Be Still

People tend to believe their own lies if they tell them long enough.  Their “truth” becomes the truth. Gather enough people to believe it? Gospel truth.

Discernment tells us:  Be Still.   

Discernment begs us to ask:  why is everyone getting excited?

Be still

The enemy  disguises everything in embellishments
(2 Corinthians 11:14) and half truths.

Be Still

Discernment tells us: hurricanes and tornadoes are loud, scary, and dangerous.  And, yet, people are enthralled with chasing them, and being right slam in the middle of them. When the storms destroy their property? The storm chasers are the first to testify  how terrifying the storms really were. Ironically, or not so, they were the people who followed the crazy.

Be Still

Discernment tells us that the woods are  hauntingly lonely but beautiful. Yet before His crucification  Jesus went amongst the trees to escape the chaos, to grieve, to pray.

Be Still

Discernment tells us the slick calm stillness of water in the morning is melancholy. Yet that stillness  is where Jesus br life and power to  walk above fear.

Be Still

It is easy to listen to the voice telling the loudest authoritative story with the most repetition  based on their truth.  Quite frankly,  the only  unchanging truth we have in this life, is God’s word and His authority.

Be Still

Discernment is the Holy Spirit telling us to measure all truth against God’s truth, His Word.

Be Still

” Be still and know that I am God”-Psalm 46:10

“See, Life Is Still Beautiful!”

Lately I can not escape the magnificence of the sunrises and sunsets. I wake up to gorgeous red and pink rays streaming through my plantation shutters. Invariably, wherever I am, at the end of the day, the sky is on fire.  I am inclined to think the Lord is telling me, “Elizabeth, look up! See, life is still beautiful!”

My husband and I captured hundreds of sunrises and sunsets on our iPhones throughout the years. It didn’t matter what state of affairs our day was in or what season of marriage we were in: mad at each other, agitated with one another, elated with one another: if the sky looked right, we hopped in a vehicle and made the way to the best viewing spot. We were diligent at chasing the spectacular sunsets the last year of his life.

This past weekend the whole sunrise, sunset thing overwhelmed me. Almost 19 months into widowhood my grief comes in waves now. It is no longer the daily put one foot in front of the other, praise God! But in some ways, this is worse. I don’t know when it will debut. On Saturday morning my daughter’s boyfriend put a picture on Instagram of one of our favorite places at the beach, at sunrise, and I was absolutely overwhelmed with grief. It was as if I was back to the first week of his death. Uncontrollable sobs that I had not had in months. This is the part of grief that I truly don’t like, and can’t figure out. And, yet, there God was with this spectacular sunrise right out my own front door, “ Elizabeth, I am making all things new!”

I called a friend of mine who lives over an hour away and she said come for dinner. I stopped at Lidl to pick up some tulips to bring as a hostess gift. As I was waiting at the light, the sky lit up the most beautiful orange. It was more than annoying. It also made me cry. Which annoys me more. “Elizabeth, I am near” (Psalm 145:18). There are few times in my life when I have heard the Lord. It is not an audible voice, people. But I heard Him in the spirit. Meanwhile, two annoyed patrons honked behind me not knowing I was communing with our Lord.

I arrived at Lisa’s beautiful cottage and it was like coming home. Lisa, is only one of two widow friends I have. We are the same age. Our husbands died fairly young. Our husbands illnesses were terminal and quick. We both have two daughters. We both have autoimmune diseases. We both have somewhat neurotic dogs. We both have extremely complicated family dynamics. We both married quintessential eastern North Carolina men, who we are  sure either knew one another or had many mutual friends. We both loved being married. We both are writers. We both wake up every morning going “How in the hell did we get here?”  We have considered a  live video or a podcast about our lives: we are fun, we can be hilarious, I  am getting hit on by 70-year-olds on at least a tri-weekly basis. We have a lot of material! Alas, did you just read the above paragraph?  We decided, on second thought, how the heck could we be a beacon of hope for anyone? Bahaha!

As I drove home last night I felt settled and that felt good. My oldest called me from “the normal bar” I didn’t ask, she’s a grown woman. And then Lisa called to make sure I got home. It’s not my husband. It’s not my parents or in laws or any other deceased people in my life but its people God put in my path. He is near. Look at the sunset this week. I promise it will bring you joy.

Would I Recognize Her?

When I look at this picture, taken Valentine’s Day weekend two years ago, I wonder if I passed the woman in the picture today, on the street, would I recognize her? My hair is now lighter, my physique is slightly lighter, I’m more wrinkled than I was two  years ago. Everything in my life, absolutely everything, in two years time has changed. I  can not honestly think of anything that has remained the same.  

King Solomon said in Ecclesiastes 3:1 “There is a season for everything & a time for every delight & event or purpose under heaven”.  He proceeds to list all of the musings, we as God’s children, can expect to walk and experience in life. During the Civil War President Abraham Lincoln referenced Ecclesiastes during a speech to Congress. Thomas Wolfe once wrote in regards to Ecclesiastes, “Of all I have ever seen or learned, that book seems to me the noblest, the wisest, and the most powerful expression of man’s life upon this earth—and also the highest flower of poetry, eloquence, and truth.”

