Author Archives: Amy Lynne

REDEEMED BY CHRIST’S LOVE

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The sun was slowly slipping behind the horizon while I was driving through the beautiful North Georgia Mountains. As I approached the top of a hill, I saw the most breathtaking view surrounding me. The beauty of the sky and the magnificent view of the spectacular mountains enthralled my soul.

While I was breathing in the beauty, Christ’s presence came to me so powerfully that I felt an inexpressible sense of God’s love. Captivated by the love I felt, I remembered the prayer that Paul prayed for the Ephesians: “I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.”

In my heart, it was as though God was saying: My love for you is higher and wider and more magnificent than these beautiful mountains.

With a feeling of awe, I meditated on His perfect love and my spirit soared in His presence. Heaven touched me and drew me close to the heart of God.

In this crazy world, it’s very easy to be in a big hurry and miss the awareness of God’s love. The responsibilities of life can easily rob us of the quietness we need.

Jesus is waiting for each one of us to stop what we’re doing and find the rest we need from the hectic pace of life. Christ beckons us to open our hearts to Him and bask in His love. We don’t have to be driving through marvelous scenery to feel God’s presence. As we practice stillness and prayer, we become more aware of Christ’s love for us.

As we’re celebrating the resurrection of the Lord, it’s a good time to contemplate what the cross really means. Christ died and rose again so that we could live abundantly in His grace.

Because of the cross we no longer need to feel shame or guilt when we mess up. When we stumble, we can simply stand up and ask God to help us begin again. If righteousness could be gained in our own strength, then Christ died for nothing.

We are redeemed by Christ’s love. His love paid it all. Jesus said. “It is finished.”

His love paid the penalty for our sins. This is good news that ought to be shouted joyfully to the world.

Beloved Jesus,

Our hearts long to have more of You. Help us to see and feel how great Your love is. Help us to rest in Your presence continually. We love You. Amen.

“Is it not clear to you that to go back to that old rule-keeping, peer-pleasing religion would be an abandonment of everything personal and free in my relationship with God? I refuse to do that, to repudiate God’s grace. If a living relationship with God could come by rule-keeping, then Christ died unnecessarily.”

 — Galatians 2: 21 (The Message)

 

 

THE TREASURES OF TRUE FRIENDSHIP

Gift of Friendship - Dawn Camp (3)

Relationships are what matter most in life. We all need friends to walk closely with us. Real joy is found in our closest bonds with the people we love. Only Christ can meet the needs of the soul, but a healthy friendship grows when we each depend fully upon God while offering encouragement and unconditional love to our friends.

After the birth of my first-born child, I learned that I needed friendship more than I ever had before. I was a young mom, feeling overwhelmed while trying to navigate my way through the great adventure of motherhood. Most of my friends weren’t parents yet, and many of them weren’t even married. I was craving friendship with somebody experiencing a similar phase of life.

During that season of being a new mom, I saw an ad in the local newspaper for a support group for mothers. I was intrigued, so I decided to call and inquire about the group. I can still remember the initial phone call.

A sweet voice over the telephone said, “Hi, I’m Roxene!”

I was excited to learn that Roxene was the area leader for the mother’s group. She and I had an instant connection and we had quite a long chat that evening. Our friendship was already beginning to develop.

Within weeks, I joined the group and eventually I accepted the job of co-leader. During the next nine months, the group grew and my friendship with Roxene grew. Things were going smoothly until the holiday season approached and the leadership responsibilities became a burden to me. I wrote a letter to Roxene expressing my concerns and my need to resign as co-leader, and it led to a misunderstanding between us.

Shortly after that, I noticed the warmth in our friendship began turning to coldness. I was faced with two choices. Would I be willing to let go of the hard feelings? Or would I let bitterness begin growing and lose a friend? Being a young woman in my twenties, I had very little relationship experience, but I knew what the Bible says about forgiveness.

