Your Marriage is Not a Hollywood Romance

I’ve been writing a column titled “The Marriage Triangle” for The Relevant Christian Magazine (TRC). I like to share articles I find about marriage in between publication of The Marriage Triangle articles. This is a good one from The Intentional Life

Your Marriage is Not a Hollywood Romance

It may seem a paradox, but marriage is more important than love. Why? Because marriage is the normal situation out of which true and abiding love arises. The popular notion, championed by fiction and motion pictures, is that love is primary, and marriage is nothing more than a dull anticlimax. Nothing could be further from the truth. I’ve found that real love hardly exists outside the context of marriage. How could it? Real love is a slow growth coming from unity of life and purpose. Love is a product. It is the thing to be created by mutual service and sacrifice.

Read more here.

Please check out the The Marriage Triangle tab here to read more articles about marriage. BlogSL2-smallest

Memorial Markers

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Now this day will be a memorial to you,
and you shall celebrate it as a feast to the LORD;
throughout your generations you are
to celebrate it as a permanent ordinance.
 

—Exodus 12:14

Two years ago today, I enjoyed a day completely free of pain. Days like this are so unusual that I make sure to remember them by setting a memorial/memory marker for each of these times.

I’ve written about memory markers before. These are referred to in the Old Testament as memorials. God encouraged His people to pile up some stones in the places of special blessing as a memorial for them to remember things He had taught them and didn’t want them to forget.

The meaning of the Hebrew word for memorial (v. 7) is “to remember.” Given man’s propensity to forget it is little wonder then that memorials have frequently played an important role in biblical history. At the foot of Mt. Sinai, Moses built an altar of stones to commemorate God’s covenant with Israel (Ex. 12:14) . Now in today’s text we see God command his people to erect a memorial.1

I have my own version of these memorial markers to commemorate certain days or events I don’t want to forget by adding them to my cell phone calendar and setting alerts.

It is so easy to get caught up in the cycle of pain, thinking that’s all there is in my life. However, God gives me special days and occasions to remind me that He is always with me and will never let me go. So I cling to these memorial markers during the ongoing days of chronic illness when it often seems I will never climb out of the pit.

What this has done in my life has been remarkable. It used to be that I would mentally cry “I don’t understand!” But now, even though I still don’t understand (because I’m not God), I find myself telling Him, “I don’t get it, but I trust that You know what You’re doing and that’s good enough for me.”

You see, God has shown me that He wants me to remember that I can always count on Him. So on each of my pain-free occasions, I have made a new memorial marker on my phone calendar so I can recall the day (or event) and the outcome when I need encouragement.

Beloved, I want to encourage you today if you’re going through a tough time. It is so easy to be thankful when things are going well but understandably much harder to have thankful thoughts when everything seems to be falling apart.

I know what I’m talking about here.

I once read a devotional that confirms what I have long suspected. We were encouraged to store up the memories of precious times when we felt God blessing us with something special, and slide those memories out during the tough times.

In other words, remember the good during the not-so-good.

Here is the crucial part of trusting God: each time I choose to trust God during a particularly puzzling and/or frustrating situation, He demonstrates His faithfulness to me. Sometimes that means He answers a particular prayer in a particular way. Other times He fills me with the overwhelming sense that I can absolutely trust Him while He works behind the scenes, even if it doesn’t feel like He is hearing me. This is where faith comes in.

During one of the toughest times in my life, God pointed me to Isaiah 26:3 and I cling to it to this day:

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“You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.”

Beloved, how about you? Do you do anything to remember those sweet, special times where you can see the Lord at work? And if so, share how you commemorate those times in the comments below. 

1“Building Memorials to Remember God” from Sermons.Logos.com 

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Fibromyalgia Awareness Day 2015

FMS---Collage Today is Fibromyalgia Awareness Day.  How do you like my shades-of-purple manicure to honor the occasion? And I just happened to be wearing that t-shirt on the same day I had my nails done. I think that was the inspiration for the purple mani. After all, a girl needs to have a little fun once in a while, even if she happens to be feeling yucky. Not surprisingly, my personal theme for 2015 Fibromyalgia Awareness Day just happens to be “Think Purple!” The chart below is a real eye opener and may help you understand the complexity and far-reaching effects of Fibromyalgia. Top 10 Fibromyalgia Facts You Need to Know Today from the Fibromyalgia Support page on Facebook:   I am ever thankful for my Savior and Lord Jesus Christ who helps me get through every single day. Praise be to His holy and precious name!

