A Promise in the Pouring Rain

Pop-up showers. That’s what they call the drenching downpours that come out of nowhere during the rainy season in Florida.  You can be sitting at a stoplight and it can be raining on one side of the road and not on the other.

Recently, I had taken my husband to work and went to a park by the water. This has become a sort of mini retreat for me once a week.  It’s a great place to think. As it turns out, it’s also a great place to hear from God.

This time I sat on a bench watching across the bay as one of those pop-up storms formed in front of me.  I watched it gathering strength.  The wind began to blow and the water began to stir.  As I watched it move toward me, I could see that it was raining between me and the other shore that I faced.  Just to the right of the rain it was clear and sunny.   Just like life, I thought.  Sometimes you can see a storm approaching and you know you are in it’s path but you look around and see other people completely unaffected.  Not even getting sprinkled on.  How is that even fair?

Then, as I was thinking I should probably head toward shelter, I looked at the clouds in front of me and right in the middle of the darkest cloud was a splash of color. A hint of a rainbow.  As I continued to watch, I saw small patches of color elsewhere in the cloud. None of the patches seemed connected. They were just small spots in the middle of this cloud.

God spoke to my heart just then.  Even though that storm was headed my way, even though the sun was shining on other people, God was still with me.  God painted a piece of a rainbow just for me.  It was a reminder that even when the storms come, there is the promise of something good right in the middle of all the struggles.

I quickly headed for shelter and the rain poured from the sky for a time.  And then… you know what happened?

The sun came out again.

The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him.- Nahum1:7 (ESV)

This was a Hard One to Write

Sometimes things come to a screeching halt until you make a decision. Sometimes the decision is hard. You avoid it. You deny it. You even try to trick yourself into believing it isn’t a big deal.

I’ve come to that place in the past ten days.  I’ve faced a hard decision.  But I believe I am on the right track. The sermon at church yesterday confirmed it.  Again. How does God do that?

You know those charts that list all the things that cause stress and you are supposed to tally up your score to see how vulnerable you are to stress-related illness?  I looked at one of those online the other day and actually laughed out loud.  The number of items I could check off, that have occurred over the past two years, are off the charts.

Many years ago I struggled with depression and after ten years on medication I was well and went my merry way.  I’ve been doing just fine until the long line of challenges began over a year ago and   haven’t let up. I’m sure some of you know exactly what I mean. Sometimes it looks like it will never end. If you’ve been reading my blog posts over the past few months, you can see that I’ve cried out to God for some relief. Asking if we could be done now.  But we aren’t done.

In the sermon yesterday, Pastor Willy spoke directly to where I am. It felt like he’d been reading my journal. He talked about how even Elijah struggled with discouragement and even depression. King   David certainly did.  It’s nothing to be ashamed of.  Especially when you can trace the list of stressful events that eventually cross the line of what any person could handle.  Pastor Willy encouraged us to deal with the physical issues first. I was glad to realize that I had already taken that step by visiting my doctor last week. That was hard. It felt like I was moving backward instead of forward.

Then we were told to address the spiritual issues.  Visits with doctors, medication, counselors, those are all good. But the bottom line is that God is the One who can make all the difference.  He is the final authority about your life and has all the answers you will ever need.

I am glad that I have a support system that helps me deal with the challenges I’m facing right now. I’m glad for skilled medical professionals who offer input and options. But mostly, I’m glad I serve a God who knows my deepest thoughts and knows exactly what I need.

If you are struggling with discouragement or anything else, please be encouraged that God knows where you are. He will guide you to the answers you need. And if His answer includes help from a doctor or counselor, please don’t feel condemned for taking that step.

If you’ve been down a difficult road and have found victory, look for those you can encourage. If we all keep our struggles private, what we go through doesn’t help anyone else. I am praying God will continue to give me the boldness to be transparent. It’s the best way to undo the plans of the enemy by encouraging others to find victory through my own life lessons.

The righteous cry, and the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.  Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all. – (Psalm 34:17-19) NASB

The Red Sea Parts…Then What Do You Do?

