Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Unlikely Escape Routes

"There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: 
but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; 
but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it."
I Corinthians 10:13

Have you ever thought about the escape routes God creates 
in order to deliver us from unbearable tests, trials, tribulations, and temptations?

He promised in today's verse that He will never allow more to come upon us than we can bear.
He will never allow the trial to become too intense 
or the temptation to become more than we are able to tolerate.
But, instead, He will make a way for us to escape, 
so we may be able to bear it.

We have His Word on it.
We can count on it.
Sometimes He allows us to remain in the trying situation 
right up to the point of unbearable, then He opens the escape route.
Sometimes, He delivers sooner.
But, either way, He is never going to allow things to reach the point 
that we are utterly destroyed by them.

I have proven this to be true.
I can vouch for God's faithfulness.
I feel sure you can, too.

I have found it interesting...intriguing....amazing....
to watch the creative power of God in opening up "ways to escape" 
so I could bear what I was going through.

He surprises me all the time.
He opens an escape route right before I go over the edge,
by sending a detour my way or an unexpected change of plans.

Sometimes, I don't recognize or identify it when it is first happening.
Sometimes, it takes me a while to figure it out.
But, when I do, I have to take a step backward and acknowledge once more
that God absolutely loves me, cares about me more than I will ever be able to imagine,
and will always come to my rescue...even when I don't ask Him to.

Things were really getting on my nerves recently.
I'll be honest.
I had poured myself out to the point that I was mentally,
physically, and emotionally exhausted,
just drained to the point that I felt something had to give....
or I would completely cave.
If there were a temperature gauge on my tolerance level,
the little needle would have been nearing bright red...
pointing to the words "dangerously close to collapse" or "ready to explode at any moment".

I talked to Kevin, and we were trying to figure out what would be best for me to do.
We were seeking God's counsel and wisdom.
I walked to the back porch, turned my tear-filled eyes Heavenward,
and pleaded with God, 
"Lord, what should I do?"

Everything inside of me wanted to run.
I just wanted to leave where we were staying.
Head to my "safe" place....called home.
Leave the turmoil behind and just go.

But, was that really God's will?
After all, He had designed our current situation,
and maybe He just wanted me to find contentment....
right in the midst of it.

As I stood there in the cold, night, mountain air,
I shivered.
I wanted to go back inside....but not until I got my answer.

He spoke.
Clear as a bell.
Straight to my tired, weary, exhausted heart.

"Blessed are the peacemakers, 
for they shall be called the children of God."

I stopped.
Listened intently.

"That's what you want to be called, don't you?
A child of God?
What would make peace in this situation?"
The gentle voice of my Shepherd filled the night air around me with pointed questions.

It was one of those jaw-dropping moments when God sends something so profound from Heaven,
the awesomeness takes a little while to sink in.

I stood there...shivering....listening....until He stopped speaking.
When He was finished, I went back inside, 
resolved to do whatever I had to do in order to keep peace
and avoid upheaval.

My goal was to mind God.
To keep in tune with Him.
To do whatever He asked of me.

I'll admit.
I had a hard time going to sleep that night.
Kevin did his utmost, as usual, to help me figure things out.
To comfort.
Always telling me, he would support whatever decision I made.

I didn't tell him right then what God had said to me outside on the porch.
I was still trying to sort it all out in my own mind.

The next morning, God awoke me, bright and early,
and told me to write a letter and get a donation ready to send to a family in need.
I was tired, not really feeling like getting up at the moment,
but the urge was persistent.
I finally relented, crawled out of bed, did as God urged,
then reached for my Bible.

I began studying in earnest....about peace.
The Spirit of God came in a very real way and led me to the exact verses I needed to read.
I felt the love of God flow through and around me,
as I soaked in everything I could about how to be a peacemaker.

The phone rang.
My mother-in-law came and knocked on our bedroom door.
"Cheryl, it's for you.
It's Lori."

Thanking her, I took the phone.

"Hey, I wanted to ask you something.
We have an extra ticket to go to Steele's opera performance,
and Myrtle can't go with us.
Steve and I wanted to know if you would like to go?"

My sister-in-law's voice on the other end was like a breath of fresh air.
Her offer even more refreshing.

