The last six weeks have been full of change and questions. Each day, I awake with my heart already crying out to the Lord for His direction and for wisdom to know His plan for the future. At times, it seems these days are bringing to a close a journey—a passion and calling—that has been the focus of every waking moment for the past twenty years. It has felt in some moments as if I have faced another death. At other times, I see some small hope that maybe, just maybe, this path has not come to an abrupt end but merely disappeared “into the trees” for a time.

In April, we found out about a sudden and drastic financial change. Due to the amount of time invested in helping the church over the last year, I had already lost nearly all of my own income and was looking for work to tide me over until I could get both my editing service and FTN back on their feet. This new development, however, increases that need by more than $1,000/month.

As you can imagine, the hours required to make up these losses will greatly limit the amount of time I am able to put into direct, daily ministry for the near future. Only the Lord knows the ultimate outcome of this situation, and we must continue to seek Him in every step. While much that I have done in the past may be limited, I hope to be able to continue a few things, like the Green Bean Project and the clothing exchange. The rest, including the local ministry to single moms, is in God’s hands. I believe that work is very needful in Billings, and I believe the Lord was beginning to open doors and give glimpses of what that ministry’s potential really could be, but for now, though it rips at my heart, it must wait.

Please pray with me for God’s wisdom, for provision, and for clear direction. I am so grateful for the last twenty years. God has given me the great joy of serving Him in ways and places that I never would have imagined. I have no regrets, and so much for which to praise Him. What amazing things we have seen Him do! My heart has not changed, if anything my burden for the fatherless, the widow, the stranger, and the poor and needy has increased. Over the last year, I have walked in their shoes in a way I had never walked before. It is my prayer that through all of this, God will open doors that never would have opened before. I know that He has a plan. It may not look like anything I ever imagined, in fact—it might be better.

I hope you will join me here as I wait on the Lord and continue to share what He has been teaching me about His heart for the fatherless. (Blogs may be scarce for a while, but I do have a plan for down the road. :) )

Thank you for your prayer, for your support, and for your involvement. I will continue to seek to find ways to be relevant and to show and share the love of Christ both to the fatherless and to the others God brings along my path. I pray that you will do the same.

I have wanted to write this update for a couple of weeks, but have been waiting for some details to come together so I could give the most accurate information possible.

Over the last few weeks, God has been moving things along rather quickly. We are very excited to say that, Lord willing, we will have an interim pastor arriving later this week. Lebron and Libby Williams of Home and Abroad Baptist Ministries will be traveling this way from Tennessee and plan to spend about three months with us. During which time we will continue diligently searching for a full-time pastor. Please pray for the Williams as they make the trip here and acclimate to Billings. Also, please continue to pray for our pastor search. We believe the Lord is already preparing just the right man for the job.

I also wanted to give an update on the Green Bean Project. Yes, it was supposed to be over at the end of December, but God had other plans. Since my last update, He brought in two more gifts, which nearly doubled what had come in up to that point. So, rather than having to take the local ministry completely out of the mix, I was able to send gifts to each of the overseas ministries and still had some left over for the single moms ministry here in Billings! God is GOOD!

I want to thank all of you who have prayed for us over the last ten months. I cannot begin to tell you how much it means to know people are praying. We know that without those prayers, we would not have made it this far. We also know that we still have a ways to go, and we ask that you continue to pray fervently. I have been greatly refreshed of late by the promise of 1 Thessalonians 5:24: “Faithful is He that calleth you, who also will do it.”

May the Lord bless you as you serve Him!

“O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever.” 1 Chronicles 16:34

 

What would we do without God’s mercy! How grateful I am that His mercies are “new every morning.”

Our church is finally on the verge of beginning our pastor search. We would greatly appreciate your prayer as we seek the man that God has been preparing. Please be praying specifically as relates to “Forbid Them Not,” both locally and internationally, as well as other ministries already established through the church. I have already had more than one pastor tell me, “Sometimes we have to give up the things we love” in regard to our prayer that God would bring a man with a similar burden. This breaks my heart, but I believe the Lord CAN answer that prayer. It is just a matter of letting God bring us together.

The 2014 Green Bean Project has come to a close. Due to the many new responsibilities on my plate, this year’s project was much more difficult to keep moving. We were able to raise about $350 dollars. This is quite a bit short of the amount that I had hoped we could raise, so I have decided to pull the local ministry out of the mix and split the funds between the three ministries we have supported through this project in the past. I will also be adding to it enough to send each ministry $150. If you would like to help with this addition, or would like to give specifically to the local ministry you can do so through the Green Bean Project page of the Forbid Them Not website

Our family had a blessed holiday season. It would be untrue to say that we did not have some very difficult moments, but we were blessed to be together. How grateful we are for the promises of God, in particular, that He never leaves us, nor forsakes us! In July, a friend of mine encouraged me to start a follow-up to the devotional journal that I published in 2013. As I prayed about this, the Lord impressed me to focus the new journal on His promises. I cannot even begin to tell you what an amazing source of strength and comfort those promises were as I began compiling them for the book. It’s my prayer that they will have the same effect on those who use the new journal.

