Fear and gophers – a tale of empowerment

gopherIt’s true. I have gophers in my backyard.

My backyard wall, (walls are common around houses in Arizona), backs up to a shallow ravine, commonly called a “wash” in neighborhoods like mine. I love the privacy the wash provides between my home and the neighbors’ homes. My neighbors can’t see me on my patio in my pajamas!

However, the downfall of living by a wash can be an invasion by what I call my “creatures from the black lagoon” – gophers.

Gophers live most of their lives in underground burrow systems they have dug. They will occasionally venture above ground to feed on plants close to the burrow entrance. They are certainly not as charming and lovable as my rabbits and song birds.

When I first discovered their holes and dirt mounds near the wall, I was so fearful of their invasion into my manageable, well-kept little backyard, with my lovely geraniums and faux green grass. I know it’s silly, but I was afraid to encounter a gopher face to face. Fear of even going near their territory soon became an obstacle to enjoying my backyard.

Finally, I woke up one morning and decided enough of these mind gamesI was not going to let fear of the unknown rule me. I was determined to overcome these creatures who, I thought, were perched in the bushes ready to jump out and scare me at any time.

I put on my brave self, my cowgirl boots for protection, my oversized work gloves, and with a long-handle shovel, marched into the backyard saying in a loud voice over and over, “Lord, you and I can do this together. Help me overcome my fear!” I poked the holes and the mounds, just daring a gopher to show his furry face. I flattened the mounds and covered the holes with dirt. I faced my fear head on and felt empowered.

Yes, I still have gophers, but my fear of them has been conquered.

My gopher story may sound silly, but it was a very real picture of the many times I’ve called on God to help me face my fear. Especially since Bill died. I have faced:

Fear of the unknown.
Fear of loneliness.
Fear of stepping out of my comfort zone.
Fear of “what if” for the future.
Fear of a major life change.
Fear of more personal loss to come. 

Many times in the middle of the night or when I wake up in the morning I can be gripped with fear over some real or imagined hurdle that feels overwhelming. Can you relate?

Fear might clutch your heart and flood your mind and emotions as you face:

Fear of losing your home.
Fear of losing a job.
Fear of moving.
Fear of a serious illness.
Fear of addiction.
Fear of a severed marriage.
Fear of a broken relationship.

You and I can control our fear or let our fear control us. It’s as simple as that, but it’s not always easy. Many a day I have to release my fear and give it over to God through prayer, perseverance, and sheer determination to not let it consume me. I have to lay fear down at His feet, then stand up and move forward by His power and strength.

The enemy will use every opportunity to rob us of trusting God. He will use the fear in our lives to discredit the power of God to handle our situations. If we let the enemy have a foothold in our day, fear can be all consuming and play havoc with our emotions.

fear notBut I have learned that fear is not of God. “For God has not given us the spirit of fear….” (2 Timothy 1:7) All through the Bible, two little words “fear not,” encourage us and reassure us that we can trust God, regardless of our situation.

There are five reasons in Isaiah 41:10 to remind us why we should not give in to fear and discouragement. “Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you. Surely I will uphold you.…”

  1. I am with you, comforts us with the assurance that we are not alone. God’s presence is with us.
  2. I am your God, reminds us that He is our personal God. He cares about every detail of our lives.
  3. I will strengthen you, assures us that when we feel overcome with fear, God is our strength to overcome.
  4. I will help you, reminds us that God will not fail us or abandon us. He will walk with us through our fear.
  5. I will uphold you, assures us that God will lift us out of the pit of fear. He will support us and keep us from sinking into despair.

And by the way, if you happen to find a gopher in your backyard, do not fear. Just give me a call. I’ll come over and we’ll conquer the critters together.

 

From My Heart,
susan millerSusan Miller

5 Things to Remember When You Don’t Know What To Do Next

There have been seasons in my life when I absolutely did not know what to do next. I let fear of the unknown and confusion of the moment consume my thoughts.

What about you? Have circumstances or a situation paralyzed your thinking, your discernment, your decisions, or your choices?

When your life is overwhelming, hopes and dreams are shattered, promises are broken, love is lost, and plans are forgotten—what will you do? When your journey is long, the road is rough, and you’ve made too many wrong turns along the way, where will you go?

Over the years, I’ve learned to take my direction from Psalm 37.

Psalm 37

 

Trust in the Lord

Do you have a problem with trusting because your trust has been broken in the past? Listen up friends – you can believe what God says in the reality of His Word. He is totally and completely trustworthy. 

God is not a trust-breaker, He’s a trust-builder.

You can trust Him with your whole heart. He will not let go of your hand during the good times or the bad times. He’ll walk with you through the valleys and climb with you to the mountain top. He will not fail you or forget you. And believe me, I know this for a fact.

