You’ve Reached Your Destination


gps 3I began this particular journey about 5 years ago. It began like most journeys God has sent me on with a little apprehension, a little uncertainty of what lie ahead, a little curiousity as to how long the journey would last and a lot of expectation as to what God would do through this new journey.

It wasn’t long into the journey that I realized this one was not going to be an easy one. In January 2008 we moved my grandmother in to live with us. She was 96 years old at the time and in remarkably good health. She was pretty self-sufficient and the change to our lifestyle was minimal. That all changed pretty rapidly. Her health remained good for her age, but her expectations increased a lot. At first it was not that big of a deal. After all, she was my grandmother who I love dearly and I wanted to make this final season of her life as comfortable and enjoyable as possible. But the more and more that was required and expected of me, the more difficult the journey became.

I found myself becoming resentful toward what I began to see as unrealistic expectations. I struggled to continue the journey without an attitude, especially when I felt everything I did was not appreciated and was never enough. The more the journey impacted my lifestyle and my family, the more my resentment built.

destination 4I began to question God as to why He sent me on this journey. I wanted to know when it would end. Don’t judge – I’m just being honest because this is truly one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I wondered what lesson I could possibly be missing that God was trying to teach me. Oh, I knew the obvious ones – patience, serving others with no expectation of anything in return, doing all things as unto the Lord, obedience, praising God through the difficult times – but I just knew that there was something I was missing. I knew I was right where God wanted me to be, yet I became frustrated and defeated because I just couldn’t seem to change my attitude no matter how much I prayed about it.

God certainly encouraged me along the way with special encounters with complete strangers who had also been caregivers. Each time I experienced one of these chance meetings I walked away with a renewed resolve to stick it out until God showed me I had reached my destination and the journey was over. We also had opportunities to go on vacations over the past 5 years that allowed for a time of rest and rejuvenation to continue on. But in the past 6 months, more often than not, I found myself dealing with emotions that were not Christ-like and left me feeling ashamed.

Shortly after Christmas, Sissy (that’s what we call her) fell in her room. We took her to the hospital but they soon sent her home after finding no broken bones. She began having difficulty sleeping, was in constant pain and her health seemed to be declining. After a second fall, we decided together that it may be time for her to be in a place that would be better equipped and trained to care for her. I began to look at different facilities and prepare for the end of the journey.

I quickly found that moving Sissy into a long-term care facility was not going to be an option based on a lot of different variables. I surrended to the fact the journey was not over and in reality, there was no end in site. Once again I felt deflated because I thought I had reached the end of a difficult season only to realize it was not only going to continue, but was going to continue indefinitely.

destination 5I began to pray once again for God to give me the strength to continue on the journey He had set before me and to help me to have a Christ-like attitude in caring for Sissy. A few days later I was doing my typical routine of checking email/Facebook/Twitter when I came across a link to an article on Twitter. It was an interview with Amy Grant, a Christian recording artist, who was caring for her aging father. She talked about the challenges of being a caretaker and the abundance of emotions you experience. But then something she said “clicked” with me. She said there’s no map for this kind of journey but it may be the last lesson you learn from your loved one. My heart began to change and I stopped looking for what God was trying to teach me and began to focus on what I could learn from Sissy.

Within a few weeks God began to open doors for the journey to come to an end. Even though I clearly knew God was orchestrating everything that was happening and I saw that the opportunity was there for my prayers to be answered, for some reason I questioned if I really had reached my destination. I had gotton comfortable in my difficult situation and no matter how much I had longed for it to end, when God did open the door for that to happen, I did not immediately step through. It’s funny how sometimes the very thing we pray for, is the thing we hesitate to receive when God offers it. And when we hesitate, we miss out on the fullness of blessing found in His perfect timing.

gps2In my hesitation, I realized I felt like I had not completely “got it” and that I still needed more time for my heart and my attitude to be completely right. Then one day in Sissy’s room while I was kneeling down before her putting her socks on her feet, God whispered “I see your heart, the journey is over. You’ve reached your destination.”

