Posted in focus on faith

The dreaded phone call

Jasmine’s impromptu birthday bash the day before starting her chemo. We shaved our heads to raise money for a wig made from her own hair. It was touching and traumatic.

Everybody gets a terrifying phone call at least once in their life. If you haven’t, you will.

Seven days ago, our granddaughter Jasmine and I were snuggled together on the couch watching Netflix when my cell buzzed. It was her mom, Christine, sobbing: “The blood clinic called. Jasmine is critical. We have go to Children’s Hospital immediately.”

Two hours later we got the diagnosis: Acute Myeloid Leukaemia. (photos and details here)

I was in shock for days. In fact I still have not cried much. But I wake up in the night. And “Jasmine has leukaemia” runs on an endless loop in my head. And fear grips me. I cannot imagine my world without Jasmine in it. She lives four doors down. She has traveled to women’s events with me. We bake and shop and work and paint and garden and hit playgrounds and do projects together every other day. She’s my mini-me only so much better!

So where is God in all this? I think He is trying to send me a message because I hear the same thing everywhere….

First: My pastor/husband Gerry preached from Psalm 91 three days after Jasmine’s diagnosis. The one who lives under the protection of the Most High dwells in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the LORD, my refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust.

“Do you trust Me?” He asked.

“I am so afraid!” I replied.

Second: Reading a mystery novel for diversion after waking up at two a.m. last night: “But he’s frozen with fear….When that fear is replaced by faith he’ll be the soloist.” I looked up, “You’re kidding!”

Third: I called Air Canada’s Aeroplan this morning to cancel a flight I booked the day before Jasmine got the diagnosis. A soft spoken woman named Zena took my call and asked how she could help. “I booked a flight to Texas on January 16 but the next day we were told that our granddaughter has leuk….sob!” I couldn’t continue.

“That’s ok. Take your time. I understand,” Zena said.

“Leukaemia” I managed to say between sobs and apologies.

Zena interrupted my apologies with, “You must have faith! I will say a prayer for you that you will have faith!”

And then she shocked me further, “My daughter had leukaemia when she was four. We went through a very hard time. But she is well! She is 32! I know what you are going through. You must have faith!”

I was floored. I told Zena she was the angel God had sent to me today. She added, “I wasn’t supposed to come in to work today, but I did, and you called me…” she paused.

“And that’s God!” I finished for her, “and He used you!”

Yes,” Zena agreed. “He wants you to have faith.”

God’s Word, a mystery novel, and an angel named Zena — Trust. Believe. Have faith.

Choosing to trust God with Jasmine’s future will be a one-yes-at-a-time journey for me. Fear is dogging my tracks but God is showering me with assurances that He is good, that He’s got this, and that I can trust Him.

In his sermon Gerry quoted Ps 91:2 “My God, in whom I trust” and said, “You need to say it out loud. Let God hear you say you can trust Him.”

Here I go: My God, in whom I trust! 

You can follow Jasmine’s Journey here.

 

Posted in focus on faith

How do you spell fear? s-p-i-d-e-r!

toonvectors-12422-140My recurring nightmare as a child was my bed was full of spiders. I would wake up yelling and my dad — volunteer fire chief for 25 years — was always the first responder. He’s my hero.

He would turn on the light, pull back the covers to show me it was safe, and tuck me back into the top bunk over and over and over … until I finally got married. Then it was someone else’s problem! Some dowry eh? My phobic fear of spiders has lessened but never disappeared.

Fear is the fundamental barrier to peace, and its a deal-breaker when it comes to leading a simplified life, Bill Hybels says in the sixth chapter: Conquering your Fears. Welcome back to my bog-crawl through Simplify. Hybels says that simplified living is about more than doing less…. It requires uncluttering your soul…. by examining core issues that lure you into frenetic living, and by eradicating the barriers that leave you exhausted and overwhelmed.

Fear has built massive barriers in my life and, with God’s help, I have spent most of my adult years dismantling them. I’m not alone.

Hybles clarifies the difference between constructive and destructive fear. We will focus on destructive fear since that is our battleground. Destructive fear is baseless, useless and crippling…. it nips away at our emotional well-being, cluttering and complicating our lives by erecting false barriers in our work, our relationships and even our recreational pursuits. 

