Archive for October, 2013

Call God first…

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

I love my 20 minute commute to The Butcher The Baker. It’s pretty amazing actually. The thing I dreaded most about taking the position was that it is in Duncan. I’m used to my Hannah’s Hope office being 5 minutes from my house. But what started out as a dread has turned out to be one of my favorite times of the day. Every morning I listen to a chapter from the Bible then I talk to the Lord the rest of the way. It’s a great way to start my day!

But in the evenings I don’t do that. I usually talk on the phone. Yesterday on my way home I tried to call Clay. He didn’t answer. I called Caleb. He didn’t answer. I called my sisters. Neither of them answered. I called my Mom’s house. She didn’t answer. I was trying to kill some time. I finally tossed my phone into my purse and said aloud, “Well, Lord I guess I’ll talk to You. No one else is answering.” Insert huge gulp! No more had I got it out of my mouth that I realized the truth in what I had said. Too often God is last on our list. We wait until we’ve exhausted all options before turning to Him. When we need someone to talk to, to vent to, to complain to, to just chat with, He is often the last one we call on. He should be the first One because He always answers! He’s always available to chat. He wants us to bring our fears, our failures, our misunderstandings, our unmet expectations, our disappointments, our grievances, our heartaches, our sorrow, our frustrations. He wants to hear all about them because it is through that communication that we get to know Him better and learn to trust Him. And the more time we spend with Him, the more like Him we will become.

Call God first. He always answers.

“I call on you, my God, for you will answer me; turn your ear to me and hear my prayer” (Psalm 17:6).

Hope

Wellll, anyway…

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

Several years ago Clay and I came across quite an interesting fella. He was an older gentleman, and he was a character to say the least. He’d have about four subjects going on in one conversation, and when he’d skip from one subject to the next he’d say, with a serious southern drawl, “Wellllll anyway…” This morning I heard from a new “follower” of my devotionals that I need to go back and finish my story about me and my sisters when we visited our home place in Bryson City a couple of weeks ago (I assume that’s the story I left hanging). I got so tickled when I realized I left that story hanging in the balance. I thought of the older gentleman, as I have jumped to several subjects since saying I’d get back to our visit, and I found myself saying to myself, “Welllll anyway…”

On the front porch of our home place in Bryson City, NC
L to R: Hope, Teresa “Cissy”, Leigh (in the back), Carla

Wellll, anyway. So the weekend of my 50th birthday celebration we (my sisters and friends) decided to drive by the places from our childhood that mean the most to us. When we got to the house that Daddy & German built – the one I told you about on October 14th – we were all four drawn in by an unexplained force. Now I’m not going all Twilight on you or anything, I’m simply saying that there was a strong urge to get inside that house. As I told you earlier, the house has been shut up and used as storage for 31 of the 33 1/2 years since we moved out. When the owner’s son, David whom we grew up with, opened the door, it was like walking back in time. It was nostalgic, it was surreal, it was exciting, it was sentimental, and it was heartbreaking. Memories flooded in with much more intensity than either of the four of us expected. Daddy was everywhere. His carpentry work, his work ethic, his many hours away from home in order to provide for a family of seven, his strict rules, his discipline, his incredible sense of humor, his pride in our home, his pride in his family, his love, his impatience (had to throw that in because he wasn’t perfect), and his deep faith in Christ. Neither of us voiced the emotions that were welling up. We had our friends with us and were busy telling childhood stories and getting them caught up on whose bedroom was whose, who did the dishes when, who hid in the bathroom and read a book while the others did the dishes (not to call Cissy out), etc. David could tell that we were deeply moved. He was very much in tune with what that house and the memories meant to us. He looked down at his feet a couple of times to gain composure of his own emotions. My Daddy was David’s pastor for the first 18 years of his life. And he, too misses Daddy and the impact that he made on that small town – the entire community for that matter. After we had walked through the house, taking our time, probably too much of David’s time, we met back up with David in the dining room. I was bold enough to say, “David, I know this is a long shot, but if you all ever decide to sell this place, please give us the first shot at it.” He nodded, and with the most sincere, compassionate voice responded, “I was thinking about you girls just the other day and wondering where you all are, how you’re doing, how your Mom is. And I thought then that it would only make sense for the Nations girls to buy this house.” We talked a little more about the day that we loaded up a huge U-Haul and moved east. I broke down and cried as I allowed myself to go back to January 8, 1980. And when I looked around, all three of my sisters had tears streaming as well. And I cry as I type this. I don’t know why. I don’t know how to explain it except to say we have been drawn back there.

