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Sister

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My sister’s birthday was right around the corner and I was so excited! She was going to spend her special celebration with me in Bend, Oregon and we had plans.

There were garden shops in Eugene to visit. Farmers markets to explore and a few favorite restaurants, coffee shops, and bookstores to meander through. It was going to be a special time together, talking, catching up, and growing closer.

I recognize family visits can fall into two categories. You are either very happy they are coming or you can’t wait until they leave. My sister’s visit falls into the first category, I can’t wait to see her and when we have to leave each other it is a tear-filled departure.

You have to understand a little of our background to understand why our visits are so special. My sister is 12 years older than me and she married at 17. For the next three years, I saw her intermittently but after that, she was estranged from our family. She came back into my life when I was a young woman and we’ve worked hard since that reunion to make up for missed years, missed holidays, missed special sister times.

We had plans but God’s plans were different than ours.

Two weeks before my sister’s visit, I had emergency surgery that would require me to take it easy for the next few weeks. It would require us to change our best-made plans and shift our time together doing less and sharing the gift of together more.

There was a puzzle to be completed (1000 pieces that are still sitting in my living room partially completed), stories to share, brief walks to master, and tea – yummy Chai lattes.

God’s plan was for us to spend real quality time in the presence of each other. Not distracted by the busyness of constant movement – I am definitely a constant movement girl, so trust me we would have been on the move.

God’s plan was so much better than ours.

We were able to continue to build our relationship, discover new similarities and laugh about our differences, and understand that the best part of our visit is sitting with a cup of tea and holding each word shared as a gift – the miles between us can never take those gifts away.

Alice Walker shares:

Is solace anywhere more comforting than in the arms of a sister.

This was so true of my sister’s visit. She encouraged, scolded when needed, and supported me – such a blessing and one that would have been completely missed if God’s plan had not been fulfilled.

In the book of Genesis, chapter 16, there is a fascinating story of a woman with a plan. Her name was Sarai. She was desperate because she and her husband Abram were childless. (Note: Sarai and Abram’s names were changed later in the book of Genesis, Genesis 17:5 and 17:15, to Abraham and Sarah.) They had waited for years to have a child with no success.

I’m certain Sarai struggled, questioned God, and envied the other women in her community. When desperation was too much to bear any longer, Sarai formed a plan. She encouraged Abram to have a child by her Egyptian slave Hagar. This plan on the surface would address their immediate problem but there were consequences that were not being considered. Unfortunately, Abram agreed to Sarai’s plan and Hagar became pregnant. But this is where the story gets interesting. Once Hagar was pregnant, the Bible tells us in Genesis 16:4 – 5

…When she (Hagar) knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress. Then Sarai said to Abram, ‘You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my slave in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the Lord judge between you and me.’

Wow, do you see what happened? Sarai devises this plan to address her childlessness and ends up in strife with her slave and her husband!

The best-made plans often do not come out the way we’ve planned. This is especially true when we fail to consult God about His will, ask for His guidance, and wait on His direction.

I am learning to wait on God, trust His plans for my life, and slow down long enough to hear Him. But this is increasingly hard when God’s plan allows struggles, illness, bareness, and challenges. What are we to do in the midst of all the pain?

I want to encourage you to hold on to the constants that cannot/will not move –

  • You are God’s BeLoved!
  • He will never forsake you or leave you.
  • God remains in control.

Go ahead and make your plans but don’t forget to consult God and when He has a different plan, know that it will mature you, grow you, transform you, and deepen your relationship with Him in ways you would never expect.

Blessings,

Signature - Allison


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Epiphany

I stepped into the shower; it was warm and the steam was just starting to rise. I could feel the tension, pain, and stress of the past few days being washed away.

The steam was starting to form a film on the shower glass but I still could catch a glimpse of my image in the mirror above the sink. As I looked more closely, I saw the scars and the reality hit – I just had open heart surgery!

It was an epiphany. That moment of clarity, where I came face to face with the truth. The point where the reality of the situation met my perceptions and I knew life had significantly shifted.

Although I had experienced all the elements of the surgery and initial recovery, I had been so busy just accomplishing the next milestone, I had not stopped to truly grasp the enormity of the past week.

But standing there in the shower, warm water running down my back, it hit me and my initial response was to cry. Not proper controlled tears but the type of crying that comes when your world has taken a sudden and unexpected change.

I need to share a few things to help you understand why this came as such a shock.
1. There is NO history of heart disease in my family.
2. I don’t have high cholesterol.
3. I have NO history of high blood pressure.
4. I eat a healthy diet.
5. I routinely exercise.

Yet, in July 2017 I had a stent placed in the major artery that feeds my left ventricle. They call it the “widow maker” many don’t survive a significant blockage of this artery. Then just 5 short months later, that same artery re-blocked and another stent was implanted. Last week BOTH stents failed and I had bypass surgery!

Doctors can’t explain it, family and friends don’t understand it, and I certainly DON’T get it.

I worked hard to be healthy, yet a curveball, an unexpected event, a life – perspective – personal definition altering moment.

I believe God uses curveballs, life-altering events to gain our attention. He uses these times to shift our perspective from self-focus to a dependence on Him. He uses these events to remind us that we are His Beloved, His daughters, a loved child. And in our pain and fear, He holds us and reminds us that He loved us so much that He suffered and died to ensure an eternity with us.

God uses curveballs and life-altering events to demonstrate His involvement in our lives. I experienced this togetherness in a profound way about two weeks before my surgery. A gentle nudge, an uncomfortable feeling that things weren’t right. And then, a gentle voice delivered a single word “BYPASS”. It happened on two separate occasions while walking my dog and now, looking back at the sequence of events, I know He was preparing me for the imminent.

Our lives do take twists and turns. For me it was a health issue, others face a loss of a job, spouse, or child, and for some, it arrives unannounced as a loss of direction or purpose.

These events can derail us. They are the situations and times that challenge how we see ourselves, make us question our value and worth, and leave us empty and searching. Yet, we can be confident that we never experience these situations alone.

In Joshua 1:9, we are reminded

… For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go (New Living Translation).

God is with us through all our circumstances. He is the constant that we can depend on when we get lost and are uncertain if we can get through the storm. He can shoulder our doubts and help us make the necessary shifts when we no longer see our way.

God has a plan and purpose for every life, your life. Through the difficult and beautiful, He is transforming us into His image. Trust Him, rest in Him, and know you are His BeLoved.

Blessings,

Signature - Allison


BeLoved was created to help us wrestle with the changes life brings and to challenge us to remember that our identities don’t lie in our circumstances but rather a God that redeems, restores, and refines us. Loving us more than we are equipped to understand.

To help us explore God’s amazing restorative work, we will share stories through a weekly blog, encourage routine devotion, monthly book|author suggestions, and resources. We want to hear from you, so please feel free to share your stories, leave comments, and ask questions.