Category Archive: Encouragement

Unexpected Interruptions (they’re always unexpected aren’t they!)

I walked out of my meeting, stepped into my car, and turned the key. The engine sputtered and died.

After trying to start the care several times without success, I called Triple A for a tow. I was pleased that one of their first questions was “Are you and your car in a safe place?” (We were.)

My mechanic determined the car had a fuel pump failure, then went above and beyond to ask the dealer if this defect might be covered under warranty. After haircuts and lunch with stepson Brad and his wife Cathy, I once again called Triple A.

Don and I waited about two hours at our mechanic’s until the truck arrived to tow the car to the dealership. Charlie told me if it turned out to be a defective fuel pump it would cost me nothing to repair. If it was not that, it could run me about $3000. Ouch! My car has been wonderful, reliable, well maintained. This was not something I had planned for, nor could I afford it.

So Don and I had already lost two days to wait time/ tow trucks/ car trouble. But we were thrilled when the dealer called to tell us the repair would be fully covered. Thank you, Lord!

They did find two other repairs that needed to be done and we authorized those–but at a significantly lower cost than the possible $3000 had the fuel pump repair not been covered.

Today was a full day. Don and I had an appointment, then breakfasted at Le Boulangerie. After that I took a sputum sample into a lab in Los Gatos (I give these monthly to check on a non-contagious lung infection that is very difficult to eradicate and which I’ve had for several years already).

The car dealer called and told us the car was ready for pickup, so Paige and I returned home, I picked Don up and we headed to pick up the car. Although they had projected keeping the car for five days (over the holida), waiting for delivery of the needed parts, the parts arrived Saturday morning and the repairs were complete!

I have my car again, hopefully good for many miles to come. And I’m thankful for my auto mechanic who goes beyond “We’ll fix it for $___” to research ways to help customers save money and get effective corrections made.

Thanks Bill, Fiona, and Charlie! And thank you Lord for caring for my smallest needs, ensuring this didn’t happen the day before we leave on vacation, or across the hill, or at night …

Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.

I Peter 5:7 NLT

May we recognize in those difficult moments the grace of God that sustains, provides, and cares for us.

Leaning In

A few weeks ago I bared my soul about pain experienced almost forty years ago in a ministry situation. I got many more responses to that post than usual. Encouragement from former colleagues, prayers for the coming reunion time to be above our expectations in healing and recovery, expressions of love.

I’m so grateful for each person who responded. My pain touched people. And in response, they touched me.

Mourning

Recently Pastor Tim talked about how God speaks to us in our pain. It’s something we don’t want, and which God does not author, but nevertheless uses for our good and for others.

One of the ways God uses pain in our lives is to sensitize us to others, to open our eyes to their needs, and to help us encourage them with the comfort God has given us.

And in the years I dealt with healing from the pain of separation from my former work and friends, God was there. He provided resources to help me recover. Through this and other painful circumstances in my life–

–a broken engagement,

–the deaths of a husband,

–my father,

–a nephew, and dear friends,

–concerns for my mother’s health,

–as well as workplace challenges–

I have become less judgmental and more sensitive to others’ pain. My understanding grew that we need to know someone’s story before we can understand why they make some of the choices they do.

But what resonated with me is that people are drawn to vulnerability, and relate to expressed pain.

As Pastor Tim stated, “When we talk about pain, people lean in.” Our voices are sometimes softer when we talk about pain. We don’t generally shout it from the rooftops. But people want to know what have we experienced that they can relate to, can learn from. Pain touches all of us, and when we share it, we increase our authenticity.

I like Facebook. I enjoy posting pictures of people I love, fun things I’ve done, life I’ve lived with others. But I understand that it is only a partial picture. Most of us post only good things …. those things we’re happy to share.

But others can look at those pictures of beautiful homes and decor and yards and travel and families and think, why isn’t my life like hers/his?

But when we share openly about our pain, our challenges, the bumpy roadblocks in our lives, others understand that we are all on this journey together. And while each of us has an individual path, we also walk with, encourage and strengthen, or drag down, each other along the way.

