• DANCE IN THE RAINLife is not about waiting for the storm to pass; it's about learning to dance in the rain.- Vivian Greene

ebenezer board+

I’m discouraged. Again.

Lately it seems as though nothing is going as I planned. I wake up some mornings wondering how I got here. Is God really working in this mess I call my life?

I open the Bible to Psalms, my go-to book for lament. I am comforted by the psalmists willingness to put their pain before God, raw and unfiltered, and let Him handle it. I read Psalm 77, a Psalm of Asaph when he is desperate.

“I cry aloud to God, and he will hear me…My soul refuses to be comforted… Has God forgotten to be gracious? …Then I said, I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds…You are the God who works wonders … Your way was through the sea, your path through the great waters; yet your footprints were unseen.”

I ponder the last line, long and hard… “Yet your footprints were unseen.” Asaph is remembering a time when God guided the children of Israel though they couldn’t see Him. And yet, their deliverance was so miraculous, so extraordinary, so impossible that only God could have done it.

I need to remember my own stories. Unmistakable evidences of God. Times when the Lord has helped me.

The Bible calls them Ebenezers. Stones that remind us of God’s presence, His help, His faithfulness.

The Israelites frequently gathered these stones of remembrance, affirming their victory was the result of divine assistance, not human strength. Remembering the past gave them hope for the future.

I actually have an Ebenezer board. I made this board a month ago at the suggestion of a spiritual mentor. We were talking about spiritual markers. Pivotal moments. Encounters with God.

She gave me a basket of shells to use as my “stones of remembrance,” naming each one I found significant. I sat and prayed, asking God to remind me of specific times when I was changed by an encounter with Him. View full post »

  • March 14, 2014 - 7:52 am

    Brenda - As I lay awake at 3am this morning, the awareness of my deteriorating physical condition hitting my heart and my mind full force yet another day, in the middle of the night when things seem the darkest and the most hopeless, I knew what I had to do – again.

    Lord, I trust You.

    My body is not my own; my health is not my own; my life is not my own. I surrender again. Whatever brings You the most glory, Lord … … … is what I want. At whatever cost. Do with me what You will. Though He slay me, I will hope in Him.

    Lord, I trust You.

    And soon, I begin to know, once again, as sure as I know my body hurts all over and the day will be long and difficult and people will not understand, I know that God Most High, El Elyon, is on His throne and is managing and controlling all things – ALL things – for my good and for His glory. And I can begin another day – with Him. For Him.

    Lord, I trust You.ReplyCancel

    • March 16, 2014 - 6:43 pm

      Vaneetha - Brenda-

      Thank you for sharing your heart with us. How hard it is to trust in the midst of overwhelming pain. Thankful with you that our gracious Lord is working all things for our good and His glory… A truth I need to be reminded of daily.

      Blessings to you Brenda. Thank you for showing us what trust looks like.ReplyCancel

  • April 4, 2014 - 4:46 am

    georgia - Hi, Veneetha. I have just stumbled upon your blog because I decided to start reading the Desiring God blog and came across your most recent post there. I saw that you mentioned the Ebenezers in that post, as well. So when I read about your suffering and saw at the bottom of that post that you write on your own blog, I thought I would pop over to read more from you. So glad I did. I look forward to reading more, but I specifically wanted to read this one first, as the title caught my attention. As I read about how your were encouraged to recognize your Ebenezers by a mentor, I smile knowing I had the same exact admonishment from a spiritual mentor of mine. She had been counseling me through my last pregnancy {in 2013} in which I found out that the daughter I was carrying would likely die if she made it to and through birth. Sure enough, my daughter did pass. But, though such a painful experience, I also saw God’s goodness many times, and recognized his loving hand throughout our ordeal many times. She told me to keep a record of the Ebenezer fingerprints of God’s hand on my life. I even wrote a post about it on my own blog, where I write about the experience of the loss of our daughter…
    http://justhowiseethings.wordpress.com/2014/02/19/what-i-remember-before-i-forget/
    I my faith is heartened as I read your similar words and outlook through suffering. For me, it has definitely been an ebb and flow. I, too, appreciate that there are those in the Bible who lamented very openly about their suffering as you have pointed out. In fact, that same mentor who suggested I keep a record of Ebenezers has been daily writing to me with some reflection to help my perspective as she reads through the Psalms each day. And so much of what she says is what you have said here. {actually, your writing style reminds me a lot of hers… she is also a devotional writer/blogger like you.}

