When Hard Times Seem Endless

Sept to Oct 2013 Misc 063Every month I squirt a small tube of Revolution between Jazzy’s neck and shoulder blades. The medicine protects her from fleas, ticks, and heartworms. The liquid has a distinct smell that Jazzy does not like.

 

 

 

The second I pull the plastic tube out of the foil wrapper, my picky pooch twists her ears back, tucks her tail between her legs, and slinks away. When I call her, she lowers her head and inches her way toward her doom.

 

Experience has taught me that Jazzy will roll on her back and rub the expensive medicine into my carpet as soon as I finish applying the liquid. So, after I’ve squirted the last drop onto her exposed line of skin, I immediately comb her fur over the wet spot and slip a cloth cone around her neck.

 

We’ve nicknamed the dreaded accessory “The Cone of Shame” because our usually perky pup mopes the entire time she’s wearing the protective gear.

 

I always stay close to make sure she doesn’t try to paw the cone off. So, I get the full show of doggie dramatic despair.

 

Her brown eyebrows lift and lower as she watches me with woeful eyes, periodically huffing air through her nose.

 

“Really, Jazzy? I’m right here. Just be patient. You’re all right.”

 

My words do not console her.

 

After the liquid dries, I call her name.

 

She looks my way but doesn’t budge.

 

“Are you ready to take that cone off?”

 

Her ears perk as she bounds toward me, tail swooshing.

 

Jazzy Cone 1Ready? It’s about time! I’ve been wearing this thing forever!

 

 

 

 

As soon as I untie the cone and slip it off her head, Jazzy flops on her back. She grunts as she tries to rub off the evidence of her painful experience. But it’s too late.

 

As her loving master, I know how long it takes to soak up the medicine that’s intended to keep her safe.

 

I toss her a small treat and shake my head.

 

When will she realize I know her needs?

 

When will she believe she can trust me to do what’s best for her?

 

Jazzy Resting with God's Word Oct 25, 2013When will her master’s presence and words of assurance be enough to bring her comfort when hard times seem endless?

 

 

 

Oh, how much I have in common with my pooch!

 

In Isaiah 30:20, the prophet writes:

 

“Though the LORD gave you adversity for food and suffering for drink, he will still be with you to teach you. You will see your teacher with your own eyes.”

 

My first response to this verse was, I do not want to be invited to that dinner party!

 

Then, I took a closer look and discovered the overflowing hope and assurance.

 

Suffering and affliction on this side of eternity is inevitable. But, in the midst of our suffering and affliction, God is with us, teaching us, and revealing Himself to us.

 

Our Master may not give us the relief we desire, but He will never leave us. And we can be sure our pain has a purpose. He never wastes our experiences, good or bad.

 

When we feel trapped in affliction or suffering, we can mope, like Jazzy, or choose to praise the Lord and rest secure in His constant presence.

 

While we trust God’s all-knowing goodness and perfect timing, we can armor up with His Word. The Holy Spirit uses the truth in the Bible to strengthen and comfort us when hard times seem endless.

 

After all, moping doesn’t make me take off Jazzy’s cone any sooner. So, why should we expect God to move faster when we don’t like our circumstances?

 

Thank You, Lord, for never leaving us. Thanks for offering us a new perspective in regards to suffering and affliction. To You be the glory! In Jesus’ name, amen.

 

What can we do to help us remember God’s presence when we’re in the middle of the season of longsuffering or affliction?

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Hidden in the Shelter of God’s Tabernacle

Jazzy in a blanket - Jan 28, 2013“For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon a rock.” (Psalm 27:5, NIV)

 

 

 

As Jazzy’s master, I’ve been attentive and faithful in meeting her needs ever since she was a pup.

 

She’s not a whiner. She doesn’t bark when I’m taking too long to acknowledge her. She just sits in front of me, staring at me, waiting for me to figure out what she wants, even though I’ve proven to only give her what she needs.

 

Sometimes, she’ll use her front paw to get my attention, especially when there’s a possibility of cuddle time or when there’s a blanket involved.

 

As my sweet pup tucks her nose under the covers, I think of how the Lord has always come through for me, how He’s wrapped me in His love and grace during the coldest, darkest times of my life, how He’s given me peace when there was nothing but chaos all around me.

 

The Bible tells us exactly how to achieve that glorious peace that makes us feel safe in the days of trouble.

 

Psalm 27:4 (NIV) says: “One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.”

 

When we armor up daily, and practice wielding God’s sword of truth we’ll be ready for those times when we’re caught up in the heat of battle.

 

We can’t wait until we’re in crisis to seek the Lord. We need to spend all the days of our lives in His presence, saturating our hearts with His Word, practicing obedience as He molds our faith.

