Coffee Talk 2015: Week 5 {Hurt Feelings} Part 2

(You can read Part 1 here.)

Biblical Solutions for Problems with Others
What Difference Does It Make What He Intended?
Hurt Feelings Part 2
Christie Ballewske

coffee talk online edition pictureSometimes people hurt us unintentionally. Martha properly places blame on the one who got caught in the crossfire. With myself front and center, I will agree with Martha, we are far too sensitive and self absorbed. We need to be actively overlooking these hurts and lovingly assuming the best of others.

For the intentional hurts of others, it is their sin, yet we are responsible to overcome those hurts biblically. Here are the eight practical ways Martha offers as a biblical solution to overcome the intentional hurts of others.

  • Show love to God and the person sinning against you. We accomplish this by obeying God’s word. Ask yourself “How does God want me to respond?”
  • Thank God for the test. We need to look at everything from an eternal perspective and ask, “What does he want me to learn from this?”
  • Overcome evil with good. Resist the natural tendency to fight evil with evil.
  • Give a blessing instead.
  • Pray for those who mistreat you. (I thought, “Do hard things”, when I read those three!)
  • Speak the truth in love. Don’t feel the need to respond right away as we might be caught off guard and often in such times, we speak for sinful gain.
  • Lovingly confront the person who has sinned against you. Ask yourself, “how would you like to be confronted about it?”
  • Bring other witnesses into the situation if necessary.

When we see our own offense in it’s true light, only then can we see the gospel in it’s true light. The true light of the gospel is so illuminating that we can’t help but forgive, because we have been forgiven of much! When we remember that and then seek to love God and love others, we are responding righteously and we can be properly restored to a brother/sister.

Earlier in the chapter she says it nicely, “Our Lord endured much suffering due to the intentional hurts of others.” We also participate to a tiny degree in the “fellowship of His sufferings” when by His grace we respond righteously. Jesus not only suffered far worse than us, but did it for us. He did it perfectly. He was rejected, betrayed, defiled and humiliated by his bride. Since He was human and knows our sufferings, He is patient as He empathizes with us. He is also God, therefore, empowering us like no therapist in this world can, to overcome hurt, even the deepest of hurts. Praise be to God.

Discussion questions:

  1. Do you have an “unforgivable”? Do you believe you have a “right” to that?
  2. Thinking of your deepest hurt, have you responded righteously, or do you believe it’s the exception?
  3. What does it mean to “fellowship in His suffering”? Make it personal.

Coffee Talk 2015: Week 5 {Hurt Feelings} Part 1

Biblical Solutions for Problems with Others
What Difference Does It Make What He Intended?
Hurt Feelings
Christie Ballewske

coffee talk online edition pictureWe can all agree that there are some offenses that are trivial, but we’ve all had that one hurt that resurfaces like vomit. All it takes is a weak moment in our thought lives to be utterly defeated by it. Martha wisely states:

“Feelings are emotions, and emotions occur after we think something.”

So essentially, we “choose” hurt feelings. Like a magnet, our minds will grip a hurt for as long as we allow it. Especially if we believed our hurt is “justified.” Offenses like betrayal, rejection, deceit, and violation are thought to be unforgivable. The world says we have a “right” to those hurt feelings. Can I gently say, we are not of this world! It is Jesus Christ who is sin bearer, so Sisters, what right do we have to unforgiveness? The grip our mind has on our hurts is great because we have forgotten or loosely remember the gospel.

Everyone has hurts that are not so easily overlooked or forgiven. Listen to the response Jesus gave Simon in Luke 7:47:

“For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.”

The “justified hurts” are now dissolved as we see we don’t have a leg to stand on.  When God is faithful to bring us out of an infant stage faith and into maturity, we will begin to see ourselves as the women “whose sins were many.”  As believers, to the degree we understand the gospel, we must conclude that we have no option of reserving any offense to be “unforgiven” and even in limiting our length of love to the offender, we only paint a shallow picture of God’s deep love to His people.

Here’s how I see it when I look through the eyes of the gospel… I remember the moment I stood in front of this church, many of you were there. I took an oath before God. In tears, I vowed to be faithful and true to Him. Then the symbol of that covenant was witnessed as I was immersed into the water. Seemingly, as soon as I dried off, the marriage walk began, and I started to forget how satisfying Jesus was. At times I found myself estranged from my true love as I’d begin seeking comfort in the arms of another. Before long, and without premeditation, I’d find myself in bed with the world. After the first offense, I felt a bit of shame, but like a dog to his vomit, I returned. I cheated on Jesus.

