Monday, August 26, 2013

"My Life is Over" in Job's world

My life is over. That’s what Job said and exactly how he felt, for good reason. I love this man Job. He fulfilled his role as the spiritual head of his household. His success and wealth weren’t idols. He made worshipping God top priority. Job was your all-around perfect guy.

One day one of his servants came to him with terrible news. The Sabeans from Arabia had attacked and stolen his 500 yoke of oxen and 500 donkeys. They killed all the servants there and he was the only one to escape.

Before that servant could finish telling Job what happened, another one showed up to break more bad news, telling Job that fire fell from the sky and burned up his 7,000 sheep and the servants with them. He was the only one to escape. Before this servant could finish, another one came to tell Job that the Chaldeans formed three raiding parties and took Job’s 3,000 camels, killing the servants tending them. This servant had escaped alone. So all of Job’s livestock was gone and he had three surviving servants. That’s a BAD day!

Then even worse news came. A parents’ worst nightmare. A fourth servant came to Job to tell him that while Job’s kids were all together having a feast at their oldest brother’s house, a mighty wind swept in from the desert and struck the four corners of the house. The house collapsed on them and they were all killed. All ten of them.

In Job’s grief he didn’t blame or curse God like Satan had hoped he’d do. Before all these bad things happened to Job, Satan had appeared before God for permission to attack Job. When it didn’t work, he appears before God again. Then God gave Satan permission to attack Job’s health, but he couldn’t take his life.

While Job is still grieving the loss of his children, livestock and almost all of his servants, he becomes gravely ill. With painful sores covering his body from head to toe, he sits among the ashes of his grief. While he’s scrapping his sores with a piece of broken pottery, Job’s own wife complains saying to her husband, “Are you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die!” Job 2:9

Job still didn’t curse God. He answered his wife saying, “Shall we accept only good from God and not trouble?”

Job’s three closest friends traveled to see him with the intentions of bringing comfort and sympathy. The scene is heart wrenching. They knew job had buried his ten children, countless servants and lost all his livestock. Now he was very sick. When his friends saw Job from a distance they could barely recognize him, and began to weep loudly. They tore their clothes and sprinkled dust on their heads, and sat on the ground with Job for seven days and nights. No one said a word to him because they saw the depth of his grief.  Job 2:12-13

When Job could find no comfort or relief, he finally breaks the silence. He cursed the day he was born. He wanted to die. He saw no reason for his life to go on. But he still didn’t curse or blame God. His three friends responded to Job by judging him, saying he must be living in blatant sin for God to allow all these terrible things.

Job consistently maintains his innocence. He still doesn’t curse God. He complains though and asks why. He’s angry, bitter and wants to die. He sees no future. His friends continue to judge him. After Job has reached his limit, ranting, crying before God, and having these discussions with his friends, God finally speaks out of the storm, Job 40:6. Job, awestruck by who God is, still believed that God can do all things and no plan of His can be thwarted. In the end, Job prays for his friends.

What a process! Job was intense. His emotions are raw, but he never cursed God or blamed Him for everything that happened. I don’t know how long the whole process lasted, from the time of all of Job’s losses, to his friends coming around and accusing him of sin in his life, or how long his illness lasted. I imagine the healing began when he finally stopped complaining and God finally spoke.

It was after Job prayed for his friends that God fully restored him. He doubly blessed the latter part of his life more than the first part. Job had ten more children and twice as much livestock. Many good things happened to Job later in his life. I’m sure this infuriated Satan. Satan had a plan, but so did God. 

What about you? Are you experiencing loss right now? Everything is filtered through our Father’s hands. We wonder why and get angry and bitter. Please don’t give Satan the satisfaction of you giving up and cursing God. Job saw no way out, other than God taking his life and getting it over with. I don’t always understand why bad things happen to good people. God never promised that bad things wouldn’t happen because we live in an unpredictable, fallen world, where sin corrupts and abounds. God is still in control and the story isn’t finished yet. God will see you through. He will speak and He does have a plan.

In His grip, still trusting,


Friday, August 16, 2013

Don't Forget to Laugh

Lately I don’t want to watch the news or read a newspaper. When I go online the latest terrorist news or stories about deadly brain amoebas are in my face. Serious stuff. Then there are our own lives we have to deal with and all the serious things needing our attention. We take life and ourselves so seriously that we forget to laugh.