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;     his love endures forever. —Psalm 106:1

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2015 Fibromyalgia Awareness Day

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Tomorrow, May 12th, is designated as Fibromyalgia Awareness Day. There are too many people who live with this disease. I have had to count myself among them since 1999, when I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia Syndrome (FMS) plus Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Syndrome (CFIDS)—also known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS).

“Fibromyalgia (pronounced fy-bro-my-AL-ja) is a complex chronic pain disorder that affects an estimated 10 million Americans. While it occurs most often in women, it strikes men and children, and all ethnic backgrounds. For those with severe symptoms, fibromyalgia (FM) can be extremely debilitating and interfere with basic daily activities.

  • The FM diagnostic criteria, established by the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) in 1990, includes a history of widespread pain in all four quadrants of the body for a minimum duration of three months, and pain in at least 11 of the 18 designated tender points when a specified amount of pressure is applied.
  • Since people with FM tend to look healthy and conventional tests are typically normal, a physician knowledgeable about the disorder is necessary to make a diagnosis.
  • Physicians should rule out other causes of the symptoms before making a diagnosis of fibromyalgia.”

Read more here.

One of the most distressing things that people with FMS experience is disbelief from family and friends because we mostly look normal, that is, like there’s nothing out-of-the-ordinary wrong with us. The common phrase we hear is, “But you look so good!” I have often replied, “Thank God for makeup” although I seldom wear makeup these days.

The truth is this: My hair may be nicely fixed and I have taken the time to do my eyebrows and apply some lip balm or lip color. I may even put in some earrings if I feel up to it. My hubby frequently compliments me on how good I look.

But most days when I look in the mirror what I see is a tired and wrinkled old hag. Really. Because that’s how I feel inside.

A typical day for me begins with my daily migraine (usually with nausea) and includes extreme pain in joints and ligaments. I often have pain in my chest similar to what a heart attack feels like. But it’s not a heart attack. It’s called Costochondritis and is one of my FMS symptoms. Even though I am used to these episodes, I still wonder every time if this is the day I am having a heart attack.

Stressful? You betcha!

And I haven’t even touched on the debilitating fatigue that is part of both FMS and CFIDS. No matter how much sleep I get, I always—and I mean always—feel like I haven’t slept at all.

I normally wake up between 6:00 and 7:30 a.m. but a couple of hours later I’m already thinking it’s time to get back into bed. Some days I do. Other times I keep pushing myself to get a few things done until lunch time. After lunch I either get back into bed or slide into my recliner for a snooze in front of the TV. Even though Rick is always volunteering to do things for me, I thank him and reply that I need to do as much as I am physically capable of doing, for as long as I am able to do so.

When Rick and I have planned activities such as going out for a meal, meeting up with friends, going to church or even just grocery shopping, I have to prepare myself beforehand with plenty of rest. That doesn’t guarantee that I’ll actually be able to get to any of these planned events, but at least I try. And if I do make it, there’s the payback afterwards—sometimes for days (or weeks), especially if some traveling was part of the activity.

I happen to be blessed with a family and many close friends who do their best to understand all of this. I have had to cancel or reschedule countless activities with them, yet they still stand by me. And for that I am truly blessed. 

Thank you for taking the time to read this and visit the NFMCPA site (National Fibromyalgia & Chronic Pain Association) for more information.

God bless you all!

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How to Be Content

Have you wondered how it is possible to be content in this chaotic, sin-sick world? This is a wonderful piece by Sam Storms. Please visit his Enjoying God blog to read more great articles.

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The Secret of Spiritual Contentment

By Sam Storms

What could the Apostle Paul possibly mean when he says that he has “learned” to be “content” in whatever circumstance or situation he’s in? Here is what he writes:

“I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:10-13).

Key verse from this article:

The issue for us all is resting and rejoicing in Jesus to such an extent that neither poverty nor prosperity has any affect on us, whether for good or ill.

Read the rest here.

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A Change of Plans

 

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A couple of months ago I decided to try posting more often than I had been doing. What I discovered is that I’ve been putting so much work into these almost-daily posts that I’ve been neglecting my other writing responsibilities. Since I believe that the Lord has provided these writing opportunities for me, I need to use my limited time and energy more wisely.