Martha points outs Israel had a lustful eye for anything but God who made them, favored them, and faithfully and lovingly provided for them. They rejected Him. We, like Israel, have committed spiritual adultery. Though we all are victims of hurt, with more confidence, we should boldly proclaim that we are the unfaithful ones. Jesus bought us with his blood. This purchase is nothing short of inflation! The price paid for our ransom continues to hold greater value as our worth continues to fall short and we,  the product, only cheapened with time. We’ve turned a blind eye to Jesus’ sacrifice and tripped over his broken body beneath us, all to embrace our cheap lovers time after time. We are the woman whose sins are many, yet Jesus turns to us, stands in the direct line of fire, and declares, “your sins are forgiven.”

We should never cease to kiss His feet.

Ladies, the point Martha makes is that the offense is ours!  Any hurt we’ve ever experienced is at best, second, next to the rejection of God by his people. Truly, pain is good for God’s children as it helps us understand the pain that we have heaped on Jesus and the grace and forgiveness he has lavished, in return, on us.

(Read part 2 on Thursday to discover the biblical solution to hurt feelings.)

Coffee Talk 2015: Week 4 {Idolatrous Emotional Attachments}

Biblical Solutions for Problems with Others
What Do You Mean I Can Live without Him?
Idolatrous Emotional Attachments
Gaila Roper

coffee talk online edition pictureJenny looked excitedly at her most recent text. It was from Tom, who was her high school sweetheart for two years.  This Saturday was their secret Senior Prom rendezvous she carefully disguised as a date–then a sleepover with Patty her best friend.  In reality, it was to be a special night celebrating their two year relationship at a downtown motel!   Jenny was a church kid with godly parents. She was attracted to Tom, captain of the football team and kind of a bad boy, who ridiculed her faith.  Jenny put up with him because he made her feel special.  Like that time Tom confided to her that nobody understood him or was as patient with him in his insecurities and bad temper.  He said she was good for him and she rationalized that he was well worth the ‘missionary dating’ thing.  My parents will come around to the idea of me and Tom when they see how much we love each other.

Jenny didn’t foresee that her mom and Patty’s mom were also best buds. Jenny’s mom called up Patty’s mom and asked if she could send over some snacks for the girls after their special prom event.  After their phone conversation, Jenny’s mom and dad were shocked that their daughter had deceived them. They prayed together about confronting her. “How could this happen? We’re a Christian home and these kids are in the same youth group!”

After supper they confronted Jenny and everything spiraled down into threats. “You don’t trust me.  We love each other.  He needs me.  I’ve been sharing Christ with him.  Don’t you care about that?   If you ground me or forbid me to see Tom, we will run away. Can you deal with that?”

Her parents, heartbroken and shell shocked, simply said, “honey, we’re deeply hurt that you’ve deceived us for some time.   We’re all too upset emotionally tonight to address this.  Just know that we love you, and we’re going to trust God to help us deal with this in a God honoring way. We’ve called our church elders, and they’re willing to come over tomorrow.  Are you willing to show up?”

Martha Peace opens the chapter with several illustrations as to what an idolatrous emotional attachment looks like. In a similar scenario above, “There is an idolatrous emotional bond that involves inordinate longings and sinful desires to be with the person even if it is obviously wrong.” (page 46)  Inordinate means excessive, or unrestrained according to the dictionary.  Her strong emotional desires have been habitually developed by a belief that what she wants is worth more than honoring God. Jenny knows Tom is an unbeliever. She believes the lie that she cannot live without Tom.

What would be the biblical response to these ungodly desires and beliefs? Encourage Jenny to respond to God based on the objective truth of His Word rather than to how she feels.  Wanting a relationship is a good thing.  Witnessing to Tom is good.  But her intentions and desires of her heart were revealed by how far she was willing to sin, rather than her obedience. She wanted Tom’s acceptance and good feelings more.  There are many layers of unbiblical beliefs in Jenny’s young life. Perhaps she should examine her heart to see if she’s in the faith?

