Sunday, February 17, 2019

Sunday Scripture

The Beatitudes, James Tissot, c. 1890,
Brooklyn Museum. [PD-US]

Jesus came down with the twelve
and stood on a stretch of level ground
with a great crowd of his disciples
and a large number of the people
from all Judea and Jerusalem
and the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon.
And raising his eyes toward his disciples he said:
“Blessed are you who are poor,
for the kingdom of God is yours.
Blessed are you who are now hungry,
for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who are now weeping,
for you will laugh.
Blessed are you when people hate you,
and when they exclude and insult you,
and denounce your name as evil
on account of the Son of Man.
Rejoice and leap for joy on that day!
Behold, your reward will be great in heaven.
For their ancestors treated the prophets in the same way.
But woe to you who are rich,
for you have received your consolation.
Woe to you who are filled now,
for you will be hungry.
Woe to you who laugh now,
for you will grieve and weep.
Woe to you when all speak well of you,
for their ancestors treated the false
prophets in this way.”
Luke 6:17, 20-26

If you have any prayer needs, please mention them in the comments section so we can join you in prayer. You do not need to include specific names or situations of a private nature, just say that you have a prayer request. The Lord knows your heart and the needs you have. It is a privilege and honor to pray with you and for you.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

When Valentine’s Day Isn’t Lovely ------- by Sara K. Parker

I don’t want to rain on anyone’s heart-filled, candy-laden, flower-blooming Valentine’s Day, but I’m going to go ahead and assume that plenty of others feel the same way I do today: disenchanted and a little sad.

All the reasons why don’t really belong on a blog like this, but my husband and I have weathered some fierce storms over the past several years, and we could use a break.

Currently, he is on around day 25 of a pretty serious health slump with no end in sight. So, on this Valentine’s Day you won’t be getting a story of roses and sunshine from me. Instead, allow me to give you a window into the crisis that hit our family suddenly twelve years ago this February.

But first, I’ve got to back up.

My husband and I met on a blind date in 2001, and our love story developed like many love stories do – we fell fast in love and knew early on that this was *IT*. We married in March 2003…

Enjoyed a couple years of adulting and traveling…

Lunch in Scotland on a three-week backpacking tour in 2004.
Then suffered a chemical pregnancy and infertility, and zoomed right into the world of adoption in 2005, when we adopted our two sons from Ethiopia, who were 11 months and 2.5 years old. 

Life. Was. Magical.

Financially, we struggled a bit, as I’d quit my job to become a stay at home mom, and DH had recently finished college and was searching for a higher-paying job (he’d done four years with the Marine Corps. before college).

But by the summer of 2006, God had answered our prayers: DH got his dream job and we moved to Northwest Houston where we could actually afford a single family home. Predictably, it wasn't long before I grew homesick.

When I was out of sorts, my hubby would stay home with the kids on a Friday night or Saturday morning and send me out to shop. At 27, I was slightly addicted to retail therapy. On one such day in February 2007, DH stayed home with the boys who were three and four years old, and I shopped to my heart’s content – never knowing that he was miserably sick at home, even though we’d spoken on the phone several times throughout the day. In truth, he’d been throwing up all day, but hadn’t wanted to ruin my shopping adventure.

What we assumed was a stomach bug didn’t go away. Instead, the illness progressed with varying symptoms – debilitating fatigue, nausea, vomiting, extreme vertigo, migraines, rashes, excessive sweating and body aches, to name a few. He couldn't tolerate noise or light, so he moved into the office upstairs in our house, covered the windows with blankets, and shut himself off to the world. He was basically bedridden for nearly a year as I dragged him to more than 20 specialists searching for answers.

Keep in mind, we had no friends or family nearby. We had just moved across the country and were on our own. We had no medical histories here, no doctors who cared about us, no way to know how to navigate this catastrophic problem. He was diagnosed with Epstein Barr Virus, and then mono, and then chronic mono, and maybe Lyme disease until finally all the doctors settled on Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, which is by far the most idiotic name ever given to such a life-stealing medical condition. Once he was labeled with CFS, doctors lost interest, and we lost hope.

