Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Spatula Thief Strikes Again! Merry Christmas Kids!

Two years ago, my daughter wanted a detective-themed party for her birthday. She had gone to a party when she was 10, where the girls had to drive all over town to solve clues. She wanted her cake to be stolen, and for the girls to have to find it. I wasn't sure how I was going to compete with the great pajama caper, but slowly the idea emerged, and, thanks to a little clip-art guy I found...the Spatula Thief was born.

The girls' moms all took pictures of spatulas with cake crumbs or flour at their houses, and we included a few recognizable places around town too. The girls had to examine the pictures to figure out where the next clue was--and were very surprised that their moms had all been in on the mystery!

Occasionally, the spatula thief shows up again, but this time he is teaming up with another family nemesis: Chunky the Squirrel!

One Easter, the kids didn't find all of the eggs hidden was missing. The squirrels in our neighborhood are very aggressive. I've seen one with a whole green tomato in his mouth. And they dug up all of our daffodils, even though squirrels are supposed to leave them alone (and only go after tulips. Our squirrels didn't get that memo.) They constantly dig up our annuals as well. So, we're pretty sure that opening a plastic egg is within their capability, especially Chunky's. (Obviously, he's been eating the kids' chocolate.)

Chunky is blamed for all sorts of misdeeds, and this year, he and the Spatula Thief are after the kids' presents too! He left clues throughout the Night Before Christmas poem for them to solve.

"Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a ___________. 
(well, except the Spatula Thief, who, I’m afraid to tell you, has hidden a few of your presents…)"

I was pretty surprised to actually find squirrel spatulas online!

The kids solved all the clues and then opened the rest of their presents...and now, they're all snuggled in their beds again!

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 21, 2013


I was thinking today, how hard it would be to entrust a baby, a son, forever into the care of another. On one level, it seems so crazy. We think of the peacefulness of sending Christ into the World...Silent Night, the shining star, gifts from wise men, shepherds adoring...But God sent the Babe to a world of political strife and vicious power struggles...a world where a crazed ruler would even slay innocent babies trying to prevent a king from being raised up. To men who would condemn and kill him, rather than welcome and accept him.

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
--John 1:12-13 
More than entrusting a babe to this world...his Spirit fills our hearts. Just as crazy. Just as wondrous. May we contemplate him, and be full of thanks this Christmas.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Stop...and pray

Walking through my favorite nature preserve one day, I noticed...there were branches down over the path everywhere. Some small and easy to navigate...some much harder to cross. Here's one of my favorite spots:

Anna looks so small sitting on top! She wanted to walk the tree like a bridge over the creek! I talked her out of it.

It's hard to tell here, but it completely blocks the path--you either have to do the limbo under it (in ways that my back no longer bends!), crawl over, or walk around the roots.

This particular day, the sun made the grass glow on the other side, a sign of life and hope and growth beyond the dead and brittle branches. A reminder to stop and pray along the way. To set our minds on things above...and  not the things of earth that fill our time and block our path.

Even on the other side, I have to look back, as even now I look back at how God has worked in our lives, and how he walks with us through good times and hard. Sometimes I turn back about 20 feet later, and this massive obstacle seems so small in retrospect. The troubles that fill our lives now will one day look the same, will fade into the background and pale compared to God's glory. For now, these things are reminders to stop and pray, and look to him.

"Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.  For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory."
 - Colossians 3:1-4 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Heart-wounds and compassion

Loved today's Grace Gem (especially since our women's study is going through Colossians--see verse at the end!): 

 "Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble." 1 Peter 3:8 
 We should learn to look at the blemishes and faults of others--only through the eyes of love, with sympathy, patience, and compassion. We do not know the secret history of the lives of others around us. We do not know what piercing sorrows have produced the scars we see in people's lives. We do not know the pains and trials which make life hard, to many with whom we are tempted to be impatient. If we knew all the secret burdens and the heart-wounds which many keep hidden beneath their smiling faces--we would be patient and gentle with all people. 
 "Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience." Colossians 3:12

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Colossians: Riches, Mystery, and Our Union with Christ

I haven't written or posted as I would have liked these last few months (been dealing with my own health issues that have limited my computer time, unfortunately!). So, I apologize for that. Hoping to be better soon!

Lately I've been thinking that life is disappointing. I see what could be, what I want...and it just isn't that way. Sometimes I think heaven sounds great because it will mean the absence of all the things we dislike in this life! And then I think...what a sad, shallow view of heaven. I would be content with so little! (My grandpa used to say that we use less than 10% of our brains...I think I'm definitely using less than 10% of my imagination here!)

Do we devalue God? Do we fall far short of understanding even a tenth of Christ's glory?

As I've been preparing for a Bible study in Colossians (such a meaty, wonderful book!), the theme of riches, fullness, completeness comes up over and over. And juxtaposed against these treasures are the "hollow and deceptive philosophies" that this world offers us. Paul was so concerned about these counterfeit treasures that he struggled even from prison in prayer, in conversation with believers who could visit them, in writing--to share the incredible riches and treasures that we have in Christ. The crowning verse, of course, is "Christ in you, the hope of glory."

