every single detail

2 Isaiah 26 3

Three weeks ago, my husband, Lon, came home from work with a swollen knee that was painful and hot to the touch. We both knew exactly what it was…a staph infection. Lon has had five of these infections since 2009, all on the left-hand side of his body in three different locations.

In the next couple of weeks, we would go through a nerve-racking set of circumstances on the path to my husband’s recovery.

Throughout this entire experience, we saw God’s fingerprints all over the situation. A testament that the Lord cares about the big and the small things in our lives – and all the details in between.

After two weeks of oral antibiotics and IV treatment, both while admitted to the hospital and outpatient, Lon’s infection was not improving. As a matter of fact, it was getting worse. It had spread at a rapid pace down his entire leg to his ankle and foot. The orthopedic surgeon ordered and MRI.

The next day, Lon and I went to the hospital at the orthopedic surgeon’s request to meet with him. We thought we were to meet with him in between patients and find out our game plan. I suspected a surgery might be in order at some point, but I didn’t suspect the news we found out when we entered the doors of the OR.

The nursing staff placed Lon in a room and said they’d be in soon to prep him for an emergency surgery based on his MRI. The doctor would be performing a surgery to remove the infection from his knee. That gave me very little time to pray and to contact the insurance company to get pre-authorization for the surgery.

But God knew all this was to happen, and He knew the outcome.

The night before Lon’s emergency surgery (that we didn’t know he was going to have) he came upstairs late at night (his night owl wife was still up reading,) and said he had a super serious craving for popcorn. This was highly unusual, so after teasing him about being like a pregnant woman, I grabbed him some Skinny Pop. God knew that night that the Skinny Pop would be the only thing Lon would be eating for over the next 17 plus hours due to the emergency surgery. Lon would have never been able to make it if he hadn’t had that popcorn, since dinner had been several hours earlier.

A testament of God’s loving care for His children.

On our way to the surgery on Tuesday that we didn’t know Lon was having, we were pulled over. The officer told us, that unbeknownst to us, we had no brake lights – they had both gone out at the same time.

No brake lights.

At all?

At first, I was like, “Really? You had to pull us over outside of the hospital?! And right now?!” But then I realized what a blessing that was as we could have been rear-ended.

During Lon’s long post-surgery recovery in the OR, the nurse told me to take a break and run some errands, so I ran to get light bulbs for the brake lights. I was chatting with the guys at our local Napa store, when one of them walked outside with the light bulbs. “Your man is down, so we’re going to fix this for you,” he said.

God knew I would be running around town like a crazy person driving back and forth from the hospital, picking up Lon’s medicines at the pharmacy, etc., with no brake lights, and placed a kind guy in our midst to help us out. I am always amazed and again reminded at how God cares about the small things, as well as the big things in our lives. 

lon knee

Tomorrow is exactly three weeks since Lon was diagnosed with this most recent staph infection. Throughout this time, we have had big concerns, such as, that the infection spread to Lon’s heart or other organs. Thankfully, it hadn’t.

But through it all, whether the concerns were small or on a bigger scale, God had our backs. He went before us and guided us every step of the way. He heard our prayers and the prayers of our dear family and our faithful friends at church.

Today, Lon continues to recover.

And I will never forget how the Lord showed me once again how much He cares about every single detail in our lives.

Thank you, Jesus, for Your tender mercies.

 

Advertisements

12 songs to get you through the tough times

We all go through hard times and struggles. This life is not easy.

In no particular order are 12 songs to get you through those difficult times life throws your way.  A perfect addition to any playlist, these songs speak of God’s love. His faithfulness. His tender care for His children. The fact that we are never alone.

A click on the song title will take you to the Youtube lyric video.

sad guy2

I Will Lift My Eyes – Bebo Norman

Look a Little Higher – JJ Weeks Band

Even If – MercyMe

Hills and Valleys – Tauren Wells

Oh My Soul – Casting Crowns

I Will – Citizen Way

Worn – Tenth Avenue North

You are My Rescue – Royal Tailor

Rescue me – Selah

Found – Seventh Day Slumber

Just Say Jesus – 7eventh Time Down

Let the Waters Rise – Mikeschair (I couldn’t find an official video with the song by Mikeschair, so I linked this to the Amazon sample).

 

We all go through difficult times. But we are reminded of the promise in Hebrews 13:5:

Hebrews 13 5

who inspires you?

Penny Zeller, Christian Author

I recently met a woman in my water aerobics class who is 94-years-old. An inspiration, this woman is sharp in her mind and active in her body. As a matter of fact, she took swimming lessons for the first time at age 84, with the goal of diving off the diving board!

After much hard work, she accomplished her goal.

So many women throughout history are inspiring:

Ruth in the Bible, widowed as a young woman, followed her mother-in-law to her homeland and bravely supported both of them.

Esther of the Bible risked her life to save her people.

The midwives in Egypt in Moses’ time risked their lives to deliver babies against the Pharoah’s wishes.

Or the more recent inspiring women of history:

Eleanor Roosevelt overcame a difficult childhood to become a first lady and champion for human rights. She fought for what she believed in and never gave up.

eleanorroosevelt#1

Corrie ten Boom, a woman I greatly admire, helped to hide Jews during WWII until caught. She survived the horror of the holocaust in concentration camps during WWII. Her amazing faith allowed her to forgive one of the Nazi guards where she was held. She is a true example of putting into action the message Jesus spoke of forgiveness.

corrietenboom#1

Joni Eareckson Tada is nothing short of inspirational. A diving accident left her a quad­riplegic when she was just a teenager. While she cannot use her hands, Joni can paint using her mouth. Her faith in the Lord, despite what she has been through, strengthens my own faith.

joniericksontada#1

Or the inspirational people in my own family:

My grandma, who while in her 80s, lets nothing stop her.

My mom, who while chronically disabled, sets an example of faith for her children, grandchildren, and those at the places where she volunteers.

Everyday is a day we have a chance to inspire others without even knowing it.

Who, past or present, has inspired you?

 

 

*********************************

Tweetables:

Who inspires you? (click to tweet)

What women throughout history inspire you? (click to tweet)

These women, past and present, are true inspirations. (click to tweet)

********************************

how to make your plans succeed

Penny Zeller, Christian Author

Four things were on the immediate agenda:

It was November and my youngest daughter and I planned to enter a power-walk/run relay to raise money for the local homeless shelter.

In the weeks before Christmas, our family planned to donate time standing outside Walmart ringing the bell for the Salvation Army.

In December, I planned on taking a swimming lessons class with my brother to finally learn how to do the freestyle stroke we never learned in the olden days of youth swimming lessons.

After the first of the year, our family planned to go on a quick family vacation, which included a fair amount of hiking and other active activities.

And now on to reality…

The lovely picture my husband recently received from his employer to commemorate his years of service reads: “You can make plans, but the Lord determines your steps ~ Proverbs 16:9.”

I was about to find out just how true that was.

During the week of November 25, I noticed some slight pain in my left ankle, but figured it would pass. I proceeded with my regular exercise program, which included some kickboxing, kettlebells (with squats), and some time on the exercise bike. Did I mention I love fitness?

On the morning of November 27, I was in for a surprise when I woke up and couldn’t walk. My ankle was swollen, disfigured, and painful.

After some time in Urgent Care, I was referred to an orthopedic surgeon.

Fast forward to a diagnosis of “acute anterior ankle impingement,” a couple weeks on crutches, and many many hours of ongoing physical therapy. I wasn’t able to stand on my foot for more than a few minutes at a time and was given an unstylish boot to wear.

So much for plans – my plans. The power-walk/run relay, the donation of time standing and ringing the bell for the Salvation Army, and the family vacation would have to wait. (I was still able to somewhat take swimming lessons and that’s a quite humorous story I’ll share in another blog post).

