Mixed Feelings

It was with mixed feelings that I returned to work following my six week leave to heal from back surgery. 

I would have never guessed how much I would enjoy being off for so long.  I thought I would be bored, especially since I was restricted in what I could do.  No lifting, bending or twisting.  Do you have any idea how many activities involve one or all of those actions?  Simple things, everyday things that you don’t give a second thought to unless you can’t do them.  I wasn’t able to drive for four weeks and was at home most of the day. 

I found the time passed quickly and I enjoyed each day.  I was able to go for a couple of walks each day and over time increased my distance.  When I got home from my morning walk, I spent time in the backyard praying.  I was able to work on a Bible study and read.  The six weeks went by so quickly, I could hardly believe that it was time to return to work.

The first five weeks of my leave were the most peaceful time of my life.  I got a picture of what it’s like to be stress free.  Each day I looked forward to Chris coming home from work.  Sometimes we went for a walk, sometimes we watched a movie or read.  Nothing big or monumental, but it was time we enjoyed each other without the demands, stress and pressures of life intruding in on our relationship.  My last week was busy with various appointments so that I could ensure that everything was handled before I returned to work. 

It was with tears that I returned to work.  Both my husband Chris and I were sad that this time of peace and enjoying each other, without pressing demands from the outside world, had ended. 

This is not to say that I’m not grateful to have a good job with a good company.  How could I not be, especially these days when so many people are out of work for extended periods of time?  I am grateful, yet at the same time, I long to be home. 

My first day back at work, I felt cushioned by God’s grace.  After that, it was stepping back in the stream of things, a fast flowing stream.  By God’s grace and with full dependence up Him, I am getting back into the swing of things. 

I am so grateful to be out of pain and for the peaceful days that I was able to spend recovering from surgery.  I’m grateful for the loving care and support of my husband Chris.  I’m grateful for God’s presence in my life, be it at home while praying in my back yard, or when I’m at work or in rush hour traffic, or when I come home tired at the end of the day…He is always with me.  Thank You Lord.  Of all the memories of my time off, the time I spent with You in prayer and in Your Word mean the most to me Lord.  A taste of things to come.

Eyes on Jesus

When I have my eyes on Jesus
Instead of myself
I have hope that does not fade

When I have my eyes on Jesus
Instead of being overcome with fear
I stand firm in faith

When I have my eyes on Jesus
Instead of my circumstances
I have a peace which passes all understanding

When I have my eyes on Jesus
Instead of focusing on my enemies
I believe that He will deliver me

When I have my eyes on Jesus
Instead my weaknesses and limitations
I pray with confidence that He will do the impossible

When I have my eyes on Jesus
Instead of remembering my sin
I have the assurance of God’s forgiveness

When I have my eyes on Jesus
Instead of the here and now
I have the promise of heaven that will never pass away

Susan Bunts Wachtel
September 23, 2009

Hold On

Hold on to me ever so tight Lord
Never let me go
Always be with me

You go before me
Your Spirit is within me
You surround me God

May I cling to Your Word
Saturate my heart and mind
With truth, knowledge and wisdom

Fill me with Your peace
Give me a hope that endures
Through all circumstances, trials and tribulation

God…You are my All in all
Jesus…You are my salvation
Victory is found in Christ alone

Susan Bunts Wachtel
August 26, 2009

Susan Blog Sig 2

Keeping a Promise

“Michael, a few years ago I promised I would call you when mom is dying. That’s why I’m calling. So if you want to come and see her, now is the time.”

I wouldn’t have guessed I would be making that phone call to my brother. Honestly my biggest struggle in the last six years has been the fact that my brothers have both bowed out at this time in her life. I’ve struggled with it…I resented them not being there or helping. I didn’t understand why there were no birthday cards, mother’s day flowers or an occasional phone call to find out how she’s doing.

But God gently lead me to fulfill that commitment to make that phone call.

