My three and a half year old granddaughter Ruthie came to me one day recently requesting I do a painting for her.
“Nana, I want a flower picture that you painted for me” Ruthie said this with her big eyes gazing earnestly at me.
“What kind of flower do you want me to paint?” asked.
She shrugged her little shoulders and responded “I don’t know. Just flowers.” Between this exchange and the fact I had painted lilies for her sister Lilias a few month earlier I readily agreed.
Pansies are my favorite flowers. They look like expressive faces in flower form and come in so many colors. I immediately decided pansies would be perfect. Pansies while beautiful and delicate are so bold and resilient and reminded me of Ruthie. As a little one she was tiny and frail looking and needed oxygen and feeding tube but in the last year she has been thriving without either.
I began drawing and painting pansies and below is the final result of pansies for Ruthie.
Psalms 23 is such a familiar psalm that it is easy to recite it and move on without seeing the rich blessings of love, care, protection, and guidance our Good Shepherd provides for us. I remember in VBS the summer between second and third grade getting a prize for memorizing Psalm 23. I could recite it by rote, but did not grasp the rich meanings of it. The Lord is MY shepherd!!! I am HIS lamb in HIS flock. He personally cares for me and each one in His flock. My shepherd is the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for the sheep (John 10:11). Because He is our Shepherd, we shall not want. This want is not speaking of physical or material riches. Phillip Keller writes in “A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23”—“yet amid such hardships he can still boast ‘I shall not want… I shall not lack the expert care and management of my master.’” Sheep will not drink if water is moving or lie down if there is any fear of danger. The shepherd finds still pools of water that quench and refresh and green pastures of refuge and safety where He watches over them. Sheep are dependent on their shepherd to find the water, nourishment, safety, care and rest they need.
How tenderly our God cares for each of us as His sheep! He gives us His living water and meets our needs. We are blessed with a refuge where we can safely lie down, rest and be at peace in His presence. Our Shepherd leads us on righteous paths to grow us into conformity to His image (Romans 8:29)—to become more like Him. When we go through seemingly hopeless situations, where death seems to lurk nearby, we can have peace and comfort in His wondrous presence rather than be overcome by fear of evil. Lord, may we, as Your precious sheep, never forget to rejoice and express gratitude to You, the One who shepherds us through all our life until we reach eternity. Thank You for being the Good Shepherd who laid down His life for us, Your sheep. Enable us to recognize and remember to ever praise You for Your care, provision, protection, comfort and peace in both the green pastures and the dark valley of death. Thank You that in You we shall not want but can rest content in your perfect care. In Jesus’ Name, Amen. ~ Deb Peabody
Chapter 40 of Isaiah begins with familiar words of our coming Messiah which are included in Handel’s Messiah, ”Comfort my people.” Verse 8 reminds us that “God’s Word will stand forever,” while verse 11 shows the tender shepherd-like care God has for each of us. The middle section from verses 12 -27 recount the greatness of our glorious God and Creator and how far He is beyond our limited comprehension. But I want to focus on the last few verses beginning with verse 28 through 31.
I love how verse 28 reminds us of the Everlasting God who is our Creator with boundless energy—He never faints or grows weary. Just knowing this about our God and knowing of His ability to empower us increases our faith and makes the following verses so much sweeter.
Because of who God is, His character, He can give power to the faint and increase strength in those with no might. Think about how circumstances and challenges in your life that have rendered you feeling faint or so weak. We have a strong, compassionate Shepherd who can give us the increased strength we need. As He reminded us in verse 8, “His word stands forever” including His promised resources of strength in Isaiah 49:29–31.
But how do we access this renewed strength? Verse 31 says we wait on the Lord to renew our strength. We are relying upon Him in expectant hope and faith for the strength to bear our burdens and for deliverance in due time. With our God, we can wait expectantly to soar with the eagles and run the race set before He has set before us.
2 I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me. – Psalm 57:1-2
Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by.