014While my ankle still isn’t fully healed, I continue to make progress under the care of my orthopedic surgeon and physical therapist. I still limp and have some pain, but the crutches have been relegated to the furthermost corner of the closet and the unstylish boot is on its way there as well.

I look back to November and December and really wished I’d been able to do those things I’d planned. Was I disappointed? Yes, very much so.

But through it all, I learned something really important – something I knew, but couldn’t really digest until now. You see, I can make all the plans I want, but it’s the Lord who truly determines my steps (never more true than when you only have one good foot. 🙂

I learned to surrender everything to the Lord, not just the big things, but the day-to-day, minute-by-minute things, even things I planned to do for His kingdom.

So…how do you make your plans succeed? Give those plans to the Lord. Surrender the big plans, the small plans, and all the plans in between. He knows how it all turns out and Jeremiah 29:11 assures us ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

We are told in Proverbs 16:3, “Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.” Untitled

So I commit my plans to the Lord because more than anything, I want my plans to align with His plans.

Have you ever had to surrender something particularly difficult to the Lord?

6 suggestions for getting through the rough times in life

Penny Zeller, Christian Author

There is no problem God can’t solve.
There is no promise God can’t keep.
There is no prayer God can’t answer.
There is no person God can’t save.  ~ author unknown

I have no idea who wrote the above quote, but it’s a truthful statement that applies to anything life throws at us:

There is no problem God can’t solve – The husband who just lost his job and has no idea how he’ll support his family.  God can solve the problem of unemployment.

There is no promise God can’t keep – The teen who’s all alone and depressed with nowhere to turn. When God says He’ll never leave her nor forsake her, is that a promise she can trust? His promises in His Word are trustworthy.

There is no prayer God can’t answer – The bad news of cancer – does God hear the prayer that’s being sent for courage to endure and healing of illness? He hears our every prayer.

There is no person God can’t save – The spiritually single woman who longs for her husband to know the saving grace of  Jesus Christ. No one is beyond God’s saving grace.

So what can we do when faced with the difficulties of life?

Here are some suggestions for getting through those particularly rough times.

1. Spend an abundant amount of time in prayer. I have found in my own life that the times when I’m going through difficulties are the times when I grow in my relationship with the Lord. I am reminded anew to surrender to Him, lean on Him, and put my hope in Him, in every situation.

IMG_000622. Draw upon God’s Word. During a particularly rough time in 2007, I drew great comfort from Psalm 91. To this day, it remains my favorite verse in the Bible. Here are some other verses to lean on during the troubles of life.

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. ~ Peter 5:7

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. ~ Matthew 11:28

Cast your burden on the Lord, and He shall sustain you. ~ Psalm 55:22

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. ~ Psalm 46:1

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. ~ Proverbs 3:5-6

I lift up my eyes to the hills – where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. ~ Psalm 121:1

 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” ~ Jeremiah 29:11

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. ~ Isaiah 41:10

He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. ~ Isaiah 40:29-31

3. Reach out to and rely on a friend, someone who’s faith is strong and someone who will be there for you for the duration of your situation. It’s true that you find out who your true friends are when you’re going through a difficult situation. That type of friend will be there for you through the good times…and the bad. 1094303_3_friends_5

4. Seek assistance from your pastor, one of the elders, or your Bible study leader. Many churches now have Biblical counselors who apply the Word of God to the hardships of life.

5. Ask for prayer support. One of the biggest blessings is our church’s prayer chain. Ask for prayer support from those you trust and who are committed to interceding for you.

6. Think of a way to bless someone else. The quote is true that states “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

Sometimes life’s challenges seem overwhelming. You wonder if God is really there and if He truly cares about what you’re experiencing. He does care. Very much. And He loves you so much that He sent His own Son to die for you.

Don’t give up hope. Reach out to Jesus. Cry out to Him. Trust in Him. And depend on Him.

Sweet Friend, He loves you so much.

What if for one day, we loved as Jesus did?

Penny Zeller, Christian Author
What if for one day, we loved as Jesus did? I mean, truly loved as Jesus did. Not say we will, not pretend to, but really, truly focus on putting another person’s needs ahead of our own?

