Lessons from Hope

A year ago I began feeling like it was time to crack open my heart a bit. Since the deaths of my husband and parents I have built up very high walls around my heart to protect myself from more pain and possible loss.

After months of researching dog breeders, I chose a breeder in Texas and put down a deposit on a future toy Schnauzer puppy.

As I waited on the birth of just the right female, I made preparations for her much like you make preparations for the birth of a child. My emotions were a mixture of quiet expectation and yet fear of opening up my life to a new living thing. I began contemplating and praying about a name for her. I wanted a significant name that would be a good reminder of something I need in my life. On the day that the name “Hope” was suggested, I knew that was the right name because hope is something that I need to be reminded of every day.

Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my HOPE in God! I will praise Him again–my Savior and my God! Psalm 42:5 

For I HOPE in You, O Lord: You will answer, O Lord my God.  Psalm 38:15

Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? HOPE in God, for I shall again praise Him for the help of His presence. Psalm 42:5

How blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose HOPE is in the Lord his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea and all that is in them: who keeps faith forever; who executes justice for the oppressed; who gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets the prisoners free. The Lord opens the eyes of the blind; the Lord raises up those who are bowed down. The Lord loves the righteous. The Lord protects the strangers. He supports the fatherless and the widow, but He thwarts the way of the wicked.  Psalm 146:5-10

This I recall to my mind; therefore, I have HOPE. The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, says my soul. Therefore I have HOPE in Him. The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him. Lamentations 3:21-25

…..we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the HOPE set before us. This HOPE we have as an anchor of the soul, a HOPE both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has enters as a forerunner for us. Hebrews 6:18-20

Finally the day arrived for Hope to fly to me from Dallas. The plan had been for a lady to hand carry her on the plane here to me, but hurricane Harvey disrupted those plans and the carrier was trapped in her home in Houston where all the airports were closed. So Hope had to fly from Dallas in a crate underneath in the pressurized area in the belly of the plane. Needless to say, when she arrived she was traumatized and a very needy puppy for the first three days. All that crying and neediness made me question whether or not I had made the right decision. Here I was a caregiver again! I began asking the Lord to show me what lessons I needed to learn from this little puppy and here are a few things that I have learned from her.

TRUST – Hope completely trusts me. Whenever we are training together, she keeps her eyes focused on nothing but me. Her sole care in in my hands. Oh, how much I need to do this in my relationship with Christ! Trust is something that was shattered the day Bob went to heaven because I couldn’t possibly see how this could work out for good for me. As time has gone on, I am slowly rebuilding my trust in God.

LOVE – Hope’s greatest desire is to be with me and to spend time with me. My goal should be to have that same kind of relationship with God and I have found that in these last almost 8 years alone, my relationship has become a deeper one. I am much more aware of God in the little things every day. He’s the one I talk to all of the time and my love for Him has grown greater even in the midst of my grief.

PLEASE – Hope wants to please me. Her greatest joy is to hear me praise her and exuberantly tell her, “GOOD GIRL, Hope! GOOD GIRL!” She wags her little stub of a tail as hard as she can and joyfully wiggles her body all over in excitement. Does pleasing God bring me joy like that? It should certainly be something I strive for even though I know that because I am human, I can never totally and perfectly please God.

DISOBEDIENT – As we have gotten to know each other better and Hope has become more comfortable with me, there are times when she chooses not to listen to my commands. She definitely knows what I am asking of her because she is looking right at me when I am telling her what to do. She’ll even start to sit and then quickly gets up before sitting completely.  She is either slow to obey or will not obey.  How like me this is! I can’t understand God’s ways and think that I know better than He does what is best for me. I find myself many times rebelling in my heart against His plan for my life now because it is not what I would have chosen at all.

COMFORTER – Little 5 pound Hope has become a comforter to me. She senses when my grief is great and will lie right over my heart. To me this is a picture of my comforter the Holy Spirit who prays the words for me when all I can do is groan with the deep pain I feel in my heart when I am missing Bob so much. A good, hard cry releases that grief and gives me a sense of relief until the next time grief ambushes me.

