Prayer with Thanksgiving

February 8th, 2015

I haven’t updated this in awhile, and after a good sermon is a good time to do so.

I mentioned the cancer scare in my last post, but not that it subsequently got worse. I had a biopsy done under general anesthesia, and the doctor found three places to biopsy — but the results came back BENIGN. I have “reactive lymphoid hyperplasia” — basically some overgrowth of lymphoid tissue, reacting to infection somewhere else in my body. But the important thing is that it is not cancer!

Still, I think the lessons I referred to in my last post still bear thinking about.

And today the pastor preached on Philippians 4:4-9, and the part that applies to this is the part about bringing your requests to God *with thanksgiving.*

Now, I know this is the way to pray! I think of myself as good at this — but that’s an arrogance that really has no place in prayer!

And certainly, it appears I can apply this in my prayers for others. After all, if I am thanking God as I pray, that implies a level of trust — that He is actually going to work this out. But it should not imply that it must work out the way I say it should. Can I let God be God?

Last Spring, when I was leading a study in the Psalms, it struck me that David doesn’t spend a lot of time telling God what to do. He lays out his worries and his needs and his fears. He asks God to act. And then he thanks God because the Psalmist knows he will come through. He thanks God for what He’s going to do.

That might be a good model in prayer for others. Can I thank God for what He’s going to do in my ex-husband’s life, even though that’s going to be totally apart from me? Can I trust God enough to believe that, as He has brought all kinds of good into my life through the situation, He will also bring lots of good into my ex-husband’s life — even if he never does even admit that what he did was, at the very least, unkind?

Oh, how I dance around what I’m willing to hope for him! Because it’s so hard for me to admit that, just maybe, I don’t actually know what’s best for him, and, just maybe, it’s no longer any of my business.

But God loves him and knows him. And that is true of anyone else I may care to pray for.

And I am so thankful that God is in control and not me!

Take the ones I love, Lord. Walk with them on the path that is best for them. Thank You for the path on which You’re leading me, and thank You that You know what is best even for these ones I love.

Learning from Illness

January 5th, 2015

When I reviewed Louise Hay’s book, You Can Heal Your Life, I reflected on my own resistance to the idea that affirmations can actually affect your health. However, I also pointed out that the maladies I have suffered from do seem to be helped by her affirmation “prescriptions.” So I continue to read her books, admittedly with a dose of skepticism.

Then, a few weeks ago, I had a CT scan done of my neck which found an anomaly in my left pyriform sinus (behind my vocal cords) which could possibly be cancer. They did an additional MRI and put a scope down my throat, and I was hoping it was a false alarm, because they thought it might just be normal variation. However, my neck and throat have been hurting since, so I’m going to ask them to go ahead and do a biopsy.

It just so happened that when I got the news about the scan, I was in the middle of slowly reading Louise Hay’s latest book, written with a medical doctor. And I was on the chapter about problems in the mouth, neck, and throat.

Now that I’m again afraid there might be an actual problem, I thought it would be worth revisiting her words.

In addition to the current problems, the stroke I had 3 years ago happened because of a right vertebral artery dissection — an injury in my neck.

First, she says neck problems relate to communication, but I don’t really think I have a problem with that. Why, I’m a writer at heart. I love words.

Then I read this:

Problems of the neck are often found in people who — even if they have flawless communication skills on a regular basis — become inflexible and frustrated when they are unable to control the outcome of a situation….

Neck pain, arthritis, and stiffness often come to those people who have amazing communication skills — both listening and speaking. Trying to see both sides of almost any story, they often become ill when their ability to clearly communicate things doesn’t work as they expect it to. When an argument can’t be settled by talking or when something in their lives goes wrong and they can’t control it, they often become aggravated and stubborn, sticking to their opinion and refusing to consider other viewpoints. The frustration that leads to the breakdown in communication often creates illness in the neck.

And, well, when I read that, I immediately thought of my ex-husband.

Mind you, I’ve been working hard on letting him go. I’m no longer praying that he will come back to me. But I still pray that he will come back to God. I still so wish that his faith would be restored.

