Saturday, November 30, 2013

Thankful Every Day

I have been contemplating the topic of thankfulness for the past few weeks. I thought I would wait until after Thanksgiving Day to write this post. I have noticed an increasing trend on social media sites where people will post things they are thankful for daily in November, and most especially on Thanksgiving Day itself. While I am thankful that people take time out from their busy days to think about what things they are thankful for, I have a couple of observations.

I am thankful for my family, friends, house, and health. We are to be "giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ" Ephesians 5:20

I am thankful when we are in want or have plenty, I am thankful when it rains, when it is cold, and when it is hot and dry. I am thankful for the mountain moments in life and I am thankful for the dark valleys. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says to "give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." (NIV)

I am thankful that I can come before the throne of grace and "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let [my] requests be made known to God." Philippians 4:6

I am thankful that I can gather freely on the Lord's Day to worship Him. I can "Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, And into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him and bless His name." Psalm 10:4

I am most thankful for my salvation which was made available to me through my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. "Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!" 2 Corinthians 9:15

Which brings me to my first question- to whom are we thankful?

Most of the posts I read include long lists of people and things that the person writing is thankful for. Most people over the age of about 12 know that when you receive a gift, it is appropriate to read the attached card first and see who the gift is from. After opening the gift then, you say, "Thank you Aunt Sally for this beautiful thing." You don't rip open packages and bags and just generally say I am thankful for all my gifts, you focus your thanksgiving to the one who provide that for which you are thankful. It is God who provides and allows us to have all that we have, whether material goods or people in our lives.

Many people will proclaim their thankfulness and deny the truth of the One who provided that for which they are thankful. "Because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened." Romans 1:21

Secondly, we are to be a thankful people all day, every day, 365 days a year. Let us remember that we should be daily practicing thanksgiving. When I daily (sometimes it is minute by minute) remember that it is God's merciful hand of providence through which all of my life's joys and sorrows are filtered, when I being fully convinced that He alone knows what I need; He alone works all things for my good because I love God and am called according to His purposes (Romans 8:28), then, and only then can I keep myself from falling into the wrong thinking that I am the one in control; being constantly reminded to whom I am thankful. I am made aware of my utter dependence upon Him. I know that it is not my credit to take for all that I have, and can be humbled in my walk before God.

Let us remember to be thankful to God always.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Blessed be the Name of the Lord

Two Sundays ago, our pastor started a sermon series on the book of Job. Job happens to be one of my favorite books of the Bible, as I can relate to Job in some small way, as most of us can. I figured this would be a great series for me to hear right now. The fact that Chad and I were both brought to tears by the end of the first week is an indication that these next few weeks are going to be good for our hearts. While, I don't want to steal my pastor's content, it did get me thinking about posting regarding Job 1:21 where Job says, "Naked I came from my mother's womb, And naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord."

We live in a day and age where we buy now and pay later because we don't like waiting. We feel entitled to have lots of stuff. Society pressures us to keep up with the the neighbors. We want the biggest, the best, and the newest. We see and hear about clawing your way to the top and taking what you want. I want what I want, when I want it. Impatience and pride reign supreme. While I am not trying to climb a corporate ladder, I do have some of those same issues in my own life. I wish I could run; wish I didn't live in pain. I want my house a certain way. I think I need the latest gadget or want more of them.

I have just a couple of observations to make. First, I think it is hard every moment of every day to remember that we came into this world with nothing, and all that we have is from God. I mean, when I stop and actually think it through I willingly admit that this is true, but then turn around and walk away and act as if I can scheme and work and make it all happen on my own. As if I were the one getting myself what I feel I deserve. The truth is that it is God who wills; God that gives and takes away. All our effort is futile and puny in God's sovereign plan for our lives. The truth is that the only thing we deserve is punishment. Our pride and arrogance that make us think we control everything, that we alone work to get what we want and we alone provide things to our families, is just one example of our utter sinfulness deserving of hell. The Lord does indeed give. He gives forgiveness and and reconciliation through His son, Jesus Christ, to all who believe.

