Even To My Old Age…

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This morning I’ve woken…or is waked?…I don’t know. I should look that up, but I won’t. Because this morning I’ve reason to wonder about more important things. Like a birthday.

Today I am 58.

I admit, when I tell people how old I am it doesn’t seem so old. When I write it, though, and see it in print somehow it looks a wh-o-O-o-le lot different. Like a lifetime.

I think it’s quite a victory to celebrate this many years because the older I get the more I understand a few things. The more I value a heart that still beats strong. The more I treasure a mind that still ponders wonderful things. The more I prize legs that still move and bend and carry the weight of me. The more I appreciate hands that still grip and grasp and hold the load for me.

Yes, the older I get, the more I realize that the few gray hairs I have on my head are a gift from God. I can look back over my life and see that He has always been there for me. He has always sustained me. He has always been the same wonderful God doing amazing things in my life.

He was there when I struggled with asthma as a toddler and even to

the loss of my eye as a child and even to

the emotional conflict as a girl without an eye and even to

the thyroid cancer as a teen and even to

the liver disease diagnosis of an infant son as a mother and even to

the police arrest of that rebel teen as a parent and even to

the removal of a brain tumor as a woman and even to

the temporary disability of my husband and even to the loss of his job and even to the financial strain of that season and even to…even to…even to…

Even to your old age I will be the same, and even to your graying years I will bear you! I have done it, and I will carry you; and I will bear you and I will deliver you.” Isaiah 46:4

This is the God of Even-to’s. The God who has carried me when my legs lost their strength. The God who has born my burdens when my back was been bent over with weight. The God who has delivered me from storms and trials. The God who has walked with me through fires, flown with me through clouds, and run with me in every race. This is the God who has cared for me, clothed me, fed me, and sheltered me. YES! He has done it!

From the day I was born even to this day…21,170 days of life.

Somehow, when I write that out, it looks like a lifetime. A lifetime of even to’s. 

A lifetime of beating hearts and pondering thoughts.

A lifetime of legs walking twists and turns.

A lifetime of hands holding shapes and sizes.

A lifetime of eyes seeing God do amazing things in my life.

Not just any lifetime. MY lifetime.

This morning I have woken up…or is it waked?…I still don’t know, but I still feel the beat of my heart and I value the One who keeps it beating, pulsing, loving. I still feel the thoughts pondering in my mind and I treasure the One who keeps me thinking, meditating, wondering. I still feel the bones in my legs and I prize the One who keeps them bending, carrying, moving. I still feel the muscles in my hands and I appreciate the One who keeps them gripping, grasping, holding.

From the day I was born even to this day I still wonder about the important things of life. 

Like a lifetime of Even-to’s with God by my side.  

God is Jealous For Me

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God’s jealousy for me makes me weep.

Because sometimes it’s just so hard for me to understand why He would care enough about me to be jealous at all.

Because He’s faithful. Even when I am not.

Because He’s merciful. Even when I am not.

Because He’s God. And I am not.

“Do not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.” Exodus 34:14

God is jealous, not in the angry, malicious, violent sense, but in the burning, holy, righteous sense. He is zealous for His good Name. And I am His child. I wear His Name.

HIS Name. A Name that makes some people curse and others praise. A Name that makes some shake their fists and others lift their hands. A Name that makes some kick and scream and others bow low. A Name that makes some cringe and others hope.

But no matter how people react, He’s still God and there’s just something about His Name.

My Sunday School class at church is studying, Praying The Names Of God, by Ann Spangler. I love it. I really love it. I love focusing on a different name for God each week. Every day, pondering, reflecting, chewing on the significance of the names, understanding the meaning of the names, and trying to wrap my mind around the character of God.

This morning I’ve been reflecting on El Kanna (EL kan-NAH), Jealous God.

And it’s in my reflecting that I weep.

Because I want to be zealous for the God who is zealous for me. I want to praise, even when my heart is sad. I want to lift my hands, even when my arms are heavy. I want to bow, even when my legs are weak. I want to hope, even when my soul is downcast.

When I’m too focused on my humanity or too distracted by the world, my heart tends to stray and God wants my heart. All of it. That’s why He never lets me stray too far. That’s why He never leaves me where I am. That’s why He never gives up on me. He is mindful in His pursuit of me and I can’t tell you how I rejoice in this knowledge. It’s just a little too wonderful for me.

That’s why I can trust in His Name, El Kanna, and all it represents and all it stirs inside of me.

Because wearing God’s Name reminds me of Whose I am. Bearing His Name reminds me of Who I serve. Calling on His Name reminds me of Who has my heart.

When all I need is found in Christ, why would I want to praise, lift my hands, bow down or hope in anyone or anything else? Ever? Why would I want to let my heart stray when I have a God who loves me so? And, yet, God knows that sometimes I do. That’s why He’s jealous for me.

“I am the Lord; that is My name! I will not give my glory to another, or my praise to idols.” Isaiah 42:8

Yes, God is Jealous God. And rightfully so. His love is perfect and holy, fiercely protective and intensely powerful. His love propels Him to want what’s best for me and guard the part of me that’s most precious to Him.

