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This picture doesn’t show you the very beginning of our journey, but from this you can see the beginning of our journey as a family of four.

In May of 2012 Freddo and I will have been married for 24 years.  On our journey we have been blessed by the Lord with two wonderful boys, Nathan and Blane.  The center of our life is Jesus Christ. He is the Anchor of our soul, Who keeps us grounded when life gets tough. As many of you know, life does become difficult from time to time.  In this picture you see Freddo, myself, Nathan and Blane as a baby, who we are all making over.  Then you see a man with dark hair and glasses, that brave man is my Dad.  Much of our difficult journey over the last few years have been because of  my Dad being diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia.  Missing from this picture is my dear mom, she would be the photographer. Most of the things you will read here on this blog will be surrounded by the fore mentioned people, whom I love dearly and the things that God is teaching me as I strive to “Choose Joy Now”.

“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials,” James 1:2 (emphasis mine)

Over the past few years, this verse, along with the rest of James 1 have become a mainstay for Freddo and I. God has encouraged us so much through His Word. There is great healing located within the pages of the Bible.

In 2012 our youngest son graduated from high school. He applied to only one college his senior year, and by God’s grace, he was accepted! The day that my Dad took his last breath on this earth, Blane got a call from the college, asking if he would be interested in coming down for the second session of the summer work program. They called him before Dad passed and so I said, “Of course!” without even a thought. God was so gracious to allow that call to come BEFORE my Dad passed away, otherwise, I am not sure I would have had the strength to tell this super excited young man yes.

Fast forward 2 years…this (soon to be) 21 year old son of ours calls again with incredible excitement in his voice. College of the Ozarks just announced that there would be a Patriotic Travel Trip to Vietnam this fall (2014). So Blane wrote an essay, which I will post for your reading pleasure. Out of the submitted essays, 12 students would be chosen to accompany 12 Vietnam Veterans to a 13 day trip to Vietnam. In this essay they were to include their reason for desiring to go on this trip. So, of course, Blane wrote about my Dad and Dad’s impact on his life.

Patriotic Travel Trip – Vietnam Essay

Blane R. Bias

     “Above all, Vietnam was a war that asked everything of a few and nothing of most in America…” (Myrna MacPherson, 1984). My interest in participating in the Patriotic Trip to Vietnam stems from my grandfather, Gary B Whitehead. He served as a Combat Medic with the 25th Infantry Division during the Tet Offensive in 1968. On August 4th, 1968, he was wounded when he and his men stepped on a booby trap. In the moments after landing back on the ground, he army crawled to the other wounded men, and bandaged them all up. By the time the helicopter arrived, my grandpa’s wounds were the only ones that had not been attended to. For this heroic deed, he received the Purple Heart and Bronze Star. During my childhood, my grandpa instilled in both, my brother and I, a deep respect for the soldiers who fought for the United States, especially the soldiers that fought in Vietnam. My grandpa also taught me to have a huge sense of patriotism, duty and pride for America. I remember my grandpa sadly recounting how the soldiers were treated when they arrived back home from Vietnam. With glistening eyes he said that people spit on them and called them “baby killers”. This made me really sad to hear that people back then did not understand that they went there to die for their country. I want to go on this trip so that I can honor my grandpa’s memory.

     I would like to go on this trip so that I can see some of the places that my grandpa may have been and experience some of the places he told in his stories. If I am chosen to do on this trip I hope to gain a deeper understanding of the things that the soldiers went through over in Vietnam. Also I want to honor the service of the Vietnam Veterans who we will be accompanying and learn about some of the struggles that they have been through. I would be grateful for the privilege of honoring them by listening to their stories and sharing in this time with them.

     On June 12th 2012, my grandpa died after a 7 year battle with Lewy Body Dementia, a disease in which patients slowly lose both their cognitive skills and mental thought processes, along with their ability to communicate. Ironically, he died two hours after someone from College of the Ozarks called me to let me know that I have been given the second summer work session. By God’s grace, in 2010, my grandpa went with Central Missouri Honor Flight out of Columbia, Missouri to Washington D.C. to the World War II, Vietnam and Korean War Memorials. Grandpa went because he wanted to honor the men that did die in Vietnam, and to say he was sorry to the ones that he could not save. As I recount all of this, I am reminded of how much respect I have for my grandpa and for those that have fought for my freedom.

