Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Frogs and Laundry and Other Weighty Subjects

 If you had told me years ago that I would be caring for a medically fragile child, I would have laughed and laughed and laughed and then directed you to my wonderful sister who is compassionate enough to shave the armpits of someone she barely knows. This. Is. Not. Me. 

 I was going to be an artist who did ballet and played Annie then I was going to own my own restaurant which for some reason was to have a stream out front with a bridge you had to cross to get to the entrance. Notice the lack of anything about caring for others as the main requirement. Funny that God has me here now. 

 We just finished another stay at the children's hospital. This time for a virus that was probably picked up from our first stay. Opportunities arose to discuss foster care with staff and dispel some of the myths plus encourage others to consider doing it themselves. Usually this elicits the usual "I am just too sensitive" at which I laugh. Being a heartless, unfeeling zombie is not one of the qualifications to be a foster parent. You will get hurt and you will love and lose. It is still worth it. Trust me.

 While in the hospital the first go-round, we acquired a Frederick T. Frog. It is a weighted bean bag used as a positioning aid or, in my little jellybean's case, to anchor a Wubbanub pacifier so that someone did not have to stand next to his bed all night holding it in his mouth. (Thank you nurse!) It has produced the added benefit of calming him down and helping him fall asleep. 
The Wubbanub on top of a Frog

 Unfortunately, this necessary item was not grabbed in our mad dash to the emergency room the day after Christmas and we had a rough night. Our new nurse scraped up another frog for us. (Thank you new nurse) Now we have a spare that I will keep in my new hospital bag that will be kept in my car. 

 Right now, we are settling in to life with a g-tube and feeding pump which really translates to "doing lots of laundry from all the mishaps with the syringe, forgetting to clamp the tube, and pouring formula into the bag in the middle of the night." One would think that squirting one's self with someone else's stomach contents would produce a quick lesson in doing things right the next time. One would think. Of course that one probably had more sleep than I. 

 On a quick day running errands, I went to the post office early thinking that I could sneak in unscathed with the baby in his carrier safely hidden under his special car seat cover. Nope. An older man made a joke about mailing the baby then promptly reached down and pulled open the cover before I could scream like the shower scene in Psycho. Funny thing is, he must have been shocked by my deliciously chocolate-colored jellybean because he quickly dropped his hand and turned away, never speaking to us the rest of the time. I have learned that people with the most hang-ups are usually the ones to infringe upon another's personal space without politely asking and are also the most easily offended. If only I could come up with something clever to say in response or even better, use it as a way to bring up Jesus. Again, my poor sleep-deprived brain fails me. 

 So, I am trying to catch up on the ordinary dealings of life and I think I have given up on trying to do classes for natural health studies for the time being. There is just never a moment to do the reading and when I do try, my eyelids have this terrible habit of closing and not opening back up for an hour or two. This proves difficult when trying to write a research paper. It is a little discouraging but this is just season I keep telling myself. 

 My hubby and I have been discussing the possibility of what would happen if something should happen to one of us. This came about because I fell down the stairs on Christmas Eve and had to lay in the floor for a while before I could move. Thankfully it was just a bad twisted ankle but it is giving me fits and my hubby was scared into thinking how he would take care of everything if it had been worse. Obviously, I am not worried about what will happen to me if I die. I know the answer to that thanks to my relationship with Christ. Of course, my hubby was thinking more along the lines of the things I do that he knows nothing about and would have to take over doing - like providing all the care for the little jellybean or dealing with our daughter's health issues. I had never thought about the fact that no one else really knows what all I do. Not that I think I am irreplaceable or that I do an incredible amount. It just seems weird that I might be getting close to what the Proverbs 31 woman does - quietly running a household that brings her husband respect and glorifies God. Am I at least facing the right direction? 

 I think the answer is more closely tied to how I ended up caring for others when it was not my inclination to do so - God has done a work and He is not finished yet. Come lengthy hospital stays, clutzy shenanigans, or discouragements, God is using every moment and always working for His glory. For that I am grateful and rest in that Truth. 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The End...Sort of

 Home at last! Praise the Lord! After 10 days in the hospital, my sweet little foster baby was released. It was a roller coaster ride but that is the way it goes with babies born so early. Even though he is 7 months old now, he has lots going on being a micro preemie weighing only 1lb 4 oz at birth. One minute they can be fine and the next in the ICU. Somewhere in the middle of it all, my bout to maintain my emotions ended as well and I cried twice. Okay, almost 3 times but that third does not count because it was being provoked by the long goodbye of one our sweet nurses.

  The surgery on my jellybean's esophagus and placement of a g-tube went well but being on the ventilator was hard and took a while to safely remove. After that we battled strangling congestion which required more suction than I could count but feedings went great once they put him on a pump with a slow rate and so ends the hospital stay and almost constant acid reflux. 

 This is also the end of putting any food or medicine or anything into his mouth, at least for now. It should probably not bother me so much but it makes me sad since I love to feed people - it could be the Baptist part of me. Maybe the dysphagia will end soon. 

