Tag Archives: Trust

Ezekiel’s Journey

“Show me the right path, O Lord; point out the road for me to follow. Lead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in you.” Psalm 25:4-5 (NLT) Pixabay

Miracles of Living Hope

Marilyn Uhl will be the first to tell you that establishing and running Living Hope High School in Bungoma, Kenya couldn’t happen without God.  She will also tell you that the longer she’s in Africa, the stronger her faith grows.  Marilyn has seen God work things out in strange and powerful ways when even she didn’t believe He would.  “I don’t know why we don’t have total faith because He never lets us down.” she reminds us.  “He might not answer us the way we want or when we want, but He always has our good in mind.”  The Living Hope journey continues with true stories of the miraculous ways God is working in the lives of Marilyn and her students.

Eziekiel’s Journey

Most of us cannot imagine living in the world that Ezekiel was living in during the post-election violence of 2007.  His whole country had erupted into tribal warfare, corruption was rampant, and no one could be trusted. At the time, Ezekiel’s parents were teaching their children the family business of preparing alcohol to sell to customers. It was a dangerous business, not one suited for children; but was the means of survival for them all.  Thankfully, Ezekiel’s parents also believed in the importance of school, so he had attended elementary classes and was excited to enter 7th grade with his friends, but… a brutal attack changed everything.

Ezekiel’s family lived in a mud and grass hut on land bordering another tribe.  It would be that tribe who would take everything from Ezekiel.  The tribal leaders decided they wanted the land the family owned and so in the dark of night, they surrounded the small home and set the roof on fire.  Ezekiel’s father was the first to confront the trespassers.  He was killed immediately.  His mother then ran from the home and Ezekiel watched in horror as she was dragged, screaming into the bush never to be seen again.  As the roof of the hut began to collapse, the children had no choice but to leave the “safety” of the hut, too.  Miraculously, the attacking tribesmen weren’t interested in the kids. With fear propelling them, they scattered into the pitch-black night.

Separated from what was left of his family and with no way to communicate with his brothers and sisters, Ezekiel decided to try and make it to his Uncle who lived on the family home place. It would be a long, hard journey.  Ezekiel was thirteen and his life had been violently ripped from him.  Getting to his Uncle was the only way he could see to start a new life and so he began to walk. He walked all day and hid himself along the road to sleep at night.  He walked and walked and walked some more all the while trying not to think about how hungry he was. Terrorized by the memories of what had happened to his family, exhausted, with no food, no money, he continued to put one foot in front of the other.  Ezekiel will tell you that he didn’t know Jesus at this time so he wasn’t praying, but hope still arrived in the form of a rumbling sound behind him.  He knew the approaching truck would take him into town.  In a split second, just as the truck passed by, Ezekiel leapt onto the back of the semi and held on for his very life!  Once on, he knew he couldn’t safely get off until the truck came to a stop; so there he was, a young boy, weak from hunger, clinging with all his might as the truck made its way over bumps and around curves in the small hope that he was on the final leg of his journey to a new life.When the truck finally arrived at its destination, Ezekiel literally fell off the back. He’d held on to the truck for so long he could hardly stand.  It had taken him two weeks to get to this point and he was exhausted, but from deep within, Ezekiel found his strength and finally made it to his Uncle’s home.

Ezekiel settled in and returned to school.  He was informed that he would have to repeat Grade 6 but he never gave up because he knew that education was important. Ezekiel moved on to High School.  He hadn’t been able to pay the fees but the teachers let him attend until he could get the money.  At the end of the second term Ezekiel still was unable to pay and so the school sent him home.

In the time Ezekiel had spent with his Uncle, he’d come to know and accept Jesus as his Savior.  As time passed and it looked like school wouldn’t be possible, Ezekiel’s Uncle reminded him not to worry, but rather to pray. And pray he did.  One evening Ezekiel’s Uncle went with friends to a wedding.  While traveling back and forth his Uncle learned of Living Hope High School and the help they provide for students who can’t afford an education.  Hearing this, Ezekiel’s prayers increased.  Waiting was hard but he knew his journey wasn’t over.  January turned into April and finally Ezekiel was asked to go to Living Hope for an interview. He soon received his admission letter and found himself a student at Living Hope High School. Ezekiel was dedicated to learning as much as he could both in his subjects and about the Bible, all the while thanking God for the miracle of continuing his education.