Second, none of this earthly "stuff" matters. We will not take any of these things with us when we die. Even if, by the grace and favor of God, you amass a fortune, it will be left behind for others. And ultimately we know that we are not to "lay up for ourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal" (Matthew 6:19). Instead of being earthly-focused (focused on self), we should be heavenly-focused (focused on Christ). I should give thanks when the Lord gives, but also when He takes away. He alone is to be glorified, and if I have to walk through the valley instead of running on the mountain tops, my one consistent prayer has been that He may be glorified in me and through me. That I may carry the burden of suffering, suffering well, that He might let others see my light shine, and they would glorify my Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16). So instead of striving to build our empires, we should "lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal." (Matthew 6:20)

May we continually remember that as believers in Christ we "have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." (Galatians 2:20) At the end of the day it isn't about me. It isn't about what I have or who I know. It has been and always will be about Him. I would not have chosen the path I find myself on, but I know that He has a purpose. So I cling to my Savior in the midst of suffering and pray that I might have tunnel vision; to keep my eyes fixed upon Him, and not on all the distractions and desires of the world.

I will leave you with the words of the hymn we sang after the Introduction to Job. My eyes were already tearing up at the conclusion of the sermon, and this hymn really touched me. (If you would like to hear the sermon series -and I highly recommend it-you can catch up here.)

Whate'er My God Ordains Is Right

Whate’er my God ordains is right:
His holy will abideth;
I will be still whate’er He doth;
And follow where He guideth;
He is my God; though dark my road,
He holds me that I shall not fall:
Wherefore to Him I leave it all.

Whate’er my God ordains is right:
He never will deceive me;
He leads me by the proper path:
I know He will not leave me.
I take, content, what He hath sent;
His hand can turn my griefs away,
And patiently I wait His day.

Whate’er my God ordains is right:
His loving thought attends me;
No poison can be in the cup
That my Physician sends me.
My God is true; each morn anew
I’ll trust His grace unending,
My life to Him commending.

Whate’er my God ordains is right:
He is my Friend and Father;
He suffers naught to do me harm,
Though many storms may gather,
Now I may know both joy and woe,
Some day I shall see clearly
That He hath loved me dearly.

Whate’er my God ordains is right:
Though now this cup, in drinking,
May bitter seem to my faint heart,
I take it, all unshrinking.
My God is true; each morn anew
Sweet comfort yet shall fill my heart,
And pain and sorrow shall depart.

Whate’er my God ordains is right:
Here shall my stand be taken;
Though sorrow, need, or death be mine,
Yet I am not forsaken.
My Father’s care is round me there;
He holds me that I shall not fall:
And so to Him I leave it all.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

From Generation to Generation

I have found myself thinking about the past a lot recently. This is not typical for me. I tend to keep moving forward, so I don't get "stuck" there. I am not one to relive the "glory days" or hang on to anger and thus stop forward progression. But lately, my thinking about the past is different. I believe the older I get, the more nostalgic I become. This all started after my mother's passing. Since she was always there and we had constant contact, I never thought much about what would happen when she was gone.

For starters, I find myself intrigued by digging up my genealogical records. Trying to go way back. Where is our family from? What were my grandparents, or great-grandparents like? While none of this information is of real importance in my daily living, it somehow interests me. I also have thought more often about the recent past. Why hadn't I taken more pictures of my mother, or with her? Why did I not record more of her stories and memories she used to share? And probably the biggest question of all, why were there no items past down from other generations to share with my children.

Most of my past isn't worth remembering to be honest, but it did shape who I have become. All the bad things, all the people, every minute of every day, God used to draw me onto Himself. While I don't intend to sit around longing for the "good ol' days"; I do wish our family had more of a story to tell. Months ago, I started to record my life: the good, the bad, and the ugly. Written partially like a memoir and partially just a list of things I remember doing, places I have gone, and things I have learned. Some day I think my children and grandchildren will enjoy reading through some of those things. I know I would love to read through some things like that of my mothers.

So, why do I ramble on about the past? Well, for two reasons.