 As I try to catch up on housework, Christmas, and sleep, I realize that we are also about to end another year. I will be ending my stint as a home school mom this coming Summer as my last child at home graduates which will most likely end my season of staying at home. But only God knows what will come of that. The season with this set of chickens will come to an end as well since they are at an age of laying less and less eggs. Hopefully, this will also be a year of ending our losing streak with beekeeping as well. Apparently, I have come to the end of looking young because I have been asked if I was the grandmother of this little jellybean several times. Sigh. 

 So many endings and yet each one is also a beginning. No one can predict what the Lord will do this new year and the only course of action I have is to rest in His care knowing that He planned it all before creation. 

 Merry Christmas all! Happy New Year! May your endings and beginnings be filled with Christ. 

Friday, December 12, 2014

And Then...

 Don't you hate when you are going about your day all willy-nilly and then, BAM, you are at the hospital for a lengthy stay? My sweet little chunky baby failed his swallow test and may be getting a feeding tube so here we are waiting, praying for speedy test results, and seeking to have an abundance of grace for interacting with the many people that will be in and out of our lives during this stay. 

 I have had opportunities to talk about God's grace and I have had opportunities where it has been shown to me. Exhaustion is not something I do well with and so my emotions are in high gear. Yes, I did almost cry because of a bowel movement, or, better put, lack thereof, so I am teetering on the fringe of ridiculousness.Truly a Godly support system is awesome. 

 When you get to the fork in the road and cannot determine which way is best, your brothers and sisters can step in and intervene on your behalf and inject Godly wisdom into the situation. 

 When you hit the speed bump that causes life to slow to a crawl, your family in Christ can walk beside you and fill you with overflowing grace and Truth. 

 God has been so gracious to me in this area and walking in difficult times is a lot easier when you have someone continuing to keep you focused on Truth and encouraged in the Word. Paul does it all throughout his letters and he asks the churches to do it for him. 

 Clearly, we cannot be self-reliant. Honestly, we can't be "self" anything in Christ. You are either all in Christ, dead to self or not. Which is it?

 Day 3 of our hospital stay and quickly I am being physically worn. This is a very obvious sign that I need to be on guard for "flesh" flare-ups. Thinking that I can take everything on and forgetting God is a quick way to end up spiritually dry. It is imperative to be in the Word. One reason to be thankful for today's super technology is that you have access to God's Word, preaching, and worship music instantly at your fingertips but when you are in the middle of the storm and tumult, you need to have it in your heart and mind. 

 And then when your willy-nilly becomes turbulent and troublesome, you are better equipped for the ride no matter the outcome. So, maybe I will cry over digestion and maybe I won't but the key here is did I honor the Lord. Maybe we will be dealing with pneumonia, maybe we won't. Maybe we will end up with a more complicated surgery for a feeding tube, maybe we won't. Either way God is not in the business of handling our lives willy-nilly. There is order and purpose and plan and we can trust Him fully to carry our burdens. 

 So, I place my little Jelly Bean in His Hands and I remind myself that I am not made to bear the load AND THEN I rest. 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

It's All About the Sacrifice

 Woowee, it's a good thing no one has been around me lately. My attitude is atrocious and I am praying that the cause is my current sleep situation but still, there is no excuse. So I ask that if you are my sister in Christ, just pray for me when you think about it. Particularly in the area of faith and trusting God. Weakness has crept in and I struggle with watching my family members turning away from God. My mind has been bad the last two days. 

 On a side note, contemplation of the situation of this precious baby has made me realize something about love. Not the kind of wordly love that you can "fall into" like a mud puddle or "fall out of," like when you try to get out of a hammock. True love is one of those God-given abilities and it very much follows the characteristics of the love shown  by Jesus stepping down from heaven to live as a man and die on the cross. It is sacrifice and sometimes it is hard and sometimes it is painful but always it honors God and grows one in sanctification. 

 I would like to say that I have that. Boy, would I like to say that but truth is that I am still limping along in the sanctification department and am more self-focused than I dare admit here. Wait...I guess that was sort of an admission. Take for instance the lack of sleep issue or the fact that my baby girl has informed me that she will be moving out this summer before she starts college. There are feelings in there that do not honor God. That is not to say that God is not working in me. He clearly has done some work in me that has at times expressed true love. My prayer is that He makes me more pliable so greater work can be done. 

 This little baby is a good reminder that true love is more than words, more than material things, more than feelings. There are people in this little guy's life who say "I love you" but their actions say something different. There are people who give him things but it is not love. There are people who are full of emotions but it is not really about him. I sing "Jesus Loves Me" to him every night and pray that the truth of the song sticks in his soul because I know that even my best God-honoring intentions get tainted with sin at times. The best thing for him would be to know the love of the KING of Kings and LORD of Lords - not put his trust and devotion in a foster parent that is flawed and only on this earth for a temporary time. 

 With Christ, this little guy can offer whole-hearted forgiveness to those who have let him down. With Christ, he can live a life that blesses others and honors God. With Christ, he can stand before God as His child, forgiven and truly loved. 

 That is an acceptance and love that is far beyond any given by a person in this world. May each of you experience that acceptance and love this holiday by knowing Jesus. 


Monday, November 24, 2014

The Wizard of Argh

 Some things in life are instinctual - breathing, scratching an itch, protecting something you love. 

