You’re Not Alone

by Janine Smale

Grief.  How do I describe it? It’s gut wrenching and lonely.  It’s dark. Oppressive. Inexpressible.

I found myself in such a state after dealing with the loss of my Mother, who was my best friend, to cancer. My Father passed when I was 16 and now at 41, I was an orphan.

I felt alone.  For weeks, as my Mom laid in her hospital bed, I had prayed she would not leave this earth on my one year wedding anniversary. As the day drew to a close, praise the Lord, this prayer was answered.  She departed for His eternal kingdom minutes into the next day. Thankfully, my husband Brian was by my side as I processed that I was now an orphan. God was drawing me near, and oh how comforting were the words, “Abba, Father”.

My Mother’s last visit with us was during the previous Christmas season.  During this time, we saw a Christmas drama at our church with an adoption theme.  The drama featured a song by Meredith Andrews, titled You’re Not Alone.  The words in the chorus penetrated my heart.

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“I Am Truly Blessed.” A Journey Through Cancer

As a kid I loved reading mysteries. I would curl up with a new Nancy Drew novel, break open the pages and speed through the chapters. Of course, the first few chapters read quite casually as the author set the scene and developed the characters, but as the plot line thickened and events turned suspenseful, I couldn’t read fast enough. So I would conveniently place a book mark where I was, flip a few pages ahead to see how things turned out, and then resume reading from the bookmarked place. Somehow knowing who-did-what-and-how gave me the endurance to read through the middle suspense chapters with peace and calmness.

What if you could read the story of your life backwards and see how everything turned out? Would it make enduring through trials and tribulations easier, knowing the end result?

I knew Micki Green from serving on staff with her at Grace Community Church. I watched her walk through this journey with cancer and cling to her faith in God. Her sense of humor and homemade melt-in-your-mouth chocolate cake made the church office a little slice of home.

As I sat down to write her story, I read much of her Caring Bridge entries with the end in view. I knew after chemo she was declared “cancer free” and spent close to five years that way.

So as I read her day-to-day journal of those days at MD Anderson, it was like I had skipped ahead a few chapters and then resumed my reading. I knew God would hear and heal. The chemo that produced painful side effects would work. The pain would subside. She would have a normal or “cancer free” day (as she called it) soon.

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“Before I was born, He knew”

“Hey, where is the restroom?”

“The kiosk to register to testify is around the corner.”

“Huh? I said where is the restroom?”

The two ladies laughed but the truth is, when God puts something on your heart to do, you hear it everywhere, even voiced over a request to go to the bathroom.

A few minutes later Charlotte made her way to the feared table, submitting her name to give testimony at a hearing in Austin, Texas on behalf of girls rescued from sex trafficking. Refuge of Light, a safe home for these girls, was requesting mercy from Texas lawmakers to be registered as a safe home to qualify for state funding. Charlotte and her friend were there to support this organization thinking their job was merely to fill a seat.

Little did she know God was about to knock on her heart to not just fill a seat but also share her testimony to those in attendance.

This testimony had been tightly locked away for years. Like a dog on a leash, Charlotte only let her story out to whom she wanted to and when she wanted to. She thought as long as she was living in the force field of control she wouldn’t be hurt again.

The trip to Austin proved to shatter Charlotte’s force field as the Lord said to her, “Charlotte, this story isn’t yours to hold onto. It’s really mine. Go. It’s time for you to tell your story.”

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But the Greatest of These is Love

Today I want to take a moment to honor a man who was very important to me. I want to share how God redeems a story, even when it is so many years in the making, and how sometimes the redemption takes on a form we could never have imagined. For that’s when you know it’s really God and not something you fabricated yourself.

The story is about the legacy of my Papa, who passed on to be with Jesus on December 31, 2016.

I don’t even know how to describe and articulate what his presence in my life has meant to me. All I know is I wouldn’t be the woman I am today without him.

Papa’s life exhibited one of the greatest forms of love I have witnessed. He loved people. He loved my grandmother, he loved his neighbors, he loved his previous co-workers (many of who he stayed in touch with by telephone). He loved his family. He loved me.

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Throw Out Your Net on the Right Side

“Put out into deep water and

Let down the nets for a catch.”

Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked

hard all night and haven’t caught

anything. But because you say so

I’ll let down the nets.

When they had done so, they caught

such a large number of fish that their

nets began to break.”

Luke 5:4-6

Jesus’ words here are simple. So simple they are tottering on stupid.

Simon may have thought, Who do you think you are Jesus? Put out into deep water? What do you think we’ve been doing all night, fishing on land?

If he did think those words, he didn’t let his thoughts rule his actions. Instead he responded, “But because you say so, I’ll let down the nets.”

Simon was probably tired that morning after fishing all night. It’s possible he was frustrated, grumpy and wondering how he would pay the month’s bills with an empty net. Yet Jesus’ words stirred enough wonder, enough hope, and carried enough weight that he took the bait and did what Jesus suggested no matter how crazy it sounded. No matter if it got sneers from the other fisherman. No matter if the net turned up empty again. He did what Jesus said…because He said so.

Jesus’ words to us often aren’t some crazy, off the wall, magic pill to catch what we’re fishing for. Now they can be. He certainly holds the power to do that. But often, He offers a simple suggestion, with a fresh new perspective.

Put out into deep water and let down your nets for a catch.

The result of listening to Jesus’ words caused the nets to break, and immediately Simon fell at Jesus’ feet in worship and awe saying, “Go away from me Lord; I am a sinful man.”

Simon changes from worn out and frustrated to humbled and unworthy after standing in the Presence of the Lord.

We see a similar encounter like this in John 21:1-14.

Now, Jesus has been crucified. He has risen from the grave and has appeared to his disciples. Thomas has touched Jesus’ hand and side, realizing He is the risen Lord. And after all this Simon, now called Peter, decides he’s going fishing.

Maybe he just wanted to get away and enjoy his favorite hobby…

Or could his recent denial of Jesus at the crucifixion played any part in his decision to pick up his old trade again?

Either way, Peter and a few others grabbed their fishing nets and hit the lake only to…catch nothing all night. In the wee hours of the morning, guess who decides to join the group of friends. Yep, Jesus himself.

“Friends, haven’t you any fish?”

“No.” They answered.

Jesus said, “Throw your net on the right side

of the boat and you will find some.”

Again, Jesus gives a simple request.

And when the disciples did what Jesus said they were “unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.”

 

What does it look like to “throw our nets on the right side of the boat”?

Have you ever fished all night…or all week…all month…all year…and caught, well, nothing? Do you hear a voice in your head that suggests something ludicrously simple like cast your net in deep water? Or try the right side of the boat?

What does that look like in our life?

For the Christian business man (or woman) it might mean abiding by a different set of standards. Adam of Southwest Metal Systems is going to share his story of what it meant to throw his net on the right side of the boat…

A few years ago we were at a cross road in our business. Actually it looked more like staring at the Red Sea. Pharaoh’s chariots, dressed in vendors we owed money to, were closing in on us and one day we couldn’t run from them any longer. We had reached the end of land and there was nowhere else to go. God either had to part the waters or show me how to walk on them.

One day I gathered my team together and said, “Guys I’ve done all I know to do. If we make it out of this it’s not because of anything I have done. Only God Himself can save this company.”

During this time I really leaned into the Lord and asked Him to show me what He wanted me to do. Over and over I heard God impress upon me to get completely out of debt. Not only that, but stop taking on new debt. Essentially my instructions were, You either have the money to pay for your purchases or you don’t purchase them.

It sounded a lot like Jesus’ words to Peter:

Put out into deep water.
Throw your net on the right side of the boat
.

In my mind I was thinking, No more loans for business Lord? Don’t you know it takes money to make money? We’ve been casting all night, what difference does it make which side we cast from?

The difference is a few million miles of faith. 

Taking on debt was a way for me not to trust the Lord. Debt was a barrier between me and God. It was putting me in charge. But there’s no freedom in it. If God had called me to move to Kenya and serve Him there, I couldn’t go because I was bound to my debt.

I heard it said once that debt just delays decisions you know you need to make now. So now when crunched up against this boundary line, I ask myself, “What decisions am I delaying that I know need to be made now?”

When you go from relying on the bank for funds, to paying for everything in cash, it requires a new mentality. It challenges people’s mindset because it’s foreign and nobody operates like that. It shakes to the core people’s belief about the way business is supposed to be done.