IN THE MOMENT – Dogs live in the moment. Hope is not thinking about what happened yesterday or what might happen tomorrow. I have always been a person that goes back and rethinks what happened yesterday that disturbed me and what might happen tomorrow. Living in the moment is something that I have begun to work on. It’s hard to keep my mind on the here and now, but I am finding that it makes life so much easier and less stressful.

One big surprise that has happened since Hope came to live with me 3 months ago is that I am sleeping 6-7 hours straight through on a majority of my nights. One of the biggest problems most widows have to contend with is lack of sleep. I would sleep 2-3 hours and then wake up before going back to sleep again only to repeat that same scenario. That is not restful sleep and has affected me mentally, physically, and emotionally. I tried everything but medication. However, it wasn’t until Hope arrived that this problem has been very much helped. Now, that just doesn’t make any sense to me and I can’t really figure out why she has made the difference, but she has and I am so thankful.

I’m sure that there will be more lessons that God has to teach me through Hope. Meanwhile, I will continue to be thankful for her – even when her daily times of puppy craziness are over the top. As soon as she works that energy out and tucks herself up against me in quietness and stillness, I know she is good for me. Who knew that a puppy can teach a widow so many things!


Identity or Assignment?

“Being faithful to God doesn’t mean staying in one place, letting our feet get stale. It’s understanding we have different assignments during different times in our lives. Our identity doesn’t change, but our assignment does change. The moment I make my assignment my identity is the moment I get into trouble. We have to realize … Continue reading

The Treasure Box

It never ceases to amaze me the ways that God uses to speak very profound truths into my life. This month my sweet 16 year old autistic friend Brady stood with his mom and older brother at the graveside of his father. His mother wasn’t quite sure what his concept of death would be nor how he would react to it all.

Several nights before this Brady had prayed aloud with his family and his paternal grandparents telling the Lord how very sad they all were that his dad had died. This……from a child who came from a place where he could not speak. Over time and with much help from his mom and professionals, Brady has blossomed and developed into this sweet young man who not only speaks, but is able to express his emotions. His heart is BIG for others. His smile lights up a room. He “gets” things that others don’t “get”. A precious jewel God sent into this world to teach those around him so many unexpected truths.

As the casket was being lowered into the ground, Brady looked at his mom and said, “Is that the treasure box? Are they burying the treasure box?” Mom’s answer was “Yes“. When she shared that with me, an arrow immediately struck me in the heart. I knew there was a deep truth from God here. I began to mull over what Brady asked and this morning the answer came.

“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves.” II Corinthians 4:7

Earthen vessels were clay jars fashioned by skilled potters who would take a lump of clay, shape it, mold it, and bake it until it was hard. Those jars were then painted, glazed and decorated for whatever purpose the potter had planned for it. Many jars had sacred scrolls or valuable documents that were rolled up and hidden inside.

Our bodies are temporary housing places for the treasure of the light of the rich truth of the gospel that displays the glory of God. When our earthly body is laid inside the casket, that casket becomes the box that holds the vessel that housed that treasure. That casket becomes a Treasure Box holding our physical bodies that will one day be resurrected to become glorified bodies if we have accepted Christ as our personal Savior.

Never again will I look at a casket the same way. Hereafter I will call it a Treasure Box.

Thank you, Brady, for being exactly who God made you to be and for revealing a new truth to comfort my heart.

brady-brenda-taylor(Brady on the left looking down at his mom standing next to his big brother at the graveside of their dad)

The Castle of My Heart

“Let those who love the LORD hate evil, for He guards the lives of his faithful ones and delivers them from the hand of the wicked.” Psalm 97:10 NIV

One of the most heartbreaking things in the life of a widow is no longer being special, no longer belonging especially to someone, no longer being loved by someone in human form, and no longer having her spouse to guard and protect her. You may have family and friends in your life, but really and truly it’s just you and God now.

