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Category Archives: The Healing Cloak of Jesus

Take It to the Healer

Take It to the HealerWe drove to the Deep South for post-Christmas fun with my husband’s sisters, their families, and his Dad. As I looked out over the Alabama fields, I told God:

“My heart hurts. What healing do You have for me here?”

I believe He always wants to heal our wounds. It’s part of what He went to the cross for.

You know what? I found His hugs, warmth, and love in watching young cousins have light-saber battles and in playing rowdy games of “Nuts” with my nephew and nieces. I watched each God-given personality interact and shine. I saw their faces as once-babies now in mostly/almost adult form.

And I thought of this verse:

Psalm 27:13, KJV, King David speaking

I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.

We must see God’s goodness in everything He gives us because death, disease, addictions, injuries, and sin are thieves we can become embittered hating if we don’t focus on the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. At times, it’s a minute-by-minute choice, or else we’d lose our minds and hearts to deep grief, shame, or disillusionment.

Sometimes, seeing His goodness is so hard for us because of our incredible pain. He knows this, so we can ask Him to help us. We absolutely should.

John 15:7, ESV, Jesus speaking

If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

Our family of five, along with two rather compliant Shih Tzus, began our road trip back from Alabama and traveled as far as Knoxville, Tennessee, when the text came in that my 26 year old cousin Read the rest of this entry »

 

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The Last Goodbye

The Last GoodbyeEspressos of Faith is excited to have Tammie Wommack back in our continued series on “Stories of Hope, Healing, and Courage.” Tammie has joined us several times to share her journey from the incredible pain of losing her son Joshua to finding moments of hope, healing, and even joy again.

What I love about my friend Tammie is that she is not afraid to be raw and real. She wants to take parents who have lost a child through the real phases of healing, letting them know that their experiences/feelings are normal, they aren’t alone, and peace can be found despite the ongoing ache left when a child is no longer here. I have been on the other end of this—the desperation of depression—and because her story ran parallel to my own and I knew her when her loss was new and raw and I was lost and broken, I believe she can truly minister to those left behind grieving with her beautiful words of encouragement. Our stories coincided in 2008 in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and through God’s grace and despite moving away to different locations, we are still heart-connected.

Please share this with anyone you know who needs her words as a soothing balm, and feel free to leave a comment for Tammie. She would love to connect with you. She is making a deliberate choice to live in intentional ministry. Please feel free to reference her other articles at the end of this blog as well as the resources (suicide hotline) listed there.

And now, here’s Tammie…. Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Hallway Smiles, Healed Hearts, and a Love That Always Covers

Do You Know the Love That Covers
I watched my young son walk by her on his way toward me at dismissal time. She waved a tiny wave at him, and he waved sheepishly back, giving a quick smile.

It had been a year since she was his teacher. They were both broken in their own ways that particular year. Nobody could have predicted it. Seeing them tentatively offer each other a quiet reassurance this week taught me something so profound. I’m not sure I’ll ever forget that scene: The one where my son had a stockpile of grace from somewhere deep within. The one where he got in the car and told me, when I asked: “I made sure to smile so she knew I was smiling at her.”

What? Oh, dear Jesus, please tell me. I want to know where that supply of grace is. Little Man seemed to tap right into it and out of the overflow, he worried about the feelings of someone who shared a sad year with him—someone who was just as stuck as he was that year. Don’t we all have moments, seasons, years like that?

Because I feel so protective of our beautiful school community and the teachers and other staff within those walls, the details of their sad year don’t really need to be told here. Suffice it to say that sadness was matched with unrelated sadness, and it made it hard for Little Man to climb out of his own lack of functioning and depression.

My mama heart was all over the map that year because Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Dear Anxiety: You Don’t Get to Win

Dear Anxiety-You Don't Get to WinThis piece is deeply personal. More than usual. It opens a window into a vulnerable moment and struggle in our lives. But I felt God calling me out of deep depression years ago to tell my stories openly—protectively, but openly. To make sure others know they are not alone in their struggles and to show them the hope that is ever before them if they can just outstretch a hand and a heart. Belief and trust start out tiny. They are a walk and a dance with Christ that are lifelong.

