The Good Old Days

In keeping with my 2013 enough theme, today’s post is taken from The God of All Comfort: Devotional of hope for those who chronically suffer, by my friend, Judy Gann. This book was published in 2005 and I believe this particular devotional will shed more light on my journey with chronic pain illnesses.

Judy and I met in 2003 at the annual Christian Writers’ Conference in Mt. Hermon, which is outside Santa Cruz, California. We got to know each other a bit as we shared our personal and writing stories. Later on, she asked me if she could use some of my story in a book of devotions she was writing, and I said yes.

Side note: the following devotional refers to Rick’s and my wedding taking place in a sanctuary, but we were actually married in the beautiful home of my close friends, Donna and Dub Baker. Here is a photo from that special evening. Those are my children, Alan and Kathy, with us in the photo.

Wedding photo w-Kathy&Alan

The God of All Comfort is a wonderful book filled with devotions describing people who live with chronic illness with comfort and joy because of their faith, hope and trust in Jesus Christ.

Please visit Judy’s site to read more about her and her writing projects.

better-days-ahead

The Good Old Days

For I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. —Philippians 4:11-12

Rick and Anna stood at the altar, surrounded by family and friends. As they exchanged marriage vows, their future seemed as bright as the candlelight illuminating the sanctuary.

Two years later, the onset of Anna’s troubling physical symptoms cast a shadow over their plans. Assaulted by muscular pain, most days, Anna’s energy reserves wavered between low and empty. Although the diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia gave a name to her symptoms, Anna’s fragile health encroached on the life she and Rick had envisioned.

Soon, Anna yearned for the “good old days.” She craved the limitless energy she’d enjoyed only a few years earlier. Anna’s mind churned. I wish Rick had known the younger, healthier Anna.

The apostle Paul was familiar with the “good old days” syndrome. Surely in the midst of beatings, shipwrecks, hunger, thirst, and imprisonment, Paul indulged in moments of discontent. Contentment wasn’t an automatic response for Paul—something he could muster up for himself.

Good-Old-Days

In Philippians 4:11, Paul stated that he “learned to be content” through the experiences God allows in his life. Bombarded with difficulties, he realized that circumstances do not define contentment. Paul’s secret for true contentment of the heart was found in his relationship with Christ. In Christ, Paul found the strength to accept and meet the challenges of each situation. Regardless of the circumstances, for Paul, Christ was enough.

The Lord taught Anna lessons in contentment, too. The words of her favorite Scripture verse, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart” (Proverbs 3:5-6), gave Anna the courage to embrace the reality of her “now.” As she trusted in the Lord, she gained a new appreciation for all she and Rick possessed in Christ. A thankful heart and trust in the Lord’s sufficiency replaced dwelling on her life before the illness.

Unfilled longings are scattered across this imperfect, earthly life. Living with illness is a harsh reality. But as we find out sufficiency in Christ and not in our circumstances, we will experience true contentment. Contentment far richer than we had in the “good old days.”

Lord, thank you that you are sufficient for every need. Sick or well, may I, like Paul, find contentment in you.

1Tim-6-6

“Godliness with contentment is great gain.” –1 Timothy 6:6


[From The God of All Comfort. Copyright © 2005 Living Ink Books, an imprint of AMG Publishers]

GodOfAllComfort

God, Are You Enough? [repost from Melissa Taylor, Proverbs 31 Ministries]

I love Proverbs 31 Ministries. My daughter and I have been reading their daily devotions and sharing how each impacts us. Today’s devotion by Melissa Taylor really caused both of us to remember that God truly is enough. And since my 2013 theme for this blog is enough, I knew I had to share this with you.

Please visit Proverbs 31 Ministries when you get a chance, as well as Melissa’s blog: Real Hope for Real Life. You’ll be so blessed when you do!

Devotions | Proverbs 31 Ministries.

God, Are You Enough?

“And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19 (NIV 1984)

God, are You enough? It’s a question my circumstances bring me to quite often.

Over a lifetime I’ve concluded not only is God enough, but He has to be enough.

It takes effort on my part to make sure my heart is staying in this truth.

As a young child, I didn’t realize my need for God, but I did realize I had a need that was not fulfilled. I was sexually abused when I was seven years old. My dad moved out of our home when I was eleven. Both circumstances left me devastated, and I didn’t understand then how God could ever heal my broken heart. So I spent many years trying to heal myself and make myself feel better.

Nothing was enough to meet my needs. Nothing worked.

As I grew older, I moved from being a Christian who simply believed, to becoming a Christian actively seeking and following Jesus. That was when my life began to change.