The emphasis to trust is repeated in verses 4 and 5. I get the message, don’t you? Let’s repeat over and over again, “I will trust in the Lord. I will trust in the Lord.”

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Hebrews 3:5

Delight in the Lord

How do you delight in the Lord’s presence when you don’t feel it? I discovered delight in the Lord by intentionally getting to know Him on a deeper, more intimate level. As I began to understand and know God and grasp His unconditional love for me, delight and joy began to fill my heart.

People, possessions, and circumstances will bring you temporary joy, pleasure, and delight.

People will disappoint you, possessions will come and go, circumstances will change—only Jesus will satisfy the longing and emptiness in your heart.

Your words are what sustain me. They bring me great joy and are my heart’s delight… Jeremiah 15:16

Commit your way to the Lord

To commit to the Lord means entrusting everything–our lives, families, jobs, possessions–to Him, knowing He will work out what is best for us.

Sometimes it’s just hard for me to let go and commit everything to God. I want to commit everything to my way, with my plan, the way I think it should be.

But God’s plan is so much better than mine and I trust Him more than I do myself. God guides me with His word, directs me with His promises, and leads me with His instructions. He’s a lot better at caring for us than we are.

Into your hands I commit my spirit; redeem me, O Lord, the God of truth. Psalm 31:5

Rest in the Lord

Are you overwhelmed, weary, and worn-out? I can easily hit two out of three of those feelings on any given day.

On those days, I’ve learned to run to the arms of Jesus. He always provides the comfort and care that I need. Lean in to Him. Lean on Him.

Pull away from all that consumes you. Let your mind dwell on Him and in His word. Be still and quietly reflect on God’s goodness and your gratitude. Rest and abide in Him.

To abide is to “live with” or to remain in one place with someone. Jesus is available anywhere, or anytime, to be with us. I’ll meet you there with Him and we’ll rest together.

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

*Wait on the Lord

Are you waiting on life to change, or an answer to come? It’s hard, isn’t it?

We don’t always understand why we have to wait so long for all the pieces of life to come together again. It’s during the waiting, during the space between now and then, that much is learned. When I am in God’s waiting room, He teaches me about trust, patience, and prayer. I always tried to figure everything out myself, but I would only become anxious and worried.

While you are waiting, replace worry with worship. Listen to praise music and let it soothe your soul. Replace anxious thoughts with abiding. Take a deep breath and abide in God–trusting Him in all things–being patient for His timing and praying faithfully.

I waited patiently for the Lord, and He inclined to me and heard my cry. He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, and He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm…. Psalm 40:1-3

When you don’t know what to do next, consider this: You might be looking for the answers in all the wrong places and God has been there right beside you all along, just waiting for you to come to Him.

Susan Miller

Susan Miller

 

*Read more about waiting in the latest issue of Bloom from Just Moved Ministry.

A window into your husband’s emotions

This was written by me and my husband Bill in 2008 for a Valentine’s Day message one year before his death. I had asked him to share his thoughts on our years of moving, with the hope that it would give women insight and perspective into their husband’s often hidden feelings and emotions about moving. The message is timeless for marriages that are “on the move,” or even a gentle reminder for loving and understanding your man.

I thought this was a good time to share it again. This is my Valentine’s gift to you…

________________________________________________________________________

Bill and Susan MillerIn 2008 I wrote: “As some of you know, Bill and I have been married for 43 years. We have weathered 14 moves, along with major life transitions, and huge personal changes that come with uprooting and relocating a marriage, children, home, lifestyle, and relationships.

I asked Bill to share some of his thoughts, fears, and feelings during our difficult years of moving. I hope this will give you insight to understand your husband, and know how to best encourage and love him during a move.

I feel that If I had known what was going on in his head and heart then, I would have worked harder (and prayed more) at bridging the gap between us. I am amazed and humbled to know that anything I said or conveyed through my actions during those years was received as he has described below.

God has once again reminded me of His grace by allowing Bill to see me through eyes of love and a heart of forgiveness for all the times I failed to be loving and forgiving towards him.”

In 2008 Bill wrote: “Most men don’t talk about their feelings. If we did, we would tell you that they come right from the core of a man; they address his worth, his ability to provide for, and protect his family. Although I did not address those feelings at the time, they were real, and drove my motivation, my emotions, and my behavior.

Looking back at our many moves, I recognize my feelings of impatience with our children, frustration over things not coming together quickly enough, and even anger with Susan for not meeting my selfish needs. Doubt would flood my mind. Fear would creep into my day. I often thought I had made a terrible mistake by making so many corporate moves. I would ask myself questions like, ‘Why did I ever agree to take this job (or promotion) and uproot my family? Will I succeed at my new job (or position)? Will I be a fit? What will happen to our family if the job doesn’t work out and we have to move again?’