Ezekiel’s journey was difficult.  It was long.  It wasn’t the one he’d ever planned to take, and yet, he is right where he’s meant to be! He graduated from Living Hope High School and now is studying Dentistry at the University.  Ezekiel says he was lost, but God found him and step by step led him to his future. He now plans to use his skills as a dentist to give back to his community. More than that though, it is Ezekiel’s greatest hope to tell everyone he meets his story about God and all that He has done; inviting them (and now you) to join him on the miraculous journey that leads to everlasting life!

“So Jesus told them this story: “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do?  Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders.  When he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’” Luke 15:3-6 (NLT)

copyright Living Hope High School, Bungoma, Kenya

For more information on Living Hope High School, go to www.livinghopehighschool.org

Stanley’s Dream

 

Miracles of Living Hope

Marilyn Uhl will be the first to tell you that establishing and running Living Hope High School in Bungoma, Kenya couldn’t happen without God.  She will also tell you that the longer she’s in Africa, the stronger her faith grows.  Marilyn has seen God work things out in strange and powerful ways when even she didn’t believe He would.  “I don’t know why we don’t have total faith because He never lets us down.” she reminds us.  “He might not answer us the way we want or when we want, but He always has our good in mind.”  The Living Hope journey continues with true stories of the miraculous ways God is working in the lives of Marilyn and her students.

“Pray without ceasing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:17 (ESV) Pixabay

Stanley’s Dream

It’s unlikely that you or I could navigate the narrow, winding paths that lead through the bush-covered interior outside Bungoma to find the small, isolated house where Stanley’s story begins.  He was the first born of four children to proud parents who encouraged them in all they did. The family worked hard on their small farm to survive and while they were rich in love, there was very little money.

Stanley enjoyed school and excelled in his high school courses but as the time drew near for his final exam, he faced a cold, hard truth.  As much as his parents desired to help him, they just didn’t have the funds; so Stanley did the only thing he knew to do: he prayed.  He prayed fervently.  He prayed continually.  He prayed right up into the evening before the registration money was due and still he had no answer.  As the family sat down that night for supper something unusual happened.  They were startled by a knock at their door.  Much to Stanley’s surprise, and an answer to his prayer, there stood one of his teachers. This teacher recognized the potential in Stanley and told him that he would pay his school registration fees enabling him to finish high school and take his exam.  Stanley immediately began praising God and thanking his teacher.  Songs of rejoicing filled the tiny home.

As often happens in life, rejoicing turned to sorrow as Stanley experienced a crushing blow.  His father unexpectedly passed away.  Seeing an opportunity, Stanley’s uncle swooped in and offered to help the family by taking Stanley to live with him.  Stanley’s life would never be the same.  Outside the uncle’s kitchen was an old side shed that at times had been used to house cows and chickens.  It was small, dark, had a stench, and now was Stanley’s room.  He soon learned that he was expected to be his uncle’s house boy receiving no pay in return.  He worked all day: cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, and caring for his small cousins.  The only food Stanley got each day were the few sips or nibbles he was able to sneak as he prepared the family’s meals.  Stanley was now a slave but he never stopped praying for the dream he held deep in his heart to somehow come true.

Days turned into weeks and weeks became years when one day while Stanley was doing chores he noticed a woman moving into the duplex next door to his uncle’s.  He soon learned that Marilyn was a teacher and administrator at her own school: Living Hope. They quickly became friends and he shared with Marilyn that he’d been with his uncle for six years and in that time he’d prayed every single day for God to provide a way for his dream to be realized.  Having never shared the words aloud with anyone before, they felt strange crossing his tongue as he confided in Marilyn that his dream was to be a teacher too. He revealed  that somehow he’d always known he was supposed to be a teacher even though he could see absolutely no way for it to happen.

