Great is your Faithfulness!

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father, There is no shadow of turning with Thee; Thou changes not, Thy compassions they fail not; As Thou hast been Thou forever will be.

Chorus: Great is thy faithfulness! Morning by morning new mercies I see; All I have needed Thy hand has provided –Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord onto me!

Summer and winter and springtime and harvest, Sun, moons and stars in their courses above Join with all nature in manifold witness To thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.

Pardon for sin and a peace that endures, Thy own dear presence to cheer and to guide; Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow, Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

This morning as I was getting started for the day, the Lord put this hymn on my mind… specifically the last part of the third stanza “…strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow, blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!”  Every morning our little family gathers together to do family devotions.  We usually pick out some hymns and then read scripture together.  The hymn Noah picked out today was this same one the Lord had me already humming to in my head! Praise God who works to knit our hearts together in unity as we seek to worship Him!

There are countless blessings the Lord bestows on all of us to confirm his great faithfulness and love!  We’ve been enjoying the summer season in Oregon spending time with friends who have become very dear! Our church has truly become like a family in the short year we have spent together.  The Lord has been teaching me to enjoy each day and that joy itself becomes the strength needed.

The ministry that he has for me at this present moment is mainly for my children, our home, and my Merlin church family.  I’ve seen some in our church weep while talking of us moving and I am left bewildered.  All that needs to be said is that I’m convinced this is the path the Lord would have me to go.  It will also be good to be close to our family!  I will continue to keep up with this blog on a regular basis so I hope it will also help us to stay close even while far away physically—being close in spirit.  I’m excited about compiling a book or two out of Josh’s writings! My prayer is that many will be encouraged and God glorified by the amazing things the Lord has done in the life of Josh, through even his suffering and seemingly untimely death; and to have his legacy continue on. This will be the work that I will be dedicated to doing from home on top serving my children through homeschooling.  I hope you can all share in my excitement and partner with us in prayer. My prayer for Merlin Church will be for the Lord to continue to do wonderful things in the upcoming years through their gracious love paired with a firm commitment to God’s Word!

As I sit and ponder what our life will look like for us in the future, I am filled with many hopes and dreams matched with some anxious thoughts of potential hurdles.  There are very real fears that at times linger in my mind.  Yet, I really try not to let these fears surface and steal my joy.  The other night I did stay up late afraid after seeing a scorpion in my prayer bedroom floor! I think the Lord gifts me with these critters in my home to give me a healthy fear… yet he wants me not to fear even scorpions but only God himself!  I recently read an excellent devotional based on Psalms 91:14-16 about different ways the Lord delivers us and how sometimes our deliverance may be to take us out of this world.  Not only did I identify this is what happened to Josh; but it was such a convicting teaching for me personally.  When I find myself in fear, I often tell myself—“What’s the worst thing that could happen to me–I die?” When in all reality, for the Christian dying is the best thing that could happen to us! That should be our greatest anticipation!!  Paul says for me to live is Christ and to die is gain! Without unhealthy fear in the way, we can truly live our lives to the fullest measure that God has ordained for each of us, no matter how long or how short if we live a selfless life as Christ did–ready and willing to even give up our very life out of love for our Savior and others.

It’s good to have goals and be diligent to make plans.  Yet, when we think of the plans WE make for the future, we are reminded that they are never guaranteed unless the Lord established them and gives us our next breath.  However, the Lord has graciously filled me with much hope for what tomorrow may bring–plans for good and not for evil, to give us a future and a hope.  His promises assure me that he takes notice of me and he keeps all my tears in a bottle.  I simply must surrender my life with open arms and embrace his will, regardless of what the Lord would call me to.

One of the deacon’s and his wife from Clackamas Bible Church drove out from Portland and ended up spending two nights with us, which was an immense blessing to us!  As soon as they got here, they just assumed the role of grandparents and the boys loved it.  It was good for them and me to talk about what happened in Portland with Josh’s treatment and recount the ways God faithfully provided for all our needs during such a difficult time.  One of the things that I was exhorted to do was to make sure to deal with grief now so that God may be better able to use me in the next ministry he has for me.  There is much wisdom in this, so I have once more asked God to show me if there is undealt grief that needs to come forth.

