Wednesday, September 6, 2017

at the mercy of the storm

In seasons of severe trial, the Christian has nothing on earth that he can trust to, and is therefore compelled to cast himself on his God alone. When his vessel is on its beam-ends, and no human deliverance can avail, he must simply and entirely trust himself to the providence and care of God. 

Happy storm that wrecks a man on such a rock as this! O blessed hurricane that drives the soul to God and God alone! 

There is no getting at our God sometimes because of the multitude of our friends; but when a man is so poor, so friendless, so helpless that he has nowhere else to turn, he flies into his Father's arms, and is blessedly clasped therein! When he is burdened with troubles so pressing and so peculiar, that he cannot tell them to any but his God, he may be thankful for them; for he will learn more of his Lord then than at any other time. 

Oh, tempest-tossed believer, it is a happy trouble that drives thee to thy Father! Now that thou hast only thy God to trust to, see that thou puttest thy full confidence in him. Dishonour not thy Lord and Master by unworthy doubts and fears; but be strong in faith, giving glory to God. Show the world that thy God is worth ten thousand worlds to thee. Show rich men how rich thou art in thy poverty when the Lord God is thy helper. Show the strong man how strong thou art in thy weakness when underneath thee are the everlasting arms. 

Now is the time for feats of faith and valiant exploits. Be strong and very courageous, and the Lord thy God shall certainly, as surely as he built the heavens and the earth, glorify himself in thy weakness, and magnify his might in the midst of thy distress. The grandeur of the arch of heaven would be spoiled if the sky were supported by a single visible column, and your faith would lose its glory if it rested on anything discernible by the carnal eye. 

May the Holy Spirit give you to rest in Jesus this closing day of the month.

This is one of my all-time favorite Charles Spurgeon quotes. It's where the idea for the name of this little blog came from, and it seems so perfectly fitting to share again during these final few days of summer. 

It's been a stormy summer for our family. Maybe yours, too?

Thankfully, we live far enough away from the impact of Hurricane Harvey and were mostly unaffected {other than some much welcome rain} by this particular storm. Many, though, were not as fortunate. This devastating storm left its mark on so many individuals and families, and our thoughts and prayers continue to be with all of those who have been affected by this deadly storm.

I can remember, twelve summers ago, when our little community was affected by Hurricane Dennis. Although the damage didn't even begin to compare to that inflicted by Harvey or other infamous storms like Katrina and Andrew, it was an eye-opening experience to the destruction that these storms can cause.

At some point in our lives, we are all affected by hurricanes of one kind or another. I've shared bits and pieces of some of the storms that have touched our family over the years, and, though it's a vulnerable and humbling thing, I feel strongly that there's something to be said for being able to name your storms

Do you know the history behind why hurricanes are given names? It's actually quite interesting and fascinating. Names have been given to storms (or tropical cyclones) for at least the last 100 years. According to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), "it is easier for people to remember names than numbers and technical terms. When reported by the media, this in turn makes it easier to generate interest in major storms and therefore increase how prepared people are for a major storm to hit." So, in short, naming storms streamlines communication and makes it easier to connect people who are or will be affected by the storm.

I believe this is a valuable truth, and it's why I will continue to write and, unashamedly, tell our story. My prayer is that in sharing, even the hard parts, {especially the hard parts}, God's name will be greatly glorified through the merciful and sovereign ways in which He has rescued us from our storms and provided deliverance and direction in their aftermath. I hope that others will be encouraged and better prepared for their own storms as I continue to communicate and write about all we have walked through. 

In our family, we have dealt with storms named Death, Divorce, Depression, Disruption, Disorders, Difficult Pregnancies, and Destructive Addictions. There's been the Devastation of Miscarriages and Distress from Infertility. There's been Dead Ends in Work Situations, the Deep Waters of Financial Difficulties, and Disagreements that have affected Friendships and wreaked havoc on entire Family Dynamics. 

I've come through storms of varying intensities and felt an ever-broadening range of emotions in their aftermath. Some left me feeling Disappointed. Some simply Disheveled. Some Defeated. And some have left me feeling so Destroyed, that I had absolutely no idea how I was going to put one foot in front of the other and ever be able to move forward.