Some things are passed down - eye color, a pout-y bottom lip, the hand gestures when talking. 

Some things are powered only by an almighty God - sacrificial love, grace in the midst of adversity, and perseverance in faith. Of course, ultimately, all these things come from God. 

 My list of thankfulness grows each day and includes things from each area and for them, to God be the glory! 

 As I continue in this journey with this sweet little bundle of baby, I find myself having ups and downs. Days pass and it is hard when you cannot get out and do the things you need to do but you cope. Following a feeding schedule that leaves room for only small increments of sleep brings on weariness but you push on. Frustration with a system that really brings no answers gnaws at your exhausted patience but you keeping moving forward. And then one day you are too shut off, too tired, too frustrated...what then??? 

 But God! 

 But God so loved, is so long-suffering, so full of mercy and grace that He imparts, to those who believe, the best - His Son Jesus. For such a sinner that thumbed her nose and rebelled with an embarrassing zeal for self, He took on the just wrath that was deservedly mine. I cannot stop counting all the ways God has pulled me from the murky depths and still patiently loves and works in my mind that strays so easily, in my heart that still tries to move self into the number one position, in my mouth that spews cutting words, and in my actions that betray my love for Him. I am brought to my knees. Thank you Lord! 

 Too often as of late, I have heard, "Thank you for what you are doing. It is a great work." I cringe every time and my tongue gets tangled spitting out a response. My initial reaction always wants to say, "Ha! If you only knew my self-serving heart that is always seeking to protect me," but I lasso it in and try to point to the truth behind the good. Ignore the woman behind the curtain, she is much like the Wizard of Oz - a hyped-up sham.  Problem is that I do not have  a fancy system of smoke and mirrors for hiding myself. I still get caught in instances where I try to hide, get nervous and trip myself up so that I look like an utter buffoon, or I pull off something that is okay and my pride inflates only to be popped with the slightest source of feeling rejection. Argh! Why??? If I do anything "good" it is powered by God alone. For this I am grateful and I hope I can communicate that in every situation and Christ continues to expose the woman trying to hide behind the curtain. 

 One area God has been very gracious to me, despite my sinfulness, is with family - those born in physically and those born in spiritually. Like the Wizard of Oz, I really have nothing to offer except to point to what has been there all along - God. Let that be the desire of my heart each day especially with my family. 

 Now for a thankfulness that I can share more tangibly. Here is a link to a story about someone I love dearly that God has answered many prayers for: The Tank Chair

 Happy Thanksgiving to you all! And I pray that you seek God first.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Sleep Deprivation Fosters Randomness

 Wisdom most certainly will not be the prevailing motivation for this post. I have missed writing and reading my favorite blogs but the days have been full, overflowing with appointments, calls, feeding, diapering, case worker visits, and cleaning. The adjustment to waking up at 1a.m. and 5a.m. has not been too terrible but then again I might not  be the best person to ask since I am priding myself on being able to do things with my eyes closed - getting dressed, changing diapers, going downstairs. Hey, a girl has to catch some zzz's whenever she can.

 Somehow I did manage to pull off a dinner for my dear hubby's repeat 40th birthday and it included cake because cake is his favorite. Since I am sequestered at home due to the foster baby's health issues, I kind of have to wing it with whatever is in the pantry or fridge or hope the teen is able to run errands for me but it turned out well despite lack of real organization. I am blessed that God gave me a husband who is hardworking and has faithfully put up with me for over 20 years so if he wants cake, I think he should have it (especially since I revamped the recipe to be a tad bit healthy. Shhh!).

 Speaking of being confined at home, I have really enjoyed Sermon Audio. Now, I do not believe one should have a virtual pastor and I do love my church and my pastor but when you cannot get to your church, Sermon Audio is awesome. It has been hard being out of church. 

 When we made the decision to foster the baby, we were told that the baby's monitor was portable and would not stop us from going out and doing what we normally do. It wasn't until we were leaving the hospital that we heard the words "do not take the baby out except to doctor appointments." How do you turn back when you have spent three days holding a baby, feeding a baby, snuggling a baby, learning about the baby's health needs, and you have the baby loaded in your car seat? They probably knew we would not refuse at that point. Of course, I am praying that the doctor appointments show the baby's health is improving and they at least grant me permission to go to church...just a small church.
Who could resist those eyes?

  All in all it has been good and God is working. Lest you think that we are doing a good work by fostering a child, let me assure you that the greater work is always done in me every time. God pours out a measure of grace and love that overwhelms and works a miracle in this self-centered heart. Life is refocused and vision is repaired and it is all the easier to be about the work of my Lord. I cannot explain the how or why of it but it happens and I end up being so thankful. 

 But, you can do more than just take my word for it, you can foster a child or mentor one, too. Usually, you are doing more than just impacting a child, you get to interact with that child's family as well. No, it is not easy but yes, it is worth every moment, every drive across town, every sleepless night, every heart break. 
-Matthew 20:28 "...even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, 
and to give his life as a ransom for many."
 Let it be so in my life


Friday, October 10, 2014

Little Words Because Little Person

 So, one word is fitting for today - COFFEE! Usually, I might drink one  cup but today is a 2 or 3 cupper.

