Tag Archive | Blessing

Near Misses

My guess is that we’ve all had them — those “near misses” of events that, except for the grace of God, could have ended so differently. Allow me to share with you one of those that keeps coming back to my mind even now, some 25 years later.

Summer, 1988. Our family of 5 had headed to Douglas Lake (in East Tennessee) to spend the day with a church group boating, swimming, picnicking, and just plain having a good day of fellowship with Christian friends. God blessed us with a Saturday that could not have been more beautiful.

After making the 30-minute drive from our home to the lake, I immediately did what any mother of a 2-year-old being potty-trained did — headed straight to the bathroom before doing anything else. Meanwhile, my husband and sons headed to the dock to join several others getting ready to go out on the boat for the first of many trips around the lake that day.

A few minutes later, as I was holding my daughter, Stasie, at the water’s edge watching (and hearing) the fun taking place several yards away, she asked me a most unusual question: “Mommy, why is there an arm in the water?” Thinking I hadn’t heard her correctly, I asked her to repeat what she said. Again, clear as day: “Mommy, why is there an arm in the water?”

Glancing down to the area she was pointing to, I didn’t see anything out of the ordinary. But, since there were trees in the area, I told her it wasn’t an arm — probably just a tree branch that was floating in the water and had now drifted away. Nothing more was said and the conversation quickly left my mind as more friends arrived and the activity-filled day continued.

Then, that night as my husband, Gary, and I were watching the late news, a report came on that suddenly brought the conversation between my daughter and I back to the forefront of my mind. It also explained something else as well. The report said that after another day of diving on Douglas Lake, divers had been unable to locate the body of a man who had fallen off a boat a few days earlier and was presumed to have drowned.

My heart began to race as I remembered the conversation Stasie and I had had several hours earlier. Had she really seen an arm in the water after all? We had seen the diving taking place a good distance to the right of where we had spent the day, but assumed it was some sort of a training exercise. The thought had not crossed our minds that it was anything serious. After this news clip, Gary and I didn’t quite know what to do. Should I try calling someone? If so, who? And would they take seriously the question of a 2-year-old?

Since it was late and diving wasn’t going to resume until the next day anyway, we decided that I would make a phone call the next morning. Well, that phone call turned into three as various attempts were made to connect with the proper agency. I mean, after all, who do you call in a situation like this? Once on the phone with the proper authority, I began my awkward explanation of the day before and relaying to them the unusual question my 2-year-old had asked me. After determining our exact location, the kind lady told me that where we had been was a bit farther south than where they had been looking and she doubted the body could have floated that far. But, she told me she would alert the dive team and they would send some divers closer to where we had spent the day, just in case.

The evening news report? Divers had located the body of a man who had fallen off his boat and drowned after hitting his head.

To this day, a couple of questions remain unanswered. Did Stasie really see the arm of a drowning victim in the water? Was my phone call instrumental in helping divers locate the body, thereby giving closure to a family? I can’t say for certain, but, given how quickly he was found after days of searching, I strongly suspect the answer to both questions is, “Yes.”

So, what was our “near miss” I spoke of earlier? Well, just think how differently our day would have gone had I seen what Stasie apparently saw. And how differently would our day have gone had this body floated just a few feet further into the roped off swim area? Can you imagine the shock? The nightmares? Just the thought alone is enough to bring shudders. While a 2-year-old would most likely not remember such a traumatic event, her mother would — as would many others who had been swimming in that area that day at that time.

So, although questions remain, thank you, God, for this particular “near miss.” Thank you for being our Protector and for sparing us from a potentially traumatic event that day.

Ok, God . . . I Get the Point!

Living life around a three-year-old can be exhausting and entertaining, but it can also be educational. God seems to be using my grandson, Nate, to teach me a lot of life lessons lately. Take the most recent one, for example.

Nate and I were alone for a short time while his mom took his older sister to school. During the course of those 30 minutes, he brought a single piece of candy to me, asking me to unwrap it for him. As his grandma, it was tempting to give in to his request. But, knowing it was probably not the best “second” breakfast option and knowing his mom would strongly disapprove, I declined his request, promising him he could have it later. (As a side note, due to recent revelations of a heart health concern, we are working toward reducing his sugar intake severely. Much easier said than done this time of year!) Anyway, Nate apparently didn’t like my answer, because he promptly left the room and took it upon himself to unwrap the candy and eat it. I know because he came to me a few minutes later with chocolate on his sweet little sheepish-grinned face!

Now that he was thirsty, Nate then asked me to get him a drink. I told him I would if he could wait just a minute while I finished what I was doing. He obviously didn’t wait because the next thing I knew, I heard him frantically yelling from the kitchen, “Grandma, I need you!”

