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Archive for the ‘God’s Faithfulness’ Category

 

The eagle that soars in the upper air

does not worry itself how it is to cross rivers.

—Gladys Aylward

 

That’s a worthy quote to keep on file, don’t you think? I love the imagery of flying high through life close to God, the One who empowers us to traverse challenge.

But I wonder, who is this Gladys Aylward? Author? Teacher? Did she soar in the upper air? What rivers of challenge did she have to navigate?

A bit of research revealed that Gladys’ life began in the challenging river of the working class in London, 1902. By age fourteen she had to leave school and become a maid, to help support the family.

Two events changed her course, however. One, Gladys met Jesus at a revival meeting, and two, she became impassioned about China, after hearing a pastor speak of several missionaries who worked there.

 

(Millworker in Henan, China, 1930)

 

Gladys’ thoughts turned toward China frequently and to the millions of people who had never heard about Jesus. She longed to be one of those to tell them, so she applied to the China Inland Mission.

Gladys was turned down. They said she didn’t have the aptitude or education necessary to learn such a difficult language as Chinese.

The rejection was a deep disappointment, but it did not stop her. She spent four years working extra hours, scrimping and saving every possible pence from her meager wages, in order to pay her own passage.

During that fourth year, word reached Gladys that an elderly widow missionary, Jennie Lawson in Yancheng, China, was in need of a helper.

Several months later, in October of 1932, she set out on the dangerous, weeks-long journey through Europe and Russia, mostly by train. (Passage aboard a ship would have provided a shorter, safer trip, but train travel was cheaper.)

 

 

When Gladys finally arrived, she found Jennie—not directing an established mission, but living alone in a ramshackle inn. Within a year, however, Jennie, Gladys, and their Chinese cook and friend, Yang, had completed the needed repairs.

The two missionaries were finally able to host the mule drivers who caravanned through Yancheng, transporting their various wares.  In the evenings, Jennie told Bible stories to the guests.

It wasn’t long before Gladys was also telling the stories. She learned Chinese quite readily while conversing with Yang and the muleteers—a feat she later called one of God’s miracles.

 

(Gladys Aylward)

 

No sooner did their situation become secure than Jennie fell, and died several days later. Gladys couldn’t sustain the inn on her own. But God made provision for her to stay. The Mandarin of the area offered Gladys a job, inspecting women’s feet!

 

(foot-binding shoes)

 

A law had been passed in China forbidding the ancient custom of binding girls’ feet in order to keep them dainty and small. The practice also caused lameness and pain. Gladys accepted the position, eager for the opportunities it would offer to tell people about Jesus.

But life still did not settle down into a comfortable, peaceful routine, as Gladys faced a number of seemingly impossible situations. And she soared over them all with God.

When a prison riot occurred, the Mandarin sent for Gladys—all 4’ 10” of her—to settle the inmates. God gave her the wherewithal (in spite of her fear) to command attention, ask a representative of the prisoners to explain the reasons for the riot, and then act as liaison with the prison guards to improve conditions.

 

 

In 1937, the war between Japan and China grew into a full-scale conflict. Gladys became a spy for her Chinese countrymen. Her foreign status gave Gladys the ability to cross into Japanese-controlled areas. When they became aware of Gladys’ espionage activities, a bounty was posted for her capture—dead or alive.

One time, Gladys narrowly escaped the bullets of her Japanese pursuers. As she hid in some bushes, Gladys used her padded coat as protection, wadding it up like a shield.

But the day came, she had to seek sanctuary elsewhere.  It was not just her life that was in danger; Gladys was concerned for the orphans who now lived with her at the inn.

She chose to flee to a government orphanage at Sian. When word spread through the community of her plan, other orphans were brought to her, so they too could escape the war zone. Soon 100 children had gathered for the trek—mostly four to eight years of age.

 

 

They walked through the mountains for twelve days—on rough, little-used trails where they could remain hidden. Some nights they spent with welcoming hosts; other nights they slept on the mountainsides. Most of their cloth shoes wore out before they reached Sian.

Miraculously, all of them arrived safe and sound, except Gladys, who was suffering from typhus and pneumonia and collapsed into a coma. She almost died, but did finally recover.