Starting this week, I’ll be posting three times per week: Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. I’m very thankful for my contributing writers, which alleviates some of the time I dedicate to this blog. I come across many great blog posts from other sources and I’ll continue to share those with you too. God is doing some great things in my writing life this year and I’ll be doing my best to honor what He has given me to do for His glory.

Beloved, thank you all for sticking with me and being a part of my bloggy world! I appreciate each and every one of you!

To humans belong the plans of the heart,
    but from the Lord comes the proper answer of the tongue.

All a person’s ways seem pure to them,
    but motives are weighed by the Lord.

Commit to the Lord whatever you do,
    and he will establish your plans.

—Proverbs 16:1-3

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Rejoice in God’s Will

Here is a great devotional that is a good addition to my JOY theme this year. I read this yesterday at Crossmap.com titledNot Simply to Endure or to Choose God’s Will but to Rejoice in it.” The author of this devotional is none other than L. B. Cowman of Streams in the Desert. 

I live with several chronic pain illnesses and have often pondered the subject of God’s will, especially during this particular season of my life. Is it really possible to truly rejoice in God’s will, no matter what our difficulties are? Yes it is, and Mr. Cowman’s devotional is a good reminder of this. I especially appreciate this part of the devotional: “the most magnificent psalms arose from the most profound agonies of the soul.”

Not Simply to Endure
or to Choose God’s Will
but to Rejoice in it

Sorrowful, yet always rejoicing. (2 Corinthians 6:10)

A stoic person despises the shedding of tears, but a Christian is not forbidden to weep.Yet the soul may become silent from excessive grief, just as the quivering sheep may remain quiet beneath the scissors of the shearer. Or, when the heart is at the verge of breaking beneath the waves of a trial, the sufferer may seek relief by crying out with a loud voice. But there is something even better.

It is said that springs of sweet, fresh water pool up amid the saltiness of the oceans, that the fairest Alpine flowers bloom in the wildest and most rugged mountain passes, and that the most magnificent psalms arose from the most profound agonies of the soul.

May it continue to be! Therefore, amid a multitude of trials, souls who love God will discover reasons for boundless, leaping joy. Even though “deep calls to deep”(Ps.42:7), the clear cadence of the Lord’s song will be heard. And during the most difficult hour that could ever enter a human life, it will be possible to bless the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Have you learned this lesson yet?

Read the rest here.

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Great is Your Faithfulness

Great is Your Faithfulness

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Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. —Lamentations 3:21-23

How often do we do things that disappoint the people in our lives?

Maybe we’ve made a promise that later we found we can’t keep. Perhaps we raise our voice in anger again even though we don’t mean to. And how about the times when a friend or family member tries to sympathize with our pain? They mean well, but you’re certain they just don’t understand. I’m sure you’ve wanted to tell them, “You have no idea what it’s like to be in this kind of pain every day.”

At this point, we have two choices: to dwell on our misery or get on with the business of life.

We can moan and groan about our circumstances so everyone is aware of how much we are hurting, or we can demonstrate God’s presence in our lives by rejoicing in the knowledge that He is faithful to be with us through our tough times.

I have a very close friend (you know who you are!) who is a good example of one who lets God shine through her in spite of her constant pain. She once shared her feelings about pain with me this way:

“It is just pain. It could be worse. I could be suffering with pain and dying. It is only pain. I can still live and make the most of my life, to extend myself as far as I can go, to reach for the stars, to do the unimaginable. The pain will still be there. So, why not celebrate?”

This dear friend is such an encourager. Her positive attitude is a beacon of light in the darkness of pain. Quite simply, she makes me smile no matter how awful I’m feeling.

Beloved, the Lord is our only hope! He knows exactly what our pain is like and He will help us through it “every morning; great is [His] faithfulness.” He understands how constant pain can undermine a positive attitude and make us feel hopeless. But He’s always with us, ready to offer His love and comfort: “therefore I have hope.” Won’t you please pray with me?

Heavenly Father, sometimes it’s so hard to be cheerful and hopeful when I’m feeling so rotten. It’s easier for me to just give up and let the pain take over. But, Lord, I know that You love me too much to let me feel this way. Thank You for what You are teaching me through these trials and for being with me always. Help me to let Your joy flow through me to touch the lives of others who may also be suffering. You are great and greatly to be praised! Amen.