I told her I would run it by Kevin and call her back.

He was barely awake when I asked him what I should do.

Without opening his sleepy eyes, he said,
"Honey, I want you to do whatever brings you peace."

I stood there, by the bedside, dumbfounded....
hardly believing what my very wise husband had just said.

He had no idea how God had been dealing with me on the very subject of peace.

What was most amazing is that it hit me that God was trying to bring peace to ME 
in the situation, too.  
That is one point I never think about and always overlook.
Thank God He doesn't miss it or deem my needs as unimportant and unnecessary.
He knows how hard I try.
How much I endeavor and strive to be all I can for Him...and for everyone else around me.
He sees all of that.
He doesn't have to be told.
He knew I needed an escape route....and, lo and behold, 
it appeared that He was carving one...right in front of my very eyes.

But, an opera??




Lori and Steve needed an answer right away,
as it would soon be time for us to meet and take the over-two hour trip to get there.

"Do you think I should go?" I turned to Kevin one more time.

His mom needed me.
His dad needed me.
Kevin needed me.
Zachary needed me.
Other plans had already been made for the day.
I would have to rearrange some some things out.

None of it was hard to change.
Everyone understood.
It all worked out.

It hit me with a thud of force that God was opening up a beautiful day for me....
a day that was to be filled with peace.
He knew I had reached my limit and needed a break,
and in His all-knowing wisdom, He saw the value of a few hours away from the situation.
An escape route was prepared.
All I had to do is take it.
He also reminded me that if I had disobeyed His direction early that morning
if I had stayed in bed and failed to get the letter ready to be hand-delivered that day to the family in need, 
I would not have had time to take care of it,
since I had to leave in such a hurry.
They may have really suffered...had I waited and sent it to them another day.
Who knows what was hinging on my obedience.

It pays to mind God.
To just go ahead and do what He asks....when He asks.

I called Lori back, met them at the appointed place, 
and we started on our journey.

Oh, the beauties we saw along the way!
I wish I had taken pictures.
They stop so I could.
But, I just wanted to relish it...while it was happening.

Steve took us down back favorite kind.
The autumn leaves were vibrant...their beauty beyond telling.
You would have just had to be there.

We talked, laughed, poured out our hearts,
stopped at the neatest apple orchard where I bought a peck of freshly-picked, juicy, crisp apples....
the kind that pop when you bite into them,
shopped at a really great Goodwill,
arrived at the opera house in plenty of time,
met up with the sweetest friends,
and settled into our seats for the performance.

Steele did an amazing, impeccable job....
as did the other performers.

It was very, very peaceful.
I had a great time.

After it was over, we waited for Steele,
talked with friends,
then went to eat at Cheddar's.

Ever been there?

It was a new experience for me....
and a very enjoyable one.

The drive home was spent talking some more.
I think we all needed it more than we knew...before it happened.

By the time we reached our car, and I got in for the ride back home,
the reality of what God had done for me truly sank in.
I spent the ride home praying....thanking Him for the perfect escape route,
marveling at the depths of His wisdom.

When I got back, my situation had not changed.
The load was just as heavy.
The physical demands every bit as hard.
But, my tension was gone.
I felt okay again.
I accepted the fact that I was exactly where I needed to be,
and He would give me grace and physical strength to carry my cross....
even throwing in some fun and "escapes" now and then.

God had made a way of escape for me...
in a very unlikely way,
and through the process, He had shown His love for me, 
in the sweetest of ways.

I was humbled and beyond grateful...
that He cares that much about the tiniest details of my life.

The human side of us becomes jaded.
We become weary in well doing, even though we are warned not to in Galatians 6:9.
We are human.
None of us are beyond the scope of living in a mortal body that has limitations.

I knew I had reached mine.
I could have taken my own way of escape.
I could have run away.
Everything within me wanted to.
I just wanted to be done with the stress...
I wanted to relax.
I wasn't feeling well, physically, and it was just too much.
Had I decided to run,
Kevin and everyone else around me would have understood....
but their load would have been heavier without me there to carry my part.

It wasn't God's plan for me to run.
He said to stay in the situation...and make peace.

Waiting for God's escape route is always best.

