When the Lord Takes Away

…the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” Job 1:21

This past week we learned of a dear family who lost their son. My heart broke for them. It was not the first friend I had to lose a child, and I always feel crushed for them. I understand their pain because I have lost children too. My first thought was how devastated I was when I lost my babies to miscarriages, but I had never experienced the loss of a child I had known and watched grow up. How much worse that might be. Then I realized it really doesn’t matter. The loss of a child is excruciating, no matter when (or how) we lose them. It rips your heart out. The pain at times will suck the air from your lungs, and you feel like you’re drowning in grief.

How can a mother (or father) bear this kind of pain? With my first miscarriage, I was able to give God glory, like Job in the verse above. With each of the other 5 losses, it got harder and harder to bless the name of the Lord. I began to feel like Naomi when she returned to Israel after losing her husband and sons.

And she said unto them, Call me not Naomi, call me Mara: for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me.” Ruth 1:20

I wish I could say that I handled my losses with grace, peace, joy, and praise. The truth is that I often did not. I swung back and forth between those and anger, jealousy, and bitterness. I struggled with why God continued to take my children (and then not give me any more) while blessing others abundantly. It became so easy to listen to my aching (and deceitful) heart and to the enemy, instead of listening to the truth of my Father’s love. Because I didn’t feel loved when He took my children. I felt crushed. I felt cheated out of the joy of raising my children for God. I felt rejected.

How thankful I am that God continued to love me anyway. He continued to draw me to Himself, remind me of His love, and remind me not to listen to the enemy. Where once there was pain, jealousy, and bitterness, there is now peace, contentment, and joy. I still miss my children. I wonder what they would look like today. I still ache to think I’ll not only miss being a mother, but also a grandmother. But there is peace. I once again trust the goodness and wisdom of my Father.

God has used a lot of music, books, and sermons to bring me to this place. From time to time I’ll share some of them with you. Even if you’re handling your loss with more grace and faith than I did, maybe they will help encourage you along your journey through the valley.

With love and prayers,


Christmas Joy

Merry Christmas!

What do you do when the sorrow tries to override the joy of Christmas?

It’s Boxing Day here in Africa. As I sit here enjoying my morning coffee, I’ve been scrolling through photos on Facebook. Family and friends are sharing Christmas photos. There are kids and grandkids galore, posed in front in fireplaces and Christmas trees, candid shots with gifts, and even videos of the fun.

For just a moment, I was tempted to be drawn back into the “why can’t we have children too?” attitude. The ache over not having children (and therefore never being grandparents) threatened to overwhelm and suck me back into that abyss of self-pity and bitterness. But I’m learning. Slowly, but I am learning.

It’s not about me. I have to constantly remind myself of this truth: It is not about me. It isn’t. Christmas isn’t about me, or about having children or grandchildren to enjoy. It isn’t about lights, Christmas dinner, family, traditions, or presents. It’s about the greatest gift of all. It’s about remembering that the King of Glory gave up everything to be born as a baby; so He could die in my place. All the other things we enjoy at Christmas time are just extra blessings.


I have learned (and continue to learn) that my focus and attitude determines my joy or agony. This isn’t to say that there’s never any pain or sadness if I keep my focus right. It simply means that God gives peace and joy to overpower the sadness, when I keep my eyes on Him. My heart will miss my babies until I see them in Heaven, but my heart can still be full of peace and joy until that day.

“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.” Isaiah 26:3

This is my hope, and my promise. He will keep me in perfect peace, when I keep my mind stayed on Him and trust Him. So, when the sadness comes, instead of focusing on the sorrow, I focus on the Saviour. He knows my heartache, and wants to replace it with His joy – if I let go of it, and let Him. So, while there were brief moments of missing our babies, I had a great Christmas. It was full of joy and peace as we celebrated at home and church.

What do you do when the sorrow tries to override the joy of Christmas, or any other day? How do you redirect your mind to Christ so His joy can override the sorrow?