While my mother has recovered nicely from the pneumonia that had sent her to the hospital a couple of weeks ago, she has gone downhill rapidly. I was hoping the deficits that she experienced during her hospitalization would rebound when she returned Brighton Gardens, her home for the last six years.

At first it appeared that she would bounce back. She seemed to be interacting a little more and even started eating a bit. But those hopes were short lived.

Now her head is down most of the time. A by product of Alzheimer’s. The disease has now effected her neurologically…and she can’t hold up her head for more than couple of seconds. That means she’s not able to look around and see what’s going on around her. She’s not able to look people in the face, unless they get down and look up into her face. Her appetite with pureed foods has diminished…but never more so than now when drinks are reduced to thickened liquids. That in the attempt to keep her from chocking, but has instead taken away her desire to eat or drink.

While there were times her constant humming…or counting and banging was annoying…her silence and non communication is much worse. Now days a squeeze of hand is about as good as it gets. On a good day…she might even look at me briefly.

She’s given up…and no longer wants to live. I think the nail in the coffin, so to speak, was when she was transferred to the rehab facility. There she was the patient in bed 40 C, not Gayle. Thank goodness for Hospice. They were able to get my mom transferred back to Brighton Gardens, where she is Gayle. Someone who is well known and well loved.

But now she is dying. She is not eating or drinking. She interacts minimally…and there is nothing that I can do to change it, or make it better.

Yes…I’m praying…and know that God cares and is at work in the situation.

Mostly I pray for my mom’s salvation. I don’t know with any degree of certainty that she is saved. She has been in church, but I don’t know if she is in Christ? She was raised by Christian parents, went to church when she was young. When she got married…her faith was not expressed, nor taught to her children. When my dad died…that’s when my mom started going back to church. I struggle with knowing whether she has a saving faith in Jesus Christ, because I don’t see how someone would forsake their genuine faith and fail to teach that life giving faith to their children. When she remarried…we went to church as a family.

I discussed faith with my mom over the years. Especially after I became a Christian. I’m not sure if she was just private about her faith? Or if she has an intellectual acknowledgment that there is a God, but that not really believing that Jesus is the only way to salivation? Does she really believe in the reality of hell? I don’t know.

Sometimes my mom would go to church with me when she was visiting for the day. I know then she did hear the Gospel message. We dialogued about faith…but I can’t honestly say, “Her spirit bore witness with my spirit.”

So when one of the workers at Brighton comforted me with the thought that my mom seems to be in peace during her dying process…I have no peace or comfort at that thought.

I would be at peace with her death, if I was assured of her salvation.

But I don’t know that, nor do I have that peace. If she doesn’t know Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior, then the peace she has now in dying will give way to utter, unending torment in hell for eternity. How can I have peace with that?

Yet…I know that death is a divine appointment. There is no panic in heaven, only plans. God is still able to reach that mind, even in the midst of Alzheimer’s. So I pray, I sing hymns and tell her about Jesus. I ask God that He might give me a sign that she has a genuine saving faith. But I know that I might not know that, this side of eternity. No matter what, I will still praise Him.

My biggest regret is that, while she still had her faculties, I didn’t live a life that made my mother hunger and thirst to know Christ. I didn’t have a peace that drew her to know Jesus. I didn’t have a consistent trust in Jesus, no matter what my circumstances were that made her ask, “How can I have that too?”.

I’m adopted…and so many of my family members don’t know Jesus Christ as their Savior. I wonder why God plucked me out and called me to a saving faith…in the midst of unbelieving family members. I wonder…what good has my life been as a witness to Christ, if my own mother dies without receiving Jesus as her Lord and Savior.

So I don’t have a lot answers right now. But I do know that God is at work in my mom. Even thought I might not know the outcome until I get to heaven. I know that my faith is being tested. Will I still praise and trust God, with some pretty important and critical unknowns? Will I? Yes, even now, I will yet praise Him.

