Friday, May 30, 2014

God is Everywhere

If you have lost someone to death, have you ever thought about the reality that on the exact date of your loved one’s passing, others were dying as well?  It’s hard to step outside of the “my pain, my suffering, my loss” whirlwind and look beyond to the very real truth that January 11, 2014 was the end of life date for more than just my husband.  Tim wasn't the only one welcomed into his Savior’s arms that day. 

I recently attended my fourth funeral in as many months. 

It leaves me pondering death; its part in the life cycle, and the vastness of our God.  Obviously, this isn't my first dive into the depths of the murky, thought-filled waters of this topic.  I lived with the very real looming threat of deaths grasp for 12 months.  While Tim’s battle was a two year one, we had times when we truly believed we were going to conquer this cancer and God was going to heal him.  Death wasn't in our vocabulary until the dreaded “terminal” word was uttered; and even after that, we held out hope for earthly healing for several more months.

My mind circles on auto pilot around several thoughts on this subject.  Some of which I will share here.  (Others were submitted a few months ago to a ministry that I guest blog for and are awaiting publication.)  The vastness of God….that’s what I’d like to explore today.  Let me begin by saying, I don’t have all the answers, I am baffled by His majesty and His ability to not be confined by space.

You might want to get your Bible for today’s blog.  Go ahead, I'll wait.


Have you ever really meditated on the fact that God is not spatially limited?  His eyes are everywhere (Proverbs 15:3).  He cannot be contained (1 Kings 8:27; 2 Chronicles 2:6).  God fills the heavens and the earth (Jeremiah 23:23-24; Psalm 139:7-12).  His vastness is beyond our comprehension (Psalm 113:4-6).

God was holding Tim and rejoicing over his homecoming 

at the very same moment that 

He was holding me and comforting my grieving heart over the loss of my husband.  

He is everywhere.  

Certainly, we were not the only humans grieving in all the earth on that day.  God was with every single one of His children…all at the same time and all in the exact way they needed Him.  Simultaneously celebrating with Tim and comforting me.  It is mind-boggling, but it is Biblical truth.

Isn't it beautiful, just the thought of His limitlessness?  He is sovereign and powerful.  All majesty is due His name (1 Chronicles 29:11; Psalm 8:9). 

Our God is vast, 
yet at the same time so intimate and personal with each of us. 

"When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?"  {Psalm 8:3-4}

Father God, thank you that you tenderly love us right where we are.  Your majesty knows no boundaries and yet still you care deeply for every single one of your children.  You are sovereign and you are good.  Your complexity is beyond comprehension.  You are everywhere, at all times.  I won’t pretend to understand it, but I am forever grateful that you are.  Amen.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

God's Character Revealed

Circumstances do not change the character of God, they REVEAL it!

A loving, intentional, faithful God does not suddenly become a disinterested, absent Father because our life seems to be falling apart all around us.  Hardships in this life uncover the depth of God’s character to His children in a fresh way.  It is one thing to study and memorize Scripture; to sit in classes discussing the attributes of God. 

Oh but friends, it is an entirely transforming experience to have His promises come align themselves with you in the whirlwind of a crisis. 

When He sends whispers of His love to minister to you in the exact spot of the surreal, horror-filled paralysis that you are in…well, there is simply nothing like it. 

God is love. 

When Tim was only a few months into his cancer battle, we received the news that a woman we both respected and loved was entering her own battle against this ugly beast.  Today, I attended her funeral in the very same sanctuary where a little over 4 months ago, we held Tim’s service. 

Walking through those doors again rocked me in ways I did not expect.  New waves of grief washed over me and filled my eyes with fresh tears, as I simply tried to get through the door and find a seat before my legs gave way.  Feeling each step rattle deep within my heart as I walked the very aisle I had traveled flanked by our children for their Daddy’s service.    

God washed over me with His peace and reminded me that He is faithful.  He is a God who never once leaves us on our own to walk the path He sets before us. 

Watching my dear, beautiful, friend of 35+ years walk that aisle with her Dad and brother and all of their family today broke my heart.  I hate that her family is enduring the pain of losing someone who was truly so radiant with the love of Christ, so joyful in affliction, and such a godly example of a wife and mother.

Today has caused me to reflect back on God’s intentional loving and faithful ways, both to my own family and to the Wagnon family over the years.  While it is true that my heart is broken for my friend, I also rejoice that she and her family know a depth of God’s character reserved for those who suffer such great loss. 

We share a knowledge of our God’s character throughout the treacherous cancer, hospital, chemotherapy, “think we've got all the cancer”, “oh no it’s back”, and hospice days.  We are forever united in the revelation of God never being absent or disinterested in our pleas for help. 

