Thursday, December 15, 2016

Feeding Pump - A Tool for Sanctification and Evangelism

  Lately, I have had moments. The moments come and go fairly quick but they have surfaced too often. I would like to say that they are loving or kind or God-honoring moments. I would really like to say that but I cannot. 

 Shamelessly, I would love to blame it on sleep deprivation or stress or the feeding pump that I hate with a thousand hates. I would totally love to pass the buck onto something else but, shamefully, it is nothing more than the ugly depravity that was neatly hidden in my heart under good deeds and kind words and my awkward smile. The sleep deprivation did not put it there, it only exposed it. Kind of like when I am scurrying to clean the floor before the physical therapist comes early in the morning and I have forgotten. 

 Quickly, sweeping everything under the couch does not really clean the floor but it gives the appearance of "clean." Shhh...don't tell the therapist. Seriously, I think she knows because when you are on the floor, you can see under the couch but at least she can feel relieved that she is not sitting in it. 

 One of my moments was flaring up on a very rare outing to Wal-Mart. About halfway through my list, Jellybean was getting sleepy and he had just about enough of the sensory overload that is Wal-Mart. He was just gearing up with some intermittent flailing and yelling when the feeding pump decided to beep with a clog alert but it wasn't really clogged. This a new thing the pump has decided to do so that when Jellybean does decide to actually sleep, the pump makes sure I stay awake. Visions of crushing it in creative ways dance through my head all day and night. 

 So, here I am squatting in a claustrophobic aisle with tubing everywhere and a toddler who looks like he is experiencing whiplash over and over and the moment rises up as if someone has turned on a burner inside me. Everything starts to make me angry. The woman who has decided to linger in front of our basket. The man who is on his cell phone  and supposed to be shopping with his son but instead is trying to covertly watch the crazy mom show. My mind is screaming, "I just want to shop at Wal-Mart like everyone else!" 

 Oh yes, yes, I was having a silent tantrum in my mind and stomping my mental feet and shaking my spirit fists at God like a spoiled brat not able to have her way. Even more daring than that, I was mad at God. 

 Now, I know that some dear, sweet Christian brothers and sisters have told me that this is okay because God can take it but this is not an area where I need kind encouragement. Being angry at God is sinful even though He can handle it. It is accusing God of unrighteousness, injustice, and attacking His holy character. Thankfully, this time the Holy Spirit called me out hastily when I had this moment. As soon as I felt it, I confessed that I did not want to feel those sinful feelings and asked God to forgive me and do a mighty work in my heart. 

 The Wal-Mart visit was so small in light of eternity. The temptation to never get out in the world is great when you have a child who has medical accessories and sensory issues but I am trying hard to resist having everything delivered to me by Amazon. 

 We have to be about the business of glorifying God out in the world sometimes. Jellybean has to learn what it means to love our neighbors and our enemies. Okay...and I need to be practicing those things, too. 

 Actually, if people will stop a moment in their busy schedule to stare then I have a door to share God, right? As much as I hate being out in front on display, we just naturally draw curious stares as people try to put the pieces together especially when we have to use the feeding pump, which is every 3 hours. Try as I might to be discreet, the obnoxious beeping always draws attention. My mind knows God is not punishing us with the feeding pump and that He can use it in many ways besides feeding, if I can just get over myself. Truthfully, a lot can be accomplished if I am obedient to put the flesh to death every day, ever hour, every moment. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

And There was No Return

 Driving along the interstate, we reached the area where the traffic compresses into a tight ball weaving through concrete barriers and cones. A large digital sign read, "Exit 20 No Return." Seems ominous and, trust me, it is if you take this exit after being in the car for almost an hour with a grumpy toddler. Too bad I didn't see it.

 Not realizing the construction crew had closed the ramp to get back on the interstate, I used exit 20. I was just going to pop off, get some food then pop back on the interstate and go home. 

 Jellybean was kicking the backseat and had been "uh-uh-ing" at me the last 25 minutes of the drive. This is a sound that he has perfected to a finely tuned weapon. It slices straight to your nervous system in 0 to 10 seconds with great precision. It is also a warning system to let you know that a full-on tantrum will ensue if you do not heed the warning. He was being slow to tantrum that day. Bless him because we had unknowingly entered the point of no return and would have to take the looooong way home. It was not pretty folks.

 That sign is a blaring reminder to be mindful of the choice I make when going home. No one wants to find out that they blindly reached a place of no return. 

 Many of our decisions in life have consequences that bring us to the point of no return.  A decision is made, good or bad, and there is no going back from that choice. In court on adoption day, the judge was very thorough in telling us that adopting Jellybean means we agree to raise him as our own for his entire life and there is no backing out of it if we agree. A joyful decision still today. 

 Marriage is supposed to be like this, too, but the world has tried to make it a disposable choice with many exit points. Rest assured, it is not so to God. 

 That soapbox aside...the sign reminded me to think that living in this world as Christians, we have an obligation in love to let people know about Jesus and what He has done. People can choose to keep rushing down the interstate of life but once they draw that last breath, that is their point of no return. They have taken the exit with no return ramp. There will be no route to escape God's judgment and the punishment is worse than being stuck in a car with a toddler with a bad attitude and a stinky diaper. Rightfully so, when He spared nothing to provide a way to restore mankind. 

