Come, all who thirst

A river runs through it. Ok, so not quite a river, but, after the rain we’ve had, the normally dry “wash” behind my house is a small stream. 

the wash behind my house

A “wash” is Arizona-speak for a very wide ditch that allows the rainwater to run through the middle of it and into a drain somewhere at the end of my street. With the monsoon rains we have in Phoenix, drainage is key to prevent flooding.

You can’t see the wash from my backyard unless you peek over the six-foot wall and through the tall shrubbery that borders each side. Green grass fills the entire wash area, except during the hot summer months when it turns brown.

When the rain comes, it streams right through the grass. Sometimes the stream rises higher, depending on the rain. Then I might call it a creek. Never a river, or I’d be long gone.

After church last week, I was walking home, as I do every Sunday. Curious to see the water level and the flow of the stream, I stopped at the end of my street to take a look through the only place that gave me a full view of the wash. I stood there for a few minutes and watched the water ripple down a pathway through the grass, far beyond where my eyes could see. The stream quietly moved in and around and through the wash. The sun glistened on the tall, wet grass that seemed to bow in the direction the water flowed.

As I stood there, I was visually reminded of the living water of Jesus Christ that flows in and through our lives, reflecting God’s light to anyone who stops to take a good look at us. In awe and praise, we bow down to Him and follow His direction as He guides our pathway through life. Just as water can quench the thirst of a dry land, God can quench the thirst of our soul far beyond what we can imagine. 

Pretty awesome, huh?

And…there’s even the perfect scripture that flows right along with it…

But whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst;
but the water that I shall give him shall become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.
John 4:14

And the Lord will continually guide you,
And satisfy your desire in scorched places.
And give strength to your bones;
And you will be like a watered garden,
And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.
Isaiah 58:11

Susan Miller

From My Heart to Yours,
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@SusanJustMoved

A toothache, a root canal, and a dental visit I’ll never forget

dentistIt isn’t actually the tooth that hurts, it’s the gum above the tooth, I told myself.

I put up with the discomfort for a week, but when a week came and went, my better judgment said go to the dentist. I called my dentist office; they got me right in. One look, one x-ray, and he sent me straight to the endodontist.

“It’s an abscess. You’re going to need a root canal, and then some further surgery due to bone loss,” he said.

Oh, this is just great, I thought. Like I need the expense and inconvenience of a major tooth problem right now.

I took a deep breath as the dental chair reclined and the shot in my gum began to numb the areaI knew I’d be held captive with my mouth open and the sound of the drill for at least an hour. My nerves began to kick in and I could feel my heart rate increasing.

I kept repeating over and over again in my head, take my hand, Lord, take my hand. I envisioned God placing His hand in mine and squeezing it tightly to calm and comfort me. I even opened my hand slightly, eagerly waiting for His calming touch to come.

As if the words were audible, I heard, “I don’t want one hand, I want both hands.”both hands

Pretty profound, huh? It was for me.

I took another deep breath and wrapped my thoughts around what had just happened.

As a visual learner, I clearly got the message. God wanted all my anxiety and fear, not just one handful. Let go, Susan. Don’t hold back. Give all your emotions to me. I will calm you, comfort you, and give you peace.

…and I did…and He did.

No matter where you are, even in a dentist chair, God will speak to you – somehow, someway – when you call out to Him. Perhaps His message to you will be similar to mine:Let it goGive it all to me. I will calm you, comfort you, and give you peace.

Let Him have all your worries and cares, for He is always thinking about you and watching everything that concerns you. I Peter 5:7 TLB

From My Heart to Yours,

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Lost without it

I had to part with my Bible recently to have the outside cover replaced and the inside repaired. It was falling apart after years of gentle wear and tear. The cover had completely separated from the spine, and the pages were loose. Over time, it had become more difficult to hold it together. When my Bible was sent to the bindery, I wasn’t sure how long it would take to repair, when it would be returned, and wondered if I would even recognize it when it looked all shiny and new. 

Bible inside

Being without it left such a void in my life. Although I have other Bibles that I used during that time, they just weren’t like my old
one that had become an inseparable and intricate part of my life.

It was like saying goodbye to a beloved, intimate friend that I’d grown so comfortable with over the years. A friend that would shower me with unconditional love and joy, speak truth into my life, and give me encouragement when I needed it. A friend that I trusted with all my heart, and would be there for me when times were tough. A friend who was a lifeline of hope and gave promises of good things to come. The pages of her life had been a model for all I wanted to be. My Bible had become over the years, my beloved, intimate friend.