I have felt Devastated. Utterly and completely Devasted. Maybe you have too. Different storms, different situations, but the same feelings: out of options, at the end of your rope, at wits' end, undone. Going back to normal, no longer in the equation.

Regardless of whether your hurricane is a category 1 or a category 5, when you find yourself Dumped in Deep, Dark waters, and everything is swirling around you, Deliverance can feel Doubtful, Dismal, and Dolefully Impossible.

Drowning in Dozens of voices that criticize, condemn, and accuse {some your own, some from others, some from the Devil himself}, the Voice that matters most can seem Distant and Distinctly Indifferent.

There's the Damaging effects from the original storm, and then there's the even greater Danger of listenenimg to, agreeing with, and, ultimately, believing the voices that Dismiss and Defame the very God of these storms. The God with us in these storms.

The path of devastation widens, as we become even more Dispirited, Dejected, Disheartened, and Demoralized.

Many of my storms {and definitely a predominate part of my story}, have been marked by my own Determination to Deliver myself in the midst of them. And this, inevitably, only causes the scope of Destruction to Deepen. An independent, invulnerable, and insistent spirit almost always misses the sweet offer of deliverance, comfort, and healing from the One who calms the storms and carries us through them.

It's been a slow process for me, Daring to believe these words by Charles Spurgeon. It certainly didn't happen all at once. But, daily, in the small storms and then in the big ones too, I am beginning to recognize His mercy in all of it. Dare I say it? To be thankful, even, for the storms that have wrecked me? To see His hand and to see His heart and to know, deep in my soul, that in these deep waters is an intimate invitation to know Him more deeply.

Mercifully, sometimes, He calms the storm. And, mercifully, other times, He seems to do the unthinkable and causes them only to intensify. You pray for deliverance, and yet it rages on. And this is mercy, too. And when deliverance comes, maybe not in the way you had imagined, this is mercy. And, there's mercy, possibly the greatest mercy of all, when in the devastating aftermath, you have no where else to turn. Finally, in desperation, you turn to Him. And you find Him already turned to you. With strong Daddy arms, He's patiently waiting to scoop you up, high and safe above the wreckage. With kind eyes and a tender voice, without a single ounce of a condensing or shaming tone, "Don't be afraid, dear heart. I'm right here with you. I will carry you through and show you the way."

Happy storm that wrecks a man on such a rock as this! O blessed hurricane that drives the soul to God and God alone! 

Happy storm indeed! I am learning to say these words and believe, truly believe, these words.

As one season ends and another one is just beginning, I'm increasingly thankful for the rest that can be found in Jesus alone. It's a rest, I've learned, that is possible even in the midst of wrestling. But even more, I'm still learning, it's a rest that offers freedom from that very wrestling. 

Jesus is inviting me {and maybe you too?} to stop wrestling and simply rest. He's having to teach me because {for a type A, always moving, overachiever} this is not my natural bent. When I sit still for too long, I get squirmy and antsy. I hate feeling unproductive or lazy, and I easily find myself frustrated and angry at myself for wasting time by resting and being still. 

I love writing figuratively, but this is something that is incredibly practical and straightforward, therefore I feel compelled to write it very simply. It's how the Lord has spoken to my heart, and I believe He wants me to share it with you. It's about as simple as it gets, but nonetheless, it's helping to give me specific direction in dealing with the storms of life. 

For me, learning to rest looks something like this little acronym:

R -Reading. Reading His words. Immersing myself in His words so that His voice is the loudest, most consistent Voice of all. The very act of reading is an invitation to rest. It involves slowing down, being still, and intentionally seeking out a few quiet moments even in the midst of the hustle and bustle of a busy and noisy day. As I open His words and open my heart, all the other voices are silenced and His is the one I want to hear most. The more I read, the more I want to hear, and the sweeter His voice becomes to me. I treasure it more than anything else. I need it more than anything else. Reading His Words ushers me into His presence and reveals His heart for me. This is the beginning of resting. {At the end of this post, I've included a list of many of His Words that have been a blessing to me.}