    Anyway, what you wrote at the end… about suffering and pain… reminds me of the C.S. Lewis quote about pain… “It is God’s megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”… or as you have put it {and Piper did in his last post on suffering}, a mercy. Loved your post on suffering over at Desiring God. Still very much grieving our loss, I hope to be able to come back to your post on my most difficult days and do those seven things you suggest.

    Will be subscribing to your blog, as I am sure I will continue to benefit from what you write here. Thank you for sharing what you learn through your suffering. I know this is one of the biggest things God wants to do with mine… to allow it to help others who suffer… something I could not have done as well or at all before I knew sorrow and suffering. Thank you for letting God use you that way.ReplyCancel

    • April 5, 2014 - 10:03 am

      Vaneetha - Your blog is beautiful! Thank you for sharing your journey and the story of your precious daughter. Loved reading about Ebenezers in your post. So thankful we worship a God who uses all our suffering for our good and His glory.ReplyCancel

  • July 21, 2014 - 4:03 pm

    Patricia Miller - Thank you so much, Vaneetha. Just really needing to hear some encouraging words today. Dealing with depression, feeling guilty for it. When the sun comes out, and I read more Psalms, and just pour my heart out to Jesus, will also help immensely.ReplyCancel

    • July 22, 2014 - 7:07 am

      Vaneetha - I know how difficult depression can be, Patricia. Praying that God will pour out His extravagant love and grace on you today.Thanks for writing.ReplyCancel

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forgiveness driving+

She asks me about forgiveness.

I look up into her tear-filled eyes and know she isn’t looking for canned advice. She wants real help, honesty, depth.

I shift uncomfortably in my chair. This is a hard topic to talk about without sounding preachy. I want to be sensitive and I’m not sure what to say.

Glancing over at me, she asks “So what was it like for you to forgive? Why did you do it? Was it hard? And was it worth it?”

My mind scans all of the offenses I’ve forgiven. They have ranged from small–not being invited to a friend’s party. To medium- dealing with an insensitive and critical relative during a painful struggle. To huge – burying my infant son due to a doctor’s careless mistake. Or losing the marriage that I thought would last a lifetime.

I know she is referring to a specific offense that I’ve had to forgive, that I’m still in the process of forgiving, but there is a commonality to all the offenses against me. They have all hurt. Some superficially, some deeply, some permanently.

I take the questions one by one, trying to be as transparent as I can.

Why did I forgive?

I begin slowly, choosing my words carefully.

“To be honest I didn’t want to forgive. I never do. But the Bible tells us to forgive if we want to be forgiven. And forgiving those who wrong us brings glory to God. It shows the world Jesus.

“But forgiving has also helped me. When I carry around anger and bitterness over what someone has done, it eats at me, and almost controls my life. It’s almost like the bitterness follows me everywhere.

“I hate to admit it, but I take a twisted pleasure in replaying the offense, getting mad, being the victim. I’m entitled to those feelings- small consolations in the face of the injustices I’ve endured. But I know this pleasure is really poison. Poison that I am pouring into a gaping, already painful wound. That poison makes the wound fester, so I’m worse off than I was at the start. I’m in more pain, while the person who hurt me doesn’t even know, or care.

“I have found forgiveness is like a balm. It lets me heal. Keeps the wound clean. Enables me to move on.”