Scripture repeatedly instructs us that God is for us and we are not to fear; to walk along side one who knows they are dying and yet rejoices in their eternity to places these promises on a whole new level of reality.  Though our grief is different (I have not lost a parent and she has not lost a spouse to death), our reliance on God is the same. 

He is good.  He loves.  He is faithful.    

We know these things on a level that goes much deeper than memorized Scripture and group Bible studies.  Our Lord and Savior has walked beside us, He has been our shield, our glory, and the lifter of our head (Psalm 3:3).  He carries our burdens every day (Psalm 68:19).  God sees all of our hardships and cares about our suffering (Psalm 31:7).

Our great and mighty God’s character has been revealed and He will not let us fall, for He is watching over us day and night.  (Psalm 121:3)

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Baby Steps

On the days when I don’t want to get out of bed…I do it anyway.  It is what Tim would expect from me and quite frankly, it is what I expect of myself.  It’s taking that first baby step each morning that begins my day. 

I am a widow at the age of 42.  A planner by nature; this is not how I planned my life would be.  I am only half way through my life expectancy.  God willing, that’s a lot of unplanned future staring back at me.  Just the thought of it is a little daunting.

For 19 years I was living my dream life.  All I ever wanted to be was a wife and mother.  My husband was an incredible man.  He loved me and adored our children, provided for us amazingly well, and had a true servant’s heart.  I enjoyed being exactly where I was in this life.  Even throughout the horrendous caring for Tim during his illness and eventual death, I was honored to be his wife and privileged to be his caretaker.

Then it happened.  He died.  Although I will forever be "Tim's wife", I no longer have the role of wife.  

I still can’t quite figure out who I am without Tim

So I decided to start by listing what has not changed.

  • ·        I am still a mother.  This part of my dream life is still here and I am still needed daily. 

  • ·        I am still an employee.  Tim’s work ethic was beyond reproach and I can honor his memory by working hard for our family in my career.

  • ·        I am still a friend.  I can invest in the lives of my girlfriends and allow them to invest in mine.

  • ·        I am still a member of our church.  I can respect Tim’s servant heart by continuing to serve our church body.  First thing on this list is to step back into my VBS music co-leader role in a few weeks. 

  • ·        I am still a daughter, sister, and aunt; and I am blessed with the best family ever!

  • ·        I am still a child of the most High God.  He has plans and direction for my life.  This season of the “unknown Lori” is not hidden from Him. 

I have learned many things on this journey over the past few years.  One lesson is that when life seems confusing or overwhelming or uncertain….I must go back to what I know is true.

I may not have any idea of who God intends to grow me into being in my future; but I know exactly who He has made me to be right now.  I know He is good.  I know He is at work in my life. 

This is where I will stay; focusing on obedience in the ministries He has given me (mother, family member, employee, church participant, and friend).  I have a responsibility to continue choosing the next right thing and to keep placing one foot in front of the other.  When God is ready, He will reveal the next step for me; one baby step at a time. 

I have no doubt that one day I will turn around and see a beautiful path that each of these baby steps has added up to create.  You see friends, when I go back to what I know is true…I arrive at the fact that my God is faithful. 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Finding Your Spiritual Mountaintop in the Midst of Your Darkest Valley

This photo was taken in September of 2012.  We had recently been informed that the horrid radiation had not killed all of the cancer and that Tim was terminal.  His “last ditch effort” massive surgery was only days away.  We knew it was risky for him to even survive surgery and the odds of successfully removing the tumor and all of its aggressive cancerous cells were less than 15%.  A precious friend offered to photograph our family before Tim went into the hospital. 

The photo shoot was over and our family did a big group hug and then we prayed.  We prayed prayers of thanksgiving to our God for the gift of this opportunity, we prayed blessings over our sweet photographer friend, and we laid our hearts before our God placing our trust solely in Him.    

You may think I have gone plumb crazy when you read this next sentence. 

I have been on a spiritual mountain top for the past few years.

Bear with me and I will explain. 

Did cancer strip away everything I knew to be comfortable and calm in my life?  Yes, for the most part.

It stripped away many of the material things I treasured…my custom dream home on a beautiful lot, my stress-free finances; things that I thoroughly enjoyed.  In return, it gave me a deeper reliance on God to provide for all the details of our life.  It taught me how to accept generosity from others.  You wouldn't believe the number of men who showed up to move Tim’s garage items from the old house to the new and the mass of women who came with smiles on their faces to line cabinets, scour bathrooms and unpack boxes as the movers unloaded the trucks in that summer of 2012.  It has taught me that HE alone is my source of comfort and calm.  His calm is THE BEST!

Did Tim’s sometimes slow and sometimes drastically rapid physical decline frustrate him and embarrass him as a man?  Absolutely.

