Faith and Fear

I’m sure some may think I’m crazy, but I love cleaning the house and getting it ready for Christmas. It’s one of the few times I take pleasure in cleaning. Mostly at other times I do it from a sense of duty or necessity. I may appreciate the end result, but it doesn’t give me the pleasure that cleaning for Christmas does.

I had cause to think of this today as I did several loads of washing, vacuumed, mopped, cleaned, scrubbed, folded, ironed and baked for most of the day – and enjoyed the process as well as the results. No, it’s not in preparation for Christmas (although did you know it’s just 3 months till Christmas Eve??), but so that I am mentally ready for the coming week. I guess it’s just the way my brain is wired – a clean house means I’m ready for anything.

It’s been a few weeks since I last posted. There have been a few reasons for the delay – partly just life and busyness, and partly because I’ve needed some processing time. There is a tension between wanting to be open and authentic, and recognising that my introvert nature sometimes needs thinking time before writing or sharing publically.

So, a quick update on the facts. As posted in earlier blogs, I have a lesion on my tongue that’s been causing concern. I’ve recently seen a second specialist, and they suspect it’s a “squamous cell carcinoma”, although they won’t know for sure until they’ve removed it and sent it to pathology. There’s been some good news – it’s relatively small. It doesn’t look aggressive. And more really good news this week following a cat scan of my chest/neck/head – it hasn’t spread, so we’re only dealing with the growth on my tongue. So after a couple of weeks of appointments and tests (don’t get me started on the nose scope!!), I have surgery scheduled for this coming Monday to have the lesion cut out.

The last month has been a roller-coaster ride. I am so grateful for the people God has placed in my life – my family, my friends, my church. I’ve had so much love and support and prayer.

I’ve rediscovered that it’s possible for fear and faith, strength and weakness,  tears and trust to co-exist simultaneously.

I choose faith. I choose God. I choose trust. I have experienced God’s love and grace over and over and over again, in the past and in the present, and have no reason to choose anything else. Where would I go? What other choice is there? But honestly?  Sometimes it’s my head deciding and setting my feet on a path of faith, and my emotions have been a little reluctant to follow.

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There have been days when I have felt great; a couple of days when I have felt so fragile that I just want to cry all day, and many days inbetween or a mixture of both.

I was walking one morning and praying, in the week between having the top half of my body scanned and receiving the results. I realised as I was praying that God doesn’t need to wait for the scan results, he knows exactly what’s happening in my body. But more importantly, as I continued to ponder, I realised that God also sees into my heart. He sees exactly how I’m feeling.  He loves me.

God is big enough for my fear.
God is big enough for my weakness.
God is big enough for my tears.

I’ve learnt again that it is not a sign of strength to deny how I feel. God is my strength, and I can take how I feel and honestly bring it to Him , lean into His loving arms and trust Him not only with my situation, but with my heart.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

Whom have I in heaven but you?
    And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
 My flesh and my heart may fail,
    but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”
Psalm 63:25-26

 

Wrong Destination

I was excited last Saturday to be heading up to the Tasmanian MOPS Conference. I’d been invited to run a leadership workshop, which I always LOVE doing.  Besides, it’s been a year since I retired from MOPS and the opportunity to catch up with everyone was something I looked forward to. And, self indulgently, it also meant that this wasn’t the first Tassie MOPS conference that I hadn’t attended. Perhaps attending for half a day this year is a step in “weaning” myself!

Like an excited schoolchild on the first day of school,  I got up early and was ready to go long before I had to leave. So I grabbed my computer and posted on Facebook:

Heading up to Camp Clayton to gatecrash the Tassie MOPS Conference (I’m actually leading a workshop). So glad I get to go.  #tasmopsconf16

Well, within a few minutes my phone was ringing. It turned out the conference wasn’t at Camp Clayton but was actually at Camp Banksia in Port Sorell. (I hadn’t actually checked that vital detail! Oops!) I ducked back onto FaceBook to correct my post, and already there were numerous comments also advising me I had the wrong venue.

