Real Christmas (reposted from 2012)

 Ah, the family Christmas letter – the updates and photos, the news and happenings….I enjoy receiving them and I've even written a few myself.  Usually they highlight the best parts of the year, as well as announcing various milestones: births, graduations, marriages, deaths, etc....  Occasionally, you might even get one that sounds a little "spun", like this one…

To our Most Esteemed Family and Friends,

                This has been quite an eventful year indeed for the Smith family.  Bobby received a full scholarship to Yale University, and we couldn’t be more proud!  And Susie is in ALL high honors classes and also went with her volleyball team to the state finals: they won the championship!  And little Billy Bob has been placed into the gifted children’s program…for the third year in a row! 

                In April, we took a spontaneous, amazing two-week vacation to Australia to celebrate Dan’s big promotion.  Our next stop: Paris!  Joyeux Noel! 

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! 

                Sometimes life goes that way, and we celebrate.  Most of the time, however, our lives are a mix of blessings and challenges.  And then there are times, even entire seasons that are disproportionately painful.  Not the stuff of Christmas letters… 

Dear Friends and Family,

                Well, this year has been a real doozy.  Bobby broke his leg playing football which cost him his hard-earned scholarship.  Since the twins hit puberty, we are on Proactive’s frequent shipper program.  Linda took an extra job to pay for Billy Bob’s second round of braces, and between the two of us, we’ve gained 40 pounds since last Christmas!

Here’s hoping this New Year will be better than the last!

                Of course I’m having a little fun here - people wouldn't really send a letter like that.  And certainly not at Christmas.  It is, after all, the most wonderful time of the year - when our troubles are supposed to be miles away.  We’re supposed to be baking, decorating, shopping, wrapping. Writing Christmas cards and dreaming of a blanket of snow covering earth and trees, making everything beautiful and new. 

                But what if this is not the most wonderful time of my year?  A few days before Thanksgiving, one of my loved ones received a very difficult diagnosis.  We are still waiting.  Waiting for tests to be performed, results to come back, treatments to be determined.  The call came on the evening of the day I watched my niece be born.  In one day, one moment, everything changed.
                I’m putting up the tree, decorating the house.  I’m baking cookies and wrapping gifts.  I’m buying groceries, folding laundry, going to work.  And my heart is torn by circumstances beyond my control.  I’m struggling to be truly present with my family as we celebrate the holiday and our traditions.  

                Some days when the anxiety and sadness are so heavy, even the smallest act of kindness or concern from a friend can undo me:  cookies in my mailbox; texts that say “thinking of you”; a meal prepared for our family so I don’t have to think about making dinner tonight.  When someone lets me know that they see me, that they hear me, that they care about what I’m going through, some things deep inside that I am trying to contain spill out of me.  Sorrow.  Hope.  Fear.  Tenderness.

                I believe that Christmas ought to be real.  The first Christmas, after all, was not story-book perfect.  The journey to Bethlehem was not a romantic getaway for Joseph and Mary – it was difficult.  Giving birth in a stable surrounded by animals was not “cute”.  The reality is that Jesus was born into a hostile world - a world in desperate need of Him.  The circumstances surrounding Christ’s birth were not ideal.  It’s His coming into our world that makes the Christmas story so beautiful.
                And over and over we hear the same message, the same command, the same liberating exhortation: Do not be afraid.  Spoken to Mary, to Joseph, to the shepherds, and to us.  Do not be afraid.  All is well.

                                                       Jesus has come.  Joy to the world!

                                                               Let earth receive her King!

                                           Jesus still comesLet my heart prepare Him room.

                Maybe your family, like mine, is facing some challenges and uncertainties ahead.  This Christmas, I need Emmanuel more than ever.  Jesus coming, into my world.  I don’t need to pretend or pretty it up.  In the unraveling, He comes.  In the breaking, He comes.  And in the waiting, the hoping, the trusting, He comes. 

Psalm 46:  God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in times of trouble.  Therefore, we will not fear, for our God is near.

                So do it.  Have yourself a merry, authentic, little Christmas.  Let the reality of His presence remind you that All is Well.  Take a few moments to listen to this song...


margie, the dog, and my darkest day

                The phone rang early Friday morning.  It was an hour later in Michigan, and my sister, Deb, sounded frantic.

