Even More

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Jeremiah 17:7-8 (TNIV)

7 But blessed are those who trust in the LORD, 
   whose confidence is in him. 
8 They will be like a tree planted by the water 
   that sends out its roots by the stream. 
It does not fear when heat comes; 
   its leaves are always green. 
It has no worries in a year of drought 
   and never fails to bear fruit.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we trusted the Lord even more in 2012?

It’s easy to remember our failures and shortcomings, a little too easy if you ask me, especially when doing any kind of life evaluation. So, let’s spend some time remembering our steps in the right direction, our triumphs in faith. Ask yourself, how did I trust God in 2011? Perhaps, finishing a few of these sentences may help to jog your memory about how you responded to people and situations in a way that pleased God:

  • I prayed and relied on God’s grace to…
  • I was so disappointed [in], [about], but…
  • I was unsure of what God’s will was…
  • I almost…, but…
  • Even though I was afraid, I took a risk and…
  • I was tired and felt unappreciated, so…
  • I didn’t have it to give, but…
  • I declared…
  • I refused to [go], [be a part of]…
  • I chose [to forgive]…
  • I didn’t give up on…

Jeremiah 17:7-8 is a very uplifting, refreshing passage because of words like roots by the stream, green, fruit, no worries, never fails, blessed, etc. It reminds me of Psalm 23 and the comfort it expresses in being taken care of by the Good Shepherd who is trustworthy, who keeps promises. 

And the promises in these two verses are that if we trust God and put our confidence in Him, He will cause us to flourish when others may wither under the same conditions. He promises that we will be firmly established wherever he has placed us – and it doesn’t matter where because it will be like living by a stream: well watered, secure, refreshing. We have nothing to fear, or worry about – not even a recession. We will bear fruit, those of us who choose to trust like we did last year, those of us who choose to trust even more this year. 

For 2012, let us trust GodLet us trust His heart towards us, that it is good and merciful. Let us trust His providence, grace, faithfulness and power. Let us not look to people or organizations we think are powerful and of great influence to get promotion, recognition, favour, or any other blessing. Let us put our confidence in the only One who can fully satisfy us and give true peace and contentment.

For our marriages, families, ministries, careers…for God, let us endeavor to trust even more. He’s faithful.

Happy New Year!

Homecoming

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We’re here.

God answered all the prayers we scratched on a few faded-yellow one inch post-its which we stuck on the side of our mirror. Complete remission for Duwayne (check!!!!!!!); a reliable car to take us back to California, (it broke down about half-way, still, it did get us here on time, so check!); a job with benefits that I would enjoy (check); money to make the trip from Tampa to Los Angeles, pay for rent and for Duwayne to go to law school (check, check, check). These are a few of the things we scribbled as reminders to God and ourselves of the things we needed to begin a new life together. Battered by some really difficult situations over the past three years, we felt needful of a fresh start in our marriage; thankfully, God did not hold back in giving us every desire of our hearts – even the ones unspoken and unwritten.

Now, we’re home.

We have a wonderful home erected on a foundation of many miracles and blessings. The warmth of the love of God in our lives saturates every wall, cupboard and piece of furniture in our apartment because we would have none of it without Him. Nothing good has been withheld from us, so much so that the only ‘deficit’ I can think of in our lives right now is a home church through which we can grow and serve. Over the past year and a half, though, we have been tremendously supported by many believers who may, or may not know each other. If you are reading this post, you are likely to be one of those persons who has prayed for us, encouraged us and helped to meet our financial burdens. So, in fact, there is no real deficit, as we are already connected to a wonderful family of faith.

I can’t tell you ‘the full’ of all we have experienced through this medium, however, I do want to express some of how Duwayne’s illness and healing has impacted me. Last March, while on the last leg of travelling to be with Duwayne in the hospital, I remember staring at the airline magazines in the seat pocket in front of me, thinking and just trying to deal with the shock of his cancer diagnosis and what that meant: was he going to die? I think in that moment, I had thoughts about being at his funeral, unable to cry and becoming mute for the rest of my life. I also pictured myself kneeling at the altar of Church on the Rock (Kingston), weeping uncontrollably because God had taken him from me. I imagined many horrible things and worried about the future. I was even concerned about what to say once I saw him for the first time in the hospital bed…

…and in the midst of all the chaos I felt encroaching upon me, God spoke to my heart. He said, “It’s going to get worse before it gets better, but it’s not unto death.” Those words pierced the shadows in my mind and immediately gave me hope. They were like the desperate, wheezing gasp for air when someone frantically surfaces from deep water – they’re still in deep water, but they can breathe, they can breathe.

At the time and especially during the more difficult times in our ordeal, I took those words to mean:
1. God was with us.
2. There would be times to come when I, again, would think Duwayne was going to die.
3. Duwayne was not going to die in his youth and he was not going to die of cancer.
4. God would heal Duwayne over time, not immediately.
5. God was with me.

Now, one year and five months later, Duwayne is cancer free. Hallelujah. Stage IV Colon Cancer? What’s that? God, in the wonder of His faithfulness kept His promise to me. And that’s what I want to leave with you today. There is much more to be shared about our journey, but for today, remember that God is with you in the midst of all that you are going through. He is nothing less than merciful, loving and faithful to meet you at your point of need. He is not blind. He has not forgotten, though it may feel that way at times. You have to come to a place where you just believe that God is who He says He is and that He will do what He says He will do. That has been our experience…

…and now we’re here, finally. We’re home. And we’re very thankful.