 On the flip side, when you belong to Jesus, there is no chance that you will drift away. Belonging to Jesus is a wonderful, comforting point of no return. It is a powerful Truth that I am thankful for especially during this season.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Waves are Hard but so is Gently Rolling Water

 It seemed that everything was turning a corner. Life was smoother. Attitudes were softer. Personalities were loving and kind, even considerate. Hugs came on a regular basis and sweet compliments flowed like honey. Who could ask for more right? 

 If you have spent time praying for a loved one who has been shut off or harsh, this change would seem like a welcome sight, especially when it took so many prayers and studying God's Word to get your own heart responding to the struggle in a Godly manner.  

 The popular quotation from C.H. Spurgeon, "I have learned to kiss the wave that throws me against the Rock of Ages," is one you can relate to when you are pushing through difficult relationships. Learning to not just accept but appreciate the difficulty that drives you to desperately rely on Christ is not easy but what about when the waves die down. 

 What about when there is just a gentle rocking of the water that lulls you into a relaxed state? Just as it seems that you have gotten to a place where your personal struggle is gaining victory, you find yourself floating along with no struggle at all.

 Or do you? 

 Once upon a time, I would pray for God to soften a person's heart so that they were easier to deal with but then God allowed it to happen. That is when wisdom showed me that this is a struggle that is actually just as hard as the driving waves. 

 You think I am crazy, don't you? And you are probably correct but not about this matter.

 When you deal with a person who is harsh, unloving, or just plain hateful to Christianity, it is easy to remember to pray and rely upon God. You know to hold tight to Truth because you realize that there is nothing in you that can help the situation. It is also no difficult matter to keep in mind their true need for Christ and in whom to seek your satisfaction and joy

 But flip this scenario over. What if you have someone who is loving and sweet and compassionate, but not walking with Christ? Sure, it is less complicated to love them but you do it from a different motivation. Falling into the trap of being satisfied in what they are providing you emotionally and even physically, makes you lose focus of their real need. Once you lose that, you quickly forget to rely on God for wisdom in dealing with this person. When that happens, there is only a short step to neglecting to pray because you forget that you both need it. The wave that threw you against the Rock of Ages is now quietly and sweetly drifting you out to sea without you realizing it.

 As challenging as it is, you have to remember that knowing Jesus is the ultimate goal for a person whether kind or hard-hearted. The necessity of keeping your focus becomes clear when a person slips from their sweetness and is having a bad day. They fall short of the unrealistic expectation you have put on them and act in a way that is hurtful. You become painfully aware that you have forgotten how to kiss the wave or why you even needed to in the first place. 

 We must maintain a diligence in prayer and seeking God in the face of the good, bad, or ugly. In this way, we truly love others because they are not weighed down by our expectations and they see an inexplicable, consistent love that is not tied to our wants or circumstances. 

 Don't let ease or happiness make you complacent. Stay diligent and focus on the eternal. And when the wave dies down, remember that it will be necessary for you to swim against the gently rolling water to the Rock before you drift too far. 

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Satisfaction Anemia

 Why do Christians find themselves deficient in satisfaction? 

 It happens quite often in my life sadly. Christians should really not have a satisfaction that is lethargic and waning. Our satisfaction is not tied to this world or the things in it, including people. Our satisfaction is found in Jesus and, regardless of what we are facing, that satisfaction is anchored securely in that which reaches our very core and is complete and fulfilling. It can not be shaken.

 Losing sight of Christ and forgetting His glory and power is one reason we become anemic in satisfaction. We let other things slip in and become prominent in our lives. 

 There is one sure place that we can grasp firmly to satisfaction. In the midst of the savagery and harshness and sin-stained world, there is a binding secure hold that rights all things. Isaiah 11 is a good reminder, particularly verse 9:
"They shall not hurt or destroy
in all my holy mountain;
for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD
as the waters cover the sea."

 Before that it talks of how the wolf shall dwell with the lamb and the leopard will lie down with the goat and children can play near the cobra. How does it happen? Where does this peace and change come from? 

 It is derived and born from the same place as a Christian's satisfaction - "full of the knowledge of the Lord." 

 When I am shaky and my satisfaction feels weak, I need only to return to the Word and fill myself with the knowing of Jesus. 

 Satisfaction complete. 

Friday, October 7, 2016

We Interrupt this Program with Reality

  Man, oh man, I am exhausted. Apparently, we were in the queue for the emotional roller coaster and now the ride is slowly pulling into the station. 

 Awaiting test results from Jellybean's genetic testing is very anticipatory but I am trying to keep in the back of my mind that it may not render any more answers than we have now. Ultimately, it will be fine either way because I know without a doubt God is in control. 

 In July, we went to court for Terminated Parental Rights and 30 days later, it was heartbreaking that on paper Jellybean was in the custody of the state. It was hard. If he was older, I cannot imagine what it would feel like to him. Tough stuff.

 With barely a foot off that train, we were rushed to the adoption gate. I suppose, not having done foster care really seeking adoption as the end goal, we thought it would take time to get to that point. That is when we were told that it would be all done in 30 days. Promptly, they buried us in extra paperwork. 

 Don't get me wrong, we LOVE Jellybean and he is and has been part of our family for these almost 2 years. The only way I can explain it is by quoting my adoptive friend, "Adoption is very weighty." 

 Pondering on it, made me realize that earthly adoption is flawed. There is loss and sadness attached to it but adoption by God is perfect and completely gain on our part. That's something with which you can stabilize yourself and I have needed it.

