Monday, August 17, 2020

A Writer's Prayer

(If one replaces "book" with "blog," this works just fine as a blogger's prayer too. Amy Carmichael's "Take This Book" opens the anthology Mountain Breezes and her long book on her life in India, Gold Cord.)

Take this book in Thy wounded hand,
   Jesus, Lord of Calvary;
Let it go forth at Thy command;
   Use it as it pleaseth Thee.

Dust of the earth, but Thy dust, Lord;
   Blade of grass, in Thy hand a sword--
Nothing, nothing unless it be
   Purged and quickened, O Lord, by Thee.

Monday, August 10, 2020

Honeycomb Words {Greatest Hits}

In 2010, I posted a pair of essays. The second of the pair hit the top 10 posts of the decade. For the sake of context, I'm combining them here and preaching these same truths, still, to my own heart.

I. Honeycomb Words

An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up (Proverbs 12:25, NIV1984).

Earlier this spring, I was feeling hungry:  hungry for approval. This is not so unusual for me, and the temptation actively to seek validation from others is one of the concerns I had about blogging. It's tantalizing but ultimately empty to chase page view numbers, comments, and the like.

On this particular day, however, that was not the focus. I was hungry for positive feedback from Important People, authority figures. Ebony and I are alike that way: highly motivated by yummy treats praise. Not being a student who would receive that from teachers or a professional who would (ideally) receive it from a manager or boss, I wanted it from doctors, who these days are the most numerous and frequently encountered authority figures in my life.

(Some might protest that doctors are service providers and I am the customer, but for a recovering people pleaser like me, that is not how it feels.)

In my journal and prayer time, God and I had a chat about this, or rather I talked and He listened. "I am working so hard at taking and keeping track of my medicines, adding and subtracting activities, making more appointments with more specialists when they say to, maintaining precise records of symptoms, medicines, and activities to provide them the data they need to help me... I'm worn out trying to get well. But it seems like the harder I try, the more new issues keep popping up.  The medicines aren't making as big or as fast a difference as the doctors expect, and when that happens it feels like I'm the one who's the failure and not the medicines or the treatment approach. I just want one of them to notice how hard I'm working at getting better and to tell me I'm doing a good job at being a patient. That's all.  I just want to hear from them that I'm doing this right."

Silence. I thought I heard a cricket chirp nearby.

So I did what any God-fearing, Bible-believing Christian in her third decade of walking with Christ would do. I went to my husband and repeated the whole pathetic litany to him.

Smile, nod, "Sweetie, God is in control of the results." Granted, he was on his way to the garage for something from his toolbox, and he was right, but that was still not the reaction I was hoping for.

Two weeks passed, and the urgency of the craving for Approval from Important People faded somewhat in the wee distractions of a bigger health crisis for a family member and an upcoming dental surgery.

A few days before the procedure, I met with my asthma doctor for a routine (as much as anything is with me) check. This wise doctor treats me with kindness, gentleness, respect, and personal attention as though I'm the only patient he will see that day. Although he is retirement age or fast approaching it, he continues to practice medicine and study the journals to improve his craft. He is a gifted physician skilled in the art as well as the science of medicine.

At this visit, he talked with me about any changes in my overall health picture and offered some suggestions for adapting my breathing and activities to decrease costochondritis pain. After supplying me with prescriptions and samples, he turned to leave and then turned back toward me.

"You know," he said, "I think this every time you come in here, but I'm not sure if I've ever actually said it to you. You are the kind of patient that reminds me why I keep doing this. You're caring, you're smart, and you...not everything is something we can make better, want to be better. Patients like you are the reason we--doctors, nurses--do what we do."

He paused a moment, nodded for emphasis, turned again, and left the room.

Gathering my belongings and composure, I swallowed hard, blinked back tears, and followed suit, both happy and deeply moved. After a stop at the front desk to pay and schedule the next appointment, I went to the car and sat in stunned silence a moment before turning toward home. A girl can live a long time on words like that.

God had seen. He had heard. He answered through this good physician in His due time. Through the words of my doctor, He let me know, "I have called you by your name; you are Mine."

Since then, when a positive observation or insight into someone around me has crossed my mind or path, I am seeking to follow my doctor's example by not only thinking it but saying or writing it to the person before life rushes on. We can never know this side of heaven whom around us might be starving for just such a sweet, healing word, but that is one case in which I believe from experience it is better to speak than to remain silent.

Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones (Proverbs 16:24, NIV1984).

II. When the Honeycomb Words Don't Stick

Last week a reader asked, "What do you do when you hear those [encouraging] words – but they go right through you as if they were never said – that would be my question – when you can't hear the positive what do you do?"

When a girl grows up with schoolmates calling her, "Dog," by which they mean ugly; "Bugs," as in the cartoon character, because of her severe overbite; "Brain," which in the strange world of elementary school is an insult, especially when targeted at a female...

When respected ballet teachers tell her she's not thin enough, straight enough, limber enough,...

When illness thins her hair, rounds her face, changes her husband's career path, keeps her from serving and loving her family in the way she's been accustomed...

Lies start digging trenches in her mind,*

Ruts so deep even kind words fall in.

The hairdresser calls her beautiful, and she thinks, "She's just saying that so she'll get a better tip."

Her husband tells her she looks pretty, and she thinks, "He knows how much time I spent on my makeup and hair and that I changed clothes six or seven times. He's afraid I'll be in a bad mood for our date."

Deep inside, those lies keep digging:

"Your appearance determines your worth."

"If you let them into your thoughts, they won't like you."

"You're not good enough."

"You don't measure up."

And do you know what? Those last two are true, but they are only part of the truth. The Bible says, "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23, HCSB). The very next sentence continues, "They are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus" (Romans 3:24).




The sins and shortcomings that the father of lies says disqualify her actually are actually the prerequisites for God's grace (see Romans 5:6-8).

Every time the girl chooses to believe the truth instead of the lie, another shovelful of dirt is scooped out of a new rut and the old one fills in just a little bit more.

"There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 8:1). One.

"You are loved with an everlasting love" (Jer. 31:3). Two.

"I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well" (Psalm 139:14). Three.

One shovelful at a time, minds are transformed and renewed through Word and Spirit. 

*The rut image comes from Holley Gerth.

If the sweet, honeycomb words go right through us with no apparent effect, that could indicate we are believing lies that have become so ingrained in our thinking that they taint even true, kind, and beautiful words. From one struggler to another, here are some principles I am finding helpful:
  • Recognize the lies I'm believing. Vague feelings of accusation, rejection, and worthlessness are never from God. They are contrary to His character as revealed in Scripture and in the person of Jesus Christ. 

    The Holy Spirit does convict His people of sin, but He rebukes specifically, with a view to correction, repentance, and growth in Christlikeness. Angry, blanket condemnation of who we are is the devil's strategy. Other Christians, like the mentor who first told me this, can be of great help in this process
  • Reject those thoughts as the lies they are.
  • Replace them with God's truth and ruminate on it. Some Bibles have a topical index that can help in finding applicable verses for particular needs. Sites like have key word search options. Asking an older Christian is also a tremendous resource to help locate the truth opposite to the lies.

    This is one more benefit to practicing Scripture memory; every repetition of truth digs the new mental rut a little deeper and fills in the old one just a little more.

    It's also the reason I firmly believe that sticky notes and index cards are (can be) a means of grace: truth on the cabinet, truth on the mirror, truth in the handbag, truth on the fridge,... Shhh! Don't tell the decorating police! (That reminds me of another whopper, that I am a failure as a housewife because my space doesn't look like the magazine, the neighbors', the relative's, the television show, etc.)
  • Rely on the truth. At some point, when I have recognized the lies and located the opposite truths, I must choose which to believe and which to act upon.

    If I have been withdrawing from Christian community because of lies I have believed, I need to repent of that behavior as well as the false belief that prompted it.  The same goes for making faces and sarcastic quips to deflect compliments, but maybe I'm the only one here who does that.

    Again, Christian family and/or friends can support us in this process. When Allen catches me shrugging off his kind words, he sometimes calls me on it, gently but firmly: "I said, 'You look pretty.' Are you calling me a liar?" Without that kind of accountability, lasting change is even more difficult.
[There is a level of wounding and depression so deep that even the first step of recognition is impossible without help. If that describes you, I'm so very sorry and pray that the Lord who loves you would bring to you or lead you to the person best fitted to begin restoration in your life. Seeking help is not a sign of further weakness or failure.]
    Other helpful resources I'm aware of include the following:
    Happy digging, Crumbles!

