Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Hope: The First Light of Advent


This last year, I've struggled with this word.  I remember asking, what does "hope" really mean?  What is it?  Because whatever it is, I think I've lost it. 

Thankfully, someone pointed me directly to the Scriptures.  So I started a word study... looking up every reference to "hope" in the online Bible.  There are 17 references to "hope" in the small book of Job, and I got stuck there.  

It was as if I were sliding down a muddy slope, and my foot caught on a rock and I stopped with a jolt.  For in the midst of a rant, in the middle of anger and frustration and likely yelling at his friends to just shut up, that they weren't helping... Job speaks truth.  And he quickly goes back into his rant, but for one short phrase... 

"Though He slay me, still I will hope in Him." (Job 13:15a)

For someone in the darkness of depression, for someone angry about her circumstances, for someone fearful for what medical tests will find in her child, fearful for what they won't find: answers... For someone nearly in despair that things will ever get better, that things will ever work out... 

That stopped me in the middle of my angry, hurt, trending towards bitterness steps. 

I latched onto that verse like a lifeline.  I memorized it, listened to this song over and over again. 

And I carried on, and God provided, and some things I'd despaired of did get better, and God blessed at times I didn't deserve it.  

And so Christmas season came and I watched this video. And I watched it again... and again... because I've struggled with hope.  I had felt like the flickering light of hope had gone out of my life... but it hadn't.  I'd had a choice... to refuse to hope, to say, "there's no way," "this is horrible," "God can't be in this."  Or... to say "I don't see it, but God..." "I can't imagine how this is going to be okay, but God..." "It stinks, but God..."  

And that was where I'd found and settled on the mystery.  The mystery of man's choice and God's sovereignty.

That somehow, God was absolutely, 100%, involved and in control of every single facet of my life, of my child's life.  That He'd been there in the midst of the DNA, He'd been in the offices where mistakes were made, He'd been in the operating room.  He'd been with me in that horrible rental house, He'd been there in the plumbing fiasco, He'd been there when I'd blown it financially.  He'd been there to provide... financial assistance, physical help, encouragement.

And at the same time, I could choose.  I had the responsibility to choose.  I had to choose, each day, if I was going to hope in God, or hope in myself.  I had to choose if I was going to bless the Lord or curse Him. I had to choose if I was going to become the person I desperately didn't want to be, or if I was going to be the woman I'd dreamed of being.

I've lived as a convenient Calvinist for years... but in the end, Scripture teaches that I am responsible for my choices.  For whether I get out of bed and serve my family or lay around and be lazy.  For whether I trust Him or worry.  For whether I obey Him or try to work things my own way. And Scripture teaches that He ordained every day of my life before I was ever born.  He chose some vessels for honor and some for dishonor. And it doesn't make sense, but I trust Him.  I don't have to understand.  I simply have to obey.

And so... the stump.  Whatever my stump is... Where my dreams didn't exactly work out. Montana. Chiari. ASD/SPD.  C-secs. Nursing school.  Family.  

In Jesus, there's more.  There's more than I can see.  

And so, there's hope. Always hope.  That God takes my stumps, my disappointments, my heartache, and forms something beautiful from them.  Whether I see it or not. Because He sees the big picture... the picture of all eternity. 

And He loves me.  And in that... there is hope. 

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thanksgiving: What If?

Thanksgiving.  Lots to be thankful for.  

But what if? 

Looking over the things I put on our "blessings tree," I stop to consider, how many could be taken away? 

Of the 23 things I listed, only four or five are sure, undestroyable things. The cross. Music. Dr. Fearon, because that's connected to an event in the past that can't be undone. Different seasons. And friends, because odds are I will never be the only non-enemy in any area. 

Image result for syrian children's hospital
But everything else could be taken away. The four family members can be taken away. Working plumbing and clean water aren't guaranteed. Lake Superior, while not likely to disappear, is on my list because I see it every year.  If I can't travel, that might as well be gone. Trees and my house can burn. Books and libraries can be destroyed. Fear can replace safety, Bibles and worship can be forbidden. Vehicles and airplanes can break down. Internet access can disappear in an instant. 