Someone so holy, righteous, supreme...has chosen an intimate relationship in being made one with us. Christ IN you.  A relationship compared to the vine and the branches--our very life and sustenance comes from him. To a house--he our foundation. To a body--Christ our head. We can live without a finger or toe, or even without an arm or leg if we must, though it affects all other members of our body...but we can't live without a head. To a marriage--two become one. What a mystery. What riches. Do we contemplate and search out this mystery? Do we dig for buried treasure?

I started looking in Colossians...what are these riches he keeps talking about? As God began to open my eyes, I realized how much we belittle the treasure!
1:2 Grace. Peace. union--"in Christ."
1:4 faith. love for the saints
1:5 hope stored up in heaven. The word of truth. The Gospel
1:10-12--he enables us to live lives worthy of the Lord! He strengthens, he fills us with knowledge of him, he is the vine that lets us bear fruit, he qualifies us for inheritance in his kingdom!

Imagine an earthly king who suddenly decided not to just give out gifts and be generous--but to allow multitudes of people become heirs, to share in his kingdom, his treasures, his glory? Unheard of! And God, so far above us...makes us children and heirs.  A vast mystery. An incredible treasure. Riches we underestimate.

1:13 rescued, bought
1:14 redemption, forgiveness
1:20 reconciliation to the Father, peace through Christ's blood
1:21 no longer alienated from God, no longer enemies
1:22 presented holy, without blemish, free from accusation. Hope in the Gospel
1:24-25 the word of God in it's fullness, saints like Paul who are messengers
1:26 the mystery revealed
1:27 glorious riches, Christ in you, the hope of glory!
1:28 we become perfect in Christ.

I could go on. Almost every verse in this book contains some richness, some meaty morsel that feeds our souls, some treasure that lifts us up. Read through a chapter each day for a week and ask God to open your eyes to the bountiful treasures he offers.

Friday, November 1, 2013

"Highly Recommended:" Invisible Illness, Visible God

I was so encouraged by this new review on Amazon, "Highly Recommended."
Stephanie writes:

Merry's life, and that of her husband Dave, has been greatly impacted by his journey with chronic Lyme disease. The result of that struggle and heartache is a deep understanding and profound insight into where our true worth lies and the nature of our relationship with God. As someone going through her own journey with chronic illness, I have found great encouragement in each day's reading. 

Praying many will come to an understanding of their true worth in Christ.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Perfection...or Joy?

I heard someone ask recently how we can be joyful when we keep messing up, when we keep sinning...when we struggle with perfectionism.

What an astute question!

Does joy depend on our ability to do things perfectly?  And if we could do that...would it truly give us joy?

Why do we make perfection a goal?  I can't speak for others, but in myself, I think one root is pride. Sometimes I don't even realize perfection is a goal of mine, until I experience that disappointment of sin or failure again. Then I see that expectation I had to be perfect. 

Another root is self-reliance. As a young Christian, I can remember thinking that one day I wouldn't mess up so much--maybe not even at all.  Although I can recognize the error in my thoughts now, I didn't see it then--but what I was really thinking was that one day I really wouldn't need Jesus. It sounds ludicrous to say such a thing! But that was the logical end of my train of thought.

I think part of the problem is that we don't fully embrace what we have in Christ. I used to come to the Lord's table with shame and guilt...I messed up again...repent, decide to do better.  I didn't come to commune with Christ (isn't that ironic--we call it communion but my focus was on me!).  I didn't come for my soul to be fed and nourished and strengthened. I didn't experience Christ's joy--the joy of the Lord is my strength! I didn't experience him rejoicing over me with singing. I didn't savor his undying love for me or revel in his boundless grace and mercy. 

I had moments of doing these things in my daily walk, but when I messed up, I didn't experience the fullness Christ has for us. I took my sin to the foot of the cross, and then I picked up the burden of perfecting myself as I left--instead of learning to live each moment in complete reliance on God, instead of digging deeper into his grace and love, instead of fully embracing how wide and deep and long and high and immeasurable his love and grace and mercy are.  I think we undervalue and underestimate what Christ has done, is doing, and will do in our lives in giving himself up for us and in living in us.

Our joy isn't in what we can do.  It's in our union with Christ. We "rejoice in the Lord," not in ourselves. In his glory, in his presence, with thanksgiving, with overwhelming awe, in his sovereignty, in his wisdom, in his power, in his love, in his mercy, in his forgiveness.

So when my eyes are on myself, on how I've sinned, how I've messed up...I take it to the Lord, I repent...but then I revel in Him. 

Monday, October 21, 2013

From Despair to Hope and Rest

Today I was reminded of a newsletter I sent nearly ten years ago now (May 2004), that has never made it to my new site here--so I thought I would repost tonight. Who knew Milne and Martin Luther could work so well together?

