I once wrote a story in which a farmer and a cowboy sit atop their horses on a butte overlooking the vast Montana landscape. The cowboy is almost certain he’s lost his mind to even consider what he’s about to do. The farmer assures him that if God is leading him into the venture, then God has a purpose and a plan for it.

“You always make it sound so simple,” the cowboy says, “How do you do that?”

The farmer laughs. “My father always used to say, ‘The answer to every problem is simple, so long as it’s someone else’s problem.”

 * * *

Sometimes, life doesn’t seem to offer any simple decisions. Even the ones that should be simple become excruciating when you are making them because you’ve lost the one who normally would have taken care of it—whatever it is.

From outside of the problem, people often feel they know the best answer or solution, and chances are they do have insight that we don’t. They can see a bigger picture. They can see danger spots ahead of us, which are hidden from our view. But, they can’t see the details, and this is where the rub comes.

One of my favorite spots in Yellowstone National Park is Tower Falls. On a hot summer day, stepping up to its base is like walking into an air-conditioned building. As you come down the path, you can see the falls at a distance, and you know that’s where you want to go. You can also see the path winding down the mountain to the river below. All looks well, but there is a problem. A few years ago, a mudslide took out part of the path—a huge part of the path—and it has never been rebuilt. You cannot get to the base of the falls from the path you have taken, but you don’t know that until you reach the point where the path comes to an abrupt end.

From across the river, you would never know that it was an impassable path.

Tower Falls

It’s easy for people to look at a situation and say, “Well, you just need to do this.” Their suggestion may be completely logical—with the exception of that cliff between point A and point B. Others’ suggestions may be emotionally based. Their ties to the situation may cause them to want out as fast as possible, to cling as long as possible, or to simply do nothing until they absolutely have to.

With each decision, especially the major ones, come a multitude of opinions, suggestions, and expectations from every corner of life. Sifting through it all can be exhausting and even overwhelming. The thought of making the wrong choice and potentially destroying your life, your job, your ministry, your friendships, and your family relationships can be paralyzing for some, while it shoves others into “flee or fight” mode.

What do you do? How do you make the right choice? How do you preserve those relationships?

Several Sundays ago, I was feeling the pressures of all the decisions that need to be made, the suggested solutions, and the expectations of others. I felt I had to make a decision then. I felt people were getting tired of waiting on me to “make up my mind.” Even though I knew those people had no clue about the details of the path.

In truth, I was probably putting pressure on myself as much as anyone else—I’m good at that.

I have a favorite place, where I go to get away from the noise of life. It’s usually quiet, and is a very good place to walk, take pictures, pray, sing, and read my Bible. So, that’s where I went that afternoon. The mosquitoes were terrible. I wasn’t able to go to the spot where I normally would have gone, but as I wandered the paths—looking for a spot where I wouldn’t be the main dish—I remembered the story of Job.

Job lost everything except for his miserable wife and pitiful friends. And yet, we see him set up as an example. He was the defining picture of faithfulness in times of suffering. Perhaps it all came down to that one thought, which he voiced to his companions,

He [God] knoweth the way that I take, and when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.”

 

Job wasn’t looking at the ruts, the bumps—the craters—in his path. He was looking at his Guide. He was also looking at the end result.

 

Ruts meme

 

A couple of months before Dad passed away, I began working on a new book, which deals with God’s process of refining us. Little did I know the cutting and purging that was about to take place in my life. The book focuses on God’s process of making up His jewels. So, anything in Scripture that is related to this process instantly grabs hold of me.

As I read through Job, chapter twenty-eight caught my attention. Verse two says, “Iron is taken out of the earth, and brass is molten out of the stone.” It is molten out of the stone. You cannot take the ore out of the rock, or the impurities out of the metal without intense heat.

God is doing the same in our lives in the moments, which seem unbearable. He is asking us to rely on Him, to remember that He knows the path we take. He knows it from beginning to end. He knows the beauty that will come from the ashes.

The dead trees are always most visible when we’re standing on the other side of the valley looking back at the forest. In the midst of the forest, we only see them when we come across them—or stumble into them. This doesn’t make them any less real when we’re in the forest, nor does it make them any less dangerous. It just makes them less visible. The same is true for the washed out path and the view from the other side of the valley. The dangers are all still there, but the view is obstructed by the trees—including the dead ones.

So, how do we balance the decisions, the questions, the opinions, the relatiosnhips, the hopes, and the fears?

It’s a little like that butte in the story at the beginning of this blog. From way up there those men can see everything. They see the farm below them, the prairie spreading into their little town, and the fields and mountains beyond. It’s hard for us to get that kind of view in life—but God has it all the time. Keep His perspective in mind. He knows the way we take. He knows the results of each decision we make.