In Colossians, it says: “Bear with each other and forgive each other whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

I made the choice to do the right thing. After several weeks with no contact, I decided to call her and make things right. It was awkward and uncomfortable working through our misunderstanding, but it was necessary for our friendship to survive. We talked through our feelings and patched things up quickly.

As I stepped out and chose forgiveness, I could have never dreamed of the blessings that would come from my friendship with Roxene. Through our friendship, I learned that authenticity, patience, forgiveness, and compassion are required for a trusting bond to develop.

The Gift of Friendship - Be Authentic

The depth of our friendship was revealed when my second child was born and Roxene had recently gone through two miscarriages. She was brave enough to lovingly tell me that it was hard for her to be around my newborn son. It was Roxene’s willingness to be authentic that allowed me to work on understanding that she needed extra compassion and time to heal from the pain of her losses. Even though it was a challenging season, it ultimately caused our friendship to grow stronger.

After twenty-five years, Roxene and I are still close friends. We’ve developed a bond like sisters have. We’ve been through the ups and downs of life together. We’ve cried with each other during the darkest seasons and we’ve celebrated together during the joyous seasons of our lives. Laughter and immense joy have filled our hearts when we’ve shared our victories with each other.

When friends become like family, there’s a commitment that requires sacrifice and effort.

I’ve chosen to work hard on developing friendships, and I am grateful I’ve gained a number of really close friends. Each one is unique in her expression of Christ’s love to me.

We cannot be close friends with people without living authentically and walking through their pain with them and cheering them on wholeheartedly in their successes. Friends are meant to be the ones God uses as the vessels of His love.

We know we have a true friend when we are free to be who God made us to be in their presence. We can enjoy sharing mutual love, respect, forgiveness, trust, loyalty, support, and kindness—all of these magnificent treasures of true friendship.

For encouragement in developing stronger friendships, I recommend that you read The Gift of Friendship by Dawn Camp. I reviewed the book in my last post. To learn more about Dawn’s book, visit her website or get your copy here.

Lord,

Thank You for the gift of friendship. Let all of our friendships be built on the foundation of Your love, and use our friendships to establish Your perfect will for our lives. In Christ’s name, we pray. Amen.

This post was revised from an article I wrote in 2008 for a prayer ministry. 

Photos were provided by Dawn Camp. 

THE GIFT OF FRIENDSHIP: BOOK REVIEW

The Gift of Friendship

Friendship is one of the greatest gifts in life. As a woman who cherishes my friends, I was so excited about reading Dawn Camp’s new book: The Gift of Friendship. I absolutely loved it because it reminded me of the special women that God chose for me to be close friends with.

The Gift of Friendship is a book filled with heartwarming, true stories from various Christian writers. It’s an uplifting book that left me feeling very grateful for the genuine friends in my life.

As I was reading the touching stories, I was reminded of how vital it is to have meaningful friendships. I thought about the definition of a friend that I wrote a few years ago.

What is a friend?

A friend is one who believes in others more than she believes in herself.

She is one who allows her friends to put away all pretenses and lets them be who God made them to be.

She lets others share their weaknesses without being afraid of being judged or lectured.

She celebrates the strengths of those closest to her and brings out the best in them.

She hurts when her friends hurt and cheers when her friends are sailing through life.

She isn’t intimidated by the successes of her friends, but finds abundant joy in seeing every one of them succeed.

A true friend loves at all times and her love never, ever fails.

My definition of a friend comes from my experiences with my own beloved friends.

The Gift of Friendship does an exceptional job of defining and displaying the beauty found in deep friendship. Each story is unique, nurturing, and easy to read. I think it would be a great book to give as a gift to a treasured friend and I really believe every woman who values friendship will love this book. Be sure to grab yourself a copy here.

”A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need.” — Proverbs 17:17 (NLT)

A SACRED EXPERIENCE

Mema and Amy

My beloved grandmother, Mema, has woven love through every fiber of my being since I was born. Shortly, she will be leaving her earth suit to go to her eternal home, and that love will remain deeply embedded in my soul forever and ever. Nine days ago, she moved into a hospice facility to spend her last days on the earth.

