GOOD GRIEF

Types of tears

This is a repost from 2017, but I think it is timely this holiday weekend when so many are dealing with grief and the empty chair. Sending you all blessings and wishes for a happy Thanksgiving.

Have you ever wondered why we were created with the ability to cry?  I am privileged to sit alongside my clients as they shed many tears.  People are usually embarrassed and tell me they are sorry for crying, but I tell them they never have to apologize for shedding tears.  In my own life, I have gone through a seasons of tears.  There were days when I wondered how I could produce so much water!  Finally I decided to do a little research on crying and what the Bible has to say about it.

According to scientists, there are three types of tears and they all differ in their function and chemical makeup.  All tears are salt water and they drain through our nasal cavity, which is why so many of us have to blow our noses after a good cry.  Basal tears are the tears that we have in our eyes all the time.  They keep our eyes from drying out.  We produce about 5 – 10 ounces of basal tears every day.  Basal tears are about 98% water. 

Reflexive tears are those that protect the eye from irritants, such as smoke, onions, or dust.  The sensory nerves in your cornea send a message to your brainstem that in turn sends hormones to the glands in the eyes that produce tears.  These tears contain a bio-chemical called lysozyme, an antibacterial protection for the eyes.  

The third type is emotional tears.  Most scientists believe that only humans are capable of producing this type of tear. God created us with this unique ability among all His creatures.  I think it is interesting that Jesus (God in human form) also wept (John 11:35; Luke 19:41).  These emotional tears are the ones I am most curious about, and it turns out that they have special health benefits.  Dr. William Frey, a biochemist at the Ramsey Medical Center in Minneapolis, has done extensive research on tears.  He discovered that emotional tears contain stress hormones that are excreted from the body through crying.  Dr. Frey’s research suggests that when we are under stress, even good stress, our bodies produce stress hormones which are necessary for a fight-or-flight response.  However, over prolonged periods of time, these hormones can be dangerous to our health.  Dr. Frey proposes that tears are the body’s mechanism for releasing these built up toxins.  Crying is beneficial to your health, and research shows that stifling emotional tears can elevate the risk of heart disease and hypertension.  Psychologists believe that those who are experiencing grief do better through talking and crying, rather than holding it all in.  Sometimes having a good cry is the healthiest thing you can do.

The Bible has a great deal to say about crying.  In fact, there are almost 700 references to crying and tears in Scripture.  One thing stands out loud and clear: God sees our tears.  David says in Psalm 56:8: “You keep track of all my sorrows.  You have collected all my tears in your bottle.  You have recorded each one in your book.”  Tear bottles were used in ancient (and in some more modern) times during mourning.  They were used to collect the tears of the bereaved and often buried along with the deceased as a sign of respect.  

God collects our tears.  He knows when we are grieving, hurt, sad, frustrated, and angry.  He even knows when we cry tears of joy.  He sees every tear that falls.  And He records all these tears in His book of remembrance (Malachi 3:16).  God keeps a database of all our sorrows.  And He promises to wipe away all our tears when we get to Heaven (Revelation 21:4), where death, sorrow, crying, and pain will be gone forever.  

We take comfort in these things.  We are so fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14), that even our tears have a purpose here on earth.  But when we get to Heaven there will be no need for tears.  God Himself will tenderly wipe them away.

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.  Revelation 21:4 (NIV).

CLOSE YOUR EYES

In my last post I wrote about the spectacular fall I had at OU during a football game.  It was one of my more attractive moments!  Since then I have been getting some physical therapy for balance, and part of the therapy involves proprioception, that I also mentioned in my last talk.  Briefly, our bodies have specialized nerve endings in our joints and muscles that send messages to the brain about the position and movement of our body parts.  For example, close your eyes and extend your arm out to the side so that it is parallel to the floor.  Now, with eyes still closed, bend your elbow 90 degrees toward the ceiling.  You were able to do that without looking because your proprioceptors were able to tell your brain the position of your arm.  Your brain was then able to move your arm properly without the benefit of sight.  