The days slipped by, and then the weeks came and went, until it was repaired, restored and whole again. At last– it was ready! I could hardly wait…

Bible reboundWhen I first saw it, it looked so unfamiliar. When I first held it, it felt so stiff in all its newness. I felt like I had to get reacquainted with an old friend that I hadn’t seen in a long time. Would we bond together as before? Would we pick up where we left off and resume the rhythm of our friendship?

Then as I opened my Bible, the pages once again wrapped around my heart. The scripture – underlined from years of use, notes in the side columns used in teaching, dates written by verses that marked milestones in my life – embraced me like an old friend. The familiar words comforted me again with God’s love. As I turned the pages, I felt joy within, the power of encouragement, the impact of truth, and hope that permeated my mind and emotions. Hello, old friend…

God’s word withstands the changes that occur around us. Life can fall apart, we can be worn out, feel like we’re coming unglued, or even useless to anyone. It’s what’s inside us, written on the pages of our heart, that will sustain us in the wear and tear of life. Don’t wait until the years go by, and you become older, make God’s word an inseparable and intricate part of your life now. Welcome an old friend…

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Fragile, handle with care

heart in handsIt all started after a sleepless night worrying about all the major repairs – from roof leaks, to inside water damage – that needed to be addressed first thing the next morning. At times, worry does seem to creep in, doesn’t it?

Early the next morning, with coffee in hand, I settled in to my favorite chair to read my devotional, pray for the day ahead, and center my thoughts from worry to trust. My emotions were fragile, and I felt overwhelmed with all that would be involved in the process of repair work, and what I imagined it would cost.

As I prayed, the word “nice” kept surfacing in my mind. “Oh Lord, please let the people I have to talk to today about all of these issues be nice to me.” I just didn’t think I could handle an unkind or rude person in my state of mind. I felt sure I’d burst into tears. Looking back, it’s funny how I felt: if everyone was kind or nice to me, I could handle whatever the outcome.

Each person I spoke with was not only nice to me, but kind as well. They went above and beyond what was required. When I hung up the phone, all I could say was, “Thank you Lord!” I had asked for little, and received more than I could have imagined. People, simply going out of their way to be nice and kind, strengthened my fragile emotions and changed the course of my day. It took so little to make a big difference.

That was the same day a stranger “paid it forward” in the drive-through line at Starbucks and bought my coffee, and I received a lovely card in my mailbox from a friend who just wanted to say she was thinking of me. God is a God of details and surprises, and He encouraged me in the most unexpected ways…and it all began with people being nice and kind.

What if? What if you and I went above and beyond this Christmas and practiced random acts of kindness to people in the most unexpected ways? At a time when “hurry” is normal, what if we slowed down and took the time to send a personal note of gratitude. When lines are long, and patience is short, what if we let someone go ahead of us who has fewer items to buy. What if we paid it forward and treated a stranger to a cup of coffee, or a meal. What if we went out of our way to speak and act nicely, knowing it just might strengthen a fragile heart and change the course of someone’s day.

It takes so little to make a big difference…

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Life Lessons on the Hiking Trail

hiking trailI did some hiking recently in, what was to me, uncharted territory in northern Arizona.

It was quite an adventure since I am a novice when it comes to hiking. I love to walk, mind you, but hiking is quite different, so I learned. I do believe one of the hikes was several miles long. It was a totally isolated trail in the woods, leading to the top of a mountain.

My friend and I headed up the narrow trail, stopping occasionally to take a quick break, drink water, and marvel at how far we had come. I’ve learned over the years, it’s always best to have someone walk beside me when I’m on any unfamiliar path, or trail in life.

And isn’t that true – having someone come along side you when you are going through something you’ve never experienced before can make it a little easier. It’s also helpful to have the support and share the experience together. Besides that, it’s certainly better than talking to yourself.

There were a couple of times I just wanted to give up, turn around, and go back. I have also learned over the years, that when any journey I’m on seems steep, long, and difficult, I put one foot in front of the other and keep moving forward. It’s never easy, but reaching my goal is worth it. In times like this, I remember the story of “The Little Engine That Could”. I think I can, I think I can, said the little engine, as she pushed up the hill. I become that little engine pushing on up the hill.

About half way up, we met two people on their way down the trail. Well, let me tell you, it’s always good to meet someone who’s been where I’m going. If for no other reason than to know someone else has made it! I asked the first questions that came to my anxious mind as they passed by rather quickly. What’s it like ahead? How much farther is it to the top? What’s it like there? They calmed any fear I had of the unknown trail ahead. They told us how much farther we had to go and gave us insight into what we could expect.

It’s kind of like anything we’re going through in life, isn’t it? There is comfort in knowing someone else has been there, done that. There’s nothing like someone saying, it’s going to be alright, here’s what you can expect, I’ve been through this and you can make it.