There is something tremendously holy about being present during the dying process of a saintly, peaceful person. It has been a sacred experience. Heaven has come down and touched the earth in that pretty, pale yellow hospice room.

As Mema’s body has weakened, her spirit has grown stronger. I’ve witnessed the power of God over and over again during my daily visits on these consecrated days. Without the ability to speak words any longer, Mema has opened her eyes and smiled at me numerous times as I’ve spoken to her and prayed over her. I’ve known it’s her way of responding to me non-verbally.

While sitting near her bed in the hospice room, her eyes have opened and she nodded her head at times as I’ve spoken to her and caressed her hair. I think my favorite moments this week were when her face lit up brightly and she blinked distinctively each time I said, “I love you.” It felt as though it was her way of saying, “I love you, too.”

The nurses and doctors have been very compassionate and listened as I shared my heart and said, “She’s ninety-five, almost ninety-six years old and she’s ready to go. I can’t complain about Mema’s soon passing,” It was September, 2013 when Mema told me: “I am ready to go any time; I’ve had a really blessed life.” God began preparing my heart then and gave me two and a half bonus years to savor.

There’s a part of my heart that wants to hold Mema here on the earth, but in my spirit I know it’s her time to go. I’m letting her go with my heart enveloped in an indescribable peace. Jesus is holding my heart in His hands while He’s holding Mema in His arms simultaneously. I am praising Him for making Mema’s life and her death so beautiful.

My heart is filled with gratitude for the countless visits with her—especially during the past five years. During these final days, I’m honored to help bring her comfort through her time of transition. Today, I can imagine the angels are singing the “Hallelujah Chorus” over the soon homecoming of my sweet grandmother.

“We don’t focus on the things that can be seen but on the things that can’t be seen. The things that can be seen don’t last, but the things that can’t be seen are eternal.”

— 2 Corinthians 4:18

MERRY CHRISTMAS FROM MY HOME TO YOURS

Christmas Decor - 2015 (8)

As I sit here in the quietness of my home, I’m pondering the real meaning of Christmas. I’m pausing to breathe in the love of Christ and set aside the things I think I need to do.

I believe if we could stand face to face with Christ at this moment, He would be saying: Slow down. Savor this moment of life. Put aside your concerns and simply rest in My love. I was born to bring great joy to the world and to bring perfect rest for your soul. I long for you to take hold of the abundant life I came to give you.

I can imagine the perfect Christmas gift for us to give Christ would be our acceptance of His gifts to us—love, peace, joy, hope, faith, and the never-ending list of heavenly treasures.

May your Christmas be filled with all of the glorious riches Christ has to offer.

Dear Heavenly Father,

I thank You for the gift of Christ. Thank You for sending Your son to save the world from darkness. Thank You for all that He gives us and how He enables us to live with an abundance of hope, joy, peace, and love. Let us take hold fully of the gift You have given us through Jesus Christ. Let us meditate on Your great love and celebrate our amazing Savior. Oh, how we love and adore You, our Redeemer. In Christ’s name, I pray. Amen.

“But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is the Messiah, the Lord.”

— Luke 2:10-11

Merry Christmas from my home to yours!

LESSONS I LEARNED DURING FINANCIAL HARDSHIPS: PART TWO

Store Your Treasures in Heaven

We had just sat down for dinner when my preteen son noticed the bottle of salad dressing was not his favorite kind. Like a typical American kid, Thomas said, “Yuck. I’m not eating a salad tonight if this is the only salad dressing we have.”

At the time, our grocery budget was very small because of our less-than-average income. We ate rice and beans very often and didn’t buy many well-known brands. I had bought a salad dressing for about half the price of the popular brand.

I decided to refrain from lecturing my son during dinner. With patience, I picked up his salad bowl and placed it in the refrigerator while saying, “I’m sure someone else will be happy to eat your salad later on.”