                “The doctor says Mom’s in bad shape.  Becky, he doesn't think she’s gonna make it.  He said she has four days, maybe a week.”

                I stumbled out of bed and everything seemed to be spinning.  My mom had been fighting cancer for several months, and it had been one thing after another:  an infection, inflammation due to the radiation, a blood clot, unstable blood sugar, unstable blood pressure, another infection…

                Bernie and I began to get things together so we could head over to Michigan.  We told the girls to pack, and he called the woman who normally watches our dog.  She was unavailable.  I began calling the boarders near our home.  We were heading into the weekend before July 4th, and every dog boarder I called said the same thing.  We’re full.  We’re booked.

                I thought about bringing Lila with us, but I didn't know where we were going to be staying, and I just couldn't stand the thought of adding more stress to the situation.
I didn't want to be at the hospital with my mom, worrying about the dog.  I felt like I was sinking in quick sand.  I was roaming around the house, grabbing things here and there, hardly able to see through my tears.  My mom is going to die. The doctor said this is it.  And I can’t figure out what to do with our stupid dog.

                The phone rang again and I looked at the caller I.D.  It was Margie.  Sometimes when I am having a bad day, when I am in a bad place, I let the phone ring.  I’ll talk to whoever it is after I come down off the ledge.  After I pull myself up out of the pit I’m in and I feel a little better.  But this day, this nightmare of a day, I didn't even think about not picking up.

                Margie and I have been friends for over 15 years.  We became good friends, then best.  We've taken trips together and we've met in the E.R.  We've shared the joy of each child born and the sorrow of each child miscarried.  We've made gingerbread houses with our kids and sang in the choir.  Her family recipe for “nut rolls” has replaced mine, mainly because the dough is made out of vanilla ice cream and butter (see recipe on right).  We've helped each other parent, stay married, and follow Christ.  We've laughed so hard we've cried, and we've cried so hard because sometimes it hurts so much.
                I showed up at her house one time at midnight in pajamas and tears.  When my husband and I hit rock bottom in our marriage, and I’m sure some people doubted we’d make it, Margie and her husband sent us flowers.  The card had both our names on it, and it said, simply, “We’re on your side.”

                We both speak Spanish, so we have this private language we can use when we don’t want some of our kids to understand us. (My older girls are becoming more fluent in Spanish, so I don’t have this luxury as much anymore.) Her accent is South American, mine Mexican.  We've baked Christmas cookies, shared holidays, and gone through the tunnel of conflict.  It took us several months one time to come out of that tunnel, but thank God we did.  Because that’s how friendships grow the deepest roots.  

                And because I can’t imagine life without Margie.

                I pick up the phone.  Margie tells me she stopped by work to see if I was there – I was on her heart and mind, and she was checking in.  She can hardly understand me through my sobs, and I tell her all at once that my mom is in the hospital again and they don’t think she’s going to make it and we need to go to Michigan and I can’t find anyone to watch Lila and everyone is complaining because we don’t have anything good in the house for lunch.  She asks if she can bring us Subway sandwiches but I tell her no, that I think they’re all eating cereal.  She wants to know what she can do, and I don’t even know what to tell her.
                I’m coming over.

                I still feel like I’m moving through quick sand, unable to pack my suitcase or get organized.  I can’t stop crying and I hear the front door open, then voices.  I come down the stairs and my daughter Katelyn is gathering up the dog’s toys.  “Margie is taking Lila.”
                Bernie puts the crate in her van while she comes to me, hugs me, and doesn't let go.  I can’t hear what she is whispering in my ear because we are both crying, and I remember thinking it was almost comical that the dog was going to her house.  For the better part of two years I have complained to Margie about what a pain it is to get a puppy – what a pain it is to have to take care of a dog.  She is reluctant to jump on the puppy wagon, even though the rest of her family thinks they are ready for a dog.  And yet here she is, ready to help.  Willing to do whatever is needed.