 We were barely 24 hours in this new position when we were dealing with sudden respiratory issues. It has been a torrential storm of sleepless nights, vomit, steroids, suction, 2 emergency room visits, a 5-day hospital stay, and an unexpected encounter with his birth mother. All that in our first week of adoption. 

  So our celebration was interrupted with harsh reality. I am still sorting through some strange emotions about the whole process. Let's not even talk about the feelings of inadequacy after dealing with all this illness & running to the doctor.

 But God is good. He is sufficient in all things and with all things.  

 One happy note is that I can post adorable pics without blocking Jellybean's face. So without further ado, here is our newest little blessing from God who will hopefully be all better soon and this little piggy's family will all get rested up. 


Monday, September 5, 2016

The Basics of Need

  Not many things in life are truly needs. Air, food, water, rest, and shelter keep us living here on earth and Jesus gives us eternal life. Anything else is outside the realm of need no matter how strongly we feel, right?

 Of course, each need can be broken down into specific requirements. For example, we need water but particularly, we require water that is clean. We need rest but specifically, we need a good amount of uninterrupted sleep. 

 I am not getting this at the moment, not because I am not able to sleep but because Jellybean's feeding pump has decided to revolt with an onslaught of obnoxious beeping every 30 minutes claiming to be clogged. Ahhh, technology. So, I have given up sleep at least until this feed ends in about 30 more minutes. 

 While I am sitting here in the dark, my mind is thinking of all the things with which God has blessed me. A lot of blessings in my life are outside of the realm of need and it is amazing that God not only thinks of our needs but goes even further. I am kind of a weirdo though. There are not a lot of things that I wish I had personally. My mind runs more towards being physically practical or helpful. When God sees fit to bless me with something that is beyond those two criteria, I tend to squirm in a writhing pool of awkward emotions. 

 And, maybe that is the point. Need goes beyond just the physical life sustaining substances. Need dives right down to the heart of the matter - God's will and His glory. True need is derived from not what keeps us alive but what God deems is His will for the moment. So, if I squirm at what God hands me that seems beyond practical or helpful, then there is a lesson to be learned that is needed for His purpose and that should be my desire. 

 Lord, let it be that you determine my need and provide for me accordingly. If it be that I am starving, let me not think only that I need bread but seek to know if Your will is for me to have peace even if I do not get bread. For if I am seeking first the kingdom of heaven, then my needs are much less earthly. Give me the vision that I may see difficult situations as not just a need for escape but possibly a need for the strength that I will gain by going through them with You. 

 More of You is what I truly need so I do not get distorted by just what I see. 

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Without Ruth...Not in Minnesota

  Driving hours across Iowa, one has lots of time to ponder things, lots of things. For some reason my thoughts were fixated on the word "ruthless" and the fact that it means without ruth. This lead me to think about Naomi and what would she have done without Ruth. She would have been a poor widow all alone far from family. BUT GOD did not leave her without Ruth and they were led to the kinsman redeemer. She was not left Ruth-less and gained mercy and love when she thought God was dealing bitterly with her. 

 God did not leave me without ruth on my trip. It was a little scary trekking across country with just me and Jellybean and all his medical accessories and special made food. He traveled better than I did actually. He rarely fussed and we were able to find nice, clean rest areas with large bathrooms that accommodated the stroller so he didn't have to sit on the dirty floor. 

 We finally arrived at our Minnesota destination after 2 overnight stops, Jellybean immediately took to everyone who loved on him bunches. My nephew was just home from his spine surgery and I was hoping to help. That evening my sister's pastor and his wife came over with groceries and it was such a sweet expression of love and compassion. 

 One job I got to do was remove his old bandage. This was without a doubt the hardest task. He was in such pain as I pulled up the adhesive that was literally like pulling up a layer of his skin. Afterward, he said that it was okay. He was so gracious with my fumblings. 

 Some friends texted me encouragement and prayers. It was always helpful and right when needed. Another example of love and compassion. 

 It was sad to leave, but my nephew was doing so great that when it came time to go, it made me happy that they didn't need extra help. I saw much love, compassion, and grace and more evidence that God never leaves us especially in the toughest times. 

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Even Gray Areas Need Light

  Before I became a Christian I wrestled with God. The question was not whether He existed, it was why He allowed pain and suffering. I argued and screamed and cursed God through each difficulty and abuse. 

  When God saved me in spite of my ugliness, I wrestled through lots of scripture when I hit something I didn't understand. God was gracious to give me an abundance of strong older women who loved me but did not coddle me. They questioned me and pushed me to dig deeper. The gratitude I have for them is more than I can ever express in words. God was preparing me for something much more challenging and it would require long-lasting endurance which I am not known for in any circle. 

  1Peter 3 has been my main wrestling partner for a while now. Having found myself in a marriage to someone who no longer professes Christ has been difficult and I am sure he would profess that being married to a Christian is the same. There are A LOT of resources, blogs, and studies on these passages by people who are much greater theologians than I. There is also some not well-thought advice. 

  I am not a fan of the term "spiritually single" which seems to loosely imply a vacancy. God uses the term "unequally yoked" and that implies being bound although in an ill-fitting way which will create more struggle as you go along. What women in marriages to unbelievers do not need is an excuse to think poorly of their husband, to loosen the bind of marriage, or be petted in wallowing. So what do they need?

  Women in marriages to unbelievers need encouragement, strengthening, and help in the Word. They need to be some of the best equipped members in the church. They are not going out from time to time to witness to people and then go home. They do not get to use some planned dialogue. They must live day in and day out presenting the gospel without words and without a break. They are not going to be worried about a stranger slamming the door in their face but a person with whom they are intimately connected.