Have you ever given any thought about how God is guarding your life as a widow? Yesterday I began reading a new book entitled Guarded by Christ: Knowing the God Who Rescues and Keeps Us that just became available during this month. Author Heather Holleman struggled with depression and anxiety, but found that using mental word pictures to daily focus on the truths of scripture began to help her break down those strongholds in her life.

I am a visual person and as I began to think about what word picture would help me to most understand that God is guarding me, the picture of HighClere Castle, whose massive stone walls stand strong and erect out in the  countryside of Newbury, England, popped into my mind. Because that particular castle was used in the filming of the PBS series Downton Abbey, I knew that I could order an inexpensive replica of it to put on the window sill over my kitchen sink to serve as my daily reminder that I am in the castle where God is standing guard over me.

The location of my castle was especially important to me. Wide open spaces bring a feeling of peace. It’s a place where I can just breathe and feel the muscles in my body begin to relax. Jesus and I are strolling the grounds outside my magnificent castle as I pour out my heart to Him and share with Him all of my fears, concerns and deepest feelings. He quietly listens and then tells me how much He loves me and that I am His own. He puts His arms around me and points back to the protection of the castle walls assuring me that He’s got my back now.

“And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 2:6 NIV

Inside the castle I imagine myself seated with Jesus at a table for two. Flowers sit in the center of the table with their sweet aroma filling our intimate space. There are floor to ceiling windows that look out onto the outdoors flooding the room with warm sunlight that never ceases to uplift my spirits. During the fall and winter months a bright, cheery fire burns in a fireplace close to our table warming us as we sit together in close fellowship. The firelight lights up the gold gilded walls and painted frescoes on the ceiling. Love radiates from the face of my Jesus warming my heart. He reaches across the table and holds my hands letting me know that He’s got this widow life and will never ever leave me alone.

Early this morning as I began to come to consciousness the words and music to a song that my four daughters used to sing as children began to play in my mind. I haven’t thought of this song in years, but how relevant it is to my new word pictures as I meditate on being in the castle  with Jesus as He now guards my heart. Perhaps you will find that word pictures are helpful to you as a widow. When you think of some that are different than the ones I have shared here, please share them with us. How thankful I am that I am not doing widow life alone and that God’s got my back.

The Preciousness of Christ

Since the beginning of 2016 I have been taking a look back at my life as a widow in order to consider all that has transpired and to see what changes have been for my good. My focus has been especially on my spiritual life because I believe that looking back for that purpose is beneficial and needed.

During the first six to nine months of widowhood I was so numb that I literally did not care about anything. By saying that I am not saying that I felt suicidal, but that for the first time  I did not worry about how things were going to turn out. I did not worry if the two homes on thirteen acres of property were going to sell.  I did not worry about whether or not I was going to find another place of my own to live in a larger town closer to two of my daughters. I just did not care. I felt no guilt about not reading my Bible because my comprehension was not there. Praying was impossible because I had no words and felt like God was going to do whatever He wanted to do anyway. Listening to music was impossible because the familiar melodies and lyrics were way too painful.

After that time period passed and my numbness was gradually beginning to fade, I began to be concerned that God was disappointed in me. I had accepted Christ as my own personal Savior as a nine year old girl and had followed Him the best I knew how all of my life. I was the “good girl” that sat back and learned from other people’s mistakes. My tendencies to be a perfectionist and to do everything just right (my husband used to say that if someone asked me to jump I would ask them how high) was my idea of pleasing God and being the kind of Christ follower that He wanted. This period of just not caring, not reading my Bible and no longer praying must be wrong and I thought God had to be shaking His head and be upset with that kind of response to grief.

It wasn’t until I began working with a Christian psychologist that I learned that God not only made me the way that I am, but He knew what my response to grief was going to be. He knew how upset and disappointed I would be with Him for not stepping up and answering my prayers the way that I wanted them answered. He even understood that  anger that I felt towards Him. In fact, He was big enough to handle it. He was not shaking His head at me in consternation. He understood the great pain that I was feeling and even provided that period of numbness because it was more than I could possibly bear. Simply surviving was all that I could do.