    Saturday, August 8, 2020

    True Trust {Greatest Hits}

    This early post, originally shared in October 2010, weighs in at number 7 on the stat chart. (Medical prayer requests are not current, but the need for true trust is chronic.)

    This morning's Scripture portion in my Bible read-through calendar for the year juxtaposed Isaiah 20 and Jeremiah 28-30.  Reading these two in one sitting illuminated common themes I might otherwise have missed: true hope vs. false hope (or trust) and true prophets bringing bad news. 
    In the Isaiah reading, Israel has put their trust in African military might to rescue them from Assyria, and Isaiah gets to depict the disappointing news that their allies will not protect them.  In Jeremiah, a false prophet preaches quick liberation from domination by Babylon, and Jeremiah is commissioned to tell the people of Judah that restoration will come, but it will take a lifetime, so they need to settle in and work for good in the land of their exile.  In both these cases, contrary perhaps to our expectations, the true prophecies say things will get worse before they get better; the true hope is in God, not in human helps or a happy turn of events.  The ultimate expression of this true hope is in Jeremiah 30:22:
    "'You shall be My people, 
    And I will be your God.'"

    As I was considering asking for your prayers for my next doctor's appointment Friday morning (asthma/allergy doctor), these readings changed the content of my request.  The Scriptures showed me that my trust is not as true as it needs to be on the medical issues we're still working out.  Last week the lupus doctor seemed frustrated because my medication level was up and my activity tolerance was down.  His frustration discouraged me, and I realize now that I was hoping in my doctor and hoping for short-term good news.

    If God moves you to pray for me, would you pray first for true trust? That my hope would not be in the skill of my physicians, my own analysis and presentation of symptoms, medications, or compliance with doctors' instructions, but in God's character and Word?  He is the one who gives wisdom and insight to the doctors and who ultimately determines the efficacy of their prescriptions.  He has not promised me good health now, in this body, but He has promised good.  He has also promised that the tough times are not for always, and that body-soul-spirit wholeness is coming, even if it takes a lifetime.

    Also, would you pray that my life, attitude, and words would proclaim truth about God?  True trust will (or should?) produce a hope and peace that don't vary with the circumstances but stay firmly fixed on God's constancy and faithfulness.  My community is pretty small right now, but I long for God to be glorified in my interactions with my doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and family and through this blog, notes, and e-mails.  Sometimes that requires courage to say what is needful even when it is not what is desired.  It always requires confident dependence on the Lord, and so I ask your prayers..

    As always, thank you so much for sharing your day with me in this place.  Thank you also for your prayers.  Please feel free to let me know in the comments or by e-mail how I can pray for you, too.

    Friday, August 7, 2020

    A Decade of Crumbs

    Ten years ago today, I hit "Publish" on the first blog post here. It still doesn't feel routine. Every time I open a window for a new post, a window into my heart of hearts, the resistance and insecurity rise up. Am I doing this right? Who am I to think I have a story worth telling? Is anyone even seeing this? Is this the best way to steward my limited concentration and time? 

    In the last week or so, 2 different, completely unrelated people have said or written the same thing in similar words, which I took as a reminder from the Lord in response to those unspoken questions:

    "My nightmare is someone else's survival guide," said stroke survivor Kathryn Wolf in the Desperate for Jesus retreat livestream.

    "Tell the story of the mountain you climbed. Your words could become a page in someone else's survival guide," wrote Morgan Harper Nichols on her Instagram feed.

    Paul touches on the same thing in 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 (CSB): "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort.  He comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction, through the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ overflow to us, so also through Christ our comfort overflows."

    This blog, then, bears witness to the comfort of Christ overflowing in the overflowing afflictions of the last decade. I'm not at the top of the mountain yet, but by God's grace I'm still climbing, and if the Lord wills I'll keep leaving notes for other climbers telling where this pilgrim found bread and shelter and companionship along the steep and treacherous path toward Home.

    If I had to choose a verse to write on the trail marker to sum up the last 10 years, the hardest 10-year period of my life, I suppose the most apt would be 2 Corinthians 12:9 (CSB), "But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness.' Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me."

    For I have been weak, and His grace has been sufficient.

    Through months homebound and mostly bedridden due to chronic chest pain, His grace is sufficient.

    Through 7 surgeries and countless procedures, His grace is sufficient.

    Through at least a dozen new doctors and so much imaging I should probably glow in the dark by now, His grace is sufficient.

    Through 2 rounds of cancer, most recently this last November through January, His grace is sufficient.

    Through multiplied joint pain and disability, His grace is sufficient.

    Through multiple changes of the church we call home, His grace is sufficient.

    Through traumatic changes of pastors, His grace is sufficient.

    Through job changes and a move, His grace is sufficient.

    Through devastating new diagnoses for loved ones, His grace is sufficient.

    Through many days and nights apart when Amore's help was needed elsewhere, His grace is sufficient.

    Through too many funerals...grandmothers, aunt, uncle, cousin, sister-in-law, father-in-law, and my Velcro dog who stayed by my side through all of the above...His grace is sufficient.

    Through the other Big Scary Things I haven't been free to discuss here because others share those stories, His grace is sufficient.

    Through this global pandemic, His grace is sufficient.

    Through intensifying racial strife, His grace is sufficient.

    Through an economic recession, His grace is sufficient.

    Through months homebound, this time with Amore and Moose Tracks and the rest of the world in their respective homes, His grace is sufficient.

    But that only tells part of the story.

    In a larger, nicer home with a pool closer to my parents, His grace is sufficient.

    In my dad's retirement from his computer career to enjoy more time with my mom and the rest of the family, His grace is sufficient.

    In both my sisters moving closer, His grace is sufficient.

    In a good new home for my mother-in-law, His grace is sufficient.

    In more opportunities for time and laughter with the 3 youngest nephews, His grace is sufficient.

    In the gift of new friends, both locally at church and scattered abroad through this blog, His grace is sufficient.

    In growth and joy in practicing photography, His grace is sufficient.

    In learning better management of my disability, His grace is sufficient.

    In the years spent learning Ephesians and Isaiah 40 by heart, His grace is sufficient.

    In the trip of a lifetime to Alaska with parents, His grace is sufficient.

    In sustaining Amore's job and giving him freedom to work from home, His grace is sufficient.

    In last year's travel to Virginia to witness the wedding of a young lady I've loved since her infancy, and in seeing so many answered prayers in her life, His grace is sufficient.

    In so very many circumstances which pushed me beyond my strength, Christ has shown Himself strong and His grace sufficient. He will do no less for you. Whatever Big Scary Thing predominates our landscape today, His grace is sufficient. We can trust Him with this.

    And it is just possible that this sufficient grace comes, not despite afflictions, but because of them. As Scottish pastor Samuel Rutherford wrote,
    Grace grows best in winter. Crosses are a part of our communion with Christ. There is no sweeter fellowship than to bring our wounds to Him. A heavy heart is welcome with Christ. The Lord has fully repaid my sadness with His joy and presence.... Troubles come through His fingers, and He casts sugar among them.... The heaviest end of the cross is laid upon our strong Saviour.... Glorify the Lord in your suffering and spread His banner of love over you. Others will follow you, if they see you strong in the Lord (The Loveliness of Christ).

    You Crumbles have been a good part of the sugar He has sifted through His fingers with the troubles of the last decade. Thank you for your companionship, prayers, and encouragement along the way. May you know His communion in your crosses, His fellowship in your wounds. As Tolkien wrote, "The hands of the King are the hands of a healer." May His wounds heal yours, by His sufficient grace.

    {Deep breath. "Publish."}

    Thursday, August 6, 2020

    "All Things Well" {Greatest Hits}

    Here is another top 5 post from my almost-decade of blogging here. May the Lord bless it to your spirit. Grace and peace to you in Jesus,

    From time to time, usually when my pain spikes and I can't pinpoint any particular misbehavior on my part which caused it, the what ifs attack. What if the doctor has misdiagnosed my pain? What if the long diagnostic delay has made this permanent? What if the medicines are more harm than help?

    A friend and new breast cancer survivor tells me she thinks these anxieties come with the territory of prolonged or chronic illness. For her, every new twinge could be the first warning that the cancer has returned. For both of us, some of these questions are legitimate areas of further medical investigation.