From Despair to Hope and Rest

By the time it came to the edge of the Forest, the stream had grown up, so that it was almost a river, and, being grown-up, it did not run and jump and sparkle along as it used to do when it was younger, but moved more slowly.  For it knew now where it was going, and it said to itself, “There is no hurry.  We shall get there some day.”

—A. A. Milne, The House at Pooh Corner 

On the first warm day of spring this year, I went out to my favorite forest preserve for some quiet reflection.  I followed the bark-chip-laden path, winding through the almost bare trees.  Here and there signs of spring dared to poke through the damp brown: a little green on the forest floor, a few buds, and patches of bright, happy blue-bells heralding the coming of warmer days.  I hiked around the bend when the brown gave way to a great grassy expanse that took my breath away: a new, spring green, a fresh-after-the-storm green, a glowing with dew-jewels green.  Draped around it the quiet stream beckoned.  “There is no hurry,” it seemed to whisper.

It reminded me of Pooh’s river, which draws a beautiful picture of growing up—and also a picture of our faith growing up, of trusting in God, of learning to rest in Him.  But I find many times that I am more like the “little streams higher up in the Forest, [going] this way and that, quickly, eagerly, having so much to find out before it [is] too late.”  I fight, I wrestle, I wonder why God doesn’t act sooner. Often, I reject His rest.  It is not the gift that I want.  I want change!  I want action!  I want it now! God offers instead the power, the strength to weather the storm, the deep rest of abiding in Him.

Martin Luther said,
“it’s not by reading or writing or speculating that one becomes a theologian; it is rather living, dying, and being damned that makes one a theologian.”  

I find in his words someone who understands the constant struggle, the testing of life, the questions that come, and the relief of knowing I’m not the only one.  This is the truth he realized when he read Psalm 22:1, later quoted by Jesus, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

When I struggle, I often feel as Paul did, hard pressed on every side.  I read the stories of Jesus healing so many, yet live with a husband God has chosen not to heal.  And then my children—how do you read story after story, “Jesus healed…Jesus healed…” and not feel slammed into the wall by the daily “no” you face when your chronic illness is not healed?  Do you hope God’s answer is “not yet?”  Do you wish for the relief of death?  Do you resignedly accept your “fate,” or do you continue to allow yourself to be emotionally beat up by unanswered prayers, hoping this time…  What kind of hope carries you through, carries you beyond?

Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:8,
“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down but not destroyed.”   And he wrote this only 3 chapters to the verse after proclaiming in 1:8, “ We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia.  We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life.” 

How did Paul go from a deeply despairing man to one who did not despair, who was not crushed, who knew he was not abandoned, and that destruction was not his end?  He continues, “Indeed in our hearts we felt the sentence of death.  But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.  He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us.  On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers…”

Paul had good reason to despair, who wouldn’t?  He was imprisoned, flogged, and
“exposed to death again and again.  Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one.  Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move, I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers.  I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.  Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches…”  2 Corinthians 11:23-28. 

He despaired—and then he relied on God, gained strength to go on, and found he did not despair.  This is the comfort we pass on one to another.  When we find a God so reliable, so trustworthy, so unmistakably loving and sovereign that we can turn to Him in the most severe trouble, fix our eyes and our purpose on Him, and believe Him when circumstances deny His existence, then we have found the secret of comfort.  And in our prayers and in our love, we can carry a battle-weary brother or sister into the presence of the God who heals us by His wounds.

The Psalmist cries out,
How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart?

And Isaiah calls back,
“Why do you say, O Jacob, and complain, O Israel, ‘My way is hidden from the LORD; my cause is disregarded by my God’?  Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.  He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.  Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” —Isa 40:27-31

You can almost feel the river growing, gaining strength as the Psalmist continues,
Look on me and answer, O LORD my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death;
my enemy will say, "I have overcome him,"
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing to the LORD,
for he has been good to me. —Psalm 13

Winter is sometimes very long.  But spring is coming, and the love of our great and sovereign Lord is unfailing.  We know where we are going.  And there is no hurry when we rest beside the quiet stream, where He restores our souls.

Hoping in Him, Merry

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Invisible Illness, Visible God Review

Great new review for Invisible Illness, Visible God on Amazon today! Minnie writes:

I can't say enough about this devotional. It is so comforting to read, especially if you yourself are going through any kind of trial: illness, job loss, relationship problem, etc. It is filled with God's word and promises but also filled with very real emotions that we all experience at different times of our lives. It is hard to use as a daily devotional because I want to read it all at once (it's that good!). 

Amazon is sold out right now, but Barnes & Noble online has it in stock and they also do free shipping on orders $25 and up. 

I have it in stock here on Hope Is My Anchor too, if you would like a signed copy. I hope you will check it out!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Dear Lord...and Invisible Illness Chats!

I LOVE this prayer from Karlton Douglas:

Prayer: Dear Lord, heal us please! But if you don’t, then send comfort from the Holy Spirit as we await our new bodies. Amen.

Received in the Rest Ministries Encouragement for You devotional. Check it out, some good stuff! 