 I am not sure I will be posting too much for a bit. As I am writing this there is the sweetest little one asleep in the other room. It was a roller coaster for a few days but foster care brings that kind of drama and excitement. You are just going along with your normal routine and then you get a call and everything is a whirlwind.
Sweet little mouth & hand of our newest member

 I am definitely going to need an adjustment period. Every four hours of feeding is something that my body has lost touch with but I think I will get the hang of it pretty quick. This little one is very patient. 

 Now begins the prayers for this little one's family and for God to use me however possible to spread the Gospel. May He be glorified and His Word be spread. 

Monday, October 6, 2014

Once Upon a Time Continues

  Last post stopped the story where we had no clue what was happening to our daughter and it was a scary time. I did not know what else to do but pray.

  A  friend from church, to whom I am forever grateful, suggested we go to her doctor who was helping her heal from Crohn's disease. Our first appointment was supposed to be in December but it was cancelled due to bad weather and rescheduled for early February. I was hesitant having been blown off by so many doctors but we decided to give him a try. 

  We survived January and anxiously drove the 1-1/2 hours to see this doctor. The first thing he said was something no other doctor had ever said, "Start at the beginning and tell me everything about this girl." It all came out like a flood and when we were done, he hugged the girl and said, "I can tell that you are sick and with God's help, I will do my best to help you." That started our journey. 

 Tests revealed malnourishment but no Crohn's thankfully, just a leaky, depleted gut, a shot adrenal system, Candida overgrowth, a gluten allergy, and two tick-borne illnesses - Lyme and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Looking back, we remember that she had been bitten by ticks, even going to the doctor with one still attached because it was a deer tick but were told, "Lyme disease is not in this area." We trusted that opinion and even felt relieved, never thinking that doctor was wrong. T
o top it off all the diagnoses, he sent us to a chiropractor because he felt down her spine and discovered that her tailbone was crooked, which led us to finding out that she had severe lumbar scoliosis. Finally, answers! Bittersweet answers.

 Due to the gut problems and rounds of strong antibiotics during the kidney infection, the doctor suggested a natural protocol to start treatment plus diet changes and lots of supplements. With much prayer, we trusted the doctor's opinion.

 Over a year later, here we are at a new upgraded normal that includes a girl who works as a waitress, runs three miles at least once a week, hangs out with friends, laughs, smiles, lives life. From time to time, we hit a bump in the road of treatment and there are still struggles with the ability to focus and the rare joint pain or random crying but she gets through it quickly. Even the doctor is amazed at her progress.

  We are at a point where we are assessing what damage may be permanent. Probiotics will be part of her life always and possibly a gluten-free diet but I thank God that, although He gave me peace when I was not certain she would make it, she is healing and we have been able to help others. Glory to God! 

  Plus, it has led me down the road to studying nutrition, natural medicine, plants, and the body in a way that shows me more and more the amazing works of our Creator God. Do you realize that many of the native plants in an area have the ability to treat the diseases and health issues specifically in that region? Only God could do that!

 So, today, as I sit working on shaking off the Fall Blahs, I consider this new place God has me. So much is different and exciting but He has also chosen not to remove all the struggles of my heart - a family that does not know God, issues that plague me from the past, communication with our previous foster daughter, difficult people in my life. But as I look it all, I cannot help but think, "How will this also reveal Your glory, God?" No matter what I trust Him.

- 1 Chronicles 16:23-27
"Sing to the LORD, all the earth! Tell of his salvation from day to day.
Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples!
For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised, and he is to be feared above all gods.For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols, but the LORD made the heavens.
Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and joy are in his place. "

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Fall Blahs and Once Upon a Time

  What to write about has been stifled by a case of the Fall Blahs that came on early since I have been sick. October is blah-inducing for me because all of my grandparents except one passed away in October. They were precious people. 
    As I was seeking out ideas to write about, I was contacted by a woman who has Lyme disease which is nothing unusual any more. After talking with her, she said, "Get your story out there somehow. People need to hear it." Is this the thing to write about? Can I glorify God by writing about it? At this point, I can look back and see His hand in this six year journey - maybe it is right to flesh it out here on this space. I will try.

 Once upon a time there was a little girl who was active and creative and very organized. Even as a small child, she loved to rearrange her room, organize her clothes and toys and she would play all day non-stop. Her parents put her in gymnastics because she needed an outlet for all this energy and she excelled. Gymnastics four days a week, four hours at a time could not drain her. She would still come home and ride her bike, climb a tree, or play chase with friends. She rarely cried, got sick, or complained. She was fearless and carefree.

  A month before she turned 10, she became sick. The doctor said, "Stomach virus." After a week she was better but three days later she was sick again and this time worse. The doctor said, "Reinfection of the stomach virus." The loss of appetite, vomiting, fever, headache and diarrhea lasted a week but after that week she was not exactly  better. She was scared to go places, to do things, and panic attacks became a daily occurrence. If we did go somewhere, she sometimes would freak out and start crying loudly. Her stomach hurt and some days were battles with severe constipation or diarrhea. She was weak and had to quit her beloved gymnastics. 