 

Lord, please give us willing hearts and courageous faith as You empower us to change our behavior or our situation. When we’re afraid of what might happen as a result of our radical commitment to You, help us trust that obedience to Your Holy Word leads to security in Your presence, which is all we need to feel safe in any day of trouble. In Jesus’ name, Amen

 

What will you commit to, today, that will help you practice God’s presence daily, so that you will be armored up and ready for battle in this world at war with God?

 

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How a Pound Pup Taught Me the Secret of True Rest

Dog Blog - Niner by Mallory - Jan 2013If there’s one pup who knows the true meaning of rest, it’s my Grand-Dog, Niner.

When my son, AJ, saw this trembling, curly haired pooch peering through the kennel fence at the pound, he couldn’t resist those sad eyes. The clerk explained that he had medical issues that would need to be addressed, most likely due from his being abused and abandoned.

 

 

 

Without hesitation, AJ adopted the dog, gave him a new name and introduced him to his new life.

 

It seemed as if Niner knew he’d found his real home the day my son saved him from the pound.

 

His quickness to expose his tummy for a rub, a sign of trust, demonstrates the healing power of being loved unconditionally.

 

His puppy joy is as contagious as his relaxed demeanor. I admire how he adapts to new environments with ease, as long as he knows his masters are nearby.

 

Wherever Niner happens to be in the moment is a perfect resting place, even if there’s chaos all around him.

 

Misc Dec 2012 086This kind of resting doesn’t always mean he’s taking a siesta, though. Niner will plop himself anywhere and watch what’s going on around him. Sometimes, the slight movement of his curly eyebrows is the only clue that he’s awake.

 

 

 

God has used Niner to remind me that, when I remain in the presence of my loving Master, neither my past nor my current surroundings determine my ability to experience the freedom of true rest.

 

Scripture declares:

 

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’” (Psalm 91:1-2, NIV)

 

Words like shelter and refuge usually indicate a need for protection. Fortresses are designed to guard their inhabitants during war. Yet, the writer of Psalm 91 paints an image of peace as he confidently asserts that rest is inevitable for he who makes his home under the protective covering “of the Most High.”

 

The NASB uses the word “abide,” instead of rest. It’s the same concept used in John 15:4 where Jesus invited his disciples to remain in Him, to abide in Him, to live in close fellowship with Him.

 

Niner Waiting Jan 2013Abiding in Christ means to love Him enough to follow His leading, no matter how impossible the situation may seem. To trust Him enough to walk boldly, through the refining fires of life, in obedience and faith. To believe God is faithful and just, even when the waiting feels endless or the pain seems unbearable.

 

 

 

 

During the last year and a half the Lord has been carrying our family through another season of loss. I clung to God’s promises through those trials.

 

But, when the pain became physical, I felt hopelessness and despair sneaking into my heart.

 

I lost some freedom and mobility in my upper body when I underwent numerous medical procedures and endured months of adjusting to medication. I succumbed to discouragement when the doctors revealed the original injury I suffered had caused more severe damage to other parts of my back, neck and shoulders.

 

After one of my appointments, I snapped at my husband in anger. We rode the rest of the way home in silence as I soaked in my doctor’s words: “The procedure on your back failed.”

 

The doctor had suggested immediate surgery on my left shoulder before we tried an ablation of the nerve that was causing the pain in my back. He said I would also need surgery on my right shoulder before the end of 2013. If my back didn’t respond well to the ablation, we would have to consider surgery to remove a portion of my rib.

 

Meanwhile, I would have to rely on medicine to carry me through the recovery process, as well as to help me manage the pain from herniated disks on my neck and my original back injury.

 

Niner Close Up and Personal Jan 2013I was definitely not resting in my circumstances as fear pricked my side.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Through the financial stresses that piled on as my husband went into his sixth month of unemployment, through family conflicts with our prodigal son, through growing pains with our teenage son, through my husband’s emergency appendectomy, and through my physical ailments, I realized just how hard it was to obey God when all I wanted to do was lash out and escape the pain.

 

When we got home from the doctor’s office, I went to my room and fell face down on the floor. I offered my sobs as a prayer of surrender. “Take over, Lord. I can’t handle one more thing.”

 

As I cried in the presence of the Great Physician, I discovered a deeper meaning of Luke 1:37:

 

“For nothing is impossible with God.”

 

To find the peace I needed, I would have to stay with God. I would have to obey the Lord and trust Him in the midst of my hard times. I would have to love Him in word and deed!

 

Niner with a Boo Boo on his head Jan 2013But how could I do any of those things when I could barely get up off the floor?

 

 

 

 

 

 

In John 14:21, Jesus said: “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me.” (John 14:21a, NIV) He goes on to say: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5, NIV)

 

Jesus never intended His disciples to go through life in their own strength. God wants us to depend on His power, to choose His way. So, He sent the Holy Spirit to dwell within each believer, empowering us to love Him, to obey Him in all circumstances.

 

Why?

 

Misc Dec 2012 054Because only in obedience will we be in the presence of our Master. Only in obedience will we find true rest and experience biblical peace.