Are you going to Invisible Illness Week?  Each day at 1pm Central time they are having a chat and a special speaker joining in. Monday is Christine Miserandino, popularly known for her article, The Spoon Theory (if you haven't read it, SO good for anyone with a chronic illness and their loved ones and to help others understand what it's like). Just go to and they will be posting questions for us to comment on, along with some special guests.  My Monday is going to be CRAZY busy, but I'm hoping to drop in. 

Meanwhile...the above prayer was encouraging to me. God is sovereign...that's another thing that we choose to put our faith in here. I was just telling a friend that I need to be content to live in whatever circumstance God has for me today. But as I wait for my pinched nerve to heal...I'm not always so patient!  (Looking forward to that new body!)  But God is good, and continues to walk with us day by day--and we need to continue to feed on his love for us and to rely on him moment by moment.

Friday, August 30, 2013

We choose...not to lose heart

"Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart." 2 Corinthians 4:1

One thing that Dave and I have always tried to keep our eyes on is the thought of not looking back. No regrets. We can't change what's happened, and if we dwell on what can't be, it just leads to depression and despair. So we often look at each other and remind ourselves...enjoy what is. Do what we can with what we have. Don't look back--no regrets.

We don't want to miss what IS, what we DO HAVE because we're too busy looking at what we thought life would be like, or what 21st Century Americans think of as "normal" lives. We live in a world where discontent is sold continuously, but we choose to fight. We choose to not lose heart. God has given us these lives...and we want to make the most of them.

It's easy to lose sight of this, and both of us have been discouraged at times--even deeply depressed. But we are so blessed to have each other, and when one of us forgets, the other reminds us. So...I encourage you and pray for you today--don't look back at things you can't change. Live today.  No regrets. Don't lose heart. Keep looking to the Lord. Trust in him.

(Blogging for National Invisible Illness Week, September 9th-15th. What will you choose?)

Monday, August 26, 2013

National Invisible Illness Week is coming up!

Check it out. September 9th-15th:

"Illness Awareness Week is held annually in September and is a worldwide effort to bring together people who live with invisible chronic illness and those who love them."

Founder Lisa Copen (also the founder of Rest Ministries) encourages us that while we can't choose our illness, we CAN choose how to respond. It's so easy to focus on what we can't do, on the things that aren't fair, on the limitations, on unfulfilled dreams.  It's work to focus on doing what we CAN do. My husband is so inspiring in this. He does get down at times about what he can't do, but he sets a goal every day, and he's always looking for ways he can serve our family or encourage. He's a blessing to me!

Check out Founder and Author Lisa Copen's video, and consider uploading a photo about what YOU would like to choose (there's also a contest to win a free kindle!)

There are so many things we can choose! I can't wait to blog about some in the upcoming weeks.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

How Powerful?

As the kids and I were looking at verses about God's power the other day (and it was amazing how many of them talked about God's care for us at the same time), we re-read parts of the creation story and marveled at how God spoke the world into existence. Then I held up the Bible and said, "What is this?"

"God's Word."

It struck me then, and I asked the kids, "Do we treat this as something amazing and powerful? Do we marvel, and listen with awe and reverence? This has the power to change us in ways we haven't even conceived, for God to work miracles in us."

Do we take it for granted? Do we treat the Word with less than awe?  Sometimes I'm in awe, but sometimes, yeah, if I'm honest, I can get complacent about the Word. I want to have a humble heart for God to work in and change me, in whatever way he wants.

Praying God's Word works mightily in you!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Radio Interview Link

If you missed my inteview on Katherine Albrecht's show, here's a direct link. Katherine has lived through breast cancer and really understands what it means to rely on God through a chronic illness. I'm so thankful to be on her show, we really had a great talk about trusting God, countering lies with the truth in scripture, and learning to be a living sacrifice. God is so good and has carried us through all these years (13 plus so far!). Praying others will be encouraged.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Radio Interview...Take 2!

My interview has been rescheduled! On Monday, August 5th, 5-6 Eastern (4-5 Central), you can hear me on the Dr. Katherine Albrecht show. We'll be discussing issues of faith in tough circumstances and specifically the journey Dave and I have been on, and my recent book, Invisible Illness, Visbile God.

Katherine is a believer who has also suffered with cancer, so she understands what it's like to live with chronic illness.

"Katherine Albrecht is a dynamic radio personality, privacy campaigner, technology expert, and the author of several books and videos. Her nationally syndicated, daily radio talk show combines knowledge, eloquence, and a touch of irreverence with a passion for truth and freedom, earning her a devoted listener following worldwide."

I'm excited for this opportunity! This is a call-in show, so if you're able to call while I'm on, that would be wonderful! Here's information so you can tune in or listen later:

* "On demand" 24-hour listen line: 605-562-7703
Show can be heard live, then looping until it is replaced by the next show

* Live and delayed broadcast to national radio affiliates 
Saturday show is broadcast on-air to over 20 radio stations across the USA

* Streamed live on the web at: (From the "Radio Show" menu, click "Listen Live") (click the Katherine Albrecht show from the rotating lineup)

* On-demand web link:
(show is available until replaced by the next show)  

*  Available as an MP3 audio file
Archive descriptions and MP3 audio are posted on my website each evening
(Click the "Archives and Guests" menu, then go to the show date)

*  Listener Call-In
855-KMA-RADIO  (855-660-4261) or Direct: 612-465-7369

Friday, July 26, 2013

Radio Interview

Sorry everyone--equipment failure, the interview will be rescheduled. Stay tuned!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Catch me on the radio!