Perhaps you don’t believe in Christ and want to just know what I have to say about anxiety. I welcome you here, but please know my faith informs what I have to say because once I started my relationship with Christ, I never wanted to leave His beautiful heartbeat. It brings me comfort on the darkest of nights.

We believe for better days in our house. We’ve already come so far. But if it weren’t for the journey we’re on watching God’s hand move in different ways, I’d feel so alone, so defeated, so hopeless and helpless. Maybe you’ve been there—or are there—too. Let me pray for you right now.

“Almighty Father in Heaven: You care so deeply to reach into our broken world and war-torn hearts to bring peace, love, hope, and even joy. Show us Your mighty hand! Help us to spread a few fingers toward You in trust, surrendering what we don’t understand, can’t figure out, and feel overwhelmed by, and let us walk in peace with You wherever we are. Let us walk as Your daughters and sons, truly knowing You. Flood us with Your eternal peace, and teach us the liberty of the captives. Set us free, Oh, God! Amen.”

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Read the rest of this entry »

 

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When God Tucks Us In

HisGreatRest

Recently, I have been visiting my parents for a few days at a time in Amish Country. I wasn’t raised here. They moved here a few years ago. But I remember the days when Chester County, Pennsylvania, was similar in landscape: rolling hills of undisturbed cornfields and cows. My life in Boston is much more densely populated and busy. Horses and buggies are a welcomed sight after highways of minivans, Mercedes, and Land Rovers.

I have to admit: This started out as an idea of taking each child on a fun road trip, one at a time, to get some quality time with their grandparents, to make individual memories. But it also metamorphosed into more selfish reasons: Coming here is like a retreat, a respite. I could hole up here for weeks reading, writing, and conducting small amounts of business from an Adirondack chair facing farmland and Amish laundry hanging straight on a line. Peace and rest. Order. Clean air. Quiet countryside.

As I was trying to snuggle under some incredibly warm and enduring afghans from my childhood on my parents’ couch, my father came over and asked if I would like to be tucked in. He had seen that the afghans were slipping from the smooth leather couch onto the floor, and I clearly was in need of being wrapped like a bed burrito. He was happy to oblige.

Backing up a bit, Dad is recovering from bladder cancer. I guess a more accurate way of putting it is that he is recovering from bladder removal. Cancer has become his frequent, persistent, and most nagging companion over the course of 34 years. So not only is my recovering father tucking me in with his bladder bag saddled to the side, but he was caring for me, the one with fewer years and better health.

And it is a picture I simply cannot get out of my head.

Why?

Because God tucks us in that way. God is a Father Who loves this way. God offers protection under His wings, rest for our souls.

I’m 42, and my earthly father can still wrap me to sleep on the couch.

I’m 42, and I still desperately need my heavenly Father to wrap me in His shadow and under His wings.

I will never grow out of that need.

Neither will you.

And I love it.

The key is that we must remember that we are welcomed to be that child nestled under our Father’s strong arms and wings of protection. He loves having us there.

Mom actually made those afghans many years ago. In her own way, with those afghans, she comforted feverish children, covered chilly knees and feet on cold winter nights, brought warmth to a 44 year old man convalescing from radiation in 1981, kept the chill off the 95 year old matriarch of the family as she watched Lawrence Welk.

That afghan is family history from start to finish. It spans time and memories. It warms the soul and invites those needing the deepest of rest.

Like God, it knows our history and covers us in spite of it—when we trust Him and in Him.

Doesn’t that sound so inviting? So nourishing?

The verses that follow show the Truth of what God offers us, and it’s so much more than an aging, cozy afghan on a slippery couch.

It is ours just for crying out and being willing to submit to a Father in heaven Who wants to be our Loving Parent in the most significant and hope-filled of ways: forever.

May 2015 be the year these verses settle deeply into your hearts and minds—that you know how deep and wide and enduring the Father’s love is for you, and that you daily cry out for Him to tuck you into those promises when you come with the heart of a

trusting,

open,

eager

child.

Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus speaking, ESV
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Psalm 91:1-4, author unknown, possible Moses, ESV
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”
For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.