On March 1st Sissy will be moving to a small, privately-owned assisted living home. She is looking forward to being somewhere offering around the clock  care and to meeting new friends. She knows the time is right for this next season of her life.

Are you on journey or in a season of difficulty that you wish would come to an end? Or perhaps God is bringing to an end a season you’ve been in – even a comfortable and good season yet you may sense that He’s telling you it’s time for it to come to an end? Don’t question the end of your journey, God just may be preparing you for your next great journey in life. Trust in His timing, you have now reached your destination.

Strength in Numbers


strongerLike many other Americans, I watched the Grammy’s last night. Since the early American Idol days, I’ve been a fan of Kelly Clarkson’s music. And last night her album “Stronger” won the grammy for Best Pop Vocal Album. The album, and single by the same name, were also nominated for Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best Pop Solo Performance. The song has become an anthem of sorts for those going through difficult times, especially in the area of relationships, who believe that what doesn’t kill them will indeed make them stronger. And Kelly Clarkson is not the first to sing about finding strength through trying times. Kanye West had a song with the same theme. The saying has also been quoted in the movies Conan the Barbarian (1982) and Steel Magnolias (1989). The philosophy that we are strengthened by the situations we endure and survive originated from German philosopher and poet Friedrich Nietzsche in 1888 and it is a philosophy that many live by.

There is certainly some truth to the concept and there are many who have gone through major crisis situations in their lives that forever changed them for the better. They walked away with a resolve to use their circumstance to reinforce and strengthen their determination that nothing can or will destroy them. Based on the number of life difficulties some of my friends have been through, they should be nearly invincible at this point according to Nietzsche.

stronger 5Yet I have come to understand that while that may be true for some, it is most certainly not the case for all. I have encountered those who have lived through extremely challenging situations and the ensuing result is far from strength. What didn’t kill them made them hardened toward life and toward other people. It wore them down to the point that they found themselves no longer fighting their situations, but accepting them as the hand that they’ve been dealt. In some cases, what didn’t kill them has left them broken and mistrusting of others. It has made them bitter and closed off to the love and acceptance offered to them by those who attempt to reach out. What didn’t kill them has worn them down to the point that they are simply enduring life instead of living it. It has left them hopeless, weakened and lacking the will to fight through their circumstances. What didn’t kill them has nearly destroyed them.

I believe there is danger in looking to life’s difficulties for strength. When we do so, we come to rely on ourselves to get us through the hard times. And while there are those who seemingly are the exception, the majority of us need something so much more than our hardships to find strength. After a series of hard times early in my own life, I found myself beaten down and defeated. I was angry and resentful that I didn’t have it as “easy” as everyone else seemed to. My marriage was added to a list of personal failures and I was left feeling weak and hopeless. It was during that low point that I turned to God, who had been waiting for me all along. I sought God at my weakest point and in that moment I surrended control of my circumstances to Him. And when I turned the fight over to God when I no longer had any fight left in me, my life was forever changed. For me, my strength was never found in that which did not kill me. My strength was found in Christ.

stronger 2I found that when life gets hard and I feel beaten down, I find such hope in knowing I no longer must rely on my own strength to fight the battle. The battle belongs to my Lord who is my strength and my shield (Psalm 28:7). I trust in Him to be my strength and the bible promises that “those who trust in the LORD will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not be faint” (Isaiah 40:31). What didn’t kill me taught me that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Phil. 4:13) – not through the challenges I face, but through Christ. In 2Cor. 12:8 Paul asked God to take away a hardship he faced and God told him “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

In recognizing his source of strength, Paul concluded: “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2Cor.12:10).

stronger 6It’s no easy feat to “delight” in our weaknesses, hardships and difficulties. But when we find our strength in Christ and not in how well we endure what life throws our way, there comes a point when we realize that finding delight through the tough times by relying on Him is a whole lot easier than relying on our own strength. We were never meant to fight alone. We were never meant to struggle through life in attempt to barely crawl across the finish line when our life is over. We were meant to soar on the wings like eagles!