Every time I read this passage God reminds me of how He so vividly illustrated this to me. I grew up in Eastern Washington where we did not have earthquakes or tornadoes but after seeing lightning strike a tree as a young child, I developed a terrifying fear of thunderstorms. Ironically God had us stationed at Offutt AFB near Omaha, NE when I was a mom of two preschoolers. That day in July 1988 we had been under tornado watch all afternoon. As I watched the skies turn green and gruesome, I prepared a shelter for the three of us in our only interior room which was our bathroom. (We did not have a basement). When the sirens sounded, the three of us hunkered down into the bathtub with quilts and pillows to protect us. I read/prayed this passage with my children,and we sang several worship songs. After a few minutes, they both fell sound asleep while the sirens still sounded for over 45 minutes.
Their childlike faith and confidence in God as their refuge and safety until the storms of destruction pass was convicting to me. Yes, I quoted verses and sang calmly on the outside while terrified on the inside.
Now this story is one of those reminders of God’s faithfulness in my life and that I can fully rest in Him as my refuge regardless of the storms that come in my life.
Storms have come in natural disasters, lost jobs, miscarriages, loss of parents, relocating, loss of health and by His grace and faithfulness I have weathered them all. He faithfully uses all of these to fulfill His purposes for me.
Lord, today in our storms of 2020, enable us to see how You are being our refuge and fulfilling Your purposes in our lives. Amen.
7 “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD. 8 He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” – Jeremiah 17:7-8
Every December I begin praying and seeking God for the word to be my focus for the coming year. “Flourish” was my word I began this New Year as my focus for 2020 with Jeremiah 17:7-8 as my theme verse.
I never dreamed how much this would be needed as my focus when 2020 began. Pandemic, unrest, riots and political battle more heated and intense than have seen before in my life, as well as so much fighting and offense everywhere you look. This year looked like anything but a flourishing environment. 2020 feels more like a desert with searing hot winds blowing. Life has been disrupted in numerous fronts,, many jobs and businesses lost, loss of physical contact with the pandemic limitations and so much social and political upheaval.
My goal was to flourish and to not merely be surviving but thriving, growing and being fruitful in various areas of my life. The challenges of 2020 have cause me to run to my Abba God much quicker and more frequently, as well as seeking more fervently to be rooted in Him and His Word. When I do that, the “what if’s” and fears of the future disappear and I gain an eternal perspective. Sadly there are days I look to the circumstances and my faith begins to wither until return to Him and His living water. I am praying whatever the last 2 months of 2020 hold, I will continue to grow in Christ and my faith, to be quick to be loving, kind and compassionate and not give into the fear, worries and unrest all around us. I desire to be a flourishing tree with green leaves that bears fruit even in drought with my roots drawing my nourishment from God’s living water.
Our world around us is full of strife and outrage. It is easy to cause offense or be offended. There are so many things that need changed or fixed in our world that we can get so caught up in it all that we become frantic, fearful or irritable. When we only consider all the grievous things happening in our world today among a pandemic and social injustice we can be overwhelmed and/or anxious.
Yesterday while watching our church service on Livestream they opened the service with Psalms 131 as the call to worship. Our pastor went on to say after reading it that we need to be like weaned children with our Savior who are quieted and content.
1 O LORD, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. 2 But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me. 3 O Israel, hope in the LORD from this time forth and forevermore. – Psalms 131
Today I did a focused study and meditation on verse two. I first looked up the meaning of “I have calmed” from the Hebrew and it means to agree with, composed, smooth and stilled. Literally to have composed, hushed or rendered silent my soul.
Benson’s Commentary had this to say about it:
Surely I have behaved and quieted myself — Hebrew, שׁויתי ודוממתי נפשׁי, I have composed and hushed, or, rendered silent, my soul. When my mind was provoked to any irregular passion or temper, I restrained and subdued all such sinful motions or dispositions. As a child that is weaned of his mother — As void of all that ambition and malice, wherewith I am charged, as a child newly weaned; or, rather, as wholly depending upon God’s providence, as the poor helpless infant, when it is deprived of its accustomed food, the milk of the breast, takes no care to provide for itself, but wholly relies upon its mother for support. I have levelled my mind to an equality with my condition; and resolved to acquiesce in the present state of things, committing myself wholly to thy care, being content to be disposed of as thou pleasest.”
Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers said this:
We thus get: “Surely I made my soul as quiet as a weaned child upon his mother, as a weaned child upon me, my soul.” Instead of fretting after what is too great for him, he quiets his ambition, and his spirit lies calm and gentle, like a child in its mother’s arms, that after the first trouble of weaning is over is soothed and lulled by the maternal caress. Perhaps the opposite idea, expressed by the common phrase, “to nurse ambitious thoughts,” may serve to illustrate this somewhat unwonted image.