Other than praying, Stanley had no idea what it would take to make his dream of teaching a reality; so Marilyn sent him on his bike to the small teaching college in town.  The trip home seemed to take much longer than the trip to the school as he now carried the heavy burden of knowing he’d never experience the joy of being a teacher.  Up until now, he had no idea what college would cost and it was just too expensive, especially for someone who had nothing!

But “nothing” didn’t describe what Stanley had because He. Had. God.  AND God had a plan! We’re promised God hears our prayers so when Stanley needed a miracle a teacher arrived on his doorstep. When Marilyn needed a place to live, she miraculously found an answer in the duplex next door to Stanley.  Now, Stanley needed a way to make his dream of being a teacher more than a dream and he was about to find his miraculous answer in Marilyn!

When Marilyn saw the look of defeat on Stanley’s face her heart was moved. It didn’t take her long to offer to pay his tuition for the first semester and buy all the supplies he’d need; but she told him that after that God would have to handle the rest. And handle it He did!

Stanley flourished at college but at the end of the semester, as expected, he was out of money and at the time so was Marilyn.  Prayers were lifted once again, and Marilyn’s sister stepped in when she realized how troubled Marilyn was about Stanley’s situation and her inability to continue to help him.  She provided for Stanley so that he could finish his two year program and receive his Associates Degree.  It was a bittersweet achievement as Stanley found himself in the exact spot he’d been in time and time again…holding on to the dream of being a teacher, having no money, and praying fervently for God to make a way.  Meanwhile, Marilyn was home in West Virginia traveling from church to church speaking about Living Hope High School.  While at Faith United Methodist Church, she felt compelled to tell Stanley’s story.  As church dismissed, coming up from the back of the church, a couple approached Marilyn.  They’d been so moved by Stanley’s story that they pledged to support him through his final two years of college.

Knowing his teacher, Marilyn, her sister, and the family from Faith Church were answers to his constant prayers, Stanley never took their gifts to him for granted.  He worked diligently to make his dream come true and graduated with his teaching certification!

Some would say that Marilyn’s moving next door to Stanley’s uncle was a coincidence.  Marilyn, Stanley, and now you, know differently.  God works out His plans for us in miraculous, unexpected ways.  They may not happen just as we imagine or on our time table, but He works them out for our best.  You see, Stanley’s story doesn’t end here….He is now the Head Administrator and Marilyn’s most trusted employee at Living Hope High School! God sent Marilyn to Stanley and she will tell you that Stanley is a Godsend to her. Neither could do what they do without the other. Now, I’d say that’s a dream come true!

“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” Romans 8:28 (NLT)

copyright Living Hope High School, Bungoma, Kenya

For more information on Living Hope High School, go to www.livinghopehighschool.org or call Helen Markwell at 304-567-2254.

Wise Wednesday 9/28/16

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It’s funny how different, members of the same family can be. Growing up, my mom, youngest sister and I loved to read.  My middle sister on the other hand wanted nothing to do with it and often tried to “rescue” us while we were lost in a book.  (Annoy us may be a better way to say it!) And in my own family, my better half, son, and I of course, love to read.  My daughter would rather do almost anything else than pick up a book.  The differences don’t stop there though….when my son and husband find a book they love, they’ll read it over and over until the cover is worn out.  I on the other hand, only want to read a story once……

Uhhhhh……unless of course, it’s the story of my life! Then, I want to immerse myself in those chapters which were set in my comfort zone and had happy endings. I long to linger with those characters who’ve meant so much to me.  I’ve survived all the adventures, challenges, disappointments, and triumphs that have been woven together to create my story. Rereading it is safe.  I like safe!

Then….the page turns. A new chapter awaits. What’s a “play it safe, memory hoarding, stay on the sidewalk, status quo” kinda gal supposed to do?

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.  Seek His will in all you do and He will direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6 

 We know there are volumes of things that can go wrong….cliff hangers, plot twists, surprise endings….and they can make us want to slam the cover shut and demand a rewrite! But, I’m learning (slowly) it’s exactly those things that help develop OUR character and make our story richer.