Needless to say, we made it to the top of the mountain… and back down! The amazing views of the landscape below were breathtaking. The emerald green forest was rippled with wild flowers and distant lakes sparkled and swirled like ribbons. I wouldn’t have missed it. It was worth every step, every anxious moment, every tired bone in my body.

The next time you face a challenge, or something unfamiliar ahead of you—don’t do it alone, don’t give up, and be on the lookout for someone who crosses your path, who’s been where you’re going. You will learn a lot along the way and discover you really do have the ability to reach your goal.

I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back. Philippians 3:12-14 The Message

For a time such as this

God is faithful

Have you ever walked away from a perfect day that left a smile on your face and memories in your heart? I had a day like that at our Spring Luncheon and Auction to benefit Just Moved Ministry. Oh, you would have loved it too! Our theme was “ Stepping Stones of Faithfulness,” and 200 women enjoyed the ambiance of a beautiful place overlooking spring flowers and a lake, stunning decorations, connecting with friends, browsing (and buying) our amazing auction items, and a wonderful three-course lunch served in grand style. Over 30 volunteers, and our staff, worked months to plan, prepare, and create; and gave sacrificially their time and talent to make it a glorious day.

As part of the program, some of our newcomers shared their stepping stone of God’s faithfulness in their move. One young woman said her stone was “trust”, and that she had learned to trust God with the unwanted changes that have altered her life since moving. Another woman’s stone was “joy”, and she shared how God returned joy to her life and her marriage since she moved.  As  woman after woman shared her testimony, wrapped with God’s faithfulness, emotions were stirred throughout the room, and there wasn’t a dry eye among us.

It was fun and enlightening for everyone as I shared how far and wide our Moving On After Moving In groups reach:

From Florida to AlaskaMoving On groups around the world

Ohio to California

Hawaii to Virginia

Louisiana to Belgium

Kentucky to Iowa

Arkansas to Montana

North Carolina to The Netherlands!

And then all the women loved hearing the quote posted on the Just Moved Facebook page from the leader of the Ex-pats group in The Netherlands:

“What do Malaysia, Taiwan, Russia, Brazil, Greece, the Netherlands and the US have in common? All those nationalities have been represented at Just Moved Eindhoven!” (A town in The Netherlands.)

I will savor the sweetness of that day for a long time. I am reminded that Just Moved not only has an impact on lives for Christ all over the world, but is also a community of women who are committed, faithful, and devoted to serve Jesus through this ministry. For these things, I am most grateful.

From My Heart to Yours,

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Running away to the circus


A young mom in my life who has five children, including a toddler and a baby, sent me a text recently. It’s worth sharing since we can all resonate with the feelings behind the words, and have probably felt like doing the same thing at one time or another.

circus tentMy friendToday is the kind of day I’d like to run away and join the circus…I’m going to the mall instead. I’m fighting discouragement…internal struggles.

MeDiversion is sometimes my sanity, until I realize the circus doesn’t need me like my family does. Let’s play on the trapeze for a while, then regroup with facing the elephants in life. We can do it, you hold my hand, and I’ll hold yours.

Then, silence, until I hear a text beep again…

My friendSpent an hour alone. By the time my husband came home I was done with the circus…and ready to face my real life.

MeSounds like you played all alone on the trapeze for a little while, looked at life from a different perspective, and decided the circus wasn’t for you. 

I loved her visual word picture! Oh, how many times I have wanted run away from emotional pain, circumstances I can’t change, and a heaviness in my heart to “join the circus” and escape from it all!

And yet, this much I know…

Running away might bring instant gratification with something new and different, but the thrill of it all fades fast.

Running away might mask the pain, until, when you least expect it, the mask slips off.

Running away might be a temporary escape from permanent circumstances, but reality is just around the corner.

Running away might relieve a heavy heart for a little while, but won’t take away the heartache you feel.

I know, because I’ve been there… done that.

I was running in the wrong direction. Take it from me, instead of running away from, try running to Jesus.

Run to call out to Him. Hey, you can even yell and scream at Him, He’s big enough to handle it. Jesus not only loves you, He knows you inside and out. He even knows you want to run away!

Run to Him in prayer. Tell Him how you really feel. Then ask for His grace and mercy.

Run to His word in scripture. I run fast to the Book of Psalms for comfort.

Run to lay your burdens at His feet. Then stand up and know the heaviness will become lighter.

Run to remember: His faithfulness to you, His provision for you, His presence that will never leave you.

It works. I know, because I’ve been there… done that. I learned that “joining the circus” doesn’t fill my heart like Jesus does.