First, I am so very thankful that God in His mercy reached down and touched my heart that I might believe, and in doing so forever changed our family's trajectory. The Bible mentions in so many places about the blessings and curses that are past down from generation to generation. My prayer has been that we might nurture our children and they might nurture their children, and so on and so on, and that God might be glorified as we do. I pray that the past that I remember from my own childhood, would never repeat itself.

Secondly, this nostalgia has spurred me to make sure I record some memories for future generations. It has reminded to start traditions, and to make meaningful keepsakes. This is why I have started our other blog. Why I create. Why I scrapbook. That I might pass down my faith, my memories, and any wisdom that God has taught me. I will leave you with a verse to inspire you to do the same: "One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts." Psalm 145:4

If you wish to find out more about why I have started scrapbooking again, or how easy it is to record your own memories, please visit my other blog.

Thanks for stopping by and have a wonderful Lord's Day!!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Infection of Sin

At my most recent doctor's appointment, I found out that the little bit of redness that had developed around each of the stitches was actually a sign of infection. The doctor said that I would need two weeks of antibiotics to clear it up. It didn't look that bad to me, but he said it is what was happening on the inside that could be more troublesome.

This whole scenario reminded me of our sin. Sometimes we might notice a bit of "redness" and rationalize that it doesn't look too bad. Our sin can seem insignificant if we judge it merely by outward appearance or when we compare it to someone else's sin. If I would have put my foot next to a healthy foot, the infection would have been much more readily apparent. The trouble with sin is that it, like my infection, is more than skin deep. Even what we consider to be a minor sin is a much bigger deal in our hearts.

When we place our minor sins up against the perfection of Christ, it is abundantly clear that we have a raging infection in need of a cure. Our own sin-filled hearts cause us to ignore small things in our life until we are in need of life support. Thankfully, we can rejoice in knowing that Christ is our life support. His blood is our antibiotic. If you have come to saving faith in the Savior who had no sin, and placed your trust in Him, resting in His redemptive work alone for salvation, then you can praise Him for providing your "cure."

Sunday, September 8, 2013

A Bad Connection

As I sit here in my comfy chair recovering from the surgery I had 2 days ago, I was thinking. (uh oh, this is sometimes a very scary thing!) I had a nerve impingement in my right ankle. The nerve was still there, still in the right place, but since it was trapped, it was not receiving all the proper signals from my brain. This bad connection not only caused pain but it also caused some numbness and infrequent electric shock sensations.

Since I am unable to get up and do anything right now, I have a LOT of time to sit and think. I have been thinking a lot about prayer. Specifically my prayer life, or the insufficiency of it. As believers, we have a direct line to God. We are able to come boldly before the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16). We have this connection with our Lord in which we are advised to pray continually (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Sadly, like the nerve in my ankle, we develop an "impingement" of sorts. We get busy. We are tired. We forget. We don't see a need because things are going well. We have others things that we would rather do. This life can start to squeeze out our prayer life if we aren't careful. When our prayer life is lacking, it can cause pain in our lives as well. When we spend less time in prayer, less time in the Word, we find ourselves starting down a rougher path. When we finally look up and see that we have veered off course, trying to do it all on our own, we realize that things would be better if we would have placed a priority on our private time with the Lord. He helps us to prioritize and strengthens us for all that we must accomplish.

It is a huge blessing to be able to cast all our cares upon Him (1 Peter 5:7), to know that the line is open and information is flowing freely. We can trust that He is always listening, ready to hear our confessions, our adoration and thanksgiving; knowing what we need before we even ask for it. Don't let all the worries and busyness of this world impinge on your prayer time with your Lord and Savior. Put Him first, and everything else will fall into place.

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Way Things Are

I have heard it said that the more we learn, the more we realize how little we actually know. I had a similar thought when I heard someone use the expression "due to circumstances beyond my control" recently.