 They are to take into account their submission to God which requires submission to their husband, all of Proverbs 31, and they are to do all of this without fearing. Their actions everyday are not to be provoking but to seek to make their husband respected and to pour grace out even when they are faced with hurt. Their emotions are not to be the resource from which they draw their responses. It is to be God who they know hates divorce and has said that if their husband desires to stay with them, they are to do so. She is not to provoke or nag or pick at her husband and try to bring him to some understanding of his sin. She is NOT his Holy Spirit and an unbeliever does not have that understanding until God grants it. 

 Sometimes that means enduring a husband who is operating for his own purpose because he is not seeking God. Sometimes that means enduring hard times because she cannot submit to something that her husband has put before her because it oversteps her submission to God. In denying her husband, she needs to have much peace. Sometimes it may mean that she must confide in the church Body and the church should be prepared to step in and help. 

 The gray areas that lack are churches actively equipping and supporting women and men in these areas. Everything I have seen tiptoes so gently in the area of marriage to unbeliever because women are so sensitive about women who are being abused and like to throw that question out there as soon as these verses are approached. I think first we need to equip women then we need to answer questions like, "Do women need to confront their husbands when they are doing something wrong?" and if so, when is that and what does it look like? When you confront them and they get angry, what do you do? 

  My mind is settling in the area of being so studied in the Word that she seeks every moment to refer to it to know how to respond. If a husband is going to do something that will cause him dishonor or put him in a situation to break the law, then a wife should act to try to keep him from doing so if possible, like Abigail did for her husband Nabal. It may mean that you leave temporarily. It may mean that you bring in a mediator. It may mean keeping quiet. It NEVER means acting of fear or from feelings. 

  Gray areas are just as in need of light as those completely void of light.  

Monday, July 11, 2016

Liberty and Justice for All or Jesus

 I am heartbroken. 

 Right down to my bone. Soul-shaking, painfully heartbroken. So much violence all around. 

 Yes, we have lived in a country where it was easier to be white. Growing up, I did not always feel the privilege but I saw a lot of injustice and inequality on those that were my friends and neighbors who were not white. 

 A few times I was brave enough to stand up against it. It grieved me even though I did not fully comprehend the weight of it. My naivete found me out on numerous occasions. Like the time I worked in a small town and wanted to go to this certain place for lunch with my friends because it was on the town square one block from where we worked. My black friend informed me that he couldn't go. I thought he meant that he was too busy. There I stood for 15 minutes arguing that he was coming along no matter what he had to do before he gently made it clear that he could not go because he was not allowed in that establishment. I was shocked that in 1995 such atrocities still existed. When i decided to pitch a fit and come up with a plan to do something about it, he once again calmly told me that it would be better for him and me if I just forgot the whole thing and kept quiet. 

 Somewhere down the line before America became a country, we lost sight of something much more valuable. 

 I agree that we need to dialogue about the past, we need to know history and we need to repent as a nation but let us not forget that the hurts that drive us today are mostly the ones that have recently wounded us. 

 I grew up seeing children who had no father in their life and a mother that was too busy and stressed to have time for mothering. Domestic abuse was common in the projects I lived in and it did not matter what color you were when you called the police there. They always came too late and had too little to offer. As kids we fought and beat each other up fiercely because it was what we knew. It did not matter that you hurt someone. And, deeply rooted in us was the idea that it did not matter if someone hurt you. 

 IF my hope is in my country with liberty and justice for all, then, yes, I suppose we should be let down. It is a shamble of a hot mess. It is true that in 1776 America was declaring independence while a lot of people in America were not free. But is my hope in America??? Is my hope in my skin??? Is my hope in who wins the election or how many people protest????

 Jesus is the only hope. He came to transcend barriers and boundaries and say that true freedom is possible even if we are in earthly captivity. He protested sin and death and won! He came to say that Grace and Mercy were far better to attain than anything we think we need to pursue. 

 And when you get right down to the nitty gritty, July 4th is not my personal independence day. It is the celebration of the country I live in but I was enslaved to sin until April 1997. This is of far greater impact because it opened the door for me to fully realize that life matters. All lives. Black, white, yellow, red. Big, small. In the womb or out. Criminal or law abiding. ALL LIVES. Jesus died for every life. Every life has value because the Creator innately puts it there. 

 A hurt and wounded world needs this understanding. We need patience and love. We need a time to cry and time to heal and a time to move forward in Truth.

 Jesus laid down His life in love to restore us and unite us in Him so that we have one Father. That's family in my book. 

 I can't change the color of my skin God gave me but I can choose not to pick up the stick that the world keeps laying down and telling me to use to draw a division. We do not need to draw any more divisions and thicken the boundary lines between our differences. Goodness knows that we can trip over flat ground without putting obstacles in the way too. 

 I cannot change the hearts of those around me but I can speak Truth and love others without limitation. I can recognize when someone is hurting and possibly erase a boundary line in the way. I can offer help and even more than that I can tell how to attain true freedom because the suffering of this world is not the end of hope. Every broken heart can be mended in light of this Truth and even broken countries. 

 Pro-Lives - any color, any size; worthy of the greatest sacrifice. 

Monday, June 13, 2016

A View from Suffering

 Follower of Jesus,
Be not anguished!
Think not that your suffering is
a chest padlocked and tossed into the depths
unknown to existence.