Increase Your Faith

increase-your-faithIn the middle of trials, it is easy to find our faith weakening. We don’t intend for this to happen, but as the sickness, heartache, or trouble drags on, it can take its toll on our faith, as well as our bodies and spirits. We must be vigilant to make sure this doesn’t happen. But what do you do when you realize it has already happened?  How do you renew faith? Can we regain it? Are we able to strengthen it?

Yes! Not only are we able to, but God’s word gives instructions on how to increase or renew our faith.  It’s quite simple. Read the Bible. Listen to it. Sing it. Quote it. Listen to extra sermons. Immerse yourself in Scriptures. “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Romans 10:17. Listen to the word of God today.

Ask God to increase it! Do you remember the father that brought his possessed son to Jesus? He had already brought him to the disciples, but they had no help for him. He brought his child to Jesus, begging for help. Jesus said, “If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.” I love the man’s reply, “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.” It sounds like his faith is weakening a bit. He believes, but he feels compelled to ask God to also help his unbelief. Lord, strengthen my faith. When we need anything (even faith), we only have to ask our loving Father.

We can also increase our faith by remembering what God has done in the past. 1 Samuel 30 reminds me of this. David and his men return from an unsuccessful attempt to go to war. They arrive home to they find the city burned with fire, and the women and children taken captive. It’s a bleak day, made even darker by the people talking of stoning David. I love the end of verse 6, “…but David encouraged himself in the LORD his God.” Having read the rest of the records of David’s life, I can only think of one way David might have encouraged himself in the Lord: to remember, and recount, God’s faithfulness up to that point.

When our faith is weak, or gone, we can always remember God’s faithfulness. Recount to yourself all of the blessings you can remember. Intentionally remember how God has delivered you, and provided for you, in the past. Count your blessing.

Read biographies of Christians. I have often seen my faith increased when I read stories of Christians who struggled, but saw God do mighty things. Reading of God’s faithfulness to others is just as encouraging to me as remembering His goodness to me in the past. What is your favorite biography? If you don’t have one, ask your friends and pastor to recommend some. You will also find links to a few great biographies on the Resources page of this site.

What will you do to increase, or restore, your faith today?



Be Content and Praise

You get what you get, and you don’t throw a fit.”

Being content...even when God doesn't give us what we want. Be content & Praise!I used to teach a kindergarten class at church. With children ages 4 and 5, there were often tears, whines, and sighs when they didn’t get what they wanted. They didn’t want that for snack. They wanted the toy someone else got, or they didn’t want the color crayon they were given. We would remind them, “You get what you get, and you don’t throw a fit.” We were doing our best to teach them to be content. Be thankful for what you receive.

But I Wanted…

As an adult, I have to go back and remind myself of this lesson. It is so easy to get discouraged and out of sorts when we don’t get what we wanted. When my sister-in-law married my brother at 18, and gave birth to their first child at 19, I was upset that God had given her what I wanted before He gave it to me. (Yes, I was that childish.) It was my dream to marry right out of high school and have 6-12 children. Why did God give her my dream and leave me wondering what He was doing in my life?

As I keep up with friends and family on social media, I often see pregnancy announcements, birth announcements, and all the other milestones that come with having children. The temptation is there to grieve because God has given them what He has denied me. I didn’t get what I wanted. They got what I wanted. When I think about it, it’s still quite childish if I give in to this temptation.

Not What I Wanted

When I was growing up, I wanted to marry a preacher and have a dozen children. I also wanted to be like my mother and grandmothers. They were strong, hard-working ladies. Most of all, I wanted to be godly. I wanted to be a praying lady like my mother and grandmother. As I began miscarrying babies, I lost sight of those last dreams. I focused on the other dream that was slipping through my fingers.

Therefore be Content

Scripture teaches us that we should be content. The Apostle Paul wrote, “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” Paul did not have all he wanted. He had been persecuted, imprisoned, beaten, and generally mistreated. Yet he had learned to be content.