Wasting no time in getting to the kitchen, I quickly saw what had happened. This sweet little chocolate-covered-faced three-year-old had taken it upon himself to pour his own drink. The result: one cup on its side, juice all over the counter, and one little boy standing there frozen in place, not sure what to do. I thanked him for letting me know about the mess and reminded him that he should have waited. I then proceeded to clean up his mess while he (now more patiently) stood there waiting for his drink.

One lesson, twice taught, in the course of maybe five minutes. That morning it dawned on me that, very often, my responses to God’s answers to my requests are not much different than Nate’s responses were to me.

I don’t like it when I bring a request to God and he tells me I need to wait. On more than one occasion I’ve walked away and treated myself to it anyway. I’ve charged ahead with my own plan or agenda to make my request happen in MY time. Then, when everything backfires and I have a full-fledged mess on my hands, I run to God, yelling, “God, I need you.”

When that happens, I can almost hear God sigh as he lovingly takes my mess and begins the process of cleaning it up, all the while quietly whispering, “Cheryl, honey, we’ve been through this before — if only you could have waited just a little bit longer.”

The Parable of the Ketchup

“Mommy, do girls eat ketchup?” my then three-year-old daughter asked.

To say her question caught me by surprise would be an understatement.

“Why, yes, honey, girls eat ketchup.”

“Then why don’t we?”

Good question. Valid question. You see, I do not like ketchup. I do not like it on my sandwiches; I do not like it to dip my french fries in. I do not particularly like it baked on top of meatloaf, although I can tolerate it providing it’s not too much. If it is, I will scrape off as much of it as I can because, let’s face it, meatloaf is just too good to pass up. But that’s beside the point.

My daughter’s question took me by surprise because it never occurred to me that, for the better part of three years, she had sat at Burger King or McDonald’s or Wendy’s and watched her brothers and dad dip their french fries in ketchup, but had never once done so herself because her mom didn’t. And my heart sank.

It sank even further after her celebrated first dip of a french fry into the ketchup resulted in a “yum-yum” moment.

My thoughts ran wild.

“How long had she been wondering why boys could eat ketchup and not girls?”

“How many times had she sat there longing to taste the ketchup, but too timid to ask?”

To think I had unknowingly deprived her of something she obviously liked and enjoyed pained me. “Are there other things I’m unwittingly depriving her of?”

It was then I realized, perhaps for the first time, just how much my daughter was watching me — even down to my eating habits. If she was so observant to notice I did not dip my french fries in ketchup when everyone else at the table did, what other things had she noticed — large or small? Had she noticed my speech? Had she noticed my choice of friends? Had she noticed my work ethic? Had she noticed my habit of Bible study and prayer?

In thinking back on this video memory from 20+ years ago, I now have other questions facing me.

Am I observing my Heavenly Father as closely as my daughter was observing me? Am I trying to mimic His life in order to be a reflection of Him?

Just as my daughter did not understand the ketchup on the table before her was something available to her, I wonder what blessings I’m leaving on the table because of wrong assumptions or misunderstandings. What blessings am I missing out on because I mistakenly believe the blessings I see in the lives of others are not available to me? What hopes and dreams are going unfulfilled because I mistakenly assume they’re for others, not me?

So, today I promised myself I will no longer continue to sit back and “stare at the ketchup” I see others partaking of. I will hold unswervingly to the hope I profess, for He who promised is faithful (Hebrews 10:23). I will be an active participant by boldly approaching God’s throne of grace where I have already received one blessing after another (John 1:16).

I will acknowledge God’s blessings of the past.

I will rejoice in God’s blessings in the present.

I will anxiously await God’s blessings in the future.

“But as for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more.” (Psalm 71:14)

Early Morning Wake-up Call

One morning last week, I woke up earlier than normal and was not happy about it. It wouldn’t have been too big a deal except for the fact I had gone to bed a lot later than normal — I mean A LOT later! After 30 minutes or so of seriously trying to fall back to sleep, I surrendered and got up to begin my morning routine, knowing that my afternoon was going to be a long one!

As I began my Bible reading and journaling, my mind wandered and began replaying a mental video of something that had happened nearly 29 years ago — something I had not thought about in a very long time. I paused to take in the scene.

Christmas, 1984. My husband and I and two young boys had made the trek from our home in Tennessee to visit our families in Indiana. One afternoon as the boys, ages 2 1/2 and 1, were napping on the couch, my father-in-law parked himself on the floor directly in front of them. After watching them sleep for the first few minutes, he then spent the better part of the next hour gently kissing their foreheads, wrapping their fingers around his, patting their backs, and holding their tiny little feet. As the mother of these 2 busy bees, I sat there anxiously praying that he would not wake them up. They desperately needed their rest and I desperately needed mine! My father-in-law, however, desperately needed to shower them with his all-consuming love and affection. It was almost as if he couldn’t stand even these few minutes apart from them.