There’s more from Louise Hay:

People with neck problems, in general, tend to not be as good at the listening aspect of communication because they cling to set opinions and block out new ideas. They tend to be stubborn and inflexible and unable to see or understand other people’s points of view.

— I thought I was good at new ideas.

But then I realize that about faith? Not so much.

Now, I’ve come a long way. I’m not *nearly* as much a little Pharisee as I once was. But I just can’t believe that my ex-husband is doing the right thing rejecting God. And I also don’t believe he did the right thing rejecting me or having an affair. And Divorce is Wrong. And, yeah, I guess I’m still stubborn and inflexible.

More from Louise Hay:

Once your neck is healthier, some fundamental changes must occur to maintain equilibrium while moving forward. Learning to accept your emotional limitations in the middle of a discussion is one key to improving your neck problems. You do have an amazing skill for intuitively listening, understanding, and making logical arguments. However, you must accept where your intellectual power to reason and communicate ends. When you encounter conflicts that you can’t resolve, don’t push your opinion stubbornly, adding to the frustration of the situation. Instead remind yourself that there are multiple answers to every problem. Realize that your role is only one part of the solution. Finding balance between what you can control and what you can’t and knowing when it is time to walk away from conflict will lead to better health in the fifth emotional center….

We can create so many problems for ourselves by our attitudes. Stubbornness, inflexibility, and trying to fix other people against their will can all contribute to neck problems.

Trying to fix other people against their will. Um, yeah.

Then it hit me even harder when I was talking with my sister on the phone and started telling her about Louise Hay’s description of people with neck problems. She laughed (Laughed!) because the description was so apt.

I had imagined that I would tell her this and then explain, despite her incredulity, that I suspect this description might, a tiny bit, apply to me.

I am an INFJ, and I recently read a post about Myers-Briggs type New Year’s Resolutions where I related to the ENFJ resolution:

“I resolve to avoid meddling in the lives of my loved ones, even if they are making a mistake.”

Outcome: Allows their friends to fail at their new year’s resolutions, then sits each of them down to talk about what went wrong and how they can fix it.

I have to say that my sister did get me wrong in one aspect. She started talking about ways I could feel more compassion for my ex-husband. That is not the problem. If I didn’t still love him deeply, it wouldn’t bother me that he’s so wrong!

I suspect that meddling in other people’s lives is an INFJ and ENFJ failing. Because first we see the world in black and white. Then we are able to intuit what other people need. Therefore, we know what is best for everyone around us! Yay!

This is actually something of a superpower in my job as a librarian, because I am very good at knowing what books other people really “should” read. However, I am able to let it go once I make the recommendation, and I don’t mind if they don’t follow it — because I know myself how long it takes me to get around to reading recommended books.

But with life choices? With someone I love deeply? There it’s so much harder for me to accept their choices that seem completely wrong to me.

I’m actually not crazy about the affirmations Louise Hay proposes to help change your thinking. She suggests, “I welcome new ideas and new concepts and prepare them for digestion and assimilation.” Or, “It is with flexibility and ease that I see all sides of an issue. There are endless ways of doing things and seeing things.”

This isn’t consistent with what she pointed out above that such people do try to “see both sides of any story” — but have a hard time when we can’t convince others with what we’ve learned.

Also, I’m not particularly sure I want to accept new ideas that suggest it’s ever acceptable to cheat on your spouse. Or that it’s ever a good idea to reject God. (Accepting the new idea that Divorce Can Be Good is something I still struggle with. And since I was the one who filed for divorce the final time, I do want to get there.)

However, I do believe that God can bring good out of absolutely anything and that some people will have to go through hell before they truly understand God’s great love. Some people learn much more effectively when they do it the hard way. And that’s Okay.

And I definitely want to be the sort of person who lets those I love make their own choices, even when I think they are bad choices.

I wrote my own affirmations, and I hope I can learn to think this way:

“I put my loved ones into God’s hands.”

“I love and respect my friends and family enough to let them choose their own paths and make their own mistakes.”

And the truth is, it’s hard to go through life knowing what’s best for everyone else! As I tried to explain to my sister, it’s no problem with people I don’t care about. If I hated my ex-husband, what he does wouldn’t bother me. Even with my sons, it doesn’t bring me as much agony to let them make their own mistakes, because I can see that they’re learning and growing.