I knew that getting our team to buy-in was risky. But I couldn’t shake God’s calling on me personally, and as the person He appointed to lead this company, I knew our team members had to understand and agree with my stance. As time has gone on, the respect level for what God has done in our business is evident to those around us. And it’s not patting me on the back, it’s praising the Lord.

Adam’s ingenuity could not and did not turn our company around. Our team has seen God provide for us. Now there is 100% buy in. When we look at buying new equipment, our team knows if we don’t have the money to buy it, we won’t buy it. And that gives them confidence that we’re not digging our self in a hole that we can’t pay for. I also hope it inspires out team to not be bound personally.

Practically it has meant we don’t grow as fast as we think we should. I think we need things in order to grow. I struggle with the constant battle within me of how to grow within the parameters God has placed on me. As far as the world goes we’re in the perfect financial condition. But I can’t just go buy the land I want and the equipment I want. He has to provide the resources.

This forces me to trust God’s guidance in the things I don’t see. I have to trust that if He doesn’t provide the money for what I think we need, it’s not what was best for us at that time. And I’ve found that when we seek provision from Him rather than from a loan, we see Him either lesson the need or miraculously provide. Half the time we realize we don’t need as much as we thought we did. And other times we say, Wow, where did this money come from!

Usually a business is winding down when they pay off all their debt. But God challenged me that we’re going to grow and not take on any new debt. And it’s evident it’s the Lord’s hand that in this and I’m just along for the ride! I’m thankful for this boundary line, because I think that without it, I’d be chasing the stuff of this life and would miss out on the relationship I have with my kids.

Simple command. Profound results.

So where are you? What do you learn from these passages? What are you fishing for? Have you caught any fish? What do you sense the Lord asking you to do? Does it sound too simple, maybe even bordering on stupid? How will you respond?


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The Thread of Redemption exists to point out the fingerprints and footprints of God in the brokenness of life.

Through people’s stories we will highlight the thread of redemption weaved through-out the fabric of our lives. Sometimes we are not able to see Him with the naked eye, but with just the right tools we can say, Look, He’s right there! He has been here all this time. I just couldn’t see Him! 

We’d love you to know more about us, share your story or meet the Redeemer Himself.

 

 

What’s Better than Coffee and Donuts?

I whisked into La Madeline, closing my umbrella and drying my shoes on the mat. Grabbing a menu, my friend and I thoughtfully made our lunch selection. But before we placed our order, my eyes wandered into the next room and caught a glance of something delightful hiding behind the enclosed glass of the bakery counter. Walking closer to see what was available, my eyes locked in on a delicate, curved glass cup filled with layers of chocolate mousse, cookie crumbs and whipped cream topping. That’s what I want, I declared to my friend.

We said goodbye to the desserts for now, placed our orders and sat down. A few minutes later my steaming hot entree was placed before me. I dug in excitedly and relished the conversation with my friend. As I scooped up the final bite of my Chicken Friand, I thought back to that delicious dessert awaiting me in the lobby. I tried to remember what it looked like. It had looked so good when I walked in, but now the rich flavor of chicken wrapped in a flaky pastry and drizzled with mushroom sauce hung juicy in my mouth. Honestly the urge for chocolate wasn’t there anymore. I don’t know that this has ever happened before… I was fully satisfied with my meal to the point that I didn’t want anything else to replace that lingering flavor.

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When We Went to the Zoo

For weeks, my youngest son has been pulling on me to do something special, just me and him. With winter masquerading as spring this year, he asked if we could go to the zoo. I saw the picture in his mind: He and mom at the zoo, with some ice cream to follow it up. Sounds amazing, right?

The morning of this wonderful idea started out as usual – up a little before 7, dogs barking, kids waking, breakfast bowls filling with cereal. Then onto chores, school and sorting laundry baskets that had filled up overnight. (If there’s a fairy that helps fill the baskets, where’s the fairy that helps empty them?!)

My to-do list was full. I had projects I wanted to finish, lessons plans to look over, and then as I walked across the living room floor, the grit on my bare feet reminded me it had been awhile since I swept.

But my son wanted to go to the zoo.

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