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Posts Tagged ‘faith’

Nebraska_flooding_AHave you been following the tragic stories coming out of Nebraska? For the last week, horrible flooding has devastated at least 53 of the 93 counties, swallowing up family farms, swamping towns, destroying roads and bridges. It is heartbreaking to see the pictures being posted on social media. What a helpless feeling.

Stamats_flooding

Stamats offices – June 2008

When Cedar Rapids flooded in 2008, our offices were destroyed by river water going to heights never seen before. Ten blocks on both sides of the Cedar River were under water. Families were evacuated, many never returned to their homes. Volunteers sandbagged the one last water pump on the city’s northwest side to save it from flooding. Citizens came together as one to save what could be saved, help their neighbors salvage or muck out their homes after the waters receded and provide whatever support or supplies they could. But it was a terribly helpless feeling as we watched the waters go up, and up, and up.

There isn’t much I can physically do to help our neighbors to the west. I can’t go over there, I can’t provide enough food or water to matter…but I can give and I can pray. Some of you think that’s a cop out. Like praying doesn’t matter. But I know who  laid the world’s foundation, who marked off its dimensions and set its cornerstone. I have access to the One gives orders to the morning, has journeyed to the springs of the sea, entered the storehouses of snow and hail, and controls rivers in the wasteland. 

If I can speak to the Creator of the universe, you bet I’ll be pleading for the waters to recede and families to be rescued…for livestock to miraculously survive and homes to set up on islands…for money to be freed up quickly to help those in need…for communities to come together to rebuild without acrimony or bitterness.

FaithJoin me?

 

 

 

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It’s not even a word – but it so accurately describes my life. I have a lot of unexpectedlies – every day. And so do you. At first, I was blindsided by happenings in my life that I never planned for. Death. Accidents. Job loss. Broken relationships. All these and more kept me off balance, sometimes teetering on the edge of grief and despair. I felt more fear than faith – dreading the next bend in the road.

One weekend TrailI had an epiphany. I came to realize, with the wooing of the Holy Spirit, that these unexpectedlies are opportunities. Opportunities to find blessing in the midst of sadness. Joy in the midst of sorrow. Healing in the midst of pain. Instead of finding the gray on the backside of every cloud, I really do attempt to find the silver lining.

This past month, three close friends have passed away. One was my beautiful daughter-in-law’s father. He was a huge influence in my life, in the lives of my friends and family. Another was a man who helped me navigate the stress of my first radio job, moving from co-worker to great friend. He and his lovely wife gave me support in the hardest time of my life and for that, I will be forever grateful. Just this past Tuesday, another friend entered in the presence of Jesus. We’d only known each other three years but we became the best of buddies, joined together through our love of the Chicago Cubs and our little church family.

Each man was an unexpectedly in my life – unexpected voices of encouragement and affirmation, sometimes challenging, always loving and supportive. I am a blessed woman to have known these three and I am so grateful I was able to run part of my life’s race alongside them.

Takeaway – celebrate the unexpectedlies. Look for the blessing in each one. Grow through the experience. Choose to respond to each one with grace and forgiveness. Love fiercely because unexpectedlies happen…every day.

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today_grateful

In this first day of intentional gratitude, I want to remind you of those unexpected blessings we all receive…and when I say unexpected, I mean, never-in-your-life-thought-this-circumstance-would-turn-out-to-be-a-blessing blessing. Like being unemployed.

If you know my husband and me at all, you know we recently spent six years with no full time job and very little income. It was tough – for my husband, because, you know, men look at having no job as having no meaning in life. He struggled a bit (I’m kidding, he struggled a lot)…and had quite a few conversations with God about the whole thing. But that’s his story to tell.

It was a tough time for our kids because everything they relied on appeared unstable. They weren’t sure where we would live, how we would live, where they would finish high school, and how we were going to pay the bills. Now that I think about it, those were mostly my worries – I’ve never asked what concerned my kids back then…I should probably do that.

Nevertheless, looking back, that whole six year time period was full of God’s blessings. He provided finances for every single obligation (we paid every bill and always on time). Out of the blue, people would stop by the house to give us money saying, “God told us to give this to you today.” God blessed us with the emotional and spiritual support we needed. I read and studied the Word, and prayed on my long walks, crying and begging God to give us something, something to put our hope on…and He never let us down. Don and I had more and deeper conversations. God gave us supernatural health during a time when we had poor insurance coverage, and then provided a way to get better coverage, for the whole family, right before our son started travelling with his band. I could go on and on with story after story…not the time or place.

We learned a lot about ourselves. We learned about humility, and trust, and faith, and grace. We learned that we don’t know very much, but that God knows the beginning and the end. We learned that some people will stick with you, no matter what, expecting nothing in return. We saw God’s hand at work in our kids as He provided funds for college and travelling, when we had nothing. We cried buckets of tears – in frustration and sorrow, rejoicing and thanksgiving.

Am I glad we were without a job for that long? I’m not sure. It was rough. Our Christmas’ were sparse. We ate at home, took no vacations, purchased no new clothes. We had no church to call our own, but we were privileged to help a couple of congregations transition to new pastors. We learned a great deal about what is really important. Family. Real friends. Health. Our own relationship with Jesus, away from ministry.

 

And most of all, we learned God’s promises are true: He will never leave you or forsake you – even if you don’t have a job, even if you are struggling with poor health, even if you are in a difficult circumstance. He is your Rock and your Redeemer. He will turn your mourning into dancing. Ask Him to show you the unexpected blessing of this tough time and watch Him show up. God will never fail you.