Forward by missionary Gracia Burnham

I’m reading a challenging book, Hearts of Fire, by Voice of the Martyrs. It contains the stories of eight women in different parts of the world, persecuted, imprisoned, tortured for their faith in Jesus Christ. While the stories are at times hard to read, these women’s faithfulness also challenges me. They share temptations faced, i.e. questioning God in their suffering or loss. Temptations to renounce faith, to give in to other voices that offered a strong shoulder of support, to be quiet about their faith. Despite their questions, these women continued to speak, teach about Jesus, and to be faithful to him.

Why am I drawn to these women’s voices? They’ve shared their pain and God’s faithfulness. We all go through difficulties, whether because of our faith, as they did, or because life just has its ups and downs, its tragedies as well as its joys. None of us knows what the future holds.

I hope I’ve shared God’s faithfulness to me in these posts. I hope that has encouraged you in some ways. But I too need to be reminded of God’s faithfulness, not only to me in the past, but to others who have gone through far deeper trials than I have or expect to encounter.

I’m leaning in.

“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for his compassions never fail.
 

They are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.”

Lamentations 3:22-23, NIV

You Never Know …

After the meeting, a blonde woman approached me.

“I wanted to meet you because we’ve driven here side by side several times,” she smiled.

I smiled back. “We have?”

“Yes, a week or so ago we were next to each other at Silver Creek Boulevard. I waved, but you didn’t see me.”

“Well, hi. I’m Carol, and now I’ll watch for you!”

As Susan and I chatted about where we live, I thought, here’s a woman who’s seen me in my car, on the road, and I was oblivious. If I had noticed her I think I would have recognized her from our weekly meetings, although it may have taken me a minute to remember where I knew her from!

We never know, do we … anyone could be watching. Was I picking my teeth? Singing along with the radio or a CD? Looking angry about some traffic impingement?

He gave His life for me, and for you

There’s a cross sticker on my car. Did I reflect the Christ I love, or did someone say “Ooh, if that’s a Christian …”

I know I sin and make mistakes and get angry inappropriately at times. But my heart wants to walk the talk, wants my actions to support my words and my professions of faith.

So next time I’m in my car, I’m going to watch for who’s around me; I’m also going to try to ensure I’m not doing anything for which I would be embarrassed if someone said “I saw you when you were …”

Most important, the Father sees me at all times. He knows, not just the embarrassing stuff that comes out at times, but my heart. He knows when my thoughts and the intent of my heart would embarrass me no end if I were standing face to face with him. And yet, I am in his presence–always. He is never far from me and knows me completely.

But he gives his grace. His love is so great that his grace covers me, whether I’m making a small, embarrassing mistake or a larger one that impacts many. A bigger mistake may cause great pain to self and others, and to the Lord, who grieves over our sin. But grace is available once I agree with God that I have sinned.

“But if we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

I John 1:9

Confession results, not only in forgiveness, but also in cleansing, making me like new in God’s eyes. Cleansed, forgiven, whole, accepted in the beloved! Joy!

Hope Realized

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!

Ephesians 3:20-21, NIV

I was on a Southwest Airlines flight to Los Angeles to meet women I hadn’t seen for 38 years. My anticipation was high, but I wasn’t sure what to expect.

We worked together in the Los Angeles ghetto. Some of the women coming to the reunion accepted Christ through the ministry and went on to become staff members. 

Six women in this 1970’s L.A. staff photo were among the 14 present at our reunion

During my ten and a half years of service there, we worshipped, sang, taught children and adults the Bible. Our African American teens taught us white Mennonite girls, not known for dancing, the “hustle”. Our girls laughed at us, but I won the dance competition. That’s about as much dancing as I’ve done in my life, and it was fun! We taught children’s and adults’ Bible studies. We cried together when someone we loved was hurt or killed. We took in women who were abused, threatened, hurt. We watched an SLA house burn to the ground directly across from our home. When our lives were threatened we sat up late, talking and praying until we were fatigued enough to sleep.