I Am Somebody

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Written by my husband, Duwayne.

I am somebody, today.  Point of fact, I have always been somebody.  Something so self-evident from the mouth of an adult may sound silly and puerile, but sadly, I have spent the better part of the last thirty years forgetting that or denying it.  Philosophers say, “I think, therefore I am.”  I say, “I am because I was born” – born perhaps under a ‘blighted star’, but born nevertheless.  Plans were afoot to dispose of me even before leaving the womb, but they never materialized.  I defeated the odds stacked against me to get here.  I am somebody, because on August 19th, 1980, I cheated death.

I am somebody, today.  I don’t become somebody the moment I discover life’s deep meaning; still less, when I discover the deep meaning of my own existence.  I didn’t suddenly become somebody when I left college and graduate school with highest honors, and I won’t become somebody should I do the same after law school.  Having as many degrees as there are on a thermometer won’t make me somebody.  Being a respected trial lawyer or a renowned jurist in federal court won’t turn me into somebody years from now.  I am already somebody.  And seeing other people live the dreams I dreamt for myself but have yet to attain does not make me nobody needlessly taking up space in the world.  In its current, unripened state my existence matters, even if only to me.

I am somebody, today.  Diagnosed with end stage colon cancer does not make it less so.  Watching my hands darken, my fingers and toes numb, my tongue line with sores, and my body lose hair because of the adverse effects of toxic, chemical treatments may injure my sense of dignity but not my sense of being.  Though the abdominal muscles I spent years in grad school trying to chisel have been permanently defaced by the lacerations of surgery, and my chest and back appear unsightly because of multiple, black blotches, I am still somebody.  In the face of crippling disease, I remain somebody worthy of inhaling the same air as everyone else.  No amount sickness and scarring can alter that fact.

I am somebody, today.  That is an inalienable right of being that cannot be surrendered, given back or taken away.  Falling on hard times to the point of being desperately reliant on others for food and shelter does not erase that right.  Enduring the present discomfort of living in the apartment of the woman nature calls my mother (though nurture might beg to differ) – feeling one argument away from homeless – does not absolve it.  Nor does being unemployed and unable to provide the basic amenities a husband should afford his wife.  Despite my innumerable failures and shortcomings, I am somebody.  I won’t magically become somebody when fortune’s wheel begins spinning in my favor.  In happiness or in hardship, in triumph or in triage, I am somebody.  Despite the season or the circumstance, when I look into a mirror, somebody looks back at me.

I am somebody, today.  And I will be somebody tomorrow, even when my earthly days expire and my tangible being passes into the expanse of oblivion.  Point of fact, I have always been and will always be somebody, and in that glorious truth I rejoice!

It’s Raining Grace

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Last March, while in the hospital recovering
from the surgery to remove the tumors on his colon, a friend brought Duwayne a small potted plant. The tag labeled it as a South African Freesia. They are as beautiful when ladened with bright yellow bulbs as they are with their elegant blooms. Immediately, I felt the atmosphere in hospital room lighten, but not just because of the plant.

Along with the Fressia, this friend brought the story of her own experience with chronic, terminal illness. She was familiar with the struggle ahead of Duwayne and me. She was also familiar with God’s grace that enabled her to live through and live beyond her fight.

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. The Apostle Paul learned to live by these words which came from a very present and loving Heavenly Father. He learned during a time of agonizing need, the exact nature of which is uncertain. But, whatever his ailment, I believe we can learn through our own weaknesses…hardships…difficulties that God will strengthen us Himself in all we face. His grace will rain upon us.

Two days ago, Duwayne and I went for a walk even though we knew it might rain. Eventually it did, though it was light. We pulled our hoodies over our heads, held hands and walked in mud while talking about how amazed we were that we made it through so much with what we thought was so little. We laughed at our “poor love”, pun intended. In effect though, we were amazed at how much God’s grace saturated our lives. It saturates the life of the friend who brought the Freesia and it saturates yours as well.

Like Paul, we oftentimes pray for a change of circumstance and our request is not granted. Instead, God in His wisdom says to us My grace is sufficient for you…He wants us to relinquish our meagre strength in order to live by His enabling.

Of course, this is easier said than done; however, I learned something else during our walk that will make this ‘giving over’ to God easier for me and hopefully, for you. I was enjoying the walk this weekend until it began to rain. So distraced by the rain, I paid no attention to what Duwayne was saying to me. I began to walk faster and tried to drag him along, insisting that I would get soaked. He responded, ” …a little rain won’t hurt you…” Realizing he was right, I slowed down (a little), re-engaged in the conversation and eventually we got home – happy and safe.

Now, I don’t think “a little rain” is necessarily anagolous to what you or I am going through (perhaps torrent would be more suitable), but certainly we can draw from the experience just shared. When hardship rains upon us, God won’t always allow our circumstances to change to suit our needs. We have no choice but to keep on walking in the rain – to live – in the discomfort and pain. Yet, God’s intention is not to hurt us. For with with the same rain that we are certain will wash away all hope and ruin our lives comes an outpouring of grace and more grace. Yes, His grace rains upon us and is sufficient to get us home.

Be encouraged.

Relinquish your meagre strength and abide in Him.

You have who and what it takes to make it – a very present and loving Heavenly Father and His powerful grace.

For more upliftment, click on the following link and watch the video at the top of the page. It’s a discussion around a book called ‘One Thousand Gifts’ by Ann Voskamp. She discusses the childhood ordeal with which she begins her book: http://www.incourage.me/category/bloom