Friday afternoon, from 5-6 Eastern time (4-5 Central), you can hear me on the Dr. Katherine Albrecht show for her "Good News Friday" segment. We'll be discussing issues of faith in tough circumstances and specifically the journey Dave and I have been on, and my recent book, Invisible Illness, Visbile God.

Katherine is a believer who has also suffered with cancer, so she understands what it's like to live with chronic illness. Her radio show focuses on freedom and privacy issues, and her "Good News Friday" segments can cover a variety of topics.

"Katherine Albrecht is a dynamic radio personality, privacy campaigner, technology expert, and the author of several books and videos. Her nationally syndicated, daily radio talk show combines knowledge, eloquence, and a touch of irreverence with a passion for truth and freedom, earning her a devoted listener following worldwide."

I'm excited for this opportunity! This is a call-in show, so if you're able to call while I'm on, that would be wonderful! Here's information so you can tune in or listen later:

* "On demand" 24-hour listen line: 605-562-7703
Show can be heard live, then looping until it is replaced by the next show

* Live and delayed broadcast to national radio affiliates 
Saturday show is broadcast on-air to over 20 radio stations across the USA

* Streamed live on the web at: (From the "Radio Show" menu, click "Listen Live") (click the Katherine Albrecht show from the rotating lineup)

* On-demand web link:
(show is available until replaced by the next show)  

*  Available as an MP3 audio file
Archive descriptions and MP3 audio are posted on my website each evening
(Click the "Archives and Guests" menu, then go to the show date)

*  Listener Call-In
855-KMA-RADIO  (855-660-4261) or Direct: 612-465-7369

Sunday, July 21, 2013

My Portion

Is God truly all I need? Is he my hope, my refuge?

The realities of this world seem to continually tell me otherwise. The world beats on our souls, and it's exhausting.

Sometimes, I want more. More than the presence of God? Yes, I confess. Sometimes I want some of that life that has been apportioned to others. The life I expected to live. The life where I have small struggles but not big ones; the life where my husband is not in pain every day.

But part of why I sometimes heretically think that God doesn't seem like enough is because our experience of God's presence in this life is sometimes so paltry, so devoid of sustenance and nutrition, we barely have strength to stumble forward a few more steps.

I know in my head, he is all. He is Provider, Sustainer, the One who knows and loves us intimately, the One who went to unfathomable extremes to make us his.

For the LORD's portion is his people, Jacob his allotted inheritance. In a desert land he found him, in a barren and howling waste. He shielded him and cared for him; he guarded him as the apple of his eye…
~ Deuteronomy 32:9-10

We are his portion, his inheritance.  And he is ours.

“I am to be the only inheritance the priests have. You are to give them no possession in Israel; I will be their possession.”
~ Ezekiel 44:28

When God gave the Promised Land over to the Israelites, he apportioned the land to eleven of the twelve tribes. The Levitical tribe received no land; the Lord was to be their inheritance, their portion. They served in the tabernacle, later the temple, and from them the priests were chosen. Now, the believer carries on the priesthood (1 Peter 2:9), and we are his temple, and God is our portion.

The Bread of Life...
Have you ever dreamed that maybe somewhere out there you have a secret inheritance? A little nest-egg that some long-lost benevolent uncle set aside for you? Imagine you learn about this treasure that's waiting for you, but instead of going to claim it and start enjoying it, you put off filling out the necessary paperwork. Sure, you could use the money now, but hey, it'll be there tomorrow and next week, what's the rush?  Today you're too busy...

Sounds ludicrous, doesn't it? But we have an inheritance of infinitely higher value that we sometimes mistakenly treat much the same.

In the past, I assumed that if God didn't seem very real, if he didn't seem to be helping me, if he didn't seem to be providing--then he must not really care. I turned a blind eye to his Word, my very sustenance, to his immense demonstration of his love for us in Christ. How can I seriously think that God went to all that effort to save us, only to not care now? Only to have "wandering eyes," looking for someone else to love?  

It's a lie.

And it's a battleground. And we need to engage in the battle. If we are starving for God, for his love, for his presence to carry us through a time that we can't see any way of making it through--then it's a mercy that we see this. God is not only all I need--he is what I need more than I recognize. But he gives me glimpses through the trials in my life, that I need him more. And when I know that and start to rely on him, start to lean hard into his shoulder and loving embrace--he shows me I need him more. He is the Bread of Life, the Vine we draw our life-blood from, the Shepherd who continues to pursue us every time we wander off and wonder, where is there food? He is our food.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Around the Table Giveaway: Invisible Illness, Visible God

Sharon Fleming, author of Around the Table, posted her review of my book today, AND...she's giving away a copy! Check it out (and you might find a tasty recipe or fun way to get yoru family together around the table when you visit her site!)