 Sorrow, suffering, broken-heartedness
is filleted layer by layer,
laid open wide before the sovereignty of God
placed under the microscope of 
the blood of Jesus.

 Sorrow, suffering, broken-heartedness
in Christ is cleaned,
although stinging, with righteousness
to heal and mend 
with the salve of pure love and grace. 

 Follower of Jesus,
He is always working.
The wounds of sin are 
no stranger to Him who bore 
those of the whole world and 
suffering is not lost without purpose.

 From this view, you can see eternity
and this is why joy can reside closely
with Sorrow, suffering, and broken-heartedness

 If you are not a follower of Jesus, know that you will know Him one way or the other, either in His grace and mercy or only under His judgment. He is not hiding His Truth from any. He is Lord of All. Just read Ephesians and ask God to show you His glory that you may see eternity and have the greatest of joy. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Secrets of a Secret Language

 The movement was just a small shifting but she stopped eating and turned to adjust him in his chair, asking, "Is that better?" He shook his head. 

 At the time I did not fully comprehend the exchange before me but it registered deep in my mind as something inexplicably precious. My nephew cannot talk. He can do a modified sign language and use different devices to communicate but none of that is always needed. What I am learning caring for a non-verbal child is that there is a secret that others do not know unless they care for someone non-verbal. 

 We have a limited idea of it when we get married and live with our husband long enough to understand that wrinkled brow look or when we have a baby and those first months have no words. Somehow though we miss out on learning it more intricately. That shift in the chair and my sister's response was a full conversation in front of me without my knowledge. The movement clearly said, "I am not comfortable" to my sister. She understood it and responded. 

  As I care for Jellybean, I am learning this secret language. It happened the other day when we ventured out to the Botanic Garden. My husband was holding Jellybean and walking towards a fountain spraying water. Jellybean visibly stiffened and started grasping with his hands. He was excited. As we ventured on, we came to a noisy play area and my husband carried him up the treehouse ramp and across a suspension bridge. This time his body stiffened and tremored a little and he grasped my husband's shirt. He was about to meltdown and my husband must have felt it because he turned around to come back. Before he could make it across, a screaming child ran past shaking the bridge and Jellybean went into freak out mode. He can recover pretty quickly if you can get him some place quieter and give him his blanket. 

 We decided to go to a more peaceful part of the garden and enjoyed our time looking at fish, listening to birds, picking up sticks and leaves, and just being outside. What I realized even more that day was that caring for a special needs child is special. 

 It is easy to get caught up in the "Why" or grief and heart ache of it but once you are in it, there is no reason to dwell in either place. My mind has decided that it is a lot like tent camping in the middle of Belize. You can say that you have seen Belize if you went on a cruise and docked there for a day. You can say you have been to Belize if you stayed in a hotel there for a week. Sure you have some exposure and memories, but you do not completely know Belize and its intricacies. 

 Want to really know Belize? Pitch a tent in the middle of the Belizean jungle for a few years and trek miles on adventures exploring. You get to know the perils and treasures firsthand. Do not think that I am romanticizing the situation. There is beauty of course but also the ugliness is revealed to you in personal ways. Not much is secret when you are living in the middle of it. 

 When they were babies and toddlers, I knew my children pretty well but they grew and could do things without me. They had secrets and times where I was not needed. They could make choices of their own accord. 

 Jellybean cannot say that he is hurt or scared. He cannot hide or even play with something else if he cannot reach it. He will smile and giggle if we ask him questions about what he wants and we get to the right thing but we have to know what question to ask and what choices to give. It is a much more intimate communication. It is messy and sometimes ugly but it is also beautiful and full of treasures. 

 We are working with picture cards and sign language but it is a slow, patient work. It is crucial to learn him and know him better than I know anyone. The secret language is not just a sweet part of our relationship, it is vital but the necessity of it builds something incredible. 

 It is an amazing reminder of our relationship with Christ. We have the Word but Christ is not going to physically speak to us. We must pitch our tents in His Word and learn it. We cannot just dock a boat there for a day and peruse whatever is close or set ourselves up in a hotel for a bit, hitting the high points if we feel like it. It takes something much more intimate and personal. We must trek through all of it, dig down deep, and make it so familiar to ourselves that we know how to act according to it in any situation. 

 The secret to it is that when it is part of you, there are no secrets. 

"...A city set on a hill cannot be hidden." - Matthew 5:14

Monday, May 16, 2016

Jellybean on Wheels

 Now is a good time to share something different. It will be the perfect distraction for me and maybe helpful to someone. 

 Jellybean turned two not long ago and I had been feeling a little sad that he was stuck wherever we set him. When he gets bored with the toys around him, he just zones out. 

 Toddlers should not zone out. They should be into everything and running you ragged as you chant "no" all day. 

 Jellybean is still working on learning to sit up by himself so we sit him up or put him on his tummy and there he is until you finish what you are doing. 

 I don't like it but sometimes I do need to clean or use the phone or fold laundry or cook. So I headed to Google and special needs forums to try to glean some idea of how to remedy this situation. That is when I came across the Bumbo wheelchair. Get on Youtube, search it, and prepare to be amazed. 

 Doubt lingered that it would work since he has trouble coordinating his arms and hands  and has weak muscle tone but I had to try. 

 I found a supply list but no instructions. Maybe people are afraid of liability issues so let me preface this by saying that if you use any information here you accept full responsibility for the outcome and/or any injury. This chair is not perfect and could probably be tweaked to be better but I am not a professional builder or professional anything, just a dorky stay-at-home wife. Having said that...