                Then she gathers our family in a circle and prays:  for us, for my mom, and for what lies ahead, and then hugs me once more and tells me, “You can do this.”
                Over the next several days we sent texts and called and I kept her updated the best I could.  She prayed for specifics, and we saw God answer those prayers.  I knew that taking care of Lila was just one of the ways Margie was showing up – and that she would keep showing up through my grief journey after my mom died.  Her and her husband sent Bernie and me to the Melting Pot for a slow, delicious dinner shortly after the funeral, and sitting across the breakfast table at Egglectic CafĂ©, while others may have thought I should be further down the road, she validated my loss and sadness, reminding me, “It’s only been two months, Becky.”

                If we could plan for our darkest days, we would arrange childcare and pet care; we would go to counseling before the crisis strikes and come up with a plan, and we would make sure that we have our laundry done and food in the house for a decent lunch.  But most often our darkest days come when we aren't ready.  When we are busy making other plans: plans that don’t involve sickness and death and loss.
                But here’s the thing: Margie showing up in my darkest hour was preceded by years of friendship building.  Dozens of hours at Caribou Coffee and hundreds of hours of phone conversations.  Sticking it out over the long haul and not walking away when things felt uncomfortable or got a little messy.

                 I am more convinced than ever that God’s plan is, and always has been, for us to walk this road together.  To come alongside one another and do His healing work.  Sometimes it’s holding a hand, giving a hug, and offering great words of comfort and truth.  And sometimes His most holy work involves seemingly unholy tasks like dog-sitting or preparing a meal – tangible reminders that we are not alone.  Loving whispers from Emmanuel, God with us.        


what my mom taught me about living and dying

               Life has taken a turn.  Like when you’re driving and you make an abrupt, hard turn- things go flying.  Sliding dreams, falling tears, and spilling emotions, like coffee from a mug.
                My mom, Carol Louise Stephens, went to heaven on July 2nd.  She had been in the hospital for several days, her health deteriorating, and there was this moment when she understood and accepted the reality that she was dying.  Then she did all she could to help me and my siblings come to terms with it too.  Impossible, but her incomprehensible joy and contagious peace helped us as we walked her to heaven’s door.

                Now I’m on an unfamiliar road.  I didn't plan this turn.  I've never traveled on this path before.  And sometimes I feel lost.  These are the times people are referring to when they say, “Your faith will see you through.”

                My mom’s faith was real.  And it definitely saw her through the last seven months of her life.  When she was diagnosed with cancer the week of Thanksgiving, 2012, our family was devastated.  We didn't know which way things would go, but in the months that followed, as my mom went through chemo and radiation, tests and scans, her faith shone more brilliantly than ever.  Early on she told me, “I am going to be OK.  I am going to be around for a long time.  But no matter what happens, either way, I’m in a win-win situation.  If I live through this, I win more time with my family.  If I die, I win eternity with my Savior.”

                She fought hard to beat cancer, and she did.  She fought hard to get well.  But she did not fight death when it came because she believed that God is in control.  She trusted His timing.  She was in tune with her body and in tune with her Maker, and when she realized that He was bringing her home, she did not resist.  She declared, a few hours before she passed, “What a beautiful day that the Lord has made!”  It was the day of her homecoming.  She surrendered, telling us, “I've taught you how to live, now I want to teach you how to die.  I want you to see that you don’t have to be afraid.”

                I expected that it would be incredibly hard, and it was.  But I didn't expect it to be beautiful in a way I can’t even describe.  It reminded me, in some mysterious way, of childbirth.  The progression, the anxious waiting, asking the doctors, “How long?”, the passing from one home to another; my siblings and I witnessed my mom being born into heaven. 

                “Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day.                 For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long.  Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them all and will last forever!  So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen.  For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.”  
2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (NLT)
        Those last days with my mom were lived in another realm, somewhere between this life and the next.  Moments like these have a way of reshaping your perspective and strengthening your faith – bringing to the forefront the mysterious and the eternal.  I believe in God and in heaven.  I believe that because of His amazing love for me – because He sent His son, Jesus, to take my punishment and to die in my place – that I am forgiven.  Because Jesus lives again, I will live again, too.  What an indescribable gift!  Someday I too will be with Him, and I will see my mom again.  I believe in After Life.