I felt the loneliness and emptiness of starting a new job before my family moved. It was hard to spend nights alone in my hotel room, in an unfamiliar city, when everyone else at the company would go home to their family. I would question why our house hadn’t sold before we moved, and how long it would be before we would be together as a family again. I would tell myself that I would have to work harder and longer hours to make the job and relocation a successful move in my career.

Pretty tough stuff, and believe me, I’m not comfortable sharing like this.

Susan and I were disconnected by miles and emotions and I wondered if we would ever reconnect.

What I didn’t know was how to help (or fix) Susan’s emotions while treading emotional water myself. We were fighting for our own survival, gasping for air, trying to keep our heads above water.

Her words of affirmation, encouragement, and the assurance of her unconditional love for me, were her pom-poms cheering me on each day during those difficult years. Her sacrificial love covered me with God’s grace each day while she minimized her hurts while helping mine to heal.

I have learned over the years that the total disruption of a marriage and family who move takes its toll on every member of the family, but not as much as on the relationship between husband and wife.

It’s easy for Satan to drive a husband and wife apart during a difficult, stressful time when they need each other the most. He will use anything–even a move–to destroy a marriage. I would say to couples–be united in Christ, pray against anything, or anyone, that would destroy your marriage. Claim God’s promises of hope. Recognize the stress cracks, and don’t let them divide and break you.

So, grab a pom-pom, and be your husband’s cheerleader! (I know you have a pom-pom if you’ve been around Susan). And, as a matter of fact, the principles in these tips can go both ways in a marriage, although men can skip the pom-pom…

  • Tell him you respect him and know how difficult it must be with a new job.
  • Try to breathe oxygen into his world by giving him lots of grace, reassurance, and understanding.
  • Look for things that he is doing right and then tell him.
  • Make it a habit to spend at least 20 to 30 minutes a day for each of you to debrief.
  • Be pro-active and plan down-time/date-time for just the two of you.
  • Communicate your love in ways that can be seen, heard, and felt.

When a woman encourages her husband, she gives him confidence and hope. When a man listens to his wife, he gives her honor and value. When they mutually communicate and connect with one another they begin the journey of moving closer together in any life change.”

Then Bill added, “That’s about it in a nutshell , Susan. I sure hope what I’ve said and learned will somehow give a couple greater insight for the road ahead in their marriage.”

In 2008, I wrote in my Valentine’s card to Bill:

I cherish you to the depth of my soul.
You are truly God’s greatest gift to me and the love of my life.
I love you with all my heart!
After all these years, I’d still follow you to the ends of the earth!
All My Love,
Your Susan”

In 2018, on this Valentine’s Day, those words are still written in my heart. I would only add: “…And one day, I’ll follow you to our eternal home, and we will be together again.”Susan Miller

Susan Miller

New year, new calendar. Resist the temptation to copy and paste

copy and pasteSix ways to insert a fresh start

With my inability to slow down time, each new year continues to emerge much too quickly in my life. My usual new year routine is to transfer annual dates and information from my old 8.5 x 11 month-at-a-glance calendar to my new, empty calendar – this year with a flower print cover. Yes, I have a phone calendar for a quick overview of my schedule, but it takes me too much time to fill in many needed details. I’m just an old-fashioned girl that loves a paper calendar with a big space to write important stuff each day. I write almost everything in pencil, ’cause change happens. If I have a speaking commitment, it is written in red. That helps me monitor my time for preparation and travel.

journalMy goal is to control my calendar, not have my calendar control me.

I have made a practice each year to glance back over the pages of my life from the previous year. There are things that have become just a faded memory, some momentous occasions that are forever remembered with a smile, and then there are always things I want to intentionally rethink and do differently the next year. Let’s just say I don’t want to copy and paste the same habits, patterns of thinking, or attitudes into a new year. I review my actions and my heart, then make every effort to cut the old way of doing and thinking, and reformat to bring about the changes that need to be made. I’m not saying I always get it right, or do it right, but at least I try.

This is where I want to get up close and personal with you. Perhaps, since I may have had a few more calendar years than you, I can pass along some of the things I’ve learned along the way. At least it might encourage you to review last year and think about what you might want to do differently this year.