Part of my balance therapy requires standing on a squishy foam board and performing movements with my feet, head, and arms with my eyes closed.  These movements challenge all of my lazy balance systems at the same time.  This is more difficult than you might think.  Apparently balance is a “use it or lose it” mechanism.  And one of the best ways to strengthen it is to confuse it by making it unstable and then removing eyesight.  I can tell you…I don’t like it!  I want to be on firm ground with my eyes open.   

As I was performing these movements yesterday I was thinking about how much life is like that.  We want to be on firm footing and to be able to see where we are going.  We want to know what is ahead and figure out how we are going to handle it.  When life removes our familiar supports, when things are unsteady and the future is uncertain, we don’t like it.  At least I don’t.  And this is where walking by faith comes into play.

Walking by faith means we trust God’s promises even when we can’t see where we are going.  It means we trust in the goodness and purposes of God even though we may be going through severe and frightening trials.  The Bible encourages us to walk by faith and not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7).  We keep our eyes fixed on the eternal things that we cannot see now, and not on the temporary things that we can see (2 Cor. 4:18).  We have hopenot hope as a wish, but hope as a secure anchor that we can trust when we are going through stormy seas.

Here is my true confession: I hate trials and I would rather not have to walk by faith.  I want to be able to look ahead and see good things…many more years with my husband, happy lives for my children and grandchildren, a good report in My Chart, a lower number on my bathroom scales and a higher number in my bank account.  But I often say, with all the moving parts in our large family, if everyone is at a good place…don’t breathe.  Because life can change in a moment.  Trials happen, and those trials require faith.  And walking by faith through those trials develops my trust muscles. 

This much I know: God is a good God…all the time.  Even when things don’t look good, I know I can trust my good God.  His purposes toward us are always for good, not only for my good, but also for His bigger plans down the road that I cannot see right now.  And not only is He good, he is a way maker, and a promise keeper. He makes a path for me, and goes before me and behind me.  He is my anchor.  

Your road led through the sea, your pathway through the mighty waters— a pathway no one knew was there! Psalm 77:19 NLT

The Righting Reflex

So it’s been a month now and that has given me time to see the humor in what was a really embarrassing moment.  It was OU’s opening football game, and after missing all last year due to COVID, Jerry and I were excited to be back in Norman, and super excited for some football.  Jerry had gone to his seat ahead of me, as the game was about to start, while I stayed behind to chat with our grandson.  So by the time I got to our row, the stadium was filling up.  The Sooners have tried to squeeze as many people as possible into Memorial  Stadium, so the rows are VERY narrow.  I was making my way to my seat, trying not to step on the feet of the people who were already sitting, or knock over anyone’s drink or popcorn, when I felt the rubber sole of my shoe stick.  And that’s when I went down.  It wasn’t just a fall.  As Jerry says, it was a 10!  I went over the bench in front of me, grabbing the shoulder of a man innocently sitting minding his own business (and wearing a back brace!), and finally landed on my two artificial knees!  OUCH!  It was like landing on ground glass!  I know it only took a couple of seconds but it felt like slow motion.  Oh the thoughts that were running through my brain!  People gathered around me saying, “Don’t get up.”  Well don’t worry, at this point I’m hoping the ground will open and swallow me!  I managed to get up with a “Ta Da!” in a “stuck my landing” pose, but oh man, was I mortified!

It was this event that finally pushed me into scheduling a visit with my orthopedist, Dr. Keith Stanley.  I have been having some posture issues, as well as balance and walking problems. There are days when I feel like I need to re-learn how to walk.  After taking x-rays (there are problems), he sat down to talk, and that is when he used the dreaded A word.  Aging.  My spine is degenerating, my balance is not as good as it once was, and my reaction time is slower.  But here is the surprising part: my proprioceptors are wearing out.