Around the Table Book: Invisible Illness, Visible God:

Sharon writes,  "She doesn't give cliché answers to deep faith questions, instead she honestly shares her frustrations, doubts, and lessons she is learning. Merry's transparency as she talks about her struggles and faith, and her courage to tackle hard questions like, "How can I love One who makes me bitter?" are an encouragement to all who have ever doubted God in the midst of trials."

Read more.

And let me know if you win!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Prescription Med Assistance

NeedyMeds has all kinds of info about patient assistance programs, and also offers a card (for free and you don't have to register) that you can use to get discounts on various meds. Some discounts are small (and generics usually aren't discounted) but some are up to 75%--depends on what the med is. The link has more information and the downloadable card. You use it if you are uninsured or if you are in the Medicare "donut hole." It can't be combined with insurance or other discounts or programs you may be eligible for. I spent about 30 minutes reading about it today and searching for the "cons" of using it, but didn't find anything. If you try this out, let me know how it works for you. If I have occasion to use it, I'll post again about how it worked out.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Praying with Perseverance

[Reposted from 2003 from my previous blog]

And [Jesus] said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 18: 3-4

I used to find my son's scribble marks in my journals; now I find my daughter's. How they try to be like us, and yet often I find that I need to be like them.

Take prayer. My daughter prays the same thing at least four times a day--every meal and bedtime. "Help my Daddy to feel better soon." There's comfort in her familiar prayer.

For a time I began to get bored with her prayer, and wondered, "should I encourage her to pray about other things, or try to change her prayer?" Yet then the deep realization came that what is foremost on her mind, the only thing in her mind worth repeating day after day, is never too familiar or boring to say again to the One who can answer...

"Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up." Luke 18:1

Her prayer is short and to the point--not long or drawn out as if her words have power in and of themselves, or as if she might stumble upon some magic way of eliciting a response from God. She is my hero, my prayer warrier. And where did she learn this simple prayer? Her brother taught it to her. "A little child shall lead them..."

I find sometimes that my faith falls short--that after I pray for awhile, I want to give up because I get tired of waiting for the answer--but my hero doesn't get tired. She enjoys being carried--and she knows the One who will carry the desires and concerns of her heart.

The Footprints poem says God is carrying us in the hardest times. To me that used to be a nice sentiment, something that good Christians imagine but not a truth to be experienced. But God has led me time and again to know and experience the deep truth of this.

The prayer He calls me to is to pour out my heart, all of my worries, my concerns, my fears, until God says, "Be still, and know that I am God." I used to stop praying at that point, but now I bask in prayer, knowing that He is God. I rest in His arms because He is sovereign, in control, His perfect plan is in action, I am secure, I am in the shelter of His wings. That's when He begins to speak to me. That's when I am filled by Him.

I used to be afraid to seek His presence because I was afraid of hearing more silence. I thought, my faith is too fragile to handle any more silence like God's apparent silence in response to my prayers. It is better to imagine God than to seek Him and be disappointed. I mistook God's silence for rejection instead of His beckoning call to seek and pursue Him, and I missed out on knowing the beauty of when God does answer.

Sometimes I break down and tell God I don't have the strength to pursue Him and that I need Him to come meet me where I am. He has always answered that prayer over time, and then calls me again to seek after Him.

Have you grown weary of bringing some request before God? Maybe He is calling you to bring it again, then lay it at His sovereign feet and soak in the peace of His presence. I don't know how or when God will answer your fervent prayer, but I know that He suffered greatly on our behalf to enable us to bring any and every care to Him--and that He shares in our pain because He loves us more deeply than we can imagine. 

Sometimes it's scary to me to allow God to enter into my pain, sometimes I'm afraid to tell Him about my anger at Him and or to relinquish that anger to Him. But I find when I go through that process--and it can take a long time--that He does indeed carry me.

Seeking again to rest in His arms, Merry 

Be Stumped!

The great promise of Psalm 23 is not that we will be saved from the dark valley, but that the Lord, who is our Shepherd, will remain close beside us even though the darkness might obscure Him from our view.
—Michael Card

I wrote this entry back in 2005 on a previous platform, and thought it was worth reposting. 

This June marks five years since Dave became disabled. People sometimes ask me if I know why God is allowing Dave to be incapacitated for so long. The question leaves me—well—stumped! It’s not that I can’t imagine what possible reasons God might have. God’s developing our character. God’s going to use it so Dave can be a better pastor or a better comforter. God’s going to use it to help someone else…

I believe all of those are true, and yet, without the benefit of hindsight, of seeing how God will use it—the answers fall flat. They provide hope for a season, but then days, weeks, months, years become long. Still we meet with a silent God. A God obscured by dark times. What is He doing?

