Tag Archive: faithfulness

Mom Was Not There

Last week I was concerned about how our small interment service for my mother would turn out, with a positive Covid test within the family, and possible concerns about being together.

I could not have been more at peace and joyful at how the day played out. While several could not attend because of illness, my oldest brother Mel drove, and nephew Josiah flew in for the service. I shared some of my sweet memories of Mom, then talked about the depression I fell into after her death. It was the perfect storm–losing Mom, Covid lockdowns, and violence in our own country. Fear clutched my heart for some time, but with the love of Don, family, wise counseling and a new medication, I was able to return to trust in the One who holds us fast. The One who held my mother in her dying, her body’s fight to hold onto life even though she was so eager to meet Jesus.

I have created you and cared for you since before you were born. I will be your God throughout your lifetime–until your hair is white with age. I made you and I will care for you. I will carry you along and save you!

Isaiah 46:3 NLT

Mom was quite healthy all her life, and mentally acute. However, there were times, especially in her last year or so, when her hearing was very poor. Once in awhile she’d catch something I said and a sparkle would light her eyes. I cherished those times. “There’s my Mom.”

Some of Mom’s grandchildren read a few of her favorite scriptures, including the one above. One played a copy of her singing “All in the April Evening” with my brother Arnold. Mel, Bob and Sheila, and Don each recalled memories of Mom, and Bob closed in prayer.

We put the box of Mom’s ashes into a pretty basket with love notes to her around it. Sheila, my very creative sister-in-law, brought a rose and a wereneki (that sweet Mennonite/ Ukrainian specialty I mentioned last week which was one of our favorite family meals) to put into the basket. I mean, when my brothers and I were younger they could down 22 or 23 of these at a time–no mean feat!

Sheila’s kids told her Mom (Grandma) would say putting those in the basket was a waste, but I could see Mom laughing in delight. “That’s great, Sheila. Thank you.”

The basket was placed above Dad’s coffin. We tossed roses into the grave and left a bouquet in the vase that would remain outside the grave.

Mom was not there. As Billy Graham once said, “Someday you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now. I will just have changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God.”

And so we leave Mom’s ashes along with Dad’s grave, a place we can visit and remember. But we leave them, knowing both Mom and Dad have gone into the presence of God.

Yes? No? Wait?

Most of us have seen the news: seventeen missionaries, serving Christ in Haiti, abducted. Among them are two teenagers and children aged eight months, three and six years. The missionaries had been brought back to the US and Canada after the assassination of Haiti’s President, but were recently sent back to the country.

In a letter, the families of those abducted said “God has given our loved ones the unique opportunity to live out our Lord’s command to love your enemies.”

The group invited people to join them in prayer for the kidnappers as well as those kidnapped. They expressed gratitude for help from “people that are knowledgeable and experienced in dealing with” such situations.

I grieve for these men and women, for mothers trying to care for an infant and two small children in captivity. These missionaries are from Amish, Mennonite, and other Anabaptist groups, while Don’s and my roots are of Mennonite origin. And I pray for their protection, for grace in their captivity, for their release.

And God cares!

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.

I Peter 5:6-8

He also brings hope.

Hope when discouragement seems to reign over the world and our hearts.

Hope when we feel lost inside, fearful.

Hope that comes from his Word, which is still so very relevant today; and from his Spirit within us that speaks truth to us.

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

Romans 10:17, ESV

In spite of abduction, war, death, fire, flood, as well as personal challenges, God promises us hope which comes from faith if we will spend time listening to, and reading or hearing his message to us. Faith that what we see is not all there is.

The Bible is God’s love letter to you and me. Who else sent His Son, the eternal Son of God and part of the Triune God, to live among us, to show us the character of God. No other religious leader has died a horrific death, rising three days later to conquer death and offer us eternal life through His sacrifice for us.

Some think God is punishing, vengeful, that he could not possibly forgive what they have done. But look at the promise in John 3:16-17, verses familiar to many of us:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

John 3:16-17

His desire is not vengeance, but reconciliation, relationship.

