Dad

As I wrote about in my last post The Battle For The Mind, memories have been streaming through my brain lately about my dad and some of his struggles.  I wrote about him in my book The God of All Comfort, but for some unknown reason I’ve yet to really say much about him since I started this blog back in late 2015.

But due to the “down” feelings that have come upon me starting around Thanksgiving this year, and then a comment made by one of my cousins a few weeks ago, I’ve suddenly really been feeling that I need to jot down some of the things I remember about dad.  My prayer?  That somehow the things I’m writing about will help those of you who are struggling with those “blue” days, and will help you realize that even though it may seem like life has taken some really wrong turns that God’s eyes are upon you, and He always has a plan for your life.  His plan is not to harm you, but to bring you to a place where your eyes can be opened as to how He truly has been with you all along (Jeremiah 29:11).

peaceFunny thing is, I really don’t know much about my dad.  Back when my sister and I were growing up, times were different, and our parents never really talked about experiences in their childhood.  Or perhaps it was just our parents…

I know I was born in Newton, Iowa, and I remember our house had a fish pond, lots of flowers that I remember my dad working on often, a few fruit trees and a sandbox to play in.  We also had a little cottage on our property where my dad’s mother lived.  While I don’t remember a whole lot from back then (we moved when I was just 5 years-old), I remember I would wander down to grandma’s cottage occasionally and she would give me milk just taken out of the freezer – it was sooooo good!

I remember tornadoes, and recall my mom, sister and I hunkering down in our little cellar, as dad roamed around and around upstairs, coming by often to give us updates.  One time a huge tree fell down close to our house which was really scary!

I remember dad loved the outdoors, and almost every weekend when the weather was decent we would go camping as a family.  No trailer – just a nice tent.  I have some memories of our camping weekends where dad would carry me on his shoulders as we would go for a walk, or down to the lake where we would go swimming.

Dad had worked for many years at Maytag, which was the main place of employment in Newton back then.  And I remember a couple of my aunts and uncles, but none of them really very well.

linda

Dad’s picture of me on a camping trip

I do remember snakes – it seemed like too many snakes.  Mother was terrified of them, and that seemed to pass along to me and my sister, unfortunately.  Sometimes they would lay on our back patio in the summertime which freaked us out, and one time I was wandering down to our sandbox and almost stepped right on one!  I screamed, ran back into the house, and mother called dad to come home from work to try and find it.  I don’t remember if he ever found it or not.

Mostly I remember feeling as though we were happy there – as a family.

However one day things changed.  My mom had been born in Norway, and a couple years prior to marrying my dad had just arrived in the United States.  She was really missing the climate of Norway.  Newton back then was mostly farmland, and mother was missing the ocean – we were so far away!  So one day I was told we were going to be packing up and moving all the way to the west coast – Seattle, Washington.

I was 5, and my sister only a baby.  What was going to happen there?

 

The Battle For The Mind

It’s almost Christmas – one of the most wonderful times of the year for those who have faith in Jesus.  Why?  Because this is the time of year when Jesus chose to come down to earth in human form as a mere babe.  He did this because of His intense love for us.

But this time of year is difficult for a lot of people, perhaps because of lost loved ones, or maybe just remembrances of “the way things used to be.”  It doesn’t help when we’re barraged starting in October with images of happy families with perfect children gathered around a beautiful Christmas tree – or seated all together at a huge dining room table eating the perfect dinner.  We see no friction, just joy.

But that’s not always the reality, is it?

being-truthfulI know a lot of people who have had loved ones die this past year and they miss them terribly.  I also know people who are not really looking forward to this season because the family members who are going to be joining them do nothing but complain, argue, or have such negative attitudes that they just can’t wait for January 1st to finally roll around – so these family members can go back home!

For me?  I admit that I seem to get more down in the dumps each year as the season approaches.  Why?  It’s not that I don’t love Jesus with all my heart, but simply because there’s a battle raging in my mind…

Our pastor has been preaching a series these past weeks on our true home.  Why do so many of us feel out-of-sync?  Because we’re not really home yet.  We may have a nice house, and we may be surrounded by loved ones, but there’s still something missing, and that missing piece will not be fully realized until we are finally gathered to our real home – up in heaven in Jesus’ presence.  Oh how I long for that day!