What the Lord has comforted me with is that Josh is in heaven now and thus, I don’t need to continue to grieve for him. There is nothing I can do to bring him back.  I feel much like David when he wept and fasted before his son died and then got up and ate once he learned his baby was dead.  David worshipped and when asked why, he said, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept for the child while he was alive; for I said, ‘Who knows whether the LORD will be gracious to me, that the child may live?’ But now he is dead. Why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.” Josh and I together prayed and prayed along with hundreds of others who joined us in praying that God may grant him more time on this earth.  He and I mourned together before he even went to the hospital.  When Josh was in the ICU, I just kept begging God with many tears to prolong his life.  As I prayed, I had to end my prayer with “not my will, but thine will be done.” I knew that a partial healing in this life might not be God’s will for Josh.  I didn’t doubt His wisdom.  The Lord already had been training me in so many ways leading up to this point to trust in him.  Plus, his grace really does just supernaturally empower us in our time of need.  However, I can see how much our faith is tested during some of the most difficult times in our life.

There are still times when I cry but it’s usually when I’m praying or singing songs of praise.  This past week this has happened a couple times when I was not expecting it.  One night as I was reading my Bible, I decided to use a different Bible.  I grabbed my pretty bright pink MacArthur study Bible with pink tabs.  It was one that Josh had given me almost two years ago for my 31st birthday.  I stumbled upon the page where he signed it and read: to my beloved wife, from her eternally grateful husband.  Tears just started flowing, partly out of joy thinking of Josh, not as my husband anymore because the Bible says there is no marriage in heaven, but as he is now—to picture him in glory as he remembers our earthly marriage with gratitude to God for eternity.

God is in the business of resurrecting, reconciling, redeeming, restoring, recovering, returning, and regenerating! I firmly believe that He is using all of the different facets of this trial to accomplish a mighty work in our own lives and many around us! I’m eager to continue to watch His plans unfold and only pray that I may be patient and truly filled with his wisdom, love, and Spirit to faithfully walk in what he has prepared beforehand.

“It is quite striking that virtually all of the basic words describing salvation in the Bible imply a return to an originally good state or situation… The point of redemption is to free the prisoner from the bondage, to give back the freedom he or she once enjoyed.” Albert Wolters

Savoring a Piece of Paradise

The Lord is shining his grace upon our little family wherever we go.  With eyes of faith and thankfulness, life can turn from black & white to bold in seconds!  On my own, I get stuck seeing in black & white, through Christ his Spirit enables me to see the colorful rainbow of his promises being fulfilled.  As I was reading through Josh’s many writings, I stumbled upon a quote of his that speaks of the contrast between us and Jesus, “We are natural born sinners, but He is a supernatural born Savior!” All things that come into our lives—the good, the bad and the beautiful, can be instruments to draw us closer to Christ and glorify Him!

When we moved to Oregon we were stoked to have found a superb rental! Not only are homes hard to come by in the Merlin/Grants Pass area, but the home the Lord provided is part of a 300-acre development that fell through.  As a result, we basically have it all almost all to ourselves! The uncompleted development is called Paradise Ranch! It’s truly a foretaste of the paradise we will enjoy in heaven.  There are at least three large ponds on the property, some streams, a variety of wildlife including turkeys, deer, and Canadian geese.  We found our Christmas tree out on the property as well as many fruit trees that bear fruit in their seasons without anyone really tending to them other than God!   At Josh’s memorial service in Merlin, our sweet neighbors Rene & Robynne came and Rene spoke about how he will miss seeing his crazy neighbor out fishing in the rain and snow who just loved his little piece of paradise; but is now truly in paradise.