  The months were filled with more tests and appointments. We were sent to the children's hospital for more in-depth tests, ultrasounds, and x-rays. During the blood work, she passed out and looked like she was having a seizure. I was scared and all I could do was tell the doctors that this child was not the same child any more. The doctor found nothing. 

  We ended up at a less-than-friendly GI doctor who spent five minutes with us then pronounced the cause as "post-infectious IBS" caused by the dual stomach viruses and would resolve itself in 6 months to a year with a high fiber diet and probiotics. It took a year but still this girl was not the same. We downgraded to a new normal.

  In those three years, the girl stayed inside more and more. She began to have more headaches and strange joint pain plus a very weird pain in her tailbone. The doctor would do tests and tell us that there was nothing. After a few visit like this, the doctor suggested that it was in "her head, too much stress." I became apprehensive about taking her to the doctor after that. So, this step downward became our new normal and the plan was to give her a relaxed life and pray this would pass. 

  One year later, symptoms still existed and the joint and tailbone pain were worse. After pushing for a real answer, we were sent to an orthopedic doctor. Another exam and x-rays and this doctor gave us knee braces and sent us to a physical therapist. He had no answer for the tailbone pain. The physical therapist gave her exercises and put her on a regimen of three Ibuprofen three times a day. This only brought slight relief and more symptoms were being added. Severe neck pain with stiffness, migraines, increasing fatigue, and weight loss. In July 2013, we stopped the therapy after a month and again downgraded our normal.

  By August, the fatigue was causing a large part of her day to be consumed by sleep. Pain and headaches had her in tears at least once a week. I was thankful for home-school because I was not sure how she could go to school in this state. By October, she could barely climb the stairs or sit down some days because of pain. Her crying increased and on occasion it would be for no reason that she could explain. There was no way any of us could continue as if this was normal, our normal had hit rock bottom. It was taking a toll on all of us. 

 That November, the girl became violently ill and the doctor said, "Kidney infection" and put her on a round of antibiotics. When that did not do much, the doctor changed the antibiotic. She was also concerned that the girl was losing so much weight. I told her again of all the symptoms and she sat quietly for a moment then examined her chart. Finally, the doctor said that nothing else showed up in her blood work so maybe it was just the kidney infection. I could not understand why no one wanted to see all the years of symptoms as related.

 December brought no relief from the kidney infection and dehydration and pain sent us to the emergency room for more tests, ultrasound, and painful antibiotics injected into the thighs plus lots of IV fluids. As she laid there, I looked at her small, weak body and face so pale. We tried to make jokes to each other but I was afraid and it was the first time my prayers changed from "Lord, help my daughter" to "Lord, are You going to take my daughter? If You are, I need You to prepare my heart because I am not sure how I can get through it in a way that will bring You glory." The infection passed but not the other symptoms and depression became our foremost enemy. 

  Not many words can describe that time. The girl was acting so strangely and was awake only about 4-5 hours a day. One evening I yelled for her to come to dinner but she did not answer. I called her cell phone, no answer. I went upstairs and there was no girl. Frantic, I searched all around. I knew she was in the house. Finally, I found her in the dark of her bathroom linen closet, curled in a ball quietly sobbing. "I don't know what's wrong with me. I can't quit crying. I want to die." My heart sank and I sat holding her while we both cried.

 Little did we know that an answer was coming...

- Psalm 18:6
 "In my distress I called upon the LORD; to my God I cried for help.
From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears."

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Real Identity of the Invisible Girl

 Reflecting back on my past is usually never an enjoyable time and as  I did it this past week, it had all qualities of a castor oil snow cone - nose-squinching, mouth-puckering distaste lingering in an icy coldness.

 My faculties have not failed me and I have not forgotten that Christ has made me new and that I should not focus on my past. Normally, it is not a headliner for my day but occasionally, I get to a bump in my walk with Jesus and it is necessary to understand why I am hedging or pulling against the bit. The arena for this latest bucking is officially committing to a new church. 

 Why am I so concerned and bothered by the prospect? I realize that it requires as much seriousness as marriage, but this is more than that and it took me going back to get a grip on the real issue and relinquish it to Christ. 

  So, way back in the past is this girl: 

Fake smile, shoulders tensed up, dreaded picture day;
the photographer did unsuccessfully try to get those shoulders relaxed
 This girl did not like who she was and decided that no one else liked her either. She did not know God and she did not know who she was. Oh, she had heard others say things about her but she was not sure who to trust. Was she really stupid, ugly, too skinny, too quiet, too poor, unloveable? Hiding was the best option and so she became almost invisible. 

  BUT GOD does not allow us to hide away, especially not in our church. He calls us out from hiding, look at Gideon, or Adam and Eve, or get the point. But if I am not that girl, who I am? 

 1 John 3:1

 That verse is pretty clear but its practical definition needs encouragement and expounding that comes from studying the Word, serving, and also from the church Body...or at least it should. Why is it so hard to fully apply this identity in life and in church? Maybe we are afraid of the full meaning of it. It is after all the power of God indwelling and sanctifying us, the us who were enemies of God, dead in sin.