Our worship pastor recently wrote a song entitled I’m Coming Home (you can see his video under our church Facebook page here).  It shows many happy families, but the beginning of the video shows a car driving on a long, lonely snowy road.  Going home…

But when will it get there?  How long will it take?  We just don’t know, do we?

There is such a battle raging for the mind.  I can’t wait for heaven, knowing that finally I will be totally, completely home.  My real home.  My perfect home.  The home where there will be no more pain, sorrow or tears (Revelation 21:4).

Don’t get me wrong.  I have a wonderful husband, and we have our son Jeffrey that we love with all our hearts.  But there’s still an empty hole – a hole that says things are not the way they should be.

However there are many different reasons why people struggle emotionally – not just during Christmas or holidays – but just in general.

I’m kind of surprised I’ve never mentioned this before, but one of my cousins brought up my dad a few weeks ago, and it jogged my memory bank.  He had a lot of struggles.  With what?  Mental depression.

no-eoyes-seenSome of my dad’s siblings also struggled with it.  So at times – especially during seasons such as Christmas – I wonder if also one of the reasons I find myself getting so down is because I also have some of my dad’s genes within me.

Life is a battle, isn’t it?  For me personally, I force myself during the “down” times to focus back on what’s really important:  Jesus.  However sometimes it’s really hard.  Before I gave my heart and soul to Jesus, I used to bury my sorrow and loneliness in alcohol, drugs or bad relationships.  But now I know the way I need to get back on track is to immerse myself in God’s Word, and to pray.

However some people just can’t do that, and they find themselves slipping deeper and deeper into an abyss.  My dad – he was one of them.

For the next couple weeks I’m going to talk about my dad, and some of the things he struggled with.  There was a lot of pain and sorrow, but in the end Jesus Christ – the lover of our souls – directed and guided him to just the right place, at just the right time.

So for those of you who may be struggling right now?  Hang tight!  God loves you more than you know.  Our real home is coming, and when the time is right, we will finally arrive at our true destination.

Oh, Yeah – Nothing Slips By Our God!

Have you ever invited someone to church, they accept, and then when they’re sitting by you there you find yourself sweating bullets during the entire service?  Why do we do that?  As if us sitting there being anxious is going to have any effect on what the person hears!  I’m a person who eats when they’re stressed, so I’m thankful there are no snacks in the chair pockets immediately in front of me or else I’d probably be inconsiderate enough to sit and eat potato chips during the whole church service!

Whether you sit and stress or not, the bottom line is:  When God wants a person to hear something, He’ll make them hear!  Not me – or you – will bring a person to God, unless the Holy Spirit draws them (John 6:44).

eat-some-more

I’ve written on and off about mother (i.e. What About Bill?), and the sorrow that my sister and I would experience regularly that mother did not know who Jesus was.  It had gotten to the point that I just didn’t bother asking her to church anymore because I was tired of the snide comments and rejection.

So imagine my surprise one Easter morning when our phone rings at 9:00am.  Who was it?  Mother!

We were busy getting dressed in preparation to attend the 11:30 service, so at first we didn’t bother answering the phone.  That is, until I heard the voicemail she was leaving.

Oh, just called wondering if you were going to church – I was thinking of going with you…

That got me snatching up the phone real quick, telling her we’d love to have her join us!

But then of course came the usual hemming and hawing:  yes … no … yes … no…

Finally I told her we were going to be leaving our home at 11:00, so to call us back in a bit if she decided she wanted to go.

Of course at 11:00, as we’re heading out the door, the phone rings.

Gary runs to the phone to answer it, and mother tells him, I thought I might go, but now its probably too late.  She says she’s dressed but has no shoes on.

She’s not getting out of it!  Gary says, We’ll wait for you to get here.

What time did she finally show up?  11:20, and she didn’t live that far away!  It normally took about 20 minutes just to drive to church – not including finding a place to park – so my attitude at that point was not exactly what I would call godly.  But then I thought:  Well at least she’s going, and she will hear the gospel.

thanks

Well by the time we got there, parked, and found some seats, we were very late and had to sit way at the back of the sanctuary.  And unfortunately there were problems with the audio that day and we could barely hear the pastor!  As mother already had problems with her hearing, I was heartbroken.

The service ends, and we head out to the car.  As we all got settled, all of a sudden mom tells us:  I really didn’t care for the pastor – he was speaking too loud!