As we sat at the table enjoying our meal together, Thomas got out of his chair and walked to the refrigerator a few minutes later. With a puzzled tone I asked, “What are you doing?”

In a subdued way, Thomas said something like this: I know there are children in the world who don’t have enough to eat. They would be happy to have a salad and wouldn’t be complaining. So I’m happy to eat my salad.

Immediately, tears came to my eyes and a warm feeling washed over me as I realized that my son had grasped a concept I’d been trying to teach him throughout his young life. I rejoiced greatly that he’d learned something around the age of eleven that many people four times his age couldn’t grasp. It was evident Thomas understood gratitude that day. Amazingly, I have never heard him complain about anything he lacked since then. In a society where it’s more common to be ungrateful, my children learned the gift of gratitude during our hard times.

From the day my children were able to talk, I would not allow them to complain. Especially during the times when our income fell very low, I would remind them of our blessings by saying, “We will not ever feel sorry for ourselves. We are so blessed to have a roof over our heads, food to eat, and clothes to wear.” It was important to emphasize the point that we had absolutely nothing to complain about, ever.

Last month, I shared about our journey that led to our financial challenges in “Part One: Lessons I Learned During Financial Struggles.” As we’re in the midst of the Christmas season, it’s a good time to think about what really matters most in life.

Are you discouraged because you can’t buy your family expensive gifts for Christmas? Let me encourage you with some of the great lessons I learned when we were scraping by on a small income.

A grateful heart makes it possible to be joyful in all circumstances.

Gratitude takes the focus off of what we don’t have and places the focus on what we do have to be thankful for. A thankful heart is a joyful heart. I learned to be content in all circumstances when I lived with a single mom as a teen girl. My son and daughter learned to be content as a result of their simple upbringing. At eighteen and twenty-five years old, they are both grateful for everything they have. As a family, we learned that we are very blessed even when we have less than others.

Children thrive in a loving environment even when finances are lacking.

Now that my two children are grown, I can see clearly that raising them without an excessive amount of finances was actually a very good thing. When the environment is filled with unconditional love and joy, children are content with simple gifts. During the years we struggled financially, my children were learning to think of others more than themselves. Instead of having an entitled attitude, my children grew into contented, generous, and compassionate people. I believe growing up with less than their friends helped mold them into people who want to serve others. They give sacrificially by volunteering at non-profit organizations and helping the homeless and other people with unmet needs.

There are many creative ways to live frugally.

It’s not the amount of money we have; it’s how we manage what we have. We learned how to buy things for a fraction of the cost. Making handmade gifts, shopping at thrift stores, finding deals at consignment stores, and buying used items on eBay are some of the ways we found affordable gifts for our children through the years. One year, my husband bought a used XBOX game system for $40.00 along with about five games for our son’s Christmas gift. Thomas was ecstatic with joy about receiving his first game system. During one Christmas season, I found our daughter a “like new” bicycle at our favorite thrift store. Christa was elated about her beautiful, pink bike. She could have never imagined that it was purchased for only $15.00. With my childlike faith, I believe God placed that bike at Bargain City Thrift Store especially for my daughter.

Contentment does not come from material things.

No matter how much a person tries to believe that happiness comes from having stuff, it’s simply not the truth. The human soul has a God-sized place that can only be filled up with God’s love. Nothing can satisfy the soul’s need except for our Creator. Unhappy people try to fill their souls up with things money can buy. That’s why they are not truly content.

Are you feeling the contentment that comes from knowing Christ? I pray you will draw near to God and that His presence in your life will be your greatest treasure. The things of this earth are slowly wasting away. Love, joy, peace, kindness, and generosity are things that will last forever.

May you find your joy in the eternal treasures this Christmas season.

“Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal.”

— Matthew 6:20

A PRAYER FOR PARIS

Prayer for Paris

The tragedy in Paris makes my heart long for Christ to come and rescue our world. I’m praying that He will comfort the people in Paris and let beauty arise out of their despair.