Because I was having direct conversations with God through prayer and consistently reading His Word, my faith grew. I learned that when the hard knocks came, and they would, I needed to ask one question: “God, are You enough?”

When a friend betrays me, “God, are You enough?”

When I need to forgive what seems unforgivable, “God, are You enough?”

When my child has issues out of my control, “God, are You enough?”

When my marriage is on the brink of destruction, “God, are You enough?”

When my mom is dying of cancer, “God, are You enough?”

When others don’t recognize my value, “God, are You enough?”

When I struggle professionally, “God, are You enough?”

When someone I love uses words to hurt me, “God, are You enough?”

When I am in debt and don’t know how I’ll pay my bills, “God, are You enough?”

When my past haunts me, “God, are You enough?”

When my health declines, “God, are You enough?”

When I am let down and disappointed in my life, “God, are You enough?”

Every time I asked “God, are You enough?” I opened my Bible and began reading, verse by verse. Though my doubts were strong in the beginning, God’s Word started to silence the thoughts paralyzing me.

Through promises fulfilled and promises given in Scripture, I discovered the answer was always the same when I asked: “God, are You enough?”

Yes, He is.

Nothing here on earth is guaranteed, except for one thing: Jesus is with us always. And when we understand who He is, our doubts begin to disappear.

The Bible tells us Jesus is sufficient; He’s enough. Philippians 4:19 says, “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (NIV 1984). I discovered this to be true. Every need, every doubt, every inadequacy, every fear was met, answered and removed by Jesus.

If I lost everything, I’d be okay because no one can take away my Jesus. Whether I live in a mansion on a hill or in a tent on the side of a swamp, I have my Jesus. Whether the world is for me or against me, I have my Jesus. When I am knocked down, I get on my knees and find my Jesus.

When life becomes more than you think you can handle, don’t quit. And certainly don’t believe the lie God is not enough. Instead, ask yourself, “God, are You enough for me?” Then plant His Word deep in your heart so you’ll always have the ready answer, that yes He is. He is enough for me, for you. Ours is the God who “… will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19).

Dear Lord, help me to realize and remember the secret to being content in all circumstances is You. Help me to be aware of Your presence in my life at all times. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Jesus?

Scripture reassures us over and over that God is enough. Read over His truths in the new NIV Real-Life Devotional Bible for Women, filled with 366 devotions from Proverbs 31 Ministries’ writers.

Visit Melissa Taylor’s blog for real hope for real life.

Reflect and Respond:
Honestly assess if God is enough in your life. Do you find yourself needing or wanting more? Remind yourself that God knows you inside and out. He loves you no matter what and He always will.

Is there a situation in your life you need to turn over to the Lord?

Power Verses:
Psalm 33:4, ” For the word of the LORD is upright, and all his work is done in faithfulness.” (ESV)

Isaiah 46:3b-4, “You whom I have upheld since your birth, and have carried since you were born. Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.” (NIV)

The Ideal Life You Want Isn’t Enough

I read this yesterday and since it follows along with my “enough” theme for this year, I knew I had to share it with you. I have been repeatedly blessed by Wayne Stiles’ writing and he has given me permission to share this with you. Please click the link below to visit his blog and read the rest of his post! You’ll be blessed too.

The Ideal Life You Want Isn’t Enough

Most people live for dreams. It’s a quest, really.

Clinging to ideals of how life could and “should” be, they chase those dreams like a carrot on a stick. Always within reach, but never gotten.

I guess we’re all wired to pursue the ideal. The world calls it following “your heart,” and we Christians refer to it as “the will of God.”

But in truth, we generally settle for nothing less than our version of how life ought to be.

Any search for the ideal needs only to look at the Garden of Eden to see the futility of that pursuit.

God points us a different direction.

The Original Ideal Life

Adam and Eve lived in paradise—literally. Think about it.

They had:

  • an unspoiled environment
  • the perfect spouse
  • a great occupation
  • plenty of food
  • an easy decision of what to wear each day—nothing!

They lived without a care in the world—with no sin to mar their motives. It was an ideal life in every sense of the word.

But it wasn’t enough.

You can read the rest of Wayne’s great post here. Again, thank you so much, Wayne, for allowing me to share your writing with my readers!

AnnaSmile

The Enoughness of Enough

Last week I read this great post by Mary DeMuth, and since “enough” is my word for 2013, I asked her if I could repost it here for you to read. Mary graciously agreed, so hold on to your hats [or shoes or tablets or phones or whatever you’re holding onto right now] because this is profound stuff! Thank you again, Mary!