What a hoot – what a great God!  You cannot thwart God’s plans my friends.  When He feels it’s time for someone to hear the Good News, He’ll even turn up a person’s hearing if He has to!

Sharing “Shadowlands”

The late C.S. Lewis was a brilliant scholar and writer, probably best known for his books Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters and The Chronicles of Narnia.

Lewis was also a confirmed bachelor, who one day finds his world turned upside-down when a lady arrives from America and immerses herself into his life.  He ends marrying her – to help her obtain British citizenship – but they end up falling deeply in love with each other.  But one day tragedy hits, and Lewis’ life is never the same.

The movie Shadowlands was made from this period in Lewis’ life.

near-to-meTragedy hits us all in many different ways and at many different times.  It can look different from one person to the other.

One Sunday afternoon years ago we got a call from our pastor who explained that he felt God leading him to have a panel onstage the next Sunday, and wanted them to be willing to share their individual “Shadowland” experiences.  He asked if Gary and I would be willing to be part of the panel.  The panel also included another family who had lost a child, a single man who had lost his wife, and a sweet lady who besides just losing her dad, also had her mother and brother commit suicide!

Of course Gary and I both were blessed to be able to share, so that week the pastor dropped by a video clip of Shadowlands to review.  He also had some questions for us taken from Psalm 119:35-42 where the psalmist is asking God to provide wisdom and guidance in his life.

The next day (Friday) I was going through the questions, and one of them stated, “… as with the psalmist, all of you were committed Christians when the tragedies struck…”  That stopped me cold, as I wasn’t a committed Christian when we lost our boys – as a matter of fact, I was just a make-believe one (The Day When Jesus Became Real).  What was I going to do – he probably had no clue about my background!

After Gary got home that day he also went over the questions, and we both agreed that I should call the pastor and let him know.

The next morning (the day before we were to be on the panel), I called our pastor at home – fully expecting him not to answer.  I was totally prepared just to leave a short message (after all, it was his day off), but of course he answered the phone.

As I typically do when I’m nervous and ill-equipped, I started babbling away, saying how I didn’t want to bug him on his day off, but I felt I needed to tell the truth; that I wasn’t a Christian when our Shadowlands had struck.

His reply?  Oh, I knew that.  Huh?

He ended up asking me about my “story” and after I finished he told me to just say what I had just told him.

laughWell Sunday came, and we all arrived early for a brief rehearsal.  When the pastor asked if we had any questions, I opened my big mouth and asked if there were any barf-buckets available in case they were needed.  After getting stared at for a moment, all of a sudden everyone loosened up and the jokes started coming about how barf-buckets were located behind every seat, and that oxygen masks would come down in case of an emergency…

Service started, and all us panelists were seated in the front row.  Then the worship team started playing Amazing Love, and I fell apart.  I fell apart because it truly is amazing the sacrifice that Jesus made for me, and because of that love I know that I am special.

I managed to calm down before we got up to the platform, and everything went smoothly – except I never had an opening to share my testimony.  Oh well, I figured, it’s just not the time.

The second service came around, and this time I made it through “Amazing Love” just fine.  Then all of a sudden when we got up to the platform I found myself feeling very tense.

The feeling continued, and I found that I just couldn’t concentrate – I was unable to follow the conversations.  What was going on?

Suddenly the pastor looked right at me and said:  Linda, the death of your boys had a somewhat different effect on you than the others – would you like to share?

BOOM!  The floodgates opened and I started talking, boldly and with confidence.  I know that it wasn’t me, but it was the Holy Spirit taking over, giving me just the right words to say.

When it was over, I felt a release.  I knew it all had happened just as God had designed it to happen.  And people came up front – people who were moved by our Lord to get right with Him.  We don’t always know why God allows things to happen as they do, but we must always trust Him and His ways.  Such a powerful day.

My friends – people need to hear your testimony.  You might be standing right by someone who is struggling deeply with something in their lives, and they need to hear that there’s hope.  To God be all the glory!

Praising God No Matter What

I admit that sometimes when trials come my way I have a difficult time praising God.  At those times I’m too focused on myself and the issues surrounding my life.  But at the same time, when I do make time to praise, I find that the issues I’m currently going through somehow don’t seem quite as bad!

witness-protectionThe psalmist in Psalm 42 is going through horrible trials.  He talks about crying constantly, and how people are mocking him about his beliefs (v. 3).  Yet instead of starting the psalm with whining, he starts it with how he is longing for God to reveal Himself to him (v. 1).  The psalm is interwoven with prayers, praise and longing.