So as I pondered this verse and thought about how this applies, it reminded me how instead of fretting about everything I need to run to my Heavenly Father and let Him be the quieting force in my soul to supernaturally enable me to be quiet and content and fully trusting in Him to provide for my every need as my loving Father. As I meditated on this verse, God gave me a poetic response to it.
Things in our world have shifted so much in recent weeks all because of a tiny microscopic virus. Our enemy is unseen. Life seems unpredictable and precarious, jobs and economy look uncertain and scary, and the future is clouded with unknowns and what-ifs. Most areas have restrictions for social distancing so many of us are also alone or just with our immediate family. How do we as Christ followers navigate this uncharted waters and still be salt and light for the watching world?
As flawed humans with a sin nature, it is easy to run into the ditch of fear and paranoia or to the opposite ditch of complacency or disbelief the threat is true. Even Christians can be overcome with anxiety or fear when watching the many news reports of COVID-19. How do we trust God and find peace in the midst of all of this?
fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. – Isaiah 41:10 ESV
First of all I need to remember this is not a surprise to my God. He is over all diseases, infections and viruses even COVID-19. He is with us, helping us, strengthening us and upholding us. I often imagine my Abba Father holding my hand with his right hand when I read this verse. I want to have the child like faith that my Daddy can make it all good. And Our Abba can!!
3 You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. 4 Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock. – Isaiah 26:3-4 ESV
These two verses in Isaiah 26 show that our peace comes from trusting God. Remind yourself of past incidences where God has shown Himself faithful to you personally and in His Word. Because of His character and God’s past workings in my life and lives of others I see that he is faithful, sovereign, good and wise and worthy of my trust regardless of the circumstances around me.
I pray that we can each fix our eyes on Christ rather than get fixated by the negative news reports and social media. May we trust in the only One worthy of our trust and when we struggles to believe and trust ask Him to help us with our unbelief. ( Mark 9:24b I believe; help my unbelief!”).
Waiting is a part of everyone’s life at some point or another. For those like myself who deal with chronic illnesses, we spend much time waiting. We are waiting for a diagnosis, waiting for test results, waiting for insurance to approve a procedure or treatment, waiting to get into a specialist and waiting to feel better.
Our soul waits for the LORD;
He is our help and shield. – Psalm 33:20
One thing I will say is God has always met us, sustained us and caused us to grow and be refined in many ways through seasons of waiting.
I have learned more about God’s sovereignty, His faithfulness, having joy and gratitude in hard circumstances during seasons of waiting. The lessons learned in one season build up what we lean on in future seasons of waiting.
While I waited nearly a decade to get some of my issues diagnosed, I have walked through a couple more challenging seasons of waiting that I can look back and see how God really uses them to train me in His character, to grow my faith and dependency on Him and gain a greater eternal perspective than I would have had without them.
The first challenging season of waiting was from March 30, 2011 to June 7, 2011. For over two months I did not know if I had chronic blood cancer or an acute leukemia with a short time to live. God allowed dear friends Earl & Nancy to be visiting the first week of this season. Nancy had just completed chemo and radiation therapies after a mastectomy for recurring breast cancer. She and Earl sat in our living room recounting the ways God met them in her cancer and crying tears of joy. Their example showed me I wanted to be known as a women of joy and gratitude regardless of which diagnosis I received and to bring Christ glory. As I lived in the Word, I learned lessons on faith, counting it all joy, gratitude and dependency in a deeper and richer way than I had ever experienced prior to this. I realized whether my life was cut short or merely changed and long, I wanted my life to count for Christ and eternity. To share all I learned in those weeks would be a whole volume.
5 I wait for the LORD, and in his word I hope; 6 my soul waits for the LORD more than watchman for the morning, more than watchmen in the morning. – Psalm 130:5-6
The second harder season of waiting was from August 30, 2018 until March of 2019. This was not health related though the stress of it flared my health issues up. It was a nightmarish season of false accusations against my husband and two other pastors at our church. We were dealing with the hard reality that somebody we loved dearly and had been a very close friend was the one making these charges. Our relationship has not yet been restored since they continue to believe the lies about us. My husband and the the other two pastors were cleared of all wrong doing last March and commended for their faithfulness. This was a really hard season of seeking God and looking for His care and for treasures in the darkness. During this season, I dwelled in the Psalms and learned lessons of lamenting as well as praising God in the darkness of betrayal, false accusations and uncertainty. Somehow this season was much harder than awaiting a cancer diagnosis. But again we grew in trusting a faithful God who works out His perfect will even in situations that seem so counter to His heart of love and grace. And we still continue to wait for restoration of this relationship.