E - Eating and Exercising. For someone who, admittedly, has had a disordered relationship with both eating and exercise, this is obviously an area that might look different for me than for another person. But I do believe the premise is the same. Storms take a toll on the human body (I can testify to this firsthand), and the Lord is gently reminding me that this is a time to treat my body with grace and kindness. It's a time to focus on taking care of this body the Lord has given me. Just as I desire to fill my mind with God's word, I desire to fill my body with foods that nourish and strengthen. For me, this looks like a delicate blending and balancing of both focus and freedom. Some days, it might be a deliberate, pre-planned decision to include a good source of protein in a meal to replenish my tired and weakened body. Other days it might mean enjoying and learning to savor a slice of birthday cake at a party. It's not a time to drag myself out of bed and run four miles before the sun comes up, but it might be just the time to load my babies up in the stroller and enjoy the warm sunshine and the hint of a cool fall breeze. Do you see the difference? The point here in this season of resting is to treat my body in a way that moves toward restoration not depletion. Storms deplete and weaken, but a resting season is a time to be restored and grow strong again.

S - Sleeping. This is so very practical. I almost feel a bit ridiculous for even saying it, but sleep is so incredibly important. We've heard this message from our doctors countless times, and we've all heard the studies that document the toll a lack of sleep can take on the human body. (It's kind of scary!!!) This is coming from a person who has struggled with severe insomnia for a very long time. Storms are draining experiences, and it's not unusual to experience disrupted sleeping habits long after the storm has subsided (remember that PTSD is a very real thing that can affect many individuals and not just those returning from active combat). This summer, as our family dynamics have changed so dramatically, it has been a shocking and overwhelming feeling to realize just how absolutely exhausted I am. I knew that I had been pushing hard (between back to back to back to back to back pregnancies and caring for our special needs girls), but afterwards, it was so very apparent. I have been so tired, yet I still struggle to sleep at night. Right now, as I'm typing these words, it's 2:30 in the morning, and though the house is quiet, it's a very real struggle for me to be able to quieten my mind and fall asleep. For me, in the early mornings, strangely enough, I can usually sleep soundly. I'm learning to see this as a blessing and be grateful for this rather than begrudging it and beating myself up for not being the productive morning person that I would like to be. In theory, I love the idea of waking up early before the pitter patter of little feet begins, but, right now, in this season, it's ok if it doesn't always work out that way. Teamwork is an ever-increasing part of our marriage, and this is a great way to put this into action. I'm usually the one to get up with the baby for the middle of the night feeding (I'm usually already up anyway), while Will typically is the one to get up early in the morning with the littles and hold the fort down until I get up. Instead of feeling guilty for sleeping later than I'd like, I'm learning to be grateful and welcome it as a gift from my thoughtful, caring husband. My motto right now is sleep when you can, for as long as you can. My kids are learning to be patient and sensitive and to have servants' hearts just like their dad, as they realize that "mom is tired and needs to sleep." This is more than ok. It's a sweet blessing, providing a real-life opportunity for them to put the needs of others above their own.

T - Tending to the needs most pressing and urgent around me. We have a houseful of little people (eight and counting!) who need my help, my attention, and my love. This is the task that lies nearest, and I know this is solely what the Lord desires of me right now. I wash dishes. I do laundry. I change diapers. I give baths. I cook meals. I teach school. I play games. I love on my children and my husband, and this is tending to the needs most pressing and most urgent. This is resting. Active resting, but resting nonetheless. It's resting from the countless other things that call my name and tug at my heartstrings. While I do want to get involved in our church again, and missions, and ministry, and Bible studies, and I could add a hundred additional things to this list that are all good and godly, I'm learning to say "it's ok" and not feel burdened or guilted into doing all those things or any of those things right now. In this season, it's ok! There has been a time in the past, and there will be a time, Lord-willing, again in the future for more ministry opportunities. But, for now, it's ok to simply tend to and focus on these the Lord has placed in my immediate sphere of influence.

It's no surprise that each of these aspects of resting often feel like a waste - a waste of time, ability, talent, or influence. But the Lord is reminding me that's the farthest thing from the truth. It's not a waste. Rather it's an invitation to know Him more intimately, and this is such a beautiful and sacred offer from His heart straight to mine. 

