The first and third photos were taken at Sunset Beach, NC. The photo in the middle was taken in my backyard. Please feel free to copy, save and print these encouraging cards if you want.
Edited to add: I just remembered when that first photo was taken. My granddaughter and husband were with me to hold my camera gear as we walked to the beach. We had been at the beach house for five days and I still had not walked down to the beach because I was in so much searing pain and seriously disabled. I suspected my back was broken but it had not yet been confirmed. I could barely walk or move. But I was determined to not miss an opportunity to photograph my granddaughter in the sunset and asked God to please help me make it down to the shore and back. During the slow and painful walk, the sun broke through the clouds. I have never seen such as spectacular sky as that evening. Instead of remembering the terrifying unstable spine, I have photos such as this to remind me… God was with me.
As soon as my son and I heard the thunk, we both said “Was that a bird?”
It was. A tiny Ruby-crowned Kinglet had flown into the sliding glass door and lay on the deck.
What do we do? What can we do?
While we watched, the little bird got to his feet. But he was not well.
His breath came in shudders and heaves. We watched in distress.
It was so cold outside. Would he be ok? We were very glad the cats were inside! Cats love birds so of course Matey purred with glee and wouldn’t take her eyes off the little bird through the glass. We finally put Matey in the basement out of annoyance of her and respect for the bird. He kept his head tucked in, shuddering and quaking and I kept expecting the little feathered ball to fall over.
We looked up info on what to do. The advice was to carefully lift the bird into a box lined with a towel and wait. So that’s what we did. My son lifted the little feathered ball and placed it in the box, then backed into the house and slid the glass door shut. The bird stood up and balanced and revived in the warm towel-lined box. Then we waited, watching his every move.
The little Kinglet looked around for a couple minutes and without even testing his wings, suddenly flew away.
We were so glad the bird was ok! There’s not much you can do for a bird that crashes into a window and sometimes the bird will be stunned for hours. The little Kinglet was on the deck for barely 20 minutes in all.
I was glad the cats were indoors and shut in the basement.
I was glad we were able to look up info online.
It was good that we had a box and a towel to help warm the stunned bird.
And though we couldn’t do much to help, we hovered over it with concern.
Then I remembered what Jesus said.
“For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?”
If God cares so much for tiny birds that he made sure we kept the cats locked up and provided a warm towel, surely he will hover over us when we are curled up and in need of care.
Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.
I Peter 5:7
The easel is long gone and the drawing scroll must be somewhere in the attic. But I still have the slate chalkboard from my childhood. I’ve been wanting to put it on the wall for many years. Now that the dining room is finished there is a perfect space for it. I got the cast iron fleur-de-lis hook from Hobby Lobby. We drilled pilot holes for the wood screws and carefully screwed the brass chain to the old wood chalkboard frame.
And then came the best part – learning how to use chalk all over again. After all these years, I still love getting powdery chalk dust on my fingers and feeling the smooth cold slate against my hand as I write.
This scripture is my prayer today for one of my sons who is moving out of state today. May the Lord watch over him and direct his steps.
If you are facing something unknown, remember this verse. Fill in the blank with what you are facing, whatever it may be… The power company … The empty refrigerator… A difficult person… Illness… Impossible “To Do” lists… and trust God. He will not leave you nor forsake you. He it is that goes with you when no one else can, when no one else will. He will not forsake you.
In 1998 I saw an upside down rainbow. It was almost straight overhead, high in the sky and didn’t end on the earth. Some of my sons saw it with me and we wondered how it was caused. It looked like it could have been a complete circle but we only saw the bottom side of it, an amazing arc of color under rain clouds, an ethereal smile. Wow. I’m so glad I wasn’t the only one who saw it. I wish I had taken a photograph of that rainbow.
In 1999 I saw a whirlwind of late fall leaves. I was in the backyard and heard a huge whooshing sound, a sudden loud crackling, like a thousand newspapers being rustled. I ran around the house from the backyard and saw an entire column of leaves swirling up from the ground. The column of rushing leaves completely filled the tree from the ground to the top of a tree. The sound I heard was those dry leaves crashing and breaking against the bare branches of the tree, like a giant blender filled with ice cubes. Wow. It was so fast and sudden, I didn’t have time to grab a camera.
When I saw those leaves I asked “What, God?”
If God was trying to tell me something, I didn’t want to miss.
But there were no words so I just watched and marveled as the whirlwind dispersed and all the leaves fell down to the ground again.
Have you ever seen something that has no explanation? Moses saw a burning bush and he stopped what he was doing in order to get closer to figure out what this strange sight was and God called to Moses from the burning bush.
. . .
4 When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!”
And Moses said, “Here I am.”
5 “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” 6 Then he said, “I am the God of your father,[a] the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.
7 The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. 8 So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. 9 And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. 10 So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”
Have you seen something you can’t explain? Do you feel a tug to do something for which you don’t feel qualified?
In 2008 I saw an orchid bloom. I had been very discouraged and was crying at the kitchen window. It was so very hard being caregiver of my father-in-law in our home while his Alzheimer’s Disease progressed. The disease was ravaging his mind and I felt like my own life was being fractured and broken. I didn’t have the time, energy or attention my children needed and feared I was neglecting them while taking care of a man who barely knew I was even there.
Through tears I asked God “Is everything going to be ok?” I just needed to know that everything was going to work out alright, that my kids would not be harmed from the complicated situation we were in. After I asked God that question, I was still uneasy. So I wanted a sign from God. But then I thought that would be silly to ask for a sign. People who know God believe in him, right? Wouldn’t asking for a sign be a lack of my faith? But the tears kept falling and I looked at a plant on my window sill and asked God for a sign. I asked him to make the orchid bloom.