He knew I just needed a break.
A reprieve.
A change of pace...and scenery....just for a while.

Sometimes that is all it takes.
We don't always have to take drastic measures to change our perspective.
Sometimes, it just takes a walk outside....
some fresh air....
a phone call to a friend....
or even a day out that includes an opera.  :)

Okay, so anyone who knows this country girl knows that sitting in an opera house
isn't the most likely of places to find me.
Opera music isn't really my cup of tea....
although, I must say, I was beyond impressed by the talent I witnessed first-hand that day....
if you like that kind of thing, of course.  :)
Give me a banjo, fiddle, guitar, mandolin, and upright bass any day....
along with some down-home, bluegrass, country folks who don't really care 
whether or not they are hitting the right notes or singing a bit off-key.
Yeah, I will probably always be more comfortable in that setting
than to be somewhere surrounded by folks whose world revolves around culture and the arts.

Oh, well.
God knows what we need.
And truly, I really didn't feel out of place at all.
I was sitting right in the palm of His hand, where I always remain.
I felt His presence right there.
He made Himself real to me....
right there listening to that opera....just like He does everywhere else.

God is everywhere.
And when His Spirit dwells within you,
every possible place can become a place of worship.

So, where are you today?
Any hard circumstances weighing you down...
making you squirm....
testing your strength?
Do you crave a way out?
An escape?

God sees.
He knows.
He is more aware of your limitations than you are.
He will not allow your trials to surpass that point.
Sometime, between now and then, He will step in...
and offer you a way to escape.
It may not come to you in the form or type of packaging you expect.
The escape route He designs for you may involve doing something unfamiliar,
untested, even a bit unorthodox...
or a bit out of your comfort zone.  :)

Whatever it ends up being,
I can assure you of this one thing....
God's escape route will be exactly what you need 
and take you exactly where you are supposed to go.
And knowing He cares that much about you and the details of your life, is something, 
whether it be opera or bluegrass-style...or somewhere in between....
 to sing about.

Monday, October 28, 2013

To God Be The Glory!

"For in him we live, and move, and have our being..."
Acts 17:28

I know everyone must wonder if I have fallen off the face of the earth!
I apologize for the delay in posting a new devotional.
We have been in the mountains with no computer access, 
except when I drive to the nearest town to the library.

I actually tried, unsuccessfully, to post some thoughts God had placed on my heart while there,
but for some unknown reason, I was unable to do so from a public computer.

God has His reasons.
His timing is perfect.
His inspiration is faithful.
He has provided much fodder for future devotionals....
I feel like I am about to explode with inspiration!

We are home, and it has never felt sweeter...
the comfort of its waiting arms has never felt more peaceful.

There is no place like home.
No place.
No matter how kindly you are treated.
No matter how much loving hospitality is heaped upon you.
No matter how much you enjoy and cherish the moments.

Nothing feels like...or better than...coming home.

We walked in tonight...our arms loaded down and dog-tired.
The sweet, familiar smells of home greeted us as we walked through the door.
Everything was just as we left it.
Just like we prayed it would be.
Glory be to God.

God means more to me tonight than I ever remember Him meaning to me before.
He has placed such worship and adoration in my heart today.
It has been a blessed Lord's day...filled with unlikely places.

At one point today, we spotted "Dunkin Donuts" on an exit sign.
Thinking it was the same place we've stopped numerous times before,
and feeling the dire urge for a large decaf iced coffee,
we swerved into the exit lane and reached the stop sign.

Nothing looked familiar.
We soon realized we weren't at our usual spot.

Zach was sound asleep in the back seat,
but sprang to life when he spotted an Arby's on the right side of the road.

"Mama, is that an Arby's?"
we heard his sleepy voice.

Kevin and I chuckled.

Zach is a quickly-growing boy with a very ample appetite.

I remember when he used to be so puny and sickly so often 
from almost continual ear infections and problems, 
and we used to pray hard for this boy's appetite.

God is absolutely faithful.

Zachary loves to eat.

"Can I get two Cravin' Chicken sandwiches?
Can we stop?"

We all three laughed.

Who can deny this little guy??

Not Kevin.
Not me.

We pulled into Arby's,
went in and placed our order,
and right away, I noticed something pleasantly surprising.