As I read through Psalm 42, I remember back to when we lost our boys (How Can You Even Think You Can Make It Without God?).  Although I certainly wasn’t praising God before that happened – because I didn’t know who He was – now I can praise Him when I read psalms such as this, because I know where I’m going when I leave this earth, and I know that I will see my boys again!

One of my favorite verses is Psalm 37:4:  “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart” (NIV).  I remember at one point during those horrendous months of grieving that a sweet friend gave me a bookmark with that scripture printed on it.  I cherished it, but during our moves over the years somehow it got misplaced.  But I still remember and every time I hear/see that verse, I rejoice because I know that God desires good for me and not evil, and He has great plans for me – to prosper and not to harm me (Jeremiah 29:11)!

growPsalm 119 has also spoken to me – because it reminds me that before knowing Jesus I used to wander off and do my own thing, but now I desire to know more about him all the time (v. 67, 71), and its given me such freedom!  Because when I start to get down on myself for making the same old mistakes I remind myself that God designed me uniquely – according to His specifications – and He doesn’t make junk (Psalm 139: 13-16)!

After losing our boys, and then discovering the complications with Jeffrey, I remember one sweet man calling us modern day Jobs.  No, not even close, but I have to say both Gary and I ended up combing through that book of the Bible in depth during those years.

After all that Job had gone through – and was still going through – how could he say in Job 19:25-27 (Amplified):

For I know that my Redeemer and Vindicator lives, and at last He [the Last One] will stand upon the earth.  And after my skin, even this body, has been destroyed, then from my flesh or without it I shall see God, whom I, even I, shall see for myself and on my side!  And my eyes shall behold Him, and not as a stranger!  My heart pines away and is consumed within me.

Job had lost all the possessions he owned, his family, and was then afflicted with terrible painful sores (Job 1:13-2:10).  To make matters even worse, his “friends” who came alongside him started saying very hurtful things to him (e.g. Job 2:11-13, 4:1-27,8:1-22, just to name a few instances).  Yet Job knew, even though he had moments where he was lower-than-low and wanted to die (e.g. 10:1-22), that God was with him.

So through our times of pain and fear, let us try to fix our eyes on not what we see, but instead what we do not see (2 Corinthians 4:17-18), and let us cry out in praise to our great Father.  We cannot understand all of what goes on in the heavenly realms, but God sees you in your pain, and He will reveal all to you at just the perfect time.

 

 

God, Did I Just Turn Down A Blessing?

Do you have a hard time accepting generous offers from others?  How about from God?

The prayer of Jabez seems to come out of nowhere in 1 Chronicles 4:10 (NIV), which reads as follows:

Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, ‘Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory!  Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.’  And God granted his request.

I remember when I first started reading about this verse.  My first thought?  What a selfish prayer!  But is it really?  Does not God want to give wonderful gifts to His children?  So why should we be surprised when one comes our way?

magic-puzzles-april-12But what if we don’t feel we deserve it?  And how do we really know if it’s from God or not?  All those questions came flowing through my mind at a continuous pace one day.  Let me backtrack a bit.

As I wrote about in But Does That Mean We’re Giving Up On God?, we had finally broken down and gotten Jeffrey a power wheelchair.  But we were still in a quandary because whenever we traveled with him, we had to bring him in his manual wheelchair because we had no way to transport his power chair.  So we decided to start looking into purchasing a wheelchair accessible van.

STICKER SHOCK!!!  As I started researching them, I discovered new vans cost approximately $45,000 – and that was back in 2001!  Clearly getting a new van was going to be out of the question.  Even the used ones cost more than we could afford.

That knocked me into a state of depression.  When Gary got home from work I informed him I needed “fast food” to make me feel better.  I got it – but it really didn’t make me feel any better!

About a month later when I was leaving Bible study at church, I was heading out to my car, and all of a sudden I heard my name being yelled from one of the upstairs office windows.  It was the head of the women’s ministries, and she asked me to come back inside for a few minutes.

When I got inside, she took me by the shoulders and said that she had heard from another gal at church about us looking for vans and how she thought we could use some assistance monetarily.  So she had decided to contact the Good Samaritan Fund at the church to see about helping us get the van for Jeffrey.