As fallen humans, we tend to be self-centered, which also makes us believe we are "in control." Our society prides itself on climbing the corporate ladder, making decisions, and planning out our futures. I myself am guilty of being, what some might call, a control freak. God, however, continues to graciously and gently remind me of my self limitations. It is mind blowing sometimes to really think back over our lives. We strive and struggle and sometimes lie, cheat and steal to get what we want, just to end up somewhere we never wanted to go. We want so badly to believe we are ultimately the ones in control of everything; then when one little hair gets out of place, and it most assuredly will, we are dumbfounded because we thought we had it all under control.

I stand in awe as I look back on my own life. Some of the things that seemed so hard, or things I didn't want to do, or even choices I made that seemed to go "sideways" and get away from me, have all worked together, to make me who I am today. Even if one of the littlest decisions had been made differently, or even a split second later, and I wouldn't be here, in this same place today. For us to believe that we somehow are in control enough to work all of that out is just plain hubris. God alone is in complete control, and no matter what road you took to get here, it was exactly the right path; including all the dirt, debris, luggage, and heartache. We are right where God intended us to be.

May we stop pretending to have it all under control, and thank God for all He has guided us through. I leave you with a lengthy scripture reading from Job 38-39 to help put things in perspective:

38 Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said:
“Who is this who darkens counsel
By words without knowledge?
Now prepare yourself like a man;
I will question you, and you shall answer Me.
“Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?
Tell Me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements?
Surely you know!
Or who stretched the line upon it?
To what were its foundations fastened?
Or who laid its cornerstone,
When the morning stars sang together,
And all the sons of God shouted for joy?
“Or who shut in the sea with doors,
When it burst forth and issued from the womb;
When I made the clouds its garment,
And thick darkness its swaddling band;
10 When I fixed My limit for it,
And set bars and doors;
11 When I said,
‘This far you may come, but no farther,
And here your proud waves must stop!’
12 “Have you commanded the morning since your days began,
And caused the dawn to know its place,
13 That it might take hold of the ends of the earth,
And the wicked be shaken out of it?
14 It takes on form like clay under a seal,
And stands out like a garment.
15 From the wicked their light is withheld,
And the upraised arm is broken.
16 “Have you entered the springs of the sea?
Or have you walked in search of the depths?
17 Have the gates of death been revealed to you?
Or have you seen the doors of the shadow of death?
18 Have you comprehended the breadth of the earth?
Tell Me, if you know all this.
19 “Where is the way to the dwelling of light?
And darkness, where is its place,
20 That you may take it to its territory,
That you may know the paths to its home?
21 Do you know it, because you were born then,
Or because the number of your days is great?
22 “Have you entered the treasury of snow,
Or have you seen the treasury of hail,
23 Which I have reserved for the time of trouble,
For the day of battle and war?
24 By what way is light diffused,
Or the east wind scattered over the earth?
25 “Who has divided a channel for the overflowing water,
Or a path for the thunderbolt,
26 To cause it to rain on a land where there is no one,
A wilderness in which there is no man;
27 To satisfy the desolate waste,
And cause to spring forth the growth of tender grass?
28 Has the rain a father?
Or who has begotten the drops of dew?
29 From whose womb comes the ice?
And the frost of heaven, who gives it birth?
30 The waters harden like stone,
And the surface of the deep is frozen.
31 “Can you bind the cluster of the Pleiades,
Or loose the belt of Orion?
32 Can you bring out Mazzaroth[a] in its season?
Or can you guide the Great Bear with its cubs?
33 Do you know the ordinances of the heavens?
Can you set their dominion over the earth?
34 “Can you lift up your voice to the clouds,
That an abundance of water may cover you?
35 Can you send out lightnings, that they may go,
And say to you, ‘Here we are!’?
36 Who has put wisdom in the mind?[b]
Or who has given understanding to the heart?
37 Who can number the clouds by wisdom?
Or who can pour out the bottles of heaven,
38 When the dust hardens in clumps,
And the clods cling together?
39 “Can you hunt the prey for the lion,
Or satisfy the appetite of the young lions,
40 When they crouch in their dens,
Or lurk in their lairs to lie in wait?
41 Who provides food for the raven,
When its young ones cry to God,
And wander about for lack of food?