Worshipful, praise music was flowing from the overhead speakers.

"Did you hear that, Mama?"
Zach asked when I reached the table he had chosen.

"Yeah, Zach, I heard."

Kevin joined us carrying our tray, and we brought it to his attention.

I sat there listening to the lyrics pouring through the speakers, 
wondering if anyone else was soaking it in like I was.

Soon, I heard those dear, familiar notes on the piano....
just hearing those first few notes brings tears to my eyes...
almost every time.

As I listened, I found it hard to keep my hands my side.
I felt a deep impulse to stand up and raise both hands Heavenward
and praise the One Who has broken my chains...
the One Chris Tomlin was singing about.
There is just something about that song that makes it hard to not praise Him.

I started thinking about all of the binding, tormenting, debilitating chains He has broken...right off of me.
How He has set me free.
How He has changed my life.
Given me peace...that passes all human understanding.
Filled my defeated heart with an extra-ordinary, all-encompassing hope.
How the intense heat of the fiery furnaces through which I've passed
 have served one Divine purpose....
to completely sever and burn off every binding rope.

I tell you, I found it hard to sit still that Arby's booth.

I restrained myself....but only outwardly.
The only outward show you would have discerned had you been there 
were the tears coursing down my cheeks.
I could no more hold them in than I could control the ocean's tide.
Something had to give.
A way had to be made for the praise to escape my inmost spirit.
I had a full-blown worship service...that bubbled up from the inside out....
right there in that spot.
It became holy ground.

My eyes met Kevin's.
I saw a perfectly-mirrored image....
of what was going on inside of me.
He felt it, too.

"I love this song", he softly said.

"Me, too" was all I could muster.

I walked to the counter and asked to speak to the manager.

"You wanted to speak with me?" she seemed a bit nervous...
like she was bracing herself for a complaint.

"I wanted to tell you how very much I appreciate the music you play in here."

Relief spread across her face.

"Oh, me, too!
I love it."

We talked a bit more about how it had affected and moved me.

As I walked away, she stood there...smiling...promising to pass along my comments.

I left there overwhelmingly full....not only from the Beef N' Cheddar, mind you.
My soul was filled.

God meets us anywhere we are.

We need not always be seated in a church pew.
We don't have to be surrounded by the righteous.
He can furnish a table for us in the driest, most wilderness-like surroundings.

I love finding a quiet spot....alone with the side of the road...
to pause and turn my face towards the sky.

It all depends on how hungry...and thirsty....we are for Him.

Jesus came that we might have life and have it more abundantly.

I am loving living that abundant life....
in His favor.....
in His presence....
unshackled and chain-free, bless His wonderful name!
No matter where I am,
what I am doing,
or who I am with.

He is with me.
A constant, streaming Source....
of life, joy, and peace.

No God, no peace.
Know God, know peace.
Author Unknown

I'm glad we took the "wrong" exit and ended up at Arby's today.
I'm thankful for the beautiful worship I enjoyed there.
I'm even more grateful to be home.

Thank You, Sweet Jesus....
thank You from the bottom of my grateful, worship-filled heart!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Another Smilestone

"And let us not be weary in well doing:
for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not."
Galatians 6:9


Homespun Devotions just passed its TWO YEAR Anniversary!
We often call it a milestone, when an objective has been met.
There are some things that are just a bit more special, though.
These, I call Smilestones!
Because sometimes it is more than just another walked mile,
it is one more major reason to smile...
and rejoice in the God Who gives life and breath and all things.

It just hit me the other day that it has been two years.
The anniversary date crept up on me and slipped right past without me noticing.

This blog was birthed in anguish....literally.
Emotions torn to shreds,
spirit crushed beyond recognition,
I began to write....
to pour what was real...into words....typed on a computer screen,
to click the "publish" button,
and to send out what was in my heart...
to who knows where.

Last year, at this time, I considered giving up.
Doesn't the enemy try to get all of us to quit?
There have been moments like that...sprinkled along the way.
There have been prayers prayed to God,
riddled with questions as to what the purpose really is...
for all of this writing.
What is the plan with it all, Lord?
Why keep doing it?
Is it really worthwhile?
Is it accomplishing what YOU had in mind?