"I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds."
John 12:24

In the Motherwise Bible study, Author Denise Glenn tells a story about being like that kernal of wheat—how hopeful and precious she felt in the Maker’s hand, and then how dark and lonely life became when she was "buried" in the ground. What was God doing? Why was He abandoning her?

God uses many parables to help us understand. We are building blocks, being built together into a dwelling for God, unimaginable! Built on the "Living Stone," Christ. A costly Heavenly city with walls of precious gold. Gold that is purified by fire, formed by pressure and time and painstaking craftsmanship. As are we.

Or, we are the branches, and God the heavenly gardener, cutting back what was already fruitful (and we ask, "God, this doesn’t make any sense! Wasn’t I doing what you wanted?")—so that it will be more fruitful. Pruning sounds innocuous enough until you look at the extent to which some plants are cut back. Grapevines, for example, are cut to stumps, and afterward look dead, lifeless—what could possibly grow from those? And yet by mid-summer they are filled with lush, tantalizing, abundant fruit.

This has been a year of pruning for me, of darkness, quiet, and not much writing. It’s good to be stumped—to be cut back so far as to have nothing to say, to offer, to do. To have to lie dormant in the soil. To need to be molded by pressure and by fire.

We don’t think it’s good because we look at today, we like the finer things this world has to offer—and we lose sight of God’s character. He’s good when we hurt. He’s near when we can’t hear or feel him. He protects us when darkness obscures.

"When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze."
—Isa 43:2

Where is God in the fire? He’s there. Our imagination is so finite, our vision so limited, it’s hard for us to comprehend until we look back and see, oh, He was there, He brought us through, and oh, His purpose was pure and holy and God can be glorified.

It feels like the waters sweep over us and the flames burn—and yet they burn only the dross of this life that we are so attached to. The pure gold, the REAL US—this will come forth, shining, beautiful, precious—worthy of being united with God—incomprehensible!

But it’s a done deal, for Jesus, in His own dark valley, said, "It is finished." God calls us holy, righteous, blameless in His sight—and we wonder and worry, how can this be? Imagine, God has us mystified! Yes, imagine, that we must do, must strive to get our minds around what the God of all time and space, of everything and nothing (for even nothing obeyed Him and became something!), is trying to communicate to us. And if we only comprehend a tiny fraction, and help a few others along the way, our time is well spent.

Fall to the ground. Walk through the fire. Be stumped. And then be filled with the rejuvenating, nourishing, incredible life of Jesus who bears fruit through ones such as us.

What is it for? His glory. That’s the easy question! Why does He allow us to partake in His glory? That’s a mystery for the ages—and yet again for His glory.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

A place to rest

A favorite spot at the nature preserve
Thursdays are my writing days. My normal daily schedule involves homeschooling the kids, laundry, meals and other household chores, working online for a few hours (I work for a homeschool curriculum company), helping Dave as he needs, running to various appointments, and so on. Thursday afternoons are beautiful beacons that lure me out of the house each week. I get my work with the kids and online done as early in the day as possible, and then go walk at the nature preserve, or sit in a favorite sunny spot. Today was gray and rainy, but time in the Word and just to sit and think was refreshing. Usually I spend the first 30 minutes just sitting, eating lunch, and decompressing from life's fast pace.

Last week I sat under a cool maple with the wind whispering through the leaves, watching the sunshine dancing on a glorious green hillside that races up to a brilliant blue sky. So many shades of green: broad, pale stripes from the mower alternating with grassier greens, trees that glow lime-green or stand tall with stately and subdued forest greens...

It was so peaceful after a long, cold winter, and a spring filled with sickness after sickness. So I breathed in deep, long droughts of sunshine and green, and just sat and listened.

Truly my soul finds rest in God;
my salvation comes from him.
Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.

Psalm 62:1-2
This reminds me of home and the creek I grew up by
Nature is so healing. Where do you go for healing and rest? Do you have a special place that you spend time with God?

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Treasures Hidden in the Darkness

What satisfies you?

The world insists we cannot be satisfied unless our circumstances meet our desires and expectations.

It is the work and nature of unbelief to belittle and limit the fullness of Christ in the eye of the soul. It…conceals and locks up Christ’s treasure and fullness…There is a rich, a glorious, and an overflowing fullness of all good treasured up in Christ for poor sinners, and his grace abundantly exceeds both our wants and sins.
~Edward Pearse, c. 1673

Doesn't that just make you hungry to know more of Christ?  Where is this abundant feast?  How can we dig in?  We need to be fed and fulfilled. The world beats on our souls with doubt until we don't even look for much from God, and we spiritually stagger from day to day, barely sustained on crusts of bread and a bit of thin gruel. I long for more, I hunger for more...I'm learning like a newborn to demand more.

Some days I slip down memory lane, and remember the days when Dave worked at church—they seem so far away now. Echoing in my mind I hear, “Grandma, this is our new pastor. He likes kids!” This was high praise for Dave, coming from a sixth-grader who had just met him a few minutes before. Dave spent a lot of time with that sixth-grader, Steve, and the other junior high students. They used power tools together to build shelving, a cabinet to store puppets, and games for the kids’ “carnival” nights. “If they build the games, they’ll take better care of them—and of church property,” Dave reasoned. He always had willing helpers to run the games for the little kids.