I knew what Dr. Stanley was referencing because I studied proprioceptors in grad school, but for those of you who may not be familiar with the term, proprioceptors are the sensory receptors that help the body detect its own position in space.  For example, without proprioception you would be unable to touch your nose with your eyes closed, or to balance on one leg.  Proprioception provides feedback to the brain to enable you to detect whether you are walking on a hard or a soft surface.  It also allows our bodies to perform simultaneous actions without having to stop and think about each one separately, such as running down a football field, scanning for receivers, and throwing a pass.  

That was a bit of an “aha” moment for me, because I could recognize that yes, my proprioception is off.  And that is the last time I will use that word, but allow me to introduce another word that may be unfamiliar.  God in His wisdom created us with a righting reflex, also known as the labyrinthine righting reflex.   This reflex corrects the orientation of the body when it is taken out of its normal upright position.  When I lost my balance and fell, the labyrinthine righting reflex helped me return to an upright position and regain equilibrium.  Humans are not alone in needing righting.  Airplanes and sailing vessels have what is known as a righting moment to help restore them to the correct attitude when they have listed or rotated off course.  

I wrote about this in my book, Season, and here is an excerpt.

I wonder how many of those righting moments in life have gone unheeded.  Those times where we have listed in the wrong direction and have not paid attention to our own righting instincts. We have gotten off course and can’t seem to find our direction.  We have missed our true north.

By looking back at your own unique life story and examining the critical events, you discover how the pieces fit together to define who you are and explain how you got to this point.  Often we see that some of our worst mistakes, our biggest regrets were actually righting reflexes to point us to our true north.  No one likes pain, but if we listen, pain is trying to tell us something.  If you put your hand on a hot stove, pain sensors send a message to your brain that causes you move your hand so you won’t burn your skin.  Similarly, painful life events are sending us a message that we need to move, to change course, to do something different.  We need to be righted.  Some of us learn quickly and can right ourselves with only a little discomfort.  Others of us need a great deal of pain before we finally wake up and decide to take action.  Sadly, some of us stay stuck in pain because we don’t know what to do or don’t think we have any power to change the situation.    

I believe our broken roads get us to the place we were destined to be, if we pay attention to the road signs along the way, the righting moments.  And by the way, God also gave us the Holy Spirit to guide and direct us, and to whisper in our ear when we get off track.  No matter how badly we mess things up, Jesus can use the most broken and damaged pieces of our lives and turn it into something beautiful.  He can turn trash into a treasure.  

I love the song by Rascal Flatts, “Bless the Broken Road.”

Every long lost dream led me to where you are

Others who broke my heart they were like Northern stars

Pointing me on my way into your loving arms

This much I know is true

That God blessed the broken road

That led me straight to you.

 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.  Jeremiah 29: 11-13  (NIV).  

THE SEASON OF LETTING GO

I’m not sure I like my current season.  I am calling it The Season of Letting Go.  My friends, those in my age cohort, understand.  After spending a lifetime of acquiring—family, friends, hobbies, possessions, you name it—we are now having to let go.

This reality has been hitting me hard this month as we have been spending time with our grands before they return to school. Numbers 1,2,and 3 are already out of college and are now adulting, the older two now married with families of their own.  We have been having off-to-college breakfasts with 4,5, and 6 during the last weeks.  It’s always hard to say goodbye, even when we are simultaneously excited for their new journeys.  

I suppose this letting go thing was driven home most sharply when we said goodbye to our Hannah before she left for Nashville last week.  This wasn’t the customary off-to-college goodbye.  Yes, she is heading back to Belmont, and I am so happy about that.  But she is actually moving to Nashville.  I truly believe that Nashville is her place, that she belongs there and will find her true north there.  But it is 600 miles away!  I can tell you I actually have a physical pain in my chest.  But I have to let her go.