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Dad’s story and tales of treks to Amish Country can also be found in “Waiting for the Telephone Call” and “Cows, Cornfields, and a Father Who Cares for It All.”

More stories of how tender a relationship God offers us through His Son Jesus can be found in the recently published Not Just on Sundays: Seeking God’s Purpose in Each New Day.

This blog has been shared at Christian Mommy Blogger and Pick Your Pin Tuesday.

 

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Journey to Joy: How Giving Back Brings Hope and Healing to Hurting Hearts

Journey to Joy-How Giving Back Brings Hope and HealingI am so thrilled to be able to share another part of Rick and Tammie Wommack’s story here at Espressos of Faith. I know these dear friends from my time spent in the Marshall Islands, a time when their world shattered into unbearable heartache. For anyone knowing or currently mourning tragic loss of any kind, this blog is for you. It’s also for others to understand the journey the heart takes in these hard circumstances—and the hope and healing that come through giving back. Thank you, Tammie, for being vulnerable so that others know where to get their bearing again and what life looks like on the other side, each day offering a choice as to how we will let ourselves be used for good. Tammie’s honesty and humility are so refreshing. What she offers us here brings my heart to this exact place, and I can’t wait to bring yours there too, if you’re willing to give it a read:

Psalm 27:3, King David speaking, NKJV 
I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD In the land of the living.

[After losing their son to suicide, Tammie and Rick made a choice to forfeit regular income and steady jobs to travel around the country volunteering. For Part 1 of this story, please refer to “Honoring Josh: A Mother’s Heart in the Aftermath of Suicide.”] 

Blessings!
Bonnie Lyn Smith, author of Not Just on Sundays

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Here’s Tammie….

The Interview

HOPE through FAITH and SERVICE to Others

Most of us travel through life just trying to get through it, not really realizing how what we do impacts others. We would like to think we are kind, generous, trusting, and all the things the Bible tells us a good and godly person should be.

The reality is we are busy: with work, families, finances, commitments, appointments, shopping, daily chores, and so many things on our to-do list that we are too tired to even think about how our actions, words, and deeds might be affecting others. I am confident that if you really contemplated this question and took the time to think about it, as I did this morning, you would find that most all of us impact others in our daily lives, no matter how busy they seem.

The questions then become:

Are we impacting them in a positive or negative way? 

Are we showing them an example of Christian love?

Can they see Jesus in us?

The other day while we were traveling through Iowa, I received a phone call from someone who wanted to write an article about Rick and me. They wanted to know how we got started on our Volunteer Journey: how we find volunteer jobs, what motivated us to choose this lifestyle, how we fund what we do, etc. Most of all they wanted cute, heartwarming stories about the people we helped—something that would really tug at the heartstrings of the readers.

I didn’t have any of those—heartstring stories to share. We do not really see the impact of what we do, but we know it does not diminish the importance to us on our journey.

This morning, as I was doing my devotional, I thought about her questions and my response (I’ll share my response later). I still couldn’t really think of any heartstring-tugging moments that are a result of what Rick and I do. Most of what we do is rarely even seen by other people.

It does, however, have a impact on us. And that is the real story.

We are healing and growing in Christ, learning every day to be more like Jesus and to help others just as Jesus would if He were living an everyday, “normal” life.

We are simply living a lifestyle that allows us to find joy again—a joy that we thought would never be ours.

In our hearts, we believe that we are saving lives when we teach water safety to young children.

We are keeping God’s house clean and getting it ready for visitors when we are working at the campground.

We enjoy doing all the little, behind-the-scenes details that have to be taken care of so that ministers and counselors can share the Word of God and lead children and adults to Christ.

So many of our volunteer jobs are just that: jobs. But in the work, we find hope and healing, God’s grace, and, yes, joy. We find joy in everyday living and in the wonderful people we meet, in the places we visit, and in the personal and quiet knowledge that what we are doing makes a difference and is part of God’s path for us.

By societal standards, we are not successful: We live in a camper, drive a very old truck, own few possessions, have very little money, and, yet, we find ourselves happier than we can ever remember being. We are rich in the knowledge that we are saved by grace and are following God’s plan for our lives. Through this grace, we have found:

Hope
Love
Forgiveness
Healing
Joy

So my response to the interviewer that day was more or less:

“This is not that kind of story. We are not outstanding people on a mission to help others. We are not looking for praise for all the wonderful things we are doing. We are certainly not missionaries.