There isn’t anything that you and God can’t do together. I will often repeat that sentence to myself, sometimes out loud, for the confidence and assurance I need when facing a difficult task. No question about it. Like you, there are times I feel overwhelmed with the craziness and demands of a full and busy life. Sometimes my “difficult” task is just to get through the week! I’ve spent many hours stressing over a situation only to be reminded that God didn’t call me to ministry and then leave me on my own to figure out things I don’t have a clue about. You may be a new mom and don’t know where to begin with taking care of a baby. Perhaps you’ve started a new job with a huge learning curve ahead. You might even be facing a life change that seems insurmountable and you’re not sure you can handle it. God is with you in the trenches of life. You are not alone.

Change is a choice you make. This is where the rubber meets the road, girlfriends. Only God can change you. Only you can change the choices you make. So, got some habits left over from last year that you know in your spirit don’t reflect Christ? Does your attitude stink ’cause you found yourself in a rut in 2017? Do you find yourself thinking more negatively than positively about life because of circumstances beyond your control? You might even have said, “I’m so glad 2017 is over.” Well, it is. So now what? You may not have the choice to change your situation, but you can make the choice to change your focus from your circumstances to a focus on Christ. You can choose to change old habits, how you think, and your attitude, because remember, “There isn’t anything that you and God can’t do together.” Is it easy? Heck no! I struggle daily. Sometimes I take two steps forward, then one step back. But, if I keep my eyes on God instead of me, He changes me, and that will change and influence the choices I make.

Learn from your mistakes. Start Fresh. You can’t keep doing the same thing over and over and expect different results. I made a lot of mistakes last year. Over and over again I scheduled too much in a day or a week. I focused more on checking off my list of to-do’s and less on people I love. Many times I was too busy to remember to sit at the feet of Jesus. I am choosing to start fresh this year and learn not only from my mistakes, but from the consequences of my choices. You might want to get real with yourself too and recognize some of the mistakes you made last year that you don’t want to repeat. I want to remind you that God gives us a clean slate of forgiveness each day. Not only can we learn from our mistakes, but more importantly, we are forgiven for our mistakes. We are free to start over with a new beginning and a fresh start in the new year.

Be intentional. Persevere with purpose. I choose a word each year that I need to work on in my life. For the last two years it has been intentionality. This year it is trust. I practiced being more intentional about staying healthy, exercising, spending one-on-one time with my grandchildren, and developing a deeper prayer life. This year I want to trust God all the more. I want to intentionally let go of what I cannot control and trust God completely to handle all things. It’s interesting how trusting God is something we know to do, yet fall back into trying to help, solve, or fix that which we cannot. What would your word be for this year? Think of some specific ways you want to be more intentional.

Prioritize. If your first priority isn’t spending time with God – praying, reading scripture, and listening to what He’s been trying to tell you – then nothing else really matters that day. I’ve tried it all: squeezing in God between appointments, working Him in at the last minute, and, quite honestly, sometimes just too busy to take time for, and with, Him during the day. Maybe you’ve been there too. Priorities screwed up, too exhausted to even figure out what, or who, is really most important. I’ve learned over the years that nothing, no nothing, trumps God. Your day will fall into place when you place Him first.

Less is more. Having a full calendar isn’t a sign of being fulfilled. I used to think it was. I thought that when each day was filled, I would be happy and fulfilled. Not so. It took years for me to unlearn that belief. As an old commercial once said, “You’ve come a long way, baby,” and indeed I have. Having some unscheduled days on my calendar to spend some quiet, restful time – whatever that might look like – fills my heart and soul.

I challenge you to not copy and paste all your activities from last year to this year. Think less, not more. Less stuff, more of Jesus. Less busyness, more time to become all that God created you to be. It just doesn’t get much better than that.

You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, smarter than you think, and loved more than you know. (A.A. Milne – Winnie-the-Pooh)

Do not call to mind the former things,
Or ponder things of the past.
Behold, I will do something new.
Now it will spring forth;
Will you not be aware of it?
I will even make a roadway in the wilderness.
Rivers in the desert.

Isaiah 43:18-19

Susan Miller, America's Moving CoachFrom my heart,
Susan Miller

Alone, but never alone

Susan MillerOne simple, five letter word: ALONE. It can consume you at any time – day or night – and it can create havoc with your emotions. It can cause you to lose perspective, sometimes even hope.

You can feel alone when…
You’re hurting physically or emotionally,
You’re facing hard times,
you’ve experienced a life-changing loss,
or devastating circumstances.

You can feel alone when…
your body begins to fail you,
your thinking becomes distorted,
you have to make a major decision,
your life seems overwhelming.

woman aloneYou can feel alone when…
you have everything money can buy,
you don’t have any friends,
your marriage is falling apart,
you have no one to turn to for help.

You can feel alone when…
you’re surrounded by people,
you have no one to talk to,
no one who will listen,
no one who cares.

If any of these reasons resonate with you today, would you say this sentence aloud right now? I promise, you will not sound silly.