It would be a good thing if her parents could receive some counsel to address this as well as the emotional bondage. Because Jenny is still living in her parents care, all members of the family would benefit from a small accountability group which may consist of a pastor, elders, and a biblical counselor.  Wrong thinking could be addressed and corrected such as, “I don’t want to be alone”, or “I can’t live without him”, or “it’s ok to lie”, etc.  By putting these off, we see Christ is sufficient and promises to never leave us. (Heb.13:5)  She’s also in emotional bondage to sexual sin.  Believers are taught to flee immorality. (1 Cor.6:18-20)  By submitting to this accountability, it will have a humbling and discipling effect, with the promise from God that He gives grace to the humble. (James 4:6)

Are there other ways to engage in an idolatrous emotional bond?

Coffee Talk 2015: Week 3 {Manipulation}

Biblical Solutions for Problems with Others
I’m Supposed to Respond How?

By Christie Ballewske

coffee talk online edition pictureSkimming it over, my first reaction to this chapter was, “I can totally write about this, because I used to be the Queen of manipulation! I saw this as a “past habit,” not a regular offense. The more accurate account started to dawn on my horizon when I read Martha’s words,

“You know you are guilty of sinful manipulation when you don’t graciously take ‘no’ for an answer…”

I was paging through the chapters while having a mutual conversation with my husband one night before bed. I heard my own voice echo as I exclaimed in much laughter, “Pfft, I don’t resort to manipulation anymore! Right?” Suddenly, what began as a mutual conversation, was now just my lonely, foolish voice. First, an awkward moment of silence. Then my husband, gently spoke, “do you know how hard it is to say ‘no’ to you?” Oh! Its high noon and the truth has never been more clear.

I just thought that meant I was cute! I think I honestly believed that when the transfer of headship took place that I had left the “art” of manipulation at home with all of my teddy bears. The truth is that rarely does my husband ever tell me “no.” I’d like to think that it’s because I don’t ask for much and I am a reasonable gal. We all know that is a whopper!

One clarifying truth is that my husband is kindhearted! Like the Lord, he enjoys giving me good things and truly seeks to say “yes” as often as he is able, and because of this,  I have a hard time marking more than a few times he has ever told me “no”. However sweet this is, I must face an awful truth.

When I read the list of “manipulating ploys,” I was shocked that she’d consider some of them “manipulation” while others, well, let’s just say Dan could hang his hat on my cold shoulders! The ones I found puzzling were “sweet talk” and “tears.” I never considered that tears were anything but natural and acceptable, and, frankly, if I were sweet talking, he was still free to say no!

As much as I’d like to stake claim to a quality of cuteness and sensitivity uncommon to women, I must recognize that my tears are at times evidence of a lack of self-control. My tears, sincere as they be, are nonetheless a spell that is often cast when I am unable to accept “no” for an answer. THIS is why my husband finds it difficult to say “no,” NOT my rare cuteness! Rather, I put a spell on him.  So after reading this chapter, I have walked away with several conclusions but more importantly, a biblical solution.

My first conclusion for me personally, is that manipulation is at times unintentional but nonetheless, still manipulative. I’ve also considered that in many cases for me, manipulation can be determined by the effect it has on the my husband. Since he is so sensitive to my feelings and responds so generously to my emotions, I need to be careful when and how I choose to reveal them to him.

Lastly, the Lord desires that women have gentle and quiet spirits. A woman of gentle and quiet spirit is willing to enter the storm of her husband’s “no” and actively seeks to let the spirit alone sway his opinions. She does everything in her power to keep her husband sober of her spells, and reserves her “appeals” for the important stuff, and even then, her countenance shows a trust in God that HE never fails, nor disappoints. We must acknowledge that often, especially if from a husband, the word “no” is a word from God. So let’s, like Martha counseled, honor God graciously by accepting His will for your life in that moment when you hear the word “no” for an answer.

Discussion Questions:

  1. In what ways has God used another person to reveal His momentary will for you?
  2. Tell me of a time when you did not graciously accept “no” for an answer?
  3. What type of manipulation did you resort to? Did you regret that later? Why? Why not?