“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.  There are no words, whose voice is not heard.  Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.  In them, he has set a tent for the sun, which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber, and like a strong man runs its course with joy.  Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them, and there is nothing hidden from its heat.” Psalm 19:1-6

No matter where God has taken us, we have seen the glory of God’s creation.  We have only lived in three states and in all three there have been amazing landmarks that scream of God’s creative design! In Arizona, we had the Grand Canyon, powerful monsoon storms, and gorgeous flowers that would bloom in the middle of a cactus! Even where we will be moving to in Palmdale, which is also a desert wilderness, there is beauty.  As I drove back and forth between the valleys below, I was in awe of the allure of Vasquez Rocks!  I can imagine what physical heaven will be like as I think of all the best of this earth and then add all that the Bible reveals of what it will be like.  We can dream about its lush green landscape, the sounds of birds chirping, the sense of serenity, maybe a peaceful breeze, all the things we enjoy plus the tree of life, the river of life and most magnificent—Jesus Christ the Son who will replace the sun and shine light and warmth continuedly.  When I look around here I see glimpses of heaven.  Yet, what makes heaven the more glorious will be being in the presence of Jesus and seeing him as he truly is and ourselves are we really are. We get a glimpse of this element of heaven, not based on our surroundings, but on yielding our lives to Christ rule and worshiping at his feet.

In this sense, heaven is not far.  Not only do we have direct access to God the Father through the ultimate high priest Christ; furthermore, His Spirit dwells in us and through fellowship with each other, we get a glimpse of heaven! One of the most uplifting things for us as Christian should be to be surrounded by Spirit-filled Christians and become one together to extol our Savior.  “Complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.” Philippians 2:2 We’ve been so blessed by being surrounded by our church family, not just one found in a building; but the bigger Church body.  Everywhere we have gone people of different churches have come alongside us to help and encourage us! Even though we will dearly miss our local church family here in Merlin; we will still be all part of Christ’s global church body and one day forever be together in heaven.  We’d really like to come back to visit Oregon too!

Nothing is so sobering in life than to be so close to death or watch a loved one die before your eyes! By God’s grace, Josh was a Christ-follower and thus, in now with Jesus in paradise! Therefore, I’m sure we will be reunited in the Father’s heavenly dwelling, as brother and sister, to ultimately praise God for his great faithfulness and love! Josh likely see’s clearer into the Lord’s sovereign and good purposes and his grand scheme in its pure beauty.  Maybe he is an excited spectator along with the heavenly host cheering us on and awaiting God’s plans to unfold and be completed—glorifying God and praying, “God’s will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

“Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever.  Amen.” Hebrews 13;20-21

Praise & Prayer Report:

Praise God that he is always good and ever-present in unsteady times! We thank the Lord for his many answers to prayers provisions! Our sleep has improved drastically since we got back from LA.  I’m learning a new normal and doing things like making myself tea in the mornings, which is something Josh always did! Also, Merlin Church has been helping to support us while we are here and is planning on covering the costs of the move! Not just that– I was already able to sell all the furniture that needed to go, except our refrigerator and washer/dryer!

Prayer:

(1) Our family, especially Noah and Nathan as they continue to grieve and we transition to LA

(2) Our last days in Oregon to be fruitful and for the move in mid-August

(3) God’s continued peace, grace and strong arm of protection around us

(4) Merlin Church and their search for a new senior pastor

Son-kissed Week!

God’s goodness has been thoroughly impressed upon my heart this past week! It’s been like being kissed by Jesus as he leans close to show his love & works on wiping away tears and giving me new hope. God’s love has been tangibly displayed to us through the love of others, the answers to prayers, and the simple pleasures of life we can sometimes take for granted.  For example, during a trip to the beach, I can relish feeling the warmth of the sun shining on my shoulders while the soft sand slips between my toes and the cool sea water wash the sand away.  It’s all about perspective.  This life will never be perfect; if it were, we probably wouldn’t desire heaven or even God himself.  Maybe we would get too comfortable here on earth despite it not being our eternal home.  However, the beauties, joys, and pleasures of this life are meant to be a sweet glimpse of the glory to come in heaven and it should all excite us and lift us up.