Image result for syrian children's hospital
These pictures may not be necessarily recent. But they did happen.  They are real.  Those were real people, at a real moment in time.  
PHOTO: Syrian civil defense volunteers and rescuers remove a baby from under the rubble of a destroyed building following an air strike on the rebel-held neighborhood of al-Kalasa in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, on April 28, 2016.

What if that came here? 

To America?  To Montana?  

And Thanksgiving Day came?  

Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thess. 5:18

ALL circumstances. Not just when we have 4 walls and a roof. Not just when we have a husband and children.  Not just when we have a table full of food.  Not just when we're healthy.  Not just when we're safe.  

When we're not safe. When we're not healthy.  When we're alone.  When we're in need. 

Give thanks. 

How?  If that was my child in those pictures... if that was me screaming... if that was my husband pulling babies from the rubble... if that rubble was my house...

Give thanks. 

I searched for a Thanksgiving playlist on Amazon this morning and found this album.  The first song was a hymn I've not heard in awhile, but it's one of my favorites. And in that song is the answer for what I could give thanks for if those pictures became my life. (Praise and thanks can be synonyms; we praise God for His goodness, we thank God for His goodness.) 

Praise, my soul, the King of Heaven;
to His feet thy tribute bring;
ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven, 
evermore His praises sing:
Alleluia, alleluia!
Praise the everlasting King.

Praise Him for his grace and favor
to our fathers in distress;
praise Him still the same forever, 
slow to chide and swift to bless:
Alleluia, alleluia!
Glorious in His faithfulness.

Father-like, He tends and spares us; 
well our feeble frame He knows;
in His hand He gently bears us,
 rescues us from all our foes.

Alleluia, alleluia! 
Widely yet His mercy flows.

Angels, help us to adore Him;
ye behold Him face to face;
sun and moon bow down before Him, 
dwellers all in time and space.
Alleluia, alleluia!
Praise with us the God of grace.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

What's On Your Mind?

I just wanted to record my reading progress on Goodreads. I like seeing my reading habits through the years, and Goodreads has been a fun easy way for me to do that. 

But the Goodreads included on my Kindle Fire just didn't want to let me do that.  Instead, it kept telling me to "share your thoughts." 

And that got me to thinking... so I logged onto Facebook.

Sure enough, Facebook asks me "what's on your mind?" 

Which got me to thinking in light of a verse that caught my attention this morning, 1 Timothy 6:4. 

"They have an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction"
What if I spent less time sharing my thoughts?  My thoughts.  And what if I spent more time on God's thoughts? 

What if I was slower to share what is on my mind?  Because when I start spouting about what's on my mind, what tends to happen?  Controversies.  Quarrels.  Words resulting in envy.  Strife.  Malicious talk.  Evil suspicions.  Constant friction


Thursday, October 13, 2016

Life Facebook Free

I've been Facebook free for 3 days.  

And I almost succumbed this morning. 

"Just one check" I thought this morning.  "I won't post anything, I just want to see what's going on."  

Addiction.  It seems absolutely crazy to me that a single website can have this sort of effect on a person's mind.  My mind.  But it does.  It is absolutely an addiction.  My finger just starts to type that "f." It's a craving, to see a glimpse into other people's lives.  

And why?  I really have no idea.  Because I know, if I log on, I will find myself in a time vortex... my minutes and hours sucked away, never to be regained.  I know I will find myself emotionally upset over people's opinions of the current political situation.  I know I will then be less patient with my children, less engaged with them, get less accomplished in my house, do less teaching, less reading, less serving.  My mind will be filled with the clutter from other people's lives. I'll feel like I "know" people when I don't talk to them in real life.  I'll feel like I have friends when I only know what they choose to share with the world.  I'll be tempted to put my own opinions on there.  My own reaction to things.  