The most straightforward command to be content is found in Hebrews 13:15. “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” We are to be without covetousness and be content with what we have. Ouch! If I don’t have children, I am to be content. If I am thousands of miles away from family, I am to be content. When God chooses not to give me good health, I am to be content. This is not if I feel like it. It is not optional. It is a command.

So, today when I see my niece’s baby bump, when I see friends and family post pictures of their children and grandchildren, I am to be content. I still grieve, but I am also to be content.

What tempts you to be discontent? Will you let it win, or will you obey Christ’s command and gain the peace and joy He promises?



Books to Encourage

Books to Encourage: Books I read (and want to read) to help through the hard times.I’m always looking for ways to be productive, even when I’m physically down. There are days that I don’t stay on my feet much. Fatigue or pain send me back to bed before I’m ready. Being a bookaholic, I have found one way to be productive is to read! I always have a list of books I’m trying to get around to reading. There are practical books to help me be more organized and productive. Some are books to help me grow in my walk with God. Others are biographies, books to encourage, etc. When I can’t clean house or do the other work I have planned, I like to try to read one of the books on my list. So today I’m going to share a few books with you. Some have been a blessing, and some I’m looking forward to reading.

Before we get started, let me say that some of the links in this post are affiliate links. That simply means that if you buy anything through these links, I get a commission from Amazon. I only recommend products that I use and love. I do not advertise for Amazon, just for the sake of advertising. The affiliate links are marked.

Now, on to the good stuff…BOOKS! I love to read. When we moved to Africa, the hardest thing for me to get rid of was my books. Not being able to bring a vast array of “real” books with me, I brought my Kindle Fire (affiliate link).  I actually have the 7″, but we just bought Rob an 8″. That’s because today we saw Amazon had a Black Friday sale and they’re pretty cheap. Now we just have to wait until someone comes to visit in a couple of months. (Sigh) I still love to hold an actual book in my hand, but books are not as easy to come by here, so I am thankful for my Kindle. However, my dream is to one day have a real library, stuffed with real books. (A gal can dream, right?)

Books I Love

Besides my Bible (the best book of all), God has used some good books to help me along the way. Here are just a few of them…

One of the great books that helped me when I was having one miscarriage after another was a book by Cary Schmidt. Off Script (affiliate) was written about Bro. Schmidt’s experience with cancer. It’s about what you do when your life “goes off script”. How do you respond when your life takes a turn you never expected, nor wanted? This book was so encouraging to me, and I go back and reread it from time to time. A friend loaned it to me, and I read it the first time in less than a day. Then I went back and reread it slowly. I just recently read it again. Bro. Schmidt also taught this in a conference somewhere and I ran across the audio recordings. You can listen to Part 1 here and Part 2  here for FREE.

The Burden Bearer (affiliate) by Bro. Paul Chappell was another book that God used when I was trying to keep up with everything while struggling with health and loss. This was especially helpful to me because I have a tendency to over-commit and berate myself when I can’t do it all. I tend to take on burdens God never intended me to bear. We either gave our copy away, or stored it. I need to get this on Kindle, so I can read it again.

Evidence Not Seen (affiliate) by Darlene Deibler Rose is an incredible book. Darlene Rose spent four years in a Japanese prison camp in the jungles of New Guinea. When I get discouraged, this book does two things. It reminds me that my situation is not nearly as bad as Satan is telling me. It also reminds me of the awesome power of my loving Heavenly Father. This is another book I’ve read again and again.

The First Gardener (affiliate) is one of the few fiction books I will recommend. I have no idea why I bought this book. I was only getting free books during this time, I had never read anything by this author, and I had no earthly reason to buy it, but it kept showing up, and it drew me in. So, I bought it. Wow. I had just miscarried for the first time, so it really struck a chord with me. But it wasn’t just that the book was about infertility and loss. (Nor because it is set in Tennessee and I lived in that area for several years.) It’s about God cultivating our hearts, and our decision to let Him have His way, or to struggle to get our own way. It is one of the few fiction books I reread.