 A chapter in my book of life came to an end yesterday.  Perhaps one is ending for you as well. It leaves us with a choice. Are we going to reread the pages we know so well or are we going to trust with all our heart, turn the page, and start discovering the paths that await us in our new chapter of life?

Looking for a Sign

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. Proverbs 3:5-6

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. Proverbs 3:5-6

Blurred vision. That’s what I dealt with yesterday, after my eyes were dilated at the Optometrist’s office. Note to self:  don’t plan to pick up a prescription after an eye appointment! Trying to decipher the small print proved to be a challenge.  I squinted, held it out as far as my arm would stretch away from me, and squinted again; it was still hazy.  Finally, the kind clerk read to me what I needed to know so I could move on. (We won’t talk about what my signature looked like as I checked out.)

It occurs to me that I was having trouble seeing clearly long before my eye exam. Can I let you in on a little secret? I don’t like to make mistakes, let someone down, not measure up…as if you didn’t already know that.  So, when it comes time to make a big decision: change jobs? retire? take on a project?   I look at it up close, far away, and from many different angles. When the answer still seems obscured from my view, I want God to send me a sure sign I’m not making the wrong choice and clear the way for me to proceed. 

In the midst of all the house decisions we’ve needed to make, I’ve prayed for a sign. Not just ANY sign, mind you. Because our beautiful tree must come down; I’ve prayed:  “God, if tearing down our house and putting in this modular is what you want us to do, (1) while we’re not here, (2) create a wind so strong, (3) it knocks over the pine tree, (4) but don’t let it hurt anyone or set the house on fire!” 

Did you happen to notice that I didn’t just ask God to show me the way; I told Him where, when, what, and how! Wait! What? I TOLD HIM? Needless to say, our tree is still standing.  Tell me I’m not alone in wanting what I want, when I want it! Oh, I can be so short-sighted!

I believe that God sends us signs all the time; unfortunately, like me, we are often looking for something of our own making or understanding.

“But the angel said to them, Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you;  He is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:10-12 (NIV)

I’m pretty sure that those waiting for a sign that the Messiah had arrived, never expected it to be cloths covering an infant! In a manger yet!  They were watching for grandeur and might, kind of like a giant pine tree falling to the ground. Because of their “blurred vision”, many missed God’s greatest gift. How often are we too, blind to the signs that lead to His gifts for us? 

My sight returned to normal later the evening of my exam and I’m beginning to “see” a little more clearly today, too; that life is going to constantly be full of different kinds of decisions. We may not  always be able to perceive the way to go, but when we focus on the most important Sign: the Baby wrapped in swaddling cloths; we can trust, that with “20/20 vision” He’ll guide us to the cross, through life, and all the way home. 

Joining others looking for “Signs” this week at http://www.tsuzanneeller.com

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His Perfect Plan

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This is the third in a series of miraculous true stories about Living Hope High School in Bungoma, Kenya.  Stories that share the divine inspiration and dedication to helping students of poverty, who once had no hope, reach their full potential.

“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for him.” Romans 8:28 (NLT)

Marilyn knew that her answer to God’s call was back in Kenya, yet here she was on the other side of the world in Tennessee. Summer had ended and responsibilities forced her return.Her job at school, her house, her truck, and her beloved dog, Jesse, all things she was grateful for, had drawn her away from the children she loved and the make-shift high school she’d planted and cultivated.

Although others were skeptical about the voice Marilyn had heard in her kitchen, she didn’t waver in her conviction that God had spoken to her.She didn’t pretend to understand why He had chosen her or how He was going to use her; but she knew without a doubt that somehow He would be sending her back to Kenya.

As teachers often do, Marilyn began preparing in advance, both mentally and educationally for the new school year. A few days into her preparations she received an unexpected visit from the Superintendent of schools. Sitting in the same chair she’d been sitting in when she’d heard God’s call, she now listened to another voice; this time telling her that because of federal cutbacks there were no financial means to continue the Behavior Disorder Program Marilyn had been in charge of.The news didn’t stop there though.Marilyn was also the lowest on the seniority list and so not only was her program being terminated, so was she. A sense of panic began to take hold. She had house and truck payments to make! So, without much of a plan Marilyn embarked on a frantic job search.