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I love that memories feature on Facebook. If you have a consistent social media presence, you know what I mean. It pops up in your notifications once a day, reminding you of what you posted on that date as far back as you’ve been on Facebook. I enjoy seeing what I’ve written throughout the years. It gives me perspective on what I was going through that day, or the events and activities I was a part of. Yesterday was a significant anniversary in the McGarvey family. It was seven years ago that we made a pretty big announcement.

The next step…

It’s now official.
What our family has known for certain for the last six months is now public knowledge.
The McGarveys are making a step of faith and joining with God in a new adventure.
God has somewhere else for us to be.
He’s preparing another church, another town, another home for us.
It’s all uncertainty and sadness and apprehension…yet, also excitement and joy and anticipation.
The Lord is for us – we are not afraid.
The Lord is for us – He has somewhere that He’d really like us to minister.
The Lord is for us – His plans are perfect for each of us.
So we wait, and listen, and pray.
We’d love for you to join us on this journey.
Maybe you can’t move with us – but through Facebook and other technology, we can keep you up-to-date on all that’s happening, or not.
We’d love to have you praying with us.
We’d like direction, guidance, wisdom, discernment for our decisions.
But then again, who wouldn’t?
Can’t wait to see what God has in store!

 

Golly! Look at my kids! So young… By the way – I still have that sweater and Don still wears that suit.

Hindsight – we were so excited, so sure we would be moving away, positive it wouldn’t be long before we’d be set up in a new church, confident in God’s provision and timing (but secretly hoping it would be very, very soon). My boys were still in high school so I was filled with mixed emotions. How could I tear them away from their friends or the only church they had ever known? How would David handle his senior year of high school in a different city? What if they hated it? We had many, many more questions than answers. And that turned out to be our new normal.

We started boxing up belongings – to get a head start on what we knew would be happening. We researched open churches across the country. Updated and sent out our resume. Regrettably, I even took Sean out of basketball for a year, because we were confident we would be moving away from Cedar Rapids and headed to our new church. Somewhere. Remember this sentence – God’s ways are not our ways – it’ll save you grief if you just believe it and live it and not argue about it.

We were right. The Lord was (and is) for us. He did have places for us to minister. We worked beside and made friends with wonderful people in many churches and ministries, yet never had a “place” we knew was for us.We learned some hard lessons, cried buckets, saw God’s provision every. single. day. We learned about faith, and trust, and pride. We received answers to prayers for direction, guidance, wisdom and discernment…but never for the one we really wanted. Where do you want us, Lord? Well, not until last August. When God’s sweet Spirit said…here. Here in Troy Mills. Until last summer, when a little church 25 minutes north of Cedar Rapids emailed and asked if “maybe you’d be interested in being our pastor.” For seven years, God was working on the people of that little church and really, really working on us. Preparing us for them, and them for us.

We absolutely love our little church. It is filled with wonderful, generous, kindhearted people who, for some reason, really like us. They work hard to reach out and serve their community. They are our friends and we treasure each and every time we are together. God has been so good to us. And I still have stuff boxed up. God put us exactly where we needed to be. And He’ll do the same for you. But it may not be easy. Actually, it definitely won’t be easy. But it’s worth it. It is so worth it.

 

 

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burger

The Lenten season has just begun and I’m blogging about all those things I’m going to give up. By the end of this 40 Day journey, I may be skinnier. Yay.

Day Two – Stepping Outside My Comfort Zone

I don’t know about you but I like to be comfortable. When I get home from work I often change right into fleece lounge pants and a sweatshirt. Very attractive, let me tell you. The combination of the fabric and the looseness just makes me feel so good…so comfortable. And when I’m grumpy, or cold, or anxious, or sad, there’s nothing like my mom’s homemade chicken and noodles…or big piece of lasagna…or greasy cheeseburger…or deep dish pizza. Comfort food .

But today I’m going to give up my comfort zone. I’m going to get outside the fleece-lined box I like to crawl into to avoid change or escape the world and its worries. I’ll drink tea instead of coffee. I’ll eat a salad instead of a slice of pizza. I’ll choose prayer over worry. I’ll make a new friend instead of the safety of those I already know. I’ll change up my routine, just because.

Change is a necessary component of life. Probably the only time I’ve chosen to embrace it is when I’m the one controlling it. The Bible is full of accounts when change happens and how we can deal with it. God asks Abram to change locations, many times. Abram didn’t argue, he just went, even when he didn’t know where he was going. I want that attitude. “It’s not about me, Lord. Wherever you send me, I’ll go!”

How about changing a name? God changes Abram to Abraham and Sarai to Sarah. Pharoah changes Joseph’s name to Zaphenath-paneah (just try to find a necklace with that one on it). Usually with these new names, came new promises. My Lord – who knows me by name – calls me blessed, chosen and loved. Good name.

In Gen. 15 God appears to Abram in a vision (how’s that for outside your comfort zone?). God is once again reassuring Abram that he will have a son of his own flesh. I especially like this part in verse 5: God took Abram outside of his tent (where he was warm and comfortable) and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars…if indeed you can count them.” God showed Abram how big His vision was – more offspring than the stars in the sky. Allow God to take you outside your comfortable tent and show you the BIG dream, the BIG vision He has for you. But you’ll never see it from the comfort of your tent. You’ve got to step outside!

Tent-Night-Sky

Maybe God will ask you to move, or change your job, or look up an old friend, or make a new one, or try a different food, or take a missions trip, or pray with the clerk at Wal-Mart. How about this one? God may ask you to stand up for your faith when no one around you is doing so. Are you comfortable with that? Are you going to give up your comfort zone? I’m going to try. And that’s all God asks.

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