Susan

I always keep pom-poms in my car

pom poms
I always keep pom-poms in my car. You just never know when you might need to cheer someone on, or who might need a wave of encouragement. I’ve shown up with pom-poms at the airport, the hospital, birthday parties, sports events — anywhere I can add a touch of sunshine to someone’s day. I especially love showing up at soccer and basketball games to cheer for my grandchildren and their teams. My family used to give me that look that says, “Oh no, she’s going to do THAT again!” But after all these years, they are used to it, and even expect the pom-poms to appear.

When my son, Bill, told me he was coming to Phoenix to run the P.F. Chang Half Marathon, you can imagine my excitement. He had been training for the thirteen mile run for months, and wanted to break his previous running time. A few years ago, Bill and his sister  ran the race together, and I have a picture on my refrigerator with them crossing the finish line. Of course I was there, along with all six grandchildren, all of us waving pom-poms for their mom and dad. (I have a picture of them too!) So for the race this year, I was ready to cheer him on to victory at the finish line. I was so proud  when he accomplished his goal and beat his own record!

Someone said they couldn’t believe I would get up before daylight to get Bill down town for the race, fight the traffic, find a parking place, and join the crowds of spectators, when he could have done it on his own. But that’s what we do for our children, isn’t it? No matter how young or old they are, we are their cheerleaders through life. Whether it’s with pom-poms, words of praise, an expression of encouragement, or simply by being there for them — the things we do and say have a powerful positive influence on their lives. They don’t ever outgrow the need to be loved, affirmed, valued, and encouraged.

And, by the way, I’ve passed the pom-pom tradition on to the next generation in my family. They are equipped to cheer one another on to run the race of life and become the best they can be.

Susan

Ordinary women called to do extraordinary things

Military wives: unsung heroes of our militarymilitary wife

Imagine the fear and anxiety of being a military spouse who has not heard from her husband, doesn’t know exactly where he is, or what he is doing. She simply waits. She has no option other than to trust and have faith that the phone will ring, the text or email will come, or his face will appear on Skype—anything to reassure her that he is okay. Imagine how she feels when her husband’s mission is so classified that he cannot share the stress he endures daily. Think about the strain on her marriage and on her children when a PCS (a move), or deployment comes–again, and then, again.

I had the privilege to be with many military wives who live with these situations at the PWOC  international military conference in Nashville, Tennessee recently. Needless to say, I have a soft spot in my heart for these women, many of them young enough to be my daughter. They have gone through things that most people, who do not live in a military world, will not experience in a lifetime. They are ordinary women, who are called to do extraordinary things as they serve on the front lines at home, while their husbands serve our country. They face the daily battles of loneliness, fear, and anxiety with perseverance, resilience, and, above all, an unwavering hope and trust in Jesus Christ.

Story after story touched my heart, and strengthened my faith. Jesus was always at the center of each conversation, the anchor for their survival. As I prayed with Mary*, the tears flowed over the heartache of a rebellious son who desperately needed his deployed father. Sue, who I had met at a military conference in Germany, wouldn’t let go of me as we embraced. She shared that her marriage was falling apart, and she didn’t know how to put the pieces back together again. Katherine, married one year and pregnant, was moving to a remote military base in Japan to be with her husband. She was anxious about a different culture, a foreign language and being so far from family. We hovered in a corner and I listened as she expressed her fear of the unknown.

These women, along with countless others, are my heroes. I am one of their biggest fans. I will stand on the sidelines of their lives and pray for peace, comfort, and victory in the midst of their circumstances. May we never forget to pray for our soldiers who serve our country, and for those who are in harm’s way, for their spouses who keep the home fires burning, and for their children who struggle with the uprooting and upheaval of change. Just imagine what our prayers can do…

Susan Miller

*names have been changed

 

The sign caught my eye. . .

. . .as I was walking down my street. It hung under the all too familiar “For Sale” sign in front of a neighbor’s house.

for sale sign

It simply read, “I’m gorgeous inside!” It was a great way to entice people to want to take a look inside the house and see what made it different from all the rest of the houses for sale.

I’ve thought about those words a lot since then. They resonated with me on a much deeper level.

What do the rooms of my heart say about who I am inside? What would entice people walking by my life to take a closer look, and see what makes me different?

There are days that I don’t look very pretty inside, much less gorgeous.

A critical spirit, a root of bitterness, negative or judgmental thoughts, angry feelings—can easily occupy the rooms of my heart at any given time.

Unless—

—I bar the door to the ugliness that creeps in, “and take every thought captive” (2 Corinthians 10:5)  that does not reflect the beauty of my Jesus.

I’m a sign in progress, Lord. Hang in there with me.

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