Now, I know, firsthand, that I can do all of these things, intent on resting, yet still be wrestling in my mind and my spirit. So, the Lord is patiently teaching me one more way of finding His rest. It's a deliberate and definitive action that involves pressing pause when I feel the urge to understand, make sense of, or perfectly explain my story or the storms that have become a part of my story. While the dictionary might define rest as a state of inactivity, this process is an active one. 

Here's one more very simple acronym that is helping me learn how to rest and find freedom from wrestling:

R - Recognizing

E - Every

S - Single

T - Thing 

As mercy. Period. No matter what that thing is, it's a mercy.

I love these words by John Piper. I read them not long after Faith Ana passed away, and I have clung ever so tightly to them. Listen to what He says:

The word “sovereignty” (like the word “Trinity”) does not occur in the Bible. We use it to refer to this truth: God is in ultimate control of the world from the largest international intrigue to the smallest bird-fall in the forest.

Here is how the Bible puts it: “I am God, and there is no other. . . . ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose’” (Isaiah 46:9–10). And: “[God] does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, ‘What have you done?’” (Daniel 4:35). And: “He is unchangeable, and who can turn him back? What he desires, that he does. For he will complete what he appoints for me” (Job 23:13–14). And: “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases” (Psalm 115:3).

One reason this doctrine is so precious to believers is that we know that God’s great desire is to show mercy and kindness to those who trust him (Ephesians 2:7; Psalm 37:3–7; Proverbs 29:25). God’s sovereignty means that this design for us cannot be frustrated. It cannot fail.

Nothing, absolutely nothing, befalls those “who love God” and “are called according to his purpose” but what is for our deepest and highest and longest good (Romans 8:28; Psalm 84:11).

This is why I like to say that the mercy and the sovereignty of God are the twin pillars of my life. They are the hope of my future, the energy of my service, the center of my theology, the bond of my marriage, the best medicine in all my sicknesses, the remedy of all my discouragements.

And when I come to die (whether sooner or later), these two truths will stand by my bed, and with infinitely strong and infinitely tender hands lift me up to God.  

Charles Spurgeon says it like this:

The sovereignty of God is the pillow upon which the child of God rests its head at night, giving perfect peace.

So while I'm in this resting place (reading, eating/exercising, sleeping, and tending to those nearest to me), I'm doing it all with the awareness and constant reminder that every single storm that has touched my life and every single blessing that has touched my life, REMEMBERING. EVERY. SINGLE. THING. that has touched my life is a mercy from the hands of a sovereign and faithful Father. I don't have to understand why He has done what He has done or how it's all going to work together, and I don't have to be able to explain it to to others. But to truly get to that place of resting rather than wrestling, what is vital is to trust Him and learn to thank Him for both His mercy and His sovereign ways. This is rest.

I'm grateful, today, for the clearing skies and glimpses of sunlight through the gray clouds. I'm grateful for the ways the Lord is giving our family peace and direction in the aftermath of the big storms we've gone through this summer. There are some storms still swirling around, but even with these, I feel like the Lord has sent us a bit of a reprieve. I know all of this is a gift from a good and kind Father who knows just what we need best and what best brings Him the most glory.

For gentle words and a gentle heart and the gentle nudgings to welcome this new restful season rather than resenting it, I am learning to be grateful. 

For biting winds and crashing waves and storms that have wrecked me, devastated me, and driven me closer to Him, I am ever so grateful, too.

There's mercy in it all. 

And there's mercy for all. 

Whatever season you are in, whatever storm you are facing, whatever the aftermath looks like for you, there is mercy drawing you near and inviting you to rest. Won't you join me?


In the next few weeks, I am going to make this blog private so that I can spend some time making a few changes and much needed updates. In the meantime, I will continue counting His mercies and sharing them publicly through my instagram account and through Facebook. I'm still working on this as I'm clearly well behind times in the area of social media. My grandmother, who is almost 90, had a Facebook account long before I did! 