It is not a story about the people we have helped. It is a story about how giving back has helped us.

We are simply ordinary people who have suffered a tragic loss and found healing through giving back. The story is really just that simple! We did not start out feeling that God had called us to go forth and help others. Our journey is one of evolution; we started out just running away from home and memories, not really sure what we were seeking but still very much stuck in our grieving. We finally realized (not both at the same time) what we were doing each time we were volunteering was actually helping us to move forward through our grief in to a life filled with purpose and hope. We began to heal and find joy again. It was not overnight; rather, it was a gradual process. We are still traveling that journey but believe that if we have any kind of story to tell, it is one of hope through Jesus Christ and healing through giving back.”

2 Samuel 22:29, author unknown, ESV
For you are my lamp, O LORD, and my God lightens my darkness.

I suspect that our story was not what she was looking for, although she did say she would send it to her editor. We are not looking for the spotlight to shine on us.

Isaiah 66:2, Isaiah the Prophet speaking, ESV
All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the LORD. But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.

The only story we have is how this journey has helped us and, in turn, has helped others. That is what we hope to share and what we would like to spotlight for other parents and family members who are lost in the grieving process. Hope through faith and service to others will help you heal and find your joy in life again.

1 Timothy 4:10, Apostle Paul speaking, ESV
For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.

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A great resource for suicide prevention is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

To find out more about Tammie and Rick, you can read part of their story at http://www.gofundme.com/Giving-Back-For-Joshua.

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Five-Pounder in the NICU: God’s Plans Partially Revealed

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There’s a small section in my book, Not Just on Sundays, where I talk about how God loves making weakness strong. It is based on this verse:

2 Corinthians 12:9-10, Apostle Paul speaking, ESV

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

This verse always takes me back to the first few weeks with my newborn Chickie more than a decade ago when we were living far from family (we always are), residing in student housing at Stanford University, and counting each dollar as we went through the checkout line, sometimes turning some food away and not putting it into our carts. We had gone from a military income and housing to poor* students again. I had entirely stopped working, and Salad Boy (my affectionate name for the hubby) was trying to hammer out the Ph.D. Needless to say, with an almost-three year old and one just having arrived, there wasn’t a lot of margin or wiggle room in our lives.

Just about everything was stress-infused and tight. The one thing that brought sweet relief every week was the prayer group we ran out of our home for graduate students on a Wednesday night through InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. I would put my toddler to bed, and we would listen to concerns and seek God together for at least an hour every week. I loved (at the time) to decorate, and I would often make a yummy treat, but mostly our gathering was to nourish our souls. Sweet, sweet times were had as we looked up together, not knowing when and where answers would come, but we knew this:

They would come. He listens. Always.

So, at that time, my daughter’s birth was mostly uneventful. Like all of my other kids, she was early-ish but not premature. She came at 38 weeks. The only part that more or less stunned us at the time was the fact that after I birthed Mr. Nine Pound Four Ounces in 2000, she came out, same gestation time: five pounds, two ounces.

The usual jaundice issues kept her there longer than our stay should have been. I became good at pumping milk and visiting her, aiming to have at least half her day’s nourishment be breastmilk. It was hard to let that go, but there was a toddler at home also needing my time and attention.

Soon after she was released, we began the almost-daily process of taking her to have her bilirubin checked, which meant pricking her heel. This is what led to the return to the hospital, where a small part of hell broke loose in our lives and hearts.

While my in-laws were visiting us in our campus housing when Chickie was just over a week old, my mother-in-law noticed the baby’s rise in temperature. I wasn’t overly concerned at first until it spiked a bit more. I was already a bit stressed by the constant pressure to get this baby’s weight from five pounds (dipping at one point to four pounds, twelve ounces) to a less-premie weight. We certainly could have had it worse. I know babies born significantly earlier and smaller who survived amazing odds. I wasn’t worried about her being healthy, or in survival mode—not initially—but I was worried where development might be slow with such a tiny start. We all wondered how the doctor could keep telling us, prenatally, that she was at least 7 pounds. And we all were concerned at what point the placenta stopped doing its job. I was so grateful she didn’t try to wait a few more weeks to arrive.

