Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Thankful For The Valley

"Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:  But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when His glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy."
I Peter 4:12,13
(KJV)

Today is Thanksgiving Day...
that national day that was set aside to commemorate all of our blessings, past, present, and future, 
to turn our steps towards home, loved ones, and family,
and to turn our hearts towards our Heavenly Father in order to bow our heads and give Him praise.

There are so many blessings I am thankful for today.
They are innumerable...great and small.
How I thank Jesus for saving my soul and forgiving my sins,
for a loving husband who is dearer to my heart than life,
for a precious son who brings more joy and love to us than our hearts can hold,
for four siblings, their families, in-laws, aunts, uncles, cousins, and so much extended family who all mean the world to me,
for every bit of health we have,
for our home and physical blessings,
for the amazing privilege of homeschooling our precious son,
for every family member, friend, and loved one who bless us so much more than words can convey,
for the enormous gift of life itself,
and for you...precious readers, who take time out of your busy day to stop here and read the simple words God places upon my heart.

These are the good things.
The pleasant, happy things that put a spring in my step
and bring warmth and joy to my heart.

It is easy to thank God for the good things, is it not?

I know the title of this post is going to seem odd to some of you.
Did you read it right?


Some of you will do a double-take.

No, it isn't a typo.
No, I haven't lost my mind...(though sometimes I wonder!  :~)
Yes, it has been a hard year for us,
and much of it has been spent in the valley of severe testing.
It has felt very dark and God-forsaken,
and more than once, I have questioned His will and purpose.
If I had been able to capture all the tears that have fallen this year,
it would fill quite a bucket.
The severity of our trials started on February 4th and have continued most of this year.
Perhaps one day I will feel led to elaborate and go into more detail.
Right now, it is too fresh and too painful.

But, do you know what?

Today, on Thanksgiving Day 2015, I am THANKFUL...
from the bottom of my soul...for all the good things, yes....
but, in addition to being grateful for the good things,
I am thanking God for the valley.

Why, you ask?
Because it has been good for us.
Because I feel like God has taken us through a crash learning course.
Because I feel like we have gleaned some of the most profound lessons of our lives.

It has been an amazing journey.
Painful, but amazing indeed.

Valleys stretch us.
Valleys are testing grounds.
In the life of a Christian, tests are important.

 How can I be 100%, from-the-bottom-of-my-heart thankful for the darkness?
The deep valleys?
The tears?
The tests?

I think I found a way to explain it through a talk I recently had with "Little Mr. Wisdom",
who, by the way, is not so little anymore.

Homeschooling high school is different than anything we have done heretofore.
It's a whole new ball game.
I am enjoying every, single moment, as I realize these homeschooling years are flying
by way too fast, and there are only four more to go (including this one).

Insert long, tear-filled, mournful, Mama-sized sigh.

How did we get here so fast?
Where have the years gone?
The reality of how quickly our "baby" boy is growing up brings me often to tears.

Dear, precious Lord, help us to get this right.

In child-rearing, there are no do-overs.
No second chances.
No repeats.

World History is hard.
Whew!
I have forgotten so much since I was in school,
and is it just me, or have they made it more difficult since way back when?
And the massive amounts of memorization????
Seriously?
Let me just say, it is good that I am not expected to memorize all of this,
and it is good that they make you do school early in life before your head is so full,
and short-term memory is so....well, short.

We're plowing through it all together, grateful for the privilege and opportunity, and definitely by God's grace, and I am often reminding God of James 1:5, as I quote it verbatim to Him in prayer....
"If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him."

That "any of you lacking wisdom" part?
Yeah.
That's me.
In a big way.

I told the Lord in prayer just today that even though I have felt a dire need for Him
all throughout my life, I don't EVER feel like I have needed Him more than I do now.
Not only in childrearing and homeschooling, but in every part of my life.
It seems I need Him more and rely upon Him more
and lean more into His everlasting arms every, single day.