I haven't taken the time to figure out just how to add an Instagram or Facebook link here, but I know if you already have your own account with either, you can search my name (melaniemartinblackmon), and you should be able to find me! If you see this picture, you've found me! :)

Lord-willing, it won't take me long and I will make faithsfeat public again. Thanks for being patient! And thank you also for your prayers. I hope you will continue to follow along on this journey the Lord has for our family. My prayer, always, is that my words will make much of His most merciful name.


Just this afternoon, a few short hours after I was finishing up the last little bit of proof-reading for this post, the Lord gave me an opportunity to put everything I have written into action. Sounds a bit of a nuance, doesn't it? An invitation to rest and an invitation to put into action...

So, instead of pushing publish like I had planned, I felt compelled to share more of the story.

Here's the short version of the backstory: Less than two months before Faith Ana's death, we had a scary experience with this precious child. It involved a sudden, severe, and unexplainable illness that resulted in me carrying an unresponsive child (literally slung over my shoulders) through the doors of our local emergency room. The initial nurse who triaged her realized the situation was critical and immediately got Faith Ana into a room. Hours later, after lab work, CT scans, and multiple doctors examining her, she was still entirely unresponsive. They decided to have her airlifted to Children's Hospital two hours away in Birmingham since they had no idea what they were dealing with. I don't think I will ever forget the image of her being strapped on to the stretcher, carried into the helicopter, watching it whirl away, and wondering if she would ever come back from this. Throughout that night in Birmingham, she remained stable, yet mysteriously unresponsive. She was seen by at least half a dozen doctors and specialists and had more tests run than I knew were even possible. However, the next morning, when she woke up, she was completely fine. Back to normal. She was asking for breakfast and asking every nurse what her name was. All she wanted to do was to eat and to talk! This was our girl. She was back!

The only reason Faith Ana was wearing a mask was because  there were a large number of flu cases in the PICU. All the doctors and nurses were wearing them, and she was quite curious. One doctor gave our {chatty} Faith Ana a mask to keep her quiet while we talked, and it worked like a charm. 

It was crazy.

The doctors had no explanation for what had happened. One mentioned the possibility of a seizure. Another, later, suggested perhaps it was an electrolyte imbalance. The only thing we knew for sure was that she had a very mild urinary tract infection. We were sent home with a round of antibiotics, and that was the end of it. 

Or so we thought. A month and a half later, another mild UTI, another doctor's visit just to be proactive and prepared, more antibiotics, a few more days and seeing improvement and feeling like she had rounded the corner, only to find her dead the next morning when I went in to check on her. It was June 5th. Three years to the very day that she came home into our family. That day is forever etched on my heart. Every time I walk into the little room that used to be hers, the memory of what I saw that morning washes over me, all over again. 

It was traumatic.

The storm of this little one's sudden death has been a monstrous one for me that raged fiercely for much of the summer. I wrestled with so many feelings, and the depth of the emotions surrounding this hurricane were intense. 

During that morning of her death, our home was filled with paramedics, police officers, detectives (not accusing, simply needing to do their duty), and the coroner, all who had to ask me a multitude of questions, take pictures, and try to piece together what had happened. It took a week to get the initial autopsy report back and three excruciatingly long months to get the complete report back. Very few days went by that I did not blame myself for her death. The accusations from the Enemy were cruel and condemning. I wrestled every single day. 

It was intense.

I clung to the words by John Piper that I mentioned earlier about the two truths: God's mercy and God's sovereignty. I clung to the many truths in God's word that I will share at the end of this post. I clung to the Lord's mercy, believing the Lord was indeed merciful in calling Faith Ana home, to her forever home, where she was no longer bound by her wheelchair and could walk and run and dance with total freedom. I believed these words, ultimately, and knew that the Lord was sovereign over every aspect of Faith Ana's life, including calling me to be her momma for such a short season and just as sovereign in the exact day He called her Home. 

It was hard. 

This particular storm had subsided (or so I thought) as the Lord so graciously has poured out His peace and comfort on my grieving, wrestling, and beat-up heart these past few months. 