It cost Tim intense physical anguish and the laying down of his pride; but it also joined him with Christ in suffering.  Tim tucked himself deep into the pocket of space next to God’s rib cage and sheltered under the protection of His wings.  Tim grew in wisdom and in favor with God and man (Luke 2:52).  He clung to God’s Word as he forged forward through pain and suffering.  His physical body was wasting away, but the depth of his relationship with his Savior was ever increasing.  What a beautiful thing to witness.

Did the all-consuming role of caregiver break my heart into a million tiny shards as I tended to my Tim’s every need while his earthly body deteriorated over two years?  Yes, the flashbacks still take my breath away and spring tears into my eyes.  Too many horrors.  Too.  Many. 

Those long, stress-filled, emotional months; they brought about a deeper dependency on God as my only source of strength.  He was faithful to always give me strength from His never-ending supply.  The honor of showing my husband the depth of my love for him through being his caregiver 24/7 blessed me in ways I could never properly express with words.  Our appreciation and respect for each other deepened through the hard times.  Our love for Jesus grew.      

Throughout the darkest of emotional times in my life and during the most painful physical struggles for my husband, we found ourselves firmly placed on a spiritual mountaintop. 

I’m not entirely sure I realized it in the midst of the battle, but hindsight shows me now.  Our dependence on God and His goodness, even when everything in our lives seemed to be “going bad”, caused spiritual growth beyond compare. 

God works in all circumstances.  He is constantly drawing us closer to Himself. 

I came across the photo in my computer today and memories flooded my heart.

The photo shoot was over.

I am so grateful the photographer picked back up her camera and captured us as we prayed and worshiped our God together as a family.  

We were facing the toughest of days, but we were simultaneously feeling the uplifting arms of our Father as He was drawing us up onto spiritual mountaintops.

Trust Him, friends, He is up to something good in your life!

He is up to something good in this widow’s life and the lives of her children.
He is close to the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.
(Psalm 147:3)   

Only Be Still

"The Lord will fight for you you need only be still."  Exodus 14:14

One of the beautiful things about walking the road of terminal illness and eventual death alongside the love of your life is the comforting promise that God never leaves us alone.  (And yes, there are beautiful things in hardships.) He goes before us, walks beside us, hems us in from behind, and even at times carries us on this journey.

I have spent two years walking this road into widowhood, and two months at the current destination.  Regardless of how each of us got here, we all have faced issues that tore at our hearts and completely overwhelmed us; and quite frankly, none of us want to be here.  Widows know that life is not fair or easy.  Life gets messy and painful.  Bad things do happen to good and godly people. 

Yet, our great God is a warrior!  He will fight for us.  These troubles we encounter in this life aren't much fun; but we have a God who promises to never leave our side (Joshua 1:9).  He doesn't promise to always make things better (this side of heaven), but He does assure us that He will fight for us. 

When we are willing to surrender our crushed hopes and dreams to our Savior, it allows us to see the amazing and active work He is doing around us and for us.
His focus is on the eternal.  We were created for His glory.  One of the many things I love about God is that He doesn't expect me to bring Him glory through my own strength.  He is constantly at work in us, giving us the strength to accomplish His work. 

“Being confident of this, 
that He who began a good work in you 
will carry it on to completion” Philippians 1:6

Becoming a widow doesn't erase the fact that God loves me or that His purpose is to use my life to bring Him glory.  My circumstances can accentuate my calling, if I will allow them to.  Let's face it, if I have to live this life (and clearly this is the life our Sovereign God has set before me), then I want to do it in a way that glorifies my Father in heaven.

You see, these past few years I should have felt all alone, isolated and terrified.  And truth be told, there are times when fear still tries to take over my thoughts.  But God is bigger and God is stronger and His Word is my shield.  My eyes are focused on Him and the promise of His faithfulness. 

We don’t always get to know where God is taking us in this life.  Our job is to trust Him and to be obedient. 

My love story with my husband didn't end the way I wanted it to.  But you know what?  God isn't done as the Author of my life.  I long to bring glory to His name; I want to live life well! 

With empty hands held high in surrender, I continue to rest in the assurance that “The Lord will fight for (me), I need only to be still”.

Father God, create Your quiet stillness within my soul.  This path is harder than I could have ever imagined, but You are still good.  You are still and always will be worthy of my praise.  I want to be able to say that I am who You created me to be.  I trust you through the pain on this journey.   Thank You for fighting for me.  Amen.   

Monday, May 5, 2014


Grief isn't fun. 

That’s probably the understatement of the year, huh?  I am finding that managing this grief is sometimes even harder than the grief itself.  Does that make sense?  It’s all encompassing and I am the only adult in our home now.  Ensuring that we each fully feel the level of grief we are in can just be too much responsibility at times. 