Coffee Talk 2015: Week 2 {Gossip & Slander}

Damsels in Distress, Chapter 2
Biblical Solutions for Problems with Others
Well, Isn’t It OK If My Mother Told Me?
Gossip and Slander

coffee talk online edition pictureSue was excited about attending the annual Woman’s Spring Luncheon at church.  As she settled down with her food at the table with girlfriends, she noticed that Sally, a sweet elderly lady, was seated across from her and chatting away as usual.  In the midst of all the various conversations, Sally’s tone changed into ‘dumping mode’ as usual. Systematically shredding her downstairs neighbor’s character, Sally continued to criticize her housekeeping to child rearing skills, or lack of them. “Sally”, I said, “could you please stop for a second? We don’t know this woman, but you do, and God has placed her in your life. We are not part of the problem, therefore, not a part of the solution. We all do not need to hear this.  Have you tried to befriend her, invite her over, or shared the gospel with her?” Great. Dead silence.  Then she started up again, stating that this was for prayer.  “No, that is not a prayer, Sally. If you care for her, reach out, pray, and trust God.”  Women were actually relieved to move on.  And we did. We all tolerated this for many years.

What Sally was sharing was probably true.  A biblical response in Sally’s mind could have been, “all this chaotic stuff about my neighbor is true, but that doesn’t give me the right to give a bad report about her, especially disguised as prayer! I’d better be careful about what I share here. Maybe asking them to pray for me to share the gospel and befriend my new neighbor would be more God honoring.”  (Phil. 4:8)

Have you ever been a Sally, or a Sue, or in a group where this has happened? I sure have.  One time many years ago, I was so angry at a family member for hurting me that I dumped private information onto six or so persons and then had to call each and every one back to ask for forgiveness!  Then I had to humble myself and ask the ‘person’ who hurt me, to forgive me! My anger and emotions overrode my love and obedience to Christ.  My biblical response should have been, “even though that relative was unrepentant, I am going to show love to them by not continuing to ‘take into account a wrong suffered’ and not replaying the sordid details over and over in my mind and out loud. (1 Cor 13:5) (page 42).

So how do I lovingly shut a person down or even myself when obviously going down the road to slander?  You could use the example given above and recognize that sinful thoughts begin in our hearts. “The Bible does not command us to change our feelings; it commands us to renew our minds (Rom.12:2). We do this by simply studying, meditating on, and memorizing the Bible, as well as by hearing it preached. Then when we realize that our thoughts and (gossiping and slanderous) speech are wrong, we are responsible to change our thoughts and speech. This is what Paul calls “lay(ing) aside the old self…” and “put(ting) on the new self” (see Eph 4:22-24). We don’t have to live by our habits.  It says in James 4:6 that ‘He gives a greater grace…’.(page 43)

Martha states that the Greek word for gossip is diabolis. We get our English word devil from it; It means to accuse or give false information.  Slander is blasphema, and connotes evil speaking or vilification (to malign or disparage).   Our speech is the fruit of our heart.  It reveals our thoughts, intents, wants and beliefs (Mark 7:20-23).  Do I speak truth in my heart and take care not to slander, secretly before the face of God or openly before men? (Psalm 15). Let the words of Phil 4:8 and 1 Cor 10:31 be your grid for truth in your heart as you put off and then put on God honoring speech for His glory.

Have you, like me, been guilty of gossip and slander? If so, repent, and thank God for His forgiveness. Go back and humbly make it right. Are you willing to go back to the person(s) you offended and ask for forgiveness in what you had no right to share?   Have you been a victim of gossip? Try to gain their good will, if possible, by approaching them kindly and graciously with the truth (Rom 12:18, 1 Cor 4:13). Did you rather tell your mother or girlfriends or rant on Facebook that you were offended? What should be your biblical response?  So what will you do in your mind renewal process to put off evil speech?  You can change you know.  Work hard at putting off sin and putting on Christ.  The focus has to be Him.

Coffee Talk 2015: Week 1 {Introduction}

Coffee Talk: Online Edition
Damsels in Distress by Martha Peace
Chapter 1

coffee talk online edition pictureI was first introduced to Martha Peace at a Women’s Conference in 2001.  As she gave her testimony, she shared what her life was like before she came to Christ. Martha was a young, independent, professional woman who was pretty much living life for herself and indulging in the pleasures the world had to offer her. She was unhappy, full of anxiety, and her marriage was headed for divorce court.

But God had other plans for her.  He put Katrina, a faithful, Christian coworker in her life who incessantly prayed for her and witnessed to her for over a year until one day God opened Martha’s heart to the Gospel and her need for Him.

Martha states in the opening paragraph of the book, “Shortly before I became a Christian, I had so many problems that it would have been difficult to name them all. Afterward, I realized that my biggest problem had been solved because God had cleansed me from and forgiven me for my sin. It would be wonderful to report that from then on I had no problems. However, that’s not true. Fortunately for me, God provided resources to help me either solve or cope with those problems. The resources were being a Christian, the Scriptures, learning about the character of God, and my friend Katrina.”