LORD,

Thank You for Your compassion and Your love for the people in Paris. Keep them in the palm of Your hand and comfort them in their distress. Bring peace where there is fear. Bring hope where there is despair. Let the people draw near to You and find peace in believing in Your power to bring beauty into the brokenness. Let what was meant for evil be used for good. I pray in Your name, Christ. Amen.

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Spirit.” — Romans 15:13

I apologize for not posting the second part of Lessons I Learned during Financial Hardship. I’ll post it in several weeks after Thanksgiving.

LESSONS I LEARNED DURING FINANCIAL HARDSHIPS: PART ONE

Seek the Kingdom of God

As a young married couple, my husband and I were sailing through life enjoying the comforts of a really good income. Michael was super ambitious and working for Burroughs Corporation in his twenties. I was ambitious, too, and braved three interviews to get hired by Procter and Gamble.

During my first pregnancy, we were in excellent shape financially. We assumed we would be raising our family with a great income. To our surprise though, Michael was laid off due to the merger between Burroughs and Sperry. The two corporations became a new one: Unisys. This resulted in job losses for a number of employees. Michael’s job was cut during a third lay off period, three months before our first child was born.

In the midst of the shocking news, we saw God’s hand working. Christa was born only one day before our medical insurance was dropped. We were grateful for such perfect timing.

After the lay off, we were wondering: What should we do now? The main thing Michael and I agreed upon strongly is that we did not want to place Christa in daycare. My boss understood my situation, and she worked it out for me to drastically cut my work schedule, so I could focus on parenting.

Michael dreamed of being an entrepreneur, so he was elated when his boss retired from Burroughs and asked him to be his partner in starting a computer business. Michael worked from home, making a fraction of his previous income and stayed with our daughter while I worked very part-time hours.

Several years later, Procter and Gamble was transitioning into using computers for processing orders. The training would have required more hours of work for me. With mixed emotions, I took a leap of faith and quit my job, desiring to pour myself into motherhood more than any other job.

It wasn’t long after leaving my job that I learned the old adage is true: “When one door closes, God opens a window.” After leaving the corporate world, God opened new doors for me to earn money. Working as a nanny for other children kept me from having to leave my daughter in the care of someone else.

After my son was born, I was more determined than ever to savor motherhood. More doors opened for flexible part-time jobs, enabling me to be a home-schooling mom.

As my husband and I lived by faith, we chose to reject the popular definition of the AMERICAN DREAM. Our dream transitioned into living more purposefully. We intentionally chose the less popular path of a really simple life.

Our choice was not easily done, but taking the road of faith is never easy. Following Christ is the most fulfilling journey, but it’s not the easiest path.

With determination to stay true to our convictions, we passed through some really tough seasons. God carried us through the loss of Michael’s computer business, several more job losses and home business losses.

At one point, Michael had to deliver pizzas for several years. He worked nights at the YMCA in addition to his day job for a season. And while my daughter and husband attended college during the same time period, it was necessary for me to work weekends and late nights to make ends meet.

Our faith in Christ sustained us through every challenge and led us to new opportunities. In 2010, after two decades of riding a financial roller-coaster, we were elated when Michael earned a Biomedical Engineering degree. In his late forties, Michael began a new career in the medical diagnostics field.

I cannot say I miss the twists and turns of our past, but I would definitely relive all of the challenges over again for the great treasures I gained along the way.

Now that my children are grown—one in college and one college graduate who’s working for a non-profit corporation—I’m grateful I chose the kinds of work that gave me the flexibility I needed as a mother. Looking back, I know I made the right choice for my family. There’s nothing that could replace the value of the time spent raising my children.

I’m happy to share the priceless lessons I learned through experiencing financial hardships. I hope you’ll find encouragement from these truths.

God is the ultimate provider.