39    “Do you know the time when the wild mountain goats bear young?
Or can you mark when the deer gives birth?
Can you number the months that they fulfill?
Or do you know the time when they bear young?
They bow down,
They bring forth their young,
They deliver their offspring.[a]

Their young ones are healthy,
They grow strong with grain;
They depart and do not return to them.
“Who set the wild donkey free?
Who loosed the bonds of the onager,
Whose home I have made the wilderness,
And the barren land his dwelling?
He scorns the tumult of the city;
He does not heed the shouts of the driver.
The range of the mountains is his pasture,
And he searches after every green thing.
“Will the wild ox be willing to serve you?
Will he bed by your manger?
10 Can you bind the wild ox in the furrow with ropes?
Or will he plow the valleys behind you?
11 Will you trust him because his strength is great?
Or will you leave your labor to him?
12 Will you trust him to bring home your grain,
And gather it to your threshing floor?
13 “The wings of the ostrich wave proudly,
But are her wings and pinions like the kindly stork’s?
14 For she leaves her eggs on the ground,
And warms them in the dust;
15 She forgets that a foot may crush them,
Or that a wild beast may break them.
16 She treats her young harshly, as though they were not hers;
Her labor is in vain, without concern,
17 Because God deprived her of wisdom,
And did not endow her with understanding.
18 When she lifts herself on high,
She scorns the horse and its rider.
19 “Have you given the horse strength?
Have you clothed his neck with thunder?[b]

20 Can you frighten him like a locust?
His majestic snorting strikes terror.
21 He paws in the valley, and rejoices in his strength;
He gallops into the clash of arms.
22 He mocks at fear, and is not frightened;
Nor does he turn back from the sword.
23 The quiver rattles against him,
The glittering spear and javelin.
24 He devours the distance with fierceness and rage;
Nor does he come to a halt because the trumpet has sounded.
25 At the blast of the trumpet he says, ‘Aha!’
He smells the battle from afar,
The thunder of captains and shouting.
26 “Does the hawk fly by your wisdom,
And spread its wings toward the south?
27 Does the eagle mount up at your command,
And make its nest on high?
28 On the rock it dwells and resides,
On the crag of the rock and the stronghold.
29 From there it spies out the prey;
Its eyes observe from afar.
30 Its young ones suck up blood;
And where the slain are, there it is.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Letting Pain Be Our Guide

If you have ever been sick, or injured or have dealt with any physical ailment, like me, you have probably had a conversation with your doctor about what activities are safe to do. I have had this discussion multiple times in an effort to determine which activities are safe and which will bring more pain or damage. Almost without exception I hear these words, "Let pain be your guide." As I was pondering those words this morning, I decided this was much better advice than I first thought.

All of us, as fallen human beings, know the pain this life brings. Sometimes it is a literal, physical pain; other times, it is more subtle- the pain of rejection, heartbreak, grief, disappointment, bitterness. Pain reminds us that we are mortal. Pain tells us we are weak and frail. Pain screams to us that this life is temporary. Pain constantly whispers in our ear that there are consequences, both physical and emotional, that this sinful world brings. Pain points us to that Future Hope that is without pain.

We cannot escape pain in this world, but we can learn to let it be our guide. Let pain guide you to the cross. Let pain guide you to your knees in prayer. Let pain guide you to the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, for He alone can bring true relief.

Are you letting pain be your guide, or are you still ignoring it?

Friday, June 7, 2013

Can You Hear Me Now?

Today has been a long day. The kind of day that seems to never end; and yet seems to fly by so fast you don't have time to do all you wanted. Back in 2008, I was diagnosed with Autoimmune Inner Ear Disease. I had been having dizziness and balance issues, loss of hearing and constant ringing in my ears. This autoimmune disease is also rare, but goes along with the inflammatory arthritis. Both effect the connective tissues in your body, and your inner ear is connective tissue.

