Quick! Grab a Brochure!!!

I’m in a bit of a quandary today in regards to what I am going to write about.  I initially thought I would write about all the blessings of our vacation, but I also had an epiphany this afternoon about work so…. we’ll just see where the Spirit leads me.

First let me say that the most important thing I took along on our recent trip to Germany was Jesus.  Not a single day went by when I did not look at Dave and say “thank you, Jesus”.  Not. One. Single. Day.  But there is one day in particular that stands out for me.  We were in Strasbourg, France.  We had gotten up early for the second day in a row because we had a four hour drive ahead of us.  We were all physically weary from our previous three days of constant stair climbing and many kilometers of walking.  And Strasbourg, like many old cities in Europe…not the easiest to drive around in.

That being said we made it to our hotel as scheduled and then headed out for lunch.  For each city we planned on visiting I had prepared an itinerary.  Strasbourg was no exception.  We wanted to see Little France, including the Ponts Courverts and Barrage Vauban.  And we definitely needed to see the Cathedral.  Here’s where God’s care for us comes into it.

While we were in Germany.  Many, many people asked us about our plans.  As I was talking about it with one fellow, he said he lived in Strasbourg and that we absolutely had to eat at La Corde A Linge.  I googled it and it looked perfect, great wine for us and hamburgers for Isaac.  A few nights later I called to make a reservation.  They were full, but she said we should come anyway because they would still be able to seat us.  I asked her the best time and her recommendation was 7-7:30.

Fast forward a couple of days and here we are, newly arrived in Strasbourg, tired and hungry.  I knew that we would never last until 7:00 for dinner, so knowing the restaurant was open for lunch I suggested we make it a lunch destination instead. We had time to figure out dinner later.  The patio was huge.  Easily upward of 50 tables.  We waited several minutes for a table but eventually were seated at the very edge of the patio closest to the street.  (THIS IS AN IMPORTANT FACT).

So we are sitting, I’m enjoying a glass of wine, enjoying the atmosphere, when all of a sudden I see coming toward me… a little electric train filled with tourists.  It literally drives right beside our table.  I could almost reach out and touch it… almost.  Then it  strikes me that it would be a lot of fun for Isaac (he loves trains).  At this point the train is right beside me and I can see a brochure on the side of the train facing us.  I struggle to get out of my chair, but between my hip and the flagstones, there is no way I am going to get out of my chair on time.  I shout at Everett who is the next closest to “Quick! Grab a brochure!”  He, like the teenager he is, looks up from his phone with disdain, his expression… Really Mom?  And just like that the train is past us and he’s not chasing it.  The moment has passed.

Half an hour later, we’re eating our food and what do I see?  Everett like the great kid he is, immediately, but like, in a super cool way, gets up, snags a brochure and we’re set.

Are you ready for it?  The trains ran every half hour from… Notre Dame Cathedral… you know the one we wanted to visit.  And every stop we wanted to see…and more…were on the trip.  Since they were all stops you can only see from the outside, the train could not have been more perfect!

So there it is, my story of God providing for us in Strasbourg.

1. We got the name of a restaurant in Germany, that we couldn’t get reservations at for dinner, so we had lunch there, and out of 50+ tables, we were literally seated at the closest table to the train that, would tour our exhausted bodies all over the city and picked us up from and brought us back to the one place we were actually able and wanted to tour.  You know…God’s house.

Now that would be enough right?  Except that, as we were walking back to our hotel, for a little rest after the train and Cathedral, I decided to check out a few restaurant menus to find a place for dinner.  I looked at a few and everything was okay, but someone would have to compromise. We were almost back to our hotel when somehow we ended off the main street and there right in front of us was a beautiful restaurant with a perfect menu…for EVERYONE!

As we sat there enjoying our dinner that night we could not help but feel fully and completely blessed.  We had been physically exhausted when we got to Strasbourg, and instead of trekking miles over the city to see the sights, we were able to sit back and relax and then enjoy a fantastic meal at the end of our day.

That day was a day that God’s blessings were full and obvious to us, but how many days does he bless us in ways that we aren’t even aware of.

I pray that He gives you days like He gave us, full of blessings and love, days to be enjoyed and grateful for.  God is good.

God bless,

Meredith

P.S.  I guess the work thing is for another time 🙂

The Scouring of My Heart.