 

I can gratefully say that Blane was one of the students chosen to take this trip. They will leave September 25th and return October 8th, 2014. He will celebrate his 21st birthday in Vietnam (HOW COOL IS THAT??). We are so excited for what God will do in Blane’s life, the lives of all that are on the trip and those that they will encounter while they are gone. Blane is taking 18 hours this semester and has 15 hours per week to work. All of the students on this trip must have their class work done that they will miss BEFORE they leave, and he will have to make up the 30 work hours that he will miss while he is gone. We would appreciate your prayers for all of them over the next month. I will be posting the link to the blog that the students will be writing while they are gone so that we can keep up with how their trip is going.

If you had told me in January of this year that today would be so full of joy that my heart would overflow and I could hardly keep the smile from my face as we drove home from church, I would have rolled my eyes and said in a sarcastic tone, “Yeah right…”.

Let me back up…here is a run-down of 2012…My cousin, John, passed away from stomach cancer in January. Blane graduated from high school, changing my life as a mom. My dad passed away in June. We moved Blane to college two weeks later. In August the wife of Freddo’s co-worker died; she had become my friend over that last year and a half of her life, and we were there when she passed away…bringing with it all the sights and sounds of my dad’s death… In November a very close friend of mine died. I went to see her on Friday. She couldn’t respond to me, but when I told her I had to go and prayed with her, and that I would be back the next day, she got restless and started making noises for the first time since I had been there…if only I had known that she would pass away the next morning…I would never have left…

All through this process I spent time each day searching for gifts, and I journaled them. Honestly, this daily moment by moment act and praise music were like my life lines through the dark days. I knew God was there, but because of the pain my heart was in, I couldn’t see Him, or feel Him. (I recently learned that “feeling” my way to God is not biblical.) I developed a very discouraged and rebellious attitude. I didn’t care much about anything. I struggled to find joy in each day and I still laughed and smiled upon occasion, but I felt lost.

In December of 2013 Bob’s dad was diagnosed with Diffuse Large B-Cell Lymphoma and was given “months” to live. In January of 2014 we moved into their home to assist in his daily caregiving needs and stayed with them until a week after he passed away at the end of March.  In February Freddo and I resigned all of our “positions” of ministry at our church, since we didn’t know how long this would go on. Our hearts were so sad and discouraged, and yet we KNEW we were right where God intended us to be.

I learned so much during this time! One thing was… that a few clothes, my own pillow, my tablet, my Bible, a book called “Becoming More than a Good Bible Study Girl”, and my hubby was really all I needed from home. We have always tried to live a “simple” life, but this really was simple. I recall thinking, “All that stuff at our house, all the decorations, the dishes, the clothes, jewelry, furniture, tv, etc., none of it means anything.” I guess God really changed my heart about our possessions during that time. Now, to be honest, I still struggle with contentment, and I think I always will to some degree, but there had been a definite shift in my thinking.

Freddo and I struggled about where God wanted us to worship from here on out. We worshiped with his mom at his folk’s church for some time, and while our hearts were so encouraged by the love and support from their community, we never had a peace that we were to leave our home church. So we decided to go back to “visit” our church. We sure felt on guard during that time, and I can’t tell you the exact Sunday that we knew what God’s plan for us was, but I can say we were convicted during worship one Sunday morning. On our way home we agreed that if we were going to worship at HBC, we were going to get back into serving the Lord there. And that exact week, God opened doors for us that we had never imagined. We decided that we would serve God with our hearts, wholly surrendered to Him, despite the cost.

Today, August 24, 2014, I can tell you that for the first time in a long time, I walked away from a full day of service to the Lord with an overflowing heart, so full of love for His people. It would take a while to go all the joys God blessed me with today, but I do want to testify that God has renewed my heart and healed it. It has been a slow, long, painful process, but I can at this time thank Him for all the pain of these past few years.

If you are discouraged by the trials in your life, let me encourage you to not give up the fight. Seek God. God’s Word says in Psalm 53:2, “God looks down from heaven on the children of man to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God.”  After reading this verse, I realized that I want to be one that God sees who understands and who seeks after Him. Don’t you?

My Mirror

Mirrors are false. They are not true reflections of who we are. My sweet husband, Freddo, reminds me of this truth constantly. I do need to hear it regularly…or perhaps I don’t need to hear it so often, as I need to believe it when he declares it to me. He even showed me one time by flexing the mirror one way or the other, how it has the ability to change my appearance. I was shocked. I saw it with my own eyes and yet to this day…I have trouble accepting that truth.