Can you just see it?  The Israelites have just fled Egypt after an incredible demonstration of God’s power.  Now they stand at the shore of the Red Sea, water before them and Pharaoh’s army behind them. Hopelessly trapped. An impossible situation.  No visible way of escape.

Then God does something spectacular.  He speaks to the wind and it parts the sea creating dry ground for the massive nation of Israel to pass through the sea.  But, did you ever consider what it must have felt like to see the sea open up before your eyes?

You would be excited that you’d just witnessed a miracle. You would be amazed that a way of escape had been provided.   But can you imagine the noise of the wind? And what about the walls of water churning on each side of the path that has opened up in front of you? And now you would be expected to walk through all of that on foot with nothing to shield you from the wind and the splash of water right beside you as you walked.

I imagine it was terrifying.  It was the means of escape from the threat of the army closing in on them, but it wasn’t a stroll through a garden. The sounds must have been deafening. The risks were incredible. What if they got out in the middle and the walls of water gave way? They couldn’t turn back. There was only forward.

God says He will make a way for us where there is no way.  Exodus 14 proves that He is fully capable of doing so. He did it for them. He’ll do it for you. But when your prayer is answered and the way of escape has opened up, be prepared to face your fears as you step out in faith and move forward.  It might be scary, it might seem dangerous, it might cause you to consider turning back.  Don’t do it!

Press on and see the faithfulness of God. Don’t be afraid to get your feet muddy.

Thus says the LORD, who makes a way through the sea, and a path through the mighty waters, who brings forth the chariot and the horse, the army and the mighty man (They will lie down together and not rise again; they have been quenched and extinguished like a wick): “Do not call to mind the former things, or ponder things of the past. Behold, I will do something new, now it will spring forth; will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.” – Isaiah 43:16-19 (NASB)

What Were You Created For?

I was reminded of a  truth I needed to hear again in the sermon this week.  The verses come from Exodus 31 where God tells Moses that He has appointed a man named Bezalel to be the craftsman who will make all the things they will need for the tent of meeting.   In verse 3 God says He has,” filled him with God’s Spirit, with wisdom, understanding, and ability in every craft.” Then in verse 6 it says,” I have placed wisdom within every skilled craftsman in order to make all that I have commanded you.”

As I listened, I heard the words carve wood, and I leaned over to my husband, Randy, and said, “so you, as a woodworker, can be assured that God has also given you wisdom and ability in your craft.”  We smiled at each other and went back to the sermon.

Later, I was thinking about this again and remembered a devotion I wrote several years ago called, The Master Craftsman, where I talked about how God was the master and He would craft our lives into something beautiful if we allowed him.

Then I went on to think about my own calling.  Sometimes what we feel called to do and what it looks like when we actually put it into practice can be puzzling. We think we know what we’re supposed to be doing but why don’t we see the results we imagined when we began?

Right now Randy is wrestling with how his illness will effect the dreams and plans we’ve talked about for years.  What keeps him motivated to continue when it appears that he might not have time to complete it all?  What keeps any of us motivated to keep going when it doesn’t look like we think it should?

The motivating factor has to be the truth that we gain from scripture.  Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time for us to do.”

If He prepared the good works ahead of time, how can we “run out of time” before we accomplish them?  The only way that will happen is if we flat out choose NOT to try in the first place.

If all things work together for our good (Romans 8:28) then what looks like setbacks to us really aren’t.  So Randy’s illness, or my years of depression, or your (________________________________) fill in the blank, can do nothing to stop the good works that God has planned for us.  We just need to keep going.

If we woke up this morning then there is still something for us to do to bring God glory. If we don’t wake up tomorrow then we’re done and can spend eternity with Him!  What can be better than that?

Maxey Memory #8 -When You Have a Son Who Will Try Anything!

Those of you who know my oldest son Andrew will not be surprised by this at all.  He lives his life on the edge of adventure.  He looks for opportunities to try unusual experiences and he makes sure as many family members as possible are participants.

This past week was no exception. Andrew found a place online to purchase a liquid nitrogen flask. He had it shipped from overseas and then found a place locally that would fill it.  He proceeded to gather all of us in the dining room for an experience we won’t forget.He poured the liquid nitrogen into a Styrofoam cooler and the fun began.  We had prepared a variety of food items to freeze, including marshmallows, gummy bears, Oreos,  blueberries, strawberries, and watermelon. He certainly had the kids’ attention!  Then came the best part.ICE CREAM!  If  you make a homemade ice cream recipe and pour it into squeeze bottles and then give them to Andrew and Randy, in a flash you have homemade Dippin’ Dots!  They were a little lumpy, not perfect spheres like the real thing but the kids didn’t seem to care.It was a fun treat and an experience I never expected to have.  Somebody else thought it was pretty sweet too!

I’m Thinking About Rain

My friends up north are tired of rain. They’ve had more than their share lately.  We, in Florida, are desperate for rain. In a place where summer storms come daily, dumping inches of rain in minutes, we can get pretty tired of rain too. But not right now.

Right now we’re experiencing the worst drought some areas have seen since recordkeeping began. Drier than it’s been for over a hundred years.  Most of the state is under an extreme fire danger warning with wildfires breaking out every day.

If you’ve been following my recent posts, you know  about the struggles we’ve been experiencing over the past few months.  When I stop and think about all the different challenges we’re dealing with all at the same time I can’t believe we’re still standing. But we are.

I thought about giving this a different title. Something like,” what do termites, migraines, cirrhosis, and broken A/C units have in common?”  The answer would be –what the Maxeys are up against.

In the past two months we’ve had to deal with a son needing an MRI for increased migraines, termites in our Iowa house, and my father being evaluated for heart surgery at 82. We also had our two-year-old granddaughter in the ER for a cut on her hand requiring about 8 stitches, and we had an encounter with bedbugs that sent us to the laundromat with 12 trash bags of clothing and bedding to wash. And of course, Randy’s diagnosis of cirrhosis, which was enough all by itself.  All of our boys still need testing for the 3 genetic disorders that they believe are playing a role in Randy’s illness.

Some of those things are overwhelming all by themselves and taken together it feels like a raging storm with no end.  There are times in life when we want to wave the white flag of surrender and say we’ve had enough. We didn’t sign up for this.

So what does that have to do with rain, you ask?  I think it is about perspective.  Sometimes in the rainy season in Florida we get rain every day. And if a hurricane comes through we can get 15 inches in just a day or two.  Too much all at once is as bad as not enough. Both bring problems but they are quite different.

A few days ago I was talking to a friend about the challenges we were working through.  We talked about storms and how it wouldn’t rain forever. We joked about building an ark.

But then I listened to a song that talked about the story of Elijah praying for rain. Listen here. The tiny cloud started to form and they knew it would rain. The rain was an answer to prayer, not the beginning of a devastating flood.  It’s all in how you look at rain.

In the rainy season, we don’t always welcome the rain but in the drought we are desperate for it.  The water is the same, it’s our perspective that’s changed.

In our lives lately, we have seen all these challenges as the storms that never end.  The deluge of rain that we fear will drown us. But what if we look past the obvious and focus our eyes on the rain that brings good things?  It’s the same water.  The same challenges that threaten to overwhelm us also have the potential to cause growth and fruit.

Instead of building an ark, or running for the umbrella, maybe we should go outside and stand in the rain with outstretched arms. Allowing it to soak us because the One who made us brings the rain.

You heavens above, rain down my righteousness; let the clouds shower it down. Let the earth open wide, let salvation spring up, let righteousness flourish with it; I, the LORD, have created it. – Isaiah 45:8 (NIV)

From the west, people will fear the name of the LORD, and from the rising of the sun, they will revere his glory. For he will come like a pent-up flood that the breath of the LORD drives along – Isaiah 59:19 (NIV)

Why a Christ Follower Should Heed a High Surf Warning

If you live near the water, as I do, weather advisories like this one  are not uncommon. As I read through this information I was struck by how many parallels with life we can find in these simple words.

HIGH SURF ADVISORY – A HIGH SURF ADVISORY MEANS THAT HIGH SURF WILL AFFECT BEACHES IN THE ADVISORY AREA…PRODUCING LOCALIZED BEACH EROSION AND
DANGEROUS SWIMMING CONDITIONS. SWIM NEAR A LIFEGUARD. IF CAUGHT IN A RIP CURRENT, RELAX AND FLOAT. DON`T SWIM AGAINST THE CURRENT. IF ABLE, SWIM IN A DIRECTION FOLLOWING THE SHORELINE. IF UNABLE TO ESCAPE, FACE THE SHORE AND CALL OR WAVE FOR HELP.”