 Here is our homemade baby wheelchair: 
(Photoshopped helmet to protect his identity...sorry, he is super adorable)
  As you can see, we did not use the Bumbo seat. The seat we used has a deeper seat, a removable insert, and a handy tray. Of course, almost everything was purchased on Amazon since we do not get out much. I will provide links to the items we used. I bought the nuts, bolts, washers, and brackets at the local hardware store so I could be sure it was what I needed. 

 On Youtube, they build the wheelchair and within minutes, the toddler is zooming all around. That was not our experience at all. 

 We spent weeks with backaches from bending over to make him use his hands and move the wheels. Each time we made him push, we said, "big push." We did not use it everyday and if he did not want to sit in it, we did not make him. It was a long, slow process. We were about to give up. 

 And then...

 one day he was playing at his activity table and he realized that he could lean and pick things up off  the floor. He started dropping toys on the floor and picking them up. One toy bounced out of reach and he put both hands on one wheel and pushed. 

 Oh, the look on his face! That is when possibilities came open. At first, we had to put his hands on the wheels and tell him to push but he could do it without our help. He had trouble getting his hands back on the wheels. 

 And then...

 not too long ago, he did it on his own. We just had to tell him to push but now he can push without prompts. It is slow and hard work and he does get distracted but I cannot tell you how excited I was when, on his own accord, he pushed 2 feet to get to the coffee table and pulled off the laundry I had just folded. It was AWESOME! Our therapists are amazed, too.

 Now we are working on teaching him prompts for learning to turn. We say, "left push" or "right push" and we still use "big push" for using both hands to go forward.

 Does this mean he won't walk? No. Who knows if he will walk one day. We are working on what he can do right now. This wheelchair means that he has freedom to explore, develop, and be part of life in a way that he could not before at his level.

 His brain is opening up to new ideas and thoughts. He is turning into a toddler right before our eyes and all because he can do something all on his own. God has made our bodies adapt in such amazing ways. What a blessing to watch!

 If you have a little one with developmental delays, consider trying to put one together. Here is what we used:
- (1) Seat  (be sure to keep the safety belt attached. Even though our wheelchair does not tip forward, it sits angled forward and if he leans forward, he can tip out so buckle up for safety. The tray is handy, too)
-(1) Base (we cut this into a u-shape because it makes it easier for him to maneuver closer to toys and the wheels attach better closer to the seat. You do want to be careful not to get the wheels so close to the seat that little fingers can get caught)
- (1) Back Wheels (This is a 4 pack. I like the 5 inch wheels for the back. I tried 3 inch but it was awkward. I did use a smaller 2 inch caster in the front)
- (2) Side Wheels 
-(1) Axles (this is a 2 pack and I used one for each wheel to be sure that each wheel could roll independently so you can turn on a dime. There is a pic below that shows how they are attached under the seat. They are at an angle so the wheels are slightly angled out)

 We put the seat about 5 inches from the back of the base. At first we just cut out sections for the wheels so they could sit close to the seat but then we realized that it was better to round out the front so he could get closer to his toys. 
(bottom, you can see our updated u-shape and where we put the wheels)

 On the side of the chair are two arches that look like they are waiting  for wheels. I measured up from the bottom about 3 inches right in the middle of each arch and drilled a half inch hole. 

 Under the seat, I measured about 2 inches down from those holes and drilled half inch holes so that the wheels would sit at an angle. These holes do not go all the way through to outside of the seat. As you can see from the picture, I did some pretty ugly gluing with Liquid Nails to keep the axle in place but I need to redo it because it is not holding it in place. 
(Axles crossing each other and sitting at an angle under seat)
 Put the axles in place before you attach to the base. It will be a lot easier. To attach the chair to the base, I used L-shaped brackets bolted into the base and the seat as you can see from the following picture. 
(L-brackets, 2 in back and there is 1 in front)

  Once you attach the seat to the base, you can add the wheels on the bottom. The side wheels have 2 washers between them and the seat to keep them spaced far enough from the seat to give enough room for fingers. Then you just add a nut to hold them in place. 
(Front with updated u-shape and no insert. The front wheel is bolted into the bracket)
 At times, we do have to tighten everything up. The whole thing cost about $120 which is a steal compared to $700-900 for a chair like this. We are getting measured for a regular wheelchair but this one will still be our playing chair because he is at the same level as friends and it makes toys more accessible. Let me know if you make your own and remember, don't give up if your little one does not get it right away. It is worth the effort. 

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Answer-less Questions

Have you ever felt like you were trudging through a valley weary with burdens, feet heavy with exhaustion, heart heavier with emotion, and no one close by? 

 I think a lot of people would answer "yes." Some days it may feel like you cannot go one more inch and you want to give up. I get it. 

 Maybe you are having one of those days where you cry every moment you are not in public. Your eyes are permanently puffy and your nose is swollen. I understand. 

 Sometimes in life we get to the answer-less questions. Things are tough, real tough and we want to know why but there is no answer - at least not at the moment. 

 The one thing I NEVER wanted to be was a whiner with constant complaints, grumblings, and pain. Personally, I prefer to hide away until I can get myself together but as a Christian, I constantly fight against that urge because it is wrong. Yes, it is wrong to infinitely whine, too, but there is a balance between the two. 