Thankfully Banksia was half an hour closer to home, so I had some extra time at home and then jumped in my car and headed off. On the way I was thinking about how I nearly ended up at the wrong campsite. Thank you God, I thought, for working in my circumstances to get me to the right one when I was heading to the wrong one – all in such a short timeframe.  Such a blessing that it all worked out.

Then suddenly I had a thought, a reminder about the nature of God.

You see, during past few weeks of “waiting” (you can read about that here and here), I’ve had moments of stressing about the timing, wondering if it’s taking too long to get my specialist appointment. Even when it was organised, I still wondered if it was too long, and if the delay (caused by the specialist being on leave)  will make a critical difference. Yet, right from the start, I prayed and asked God to take care of the timing of doctors and appointments.  Clearly I wasn’t doing the best job of leaving it in His more-than-capable hands.

remember-1186625In the car I suddenly realised that if God was able to take care of something as insignificant and simple as getting me to the right conference venue when I was heading somewhere else, He’s able to take care of my health and the timing of appointments – which are bigger and far more significant.

I never cease to be amazed at the grace of God. By now, if I was God, I think I’d be about ready to give up on me. Perhaps smite me. Or, at the very least, smack me around the head with my lack of faith. But no, God keeps gently and lovingly revealing himself to me, reminding me that He’s got this and He’s worthy of my trust.

How about you? Are you trusting God with your situation? Or do you, like me, sometimes get afflicted with spiritual amnesia and forget that God is worthy of our trust.

I read a great quote today in my daily devotion and I’ll finish this post up with it:

“For the believer, fear is always God-forgetful. If God is sovereign and his rule is complete, wise, righteous, and good, why would you fear?”
New Morning Mercies ~ Paul Tripp

 

 

 

I Choose Trust

Blogging about an “unfinished” story seemed like a good idea two weeks ago – several times since then I’ve wondered what on earth I was thinking!

There is no rule that says I have to keep going. I could stop now. There are no blogging police to enforce it or make me continue. But I started this journey. And for today, at least, I will continue it – not because this is about me, but because I hope and pray that God may use it in some way to encourage or help someone else who is walking through an unfinished story.

So, let’s do this …..

Last week I went for my appointment with an oral and maxillofacial surgeon to organise the biopsy I mentioned in my last post. He had a look around my mouth, and asked a few questions. Such as, “how long has that temporary filling been there?” “Ummm … a little too long. It’s doing fine, why would I go back to the dentist to have it permanent? Don’t you know how I feel about dentists?”  Of course, none of this was said out loud! I sat there cringing internally: I bet that tooth is a little rough because of the temporary filling. That’s probably what’s causing the lesion on my tongue. This could be very embarrassing!

He looked some more and then some more, getting me to move my tongue this way and that. Have you any idea how difficult it is to control your tongue – especially when someone is poking it?  It seemed to have a mind of it’s own!  He explained that my lesion looks “suspicious” and that I need to get it cut out. After some discussion about different options and the pressure to make an unexpected on-the-spot decision, he referred me to a plastic surgeon, dictating the letter in front of me. He gave it to the receptionist, explaining to her that she had to fax or email it the same day, it couldn’t go in the mail. He then turned to me and said that if I haven’t heard from the plastic surgeon within a week that I should call back.

I called back on Tuesday this week and it turned out that, unknown to the oral surgeon, the plastic surgeon has been on leave until today.  But today I got a letter in the mail with an appointment in two weeks.

From here, assuming the plastic surgeon agrees with the oral surgeon, I’m presuming that I’ll have the surgery and then we’ll know what we’re dealing with. There are some good possible outcomes – they cut it out and it turns out it’s nothing. Or, they cut it out and get it all. If not, the third option will involve further surgery and radiotherapy.

The other challenge with blogging about an unfinished story is that I have a choice. Do I paint a rosy, impression-managed picture? Or do I tell it as it is?