And God’s answers to prayer are not always what we think is best. His answer may be “Wait”, as it was when I longed for my first husband to pop the question! It may be “No,” as it was when people around the world prayed for the release of missionaries Jim Elliott, Nate Saint and three others at the hands of the Auca Indians in 1956. No, God didn’t spare the lives of these five men who were trying to reach a tribe in Ecuador with the Good News about Jesus. But through that murder, and through the continuing faithfulness of Jim Elliott’s widow, Elizabeth and Nate Saint’s sister Rachel, that entire tribe came to faith in Christ. His is a long view, if you will. This earth is but one step in our life’s journey. Eternity will be, well, eternal!

lightning unk on green grass field
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And his answer may be “Yes.” The daughter of friends was to be married at two o’clock this afternoon, outdoors in the Santa Cruz mountains. As many of you know, we have a storm today–heavier rains in northern California and in the mountains, with evacuation orders in place for parts of Santa Cruz because of debris and the threat of falling trees.

Don and I have prayed much this week for this wedding. We’ve prayed for rain, and didn’t want to ask God to shut the windows of heaven. We also wanted this family to have a wonderful day of celebration. Impossible to have both? When they planned the wedding the weather was projected to be clear; now there were no canopies available for rent in the area, for either the outdoor wedding or reception.

brown trees under blue sky
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Our pastor told us this morning that another wedding at the outdoor venue cancelled yesterday (Saturday), and our friends moved their wedding up by a day. Photographer, caterers, pastor, all were available a day early and the couple had a wonderful wedding day without rain. I expect many were praying for this, and give glory to God for making a way in a situation that seemed impossible.

I don’t know what God will do with these abducted missionaries. My mind is not his. But I know this. God is good, and he loves each of those seventeen adults and children. And he will work through the resolution of this horrendous situation, whatever it may be. AND, he wants us to ask! Please join me in prayer for them.

Father, good God, please grant your peace to these servants of yours as they wait in captivity. Convict the gang members and show them your love through this group. Provide the grace that's needed for each person, and especially for the parents of the small children as they help their little ones navigate captivity. I pray the group will be able to stay together so they can encourage and uplift each other. Keep your word alive in their hearts. And in your mercy, I ask for their release. Be with their families; and in whatever comes, may your name be lifted up! In Jesus' name.


post by carolnl | | Closed

New Mercies

Are you weary, as I am, of inhumane treatment in Afghanistan, an overwhelming hurricane in Louisiana, a devastating earthquake in Haiti, political unrest here at home, and hurting friends? Where do we find hope when all the news seems bad? More Covid variants; more Americans possibly left behind in Kabul; friends dealing with loss, illness, surgeries and ongoing treatments.

Sometimes it all feels overwhelming.

But God …

  • has told us to cast all our cares on him;
  • has promised never to leave nor forsake us;
  • came to give us life eternal; and abundance of joy.

I’m reminded–and I need to be–of when my first husband, Jerry, and I, flew to Gainesville, Florida where Stanford doctors believed he would get the dual liver/pancreas transplant he needed sooner than in California.

During my Jerry’s terminal illness, we experienced repeated hospitalizations. Invasive medical tests. Ongoing insurance conflicts that festered financial concerns. And yet, we experienced many “but God” moments, reiterating our Father’s faithfulness in dire circumstances.

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Ps 73:26 TLV)

But God…led us to Gainesville, a city whose teaching hospital had a strong organ transplant program. Jerry had to be available for surgery on very short notice whenever organs became available. Our lives became more complicated as we booked motel rooms for only a few days at a time, and moved regularly. We had no idea we would have to wait three and a half months for that phone call from the hospital, saying “Come now”.

But the constant relocating was hard on Jerry. Living in motel rooms without a kitchen, desk or extra chairs became tiresome and costly. I felt overwhelmed, supporting my husband in his fight for life while juggling bill payments, managing rentals back in California, and looking for low-cost motels. And we both knew Jerry’s need for a transplant was becoming more critical. So we prayed, and waited.

But God had some deep lessons for me.

1.     God loves us and wants us to rely on Him for every need (I Peter 5:7). I asked friends to pray for longer-term housing in Florida. Our minister in California introduced us to Richard, a Gainesville pastor, who graciously shared our need with his church. I contacted more than twenty apartments, trying to find a place without success. Discouraged, I left a message on Richard’s voice mail. “I can’t find a place to rent for a limited time. Do you know anyone who might be able to help us?”

person in green long sleeve shirt using macbook pro
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My cell phone rang an hour later. Richard’s voice was animated. “Carol, I listened to your voice mail and not more than 4 minutes later, opened my email. A family going on a summer mission project wondered if their home would be a possibility for ‘the couple from California!’ I don’t know about you, but that timing sure seems like God to me …”

We lived in that home for two months.

