said to me with a tear in the corner of his eye, "Mom, if people would just get to know him they would love him and accept him!"

This is why I am purposeful to teach them the truth about who they are in Christ!

Who Christ says he is!!
Then he asked me if I thought the Lord might heal Kyle, if I still pray for his healing like I use to. I haven't prayed for his healing. I guess I pray for his challenges and that he would be an overcomer...but I love him so much and often think...he is this way for a reason.  Most people do understand and most people love him. It is this age, 13 years olds, it is a weird phase, and boys this age...can be hurtful without even knowing it. We try to explain to Kyle that some of the things he does...can annoy people. You see he tries so hard to fit in, to make people laugh. Sometimes, if he feels even a bit uncomfortable he will resort to trying to be funny...that is his way of feeling better in social situations.

My pain is for Brendan, who at the age of six tells me..."Mom, don't worry, when you die my wife and I will take care of Kyle." Who says that at age six? Today, he hurts for his brother. He hurts when his friends act impatient and rude to him. He carries a burden that I never ever wanted him to have to carry.
Kyle feeding Brendan!

I told him tonight that I am so thankful that Kyle has him as a brother. He is an amazing kid with a incredible heart! He told me right back..."I'm glad I have Kyle...I love him Mom!" I really feel like Brendan doesn't feel like it is a burden. Like the song says...

"The road is long, with many a winding turn that leads us to who knows where. Who knows when, but I'm strong -  strong enough to carry him. He ain't heavy, he's my brother.

So on we go, his welfare is of my concern. No burden is he to bear, we'll get there. For I know he would not encumber me. He ain't heavy, he's my brother.

If I'm laden at all I'm laden with sadness, that everyone's heart isn't filled with the gladness of love for one another. It's a long, long road from which there is no return. While we're on the way to there why not share and the load doesn't weigh me down at all. He ain't heavy, he's my brother."

I can not even put into words how much I love this boy. How thankful I am for his heart for the Lord and for his family. He has stepped in an intervened on so many occasions. His precious heart hurts for his brother and being 12 years old himself...I'm sure he doesn't know how to deal with it all the time. I'm in my mid 40s and I don't even know. I'm glad that Kyle has found some new friends at our new church. They seem to love him and truly make him feel like he belongs.
Brendan absolutely loves his brothers. He would gladly carry them, wherever, whenever! Kyle and Shane just don't know how incredibly blessed they are to have Brendan in their lives. I pray someday they will! I pray that someday they will appreciate that they are amazing true superheros.

He ain't heavy, he's my brother!
This is the perfect set of pictures! There is my sweet Brendan...pushing his brothers...and smiling the whole time! "He ain't heavy, he's my brother!"  I love you son....more than my words or actions could ever express! I'm so thankful you are in my life my sweet superhero!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Presence, Purpose and Power...

My two boys on a hike with Dad on Chimney Rock while Kyle and I stayed behind learning to find JOY.

...These three things I desire most in my life. While I'm studying "Joy" for my final teaching as Women's Ministry Director at Edgewater Alliance Church I'm really experiencing a myriad of emotions. So excited about the path that the Lord has placed before my family, seeing the incredible changes in my men and knowing that the decisions that we've made are most definitely the will of God, I am still going through some kind of adjustment. Watching Bagels & Blessings grow from a conception/dream to a fully grown and flourishing ministry over the past 5 years is most humbling and most amazing. I know it is time for me to move on, but the tears keep flowing. He knows what He is doing.

So the way I've been dealing with this adjustment is to bury myself in the study of JOY. It just so happens that like every other theme for the year that God has placed on my heart for the past 5 years, and every single teaching that I have labored through...I'm personally able to learn, first hand what I'm about to speak on. This is very exciting! The most exciting part, is that my family must endure the lessons I'm learning for themselves as well. It has been life changing for everyone in my house.

I'm not sure if it is because getting pregnant was so difficult for me, or that I lost 14 babies along the way that when I finally had children I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that they were only on loan to me, and it was my (and my husband of course) job to take what we've learned from the Word and "teach them diligently to my children" like it says in Deuteronomy and I'm pretty serious about it!

So I now share our most recent lesson on JOY.

I know it is important to for me touch upon the supernatural result of joy, regardless of our circumstances.