Despite her best efforts, Marilyn’s job hunt came up empty. The only option now was to try to sell her house so she’d have a little money to live on until she knew what to do next. Not wanting to put off the inevitable, Marilyn began painting every room in her little house and laying down new flooring. Boxes began stacking up as she started packing her belongings. The improvements on the inside being almost finished, Marilyn headed out to her flower beds where she’d so often found respite. Weeding, working the soil, and planting colorful flowers brought a much needed peace to her soul. It also caught the attention of one of her friends who inquired about what was going on. Marilyn told her the whole story and before she had barely gotten the last word out, her friend excitedly exclaimed that she was looking for a new home and that Marilyn’s would be just perfect!

While the paperwork for the sale of her house progressed, Marilyn knew she couldn’t afford to keep her truck. She’d need something smaller, older, and more economical if she was going to get by on a tight budget. Soon after the “For Sale” sign was placed in the window, Marilyn was placing the keys into the hand of its new owner. No job, no house, no truck. It was just her and her faithful companion. Feeling restless, she called Jesse to follow her outside. She needed fresh air to clear her thoughts. Marilyn threw the frisbee. Jesse leaped into the air catching the disc before it hit the ground and returned it to Marilyn. The two continued this familiar game until suddenly Jesse jumped up but missed the frisbee and fell to the ground. He lay motionless cradled in Marilyn’s arms. Oh, how she loved this dog! He’d always been there for her even when people hadn’t. He’d listened to her, comforted her, accepted her. Now here they were sprawled in the grass: Jesse, unable to move physically and Marilyn, unable to move emotionally. Four days later, Jesse died.

Marilyn sat in her chair at the table straining to hear the voice that had once filled her kitchen. Somehow in the silence His message was clear. She’d lost her job and then she’d found a buyer for her house, sold her truck, and lost her precious dog all within one week. She heard Him speaking to her as only He could… through His perfect plan. He’d called her for His good purpose; the children in Kenya. What had once drawn her away was now gone. She would return to Kenya as she knew she would but, what would His plan be once she arrived?

Copyright Living Hope High School, Bungoma, Kenya

One Word: Trust

"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11(NIV)

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11(NIV)

It should be an exciting time. A time for looking toward the future. For planning and dreaming. So why is my stomach in knots, my throat tight with unspoken fears, and worry filling my nights? One word. Trust.

We’ve come to a place where our house isn’t able to be our place of refuge anymore.  Its age has caught up with it and the problems are too numerous to solve.  Those who know houses advise us to tear it down.  My reaction? You know me…..”Tear down the rooms where my children played and slept?” “Tear down the place where we’ve celebrated birthdays, graduations, anniversaries?” (Memory hoarder. Remember?) We’ve agonized. We’ve prayed. Talked to friends, family, and professionals. The answer has remained the same.

My husband gave me a “Wish Book” to encourage me to draw, write, and paste ideas that help create a new vision of home. And I have.  I’ll even admit it’s been fun.  But all the while, somewhere deep inside where I don’t like to go, a voice lists all the things that could go wrong. Chants the reasons it will never work.  Stirs up fears that lurk there.  The devil knows my weaknesses and he doesn’t hesitate to attack those vulnerable places.

So while our children are anxious for the work to begin and our friends are excited for this next adventure we are embarking on; I’ve dug in my heels and waited.  Waited for signs to move ahead.  Waited for signs to stop. Waited for clarity. Waited for peace. And in that waiting I’ve…..Failed. To. Trust.

Much to my dismay, I know that “Trust” is my word for 2016.  It challenges me.  How about you?  Are you like me?  Hesitant.. well more like desperate… not to let go of your own control? Reluctant to move forward? I hope not, but if you are; here’s the good news!