Before I dialed the phone to tell my brother about our mom…I prayed, “God…give me the words, guide my words and actions.” I ended up leaving a message for my brother. I asked him to call me and I’ll give him the details. If he doesn’t call back, I’ll call him again. I figure he’s accountable before God for his actions. I don’t want to hold a grudge or carry the burden of resentment, hurt and pain any longer. It’s in God’s hands.

I’m praying that God will oversee the details and timing of my mother’s death. That in His mercy, she will come to a saving faith in Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior. That if she already knows Him…that God will give me a confirmation so that I can have His peace knowing her future is secure in Christ.

Smack, Dab, Center

Honest and truly…my parents could have named me Jacob and it would have been most appropriate. Jacob and me…we have something in common. We both like to wrestle with God. Actually…I’m not sure I can say I like it…but goodness knows…I sure end up in a wrestling match more often than I’d like to admit.

Thank You Lord…that You are patient with me. This time around…there was wrestling going on…but it wasn’t for a long and extended period. I’d say God had me in a full nelson…and was whispering my ear until I cried uncle.

“Susan….when you responded the other day…you made it clear what your will was. Did you ever ask what my will is?”

“Uhhhhh…no God, I didn’t. Surely this can’t be Your will, can it?”

I should have known better than to ask that. After all God loves obstacles and overwhelming circumstances. In fact he specializes in them. He specializes in taking broken people and mending them. He loves to take the weak and despised things of this world…and use them for His glory.

While I don’t fully know what God wants to do in my situation…I do know that He has a perfect will and plan. He desires that I want His will for my life…to obey and follow Him.

I learned that lesson last year. I learned that there is no better place to be than in God’s will.

My circumstances seem impossible…huge. Beyond me…by any measure. But I do know this…I want to be smack dab in the center of God’s will. No matter what. I don’t want to turn to the right or to the left. I don’t want to go my own way. I want to be right where He wants me to be and no further.

In the center of His will is where I have peace. It’s where He will strengthen me…encourage me…and enable me. He’ll even fight for me…when I’m in the battle that He has designated for me.

So…I made a phone call. “I don’t know what God’s will is in this…but whatever it is…I want it. This seems impossible…it’s huge…far beyond me. I’m scared. But we serve a Big God…One who is more than able to accomplish…with ease…everything that concerns me today, tomorrow and always.”

Once I yielded to God’s will…I had peace. When I stopped trying to figure out all the details…I was able to turn the reins of this situation over to God. So He’s in charge now. My orders are not to figure out how to make it work…but to instead listen and closely follow God’s lead.

Smack, Dab, Center God…that’s where I want to be.

Take Peace

Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” – John 14:27

This past weekend when visiting my friend Ruth…I realized how much I lack the very thing I experienced while at her home. From the moment I walked in…a sense of peace enveloped me. It was so recognizable that I felt as if I could reach out and touch it. When I commented about it to Ruth…she mentioned that the peace in their home was God answering their prayers and desire to have peace reign in their hearts and home.

Last week I felt like I had bit of a meltdown…a major crisis of my faith. On Sunday morning as I was getting ready for church…I had the overwhelming impression from God, “Susan, I want you to meet Me at the foot of the cross. We have some business to take care of.”

I am most fortunate…because I can actually walk to the foot of a cross our church property. While symbolic…in certain respects it is very powerful in bringing me into the presence of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. That outward symbol is not something I need every time…but I surely did this time. Praise God…it was available to me.

When I asked my precious friend Danita if she would walk to the cross with me…I was so relieved when she said yes. We chatted as we walked up the road. Amazingly we only encountered a little mud on the path left over from the prior day’s rain. But the steep hill you climb up to get to the cross was dry and we were able to navigate it with ease. I just love the walking up to the cross. It’s so peaceful and quiet. A big freeway lies below…but you would never know it with quiet that surrounds you.

When we reached the cross…Danita and I looked down at our church…and we chatted some more. We talked about God’s faithfulness to our church and marveled at what He is doing. I shared a little bit with Danita about my struggle and asked if she would pray with me.