Every time I have wrestled, God has won.
At the end of every question and answer session,
I have surrendered.
Told God I would keep going....
keep pressing....
keep obeying.
That as long as He provides the material and inspiration,
and the fuel to keep the fire going....
 I'll be available.
I am willing.

By His grace, I will not say no to God.
I decided long ago that doing that is just not worth the trouble.
Obedience is better than condemnation....hands down....
no matter how hard it is to be obedient.

I look back to where I was when God first led me to do this,
to where I am today,
and I praise Him from the bottom of my heart...
that it is now...not then.

 I wouldn't want to repeat the pain.
I have no desire to revisit the battlefields
or to even remember the raw, bleeding wounds.
I choose to look at the scars...
and thank Him that the wounds aren't nearly as raw now...
that they only break open and bleed every now and then. :~)

I'm thankful I didn't give up.
Thankful I am still clinging tight to God's unchanging hand.
Thankful He has kept me, in spite of satan's plots to kill, steal, and destroy.
Grateful beyond words that He has given me grace to stand
and to continue to pursue His holiness and the calling He has placed upon my life.

He never promised it would be easy.
Once during a low point, a minister friend told me,
"If it was easy, Cheryl, anyone could do it."

The other day, I struggled....again.
The Potter clearly spoke.
"Child, I do not bring someone to My house to remake and remold them into a useful vessel,
only so they will sit idly up on a shelf.
I remake vessels so that they can be useful to Me.
I remake vessels because I want to fill them.
As I fill them, I want them to be poured out...
for the good of My people."

I could just picture all of the work He has put into me over the past few years.
How He has taken such marred brokenness and re-created something new...
upon His wheel.
All those hours,
spent here in His house.
Was it for naught?

The Potter does not waste time.
He created time.
Spoke it into existence.
He realizes its value...its worth.
He has a purpose.
By His grace, I will not sit idly upon a shelf.
I will follow Jesus, holding tightly to His hand....
as He leads me forth.

I confess that there are many days that I just plain don't feel like writing.
We all become weary in well doing, in spite of being warned against it in Galatians 6:9.
Sometimes, I am as flat and uninspired as a person could possibly be.
I am completely without a single thing to say.

Then I open His Word.
No reading anywhere is more Holy Ghost inspired.
Every, single Word in it is
Just one verse sets my heart aflame....
gives me extraordinary courage....
and compels me to get up and move....and do....what God requires.

He often tells me,
"As long as you have My Spirit within you and My Word in front of you....
that is all you need, child."

Bless His name!
I have proven it to be true...
time after time after time.

God's Word and God's Spirit...
they always agree.
His Spirit illuminates His Word 
and opens our understanding to what He is endeavoring to teach.
They work together...hand-in-hand and side-by-side.
How blessed we are to be endowed with both!
To have His precious Spirit dwelling within these temples of clay
and to have His Holy Word in our possession to hold in our hands,
read with our eyes,
and allow to sink deep within our hearts.

I'm deeply grateful for those who have supported this ministry
with kind words of encouragement
and most of all prayer.
I feel unworthy of any confidence placed within me,
for truly I have nothing to give,
and I am completely inadequate and incapable.

I am still figuring out a lot of far as the computer part of it goes.
I finally figured out the other day how to add the "follower" gadget to my blog.
It only took me two years to figure it out, not that I tried all that hard.
If you care to follow me, feel free to add your name through Google Friend Connect.
The little gadget is below the "Popular Posts" section on the main page.

I hesitate to even mention this feature.
Because what if I fail and lead you astray should you choose to become a "follower"?
I am human.
Redeemed only by His grace.
So, I humbly ask this favor....
please follow me, only as I follow Christ.
"Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ."
I Corinthians 11:1

As long as I am in tune with Him, His Spirit, His voice, His Word....
please take my hand....and follow.
We will see together...where this road will lead.
Together, we will continue to find hope in Christ.

I am nothing.
Without Jesus, I can do nothing.

I direct you to no denomination, creed, sect, "religion", or religious group. 

I offer NO humanly-contrived, man-made religious mold into which you must conform yourself.
I point you to no man-organized or humanly-controlled religious body.