                But now I am living in the “Life After”.  Life after the sickness and the trial.  Life after losing my mother.  I brought home some of her things: some beautiful pieces from her china cabinet, her desk, and her chair.  And for the first several days I moved the items around in my house, from room to room, trying to find a place for them, to make them fit.  Trying to make it feel right.  It mimicked the movement in my heart.  Life doesn't feel right after you lose someone so precious to you.  You work to accept the change.  You try on the new reality, but it doesn't fit.

                People keep telling me to take care of myself, and it’s good advice.  I am figuring out what that looks like for me.  I am taking more walks.  I'm trying to remember to drink lots of water.  I registered for a grief support workshop at my church.  I am cleaning out my house and re-decorating my bedroom.  I like the distraction and I like being able to call the shots, to have control over an outcome.  I like creating something fresh, new, and beautiful.
               I wake up each morning and for a couple seconds I struggle to accept the truth that my mom is no longer here.  I can’t call her today – I can’t hear her voice.  I can’t ask her advice or hear her laugh.  And it hurts every time.  But then I think about the way my mom lived and died – with absolute trust in her Lord.  I remember her words, “You don’t have to be afraid.”  And I want to live this way.  I want to walk with Jesus and love Him more. Because He will see me through whatever comes my way.  He will hold me steady when life takes some hard turns.  And at the end, though I may be surrounded by beloved family and friends, the person that will carry me from this life to the next is my Creator.
                “No guilt in life, no fear in death, this is the power of Christ in me;
                From life’s first cry to final breath, Jesus commands my destiny.
                No power of hell, no scheme of man, can ever pluck me from His hand;
                Till He returns or calls me home, here in the power of Christ I’ll stand.”
                                                                                (lyrics, In Christ Alone)                            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ENtL_li4GbE)

                My mom had a way with people.  She was bold but not pushy.  She cared enough to pry, but was not intrusive.  She introduced many people to Christ, and just a few hours before she passed I saw her grab a nurses hand, look her in the eye, and ask, “Do you know Jesus?”  She just didn't want anyone to be without Him.
                How about you?  Do you know Jesus?  Have you experienced what it is like to be fully known and completely loved?  Have you found a joy that doesn't depend on your circumstances, and a peace that is impossible to understand or explain?  Can you imagine no guilt in life, and no fear in death?  Do you know Him?  The One who gave everything for you and loves you more than you could ever imagine?  1 Timothy 2:4-6, "God wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus,who gave himself as a ransom for all people."

                Thank you, Mom, for showing me how to live and how to die.

                Thank you friends, for praying for my mom and our family during this journey. 

                Thank you, Lisa, for encouraging me to write again. 

                Thank you, Jesus, for your abiding presence, comfort, and strength, and for giving                   me everlasting life.  



Burden Bearers

            Is it really true that God will never give you more than you can bear? 

            I've heard people say this many times – I may have even said it myself.  These words are usually intended to give comfort, or to reassure the person that is facing some agonizing situation that they will get through it.  That somehow, someway, they will be strong enough to come out on the other side.

            I’ve searched for the Bible verse promising that God won’t give us more than we can bear, and I can’t find it.  In his first letter to the Corinthians, the apostle Paul writes that God will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear. But in terms of the painful trials we experience in this life, I don’t find scriptures suggesting that God gives us trials in proportion to our strength to bear them.
            If we stop and think about it, what are we implying?  That for some reason God “rewards” strong, faithful people with weightier, more challenging problems?  That He protects the weak from trials but burdens the strong? 

            Sometimes I hear people say, “Oh, I could never survive if such and such a thing happened to me.”  Usually the person is imagining some catastrophic event, like a tragic accident, or the loss of a child, a spouse, or a loved one.  They just know they would not be able to keep going if their worst nightmare became reality.  And yet for people who have suffered loss and devastating situations, they will tell you that they did not feel that they could bear the weight of these trials before they faced them either.
            I know in my own life, I have faced disappointments and trials beyond my capacity to bear.  I have felt hopeless.  And rather than discovering that I was strong enough, after all, to endure such hardships, I found that God gave me the strength I needed when I needed it.  He brought people into my life to help me carry the burden, and He Himself carried me when my burdens were too much to bear.

