Welcome to my blog...

Green trees, cool water, a gentle breeze...the perfect place to sit at the feet of the Master and learn. Jesus taught so often on the shoreline, and He's still speaking today.

This is where I share the lessons He teaches me, often during the time I spend on the shores of a local lake. I don't have all the answers...and some days I don't have any. But I go here when I need to draw near to Him in a tangible way. Come with me...

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Back to the Bench

It all started right here.
Ten years ago - it seems hard to believe it's been a decade - my heart was heavy. Almost inconsolable.

Then I began what I called Lakeside Services.

On this very bench, as I took in glorious sunsets each evening, I would cry out to God in my pain and ask Him a lot of "whys?"

I didn't get an answer to every question, but surrounded by the beauty of His creation, I found peace and comfort in the midst of the storm.

I went back to the beginning of this blog today. Back six years looking for one of my early posts that spoke of that time. When I pulled up Lakeside Services I was surprised at what I read, but honestly, I shouldn't have been.

The verse that has defined the past three months for me was there once again. The verse I wrote about last month in Flood and Fire.

Isaiah 43:2: When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.

In the Flood and Fire post I shared about my recent cancer journey. I have been blessed in that it was caught early, treatment was short and uneventful, and the prognosis is good. (Although prayers are gratefully accepted for my one month follow up July 3rd!)

What I didn't share was the other half of the past three months. The part of the journey that is the more emotionally taxing for me than even a cancer diagnosis.

The same day I received that news, my brother reappeared after more than a year; homeless, desperate, and looking for help.

He is almost four years younger than me, but hard living most of the past few decades has taken its toll. Most people think I'm the younger sibling by as much as 10 years.

He now suffers from short-term memory loss and a host of health issues. When he resurfaced it was from a place a little lower than rock bottom.

My profession is working with people in desperate situations. My office is often their last resort.

I thought that would have prepared me for working with my brother, but I was wrong.

No matter how intense the needs and demands of others who walk through my door, I could still go home at night, pray for them and move on to other things.

Not so when it's family.

There are no "work hours" and "down time."

It's all the time. 

The phone rings early in the morning and late at night. Work and weekends get shifted around to accommodate visits to social services, Social Security, and doctors offices.

I thought I was awesomely juggling all the balls in the air until the day the wrong button got pushed. I dropped him off at the temporary shelter where he's been staying the past three months and sobbed all the way home.

It didn't make sense to me. I was angry with him and his behavior - why on earth was I crying?

But cry I did. The ugly cry. The shoulder-heaving, snot running, torrents of tears so-thick-I-could-barely-see-the-road cry. And when I thought it had stopped, it started all over again.

The next day, and the day after that, and the day after that, tears lived in the rims. The mere thought of having to deal with him pushed those droplets over the edge and down my cheeks.

It wasn't my nature to be so down for so many days on end.

Through it all, I have continued to force myself to sit down and work on a writing assignment and my book. I would leave work, then write for several hours. I have deadlines to meet and I spent many days going from the computer screen at work to the computer screen at home.

Last night as I drove home I noticed the sunset, and the lake called to my spirit. I can't tell you how many long, long months it has been since I sat on my bench and watched the sun slip below the horizon.

I almost didn't heed the call.

At the last minute I rerouted myself and headed toward the park. It was 8:30 and the sun was already hanging low in the sky. As I drove in the direction of the marina, I saw movement out of the corner of my eye.

There was a fawn prancing around it's mom, then taking off in wild abandon. It stopped in its tracks, abruptly changed directions, and charged off again.

I pulled off on the side of the road to watch for a full two minutes, laughing at the fawn and his joyous play.

It immediately lifted my spirits. 

I slowly drove off, then pulled my camera out of my purse, turned around, and was thrilled to see him still at it so I could record his antics.

A few minutes later I continued to the marina and headed down to the water with my camera.

The lake and the sunset did not disappoint. I sat on the bench and listened to the "whizzzz" of the fisherman's line being cast and the "plunk" as the weight hit the water to pull the hook below the surface, tantalizing the fish below with a worm or minnow.

I smelled the sweetness of the honeysuckles hanging in the air.

And I felt the warm breeze on my face.

This is where it all began for an aching heart searching to find joy again.

This heart, once more heavy with the struggles of this life, has returned to ask new why's. To seek answers once again in the stillness and beauty of creation.

To hear Him whisper "I am with you always, Toni. Sometimes in this life you will go through storms, but I am in control."

This heart has come back to the bench.


  1. Really enjoyed the way you conveyed your heart-felt struggle. I like the way you contrasted what you do for a living, and how it's different when our hearts are so attached because of family. Thank you for your transparency. It makes our Savior more visible.

    1. Thank you Anne. It's always my desire to point readers to the faithfulness of Jesus even when I'm in the middle of a mess :) Appreciate your comments.

  2. Thank you for sharing your heart with us. I miss the lake I used to go to, but here in my new home state, my backyard has become my holy place. My "lake" is a swimming pool, and I get to watch the birds, squirrels, and insects and admire the tall trees and blossoming flowers---all things that speak of God's handiwork and His attention to detail in our lives.

    1. Thank you for visiting Angela. The lake became my substitute for the ocean. I can see a swimming pool subbing for a lake :) Wherever your soul feels at peace and can commune with God is a holy place. I am always amazed at His attention to detail when I take in just the number of shades of green when I walk through the park!

  3. A much needed lakeside lesson for me thanks for sharing.. love and miss you