    For that reason, two weeks ago I sought a second opinion on a key aspect of my care. Our conversation and the wide variety of tests ordered seem to corroborate some of my concerns, particularly the one about the accuracy of a key element of my medical history.

    This raises a new sort of what if, one I had swept under the rug of my thoughts until now. Really, I don't know anything for certain until all the test results are in and the doctor herself interprets them to me. It is still in the realm of possibility, however, that the primary diagnosis which has guided medical decisions for a decade will be revised or even replaced.

    That said, I do already know that my what ifs are generally neither helpful nor faithful. If God is sovereign and loving, as the Bible teaches and I believe, no illness or physician error, if that should prove the case, can touch me without His permission. If He has permitted difficulty, it is for my good, for the building up of the body of Christ, and for His glory. He is trustworthy.

    Sometimes when the what ifs attack, testimony from someone who has already walked a similar path can penetrate my troubled emotions better than abstract truth. The dominance of narrative in the Spirit-breathed Scriptures makes me think God designed us this way. One day recently, American hymnist Fanny Crosby's witness out of her lifelong blindness provided the help I needed.

    Before Fanny Crosby had reached two months of age, a common cold resulted in permanent blindness when a newcomer to the town treated her in the stead of the regular family physician, who was unavailable at the time. The stranger turned out to be an impostor without any medical training whatever and left town, never to be heard from again.

    Concerning this tragedy, Miss Crosby wrote, "In more than eighty-five years, I have not for a moment felt a spark of resentment against him, for I have always believed from my youth up that the good Lord, in His infinite mercy, by this means consecrated me to the work that I am still permitted to do" (Smith and Carlson, Favorite Women Hymn Writers32).
    What work was that? Teaching at a school for the blind in New York City, becoming the first woman to speak before Congress, befriending Presidents, writing a prodigious quantity of poems and later hymns, and serving the poor. "Indefatigable" comes to mind when I read of her life.

    On another note, also from Miss Crosby, these words on prayer also strengthened feeble knees to persist in intercession whether or not I can see any results:
    In one of her last messages, she said, "God will answer your prayers better than you think. Of course, one will not always get exactly what he has asked for. . . .  We all have sorrows and disappointments, but one must never forget that, if commended to God, they will issue in good. . . .  His own solution is far better than any we could conceive" (Ibid., 37). 
    One of my favorites of her very many hymns is the following one on God's guidance throughout our lives. For some reason, I have never sung it in church that I recall but made its acquaintance instead through the Rich Mullins recording from The World As Best As I Remember It, Vol. 2. (See below for a link to listen on YouTube.) Whether the hymn is new or familiar to you, I pray that you find Miss Crosby's words still speak to your particular need and what ifs today. Jesus doeth all things well, friend. Let's remember how He has done so for us and share our stories with each other.

    All the way my Savior leads me;
    What have I to ask beside?
    Can I doubt His tender mercy,
    Who through life has been my Guide?
    Heav’nly peace, divinest comfort,
    Here by faith in Him to dwell!
    For I know, whate’er befall me,
    Jesus doeth all things well;
    For I know, whate’er befall me,
    Jesus doeth all things well.

    All the way my Savior leads me,
    Cheers each winding path I tread;
    Gives me grace for every trial,
    Feeds me with the living Bread.
    Though my weary steps may falter,
    And my soul athirst may be,
    Gushing from the Rock before me,
    Lo! A spring of joy I see;
    Gushing from the Rock before me,
    Lo! A spring of joy I see.

    All the way my Savior leads me
    O the fullness of His love!
    Perfect rest to me is promised
    In my Father’s house above.
    When my spirit, clothed immortal,
    Wings its flight to realms of day
    This my song through endless ages—
    Jesus led me all the way;
    This my song through endless ages—
    Jesus led me all the way.

    Wednesday, August 5, 2020

    A Prayer from Psalm 42 {Greatest Hits}

    Coming in at #4 on the charts is this post from April 2012. (Originally posted as "A Monday Prayer from Psalm 42)

    Why are you cast down, O my soul,
    and why are you in turmoil within me?

    Why? The waves of change and paperwork and milestones and appointments breaking over me have overwhelmed. It's a lot to take in, Lord, even though so much of it is good, and I'm not sure where even to begin. The intense emotions of goodbyes and hellos, aging and growing, wounding and healing, have caught me off guard and knocked me off balance.