I AM NEVER ALONE.

I AM NEVER ALONE.

I would imagine that Jesus felt lonely when He was moving around from place to place preaching, teaching, healing, and doing what only Jesus can do.

I’m sure there were times when He felt isolated and alone when He was in unfamiliar surroundings or in a new village. I’m sure He experienced a lot of the same feelings you do when you move to a new place.

He probably didn’t have someone show up at His door with cookies to welcome Him to the neighborhood, and I know He didn’t always feel welcome in a crowd of strangers.

Although you might feel lonely, and even isolated right now, be assured that you are never alone! Jesus is with you wherever you go.

His inescapable presence accompanies you always, anywhere, anytime. And be comforted in knowing He has not only felt your loneliness, but also your pain, your despair, your grief, your sorrow, and more than likely, your nervous stomach and anxious heart.

When you really think about it, He wanted the same thing as you do when He moved from place to place—for people to know Him, love Him, and accept Him.

No matter where you are, where you go, or what your circumstances, there is a new friend waiting on you. His name is Jesus, and, like you, He yearns for you to get to know Him, love Him, and accept Him!

To encourage your heart, cling to this Psalm each day:

God is with youThe Lord is my constant companion.
There is no need that He cannot fulfill.
Whether His course for me points to
The mountaintops of glorious ecstasy
Or to the valleys of human suffering,
He is by my side, He is ever present with me.

He is close beside me
When I tread the dark streets of danger,
And even when I flirt with death itself,
He will not leave me.

When the pain is severe, He is near to comfort.
When the burden is heavy, He is there to lean upon.
When depression darkens my soul,
He touches me with eternal joy.
When I feel empty and alone,
He fills the aching vacuum with His power.

My security is in His promise to be near me always,
And in the knowledge that He will never let me go.

(The Twenty-Third Psalm from Psalms Now)

In case you were wondering, this version of Psalm 23 sits on my desk, for the times when I need reassurance that I am not alone.

PS: To hear more about loneliness, listen to my latest Hope for the Uprooted podcast. You can find the podcast on iTunes, any podcast app, and at JustMoved.org. I hope you’ll subscribe!

Charlie and Rita. A Love Story.

on an airplaneIt happened again. I got on the plane, anxious to get to my seat and settle in quietly with a good book for the four-hour flight from Charlotte to Phoenix. My eyes focused on the numbers and letters above the seats in anticipation of putting my tote bag in my seat and getting my carry-on in the overhead compartment as quickly as I could.

I hardly noticed the woman sitting in the middle and the man sitting by the window as I took my bottle of water and book out of the tote bag and pushed the bag under the seat in front of me. As I fastened my seat belt, I finally looked at the woman next to me and smiled. Nothing too engaging, just being polite and cordial is my modus-operandi after I’ve had a busy few days speaking. I briefly said hello.

I couldn’t help but look into her eyes as I spoke. They were noticeably red, with dark circles underneath and brimming with tears. Her face reflected an all too familiar pain and sadness marked with grief.

A quick nudge to my heart and emotions and I knew I was going deeper than a simple hello. “Heading back home to Phoenix?”

“No.” She hesitated, then said, “We’re going on to a place near the border for treatment for my husband. He has advanced, stage-four cancer that has spread. He’s had chemo and radiation and there is nothing more that can be done for him. He wants to try another kind of treatment as a last resort.”

“Oh,” I said softly, “I am so sorry.” I reached over and gently touched her left hand. Her right hand held her husband’s hand tightly, as if it were a life-line between them.

holding handsDuring our flight, the only time she let go of his hand was when she lovingly tucked a blanket around him, opened his crackers, poured his apple juice, or helped him up to go to the bathroom. If she didn’t reach for his hand first, he reached for hers. It was a picture of two people devoted to each other.

I guess it was the compassion in my eyes – or maybe it was my touch – but the unspoken words between us at that moment seemed to bring her a little comfort. “I’m Susan, what’s your name?”

“Rita,” she said, “and this is my husband, Charlie.” I leaned forward and looked over at Charlie. He was frail, gaunt, and very pale, but he managed a smile and nodded his head.

As Rita and I talked, I learned they had been married 52 years. She was from Germany and they met when Charlie was in the Air Force during the Vietnam War. They had two children and six grandchildren. They’ve lived in the same house for over 30 years in a small town in Ohio. I asked her if she had a group of friends, a support group, or a church family to come alongside them. “Only our neighbors,” she said. “We used to go to church, but haven’t been in the last four years since Charlie has been so sick.”

I was beginning to see why God had put me in Row 6, Seat C. Rita desperately needed someone who had walked a similar journey and who understood her pain. Someone who didn’t have all the answers, but enough to comfort and encourage her for a time such as this.