Then came that second year when the reality set in that this really was my life now. My husband was not just away on a long trip. He truly was not coming back. A widow friend of mind described our third year as a time of trying to find out who we are. The fourth year is when we begin to focus on who God is to us now. I found that year five was a time of giving myself permission to lie beside those still waters and wait on God.

Now I am part way into my sixth year and am finding that my focus is on searching out the depth of the love of Christ for me as an individual. Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth is doing a Bible study by radio entitled “How to Fall in Love and Stay in Love with Jesus”. She asked some questions that really struck a chord in my heart:

“Do you ever stop and think as you go into that time with the Lord that He wants to see your face? He wants to hear your voice?

She goes on to say that there are seasons in our life circumstances in which we face mountains where we feel like there is no way possible to climb them much less overcome them. Those are seasons when “He (Christ) calls us to come away with Him into those circumstances and experience His supernatural power.”

It would be much easier for me this year to stay in that place lying beside the still waters and not put in the effort to search out the depths of Christ’s love for me. Yet, there is a deep desire to experience more of the love that my husband is experiencing in complete totality there in heaven. In order to know more about heaven and all that is going on up there, I have to get to know Christ better.

The main way that I am doing this is to really take notice of the blessings of each day and write them down. Now that sounds like a little thing, but I am finding that I am seeing more and more of God’s love for me personally. For instance, today the first thing I wrote down was warm/hot water in the shower to soothe me. That may not sound like much, but I experience tight aching muscles in my neck and shoulders because of lymes disease. A shower gives me moments where I can just say, “AHHH!!! Thank you, Jesus!”

One day last week I wrote down how God directed me to fill out a questionnaire for home and auto insurance quotes which, in turn, led me to call the developer of my housing community to help me answer a particular question. In the course of the conversation with him I received information on what to look for when seeking out an insurance company. My husband had always taken care of that kind of thing and I had no knowledge of the correct way to go about it. Unbeknownst to my developer, who named a particular insurance company’s change of pay-outs on certain claims (a company we were with for 25 years and one that I just continued on with as a widow), I found out that the urging in my spirit to get new quotes was for a reason. It is one of those “God things”. God has my back and He is the one that gave me that sense that a change might be needed. That’s His way of loving me as an individual. When I write down blessings like this, I am overwhelmed with God’s care for me and I weep. It feels good to know that God is my husband now and I am never ever alone.

There have been many changes in my life in the last six years and I have talked about those in other blog posts, but the biggest change has been spiritually. I have come from the point at the beginning of widowhood where I was totally crushed and disappointed with God to a point now of rebuilding a new personal relationship with Him. I do not mean that I lost my salvation for that can never be lost once you repent of your sins and accept Him as your personal Savior. My relationship has become deeper and much more personal. Instead of feeling like I am walking in a crowd of others, I am finding that I am picturing myself in a one-on-one conversations with Jesus. Sometimes that picture is of us sitting together in a quiet and peaceful place. Sometimes we are walking along together – just Jesus and me. Many times we are riding together in the front seat of my car because after all, I enjoy going for long drives several times a week. So, of course, He is riding along with me.

What about you? Can you as a widow say that Jesus has become more precious to you? Have you drawn closer to Him knowing that He is all that you have now or have you pushed Him away, turned your back on Him and run the other way to do things on your own and in your way? It would seem to be easier to run than to stay and do all the hard work that goes with facing your grief head on and walking through it. Yet, running away will eventually lead to a dead end where you hit a brick wall at break neck speed.