Balancing the grief in a way that is healthy is a constant full-time job.  We must keep forging ahead

because stagnant grief does not bring necessary healing; 

however we are also mindful that

grief with too much momentum 
can simply patch over our emotions in a way that won’t hold long-term

Grief is unique to each individual.  The kids and I are traveling the same future, missing the same person…but our grief is vastly different.  I knew we would grieve individually and I openly discussed this with the kids prior to Tim’s passing, giving us all permission to travel our own road in our own way.

What I did not expect, is the reality that we are all in different places with our grief…at the same time…in the same house…

Think on that with me for a second.  It is crazy difficult!  

Mom may be experiencing anger while one child may be deep in the throes of sorrow and yet another is walking the joyful memory phase. 

All at the same time 

All in the same home

It’s exhausting.  For all of us.

I long for proper healing to occur in each of our lives.  I know this will take time, but if I am honest, I want to speed through the icky parts and get to the season where memories always bring sweetness and joy instead of sorrow and tears.  And if I am super-duper honest, I want us to all get there together and stay there together.

Life doesn't work that way.  Grief is a strange beast.  It rolls in unexpectedly and rolls back out just as quickly.  Just this morning I felt a tear on my cheek that I had not even been aware existed until that moment.  Never felt my eyes fill.  
Never felt the tear spill; just suddenly had one rolling down my cheek.  I wasn't even sad, that I know of.  

WEIRD, I tell you.    

God promises to get us there.  To that place of healing, where the pain is maybe not “less” but different.  We just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other and keep leaning into Him.  

His love is overwhelming and it is most certainly deeper than this grief.  

His love will win.  I know it will!          

His love is enough.  Our GOD IS ENOUGH


The Day My Pride Crumbled

Money was getting tight, emergency savings had dwindled and medical bills were arriving in the mailbox by the dozens.  I had reworked our budget and eliminated frivolous expenses, even cutting out my gourmet coffee splurges [gasp!].  I had taken on more hours at work. 

We were considered very comfortable, middle-class Americans.  We lived a debt-free life outside of our mortgage, and still we had higher demands for money going to medical bills than what we could afford.

It is insane what a long illness can do to a family’s finances!  We had good health insurance, and yet with large deductible and maximum out-of-pocket expenses, a $50 copay per visit (often 8 per week), $250 copay for hospital admittance ($400 if ER), more pharmaceutical copays than you could imagine…and our main income provider too ill to be working, we faced the potential of taking on debt. 

I was completely exhausted the day I found five new hospital bills in our mailbox.  I searched our bank accounts as tears welled up in my eyes.  I had been juggling finances so well, putting off purchasing kids’ clothes (thankfully cuffing jeans into capris for girls is cool right now); cooking less elaborate meals to repurpose grocery money; forgoing my beloved 5K races so I could funnel entry fees towards medical and pharmacy copays. 

I had come so close!  I had fallen $1,350 short.

As I called out to God for guidance, I felt Him leading me to reach out to our church family.  Our church has a benevolence fund.  (Ironically, it is one that we had contributed to.) 

We are a family that gives, not one that takes, LordWe have already spent multiple tens of thousands in this battle and all we need is the $1,350 for these final 2012 hospital bills.” 

As I wrangled with what God was telling me, a plan began to form in my mind.  (I am really good at “helping” God solve my problems.  Can anyone relate?) 

I presented my solution to God on how “we” were going to fix this.  I could use tithe money to pay these bills.  Rather than me giving to the church and then turning around and asking the church for benevolent assistance….we could cut out the middle man!  I could call and set more payment plans up with the hospital and then use our tithe to make the payments.  Problem solved. 

“No”, said God. 

“We would avoid being turned to collections.” I argued. 

“Humble yourself.”

“Lord, it’s uncomfortable and awkward to ask for financial help.” I half-pleaded.

“Humble yourself.”

Sobs racked my body as I made the call.  In humility, I met with one of our precious deacons and his wife.  With a shaky voice and sweaty palms, I presented our situation and my folder of medical bills to this godly couple whose daughter had been our babysitter for years. 

You know what they did?  They loved on me and prayed with me.  [And they bought me a coffee!]  They offered to present our request to the church elders for consideration and in the meantime, they hugged me and ministered to my soul. 

I was completely exposed and broken before them and God used them to lift me back up. 

Our church discreetly presented us with the funds a short time later and I mailed those tear stained checks off to the hospital with PAID IN FULL written on each memo line.

Obedience can be painful, but God is faithful to fulfill His promises.

Thank you Lord, that when we humble ourselves before You, You are faithful to lift us up.  Amen.