Those quiet moments near my favorite place gave me an opportunity to seek God without interruption. Did I come away with the answer to every decision? No. But, I did come away with renewed peace and perspective. A perspective that helped me think through things with a much bigger picture in mind.

 

Insights for families adjusting to loss:

  • Don’t let the pressure get to you. Hudson Taylor once said, “It does not matter how great the pressure is. What really matters is where the pressure lies—whether it comes between you and God, or whether it presses you nearer His heart.” Take extra time with the Lord, tell Him your struggles, and leave them at His feet. He is a much more capable problem solver than we are. You will never be able to make a decision that pleases everyone. But, if you let Him guide, you can make decisions that please Him—and that is most important.
  • Remember that the opinions and suggestions offered by others are offered out of love. They want to help. They want you to succeed. As we go through the slow process of making the decisions, we have just as much responsibility to be patient and loving as those making suggestions for the decisions. It isn’t always easy, but it is right and good.
  • Listen to what people are saying, you might see something you hadn’t seen before. Remember they can see the forest and the trees from their perspective, whereas we only see tree trunks, bramble, and the broken paths of disappointed hopes.
  • Consider the cliffs between the points on the path. Are they truly cliffs? Are they emotional barriers? Are they caused by things we need to let go? These are hard questions, and may not be able to be answered alone or quickly, but they should most definitely be answered with a prayerful heart and with continual seeking of the Scriptures. Get God’s perspective on the matter.
  • Keep the end result in mind. God is using this time to shape and mold you. As you let Him work in your life, He will make you into a person that will better reflect His Son and bring glory to Him. He will build a message in your life that will bring comfort and strength to others. Sometimes, that is a very meager consolation. It’s hard to desire that our troubles will bring comfort to someone else, when we so long for comfort ourselves and may not readily find it. Go to the Lord. He will comfort when no one else is at hand. He will give peace. He counts your tears as precious. He keeps them in His bottle. Let Him hold you. Then, when the time comes, you will be able to comfort others with the same comfort He has given you.

 

Insights for Churches:

  • Be patient. I’ve probably said this in every single post, but it is so important. These are life-changing decisions being made by this family or individual. And, they are being made through the fog of grief. Don’t apply undue pressure. And don’t panic or give up when suggestions bring tears, frustration, or even anger. The person experiencing loss is under a tremendous amount of stress and emotional weights such as they may have never before experienced. Extend mercy.
  • Find out the facts. From your position, the decision may be clear. It may be difficult to understand why the family hesitates. Ask. There may be barriers you can’t see—emotional struggles, spiritual struggles, physical exhaustion. Things that are not obvious to the casual observer may be holding the decision back. Finances, a lack of professional skills, a lack of experience, or a lack of confidence may be slowing the process down. Discover the barriers, and help the family walk through them.

 

Insights for Individuals:

  • Don’t get in a hurry. Decisions that seem vastly important today have usually been forgotten a year from now. Pray for your friends. Ask the Lord to guide them and to give them wisdom for the decisions they are making. Sit down with them and let them talk through the situation. Ask pertinent questions—Questions that have to be answered with more than a “yes” or a “no.” Help them get to the roots of the issue.
  • Be understanding. The more you know about the situation the better you can understand where they are coming from. Remember that what looks like a simple decision to you may actually be destroying all the hopes and dreams they have worked toward for years, if not a lifetime. It may involve an enormous amount of emotional pain. It may feel like another death. Some will try to cling to anything that makes them feel close to their father/husband, others willingly let things go because the memories cause pain…Walk in their shoes—you might find they rub.

 

Have you walked this road? What was the most difficult aspect of the decision-making process for you? What was the greatest blessing? I hope you’ll add your insights and thoughts in the comments below.

Has this blog (or any of the blogs in this series) meant something to you? Please share with others. You might help someone else without even knowing it.

I am not a fan of heights. In fact, I once wrote an entire blog about that. Despite my distaste for high places, I love hiking in the mountains. I’m not a blaze-your-own trail, wander-through-the-wilderness, hike-for-days-on-end kind of hiker—but I love a good day-hike on a well-groomed, well-MARKED trail.

Several years ago, I had the opportunity to visit some missionaries in Romania. While there, some of the young people in their church took me on a hike up into the Southern Carpathians. It was beautiful. To this day, I regard that hike as one of the most stunning I have ever taken. It was also one of the most challenging.

It was hot that day. We ran out of water a little more than half way up, but, as we came out of the tree line, we entered a wide meadow burgeoning with wild raspberries. They were delicious and so refreshing. We sat on a boulder and enjoyed a little break before the man leading our group, who also happened to be a professional guide, indicated that we needed to go. Then he said,

“You know, every year people die on this mountain.”