God has given Martha a desire and heart to disciple and counsel women and her favorite place to do that is around her kitchen table with her Bible and cup of coffee in hand. In this book, Martha wants to share with us what she hears around her kitchen table. These are all problems common to women. But she doesn’t stop there; she wants to encourage us that we aren’t without hope as there is a biblical solution and application for every problem we face.

You will be hearing from Gaila, Brittany, Christie and myself; four women in different seasons of life. We will share with you problems common to women and the biblical solutions God has provided for all of us. Some of these problems concern others such as gossip, manipulation, and hurt feelings; other problems concern ourselves such as vanity, PMS and legalism; and other problems deal with the world in general such as feminism, women’s roles in the church and trials.

So grab your favorite cup of coffee or tea and sit down in that comfy place and join us every week for this online version of Coffee Talk. Better yet, buy a book and follow along with us. Next week you’ll be hearing from Gaila about gossip and slander, one of the problems all women struggle with. We want to hear from you and have you join in the conversation, so feel free to comment at the end of each blog.

Perspective & Grace…Getting Comfortable

perspective grace banner

Reflections from The Afternoon of Life: Finding Purpose and Joy in Midlife by Elyse Fitzpatrick

Probably the hardest thing about writing for me is figuring out how to efficiently use a computer. I’ve had several reality checks along the way. “Adapt or die!”   “Use it or lose it!”   “Just Do It!”   “Quit Whining!”  Yes, I’m giving the process of change a lot of push back lately.  The chapter title, “I’m Getting Comfortable with Looking Comfortable,” was not exactly my perspective on aging in Elyse Fitzpatrick’s book, “The Afternoon of Life”.   Perhaps I’d rename it “I’m Becoming More Comfortable with Looking Contented”.  I disagree with her title, but not her content. She’s spot on in that department.

What do I tell myself when an aging body and mind begin to fail me, or my friends?  And what does aging and loss mean in the context of the gospel that I’ve said I’ve believed most of my life?  It helps to look at the big picture when all the pixels of my life become distorted.  Dependable things have ways of fading as a gradual sunset.  Could it be that most of the things of this world, including my personal world, are passing as well?  Knowing truth is way different from believing truth.  God says that this world, and the things of this world will pass away, but my Word will never pass away (paraphrase of 1 John 2:15-17).

Giving a grocery list of all the declines in life and the equally matching Biblical commands to meet them would seem much like a ‘white knuckled’ legalized approach. The path of Galatia is as exhausting, and relentless as an unforgiving judge. But what if the Judge was forgiving? What if He provided a way of escape and forgiveness? And what if He promised His unending support throughout your sojourn that was designed before the foundations of this world to transcend you into another one? (Eph. 1) This flips everything, including me, on it’s head. The world would say-“wow, this is like Christmas!” God says, “yes, this is the gospel of my dear Son.”   This gives aging, the changes, the losses a new perspective.  The child of God can look through the eyes of faith, and learn to trust that He is faithful, and sufficient to provide all that He asks me to do. I want to finish well, and on His terms, not my own.  If the focus of my heart is on temporary things, I will have temporary results. (Col. 3)   All of my motives, desires, thoughts and beliefs, even good and pure ones must spring from and toward the life of Christ within me. (1 Cor 10:31; Phil 4:13, just read the whole book!)

So what about menopause, wrinkles, hot flashes, and all the other temporary changes?  Keeping a sense of humor can help.  I have personally traded a head of silver for a box of gold call “Light Ash Blonde!” I now have earned seven crowns in this life, according to my dentist.  I gladly ask for a senior discount, and try not to look stunned when it is given without my even asking anymore. Oh well, God must have a sense of humor I tell myself as I look at my grandson.  He has my stomach muscles, my hair’s bald spots, sporadic teeth, and expects everyone to know what he means when he whines. I’m sure we could list some verses to address that one.

Perspective & Grace…in the Ministry

Reflections from The Afternoon of Life: Finding Purpose and Joy in Midlife by Elyse Fitzpatrick

Who gave Elyse Fitzpatrick permission to declare the “afternoon of life” as beginning at 45?  This was my feisty initial joking reaction.  I know every day is a gift from our gracious God, and none of us are guaranteed a day, but if God is willing to allow me to live as long as my dear grandmother, then perhaps it is not past 11 a.m. for me.  I am thankful that God has granted me good health, and that most days I don’t feel like “an older woman.”