“For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.” – Matthew 18:20

I could feel God’s presence and it didn’t take long for the tears to flow as I confessed my lack of faith and desperation for God to intervene in my situation. I found that when I spoke the truth of God’s word…I was comforted and the tears stopped. Yet I was broken. Precious Danita prayed too…and her gentle and understanding words brought me much comfort. Thank you Jesus for bringing just the right person to accompany me on my trip to the cross.

I very relieved after that…and God ministered to my heart the rest of the day. I thought I was done with God taking me to task regarding this episode. But I was wrong. Thankfully…when I need correction He deals with me in small doses that I can handle. A little bit at a time.

Today’s lesson was peace. Even though I dealt with the issue my failing faith I didn’t see the outworking actions and consequences that remained. As I doubt God and who He is and the truth and reliability of His word…then I want to be in control of my life. I seek the counsel and wisdom of man…not God and His word.

There is a fine line…because if I’m speaking with a Christian rooted and grounded in the word of God…I may receive godly counsel. But I may receive man’s watered down version of God’s word instead of the powerful word of God. That which is able to change lives and change people. That which is able to save the souls of men from hell. Why wouldn’t I go directly to the source?

When I’m anxious and trying to be in control of my life…I have no peace. I’m trying to keep all plates spinning in the air. Then they start crashing in…one by one. Suddenly all around me everything is shattered, broken and jagged. It will hurt me when I step on it or try to walk away. Gee wiz…when, oh when, will I ever learn?

God impressed upon me the verse from John 14:27…where Jesus tells His disciples that He will give them His peace. He gave it to them and He will give it to me too.

Give. Give…if someone gives me something…I need to take it. I need to receive it. If my hands are full…and someone offers me something more valuable…won’t I set down that which is of little worth? Gladly and pick up that which is of lasting value from One who loves me.

So why am I not taking the peace that Jesus is offering me?

What am I holding on to instead? Why? What lies of the enemy am I believing? Even if I’m in the midst of circumstances I don’t want to be in and pray for God to change them…isn’t it better to have peace in the midst of those circumstances?

But of course there is price…it means I have to be prayer. Hand over my circumstances. Surrender my will to God. Chance the unknown for that which I can never fully achieve. Why would I think that God would call me to something that would not have a price or a sacrifice? My gain, my reward for trusting Jesus may not be in the here and now. It may be later…and it may be in heaven. But it surly does have its residual rewards…like peace. I pay an infinitesimally small price compared to what Jesus paid on the cross to buy me that peace.

“My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.’ – Jeremiah 2:13

Now that is an apt description of what I’m doing. I’m trying to dig my own well…only to find it dry or muddy or filled with brackish water. And I wonder why I still thirst?

Jesus wants to offer me a fresh endless flowing river of peace. Something that will quench my thirst and wash me clean. Now why wouldn’t I choose that?

I thank God that nothing is lost in God’s economy and that He is able to use my experiences and failures to help encourage others to not following down the same path. A path that will only cause pain and hurt…and possibly destruction if I remain on the wrong path. I’m so glad to know that He can use it for good.

But for once…no more than once…consistently I desire for me to choose to live according to His word and that my choices might be an example on doing it the right way according to God’s word and by the power of the Holy Spirit within me.

So Jesus…I give You over this mess of my life and my poor choices, my lack of faith and my failures. I ask You to please take it from me. Please exchange it for that which I can not do on my own. I ask You to give me wisdom…and fill me with Your love and with Your peace. Help me in my circumstances. Give me Your Living Water and I will lay down my broken, dirty, muddy cup. Jesus, You were with Danita and me at the foot of the cross. You heard my prayers…I give them over to You. My life and my situation is in Your hands…I’m asking You to work it out according to Your perfect plan. Dare I even ask for a miracle in this? Yes I do…knowing that You alone are able…more than able to accomplish what concerns me today. Praise God. It’s in Jesus name I pray…Amen!