I have been incredibly blessed to have kept all my chicks close to the nest.  All of our children live near us, and all but one of our nine grands has attended the elementary school that is a couple of blocks from our house.  This year for the first time in about 25 years, we will not have a grandchild at that school.  The youngest is heading to middle school.  They are all flying away, creating lives of their own.  And even though I know that is how it should be, it is still hard to let go.

The letting go started some time ago.  We Baby Boomers began to lose eyesight, hearing, waistlines, and hair.  Now we are letting go of our houses, downsizing into smaller abodes.  And those moves require letting go of our carefully collected stuff.  We really no longer need the punch bowl and matching cups because now it is our daughters who are hosting the showers, not us.  (And by the way, they don’t want our punch bowls!)  Most of us have let go of careers, and I have seen how this has been particularly hard on men.   There are so many “lasts.”  And the thing is, we might not recognize a last when it is occurring.  A last trip to the beach, a last pet, a last car, and most of all, a last time to see a loved one.  

 I have watched some of my friends let go of life as they knew it to become caregivers to a failing spouse.  More and more, my friends are being widowed.  And all too frequently we are hearing about the death of a high school classmate.  

Even though I don’t like it, I think all of this letting go is necessary.  We must let go of the people and things that keep us tied to earth, because one day we will be leaving.   When God is trying to make a point to me, He often comes at me from different angles.  I often say He is a multi-media God.  So I wasn’t surprised that we sang I Surrender All yesterday in church.  I surrender all.  Do I?  Everything?  I might as well because it all belongs to him anyway.  Even the children and grands.  

We have a friend, a member of our extended family, who is dying.  I have been thinking of all the things he is losing…even the small things.  He will never again go outdoors, or have dinner with family.  No one had to ask him if he wants to let go of his car.  It’s a moot point.  But oh, what he will gain when he sees Jesus!  Who needs a car when you can have wings?  

This is my reminder, what I will gain.  As the old hymn says, “Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also.”  Those children and grandchildren have never been truly mine, only on loan from God.  And the stuff?  I won’t need it.  I will leave this world the same way I came into it, naked and empty-handed.  And the same God who has given me abundantly everything I have needed in this life will give me everything I need in the next.  Who knows?  There may even be a heavenly punch bowl in my future!       

THE PROBLEM OF SHAME

Out of all the problems and conditions I see in my practice, I believe shame is the worst and the most difficult to heal.  Shame is different from guilt, although both feelings are unpleasant.  Guilt can actually lead to good, helping us to change direction and turn from the behavior that caused the guilty feeling in the first place.  But shame is about who I am as a person. Guilt is about something I did; shame is about who I am.  Guilt says, “I did something bad,” while shame says, “I am bad.”  I think of shame as a toxic tar baby that keeps us stuck in self-defeating behaviors.  Researcher and author Brené Brown states that shame is an “intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.” 

There is a field of study that looks at the neurobiology of shame and gives us insight into its origins. From birth we are hard-wired to interact with and depend on our caregivers.  We start learning immediately which behaviors will elicit care and comfort from them.  We seem to know that without a family or a tribe, we will not survive.  When we are shamed we experience a fear of being rejected that behavioral scientists call survival terror.  To defend against this terror, we develop an inner critic, usually in the voice of the critical parent(s), that keeps us in line, and from experiencing more rejection.  This inner voice keeps us behaving in ways that the parent wants, so that we will not get more shame.  By adulthood, that inner voice has become our own, and we take it and run with it.  

Dr. Richard Schwartz, the founder of Internal Family Systems therapy, explains that we carry around multiple parts of our self.  There is the internal critic that tells us how bad we are, and the young part of our self that believes this voice.  Usually there is a third part that will do anything to get away from feeling shame, often engaging in behaviors that bring about more shame.  For example a person who is experiencing what Brown calls a “shame storm,” might get drunk or engage in risky sex to try to get away from the feeling of shame.  Of course that only serves to perpetuate the cycle of shame.

The Bible has much to say about being freed from shame.  It tells in Psalms that God does not want us to live in shame and describes Him as “the One who holds my head high.”  In the book of Romans we are told that when we come to Christ we are no longer under condemnation.  God accepts us unconditionally into His family. 