The first thing I saw was how high surf affects the beach.  Beach erosion happens gradually but during a storm or high surf it can happen much more quickly. Have you even stood with your toes in the sand and had the water wash over them? The sand under your feet quickly erodes away and you sink further and further into the sand with each wave.  Such a good picture of a life that is not build on a firm foundation.

Next we see that swimming is dangerous. Riptides are a  hidden danger. The pull of the current is not visible from the shore. The energy produced under these conditions can pull even the strongest swimmer into a life threatening situation.  The advisory recommends swimming close to a lifeguard.  In life, who is our lifeguard?  Jesus, who  promises to keep us safe in every circumstance.

And what should we do if we get caught in a riptide?  The advisory says we should relax and float, not try to swim against it. In life, we face the threat of undercurrents  of sin and temptation every day. Sometimes we heed the warnings and stay clear but other times we think we are strong enough that we won’t be in any danger we can’t get out of on our own. And when we find ourselves in deep water with no strength to get back to shore we look to the Lifeguard. We rest in His strength and float knowing He will rescue us.  We face the shore and call for help.

It all reminds me of an old hymn that sums it up nicely.

My Hope Is Built

My hope is built on nothing less
than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
but wholly lean on Jesus’ name. 

Refrain:
On Christ the solid rock I stand,
all other ground is sinking sand;
all other ground is sinking sand. 

When Darkness veils his lovely face,
I rest on his unchanging grace.
In every high and stormy gale,
my anchor holds within the veil.
(Refrain) 

His oath, his covenant, his blood
supports me in the whelming flood.
When all around my soul gives way,
he then is all my hope and stay.
(Refrain) 

Jesus tells us clearly that our lives need  stability that only He can provide.

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” – Matthew 7:24-27 (ESV)

Are You Carrying More Than You Are Meant To?

We’ve had three weeks to get used to this new lifestyle.  When Randy first got home from the hospital I suddenly had so many new responsibilities.  I felt overwhelmed with all the details that I needed to keep track of.  The weight of responsibility was so heavy and it was someone else’s life I was responsible for so I had to get it right. I was physically exhausted  from the stress of the weeks in the hospital but more challenging was the mental fatigue.  I felt like I already had more on my plate than I could manage and I still had so much to learn.

I’ve spent many hours reading cookbooks and going to health food stores reading nutrition labels to find foods Randy can eat on a low carb, low sodium, low vitamin K diet. And how do you begin to make foods that he can eat and still meet the expectations of the rest of the household?  I found myself becoming stuck.  Too much to think about. No one to help me adjust to all of it.

I couldn’t expect Randy to help me. It wasn’t supposed to be about me. This was about helping HIM regain his strength and learn to live with all the new rules. It was so important to get this right.  So much heaviness threatened to crush me.

But then something happened to remind me that God is never far from those who are struggling.  A friend who has been following our story wrote that she had been prompted to pray for Randy in the middle of the night and she shared a passage of scripture that was just what I needed.

“I relieved his shoulder from the burden; his hands were freed from carrying the basket. You called out in distress, and I rescued you; I answered you from the thundercloud.” – Psalm 81:6-7 (HCSB)

I don’t have to carry this by myself! God has promised to take the weight off my shoulders. A weight He didn’t design me to carry in the first place. I can place all my cares into the basket and then hold that basket out to the Lord. He will take it from me and I can rest.

And when I am able to rest, I can also begin to focus on the good things that are happening.   As I see Randy regaining his strength, I am thankful. When I see him returning to his woodworking, I am overjoyed. When we find a place we can go on date night that has foods he can eat, I am grateful!

What challenges are you facing today?  Perhaps you can mentally place them all into the basket and watch the Lord lovingly take the basket out of your hands. He will be glad to do it!

Can We Be Done Now?