 So we resort to shallow niceties and pleasantries. We, as women, say things to each other like, "Your haircut is so cute," "Oh, I love your kitchen," and "What precious grandchildren you have," and while those things are nice to say, they are not profitable to us spiritually. What we need is more spiritual meat shared between each other. Maybe what is required is addressing the Jesus in a brother or sister, pointing out the Gospel in each other. 

 Follow along here because this is not saying to uplift each other to pedestals where we do not belong or build up prideful egos in each other. Not at all. 

 What I am saying is that we need to encourage spiritual growth by affirming what grace has implanted into a Christian. No, I do not mean making awkward comments like, "My Jane, your righteousness is looking very attractive" or "Hey Susie, your flesh mortification is top-notch today." 

 Well, maybe that would not be too terrible to do but what I am speaking of is more like what Paul did in his letters even when he referred to himself. "Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God...," "To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints...," " give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge."

 Sometimes it may look more like this: "I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you," "Fight the good fight of the faith," "Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead," "So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace." 

 The world calls for us to nurture self-esteem but as Christians, let us be about the business of nurturing the Gospel in our fellow brothers and sisters so that they can be strengthened and remember who they are in Christ. 

 So says the Girl-formerly-known-as-invisible but you can call me "sister in Christ who seeks to glorify God."

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Desperation: It's Not Just for Housewives

 This a, scratch that. This a plea!

 Where are you women who have been built on the sure and steady foundation of Jesus? Where are you women who have cast aside the false exterior of perfection and show how grace and truth are applied to the real? Where are you ladies who are handling Truth with a steadfast love and using it to show others the next step on the narrow path? 

 Where are YOU?

 The young mother with three small children needs you. The older woman who just lost her husband needs you. The single woman inching toward 30 needs you. I need you.
   What impact are you making on those around you?
 Do I sound desperate? It's because I am. The desire to find women friends who teach, exhort, rebuke, reprove biblically because they are being taught, exhorted, rebuked, reproved is frustrating. If you express this desire to other women, usually you get a chorus of agreement complete with enthusiastic head bobbing but when you separate, everyone gets back in their personal bubble.

 Do not even mention confessing sin to each other. My goodness, do we really need to beat ourselves up??? Let's read a few verses, agree, and smile.

 Then everyone goes home and struggles with sin. Or, we err in the other direction, turning dirty laundry into a party to amuse ourselves, exchanging complaints, and telling each other that we are not so bad because God loves us no matter what. Then on the drive home, each woman turns into a pharisee, thanking God that she is not like those other women.

 In reality, we are all alike - sinners and besides, their burdens are our burdens...if we are in the Body of Christ. Let's face it most of our sins do not fall far from pride, coveting, or not loving. Who hasn't thought the grass was greener? Or that life was not fair? Or wanted their way? Yet, we pretend and the women around us wonder how come their life isn't perfect, how come they are the only ones struggling. The only thing they end up learning is how to cover up their struggles and sin, too. Fig leaf, anyone? 

 How about we drop the fig leaf cover-up and stand in the blood of Christ together?

  Am I talking about just vomiting out everything? No, we do not want to glorify sin but at the same time we do not want to miss glorifying what God has done or will do when we kill the flesh. God laid out a plan for how we are to interact, just check out the "one another" verses in the New Testament. Here are just 5 reasons to start living the "one anothers":
  1. Women will grow because they will not continue to be held down by the same sin
  2. Women will learn and share in the right way with other women
  3. Women will pray more for themselves and especially others
  4. Women will desire more of God and His Word
  5. God said so
(John 13:34-35, John 15:12, Roman 12:10, 12:16, 14:13, 15:5, 15:7, 15:14, 16:16, 1 Corinthians 11:33, 12:25, 2 Corinthians 13:11-12, Galatians 5:13, Ephesians 4:2, 4:32, 5:19, 5:21, Colossians 3:13, 3:16, 1 Thessalonians 4:18, 5:11, 5:15, Hebrews 3:13, 10:24-25, James 5:16, 1 Peter 4:8-10, 5:5, 1 John 1:7) *this list of "one another" verses is not exhaustive

 My old pastor used to say that we are not to sit, soak, and sour. We need to teach and practice what we learn. Do we not think we will be held accountable for what we do with what we know? Get desperate. Make it your desperate desire to spread the Gospel and how to live in light of it, to see women working through their struggles with the Spirit and the Word, to encourage women to grow closer to God and to start teaching other women. What a glorious desperation that would be. 

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Inside Out and Better

 Friday morning was dark and as the day eased in, it was veiled in a sheet of  clouds so that it was as bleary-eyed as I. Hesitantly, I started the morning cycle. Dogs outside, release the chickens, prepare daughter's medicine, mop laundry room, usher out the pig, toss her food around while letting dogs in, feed dogs, feed fish.

 The fogginess of my eyes did not stop the words. Lots of words swirling around in my brain with nothing to latch on to or give them meaning but they wanted to be free as much as the animals. Some days my brain wants to write. Maybe it is the days of incapacitation  these past 2 weeks. I am grateful those days are coming to an end. It has been many years since I have been in this place. It is not something I have a name for but I know it and when I was younger it happened often.