 

Hallelujah!

 

 

After listening to the Lord’s affirming whispers through my heart cries, I apologized to my husband and asked him to pray with me.

 

I reflected on the numerous examples in the Bible that show God providing protection and peace to those who love Him, to those who walk in His ways.

 

When we submit to God and choose to obey His whole Word, not just the feel-good verses, His promises and unconditional love become our reality.

 

Dog Blog - Niner and Tummy on his bed by Mallory - Jan 2013Like Niner, we can find true rest in the presence of our Master, regardless of what’s going on around us.

 

“My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.” (Psalm 62:1-2, NIV)

 

 

 

What’s getting in the way of you resting in God’s perfect peace today?

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Photos by Mallory Amanda Winkfield

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Prodigal Pup

During their two week summer vacation at our house, my parents received a call from a friend who was taking care of their dogs, Rico and Roxy.

 

“I’m so sorry. We looked everywhere. Roxy is gone.”

 

My mom grieved, reminiscing about how Roxy had been rescued from an abusive home almost ten years ago. “What if someone hurts her?” My mom brushed tears from her cheeks. “Most people won’t understand that she growls when she’s scared.”

 

Four prayer filled days after they received that call they headed home to search for their runaway pup. For weeks my brother-in-law, my mom, and my niece canvased their neighborhood. Night after night, they returned home empty handed.

 

 

The prayerful search continued for over three weeks before the Lord blessed us with a glimpse of a rainbow through the dark clouds.

 

 

 

 

In the fourth week of the search, my mom met a friend on the walking trail. “I just want some kind of closure,” my mom said.

 

“I saw a little brown stray in my niece’s neighborhood a few days ago. She lives a few blocks from your house.”

 

After hugging her friend, my mom rushed home to share the good news. Could it be that Roxy was trying to find her way home?

 

The whole family, along with some kind neighbors, combed the streets with newfound fervor.

 

Eliza, my eight-year-old niece, rode with my mom. She called out the window, her voice hoarse, as they scoured the neighborhood. “Roxy. Roxy. Roxy.”

 

Hours passed.

 

Pulling over to the side of the road, my mom prayed. “Please, God, help us find Roxy. But if Your answer is no, please give us strength to cope with our loss.”

 

The only break in the silence as they drove home was my niece’s cracking voice, now barely a whisper between soft sobs. “Roxy.”

 

As they parked in the driveway, a honking horn caught their attention. My brother-in-law pulled up in front of the house and leaned over to open the passenger door.

 

Roxy hopped out of the car and raced toward my mom and my niece.

 

Her tail fanned. Her body wiggled. Her tongue flapped over the side of her mouth as she panted.

 

 

After three weeks of continual prayer, my mom’s prodigal pup returned home. Praise the Lord! But I’ve learned from experience that, sometimes, it feels like our beloved prodigals will be lost forever.

 

For seven years, my husband and I prayed for our prodigal son as he wandered in the wilderness of worldly living.

 

I prayed the Lord would help him find his way back, no matter what!

 

That bold prayer was followed by our son’s two-year incarceration and choices that led him further away from God and from our family.

 

My heart hardened with hurt and resentment. But after much prayer, God convicted me and changed my prayers. I repented for my sinful attitude that let bitterness take root in my heart. I released the situation into God’s capable hands.

 

I began to pray for reconciliation. And this time, I meant it.

 

Months passed and there was no attempt from our son to make things right. I kept on praying. But, even though the Lord had placed it on my heart several times, I never made a true effort to reach out to him until I had no other choice.

 

On December 7, 2012 my husband writhed in pain in the local emergency room. The doctor affirmed that my husband needed to have his appendix removed.

 

I texted my step-son.

 

A few hours later, my husband was in the operating room, friends joined me for prayer in the hospital, and the Lord brought our prodigal home.

 

We spent Christmas with him and his fiancé.

 

Praise the Lord!

 

 

 

The story of the Prodigal Son, in Luke 15:11-32, reminds me of how God welcomes His lost sheep with joy after they’ve returned to his pasture of protection.

 

Roxy’s journey demonstrates how the Lord blesses us as we surrender to His will.

 

And my prodigal experience affirms how vital it is to allow the Lord to change my own heart as I trust Him to work in the hearts of others.

 

Each story is a unique example of how God hears and answers prayers according to His perfect timing and in accordance with His perfect will.

 

Thank You, Lord, for showing us time and again that You never forget us or leave us, even when we wander away from Your loving grace.

 

 

How did God help you as you waited for a lost puppy, or person, to find their way home?

 

I’d love to hear how the Lord worked as you prayed, or how He is working as you continue to pray your prodigal home.

 

 

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This story was written as told to me by my mother, our family Prayer Warrior. We’re thrilled that Roxy is safe at home and back to her old tricks, snoring on her warm pillow and stealing blankets from my dad as he sleeps.

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