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Cancer. At first we thought it was a temporary problem, perhaps a herniated disc. My husband had been playing “Mr. Fix-it” under a kitchen sink, and he was experiencing pain in his lower back.

The unexpected collapse of his spinal column occurred one evening when he was alone with our two children. Charles was still in diapers, only ten months old. Pete reached into the baby’s crib to lift him out and fell to the ground with the baby in his arms. Charles was unharmed, but our lives were never the same again.

Pete was in agonizing pain and could not get off the floor. My five-year-old Noelle saw to the baby and attended her daddy as well as a five-year-old could. This was before we had cell phones, and it was hours before I returned from my meeting to discover what had happened to my family.

Pete was like most men. He thought he would just “tough it out.” There was no reason to go to the doctor—right? This pain would go away and he would get better on his own. Bodies heal themselves. God made them that way.

Sometimes, but not so for Pete. It took three weeks before I could convince him to go to the doctor. During that time, he was on the floor. I dragged a mattress into the living room for him to lie on because he could not stand or even make it to the bathroom. The world turned upside down.

Tenacious Pete. That he was. It was the reason he had been so successful in his career designing automotive interiors for General Motors, but it was not helping this situation. He said he would not eat because he did not want to have to go to the bathroom, but the days wore on.

Finally I convinced him to at least go to a chiropractor. He was in such pain that it took a half an hour and all the tenacity he could muster to get from the house to the car, only a few feet away.

X-rays indicated spinal degeneration. We did not know exactly what that meant, but it did not sound good.

Upon receiving the diagnosis, Pete opted for a program of physical therapy treatment. A visiting nurse came to our home for a preliminary evaluation. Part of the enrollment included a blood sample, which resulted in a call early the next morning advising us to proceed immediately to the hospital. There was something seriously wrong with his blood count and platelets.

The diagnosis was made: cancer. The prognosis was harsh: two weeks.

I am so thankful God intervened and gave us an entire year. Many challenges presented themselves throughout that time. Physical, emotional, financial, and spiritual rollercoaster rides ensued. But God saw us through every step of the way.

In the beginning, just four days prior to the spinal collapse, God gave me a vivid dream that woke me from a sound sleep in the middle of the night. I sat up in bed startled and shaken as I remembered the details.

Pete and I were traveling up a steep mountain on a one-way road. It was an abstract, treacherous thing with no side rails, and along the way Pete began having pain. It increased to the point that I switched places with him while we continued driving upwards. There was no place to stop or turn around so I drove on as his pain increased.

Oh, God, You have to get us off this mountain, I prayed and then I saw a wall of greenery in front of me. There was no way to know what was on the other side, but the Lord wanted me to trust Him and drive through it. There was no cliff. There was no boulder. It was the pathway down the mountain, and I took it safely to the bottom where I stopped the van and breathed a deep sigh of relief.

But as the tension released and my heart rate slowed, I looked to the passenger seat to see my Petey was gone. God had seen me safely down the mountain, but my husband was no longer with me.

Through the dream, the Lord prepared me for what was to come then He faithfully walked beside us on our journey. All the way, He told me to trust Him.

As the pieces of my life swirled about me, not knowing where they would land, I learned to trust God in a newer dimension. It was like living in the eye of a hurricane—a place of calm in the midst of a devastating storm.

Pete was “inpatient” for over one hundred days that year, and the drive to the hospital took almost an hour. As I drove back and forth, the Lord gave me a song to sing that prepared me on the way there and kept me on the return trip home.

There is peace in the middle of the storm
Though the wind blows hard and long
In the dark of the night
Your Word’s my guiding light
And I’ll have peace in the middle of my storm.

You know it’s a divine strength that sustains you when you walk through this kind of valley. I never imagined being a widow at thirty-two with two small children to care for on my own but through it all, I “laid my head upon His chest,” and the Lord sustained me.