If we choose joy, determined in our hearts not to let the inevitable inconveniences in our lives or our own disappointments rob us of our blessing that we receive the reward of seeing the goodness of the Lord every day… even on the hard days.  Every day is a gift from God.  The ultimate gift is Christ himself! One way or another–whether through trials or through happiness, the Father wants to give us more of Jesus.  We just need to have the eyes to see him and how he works in all things for our good and his glory.   I have really appreciated having friends who help point me to Jesus during times when things look bleak.  I also want to be that friend to point others to him.  Until we get to glory… We can never get too good at loving people better, just as we can never arrive at the point of loving the Lord perfectly, yet we can pursue it! Something I’ve grown to savor is the thought of heaven as a place where all our relationships will be perfected.  First, our relationship with Christ.  Then, our relationship with each other.

So even though life is so hard sometimes… it is full of the goodness of the Son! He has patiently and graciously been working on my heart to desire him above all.  He is teaching me to trust him and to follow his new call for my life.  Change is not east but the body of Christ helps carry some of the weight.

Most of this past week has been like a vacation… We’ve been lavished with hospitality and entertained with friends and family every day.   We’ve met new friends that we would not have otherwise known if not for this trail! I bask in the kindness of the Lord in the midst of the suffering.  It’s because of Christ’s great love for us that he laid down his life for us and calls us his friends.  As Christians, we follow suit, empowered by the Spirit to lay our lives down for others sacrificially, whether in big or small ways.  We’ve seen church family (some of which we’ve hardly known long) over and over again sacrifice for us in ways that our biological family would.  It’s really only because Jesus lives in the Christian that we are so different.  None of us can love like this on our own…

One example of sacrificial and selfless love is how a family has opened up their home to us and is rearranging their house to accommodate the boys and me for a year!  All of this is a gift, firstly from the giver of perfect gifts–God himself.  Some gifts may not seem like ‘gifts’ at first… it was that way for me.  I think partly because they often require sacrifice and some degree of change.  I have to go home and sell many of my belongings and move from living in a four bedroom house all to ourselves–to living with another family.  Yet, I know that the Lord is going to use this new living situation to bless and sanctify us in ways we can’t even imagine.  I’ve already had the chance to see some of that in the way this couple has loved my children and enjoyed time together like one big family.  I will have the opportunity to not only homeschool Noah but also work of publishing a book with Josh’s writings.   I don’t like to be alone and by God’s grace for this next year, I will be able to live with a God-fearing family! I can be excited about that!!! I’d rather be enthralled with life than dread it with fear.  It’s another gift we have through Christ… the gift of peace and joy that is not dependent on our particular circumstances.

Our church family in Merlin has been an amazing pillar of support, love, and encouragement to our family.  I am thankful to the Lord for all our Oregon friends and that in however a small way we could be used to help the church during this difficult transition; even if merely by being the recipients of all their love.  I could see our family staying in Merlin and being blessed with the community that surrounds us there.  So I hope no one takes our departure as anything against them.  We love you all!!   I also can see myself going back to Arizona and being surrounding by family in Christ there too.  Yet, I have a peace in the Lord’s leading us to the most congested, inflated and polluted of the three–Los Angeles.  During this trip, I have sensed confirmation to be back.  I sense a purpose and Hope here.  It’s my heart’s desire to stay in LA and start a new life again here.  It’s been my prayer that God would align my desire to his will.  The Lord has also provided the means to get us back home and for that, I’m so thankful!

I’m actually sad to have to leave LA soon.  Today will be like our last day here.  We plan to spend time with family and attend church in the afternoon with Josh’s parents since we will be flying back early on Sunday.  Please pray for our trip back home.  As I arrive back to our quiet abode, pray that we would sense God’s presence.  Also, that we would get packed and all the different loose ends tied in order to move back.  Pray for an extra measure of grace for the boys as this will be their fourth time moving within just one year since we had to relocate to Portland for Josh’s treatment shortly after moving from Arizona.  Most importantly, please pray for their salvation and the salvation of others around us who have attended memorial services, have heard or seen the gospel as a result whether in the family, at church or in the hospital.

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:4-9