With friends? I do have a natural inclination to meddle. With people I love? I so want them to have a good life! Let them use my insight! I know what they should do!

Well, maybe not.

I wonder if it will help my neck problems if I can learn to love and respect my friends enough to put them in God’s hands, to acknowledge that He actually knows better than me, and to let my friends choose their own paths and make their own mistakes.

It certainly can’t hurt.

Delight

January 1st, 2015

Happy New Year!

I’m thinking about a Theme for 2015 and verses for 2015, and I’m coming up with “Delight.”

I want to especially remember to Delight in the Lord this year. But also remember that He’s said He delights in me.

How amazing is that?

My verses for 2015 were going to be Psalm 37:3-4 —

Trust in the Lord and do good;
dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Delight yourself in the Lord
and he will give you the desires of your heart.

But after looking through all the verses I can find that use the word “Delight” (See below.), I think I will add Zephaniah 3:17 —

The Lord your God is with you,
he is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
he will quiet you with his love,
he will rejoice over you with singing.

Using my handy-dandy Strong’s Concordance, I want to look at some other verses that use the word “delight.”

I Samuel 15:22 –

But Samuel replied:
“Does the Lord delight in burn offerings and sacrifices
as much as obeying the voice of the Lord?
To obey is better than sacrifice,
and to heed is better than the fat of rams.

Psalm 1:1-3 —

Blessed is the man
who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked
or stand in the way of sinners
or sit in the seat of mockers.
But his delight ins in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither.
Whatever he does prospers.

Psalm 16:5-6 —

Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup;
you have made my lot secure.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
surely I have a delightful inheritance.

Psalm 18:19 —

He brought me out into a spacious place;
he rescued me because he delighted in me.

Psalm 35:9 —

Then my soul will rejoice in the Lord
and delight in his salvation.

Psalm 35:27 —

May those who delight in my vindication
shout for joy and gladness;
may they always say, “The Lord be exalted,
who delights in the well-being of his servant.”

Psalm 37:23-24 —

If the Lord delights in a man’s way,
he makes his steps firm;
though he stumble, he will not fall,
for the Lord upholds him with his hand.

Psalm 43:3-4 —

Send forth your light and your truth,
let them guide me;
let them bring me to your holy mountain,
to the place where you dwell.
Then will I go to the altar of God,
to God, my joy and my delight.
I will praise you with the harp,
O God, my God.

Psalm 51:16-17 —

You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart,
O God, you will not despise.

Psalm 112:1 —

Praise the Lord.
Blessed is the man who fears the Lord,
who finds great delight in his commands.

Psalm 119:16 —

I delight in your decrees;
I will not neglect your word.

Psalm 119:24 —

Your statutes are my delight;
they are my counselors.

Psalm 119:35 —

Direct me in the path of your commands,
for there I find delight.

Psalm 119:47 —

for I delight in your commands
because I love them.

Psalm 119:77 —

Let your compassion come to me that I may live,
for your law is my delight.

Psalm 119:92 —

If your law had not been my delight,
I would have perished in my affliction.

Psalm 119:143 —

Trouble and distress have come upon me,
but your commands are my delight.

Psalm 119:174 —

I long for your salvation, O Lord,
and your law is my delight.

Psalm 147:10-11 —

His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse,
nor his delight in the legs of a man;
the Lord delights in those who fear him,
who put their hope in his unfailing love.

Proverbs 11:20 —

The Lord detests men of perverse heart
but he delights in those whose ways are blameless.

Proverbs 12:22 —

The Lord detests lying lips,
but he delights in men who are truthful.

Isaiah 61:10-11 —

I delight greatly in the Lord;
my soul rejoices in my God.
For he has clothed me with garments of salvation
and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
For as the soil makes the sprout come up
and a garden causes seeds to grow,
so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness and praise
spring up before all nations.

Isaiah 62:4 —

No longer will they call you Deserted,
or name your land Desolate.
But you will be called Hephzibah,
and your land Beulah;
for the Lord will take delight in you,
and your land will be married.