For almost as long as I can remember I have thought of myself as tough.  When I was a child I had a few experiences of bullying, but I silently refused to allow them to make me feel badly about myself.  When I made a bad decision as a young adult, I stiffened my spine, and did what I felt needed to be done to rectify the situation.  When I learned that  blindness was only the tip of the iceberg for my first born, I got down on my knees and taught him how to crawl, how to walk, how to sign.  When my first husband left me with a three month old baby and a two year old with special needs, I pulled myself together, went back to school and did what needed to be done.

It really not my intention to give you a litany of all the struggles I’ve faced because, quite frankly, we’ve all had struggles.  The point I want to make here is that while there have been many challenges throughout my life, and even through I might have cried, and cried hard…at some point I picked myself up, took a deep breath and got on with taking care of things.  I’ve become the person people turn to when things fall apart, because I’m strong.  So what happened?

I’ve said before that God is always for us and is always working for our good.  But it has seemed, since my accident, that I can’t stop crying. I try to sing along to a song on the radio and my throat closes up.  I read a verse and the same thing happens to me.  I’ve started feeling as if God is scouring my heart…leaving me raw, exposed, vulnerable.  I can feel myself recoil at the very thought.

Somewhere in my early memories I remember being a child that cried easily.  I feel like I remember being someone who felt big emotions.  Maybe that’s just common in children.  I do know that over the years I have built many, many layers around my heart to protect it.  It’s part of our nature to want to protect ourselves…especially those parts of us that are most vulnerable, like our hearts.

On May 6th I fell off my horse.  I broke my collarbone, my thumb and did some pretty major damage to the ligaments and tendons around my right hip.  Those were all injuries I could feel.  They were injuries I knew about even as I was lying there trying to catch my breath.  But what I didn’t know was that falling off my horse that day would also put a huge crack in the wall I had built around my heart.  A wall that didn’t just protect me by keeping me safe inside…it was a wall that also kept things out.

I was in the car last week listening to my favorite radio station (Klove) when either Natalie Grant or Charlotte Gambill came on and she quoted Proverbs 4:23  “Above all else guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”  Now you might be thinking “EXACTLY! THAT’S WHAT I’VE BEEN DOING!”  But that really isn’t what I was doing.  I was building a wall around my heart to protect my feelings.  To protect my “wellspring”.  But God didn’t give us feelings and emotions to protect, he gave them to us to share them with those around us. A wellspring is defined as an original and bountiful source of something.  So then you have to ask yourself, I have to ask myself…what do we want our hearts, our wellsprings to be a bountiful source of?

I remember a moment the year I met Dave.  Both of my grandmothers had passed away within months of each other.  I sat on the bottom stair in my house, overwhelmed with such a profound feeling of heartbreak and loss, sobbing as if my heart was breaking, because it was.  But it was at that very moment that I realized that it was only because of the profound love I had for those two incredible women that I was able to actually experience that sense of loss.  That was the moment I knew that I was going to put myself back out there, that I was going to take a chance and open myself up to loving again.  I knew that if I loved openly, and honestly, then any failure was not mine to own, maybe it just wasn’t mean to be.  Not two months later I met the love of my life, David.

It’s only when we let our walls down that great things can happen for us, only when we open ourselves to risk and hurt that we can really find something special.  I didn’t know I had put such a big wall around my heart, but God did and he knew that it was going to take something big to break through it.

So here I sit, and I’m not going to lie, I feel scared, feeling those emotions always there, not tucked down into a nice neat little package, or behind a wall, where I can control them.  But I trust God’s plan and I believe with all of my heart the words of Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord.  Plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you a future and a hope.” 

God broke down the walls around my heart for a reason…I trust that in time he’ll show me why.  But even if he doesn’t, that’s okay, I’m still discovering all the blessings he’s hidden in my fall.

God bless,
Meredith

“A Soft Place to Fall”

I think it was Dr. Phil who coined that phrase in reference to the relationship between spouses.  His philosophy being that every person needs a soft place to fall andyhy, in a married couple, that should be your spouse.

Now, I am incredibly blessed to have that with David.  I can turn into a raving lunatic, I can break down in tears, I can drown myself in a sea of depression; it just doesn’t matter…he loves me in all ways, always.  If you have or have had that relationship with someone in your life them you know what I am talking about.  I have been blessed to live a life surrounded with love, from my parents to my spouse and children and my friends.  God has filled up my cup.