The place from which I pull....
the only possible place from which I can pull anyone
or direct their attention to....
is the foot of the cross of Jesus Christ in front of which I kneel.
What else is reliable?
His cross is our only hope.
I cling to the cross...with all my might.
I bow here daily....pleading for His mercy....trusting completely in His amazing grace.

God has a divine purpose for each and every one of us.
Yours may be worlds apart from mine,
but both callings are equally important in the eyes of Almighty God.
You have your own unique background.
Your personal testimony belongs to you...and you alone.
No one can ever take that from you.
The experiences of your life 
and the things you have been through,
are all your own.
Only you can do what God is calling you to do.
No one else can fill your shoes.
You are irreplaceable, my friend.

God didn't bring us through the things He has brought us through
for us to sit on the sidelines, shrink into the darkness, and hide our light.
That would, undoubtedly, be the easiest alternative 
and it would most definitely be the path of least resistance.
But, it is not His plan.
He wants our individual stories to be told and shared 
for the benefit and encouragement of others.

He wants to turn our tests into testimonies to be told....
our messes into messages to be proclaimed.

Satan would like nothing more than to silence every voice 
who proclaims the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
He is continually busy setting up road blocks,
stumbling blocks, 
and blocks of offense.
If he can get us de-railed or distracted or discouraged,
he has accomplished his mission.
It is a continual, uphill battle to keep going.

God never calls us to do something 
without properly equipping us to do it.

All of us are called to do something to build up His Kingdom.
None of us are called to warm a pew.

So, I ask you this....what is God calling you to do?
What has He asked of you?
Are you discouraged in your calling?
Are you too terrified to even start?

Take His nail-scarred hand.
It is extended to you.
Place your trembling hand in His.
Take that first forward step.
The first step is always the hardest.
After that, I promise,
He will always be everything you need.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Things Eternal

"Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away."
Mark 13:31

Today, I stood, watching our dear, old car be driven away by a perfect stranger.
It felt like saying good-bye to a precious, old friend.
We've owned that car for nearly 12 years.
We've put over 200,000 miles on it during that time,
taken many a trip,
and spent many an hour in the confines of its interior.
Zach was a tiny baby when we first got it...still in a car seat.
He graduated from his car seat in that car.
It felt like a member of the family...
like a permanent fixture.
Somehow, I thought it would always be parked in our driveway,
where it was so accustomed to being parked.

The new owner and I had been talking a few minutes before.
"These older cars hold up a lot better than the newer ones do", he said.

He's right.
I think that car is still good for another 50,000, maybe even 100,000 more miles.
The motor is in great condition.
It just needs some minor repairs & cosmetic work.

Zach and I stood on the front porch and watched him drive away, out of sight, down the road.
Of course, I cried.
Another chapter closed.

Knowing they were coming to pick it up today,
I went out last night and finished vacuuming the inside.
Then I stood by the passenger side looking in at the spot where Mom used to sit
while traveling so many, many miles with me as I followed God's lead.
She spent many an hour sitting there beside me.
Supportive, sharing words of wisdom and encouragement,
and most of all....praying.
Not only for me, but for something else.
I can still see her place her little, frail hand on the dashboard as she
prayed over that car.
She would ask God to bless it, to keep it running, to protect it...and us.
He did....all those years....all those miles.
We never had a wreck in that car.
God always saw us through...even during the times we sat, broken down,
by the side of the road.

I felt compelled to open the door last night and sit down in her more time.
At the risk of sounding like I've completely lost it, I'll make a confession.
I talked to Mom....just like she was sitting right there.
Memories flooded over me....
all the times she rode along with me just to sit in the car to watch Zach and keep him safe 
while I visited and prayed for the sick,
picked up and delivered bread and clothing donations for the needy,
and did countless other tasks.

I just sat there....
reliving those moments....and talking to Mom.
I felt like I needed to explain to her why we were letting go of our dear, old, mutual friend.
Call me is just something I had to do.

Zach used to get so frustrated when that old car would break down.
He'd call it a piece of junk or tell me how we just needed to take it to the salvage yard!
As I sat there, I could still hear Mom's voice answering his little outbursts,
"Oh, Zachy, don't talk about this poor, old car like that!
It's been faithful and taken us many a mile."