In my opinion, it is the absolute best there is.
I know there are many other Christian homeschool curriculum publishers out there 
who do just as good a job, no doubt, but A.C.E. will always be my personal choice.

I can't thank God enough that they are still around, and it is really fun working through these P.A.C.E.s with Zach...the very same ones (with updates and revisions, of course),
 that I used when I was in school.

A.C.E. designs their lesson plans with several "check-ups" throughout the workbook (P.A.C.E.),
then there is a Self Test, at the very end of the workbook, then a final Test after that.

The student cannot proceed with their work after doing a check-up 
until they score their work, then go back and do the corrections,
and make certain they have a full understanding of the material.

After all check-ups, including the last one that comes directly before the Self Test, 
are completed and corrected and all material understood,
the student proceeds to take the Self Test.
Once they have corrected any errors, they are then given permission to take the final test.

One of the things I love most about A.C.E. is that they provide every possible opportunity
for the student to fully comprehend what they need to know before ever requiring that final Test 
to be administered.

Today, we have struggled.
Due to the increase in volume and difficulty of high school work, 
we fell a couple of days behind in World History and Biology.

Zach was having a hard time with the final check-up in World History,
and was filled with dread over thinking about the Self Test, then the Final Test that were to follow.

I finally told him to just go ahead, take the Self Test, and do his best.

"The Self Test will reveal your weaknesses, then we will deal with them before taking the Final Test", 
I told him.

The impact of what I had just said caused me to stop swirling the wooden spoon through the pan of goulash in front of me on the stove,
as I realized these were not my own words at all, but had been prompted by the precious Holy Spirit...maybe not as much for Zach as they were for me.

"Tests reveal our weaknesses, then we can deal with them, 
before taking the final test."

I repeated it out loud....to myself this time.

So, this is the purpose for our tests...in life.

We wonder sometimes, don't we?
Why things have to be so hard?
Why we feel we can't catch our breath from the last hurdle 
before another one comes our way?
Why we face such adversity?
Why?  Why?  Why?

"Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ..."
I Peter 1:6, 7

Did you catch that "if need be" part?
Though now, for a season, if need be, we are in heaviness through various trials.

Why?
Because at the very end of life, we will stand in a "courtroom", before the ultimate Judgment seat, and face a righteous Judge.
One Who knows our hearts.
Sees us inside and out.
We will, individually, stand before the One Who created us, 
and we will face the ultimate trial when we give account of how we lived this life.

"For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; 
that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, 
whether it be good or bad."
2 Corinthians 5:10

In the words of Hank Williams, Sr., our main trial is yet to come.
These trials we are facing now are preliminary trials.
They are tests to reveal our weaknesses and give us ample opportunity to do something about them before we ever approach that final trial at the end of life.

God would not be a fair and righteous Judge, if He allowed us to skim through life 
on a bed of ease, all the while harboring things in our lives and hearts that would prevent us
from making it to Heaven.

So, He allows "check-ups" and preliminary "Self Tests" to bring dross to the surface.

Some are smaller trials, "check-ups", if you will...
things that make us stop and take pause long enough to correct small errors God has brought to light through those "light" trials.

"For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal."
2 Corinthians 4:17
(Emphasis added.)

Then, there are those heavy-duty ones...
you know...the ones that knock us off our feet and onto our knees,
bringing us face-to-face with our own mortality...
the kind the Apostle Peter was referring to when he said,
"...think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you..."
the ones that hit us with such force that life screeches to a halt,
and we are forced to stop and consider.

"In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider: 
God also hath set the one over against the other..."
Ecclesiastes 7:14

The extreme testing valley my little family and I have walked through this year
has knocked us to our knees more times than one.
The fiery trials have forced us to stop...and consider.
The preliminary testing has accomplished its purpose.

"Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: 
nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby."
Hebrews 12:11

We now rest in the aftermath of this awful valley, and we have reached the "nevertheless afterward". all glory be to God.