Last week my family and I went on vacation together - including Mr. Incredible (this would be his first real vacation in years and years)! I was very careful not to allow my boys to go near anyone showing signs of a sniffle, let alone any horrible virus. We had the hand sanitizer out and we were playing it safe. The Sunday before we leave, my Kyle gets very VERY sick. His temperature spikes to 102.3, he feels lousy! We took him to the Emergency Room they hooked us up with tons of medication...for just in case...but they were quite sure this was a virus and medicine wouldn't help at all. I BEGAN TO PRAY! First response...always prayer! Invite the presence of the HEALER! By Monday it got worse, he began to vomit. The plan was to leave Tuesday, we had know how it is. I thought ok, this could just be a 24 hour thing, "cheer up family -- all hope is not lost!!" - I was purposeful in my attitude. We were going to praise God through all of this! Tuesday morning he wakes up with spots all over his body and he threw up again in the early morning hours. We take him back to the doctor because of the spots. They confirmed, it is a nasty virus, highly contagious and it's running rampant. He says we'll most likely all come down with it. Poor Kyle, feeling so miserable, and then adding to that the thoughts in his head about ruining everyone's vacation. We decided that he could only get better. We were going to take the chance and drive to North Carolina. We left hours later than we had expected, but we were on our way. We CONTINUED to PRAY!

I felt the very PRESENCE of the JOY GIVER in that van. We gave Kyle a bucket, we thanked the Lord for being SO GOOD to us! We were not going to let this virus get the best of us! I kid you not, PRAYER and PRAISE were going viral in that van. My boys were believing God for a miracle...and so was I.

Right about South Carolina I began to feel sick. My temperature was rising 101.4, and my stomach felt horrible. My poor husband! Should we cancel this trip! I decided that we should keep going. I literally, and purposefully, worshiped...OUT LOUD...from South Carolina to North Carolina...and as long as worshiped I felt fine...the minute I stopped...I began to feel sick again. We had a blast in the car. My husband and I taught the boys some old songs from our college days -- oh we laughed and sang and had the best time in the car!! I went to bed in my hotel room, humming "Thanks be to God who gives us the victory!"

The next morning...I was healed! Kyle on the other hand, had developed sores in his mouth. My poor baby! He laid there on a cot in our hotel room, and said...."Why hasn't God healed me?"

Don't we all wonder where God is when life is not looking or feeling good at all, when our circumstances flat out stink? YES, we've all been there before. I knew it was my responsibility to see Kyle through this and give him the tool to find the joy in the midst of all of this.

My husband and other boys went hiking on Chimney Rock and Kyle and I stayed back at the hotel. I was able to get some fluids in him and he and I just rested. We had time to talk about how good God has been in our lives. We pulled out those "stones" and remembered how faithful God has been.

You see joy flows from the discovery of our Lord and Savior in every circumstance where we wish to find Him. If we seek Him, we will find Him!

While I worked on my teaching for December, Kyle began to dose off. I could hear him whispering..."God has been good to us!" YES!!! That's my boy!

The next day, Kyle was able to eat, drink and laugh! He was feeling 95% better! PRAISE GOD! We had an amazing vacation...finding JOY in JESUS everywhere!

You see my family understands now how Paul could say, "Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice!" Phil. 4:4 We were already in God's presence and then, just like Paul and Silas we praised God through it all! Then just like Paul and Silas we saw the amazing Power of God come through! Hello JOY!!

My prayer is that this encourages you. Look at what you are going through right now as an opportunity to refine the skill of finding joy in the midst of your circumstance. Make it yet another chance to learn and experience the presence, purpose and the power of  God. You see, I'm pretty certain that JOY is best discovered through challenges/difficulties! So don't be discouraged, get in His presence, be purposeful and watch the power of God break through - HE loves it when His children bathe in an abundance of JOY.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Finding Joy in the Journey

Just one of the things I saw on our hike down Stone Mountain. See how distractingly beautiful that can be!

This morning I laid it down again. My journey. Not my battle, but my journey. According to Webster, a journey is a traveling from one place to another, usually taking a rather long time; passage or progress from one stage to another. We are ALL on a journey of some sort. Just coming home from my latest vacation it made me reflect on the fact that when we're on a journey we must be ready to accept the fact that we may find ourselves encountering things that may slow down our traveling. For example, we may hit traffic, detours, road construction (someone else in your party may get really sick)...all of which will slow us down. We may just be tired and need to pull over, or we may get distracted by all the things we can see and do on our trip. We may just be totally enjoying ourselves and the life that this journey has taken us and we've gotten out and pitched a tent for awhile. Now, when we do makes sense that "traveling from one place to another" will take longer. Just a fact.

That's what has happened with my journey. I've gotten out, pitched a tent and have truly been enjoying all the things that life has shown me for the past 4 months or so (I've gotten a little distracted). Don't get me wrong...there have been some storms, and that can totally do a number on the tent. So, I'm just confessing today that I've put my tent back into the car, I'm not going to be discouraged about the time loss (or the weight gain), I know this is a journey...but its time to get back on the road. Time to set my eyes straight on my goal. No looking back, just forward. Its a new day. I'm not going to beat myself up for the pause in my journey...I haven't given up.