    Deep calls to deep at the roar of Your waterfalls;
    all Your breakers and Your waves have gone over me.

    Your breakers, Your waves. I'm still off balance, but since they're Yours, they are blessed. In Your hands they can buoy, not break. Teach me to surf them and not be plowed down by them?

    By day the LORD commands His steadfast love,
    and at night His song is with me,
    a prayer to the God of my life.

    The Puritan quoted in a book I read last week exhorted Christ's people to rely on God's promises. Here is one for today. Thank You, Lord, for commanding Your steadfast love. Thank You for the lullabies you sing with me at night. You are the God of my life. Your steadfast love is better than stability any day.

    Why are you cast down, O my soul,
    and why are you in turmoil within me?
    Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him,
    my salvation and my God.

    Thank You, Lord. You are my hope. You are my praise. You are my salvation. You are my God.

    Tuesday, August 4, 2020

    The Parable of the Bell Sheep {Greatest Hits}

    This Friday will be the 10th anniversary of my first blog post here. Below I offer you the essay which has the most views (by a long shot). It has been such an important theme in my life, and in some ways it feels like our whole world is in the middle of the story right now. May the Lord open our hearts to the love and goodness He offers in the midst of and because of our pain.

    Let me hear joy and gladness;
    let the bones You have crushed rejoice.
    (Psalm 51:8, HCSB)

    A mentor introduced me to the following idea almost two decades ago. W. Phillip Keller's classic book A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 provided her source material. The image has reemerged in my thinking in multiple circumstances recently, so the time seemed right to share my storification of it with you.

                Once upon a time, a good, wise, loving Shepherd bought a foolish and bedraggled little sheep to save her from the slaughterhouse her wicked former owner intended for her.  Finding her in dangerous woods, He drew her to Himself, quickly winning her love and obedience by His tender care.
    After awhile, though, she grew tired of simply following the Shepherd and enjoying His presence and began to wander about in search of opportunities to help and serve her Master.  Eagerly, she would trot off in search of imperiled sheep who had gotten lost or hurt.  Unfortunately, she often ended up lost, too, in the attempt to bring them back.  She never minded her trials, since through them He found other lost sheep, as well.  More than once, she herself was wounded by wolves or bears (or her own foolhardiness) attempting to rescue other wounded woolies.  Never complaining, she wore her war-wounds proudly as emblems of her dedicated service.
    Without fail, the Shepherd rescued her and brought her back, but the wayward, well-intentioned little lamb grieved Him.  His desire was for her more than her wearing herself out in effort to please Him, and His greatest delight was in having her follow close by His side.  Since she had never taken the time truly to know Him, she remained ignorant of His sorrow, until He finally stopped her wandering by breaking one of her legs.
    Bleating in pain and astonishment, she kicked and bit and refused His kind overtures of comfort.  Eventually, however, she grew too exhausted from the struggle to fight anymore.  In her silent, helpless weariness, He bound up her wounds and cradled her tenderly, carrying her in His arms until her leg healed and she could walk again.
    As she recovered, she learned to know the Shepherd’s heartbeat.  She grew to love the mere pleasure of His nearness.  Far greater than the superficial adrenaline rush of her former labors, her greatest joy became simply that of belonging to Him.
    When her leg healed, and the Shepherd set her down to walk again, she no longer desired to wander from His side.  In recognition of the change and as a reminder of her own brokenness, her Shepherd placed a bell around her neck.  This way as she followed close by Him, the bell continually testified to the presence of her Good Shepherd.  Wandering sheep often heard the bell and followed its ring back to His side.  Wounded or cast sheep heard His approach and bleated for help, and the bell sheep would trot along beside Him, ringing the good news that helps was on its way, as He went to their rescue.
    This “service” proved far more satisfying, as the glory all went to the goodness of her Shepherd.  Moreover, He used her to accomplish His work without her ever leaving His side.  While she never wanted to repeat the brokenness, she would never have traded the lessons learned through it.  She finally discovered her Shepherd was all she needed when He was all she had, and the pain of the process paled in the beauty of His preciousness.

    The LORD is near the brokenhearted; He saves those crushed in spirit.
    (Psalm 34:18, HCSB)