She looks at me. “I guess that makes sense. But it seems impossible when I look at my situation. Forgiving is too hard.” View full post »

  • March 6, 2014 - 8:11 pm

    Cindy Barkhau - Thank you Vaneetha!!ReplyCancel

  • March 6, 2014 - 8:48 pm

    Maggie - Beautiful. It is so true and so hard to explain. You did a wonderful job at expressing how hard it is but so very rewarding.

    Love you!ReplyCancel

  • March 6, 2014 - 8:51 pm

    Jennifer - Great post! What freedom there is in Christ! Set free from the bondage of bitterness. Thanks for the reminder.ReplyCancel

  • March 6, 2014 - 10:33 pm

    Cherie - Vaneetha, God has gifted you with words of wisdom which I know come from knowing His Word. Thank you for expressing this so well and for helping me with an ongoing relationship in my life that requires that choice, vigilance, and work.ReplyCancel

  • March 6, 2014 - 10:36 pm

    Ann Dotson - You are so right…there is a twisted pleasure in hanging on to the wrongs done to us….but it doesn’t compare to the joy, peace and sweet surrender that comes with forgiveness. Thank you for articulating this subject so so well.ReplyCancel

  • July 29, 2014 - 10:59 am

    JD - “We are never as much like Christ when we are willing to suffer for the sins of others.” – Wow, I needed this encouragement today.
    As I deal with a marriage crisis, I feel bitterness springing forth. Where I thought I had forgiven, I am learning it can sometimes be a moment by moment choice I have to make. It truly is dying to self.
    Thank you for your words, they speak to me.ReplyCancel

    • July 29, 2014 - 4:21 pm

      Vaneetha - So glad this encouraged you. Forgiveness for me is an ongoing process…which always beings with dying to self. So hard, but so worth it.ReplyCancel

  • November 17, 2015 - 5:47 pm

    Kay G - Thank you for such an honest and transparent answer. I saw myself in so much of what you said. I have often wondered why those feelings of betrayal and hurt keep rearing their ugly head when I have tried to forgive. I feel like even though I have tried, I am back at square one with deep anger surging up from my toes when his name is mentioned or something just reminds me of so many memories that are now only hurtful. I just read your sustaining grace piece as well and between these two articles, I am going to make daily, moment by moment choices to forgive reminding myself to try to be like Christ and forgive those who don’t deserve it – me included!ReplyCancel

    • November 18, 2015 - 8:12 am

      Vaneetha - Forgiveness is definitely a moment by moment choice and not a once-and-done event. I’m always thankful for God’s grace in the middle of it!ReplyCancel

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joni+

Her earrings catch my attention.

They are hammered gold, with crinkled edges that flash brilliant. I am captivated. I’ve heard about these earrings.

They were once smooth and square, polished and perfect. She treasured them, an unexpected gift from a friend. But she inadvertently dropped one on her office floor, impaling it on her wheelchair tire, the crunching sound betraying the damage.

A jeweler told her that he couldn’t fix it. But he could make the smooth one match the other. It was a risk, but she decided to trust him.

In the back room she heard the sounds of hammering and grinding. Did he know what he was doing? But he returned with a matching second earring. Marred and mangled. But strangely magnificent.

I stare at these earrings. They are exquisite. From my vantage, they are not marred at all. Quite the opposite, they look like the work of a skilled craftsman. The hammering has produced something breathtaking.

The lesson is vivid. I don’t want to struggle, to take the hard road, to be bruised. I’d prefer an easy, smooth life. But it is the pounding that produces character, character that reflects light. As I see the twisted gold shimmering, I am amazed at the beauty from what has been battered. 