Jeremiah 9:23-24 —

This is what the Lord says:
“Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom
or the strong man boast of his strength
or the rich man boast of his riches,
but let him who boasts boast about this:
that he understands and knows me,
that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness,
justice and righteousness on earth,
for in these I delight,”
declares the Lord.

Jeremiah 15:16 —

When your words came, I ate them;
they were my joy and my heart’s delight,
for I bear your name,
O Lord God Almighty.

Micah 7:18-19 —

Who is a God like you,
who pardons sin and forgives the transgression
of the remnant of his inheritance?
You do not stay angry forever
but delight to show mercy.
You will again have compassion on us;
you will tread our sins underfoot
and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.

Malachi 3:12 —

“Then all the nations will call you blessed,
for yours will be a delightful land,” says the Lord Almighty.

I Corinthians 13:6 —

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.

What will I delight in this year?

And I hope to remember, through thick and thin, that the Lord delights in me.

What will my Father sing over me this year?

Thankful for 2014

November 28th, 2014

It’s Thanksgiving! Time to look back on my year and remember all I have to be thankful for!

And here’s my Christmas letter for my online friends:

First, here’s wishing you joyful holidays in every way!

Looking back, this was one of my happiest years in a long time. I’m still loving my home by the lake, still photographing the birds who live by it, and still enjoying being near my church.

Egret

I had three wonderful trips this year. First, my New Year’s trip to see my family in California. That included going with my high school friend Ruth to get my ears pierced. Better late than never!

Pierced Ears

When I got back home, I signed up for online dating! So far, I haven’t dated many different people, but I did make one very good friend, and because of him have enjoyed many Sunday afternoon games of Dominion with a whole new group of friends. All around, I think of it as a big win.

Tim got to spend the beginning of his summer studying in Prague. When he got back, he interned at my library in the Virginia Room. Then when he returned to William & Mary as a Junior, he was able to get a job in Special Collections at the campus library.

Josh and Tim

In August, we went to Oregon for the 75th annual Bates Family Reunion – begun the year my mother’s parents got married! It was good to see family I hadn’t seen in years – and also to see my older son Josh (still in Portland) and my parents and my five youngest siblings (the four youngest now live in Portland area as well) and my two toddler nieces, whom I fell completely in love with!

Reunion

This was also the year I turned 50 – and in September, during the two weeks that all three of us were 50, my childhood friends Ruth and Darlene and I all got together and celebrated with a week of adventures.

Ruth and Dar

And for the rest? I’m still Youth Services Manager at the City of Fairfax Regional Library, still loving my job, and still writing book reviews in my spare time. I’m a judge again for the Cybils Awards. And be sure to google “prime factorization cardigan” (in quotes) to find out about my latest mathematical knitting!

Wishing you a blessed holiday season,

Sondy Eklund

Thriving, Faith, and James

September 2nd, 2014

This morning, I was listening to Casting Crowns’ song “Thrive” on the way to work. I love the way the music makes you feel joyful. And I realized that, yes, I am thriving now, and life is good.

Then I realized it’s now been 10 years since my ex-husband met the other woman. (Or at least when I met her. He said, “There’s someone I’ve been wanting you to meet.” Which I figure means I was still his best friend. Unfortunately, that changed.) As my marriage fell apart, I NEVER would have guessed how thoroughly I’d be thriving now. God is SO good! And I guess I can trust Him if things in the next year or so don’t go as I hope they will!

I can’t emphasize enough how dark that time was for me. I couldn’t imagine ever being happy again. Yet now life is very, very good.

I wouldn’t be a Librarian, wouldn’t live in my own lovely condo in Virginia, wouldn’t have a son who’s graduated from the best high school in the nation, wouldn’t attend Gateway Community Church, wouldn’t be up for my dream job if all of that hadn’t happened. God can bring good out of even horrible things.

And God also used it to show me how MUCH He loves me. Our pastor said once that great faith comes from desperate need. No glory to yourself, but when you’re desperate, God comes through.

And that gets me thinking about Faith. Our church has been going through James this summer, and Faith is a big theme in James. In fact, they’ve titled the sermon series “Faith That Works.”