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take.” Proverbs 3:5-6 (NLT)

I’m learning this lesson at an agonizingly slow pace but I’m sensing a shift.  A realization that I don’t have to “do” or “know”; but rather, I need to “be”. Be still. Be in His word. Be obedient. Be in His presence. Be loved. Change has never been easy for this ole gal, but to “be” all I can for Him, it’s vital.

Maybe you too, know exactly what I’m talking about.  You’re also facing a change, an illness, a death, a broken relationship, difficulties at work, a new baby, a longing for a baby, a wedding….good change or not so good, here is some encouragement I’ve found:

“Let’s face it-it can be challenging and sometimes scary to step out in faith, especially when we don’t know what lies ahead.  But when we trust God with our future and seek out His plans for our lives instead of our own, the blessings we receive will far exceed the things we think we are leaving behind.”

Tracie Miles, Faith Zone Challenge

Yesterday, we went to begin the final steps in ordering our new home.  We prayed before we left.  Boy, did we pray!  There were times I felt I couldn’t breathe. My nerves were on edge, but as soon as we pulled into the parking lot a peace seemed to come over me. And while we talked and planned excitement began to replace some of my fear. God is amazing like that!

I know that I’m not where I need to “be”….yet….there’ll still be worries, fears, and roadblocks to make me want to turn back. My plan? One word. Trust.  I’m determined to put my trust not in “my own understanding” but with God and to follow as He leads me on the path to not only my new home here, but someday to the home He’s prepared for me (and YOU) with Him.

 

Do you have a word for 2016? I’d love to hear what it is! Is there something I can pray about for you? Just leave either or both in the comments and I look forward to connecting with you!

 

 

 

 

Deep in the Muck

A "cleaner" wheeler ride! Can you believe I got back on with him?

A “cleaner” wheeler ride! Can you believe I got back on with him?

Have you ever had an up close and personal relationship with manure?  You know…sticky, smelly, squishy…comes from the wrong end of everything? You read it right, manure! Well, my encounter with manure is one I’ll never forget!

As a new teacher from the city, in a small, rural town, twelve hours away from all my family and friends, I was welcomed into the home of a fellow teacher for supper each weekend.  (She later became my mother-in-law but that’s a story for another time). Anyway, I loved going there because it was on a farm and there were so many new things to see and do. Of course I never considered a rendezvous with manure being one of them.

After supper one cold, blustery night, Joe, the youngest in the family had to go check on the cows.  As he donned his coveralls he looked back over his shoulder and jokingly asked if I’d like to join him.  Much to his surprise (and mine too) I said yes.  So began my transformation.  Coveralls, gloves, a disreputable hat, and knee-high black rubber boots.  I was quite thrilled with my get-up and felt ready for the cover of The Farmer’s Almanac!  Out the door we went.  With an uncoordinated swing of my leg I plopped on the back of the three wheeler behind Joe and we took off around the fields checking for any new calves. The icy air slapped my cheeks  and the bars I was sitting on slapped my other….well, you get the idea. Approaching the barn, I thought our job was coming to an end but we paused right outside a large opening.  What I saw in front of me sent a shiver down my spine. There in our path was a huge pile of snow.  Joe looked back at me and seeing the terror in my eyes he smiled, revved the engine, and took off determined to give me the ride of my life!  I had a sinking feeling.

sinking became more than a feeling! As it turned out, it was not the snow pile we’d anticipated.  Instead it was an enormous mountain of manure disguised by a layer of clean, white snow. Momentum propelled us upward but just as the wheeler reached the top, the engine died and we sank. Despite several valiant attempts, Joe was unable to get us free so he told me I’d have to drive and he’d get off and push us out.  This is where city girl made her mistake .  Having never driven a three-wheeler or anything close to it, I was scared and so I firmly refused. With more confidence than I actually felt, I told Joe that I’d get off and push!

To his credit, Joe did ask me if I was sure before he agreed.  Attempting to appear undaunted I stepped right down into the waiting muck. My feet began to disappear deep into the mire until manure was dripping down inside my knee-high boots; gunk soaking through my socks.  Gripping the back bar of the wheeler I listened as Joe counted……Are you picturing  where this is going?