And as soon as she could, Gladys returned to what she loved: helping others in need and telling everyone about Jesus.

Gladys Aylward certainly proved she knew how to soar in the upper air, with God as her strength. And he did indeed carry her across many rivers.

Postscript:  Among the many that accepted Jesus into their lives as the result of Gladys’ efforts, was the Mandarin of Yancheng.

 

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

May I also soar, O God, resting in the confidence that you will never leave me or forsake me. You have promised to be my Helper. May I focus on you, my loving and powerful God, and not my circumstances, because you are the Lord of every situation. 

(Isaiah 40:31; Hebrews 13:5-6; Ephesians 1:11)

 

(Some of you may recognize Gladys’ story. It became the basis for a movie in 1958, The Inn of the Sixth Happiness, starring Ingrid Bergman.)

 

Sources:

  1. https://www.christianity.com/church/church-history/timeline/1901-2000/gladys-aylwards-impossible-mission-to-china-11630754.html
  2. http://justus.anglican.org/resources/bio/73.html
  3. http://www.thetravelingteam.org/articles/gladys-aylward
  4. https://urbana.org/blog/gladys-aylward

 

Photo credits:  http://www.pexels.com; http://www.wikimedia.org;  http://www.flickr.com; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.maxpixel.net; http://www.dailyverses.net.

 

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The call came at 5:34 a.m., waking Steve and me from sound sleep. Immediately he thought, This is it. My brain hardly registered a phone ringing.

Within moments, however, my body was in high gear, preparing to leave for the hospital. This day—December 19, 2018—Steve would receive a new liver, the only long-term solution for his liver cancer, caused by non-alcoholic cirrhosis. He had been on the transplant wait list for six months.

That predawn phone call became Miracle #1 out of at least twelve over the next two weeks. Steve’s name had only been moved to the top-tier twelve days prior.  (Some patients must wait a year or more.)

Upon arriving at the hospital, Steve underwent two-hours of surgery prep. And then we waited, and waited some more, until the orderlies finally came and wheeled him away.

Miracle #2: Much of the day I waited alone, although Hilja (our daughter-in-law and a physician at the same hospital) sat with me as she could, especially in the evening. But God’s peace that transcends all understanding absolutely guarded my heart and mind the entire time.  I knew all would be well.

 

 

Miracle #3: The first hours in ICU are critical for any patient. God chose a special nurse to care for Steve, one that a colleague had highly praised to Hilja. In addition, Steve was her only patient for about six hours.

Miracle #4: Hilja insisted on spending the night in ICU. As Steve’s blood pressure and some bleeding became an issue, she was there as an extra set of eyes and ears, ready to advocate on his behalf. (Her expertise and support have been invaluable for the entire nine months since Steve’s diagnosis. She’s even attended some appointments with us.)

Miracle #5: The next day, the breathing tube was removed, and Steve was able to sit up in bed. His voice sounded raspy, but he wasn’t groggy, and soon Steve was joking with the nurses, Scot and Mac (What delightful, attentive young men!). By afternoon, they had Steve walking around the nurse’s station. His progress toward healing amazed us all.

 

 

On Day 3, Steve was transferred to the step-down unit where Laura and Katie took over his care. Again, such kind, helpful nurses. In fact, we’ve been highly impressed by the expertise and compassion of the staff at University of Cincinnati Hospital.

Steve continued to make rapid progress, sitting up in a chair for longer stretches of time, circling more laps around the unit each time he walked.

An added blessing those first few days: a young mom from our church babysat for our granddaughters so our son Eric could run errands and visit Steve.

Pastor Michael came to see Steve that day, stopping short upon entering the room. “This is not what I was expecting!” he cried. Although Steve was in bed, he was sitting up, looking perfectly healthy and alert.

 

 

 

On Saturday, Hilja, Elena (our five-year old granddaughter), and I were supposed to attend The Nutcracker. I expected to miss the performance, with Steve only three days post-op.

But because he was recuperating so well, because Laura and Katie were taking such good care of him, and because Eric could keep Steve company for part of the time, I felt confident all would be well in my absence.