            I believe that God is in control and does allow trials to come our way, and that He is always working for our good.  But it’s not our own strength that determines how we will weather the storms of life; it’s our dependence on Him that matters most.  Look at these verses:

Psalm 68:19:  Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens.

Matthew 5:3: You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope.  With less of you there is more of God and His rule.  (The Message)

Isaiah 43:18: So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your GodI will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.  (Notice the emphasis on God’s presence, His strength, His help, and His hand upholding us.)

Psalm 55:22: Give your burdens to the Lord.  He will carry them.

Isaiah 40:31: But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.
            Even Jesus, on the night before he was crucified, felt overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.  He prayed; he asked his disciples to stay awake and pray with him.  “Father, if it is possible, take this cup from me” – He knew what was coming, and it was too much to bear.  He submitted his will to his Father’s, saying, “yet not my will, but yours be done”. Luke’s gospel records that after praying, an angel from heaven appeared and strengthened him.  On the way to Golgotha, the place where Jesus would lay down his life for us, after having been brutally beaten and whipped, his human, broken body could not bear the weight of his cross.  Soldiers seized a man named Simon from Cyrene and forced him to carry the cross for Jesus. 

            God brings people into our lives to help us when the weight of our burden is too much for us to carry alone.  Many of us love the declaration in Philippians 4:13: ”I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  But we miss something if we don’t read through the next verse:  “Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles.”  It is a “both/and”.  We are given strength through Christ for the trials we face, AND He often chooses to strengthen us, help us, and encourage us through others.

Galatians 6:2: Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

2 Corinthians 1:4:  God comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

            My mom is undergoing treatment for cancer, and many caring friends have come alongside her and our family to help during this difficult time.  They're driving Mom to appointments, taking her shopping for scarves and hats, picking up her mail and bringing her dinners.  They're supporting my sisters and me as we learn and process information, coordinate schedules, take turns traveling, and do our best to navigate this unpredictable road.  Alone, my mom’s burden is too much to bear.  But with the support of her friends and family, with God giving her strength and grace each step of the way, she is getting through each challenge.  She hasn’t made it in her own strength; she depends on God to help her and provide for her, to give her what she needs when she needs it.  Her dependence on Him is what makes her strong.

            I’ve had help with my burdens, too.  As I have tried my best to juggle mommyhood, working part-time, and traveling back and forth to Michigan to help my mom, I have been so thankful for the support from my husband, my children, and many caring friends.  Several friends brought our family meals.  My bible study group prayed for my mom and our family every week, all year.  Just when I needed encouragement the most, I’d get a text, a phone call, or an email from someone, telling me, “I’m praying for you.”  And when no one could ease my deepest fears and sadness, God has consistently given me peace and comfort, hope and a sense of calm that could only come from him.

            I am not counting on my own strength to get me through any future trials that may come my way.  I am learning to depend on God, believing he will help me and give me strength.  He will bring people alongside me when my burdens feel too heavy.

            Are you relying on your own strength when you face difficulties, or are you depending on the One who daily bears your burdens?



            I am nearing the end of my Sudoku puzzle book.  This is actually a pretty big deal, considering I have had this book for about 7 years, and have very slowly worked my way through the 200+ number puzzles. If you’re not familiar with Sudoku, the object is to fill a 9x9 grid so that each column, each row, and each of the nine 3x3 boxes contain the digits from 1 to 9 only one time each.  Digits cannot repeat in box, row or column.  And in this particular book, the puzzles get more challenging as you progress.

            I was recently stuck on the same puzzle for days before realizing that I had made a mistake.  I had two sixes in the same row, which is a criminal offense in the Sudoku handbook.  In order to complete the puzzle I had to look at the answer key in the back and correct my mistakes.  And I was surprised to see how many there were!  One wrong number led to several wrong numbers, creating a sort of domino effect.  I had spent considerable time working on a puzzle that was unsolvable, because I was working with incorrect information.

            This made me think about how sometimes my ability to work through a problem is hindered because my information is not accurate.  At some point, my truth cart gets derailed and I am believing untruths. I am going on assumptions.  Or fear or anger clouds and distorts my view, and I can’t see clearly.  I got two sixes in the same row, but I don’t know it so I’m filling in boxes with wrong numbers and I can’t figure out why I’m stuck.