But maybe you don’t have that type of support in your life right now…

I think I’ve been fairly open about my struggles with my faith these past few weeks.  But as much as I have raged at God, as much as I have questioned His existence…in my heart I always know the truth.  In this struggle, in those moments when I feel like I can’t keep doing this, when I just want my life to go back to “normal”… in all those times…God is my soft place to fall, even when I don’t realize it.  God loves me in all ways…always.

We were recently on a trip with some friends and the boys and girls separated to do a little shopping.  No surprise that Dave found his way into an art gallery.  While the boys were perusing, our friend noticed some religious paintings that the artist had done on commission.  The artist’s comment about the pieces was that he really didn’t believe in God, but he has to pay the bills and he asked our friend (who just happens to be a priest) if that bothered him.  And our friend’s reply was ‘yes’ and I love this… our friend said… “If you knew that everyone you met had a treasure buried in their backyard, wouldn’t you want them to dig it up and find it?”  That’s what faith is like when you finally discover it…it’s a treasure, and you want everyone you know to go out and dig it up, and find it…there’s only one problem…they don’t believe you.

I have so many reasons to be grateful.  It makes me ashamed when I feel angry or frustrated…but I’m human.  God made us with emotions for a reason and he doesn’t expect us to be perfect.  In fact, when we fail, when we are angry, or tired, or scared…he wants us to turn to him…he wants to be our soft place to fall.

I’ll admit…I could be a lot better at that sometimes.  But life is a journey, and if I’m going to take this journey, then I’m pretty happy to have the maker of heaven and earth walking beside me, ready to catch me “softly” when I fall.

This song was speaking to me today…maybe God wants you to hear it too.

 

God bless,

Meredith

An Empty Well

It has been just over a month now since my accident.  I may be slower than the seniors at my grocery store, but I can walk without a limp if I concentrate and I have the cast off on the right hand, although the thumb is still pretty tender and weak.  But this week what I have been struck by is how quickly and easily our resources; physical, emotional and spiritual can be drained.

To say that I hit a wall on Wednesday would be an understatement.  I was scrapping the bottom on all levels.  I was physically exhausted, mentally exhausted and, as I was soon to learn, spiritually exhausted.  Sometimes it’s easy to hold on to our faith, sometimes it squirts away from us like a wet bar of soap.  The details of what sent me over the edge aren’t as important as the fall out…I got to a point when I couldn’t see the point, I cursed God, swore at him and decided that I was done with it all.  I was hurt and tired and frustrated and angry.  I told myself that I had just been deceiving myself this entire time about God and if there was a God then I certainly let him have it.  I wasn’t in a much better place the next morning and I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t say that I let some of that hurt and frustration and anger I was feeling spill over onto my loved ones.

I ended up in bed, in tears, feeling not just like a bad person…but like an evil one.  Within minutes I was crying out my contrition to those I had wounded, and of course, as I knew would be the case, their forgiveness was offered unconditionally.  They knew that, despite my harsh words, I loved them with my whole heart.  I had built up enough emotional currency to be able to make a withdrawal.

But for some reason I couldn’t bring myself to believe that God could forgive me.  I had sworn at him.  I had vented my unfiltered spleen at him.  That afternoon I sat there confessing my fear and my shame to David.  I was a terrible person and I didn’t deserve God’s love.  And yet, even as I was acknowledging how I was feeling, I felt a truth creep into my heart.  There was nothing my children could say that would make me turn away from them…even if they should curse or swear at me.  I was a child of God and, like the perfect Father he is, he would happily forgive me when I was ready.  He already had.

I wasn’t ready yesterday, I haven’t asked for forgiveness yet today, although I can feel it pressing down on me anyway.  But God continues to send me messages of peace and reassurance.  Every morning my phone gives me a verse from the Bible.  My verse today:  “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and don’t lean on your own understanding.” Proverbs 3:5

And my reading while I was waiting for my physiotherapy appointment…”Experience shows, however, that capacities for spontaneously reacting to people and circumstances in a way that is unloving, unethical and sometimes violent remain with the holiest men all their days; indeed much of their holiness consists in resisting and mortifying such reactions, which may be evoked at any time and may take a form of which the person did not know himself (or herself) capable till it actually happened.  What the Puritans bluntly called corruptions…keep being triggered off in us by new stimuli, and humbling, shaming self-discoveries keep being made…no Christian, however wholehearted at this moment, or at any future moment, in conscious love of God and neighbor, will ever be immune to shocks of this kind, in which new depths of his or her sinful nature are disclosed.”  Keep in Step with the Spirit, by J.I.Packer

God wants me to know that I’m not alone.  That what I experienced; that overwhelming wave of negative emotions, those feelings that swept over me and carried me along in their tide, is a ride that even the most holiest of men and spiritual scholars have taken…and it’s okay.  God was there with his overwhelming and never-ending love to pick them up and dry them off and he will do the same for me.