We were close, both because of a common purpose and because we needed each other. We built tight-knit relationships within staff and in the inner city communities where we lived. We rejoiced together when another precious child, woman or man began a walk with Jesus that changed their lives and gave new hope.

Thirty-eight years later, I wondered how the women I would be with had changed. How had I changed? Would we have to work our way past years of separation and misinformation or could we pick up where we left off?

As I wrote last week, my departure was under less than optimal circumstances. Would there be questions, rehashing, resentment? Or forgiveness and love and acceptance for each person where she is now?

Were there residual areas of healing that needed to occur? I have forgiven those who hurt me. But were there still areas I needed to address?

After taking my first ever Uber ride from LAX, I knocked on Katie’s door. Entering, I was greeted with a lingering hug, which I gladly returned.

As twelve other women joined us, the extended hugs continued. Without words, we seemed to say “I’ve missed you. So very good to be with you again.”

One missing – we were 14!

I felt at home.

After a potluck lunch the 14 of us sat around the family room. We took turns updating each other on our lives. None of us are still with the organization we left, although one or two still volunteer with it. For four and a half hours we shared nonstop.

Patsy asked why I left. She had felt abandoned, another person walking away from her life. For 38 years some of these women had no idea why I left. I shared that I had lost trust in our President, with whom I’d worked very closely for 10 1/2 years. When he realized I no longer trusted him, he told me to leave town … that night. I didn’t have a chance to say goodbye. My sharing answered a long-held question for Pat, and I think brought some closure.

But I had not walked away from the Lord we all loved.

The ability to ask and answer questions, the vulnerability we shared with each other, reestablished a foundation of trust among us. And I realized that I was the first, but certainly not the only one who experienced rejection and hurt in leaving that ministry.

We had prayed for a time of healing, of restoration. My text to Don said it all. “Ohhhhh. Myyyyyy.”

Have you had a difficult challenge with a ministry from which you needed healing? That changed your faith? That caused you to question God or service?

You’re not alone.  Let’s talk about it.

Next week I’ll share more of what I learned and experienced this weekend. Still processing!

Process, or Purpose?

Computer problems prevented my posting the last two weeks. My apologies … but I’m back!

Before leaving for Mexico I determined that on our return I would make a concentrated effort to lose weight. And so I began a weight loss program that has worked for me in the past.

I’m encouraged to have started. But a dear friend reminded me that there is a bigger picture involved.

  • I want to lose weight.
  • I want to encourage and bless my husband in every way possible.
  • I want to help and serve my mother.
  • I’m writing a novel that’s been in the works for awhile. I want to finish it before next year’s Spring Christian Writers’ Conference.

As we talked about these goals, Grace looked at me with love and said, “And in order to finish that book, Carol, you need energy. So is weight loss the overriding purpose?”

And I realized it’s not. My purpose, for which weight loss is one part, is to become healthier so that I can complete these other goals…supporting and encouraging those I love, completing my novel…all for the glory of God.

Delicious – but does it feed my goal to become healthier?

How often do I set targets and stay focused on little goals without putting them in the context of a bigger picture. In what ways do I sabotage my overall purpose in life, which is to honor God and delight in Him forever? Is it by eating foods I know are unhealthy for me (i.e.too much sugar, too many carbs)? Is it by staying up too late (although there are nights, like tonight, when I can’t sleep and so I do get up and work or relax), by filling my mind with unwholesome reading or TV? Is it by filling my schedule with “good” projects that prevent me from doing the best thing(s)?

Being challenged to look at a purpose beyond losing weight or finishing a novel helps me prioritize, determine how and where I expend my energy, and make wise choices along the way. In order to accomplish what God has called me to, I need to take better care of myself in the ways that I can, not out of selfishness or ego, but for the glory of God.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. 

Galatians 5:22-23a

I’m trying to look at each day in light of this larger purpose of increased health, and I look forward to what I will learn in the process.

Is there an area where you need to review your deeper purpose and put it in writing to help you remember?

*I apologize for not posting the past two weeks. I had a glitch in my program that took awhile to resolve. I’m back!