MaryDeMuth-EnoughnessOfEnough

The Enoughness of Enough

I noticed the little voice at the thrift store as I gathered clothes to try on. I had a panicked sense about me, worried if I didn’t crawl through everything there, I would miss something. I tried on my clothes, bought several items, and went home feeling guilty. (Have you ever had purchase regret?)

I received disheartening news from a publisher. Their words confirmed the demise of one of my books. I thought of my more successfully published friends, and felt the hole deep down. I’ve wrongly thought that finding a certain level of success in writing would be enough. I’d reach a milestone and rest a bit, happy at the accomplishment. But another mountain of achievement always looms, stealing the joy of rejoicing in the accomplishment. Click to tweet this.

I’ve wanted wood floors as long as I can remember, but none of our homes have been decked with oak. It’s absolutely silly, this desire, especially in light of my friends in Ghana and Haiti whose floors are earth. I know we have so much. Why pine after pine?

My enough is broken.

The enoughness of enough hasn’t yet satisfied me. New (to me) clothes won’t fill up a heart. Instead, they’ll steal from our bank account. No matter what I achieve as a writer, there will always be another literary carrot just a little further ahead, stealing my temporary joy. Once the wood floors grace my home, there will be other home improvement items luring me–a new cooktop, different counters, an arbor out back.

I feel like Jeremiah aimed a verse at me this week: “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me,  the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” *Jeremiah 2:13)

I’ve forgotten that Jesus is my enough. Instead, like the Achiever that I am, I have dug cisterns til the cows came home, only to realize they hold nothing. The water rushes through, temporarily satisfying, but never really filling me up.

I’ve become like Solomon. “And all that my eyes desired I did not refuse them. I did not withhold my heart from any pleasure, for my heart was pleased because of all my labor and this was my reward for all my labor. Thus I considered all my activities which my hands had done and the labor which I had exerted, and behold all was vanity and striving after wind and there was no profit under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 2:10-11

The solution? I have to stop. Rest. Revel in the now. Be like the Apostle Paul and learn the secret of true contentment, of being okay with lack or gain, all my strength coming from Jesus.

It’s not easy, though.

We live in a culture where there’s no enoughness to enough. Materialism and consumerism demand that we feed our desires constantly, never satisfied with the now. And it spills over into our businesses and ministries. If we revel in the enoughness of enough, then we’re not forward thinking, or we’ve lost our edge. We must always, always be shipping.

When will it end? Should we live on a treadmill, never stopping, never celebrating, never breathing a holy exhale long enough to simply say, “Thank You Jesus?” I hope not.

I’m, of course, preaching to myself in this post. But I have a hunch you’ve been there before, too. Will there ever be an “enough” in your life? What is enough?

Let’s decide together that there is enoughness to enough. To stop right now and be counterculturally CONTENT. Who’s with me?

Q4U: When have you truly felt you had enough? What messes with your feeling of enoughness?

Please do yourself a huge favor and visit Mary’s “Uncaged” site at http://www.marydemuth.com/

AnnaSmile

God is Always Enough

Earlier this year, I shared with you that God gave me the word enough for 2013. I blogged about it here and here and will continue to do so whenever I read, write or come across something significant about this simple word.

Today I read this piece in Wayne Stiles’ blog, Connecting the Bible and Its Lands to Life and knew I needed to share it here. The emphasis on the word enough (just like this) is mine.

Never Settle for Second Best with God

Their request seemed like commonsense. But it wasn’t.

“Let this land be given to your servants as a possession,” the people of Reuben and Gad said to Moses, “do not take us across the Jordan” (Numbers 32:5).

Never Settle for Second Best with God Never Settle for Second Best with God

(Photo: Land of Gilead, overlooking the Sea of Galilee. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

The tribes of Reuben and Gad had huge herds, and the land of Gilead and Jazer had lush pastures.

So they settled east of the Jordan River instead of crossing over into what God had promised.

Bad idea.

Their choice shows us why we should never settle for second best with God.

When God’s Best isn’t Good Enough

Rather than wait on the Lord and receive the best of what He had planned for them on the west side of the Jordan River, they settled for what they saw in front of them.

History bears the constant struggle these tribes would endure because they chose this land.

God’s best for us seldom comes immediately. But it’s always worth the wait. (Tweet that.)

How often have we run ahead of the Lord instead of waiting for His best?

  • A lonely believer marries an unbeliever.
  • An eager couple makes a poor financial decision.
  • A family joins a church for its location in spite of its doctrine.

Many people fail to see God work in their lives because they fail to wait on Him to supply.

Let us then look on what we have and give God thanks for it, and know that if we should have more, He would give more. —Richard Greenham

Why We Should Never Settle for Second Best with God

The Scriptures reveal the Lord can provide anything, anywhere, and at any moment:

God’s promise to provide frees us to concern ourselves only with obedience to Him. Never settle for second best with God.