Where am I going with this rabbit 🐰 trail? If Kings, Presidents, and novelists acknowledge God’s Word to be truth, shouldn’t we?  

Everything we need to  get us through life is in God’s word. There are truly no surprises. 

The first year  I just prayed to survive. I just wanted to not feel sad anymore.  I wasn’t prepared for the cavernous hole in the hollows of my soul, that echoing pit.

I made the choice to be intentional. Even if I didn’t get dressed that particular day, I would thank the Lord for something. I believed God’s word to be true, and that He would never leave or forsake me.

Nineteen months later as I’ve started to heal inside the focus has shifted externally:  

“Make your tent bigger. Open your doors wide. Don’t think small! Make your tent large & strong, because you will grow in many directions.”-Isaiah 54:2-3 

Isaiah 54:2-3  has become my ❤️heartbeat verse. It has given me the vision to see outside of my own pain and a purpose for the future. The Lord will use any tragedy, I am convinced, for good and His glory. My tent, I hope, will grow large enough to shelter other widows as they walk through the steps of grief, rebuilding, repurposing their lives and  figuring out what God has called them to do and be. I don’t have all of the answers, but I have experience to know what not to do and what to do. I know that the Lord  has graciously lavished upon me his goodness. I know that relearning life after being a caregiver of someone with ALS or any terminal illness is life changing.

If that same man in the wheelchair, leaning towards me, holding my hand, a lifetime ago, came wheeling towards me today would he recognize me? Would he roll up under my tent & help minister the message of hope? I don’t know. I would hope so. I would hope that he would be proud that this experience did not crush me. It has strengthened me, no inspired me, to go forward to help other women in any capacity that I can. There is no hope in ALS or terminal illness. But there is hope in Jesus Christ and in His Kingdom to come.

Perfectly Orchestrated

I recently read a wonderful analogy of how to better understand Gods plan for our lives.

Have you ever watched a marching band perform at halftime during a football game? They create elaborate words or sentences in formation while belting out the school fight song. For the viewers at home watching on TV, the ones who have an aerial view, the acrobatics make perfect sense.  The aerial watchers have a clear picture of what the word formations say. To the fans in the bleachers the band just looks like they are gyrating around while playing instruments.  They often look lost while marching in circles trying not to bump into each other.

Our lives often look similar. Many times nothing makes sense to us here on earth. We are just trying to make the music of our lives. Sometimes it’s beautiful and sometimes not so much. We’re just trying not to step on toes. Just trying to get through the routine of life. Sometimes it all makes perfect sense. Many seasons we are just trying to make it all look and sound good. Hold it all together.

From Gods view? He sees it all. The big picture. He understands how the sound is to be played out. He sees and hears each and every note. Each stanza. He knows what the final symphony sounds like.

29 years ago today I said “I do”  having no idea that “In sickness” and “’til death due us part” would actually be part of my life song at such a (somewhat) young age. But God knew. And yet He is Sovereign. He is faithful. He is just. He sees my story. Robins story. Our daughters story. It all makes perfect sense to Him….even when it doesn’t make one bit of sense to me.

One day it will all be perfectly orchestrated. Until then? I am thankful that I was privileged enough to have been known, to have loved and been loved so well.

Happy 29th Anniversary, Robin Wooten. I can’t wait to see you again one day. I love you.

“For I am doing something in your own day, something you wouldn’t believe even if someone told you about it”~Habakkuk 1:5

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The Majesty Of It All

Last April our church asked to interview us for an Easter video. We were reluctant but ultimatley decided it was important to tell our story. I’d forgotten about the video until it popped up on my Facebook memories.  Both daughters shared it so I decided to take a quiet moment and view it.

As I watched I hardly recognized the woman in the video. It was me! I had no makeup on. I hadn’t colored my hair in months and I looked horrid. What was obvious; however, was my love of the Lord and my husband.  They both made it so easy! Mind boggling to think it was filmed just last April.

I have received several messages telling me how proud Robin would be of me. Honestly, I think the more important question is would Jesus be proud of me? I’d like to think so. Truthfully? I have really struggled to stay focused on Him. Yes, there has been oodles of grace along the way. Even still I have fallen short in many areas while navigating my new  life.

The enemy has done a marvelous job keeping me marled in the slop with the pigs. It’s been a tumultuous, heart breaking, lesson learning nine months since July 21, 2017. I’ve said it a million times: weddings and funerals bring out peoples true character. Character, I’ve found, really does count.

There has been joy.

Flower Friday continues to bring me smiles throughout my week. A lovely reminder that someone once loved me well even when I often don’t feel very loved.

My new home. The creative design aspect? Making it my own? Pure Joy!

Henry the Golden Retriever. He makes me laugh….and swear. Pure fury joy!

Friendship. Those who have spoken biblical truth and held me to the standard of the cross. Those who have reminded me the greater the testimony the greater the attack. The friends who have reminded me to stay the course even when the attacks come from within familial boundaries. Friends who have encouraged and corrected. Joy!