I think when I was a kid, the “double-minded man” passage in James 1 kind of disturbed me. Were you supposed to ask for something and then screw up the ability to believe that it would happen, and if you doubted, then it wouldn’t? When my marriage fell apart, I prayed earnestly, for years, that it would be restored, and that my husband would come back to me. And I thought God was telling me that would happen.

And when I did file for divorce, I was afraid I was lacking in faith. But when I was praying about it, asking for direction, God’s answer was in Hebrews 11 — “By faith, Abraham offered his son Isaac on the altar… even though God had said to him, ‘It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.'” I felt like God was saying to give Him my marriage and my hopes for the future. I was still hoping, like Abraham, that the end result would be resurrection. But I had to make the offer genuine, either way.

Abraham believed God had promised him abundant offspring. But he didn’t cling to his own view of how God would do that.

And I noticed that the double-minded man passage in James comes right after the verse about “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God.” That’s what we’re supposed to have faith about. And faith in James is always about what we do. So I really think that James is saying, “If you need direction, ask God. And then do what He tells you, or you don’t really trust him.” I don’t think it’s about holding onto your own ideas of what God will do, but trusting God enough to do what He tells you.

This actually fits with the study of Psalms I did last Spring. I noticed that David pours out his heart to God and tells Him what He’s feeling. He is bold about asking God to act — but he just doesn’t tell God what to do, like we tend to do.

So a better way to pray for my marriage is to tell God how my heart was broken and that I’m lonely — and trust Him to figure out what to do about that.

And when I look back at what I thought God was telling me as I prayed — everything I thought He was telling me to do was good advice. Okay, maybe He wasn’t telling me the future. Maybe the promises about my ex-husband are that he’ll come back to God some day, not to me. Eventually, I felt that God was telling me that I shouldn’t be yoked together with someone who wants nothing to do with God.

A year ago, I started thinking about dating. I prayed about that as well. The pastor was doing a sermon on Abraham, and I thought Hagar would come up, and I’d hear about “Plan B living,” and I was afraid no longer hoping to remarry my ex would be lacking in faith and going for second best.

But the pastor brought a chalkboard up on stage and drew a diagram. He made a line across the board which he said represented a continuum. On one end was just letting things happen. On the other end was trying to completely control everything. He said where we want to live is right in the middle, on the Path of Trust.

I realized that “Standing for my Marriage” and trying to pray my husband back was trying to Control things. If I couldn’t have the perfect marriage, well then I’d be the perfect little martyr and pray until he gave in. But that was all my idea. I decided it would take a lot more trust to start dating again. (It still took me six months to actually do it. But that was when I decided that doing so would take more faith rather than less.)

In Hebrews 11 again, the author summarizes what, to me, Faith is all about: “And without faith, it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” You have to believe that it’s worth it to follow God.

And that means doing what He tells you. When you ask for direction, don’t ask for advice, which you can take or leave. If God really knows best, then do it.

And the really cool thing? He works all things together for good for those who love Him — even truly horrible things like divorce can bring great good things in your life.

Isn’t He amazing?

Sunday Songs

April 6th, 2014

Our pastor is doing a series on Finding Jesus, and today’s topic was Simplicity of Identity.

Alyssa got up and talked about all the different ways we find our identity — from our physical qualities, our job, our hobbies, what our friends say, to quizzes on Facebook. Then they showed this music video:

Pastor Ed’s sermon was from John 6. When we read John 6, we can see how secure Jesus was in his identity and how firm he was about it. And Jesus’ identity is firm and secure because of his connection with the Father.

But the point of John’s biography isn’t to help us identify Jesus. It’s to help us find our identity in Jesus.

Jesus doesn’t ask for us to understand him — He wants us to come to him, to eat and drink of him.

In our lives, we have identity indicators and identity anchors. My identity will be secure if my anchor is my connection to Jesus.

The only way to get free from the crippling identity messages that come at us is to find our anchor in Jesus.

I was especially touched by this sermon because before and after they sang a song that was sung at my wedding — “Take My Life, and Let It Be Consecrated, Lord, to Thee.”