Am I sharing my own opinion right now?  Absolutely, but I think a lot more when writing a blog post than I do when posting a status on Facebook. 

What has happened in my life in the 3 days I've been off Facebook?

I've listened to an online mom conference and learned about emotional coaching, willpower depletion as moms, involving children in the kitchen, having an identity as a person while mothering, budgeting, housekeeping, planning a personal retreat, and raising un-entitled children.  Today, I'm going to learn about decluttering my home, mind and soul, about being a wife for life and succeeding in marriage, and about effective exercises for moms.  

I've realized how much I am an approval addict.  I've processed my childhood and its effects on me.  I've realized it's my responsibility to replace lies that I was taught with God's truth.  I've realized it's time for me to take ownership of my own life, my own happiness.  I've had impressed on me the need to repair areas of my life.  

I've revisited my study of the armor of God, picked up my prayer cards again, prayed for people specifically and followed up with some.  

I've looked over what God's been teaching me for the entire last year... how much He loves me.  And I've thought of how many ways that's been whispered in my ear and shouted in my face.  I've thought about the consequences of beginning to understand that truth.  I've pondered the consequences that could come from fully allowing that reality envelop my mind and heart.  

3 days.  And I've promised to be Facebook free for another 3 weeks, minimum. 

When I look at the consequences of only 3 days, I'm able to resist the temptation.  :)  

Saturday, June 18, 2016

On Ladybug's 2nd Cranioversary

Two years.

Two years since I handed my wailing 2 year old to an anesthesiologist in Texas.  

Two years since I watched her carried towards an operating room staffed with a minimum of 4 doctors.

Two years since I took a Dallas city bus, wearing my 8 week old baby boy, to a Waffle House, while my oldest daughter's scalp was being cut in a zig zag, her never-cut baby hair pulled in many tiny ponytails away from the incision. 

Two years since I ate two eggs scrambled, hashbrowns scattered smothered, and the best coffee on earth, while my little girl's skull was marked, cracking apart at the first incision from the pressure inside, removed, and laid on a sterile field. 

Two years since I sat in the shade of a bus station waiting to return to the hospital, while my little girl's skull was examined for the parts thick enough to be broken in half, so that the pieces could be overlapped to completely cover her brain. Parts weren't thick enough.  They'd been worn thin by the pressure from her brain.

Two years since I rode a city bus back, while my little girl's brain was covered by remodeled pieces of her skull, this time, with plenty of room for her growing brain.

Two years since I sat in that surgery waiting room, watching the screen, waiting, waiting, waiting, waiting... thinking it was much later than they'd said they'd be done.

Two years since I walked to the PICU waiting area and met her two primary surgeons.  I'll never forget asking them, "Did I do the right thing?"  

Two years ago, I was filled with such hope.  Hope that my child would be normal, pain free, that we could put all this cranio and Chiari nonsense behind us.  Hope that she'd no longer need early intervention, hope that she'd have absolutely no need of special ed, hope that she would be... normal. 

One year ago, I didn't celebrate inwardly as I thought I would on that day two years ago.  Some things had improved, but there were still things that I thought would magically go away... and they hadn't.  I sat staring at another MRI, wondering if another surgery would cure my child.  Fix her.  Make her normal.  And I dreaded the evaluation that was coming just 7 days later. Dreaded what they would say about my child that I'd moved heaven and earth for...

Today, I celebrate.  Today, I am again filled with hope.  Not a hope that my child will be normal.  She's not normal.  And I wouldn't change that for anything.  It's what makes her special.  She thinks differently than I do... than most people do... but in all honestly, she thinks better than most people do.

No, today, I am filled with hope, because hope is a gift from God.  It's not something I can muster up.  But it's something I can claim.  So this is my prayer for my oldest, my broken and mended tea cup.

 do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which He has called you, what are the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints,  and what is the immeasurable greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His great might  that He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places,  far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.