I will give you the treasures of darkness and the hoards in secret places, that you may know that it is I, the LORD, the God of Israel, who call you by your name. – Isaiah 45:3
Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. – Romans 12:12
How has God met you in seasons of waiting? Which verses or passages most encouraged you?
Today I am blogging a post I saw on Facebook this weekend during Rare Disease Day on February 29,2020. It is an analogy of how chronic illness changes your life what we planned and that it is still good. This was written about the changes in life having a baby brings, but in many ways our lives, dreams and plans are more disrupted with chronic illnesses.
rarediseaseday2020 #rdd2020 #mastocytosis #MCAS
When you’re going to have a baby, it’s like you’re planning a vacation to Italy. You’re all excited. You get a whole bunch of guidebooks, you learn a few phrases so you can get around, and then it comes time to pack your bags and head for the airport. Only when you land, the stewardess says, ‘WELCOME TO HOLLAND.” You look at one another in disbelief and shock, saying, “HOLLAND? WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT? I SIGNED UP FOR ITALY.” But they explain that there’s been a change of plan, that you’ve landed in Holland and there you must stay. “BUT I DON’T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT HOLLAND!” you say. ‘I DON’T WANT TO STAY!” But stay you do. You go out and buy some new guidebooks, you learn some new phrases, and you meet people you never knew existed. The important thing is that you are not in a bad place filled with despair. You’re simply in a different place than you had planned. It’s slower paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy, but after you’ve been there a little while and you have a chance to catch your breath, you begin to discover that Holland has windmills. Holland has tulips. Holland has Rembrandts. But everyone else you know is busy coming and going from Italy. They’re all bragging about what a great time they had there, and for the rest of your life, you’ll say, “YES, THAT’S WHAT I HAD PLANNED.” The pain of that will never go away. You have to accept that pain, because the loss of that dream, the loss of that plan, is a very, very significant loss. But if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t get to go to Italy, you will never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things about Holland.
And Holland has been more than ok. 💕
Welcome to Holland by Emily Perl Kingsley
I know in my own journey with chronic illness, the big key towards living a full, joyful and grateful life was embracing the new normal in life that God has sovereignly ordained. He has used living a new and different life to grow my faith and confidence in Him and His goodness. I am learning to appreciated that which is around me rather than the places I will never go or things not likely to ever do. The scenery on this journey, while different than I expected, is still captivating and lovely when I look through the lens of God’s sovereign, sustaining grace.
Wherever you thought you would be compared to where you are now, remember He is faithful, sovereign, good and wise and His desires for us is our eternal good and His glory by living our lives wherever He has led us.
The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands. – Psalm 138:8
One thing that keeps us going even in the hardest seasons is hope. Who or what do your base your hope upon? Is it the circumstances and people around you which can quickly change or fail you? Or is your hope based on the faithful, loving, sovereign, good and wise God who created and holds together every atom of the universe?
I recently did a word search through the scriptures on hope and found out what God’s Word says we can hope in. After reading various verses God laid a response on my heart in the form of this poem. I will share the verses at the end of this post.
Wings of Hope
Hope is a delicate bird, feathered and light,
That the slightest breeze can raise to greatest height.
God’s faithfulness and steadfast love
Cause wings of hope to soar above.
When winds of adversity fiercely do blow,
Hope draws from God’s Word that it trusts in and knows;
Soars to its Hiding Place and Shield,
To the Spirit’s lead it does yield.
The storms may bring turmoil and make one case down;
Hope flutters to life and in despair won’t drown.
Hope knows that it will again praise,
In darkness songs of worship raise.
– Deborah Peabody February 2, 2020
Hope in God’s steadfast love:
Hope in God:
Hope in God’s Word:
May these verses and others in the scripture dealing with hope bring you encouragement and greater hope in whatever season you currently find yourself.