Seek the kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. — Matthew 6:33 (NLT)

Confidently knowing that Christ is trustworthy is the greatest lesson I learned during our financial struggles. My family received miracles in ways we could not have experienced otherwise. Our lack of finances at times forced us into an infant-like dependency upon Christ. Through our hardships, we got to experience the extraordinary power and provision of God, our Father.

Giving to others is better than receiving blessings ourselves.

We must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” — Acts 20:35 (ESV)

The greatest need as human beings is our need to give. Early in our marriage, Michael and I chose to give in various ways, including sponsoring missionaries with monthly support. After several job losses, our ability to sponsor missionaries was hindered temporarily. However, I learned that generosity doesn’t have to be limited by the amount of money we have. We can give generously by giving our time, our talents, and our love, regardless of our income level.

The greatest joy comes after seasons of waiting.

The Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him! — Isaiah 30:18 (NIV)

Instant gratification is not a good thing; I believe it actually limits our ability to appreciate and enjoy things. I learned that waiting is a gift. Having to wait on something actually heightens the experience, simply because the delay makes the fulfilled desire extra sweet. One of my best memories is when we visited Disney World in 2012 after many years of waiting to go together as a family. The joy was multiplied and intensified greatly as a result of the delay.

Christ carried our family through the challenges and then graciously restored our finances above and beyond what we had hoped for.

Christ provides. He restores. He directs our paths.

Be encouraged if you are facing a financial challenge. I am confident that God will do for you what He did for my family if you trust and seek Him wholeheartedly. With Christ, it’s possible to live abundantly in all seasons of life.

PART TWO of this article will be posted next week.

RESTING IN GOD’S PROMISES

God Keeps His Promises

I was thinking, “Who’s calling late on a Saturday night?” Michael answered the call and he knew something was wrong when he heard our son’s voice. Thomas called from college five days ago in physical pain, asking for prayer and advice.

Michael encouraged our son, assuring him that he would seek the best medical care for him the next day. The phone call was short because Thomas had friends from Georgia visiting him for the weekend.

As soon as Michael laid the phone down, we discussed the fact that we were going to pray and trust Christ to work in this situation. I thought about the illnesses Thomas had suffered during the past two years. He went to the E.R. and spent a night in the hospital during his junior year of high school and he repeated the same scenario (with a different type of illness) during his senior year. During both stays at the hospital we saw God’s faithfulness powerfully. However, we did not want to repeat the former hospital adventures with Thomas in Oklahoma, eight-hundred miles from home.

Faith filled our hearts, as we prayed for Thomas. “Lord, we know it is Your desire to heal and protect Thomas. I trust You and believe that You want him to be well. Please heal him and take away his pain completely…”

Our prayers continued pouring out of us with fierceness, passion, and an unrelenting strength. We’ve become quite the prayer team. Two people praying together are better than one (See Ecclesiastes 4:9-12).

Peace filled our hearts as we finished praying. Then Michael sent a prayer request in a text message to Seth, a young man who’s involved in a prayer ministry for the city of Tulsa. We met him by a divine appointment while visiting Tulsa in April. Seth sent a message, saying he’d be praying and offered to pray with Thomas at his dorm. Since Thomas had out-of-town guests, it wasn’t necessary for Seth to visit him. Although, knowing Thomas was with his close friends and that Seth would be willing to go pray with him brought us comfort.

With certainty that God had Thomas in the palm of His hand, Michael and I went to sleep. We both were awakened in the early morning hours and prayed more for Thomas. Shortly after I got out of bed, I noticed Michael was already awake and in the other room.

He walked in and enthusiastically said, “I received a text message from Thomas. His pain
and the main symptoms are both gone.” I sighed with relief.

While praising the Lord for answering our prayers, I thought about the beautiful rainbow we had seen the morning before. It couldn’t be a coincidence that on the same day Thomas called us with the news of his pain, we saw the most magnificent rainbow at daybreak.