 

I forget now the average number of deaths per year that he rattled off, but it was nothing to take lightly.

We climbed a little higher and began to follow a narrow trail that ran across the face of the grassy mountainside—toward a stone face. The closer we came to the stone face the more I felt the knots tightening in my stomach. My palms were sweating as we approached the end of the meadow, and I saw where our path was about to lead.

The rocky cliff went nearly straight up—and nearly straight down. The path, which was littered with loose stones and gravel and the occasional patch of tall grass, was about 18-20” wide. A heavy chain was bolted into the mountainside to give you something to hang onto as you made your way to the other side of the mountain’s face.

This was not my idea of an “easy” day hike.

 

Mountain Side 2_2

I remember my fingers shaking as I reached for that chain. My legs trembled as I stepped out and heard the gravel crunch and shift beneath my feet.

 

“This,” I thought, “this is where they all died! It has to be. Who in their right mind would pick this path to send a bunch of tourists up a mountain!”

 

Then the cable car passed overhead, and I remembered that the smart tourists went that way.

Every step was carefully placed, and every glance toward the cliff beside us was quickly diverted back to the chain in the wall. By the time we were half way across, I had actually gotten used to it and begun to relax. Then I heard rocks sliding from the precipice and took a firmer grip on the chain. One careful, uncertain step at a time and finally we were across. The danger was past. We could walk on confidently.

 * * *

Uncertainty has become a way of life over the last two months. Yes, it has been two months—eight weeks to the day as I write this. Before April 24th, life had its questions—a lot of them actually. Since April 24th, it has been full of them.

Life will never be “normal” again, but with each day comes a tiny hope that some picture of the new “normal” might begin to appear. And, with each night, comes the realization that we simply aren’t there yet.

In situations like ours, I’ve heard people say, “Don’t make any major changes for at least six months.”

My only viable response is to stare back blankly.

Really? I’m not trying to be sarcastic here, but really?

Everything has changed.

Routines? Gone. Plans? Gone. Goals? Those appear somewhere out in the distance as fading dreams. The future is as unclear as it has ever been. Nothing is certain, not work, not ministry, not projects that had been started, nothing…that is the reality of it all…

 

Or is it?

This week the weight of that uncertainty has made itself known often. Every day has gone differently than planned, partly because I have been sick, partly because that’s still where we are in this process. Tonight, I hit a wall of sorts. I’d tried unsuccessfully three times to have a good quiet time throughout the day, but every time it was interrupted or the device I was using froze and had to be restarted—nothing worked.

By the time I was ready for bed, my heart was heavy with the question, “Lord, what am I supposed to do?” The question pertained primarily to our big picture, but many little things make that up as well. I opened my Bible to where my Bible app had frozen earlier in the day, but found myself praying, and then crying, instead of reading.

God has promised to work all things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. I know that, and that is what I prayed about, asking the Lord to help me see my part in it all.

As I prayed, the Lord prompted me to look back over Psalm 91, the passage that He led me to the Sunday before Dad went to Heaven. The psalm speaks of God’s care and protection. As I read verses nine and ten, an amazing peace came over my heart:

 

“Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the most high, thy habitation; there shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.”

 

God doesn’t ask us to do great and mighty things in order to earn His care—He just asks us to abide in Him. That is where we bring forth fruit. That is where we grow. It is where we have peace and shelter from the storm. That is where we find that the chain we’re holding onto is fastened—secured—in solid rock that will never move. That is where we find certainty…in God, who changes not.

But, God isn’t finished. The psalm goes on in verses fourteen and fifteen to say,

 

“Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high because he hath known my name. He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble: I will deliver him, and honor him.”

 

God is listening for our call. And not only is He listening but He also promises to answer! When we have made Him our habitation, when we have set our love upon Him, He is “a very present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1) We don’t have to walk uncertainly, instead we can run—as though we plan to win the race! (1 Corinthians 9:24-27)

 * * *

That day in Romania, we made it to the top…and it was well worth those uncertain steps on the precipice. On the heights of that mountain we found a reminder of that, which has bought our certainty—We found a cross. Don’t give up. The uncertainty of life will only last for a time—the certainty of Christ, and our hope in Him, goes on for eternity.

Memorial 2

 

Insights for families adjusting to loss

  • Life doesn’t just seem uncertain right now, it is uncertain. Chances are, you don’t know from one minute to the next what your day will hold. That’s hard, but it’s okay so long as you know where your hope lies. God will never change. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Don’t get overwhelmed by the uncertainty—don’t stare down the cliff. Keep your eyes on the solid rock—on Jesus.
  • Maybe you don’t know what that means. Maybe you’ve never had a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, or you haven’t sought to develop it. Let me share more with you. The Bible tells us that God is the Father of the fatherless. When Jesus came to die, He did so to pay our adoption price! He wants to be the One in whom we find peace and comfort. If you would like to know more about how to be saved, or how to grow in your walk with God, please drop me a note at gbcmissions127(at)yahoo(dot)com
  • The precipice doesn’t go on for ever—even though right about now it feels like it does! Take one step at a time (don’t try to jump to the other side!). CLING to the chain, to the Rock.