Personally, I would appreciate your prayer for wisdom. Since May, I have inherited the responsibilities of three different people at the church because they have either gone to heaven or their health has made it impossible to carry out the work. Finding balance between what was already in place and the new responsibilities is very difficult. I have been very limited both in the areas of outreach and work. I have tried to keep in my mind that THIS is what God has for now. I greatly need wisdom in this area. Please, pray with me for the Lord’s direction. He has never failed, and since He has promised that He is the same yesterday, today and forever, I know He will not start failing now!

Please be in prayer for a young woman named Tanya and her son Isaiah. I met them just before Thanksgiving. She was calling around asking churches for a ride, so she could pick up her Thanksgiving food box at the local food bank. By the time I got her call, she was very frustrated and felt that everyone was just giving her the run around. When I picked her up that afternoon, she said to me, “You are the only church that was willing to help single moms. Thank you.”

Fifty-four percent of the kids in Billings are growing up in single parent homes. Many of them are living in poverty as a result. It’s easy to say, “Well, you made your bed, now lie in it.” But that is not Christ’s response. When someone says something like Tanya said that day, it helps put into perspective how important this ministry really is. Tanya and I have tried to get together a couple of other times since Thanksgiving, but each time it has fallen through. Please, pray that the Lord will allow this relationship to develop, and that she would come to a full understanding of what Christ has done for her and will come to Him for salvation.

Thank you so much for your prayers! I know many people have been praying for us over the last few months! We need it! Thank you for your faithfulness!

 

When I was a very small girl, Dad and I went on a carnival ride. They called it the Octopus. Maybe you’ve heard about it and its ridiculous tentacles. I was terrified throughout the ride, but the end is most indelibly impressed in my memory. I remember lying on my back as the ride came to a stop. We were at the top, so very, very high up. Gravity pulled us earthward. My small, sweaty hands slid on the metal safety bar. I could feel my back slipping across the fiberglass seat.

“I’m going to fall!” I screamed.

“No, you’re not.” Dad said in his most matter-of-fact voice. “You’re fine.”

“But I’m going to fall!”

“No. You’re strapped in, you won’t fall.”

I felt myself slip a little further. “I’m falling!”

If I hadn’t needed the air to scream, I would have been too afraid to breathe. Why didn’t he believe me? Why didn’t he tell the men we were going to fall and that they needed to fix it? Couldn’t they see us slipping? Couldn’t Dad feel us slipping?

“I’m slipping.”

“You’re going to be okay.”

The chair jerked. We were moving again. Then we stopped, still up in the air, but not so nearly upside down. I stopped slipping. I dared to wipe the sweat from my palms, one hand at a time. I leaned in against my Dad. I was safe.

 

I know no better way to describe this summer. Dad is gone. Anita is gone. Mary is gone. And the rest of us are left, in a sense, like a small child flailing high above the ground, unsure, scared, feeling gravity do its work—ready to get off the ride. But beside us is the ever-present help of the Father, quietly reassuring us, “It’s alright. I’m here. You’re safe.” And there is but one thing to do—lean into the crook of His arm and rest.

Our ride has included four funerals (and those are just the ones since Dad died), mountains of new responsibilities, financial losses, massive house repair projects that are still incomplete; attacks against the church from without and struggles within. I can’t help but ask myself, “When did we start rodeoing, and when are they going to run out of bulls?”

The future is uncertain. Normal seems far, far away. But God has not changed. He never leaves us and never forsakes us. He knows the path we take. He goes before and behind. We often want to know what our new lives will look like, we want to move on, and get back to what “we’re supposed to be doing.” But for now, THIS is what we are supposed to be doing. Waiting. Holding the fort. Remaining faithful. Trusting. Resting. Leaning on the Everlasting Arms.

I have no plans of quitting because my Father has no plans of quitting. I don’t know how the future of Forbid Them Not will unfold yet, perhaps you will be a part of it. I do know this—God has promised that when He has called us, He will be faithful to do it. We continue to do the work God has put directly in front of us. The church is carefully regrouping and praying that the Lord will lead us to the right man. We have continued our monthly fellowship nights as an opportunity to invite new people in and encourage believers from other churches, some from churches as many as 60 miles away. Mom is still faithfully ministering in the jail, prison, and prerelease center. She has seen several saved this summer. I have taken on many new responsibilities at the church and am preparing for the fourth annual Green Bean Project and our annual Ladies’ Retreat Day.

I would like to add a fourth and very important ministry to this year’s Green Bean Project. Our local ministry.

For the past three years, I have slowly been putting together the beginnings of a ministry to single moms and their children. I don’t share much about it in my letters or online because these women are often faced with very sensitive and personal challenges. I’ve held various events, provided transportation, and even an opportunity for one woman to earn her rent money. I’ve counseled, encouraged, and just tried to be there. Progress has been slow, but lives have been touched.

A couple of people have approached me about getting involved, and I feel the next few months will be a good time to start gathering the resources to expand this ministry. But, I need your help! Please, pray with me that we would be able to start working with more women, teaching them life skills, teaching them how to be good mothers, helping their children as God has called us to, and—most importantly—winning them to Christ. If you would like to know more about how you or your church can get involved or partner with me in this growing ministry, please let me know! I’m excited to see what God is going to do.

I’m pretty sure our ride isn’t over yet. The Octopus just keeps turning. The bulls keep bucking. Please, pray that we will remain faithful, that we will allow the joy of the Lord to be our strength, and that God will be glorified through all that has, is, and will take place here.

 “According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Philippians 1:20,21

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.