As we broke away, I hugged David pretty tight and he hugged me back. I thanked him and told him he’d never know what this has meant to us. He nodded and asked me to put his number in my phone, encouraging me to bring Mom up there anytime and let her walk through. We loaded up in our vehicles and Leigh, the baby in the family, wept. She was 10 1/2 years old when we left Bryson City but she has vivid memories. Her tears were tears of grief and deep sadness, and she said, “If only we all could’ve done something differently starting way back in this house that many years ago, maybe Randy would still be here.” I’ve told you all many times and I stand firm on my statement that suicide is a grief like no other. Randy was a troubled teenager, and his dependency issues and addictions started way back then, and he fought them until his death at age 51. The truth is we could not deliver Randy, he had to seek help, and he didn’t. But there’s no question that visiting our home place and stepping back in time 33 years ago brought with it waves of joy and laughter, tears of sweet memories and tears of grief and deep sadness. We miss Randy. We miss Daddy. The relationship between us sisters and our relationship with Mom have deepened tremendously through our losses. God has been faithful. He has been right there at every turn. He has healed our hearts, and He continues to heal our hearts. He has filled voids, He has turned sorrow into laughter time after time. He has brought beauty from ashes. He has showered us with more blessings and more grace than we can comprehend. And for all this, we are eternally grateful.

So we came home that evening and we went our separate ways. Late that night almost simultaneously the sisters started texting each other, and that’s when we found out that each of us felt the same strong pull to return. And now 2 1/2 weeks later we’re still unable to shake “it,” whatever “it” is. All we know for a fact is that if that family decides to sell that house, this group of girls and their spouses are sitting on GO to snatch that house for a vacation home!! You all help us pray about that, will you?

Wellll, anyway. God is always writing a story with our lives. It’s a matter of whether we’re willing to tell it. And you know me, I tell it. And tonight I proclaim victory over sorrow because my hope is in Jesus, not my past, not present, but my future – my future that is not of this world. Amen!

“to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor” (Isaiah 61:2b & 3).

Hope

God doesn’t need me to think…

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

Now before you have too much fun with the subject line here, allow me to explain. I was typing an update to one of our faithful contributors to the ministry, and in reference to Michael speaking at the FCA Festival I said, “Never would I have thought that Michael may be a huge part of the ministry. But God doesn’t need me to think. He’s on it.” It’s a good thing He doesn’t need me to think. (I’m sure that comment has already run through your mind.) Obviously I don’t mean that we need to walk around as though we’re brain dead. Quite the contrary. The Lord is all about wisdom, knowledge, making good decisions, choosing wisely, etc. But when it comes to trying to figure out what His plans are or what His thoughts are or what the end result will be, God doesn’t need me to think. He needs me to trust.

When Hannah was sick we had weekly prayer meetings. And the last few weeks of her life we had two prayer meetings per week. We thought if we were faithful, if we believed strong enough, if we did not entertain a moment of “what if,” that surely – SURELY God would heal Hannah. I mean why wouldn’t He? We loved Him and we boldly proclaimed Him to individuals in every state and 14 countries through the Caringbridge website. We had almost a million hits to Hannah’s site. There were a lot of people watching, a lot of individuals whose faith was weighing in the balance as they looked on and waited for God to heal Hannah on this earth. We thought that’s what He was going to do. But God didn’t need us to think. He needed us to trust. So instead of the journey being about us believing with every ounce of our being that Hannah was going to beat the cancer, it ended up being about trusting God when He didn’t answer our prayers the way we thought He should. There we go thinking again.

God’s ways are not our ways. We’ll never figure Him out. His thoughts are not our thoughts. We’ll never think like Him. His plans far exceed ours. God doesn’t need me to think like Him. He needs me to trust Him – with every single area of my life.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ’As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8 & 9).

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5 & 6).

Please scroll down and you’ll find a link to watch the video of Michael speaking.

Hope

Michael Sobeski Speaking at FCA Festival

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

Below is the link to Hannah’s brother, Michael speaking Sunday night at the FCA Festival in Edgefield SC.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aZSq-Fl3sNE

“Not to us, Lord, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness” (Psalms 115:1).

Hope

How are you facing your giant…

Monday, October 28th, 2013

Last night was a HUGE leap forward for our family and for Hannah’s Hope Ministries – in my opinion anyway. Michael Sobeski, Hannah’s brother spoke at an FCA festival in Edgefield, SC. Most of you who follow our devotionals know that Michael is the longsnapper for the extra points and field goals for Clemson University, a crazy God-thing in itself. Michael is now a red-shirt junior which means he is a senior in college but eligible to play football for one more year. He and the kicker for Clemson, Chandler Catanzaro were the speakers at the festival last night. For Michael to now embrace his sister’s story as his own and embrace the ministry is a testament to God’s timing, God’s purpose, God’s plan. And Michael is a very good speaker. It was a sweet, sweet night.