Eric was even allowed to bring Maarit, our almost two-year old granddaughter, with the understanding that hugging, kissing, and sitting on Papa’s lap would be forbidden. That was okay by Maarit. Papa’s walker provided great fun.

Meanwhile, we three girls enjoyed the ballet performance—glorious moments of respite.  (God knew I’d be ready to lose myself in the Land of Sweets!)

 

 

Miracle #6: Steve was released the afternoon of the 24th, just five days after surgery.   Christmas Day we reveled in the granddaughters’ gift-opening at our home—not at the hospital.

Miracle #7: Our younger son and his wife arrived the 26th, our daughter and older granddaughter flew in on the 27th. They had all planned to visit anyway, but what perfect timing God supplied! For ten days they provided gracious help.

Miracle #8: Insurance is covering a visiting nurse on Thursday, so we only have to go to the hospital for post-op check-ups once a week.

Miracle #9: Steve has experienced very little pain. Within twelve days he was taking only Tylenol at bedtime. Now he’s not even taking that.

Miracle #10: The discomfort of acute swelling caused the most trouble after returning home. The doctor told us the edema could take up to three weeks to resolve, but within one week it was much improved.

 

 

Miracle #11: Transplant patients almost always require insulin until the medications that raise blood sugar can be reduced. Steve’s insulin dosage has already been lowered, and only several times has he needed extra insulin beyond the once-daily dose.

Miracle#12: The huge outpouring of love, support, and prayer throughout this entire process have contributed greatly to Steve’s healing.  Many of you reading this post are part of this miracle.

At Tuesday’s post-op check-up we were told his platelet and white blood cell counts are continuing to rise. “Your new liver is happy!” exclaimed the physician’s assistant.

Needless to say, so are we.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     * 

Just these past three weeks, O God, You have done such great things for us! “Our hearts brim with joy.” Now may your unfailing love rest upon us, even as we put our hope for the future in you.

 (Psalm 126:3; 33:21a MSG; 33:22)

 

(Nutcracker image from http://www.flickr.com.)

 

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In the town where I lived till age ten, great elm trees bordered a number of the residential streets. Their wide-reaching branches stretched across the pavement and met in the middle, creating a thick, verdant archway in the summertime.

As we walked or drove underneath, the view was dominated by tree trunks—sentries of the streets in two straight rows.

One stand-alone tree, tall and far spread, is an inspiration, as Joyce Kilmer’s famous poem attests. But a double row stretching to the horizon? That’s a wondrous sight you don’t forget—even after six decades.

Not long ago I came across an observation of Charles Spurgeon, based on just such a view. And immediately I thought of those stately elms of my hometown:

 

“We delight to look down a long avenue of trees.

It is pleasing to gaze from end to end of the long vista.

Even so look down the long aisles of your years,

at the green boughs of mercy overhead

and the strong pillars of loving-kindness

and faithfulness which bear up your joys.”

(Morning by Morning, p. 366).

 

 

What better time to look down those aisles of our years than this week of Thanksgiving?

Down my own personal road…

…I do see the green boughs of mercy—times when God treated me with grace and compassion that I did not deserve—even in small matters.

One example out of many:  the time I forgot to order new books for the women’s Bible study at church. (This was long before amazon.com and priority shipping.) An emergency run to the Christian bookstore was necessary.

While driving there, I prayed to find sufficient copies of a worthwhile study that we could complete in the necessary time frame: eight weeks.

I know, I know. Such specific requirements. But sure enough, God supplied exactly what was needed, in spite of my foolish forgetfulness.

 

(Women too!)

 

…I see the strong pillars of loving-kindness—times when God demonstrated his tender and compassionate affection.

Again, one example out of many: I spilled a bit of coffee on my computer and the mouse died. Steve tried the hair dryer trick, and miraculously, my mouse came back to life.

But Steve would be the first to tell you God gets the credit, first for bringing to his mind that solution, and because “every good and perfect gift comes from above”—even problem-solving power.

 

 

…I see the strong pillars of faithfulness—times when God demonstrated his firm and devoted support.

Just a list of categories is quite long. God offers protection and provision, equipping and encouragement, instruction and guidance, comfort and strength, forgiveness and restoration, support and deliverance, healing and blessing. Surely there are even more.