When the buyer came back today to take it away,
I told him about how Mom used to pray over that car
and how I believe that is why it is still on the road.
I told him I hoped God blesses it and keeps answering Mom's prayers
and keeps it going for a long time...not for us any longer, but for him.

I could tell he will take great care of it...just like we did.
Come to find out, he is going to use it to take his Mom places,
since his Dad passed away last year, and she doesn't drive.
I don't know why, but somehow that made it easier for me to let it go
and turn it over to him.

I will miss our old car.
If you saw it, you would wonder why.
You would tell me it was time to let it go.
The A/C doesn't work,
the hood latch comes undone and starts flapping, at will and unexpectedly,
the headliner is not only falling, it is literally disintegrating,
the CD player makes weird noises, even when it isn't turned on....
just to name a few of its discrepancies. :)
If you saw it, you'd wonder what the fuss is all about,
you would think it looks a bit shabby....and dated for sure.
I didn't really mind how it looked...
it was a faithful, loyal servant to us for many a long year...
and it hurt to let it go.

I get so sentimental about things.
I definitely have an undiagnosed change disorder!  :)
I wish I didn't.
It is just my nature, and I don't see my aversion to change....changing anytime soon.  

Even as well-made as that old car is,
there will come a day in the not-so-distant future
when it will pass off the scene....
probably be sold for parts
or end up where Zach wanted to take it so many times...
piled on the scrap heap, amid the other has-beens.
It won't last forever.

Things in this life are fleeting...passing.
Even us.
Mom used to tell me, "Cheryl, none of us came here to stay always."

Somehow, it was hard to think of that rule applying to her.
Mom was the strongest woman I ever knew.
She was resilient.
She bounced back from a multitude of tragedies, wounds, and devastatingly painful life events, 
including losing her first love to circumstances beyond her control,
her first husband being killed instantly, leaving her a widowed mother of 4,
saying good-bye to both of her parents and five of her siblings,
losing Dad after nearly 35 years of marriage,
multiple surgeries and life-threatening health issues,
and numerous other sad and hard-to-get-through obstacles of life.

Like our old car, it was hard to even imagine ever saying good-bye to Mom.
I just couldn't picture her not bouncing back from whatever came her way.
But, even she had to leave us.
I will never get over losing her.
I miss her every, single day....
I know I always will.

My sister, Debbie, and I stood...
one on one side, and one on the other,
by the dying bedside of Dad over 13 years ago.
We found ourselves in the same exact position, in different hospital ICU rooms,
nearly 12 years later, last April....
this time waiting for Mom to cross over.

We looked at each other and commented on how it brought back such painful memories...
reliving those moments together....a second time....
losing our last and only earthly parent.
Walking through such pain together strengthens a bond like nothing else in the world.
Standing there together, saying good-bye to the one whose womb both of you inhabited,
watching her breathe those last, labored breaths,
draws you closer in more ways than you can imagine.

One of the things we repeated while standing next to Mom's deathbed last year
was to sing the same, exact songs we sang to Dad all those years ago.
The songs we picked were two that have sustained me through some of life's darkest hours.
Their words are deeply inspired and seem to grow more true and real to me as life passes
and I experience their value in new and unfamiliar ways.
"Hold To God's Unchanging Hand" was written by Jennie Wilson,
and I am uncertain as to who wrote the second song, "God Is True".
I wish I knew the details on the two people who wrote these songs.
What were they experiencing as their pen met paper?
How were they proving God to be that moment?

One thing is for certain....
the most deeply-inspired writing comes, many times,
from heart-wrenching, anguished circumstances.
How can one write about holding to God's unchanging hand so believably
and with such credibility, without the author having learned, in the most difficult of ways,
the priceless value of clinging tight?

I don't know how they found God to be true.
I have no idea what kind of fire they may have been walking through
in order to be able to prove His faithfulness....and write the words to those two songs.

I only know these songs will forever be two of my favorites, 
and I will never sing or hear either of them without thinking of Mom and Dad,
and seeing a mental image of Debbie and me standing there....
tears streaming....voices shaking...lips quivering....doing our best to reassure our dying parents
that God is true and encouraging them to hold to His unchanging hand....
right up to the end.