I was sitting there thinking about my reaction to seeing the rainbow in its entirety at the
dawn of the day. I had reacted with the giddiness of a child, and shouted, “How can anyone not believe in God?” The rainbow took my breath away as it reminded me of the way God keeps His promises.

Twenty-four hours after I was rejoicing over the rainbow, I was thanking God for what He had done for my son. Suddenly the thought occurred to me that the rainbow came as a symbol, reminding me of how the darkest hour is right before dawn. Then daybreak comes, and if we keep our eyes focused on Christ, a miracle comes, too.

Years ago, I heard a pastor say that spiritual warfare intensifies shortly before God is about to birth something new in our lives. I’ve seen a pattern of this spiritual law in my life and in the lives of those closest to me.

Last year, Thomas was lying in a hospital bed a few days before he received an opportunity of a lifetime. While in the E.R. I said to Thomas, “Something good must be about to happen. I think it has to do with football—a door opening for you.”

When I said those words, I could have never imagined that three and a half days later my son would get an offer to play college football at the division-one level.

Now that Thomas is living out his dream of being on a college football team and taking steps toward his God-given destiny, there’s a dark force trying to stop him. But with Christ, all things are possible, and all resistance is being met with a fierce kind of faith.

After Thomas had several doctor’s appointments this week, he was released to return to his usual schedule of football practices. Michael and I rejoiced over our specific prayers being answered, especially that there was no need for an E.R. visit. We are confident that God will protect Thomas and continue carrying him on the divine path laid out for him. I believe this medical challenge was part of the spiritual battle and just more evidence that Thomas is on the right path with more great things in store for him in the near future.

With childlike faith, I trust Christ wholeheartedly; I know He gave me a rainbow as a sign to assure me of His faithfulness to keep His promises.

Do you believe in the promises of God?

He promises that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:16).

He promises whatever we ask will be done for us if we abide in Him and His words abide in us (John 15:7).

He promises He will never leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).

He promises to give us rest for our souls (Matthew 11: 29).

He promises to heal the brokenhearted and save those crushed in spirit (Psalm 34:18).

He promises to sustain us and restore us to good health (Psalm 41: 3).

He promises to watch over and protect us as we dwell in the shadow of His wings (Psalm 91: 1).

His promises are limitless. We can choose to believe they are true or we can choose disbelief and live a defeated life. What are you choosing?

I choose joy and faith. When things get hard, let’s keep focused on Christ, looking heavenward and resting in the the promises of God.

PHOTO CREDIT: Michael captured the photo of the actual rainbow that God sent on Saturday morning, October 31, 2015. I’ll remember it forever.

FACING GRIEF COURAGEOUSLY

BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO MOURN

Grief is an inescapable reality. In this life there is death, divorce, and hardships of all kinds. Thankfully, we have hope through the blood and power of Christ. In the Bible verse, John 16:33, Christ said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” Because of Christ, we can overcome the troubles of this world and live a beautiful, victorious life.

Grief is the opportunity to run into the arms of Jesus and experience His healing love in unimaginable ways. Pain is what takes our eyes off this present life and draws us into an eternal perspective and leads us to joy that cannot be stolen away from us. I’ve experienced some of life’s greatest joys while in the midst of life’s most difficult losses.

It was nearly twenty years ago that grief touched my life profoundly when a close friend’s life ended tragically. For weeks, she was missing; search groups were formed to look for any hint of her whereabouts. It was an agonizing time of uncertainty while we were searching and desperately wanting to find our friend. Eventually, in February of 1996, her body was discovered. She had been murdered at the age of thirty, leaving two children behind. Sweet, beautiful Angela was gone—she was ripped from our lives in the most horrific way. It was grief I had never known before.

After I heard about Angela’s death, memories of our late night talks flooded my heart, and I resisted the feelings of guilt for not reaching out to her during the prior weeks. I clung to my faith and drew near to Christ.

I’m thankful I have journal pages filled with the details of all Christ did for me during such a traumatic time. The words in the next several paragraphs are written just as they are in my journal, with some of the words and pages omitted.