Linda, take it… she said.

gods-pathI was speechless and headed home in a fog.  And then even before Gary arrived home from work that day I got a call from the man who headed up the Fund, who asked me how they could help.

I told the man that I just didn’t feel right about accepting assistance, but promised we’d pray about it, and if we changed our minds, we’d let him know.  After all, I thought, we certainly weren’t destitute!

When Gary got home, he initially agreed with my assessment, but then after talking to one of his sisters started to wonder if we shouldn’t have accepted the offer after all.

I just couldn’t, however…  After all, there’s too many really needy people who can certainly use the money more than we could.  But questions starting hounding me:  Am I turning down an offer of help that perhaps the Lord has put in our path?  Did He really want to bless us with this help, and we turned it down, in effect snubbing His graciousness?

It’s hard to know sometimes, isn’t it?

But God’s love way surpasses our confusion.  He provided another occasion months later, through another dear friend.  More to come on this soon!

 

My Puppy-Dog Tongue

Picture it.  A cute little puppy dog.  And after the puppy dog comes to know you, his little tail will start wagging and wagging every time he sees you.  Sometimes you start to think if he wags it any harder it will just fly off!

A puppy wagging his tail is very cute; however one thing that is not cute is a wagging tongue.  And unfortunately, besides my struggle with judging people (Blessings Even When I’m Feeling Bad), another thing I’ve struggled with for years is my puppy-dog tongue…

You know what I mean, right?  I start to talk, and then my tongue goes wild and I start saying all sorts of things.  And then I realize maybe I’ve said something I shouldn’t have, so I talk even more to try and rectify what I’ve just said, but instead I sometimes make it worse.

meets-my-needsThankfully, my Christian friends are full of grace and mercy, but the problem comes when I’m around unbelievers.

During the years when we lost our children and then discovered the difficulties with little Jeffrey (Continuing Forward), I was a stay-at-home mom.  But now Gary had started a new job as a manager of a construction supply warehouse, and they were in need of a part-time receptionist.  Would I be interested?

What an ideal plan!  It had been difficult to even think about finding a job with the hours that I needed so I could be at home with Jeffrey, and we had been unable to find suitable respite care.  But now working with Gary he could set whatever hours for me that we required!

The first couple days on my job were fun.  But then that 3rd day came, and all of a sudden I saw my evil, wicked tongue start to flap away wildly.

There was one guy who worked in the office that wasn’t well liked.  He tended to come and go as he pleased, and it was causing a lot of dissension with the others.  Gary was trying to get him under control, but this particular week Gary was out of town for a couple of days.  Well of course everyone knew it, so this one “problem child” decided that he’d just work for a couple hours that day, and then leave.

As soon as he left the phone calls started coming in right and left for him – it seemed like every problem that could come up, did.

more-than-youo-can-handleSoon the others in the office started with all sorts of not-so-nice comments about this guy (most of which were certainly well-founded), but then all of a sudden I found myself joining right on in with them!

The next morning as I had my quiet prayer time, I began to feel very convicted by the Holy Spirit.  This was not the way I should be acting – I am not to be like the world!!!

Of course more confirmation came almost immediately when I began doing my Bible study, which that week was on James 3.  Here’s how James 3:8-10 (Amplified) reads:

But the human tongue can be tamed by no man.  It is a restless (undisciplined, irreconcilable) evil, full of deadly poison.  With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse men who were made in God’s likeness!  Out of the same mouth come forth blessing and cursing.  These things, my brethren, ought not to be so.

As I sat there staring at it, I was saddened that after only a couple of days at my new job I had already blown my witness.  Forgive me, Lord!

As Christians it can be very hard to live as Jesus wants us to on a daily basis, can’t it?  Yet please remember – as I had to remind myself that day – the Lord God’s love for us is everlasting, and He has created us with special loving-kindness (Jeremiah 31:7).  He knows how we’re made, and He knows our struggles.  So next time you feel that you’ve “failed,” turn to God, ask for His forgiveness, and then dust off your shoes and move on!

Yes, during my tenure at that job I found myself failing on many more occasions, but the Lord was merciful and also allowed me many opportunities to share my faith through my frailties and give hope to others who were struggling.  He’ll do the same for you!