 

Insights for Churches:

  • Take note. Listen to what those who are passing through this situation are saying, whether they seem to be struggling or not. How uncertain is their situation. Why? What needs can be met? What counsel, planning, and direction can be given to help this family adjust to this new chapter of life?
  • Give help as it is needed and received, don’t force it. Also be aware that if it appears to be rejected, that could be grief speaking. The person you are dealing with may simply be overwhelmed. Ask the Lord to help you be discerning.
  • Check in. Don’t assume that because you haven’t heard anything from the family, everything is okay. They may be overwhelmed, tired, sick, not sure what to do next, or simply don’t want to burden others. Be proactive.

 

Insights for Individuals:

  •  Be kindly encouraging. Don’t quote advice you’ve heard from big name speakers or read on Facebook, unless it applies to the situation. Even be careful about randomly quoting Scripture. Make sure it actually applies. Remember the psalmist talks about a word “fitly spoken.” Be caring. Listen. Find out what the situation is.
  • Don’t expect your friend or the family passing through this valley to be “normal.” Someday, they may be able to do the things you’ve always done together, to participate in the same activities, and work on the same projects—until then be their support. Be patient. Find ways to help. NOT because you want your friendship to go back to the way it was as soon as possible, but because you care—that is true friendship.
  • Find little ways to be a blessing. A couple weeks ago, a friend sent me a bag of Hersey’s Hugs—I needed them so much the day the arrived. Today, on a very heavy day, I unexpectedly received a gift from another friend, a plaque that says, “Be assured…God is in the Details.” Both of these simple gifts were amazing blessings. They said, I’m thinking of you and praying for you—I haven’t forgotten. Another friend sends me a Bible verse nearly every day. She has walked in my shoes, and the reminder that she is praying gives so much hope. Those may seem like little things, but they mean the world.

Please, join the conversation in the comments below.

Are you from a fatherless family? How have others stepped up and helped in time of need? Or have you found yourself struggling through with little help? What are/were some of your biggest needs?

Are you a pastor or church leader? How has your church sought to meet these types of needs, or how do you plan to do it in the future?

Are you an individual? What ways have you found to help fatherless families in their time of need?

 

Last summer, two friends kept suggesting we spend a day at this place their parents had taken them to as children.  They remembered driving to a lake that dried up each summer. They insisted it was called “Big Dry,” but no one else seemed to know anything about it. I got out a map to look it up, but couldn’t find it anywhere. We were in the middle of a drought, and rumors had it that even if we could get there it might be closed due to fire hazards. So, I called the Park Service. THEY had never heard of “Big Dry” either. I talked to three different employees until, eventually, we decided our destination must actually be a place called “Big Lake”—And so it was.

The girls and I packed a picnic lunch and took off in search of this mysterious place. What we found was a breathtaking, alkali flat spreading out from the remnants of the lake.

 

"Big Dry", Montana

“Big Dry”, Montana

 

After we had eaten our lunch, we hiked out into the alkali as far as we dared before this happened:

 

IMG_1688 - Version 2

 

We made the trek back to the car and left Big Dry behind. An alternate route home led us to the site of an old church—what was left of it anyway. It had served its community for many years, but now it was but a reminder of what had been.

This week, I thought of that church. You see, the week started out with a conversation that I just didn’t have the courage to hashtag. Not because it was a particularly bad conversation, but because it was so—real.

Sunday night, a friend at church asked me about a trip I had planned a few months ago. At first, I wasn’t sure what he was talking about. I haven’t thought of leaving town for weeks now. When I finally figured it out, I caught myself looking him squarely in the eyes and saying, “My life has come to a stop.”

Have you ever seen eyes wince without moving? My friend’s eyes did that Sunday night. The words seemed harsh, but they reflect reality. I have not worked a single day since Dad went into the hospital. Instead, my days have been full of doing what it takes to simply survive. Figuring things out. Helping Mom. Walking beside our church, and helping it stay afloat. House maintenance. Yard work. Bills, budgets and bookkeeping. (It has taken 3 days to write this blog!) The list of things goes on and on, and then at day’s end comes grieving…if there is any energy left.