It was then that I began to share my own story of Bill and his stage-four cancer, how it spread so quickly, and how he lived only four months after the diagnosis. I went on to tell her we had been married 45 years, had two children, and six grandchildren. Bill had also been in the Air Force during the Vietnam War.

She leaned closer to me, tears rolling down her cheeks, and whispered, “I’m so scared. I don’t know what I’ll do without Charlie. I don’t know if I can make it.” 

My words to Rita poured out of a heart that had once whispered her same words and expressed those same fears. I reached for her hand and shared these things which I knew to be tried and true during my darkest days.

“Take one day at a time. Live each precious day together to the fullest, no matter how hard it is.

Trust God when you don’t understand. Talk to Him, He’s listening. Run to Him, He’s your refuge.

God will give you the strength you need to get through this. He’s right by your side and will never leave you.

God will comfort you beyond what you can imagine.

He will guide and direct you every step of the way when you feel alone and afraid.

You will make it, Rita. If I can survive, so can you.” 

I knew we were going to land soon and I didn’t want to miss the moment to say one last thing. “Can I pray for you and Charlie before we land?”

“Yes, I would like that,” she said.

Although I’ll never see Charlie and Rita again, I think of them and pray for them often. I can still see their hands, aged by years and love, held tightly together.

I smile knowing God had my seat and row waiting for me to sit down and settle in so He could carry out His perfect plan for a four-hour plane ride.

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18

Susan Miller

Reflections on my time spent with military spouses

How you can be their cheerleader

When I am in the presence of dedicated military spouses, I am humbled by their sacrifice and commitment. They touch my heart, strengthen my faith, and keep me humble. They are ordinary women who are called to do extraordinary things as wives and moms.

It was a privilege to be in their midst at the recent Gather Conference in Colorado Springs, to speak into their lives with God’s hope and encouragement, listen to the cry of their hearts, give lots of hugs, and cheer them on with my pom-poms. Once again I saw women from all walks of life, regardless of their circumstances, thrive on the hope and peace that only comes from knowing and trusting Jesus Christ.

These precious women are in the trenches of military life, many of whom are holding their families together in the absence of their deployed husbands. They face the unknown with brave hearts and a strong faith. Many have just moved to a duty station and are experiencing the adjustment and transition of being in unfamiliar surroundings and starting all over again. Some are anticipating the all too familiar challenges of yet another move. They, too, face the unknown with a persevering heart and a strong faith.

Here are some observations I made from my time spent with military spouses. These are gentle reminders for all of us:

  • It is important for a woman’s emotional well-being to be in fellowship with others and to bear one another’s joy and sorrow.
  • Laughter is good for the soul.
  • The word of God continues to impact lives like nothing else can.
  • It is vital for a woman to be listened to and to be heard as she shares her story.
  • Joining hands and praying for one another has a soothing effect on an anxious heart.
  • There is nothing quite like the unity of voices coming together in praise and worship to stir your emotions.
  • When a woman is focused on Christ and not her circumstances, attitude and perspective can change.

Many military women have become my friends over the years and I have become their cheerleader. You can do the same thing. When you meet a military spouse or active duty member, be her cheerleader and encourage her. These are some suggestions you might consider:

  • While a greeting and a smile are always appreciated, don’t let it stop there. Invite her to lunch, coffee, or some activity.  
  • Don’t wait for her to ask or come to you. Knock on her door, talk to her at the mailbox, invite her over when she is out in the yard. 
  • Provide her with a list of local services: a handyman, mechanic, hairstylist, babysitters, churches, restaurants, etc. 
  • Offer to drive her to functions, places, or events. She doesn’t know her way around, and that would encourage her to go. 
  • Express your support. She appreciates hearing and reading your encouragement. 
  • On special occasions or holidays at school or church, honor the dads or moms who are deployed. This means so much to their children.
  • Invest time in her and her children.  
  • Be inclusive, not exclusive.
  • And, when you pray for the men and women who are serving our country in the Armed Forces, remember to pray for the spouses and families left behind. They, too, are our heroes!

 

Susan Miller

Empty nest, empty heart

empty nestLearning to let go one more time

“It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to
Cry if I want to, cry if I want to.
You would cry too if it happened to you.”
(A popular song from the 60s by Lesley Gore)

You thought you were ready for this, but you never expected it to be so hard, or that you would cry so much.

You fought back the tears as you hugged tightly, secretly never wanting to let go, trying to be strong, even brave at this momentous moment. The words swelled up in your heart. There was so much you wanted to say,

“Don’t forget to call or text me.
Get enough sleep.
Eat healthy.
Don’t stay out too late.
Choose your friends wisely.
Remember to wash your clothes once a week.
And oh, please be careful-it’s a crazy world out there.”