As we talk, my gaze shifts from her earrings to her hands. We’re having dinner and I’m watching her eat. This is not idle curiosity; I know with post-polio that my arms are failing and I too may struggle to feed myself. She frequently needs help and must be content with the way others help her. How they cut her food, what they put on her plate, when they can attend to her needs. View full post »

  • February 28, 2014 - 8:19 am

    vasanth - Inspiring blog Vaneetha. Thanks.
    It seems like “life happens” and unfortunately sometimes it is not what we would choose. But our response (with God’s help) can bring him glory, and make us a beautiful encouragement to another facing a similar situation. The deepening of our capacity for empathy and love and forgiveness is indeed the main benefit of our pain – and that does make for a richer life in the final analysis.ReplyCancel

  • February 28, 2014 - 8:32 am

    Kathy Van Til - “Strangely magnificent.” Yes.ReplyCancel

  • February 28, 2014 - 10:31 am

    Kristin Hill Taylor - Oh yes. This: Giving up my right to have something exactly as I want can be an act of worship. –> Yes, this is a reminder I hold close. I’m vising you from Emily’s link up; glad I linked up beside you. 🙂ReplyCancel

    • March 1, 2014 - 10:11 am

      Vaneetha - I keep reminding myself of that too, Kristin. Thanks for reading!ReplyCancel

  • March 3, 2014 - 10:51 am

    Val - What a touching story. Thank you for sharing you heart and for being so transparent!
    ValReplyCancel

  • August 5, 2014 - 1:55 pm

    These legs are made for walking | Even Rocks Cry Out - […]  I love this blogpost, “There are more important things in life than […]ReplyCancel

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terrapin+

photo courtesy of Jonathan Davidar

I enter the crowded room and cringe. I’ve made a mistake.

But it’s too late to run away.

So I take my seat at the front.  I’m a panelist in a Q & A session run by my former MBA program. As the oldest member of the panel by a decade, I feel senile. The crowd is young and trendy, eager to impress us with their insightful questions.

All I can think about is my out-of-style clothes. I wish had listened to my daughter’s parting comment and worn something more fashionable. Or at least not screaming middle age.

The moderator gives a beautiful presentation on the school and the program. Ignorant of the latest buzz words, I understand only half of what she is saying. But it sounds impressive. Besides, she’s immaculately dressed.

Afterwards, the participants have the opportunity to ask questions. Half the hands in the room shoot straight up. It’s going to be a long afternoon.

The first and most basic one: “What are all of you doing now?”

I am completely unprepared for this query. It’s unclear exactly what questions I am prepared to answer if this has stumped me. Apparently none. Obviously I hadn’t thought this whole panel thing through very well. They expected us to say something. Something intelligent. Or maybe insightful. At the very least, intelligible.

I’m in serious trouble. My clothes are the least of my worries now. I’m assuming “pass” is not an acceptable response to the first question. I’m wondering if I can fake an emergency phone call. I’m hoping I’ll never see these people again. View full post »

  • February 21, 2014 - 6:46 am

    Derek Riley - Most of us will not change the world, we are were not made too. I am to change and be a blessing to those around me. Thank you for your honesty.ReplyCancel

    • February 21, 2014 - 8:37 am

      Vaneetha - I agree, Derek. Only the Lord can change the world. Besides, I’m still working on myself! Thanks for writing.ReplyCancel

  • February 21, 2014 - 8:59 am

    Renuka - I do not know about changing the “world”…but you have certainly had a tremedous impact on my life… in more ways that you will EVER know!ReplyCancel

  • February 21, 2014 - 9:41 am

    RuthAnn - Was waiting for this post! LOL!
    Reminds me of one of my favorite Pooh quotes….”“It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn’t use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like “What about lunch?”ReplyCancel

  • February 22, 2014 - 5:25 am

    Yavette - Thank you so much for God’s truth in this post and the wonderful comic relief that had me laughing too early in this morning. A great way to start a day: With the LORD and laughter!ReplyCancel

  • February 22, 2014 - 6:50 pm

    Anne Mercer - Vaneetha, you are precious. I have sent your blog to several of my close friends and also to my niece. I gave them a brief history of you and told them how much we Mercers love you. You are showing the Lord to many people who don’t know him well. Keep writing !

    Blessings !!!!
    AnnieReplyCancel

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