“Now to you who keep trusting, He is precious.” I Peter 2:7a  Complete Jewish Bible

The Mystery of Widowhood

“Though mystery shrouds the glory of our lives, it is there. Mystery must be mined, one shovelful at a time and with careful inspection of each collection. It is easy to overlook gold when your eye is not trained for the unpolished mineral. All that is gold does not glitter, not all those who wander are lost.
J.R.R. Tolkien/The Fellowship of the Ring

One of the hardest things that a widow wrestles with after the death of her husband is trying to discover who she is and finding her purpose as a single lady. Many of us found our joy and value in being a wife and when that “job” was ended, we find ourselves floundering. In reading Gary Barkalow’s book IT’S YOUR CALL: WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE it has come to my attention that we have something to give to this world that has to do with joy and intimacy with God and not a “job” evaluation.

I myself have tried and tried to figure out just what my life is all about now – what my purpose is as a single woman. In fact, I have looked for that purpose, theme, and direction so hard that I have allowed it to become a major stressor and narrow my range of being able to hear God.

The journey of widowhood is one that begins when we are thrown way down into the valley onto totally unknown trails. Barkalow writes, “I have heard said that the most spectacular vistas require traveling the roughest, most dangerous trails. And so it is with our lives—to reach the most beautiful, authentic, fulfilling places in life will require some risk. A life lived in fear is a life half-lived. We tend to look for a definitive activity, position, or place that we can call ‘God’s will’ for our lives. We want a precise, easily understandable answer to the question ‘What am I supposed to do with my life?’ But we are never offered that in Scripture. What Scripture does say is that God ‘will instruct you and teach you in the way that you should go’ (Psalm 32:8) and that He ‘is producing in you both the desire and the ability to do what pleases Him’ (Phil. 2:15 ISV). God’s calling on our lives is far more mysterious than methodological, and mystery is something we don’t handle well.

I cannot better explain the word “mystery” than the way that Barkalow describes it below:

“Mystery is something to be embraced, journeyed through, and enjoyed. It’s not that mystery can never be explained but rather that mystery unfolds—not all at once, but a little at a time. ‘Oh the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?’ (Rom. 11:33-34). God is not a little confused or in the dark. He knows what is going on, who you are, and why you are here at this time in His story. We must believe that God knows what He is after with us. In the midst of mystery it is helpful to remember that the best is perhaps what we understand least. There is more to you than you know. What is most glorious about you is yet to be fully revealed. Your life has a depth and purpose that cannot be revealed in a moment in time; it must be journeyed into with one discovery leading into the next.”

The question that immediately pops into my mind is why does there have to be mystery? Proverbs 25:2 answers that: “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings.” God doesn’t hide things from us so we can’t find them. He hides them knowing that it draws us closer to Him during the search. This is certainly true in the life of a widow who is consistent in her grief journey. Suddenly life becomes only you and God together. And when something that we are searching for is uncovered and found, there is joy in that discovery.

We are not to occasionally ask, seek, knock. Our life is to be one of continually asking, seeking, and knocking. We are to be explorers not tourists, archaeologist not museum visitors. Our life should be continual shouts of ‘I found another one!’ Not only does God want us to experience the excitement of discovering truths about our purpose and design, He wants us to stay in intimate conversation with Him. God knows that if He were to tell us everything we needed to know about our lives, assuming we could comprehend it, we would probably run off in desire and excitement to fulfill our purpose, without returning to the conversation. I believe God will give us enough clarity to keep us encouraged and moving, but He will also shroud enough of our purpose in mystery to keep us coming back for more intimate conversation. Mystery is an invitation to intimacy with God. Instead of wasting your energy fighting mystery, allow mystery to stir you and guide you to keep asking and seeking and knocking”, says Mr. Barkalow.

I cannot express to you how knowing that this mystery of widowhood is not to be found out all at once but a little at a time takes the load off of my trying to figure everything out. How about you?

When God Says No

This weekend the long awaited movie War Room made its appearance on screen in theaters everywhere. In anticipation of the arrival, I read the book that this movie was based on. There is no doubt that this beautiful story is one of the most inspiring ones that I have ever read and deeply touched my heart. And this post is not to dismiss the power of that movie, but to look at it in a different light.