I know because I have tried. I know that the enemy of my soul doesn’t want me to find the truth. He wants me to be stuck in the world of “never good enough”. The pursuit of perfection has always left me wanting. I need to be a better mom, wife, Christian, house keeper, worker, driver, gardener, cook, decorator, hostess, church member, teacher, daughter, daughter-in-law, friend, diabetic…the list goes on and on. I need to be thinner, prettier, blonder, more in style…perhaps you know the drill…

When I look in the mirror I don’t really see who I am…I see who I am not compared to “others” in my mind. The “others” I speak of may be people I know well, or it may even be another I have never even met. But you see, I allow Satan to keep me so busy pursuing who I think I ought to be, that I miss the opportunity to see myself as Christ does.

In the Bible God tells me that I am dearly loved. I am the apple of His eye. I am fearfully and wonderfully made. And all those things are true and vitally important, but I still miss the point when I look to His Word just to find who I am. What I believe He desires me to find is who He is. When I do that my focus becomes correct for the first time, since it is on Him alone. He is light. He is truth. He is the lover of my soul. He is my hope. He is my peace. He is my constant. He is faithful. He is all knowing. He is NEVER going to leave me alone (no matter what). He chose me and I am truly loved and cared for by Him!

Oh, why is it so hard to stay focused on these truths? Why is the world so tempting? The Bible says that the Devil prowls around like a lion, seeking whom he may devour. Standing strong in Christ and leaning on the truths of His Word alone, THAT is going to keep me focused. Refocusing my gaze, each time I get distracted. This world is a lure, because I am human. I must remain alert to my tendency to be distracted and not allow myself to be pulled in.

Jesus, the Light of this world, is what keeps me from being ensnared by all of the lies I have believed. I have been playing this perfection game for 30 years or more. I don’t know where is started, and truly that doesn’t even matter. What I do know is that leaning on Christ alone is the way to stop it. Reading His Word and filling my mind with His truths, replacing the lies that I tell myself is part of the solution, but the majority of the answer lies in my focus. When I focus on Christ, and allow my gaze to linger on Him throughout the day, no matter what I am doing…then and only then will I begin to see more clearly who I am, because only then does everything else fall from my view and my image in the mirror become clear, as I allow Him to be my mirror.

Well, my sweet friend, it has been a year since I stood at your bedside, singing a song in your ear and praying with you. If only I had known it would be my last chance to speak to you… I have to wonder what I would have said differently??? If only you could have spoken on that last day. I have a strong feeling you knew I was there, that you could hear me, cause you became so restless when I told you I had to go.  I wonder if God had already told you that you would be going home so soon…is that why you were so restless?

I have spent too much time this last year thinking through the “if onlys” of that day, and the months prior to your death. But God has constantly pointed me back to the positives of what had already passed. Our talks on the phone, our times of spiritual accountability, our moments of encouraging the other during the hard days, the times we talked about your double lung transplant and the hardest parts of those days, the cards and scrapbooks that we made while we were together, the love for music that we shared, the fears that we both had, the laughs we had over our boys, the talk of Bible studies and learning together about God, our times of prayer, our quest to live boldly for God and our frustration with never doing enough for Him, the list goes on and on. I try to dwell on all those memories of the great times.

So often I wonder how your “days” play out now? Can you see me? Do you know of my struggles and my tears? Do you understand why your mom and my dad passed in the ways that they did? Does your illness make sense to you now? Does it matter if we have our quiet time in the morning or at night (lol)? Do you have all the answers to the private things we discussed between the two of us?

I am incredibly grateful that you are no longer suffering and when I think of being in the presence of God I am at complete peace, but when I lose my focus and think of myself and try to figure out the days without you here to talk to, I get a bit discouraged. Oh how many times I have wanted to talk to you… About envelopes, where do I buy them? Where did you find those keys that you put on that plaque? What was that recipe that we made for that family? What were your plans for some of the projects that you had started? How I wanted to cry to you like we have done before when the days have been hard. I have never lost of friend before and I miss you like crazy!

I am so grateful for the things I learned during your life…

-my struggles or frustration usually come back to a heart issue

-never take your friends for granted

-don’t judge your friends, let them be vulnerable about whatever is on their heart and just listen

-it’s okay for be afraid, just don’t give in to those fears, always look back to God

-when I fail at my having my quiet time, I just start again tomorrow

-never give up hope, God is working

-germs…they are everywhere…lol!

