Today, my husband and I are at the same hospital—with Stephanie and her husband Daniel. This was the fulfillment of a life’s dream for her. She said, “I’ve always felt as though a piece of my life’s puzzle was missing. Now it’s complete.”
We took a tour of the hospital and the area surrounding it. Steph saw the hospital room where she spent her first night and the house where she spent one night before the arduous jeep ride to Kathmandu. We delivered dozens of donated balloons and stuffed animals to the social services department for distribution among the children in the pediatric ward, and a couple dozen receiving blankets to the maternity ward.
We lived in the upstairs of this house for three months prior to Stephanie’s birth.
We also took a little walk in the Tansen bazaar. What fun to strike up conversations with people sitting in the sunshine. One lady invited us to her rooftop and served us chai. Another group of women enjoyed posing for a “photo op,” as they called it.
This is Gene’s and my fourth trip to Nepal in ten years. Each time we return I feel more at home. I love the people and am so blessed to call so many my friends.
This trip is especially meaningful because we share it with Stephanie and Daniel—thanks to their generosity. What a gift.
Late last August, I signed a contract to write a new Bible study for First Place 4 Health. I had no way of knowing that I’d be purging my entire household and moving aboard a sailboat while in the throes of writing it a few months later.
Purging 36 years’ worth of accumulated belongings is a fulltime job. So is writing a Bible study. The March 1 deadline came and went, and I had to ask for an extension to complete it. My goal is to get ‘er done by Wednesday afternoon because I take off for Kathmandu on Thursday morning. Nothing like a little pressure to keep one focused, yes?
Besides the purging, packing, moving, and writing, I drove to Alberta to spend Christmas with family, spent a week in Texas at a First Place 4 Health wellness retreat, and hosted our International Messengers booth for three days at Missions Fest Vancouver in hopes of finding volunteers to help with our evangelistic summer camps.
The pressure’s been intense for weeks. At times I’ve wondered how in the world I could continue especially with producing the manuscript. On those days, God sent me a visual reminder to keep my focus on Him.
I lived in a city until 10 days ago. One afternoon I stepped outside the house, looked up, and saw a bald eagle soaring. Now I live in a marina directly across from a bird sanctuary. One morning last week a bald eagle sat on a transmission pole near our dock.
I spoke at a women’s retreat on Quadra Island over the weekend. Traveling there meant catching a BC ferry near Delta. On that drive last Wednesday, I saw at least 15 bald eagles perched in a tree beside the highway. Less than a mile down the road, I saw a farm yard with three or four eagles sitting in every tree.
Yesterday afternoon while driving home from the retreat, I saw three bald eagles soaring over the treetops near the highway.
This morning a good friend sent me a FB link containing several photos taken yesterday. Each photo contained one or more bald eagles.
Every time I’ve seen the eagles, this Scripture passage has come to mind:
“Have you never heard? Have you never understood? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding. He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:28-30 NLT)
God’s got my attention, and He’s got my back too. I resist the temptation to fall into fear or discouragement. I choose to keep my eyes on Him and to trust Him to strengthen me to complete the work He’s called me to do during this crazy busy season.
No doubt some of you reading this are feeling pressure too. May I pray for you?
“Father God, You know our limitations, and You will never give us more than we can bear. Would You please infuse my weary friends today with supernatural strength? Give them the power they need to do what You’ve asked them to do. Grant them joy in the journey as they experience Your empowerment and promises in new ways. Thank You, thank You for Your kindness and understanding. Amen.”
I love, love, love how God’s Word shows me something new every time I read it. So here’s the latest new nugget. It’s from Daniel 1:8—”But Daniel made up his mind not to defile himself by eating the food and wine given to them by the king. He asked the chief official for permission to eat other things instead.”
Daniel was taken captive by the Babylonian army and later handpicked to train for a three-year period with the possibility of serving in the royal court. The king assigned Daniel and the other young men a daily ration of the finest food and wine from the palace kitchens. He thought he was doing the fellows a favor, but Daniel didn’t agree.