One particular, weekly event has been especially hard. At first, I thought it was just because I was exhausted by the end of the day. But, after fighting tears all the way through it two weeks in a row, I knew there was something more. This week I realized what it was. This event was a special time of fellowship with others…and with Dad. He led the event. It was a precious time…It was…

Last weekend I posted:

 

“Sometimes I hate the past tense. #storygoeson #keepwriting #LifeWithoutDad

 

I’m a bit of a NASCAR fan—I got it from my dad. When I posted the above, I had just seen Dale Earnhardt, Jr. tweet about losing a special fan. This young man had been to many races even though he was severely handicapped. I replied to his tweet, saying I would be praying for the family and all those who knew him. The word “knew” stopped me in my tracks.

How is it that we’re suddenly supposed to stop knowing someone just because they’re gone?

We can’t.

We don’t.

Still, an enormous part of life instantaneously enters the past tense.

This week, as I sat there listening to what was going on at the event, I thought of that little church near Big Dry. I thought of the blog I wrote the week before Dad passed away, and of that train platform I had clung to all those years ago in Russia. That platform did not budge as the train raced by just inches from my head.

One thought led to another, and I was reminded that beneath the rubble, beneath this new “past tense life”, is a solid foundation—Christ.

I tweeted:

 

It FEELS like the world is crumbling, but beneath a life built on Christ, is a solid Foundation. Matt 7:24-29 #LifewithoutDad #hope

 

The church building at Big Dry was moved several years ago, but, although every wall and window is gone, one thing remains—its foundation. I Corinthians 3:11 says,

 

“For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”

 

One of my Dad’s favorite verses says,

 

“…I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto to Him against that day.” (II Timothy 1:12)

 

When our faith is in Christ, His saving work on the cross, and His resurrection, our foundation will never move—because He never changes.

 

"The church's one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord..." - Samuel J. Stone

“The church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord…” – Samuel J. Stone

 

 

Insights for those Adjusting to Loss:

• Sometimes it FEELS like life has come to a stop and is crumbling all around us. Sometimes, it really is. Life can’t be built on emotions, it must have a base that is fixed and firm, just like the foundation of a building. Our foundation will never move if we are resting on Christ and His Word. Find ways to intentionally focus on Him. Remember that He was “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.” He understands. Keep Isaiah 26:3,4 close at hand, “Thou wilt keep him in PERFECT PEACE, whose MIND is STAYED on thee: because he trusteth in thee. Trust ye in the Lord forever: for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength.”

• As much as it FEELS like the story has come to an end, it goes on. Where we are today, is not where we’ll be a year or two or ten from now. It seems the best part is now in the past tense. We don’t know what the future holds, but we do know Who holds the future. Consider the story of Ruth and all that she left behind after her husband’s death. She probably thought her story had ended, but it was really just beginning. We may not always see it or feel it, but as we follow God we do have hope.

Remember to look for reminders of His love in unexpected places. This is one of my favorite pictures from that day at Big Dry. What a precious love note from God! I almost stepped on it!

IMG_1709 - Version 2

 

Insights for Churches:

Be there and be patient. It’s been six weeks for our family, but that doesn’t mean life is normal again. Life will never go back to that normal, and finding a new normal takes time. Think about how long it takes to adjust to a new town after a move, to a new school, to college. This will take longer.

• Don’t be caught of guard. Find out what’s really going on in the family experiencing loss. Have their lives, their livelihood, their hopes and their dreams all come to a stop? What needs arise as a result of this? In what areas can the church help to ensure the family gets reestablished on a good path?

 

Insights for Individuals:

• Take time to talk with those who are grieving—to listen. Don’t tell them what you think they need to hear. Listen to what they have to say, where they are, and what is happening. Then point them to Christ and His promises. Not in an effort to fix them, but to strengthen them. In order to do this, YOU must know who God is and what He has promised. Get in the Word, so you will be able to comfort others.

 

Are you from a fatherless family? How have others stepped up and helped in time of need? Or have you found yourself struggling through with little help? What are/were some of your biggest needs?

Are you a pastor or church leader? How has your church sought to meet these types of needs, or how do you plan to do it in the future?

Are you an individual? What ways have you found to help fatherless families in their time of need?

Please, join the conversation in the comments below.

I’ve always had this amazing dread of the underneath side of the house. Not a fear, just a dread of the mud and the spiders and the dark—and the spiders hiding in the dark, waiting to take up residence in my hair. But, this week I found myself tweeting this:

“Goin’ in…Here’s hoping I come out alive.”

2014-05-26 14.30.19

 

Last Sunday night, Mom and I sat in the living room practically melting. By morning, the bagels on the counter had molded. Granted, they were probably well on their way to start with, but the heat in the house didn’t help matters. I had already planned to mow, so why not add the swamp cooler to the list?