-how your death has caused me to lean even more on the Lord, trying to understand and trust His will, especially when it hurts, even when it’s hard

I did do the Ann Voskamp study we talked about doing together in January. I was a good study, but I still wish we could have done it together!

I will forever be grateful to the Lord for your friendship and for the times we shared. Remembering you today, a little more than usual, and rejoicing in God’s will with tears in my eyes…

Fall is, by far, my favorite season of the year. The cooler weather, breezes blowing through the trees, bon fires, the changing of the leaves…bright yellows, magnificent oranges, and fiery reds…what an amazing array of colors that warm my heart in a way that no other season can.

fall pic
Despite my love for this time of year, there have been many things that have happened throughout the years that have threatened my joy during this wonderful season. But God (which is an amazing statement alone) has taught me to “Choose Joy Now”, no matter what may be happening around me. One way I have learned to do that is to find things to be grateful for, even during the toughest of times. Often these are obscure things that are hard to notice without careful attention, other times God displays them proudly, right in front of me.

It’s almost as if He knows I need to see His Hand at work. I know He understands fully my need to trust Him even deeper than yesterday. Trust…it has become my word for the last few years, it has been a long journey, but one that has not quite come to an end just yet. And in all honesty, I can say I am glad that He is not yet content with my trust in Him.

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Recently my friend’s husband left home for a one year deployment to protect our country’s freedom. My heart has been heavily burdened for them as they waited for the day of his departure to arrive. I have been praying, but God was pressing me to do more, so as I left for work this morning I asked the Lord to show me a different Bible verse each week that I could pray for my precious friend and her family. As I was praying, I jokingly mentioned that God would need to be creative in how He showed me a verse this week, as I have not been the most diligent each day to read His Word. I finished praying and began singing praises to God as I continued my drive.

When I walked into work I began coughing, so as I was digging through my purse looking for a sinus pill, I came across a small yellow paper that was crumpled and a bit worn.

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On the paper was,

Isaiah 41:10
“So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

 

As soon as I read it I began to smile…I knew this was the verse that God intended me to pray for my friend and her family this next week. It took me a while to take all this in, because, as you see, I had written this Scripture on the torn half sheet of yellow paper back in March of this year (2013), when I was struggling to trust God with a difficult situation that was happening. That verse came to me as a welcomed relief back in March when I heard it and I quickly jotted it down on the scrap piece of paper. I was reminded back then how much God must love me to give me that verse at that exact moment when I so desperately needed to know that He was holding me…did I mention that was SEVEN months ago…??? This morning when I found this paper in my purse, I had this overwhelming sense of peace of God’s love for me and for my friend as I wondered how exactly God had gotten that piece of paper into my purse after all of these months…?? I clean out my purse at least once a month. I KNOW I had taken this paper out, but for such a time as this, God saw fit to get it back into my purse so I would find it this morning. He knew that on the way to work I was going to ask for Him to show me a verse to pray. I just shook my head as I took all of this in this morning…and by the way, my coughing, which is why I got into my purse to begin with, has stopped by this time…

 

So I quickly shot my sweet friend an email to explain to her how much God loved her (explaining the story to her quickly. Imagine, if you can, how encouraged my faith was when she sent the following text and then email to me…
“Isaiah 41:10 is the verse we are “claiming” as a family for this deployment. The boys’ necklaces say “FEAR NOT” and [my husband] wrote out that verse for them right after we found out about his deployment. We both came across Isaiah 41:10 as a verse we should use separately. God reminded me when you sent me this verse that He knows me. He is good.”

 
The following came in an email…”I don’t feel like my text adequately explained what a gift this was. Instant tears came to my eyes as soon as I saw the verse…not out of sadness, but out of humility that all mighty God cares for me that much. I shared it with the boys this morning. I want them to know God is here and at work, and that He loves us. If in the end they have a better knowledge of Him and His faithfulness, then all of this is worth it. Thanks for praying and asking God for guidance. Oh, what a difference it makes. Love you much. “

 
Honestly, there are not adequate words to color for you the joy, faith, comfort, peace and love that flooded my heart when I stepped back and took all this in. There were so many cool things that God brought together in these precious moments this morning. I was even able to go back and thank God in a different and deeper way for the trial that we went through back in March, for if we hadn’t walked through it, I wouldn’t have been desperate for that verse and I wouldn’t have written it down. God just set me at awe this morning. I never cease to be amazed at Him.