Often, God expresses his strong and loving support through his Word.

One morning while settling in for a quiet time, I opened my Bible first instead of the study guide. “Wake up,” I chided myself. “You don’t even know what scripture you’ll be studying today.”

I turned to the morning’s lesson and discovered my Bible was already open to the proper page, and the prescribed verse was right at the top. Before even reading the verse I felt a strong impression from God: “Nancy, this scripture is for you today.”

Now before I reveal the verse, let me explain that just a few days prior I’d received disturbing news. Hurt and discouragement were fighting against faith and hope in my spirit.

So imagine my astonishment when I read, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand” (John 13:7).  An overflow of joy in my heart became tears in my eyes. He saw my distress and came alongside with encouragement and support.

 

 

No doubt you have stories of your own green boughs of mercy and strong pillars of loving-kindness and faithfulness, as you gaze down the long aisle of your years.

I’d love to hear one of your examples; I’m sure other readers would too.

Please share in the comment section below, and together we can praise our God for the wonders he has performed (Psalm 105:5a)!

 

(Photo credits:  http://www.strongtowns.org (Daniel Jeffries); http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.canva.com (2).

 

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Some believe that indulging in memories is a waste of time, that past events have no meaning for the present. But nothing could be further from the truth— especially if we acknowledge God’s part in those events.

When we include God in our remembering:

  1. We gain a sense of perspective.

Even difficult times are part of God’s plan. Sometimes, with the gift of hindsight, we catch a glimpse of his purpose later.

For example, how many students have struggled through school, yet in adulthood flourished in careers well matched to their gifts? Most of them are actually thankful for the early challenges, because they learned perseverance and developed strength of character. Those late-bloomers are often compassionate and understanding toward other strugglers, because they remember the difficulties of those formative years.

 

 

  1. We acquire wisdom for today.

“Reflective thinking turns experience into insight.”

–John Maxwell

In my younger days I used to be a champion talker. But somewhere along the way I began to notice the listeners—caring folks who often demonstrated the gentle and quiet spirit Peter spoke of (1 Peter 3:3). They reminded me of my sweet grandmother.

I valued that demeanor and began to turn insight into a new experience of focused listening. (Please understand: practice hasn’t achieved perfection yet. But improvement? Yes.)

 

  1. We build a foundation of stability for today as we remember God’s grace and faithfulness in the past.

But memories easily fade. So some believers keep a book of remembrance or a praise journal, as a way to savor God’s faithfulness.

Just for fun, I randomly opened my loose leaf praise journal in search of an entry to share with you. Here’s what I wrote, December 23, 2003, about our older son, who was in college at the time:

 

 

(“Eric got a new job yesterday and it starts today! The owner of the bike shop has not paid Eric for ten days, but a friend offered him a job in their family’s fireplace shop at the same salary.”)

Entry after entry highlight God’s provision, protection, and guidance through the years. And each memory contributes to my foundation of stability.

 

  1. We foster gratitude in our hearts.

As you can see, the entry recorded above ends with: “Thank you, Lord, for answering our prayers and providing for Eric.”  Joy just naturally overflowed into appreciation.

On the opposing page I wrote, “I am overwhelmed, Lord, by this continuing string of blessings. You are SO good to us, always demonstrating your faithfulness and grace. May your praise continually be on my lips!”

Research has now proven a number of benefits of gratitude.*  But surely one of the best: it nurtures a contented soul.

 

 

  1. We can turn remembering into a beautiful act of worship. 

That’s exactly what scripture invites us to do: 

“Rejoice in all the good which the Lord your God has given to you and your house” (Deuteronomy 26:11).

Praise the name of the Lord your God, who has done wondrously with you” (Joel 2:26b).

“You make me glad by your deeds, O Lord; I sing for joy at the works of your hands” (Psalm 92:4).

 

 

Such glorious cause and effect! Remembering God’s wonderful deeds of the past turns our hearts to worship, which causes a powerful, positive impact on the present.

 

  1. We can tell our stories of God’s miracles and mercies, to encourage the faith of others and refresh our own.

Scripture invites us to do that too: 

“I will tell of the kindness of the Lord, the deeds for which he is to be praised, according to all he has done for us” (Isaiah 63:7).