During my early single-mom years I pursued a career in court reporting. I worked under a temporary license for a freelance firm, and was sent to different locations for depositions or court hearings. I was around 30 years old and I took myself very seriously. I thought if I ever played, had any fun, or laughed at some of life’s incidents that I was not in control. If I was serious all the time, then I was in control and on task. Get it done, get it done, get it done and don’t waste time joking around. I feel bad because my kids had such a serious mom. I was also self-conscious, having no confidence in myself. I hated walking into a room full of people or drawing attention to myself.

God used an embarrassing incident to change all that. Afterwards I stopped taking myself so seriously and learned to laugh in spite of myself. I’d been sent to the CNN Center in Atlanta to take a deposition. Serious business. I fit right in with all the seriousness around the conference table that morning. I was dressed for the part too, in my business skirt, blazer and high-heeled pumps. I was very self-conscious, being the only girl in the room. I didn’t let them know that I was petrified of men! Still recovering from my divorce, I felt all men were cheaters, liars and they thought women were sex objects. I made minimal eye contact, just wanting to get the job done, pack up my equipment and go home to the comfort of my bedroom where I could type up the deposition.

When the deposition ended, I packed up my equipment, stacked my stuff on my roll cart and headed out of the office toward the escalators. The CNN Center is very open where the escalators are, kind of like a mall. Business people are walking around and (in my opinion) putting on airs. I guess I was doing it too, trying to act all poised in my business outfit, pulling my cart behind me. I just wanted to get to my car, kick off those shoes and remove the panty hose for the hour-long drive home.

When I stepped onto the escalator and
maneuvered my cart alongside me, I felt their presence behind me. I nonchalantly turned half way around and saw it was those attorneys from the deposition, all donned in their sheik business suits. Drats! I managed a fake smile and they nodded. I was sure when we got to the bottom and entered the food court they’d turn in the direction of the food to get something to eat and wouldn’t be behind me anymore.

As I rode the down escalator, I plotted my landing, making sure it would be graceful. I was border-line panicking. To my relief I stepped off the escalator gracefully and headed for the revolving doors, pulling my cart behind me. Double drats!! Those men followed me to the revolving doors. They continued their conversation, but I could feel their eyes on me. Why do they have to stare, I thought. Are they talking about me? Pointing? Rating me from 1-10? I’m embarrassed as I write this admitting that yes, I was that bad. I was not confident with my looks at all, which made it worse. I tried to appear as though I was, but couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

Approaching the revolving doors created another panic in me. I stopped and pretended to adjust my case on the cart thinking they’d just go ahead of me, especially after I said, “Y’all go ahead.” But no, they were going to be gentlemen and let me go first, as they motioned with their hands…”after you”. Seriously? So, I put on my brave, professional look again and plowed into those revolving doors. It took some dexterity as I maneuvered my cart beside me, shuffling, shuffling, shuffling, my hand gripping the handle and my other one pushing the door. Relief! I stepped out into the fresh air with cart in tow and purse still on my shoulder. I’d also stepped right out of my high-heeled pumps and stood barefoot outside with my shoes inside that merry-go-round. The men stood on the
other side looking at me. I had to go back in. While the men waited and watched this very self-conscious, unconfident, serious single mom walk back through the revolving doors and retrieve my shoes, I attempted a smile and re-exited. I slipped on my shoes, grabbed my case and escaped. As I crossed the street to the parking lot, I started giggling. By the time I made it to my car I was in a belly laugh as I’m sure they were too. I chuckled and giggled until I got it out of my system. Since that day I have worked at not taking life or myself so seriously that I forget to laugh and have fun. What about you? Are you too serious? Laughter really is medicinal. “A glad heart makes a happy face,” Proverbs 15:13.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Tamasa's Story

When the opportunity came to go to Honduras on a mission trip in July of ‘99, I never considered going. My church was sending a team to help rebuild homes devastated by Hurricane Mitch in the Fall of ’98. Through a chain of events and unexpected provision, God made it obvious He was sending me too.