But my marriage ended badly, and many messages were flung at me that I was unlovable, a failure, and a cruel person.

But I had honestly prayed on my wedding day, “Take my love, my Lord, I pour at thy feet its treasure store.” Things didn’t work out the way I wanted them to, but what a nice reminder that God considers me His Beloved.

Beloved. We are beloved by God. He will never let us go.

Thanksgiving Letter

November 28th, 2013

I decided to send a Thanksgiving Letter this year, rather than a Christmas letter. I have much to be thankful for!

The big thing that stands out for the year is my new home! With my Dad’s help, I purchased a condo in South Riding, less than 10 minutes from my church. After another place fell through, at just the right time for me, this home came open — with a beautiful view of a lake! I feel so blessed living here.

I’m thankful for church friends who made me feel so cared for and helped me through the moving process.

I’m thankful that my sons are doing well. Tim is a Sophomore at the College of William & Mary and enjoying it. He’s declared his major — English and Computer Science. His Dad lives near Williamsburg, so they see each other during the school year, and I get Tim for his vacations. He recently heard about some exciting Study Abroad possibilities for next year. Of course I would have to go visit!

Josh is still living in Portland, Oregon, and now has a salaried job as a computer programmer, which he’s enjoying very much. I’m so happy for him!

I’m thankful for a place to walk. With my lake to hike around, I’ve been much more regular about exercising than ever before, and I’m treated to beautiful scenery, including a great blue heron.

I’m thankful for my job. I’m still working at City of Fairfax Regional Library as Youth Services Manager and still love my job. I’m also going to be a Cybils judge (Kid Lit Blogger awards) again this year. And, yes, I’m on my 13th year of writing Sonderbooks book reviews and still love it.

What else am I doing? Plenty of mathematical knitting, like this prime factorization blanket for my niece, and regular board games with a group that meets Saturdays close to the library. Life is full, and life is good, and I’m so thankful for what this year has brought me!

May you have a blessed holiday season!

Sondy Eklund

Sunday Songs – You’re an Overcomer

October 6th, 2013

Recently, I finished a headache that lasted for 30 days. It did vary in intensity during that time, but I did have at least some head pain every waking moment of those 30 days. I’m super super happy that it’s over. In the middle of it, several times this song by Mandisa came on the radio, and helped so much.

No, the pain did NOT last forever. And yes, I overcame. Thank you, God!

Two Herons at the Lake

August 17th, 2013

Thursday is my late day to work. I hadn’t been feeling good, but I wanted to go for a slow walk to try to get back into the groove. When I got to the lake, I saw not just the great blue heron, but a great white heron, both on the wall. I decided it would be a good day to substitute a photo shoot for my usual walk. I went back for my camera.

The great white heron didn’t tolerate my snapping for long:

And soon he was so good as to pose by the rainbow in the fountains on a sunny day.

I love the way the wildflowers blooming by the lake change every week. This is one of my favorites, because it reminds me of a flower we had in Gundersweiler, Germany.

I love the bunnies I see every day on my walk. It’s getting where they aren’t scared of me, which feels a little pathetic.

And more flowers and lake.

Next, it posed by the gazebo.

I love the way the great white heron and its reflection shine in the sunshine.

I should mention that the weather was also fabulous. Bright and sunny, but cool and breezy. Even though I wasn’t feeling good, that time at the lake started off a great day.

Hiking at Great Falls

June 17th, 2013

When I go on a beautiful hike and take more than a hundred photos, I like to try to challenge myself to choose the top ten. And then if I stop at 19, well, that’s okay, too.

Friday was my birthday, and the weather was wonderful, and I went for a lovely walk along the River Trail at Great Falls National Park. Here are 19 of my photos.

There were lots of great blue herons flying around and also sitting and posing. I’ve already posted about the Great Blue Heron of Happiness.

These first several are from the Overlooks at the start of the River Trail.

The parts that weren’t looking at the amazing river were wonderful for being a peaceful walk in the woods.

Though mostly, it was both: Peaceful woods overlooking a majestic river.

I could *not* resist retouching this photo a tiny bit:

And I finished up back at the Overlooks:

Simply a beautiful day!