If you have been following my blog then you know that I have had moments when I am so filled with the love of God that I can’t help but sing…but I want you to know, that as strong as my faith was, and still is…we can all fall down, we can all be ashamed of ourselves and we can all want to turn away from God.  But our Father loves us so much, he refuses to let go.  He knows our heart…who we really are, warts and all and he loves us unconditionally.  There is nothing we can do or say to make him stop loving us…and believe me, I tried.  He will forgive us long before we find we are able to forgive ourselves.  Even before we have the courage to ask him to forgive us.

When I look at my healing journey, I realize that I have started focusing more on the things I can’t do and less on the gains I am making each and every day.  It is in trying to do too much, in pushing myself to do things that I am not physically ready for, that I am draining myself physically.  It is in focusing, not on the blessings, but on the things that I don’t have that I am draining myself spiritually.  Only when I am focused on God will all of my wells be truly filled.  And of course, I have some forgiveness to ask for.

God bless,

Meredith

Just Leave Me Alone.

Have you every notice when someone else is struggling, or going through a difficult time, how easy it is to know that they need to lean on God, or to turn to God, or to trust in God? Have you also noticed that when YOU are going through a difficult or challenging time how difficult those very same things can be…even when your heart knows you should?

At times, during my recovery, it has been incredibly difficult for me to be patient and trust that this is part of God’s plan.  There have been times I have felt his hand on my heart, and instead of turning into that love I have begged for him to just leave me alone, that I can’t do this, that I’m not strong enough.  It’s been hard.

Of course God didn’t leave me alone, just as I wouldn’t walk away from one of my own children if they were suffering and in pain.  He just wraps me up in his love and waits for me.  Jesus used the image of a shepherd and his sheep often in his ministry.  And he reassured us that “no one can snatch them out of my hand.  My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of  my Father’s hand.  I and the Father are one.”  John 10:28-29  As a child of God, as one of Jesus’ sheep, I am always in his care, and no one, not even I have the power to make him go away.  He will always be there, watching over me, and caring for me, and protecting me.

It’s not always given to us to know why bad things happen.  What is given to us is to know that we can trust in our Father to make all things for our good.  Just as when your toddler is learning how to walk, you can’t always keep them from falling, so too will our Father in heaven be there to pick us up, dust us off and kiss away our pain.

And in case you were worried…I’m good.  That day, after telling God to leave me alone, I came home to a beautiful bouquet of flowers sitting on my kitchen counter.  They were bright, and lovely, and from my parents.  When I called to say thank you, my mom said that she just had a feeling I might need a pick me up.  GOD IS SO GOOD AND I AM SO BLESSED!  Thank you mom and dad! Thank you, Jesus!

God bless,

Meredith

Patience

I don’t think that I’m the type of person to ever be known for my patience.  I don’t particularly like to sit still, and if I am unhappy with someone in my family it is usually because my patience at that moment (right or wrong) has been exhausted.

So here I am, three weeks into my journey of healing.  I definitely thank God that it took me this long to hit the wall, because that’s what happened on Saturday…I hit the wall, my patience with everything, the pace of my recovery, with my pain, with my limitations was exhausted.  Anyone who has experienced some degree of chronic pain knows what I’m talking about.  I mean sure, if I just sit there I’m fine, but God didn’t make me a sit on the couch person.  He made me a get stuff done person, and everywhere I turn there is stuff that needs to be done!!  But this weekend I spent most of Saturday in bed.  I did nothing but sleep and cry and feel sorry for myself.  Since I’m still healing bone and ligaments, I probably needed the sleep and maybe the cry too.  But hitting the wall is never fun; physically or spiritually.

I’m sure we’ve all been there.  We’ve all had times when we look at our lives and we struggle to see how our suffering can possibly be part of God’s plan.  It’s hardest to lift up our voice in songs of praise in the middle of a storm.  It’s hard to feel his presence in our lives at those moments.