.

 

So let’s begin here! Please share in the comment section below about a kindness, miracle, or mercy of God from your memory. And together we can praise the name of the Lord who has worked wonders for us!

 

* Another post details some of those benefits, “Happiness.”

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.flickr.com; http://www.nellis.af.mil; Nancy Ruegg (3); http://www.heartlight.org.

 

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It was almost time for Mom and Dad to say good-bye and leave five-year old me—by myself—to spend the night at the hospital.

Yes, there was a pretty, friendly nurse who promised careful attention. But, of course, a strange bed in strange surroundings with strangers in charge, left me feeling very uncomfortable—in addition to the tonsillectomy-induced sore throat.

The thought occurred to me, I should have brought my special blanket. Its soft, pink familiarity would surely make me feel better.

When I expressed my wish out loud, Dad said he’d go home and get it.  (It wasn’t far.)  Mom stayed until he returned.

Dad’s response surprised me. I thought he’d say, “Don’t worry. You’ll be fine without it.”

But Dad understood this was hard for me, and did what he could to ease my discomfort.

Nonetheless, it took a long time to fall asleep that night. But holding my security blanket close and rubbing my fingers against the satin trim did provide sweet comfort.

 

 

Perhaps as a child, you too owned a special blanket or stuffed animal that provided a sense of calm well-being at bedtime. However, part of the maturing process is letting go of such things, right?

No, in actuality, it’s just the source of security that changes as we grow up. Everyone seeks comfort in something, perhaps:

  • A settled career that provides a comfortable income
  • Meaningful and stable relationships
  • Good health, enhanced by careful eating habits and exercise
  • Physical safety, procured through security systems, guard dogs, etc.

 

 

But all of these examples offer only external security. And no matter how protected a person might feel today, we all know how quickly circumstances can change. Ask the one whose company downsized during the recession, the one whose spouse suddenly wanted “space,” the one who received life-altering news from his doctor, or the one whose computer files were hacked.

What we need is internal security. And that can only be found in God.

At the first sign of distress we can call out to him, asking him to draw especially close (Psalm 145:18).

 

 

And when difficult situations linger, we can meditate on God’s wonderful works, as King David did in his psalm of praise, #145. He suggests we:

  • Buoy our faith by remembering God’s miracles (vs. 4-6)
  • Affirm all the benefits and support he’s supplied (vs. 5-6)
  • Keep our minds focused on his glorious attributes (vs, 7-9, 11, 20)
  • Review God’s promises—such as those listed in verses 13-16
  • Remind ourselves that all his actions are absolutely perfect (v. 17)

 

 

Each uplifting thought offers soothing comfort. And strand after strand weaves a virtual security blanket for our souls–a blanket under which we can rest secure.

 

“The Lord’s beloved rests securely on him.

He shields him all day long,

And he rests on his shoulders.”

–Deuteronomy 33:12 CSB

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

We praise You, Father, for the comfort, peace, and security you provide. You alone are able to make us dwell in safety and serenity, where no lasting harm can penetrate. Thank you for your abundant goodness to care for us as we trust in you.     

(Psalm 4:8, 91:4; Romans 11:38; Nahum 1:7)

 

 

(Photo credits: http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.pexels.com; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.dailyverses.net (2); http://www.recreation.gov.)

 

Is there a particular scripture you turn to for comfort?  Please share in the comment section below.

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Wingstem waltzes at woodland edge,

Gilt buckeye leaves tumble and twirl.

Creation sighs a cool breeze of relief

As summer wanes and fall approaches.

 

 

Squirrels scamper over tree-branch highways,

A hummingbird breakfasts on day lilies,

Mums turn round faces to bask in the sun–

A bustle of activity, but not a sound.

 

 

Much is accomplished in the quiet.

Trees stretch skyward, adding rings of growth,

Dew crystals bring moisture to petal and leaf,

Butterflies pollinate flower after flower.

 

 

God orchestrates harmony, even in stillness,

But not for self-flattering fanfare.

His efforts provide undeniable evidence

Of who he is—proof of his glory.