I haven't been back to this doctor since 2010, mostly because I have been going through a LOT of other things, and partly because I have learned to live with the hearing loss. It gets easier to position yourself better so you can hear. You learn to read lips a bit easier. When all else fails, you smile politely and nod in agreement, and pray you didn't just agree to volunteer for something!

The ringing in my ears has become so loud, it is more like an entire bell choir, not just ringing, and it is still constant. I have been avoiding large groups, noisy places and restaurants, but I knew I was having more difficulty hearing. It is especially obvious when I am on the phone, mashing it tight against the side of my head in an effort to hear better, and still saying "Could you talk louder and into the phone?" or, the ever popular, "What?"

The doctor says it is time for hearing aids in both ears.

Prior to seeing him, I was in the waiting room, reading "Joni & Ken: An Untold Love Story" (about Joni Eareckson Tada-read more here), about to burst into tears when they called me back to the examine room. (I highly recommend this book!!) For any of you unfamiliar with her story, she was paralyzed from the neck down in a swimming accident at age 17. Besides dealing with quadriplegia and chronic pain, she found out she had breast cancer a few years ago. I had just read the words she spoke shortly after the cancer diagnosis- "I can't do's too much...I can't." I found myself hearing those words echo through my mind as the doctor explained today's test results, and my need for hearing aids.

Some days I feel as though I can't catch a break. Just when I get one thing going in the right direction, something else knocks me down. Some days I want to ask "What next?" One thing I am assured of-- no trial comes to me without first being approved by my Father in heaven, who works and wills for His good pleasure and glory. I rest in knowing that if He has chosen this path for me, He will continue to strengthen me to walk down it.

I am thankful for a loving and supportive family. I am thankful for a forgiving and merciful God, who provided Jesus to me as the ultimate way of escape.

Saw this on my walk the other day and took a picture. "Rough Road Ahead" is sort of my motto!  :)

Monday, May 27, 2013

Turning the Page

It has been a couple of weeks since I have written a post again. It has been a long, rough couple of months. I had my second treatment this past week. I have had more headaches and blood pressure issues again. After discussing all the side effects with my doctors, we have decided to stop treatment and wait and see. There is such uncertainty and yet, such peace, in this decision.

The doctors don't know the prognosis for this disease since it is so rare. The few patients they have tracked with Chronic Inflammatory Sensory Polyradiculopathy have varied outcomes: some having very little progression, others ending up unable to walk. In all noted cases, there is marked improvement of symptoms, sometimes as much as ten years after symptoms first appeared, when starting the IVIG or an anti-rejection medication (CellCept). Knowing that, I cannot tolerate 2-3 weeks of headaches, overwhelming fatigue, high blood pressure and several abnormal labs right now, after every infusion, knowing every 28 days the cycle starts over again. So, I am turning the page and moving on to the next chapter.

"Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble" (Matthew 6:34). I won't stress and worry about tomorrow, I will focus on the Lord today. By His grace I will get through today and it's troubles. For now I will work on trying to get my blood pressure back down to normal, getting rid of these bad headaches, and being content where I am today. I am thankful that His mercies are new every morning!

"Through the Lord's mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
'The Lord is my portion,' says my soul,
'Therefore I hope in Him!'"
Lamentations 3:22-24

Are you living in today's worries, or stressed about the future? Look to Jesus Christ, cast all your worries onto Him, and rest in Him today, let tomorrow worry about itself.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Wisdom in a Mother's Last Words

“I had one plan, God had another. We are going to go with God’s plan because He knows best.” These are some of the last words my mother ever said to me. July 2011 my mother was battling stage 4 breast cancer for the 4th time in 14 years. She developed an intestinal infection because her immune system was so low from the chemo and was admitted to the hospital. Within 48 hours she went from doing pretty well to hospice care. We were told to say goodbye as she had only hours left. During one of our tear-filled moments together, she just hugged me and said “I know” and then said those words above.

I have dealt with sickness and disability for years by then. In fact, the week she went into the hospital I had my regular, full-length leg brace on my left leg, AND had a walking cast on my right foot and was using crutches! I didn’t know it at the time, but her words would be of great comfort to me since her death. I have been going through even more than I could have imagined at the time. “I had one plan, God had another. We are going to go with God’s plan because He knows best.”