One, two three!…….He gunned the motor. With a gallant effort, I pushed. The tires spun. And yes, in a split second I had cow manure everywhere manure could possibly go.  In my hair, dripping from my eyelashes, my nose, in my ears, covering my clothes. I was manure from. top. to. bottom.  As I stood stuck, with globs of poo plopping from the brim of my hat and sliding down my face, I learned that being deep in the muck is NOT where I wanted to be!

Since then I’ve come to realize that life can sometimes feel like being stuck deep in the muck. Stress at work, bills to pay, health issues, troubled marriage, worrying about children, plans that don’t work out….the list is long. None of us want to be lodged in the depths of these situations but when we find ourselves unexpectedly sinking, what a comfort it is to know we are not alone.

“He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in Him.” Psalm 40:2-3 (NIV)

I certainly don’t have all the answers and I flounder when I find myself not where I want to be. I  may not always see a solution right away or recognize God leading me to solid ground as I struggle in the slime, maybe you can relate,  but this I do know… His word assures us we can look to Him for help and He’ll not leave us on our own.

The end of my “farm-hand initiation” that winter night? It came when Joe suddenly (not quite quickly enough for me, mind you) remembered a switch on the three-wheeler that when flipped, enabled the tires to lift up out of the murky hole they’d been trapped in. I’ll never forget his sheepish grin as he reached out his hand and helped me, manure smell, and all, back onto the wheeler.

This was the first of many adventures I had on the farm but the lesson I learned in the manure  is my favorite.  When I find myself unable to move forward or release what is behind me. When I’m sinking and stuck deep in the muck I’m reminded that just as the tires were lifted up so many years ago, we have a God that we can trust to lift US up. That smells like victory to me!

Hanging in Limbo

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“Without wavering, let us hold tightly to the hope we say we have, for God can be trusted to keep his promise.” Hebrews 10:23

 

Have you ever found yourself hanging in limbo between “all that I am and all that I’m not”?  That’s where I find myself now, dangling, like Paul when he wrote in Romans 7:15  “I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it.  Instead, I do what I hate.”

Starting my day in devotion with God, following through on the things He’s calling me to do, trusting His plan and not my own……all things I believe I’m to pursue, and some days I get it right. But then I swing off track and checking Facebook, lingering too long, worry, and so much more have me suspended in a place I don’t want to be.

I’ve been watching a hornets’ nest high in a tree outside my kitchen window. It sways like a pendent in the wind back and forth, back and forth…..just. like. me. Over time, all that mid-air action has caused rips and dents to form but the nest continues to holds fast. How can that be? Is there a lesson for me, perhaps? Maybe you can relate too. For as much as I don’t “understand myself” and waiver between what is right and what I hate, I’ve found this WE have to hold on to:

“This is why we have a great High Priest who has gone to heaven, Jesus the Son of God. Let us cling to Him and never stop trusting him.  This High priest of ours understands our weaknesses for he faced all of the same temptations we do, yet He did not sin.  So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God.  There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it.”

Hebrews 5:14-16

Yes, hanging in limbo is a frustrating place to be. I know better.  I want better.  What a blessing it is that despite the bumps and bruises, the back and forth, the do and don’t do, a hornets’ nest reminds us that we are anchored in the grasp of God, who knows just where we are and where we’re going.  We can boldly leave limbo behind and embrace with certainty, that with His help, mercy and grace we’ll reach our destination.

I’m really enjoying writing posts as part of Suzanne Eller’s #livefreeThursday.  This week’s prompt as you might have guessed is “limbo”.  If you’d like to read more thoughts on being in limbo click here http://www.tsuzanneeller.com

 

Wanted

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Wanteda guilt-free woman!  I know she’s hiding out in there somewhere, but I just can’t seem to gain control and keep her in custody. I’ve had glimpses of her but she’s elusive!

“I can’t believe I said that!”

“Why didn’t I say something?”

“I don’t really want to do that but I’ll feel bad if I don’t.”