Those of you not familiar with semi-arid/arid climates are probably wondering,

“Swamp cooler? Is that a thing?”

 

The answer is yes. A swamp cooler, otherwise known as an evaporative cooler, lowers the house temperature by means of fans and evaporated water. In a place where the humidity is often under 10% an air conditioner just doesn’t always cut it—especially in a mobile home.

Each spring, the cooler has to be un-winterized and cleaned out. The pads generally need to be replaced. The bearings must be oiled. Some coolers are mounted on the roof, while others fit into a window. Ours is the latter kind, and of course, setting it up in the spring and shutting it down in the winter were always Dad’s job…

I knew I needed a ladder, so Sunday night I brought it home from where we store it at the church. (Thinking ahead!) Monday morning, I put my plan into action. But, I hadn’t been out there long, when I realized I had a problem.

Two summers ago, Dad and I re-sided the house. It took us 7 weeks and 2 days. Yes, I was counting. Now, I am incredibly grateful for those 51 hotter-than-a-firecracker days. (We put a thermometer out in the sun where we working, and it went up to 115!)  Here’s the problem: the new window trim on the deck is set in such a manner that it prevents removing the pad on the left side of the cooler. We took the cooler down for part of the re-siding process. We had to; it was in the way. It took all three of us to get it back up in place, so there’s no way I was going to do that again. From the looks of it, last year, Dad just let it go…one more sign that he wasn’t feeling well long before this happened.

If you’ve ever seen the inside of a swamp cooler, you know the pads are fit in metal frames with metal grates over top of them to hold them in place. After about a half hour of trying in vain to get the frame out of the cooler, I realized it wasn’t going to happen. I decided my only option would be to somehow remove the metal grate, set it down in the cooler and then to wiggle the old pad out and a new pad in.

My hopes of getting everything done on Monday were growing dim.

I measured the pads to know what replacement sizes to get, and then tackled my next problem: Oiling the bearings. How is it, that I live in a state where MANY people use swamp coolers, but none of the people I know who use them know how to set them up? Perhaps it’s because…my dad always did it for them.

I knew something needed to be oiled, but I didn’t know what or where. An information sheet I found on the internet said to put the oil in the “oil receptacle.” Yeah, I didn’t see anything that looked like a “receptacle.” Again, after about a half hour, I Googled it. No wonder I couldn’t find it! The two spots are almost microscopic! But, with that done, I now knew everything I needed to know to go to Lowes and get parts…which, with a few other errands added in, took another 2 hours.

My plan to wiggle the pad in worked! It took quite a long time, but eventually, I got it in there. The other two pads were a breeze. Oiling the bearings—easy as pie. Then came the part I’d been dreading.

While we were suffocating in the house the night before, I’d tried to turn the cooler’s fan on, just to move some air. When I hit the switch, however, the world remained silent. If you know anything about swamp coolers, you know silence is not their strong point. So, now that the pads were changed and the bearings oiled, I needed to find two things: the power source and the water source. Both appeared to be under the house.

I’m not a large person, yet, but I was very aware of the cramped space as I crawled in through spider webs and dangling insulation and wires. In the end, I realized I wouldn’t have actually had to crawl in, if I had known what I was doing. The power source was not under there, and the water source was right inside the access panel. But, while I was under there, I realized how difficult it must have been for my dad all those years he worked under there on various wiring, plumbing and phone projects. I could manage to get up on my hands and knees and turn around. But at 6’2” and well over 200 lbs, he would have had to belly crawl in and belly crawl out—backwards.

After much fidgeting and poking around and investigating, I discovered the system was shut off, of all places, at the thermostat. Makes sense, I just forgot about the thermostat. It wasn’t until I was texting my sister, asking her to pray that I find the power source, that I thought of it. Then, with the flip of the switch we were up and running—what a beautiful sound that was.

 

Probably took me longer than most, but swamp cooler is up & running! YES! #victory sure miss you @KRichardMiller

Probably took me longer than most, but the swamp cooler is up & running! YES! #victory sure miss you @KRichardMiller #LifeWithoutDad

 

Insights for those adjusting to loss:

  • With God’s help we can take on tasks we never thought we’d be doing. Sometimes working on those tasks, the things are father/husband would have done, can be painful. Throughout the process, especially the first time, we are keenly aware of WHY we are doing it. Talk to God throughout the process, keep your eyes on Him—that is where we must be to experience His peace.
  • Pray about it. Sometimes when we get stuck on a project we’re tempted to just force our way through it. Don’t. That will only increase your frustration. Stop, take a deep breath, and pray. Ask the Lord to guide you with His eye, to give you understanding of how things works, wisdom as to what steps to take, and the strength to take them.
  • Sometimes we have to go into the dark to really appreciate someone. My dad was an amazing man. He could fix almost anything. In fact, we fixed pretty much everything together. I don’t mean that I helped him with all the house repairs. I mean when I had a problem, a question, an idea, a computer issue—whatever the situation—Dad and I worked through it together. I’ve always appreciated that about him, but as I crawled through that tight, dirty, spider-infested space I realized a little deeper how much he was willing to put himself through to provide for and protect his family. Take time in the darkness to remind yourself of the amazing man God put in your life. Write some of those things down. Thank God for them—for him.