I always wanted to run a marathon; wanted to travel and hike in faraway places. I never did. “I had one plan, God had another. We are going to go with God’s plan because He knows best.”

I never wanted to be in pain every day; never wanted to spend my days in doctor’s offices and testing labs; never wanted to have to take so much medication to get through the days, but I am. “I had one plan, God had another. We are going to go with God’s plan because He knows best.”

I find it peculiar that in the 40 years I had together with my mother, the words she uttered just hours before slipping into a coma, would be some of the most impactful. Of all the lessons she tried to teach me and in the ones in which she succeeded in teaching me, her last lesson rang most true. “I had one plan, God had another. We are going to go with God’s plan because He knows best.”

As I prepare to spend the 2nd Mother’s Day without her, I am comforted in God’s amazing sovereign goodness yet again. My heart aches for a little more time with her. I thought that we had so much more time together, thought that we had so many more talks to have, so many more places to go together, but we didn’t. “I had one plan, God had another. We are going to go with God’s plan because He knows best.”

God used my mother to help remind me to daily cast aside my plans, my dreams, and my hopes. Daily I am reminded to embrace all God has planned for me, to pray that His desires would be my desires. I am seeking to be comforted and contented in His plan, while I continue to let go of my own. Thanks be to God, whom allowed my mother’s last words to produce fruit and be a symbol of His goodness, mercy and grace.

“I had one plan, God had another. We are going to go with God’s plan because He knows best.”

Monday, May 6, 2013

What Color is Your Parachute?

Imagine your life as a plane ride. We board the plane, settle into our seats and prepare to sit back and relax. Shortly after take off, the pilot gets on the intercom and announces that when the plane reaches 12,000 feet cruising altitude, all of us will be required to jump to get to our destination; the plane will not be landing! You start to feel the anxiety build. This is not the scenario you anticipated when you boarded the plane. The steward walks down the aisle handing out parachutes. You grab one and put it on and cinch it very tight. You are so very grateful that you have been given a parachute to save you from the jump that is to come. You cling tightly to it and feel a bit of relief. After several minutes you start to feel the extra weight of the parachute. It is uncomfortable and is digging in to your shoulders. As more time passes, you start to look around and realize other people parachutes are newer looking, maybe color you prefer more than what you were given. You start to feel a bit of bitterness, and perhaps jealousy. Do you reject this parachute and jump without it? (I heard this analogy years ago from evangelist Ray Comfort. I am paraphrasing since it has been so long since I heard the original, but wanted to give credit where credit is due! I am quite certain I have left some of it out, but hopefully you get the picture.)

This is an analogy of our lives. We are all "traveling" through this life, brief as it is, waiting for the "jump" that is coming. The Bible is clear that all men will die and face judgment (Hebrews 9:27). We are to "put on the lord Jesus Christ" (Romans 13:14) and in doing so, we have confidence to stand before God on judgment day, not in our own righteousness, but clothed in the righteousness of Christ. "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our lord." (Romans 6:23). You have been warned that the "jump" is coming, don't reject the One True Gift.

Do you look around at other's lives and wish yours was different? Do you wish your parachute was a different color, or maybe wasn't so tight? Are you content with the gifts God has given you? Has the gratefulness you once felt for the salvation you have received dissipated? Turn your eyes once more to Jesus, with a grateful heart that you have been given new life and rescued from the jump that lies ahead. Stop comparing your travel here to others, and be thankful for the life you have been given.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

God Loves You and Has a Wonderful Plan for Your Life

“God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life” is the refrain of modern evangelism. Know someone who is unhappy or suffering? The answer to your problems is Christ, so the modern church says if you accept Christ all your troubles will go away. Not surprisingly, many get discouraged when they find this untrue, and turn away (those who weren’t truly called of God).  So many times Christ is presented to the unsaved as a cure all. Scripture tells us that as believers, God does love us. For the unbeliever, the Bible is clear that God’s wrath abides upon them.