This housing provision was one of many but God…experiences as we journeyed into the valley of the shadow of death.

2. God shows his love through others. We were “strangers in a strange land.” But God…loved us through people we’d never met before. On arrival at the Jacksonville airport, I went to pick up our car rental.

“How long will you need the car?” Maria asked as she pulled our Hertz reservation.

mercedes benz parked in a row
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

“I don’t really know,” I replied. “My husband is here for a transplant, so it depends on when organs become available, and on his recovery time.”

Maria glanced over the contract. “Hmmm…you probably have more luggage than will fit in this compact car. Why don’t I upgrade you to a van. That’ll give you lots of room.”

“Thank you!”

When I told Maria who my employer was, she wrote up the contract, charging us $15/day for a van that normally ran $75/day. I renewed our contract month by month for seven months, and the agency never once raised the price!

Family and friends came to visit, and to serve, letting us know we were not alone. And new friends in Gainesville visited, cooked for me, sang to Jerry in the hospital, and met other needs.

3.     God’s perspective is bigger–and often different–than ours. Our life was on hold. But God … showered us with ‘divine appointments’ almost daily as we sat in restaurants and ice cream parlors and explored antique shops. Waiting for the hospital’s call, we had nothing but time. As we shared out of our pain and hope, those we met often opened their hearts and shared their unique stories with us. We prayed with a hurting mother whose teenage son was in juvenile hall, and shared our hope with a rodeo clown. And I heard later that God had never been discussed as much among my workplace circle of influence as during Jerry’s hospitalization, when I sent regular updates sharing God’s grace in our lives during this difficult time.

4.     God often shows up when our hearts and minds desperately need to know he still cares.                     

Our life had lost its rhythm, any sense of normalcy.

But God…Jerry had just been moved a step down from Intensive to Transitional Care.

Entering his room, I drew the privacy curtain between the two beds and sat beside Jerry, holding his hand. Looking out the window, I saw Bonnie, whom I’d met briefly in the Intensive Care waiting room the day before, walk around, checking room numbers. She turned into our room and walked past me to the second bed.

“Is that your husband?” I asked in surprise.

Wanting to encourage Jerry without intruding on their privacy, I began to sing quietly. My heart warmed in awe as I heard Bonnie’s sweet alto join my soprano from the other side of the curtain. I had no idea God had placed us in a room with another Christ-follower.

Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father

There is no shadow of turning with Thee.

Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not

As Thou hast been, Thou forever wilt be.

Great is Thy faithfulness, Great is Thy faithfulness,

Morning by morning new mercies I see.

All I have needed Thy hand hath provided

Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me.

Lyrics by Thomas Obadiah Chisolm (1866-1960), tune by William Runyan, published 1923

5.     In the toughest of circumstances, God is there. I was exhausted. Every night for five months, I left the hospital dispirited and weary. Settling in at the apartment, my eyes were dry. Every muscle and nerve in my body ached. My mind felt overwhelmed. I sent an email update to colleagues and the many who were praying for us, then sank onto my bed to fall into dreamless sleep.

belief bible book business
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But God…renewed me daily. Each morning I wakened with new hope and joy, ready to face another day with my beloved. I learned the truth of Lamentations 3:22-23, the scripture that is the basis for the hymn above:

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.

Proverbs 16:9 says “We plan the way we want to live, but only God makes us able to live it” (MSG).

Living out of motel rooms, searching for housing, and caring for my husband in a hospital on the other side of the country were not in my plans. God has not promised to spare us from the hardships of life, but He has committed to being with us in every situation. When our heart and strength wane, He is faithfully present.

My prayer for the crises we face in today’s world is that those suffering will experience his grace in unexpected ways; and that we who grieve with and for them will lean into and rely on those but God…moments as He cocoons us in His love.