I can picture him now, excitedly rubbing his two hands together in anticipation to nap time being over. He had things he wanted the boys to see; things to do. In his delight, he didn’t want to waste a precious minute with his two young grandsons. Oh, to be loved like that!

Then it hit me! Is it possible I am awake because God, in his great love and affection for me desperately had something he couldn’t wait to show me? Something he couldn’t wait to share with me? Something so exciting that it couldn’t wait a couple more hours? Had God spent the 3 hours I did manage to sleep waiting at my side until he couldn’t wait another moment? Had God been holding my hand as I slept? Had God curled my fingers around his forefinger, admiring this creation of his? What an exciting thought!

So I promptly opened my Bible and began reading where I had left off, settling on a verse I just know God placed there years ago for me to discover that morning. Although the verse God gave me that morning was from Jeremiah, let me share another one with you that will speak to all of us no matter the circumstances of our lives right now: “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!” (1 John 3:1) What love this one daughter felt during that early morning hour!

By the way, I did fall back to sleep for another hour. And what a peaceful, restful hour that proved to be!

And my father-in-law? He passed away a short 6 weeks later, not able to fight the pneumonia that had settled in his already diseased lungs.

Thank you, God, for giving me this mental video some 29 years ago to be replayed in this early morning hour, reminding me just how much you love me. Thank you, God, for your all-consuming love and affection for me.

Praise God in the Storm

The 2nd message I have been running smack dab into lately has been the need to praise God in the storm. (See last week’s post, “Walk on the Water,” for message #1.)

I have struggled with this message as well, but for a totally different reason. While the thought of walking on the water terrifies me, there is also an underlying excitement to it as I wonder about my future. What changes are ahead for me? What joys? What blessings? What if this turns out to be the step that leads to the fulfillment of a long-time dream? Then, again, what if it doesn’t?

However, praising God in the storm is right now. In this moment. While the heart is still broken. While the pain is still very intense. While the mind is still agonizing over the “why” question. While the pity-party banners are still flying, the noisemakers blaring and the ranting and raving at full volume. Stopping to praise just doesn’t come as naturally as maybe it should.

In pondering why that is, I’ve concluded that it’s because I’m afraid that doing so will be taken as sign of acceptance, of my being OK with what has happened. Yes, I know that if God allowed it, he did so for a reason and I need to allow him to stretch me and grow me in those sometimes painful ways. But praising during the process is hard to do when you’re still on the front lines, battling your less-than-desirable circumstances, fighting with every ounce of strength you have just to keep from going crazy.

However, I have caught myself on occasion humming, singing, or skipping a step even during these painful times. Which makes me wonder — what if I INTENTIONALLY set out to offer praise to God? To hum in response to his love and care for me? To sing in thankfulness to what he has done for me? To clap in joy over the blessings he has given me? To dance as I step out into the stormy waters of the unknown?

I have shared with many my testimony about trusting God during an especially difficult time in my life. Now I wonder if God isn’t trying to get me to not only trust him but to make the extra effort to set aside the time to intentionally focus on praise to him through those challenging times as well. To not only dwell on his word or journal our private times together, but to verbally speak or sing praises to him.

I don’t know what’s ahead — none of us ever really do. We dream our dreams, we make our plans. But, let’s face it, as much as we like to think we’re in control, we’re not. Hard times, rough circumstances, heart-breaking disappointments and mind-boggling moments of confusion are going to happen right alongside the unexpected joys and blessings.

So, I ask myself, what might happen if instead of throwing the pity-party, I intentionally throw God a praise and worship party? What might happen if instead of focusing on the hurt or the people who hurt me, I intentionally focus on God and the many blessings he has given me? What might happen if instead of continuing to rant and rave about a situation, I intentionally change my vocabulary into praise directed toward a God who understands me? What might happen if instead of stomping around the house, I fall to my knees in admiration to a God who knows my every step and still loves me?

What might happen? God would take center stage. And isn’t that as it should be?

“O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” (Ps. 8:1)

“Sing to The Lord a new song; sing to The Lord, all the earth. Sing to The Lord, praise his name; proclaim his salvation day after day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples. For great is The Lord and most worthy of praise.” (Ps. 96:1-4a)

“I will praise you, O Lord, among the nations; I will sing of you among the peoples. For great is your love, reaching to the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies.” (Ps. 57:9,10)

Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy. How awesome is The Lord Most High, the great King over all the earth!” (Ps. 47:1,2)

“Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before The Lord our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care.” (Ps 95:6,7)