And then today happened. An ordinary, uneventful day. I had been making the final few changes to this post just a few hours before. I walked to the mailbox, glanced through the magazines and letters, but as soon as I laid eyes on this particular piece of mail, my heart started racing and I found myself back in the very center of that raging storm. It was addressed to Faith Ana, and it was from Children's Hospital. I knew it was going to be bad, but as my trembling hands tore it open, my heart sank when I saw the bill. A bill from April, from that first unexplained incident, dated the day she was airlifted to Birmingham. Six months later, after all that has happened, and it shows up in my mailbox. Today.

It was horrifying.

The charge was exorbitant, especially in light of a difficult financial season that we have been in (ironically, a season that started with this very child's adoption journey). This past year, especially, has been marked by health insurance spikes, many, many medical bills for both her and her sister, a large payment to the adoption agency that walked with us through S's disruption, and a lower-than-average income during these difficult months as Will slowed down at work so he could be more available and present here at home to help me.

It was gut-wrenching.

The memories that rushed back when I saw this particular bill coupled with the actual bill itself was a collision of storms that caught me completely by surprise. My first response, my modus operandi, was a frenzy of activity (phone calls, texts, and emails), a determination to figure this out on my own, a few suppressed tears but mainly a stiff upper lip, all eventually giving way to a full-fledged panic attack. {It was not one of my shining moments.} On top of this surge of emotions and fears, the Enemy's voice was loud. Waste was a word that specifically kept filling my mind. Of course, I knew this was not truth. Nothing about this child's life, her time in our family, or her death was a waste, but I share this with you, just so you can know how cruel the Devil's tactics can be. 

It was frightening.

This afternoon, as I tried to carry on as usual (i.e. tending to those needs most pressing), I could feel the wrestling in my spirit and a battle going on in my heart. I wanted to rest in Him. I wanted to trust the Lord's faithfulness. I wanted to believe that though this was a shock to me, it wasn't to Him. I wanted to experience His perfect peace. I wanted to be confident that He could provide in spite of what was a very obvious lack. I wanted to remember that this bill that felt so massive to me was more like mere pennies to Him. Yet, I could not keep the tears from surfacing and the fears from wedging their way in. I spent the next hour on the phone with our health insurance provider.

It was challenging.

The sweet woman that helped me today was a God-send. She was kind, soft-spoken, and compassionate. She was patient and understanding and was not put off at all by my shaky voice and sobs. But she was having trouble figuring out the source of the charges and why the claims were the way they were, so she put me on hold for a few minutes.

It was the best thing that could have happened.

As I was waiting and wrestling, a voice, as clear as if you were sitting right here by my side, spoke these simple (and oh so very familiar) words to my heart:

Remember Every Single Thing is mercy.

I stopped dead in my tracks. I knew without a shadow of a doubt that the Lord had spoken directly into my heart, directly into this situation. Here I was, at the mercy of the storm, discovering the very mercy of the storm.

In these deep and cloudy waters, nothing could be more clear, He was inviting me to know Him more deeply.

He was bidding me to go deeper with Him. He was showing me that there were deeper places in my heart that needed an even deeper level of healing and comfort. I *thought* that I had fully grieved Faith Ana's life and the ways her life and death had impacted our family, but I see now that there was more depth to the grieving that needed to happen. More layers to be uncovered. More places to receive His sweet mercy, comfort, and healing. 

It was tremendous mercy. 

The Lord was also uncovering the ways my heart often views His heart. He was mercifully and meticulously shining His light on the perceptions I have of my Father's heart. I don't know if this makes sense, so let me try to explain.

When I saw this bill, after the initial shock wore off, my first response was to question God's heart. This is where the voice of the Enemy comes into play and also where my own distorted view of an angry, judging God, pointing His finger at me, shaking His head in disapproval surfaces. 

Did God allow this bill, these financial difficulties, as punishment for all the ways I have failed Him? Is this because God is disappointed in me? Is this to teach me a lesson? To make a point? Shame on me for ______ (I can fill in the blank here with any number of things). Was this His sentiment toward me?