Precious memories made with my sweet, beyond-dear family...

including our dear, old car (in the background).  :~)
(From L to R:  Kevin, Zach, Mom, Debbie, Mark, LD,
Amber in front of Debbie, Austin in front of LD)

Little snippets of both songs come to my mind often, 
especially when I am in the valley of trial.

I found myself there again tonight,
and once again, I felt the deep comfort of their words.

"Time is filled with swift transition,
Naught of earth unmoved can stand,
Build your hopes on things eternal,
Hold to God's unchanging hand.

Hold to God's unchanging hand,
Hold to God's unchanging hand,
Build your hopes on things eternal, 
Hold to God's unchanging hand.

Trust in Him Who will not leave you,
Whatsoever years may bring,
If by earthly friends forsaken,
Still more closely to Him cling."


"There is no need to tell me that God will prove untrue,
For I have tried him, brother, and I know what He will do....
For God is true,
His Word to you,
Will be an anchor to your soul,
Will hold when waves of trouble roll,
For God is true,
For God is true."

We just can't afford to build our hopes on things...or even this life.
We can't expect anything in this life to last or stay the same forever.
As the song says, "Time is filled with swift transition."

The only safe place for us to place our trusting hands
 is in the hand of the One Who created us....our eternal, Almighty God.
Because God is true....always....forever....eternally.

"The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms..."
Deuteronomy 33:27

In I Corinthians 15: 19, the Apostle Paul said,
"If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable."

Aren't you glad it is not just in this life that we have hope in Christ?
That the hope we have in Christ is an eternal hope....
a hope that goes beyond the veil....beyond that last breath of earthly life....
that lingers throughout the entire duration of eternity, which will never end?

Our hope in Christ is unending because when this life is over, we simply change worlds.
We cross over.....into a realm unknown to us...
but already eternally inhabited by Whom we trust....and hope.

To quote another dear, old, favorite song written by Edward Mote,
"My hope is built on nothing less,
Than Jesus' blood and righteousness,
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But, wholly lean on Jesus' name.
On Christ, the Solid Rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand."

We live in a swiftly-changing world., my friend.
On this, we could all agree.
"Naught of earth unmoved can stand."
What are we investing in?
Things temporal?
Things fleeting?
Things of this life?

Are we placing our every hope in things on this earth?
Have we forgotten that it will all one day burn and pass away?
That one day, we will pass away?
That there is more...than this?

I read an article about Alexander the Great the other day that really struck a chord, 
and I wanted to share.
Although I found this on several sites on the internet, I was not able to verify its validity. 
However, I am inserting it here, as it is very wise...regardless of where it originated.

"On his deathbed Alexander the Great summoned his generals 
and told them his three ultimate wishes.

1. The best doctors should carry his coffin
2. The wealth he had accumulated (money, gold, precious stones)
     should be scattered along the way to his burial
3. His hands should be left hanging outside the coffin for all to see.

    Surprised by these unusual requests, one of his generals asked
    Alexander to explain.

Here is what he said :
1. I want the best doctors to carry my coffin to demonstrate that in
    the face of death, even the best doctors in the world have no power to heal.
2. I want the road to be covered with my treasure so that
    everybody sees that the wealth acquired on earth, stays on earth.
3. I want my hands to swing in the wind so that people understand
    that we come to this world empty handed and we leave empty handed,
after the most precious treasure of all is exhausted - Time.

We put so much emphasis on the here and now.
Our careers, building wealth, our physical appearance,
accumulating worldly goods, keeping up with the Joneses and everyone else along the way,
knowing full well it is all fleetingly temporary.
None of it will last.
Every career, however flourishing it be, one day comes to a close, and we must retire or move on, 
wealth is spent or left for heirs,
beauty fades, regardless of how hard we try to retain it,
worldly goods are vulnerable to fire, flood, and theft, and they finally just wear out,
and competitive nature gives way to tired, old age.

Everything on earth that is within the realm of time....has an expiration date...even us.
There will be a moment when there will be no more....
at least not on this side.
Where will that moment find our hope placed?
Upon what will we have built our hopes?
We are now making that choice.
We are now preparing for that final moment.
What will it be?
Things that will inevitably pass away....
or things eternal?