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Please and Thank You continued

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My heart overflows with a good theme;
I address my verses to the King;
my tongue is the pen of a ready writer.
—Psalm 45:1

Several years after Rick and I first moved to northern Arizona, I was trying to make money through my freelance writing. Psalm 45:1 was my writing goal, but still God dead-ended almost every one of my efforts. It took me some time to finally realize that even though I said I was writing for God’s glory, in fact I was not. I spent tons of time furiously trying to earn money through my writing but my ultimate goal was to become a well-known writer.

When I came face-to-face with that truth, I was appalled. How could I have let myself be pulled into such a different direction from when I first started writing? I immediately stopped writing for about two years while I spent more time in the Word.

A curious thing happened during that writing hiatus. God called me to contribute to a book titled Anytime Prayers for Everyday People. I’ve shared several of the prayers I wrote for that book here before. The daunting part of this is that the editor gave me only three weeks to write 30 prayer entries—yes, you read that right: 30!

There was a big problem with this. I was struggling through some massive migraines during all those three weeks. However, God walked with me through the whole thing because I not only got them all written and submitted on time, there was very little final editing that had to be done. And how interesting that the topics I was assigned to write about were “Prayers of Supplication” and “Prayers of Praise and Thanksgiving”—in essence, please and thank you!

One of my posts last week was titled Please and Thank You, which was about my first time as a counselor at Royal Family Kids camp. During that week, I spent my days and nights in constant prayers of please and thank you. In the same way, my heart was constantly uttering please and thank you prayers while God supplied the stamina I needed to write those 30 prayers.

God used those three weeks to remind me of where He wants me:
close by His side, relying on Him alone to get me through
.

A long time ago I read some wise words from an unknown author. They went something like this:

Don’t get so involved with the work of the Lord that you forget the Lord of the work.

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The Lord Brings JOY to My Soul

This is a story I wrote several years ago. It is pure fiction except for one thing: millions of people live with physical pain—or emotional pain or financial difficulties or _______ (fill in the blank)every single day…

The Lord Brings JOY to My Soul

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When I said, “My foot is slipping,”
Your love, O LORD, supported me.
When anxiety was great within me,
Your consolation brought JOY to my soul.
—Psalm 94:18-19

“Good morning!” Sherri smiled and waved, then hurried to help Macy up the ramp.

“What’s so good about it?” grumbled Macy. She stopped and leaned hard on her cane as she struggled with her shoulder bag.

“Here, let me.” Sherri slid Macy’s purse strap up higher, then gave her friend a hug. “Can I help you with your shopping?”

Macy’s eyes filled with tears. “I’d be so grateful. Today has been a pile of things gone wrong.”

Sherri helped Macy into the store’s motorized cart and then pulled a shopping cart out for herself. They moved from one aisle to the next as Sherri tried to keep the conversation light. Macy just responded with grumbles or shrugs.

At the checkout, Sherri placed Macy’s items onto the checkout counter before unloading her own cart. In the parking lot, she stashed Macy’s grocery bags in her trunk and then turned to help Macy out of the cart.

“There you go! Do you need any help getting this stuff put away at home?”

Macy’s eyes widened. “How can you be so nice when I’ve been so rotten to you?”

“I figured this wasn’t a great day for you when you couldn’t even appreciate the beautiful blue sky,” Sherri replied. She lightly touched Macy’s shoulder. “The pain is pretty bad today, isn’t it?”

Macy nodded. “Yeah, but I had no choice. I needed so many things and I’ve been putting this off for days.” She struggled into the driver’s seat and looked at Sherri. “How do you do it?”

“Do what?”

“You know. You look and sound so joyful when you must be feeling so bad yourself,” Macy said as she gestured to Sherri’s leg brace and the splint encasing her right wrist.

Sherri smiled. “I just picture God’s comforting arms around me, holding me close. Just the thought of that brings joy to my soul.”

Macy regarded Sherri for several moments. “You know, I should probably try that too.”

Beloved, life is not easy! But I’m sure you already know that. Please understand that I am not saying that thinking differently will change your circumstances. What I believe to be true is that changing our thinking can affect how we perceive our circumstances.

Trying to find joy in our circumstances is not easy, but I can attest to the fact that it can be done. I fail at this a lot but I’m thankful that most times I remember to reach out to the only One Who can bring true joy into my life: my Savior and Lord Jesus Christ.

May I pray for you about this?  Please reply in the comment section below this post or shoot me an email: faithlhj777 at gmail dot com.

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