 

2-28-96

I feel such a strong presence of God in my life. I had no idea this whole tragedy was going to hit me so hard. But in the midst of the pain, God had His hand on me continually.

Sunday night I met Stephanie, a lifelong friend of Angela’s. And right away I felt like she was the nicest person. Then Monday night, they asked me to help with the eulogy. Tuesday morning, Ginny, Kim, Susan, and Kelly and I all met to finalize the writing of the eulogy. Stephanie was distressed over how she could read this in front of so many people without falling apart. I asked her if she wanted me to pray for her. So we all held hands and I prayed. I reassured Stephanie by saying, “You’ll get through it.”

When we were at the funeral and she was reading it, I never imagined she could do it so perfectly. It was like God touched her in that moment. He had answered my prayer. The eulogy was perfect. She could not have presented it more beautifully. There was not a flaw. At that moment I knew everything was going to be okay. It was like God came down and wrapped His arms around me and comforted me. God was in the middle of this! He did immeasurably more than I could have imagined. After the service, I began searching for Stephanie. As I looked for her, I saw her face looking around and her lips we’re saying, “Where’s Amy?” She saw me and I embraced her. I cried a little and said, “It was perfect; God answered our prayers.”

I don’t know that I’ll ever see Stephanie again. But I know she is a special person and God used her in my life through this painful time. She blessed me with her kind spirit and comforting words. As the day of the funeral came to an end, I felt uplifted. I felt great sadness that I had lost a friend, but at the same time I felt joy that I had found a new friend.

Thank You, Lord, for answering my prayers. Thank You for the peace and joy You have given me during this difficult time. What wonderful timing You have. It was a blessing for Christa to pray the sinner’s prayer and ask Jesus into her heart on the same day that we said goodbye to Angela. Thank You for bringing joy to my life on such a sorrowful day. And what a blessing to have met such a special person: Stephanie.

This is the end of my journal entry.

 

In 1996, I wrote several more journal entries, documenting the ways God brought comfort to me. I thanked Christ for the gift of Stephanie’s friendship in my life during the months after Angela’s death.

My daughter, Christa, was six years old at the time, so she didn’t attend the funeral or know how Angela died. However, her spirit was tuned into the presence of God in our lives during that trial. It was beautiful for Christa to accept Christ as her savior at such a painful time. I’m grateful for how the Lord orchestrated beauty during a tremendous loss.

God carried me through my grief even when I wasn’t dedicating much of my time to Him. During the time of Angela’s death, I was in the busiest season of my life. I was a busy mom, home-schooling a kindergartner, working as a nanny, and volunteering in the children’s department at my church. With so much responsibility, I sporadically wrote prayers in my journal and seemed to only pray when I was desperate. Even with my neglect of making time for solitude and prayer at that time, Christ was waiting for me with open arms and met me in my painful days.

I think some people miss out on the incredible goodness of God during times of loss, because they turn away from Him in anger or numbness instead of turning toward God with faith to believe that He is capable of bringing beauty into the broken places of life. We live in a broken, fallen world in which grief comes to us unexpectedly, but Jesus stays the same (Hebrews 13: 8).

With a recent and sudden death in my extended family, my heart is greatly empathizing with the ones most affected by the tragedy. I am comforted by knowing that it’s in the darkest seasons that beauty emerges from the ashes.

I’m not pretending to know the pain of others. I cannot fathom the pain of losing a child or a beloved spouse. And I cannot imagine the devastation a child experiences in the loss of a parent. Even though I have not experienced the depth of your pain, I know Christ has felt your heartache. He knows your grief. His love is enough to fill the void and heal the pain. As you face your grief courageously with Christ, He will carry you one moment at a time and lead you to eternal treasures.

“May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting comfort and hope which we don’t deserve, comfort your hearts with all comfort, and help you in every good thing you say and do.”

— 2 Thessalonians 2: 16, 17 (NLT)