Can you imagine how we could change the world one person at a time?

And what if it became a habit?

Allow me to share a story with you about my friend Donna. Donna has rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, back problems, and a host of other health ailments. However, this doesn’t stop her from tirelessly serving others and showing each person she encounters the love of Christ in action.

thread-spool-1378256-mCase in point: Donna is often babysitting her grandchildren while her daughter and son-in-law struggle to make ends meet. Donna also teaches sewing classes to homeschool students, volunteers at church, cares for her mother who has dementia, and assists her niece, who has been hospitalized on numerous occasions with a severe neurological disorder.

I’ve never once heard Donna complain.

Add to that, the fact that a mutual friend was recently diagnosed with terminal cancer and Donna came quickly to her aid.

One of the requests of our friend with cancer was that the precious words she’d written would be put into book form before our friend passed away. Donna quickly took care of our friend’s request, even though she was busy with other items, including upcoming medical tests for which she had to prepare.

This didn’t stop Donna.

reading-book-1368361-mDonna went to the local office supply store with our friend’s words. She knew time was of the essence. Our friend wasn’t expected to live much longer and her dream of seeing her words in book print became Donna’s goal.

Donna achieved her goal and was able to present the book to our friend.

Jesus tells His disciples in Matthew 20:28, “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve…” saint-matthew-1336079-m

When I watch Donna, I get a glimpse into what it means to be Christlike and to really truly serve as Jesus did. And not only that, but as an avid prayer warrior, there’s not a day that passes that Donna doesn’t intercede on behalf of others.

I know, because I’ve been blessed to be the recipient of her prayers on a couple of occasions.

So, what if for one day, we loved as Jesus did? What if we set out to bless someone else without the expectation of ever receiving anything in return?

1113096_give_meWhat if everyday, we strove to put others first and didn’t expect to be served, but to instead serve, just as Jesus did?

What a difference we could make!

If you’re looking for ways to enlist your family in making a difference in the lives of others, please check out my book 77 Ways Your Family Can Make a Difference: Ideas and Activities for Serving Others.

How to Train a Deer

Penny Zeller, Christian Author

The other day as my daughters and I were driving home, we came across a herd of deer in a field by the side of the road.  “I wish I had a pet deer,” said my youngest daughter, Doodle.

“Deer can’t be pets,” muttered my oldest, Sunshine, who is perhaps one of the most realistic and literal children I know.

Doodle brushed Sunshine’s comment aside, and I watched in the rearview mirror as her face lit up with excitement. “If I had a pet deer, I would do two things.”

“And what would those be?” I asked, knowing Doodle possessed the same overactive imagination as someone else we know.

1404953_whitetail_deer

“Well, first, I would train the pet deer not to poop in our yard.”

“That would sure be nice,” I agreed.

“You can’t potty-train a deer,” Sunshine muttered, acting far older than her years.

Ignoring her literal sister’s comment once again, Doodle continued. “And you know what else I would do, Mom?” she asked.

“What’s that?”

“I would train the deer so I could ride it when I go places!”

“That would be a fine idea,” I agreed. “With gas prices as they are, that would really help out the family budget.” I could see in the rear-view mirror that Doodle had it all planned out.

“I just need a saddle,” Doodle quipped.

I love the imaginations of little children and how their minds are filled with creativity, dreams, and possibilities.

Such a thought brought to mind the words of Jesus in Luke 18:27 “What is impossible with men is possible with God.”  Our family was discussing this morning during devotions the blessings God has bestowed on us throughout our lives. That we have each other; that we have shelter, food, and clothing,  just to name a few.

That we can see the sunrise, hear the birds sing, and feel the soft fur of a fluffy puppy; and that He has healed us so many times from illness and protected us from disease.

1422937_sunrise_tidung_island

And of course, the most humbling of all, that He gave us the precious gift of His Son so we might have eternal life.

Yes, so many impossibilities through our human weakness, but so many possibilities with God!