Daniel made up his mind—he resolved, determined—not to eat those rich foods. He respectfully asked the officer in charge if he could pursue other options that would be better for his health.
The four words “made up his mind” grabbed my attention. That’s the way I’d describe my journey to better health. I made up my mind to exercise more, make healthier food choices, and eat less of them. I made up my mind to treat my body with respect and to make it strong. Resolving to lose weight once and for all gave me the ability to persevere when the journey felt long and tedious.
More recently, Gene and I made up our minds to live simply and be better stewards of our finances. That led to purging our household of belongings and moving onto a sailboat. I know, I know—a bit drastic perhaps, but we’re doing what God has made abundantly clear is His will for us at this time. (We move the last of our few belongings aboard tomorrow).
Making up our minds to do something can make a huge positive difference in our lives:
We make up our minds to forgive that person who hurt us several years ago. She might never recognize her role or ask for forgiveness, but we forgive for our own sake—to release bitterness and walk in freedom.
We make up our minds to stop buying stuff on a whim. Doing so makes us better stewards of our finances and helps us stick to a budget.
We make up our minds to spend time in God’s Word every day if only for a few minutes. We then grow in the knowledge of the truth so we can better detect the lies Satan throws our way.
We make up our minds to watch less TV in the evenings. We end up with more time for our spouse, family, and friends. More time to go for a walk or read a good book. And we might even get to bed at a more reasonable hour.
We make up our minds to step beyond our comfort zone. We say yes to something God asks us to do even if we’re scared. Our faith grows and we experience Him in new ways.
When we make up our minds to take a particular course of action, we take a stand and don’t look back. We say, “I’m done with those things that keep me fenced in, and I’m ready to make a change.” Then we pursue an alternative action that helps us stick to our resolve.
So, my friend. Tell me about a time you made up your mind to pursue a course of action. What was the outcome?
Maybe you’ve been toying with making a change recently but haven’t taken the necessary first step. What needs to happen so you can make up your mind and begin moving forward?
It’s no surprise—our days seldom go as planned. Do we regard the unforeseen as annoying interruptions, or do we look for God’s purposes in them?
My friend Barb has mastered the latter. Every morning she offers her time and to-do list to the Lord. When (not if) interruptions come, she thanks Him for controlling every detail of her day, and she asks what He has in mind so she can participate in His purposes. Her strategy works. God blesses people through her in amazing ways.
Proverbs 16:9 says, “In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.” This truth applies to the major decisions we make, but it also applies to everyday life. We make our plans, but the Lord determines the direction they take and the details involved.
Let’s commit to viewing the unforeseen through God’s eyes. Let’s embrace whatever He brings and seek to partner with Him to accomplish His purposes.
Take a moment now to give God complete control over your day.
I basked in July’s sunshine, enjoying a cup of coffee as I read my Bible. It was my fiftieth birthday, and I wanted to celebrate in God’s sweet presence.
“Father, would You please give me a special verse that will carry me through the next 50 years?” I asked. Psalm 23:1 immediately came to mind—“The LORD is my shepherd. I have everything I need” (NLT).
Simple but profound, yes?
Indeed, Jesus is a shepherd to those who follow Him. “I am the good shepherd,” He declared to His disciples (John 10:11). And then He said it again to ensure they heard not only with their ears but also with their hearts. “I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me…” (john 10:14).
Jesus is my shepherd. I meditate on this truth whenever financial insecurity or ministry responsibilities feel overwhelming. I call it to mind when I need energy for the tasks ahead or wisdom for a problem that leaves me confounded. I am His sheep; my well-being is His responsibility. He holds me. What more do I need?
Jesus is my shepherd. These four words bring calm to my chaos, like now as I continue downsizing while writing the Bible study under deadline. I will trust Him and not be afraid.
Jesus is my shepherd. How do these words speak to you today?
A dear girlfriend in Poland sends me Bible references a couple times each week. They’re always exactly what I need at the time. Don’t you love it when God directs things like that?
This week she sent these:
Isaiah 41:10 – “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you. I will help you. I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.”
Psalm 23:4 – “Even when I walk through the dark valley of death, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.”
1 John 4:18 – “Such love has no fear because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of judgment, and this shows that his love has not been perfected in us.”
Do you see the common thread woven throughout these verses? It’s the theme of overcoming fear because God is with us.
My human nature tends to migrate towards fear especially as we transition to the boat and my Bible study manuscript deadline looms. Here are several particulars.
Our big-ticket possessions haven’t sold yet even though we’ve listed them and then re-listed at lower prices. Why aren’t they selling? We need the funds from those sales to help pay for sailboat-related expenses, and the clock is ticking.
I’m doing the best I know at writing this Bible study, but a little inner voice whispers, What if it’s not good enough? What if people think it’s not worth their time?
The deadline for this manuscript is March 1 – same day as we finalize our move aboard the boat. However, the marina of choice now has a slip for us and we need to move in on February 28. Doing so will require a full day. That means I just lost a day of writing time for the Bible study.
Our ministry office is in the basement of the house we’re presently renting. We’d hoped to find renters to take our place—missions-minded people who won’t mind our staff coming and going (there’s an outside entrance to the ministry office, but the bathroom is located near the bottom of the staircase that leads to the upstairs and there’s no door separating those spaces). Our living upstairs was perfect—I enjoy having our staff around the place, but people unrelated to the ministry might not feel the same way. So—we’ve asked several people we thought would be interested, but none feel God’s go-ahead.
My wellness journey has involved a routine of working out at the local gym several mornings each week. Because we’re moving, my membership ends on February 27. We head overseas from mid-March until mid-April, and then I’ll be home only three days a week until early May. Part of me is a little nervous about maintaining regular exercise over that two-month span. In my wellness journey, I’ve never gone that long without working out. Will falling from routine cause me to lapse back into unhealthy habits?
Each time my thoughts begin focusing on these fears, I turn them back to the Truth. What is that truth?
God is with me. He will uphold me with His victorious right hand. He will strengthen me. He loves me and has every detail already figured out. My job is to hold His hand and follow His lead.
Turning my thoughts to God’s unshakeable Truth brings calm amidst the sea of uncertainty. Peace envelops me as I continue to pack and sort my belongings and write the Bible study. God is up to something far bigger than I can imagine; I will trust and not be afraid because He is with me.
God is with you too. How do these verses minister to you in your current situation?
Remember the worship song, “As the Deer Pants for the Water?” It’s based on Psalm 42:1-2a – “As the deer pants for streams of water, so I long for you, O God. I thirst for God, the living God.” Purging my house in preparation to move aboard a sailboat has brought this song to mind.
I pack pictures of my kids and grandkids, and I realize that being a mom and grandma is fulfilling, but those relationships will never satisfy my soul’s deepest needs.
I sell furniture that’s been with me for nearly 40 years. I salvaged, stripped, sanded, and stained it. I beautified my home with it. I so enjoyed these pieces, but they never satisfied my soul.
I donate clothes and shoes. They made me feel good when I wore them, but they never satisfied my soul’s yearnings.
I purge my kitchen cupboards and find cake mixes that expired three years ago. What was I thinking when I bought them? I must have gone grocery shopping when I was hungry. They didn’t satisfy my appetite let alone my soul.
I dig into my hall closet and discover a plastic bin filled with fabric scraps, ribbon, lace, and cross-stitch patterns. I find three Zip-loc bags containing pretty rocks I’ve collected on family holidays. Good intentions for hobbies I hoped to pursue someday, but not soul-satisfying.
Last May we bought a patio set. It drew me outside for months to write. It enabled me to enjoy the squirrels and raccoons in our yard and smell the alyssum I’d planted months prior. It became our dining room. The patio set was a highlight of the summer for me, but it didn’t satisfy my soul.
Purging my house has become a spiritual exercise. I’m realizing how easy it is to fall into wrong thinking, to assume that relationships, material possessions, hobbies, and food can fill the empty places of one’s heart.
As I let these things go, I realize afresh that there’s only one thing that satisfies our deepest needs—our relationship with our Creator. He is what our soul longs for, and we’re designed for intimacy with Him. We might try to fill that hole with any number of things but it’ll never work.
I thirst for God, the living God. He quenches my soul’s thirst. Nothing else comes close.
With what might you be trying to satisfy your soul’s thirst?
I’m hunkered down at home working on a Bible study that’s due March 1. It identifies the lies we believe about topics to which we can all relate, and then it delves into the truth about these things. The topics include obedience, forgiveness, prayer, who God is, what He thinks about us, and more.
Thinking the truth about these topics is vital to our well-being. Why? Because our thoughts determine our beliefs, and those beliefs ultimately influence our behaviors. Here’s an example: For several years, I put my writing career ahead of my health. I sat for hours at my computer every day. I knew I should get up and walk or stretch, but I mistakenly thought, I’m on a roll with this article, so I’ll exercise later. But later never came.
I subconsciously believed that the need for exercise didn’t apply to me. Somehow I could stay healthy without taking the time to walk or go to the gym. That belief resulted in a sedentary lifestyle, and I paid the consequences. Stiff muscles led to leg injuries and loss of mobility. It also resulted in my becoming obese.
I’d look in the mirror and think, You’re a wreck, but this is all part of aging, so get used to it. Wrong thinking again.
God had to take hold of my mind and do a complete makeover. That involved giving me a new appreciation for the truth found in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20—“Don’t you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.”
Understanding that I’m a steward of my body and that God desires me to honor Him with it did a complete torque in my thinking. The change in my thought patterns changed the way I treat my body. Now I’m intentional about wise food choices and I exercise regularly. I want to live long and strong for Jesus, and my ability to do so won’t happen by itself.
I’m loving this assignment and learning so much as I study the Word. My challenge is to develop questions and anecdotes that will lead others into life-changing truth.
Here’s a gem I’m mulling: “Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. If your sinful nature controls your mind, there is death. But if the Holy Spirit controls your mind, there is life and peace” (Romans 8:5,6 NLT).
If the sinful nature controls our thoughts about food and exercise, we’ll end up in rough shape. I know this from personal experience, and I never want to return to that place. If the Holy Spirit controls our mind in this context, then our appetite will no longer keep us in bondage. Instead, we’ll develop a healthy view of food and will experience God’s empowerment to get our bodies moving. The result? Life and peace.
If the sinful nature controls our thoughts about a hard-to-love person in our life, we’ll end up becoming bitter and resentful. But if the Spirit controls our thoughts, we’ll learn how to establish healthy boundaries and extend agape love. We’ll experience the freedom of forgiveness and the joy of life and peace.
Share an example from your own life, okay? How did changing your mind change your life?
The topic of obedience has been on my mind alot recently. Perhaps that’s because I just spent more than a week addressing it in the Bible study I’m writing. Or perhaps it’s because of the faith journey Gene and I are walking now as we prepare to live aboard a sailboat. Regardless, it’s a topic that deserves much more than a short blog post or even a week-long Bible study. The more I read about it in the Word, the more I realize how vital it is to those who follow Jesus.
Paul was addressing believers in Philippi when he wrote, “Dearest friends, you were always so careful to follow my instructions when I was with you. And now that I am away you must be even more careful to put into action God’s saving work in your lives, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire to obey him and the power to do what pleases him” (Philippians 2:12-13 NLT).
I fear that sometimes we fall short of obeying God with deep reverence and fear. Sometimes we obey half-heartedly, like a child who’s been told to eat his veggies. “Aw, do I have to?”
We might play a game of pick-and-choose. We read God’s commands in the Word, or we sense His Holy Spirit nudging us to change a behavior, speak a word of encouragement to a neighbor, or demonstrate love to a prickly person. Some of those commands resonate with us; others not so much. Obeying them might prove inconvenient, or humbling, or scary. And so we pick-and-choose the ones that fit our schedule or suit our fancy.
We may even turn a deaf ear. You know—selective hearing.
But God being who He is—all-wise, all-powerful, ever-present, holy, loving, and more—deserves our enthusiastic obedience in all things. He’s worthy of our unconditional, “Yes, Sir!”
I find huge encouragement in knowing that God not only tells us what to do, but He also gives us the desire to obey Him. Then He takes it a step further and empowers us to do it. If we have no desire to do what He says, or we say that His commands are too difficult, then we need to invite the Holy Spirit to do a makeover in our thinking. God has our best interest in mind, so anything He asks us to do is for our good. Not doing what He says would be to invite personal hurt.
Elisabeth Elliot said, “God is God. Because He is God, He is worthy of my trust and obedience. I will find rest nowhere but in His holy will that is unspeakably beyond my largest notions of what He is up to.”
I couldn’t agree more. Obeying the Lord might feel really difficult at times, but He deserves our reverent, immediate, and wholehearted yes because of who He is.
What has God been speaking to you that requires your obedience?
Moving onto a sailboat means minimalistic living. Every day I spend several hours sorting personal belongings.
Some things I’ll keep and store for when we return to land living. I haven’t a clue when that will be and don’t want to pay a fortune for storage, so these things are few. Some stuff I’m throwing away. I’m taking boxfuls to local thrift stores such as Bibles for Missions or MCC where the proceeds will go to a good cause. We’ll sell our furniture and put those funds toward work that needs to be done on the boat and supplies needed to live aboard.
Some stuff, like the fabric left over from Christmas crafts I made ten years ago, is easy to release. Other things, like meaningful books, my silk bridal bouquet, the dresses I wore to my kids’ weddings, and our super-comfortable nearly-new queen-size mattress, not so much.
Yesterday I sold my piano. Today I sold our soft tub—the portable hot tub in which my husband and I relax and enjoy our best conversations. In the next few weeks I’ll have to say goodbye to the doll bed that my grandfather built for me when I was a little girl. I’ll also part with my dining room table and hutch and my favorite leather loveseat recliner—it’s where I enjoy my quiet time and I do a lot of my writing. It’s comfortable, and I can write for hours without my back or neck getting sore. That goodbye will be a tough one.
So will saying bye to our Gold Wing motorcycle. We’ve enjoyed using it as our getaway on days when we needed to escape the pressures of ministry, but we realize that riding motorbikes is risky. There’s no way we could manage on a sailboat if we were to have an accident that left us on crutches. Better safe than sorry in this case.
Letting go of my stuff is freeing in some ways, but it’s also an emotional endeavor. When my heartstrings tug, I console myself with Matthew 6:19-21: “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where they can be eaten by moths and get rusty, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where they will never become moth-eaten or rusty and where they will be safe from thieves. Wherever your treasure is, there your heart and thoughts will be also.”
One by one, my earthly possessions are being stripped away. I feel as though the Lord is testing my heart. How much have I depended on stuff to bring contentment? How much have I relied on material goods to make me happy? How much money have I spent on things I thought I couldn’t live without?
Saying yes to God about living on a sailboat means letting go of nearly everything I own. It also means learning to be content with little, and trusting God to provide for our needs in new ways.
So many of you have expressed excitement in this venture, and I’m grateful for your enthusiastic support and encouragement. I’m also grateful for your prayers as we continue this transition. The peace I have in the process is proof of your prayers. Wow—how’s that for alliteration?
Here’s a question for discussion: If you had to downsize significantly at this season of your life, what’s one material possession you’d find difficult to part with? As I mentioned earlier, mine is the leather loveseat.