But God …


Like most of us, I want to live with purpose. And yet at times I find my purpose wavering … I need a rest; I’m not equipped to deal with that issue; that person’s pain is too much for me to handle. I’m overwhelmed! Do you ever feel like that?

I pulled out a post from six years ago because I was reminded of it in our pastor’s sermon this morning.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–

Ephesians 2:4-7 ESV

That’s the beauty of God’s empowering. Many challenges are too much for me to handle. I am inadequate. I don’t know what to do. But my God will enable me if I take one step at a time, believing He will meet me at the next one.

I experienced many God-moments when my first husband was waiting for an organ transplant in Florida. Three thousand miles from home, we needed housing, local support, and insurance approval. In one email to friends I expressed the challenges we faced, then listed some of the ways we had seen God’s love and grace. I wrote:

“We are in big trouble on our own (health, costs, housing, ongoing tests) … it isn’t a bed of roses …

BUT GOD … allowed Jerry’s test results Friday to be positive, removing a potential obstacle to transplantation …

BUT GOD … ensured final dollar authorization for the dual transplant …

crop colleagues shaking hands in office
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BUT GOD … led our California pastor to connect us with Pastor X here in Gainesville, with whom we’ve already started to have wonderful fellowship and support …

BUT GOD … led Pastor X to follow up with us and to allow us to share with his church body, which is actively responding to our needs.

BUT GOD … has shown us His faithfulness over and over through people we’ve met, the kindness of strangers in antique shops who’ve offered us housing or suggested resources, and by giving us incredible opportunities to connect with people and share our lives and His faithfulness with them.”

Dr. Helen Rosaveare was a single missionary working in the Congo from 1953 to 1973. During the political instability of the 1960s she was brutally gang-raped by rebels. As she tells it, during that terror one word kept recurring in her mind. “Privilege.” She had the privilege of suffering for Christ. That is truly beyond one’s own capability, strength or adequacy.

But GOD empowered her to survive that and continue to minister for Him.

Grace. It’s all God’s grace. It’s not good when someone is raped, murdered, terminally ill, depressed, or insecure. But it is grace, the grace of God that shows up when we most need it, that empowers us to take one step at a time, experiencing His presence which then empowers us to take the next step. Sometimes I think I’ve done something of value … but then I’m reminded that it is all about the grace of God. He uses our availability even more than our ability.

Here’s the rest of that wonderful passage which speaks so clearly of the “But Gods” in our lives, and of the grace he gives us day by day. We were born with a sin nature, following our own desires and impulses. And then Paul writes this message of amazing hope.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved–and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Ephesians 2:4-9 ESV

So what are the “But Gods” in your life? I’d love to hear.


This caption expressed some of my feelings after the shooting

This caption expressed some of my feelings after the shooting

Once again, our nation is rocked by a mass shooting on a college campus, this time in Oregon. According to survivors, the shooter asked those who were Christians to stand, then murdered them. I’ve thought about how I would respond. I don’t think we really know until we are in that situation. But I pray that in such a trial God would give me the grace needed to stand true to Him.

The students who were shot and/or killed could have remained in their seats, or even sat down after the first person was shot. They didn’t. They stood firm to the end.

I can’t help but wonder what went through their minds as they waited seconds, minutes for their deaths. Did they think of beloved family, friends, boyfriends or girlfriends? Did they think of seeing Jesus momentarily? Were they in shock? Whatever went through their minds, these individuals honored their Lord by standing for Him.

Let us pray for families and friends who are suffering the horrific fall-out from this evil. I can’t imagine the shock and anguish of these families, and on the school campus. Pray for comfort, peace, and hope–all of which take time. Yes, hope in God’s promises …

“I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5 NIV

Jesus was there in that classroom with the professor and students. They were not alone.

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:10 NIV

Persecution of Christ-followers is not new. The Apostle John wrote to the church in ancient Smyrna (today’s Izmir in Turkey) who were going through severe persecution. “Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer … Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I (God) will give you life as your victor’s crown.” (Rev. 2:8-11 NIV)

He gave His life for me, and for you

He gave His life for us!

These deaths are a tragedy for all of us. They are an even greater tragedy for those who have lost a loved one. But the murders were not carried out in a vacuum. God was THERE.

He gave His life for me, ransomed me from sin, and promised me eternal life. May I remain faithful through life and to death.