“I wish I wouldn’t have done that.”

“I should have worked harder.”

“I let him down.”

“I’ll never change!”

These words and many more like them roll around in my mind like tumbleweeds in a wind storm.  Guilt and worry about things I did or didn’t do. Things I said, didn’t say, or could’ve said. Words and feelings of shame for the times I’ve let my family, friends, and worst of all, God down. Maybe you’re a little like me.  You have a hard time letting go of regret and remorse.  Our failures replay over and over and over again like an echo hitting the canyon walls.  Why is it that I have trouble remembering what I had for lunch but can recall every detail of mistakes I made years ago?  I don’t want to be shackled to these habits anymore!  I desire to break out and find  the guilt-free woman I long to be !

Here’s the amazing thing…..we’re given the key to open the door!

“Yet now God in his gracious kindness declares us not guilty.  He has done this through Christ Jesus, who has freed us by taking away our sins” Romans 3:24 (NLT)

You read that correctly!  We don’t have to live lassoed to our guilt! Grace liberates us! I have been on the trail of my guilt-free self for quite a while now.  I’m still learning that it’s a journey of faith and trust.  It can be bumpy, dirty, and lonely.  As you might guess, I sometimes  get thrown off.  The happy ending though, is that my “Posse” is always there to help me up, dust me off, and put me back into the saddle so I can continue on toward the REWARD of riding off into the sunset a guilt-free woman.

 

~I have written this as part of the #livefree community @www.tsuzanneeller.com Gallop on over and read more about living a guilt-free life!

 

 

Unexpected Cruise

Cruising?

Cruising?

I’ve just returned from a wonderful visit with my family at my sister’s lake house!  Every year, something I look forward to is climbing aboard “Pink Panther” and taking a cruise around the lake.  I enjoy seeing all the cottages along the shore, waving to people in other boats, and the feeling of the breeze against my skin on a hot summer day.  This year things were a little different.  We climbed aboard alright, however we didn’t have the cruise we’ve had in the past.  You see, Pink Panther was a little under the weather and unable to fufill our cruising expectations.

How many times in our lives do we embark on something with certain expectations only to find  those expectations not met?  A friendship?  A Job?  Marriage?  Parenthood?  So many times in our lives we set ourselves up for disenchantment simply because our expectations are not realistic and so when others don’t meet them, we ultimately perceive them to let us down. The sad reality is that so often in the midst of the disappointment we are ready to jump ship, swim to shore, and find a new vessel without realizing that we are the ones who have caused the malfunction.

I know I have brought about heartache in myself and others all because I had a picture in my mind of how I expected something to go only to find that my picture and reality were two very different things. I’ve experienced that sinking feeling when I felt my friends were not doing what I thought they would.  I remember floundering as a new teacher because  the real world of the classroom wasn’t what I envisioned it would be.   Marriage and parenthood?  Well, suffice it to say I haven’t navigated those waters without going off course.  The kind of wife and mother I thought I would immediately be has actually taken a long voyage with lots of rough waters along the way.

The vital lesson I’m learning is that we need to stay the course.  Life isn’t always smooth sailing.  People, situations, and most importantly we ourselves are not perfect.   Storms, failures, and disapointments are going to come. There is no way we’re going to meet all the expectations others have for us or we have for ourselves and so we can’t expect those in our lives to meet all of ours either.  On those picture perfect days floating along life’s way is easy but when our husband, wife, or children let us down, the promotion doesn’t come through, someone we love is suffering, or even if we feel betrayed by a friend it can seem we are flailing about in unchartered waters.  When I find myself in times like these I am trying to remember to trust the one true “Life Preserver” and grab ahold of God to keep from sinking into despair.  Trusting is often hard for me, like paddling against the current but I am finding that when I stop anchoring myself with “my way”, “my expectations” and begin to trust, it frees me to  give up the helm and hold on until I make it to shore.  Our excursion through life may not always be what we expect it to be but it can be like Pink Panther when she gets her new parts….Better Than Ever!  Happy Cruising!