Chronic illness is utterly devastating. It is often invisible, not well understood, and extremely isolating. It destroys friendships, finances, and families.

But, we have this hope. It is an anchor for our souls, firm and secure. (Hebrews 16:19)

As my husband struggled with this debilitating illness, I floundered for years through severe depression, anxiety and loneliness. I began to doubt what I had always believed about God: that He is good and loving and with me always.

I stopped going to church and reading my Bible. When I tried to pray, I mostly ended up in the darkness of my closet, sobs pressed into a pillow I’d brought in with me so I wouldn’t freak out the kids or worry my husband.

The story of my own healing and the strengthening of my faith is a long one, and it’s still evolving - but slowly, light filtered back into my life. It began, I believe, when I went back to church one Sunday. After the service, I went to a side room to ask for prayer, but when I walked into the room and opened my mouth to speak, I started weeping. My heart was broken, and I had no words. 

A man who was stationed there to pray simply opened his Bible and began to read. He prayed Psalms over me, and that would mark the first time in my life when I experienced what I’d read and been taught – that the Bible is God’s living and breathing word (Hebrews 4:12). Relief poured over me, my tears stopped, and I felt an inexplicable sense of comfort – even peace.

At home, however, faced with our hard reality again, my peace quickly dissipated. I’d put a Bible by my bed, intent on reading it, but it collected dust for weeks, maybe months.

Then one morning, I woke up with what was now a familiar sense of dread, and I opened my eyes and stared at the leather-bound Bible. 

It’s hard to explain this moment, as I didn’t hear an audible voice, but somehow my heart heard these words: Draw near to me, and I will draw near to you.

I had never heard God speak to me, and I have never had an experience like that since…but I knew He was speaking to me. I’d like to say that I jumped out of bed, grabbed my Bible, and read out loud for hours on my knees. Instead, I turned away. I rolled over and went back to sleep. It was a very long time before I would open my Bible again.

But those two experiences replayed in my head time and again over the years – as God brought me deep friendships and then added our two daughters to our family…

As He sustained my husband’s job despite his chronic health condition, as He provided financially during more than one disaster, as He healed our daughter from a cancer that I felt almost certain would take her life

After surgery for Ewing Sarcoma in February 2017

Ringing the bell to celebrate completion of cancer treatment in September 2017

As He lovingly deepened my faith and taught me to pray and listened and sat with me in anguish, as He heaped joyful blessings on my life during the hardest times…
Celebrating my first LIS sale at RWA with two of my sisters who also write for LIS - Mary Ellen Porter, who has two books out, and Shirlee McCoy, who has been churning out romantic suspense since 2003. :)

Kids and cousins playing on a beach in Hawaii at sunrise.

Boarding a plane to Florida for our daughter's Make-A-Wish trip (a Disney Cruise).

A scene from a serene retreat I recently attended at Laity Lodge in Leakey, Texas.
So, yes, on this Valentine’s Day, I admit to feeling a little sad because of all my husband’s illness has stolen from us - but through Jesus, I have a hope that sustains me (2 Corinthians 4:17). This world is wrought with pain and suffering, but it is also overflowing with goodness and light. I don't think it's coincidental that our most important jobs here (love God and love others - Matthew 22:37-39) actually relieve stress, reduce pain, and lift loneliness. Appropriate for Valentine’s Day, don’t you think? 

If you're struggling with hope today, may I suggest how I plan to celebrate (because the hubby and I will have to take a raincheck)?

1.     Write a letter to God, recognizing the blessings in your life, and then pour out your sorrows to Him.
2.     Read out loud a chapter of the book of Psalms (23, 27, 91, 119, 121, 139, for starters).
3.     Order some take-out and settle in with a good book – because good food and great books are cheap therapy.

How do you hold onto hope when reality feels bleak? What do you do to dust yourself off when life is dragging you around? What is the best way someone has shown you love in a time of crisis?

Many blessings to you on this Valentine’s Day.

P.S. I love to connect with readers and other writers on my Facebook author page  and over at