Yet as I began to read the reviews of the book, I was drawn to a comment that Martha Peace made. She said she wished that she had this book when she was just entering this time in her life.  It made me think about parenting and how there were times when I wished I had “read ahead” and planned better for what I would face in the future.

So, this book is a blessing to me and hopefully to women of all ages; for these are things we will all face, albeit some sooner than others…. at least if God is willing to grant us the gift of time here on earth.

My youngest is now 16, and while in some ways she needs me more than ever, I do have a bit more flexibility in my schedule. I still like to see her off to school and pick her up each afternoon, but last year I began tutoring inner city children with others from our church.  Each Tuesday, we meet at First Step Services, a homeless shelter in our community, and offer ourselves to these children.  Our goals are pretty simple:

  • Build relationships with the kids and show them genuine love
  • Help them with their homework and set goals for them to achieve needed scholastic skills
  • Teach them about our awesome God and His gift of Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins

It has been a joy, and sometimes a challenge, to work with these kids. We have seen many changes in them as we seek to consistently model truthfulness, gentleness and patience (sometimes lots of it)!   We begin each week with a craft and game time.  Sometimes the boys aren’t interested in a particular craft activity, so there is usually a Jenga game going on.  All of this time spent with them allows us to listen to them and interact about things that are going on in their lives.  We encourage them to bring their homework so we can help them, but we also track skills they need to work on (like flash cards and reading) and we come ready to make

good use of the time we have with them.  The last 30 minutes of each Tuesday are spent teaching them about who God is and what He’s like.  Of course there’s a snack being eaten while they listen and answer questions, but what is exciting is that we’ve seen these kids progress from disinterest and disrespect the first week to actually listening (mostly) and participating.  Please join me in praying for the salvation of these children!

So as I see that the time is approaching (and in some ways is here) when my children will be needing less of my time, I want to seek to live with a focus on others, and less on myself.  As Elyse reminded us, “A woman will always find more fulfillment in living biblically than in trying to fulfill herself through popular means.  The way to find our life is to lose it.”

There were many other ways we were encouraged to seek to serve in… So many opportunities, so little time!

  • Teaching younger women (mentoring, counseling)
  • Women who build up, encourage, entreat and console
  • Women of prayer and praise
  • Women who evangelize
  • Women of Service

So let’s seek to grow in all of these, and use the years that the Lord has allotted us to continue to live for the benefit of others, and thus to the glory of God!  In this way, we can strive to leave a legacy of generosity and love for God for the next generation, seeking to give of ourselves as Christ gave for us.

Perspective & Grace…Health in the Midlife

Reflections from The Afternoon of Life: Finding Purpose and Joy in Midlife by Elyse Fitzpatrick

Being married since I was 18 years old, coming from the background I grew up in, I had little knowledge of the Lord I professed. It was at this time the Lord had begun to work in me to strengthen me spiritually. I was committed to studying His word and knowing my God.  Strangely enough, during this time I believed that God was preparing me for something (ministry, missions, etc..) when in fact, it has become very clear to me that God was preparing me for life; more specifically, the life He had prepared for me and for my husband John, before the foundations of the earth.

At the age of 35, my husband, a man I had never known to tire, a man who could run circles around me and any other man I knew, was suddenly afflicted with a disease called osteomyelitis that settled into his spine and nearly took his life had it not been for God’s mercy and grace. I learned, as I watched my husband suffer immensely for months, what I believe is the true meaning of Genesis 2:24, which states, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife and they shall become one flesh”.

We had been married 16 years, I understood oneness in intimacy, but as I watched John suffer greatly, I suffered too. And that oneness God speaks of in Genesis 2:24 took on a completely new meaning and it was here that I understood the oneness between a husband and wife that rarely exist until a real trial comes. As the months went on, I pleaded with God to heal and restore my husband to the man he was prior to his illness. Yet, somehow as I prayed those prayers I knew God had put us on this path of suffering for a purpose and it might never end this side of heaven. My greatest fear was that God would leave us this way. In my mind I thought it would be easier to lose my husband then, than to live a lifetime in this condition. I thought I knew what was best for us, better than God, though I would never say that out loud.