So, today this is how I pray:

Yes, Father. I will let You be jealous for me. I will let You be zealous in Your love for me. I will let You guide me, grace me, and guard me. 

Because I love You, too. And I want to honor You. Because You are faithful. And merciful.   

Because I want to give You the glory that is rightfully Yours.

Because You are worthy.

Because You are God. And I am not.  

You Hem Me In

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Before I flew out to California three weeks ago I hadn’t flown anywhere in thirteen years.

Because…and read my lips…I. HATE. FLYING.

I. FEAR. FLYING.

And not only that…I. AM. HEARING. IMPAIRED and I. WAS. FLYING. ALONE.

Y’all, I. WAS. SERIOUSLY. AFFLICTED.

Like, near the depths of despair.

Okay. So this may be a slight exaggeration.

But A.F.F.L.I.C.T.I.O.N. is the only word I feel accurately describes my state of being.

There. I said it.

Judge me if you want, but if you have an ounce of mercy in your pitiful hearts you will grace me instead.

I once read somewhere that most of our fears are ‘learned.’ We’re born with only two; fear of falling and fear of loud noises. I really don’t fear loud noises. My hearing impairment could obviously have something to do with that, but maybe the reason many of us have a fear of heights is because of that ingrained fear of falling and that could very well be why some of us really do NOT like to fly.

Most of us have at least one fear, maybe more, so even though our phobias may be different we can still understand the feelings and emotions behind them. It’s a terrible malady. If not for the grace of God I would never have gotten on that plane all by myself. Can you hear me in my whiny childish voice, “May I have a babysitter to hold my hand, please?” ‘Cause I seriously wanted one.

So maybe you can understand why it was such a BIG deal for me to ‘GO’ where God said ‘GO’,  to ‘DO’ what God said ‘DO’, to ‘FLY’ where God said ‘FLY.’

The only way I could kiss my sweet husband good-bye at the airport and enter the unknown alone was because in my heart of hearts, I knew God was going before me, God would not leave me comfortless, and…

God would be good to me. He could not, would not, disappoint me.

At the Raleigh airport I was comforted by very gracious airline employees. After Raleigh…well, let me just say…airline personnel don’t have a lot of sympathy for people like me. I’m neither completely deaf nor totally blind. I’m kinda caught in the middle. I can hear sounds, but I don’t have clarity. Forget trying to decipher anything that comes through a sound system. I need visuals. I need to see a face, read lips…you know the story.

Drawing from my life experiences, most people think that if you have hearing aids you don’t need the aid of people. To my dismay, airline personnel in Dallas couldn’t have cared less when I asked for their assistance in telling me when it was my turn to board. They pretty much forgot all about me.

I’ve had to learn in life to draw on what I know to be true about God and I knew He had not forgotten me,

“Can a woman forget her nursing child and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you. Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands.” Isaiah 49: 15 & 16

I knew that if God had gone before me then He had prepared the hearts of certain individuals to stand in the gap for me. I just had to find them.

So, in that big, bustling Dallas airport swarming with humanity, I appealed to the God whose eyes were on me and scanned the crowd at the gate. You can tell so much by looking at faces, and thanks be to God, He directed me to an older man with a kind face. (I like kind.)

“Please, sir, would you mind telling me when they call Group 2? I’m hearing impaired and I can’t understand a thing they’re saying over that intercom.”

It was at that moment I realized something I almost forgot…the God who goes before me always makes a way in the journey. It’s just not always the way I expect. In a hearing-seeing world where I don’t hear and see like most people around me I have a part to play. I have to let God be God and trust Him enough to give me a push in the right direction when I need it.

God’s direction for me was to ‘get over myself’ and ‘get under His wing.’

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“He will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you will find refuge…” Psalm 91:4

There’s something about taking this journey with God that boosted my confidence and bolstered my courage in a way I’ve not experienced in a long, long time. There’s something about the way God made Himself known to me in very personal ways. Like in the Ontario airport on the return trip home when He guided me to a sweet senior woman. (I like sweet.)

We struck up a conversation and when I found out she was over 80 years old and flying alone I was properly put in my place, I can tell you that! But, it was in the more-daunting Dallas airport that God reminded me of something I’d almost forgotten,

He hems me in.

“You hem me in behind and before, and You lay Your hand upon me.” Psalm 139:5

As God set my sights on a young couple with compassion on their faces (I like compassion), I sat down beside them and made my appeal with no more fear behind the words. When it was our turn to board, as only God could instruct, this woman said to me,

“Now you let my husband go in front of you and I’ll go behind you. We’ll guide you along the way.”

The tears are flowing even now because this memory is so precious to me.

I may not always know what the journey holds, but when I trust in the goodness of God, He never disappoints me. His goodness shows up in kindness, in sweetness, and in the compassion of those whose hearts He has prepared to meet me.

I went from affliction to consolation. I’m so glad God never tires of reminding me, “Nina, I not only go before you, but I have your back. I will not let you fall, even though you fear the flight. I will uphold you with the palms of my hand and you will find refuge under my wings.” 

And I ask you, who needs a babysitter when God Himself hems me in?