 

Insights for churches:

  • I grew up in a home with no brothers and a Mr. Fix-it father. So, we girls learned the basics of how things work: how to use a screwdriver and a hammer and how to work through a problem. Not every girl is so fortunate. When a family loses their father/husband, they are also often losing their handyman, their yard crew, their plumber, their tech guy. Who in your church has those skills? This is the perfect opportunity to be caring for the fatherless and the widow as God commanded. For some, the needs may be primarily in the first year, until they get their feet under them. For others the need may go on for a long time—especially if they are elderly or have small children. TEACH those who are able bodied the skills they need to do the task, if it is something that can safely be done without the aid of a professional. Give them the tools to thrive. (I’m thinking skills, but sometimes they may actually need the tools.)
  • Be aware. Many people will say, “If you need anything just call me.” This puts the burden back on the family that is already carrying an amazing burden. They know the offer is sincere, but they also know the person making it is just as busy as everyone else. They know they are working or ministering, and won’t want to disrupt their lives. The needs do not stop the day after the funeral, but many of the calls and offers to help do. Stop by and offer to walk around the house to see if anything needs to be repaired. Are they dealing with leaky sinks, doors that won’t latch, dishwashers that won’t wash, etc? Find out what needs to be done and then present the needs to those who are able and willing to help.
  • Consider the others affected. As mentioned above, my dad set up swamp coolers for others. He also fixed plumbing problems, carpentry problems, computer problems, etc. for the widows in our church and did a great deal of house repair for our single missionary lady. These women have also now lost a great deal. Sit down with the family and find out who their father was helping and serving. Make sure the others whose lives he was touching have not been forgotten.

 

Insights for Individuals:

  • The insights shared for churches have to be carried out for individuals. Ask the Lord to help you know how you can help, to give you a willing heart, to help you see the investment of your time in their lives as a valuable investment for eternity.

 

Are you from a fatherless family? How have others stepped up and helped in time of need? Or have you found yourself struggling through with little help? What are/were some of your biggest needs?

Are you a pastor or church leader? How has your church sought to meet these types of needs, or how do you plan to do it in the future?

Are you an individual? What ways have you found to help fatherless families in their time of need?

Please, share in the comments below.

 

[Note: This was written Sunday night. I apologize for the delay in getting it posted.]

It’s 12:45 a.m., and I’m wide-awake. I was almost asleep when I suddenly realized if I’m going to mow tomorrow, I should charge the weed-eater’s battery. I argued with myself for a while, trying to figure out if I could plug it in when I got up, and have it ready in time to mow. But, since it requires an eight-hour charge, I was on the losing side of the argument. The trip through the dark house and out to the kitchen got my mind to racing. I plugged in the battery and made my way back to the bedroom. As I crawled into bed, I realized this was just one more aspect of life without Dad.

2014-05-30 15.52.17

Success! Although it took me until Wednesday to actually get it done! #LifeWithoutDad

For several years, I have had a heavy burden for wives and children who lose their husbands and fathers suddenly. God has clearly expressed His desire for us to care for them in Scripture, but I have often wondered how many churches are equipped for the task. Life changes drastically when that man is suddenly gone. Each situation is different, for some only the wife is left behind. In other cases, the children are grown, or nearly so. In some instances, the children are very small. Whatever the situation, life will never be the same.

As I have walked through the past month, I have often looked at where we are and thought, “People need to know these things, so they can help those in need in their own congregations.” Tonight, as I lay in bed, I realized that moments such as the one I just had may provide exactly the tool all of us need for better understanding.

When I was in Russia, I used to include a section in my newsletters called “A Glimpse through the Window.” Usually, it contained a short story or cultural tidbit to give those praying for our ministry a tiny glimpse of daily life. I think perhaps it’s time for that now. I won’t share everything, of course. Some things are just too personal, may shine a bad light on an individual or individuals, or may just not be able to be translated from emotions into words at this time. But, the things that can be shared, I want to share with you.

I will post them on the FTN Facebook/Twitter accounts throughout the week using the hashtag #LifeWithoutDad Then, Lord willing, I will gather them together once a week, and post them here as a blog. My goals are threefold:

  1. To give a glimpse of what life is like in the household that has experienced sudden loss,
  2. To glorify God as He leads us through this time,
  3. To learn more about how to help others as they pass through similar situations,
  4. To learn from you.