But you didn’t, at least right now you didn’t. You’ve said it all a hundred times before this day.

You simply whispered, “I love you.”

You were trying hard to act like a grown-up mom to this growing-up child, who was growing-up too fast, too soon. The voice in your head said, “Wasn’t it just yesterday that I rocked you to sleep and held your hand as you took your first step? Now you are taking your first step into college.” You hear this growing-up child that you cheered on in life, now trying to cheer you. “I’ll be fine mom…don’t worry….”

All the way home, you cry uncontrollably, mascara running down your face, snot pouring out your nose. This is not the time to hold back. Let it come. You reach for a sleeve, an arm, a Kleenex – anything to stop the dam that broke. You just left behind your baby – your firstborn, your middle child, or your youngest. It doesn’t matter which one, it still hurts. It’s cutting another umbilical cord, it’s letting go of a part of who you are. It’s facing an empty, clean room with the bed made, no shoes or clothes scattered everywhere, and posters still hanging on the wall. Oh, how you yearn to see that room messy just one more time to have glimpses of life there.

In case you are wondering, I was the “YOU” years ago when I experienced the emotional transition and unexpected adjustment of sending off our oldest, and then our youngest, to college. My head knew all the right things – we raised them for a time such as this. We gave them roots in family and in Christ and wings of confidence to soar and become all they could be. We knew it was time for them to become independent and begin to figure out life on their own. We knew one season of life had ended and another season was about to begin. That being said, it was not easy to emotionally let go or to stop crying for weeks as I grieved the loss of their daily presence in our family circle.

I couldn’t seem to get a grip as I struggled with the emptiness that seemed to consume me. I particularly remember one time when I was laying face-down in our hammock, crying so hard my tears went through the hammock and on the patio. It was one of those messy-slobbery-ugly-cries. I missed tripping over the sports shoes that were always taken off at the bottom of our stairs after school. My refrigerator seemed empty. The house was too quiet. I missed the laughter, chatter, and even the music that had a good beat.

The sadness in my empty heart was eventually filled with happiness and peace as I began to see our growing-up children begin to thrive on their own. I had done my part as a mom, now it was time to leave them in God’s hands and ask Him to protect, guide, and equip them in their new journey. I needed to move forward with faith and trust, knowing God would always be with them. You do have to come full circle with all of this and, at some point, realize that it’s not all about you, it’s about them. You are then taking your first step in letting go.

Remember these things:

  • You will always be their mama and they will always need you.
  • You did a good job raising them. Don’t second guess that.
  • Say often to them, “I believe in you. You can do this.”
  • Let them manage their own lives and figure it out.
  • They will make mistakes and they will learn from them. Don’t short-circuit that.
  • Let them know, no matter what happens, you will be there for them.
  • Pray for them every day.

And, be assured they will come home again – with a suitcase full of dirty clothes, ready to eat a home-cooked meal!

I have dedicated him to the Lord; as long as he lives he is dedicated to the Lord.  I Samuel 1:28

From My Heart to Yours,
Susan Miller

A Loss of Presence and Tears of Perseverance

Could it really be – eight years? That seems like so l-o-n-g ago. To me, it seems like only yesterday. Yet, it was eight years ago this month that my husband, Bill, lost his battle with cancer. The loss of his presence still lingers with me and, in a quiet moment, I find myself smiling as I reflect on a few of the things I still miss…

his voice that I long to hear,
his footsteps as he walked in a room,
his soft whistle which was music to my ears,
his smile that made everything right in my crazy world,
and his touch that made my heart skip a beat.

Susan and Bill MillerI miss his insight and wisdom when I needed perspective in a situation.
I miss sharing my day and sharing my heart with him.
I miss how he brought me a cup of coffee every morning.
I miss watching him teach our grandchildren how to flip “papa’s pancakes” on the grill.
I miss walking with him to church every Sunday.
I miss the man who lived out Jesus to me as we grew older together.

The loss of Bill’s presence left a void in my life and heart that took me to my darkest hours on the steps of my soul. It was there that God met me in my early years of grief, soothed me with His word, and filled me with His peace and comfort. I had no idea of the magnitude and depth that God’s love and care could be….and for eight years God has not once forgotten or left me.

Our marriage was not perfect by any means. When you’ve been married 45 years, you have your bumps along the way. Sometimes there were more valleys than mountain tops, more tears than laughter, more hurt than healing. There were years when we were more disconnected than connected, more broken than whole. There were even times when I wanted to give up and walk away – marriage was just too hard.