 First, it starts with encroaching fatigue and something under my skin feels wrong. By day 2 or 3, it exposes itself with small patches of itchy eczema and in a few days it feels like it is consuming me. Strict diet, sleep, lotion, antihistamines, loads of supplements.

 Any glimpse in the mirror exposes a person unrecognizable externally. Groping around in my head I recognize my soul is the same and, when awake, so is my mind. It is me.  My thoughts are mine, the memory is mine, and I recognize the familiar sins. The shell is different but the inside is still what it was before.

 The problem is that I struggle during these times. It is tough to sleep, fatigue never lets up, and the pain and itchiness are enough to drive you insane but that is only part of my battle. The other part is pride. I hide not wanting anyone to see me, not wanting to be stared at, not wanting to be repulsive.

 How foolish am I.

 The outside is a small, temporary part of who God created us to be. Oh, but how we like to dress that part up, decorate it, and show it off as if it makes up for what we lack inside. If the outside looks like what is brewing on the inside, we are exposed. Trapped in our skin and our sin. That is what these times feel like. What is amazing is that Jesus is still here. He is not put off by the outside and He already knows the worse inside. He knows that this is just a short season of who I really am with or without a swollen, rashy face. There is more to come for me in eternity. 

 But...for today...
I will be grateful that I feel better. The outside is looking better and the inside is being improved, too. It is a great God who does not leave His people in the state He finds them.
- Zechariah 13:9 "And I will put this third into the fire,
and refine them as one refines silver,
and test them as gold is tested.
They will call upon my name,
and I will answer them.
I will say, ‘They are my people’;
and they will say, ‘The LORD is my God.'"

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

All Quacked Up

 Adding to our little "farm" this year has been an exercise in failure. Gone are the bees and now gone are the ducks. We bounced from 3 to a pair to one lonely male duck. Then we went to the country flea market and purchased two females.

 Right at the one month mark of buying the females, one of them disappeared. No feathers, no sign of foul play (or is it fowl play?). Two days after that we have no ducks. This time my husband found feathers in the back of the pond and some remains of the male duck. We are guessing a turtle is the suspect, a very big, very hungry alligator snapping turtle.

 Living in the country is not always what it is cracked up to be. It takes work and perseverance and for me, it takes not bargaining with God. Country living was a dream of mine for a long time. I had grandiose ideas of raising all our own fruits and vegetables in a quaint garden and spending days canning our bountiful harvests while chickens pecked around outside my window. 

 Then the dream became real with more than I had asked and it also came with a "but." 

 But, life as I knew it was being turned upside-down and as it was crumbling, I bargained with God. "Take back the house and the land and restore what I had before." A lot of praying, studying, and seeking Godly advice revealed the truth and stopped my foolish thinking. We cannot pave our futures on what we see but only on the solid rock of Christ.

 Our move was not some rogue bargain where I traded the real "good life" for a fake. God is not a game show host on the sideline wringing his hands, hoping that I pick the right curtain and not the whammy. He is holy, infinitely wise, always just, and always sovereign. He moved us here in His time for His purpose which I do not know. I know one thing.

 He is using it ALL for His glory.

 And so, this lesson I learned, times will come that will shake you to the core and you can either be cracked to pieces or be freed of all that you latched onto that was unnecessary in a life following Christ. And unlike country living, rest assured, in Christ, there is no failing.
- Psalm 73:25-26  "Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever."

Friday, September 5, 2014

Touchy Moments

  Sometimes it is good to drag your teenager out with you even if they pretend that they are not interested. This past week my teenager and I went to the art museum's free day to an exhibit  I really wanted to see before it ended. Surprisingly, she enjoyed the exhibit more than I.

 About mid-way through an exhibit of mixed media sculptures, my daughter loudly states, "Museums are not good places for me." She has a thing about touching stuff. This, of course, set museum security on high alert and we pretty much had personal escorts the rest of our visit. I could have chastised her and told her to get a grip or gotten frustrated but I could only chuckle. You see, I am a very tactile person (not so much with people but take me to a fabric store...). My daughter has very much inherited this trait from me. It was a moment of connection.

 We are at a place in our relationship where she feels that she has to prove she is her own person, a young woman not a child. She needs to believe that she does not need mommy hovering so she can have the courage to fly from the nest soon. Some young people do this by shutting out their parents, creating a persona that is contrary to their parents, or are just plain touchy about anything their parents try to do.

 Actually,  I do this myself with God on occasion. "Hey God, I got this, I can do it myself." Let's not mention all the times I hide in social settings or just let the old flesh flare up and act utterly depraved. I have been daring enough to doubt Him, forget His goodness, and stray from what I know is truth. Yet, God is gentle with me. His grace is poured out over and over. Even in moments where He corrects me, He is patient because He is growing me in sanctification. Psalm 103:10-14 is a great reminder of God's steadfast love, grace, and patience. 

 I have to ask myself, "Do I practice this? Am I offering up grace in the face of personal rejection? Am I patient in correcting others? Am I steadfast in walking alongside those who are in my life? Am I pointing over and over to Jesus and how He has shown me grace?" 