Destructive fear mutes our joy and robs us of satisfaction. It makes us anticipate the future with dread rather than exhilaration. Hybels then cites people who refused to buckle to paralyzing fear but bravely stepped out into history and changed the world: Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr, Rosa Parks, Nelson Mandela, Malala Yousafzai.

Conquering fear is tough work. The first thing you must do is NAME your fear. Hybels lists some common fears: financial pressure, relational breakdown, unexpected bad news, moral failure, impending mortality. What are you afraid of?

Here’s how to craft a strategy to overcome your fear:

STEP 1: Understand fear’s origin. Can you identify the source? My arachnophobia began as a result of some innocent child’s play. My cousin would catch daddy longlegs spiders, pull off a couple of the legs and then drop them down my shirt. No matter if I ran, she was faster and she always caught me. That feeling of helplessness, knowing I could not escape, carried over into my dreams.

STEP 2: Expose fear’s lies: What are the lies that fuel this fear? All spiders are dangerous, creepy, and terrifying. Spiders will hurt me. Why do these lies seem believable? Some spiders are poisonous! But the truth is, most are not. There are virtually NO dangerous spiders that share my habitat in southern Alberta. Having long legs isn’t creepy, it’s sexy! (ok, I’m trying really hard here. Cut me some slack!)

STEP 3: Face Fear Head-On: What is one baby step you will take to face this fear? Forget it Hybels! No way! I will NOT be touching any spiders in the near future, or ever! Long deep breath …….. Movin’ on. Before you judge me a coward, ask how I overcame 12 years of crippling fear of public speaking.

STEP 4: Speak Words of Truth: 

  • Self talk: What strengths do I possess that will help me say no to this fear? What is the logical truth that most people believe about this fear? I am bigger than all spiders and I can squish them. All the spiders in my neighbourhood are harmless. When I travel to poisonous spider zones, I will take strong sedatives — ha ha, just kidding…sorta…. No, the truth is I have found spiders IN MY BED on occasion in other peoples’ homes and I have managed to kill or chase them off and then sleep undisturbed. I remind myself of this when the fear rises.
  • Scripture: memorize one or two verses to recite when fear grabs you. I wish I were that spiritual! When gripped by fear, I am paralyzed. Scripture does not spring to mind. Maybe this is why I offer a weekend retreat called Hope for the Rest of Us: when sainthood eludes you, God can still use you!
  • Prayer: What specific requests do you want God to answer re: your fear? You want specific? Would I be out of line to ask that He eradicate all spiders from the face of the earth? Knowing that’s pretty unlikely, I do request that He allows me to overcome my fear without ever having to willfully touch a spider in this lifetime. Also, it would be great to be able to brush one off me without doing the Freak-Out Dance and risk breaking a hip.

How about you? Does fear rob you of peace? What do you do to beat it into submission?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in focus on faith

Worry Can’t Change Others

I worry. You worry. Most of us worry. Kathy Collard Miller has written a useful, practical book that can help you worry less and trust more. Read what she has to say:

Partly CloudyThere’s something deep inside of us that believes worry can change others. If someone we love has a different perspective than we do, we worry. If someone we love has a different belief about God, we worry. If someone we love has a character flaw, we worry. We just know their wrong thinking will mess up their lives.

Some of these worries may truly seem “worthy” of worry. Your mother may not know Christ as her Savior, and she has cancer. Your son may be on the street taking drugs. Your friend may demonstrate a lack of integrity at work. Another friend drives while intoxicated. You may have tried to reason, cajole, quote Scripture, even manipulate each person into changing their ideas and their behavior, but nothing has worked—not even prayer. God hasn’t changed them either. You fear something bad, really bad, is going to happen.

Even if it’s not a matter of something really bad occurring, we can easily take responsibility for someone else’s happiness and then try to change them.

A verse that has helped me in releasing that worry is:  “Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you” (Philippians 3:15 NASB). If God has the ability to give you and me a different attitude, He can do it for anyone. He is powerful and creative. When we worry or feel like we have to change someone’s ideas, we are saying, “God, you aren’t effective enough. You aren’t creative enough to work in this person’s life. I’ve got to do it myself.”