I was ready to throw in the towel and quit. A lot was going on in my life and I was feeling sorry for myself. A breakup with the only boyfriend I’d had since my divorce in ’88, left me heartbroken. My daughter wanted to go live with her dad, who had a big house in a nice neighborhood, an in-ground pool and all the freedom a 12-year old could want. We lived in a small rental house in Conyers, Georgia, that didn’t have central air. As you know, it’s hot in July in Georgia. We had two window air conditioners I turned on only when we were home so we wouldn’t run up the electric bill.
I had nothing left emotionally to give and wondered what purpose God had in sending me to Honduras. I later learned it wasn’t because of what I could give, but something God needed to do in me. Kind of drastic, I know. I figured the worst that could happen is I’d get Malaria and die.

We rolled into Monjaras on a yellow school bus. Dozens of village kids greeted us with hugs and smiles. This village had been ravaged by floods, and people had pieced together homes from sticks, corrugated metal and heavy plastic, held together with dried mud. We were merged with another team from California and assigned to three families to help rebuild their homes for the next 10 days.  
On about the 3rd day, I was redirected to another work site with another group. I was upset because I’d gotten to know the Honduran family I was working with. I was sure it wasn’t because of my labor skills. On the way to the new site, I was told the family consisted of a young woman with three kids. I was also told she had the cleanest outhouse in the village and if you had to “go”, hers was safe.

As part of the requirements for a new house, two family members had to work with us in the construction. When I asked about the father, they said he’d left them a long time ago. The mom and her 14-year old son would work with us. I thought, “A single mom. How does a woman with three kids survive out here with hurricanes, floods, boiling temperatures and the constant threat of diseases?” I pictured a small, frail woman with a tired and sad face.
We arrived in front of her stick and mud house. Pieces of plywood were “weaved” through the gaps between the sticks for privacy. There was no door, just a walkway. We unloaded the supplies off the truck and slid two-by-fours through gaps in the house.

I carried a load of wood into the house and that’s when I met Tamasa. She was sweeping the dirt floor and tidying up. She greeted me with a beautiful smile, showing me where to store the lumber in her one-room house. I stood inside gazing at the walls of dried mud and sticks. Large pieces of plastic covered one side of the house to protect them from wind and rain during storms. The hammocks they slept in hung from the ceiling on one side of the room. Sunlight streamed in from another door-less walkway that led outside the back of her house. I’m sure I looked like a wide-eyed kid trying to soak it all in.
I was struck by Tamasa’s beauty. Her big, dark eyes and hair complimented her creamy, brown skin. She didn’t look at all like I had imagined, hopeless and depressed like me. She was pretty, vibrant, hospitable and happy to see us.

For days we worked side by side in 100+ temperatures. Every afternoon she’d walk to the nearest town to a part time job, while her 14-year old took care of the two younger siblings. As I spent more time with Tamasa building her house, changes were happening in me. I thought of my own home back in Georgia and how I thought I had it so bad. I had windows and doors I could lock at night or close during bad storms. We had a bathroom with clean, running water and a flushing toilet. My floors weren’t made of dirt, but were covered with carpet. I felt ashamed as I watched her sweep her floors every day and clean the outhouse, mix cement, layer concrete blocks with us, then walk into town to her job.
One day I asked Tamasa if I could take a picture of her family. She didn’t respond, but walked away from me calling her kids inside the house. I thought I’d offended her or maybe my broken Spanish wasn’t clear. After what seemed like an hour, Tamasa and her children emerged from the house dressed in their finest clothes and their hair fixed to pose for my picture.

While taking their picture, I felt bittersweet knowing our time together would soon end. I hugged her, telling her how much God loved and valued her, that He had a plan for her life, as if I had some great wisdom for her. It was clear she understood and trusted in the Lord. Even though we spoke different languages, she spoke great wisdom and knowledge to me through the way she lived her life.
God used this single mom in one short week to do a permanent work in me. Tamasa survived a hurricane and devastating floods that washed her home away. She was abandoned by her husband, left to take care of three children in unspeakable conditions. She took pride in her makeshift home, sweeping dirt floors and making sure her outhouse was clean and her children cared for.