Michael started with his early years in sports, from childhood to middle school to high school to the incredible opportunity to walk-on for Clemson. He talked about David and Goliath and how the Lord had prepared David for that victory. Then he transitioned to the day when he was 7 years old and his “big sister, Hannah” led him to a personal relationship with Jesus. Hannah was 10 years old. He talked about her being his best friend, the one he confided in for advice with his middle school crushes, the one he went to for “professional counseling.” Then he jumped to the spring of his 8th grade year and Hannah’s 11th grade year when she was diagnosed with an ugly terminal cancer. He didn’t spend a lot of time on her 6 month journey with sarcoma, but he closed with the 3 minute clip from her interview with Amy Wood six days before she went to heaven. He introduced the video by saying, “I want you to hear from Hannah just a few days before she went to glory. I think you’ll see how she responded when Goliath knocked on her door.” Tears were flowing all over the auditorium as Hannah boldly proclaimed that God is a good God and He’s almighty “Even if He might not choose to spare my life.”

And that is how Hannah faced her giant of cancer. With complete trust in the Lord that He has a plan bigger than her own. How are you facing your giant?

“David said to the Philistine, ‘You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands’…As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him. Reaching into his bag and taking out a stone, he slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell facedown on the ground. So David triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone; without a sword in his hand he struck down the Philistine and killed him” (1 Samuel 17:45, 46, 48-50).

Hope

Don’t lose your why…

Friday, October 25th, 2013

Mandisa, the AMAZING contemporary Christian artist posted on Twitter that a fan wrote her a note that said, “I feel like I’ve lost my why.” How sad. How sad! We can’t lose our why. There’s too much at stake. We’ve all been tempted to, though haven’t we? We’ve all been at the place where we say, “Why do I even bother?” or “Why not just throw up my hands and quit?” or “Why do I keep showing up everyday when no one notices?” or “Why do I keep trying when no one is doing their part?” or “Why am I standing in the gap when everyone else is avoiding the gap altogether?” or “Why do I keep believing when I see no evidence of God’s hand at work?” We can’t lose our why. We must remember why we’re staying the course when the easier thing to do would be to abandon it. We must remember why we choose to be different when everyone else is going with the flow. We must remember why we choose to believe the Lord when all indications are that He’s not really active in our lives.

Why? Because no one ever said life would be easy. Because we’re not promised honor and recognition. Because our influence is far reaching and we don’t want to blow that. Because our reward is not here. Because there’s too much at stake to quit. Because God has called us to be faithful to the end, for it’s at the end where we will receive the trophy, the recognition, the accolades. The easy thing to do is quit. The difficult thing to do is remember the why and keep on going.

Don’t lose your why.

“You’re blessed when you stay on course, walking steadily on the road revealed by God” (Psalm 119:1a The Msg).

“Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (Isaiah 40:30 & 31).

“I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14).

Hope

Not just any god, but MY God…

Thursday, October 24th, 2013

I came across this verse the other day:

“David also said to Solomon his son, ‘Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you…’ (1  Chronicles 28:20).

Don’t miss this. “…for the Lord God, my God, is with you.” David was encouraging his son, Solomon, his successor as King, to work hard and confidently and bravely because God – not just any god, but David’s God – was with Solomon. Why is that significant? Because the Lord God, David’s God had been very faithful to David. God had saved him from disaster for years. He had given victory on many occasions when victory should not have been possible. God had provided shelter and food and drink and fellow warriors and strength and healing and forgiveness and redemption in spite of David. And that same God, David’s God, was with Solomon. All Solomon had to do was trust Him.

I love taking this personal! Not just any god, but David’s God is with me too. All I have to do is trust Him. He is an amazing God, and He’s MY God! He has been faithful to me. He has saved me from disaster for years. He has given victory in battles when victory should not have been possible. He has provided shelter and food and drink and fellow warriors and strength and healing and forgiveness and redemption in spite of myself. And that same God, MY God, is with you too. All you have to do is trust Him.

Not just any god, but MY God.

Hope

He’s been awfully good to me…

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013

After posting the scripture that I did on my birthday, I have carried it with me for now two days. I love that scripture!

“I will sing the Lord’s praise, for He has been good to me” (Psalm 13:6).

The Holman Christian Standard says:

“I will sing to the Lord because He has treated me generously.”

It’s easy to quote this verse when life is good. It’s easy to quote it on your 50th birthday when it’s been all about you that day (that month??) But I can look back at very, very difficult times in my life and proclaim even bolder and louder that He’s been awfully good to me. When I went through an untimely painful divorce, stripping me of my “testimony,” my Christian “standing,” the respect that I had always taken pride in, I could say then that He’s been awfully good to me. Oh how He sustained me and kept me and a little 5 year old Caleb safe emotionally, spiritually and physically through those years. When I look back at my Dad’s unexpected death at age 62, the rock of our family, the spiritual leader, the gel that held us together, I can say He’s been awfully good to me. My siblings got closer through his death, and over the years we get closer and gel more tightly with each other and with our Mom. In the midst of heartache, He’s been awfully good to me.

And of course through Hannah’s six month journey with high grade round cell sarcoma, through her death, and now seven years later. To allow me the privilege of serving at Hannah’s Hope Ministries still leaves me shaking my head. He’s been awfully good to me.

And the most recent heartache, the suicide death of my only brother 3 years ago that left behind a sadness that will always follow me. On my birthday I broke down and cried as I told Clay that I find myself every year waiting for Randy’s Happy Birthday phone call. He always made that call no matter where he was or how busy he was. But in spite of the grief and sadness, I still stand behind my statement that He’s been awfully good to me.

God is our Sustainer, our Healer, our Comforter, our Friend, our Protector, our Provider, our Guide, our Shelter, our King! And because the list can go on and on, He’s been awfully good to me.

Hope

What if there’s a bigger picture?

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

What if all that is going on in your life is serving a purpose? What if the difficulties you are facing are not just hindrances and inconveniences? What if the illness you have been diagnosed with is to serve a particular purpose? What if the death of a friend or loved one is for more than just grief? What if the heartache that you are suffering is for more than just to bring you down? What if there is a God Who is totally hands on in your life and is working all things for your good and His good purpose? What if there’s a bigger picture?

There is a bigger picture. Nothing happens to us “by chance.” Not everything in life is coincidence. The scriptures tell us that God has His hands in the middle of everything. As we’ve talked about many times, we are not puppets on a string. He’s not up there bouncing us around controlling every twist and turn we make. He created us with a free will and He allows us to make decisions. And with those decisions come consequences – good and bad. But through those consequences God is working things for our good and for His good purpose. He wants us to recognize His hand at work. He wants us to be aware of His presence. What if there’s a bigger picture in all this? There is. Trust the Picture Maker.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

“It is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose” (Philippians 2:13).

Hope

Wow, 50…

Monday, October 21st, 2013

Today is my 50th birthday – 50 y’all!! How did that happen?? I just told my BFSB (best friend since birth), Lisa on the phone that I sure am glad I look as I good as I do. I never dreamed I’d look this good at 50. Obviously you hear my humor in these words. But reality is I sure am blessed. Someone told me last week that on their 50th birthday they were challenged to name 50 things that had impacted their life. She said she couldn’t stop at 50 things. I imagine I couldn’t either. When I get some extra time I’m going to do that too. I’d love to spend some time going all the way back to my childhood and list events and individuals who have made an impact on me and on my life. But that won’t happen tonight.

The balloon my friends gave me at work. My facial expression? Disbelief that those two numbers apply to me!

What I will do on this my 50th birthday is proclaim Wow, 50. God has richly blessed my life. He sure has been good to me. I don’t feel 50, whatever 50 feels like. I don’t look 50 (to me), whatever 50 looks like. I’m as thankful to be 50 as I can be. I heard the results of a survey on the radio the other day where individuals were asked if they could freeze time at a particular age, what age would that be. The overwhelming majority responded 50. I thought maybe all those thousands of people want to be like me. But according to the survey that wasn’t the reason. The reason is that at age 50 you are pretty much settled in. Your kids are grown, grandchildren are either already around or will be soon (not for me – not yet!), you are settled into your career, your house is like you want it, you live in the town you want to be in, you are settled into a church, etc. Life is good according to the survey. And I must say to that survey, Amen! I can’t think of a thing I’d change about my life right now. Obviously there are always things that could be better, but life is good overall. I love my husband and my son, I love both of my jobs, I love Clay’s job, I love my house, I love my church friends, I love my buddies, I love my dogs, and I love my family deeply. I could stop right here and make a list of exceptions to “life is good” but instead I choose to leave it at that. Life is good, because God is good. And God is good whether life is good or not.

This verse sums up my 50th birthday…

“I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me” (Psalm 13:6).

Hope