What have you been through that hasn’t killed you but has made you battle weary and broken? Are you ready to surrender the fight to God and lean on Him to give you the strength to carry on? In battles of war, surrender is a sign of weakness. But in the battle of life, surrender is strength. Isn’t it time you wave the white flag?

Executing the Play


superbowl 10SuperBowl 47 will be remembered for many things – a 30 minute power outage delay, the Harbaugh brothers coaching against each other, an epic comeback attempt by the 49er’s, and a couple of SuperBowl records for longest kickoff return for a touchdown and longest singing of the National Anthem. And today the internet is filled with opinions of how the Ravens were able to hold on to the win and with reasons the 49er’s were unable to finish the comeback on top. But the bottom line is both teams were well coached, had a well thought out gameplan, both came fully prepared to play and both faced the same adversity during the power outage. In most every game, the team who’s players execute the plays and trust in the coaches to know the best play to call in any given situation, end up with the victory. Yesterday it was the Ravens who simply executed the plays relayed to them onfield from the coaching staff better and more consistently than the 49er’s.

superbowl 3God knows and can see the big picture for our life. He is our coach who is there to direct us into His perfect will for our lives. He wants us to experience victory over sin and the things like unforgiveness, bitterness and anger that keep us from experiencing all He has planned for us. He gives us instruction or “sends in a play” to us from the sideline either through His word or through the wisdom and advice of others. He calls in to us the right “play” at the right time so that we may successfully move forward and grow in our faith. We get in trouble when we look at the situation on the field and decide that we know best which play to run so we change the play last minute at the line of scrimmage. Whether He instructs us to make a move in a new direction or to stay put where we are and trust in His timing, it’s our job to execute according to the His play call, not our own. When we fail to follow His lead we find ourselves stuck in circumstances without hope for a way out. Thank God He has an endless playbook and even when we fail, He continues to give us opportunities to follow His gameplan.

I remember a time in my life when I had prayed to be able to quit my job so I could be a stay-at-home mom. I waited on God and followed the path I felt He was leading me on. That path included staying put in my job for 2 more years after I began praying to be home. But when God opened the door for me to quit my job and stay at home, my lack of faith in the moment caused me to change the play He had called, to one according to how I thought things should go. I quit my job but instead of becoming a stay-at-home mom full-time, I decided I should work part-time so that I could continue to bring in income for our family. I didn’t trust God to be our provider and to meet our needs.

superbowl 5Within a month of working as a bank teller part-time, my cash drawer came up over $1000 short. I was given 3 days at home without pay while they investigated to determine where the missing money was. It was in those 3 days that God clearly showed me that He never told me to go to work part-time. He had fully opened the door for me to stay at home, which was my heart’s desire. He was trying to give me what I had asked for but I lacked the faith to receive it. I changed the play based on our financial circumstances I saw with my own eyes instead of trusting Him enough to execute the play as He had called it. I repented and knew when the 3 days were up the bank would call to tell me I was fired for not doing my job and causing my cash drawer to be short. And then I could start being at home full-time which I knew then was God’s plan for me.

To my suprise they called after 3 days and although they had been unable to account for the money, they offered for me to return to work because they believed it was an honest mistake and the money would turn up upon further investigation. God didn’t just shut the door on my mistake, He gave me the opportunity to run the play again and this time to execute it according to His plan. I returned to work and gave my notice thanking the bank for their confidence in me and explaining that I had decided to completely trust in God to provide for our family so that I could be at home with my children full-time.

superbowl 7If you are going through a difficult time, you are faced with a hopeless situation or you have prayed for a change in your circumstances – look to God for direction. And when He calls in a play through His word, through the counsel of other believers or through a gentle whisper to your heart, execute the play exactly as it was called no matter how things appear. Remember, He sees the big picture that we cannot and it’s in the times we choose to trust in Him and the play He’s called for our lives, that He reveals enough of that picture to give us hope to keep going and to grow our faith in Him alone. Stick to God’s gameplan and in His timing you’re guaranteed to receive the victory you seek.