The truth was that by the time I left his office I was feeling in shock and numb. In the next few days there were some restless nights, some tears and a conscious battle against fear. Call me a cry-baby, but the fear was not so much about worst case scenarios but about having surgery on my tongue. I intensely dislike hospitals.

But, for me, this is what it comes down to. What do I know right now? Actually, very little. There are still many unknowns. Nothing is confirmed.

This means right now I have choices.

Do I fall into the trap of fear and worry, or trust God?

I choose trust.

Do I worry about what could be, or wait till I know more?

I choose trust.

Choosing trust is not always easy. It’s a choice that goes against my feelings at times. I’ve discovered that I am still a control freak, and like to know what’s happening. I want to make plans.  I thought I’d overcome that. But God is so gracious to me! Last Saturday all the unknowns were worrying me, and I felt God gently remind me that what is unknown to me is known to Him. God has never failed me. I don’t think He plans to start now.

Max Lucado wrote this in a daily devotion he posted last year:

“Faith is a choice. It is! And Promised Land people risk the choice. When forced to stand at the crossroads of belief and unbelief, they choose belief. They place one determined step after the other on the pathway of faith. Seldom with a skip, usually with a limp. They make a conscious decision to step toward God, to lean into hope, to heed the call of heaven. They press into the promises of God.”

There’s been a little limping in the past week. It’s been challenging to not let it be all consuming. Praise God that life goes on, I need to go to work, I need to do the washing and cooking and organising and living.  I’ve had bucket-loads of love and support and care, which has been beautifully overwhelming in the best sense.

One thing I know for sure. God is good. He is able to heal. If he doesn’t heal, He is able to sustain. And He loves me.

I’m okay. Really. And in those moments that I’m not okay, I know I will be okay.

I choose trust.

On Doctors, a Biopsy and Waiting

A fortnight ago I strained a muscle or ligament in my chest. I’d done it a couple of times in the past, and it’s been uncomfortable but not terribly painful. This time it was, well, more uncomfortable. I was awake from 2:00 – 4:00 am in the night with a constant, dull pain centred in my chest, so the next morning I headed off to my GP who confirmed it was muscle or ligament pain.

I’ve had one or two other things that I keep putting off “till the next time I’m at the doctor”. Does anyone else do that? One was a spot on my leg that had changed slightly, but she had a look and assured me it was completely fine. (Mum – I got it checked!!!!)

The other thing was a sore on my tongue that I’ve had for a number of months. I had previously seen a chemist, who gave me thrush medication. After dutifully taking that for 10 days with no difference, I’d headed off to the doctor. The doctor, who wasn’t my regular GP, thought it was an ulcer and prescribed off-the-shelf ointment, which I dutifully applied. Nevertheless, it hadn’t gone away, so I asked the doctor to look at it while I was there.

She got out her torch, and I stuck out my tongue so she could see it. She looked at it for all of about one second and declared, “I think you need to get a biopsy on that”. That was unexpected.  “Okay”, I said. She talked to herself out loud about what kind of specialist I should see, decided, made a phone call, and organised an appointment. She turned to me and said, “I hope I’m not scaring you.”

“No”, I replied, “I’ve learnt not to be worried about these type of things until I have results”.

“Good”, she said. “Because I had one that went really bad on a patient so now I’m overly cautious”.

Really?? For the record, she really didn’t need to add that last sentence! 

I’ve realised that I normally blog about “finished” stories.  It hasn’t been a conscious choice, but it has just happened like that. I’ve decided to break with tradition and share about this – an “unfinished” story that I’m in the midst of. I know what I hope and pray the outcome but I’m still waiting to find out.

My appointment with the specialist is next week, and from there he’ll organise the biopsy, assuming he agrees with my GP that I need it.

Am I worried?

I’m choosing not to be.

You see, there are only two outcomes from the biopsy.

The first option is that everything is fine. In that case, if I spent the waiting time stressing and worrying, I’d have expended a lot of energy unnecessarily and missed out on a lot of joy in the meantime.