And as we rest, we look back, and we realize the purpose for our test.
There were weaknesses in us that were unbeknownst to us, but not unknown to God.
The tests revealed these weaknesses and brought them to light for a purpose...
so we could deal with them now....while there is time and opportunity to make necessary adjustments.

When I look at the valley in this light, from this angle, I say, from the very bottom of my soul...
Thank You, Jesus!

I am reminded of this old song written by Dottie Rambo.


If video doesn't load, click here.

God knows how hard we try to please Him.
He knows our hearts.
He sees our integrity.
He is now preparing a Heavenly home for us, 
and He knows that in order for us to enter and take possession of that holy place,
we must be holy.

So, He refines us through the fire.
He purges us by way of the valley's narrowness.
He allows us to be tested, severely, at times, in order to reveal dross,
 so we can see it and deal with it.

It is not His will that any of us miss Heaven.
"The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness; 
but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, 
but that all should come to repentance."
2 Peter 3:9

After we pass through such testing valleys, we can often look back and realize
the magnitude of the good we have gleaned through our trials.

The other night, the three of us were in the car, and this song came on the radio.



If video doesn't load, click here.

Oh, my!
I was crying so hard and so caught up in my own tears that I could barely see the road,
and it took me a while to realize that both Kevin and Zach were crying just as hard.
We were all so overcome with emotion as the powerful words to this song written by Sandy Blythe
seemed to have been written specifically for us.

How is it with you, my friend?
In the midst of your gratitude this Thanksgiving, do you find yourself in a hard place?
Are you now in the fiery furnace of trial?
Does hope wane dim?
Do you wonder why it seems God hides His face?
Are you walking through the valley low, with no glimmer of His light?

He is with you, dear one.
He knows what you are facing.
He understands.
He hasn't forsaken you, regardless how dark your life has become.
He is there.
In the valley.
One day, you, too, will see this valley from the Shepherd's point of view,
and as He holds you close, He will make all things clear to you.

Remember this...
the teacher is often silent during a test.
Author Unknown

I trust that no matter what is going on in your life,
you have a wonderfully blessed holiday.
May you never forget how very much you are loved.

Happy Thanksgiving!!

29 comments:

  1. .. And I'm so thankful to have met you on my Path, my blessed friend !
    Have a Joyous and Happy Thanksgiving, enjoy your loved ones and your hearth,
    with dear, oh so dear Love
    Dany

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    1. Thank you so very much, sweet Dany!! Such a blessing you are to me each time you stop by! So thankful to know you and walk this Christian blogging journey with you. I trust you had a wonderful Thanksgiving with your dear family. :) Sending you much love across the many miles!

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  2. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

    God bless.

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    1. And a Happy Thanksgiving to you, also! I trust it was blessed in every way. :) God bless you as we enter into this joyous Christmas season!!

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    2. Many thanx for your visit to my blog and your kind words. I've replied there.

      May I wish you a Blessed Advent Season to you and yours.

      God bless.

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  3. Sweet friend, you are such a joy to my heart and you bless my life with your friendship and encouraging posts. I am so thankful for you, dear Cheryl, and I praise the Lord for your sweet spirit and beautiful testimony.

    We truly have much to be thankful for and this Thanksgiving I thought a lot about the precious salvation the Lord so freely offers to us. He bore my sin and the sin of the world on the cross so that I and His creation could have eternal life through Him - what love and what a gift!

    I smiled when I read you use and like ACE. I was homeschooled from 3rd grade until I graduated high school and that is what I used - what a small world.

    Love to you, dear friend.

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    1. Dear Stephanie! And how you bless my life, too! I am so grateful God ever brought you across my path and that He allows us to walk this journey together. That is SO neat that you did ACE, also!!!!!! What a wonderful blessing!! Thank you ever so much for stopping by and for leaving such precious encouragement behind. I love and appreciate you so very much and trust your Thanksgiving Day was abundantly blessed. :)

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  4. Coming to the end of 2015, I have to come to the same conclusion. It's been a "crash course" here too (great term!), but I'm trusting that we are learning.
    As for World History -- do you use a time line? SonLight curriculum puts out a great time line in spiral books (or you can dismantle it and put it on a wall, I suppose). It comes with stickers that you can place on the appropriate dates. I loved using it with my boys and I've hung onto them because they show all the layers of activity through time; e.g. what was going on in China when Columbus was on his way over here?
    Happy Thanksgiving weekend!

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    1. Bless your dear heart, Michele...I am so sorry to hear that it has been a hard year for you, too. You bless me so much when you stop by here, and I am so thankful to have "met" you this year. I have not used a timeline...thank you ever so much for this wonderful idea! I am familiar with SonLight, and I think we may even have one of their catalogs. I am so grateful to you for suggesting this..I think it would be very beneficial to us. I trust your day was very blessed yesterday and hope you enjoy your weekend, too. Sending you much love!

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  5. Amazing how and when our Father whispers to us. Always truth and usually during the times in the Valley. Of course our Father could march us around or even above the Valley, but the wisdom comes in the bottom of the valley and our deliverance to the other side is to show the world the power of God over His creation and His loving hands in the life of His chosen.

    Wise words, sister. The valley looks smaller from God's side of things.

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    1. You are so right, brother. Most of the most needful lessons of this life are learned in the valley when we are leaning hardest upon our Shepherd. I loved the thoughts you shared here. May God bless you abundantly!

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  6. Hope you enjoyed a wonderful Thanksgiving Cheryl. Our valley experiences might not be the most pleasant ones but they have much value and often times we find ourselves drawing closes to the Father. Blessings.

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    1. Yes, we do draw close to the Lily of the Valley when we find Him there. Sharing in His sufferings teaches us of His attributes. So grateful for your visit, sweet friend. I trust you had a wonderful Thanksgiving, too...ours was so precious and abundantly blessed! Praise God from Whom all blessings flow. :) Much love to you, Wanda!

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  7. so very thankful for you, and your precious heart

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    1. Thank you so much, sweet Denise. I love and appreciate you and trust all is well with you. Thank you for your dear, precious encouragement!

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  8. From one home schooling Mom to another, I really felt what you say about the years flying by! Sigh. Let's treasure every moment as the blessing it is! So glad your Thanksgiving was wonderful. May God bless you and yours!

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    1. And, may God bless you and yours, too, Gwen! So happy to have "met" you today!! Thank you for your sweet, encouraging visit. Yes, let's treasure every moment...for too quickly they are going by! Come back to see me anytime!

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  9. Hello Cheryl, a great post! You are so open and that helps so many of us to face our feelings and fears too. I just had you on my mind this weekend. It always amazes me that God gives me a time of rest and happiness before I find myself in the valley. We had a few difficult things to handle after a wonderful Thanksgiving that was filled with healing. Still enjoying the music you sent me!

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    1. Hello, there, my friend! It was SO nice to see that you had stopped by!!! OH, I am so grateful you are still enjoying your music! That just blesses me so much!! And it is so sweet that you had my on your mind. That truly means so much to me. I am so sorry you had to deal with the difficulties, and I do trust the dear Lord to see you through whatever it is that you are facing. Sending you much love and many hugs! :)

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  10. I am sorry you are struggling right now; you and your family are in my prayers. It was interesting reading about homeschooling Zach. Wow, you are one courageous woman. I like the way the Holy Spirit helps you and even speaks through you. You make excellent points about the trials and tests, check ups, we face. Truly they reveal our weaknesses so we can pass the final test! Amazing verses you shared. Thank you! Love to you and that neat family of yours.

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    1. Much gratitude and love to you, sweet Mary! I so appreciate your prayers for us and every kind word you are so faithful to leave here. I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving, and may the dear Lord bless you with a healthy, happy Christmas season!!! Sending you many hugs!! :)

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  11. My dear, lovely friend, thank you for sharing this post with Roses of Inspiration. Even though I have already read it I was encouraged to read it again. How I pray the Lord uses it to bless and encourage many.

    I hope you are well, dear Cheryl. You have been in my thoughts for the last few days..... Love and hugs!

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    1. Thank you ever so much, dear Stephanie! It is amazing that God has laid me upon so many hearts when I have been facing such trials! He is a faithful, dear, loving Savior Who absolutely cares about the details of the lives of His children. You are so precious to me and are such a faithful encourager in my life. May the dear Lord abundantly bless you, in return. Love and appreciate you so much, sweet friend!

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  12. This verse (Deuteronomy 8:2):

    "The LORD your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul."

    There are a host of reasons why God allows testing in our lives. Sometimes it's for discipline, sometimes for humbleness, sometimes to prepare us for new growth. But sometimes it's for the above reason. To winnow out the dross of life, and see what's really in the core of our hearts. I know I've experienced hard, difficult times. And yet, at the end of the day, I've discovered how great was my need and my love for the Lord. And truly, isn't that a gift worth finding out - that something deep inside indeed desires Him with whole-heartedness? Those kinds of lessons can only be learned in the valleys, when we are forced flat on our faces of self-sufficiency, with the legs of control swept out from under us, and the only way to look is UP!

    Cries in the valley reflect our true selves. May I ever cry out for HIM!!

    GOD BLESS!

    P.S. By the way, totally loved this - "Remember this...the teacher is often silent during a test." Lord, I'm paying attention in class...!)

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    1. Wow! What a wonderful verse you shared! I LOVE that! Testing us to find out whether we love Him with all our heart and soul...this is just precious. I loved your thoughts, too. So very thankful for you, my precious friend, and for your gentle, uplifting presence in my life. You are a gift that God is using to bless so many of us. May He just bless you abundantly, in return. Sending you much love across the many miles!

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  13. Some trials are for educational purposes. We can learn from them and know how to be compassionate when others are going through a similar problem. Other times the trial is a trusting test like the one given to Abraham to sacrifice his son. God tests to see if we believe, and are willing to be obedient. Health and financial trials are usually the ones most difficult. For many years we have watched our daughter fight with colitis until the prescription drugs fried her liver. Now she needs a new liver and her doctors are treating her with medicine that does what the liver is supposed to do. We view our friends and loved ones go through these problems, and cry out to God for a Miracle. Why it does not come, we shall one day know the reason. Our final test is coming soon. Thank you for sharing with us here at Tell me a Story.

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    1. Oh, your dear daughter! And to think of how it must pain you to watch her suffer so! I trust God will make a way for her to have a new liver, and that He will send the needed healing and comfort to all of your dear hearts! Thank you for your precious shared thoughts, sweet Hazel. God bless you, my friend!

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  14. Cheryl, The depth of your heart from which you write must be such a pleasing aroma to our great God. Your humility and love for our Savior is so evident in every one of your words. Your example to all of us in thanking God with your whole heart for the valley is so Glorifying to our Heavenly Father. The lessons you share about are always so incredibly edifying.

    I re-read the words you shared over and over again, "The Self Test will reveal your weaknesses, then we will deal with them before taking the Final Test". So profound and yet so true.

    Thank you for all the encouraging Scripture verses that remind us of the Hope that we have.

    One of the things I am very thankful for this year is my friendship with you. You are such a dear blessing.

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    1. Oh, dear Karen! Your precious, encouraging words are such a blessing to me! I am SO thankful for my friendship with you, too, and I cannot thank God enough for allowing our paths to cross this year! He always knows who to place in our lives and when we need them the most. I trust He will abundantly bless you and your family this Christmas...I know you will have so much fun with that new grandbaby! There is nothing like a child to make Christmas even more special!!! Sending you much love and many hugs!

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