What God wants to give us is always far better than what we want Him to give us. (Tweet that.)

We should never settle for second best because we only see today. God sees the implications for eternity.

The grass will always seem greener east of the Jordan.

But can God also not richly bless within His will?

Question: How have you experienced that waiting for God’s best pays off? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Beloved, have you ever ran ahead of God, thinking that your way was better than His? I have definitely been in that position at various times in my life and have finally learned [I hope!] to wait on God’s timing, trusting that He always knows what is best for me.

I pray you are as blessed by this as I was and I wish you enough.

AnnaSmile

Enough

I know many people pray for a word from the Lord for each new year. I have never thought to do that but this year God apparently has other plans for me. During the last couple of months of 2012, He kept placing the word enough in front of me in various ways. Sometimes it was in my Bible reading, other times in a devotional I was reading. And other times it was something in the news or online.

I’m not sure how I’m supposed to use that word this year or how God wants me to write about it. But I do know that it is to have significance for me this year, and I am to share what I learn with you. I don’t know if I’ll be writing about this subject every week or every month, but please know that I will be in prayer about how and how often to share what God gives me.

For now, let me start with a story that maybe you’ve already read. It has been taken out of context a lot but here it is with the proper acknowledgement to the original author. I’ll let the story do the telling.

IWishYouEnough'

“I wish you enough!”©

By Bob Perks

I never really thought that I’d spend as much time in airports as I do. I don’t know why. I always wanted to be famous and that would mean lots of travel. But I’m not famous, yet I do see more than my share of airports.

I love them and I hate them. I love them because of the people I get to watch. But they are also the same reason why I hate airports. It all comes down to “hello” and “goodbye.”I must have mentioned this a few times while writing my stories for you.

I have great difficulties with saying goodbye. Even as I write this I am experiencing that pounding sensation in my heart. If I am watching such a scene in a movie I am affected so much that I need to sit up and take a few deep breaths. So when faced with a challenge in my life I have been known to go to our local airport and watch people say goodbye. I figure nothing that is happening to me at the time could be as bad as having to say goodbye.

Watching people cling to each other, crying, and holding each other in that last embrace makes me appreciate what I have even more. Seeing them finally pull apart, extending their arms until the tips of their fingers are the last to let go, is an image that stays forefront in my mind throughout the day.

On one of my recent business trips, when I arrived at the counter to check in, the woman said, “How are you today?” I replied, “I am missing my wife already and I haven’t even said goodbye.”

She then looked at my ticket and began to ask, “How long will you…Oh, my God. You will only be gone three days!” We all laughed. My problem was I still had to say goodbye.

But I learn from goodbye moments, too.

Recently I overheard a father and daughter in their last moments together. They had announced her departure and standing near the security gate, they hugged and he said, “I love you. I wish you enough.” She in turn said, “Daddy, our life together has been more than enough. Your love is all I ever needed. I wish you enough, too, Daddy.”

They kissed and she left. He walked over toward the window where I was seated. Standing there I could see he wanted and needed to cry. I tried not to intrude on his privacy, but he welcomed me in by asking, “Did you ever say goodbye to someone knowing it would be forever?”

“Yes, I have,” I replied. Saying that brought back memories I had of expressing my love and appreciation for all my Dad had done for me. Recognizing that his days were limited, I took the time to tell him face to face how much he meant to me.

So I knew what this man experiencing.

“Forgive me for asking, but why is this a forever goodbye?” I asked.

“I am old and she lives much too far away. I have challenges ahead and the reality is, the next trip back would be for my funeral,” he said.

“When you were saying goodbye I heard you say, “I wish you enough.” May I ask what that means?”

He began to smile. “That’s a wish that has been handed down from other generations. My parents used to say it to everyone.” He paused for a moment and looking up as if trying to remember it in detail, he smiled even more.”When we said ‘I wish you enough,’ we were wanting the other person to have a life filled with just enough good things to sustain them,” he continued and then turning toward me he shared the following as if he were reciting it from memory.

“I wish you enough sun to keep your attitude bright.
I wish you enough rain to appreciate the sun more.
I wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive.
I wish you enough pain so that the smallest joys in life appear much bigger.
I wish you enough gain to satisfy your wanting.
I wish you enough loss to appreciate all that you possess.
I wish enough “Hello’s” to get you through the final “Goodbye.”

He then began to sob and walked away.

My friends, I wish you enough! by Bob Perks

http://www.bobperks.com/wish.htm

AnnaSmile