But I didn’t. He didn’t. We didn’t. Even though Bill worked 24/7 in a demanding job, and I was enmeshed in our two small children, we knew we had to make a choice to commit to our marriage and whatever it took to make it work. We began to focus on God instead of our issues and problems. God’s word became a light on our path. We prayed together, went to church together, joined marriage classes and marriage small groups, and hung out with mentors who modeled a Godly marriage. We learned how to communicate and talk to each other without blaming each other for everything that was wrong in our relationship. Things didn’t change overnight, but over time we began to change. We began to grow deeper roots in Christ and, as our roots entwined with each other, we were strengthened and equipped as one, to weather the storms in our marriage.

My deep loss of Bill’s presence, has been filled with an even deeper gain of the presence of Jesus.  My presence will go with you…Exodus 33:14

And, because of Jesus, I can face another year with peace, contentment, and the cherished memories of our 45 years together.

I want you to claim my life verse that I claimed for my marriage and kept on my favorite picture of us as a reminder of God’s faithfulness:

Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory. Ephesians 3:20-21

So why am I sharing all this through my tears of perseverance? You…you, might just be the woman reading this that needs hope. You are going to make it through your loss. You can make it in your marriage. You will come out of your pit of despair.

Never give up, never lose hope.  And so, Lord, where do I put my hope? My only hope is in you. Psalm 39:7

From My Heart to Yours,
Susan Miller

Waiting on God when it’s no fun

It’s hard to wait, isn’t it?

         Even when you have a strong faith.

                     Even when you trust God.

                                 Even when you know and believe God’s promises.

waitingIt’s just plain hard. I know, I’ve done my fair share of waiting over the years. I’ve waited on life or death situations,  for physical and emotional healing, for relationships to mend, for marriages to restore, and for suffering to end. I’ve grappled, reasoned, bargained, begged, and pleaded with God as I waited, hoped, and prayed.

You may be worn out and weary of waiting…

for something, or someone, to change,

for circumstances to get better,

for a solution to a family issue,

for the doctor’s diagnosis,

for the next paycheck to come.

Or maybe you’re simply waiting

to fit in,

to make friends,

to feel at home,

to be included,

to be accepted,

to just be visable.

We don’t understand why it takes so long for all the pieces of life to come together again, or the answers we want to come. Trust me, I know from experience the pieces of life will come together—in God’s perfect timing, not ours. The answer will come—God’s answer, although it may not always be the answer we want.

Above all else, trust our sovereign God. He is faithful in all things—always, forever, and no matter what. Even if you don’t understand at the time or get what in the heck He’s doing.

This much I do know. It’s during the waiting – during the space between the now and then – that much is learned.  God’s waiting room is not a bad place to be. When I am waiting, He takes me to a deeper level of trusting Him.  I hang out in His word and hang on to His promises.  He brings me to a point where I have to let go of all my expectations and wants and cling only to Him.

He teaches me a whole lot about patience, and about what I can control and what I can’t. So many times in my impatience I try to run ahead of God to fix, change, manage, plan or orchestrate the results I want, rather than waiting on Him. I short-circuit what God is going to do by doing what I think is best. He is all-knowing and His ways are not my ways.

I’ve learned that at the end of myself and my striving, is the beginning of a deeper yearning for Him.

Only God can redeem the word wait.

I waited patiently for the Lord to help me,

and He turned to me and heard my cry.

He lifted me out of the pit of despair,

out of the mud and the mire.

He set my feet on solid ground

and steadied me as I walked along.

He has given me a new song to sing,

a hymn of praise to our God.

Many will see what He has done and be astounded.

They will put their trust in the Lord.   Psalm 40: 1-3

Are you presently in God’s waiting room? Oh my goodness, don’t just sit there! You’ll end up in the pit of despair. Instead…

Wait actively. Get up, and get out. Take a walk, meet a friend for coffee, volunteer for something, get involved with God’s people, go to the gym, join a Bible Study, plant flowers, work on a project, participate in an activity–whatever you can do to keep your mind, body, and emotions healthy.

Wait with your eyes focused on Jesus, not on your circumstances. It’s so natural for your circumstances to be all-consuming and all you think about. Believe me, that’s not going to change a thing. Try changing your focus to consume Jesus. Focus on His promises in scripture, listen to praise and worship music, read the Book of Psalms in the Bible (I love the New Living Translation), read a devotion to start your day, or listen to a Christ-centered message on a podcast. Focus on your blessings, not your hardships. Be grateful, not resentful. Focus on praying, not complaining.

Wait for the Lord;

Be strong, and let your heart

take courage;

Yes, wait for the Lord.  Psalm 27:14

Be encouraged as you wait. You are not alone.

There are many of us waiting right there with you… 

From My Heart to Yours,

 

Susan Miller

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