 

Oh, wait…that’s fourfold, isn’t it! But, that last one is the most important one. I would like you to join me in this conversation. Share your experiences. Let’s help each other, learn from each other, equip each other to help others.

 

So, here are my first #LifewithoutDad moments:

The adult Sunday School room was nearly dark and far too quiet this morning. Everyone was meeting in a different room than usual. We’re going through the church covenant in preparation to start the process of finding a new pastor…That’s why the room was so quiet—because Dad is gone. He wasn’t busy setting up his PowerPoint presentation, or chatting with the couples we have known so long. He wasn’t making corny jokes, or laughing at them at the top of his lungs. He would always clap his enormous hands together when a joke especially tickled him. Then he’d fold his arms across his chest and say, “Oooh, my.” Sundays are hard. They are a powerful reminder that this is #LifewithoutDad

 

We sang favorites in the evening service. It was nice. Most of the songs were lively, or songs of peace, or of close fellowship with the Lord. As we were singing one song, I started flipping through the hymnal looking for another song to request. As I did, I came to “O Magnify the Lord” by Ron Hamilton. We sang this song at the last ROA revival at the local women’s prison. Dad, Yvonne, Mom, and I sang it together. Tears choked out the words of the song we were already singing. How I miss him. He loved that song. #LifewithoutDad #GoOnPraising #HeIsSingingInHeaven

 

The memory of the fist Sunday without Dad is still so sharp that the very mention of it drove me to tears and away from the lunch table. I think I managed to hide the tears among the dishes and regain my composure before it was too noticeable. The affects of injury upon injury do not disappear quickly, but the Holy Spirit is indeed the Comforter. And God is the Father of mercy and the God of all comfort. He heals the broken hearted. #LifewithoutDad

Please, feel free to share your experiences and especially your heart in the comments below. And join us in the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.

In God’s Arms

Posted: April 26, 2014 in Daily
Tags: , , ,
Thank you so much for praying for my dad. Many of you have already heard that God’s answer was not the one we expected or hoped for, but we know He “never moves without purpose or plan.” My Dad went home to be with the Lord yesterday morning around 10:30. It came as a great shock not only to us but also to his physicians. The one with whom we prayed the other day was crying right along with us. The surgeon was speechless. None of us expected it, but nothing has ever surprised God.
My Dad

My Dad

We are having the service at 2pm on Wednesday, April 30th, at Grace Baptist Church, 3616 Broadwater Ave, Billings, MT 59102 Viewing will be at the Smith Funeral Chapel (west) on Tuesday from 5pm-8pm. In lieu of flowers love gifts may be sent to the church to help meet medical and other expenses.

Thank you all so much for your love, support, texts, emails, phone calls, and hugs. They are greatly needed. Please continue to pray for our family, our church, and our community. Our ROA missionary pointed out to us that in June Dad was supposed to preach on God’s Glory in the Prison Revival—Instead he is basking in that glory right now! What a precious thought!

I had intended to write an update this week, but this is not what I intended to write. That letter will have to wait. Some of you are already aware of what is going on, and I want to thank you so much for your love and support.

Yesterday morning my Dad, BIMI missionary Richard Miller and Pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Billings, MT, went to the ER for recurring pain that had grown serious during the night. By early afternoon they had him in emergency bypass surgery. The surgery lasted about 6 hours. They ended up doing 6 bypasses.

They told us this morning that he was pretty much where they expected him to be. They had just taken the breathing tube out when we arrived, but he struggled with his breathing all day long. Finally, this evening they put the tube back in and have sedated him so that he is resting more easily. He has a lot of fluid on his lungs, a problem which they are working on very diligently.

Mom is staying with him tonight. I know many of you won’t see this until morning, but if you see it tonight please pray that she will be able to get rest there. I know she is very tired.

We are so grateful for so many things. God has given us wonderful hospital staff. He has worked out so many details that we never even knew existed or would need to be worked out yesterday morning when this all began. My sister and her family were able to come from Bozeman, MT — so we are all together.

Please pray for my Dad, for the doctors and other staff, for our church, and for our family as a whole. We had an opportunity to pray with/for the pulmonologist before he put the breathing tube back in this evening. He had tears in his eyes when we finished. Please pray that we will have further opportunity to share Christ with those around us!

This morning, my quiet time was in I Kings 17. I didn’t even get through the first couple of verses before an amazing peace came over me. I knew that just as God took care of Elijah and the widow and her son during that famine, His care for us was already in place. He already had the birds by the brook. He is so faithful to strengthen us!

Thank you so much for praying! I will do my best to keep you updated.