 

 

Note his artistry on sunset dahlias,

His genius in the strength of spider silk,

His wisdom in the female finch’s cloak,

His faithfulness in the circle of seasons.

 

 

God also desires to work within us,

Applying his artistry, genius, and wisdom—

Fostering change, fulfilling purpose—

Quietly, faithfully, day by day.

 

 

Within the silence of God’s holy presence,

We find strength and serenity of soul.

All we need do is accept his welcome

Into the quiet discovery of HIM.

 

 

(Romans 1:20; Psalm 104:24; Job 12:7-10; Philippians 1:6; Psalm 28:7, 29: 11, & 46:10.)

 

Photo credits:  http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.maxpixel.net; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.pixnio.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.pixabay.com (2).

 

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“Oh, what a beautiful tree!” my mother-in-law exclaimed with enthusiasm. Her comment referred to a tall bush, planted near the house and visible outside our kitchen window. “What’s the name of it?” she asked.  Being from Ohio, Mom wasn’t familiar with some of the unique foliage of South Florida.

“That’s a sea grape,” I told her. “It’s actually a shrub, but they can grow quite tall.”

“Well, it’s lovely. Such big leaves!”

Now clearly there’s nothing remarkable about this conversation, until you know that Mom had asked the very same question with the very same enthusiasm every morning of her visit. And each morning I supplied the same answer.  Mom was in her late 80s, and her dementia was becoming more and more noticeable.

Mom’s fresh outlook each morning reminded me of Lamentations 3:22-23:

 

The faithful love of the LORD never ends!

His mercies never cease.

Great is his faithfulness;

his mercies begin afresh each morning (NLT).

 

 

Just as Mom brought new enthusiasm to each morning, so God brings new mercies for each day. Yes, the challenges we faced yesterday required wisdom, strength, and perseverance. But today we’ll need a fresh supply.   Praise God he never runs out of such gifts; he is always able to provide.

In the same way, God’s new mercies for today are not meant to be sufficient for tomorrow. In other words, we shouldn’t expect to feel ready this morning for the potential challenges of the future—much as we’d like to. (Who hasn’t wished to know now exactly how the next day or week will unfold, and how best to respond?)

Instead, our wise and loving Heavenly Father has chosen to lead us one day at a time, to protect us from being overwhelmed, easy prey to depression and paralyzed by fear.

No, our best course of action is to avail ourselves of God’s mercies for this one day. As for tomorrow, we can trust God to supply new mercies, more than sufficient for whatever we might face when the time comes.

 

 

 

I’m remembering Corrie ten Boom. (Maybe this post brought her to your mind, too.)

 

 

Corrie and her family suffered cruel hardships in the concentration camps of Nazi Germany, as a result of helping Jews escape the Holocaust.

After the war, people would often say to Corrie, “I wish I had such great faith as yours. I could never live through the experiences you survived.”

Corrie would tell a story to explain.

When she was a child, Corrie happened to see a dead baby. A terrible fear gripped her that one of her family might also die. When Papa ten Boom came to tuck her in that night, she burst into tears.

“I need you!” she sobbed. “You can’t die!”

Her sister, Betsy, explained why Corrie was so afraid.

Papa asked, “When you and I go to Amsterdam, when do I give you your ticket?”

“Just before we get on the train,” she responded.

“Exactly,” Papa replied. “And God knows when you’re going to need things, too. Don’t run out ahead of him, Corrie. When the time comes that some of us have to die, you will look into your heart and find the strength you need—just in time.”

Papa ten Boom was proven right. When Corrie needed supernatural strength, God did provide. We can rest assured that his mercies will be new and fresh each morning for each of us–just in time.

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

I praise you, Lord God, that we can face each day with fresh enthusiasm, because for every trial, you have prepared great mercies of endurance, strength, and wisdom.

I thank you that in the midst of trouble, you also provide blessings: a more acute awareness of your presence, peace that defies explanation, family and friends to come alongside, miraculous provision, and delightful surprises to make us smile.

You are more than a sufficient God; you are an abundantly gracious God!

 

(Revised and reblogged from 5-28-15.  Photo credits:  http://www.flickr.com; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.canva.com; http://www.wikimedia.com.)

 

 

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