The second option is that something is wrong. If that’s the case, worrying between now and finding out is still not going to accomplish anything other than making me miserable.  I don’t expect anything to be wrong, and I’m praying it’s not, but if it is then God is still able to heal, to sustain, and to keep me.

One thing I know about God is that He is faithful. He has never failed me, and I know He won’t start now. And I’ve also discovered that sometimes it’s in the darkest night that we see God most clearly. I believe with all my heart that God is Sovereign, and nothing that happens to me is a surprise or outside of His control.

Do not be anxiousI haven’t always done this. It’s been a hard learnt lesson. Even now I have to choose not to worry, as that’s my natural tendency. But 17 years ago I was diagnosed with a potentially life threatening autoimmune disease. At that time I decided that I would trust God with my future and not waste worry or energy on what may or may not happen. Applying and believing that theory took time. There were times when I was wracked with fear that I would not be around to see my children grow up. Other times when I worried about results from tests. But through those hard days I have learnt that God is worthy of my trust.

I’ve recently read a wonderful book called, “When God Doesn’t Fix it” by Laura Story. She wrote a beautiful song called “Blessings”. I want to close by sharing some of the words. You could listen to the whole song here.

If you, like me, are in a time of waiting, or a time of “unknowns”, then be encouraged that God holds not only your future, but He holds you. He knows what’s around the corner and He’ll hold your hand – He won’t let go.

We pray for blessings
We pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering
All the while, You hear each spoken need
Yet love is way too much to give us lesser things

‘Cause what if your blessings come through raindrops?
What if Your healing comes through tears?
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near?
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise
Laura Story – Blessings

Hope When the World’s Gone Crazy

“Break my heart for what breaks yours”.

It’s a prayer I pray sometimes. It’s a prayer that today I almost regret praying…

Last night I read the tragic news story of the mother who held her four month old baby and jumped from a high-rise apartment balcony in Melbourne. Horror seeped into my heart as I read. How did it come to this? How desperate must she have been? Did she have no one to turn to, nowhere to go for help?

This morning the news is filled with images of the attack in France; as I write 84 are declared dead, many more injured, and images of people fleeing in terror down the streets fill our screens.

Just recently I cried as I contemplated who I should vote for in our election. No choice seemed right – I felt I was merely voting for the lesser evil.

I have friends facing really tough personal situations.

War and terrorism wreak mass havoc and personal pain around our planet.

There is a blatant disregard or the value of human life. Last year 27 babies survived late term abortions in Queensland and were left to die.

This morning my heart was overwhelmed by all that is happening in our world and I wanted to weep.

Yet I have hope.

I know that some view the pain and suffering in our world and ask, “How can there be a God?” But I have the opposite response. For me, without a Sovereign, loving God there is no hope. The suffering, the terror, the evil become completely meaningless: there is no redemption and there is no plan. We are left with a crazy, pain filled existence that is without purpose.

I am currently reading a wonderful book called “hand in Hand – The Beauty of God’s Sovereignty and Meaningful Human Choice.” It explores the complex interplay between the sovereignty of God and the choices we make as humans.

It offers an analogy. It’s not a perfect analogy – there isn’t one. But I think it’s pretty good.

ShipImagine a ship crossing a ocean. The passengers on this ship are free to move around and do what they want. Yet, no passenger can change the course of the ship. The captain alone makes that decision. The destination of the ship is fixed.

This morning as my heart was heavy, I remembered that the destination of the ship is set. Regardless of the choices of the passengers on board and the impact of those on other passengers, the ship will reach its destination. For those who have placed their trust in Christ, the destination is a place our souls long for.

“I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” Revelation 21:3-4

In the meantime, we live in a world where some wilfully and wantonly choose evil, and we see and feel the consequences of those choices. Yet even that God can and will redeem. Darkness cannot overcome the light. We can see the light in the midst of the darkness if we look.