When I think of how God creatively worked in our daughter Darcy’s life, I sense the tears coming. Darcy went to Denmark for a semester of college and requested to live in the home of a Danish family. At that time, Darcy was friendly with us, but distant emotionally.

But while in Denmark, our phone calls soon were centered on how badly her Danish “mother” was treating her— ignoring her and saying mean things to her. Larry and I were incensed, as most parents would be, and I began to worry about my daughter’s emotional health. Then my worry fueled anger toward this woman who had no right to treat my daughter like that. We suggested Darcy move to on-campus housing, but she wanted to stick it out. Since we couldn’t afford to go visit her (I would have loved to give that woman a piece of my mind), I had to stew over it … in the beginning.

Then I saw God’s work in Darcy’s life. Because of her circumstances, she began to appreciate our family as she never had before. In comparison to the way her Danish family treated her, we were looking pretty good. In fact, fabulous. I’d never heard as much love and warmth in Darcy’s voice as when we talked with her.

Shortly before she returned home, she sent a Christmas card and wrote in it:

Dear Dad, Mom, and Mark: Since I can’t be there with you for Christmas, I’m writing to tell you how much I’ll miss not being there and how much I love you all. Being away has really made me realize how awesome a family you are. I love and appreciate all of you so much! I can’t wait to come home to see you all. Give my love to the rest of the family. I’ll be seeing you on January 6. Love, Darcy.

That was in 1994. After Darcy returned, her appreciation for our family continued to rise to great heights, and it all started with something I was worried about. It’s every mother’s longing to have her child value their family. But in our case, God accomplished this through mistreatment, something I would have changed if I could. But if I had, the good results God intended would not have occurred. Even today, when we talk about that situation, Darcy remarks, “Oh, yes, God really used that in my life.”

We don’t want to thwart God’s changes in those we love, do we? We need to make sure worry doesn’t prevent His work. Let’s live like we believe Philippians 3:15: God can change others.

 BOOK SUMMARY AND BIOGRAPHY:

It is possible to worry less through trusting God more. Regardless of the storms of trials, temptations, worry, uncertainty, confusion, or regrets that you’re facing, you can trust God more. Partly Cloudy with Scattered Worries offers a conversational style, personal testimonies, practical illustrations, and solid biblical teaching for breaking anxiety and the devastating effects of worry. Each chapter includes Discussion Questions for individuals or groups, along with a “Letter from God.” In addition, a profile of a woman in the Bible who struggled with or experienced victory over worry is featured in each chapter to inspire every reader to see God’s hand in her life.

Kathy Collard Miller is a speaker and author. Her passion is to inspire women to trust God more. She has spoken in 30 states and 7 foreign countries. Kathy has 49 published books including Women of the Bible: Smart Guide to the Bible (Thomas Nelson) and she blogs at www.KathyCollardMiller.blogspot.com. Kathy lives in Southern California with her husband of 43 years, Larry, and is the proud grandma of Raphael. Kathy and Larry often speak together at marriage events and retreats.

Watch book trailer here

Order Here

Posted in focus on faith

Confessions of a productive procrastinator

As the photo illustrates, I didn’t let the paint “keep” very long did I? Mere minutes after last week’s bodacious blog was posted one of my daughters dropped in and offered to help me paint. I abandoned my writing desk without looking back. We dove in and tackled the project — changing the living room walls to a lighter colour, including the newly installed peninsula fireplace in the colour facelift.

We started on Wednesday and were finished by Friday, leaving me sore and tired and my daughter with a massive headache, the result of wielding a heavy roller on a long pole for hours on end. Sorry sweetheart.

Before I get to the grovelling and repenting, let me say I love Aura paint! It is a Benjamin Moore product, not cheap, but worth every cent. No need for primer and two coats more than covers. I chose matte finish because you can wipe it without leaving streaks. It completely hides existing imperfections that a glossier coat advertises: for instance, an eye-level paint ridge left over from a wallpaper border that was annoyingly visible under the last wall colour in an eggshell finish is now invisible under the matte finish.

Okay, so how is that book proposal coming? Ahem. Dang.