I often wonder who greeted Robin the night he went home. Was it just the Lord or was it all of heaven? Did the majesty of it all bring him to his knees? What crowns did he receive? Did he think “Oh, I wish Elizabeth could see this!” “Liv, oh man, streets of gold!” “These horses are awesome, C!” How amazing did it feel to finally be in a perfect body free from ALS?

Nine months. What a journey. You, Robin Wooten, are so loved and missed.

“In everything, do to others what you would have them do to you”-Matthew 7:12

 

The Cheap Seats

I’ve learned that I must keep my eyes focused on Jesus. If I don’t? I’m sucked right into all the buzz that is swirling around me.  Bo Sterns, ALS widow of Steve Sterns and author of ‘Beautiful Battlefields’, penned it perfectly “there will always be people yelling at you from the cheap seats”.

What I’ve found is the people making the loudest ruckus actually have absolutely nothing to say of any truth or any worth for that matter.  They want us to yell back or engage from our home plate. Take our eyes of the prize as it were.  Psalm 34:13 tell us to “keep your tongue from evil and your lips from telling lies”. Scripture makes it abundantly clear that we aren’t to tear people down but to use our words to build up.

I remember an acquaintance once asked me about my friends. Se wanted to know why were so close. I explained that we don’t gossip and we pray for one another. “There’s no way. Everyone gossips. What? Do you have prayer list?” I explained that, indeed, we pray for one another whenever and wherever we need too. Sometimes that is out loud or it may be a group text. And, no, we don’t gossip. And, yes, this is the beauty of Godly friendships.

That person who is willing to tell you all the scoop? That “friend” will be the first person to gossip about you when you leave the room. “Do not spread false reports. Do not help a guilty person by being a malicious witness”-Exodus 23:1.

Jesus tells us to look at peoples lives and see if they are fruitful.  The people screaming from the cheap seats? Are they angry? Bitter? Can they see beyond themselves? Do they lack compassion? Are they pursuing God or in pursuit of others? Are their branches empty or are they full of fruit?

Any tiny foothold the enemy can get into your life to squelch your testimony? You better believe he will! The bolder the testimony the louder the ruckus and the more ostentatious the the buzz. Ignore the cheap seats. You can pray for the people sitting way up there. Jesus is in the saving business so that we don’t have to be. Hand the spectators over to him.

“Jesus is God, even demons know this”-James 2:19IMG_0429

Our Portion

“My dear and precious friends, whom I deeply love, you have truly become my glorious joy and crown of reward. Now arise in the fullness of your union with our Lord I plead  with Euodia and Syntyche to settle their disagreement and be restored with one mind in our Lord. I would like my dear friend and burden-bearer to help resolve this issue, for both women have diligently labored with me for the prize and helped in spreading the revelation of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my coworkers. All of their names are written in the Book of Life. Be cheerful with joyous celebration in every season of life. Let joy overflow, for you are united with the Anointed One! Let gentleness be seen in every relationship, for our Lord is ever near. Don’t be pulled in different directions or worried about a single thing. Be saturated in prayer throughout each day,  offering your faith-filled requests before God with overflowing gratitude. Tell Him every detail of your life, then God’s wonderful peace that transcends human understanding, will make the answers known to you through Jesus Christ. So keep your thoughts continually fixed on all that is authentic and real, honorable and admirable, beautiful and respectful, pure and holy, merciful and kind. And fasten your thoughts on every glorious work of God, praising him always. Follow the example of all that we have imparted to you and the God of peace will be with you in all things”Philippians 4:1-9

As I read this letter from Paul to the Philippians I have a huge smile on my face. I’m smiling because though saved? Not much has changed amongst us fallible and squabbling people in 2,000 years has it? The perfectionist in me finds this somewhat of a relief.

There is so much to love about all nine of these verses! My favorite being:

         “Don’t be pulled in different directions or worried about a thing”

Paul goes on to say:

“Be saturated  in prayer throughout  each day, offering your
faith-filled requests before God with overflowing gratitude”

And my very part:

“Tell him every detail of your life, then God’s wonderful peace that
transcends human understanding, will make the answers known to you”

The enemy has convinced our society that all answers to life and all fulfillment of life can only be found in the material. Guess what? We have bought into the lie! Every aspect of our culture involves instant gratification. The irony is it seldom gratifies us longer than an instant.

For eleven months our family had the privilege of witnessing my husband live out Philippians 4. He was saturated in God’s word, precision focused on what is righteous and true, full of joy and laughter and not worried about anything except  the present. I can only describe it as a supernatural season. We knew we were a part of something bigger than we were and very special. I believe Robin’s illness (ALS) and testimony were used not only for God’s glory but as a wake up call for our family and many in our community.

When we focus on what is good, righteous and true? Immediately we are able to identify what and who or whom is unhealthy and or hurtful in our lives. It also helps us to be appreciative, thankful and filled with over flowing gratitude for all that we do have verses  all that we think we should have. Jesus should be our portion. Our everything because we are His everything.

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