September Hope Whispers

 

God Is Still With Us
Through the Storms of Life

Three tornados whipped through Sioux Falls this month, causing damage and devastation to some businesses and homes. There were injuries, but thankfully no deaths.

Avera Heart Hospital was among the buildings damaged. They shared a photo of a chunk of wood that broke through the lobby window. Do you see the cross?

Our windows may be broken, our building damaged, but even during the roar of the storm, God shows up.” Avera shared.

God still sends hope in the midst of life’s storms. It may not always “feel” like it in the midst of anguish and devastation, but He is holding us up. He never backs out on a promise!

“And surely I am with you always,
to the very end of the age.”
Matthew 28:20b

God Can Turn Our Struggling Stories
Into Hope For Other Strugglers

Do you ever watch America’s Got Talent? I’m not always able to, but I like watching it, especially during the finals. What I love the most are the stories where tragedy turns to triumph. This year’s winner is Kodi Lee, a blind and autistic young man who plays piano and sings so beautifully and with such heart. Though this song was not his final one, “Like a Bridge Over Troubled Waters” was one of my favorites.

There were other contestants who are winners, too. By sharing their stories of pain and using their gifts, they will continue to make a difference by breathing hope into hopeless, broken hearts.

Tyler suffered leukemia at age 4 and was bullied in school because of his lack of hair. He turned to music in a violin and is now not only an 11-year-old cancer survivor but a remarkable violinist who gives hope to other children with cancer.

Voices of Service, military members who act as a light in the darkness to soldiers suffering with PTSD, will continue to spread hope and make others feel less alone and more understood. I love their Footprints In the Sand.

There are others who came from disadvantaged neighborhoods/countries or special circumstances that encourage others to never give up.

We Are Never
Invisible to God 

This month I reread The Invisible Woman: When Only God Sees by Nicole Johnson. I was reminded again that nothing we do needs to be noticed or praised by people. Focusing our hearts on God alone and what He sees changes our perspective in life.

The story that especially touched my heart is that of one of the workers building a great cathedral. He was carving a tiny bird that eventually would be covered by the stone roof. Someone asked him why he was spending so much time and giving so much attention to something that no one would ever see. The builder continued carving and replied,

“Because God sees.”

Years later Martin Luther urged people to have the same perspective:

“Milking a cow was no less holy than giving an offering. Luther believed that a housewife had as great a calling as a high priest, and that both should perform his or her work as though God alone were watching. Holiness comes from God and from the heart of the person doing the work, not from the work itself.”

© Nicole Johnson (from book The Invisible Woman)

Nature is a Retreat of Hope

“The best remedy for those who are
afraid, lonely or unhappy
is to go outside, somewhere
where they can be quite alone
with the heavens, nature, and God.”
Anne Frank
Photos from Our Ever-Changing Falls

Bird Photos From My Brother John in Arizona
Immature Black-crowned Night Heron
Gray Hawk
Possibly an Immature Sharp Shinned Hawk
Immature Red-Tailed Hawk

 

God Sees and Hears the Pain We Hide From Others

“We know nothing of the trials, sorrows and temptations of those around us,
of pillows wet with sobs, of the life-tragedy that may be hidden behind a smile,
of the secret cares, struggles, and worries that shorten life
and leave their mark in hair prematurely whitened,
and a character changed and almost recreated in a few days.
Let us not dare to add to the burden of another the pain of our judgment.”
~ William George Jordan

Do you ever wonder what the story behind a person’s outward appearance is? Some paste on smiles, myself included, to hide heartaches. Some display a tough attitude to hide the crumbling inside of them that they can’t seem to stop. Even sad faces don’t really tell us the depth of the pain they are suffering.

Last summer my husband and I walked on the bike trail beside the river above the Sioux Falls.

Doesn’t this duckling look perfectly content? Like he is happily taking a rest on this branch? Like he doesn’t have a care in the world?

It is said that “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Yes, a picture can say more than a lot of words can in some instances, but often it doesn’t tell the hidden painful story behind the scenes.