Books on my Wish List

These are books on my to-read list or my wish list (I don’t have them yet, but I plan on getting them). If you have read them, please leave a comment and let me know what you think.

In Desert Places: What Happens When Unlikely People in Unlikely Places Encounter the Presence of God (affiliate) “This book is the true story of God’s incredible work in desert places. It tells of real people, unlikely people, who saw God transform their deserts by His grace. These stories tell of the numerous works God does in desert places…” (Excerpt from the book description)

Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy (affiliate) “Gratitude is a choice. If we fail to choose it, by default we choose ingratitude. And once allowed into the heart, ingratitude does not come by itself, but with other seedy companions that only succeed in stealing joy…” (Excerpt from the book description) I need to choose to be grateful. It is a choice, and I need to be more purposeful in this area. I’ve heard great things about this book, and I am looking forward to reading it.

Living Life Beyond Your Capacity (affiliate) is high on my to-read list. Because, let’s get real here. Living with chronic illness means everything is beyond my capacity. I look forward to reading this one. If you have Kindle Unlimited, this book is free now.

A New Song (affiliate) is written by a pastor’s wife. This was recommended to a group of ladies in ministry as a good resource. When my Lyme Disease was at its worst, I struggled with depression. It wasn’t terrible, but it was a constant companion. I know now that it is common in Lyme patients, and it probably is related to the inflammation in the brain. One of the things that kept me from slipping into an abyss that some slip into was the Psalms. Book description: “Often described as a dark, lonely pit, depression is a common struggle in our world today. Everyday there are many Christians who are struggling to get out, stay out, or lift someone else out of the pit. The struggle can be immense but there are answers in God’s Word. Journey through the verses of Psalms 42 & 43 and discover a plan to win your fight with depression.”

Share Your Favorites

This is just a few on my lists. I hope some of them are an encouragement to you. What is your favorite book, or other resource, that has helped you through your valley? Please leave a comment below. We’d love to see what God has used to help you. It just might help someone else. If you read (or have read) one of the books listed, let us know in the comments below.

God bless you in your journey to praise in spite of the pain.


The God of the Valley

The Battle

nature-landscape-wallpaperI love the story of 1 Kings 20. The chapter begins with Benhadad, the king of Syria, bringing war and threats to Israel. He’s completely confident that he is going to win this war. No one, not even the God of Israel, is strong enough to stop him. Ahab, the king of Israel, follows the instructions of the man of God, and God soundly defeats the Syrian army with “a great slaughter”, according to verse 21.  Benhadad’s advisers think they have the answer. The problem is that they fought Israel on the hills. Surely Israel’s gods must be the gods of the hills. So, we just have to fight them in the valley.

They think they have it all figured out, but they don’t know who they’re dealing with. Verse 28 reads, “And there came a man of God, and spake unto the king of Israel, and said, Thus saith the LORD, Because the Syrians have said, The LORD is God of the hills, but he is not God of the valleys, therefore will I deliver all this great multitude into thine hand, and ye shall know that I am the LORD.” God is about to prove to everyone involved that He is indeed the God of the hills, but He is the God of the valleys too.

Is God Big Enough?

Sometimes we are like Benhadad’s advisers. We hear stories of God giving victory, giving peace, or bringing someone out of their valley. We read of God giving the barren woman a child. Someone gives a testimony of God healing those who were past medical help. What about that person who was completely hopeless, but God gave them a job, saved them, or worked some other miracle in their life? Yet we think God may do for others, but He isn’t doing for us. We stop short of saying He can’t, but that’s what our heart is telling us. We think God is the God of their valley, but not of mine.