 God gave me a little insight this week whilst at one of Jellybean's appointments. We were at the neurologist hoping for some insight or at least some official diagnosis to put in his record to help the system label him. Apparently, they need a label to know how to better work his case. Alas, insight and diagnosis did not come. The neurologist said, "I have no answer as to why he can't walk or talk. Everything I have shows that he should." 

 Jellybean's development is an answer-less question. Not to say that I am giving up. We will see a geneticist but not for many months. Before then we push and I encourage anyone involved with him to push. 

 My own life is so very full of answer-less questions right now and my response has been to hide. In this moment with Jellybean, God enlightened me. Why would I give up here but fight in that moment? Why indeed. It has a lot to do with my feelings about myself but God reminded me that no one is worthy, no one measures up. BUT, HE has purpose for those HE predestines. We have much to do wherever HE has put us, whether in valleys or on mountaintops. 

 If life is hard, we endure. If there is hurt, we persevere. If there is disappointment, we have hope. 

 At the moment our questions may not have answers but there is one solid guarantee in this world. There IS an answer that needs no question -JESUS. HE covers it all. 

 "The LORD is my portion..."
- Lamentations 3:24

Monday, April 18, 2016

A Lion Sanctuary

  After a spending most of the day with a terrible headache and feeling nauseous, I headed off to bed as soon as I got Jellybean's feeding pump set up for the night. It did not take long for sleep to take over but too quickly it disappeared. At a quarter to one, I jolted awake because of my dream. This same dream pops up and disturbs my sleep on occasion.

 There I am living my life doing ordinary things - laundry, cooking, yardwork. So far it sounds kind of boring for a dream, huh? Things change though and it gets a lot more frightening. Lions, ravenous and angry, are stalking me. At first, I find ways to hide but eventually, they find ways to get at me. Before I awoke this time, I was in a car with my husband when we were being pursued all around by several lions. 

  It sounds silly but it is beyond terrifying and I am still awake over an hour later with 1 Peter 5:8 running through my head. 
 "Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour."

 This verse has been one that I have studied a lot. Even in these wee hours of morning I find myself pulling up sermons and commentaries. In the beginning of my walk with Christ, I had lots of struggles with wanting to be in control and protect myself. The church I was attending only strengthened my resolve that this was necessary. When we finally left I was of the mindset that there was no one in church that you could be close to and that it was very necessary to keep at a distance. This is how I had lived my live before Christ, too, hiding myself away so I could not be hurt. 

 I am not sure how I thought that meshed with God's Word but it is what I felt. A few years later, Truth started to chip away at the walls I had built and God moved to put me in situations that showed me clearly what a contradiction to His Truth was my thinking. 

  Oddly (or should I say providentially), I just recently found an old journal where I wrote what I entitled, "The Lion Sanctuary" based from 1 Peter 5:8 likening what I was doing to fencing in a yard that has a few lions in it. I discussed how I had spent years putting up walls to keep myself safe only to shockingly realize that I had enclosed myself with something much more dangerous. 

 After reading through 1 Peter 5 tonight and reading sermons on it. One message hit me. You cannot be a lone Christian. God did not design us that way. Look at the pictures He paints of Christianity: a body, a flock. All denote that multiple members are involved. Sadly though I find myself with planks and a hammer in hand today.

 Why would I repeat such a foolish thing?

 The scariest thing in this world is being a sheep without a flock. As a matter of a fact, I am not sure that it is even possible to be one technically. 

 Is this the struggle I will have to wrestle with in my time here on earth? Just yuk! Blaah! Thinking about it makes me sick to my stomach and at the moment, God has not given me a clear answer so I must continue where I am holding fast to Truth and obedience and refusing to give anything to the efforts of building a lion sanctuary. 

 Let me encourage you as well to not hide yourself away. Even if you are feeling hurt by those in your church, it is much better to wrestle with resolving the issues than shutting yourself off. God knows the hidden places of the heart and those lions are not looking to snuggle with you. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

An Immobile Ministry

 Trying to escape when you have a giant stroller loaded with a toddler and all his equipment is difficult. I did make it into the car before I cried all the way home. The message was a struggle. 

 "We are to live missionally and spread the Gospel." 

 A year and a half ago I probably would have amen'd that message all day but things are different. Things are not so simple. Opportunities to share the Gospel are very limited. The most time I get with people is therapist visits and a lot of that time is spent working before they have to rush to their next appointment.

 All the way home after my escape, I snuffled and bawled to God that I was sorry to be so lacking in this area and, worst of all, to find myself in the terrible position of needing help and not being able to give any at all. Things have changed so drastically and I have to figure out how to adjust Biblically. But how?

 For a bit I questioned why I rarely saw families with special needs children out and now I know. It takes effort and help and it is a BIG deal. Honestly, there have been a few days where I wallowed in self-pity. One really ugly day our very pregnant speech therapist showed up and asked how things were and a flood of embarrassing sobs ensued. In your mind as a Christian, you know that your hope is in Christ but exhaustion and emotions well up and there you are being a sniveling idiot. 

 God always hears and listens and answers. Always. Even after idiot moments. On the drive home, God's words came strongly into view, "Jacob have I loved..." That passage in Romans 9 is so comforting to me. Some may find it distressing because it conflicts with their idea of a loving God but to me, it is a beautiful picture of His love. My performance is not what makes God care for me. Jacob was not a man with a lot of loveable traits and he fought God yet God loved him and took the time to bless him. That is amazing! 