As I was lying in bed on Saturday, feeling sorry for myself, scrolling through Netflix, trying to find something to watch, I came across the movie GREATER.  Full disclosure here, it’s a football movie, but it’s a football movie like The Blind Side is a football movie (and there’s even a cameo in it by Quinton Aaron).  There is a moment in that movie when the quarterback questions the calls and the star reminds him that he (the quarterback) can only see a few meters right in front of him, but the coach can see the entire field.  That is what God is like for us…for me.  Sometimes I don’t understand his calls, but all I can see is what is right in front of me.  I might not learn until later the ripples that when out from my struggles or pain, or I might never learn…but that’s part of what trust is about, what faith is about.

I believe that God used to that movie to remind me to trust in him and his plan, to stop worrying and accept that he always knows what’s best for me.  I think that God reminds us of his love for us everyday, he reminds us to have faith and to trust in him.  Sometimes he does this in ways that are obvious, sometimes he’s more subtle, but the signs are there.  If your heart is bruised or hurting, like mine was this weekend, know that he is there for you, that he loves you and he will give you what you truly need…all you have to do is ask…ask and have faith.

And here’s a song that I hope helps you as much as it helped me this weekend.

God bless,

Meredith

It’s Awkward and Uncomfortable.

Things I can now do fairly well with my left hand…

  • crack an egg (surprisingly not as hard to do as I’d thought, I’ve only broken two yolks – the secret is to just go for it like you have no other option – which right now…I don’t)
  • use scissors – I understand the call for left-handed scissors now
  • brush my teeth
  • flat-iron my hair (no frizzy hair here please)

How many times in our lives are we forced to learn how to do something differently?  Initially most times it feels uncomfortable, weird, not right.  I certainly felt that way the night of my accident after I dragged my butt up the stairs and stood in front of my bathroom sink.  Everything I was doing didn’t just feel wrong, damn it…it hurt!

It’s a natural aspect of human nature…our need to resist change, even when it’s for our own good.  We like to stay in our zone, walk the easy path. That’s why sometimes we need a good shake up, why we need to be forced out of our comfort zones.  I’ve found that sometimes faith can be a little bit like that. You see people praying on TV, or in movies, and they have the perfect words, in the perfect, most natural, most earnest way.  But real life is often nothing like that, it can be ugly and weird.  How many of us felt really awkward and uncomfortable the first time we prayed or went to church after being away for a while?  Heck, there are lots of times I still don’t know what to say, (especially when I’m praying out loud – because I just don’t do it enough…kinda like brushing my teeth with my left hand).

Do you remember the first time you had a conversation with a toddler?  Their speech is often so rambling and garbled you have to constantly ask questions that require a “yes” or “no” answer just to figure out what they are saying.  The good news for me is that God doesn’t have to ask any questions when I reach out to him.  He already knows what’s in my heart…he just needs me to make an attempt.  And his willingness to answer my prayer depends not on any beautiful speech I could make, but on one thing, and one thing alone…faith.

Something I’ve been struggling with, and been been reading about lately, is the type of faith a person has, the type of faith I have.  It’s easy to start thinking that God is there to make your life better, richer, healthier through prayer.  But those things shouldn’t be the purpose, or focus of faith, rather I think they are a by-product of a life focused on God.  I have so many incredible blessings in my life, and I feel grateful for all of them, but what I yearn for more than anything is the feeling, the experience I have when I am filled with the overwhelming love and joy of the Spirit of God.  When tears well up and I am overcome with his love.  It’s what I imagine heaven must be like…experiencing that feeling all the time.

These days people want you to believe that you are going to have to give up something important to believe in God.  And I’m not going to tell you that you won’t.  You might even find your “new” life uncomfortable and scary at times (kinda like putting a 220°F flat-iron to your hair with an uncoordinated left hand).  But like so many things in life, you have to take a big risk to get a big reward.  We make choices of faith every day.  The great news is the more you practice the things that are uncomfortable for you, the better you get at them…like going to church or prayer.

In those times when I am struggling, when I am tired and frustrated and in pain and feeling broken in spirit, and these days, in body; in those moments when I don’t have the energy to find the right words to pray I am reminded that Jesus himself gave us the answer…

Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.  Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.   Matthew 6:9-13

And remember “Jesus did not give his disciples any instruction about standing, sitting, lying down, walking, running, or driving an automobile while one prays. Jesus did not talk about head coverings, kneeling, the position of one’s hands, or closed eyes. Why? God wants us to pray at all times (1 Thess. 5:17 ) and in every place, under any condition, and in various situations (1 Tim. 2:8).” https://www.neverthirsty.org/bible-studies/

God bless,

Meredith