As we leaned on a stone wall, I zoomed him in, so he looks closer than he really is. He is actually unreachable in an overflow of the river. What you don’t see in this photo is what we heard. He had peeped so long and so hard that his little voice was hoarse. He was stranded, abandoned, and alone.

Farther below us and downstream was a gathering of ducks. Didn’t anyone hear him? Where was his mother?

Then I saw her and his siblings downstream on the shore. She was too far away to hear and she didn’t even seem to notice one of her ducklings was missing. Between him and them was a rushing stream.

Outward appearances can be deceiving, can’t they? A person can appear to look happy or put on such a strong front, but inside there is so much hidden pain.

Are you one of these broken ones hiding behind a smile or a tough attitude?

God sees and hears our broken hearts. Not one tear is hidden from Him. He knows how hard it is for us, and He understands us when no one else does.

I wish I could tell you the duckling’s story ended happily. My heart ached so for him. I wish my arms would have been long enough to reach him and help him. I often wonder what happened to the little fella. 😦

What I can tell you with assurance is that there is One whose arms are always long enough to reach us. He has the willingness and the power to rescue us, however impossible it seems from our side.

Our stories may be heartbreaking, but He will give us a happy ending someday. We may have to wait a while, and that certainly isn’t easy, but His story of love for us will always give us sufficient grace until that time comes.

“Then call on Me when you are in trouble,
and I will rescue you,
and you will give Me glory.”
He replied,
“What is impossible for people is possible with God.”
Luke 18:27
“He will wipe every tear from their eyes,
and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain.
All these things are gone forever.”
Revelations 21:4
“Yet what we suffer now is nothing
compared to the glory He will reveal to us later.”
Romans 8:18

“God Loves You”
by Jaci Velasquez

Grieving and Giving Chronic Illness to God Who Cares

I don’t write about it much, but I’ll admit I do get so weary sometimes of chronic illness… Shortness of breath, persistent coughing, tight and sore bronchial airways, aching in my bones, draining energy, brain fog, and recurrent bronchial infections that flare up my sarcoidosis, a multi-system inflammatory disease primarily affecting the lungs.

Through all losses, we need to go through a grieving process, don’t we? Even when we have health limitations. Sure, it helps to look at others we feel have it so much worse, but I’m learning that only leads us to dismiss or minimize our health issues. Then we start to do more what others expect of us than to care for ourselves. We end up draining ourselves.

We need to allow ourselves to believe we have a problem so we can do what will help, not hinder, our well-being. We need to work through any feelings, like anger or depression, that detriment our health. To mourn the things our hearts long to do, but our bodies don’t agree to. To grieve over the pain of others not understanding us. It’s okay not to feel okay.

God invites us to unburden any and every hurt in our hearts, even when we feel upset at Him for not healing us like we want. He desires for us to allow His grace-filled arms to hold us up, His compassion to console us, and His unconditional love to release the pressure we put on ourselves.

No matter what we suffer from, Jesus empathizes with us and cries with us. He has experienced every kind of suffering imaginable, so He understands. Because He suffered for us, we don’t have to be alone in our suffering.

It can be so hard though, right? It’s a process that recycles over and over again. But God is not going to abandon us, even when it feels like it. His character is the very essence of love and faithfulness. His mercies are new every morning.

“Because of the Lord’s faithful love
we do not perish,
for His mercies never end.
They are new every morning;
great is Your faithfulness!”
Lamentations 3:22-23

I have not posted this to gain any pity. I’m just trying to be real. It’s something I really need work on. I usually have this automatic answer when most people ask me how I am – “I’m fine! How are you?” I try to be strong in front of others, and I end up paying for it. I’m not meaning we should wallow in a puddle of self-pity and expect everyone to sit there with us. We can be honest about how we feel but still, through God’s grace, seek the beauty all around us.

I know there are many who compare their suffering with others’ and feel their suffering isn’t worth mentioning and think they should just be thankful for what they have more than others, myself included. I write this with a prayer that even one reader will feel less alone and will realize Jesus deeply cares and understands. He doesn’t measure one suffering to be worse than another. He waits with open arms and ears to hear each of us pour out every pain of our hearts, minds, and bodies.

“Praise You In This Storm”
by Casting Crowns

 May God give you strength and hope for each day!