The last day came too soon, as our team boarded the yellow bus that brought us there. I sat looking out the window at all the village children along with a few adults who’d come to see us off, waving and hugging new friends goodbye.
There stood Tamasa with her kids, waving and smiling. She had the calm, peaceful smile I’d become familiar with. Even though I didn’t want to leave, I had a renewed hope that only God can give. I was ready to get back to my life at home and tackle the challenges I faced.

When I walked through the front door of my house, I was overwhelmed with the things God had blessed me with. A refrigerator to keep food in, beds to sleep in, carpeted floors, painted walls and a car parked in the one-car garage. It was stifling hot inside my house, so I flipped on the window air conditioner, noting I had electricity. I had clean, running water and a bathroom with a flushing toilet. My list grew. What I didn’t have didn’t matter anymore. More important than the material blessings God had given, I had Him, just like Tamasa. No one can take that away. If Tamasa could be a survivor, how much more could I, too, survive? And because she didn’t give up hope, she had a brand new home in Monjaras, Honduras, to live and raise her children in.

(This short version of Tamasa's story is taken from Markers for Single Moms: Finding God's Direction in the Chaos, now available on

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Penny for Your Thoughts

I recently met a single mom who left an imprint on my heart. We spent a couple of hours over lunch sharing some of our personal stories with each other. We’re so different in a lot of ways, but share similar struggles and heartaches of being a single mom. The big difference is she’s in the middle of her daily survival mode and I’m on the other side. I’m quite a few years older than she is. I see her working hard, trusting God to meet her needs, even though it’s so hard most days. I know without a doubt that if she continues trusting Him, He will bring her to the other side of her plight.

She shared a precious story with me that day and has given me permission to share it with you. Her raw openness with me and obviously with God, touched me to the core. She currently lives with her three children in a garage they’ve turned into a temporary home. She has suffered some injustice in her lifetime, a broken heart and now faces job loss. As we talked over our brown-sack lunches, her passion and hunger for the Lord was evident. I’m using a different name as I tell her story for her privacy.

It was a stressful, ordinary day, just like all the others. Mary’s emotional and physical strength were drained. She saw no light at the end of the tunnel. She tried to be strong for her kids and not crumble under the pressures that mounted daily. She cried, “Just where are you God?” It was a day where Mary felt there was no more hope, direction or love from the One she sought it from. She couldn’t take another day like this, let alone another minute. “If I just knew You even cared,” she yelled out to the Lord. “Do I ever cross Your mind? Do You think about me at all?

While Mary is ranting and raving to the Lord in her emotional rage, she tells me she can sense a gentle touch to her heart. During her meltdown she says it was as if He was saying to her, “You’re on my mind. I am thinking about you.” She responded to Him by putting a condition out to God saying, “If it’s true, then, that you think of me, then let me find a penny for every time I cross Your mind.”

While she’s telling me her story, unhindered tears drop from her huge brown eyes and I can’t even talk. I was thinking about the shoebox of change I had in my closet at home and how I was going to dig all the pennies out and give them to her. When I could finally speak, I asked her, “So how did He answer that challenge?” She said, “I have a shelf full of pennies!” She doesn’t spend her pennies. She’s still collecting them. She said once she found a dime and thought, “Oh, Lord, ten times I just crossed your mind?” After we finished our lunch, we walked into the next room where someone had scattered a trail of pennies on the floor leading up to a zip-lock baggie overflowing with pennies. Mary cried. I stood with my jaw dropped.

God hasn’t answered all of Mary’s prayers yet or brought her to the end of her dark tunnel, but He’s given her hope. He assures her He’s walking through the tunnel with her. When I got home and shared her story with my husband as he worked on his car in our driveway, I looked down and there were 7 pennies scattered in the driveway. Now, every time I find a random penny I know God is thinking of me too, just like Mary.

Do you feel like Mary did, that God never thinks about you or your situation? Do you feel like He doesn’t care? Psalm 40:5 says, “Many, O Lord my God, are Your wonderful works which You have done; and Your thoughts toward us cannot be recounted to You in order. If I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered!”

He may not give you the answers you're looking for today, but He'll give you Himself to get you through each day until He brings you to the end of whatever your dark tunnel may be. You're on His Mind.
In His grip - Terri