That is where you can find the joy in the journey. I'm still on the journey, I'm not in a race...but I know there is a goal to meet...and I'm not lost...I've just pitched a tent for awhile...but I'm back in the car..ready to do this!

How about you? Where have you been on your journey? Are you discouraged because you are not where you thought you should be by now? OK, so when we begin to feel discouraged - take an inventory, perhaps its time to pick up your tent and move on. Get back on track. Just don't sit there and be miserable and beat yourself up, reach up for the Lord's outstretched hand, He will pick you up (all the while He is smiling...He's not condemning you know)...HE LOVES you!! He's always thrilled when we reach out to Him. I've said I'm in the car and ready to go...but I didn't say I was the one driving. I know myself, I get WAY too distracted. I see a pretty mountain, or an interesting historical landmark and I can't help myself. This is why we need to let Him do the driving. So here you go Lord, I'm giving you the keys. I know you love me, I know that there may even be times when I beg you for the chance to drive and you may even let me...I get it. I'm just glad I'm doing it with YOU...and I'm not alone! Here WE go!

Friends, EnJOY your journey!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Intimacy Only Found In Quiet

Me, in 1973 - I was 4 years old, but that is still me. There is a little girl/boy in each of us!

I try the best I can to express the necessity of quiet time. We tend to often find so many other things to get in our way, or perhaps we feel like we don't know what to do in this...quiet time.

I haven't been blogging lately. Hoping that changes. However, I have completed a book that is presently with the editor. That has taken up much of my creativity and writing time. No matter how busy I can be, the one thing I know that is necessary is my time with my Creator.

We don't have to spend our quiet time the same way or at the same time. That would be silly, you and I are very different. Sometimes I will close my eyes before I read anything, and just listen. Sometimes, I will start out with simple words of praise (HE is worthy of all praise). Then there are times, when I start off, much like that little girl excited to see her Daddy and tell him all that is on her heart. I know He's waiting for me....and that makes me smile.

A few weeks back, I sat in my spot and had just finished reading Jeremiah 29:13 "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart I will be found by you,” declares the Lord,.." I closed my eyes and it was as if I were watching a silent movie...let me try and set the stage: I was running, like a little girl, through a thick forest. So many trees of all different sizes. Then I paused, leaned on a tree and almost out of breath I closed my eyes and starting counting...1..2..3..4..5..10..."Ready or not, here I come!" The smile on my face was filled with excitement and anticipation. I ran just a little bit and I see Jesus leaning up as if to hide behind a tree, but instead he was "hiding" IN FRONT of the tree. I laughed and ran up to Him and shouted..."I found You!" He embraced me and we both just laughed! Then I did it again. 1..2..3..4..5..10.."Ready or not, here I come!" This time He had wrapped His arms around the tree, so His hands and feet were clearly visible.

For a moment, I thought my heart could be sad, because that thought of How he allowed His hands and feet to be nailed to a tree briefly entered my heart. But I realized that is just how much He loves me.

So I sneaked up on Him and shouted...I found you! He acted surprised, but I knew He really wasn't. He again wrapped me up in His arms and twirled me around! We walked hand in hand..and played hide and seek again. He was so easy to find every time, because if  you will seek Him, you will always find Him!  Talk about intimacy! I still get teary just thinking about this time I had with my Jesus!

Today I woke at 5:00am. Got into my chair and closed my eyes. This morning I was searching for His gaze. You know that He is always present! I am aware that He dwells inside of me. I'm a part of Him. I want to see myself through His eyes. His gaze is true, steady, sure and untainted by sin. He sees me as one who is loved eternally, deeply, intimately. I find such peace in His presence, in His gaze.

There have been times, for much of my life that I would concentrate on what others saw in me. Others, however, always (to no fault of their own), see me through the filters of their own life and limitations. Christ does not have that problem. You see at one point in my life it was important to me that people liked me. OH the danger in this.

Now that I have come to understand my identity in Christ...I don't struggle with this nearly as much. I once read that the "major problem with letting others define you is that it borders on idolatry." You see, "your concern to please others dampens your desire to please your Creator!"

That is why I need to check in with my Creator every day - so He can remind me who I am in Him. Its a big deal! Not to mention the fact that the more time we spend with Him, the more we know Him and the more time we will want to be with Him. It really works just like that!

We were all created for intimacy. True, glorious, life changing intimacy is most definitely found in our quiet time. Have you had your quiet time today?