 You probably already know the answer. The lesson is that I need to remember this when my final little bird is testing the water, when she is seeking to find the edges of who she is, and how the world fits in to what she has been taught. When she flies from the nest, I want to know that she has heard the Gospel and it has touched her life, if not completely transformed it.

 So, the museum was a sweet lesson in self-control for both of us. We talked about how it is good to sometimes put yourself in situations where you must practice controlling your impulses. Over those moments, we connected, we shared. She knew I was her mother, she was my child, and nothing would change that and, I think for just a moment, she was at peace with me.

 And just to linger in that moment a little longer, we went to the gift shop and together touched every knick knack, souvenir, and trinket then went to eat colorful, icy snow cones. It was nice but more than that, it was time spent letting grace be touched, examined, experienced, and applied.

 Thank you God. 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Making Prescriptions for God

 Sundays are awesome. I love waking up and going to meet with fellow brothers and sisters in Christ to worship together as a Body. Worship is always good but meeting as the Church in worship is even better.  We had an amazing sermon from Leviticus 9.

 The message focused on God being the one who prescribes how He should be worshiped. After all He is the one who would best understand that and we would be the last ones to ask. Our talents lie more in the area of how to best rebel against God and know nothing of holiness until the Holy Spirit teaches us but that is a slow process. 

 Of course, this steps on a lot of people's toes but once you dig into the Old Testament and you see how God laid the foundation of worship, you cannot deny the truth. Jesus also made it extremely clear in the New Testament that it was not open to interpretation. The road is narrow and He is the way. That doesn't leave much room for "you do it your way and I'll do it my way."

  Are we really so arrogant to think we can dictate terms to God? "I will worship you in this way." "I will not read the Word You gave but come up with my own ideas of who You are." "I will serve when I have time and feel like it." Does the God of the universe need our prescription for knowing Him, serving Him, worshiping Him or hasn't He already made Himself clear? Would He leave it open to people who started out doubting Him and trusting their own pride? Or have we just lost the fear of the Lord?

Friday, August 29, 2014

Like a Salmon...

who swam up the waterfall & found out the others had moved on.

no, that's not it...

that's it.

  A weariness that saps you of all your strength down to your marrow. Do you ever get that weariness that wants to just stop the world, the news, all of social media, people talking, people rushing about, no one listening?

 A tiredness that is about to burst from the inside and leave you void of the desire to want to scream about it all. In actuality, you know the problem is not just other people avoiding doing what the Bible commands, but it is also you avoiding doing what the Bible commands. 

 Energy drained from fighting against the crowds swimming with the current, eyes poised on the waterfall before you, and you leap with all the force of your faith over and over again. Then there you are and that second of realizing success in a tremendous feat vanishes because the current is stronger, weightier at the top of a waterfall. The massive drive to pour everything over the edge is overwhelming. You must be fully engaged to push against it and slowly move forward. How easy it would be to just give in, let go, drift. 

 but God...
and so you swim on with rejoicing in your heart that you are not alone, it is not hopeless, you will make it. You will be in the presence of God one day and it is a sweet refreshing for the journey ahead.


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Refusing to Repaint Worldly Boundary Lines

  Feeling the hurt and suffering with someone does not necessitate one going through the exact trial or injustice. Many people comprehend being hurt by someone who should have never hurt us. We are called to bear one another's burdens but not sinfully. Hope is what we have to give as Christians and love is the vehicle we use to dispense it. Each moment in a person's life does mold and shape them uniquely and we cannot fully grasp the depth of work that is done to that person but we can walk next to them, bolster them up with our arms wrapped around them, and ears listening to their story.We have got to move to erase the boundaries that keep us from ministering to each other.

  "Race" is such an adulterated word. The world wants to define people by color and, as Believers in Christ, we should refuse to dip even a toe in that pool. Maybe I am naive but did not God create one race?  Human Genesis 1:27. This in no way means that we blindly watch or discount injustices to others. On the contrary, it should make us stand up all the more.

 Injustice is more than color based though. Barriers between people because of differences are a scheme the world likes to use.  It is easy to lump people together by skin color, just as it is easy to make divisions between poor and rich, disabled and not disabled, men and women, old and young, fat and skinny. Did Jesus not come and erase the barriers? Galatians 3:28
 Do Christians really need to participate in ignorant systems such as these? Do we need to continue to replace boundaries that Christ took up? Clearly, Jesus showed us a different way and called us to a higher standard not based on looks. Boundaries, through Christian eyes, are this and this alone - one who follows Christ and one who does not. What action does this boundary require of us? 

 It is time to stand right now. Let's not delude ourselves thinking that we can write about our outrage and all the reasons why we cannot fully understand the problem because it makes us look better and more empathetic. The problem was started in the world by how we look so our response should not be in the look category but in the act category. 

 Let's move in ways that confounds the world. Let's see the image of God  in people. When it is abused, mistreated, neglected, and unloved, churches should be the first to act. Let's rejoice as we erase boundaries between people by seeing them become part of the Body. Let's get in the game and exercise the mercy and grace that was poured on us without thought of the outside person because the only other race in this world is the one we are supposed to be running for Christ.