            Sometimes I see a situation a certain way (from my vantage point), and all of my energy around that situation stems from how I perceive what is going on.  I have strong opinions, I’m sure I know other people’s motivations, and I think I know what other people are thinking. And then there is this little thing called history, where I am reminded of something painful that happened to me, or something someone else said or did that makes my current situation feel familiar. And so I get stuck.  I can’t move forward or figure anything out, because my perception and my understanding are not aligned with what is true.

            There are different ways to align ourselves with what is true.  I believe the bible is true, so much like I went to the back of the Sudoku book to correct my answers, God’s Word is useful for teaching me, correcting me, and training me in truth and righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16).  And when I find that my thoughts, attitudes and opinions do not agree with what I read in scripture, I have a choice:  I can correct my thinking, or continue in my folly.  I can go my own way.  But doing that is as futile as trying to solve a number puzzle with wrong numbers, or refusing to turn around when you are headed south and you are supposed to be going north.  

            We will not end up where we want to be if we hold on to our faulty perceptions.

            In relationships, sometimes I need to check out my assumptions with others.  I need to voice what I am believing and thinking about the other person, and be open to the possibility that my perception may not be accurate.

            After correcting my Sudoku errors, I was amazed at how quickly I was able to finish a puzzle that had had me stuck for days.  Clarity and truth: it’s how we get unstuck.  How we get from where we are to where we want to be.  And it begins with a willingness to accept that we might be wrong in our understanding, our perceptions, our way of thinking.  Is there room in our thinking for this possibility? We might be going the wrong way and not even know it.
Psalm 86:11:

Teach me your way, O LORD,
and I will walk in your truth;
give me an undivided heart,
that I may fear your name.


Last year I wrote about my New Year’s ritual of prayerfully looking over my calendar from the previous year, paying attention to where I saw God at work in my dreams, my family, my relationships, my spiritual growth, etc…http://beckyspen.blogspot.com/2012_01_01_archive.html

I still need to carve out time to reflect over 2012, but my new day planner couldn't wait!  As I started getting organized for the new year, filling in birthdays and appointments that I already have scheduled, there was no escaping the reality that for me and my family, this year is different.  My mom has cancer.  The kind that turns your whole world upside down and makes you wake up every morning wishing it were only a bad dream.

As I’m penciling in dates: a haircut on January 15th, dentist appointments and a speaking engagement at MOPS in February, chemo treatments every three weeks for the next few months, a follow-up doctor’s appointment in April, and let’s not forget National Tea Day on April 14th, the same nagging questions repeat themselves in a corner of my mind.  I try to shut the door to that corner, to silence the what-ifs, but it’s like closing a container that is too full – the contents spill out.  The questions I’m asking on each of these dates are honest and simple; What will life look like on January 15th? On February 7th? On April 14th? What will my mom’s status be?  Where will we be on this journey?

Life is always uncertain, but 2013 looks especially so.  Yet I find great comfort in knowing that God knows.  He could reach down from heaven with a sharpie and circle dates all over my calendar, and scribble in all of the events that are going to happen.  But I think He would also write the unchanging truths of His word in permanent ink all over the margins, because whether we know what’s coming or not, His promises and faithfulness will see us through:

Hebrews 13:5

God has said,
“Never will I leave you;
    never will I forsake you.

Psalm 68:19

Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior,
    who daily bears our burdens.

Lamentations 3:22-23

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;

    great is your faithfulness.

Ephesians 3:20-21

 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Psalm 46

God is our refuge and our strength, an ever-present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear…
Be still and know that I am God.

As I walk with my mom and my sisters, with my husband and my children, I am holding on to these truths:  I know that God is good, and that He loves us. I know that He wants us to trust Him.  He doesn't want us to be afraid.  

I copied a message off a card over ten years ago when my husband was diagnosed with MS.  The future looked scary and uncertain.  These words comforted and helped me, and I have been reading them over again, a spiritual resolution for 2013:

Have no fear for what tomorrow may bring.  The same loving God who cares for you today will take care of you tomorrow and every day.  He will either shield you from suffering or give you unfailing strength to bear it.  So be at peace then, and put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginations.