Friday, December 23, 2005

A Christmas Story

Christmas 2005

And it came about that while they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her first-born son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
(Luke 2: 6 & 7)

As I read her email, my heart went out to her and her family. It had been a very difficult few years for all of them. We had just started our friendship, and yet I found I cared about her a lot. Her concerns for her children and herself, made me want to find a way to help them. She told me about her son being in a car accident and suffering head trauma. And that is when she wrote - “but thank the Lord he is fine today!”. She had suffered two major medical problems - one taking her sight - and the other nearly taking her life. Her family was struggling financially, and yet I never heard her whine or feel sorry for herself. The only time I heard sadness - was when she mentioned her Christmas tree. The family had lost a lot of their decorations in a fire a while back, and so the tree was a little bare this year. Even so, her hope and faith seemed so strong. “We’ve had some tough times - just like you” she wrote. And I wondered if I could be that strong . . .

And in the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields, and keeping watch over their flock by night.
And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened.
(Luke 2: 8 & 9)

I was a single mom, trying my best to take care of my daughter. There wasn’t much money coming in, and I worried all the time. I wanted my daughter to have the things the other kids had, but some weeks there didn’t seem enough to even buy groceries. Christmas was coming, and I wanted to get presents. I was babysitting full time, volunteering at the counseling center, and still I took on a part time job. It was a job working week-ends selling Christmas trees. My job was to collect the money as people left the farm. And so I sat in a small wooden shelter, with only a gas heater to warm my feet. With my body bundled up, I tried to ignore how sick I felt. My chest hurt all the time, and I wondered how I would survive. I wanted to trust the Lord, I knew He had helped me through so many things, but what if this time - He didn’t . . .

And the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people;”
(Luke 2: 10)

Somehow, I got through that first Christmas. There were presents, and we had plenty of food to celebrate. Both my children were there that day, and the happiness I felt was only slightly marred, by the pain I still felt in my chest and body. I wanted to celebrate, to be happy, but I knew that something was terribly wrong.

That year, the doctors found out that I had a disease caused by a tick bite. It had affected my major organs, including my heart and lungs. By the time it was diagnosed, I found it difficult to do much more than sleep. I didn’t know how I would go on - - - living on my own and taking care of Jen. I was so afraid . . . Not knowing what the future would hold for us . . .

“Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people;”
“For today in they city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
(Luke 2: 10 & 11)

As I thought back over those years, when things seemed so difficult, I knew that I had more fear - than I had faith. I wanted to trust the Lord, but the doubts were still there. Even so, looking back - I can see that He was with me the whole time! He never left me, even in my doubts and fears. When friends told me that I must have done something terribly wrong to be that sick - - - I begged God to forgive me, and I begged Him to help me. I didn’t know who else to turn to.

And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”
(Luke 2: 13 & 14)

There is a song by Brooks & Dunn called “Believe”. The first time Ted and I heard it - we both cried. It is a song about life. About difficult times - and “believing”. It is a story of a young boy and an old man - and the lessons the boy learns as they just sit and talk. The old man tells the boy about losing his wife and baby. The young boy then asks the man how he keeps from going crazy - from the pain of losing them. These are the words:

He said: “I’ll see my wife and son in just a little while”
I asked him what he meant
He looked at me and smiled, and said:

“I raise my hands, bow my head
I’m finding more and more truth in
The words written in red
They tell me that there’s more to life
Than just what I can see
Oh, I believe”

As I sit here thinking about my friend - and even about my own life - I realize that each of us will face hardships and troubles - here on earth. But we don’t have to face them alone. I have faced being homeless, single and having a child, having very little money, being sick - - - and still the Lord was always there to help me through. I couldn’t see Him - but He was there! That is the promise of this season - of Christmas. It is a promise of Hope - in the midst of all that we are facing.

My new friend has faced some very difficult times. But the Lord has been there through it all. Her son lived! She lived! And she and her family are blessed because they have each other - and the Lord.

“Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”
And it came about when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds began saying to one another, “Let us go . . . And see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.”
And they came in haste and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger.
(Luke 2: 14 - 16)

And they found their way - - - to the Lord! So many times we wonder where we are going, and how to get there. We wonder how we will get through the troubles on this earth. But the way - - - is through “believing”. Believing that He will help us through everything. I had so many doubts through the years, but I must have had a small amount of faith - to help me through. And that is all it takes, just a little faith to believe that God - - - loves even you . . .

“I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people; . . .”

There is a line in the movie “The Santa Clause 2” which I love. It says: “Seeing isn’t believing - believing is seeing!” When you “believe”- miracles happen! Will you accept the Christmas gift - that He has waiting - just for you? When you do - You become that miracle . . .

But Jesus, said . . .“Do not be afraid any longer, only believe.”
(Mark 5: 36)

God bless you on this glorious Christmas Day!

In His Love,
Debbie & Ted Ayers

Friday, December 16, 2005

Weekly Word - December 16, 2005

Weekly Word - December 16, 2005

Thou wilt make known to me the path of life; In Thy presence is fullness of joy;
In Thy right hand there are pleasures forever . . .
(Psalm 16: 11)

“So when are you going to go back to work?” she asked. When I heard the question, I was taken by surprise. My stomach started to tighten, and an old familiar feeling came over me. It was an uncomfortable feeling, one I hadn’t felt in a very long time. We had known each other for at least 7 or 8 years, and during that time I had listened to her tell me about her troubles, her hopes and fears, and all that she wished for her family, as well as herself. She had known me as a counselor, minister, and then as a Christian writer. Wondering how to answer her, my words seemed locked inside of me. On the other end of the phone, my friend started to say something - maybe something to end the uncomfortable silence that had come with the question. As she did, another feeling seemed to come over me. It was stronger than the uneasiness and fear I was feeling. It was a feeling of passion - of wanting her to understand how I felt about my life, my work, and my hopes for the future . . .

Thou wilt make known to me the path of life;

The very first time I heard that question, although it was phrased in an order and not as a question, I had just told my husband that I had quit school. I had quit Nursing Training, and I did it without asking him. As I told him that I didn’t want to be a nurse, he didn’t seem to hear me. “So, where are you going to get a job?” he asked, and the anger could be seen in his eyes. I had gone to school for over two years, and now I had just quit! “You had better get a job soon!” was what he said. And so I did.

I got a job working at an insurance company in their finance department. I was working in an office, and so I went out and bought new clothes. I bought pretty skirts and tops, and all sorts of nice outfits to wear in the office. I really liked my job. I liked working at a desk with my name on it. I liked wearing nice clothes instead of a white uniform. I liked the work and the people who I worked with. The only thing I didn’t like, was the fact that I seemed to get sick almost every day. It wasn’t too long before I went to the doctor. And six weeks after I started work - - - I found out I was pregnant!

As I told my husband the news, I waited for him to start yelling. This time he didn’t yell. But he did make it clear that I would have to go back to work right after the baby was born, especially if I wanted to buy a house!

Oh give thanks to the Lord, call upon His name: Make known His deeds among the peoples. Remember His wonders which He has done, His marvels . . .
(Psalm 105: 1)

I was pregnant, and so excited! I had dreamed of having a baby - hoping someday to have a little one to love - and now it was going to happen. I went to work each day, but I couldn’t stop thinking about the baby. I have to admit, I probably wasn’t the best worker that company ever had. As my belly grew larger, I would touch it - wondering at this miracle growing inside of me. We found a little house, and soon we had moved in. We painted and wallpapered - getting the baby’s room ready for the day he or she came home. As the time drew near, I forgot all about my promise, and going back to work . . .

O Lord, Thou art my God; I will exalt Thee, I will give thanks to Thy name; For Thou hast worked wonders, Plans formed long ago, with perfect faithfulness.
(Isaiah 25: 1)

When are you going to go back to work? - Mikey was just 8 weeks old, when I heard that question again. When my husband asked it, I didn’t know what to say. I had told him I would go back to work, but when the baby was born - I didn’t want to leave him! I tried to tell my husband how I felt, but all he could do was remind me that I had promised. With my stomach in knots, I called my girlfriend up - asking if I could come over.

As I sat down for coffee with my friend, I told her that I needed to find a job. Crying, I told her I didn’t want to leave my baby, but I knew that my husband wouldn’t let up. He wanted me to work and make money. My friend listened as I cried my heart out to her. I didn’t want to work, but I knew that he would be so angry at me! I couldn’t face that! Asking my friend to watch the baby, I decided I would go that day and search for a part time job. As I got ready to leave, I looked down at my sleeping son, and wished that things could be different . . .

For great is the glory of the Lord. For though the Lord is exalted, Yet He regards the lowly; . . . The Lord will accomplish what concerns me; . . .
(Psalm 138: 6 & 8)

When will you go back to work? What will you do? Through the years, these questions seemed to come from friends, relatives, and those who I know cared about me. They worried about me, wanting the best for me. But it seemed that my heart was always leading me somewhere else - - - to do something else - - - something that they really didn’t understand . . .

I will bless the Lord who has counseled me; I have set the Lord continually before me; Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices;
(Psalm 16: 7 - 9)

It was 1987, and the new Crisis Pregnancy Center was going to have to shut down. The director had left, and they didn’t know how they would keep the center open. As I sat there listening, I wondered if there was anything I could do to help. After all, we had only been in the area a very short time, and this was only my 2nd meeting I had come to. Looking around, I knew I didn’t have much to give - but somehow my hand shot up in the air - and I had volunteered to oversee keeping the center open.

After the meeting, I wondered if I was crazy! How was I going to keep this place open and running? I hadn’t even been trained yet! As I voiced my fears to the pastor, he looked at me and laughed. “You are the only one who can” he told me. And somehow, I believed him. That whole summer, the center stayed open. We ran a training for new counselors. We asked churches and women’s groups for help. We did car washes and fund raisers, and somehow paid our bills. We saw so many young women that summer. Some were terrified that they might be pregnant. We listened and promised to be there with them, no matter what they were facing. The girls came with their babies and young children. Some needed clothes and food. And some needed a place to live. Even though there were only a few of us working, somehow the needs of these young women were met. As I look back, I’m really not sure how - except to say that God must have been there to help us.

As summer turned into fall, I took on the position of Director of Administration. I was going to be paid a small amount each week. We had hired a new Director of Counselors - and Norma started working with me that October. I loved working at the center. I never knew how many girls we might see each week, or what we would be facing, but I loved the work. But at home, my husband wasn’t as happy with what I was doing. “When are you going to get a real job?” he would ask. And I didn’t know what to say to him. I knew I wasn’t making much money, and I really did feel bad about that. Again my stomach was in knots, as I fussed through what was right - and what I should do . . .

I have set the Lord continually before me; Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Thou wilt make known to me the path of life;
(Psalm 16: 8 & 11)

Through the years, there were times when I would find full time work. Then there were the times when I made very little money. After a few years of working at the center, I gave up the position as Director of Administration. I was still a volunteer and I also agreed to be on the Board of Directors, overseeing the finances. I have to admit, I did this so I could take another job. This one was a paid position - full time. I worked this job for a few years - but again - I ended up leaving to do something else . . .

“And behold, I am with you, and will keep you - wherever you go, . . .”
(Genesis 28: 15)

Friends had told me about a counseling center, and soon I was working there - and training there. It was a place for people to come and find healing for the hurts they had gone through in their lives. It was here that God brought about so much healing in my own life. This was a place that offered “hope” to those whose lives had been through terrible hurts. It was a place that I loved working at. As I got stronger and healthier, my marriage seemed to get worse. It was during this time, that I finally left my husband. And again - that question was there: “What are you going to do?” “How will you survive?” But this time - - - the questions were from me . . .

“And behold, I am with you, and will keep you - wherever you go,- - - For I will not leave you . . .” (Genesis 28: 15)

As I look back over the years, and the jobs I have worked and the money I have made - it really doesn’t look like I have done very much. But through it all, the Lord was always there! He never did leave me! So as I thought about my answer to my friend - my emotions seemed to fill my whole being! “So when are you going to go back to work?” she had asked. At that moment, I told her how I felt, and my hopes for the future. This is what I told her:

“I want to tell people who need to hear it - that there is hope for their lives. When they are facing terrible difficulties and troubles, I want them to know that God is there to help them. I want people to know that when terrible things happen in our lives, God can help us through them. When I tell my stories - I want people to find hope for their own lives. I want them to understand about the Lord. I want them to know that we have a God who can heal and give us a better life. These are my hopes - and my dreams.”

When I finished telling her this, the phone was quiet for a moment. Then my friend seemed to change the subject. I knew she didn’t understand. And I wondered what she thought of my choices.

And I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling.
And my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, . . .
(1 Corinthians 2: 3 & 4)
“So when are you going to go back to work?” As I told Ted about the conversation that night, he looked at me a little strangely. “Don’t you know what you do” he said with a laugh. “Every day, in your stories and when you talk to people, you show them about the Lord” he said. I guess I hoped - that he was right!

And my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, That your faith should not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.
(1 Corinthians 2: 4 & 5)

Looking at my life - there will always be times when I wonder - what am I doing? But then I remember the things that I hope for. My hope - is for others to know God’s healing and Love. My hope is that the Lord might use the stories I write to help others. My hope is - - - for you! I hope that you will say “yes” to the Lord. When you do - hope grows - and not only your life changes - but the world is changed forever - and ever . . .

“For I know the plans that I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans for welfare, and not for calamity - to give you a future and a hope.”
(Jeremiah 29: 11)

God bless you in the coming week ahead!

In His Love,
Debbie and Ted Ayers

Friday, December 02, 2005

Weekly Word for December 2 - 9, 2005

Weekly Word - December 2, 2005

I love the Lord, because He hears my voice and my supplications.
Because He has inclined His ear to me, Therefore I shall call upon Him as long as I live.
(Psalm 116: 1 & 2)

“You are going to die!” were the words I heard. They started to tell me each detail of how they would hurt me, and finally cause me to die. But I only half listened, as my mind was racing, and I was trying to figure out how to get away. Every muscle in my body was tense, as I tried to come up with a plan to get free. My wrists were tied, and I was sitting on the floor. The person seemed to be towering over me, smiling, as they tormented me with their words. My fists clenched and unclenched, as I thought about grabbing their feet - and maybe breaking one of their bones! Every muscle hurt - and I wondered if I would actually live, or die! As my thoughts kept racing, and my body tensed for whatever would happen - - - I woke up . . .

The cords of death encompassed me, And the terrors of Sheol came upon me;
I found distress and sorrow.
Then I called upon the name of the Lord:
“O Lord, I beseech Thee, save my life!”
(Psalm 116: 3 & 4)

As the nightmare slipped away, I reached out for Ted. As I did, he somehow must have known I needed him. He pulled me into his arms, and softly kissed my head. As I heard the soft rhythm of his breathing, I knew he had fallen back to sleep. Laying there, I wondered why I would have such an awful dream. It had been many years since I had dreamt of the fears from my childhood, or the hurts from my first marriage. Years of counseling - years of praying and seeking God’s healing - years of dealing with terror and fear - - - wasn’t that enough?

Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; Yes, our God is compassionate.
I was brought low, and He saved me.

(Psalm 116: 5 & 6)

Fears - Over the years, I have dealt with a lot of the fear and terror that came into my life - from being abused as a child, as well as the hurts of my first marriage. I have been afraid - a lot! But little by little, a lot of those fears have been taken away. But the truth is, I still have times of fear. Some of those times are just ordinary, every day worries - like worrying about those I love - and hoping that nothing bad will happen to them. Or there are times when I worry about doing a good job, and hoping that I am doing everything that I should be. But then there are the irrational fears - - - fears of storms, people I don’t trust, and snakes . . . .

“Do not fear, for I am with you; - - - for I am your God. - - - surely I will help you . . .”
(Isaiah 41: 10)

We had just moved into this new apartment. Every wall and floor was brand new and beautiful. When we had first walked in to it, I loved how clean and pretty everything was. It was a small apartment, and so we had to leave a lot of our things in storage. That seemed a little difficult, but I was sure everything would be fine, now that we had this new apartment. As we settled in, we hoped we would be here for a very long time.

I was dealing with a spinal injury, and so most days I was home in our little apartment. I was able to write each week, even though I had pain every day. We had a small space in the basement where the washer and dryer were, as well as a small area for storage. So on this day, I headed down the stairs to start the laundry. As I did, I wondered what was coming out from under the sheet rock. It looked like a small stick, until it moved! As I saw it move, I called for Ted! It was the week-end, and he was home with me. I was afraid it would slip away before he got there, but instead it seemed to see me and want to attack! It raised it’s head up, and headed straight for my leg! And that is what Ted saw, as he headed down the stairs. This small snake was trying to attack me!

When Ted saw the snake, he ran back upstairs to grab a knife. Running back down, he lunged toward it. As he did, the snake went for his arm. Everything happened so quickly, that it was probably over in seconds - but it also seemed like it took forever! On the second try, Ted was able to cut the head off the snake. As we stood there looking down at it, the snake kept moving - and I turned and ran upstairs. I wasn’t thinking - I didn’t know what I was going to do - but I headed for the closet and my rubber hammer. Before Ted could stop me, I raced back down the stairs, and smashed the snake - over, and over, and over again.

I can’t even tell you why I did what I did! I was filled with an emotion that seemed bigger than me! It was more than fear, and felt a lot like rage, and it drove me to put an end to this thing that had the ability to bite and hurt another person. When it was over, I just stood there wondering why I felt the way I did . . .

“Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, For wisdom and might are His.
He reveals deep and secret things; He knows what is in the darkness,
And light dwells with Him.”
(Daniel 2: 20 - 22)

It happened one more time. This time, I was home alone. Again, I was heading down the stairs to start the laundry. And again, a small snake came toward me. I tried to make my brain work in a sensible way. But it just wouldn’t listen to me! As I ran up the stairs to find something to kill it with, I wondered what I was looking for. I grabbed the same knife Ted had found, and I grabbed my big rubber hammer! That snake didn’t have a chance! Again I hit it - over, and over, and over! The feelings were so huge inside of me, and I didn’t know what to do about it. There was fear, and rage, and something else there. It was a determination to wipe out something that could be so menacing . . .

I sought the Lord, and He answered me,
He delivered me from all my fears.
(Psalm 34: 4)

As I retold the story of the two snakes, my family looked at me a little strangely. I couldn’t explain the drive that was inside of me to destroy this creature. But then I looked over at my daughter, and I realized she knew about another story - one from a very, very long time ago . . .

It was late spring, and I was pregnant with Jenny. Mike was almost 4 years old, and a beautiful, bright little boy. We were living in a small house in Massachusetts, and were starting to get ready for the new baby to arrive. I had taken Mike outside to play in the backyard, when I spotted it. It was a very large snake, brown in color, with square patches on it’s back. As I looked at it, I wanted to get my son safely away from getting bit by this big snake. Trying not to scare him, I took his hand and brought him inside. I told him to stay there, as I looked around the house for something to use to kill the snake. To this day, I don’t know why I grabbed my vacuum. It was a small, upright thing - and I ran outside with it in my hands. As I got closer to the snake, it turned toward me - rearing up to try to bite me. I swung the vacuum, and came down - missing the snake. As I did, I heard him. I heard Mike yelling out the bathroom window - “Vacuum it mommy, vacuum it!” he yelled - and I turned with the broken vacuum still in my hands.

I ran in the house to try to find something else to use, to kill the snake. As I came out with a knife, I knew that I couldn’t get close enough to kill it, and not get bitten. As the snake turned and slid away, I was so angry at it. I didn’t want it to ever come back into my yard! I didn’t want it to ever have the ability to hurt my son!

Blessed be the Lord, Because He has heard the voice of my supplication.
The Lord is my strength and my shield;
My heart trusts in Him, and I am helped;
(Psalm 28: 6 & 7)

Storms, snakes, and people who can’t be trusted . . . As I thought about those things that seemed to drive me crazy - I realized that they were things that I couldn’t control. I couldn’t stop the weather from happening and bringing destruction or loss. I couldn‘t stop snakes and other creatures from coming into my home or around my children. And I couldn’t stop bad people from hurting me or those I loved. Feeling helpless, I begged the Lord for an answer . . . .

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine!”
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, . . .
For I am the Lord your God,”
(Isaiah 43: 1 - 4)
Quite a number of years ago, I was working in a counseling ministry with a very close friend. The ministry was for adult survivors of childhood abuse. We worked with quite a few women who had been molested as little girls, and who had no idea that they were loved, or had any self worth. During that time, we had one-on-one counseling, as well as bible studies and group meetings. It was amazing to watch as the Lord brought about change in these women’s lives. And then one day my friend asked if I would come into a consultation with a brand new client. I agreed, and we set up the date for the meeting.

On this day, my friend and I got to the office a little early. We decided to pray before the client arrived. As we started to pray, my heart started to pound and terror seemed to take over my whole being. Looking at my friend, I asked her about the new client. She told me that it was an older gentleman, and that his daughters had set up the appointment. She didn’t know anything else about him, but I felt like there was something very wrong with this man. As we finished praying, I told her that I couldn’t stay. As I got up to leave, I told her I would be praying in another office, while she met with the client. And then I left just before he arrived. Watching out the window, I wondered about this tiny, little man that seemed so quiet - and yet made me feel such terror . . . .

“I have chosen you and not rejected you.” “Do not fear, for I am with you;”
(Isaiah 41: 9 & 10)

After the meeting, my friend told me all that she had found out about the man. He was a child abuser, and had molested all his daughters as well as his granddaughters. “You knew, didn’t you?” she asked me. And somehow - I had known. The Lord had made sure that we knew just who this man was - and to keep him away from the ministry - and the women who came there for help.
Thou wilt make known to me the path of life; In Thy presence is fullness of joy;
In Thy right hand there are pleasures forever . . .
(Psalm 16: 11)

As I look back over the years, I realize that the Lord has been “with” me through so much! He was there helping me to survive when I was little and abused. He was there bringing healing and life, when I asked Him to be. He has shown me how to pray for my children - giving Him my worries and fears. And, He has brought love and laughter into my life, when I believed I would never love again. Do I still have times of fear and doubt? Yes. But the Lord understands “who” I am and all that makes me afraid. He knows what I need to live a better life.

Ted and I are again facing the prospect of moving. The Lord knows that I absolutely hate moving. The chaos and confusion that it causes, makes me feel very out of control. But the apartment has some difficulties, including mold that threatens my lungs. In the dream, my life was at risk. And that is how I have felt, struggling to breath these past few months. So again, we are trusting that the Lord will lead us and guide us to where we are going. Will I be afraid? Oh yes! But I trust the Lord to show us the way . . .

Jesus said - “Do not be afraid any longer, only believe” . . .
(Mark 5: 36)

On this earth - there will always be times of trials and hardships. During them, we get to see what is inside of us - the fears and doubts - as well as our determination and strengths. As you walk this road of Life - will you ask Him to be there “with” you - - - taking the fears - and bringing forth what is good - and life giving! Will you believe?

God bless you in the coming week ahead!

In His Love,
Debbie & Ted Ayers