The orchid was over ten years old and had never bloomed. It was a sterile orchid. But I asked God to let it bloom to show me that everything would be all right. And then I forgot my prayer. Asking God for a sign was like telling him “The ball is in your court. I will wait for you to make the next move.” Peace descended on my spirit and I was ok.
Four days later though, I was washing dishes when I just happened to see the orchid. My jaw dropped. A shiver ran down my spine. There, sticking out from the orchid, was a bloom stalk several inches long. For it to be that long, it would have had to start growing as soon as I had prayed “God, make the orchid bloom.” At that moment, probably before I finished asking, God said “Yes” and he made that sterile orchid to bloom. I took a photo. Big, beautiful, white flowers lined the stalk. That was five years ago. I still have the orchid but it never bloomed again.
Ever since then, I’ve never needed another sign. If God can make a sterile orchid bloom, I don’t need any other sign. If God says “Everything is going to be ok” I don’t need to hear it again. I believe him. I remember. He was right, everything did work out ok.
Things might not be going the way you want. And things might get worse before they get better. But in the end, everything is going to work out ok. Trust God.
9“Then you will call, and the LORD will answer;
You will cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’
If you remove the yoke from your midst,
The pointing of the finger and speaking wickedness,
10 And if you give yourself to the hungry
And satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
Then your light will rise in darkness
And your gloom will become like midday.
11 “And the LORD will continually guide you,
And satisfy your desire in scorched places,
And give strength to your bones;
And you will be like a watered garden,
And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.
12 “Those from among you will rebuild the ancient ruins;
You will raise up the age-old foundations;
And you will be called the repairer of the breach,
The restorer of the streets in which to dwell.
Put your trust in God and stay strong. He will be with you in the work.
Everything is going to be ok.
A couple months ago I attended a Bible Study of A Confident Heart, by Renee Swope. Gathering and sharing with friends was heart-warming and deeply comforting. Here is a small excerpt from the book.
Excerpts taken from Chapter 8:
—When we don’t know what our heart’s desires are, we tend to spend our lives fulfilling the desires of others. It’s time to ask ourselves the questions: “Am I doing what God may be calling others to do, while leaving undone what He is calling me to do?”—
—What about you? Do you listen to the desires of your heart and live from your God-given passions, or do you serve from a sense of duty and obligation?—
—If you want to know your purpose, pursue the heart of God and you’ll have a head-on collision with your calling.—
Trust in the LORD with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight.
I should have known though. The symptoms were severe. Over the next couple weeks I searched the internet for “How to tell if your back is broken” and “Can a person walk around with a broken back.” There were no conclusive answers. Well duh! My husband said most people do NOT walk around with a broken back. Most people seek help immediately, due to immobility or pain. I’m not that smart though. I’ve told my doctors to make a note in my charts “HAS DIFFICULTY INTERPRETING PAIN.”
For the next several weeks I tightly strapped a gallon size bag of ice to my back for 16 hours a day. I wore a back brace day and night as tight as it could be pulled to keep my vertebrae from shifting. I moved slow, walked slower, couldn’t drive, could barely sit. My feet and legs would go numb and I had other worse not-normal symptoms. But I’m not that smart. I thought it was old age. Or just maybe, a popped disk. I do NOT recommend ignoring symptoms.
For the next two and a half months, I helped my husband and sons clean our house, fill and move boxes, reorganize everything as we readied our house for inspection for refinancing. The work was endless and huge. I did it with a bag of ice strapped to my back and silent prayers that God would hold me together, literally.
I finally got surgery two and half months after I broke my back. I had 17 vertebrae fused. It was after surgery that I found out how bad it was. My surgeon told me the upper part of my back wasn’t even connected to the lower part of my back. It is a real, live, unexplainable miracle that I didn’t get paralyzed. Praise be to God!
Today, one year after breaking my back, I am repairing very well. I can walk, sit and drive again. I can bake delicious treats, cook, do laundry, sew on my sewing machine, make crafts, pick figs, and do container gardening. Best of all, I can kneel down and hug my grandchildren.
When I look over the past year, the thing that stands out above all wasn’t the pain, the learning to walk again, learning new ways to do things. The thing that stands out the most, the memory that glows the most intensely all the way from July 16th 2012 to today, was God was with me. He was so close that he fluffed my pillows when I needed, He supported my back when I could feel the vertebrae shifting and grinding, He helped me lay down at night and get up again and fall asleep even when it felt like I was lying on spears of glass. God was there. The entire year glowed with His presence. I sought Him and he was there. There are no words to describe the profound peace and love I felt, even when enduring pain.
As I look ahead, I don’t have to fear because I know God will be there.
“For I know the plans that I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:11-13
I Figured out Plan B. Isn’t that the best feeling ever… When you come up with a plan B that will actually work? :)
Sometimes things are really mixed up and messed up. There’s no order. There is nothing to grasp. You watch Plan A fall away in little bits.
You go through the motions of trying to clean up. Again.
And then you think maybe there’s another way.
You start over.
You try again.
Don’t give up.
I call plan B ….
Plan B is Hope. It’s not perfect. It still has cracks around the edges. Sometimes it’s fragile and not very clear. But Plan B will work.
And Plan B is always crazy BRAVE!
Sometime Bravery is all you need to come up with Plan B.
Don’t give up! God knows exactly where you are. Ask Him to help you make it through.
Go for Brave.
Sara Bareilles sings Brave.
[A huge public Thank You to my son Ethan. Ever since I broke my back last year and had 17 vertebrae fused, I can’t get down to ground level easily. As I shared my idea for this post, Ethan became my Hope. Sometimes Hope from God arrives in the form of a person. They bring light when everything seems fractured and dark. Ethan, you’re the best!]
‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.