 

As I sat there taking all this in, God brought a song to my heart that I began to sing. It is a song that God used to encourage my heart after my dad died. Click on the following words to hear the song:

 
“Scars and struggles on the way
But with joy our hearts can say
Never once did we ever walk alone
Carried by Your constant grace
Held within Your perfect peace
Never once, no, we never walk alone”

 
I smiled as I considered that God loves my friends so much that He is demonstrating His love for them as they begin this journey.

A journey that will be long and hard.

A journey that will require much faith and tenacity.

A journey that will test them in ways they’ve never been tested before.

A journey that will grow them in ways that nothing else can.

A journey that only God can walk them through and bring them out better on the other side.

And the cool thing is that they will never walk alone throughout the whole journey, even though they are apart from each other! God is good, just as my friend said.

Waiting on God

My friend recently sent me an email that I had sent to her back in September of 2010. She had sent it to a friend that was struggling and she remembered that I might need to hear these words of encouragement. I find it crazy how God uses something in my life in one season and then in another season I reread it and realize it is a lesson that I am still not really applying. So I have made a choice to ask for forgiveness and allow God to work in my heart instead of beating myself up for not doing a better job in the last 3 years. So I share the lesson with you, as it is a good one.

I want to share what God showed me in my Bible study time this morning. I was reading in Daniel 10. This is where Daniel had a vision. The Bible states that Daniel knew the message was true, but the appointed time was long. It said in those days he was in mourning for 3 full weeks. In this time he ate no pleasant food or meat, etc., nor did he anoint himself with oil. Then on the 24th day an angel came to him, the Bible tells of how this vision affected him. But what really spoke to me was the verses that follow….

“Then behold, a hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees. He said to me, “O Daniel, man of high esteem, understand the words that I am about to tell you and stand upright, for I have now been sent to you ” And when he had spoken this word to me, I stood up trembling.
Then he said to me, “Do not be afraid, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart on understanding this and on humbling yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to your words. “But the prince of the kingdom of Persia was withstanding me for twenty-one days; then behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left there with the kings of Persia.”

Here it shows us that God heard Daniel’s prayer on the first day that he prayed it. But the angel was delayed 21 days due to the prince of Persia (Satan/demons). While Daniel was waiting to hear back from God there was a spiritual battle going on that Daniel wasn’t aware of. But Daniel did not faint in his faith and trust, he continued persistently seeking God.

This brought me much encouragement as there are people that Bob and I are praying for to be saved, or to turn back to God, and it seems to be taking so long. This example in the Bible shows us that there is a spiritual battle going on that we can’t see, but we must press on, trusting God to do His will. We must continue to pray for their lives to be changed, and while we pray we too will be changed because through this we we learn more about the nature and character of God. I pray that this encourages you today in some way.

Growing in Him more every day,
Sheila

I am so grateful for sweet friends that save things and have a heart to encourage! May God encourage your heart as you wait for Him to answer your heart’s cry!

The week is crazy with work and Vacation Bible School. It seems so rushed to get everything done, there really isn’t time to stop and spend time with God…and yet He continues to draw me. This morning I read a quick devotional from Ann Voskamp’s “One Thousand Gifts” devotional.

The Scripture is “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are Mine…Because you are precious in My eyes, and honored, and I love you, I give men in return for you, peoples in exchange for your life.” Isaiah 43:1, 4 ESV

When I let that verse sink in it warms me, to think that the God of the universe has redeemed me and has called me by name. He tells me right here that I am His. Oh, the comfort, I am so grateful I stop to spend these moments with Him!

The rest of the devotion talks about grace. She says, “…the real mystery of grace is that it always arrives in time. Like the wind, grace finds us wherever we are and won’t leave us however we were found.” I think of how God’s grace has found me and how He/it/ His grace continually changes me, softens me.

I see these word on a sign on the door at Casey’s in bold print “ACCEPTED HERE“. This catches me off guard, “accepted here” isn’t this what we all are looking for…??? A place to be accepted, not when we are better, or when we have it all together, we need to be accepted right here, right now, just as we are. One of the things I know about God and His amazing grace is that He accepts me, right here, just as I am. And I am comforted, I don’t have to jump through any hoops, do things just right, He loves and accepts me right were I am, right here!

While I am comforted greatly by this thought, another emerges in my mind…who is it that I am not willing to accept right where they are…like God did for me?

My time with God this morning was quick and a bit painful, as pruning always is, but as always, I am so glad for these moments alone with Him to allow Him to continue to trim away these parts of me that don’t look like Him. I’m so grateful for His grace and that He teaches me to share His grace with everyone I meet.