What if you have been in your own war room praying for something so important agonizing for the answer that you want and God’s answer to your prayer is not “yes” but “no“?

This is where I found myself over six years ago. As my husband lay in a hospital bed in our living room, I would slip into our bedroom and get down on the floor where I would weep as I begged God to please heal his body. After a time in prayer, I would wipe away my tears, wash my face, and then continue to hold onto hope that I would get the answer that I so desired. But, it did not happen that way. In fact, when I finally came to the point where I was able to say, “Ok, God. I realize that there is nothing else that I can do to help Bob get better.  He is all yours now to heal” that God did heal him. Within an hour of my praying that prayer fully expecting that my husband’s full recovery here on this earth would begin, just the opposite happened. Yes, God healed him, but not in the way that I was praying. God gave Bob total and complete healing in heaven where he would never ever be sick again.

So, what now? Was all of that time that I spent in my own personal war room in vain? I am the type of person who will follow the rules. Bob used to say that if someone told me to jump, I would ask them “How high?” Had I done something wrong? Was the way that I had lived my life for God not good enough to warrant the answer to prayer that I was wanting? Had I not done everything that I could in order to allow his body to heal? Was my faith not great enough? Was his death my fault?

These are all questions that I had to process through over and over and over again for a very long time. Not getting the answer to my prayer that I wanted was a crushing blow to me as a person and to my faith in God. I’ll go a little further than that and say that for a time I was angry with God and felt ashamed for that anger because I did not want to displease Him. You can see what a vicious circle I was running around.

Finally, when God knew that I was ready, two different scriptures flashed like neon lights in front of me:

My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them. How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them!…” Psalm 139:15-16

“A person’s days are determined; you have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed.”  Job 14:5

Can you see what a blessing those scriptures were to me and how they took the burden of Bob’s death off my shoulders and let me off the hook?! I truly did do all that I could do for him. I was the best caretaker that I could have been. My love for him was enough. I was not in charge of the length of his days because God had determined that before Bob was ever born. There was nothing more that I could have done to keep him here with me on this earth.

My time in my own personal war room had not been wasted because it was a time that God worked on my heart to finally fully surrender my husband to Him. And, it’s been a time these last almost six years where I have walked through the fire of questioning my faith and my life of following God and found so many new truths in God’s Word that I never really saw before. It’s been and continues to be a time of real warfare for me as a widow and a Christ follower and I am still steady on the course of not throwing my hands up and turning my back on God.

So, whether or not your war room experience results in the answer to prayer that you want or not, I can testify that it will very powerfully change your life. What about you? What have you experienced as a result of time spent in your war room?


“All of our emotions are gifts from God to help us process everything we experience. Emotions are also a big part of what makes you amazing. They allow you to respond to life in deeply personal ways.”-Holly Gerth

Gideon was a man who was not afraid to question God. In Judges 6:12-13 God came to him and greeted him as a mighty warrior. God also told Gideon that He was with him. Gideon’s response sounds so much like what mine has been many times, “If the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us?” In fact, Gideon went even further than that and told God that He had abandoned him.

As you read on in Judges chapter 6 you can see that after God revealed His plan for Gideon, Gideon told God that he was weak and a nobody. This plan was a hard one that filled him with much fear, uncertainty and even disbelief. In other words, Gideon said, “You are asking too much of me, God. There’s no way I can do this! I want to keep my life the way it was.” How many times have you found yourself thinking or even saying, “I want my life back!”

As God’s plan unfolded and time went on, there was a point where Gideon became so exhausted that he did not think he could go on. When he asked for help from others, they turned their backs on him and refused to give him and his small band of 300 men what they needed most to strengthen them in their journey.

During that season of life when Gideon was taking one step at a time, not only did God understand all of the emotions that he was experiencing, but He did not hold those feelings of worthlessness, weakness, worry, anxiety and even panic against Gideon. God guided Gideon through that whole process when it looked like it was impossible to walk through it much less come through it unscathed.

I could not help but draw a parallel of all the emotions that Gideon experienced to all the emotions that I as a widow have experienced and continue to experience. And it encourages me that God is not holding them against me or throwing up His hands in utter disgust. He continues to walk alongside me moment by moment bringing stories like Gideon’s to mind in order to show me that He understands my human frailties. God uses Gideon’s life to show me that I do not have to be afraid to question Him and ask for His reassurances more than once after He has answered. The dialogue that took place between Gideon reassures me and gives me “a shot in the arm” to keep pushing steadily forward in my own hard season of life.

How about you? Have you felt guilty about your emotions and all the things that you are feeling? Do you feel like your emotions are displeasing to God? Is there someone past or present whose life has encouraged you to keep going?

Why Pray?

One of the many questions I have had for the last five years has been “Why pray?” For a very long time after the death of my husband I could not pray. During the last 3 months of Bob’s life I would take care of his needs as he lay in the hospital bed in our living room and then find times to quietly slip into our bedroom to fall on the floor on my face where I would go before the throne of God on our behalf begging God to heal Bob. I believed that God would answer my prayers favorably and that, in time, Bob would recover his health and strength. I even went so far as to tell God that His reputation was on the line because other people were watching to see if He would heal Bob or not.

When my prayers were not answered the way that I had prayed them, I was completely devastated. I felt betrayed. I felt that all the days of my life that I had lived for God and done all that I knew to do to please Him were of no value whatsoever. Honestly, I felt totally abandoned by God.

So, when I heard someone asking for prayer for this or that, my first thought was, “You might as well not pray because God will do whatever He wants to do.” When someone directly asked me to pray about something, I would never commit to that. I felt that would be wrong for me to say I was going to pray knowing that I was really not in a place where I could do that. I would say how sorry I was that they were going through whatever they were going through and then change the subject.

Months passed until I found myself suddenly and without thought praying, “Help me, God!” or “Thank you, Lord.”  I was able to pray “Thank you, Lord” because I saw all the ways He was taking care of me when I was not asking for His help. The “Help me, God!” came from a heart that knew I could not turn my back on Him and go through this without Him. You see, I still loved God even though I felt utterly crushed and rejected. My sorrowing spirit knew deep, deep inside that God had never left me.

As time has gone on, I have added more to my prayers and begun to make different requests. Yet, as soon as I utter those requests, the question “Why am I praying when God is just going to do whatever He wants to do?” immediately pops into my head and I feel a state of confusion going on inside me.

Every morning before I get out of bed to begin my day,  I listen to a section of the Old Testament, New Testament, Psalms and Proverbs read aloud by Brian Hardin on the Daily Audio Bible app that I have on my iPad. This morning’s New Testament reading was from a section of Mark 14 where Jesus has told his disciples that one of them was going to betray Him. He takes them with Him to Gethsemane and tells them to stay there while He goes a little further for a time of prayer. Peter, James and John join Jesus and go even further with Him before Jesus goes on a little distance away to be alone.

And He (Jesus) said to them, ‘My soul is deeply sorrowful unto death. Remain here and keep watch.’ He went a little farther and fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from Him.

He said, ‘Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Remove this cup from me; yet not what I will, but what You will.” Mark 14:34-36  Modern English Version

Countless times I have heard or read those words of Jesus’ prayer, but this morning those words meant something to me personally because they answered my question of “Why pray?” that has been going around and around in my head since my husband went to heaven.

Jesus was in that place of the deep sorrow of anticipatory grief that I was in – especially those last three months of Bob’s life – that place where I fell on the floor of our bedroom so many times and asked God to remove the cup of impending death that my husband was facing.

But, notice what Jesus said right after He asked God to remove the cup of death from Him – “….yet not what I will, but what You will.”

The thought to pray those words or anything that sounded like those words never entered my head all those times when I prayed because I was so focused on my will and what I wanted and thought was best for me and for Bob. In fact, those words did not find their way to my prayer until an hour or so before Bob went to heaven when I prayed, “Ok, God. I can’t do anything else for Bob. So, I give him to you now to heal.” It was not long after those words left my mouth that Bob received total and forever healing in heaven. That was definitely not what I had meant when I prayed those words.

This morning Jesus answered my question “Why pray?”…….”Why ask for something knowing that God will do what He wants to do?” Jesus Himself had a need and went directly to God with that need knowing that all things are possible with God. He knew what He wanted. He did not want to suffer that horrible death of crucifixion where all the sins of the world – my sins and your sins – where put on Him there on the cross.

But, Jesus wanted God’s will more than He wanted His own will. He fell on the ground with all of that grief and pain in His heart that was manifesting itself in his body physically and emotionally, asked God to remove the impending death on the cross from Him, and then gave up His own will for God’s will when He said those words, “.yet not what I will, but what You will.”

Why pray? Because Jesus Himself prayed and asked God for what He wanted. Yet, He did not end His prayer there. He added, “…yet not what I will, but what You will.” He gave up His own will for whatever God’s will would be.

That is the point that I have to come to whenever I pray. I have to be able to have the courage to make my request and then say, “…yet not what I will, but what You will.” Can I be vulnerable and say that just the thought of uttering those words brings tears to my eyes and a lot of pain? I still struggle accepting that God’s will is better for me than my will. Do I want to get to that place of full and total surrender to God? Yes, I do.

How about you? Have you wondered “Why pray? What’s the use because God will do whatever He wants to do?” Or, have you been able to completely surrender your will to God’s? Are you able to pray the prayer that never fails? “Thy will be done”

The Widow’s Living Fence

Earlier this week I watched the West Minster Kennel Club Dog Show and as I was looking at all of the breeds of dogs that were being shown, one particular dog in the herding division caught my eye. I don’t know about you, but when God speaks to me, He usually does it through something I hear, something I see, or something I read. This time it was through something that the Emcee of the show said about this particular dog. He said that the Beauceron is called “the living fence“.

Wikipedia says that the Beauceron is “used both to both guard and herd sheep and cattle. It was once very useful against wolves. The breed served in both world wars as messenger dog, supply transport dog, land mine detection dog, search dog, police dog and rescue dog. The Beauceron is known in France as a guard dog, a helper around the farm, and/or a ring sport dog (primarily protection training). This athletic, healthy and long-lived breed has been bred to be intelligent, calm, gentle, and fearless.”

The way that the Emcee described the Beauceron – the living fence – and all of the words that Wikipedia used to tell exactly what this dog does immediately made me think of what the Holy Spirit does in the lives of believers. Jesus told his disciples in John 14:16-18 that He was going to send the Holy Spirit/Comforter to be with them after He ascended into heaven. He promised that He would not leave us as orphans.

The Beauceron is a herd dog that works with sheep. Now anyone who knows anything about sheep knows that they are just simply not too smart, directionless, defenseless animals who require a shepherd. In Psalm 23, God compares humans and their natures to sheep. Isaiah 53:6 also calls humans sheep. The job of a shepherd is to meet every need of the sheep: food, water, rest, safety and direction. The Beauceron is a sheep herder or a shepherd if you will.

When a woman becomes a widow, she loses the earthly protection and shepherding of her husband. She suddenly feels very vulnerable and, in fact, can be abused by others who want to take advantage of her vulnerability. But, if she has accepted Christ as her personal Savior, she has her own “Beauceron” – the Holy Spirit – who is acting as her living fence or Shepherd walking up and down and all around the parameters of her heart and life guarding and protecting her, helping her, speaking messages to her heart from God, supplying for her every need, and searching for and making her aware of land mines in the life of a believer that can trip her up.

Amazing the things (in this case a dog) that God uses in my life to call attention to different truths! And how comforting it is to me to know that I have the Holy Spirit acting as a ” Beauceron/living fence” around my life doing all of these wonderful things to take care of me.