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

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

Lost your bloom? Take heart!

Susan Miller, America's Moving CoachDon’t you just love this time of year! Spring is in full bloom! Nature is in harmony with colorful flowers, new green growth on tree branches, and birds chirping with joy.

Yet for many of you who are in the emotional upheaval of a move, or face an unknown future with moving, the season of spring has not arrived in your life. There is a lack of harmony with those around you, you don’t feel personal or spiritual growth in this transition, and there is no joy in your heart – yet.

Let me encourage you dear sisters, your spring will come, you will bloom again! This is a season of life you are going through; it has come to pass, it has not come to stay. I know, because I have gone through the same dry and dormant seasons before, during, and after a move. I have felt the same feelings and faced many of the same situations spring flowersin moving that you have, and I too, could not feel the sun shining in my life.

Even when I couldn’t pray for myself during those difficult times, God put other people in my life to pray for me. Now is the time for you to rest in God’s promises, in His word, and in His faithfulness – and to know that I will pray for you.

So, tell me, how are YOU doing? How can we pray for you across the miles as we hold you close in our thoughts and hearts? Please take a minute to email us (prayerrequest@justmoved.org) with your personal prayer requests. You will be prayed for by our faithful prayer team for 30 days.

bouquetIf I could send each of you a spring bouquet of flowers to encourage your heart, I would. Instead, I’m sending you a bouquet of prayers, wrapped with my love and tied with a ribbon of God’s hope.

“In the morning, O Lord, Thou will hear my voice; In the morning I will order my prayer to Thee and eagerly watch.” – Psalm 5:3

“…Be gracious to me and hear my prayer.” – Psalm 4:1

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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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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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A Roadway in the Wilderness

Isaiah 43:19roadway in the wilderness
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.

Many of you, like me, have had a “wilderness experience” in your life. It’s when uncontrollable circumstances, or a life-changing crisis rocks your world. When you feel like you are aimlessly trying to find your way through a maze of darkness, and just survive–one step at a time. You feel empty, confused, overwhelmed, and desolate.

I know some of your stories, your struggles, your heartaches, and your pain. Your wilderness experience could be with a physical illness, with emotional anguish, with financial hardship, or with a broken relationship. It could be in your marriage or in being single, in your aloneness, or in coping with a loss.

My wilderness experience began on a Sunday morning when the surgeon gave us the news that Bill had an aggressive and rare form of colon cancer that had spread to his liver–and there was nothing they could do. Then, just four months later on a Sunday morning Bill went home to be with the Lord. That was almost three years ago, and there are still days when I struggle to get through the emotions of my loss. I choose daily to put one foot in front of the other and press on.

God made a roadway to survival in my wilderness. In the midst of my sadness, God made a roadway to finding joy. In the midst of my loss, God made a roadway to finding contentment. In the midst of my longing for Bill, God made a roadway to finding peace.

God will provide a roadway in your wilderness, my sisters! Listen to His voice when you feel confused. Learn His word when you need comfort and reassurance. Lean on him when you don’t have all the answers. Rest in Him when you are weary and worn-out. Trust Him when your circumstances overwhelm you.

It’s not always easy, in fact, it’s downright hard some days. There will be times when you feel like you can’t do anything but breathe. But remember this: When God provides a roadway IN the wilderness—He provides a way OUT of the wilderness. He did it for me, He will do it for you.

It is Jesus who will meet you at your point of need. It is Jesus who will soothe your soul, and comfort your heart. It is Jesus who will give you hope to face tomorrow.

Susan Miller