Getting back to that night. We gathered up, Salad Boy and I, and took her to the ER. I think my mother-in-law was there at some point as well, or maybe she went the next day. Either way, the response was serious, and before I knew what was going on, they were talking about infection—not sure of which antibiotics to rush into her—and a spinal tap.

Dear God, Where ARE You?

It became clear, they needed to make sure there wasn’t something worse going on, so the spinal tap was performed, and next thing I know, my baby girl had a central line put into the side of her shaved head. Within a few days, the infection was determined to be Staphylococcus aureus. It took almost a week, but they ruled out the infection traveling into or affecting any organs. I don’t even know if I’m medically describing this well. My sister is the medical professional. I’m just bumbling along describing the journey the best that I can.

During that time a few things were true:

People were praying.

God sent so many people to tell us they were praying for us….people we didn’t even know had a shred of faith. It was incredible.

People were showing up.

Besides my in-laws extending their stay, my other set of in-laws volunteered to come as well. A sweet friend of the family flew out quickly to take care of my son while I tried to spend almost all waking hours with my baby in the hospital, sometimes sleeping overnight in a cold feeding/family room. Other people offered to come out, but it was okay and not necessary beyond a certain point. Their sincerity meant a lot to us. One of my (to this day) dearest friends came into the NICU with me while I fed and held my tiny fighter. That memory has etched itself forever in my treasure chest of her loving Chickie and me as the arms and feet of Jesus.

–My tiny nugget (which is what we called her at the time) screamed her little head off while she fought for her life. I mean: She SCREAMED!

We would be two floors down at the complete opposite end of the hospital, Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford, but when we approached the elevators, Little Girlfriend could be heard protesting vigorously. I remember her being the tiniest in the NICU at that particular time, but all of the nurses remarked how incredibly loud she was! (She also had brown hair with blonde-tipped highlights, as if she had stopped, in the middle of all of this, to get her hair done. That was almost prophetic as she cares a lot about hairstyle and style in general all these years later.)

God used every single second of that time—none of it wasted.

I could go on and on, but that’s not what this particular blog is about. As one example, my almost-three year old had a savant-like map ability. He directed the friend of the family who stayed with him in Tiny Kid Voice how to get to places on campus and in the surrounding community. Thank You, God, I took the time out to answer all of those monotonous, intense questions while we would be out driving. What if I hadn’t?

All five pounds of the nugget version of Chickie fought and screamed her way back to health. There were years of hoping for better growth, ruling out scary chromosomal disorder possibilities, and waiting to see if anything slowed her down. She was a peanut for a very long time. My oldest still reminds her of her nugget days.

What has remained consistent is not only that she is the healthiest person in my house since all of this happened, but she continues to have a warrior spirit. God gave it to her—so I hesitate to mess with it, except to offer disciplinary correction and to soften it with grace. But Chickie wages her personal wars quietly, with grace, but with strong conviction about justice. I have no idea how God will take a penchant for fashion and mix it with the loud and big heart Chickie has. She is ridiculously quiet around adults and some others, but as one Sunday School teacher once said: “She is like a stealth bomber. You don’t know what’s there until it’s suddenly upon you.” It was said with love.

Her story isn’t finished being written yet. I have no idea what God will do. I also still have to redirect her sometimes. She still has some growing and maturing to do. But, what I do know is:

God took this tiny, weak, very sick little nugget, and He gave her a voice…one that survives, endures, and hopefully is used for Him someday, somehow. He loves to bring strength out of weakness

We all have stories like this one. I have plenty for my other kids as well. Where can you trust Him more today for making the impossible possible? He wants to wow and delight you, to bring the miraculous and His purposes to the ordinary. We just have to ask and invite Him into our lives.

Why settle for just “getting by” when we can be part of an amazing journey with the Father?

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*I use the term “poor” very relatively and loosely, as our economic situation even at that time did not compare to much of the world.

 

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