I have heard stories of God healing those with Chronic Lyme Disease,and Satan asks me why God doesn’t heal me. We have met so many people that were struggling with infertility, but God had given them their miracle baby (or babies). Yet our arms are still empty. The enemy tries to get us to believe that God can, and will, work for others, but not for us. What horrible, wretched lies he tells!


The truth is that God could heal me, give me children, and give me the energy I once had. And He can do it today. God can heal you. He could have stopped your loved one from dying. He could have saved your job or given you a better one. God is able to change your circumstances in an instant. He is enough. What He has done for others, He can do for you.

God is also wise enough to know that giving me healing, children, and energy may not be what I need today. He knows that trials and heartache bring me closer to Him. Our God is able to use the darkest days in our lives to make us more like Christ and reach others for Him. He is wise enough to know what I need, powerful enough to give it to me, and gracious enough to give me joy and peace in the midst of less-than-my-ideal situations. I can trust Him. You can trust Him too.


Thrive – Don’t Just Survive the Holidays

Thrive - Don't just survive the holidays. How to find joy in the holidays, even when your heart is breaking. http://www.myranoel.com/thrive-dont-just-survive-holidaysThe Challenge:

Holidays. For many people, this word conjures up images of days off, family, favorite foods, and all sorts of lovely memories. I love holidays. When I was growing up, they were all about family. Thanksgiving has always been my favorite. In the last few years, the approaching holidays have brought sadness instead of anticipation. There have been more tears than laughter. I started to dread them.

Last Thanksgiving I cried through most of the weekend with friends (mostly when I was in my room, not in front of everyone). On Christmas, it was almost a relief that my husband was sick, because I was focused on caring for him and preparing to move, instead of on what could/should have been. It was sad, and I was ashamed. What do you do when grief causes these special days to turn into painful reminders of your loss or sorrow?

This past Mother’s Day was a turning point for me. I knew there would be moments of sadness, but I determined ahead of time to find joy and not mope through the day. I’m planning that again for Thanksgiving and Christmas. So how does one go from dreading holidays to embracing them? For me, it was focus. (When I think about it, most everything comes down to focus.)

The Plan:

On Mother’s Day I determined not to focus on the fact that all of my children were in Heaven. I will never forget that fact, and it will always hurt, but I chose not to focus on the pain. You know the enemy came to tempt me back to focusing on myself, but I consistently brought my thoughts back into subjection by choosing to focus them on something else. I looked for ways to minister to others. I prayed for opportunities to be a blessing to someone. I didn’t just take the day and pain as it came, but lived that day with purpose. I did the same thing for Father’s Day, which is just as hard for me as Mother’s Day.

Although I was determined, I wasn’t totally convinced it would work. I somewhat expected to be depressed by the end of the day, but I was surprised at how blessed Mother’s Day was. When the pain came, I asked God to hug my babies for me, and immediately turned my mind to someone else. I wasn’t denying the pain, I just chose not to focus on it. God blessed beyond my hopes.

Do You Have a Plan?

What is your plan for the holidays? When the pain sweeps over you like a flood, will you be carried away with it? Will you hide in your grief? Or will you approach the holidays with a plan to be a blessing, while expecting God to bless you? Live these days with purpose! Start thinking of your blessings now, so you are thankful on Thanksgiving. Plan today how you can be a blessing to someone at Christmas. Most important of all, keep your mind and heart stayed on the God who gives comfort and peace that passeth all understanding.

“And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7


Refusing Lies, Choosing Truth

refusing-liesWe hear lies every day. The enemy throws them at us with unbelievable speed. I am convinced these lies are part of his arsenal of “fiery darts” that we read about in Ephesians. The sad part isn’t that the enemy lies, the sad part is how often we believe those lies.

This month I was sure I was pregnant again. This would have been so amazing for so many reasons. I’m 46, and I haven’t been pregnant in well over a year. I was going to tell Rob I was pregnant on our Anniversary, and the baby would have been due around Father’s Day. I even made him a special card. It all seemed so perfect that I didn’t mind the crushing fatigue, nausea, and dizziness. But I wasn’t pregnant.