The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness can never extinguish it.
John 1:5

I have questions.  There is so much I don’t understand.  Right now it feels like the passengers on this ship have gone stark, raving mad. But I know the destination. I trust the Captain.  I have hope for the end of the story:  God wins.

“When darkness seems to win
We know that pain reminds this heart
That this is not,
This is not our home”
Laura Story ~ Blessings (song)

 

 

Storms and Roots

It’s school holidays here in Tassie, and yesterday Brooke and I visited Hollybank, a beautiful forest of natives and ash trees. While there we did one of the small walks called “Walk of Change” – a slightly ominous title according to my daughter’s quirky sense of humour. It’s a beautiful short walk through mainly native trees. There is beauty everywhere just inviting you to notice it – mossy covered rocks, towering trees, winding paths. The sun dances between the towering branches, creating an almost “other-world” feeling. It’s hard to believe the world of busyness and bustle is just a few kilometres away.

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We strolled along at snail’s pace, due to the multitude of photos one of us was taking (and for the record, that wasn’t me!). As I spent time waiting, I enjoyed looking around, appreciating the beauty.  I noticed a large tree that had recently been blown over. Interestingly, the roots didn’t seem that long. It didn’t appear they would have gone down deep into the ground. In order to weather wind and storms, trees need deep healthy roots.

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I’ve been thinking this morning about roots – the principle of needing deep roots to weather the storms doesn’t just apply to trees, it applies to us. Jesus talked about what happens when we don’t have deep roots.

“But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word.”
Mark 4:17 NLT

Having strong, healthy roots is important. The Bible also talks about other kinds of roots:

For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.
1 Timothy 6:10

Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.
Hebrews 12:15

I want to have healthy roots – the kind of roots that weather storms, that last and persevere. I want to be a tree that grows strong and bears fruit in season. A tree that provides shelter and sustenance to others. How do we grow healthy roots, the kind that sustains and nourishes the tree?

And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him.  Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.
Colossians 2:6-7 NLT

Quite possibly it’s both the most simple and most challenging task – follow Christ.  Building our lives on Him.  Yet, in my experience, it is the most wonderful invitation.  For we were created to be a flourishing tree with strong healthy roots that grow deep into God.

In his book, “The Me I want to Be”, John Ortberg writes, “Here is the good news: When you flourish, you become more you.  You become more that person God had in mind when he thought you up…. When your spirit flourishes, you are most fully alive.  You have purpose for living. You are drawn to put on virtue and put off sin.”

Paul prayed a great prayer for the Ephesians. It’s a prayer I love praying for myself and others. Perhaps you might like to pray it today?

I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit.  Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.  And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.  May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.
Ephesians 3:16-19

Storms and Rocks

Recently I took some long service leave and did something I’ve always longed to do – a solo retreat for three nights by myself! I stayed in a small unit at Boat Harbour Beach, and had plenty of time for thinking and reflecting, reading, praying and relaxing.

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The weather was particularly stormy for the first 24 hours and, being on the coast, Boat Harbour Beach bore the full force of it.  After my first night I sat looking out of my window, watching the raging waves breaking over the rock; it was high tide and they were impressive.  I considered how intimidating and aggressive they looked, threatening to overwhelm the rocks, and then realised something: they never will succeed. Because waves are merely water.

And because rock is rock.

Immovable.
Constant.
Strong.

Eventually, the storm will die down.
The rain will stop.
The wind will cease.
The tide will recede.
But the rock will remain.
Unmoved.
Constant.
Strong.

The storms in our life sometimes threaten to overwhelm us.  Yet when our trust is in God, we discover that He is our rock.

Over and over in Scripture we see the Lord referred to as a rock.

Whatever circumstances you are facing, whatever storms of life are threatening to overwhelm you, you can put your trust in the eternal Rock.

Other may fail. Things may go wrong. Your situation may look hopeless. But God will not fail you.
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The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God,
my rock in whom I take refuge.”
Psalm 18:2

“For God alone my soul waits in silence, from him comes my salvation.
He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress, I shall not be greatly shaken.”
Psalm 62:2