I’m sure you’ve noticed that nothing ever happens in a vacuum.  When something big happens in our lives we can’t just focus on that one thing. There are still a zillion other things to attend to.

This week we were reminded of the saying, “when it rains, it pours.”  You have a picture of that already, don’t you?  You can immediately think of a time when it seemed so many things were going wrong at the same time and you wanted to say, “can we be done now?”

I’ve said that to God several times in the past month. And, yes, it’s okay to say that to Him. He can handle our frustration.

So our focus for the past week or two has been to get a handle on the new routine we must keep. Medications schedules, giving shots, and logging information to keep track of blood sugars, blood pressure, and weight. It sort of feels like I’ve become the nurse at the hospital taking vitals at shift change. My mother would be proud that I’ve finally followed in her footsteps and become a nurse.

But even though we are trying hard to focus on these details, we can’t just ignore everything else. While we were in the midst of this life crisis, something else happened.  Tax day.  Yep, we missed it.  And we had bills to pay and other deadlines to  meet for the new business.  None of those things went away just because we were facing this difficult situation with Randy’s health.

And then there had to be just one more thing.

Our son in Iowa called to see how his dad was doing. And, oh-by-the-way…the cats we left in his care when we moved are both in their final days. One can barely move now and the other one is in congestive heart failure. Granted, they are both 14 years old, but did this have to happen NOW?  “And,” said this long distance son, “I just found termites in the house.”  Our house. In Iowa. Termites can be expensive. And did I mention? My husband hasn’t worked in over a month. Translate that to no paycheck.  And, termites can be expensive.

Can we be done now?

This is the time when a person must choose to fight despair. It’s the human response to allow hopelessness to start moving in. But our response as Christ Followers must be a different one.

To be in despair can also be called “downcast,” which means just what it sounds like. To look down, to be depressed and discouraged.

Instead of becoming downcast, the scriptures tell us to look up. God is still watching over every detail. Now is the time to look up and set our eyes on the One who holds it all together.

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. (Psalm 43:5) NIV

Lift up your eyes on high and see who has created these stars, the One who leads forth their host by number, he calls them all by name; Because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power, not one of them is missing. ( Isaiah40:26) NASB

I Found a Rock

We are slowly getting back to normal. Or perhaps it’s really a new normal. At any rate, today, since Randy isn’t driving yet, I took him to a client’s office. It was his first attempt at getting back to work and his plan was to work 4 hours which left me with a large chunk of time to fill while I waited for him. My plan was to go to a nearby library, one of my favorite places to spend time. But since it was such a beautiful morning, I chose to go to a park on the water for a while first.

I walked toward one of four benches facing the water and as I prepared to sit down I spotted a brightly painted rock on the bench. This was a meaningful find for two reasons.

First, there is a pay-it-forward sort of movement becoming very popular in Florida. It may have started on the Space Coast and has now made it’s way to the Gulf Coast. People paint small rocks and then place them in public places to be found by others. The idea is to brighten someone’s day in just a small way. If you find a rock you can move it to another location or keep it and then replace it with a rock you have painted or found elsewhere. A pretty simple but fun activity. I was excited this morning to find my first rock! I envision painting rocks with the grandkids and putting them in places around Clearwater.

The second reason finding this rock was meaningful to me is that it triggered a string of word pictures and if you know me at all… well, let’s just say that word pictures are my native language.

So, this rock I held in my hand immediately spoke to me about Who my rock is.

“There is none holy like the Lord; there is none besides you; there is no rock like our God.” – 1 Samuel 2:2

“For who is God, but the Lord? And who is a rock, except our God? ” – 2 Samuel 22:32

In the tumultuous season we have been in, I have felt pretty battered by the waves of life. But for the rock on which I stand, I would have surely drowned.

And the painting on this lovely stone shows the colors of the rainbow. In spite of the fact that the rainbow symbol has been hijacked to serve a different meaning, the original rainbow was a sign of God’s promise to never destroy the earth by flooding again.

So as I sat by the water, with this smooth colorful rock in my hand, I was reminded that God is my Rock. He is a promise keeper and He will never let me drown no matter how it looks from where I stand.

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.”  – Hebrews 10:23

 

 

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