But as I write to you today, 14 years later, I can say with confidence and faith that I believe what the Lord says in Isaiah 55:8-9, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

For years I have spent myself to the point where my own body was affected.  Then one day as I sat working on my Sunday school lesson, which took me to 2 Corinthians 12:8-9, I heard the Spirit speak to me through the Word: “Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this that it should leave me.  But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness’ “.

I knew immediately that this was my answer to those prayers pleading for healing, crying out in disappointment and mourning what had been lost.  God’s grace was and is sufficient for all of our afflictions, and today it is no different.  My prayer list in my midlife for my health and my husband’s health, for all of the things God has chosen not to restore, not to heal, not to give back, my faith, my comfort and my confidence rests in the wonderful words of my Lord. “My grace is sufficient for you, my power is made perfect in weakness”.

Now at 49, I have learned that I cannot run this race without my savior and I have no hope of victory without Jesus. Though, He has been my savior for over 30 years, I have not always been a faithful sheep.  I am still learning to humble myself under the mighty hand of God so, that at the proper time, He may exalt me; casting all of my anxieties (and there are many) upon Him because He cares for me.

Perspective & Grace…Friendship

Reflections from The Afternoon of Life: Finding Purpose and Joy in Midlife by Elyse Fitzpatrick

Do you have a friend that no matter how long it’s been since you’ve seen them, you just pick up where you left off and it’s like time hasn’t even passed? Well, that is the case with my friend, Sandy, whom I’ve known for 43 years (I can’t believe I’m that old!) I usually get to see her at least once a year when she comes to Milwaukee to visit family. She’s now a “southern girl” as she has lived in Dallas for 20 plus years. We talk on the phone occasionally but not as much as we’d like to–it just seems that our busy lives get in the way.

My first memory of Sandy was when I was 14 years old, hanging out in our backyards, sun tanning our bikini clad bodies. We would always slather ourselves with baby oil, spray Sun-In on our hair, and bake ourselves till we were golden brown. (Sounds like a recipe, doesn’t it!)

We have a lot of history between us: we met our husbands in high school, both got married at age 19 and stood up in each other’s weddings. After marriage, our lives took a different turn. Sandy moved away to Chicago where her husband, Mark, was climbing the corporate ladder in an international company where his uncle was the CEO.  My husband, Bruce, was at the time working in a factory. From a socioeconomic point of view, we were living in two different worlds. When we did get together, our husbands didn’t have much in common other than sharing a beer together.

From Chicago, Sandy and Mark moved to Atlanta and then Memphis. While in Memphis, I noticed some changes in Sandy as we talked on the phone—she kept talking about Jesus which made me somewhat uncomfortable. When they came to Milwaukee to visit Mark’s family, they were continuing to talk about Jesus as they told their children bible stories before bedtime as Bruce and I sat on the couch and listened. We were starting to notice something was different about them.

In the mid 1980’s they moved to Dallas to be closer to Sandy’s parents. About that time, by God’s grace, Bruce and I came to know the Lord as our personal Savior. I remember talking to Sandy on the phone and rejoicing with her about my newfound faith in Christ. As Christians and sisters in Christ, our friendship took on a whole new meaning. Now we were praying for one another and talking about our bible studies and churches as Christ became central in our friendship. What was even more exciting was to see our husbands sharing that same common bond. Remember that socioeconomic division I talked about earlier, well that was slowly dissipating.

Shortly thereafter, we took a family vacation together to Hot Springs, Arkansas.  It was there that Mark encouraged Bruce to go to bible school as he could see Bruce had a gift for teaching the Word. Years later when Bruce was ordained as a minister, Mark and Sandy flew to Milwaukee for the occasion. What a work of grace the Lord did in our friendship!

Since those days, we’ve shared many of life’s joys and sorrows: we’ve seen our children grow up and get married, we’ve become grandmothers, we’ve seen our husbands go through job losses and ministry/church heartaches, we’ve watched our parents get old and die, and we’ve suffered health issues and many surgeries between us. But through it all we’ve been able to be an encouragement to one another as the Lord has been our strength and the glue that binds our friendship together.

We’ve seen our friendship change and mature these past 43 years. We’re no longer those 14 year old girls who were so focused on “looking good”.  We’re comfortable with who we are as women and how we look. We can laugh with each other as we talk about getting rid of those extra pounds we’ve put on in menopause or how we just spent the last hour talking about our aches and pains. The Lord has given us a contentment with our lives and our friendship. That reminds me, I need to give her a call!