Of course, of course, I know this is not the heart of a good and gracious God! Yes, He allows suffereing and hard things, sometimes for our sanctification and sometimes for our discipline. And, yes, there are times when we experience the consequences and effects of sinful choices that we've made. This is not the right time or place to enter a discussion on why God allows suffering. The point, here, for me in this stormy moment, was to reveal to me the often faulty way I view God's heart toward mine. A harsh disciplining Father, shaking His head in disappointment rather than a kind, merciful Father, inviting me to climb up into His lap. He wants to comfort me, yet often what I fear is condemnation and criticism, and it keeps me from coming to Him.

It was an invitation, most assuredly, to know Him more deeply! 

It was an invitation to rest in His love and fall into His big, outstretched arms of mercy! 

Earlier this summer, I read this beautiful and powerful story from another one of my favorite writers, Ann Voskamp. I was so moved by these words, that I circled all the kids up at the table the next morning and read it to them. I remembered it today and wanted to share just an excerpt from it here (but I promise you, you need to read the post in its entirety). The story is one she quoted from Max Lucado, but the last sentence is hers:

...How a white stallion had rode into the paddocks of an old man and all the villagers had congratulated him on such good fortune.

And the old man had only offered this: “Is it a curse or a blessing? All we can see is a sliver. Who can see what will come next?”

When the white horse ran off, the townsfolk were convinced the white stallion had been a curse. The old man lived surrendered and satisfied in the will of God alone:  “I cannot see as He sees.”

And when the horse returned with a dozen more horses, the townsfolk declared it a blessing, yet the old man said only, “It is as He wills and I give thanks for His will.”

Then the man’s only son broke his leg when thrown from the white stallion. The town folk all bemoaned the bad fortune of that white stallion. And the old man had only offered, “We’ll see. We’ll see. It is as He wills and I give thanks for His will.”

When a draft for a war took all the young men off to battle but the son with the broken leg, the villagers all proclaimed the good fortune of that white horse. And the old man said but this, “We see only a sliver of the sum. We cannot see how the bad might be good. God is sovereign and He is good and He sees and work all things together for good.”

"... All we can see is Christ – and in Him all is grace.”

These words: this is shelter in a storm, no matter how sudden or severe.

These words: this is rest in the midst of wrestling and, ultimately, this is freedom from that very wrestling.

I love these words. My version is a tiny bit different, but the heart message is the very same. It's what He's been speaking to me all throughout this stormy summer. It's what He led me to have inked on my forearm so that I'll never forget. It's the words He spoke, audibly, to my heart just this very afternoon.

All we can see is Mercy, and in Him, all is mercy.

An hour or so later, I find out that the hospital never sent the medical records that authorized and deemed necessary that emergency airlifting of Faith Ana to Birmingham. This is what the charges were for, and, apparently, once those records are received, this bill should be fully covered. 

Fully covered. 

I'm letting those words sink in deeply right now. Not only because it will be a tremendous relief - this is for a large sum of money which we simply don't have in our accounts. No, it's more than relief that I am feeling. So much more. 

Fully covered. Fully covered in His mercy. A wide and deep and far-reaching mercy that stretches farther than I could ever imagine. 

It is more than relief.

It is resting.

He covers me. Mercy covering me!

Covered in His Mercy,

This song has been a theme throughout our journey. I first heard it just a few days before I left {by myself} for Bulgaria to bring Faith Ana home. The words strengthened and comforted my heart then. They still do today!

Here's a few more words, His words, that have drawn me deeper into His heart during this stormy summer. Many of them were an encouragement to me, even today. I pray they have wings and fly straight to your wrestling heart. They are all from The Voice translation which I have come to love!

He weighs down the thick clouds with moisture,
        and they scatter His clusters of light.
     The storm changes course under His guidance;
        it moves as He directs over the contours of the entire earth.
     And what is His aim? Whether for the discipline of His people
        or for the sake of the earth itself,
    Or as an expression of His deep, loyal love,
        He causes all of this to happen.

Job 37:11-13

The Eternal spoke to Job from the raging storm.

Job 40:6

...the Eternal is a strong shelter in the heaviest storm.

Psalm 14:6

His house is my shelter and secret retreat. It is there I find peace in the midst of storm and turmoil. Safety sits with me in the hiding place of God. He will set me on a rock, high above the fray.