The boys were so excited. “We get to use those?” they asked in wonderment as Dave pulled out the drill and jigsaw. “Tools are loud and dirty, everything a boy could want!” Dave told me. He dovetailed his life into theirs with the skill of a pastor-craftsman. Their best products were not wood and paint, but character quality built over time and with loving workmanship.
That is the life we’re supposed to be living, not this hellish roller-coaster of confusion and pain. God, this is insane! Why did you take it all away? Where is the man you gave to me? You let me have him for a glimpse, you taunt me with moments, and then steal him away again. What about our lives didn’t please you that you thought robbing this man—and the world—of Dave’s joy to minister would somehow be better?
Do you hear the doubt, the unbelief in my thoughts? God robbed us, taunts us. God wasn’t pleased with us. The pull of the road to bitterness is wide, strong, rational—and blind to God. And the treasures that God holds out to us in suffering are locked up tight. Where is the key to unlocking them?

Pastor Cliff, who counseled me the first three years of Dave’s disability, handed me the key in Romans 12. “Be willing.” Willing to go through whatever God puts in our path.

Therefore, I urge you brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will…
~ Romans 12:1-2

If life just happens to us, then we are victims. But God holds out to us a great honor. We are not victims if we lay down our lives, if we walk willingly with God on whatever path he has for us, even if that path is filled with pain that we can’t escape.

When we lay down our lives, God is not our adversary, but our Leader who goes before us. He is the Friend who walks with us, the Father who lovingly carries the pieces of our broken hearts, the Beloved Bridegroom who suffers with us—and the Comforter who brings us peace.

“And I will give you treasures
hidden in the darkness—
secret riches.
I will do this so you may know
that I am the Lord,
the God of Israel,
the one who calls you by name.

~Isaiah 45:3 (NLT) 

He is calling you by name. Waiting, with rich food for your soul, longing to give you secret riches of his grace, mercy, and sustenance. Praying you will be fed and encouraged by him today as you look to him.

Excerpted from Invisible Illness, Visible God, Day 10. Available now.

Monday, May 6, 2013

God Gives More Than We Can Handle

Ever feel like God has given you more than you can handle?  You're in good company...and God offers us real hope:
We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.
~ 2 Corinthians 1:8b-9
“God won’t give you more than you can bear,” is a popular Christian sentiment, meant to encourage the person who is suffering or experiencing some trial. Yet when your world is falling apart, it does not encourage; it brings uncertainties and a sense of failure—after all, if we can’t handle what we’re facing, what does that say about our faith and our God?

To me this thought both denies reality and waters down God’s power in our lives. It encourages us to be stronger on our own, and to believe there is something wrong with our faith or we could handle our pains better.

The reality is, there are often things in this life that are so awful, terrible, complicated, overwhelming, or painful that they are, indeed, beyond what we can endure. Paul, famous for his joy in the midst of suffering, the man who sang in prison after being beaten, admitted the hardships that he and his companions bore were far beyond their ability to endure, and despaired. Sometimes we will too.

We can stop striving to be spiritual giants who can bear anything "with God's help." Help is for the hard times only, for getting past that rough spot until we can do it on our own again. We were not made to handle things on our own. Relying on God doesn't ever end. It's a continual, daily process of relinquishing self to God. It's continual communion with him.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Invisible Illness, Visible God Available now!

I'm so excited to finally announce the release of Invisible Illness, Visible God! Here's a look at the first chapter:

Click to See Inside

" a daily balm for your weary soul reminding you that God is near in your journey...a must read." ~ Shelly Esser, Just Between Us Magazine

In Stock

Available here on Hope Is My Anchor, or from Barnes and Noble or Amazon.

It's an honor and a privilege to walk side by side with my husband as he battles Lyme disease, and to see him continue on in faith, steadfast, persevering. His faith inspires me, and in his life I see Jesus every day.

Dave is the kind of man who would give all his energy and then some to help someone. He has a true shepherd's heart, and even when he is feeling his worst he can't help but ask how a visitor is doing or if he can do something to make my day easier.  Sadly his pastoral days were cut short, but I have always taken hope in Philippians 1:20:
I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.
Our lives are in God's hands, and Christ can be glorified in us no matter what that life looks like, when we keep looking to him.

Nearly one in two Americans have an invisible chronic illness, and nineteen million are disabled by one.  They have no cane or wheel chair to let others know that something is wrong. Caregivers struggle right along with them and wonder, “Is there hope?  Does God care about what we’re going through? What does God promise us?”

He does care, and there is hope. No matter what the shape of our lives, they have value and God can be glorified in us.  The most valuable thing in all of heaven, the blood of Christ, was given for us so that we could know him.  No illness or tragedy or unexpected life circumstance can change the value God has placed on us or the intimacy he seeks with us.

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.
~ Ephesians 1:18-19 

May you know him better and more dearly.  Merry :-)