As I type, I am sitting in the green chair pictured here near the “blazing logs” (aka natural gas flame). Even though it is officially Spring, here in the eastern shadow of the Rockies March through May is when we get our biggest snowfall accumulation so a cheery flame is a welcome addition.

This cozy spot has beckoned me every morning where, warmed by the fire, I have sipped my tea and enjoyed my current Bible study. This morning’s portion from the online study of the book of Ephesians by Kathy Howard dealt with Paul’s prayer for the believers in Ephesus in chapter 3:14-21.

Some of Paul’s words really connected  with me today: I pray that from His glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through His Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.

Three moms have emailed me in the last few days requesting prayer for one of their adult children. All three have this in common — they feel desperate and betrayed by both the grown child and by God. All three of these moms are devout believers who have taken their faith walk seriously for decades. They are not saying they are going to throw away their faith because of this current storm, they are simply being honest about how they feel right now — scared and doubtful.

Can you relate? I can!

I have been there! And most likely I will be in their shoes several more times in my future. And so I will pray for them as others have prayed for me, using Paul’s words from Ephesians — that they will know His inner strength, that they will trust in Him, and that the roots that they have each been developing for decades will find life-giving nurture in the very heart of God and these roots will feed them with His love and the assurance that He is still in control even though the storms are raging in their families.

Is a family crisis shaking your faith right now? It’s okay to admit it if you feel afraid and doubtful. God can take it. Don’t suffer in silence. Ask for prayer. Be transparent. Invite some trusted friends to walk this journey of suffering with you.

Posted in focus on faith

How do you procrastinate?

Whenever I start painting walls, my family and close friends all ask the same question: “What are you avoiding writing?” It’s really Newly installed peninsula fireplace: primed and ready for paintingannoying! Especially since they’re always spot on — I paint as a form of procrastination. And everybody who knows me, knows it.

“Why,” you ask, “would a writer not want to write so badly that she would pick up a paint brush?” My obvious answer would be that writing is hard work. “And painting walls isn’t?” you wonder. Good point. So “hard work”  isn’t the issue is it? The real barrier that comes between me and my writing is something else entirely. Honestly, it’s fear.

“Fear?! You’re scared to write? What could you possibly be afraid of?”

Everything. I’m afraid I won’t have something worth saying. I’m scared the publisher will reject it. I’m worried that if it gets published nobody will buy it. And much more. My fear throws up a big barrier between where I am and where I could be and the next thing you know, I’m headed for the Benjamin Moore store.

“At least your procrastination is productive!” my friend Barb comments. True, it is that. But there’s a big difference between working hard and working smart. Investing more energy in my writing and less in everything I do to avoid writing would result in greater professional productivity and perhaps take me to a whole new level that my fear is denying me access to.

This morning, before leaving for work, Gerry looked at my assembled paint supplies sitting beside the new peninsula fireplace we installed last month and asked me if I was planning to paint today. I hesitated before responding. His next question was, “So how’s that book proposal coming?”

Aaarrrggghhhh!

After he left, I took my tea pot into my office and picked up my Bible. It fell open to one of my favourite passages and Jesus began to speak to my fearful heart in a voice so full of compassion and healing and hope that I almost wept.

Therefore since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us… “Connie, what about the thousands of people who have read your other books, many of whom have sent you emails telling you how God spoke to their need through your words? They are your witnesses.”

Let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily entangles us… “How long are you going to let fear hang around your neck like a millstone? It’s holding you back. Lay it down.”

And run with endurance the race that lies before us… “Writing and speaking, this is your race Connie. This is My dream for your life. Don’t lose heart. You have a long road ahead but you can do it!”

Keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith... “Look at Me! All you have to do is say yes to Me — the One who loves you enough to die for you and live with you! You can trust Me. Remember what I told you — you follow Me one yes at a time.

Who for the joy that lay before Him, endured a cross and despised the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne. “Sit here beside Me. Remember, you’re not running this race alone. I’m with you and you are here with Me, right next to God. Together. Forever. Let’s go.” (Hebrews 12:1,2)

One good thing about paint, it keeps.

How do you procrastinate? What keeps you from doing what you should? What helps you get going in the right direction.