At the funeral, our church choir sang “Trust in the Lord with all of thine heart, and lean not to thine own understanding; in all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy path.” The choir director selected the song. I had not requested anything in particular, and it was the perfect choice. My trust in God saw me through that difficult year, and continued to do so in the days to come.

The backing of a quilt is solid. It doesn’t change. It’s not pieced together, but strong. The backing of our life’s quilt is our foundational trust in God. No matter what the top design looks like, it’s the backing—our trust in God—that gives stability and strength.

As you face the unique challenges of your life, place your trust in God’s hands. There is no safer place, and He can keep your heart at peace even as the storms of life swirl about you.

Lori Wagner is a gifted communicator and teacher.  You may visit her Web site at www.affirmingfaith.com.

Reprinted with persmission from Reflections Magazine.

“So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27).

I think we all joke about how terrible driver’s license photos are. I’m not sure how they can be used as identification since they seem to have so little resemblance to how we actually look. As I headed to the state office to renew my license, I wasn’t too excited about that part of the process—the photo! (I usually look 20 pounds heavier and slightly criminal.)

When I eventually received my new license in the mail, I was startled. How had my mom’s photo ended up on my license? Then I laughed at my own silliness. Of course, it was my image. And in many ways, hers too. The older I get, the more I look like my mother. I’ve noticed the same thing about friends when I look at their social media pages. More and more they resemble their moms.

There is another much more important family resemblance I hope to show. And that is the image of the Lord. I don’t mean His olive-skinned, dark-haired Jewish appearance; I look quite different in that way. Through the centuries, artists have rendered their ideas of His physical appearance. More recently, a group of British scientists used forensic anthropology to create what they feel is a probable image of His features. None of that interests me as much as becoming like Him in character. When we read Colossians 3:9-10, we learn that when we “put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self” we are taking on His image. When I take on His likeness, my desires change. My words change. My actions change.

The more I become like Christ, the more I respond to others differently. I love more; I offer more mercy; I show more compassion. When I take on His image, others will recognize my parentage without my telling them in words. I will have that “family resemblance.”

I want to be able to say as David in Psalm 17:15, “I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness.”

Prayer: Lord, my greatest desire is to become more like You every day. I want to live righteously, love extravagantly, and give without restraint. I want others to see Your character shining through me so You may be glorified.

 

Devotion by Mary Loudermilk

Have you ever heard someone say how thrilling it would be to have lived during the time Jesus walked this earth? Imagine hearing Him preach and seeing Him perform miracles. Imagine feeling the energy and exhilaration of the crowd as they pushed to get as close as possible. I can close my eyes and picture myself there in the middle of it all—blind eyes seeing, the dead restored to life, the lame leaping!

As exciting as it all was, not everyone accepted Jesus as their promised Messiah. To them, He was just one more self-proclaimed teacher walking the dusty roads of Israel. It’s possible they didn’t even bother to go check it out. It couldn’t all be real.

Perhaps even worse than those who did not believe were those who believed but were afraid to acknowledge Jesus because of possible consequences. Some were people of influence who didn’t want to risk losing their positions of power.

“Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God” (John 12:42-43, NJKV). 

It’s easy to point our finger and say, “Well, if I’d been there, I would never have done that.” Maybe . . . or maybe not. We may say we are a Christian, love Jesus, and want to serve Him, but do we want to go “all out” for God? Do we want to make Him the top priority in our lives? Oh, it’s okay to go to church on Sunday morning, but let’s don’t get fanatical about it. After all, what will my friends say? Or some of my family? Will my boss think I’m some kind of religious nut?

The choice is ours. Who would we rather please: God or others? The apostle Paul states it plainly in Galatians 1:10.

“For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ” (English Standard Version).

Prayer: Lord, help me to not be hypocritical in serving You. It’s not about what others think of me. It’s about what You think of me. Help me to overcome any fears I may have of stepping out boldly in my service to You. I confess that You are my Lord, my Everything.

 

Devotion by Mary Loudermilk