Psalm 27:5

He commanded the storm to calm down, and it became still.
A hush came over the waves of the sea...

Psalm 107:29

And it will be a resting place, protected from the heat of the day, a place of shelter and retreat amid storms and rain.

Isaiah 4:6

When you face stormy seas I will be there with you with endurance and calm; you will not be engulfed in raging rivers.

Isaiah 43:2

Pray to the Eternal, asking for rain in the spring; He is the One bringing the storm clouds. He fills them with heavy rain, showers of rain for the plants of the field for everyone.

Zechariah 10:1

When storms hit, rain pounded down and waters rose, levies broke and winds beat all the walls of that house. But the house did not fall because it was built upon rock.

Matthew 7:25

The same evening, Jesus suggested they cross over to the other side of the lake. With Jesus already in the boat, they left the crowd behind and set sail along with a few other boats that followed. As they sailed, a storm formed. The winds whipped up huge waves that broke over the bow, filling the boat with so much water that even the experienced sailors among them were sure they were going to sink.

Jesus was back in the stern of the boat, sound asleep on a cushion, when the disciples shook Him awake.

Disciples (shouting over the storm): Jesus, Master, don’t You care that we’re going to die?

 He got up, shouted words into the wind, and commanded the waves.

Jesus: That’s enough! Be still!

And immediately the wind died down to nothing, the waves stopped.

Jesus: How can you be so afraid? After all you’ve seen, where is your faith?

The disciples were still afraid, slowly coming to grips with what they had seen.

Disciples (to one another): Who is this Jesus? How can it be that He has power over even the wind and the waves?

Mark 4:35-41

There is a sure way for us to know that we belong to the truth. Even though our inner thoughts may condemn us with storms of guilt and constant reminders of our failures, we can know in our hearts that in His presence God Himself is greater than any accusation. He knows all things.

1 John 3:19-20

Thus God blessed day seven and made it special—an open time for pause and restoration, a sacred zone of Sabbath-keeping, because God rested from all the work He had done in creation that day.

Genesis 2:3

He provides me rest in rich, green fields beside streams of refreshing water. He soothes my fears...

Psalm 23:2

The Eternal is the source of my strength and the shield that guards me. When I learn to rest and truly trust Him, He sends His help. This is why my heart is singing! I open my mouth to praise Him, and thankfulness rises as song.

Psalm 28:7

Of one thing I am certain: my soul has become calm, quiet, and contented in You. Like a weaned child resting upon his mother, I am quiet. My soul is like this weaned child.

Psalm 131:2

Your mind will be clear, free from fear; when you lie down to rest, you will be refreshed by sweet sleep.

Proverbs 3:24

Listen! The Lord, the Eternal, the Holy One of Israel says, Eternal One: In returning and rest, you will be saved. In quietness and trust you will find strength.

Isaiah 30:15

Come to Me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Put My yoke upon your shoulders—it might appear heavy at first, but it is perfectly fitted to your curves. Learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble of heart. When you are yoked to Me, your weary souls will find rest.

Matthew 11:28-29

All of this is a gift from our Creator God, who has pursued us and brought us into a restored and healthy relationship with Him through the Anointed. And He has given us the same mission, the ministry of reconciliation, to bring others back to Him. It is central to our good news that God was in the Anointed making things right between Himself and the world. This means He does not hold their sins against them. But it also means He charges us to proclaim the message that heals and restores our broken relationships with God and each other.

2 Corinthians 5:18-19

We rest in this hope we’ve been given—the hope that we will live forever with our God—the hope that He proclaimed ages and ages ago (even before time began). And our God is no liar; He is not even capable of uttering lies.

Titus 1:2

That hope is real and true, an anchor to steady our restless souls, a hope that leads us back behind the curtain to where God is...

Hebrews 6:19

After you have suffered for a little while, the God of grace who has called you [to His everlasting presence] through Jesus the Anointed will restore you, support you, strengthen you, and ground you.

1 Peter 5:10

May you experience God’s favor and rest in the peace that comes from the One who is, the One who was, and the One who is coming...

Revelation 1:4

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