I did not expect the overwhelming disappointment, hurt, and even anger that swept over me. I had given this to the Lord, and I was okay with Him not giving us children to hold. It was hard, but I was at peace, and I had joy. But I had allowed myself to hope again. I wish I could say I handled it with grace. I didn’t. It was a very rough night. I cried. I told God exactly what I thought. I cried. I told Rob I had some serious questions for God when we get to Heaven. I cried some more. Then I started speaking the truths I knew aloud.

I Chose Truth

I told God I didn’t understand why He gave children to those who would hurt, abandon, and abuse them, but withhold them from us, but I trusted Him. I didn’t feel loved in that moment, but I knew He loved me. I didn’t even like His choices, but I knew they were good, because they came from Him…and He always does right. These were not things I felt, but things I knew to be true. The enemy was throwing lies at lightening speed. I had a choice. I could believe him (and my own deceitful heart), or I could choose to believe what I knew (but didn’t feel) to be true. I chose truth. Not because it was easy, but because I knew it was right. And because I knew it was the only path to having peace and joy.  By morning, peace and joy had returned.

This sounds like it was an easy and quick battle. Maybe it was pretty quick, but it wasn’t easy. And it wasn’t my first time on this battlefield. I had been here before, and I was defeated here more than once. That defeat was not pretty, and I didn’t want to go there again. The results of defeat on this battlefield is bitterness and anger. It paralyzes. It crushes. It destroys. I wasn’t willing to live like that again.

Choose You This Day

Today you have a choice. When it looks like God has forgotten, forsaken, and crushed you, you can choose to believe lies or truth. Truth brings freedom. Truth brings peace. Truth brings joy, even in the midst of pain. What will you choose today? Will you believe the enemy’s lies, or will you believe God’s truth?


Strength for the Day

It doesn’t matter if it’s physical strength needed for work, or spiritual strength to endure the trial; God is the only One who can give us the strength we need.We are preparing for a team to come help with outreach. We are excited, and just a wee bit overwhelmed. Well, I am overwhelmed. My husband is just amazing. It never fails that right before company, a trip, special meeting, or other “big thing”, I get sick. I’m not really sure why this is. I’ve even been paying attention to make sure it’s not just because I overdo it. It’s just one of those things. I run out of strength for all the tasks ahead of me.

This past week has been a bit rough, so I asked some friends, missionary ladies, to pray for me. I have been praying that God would give me strength for the work that needs to be done. For the last few days, I’ve woken in bad shape. I fully expected to not get anything accomplished.

Imagine my surprise when I look back over these past three days and see that I’ve caught up on my dishes, cleaned my kitchen, done 2 loads of laundry, sorted bedding for the group coming, made bunk beds (That’s an amazing feat even if I’m not sick! Ugh), cleaned out a closet to make room (and organize so I can find what I need), and a few other bits and pieces. How is it possible? Strength for the day. God answered prayer, and gave me the strength I needed for the tasks of today. He didn’t give me strength for all I wanted to do, but for all I needed to finish.

It doesn’t matter if it’s physical strength needed for work or spiritual strength to endure the trial. God is the only One who can give us the strength we need. There were days it seemed He didn’t give the strength I needed. But I realize now that those were the days He didn’t want me to accomplish anything, He only wanted me to rest in Him.

What are you facing today, Friend? Is your load heavy? Or your grief overwhelming? Does your pain seem unbearable? Do you wonder how you will ever make it through? Remember that our strength comes from the Lord. He sometimes does give us more than we can bear, then invites us to cast all our care upon Him. Because He cares for us.

God hath not promised skies always blue
Flower strewn pathways, all our lives through;
God hath not promised sun without rain,
Joy without sorrow, peace without pain.

But God hath promised strength for the day,
Rest for the labour, light for the way,
Grace for the trials, help from above,
Unfailing kindness, undying love.
-Annie Johnson Flint