 Although my performance is not what makes God love me, what I do should reflect the work He has done in me. Soooo, how do I use this time of incapacity and need? Reflecting on my situation, I can see how families with special need children need ministering and I can start praying on how that can be accomplished. Maybe I will physically be able to do it one day or maybe I can do something behind the scenes. I don't know but prayer is a step out of the wallow pit. 

 Right now I can post things that are working for us. These are resources that might help someone else and open doors for more communication so if you find yourself here and a post on homemade blended formula for g-tube feeding or building a baby wheelchair is not your cup of tea, pass it on or just take a moment to pray for us and that God will use us right where we are at this moment. 

 God is very gracious in granting us ingenuity, compassion, and motivation when we seek it. He is also very good at turning mourning into joy so there I will rest even when I find myself puffy-eyed and feeling worthless and I hope that whatever your trial, you will too. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Kinda Hurts Falling off the Face of the Earth

 It's been a while. I know. Bad blogger! I know. 

 So many things have happened, are happening. 

 Amidst all these things I find myself struggling. Even my dreams reflect the turmoil. The other night I dreamed that I was working in this place that was secluded from the world with only about 50 employees. I was new and they had rituals they developed over time together. Some of these things contradicted my Biblical beliefs but they pressured and prodded me to participate. The panic I had was real because I woke up with my heart pounding and feeling so anxious. 

 I find myself some days praying, "Don't let me be lost!" 

 Yeh...not a place to find yourself as a confessing Christian. I miss church a lot. Some days it just doesn't come together and even when it does, I feel like an outsider. My world is pretty much confined to my house and even there it is reduced to the downstairs and my bedroom and on a rare occasion some parts of the yard. Does it sound like I am complaining??? Hopefully not because I do not mean for it to but that is my reality. 

 God has definitely set me in a challenging place and it makes me contemplate how Paul handled imprisonment. Not that I am comparing my life to being in prison but just the isolation. He did not have a Bible with study notes and apps with Hebrew and Greek dictionaries or sermons accessible from all over the world at any time of the day. He was put into a culture that contradicted his beliefs and he was alone for the most part except for letters. Jesus was enough and sustained him. 

 My mind wants to be like that and it is discouraging when I realize that I am not like that at all. Then again, Paul did not have a home to manage, a husband to care for, dogs, chickens, a chinchilla and a pig plus a toddler with a list of issues that seems to grow and DCS constantly putting pressure on the situation. But then again, God knows all this and Jesus is still more than enough. 

 It ain't easy. Feeling like I have fallen off the face of the earth. Feeling like a stranger in a strange land even in my house  and just feeling feelings that are not always truthful and often sinful. It is just plain hard. 

 The normal-ness of my life is not the norm. An exotic, much-anticipated trip to the park the other day ended too soon with me in the parking lot trying to hide from my friend as she drove off so she would not see that I had vomit all down the front of my shirt and a hysterical toddler. 

 We go places and sometimes have to abandon the agenda because of a strong smell or smoke or loud noise. Most days I talk myself out of trying to leave the house at all.

 My mind is distracted most of the time which lends itself to its own kind of disasters. Recently, I clumsily bumped into racks of magazines and every one fell out of the rack so that it blocked the checkout aisles during a crowded time. I also got a speeding ticket not long ago because I didn't realize my speed or what was the speed limit. My brain had checked out and I was a zombie. 

 Somehow, some way I must find a way to glorify God, persevere, and grow even if I keep falling off the face of the earth. Maybe I'll also find time to write here. 

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Diagnosis: Nothing

 How I wish I could have written some profound Christmas post trumpeting the glory of the Lord. How I wish I could have posted a blog that set people's feet on the path of righteousness prepared for the new year. I wish that I could tell you of the wonderful Christ-honoring things I have been doing since my last entry. Instead all I have is a soul-shaking diagnosis of myself...

 I. Am. Nothing. 

 A lot has happened - 24 appointments, fundraiser, daughter's surgery, Jellybean ER visit, Christmas, daughter moved out, pig's daily escapades running away, lots of information I didn't want to know, exhaustion, sickness. You can toss in at least 3 times of throwing myself down and bawling to God. 

 The last crying episode I put myself in the position of saying that I trusted that God could do anything but I could not be happy and had no idea of how to accept where I was in this season. God did not let me stay there long and He disciplined me in the oddest way. Shuffling to my room, I went in the bathroom to get ready for bed and there it was and there it always sat - the daily flip calendar my grandmother had given us over a decade ago with a verse or writing from various Christians on each day. Strangely, my husband rarely neglects flipping it to the next day. On this particular evening it was just part of a verse and it made me realize that I had just told God that I was nothing. 

" ...and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing." -1 Corinthians 13:2b

 Believing that God can change anything, do anything and is in total control of everything but not having love right where He has me does God no favors. As a matter of a fact, it almost seems to be thumbing my nose at Him. One might as well look to the heavens say "so what." God has no use for someone with that attitude. In a very small way it is like a baseball team full of players who just want to sit on the bench. Of course God can score home runs even without us but it makes us purposeless. We are neither hot nor cold. We are not producing light. We are not glorifying God, following Christ, or obeying. We are nothing. 

  That is not what I want. So, my new prayer is "How do I show love where I am even if God is being rejected?" That is tricky. 

 How can I expect those who do not follow Jesus to love Him if I cannot figure out how to show the love that should drive my faith which will produce love? 

 So I suppose this little piggy has said nothing, produced nothing, has nothing, and is nothing until I start having love even when a mountain needs to be moved.