If you have been living with toxic shame, there is good news.  You can learn to silence that inner critic and see yourself in a different light.  Thanks to neuroplasticity, your brain can learn new ways of thinking and behaving.  A therapist, a pastor, or a good support group can come alongside you in a journey of self-exploration.  You can be set free!    

THE BABY SHOWER

Last weekend we had a baby shower for my granddaughter who is expecting her first baby.  This little girl who is on the way is a much longed for and planned for baby.  We are all excited and looking forward to welcoming her into the world.  And when she gets here she is going to be well equipped!  It takes a lot of gear for a tiny baby!  And it’s all so big and takes up so much space!  I told my granddaughter she and her husband might need a bigger house.  

It was so much fun watching her unwrap all the cute baby girl things, and to see all the interesting and useful gadgets new parents want today.  I think most of us do the best we can as parents based on what we know.  But the “best” I did fifty years ago would probably get me reported to child protective services today.  My seat belt was an arm thrown across a child riding in the front seat.  And my car seat was a flimsy metal and plastic thing with a toy steering wheel on the front that would impale a baby in a wreck.  But that was the best at that time.  We didn’t know.  As parents we all have hopes and dreams for our children, and we want the very best for them.

Did you know that God planned for you and had hopes and dreams for you?  Before God ever created the universe, before He ever said, “Let there be light,” He was thinking of you.  The Bible tells us in Psalm 139 that God has a book for each of us, and in those books He recorded every moment of our lives before time even began.  I think of it as my big planner in heaven. God was thinking about and making plans for us, and writing them down in our planners. The same Psalm says His thoughts about us cannot even be counted; they outnumber the grains of sand.  He has been thinking about us since before time began.

God knew the day we would be conceived, the day we would be born, the day we will die, and every day in between.  And all those thoughts He was thinking?  Those are His plans for us, our purpose for being alive on earth.  And He showered us with gifts, especially the gift of salvation, again, before the beginning of time.  Just as my granddaughter is gathering everything she needs for her yet-to-be-born baby, God had everything we would ever need to carry out our purpose in place long before we were born.  

Have you ever thought about why you are living at this particular time in history?  God has the answer recorded in your book.  That answer is your purpose for being here.  And He even promises to come along side us to help us carry out those plans.  However, we have a choice.  We can live our lives our own way, go about our business, and never even consult Him about His plan for us.  God won’t force us to carry out His plan.  But what if we miss out on the best life we could ever experience?  

You might be thinking that you don’t have time to carry out some grand plan because you have a job to get to, laundry to fold, children to care for, and groceries to buy.  Well those things could very well be God’s plan for you today.  Not all of us are called to be a Billy Graham or a Mother Teresa.  And not every day is going to be a grand mountaintop day.  But if you ask Him, He might just help you carry out a special assignment in the midst of your daily routine.  Or He might help you do the mundane with grace and love.   

Revelation 21:4 tells us that when we get to heaven, God will wipe away all our tears.  I have a friend who believes that some of those tears will fall when we see our books opened up, when we see what God had planned for us that we missed.  Even after all these years I have to remind myself every morning to consult God about my day.  I certainly don’t get it right all the time, but I want to.  I don’t want to miss out on my purpose.                  

LETTER TO MY 18-YEAR OLD SELF

It’s May again and graduation ceremonies are happening all across the United States.  Students walk across the stage to receive their diplomas while proud parents snap photos and cheer as if graduating high school were the most amazing feat ever accomplished.  This year we have two graduates.  Jack graduated last Saturday from OU, and Ellie Grace will graduate from high school tomorrow night.  These events have given me a chance to think about what life is going to be like for these seniors.  So with that in mind, I am recycling a blog I wrote a few years ago, with some minor tweaking.  

I graduated from what was at the time the largest high school in Texas.  The Bryan Adams class of 1964 had almost 1000 members.  Now it is a whopping 57 years later!  It hardly seems possible.  With so many graduates, graduation was a long and boring affair.  I don’t remember who gave the commencement address and I certainly don’t remember what was said.  I was probably too busy thinking about the all-night party that was to follow.  I wish I had paid attention because someone probably worked hard to impart some words of wisdom.  Although I thought I knew everything, I could have used some sage advice.

If I could speak now at my own graduation ceremony, what would I say to my 18-year old self?

1. The first thing I would say is “Look around.  Embrace this evening.  This is the last time you will all be together.”  At 18, I did not realize that people would move away and not return.  And I did not know that young people would die.  There was a war at the time.  Young men (and women) would sacrifice their lives in the service of their country.  Even though you all will be going off in different directions, stay in touch with people who matter.  Those friendships are worth keeping.  Sadly, at this point in our lives our classmates are dying.  Death was not even on my radar at 18.

2. Nurture your faith.  I was a baby believer at 18.  I knew I was going to Heaven, but I did not realize the claim that Jesus had on my life.  If I had developed a better relationship with Him I could have saved myself a few wrong turns.

3. Don’t be in such a hurry.  Enjoy your late adolescence and early twenties.  But at the same time, life is short.  This is the time to make careful preparations for the life you want to have.  Make deliberate choices instead of just drifting.  Live life intentionally.

4.  Life is too hard to live alone.  Stay close to your family.  VISIT YOUR GRANDPARENTS.  They will not be here forever.  Choose your spouse carefully.  Invest time in the lives of your children.  Someday they may be choosing your nursing home. 

5. Choose to live a life that makes a difference.  There are many different ways you can do this, and your path will be different from mine.  Leave the world a better place.  Spend some of your time on earth doing things that have a lasting significance.  Consider what you want your legacy to be.

6. Use your money wisely.  Be a generous giver and save for the future.  Don’t let the pursuit of money consume you.  Invest early in a retirement account because the goal line will keep moving.  

7. You are going to have some failures, but they do not define you.  Setbacks and roadblocks can help you find your true north.  

8. Keep learning and growing.  Never lose your curiosity.  The world is a big place.  See more of it.  Read good books.

9. Take a few risks.  You are capable of more than you think.  When you know what you are supposed to do, don’t listen to the naysayers.  

10. And finally, although I would not have understood this in 1964, I would give myself this important advice.  Someday you are going to have something called a hard drive.  Always back it up.

Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near when you will say, “I have no delight in them.”   Ecclesiastes 12:1 (NASB). 

The Red River Death March

This morning I was remembering an event that happened at least twenty years ago—maybe longer. We had taken a trip to Santa Fe and Red River, New Mexico.  That area is such a beautiful part of the southwestern United States and an easy drive from Oklahoma.  We have been there several times, and enjoy the beautiful scenery every time we go.  The memory that popped up this morning is what we now fondly refer to as “The Red River Death March.”  Did that pique your interest?

So I had this bright idea that Jerry and I would take a day hike.  To say that he wasn’t interested would be an understatement, but he reluctantly agreed.  We got a map of the various trails in the area and picked out one that we thought would be doable.  Now I need to preface this story by telling you we had absolutely NO experience in hiking.  But how hard could it be?  So we set off in our sneakers with one plastic water bottle each.  Unprepared.

We walked for a bit, maybe about forty-five minutes or so, on a fairly even trail.  “This isn’t too hard,” I thought.  “I wonder how far we have to go.”  Eventually we saw a large open area…it was a parking lot!  Well that was strange.  What was a parking lot doing on the trail?  Then we saw it.  A sign.  “Trail Head.”  What the…?!  You mean we haven’t even gotten on the trail yet??  And we could have driven our car to this point?  Jerry was already suggesting we call it good, but oh no.  By golly, I wanted to hike this trail.

So off we went, already a little tired.  The trail began to ascend as we walked up the mountain.  Now I am pretty sure this was designated an “easy” hike, maybe “moderate” at most.  But a long hike for me was once around the mall.  Again…unprepared.  Up we went, the altitude getting higher, the air getting thinner, huffing and puffing and one of us grumbling.  By now Jerry is NOT a happy camper!  At one point he even threated to turn around and leave me, but that was something he would never do, so we kept climbing higher.  

Finally we were rewarded.  We reached the end of the trail and there was a beautiful lake surrounded by pine trees. The view was worth the sore muscles, although I’m not sure Jerry was enjoying is as much as I was.  I would have loved to have sat on a rock for about an hour just to enjoy the beauty, but by now we were about 2 ½ hours in and the weather was beginning to change.  A light misty rain had changed into ice and or course we had no jackets.  We needed to get back down the mountain before dark.     

Well we discovered that going down uses an entirely different set of muscles than going up.  Oh yay!  More places to be sore.  And the trail was getting slippery.  At one point I went skidding down on my rear!  At least I was making good time.  Did I mention Jerry was not happy?  Finally we reached our car, exhausted, sunburned, wet, and tired.  But we had bragging rights!  We survived The Red River Death March!  And now we can laugh about it.

As I was remembering our hike this morning, I thought about our walk through this life.  There are times when it is easy and we can just enjoy the journey.  But there are other times that may be steep, slippery, and uncharted.  We had better be well prepared for our life walk.  I can’t even imagine doing it without God.  My preparations include staying in the Word, being prayed up, and hiking along with a group of other Believers.  At my age I can look back and see all the trails God and I have walked.  But there is still an unknown trail ahead, and time is getting shorter.  Night is coming.  The one thing I know for sure is that I don’t have to walk alone and I can trust Him.  My verse for this year is Psalm 77:19.  I just keep putting one foot in front of the other as God reveals the path.

Your road led through the sea, your pathway through the mighty waters— a pathway no one knew was there!

Little Acorns

I was doing a little work in my flowerbed this morning and pulled up this little Water Oak.  I think people call trees like this “volunteers” because they just sprout up on their own, without being planted.  It is fascinating to see that it is still attached to the acorn.  I was reminded of the saying, “Great oaks from little acorns grow.”  I like this saying, and think about it whenever I am beginning a big task.  But this morning I was thinking about our own little acorns…our grandchildren that are too quickly growing into oaks.

I know I sound really old here, but where did the time go?  It seems like only a short time ago when they were all little, and now the youngest is finishing elementary school this month.  I am especially thinking of the two graduations we will celebrate in the next few days.  

Tomorrow will be Jack Foster Day as he graduates from OU.  Oh how we celebrate this graduation!  The tiny acorn that was once a preschooler has now completed college.  But then overnight he will turn into an acorn again as he begins his working life, and he is stressing a bit about finding a job.  To Jack I want to say, don’t worry about your first job.  Trust me, it will not be your last.  It used to be that people got a job, worked at it for thirty years, got a gold watch, and retired.  But things have changed.  In our current age, people change careers (not just  jobs) three times during their working lifespan.  “Just get a degree,” we told him.  A degree is a ticket.  You will figure it out.  

When I was forty-eight I enrolled in two classes at what was then Tulsa Junior College.  I wanted to get the degree I never got when I was young.  There was a verse from the Bible that was a source of encouragement to me, and I share it today with Jack:

Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work beginZech. 4:10

My small beginning was a little acorn that grew into a Ph.D.  Jack, just put one foot in front of the other and trust that the Lord will lead you to the place you need to be.  I can already see the might oak you will become.

Our other graduate is Ellie Grace Herrold who graduates from Bishop Kelly next Friday.  We have watched you blossom, Girl!  There are so many wonderful experiences ahead as you enter Belmont University in the fall. You have exciting plans, and I can’t wait to watch them unfold.  I have shared many verses with you in the last days…I want to make sure I tell you everything I am supposed to share with you.  So this one more verse I give you as you spread your wings:

May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.  Psalm 20:4            

We cover all our children, grandchildren, and our great-grands in prayer…even our unborn little girl.  We have a lot of moving parts in our family, and some of our acorns get more prayer than others depending on what season they are in.  I am so grateful that I can trust a God who loves them even more than I do.  To all of them, my prayer for you is to stay in God’s Word.  That is the way for an oak tree to grow and flourish.

But they delight in the law of the LORD, meditating on it day and night.  They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.  Psalm 1:2-3

A CALL TO GRANDPARENTS

One of Satan’s oldest and most effective tactics is to go after the family.  It is as old as the book of Genesis.  In the beginning, God created Adam and Eve to live together in perfect intimacy.  That was God’s blueprint for marriage.  The Bible says they were both naked and not ashamed (Gen. 2:25), and I think He was referring to more than just physical nakedness.  They were real, honest, and open with each other.  But then came Satan.  They started blaming each other and hiding.  Hiding from God and from one another.  Genesis goes on to tell us they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves (Gen. 3:7), and men and women have been covering their true selves from each other ever since.  They lost intimacy — real, emotional, vulnerable intimacy.

But that was not enough for Satan.  He then went after their children.  One brother murdered another.  Satan knew if he could create conflict in our families he could distract us from our calling, our purpose.  If you have been a parent for any time at all, you know this to be true.  It is hard not to worry or be preoccupied when you have a child or a grandchild in trouble.  

For about a year I have been a part of a small group of women who meet every Monday to pray.  We have been praying big, bold prayers for our country.  We are pleading with God to bring another Great Awakening, a national repentance, a revival of the church and a harvest of lost souls to come to the Lord.  But this week we decided to shift our focus a bit and pray for families.  We are aware that we have poked the bear.  But the devil cannot have our families!  It has been said that as the family goes, so goes the nation and the whole world in which we live.  Satan seeks to destroy the nuclear family, and at the risk of getting political and acquiring haters, this ploy is straight out of the Marxist playbook.  Erwin Lutzer, in his book We Will Not Be Silenced, asserts that it is the nuclear family that is the biggest obstacle to cultural Marxism.  I highly recommend this book to every Believer.   

I am writing this post today as an exhortation to prayer, especially to grandparents.  Grandparents, particularly those who are retired, have the luxury of time that we didn’t have when we were in our busy child-rearing years.  It may seem that there is not much that this one ordinary woman can do to turn the tide of culture that is threatening our homes.  But I can pray.  Prayer may seem like the least I can do, but in reality, prayer is the most I can do.  

The picture I have posted is of the small table that sits beside my prayer chair.  If you look closely you can see a little plastic soldier.  It is there to remind me that as I pray, I am doing battle.  I ordered a bag of these so I could have some to distribute to my prayer sisters.  Also in the photo is the beautiful ornament with the Appeal to Heaven flag.  This ornament was created by the fabulously talented artist sister in our group.  The flag is a reminder that we are going before the court of Heaven with our pleas, appealing to our God.  Another of our group opens her beautiful home to us every week so we can have a peaceful space to do spiritual battle.  She has a quiet spirit and such a beautiful walk with the Lord.  A different prayer sister is the one I call our firebrand.  She enters God’s presence with the boldest of declarations and intercessions.  And she must read a book a day!  The fifth member is probably the biggest lover of children among us.  She laminated the verses I will share at the bottom of the post and I keep them as another reminder that I am doing spiritual warfare.  She also gave each of us a copy of the book I referenced above.  (I could write volumes about each of these godly women.  I have only shared a fraction of what they have given to my life.)

Grandparents, who will stand in the gap?  This is my call to arms.  We need to raise up an army of praying grandparents that will turn our nation back to God.  Your families need your prayers.  Will you stand with me?

EPHESIANS 6:10-18

A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.  Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil.  For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.

Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm.  Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness.  For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared.  In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil.  Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.

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