While it is true that if we are truly His, He provides us an escape from the punishment to come, by having taken the punishment of our sins upon Himself, can we say that all who know Jesus will have a “wonderful life”? What does the Bible have to say about this subject? Jesus told us to expect the world to hate us and persecute us, as it hated and persecuted Him (John 15:18-20). We can be assured that in this life troubles will come. Just because we bear the name of Christ does not mean we will never experience hardship, pain, sadness, etc. James 1:2-4 tells us “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”

So, what does change when we are followers of Jesus Christ? Does God have a wonderful plan for the life of a believer? ABSOLUTELY!! But, let me explain. For starters, it is a matter of defining our terms. Recalling the story of Joseph in Genesis, he tells his brothers that what they did to him (sold him into slavery), they meant for evil; but God intended it for good (Joseph was used to deliver God’s people).

As we come to know God and His word more fully, we come to realize that our perception of things is not correct. Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us not to lean on our own understanding. We cannot trust what our hearts might tell us is “good” or “wonderful”. How do we come to know the difference? Psalm 111:10 says “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”  For starters, we learn more about God by reading His word. While we may never understand fully all that we are called to endure, we can trust that all we go through will be for His glory and our good. As we come to trust in Him, we find that even in the midst of suffering we have joy. Joy is different than happiness. Happiness is an emotion that is fleeting as it relies on having good feelings from events in our life. Joy, on the other hand, is something that is rooted in Christ. We have joy because we are saved from the wrath to come, not because things are going well today. Our joy is not based on what we have or what we are going through, BUT it is found in who God is, and He does not change. Our joy is rooted in the fact that nothing can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:35-39), all the trials, sufferings and pain we have in this life are but a temporary light that is soon extinguished. Will you spend this time feeling sorry for yourself that your life doesn’t live up to your expectations of  “wonderful” or will you cling to Jesus Christ and His word and allow these circumstances to mold you more into His image. Will you allow Him to give you true, lasting joy and stop seeking a temporary happiness?

What is really at the heart of the matter is what our understanding of “wonderful” is.  As sinful humans we think the world revolves around us. We strive to make ourselves happy. We seek praise and attention. When we come to a correct understanding that we are not the center of the world; God is to be the center.  Life is not all about us. It is the chief end of man to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. When we exalt ourselves to try to take His place, we can strive all we want for “happiness”, but will find it elusive and fleeting. It is God and God alone who deserves the praise.  As long as our eyes our focused on ourselves and our problems instead of Christ, we cannot begin to understand that our lives are indeed wonderful!

If we are His and can grasp that this life is not about us, but about Him-serving Him, bringing glory to Him-we will know that God loves us and has a wonderful plan for our lives.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Remember Me?

Been a long time since I posted anything. So much has happened in regards to my health. Here is a quick run down on what has been happening.

The predisone caused many difficult side effects, and I am slowly getting back to my old self now that I am no longer taking it. My insurance has approved the long term medication and I should start my IVIG infusion at the end of next week. We are hopeful that this will help.

Also, I received another grant from the Challenged Athletes Foundation to purchase a rowing machine. This is a HUGE blessing, as it paid for everything except $9. The timing could not be more perfect, as the doctor is really wanting me to work my upper body and lose some weight.

The Lord has continually proven Himself faithful through each day. He shows His love for me through family and friends. I am so grateful for each prayer, each word of encouragement. There have been so many low days these past couple of months, and at times it seems hard to trust that He is with me, but in God's perfect timing, and with His still, small voice; He gently shows me that He is right here.

Be encouraged! Even in the midst of suffering, if you are truly His, "He will not leave you nor forsake you" (Deuteronomy 31:6). Whatever you might be going through, no matter how difficult and dark the days seem, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths." We cannot trust our own understanding, that would tell us we are alone in our struggles, that no one cares, that this will last forever and we cannot handle our circumstances. But when we trust and acknowledge the Lord, He will direct our paths. This may not be the path we would have chosen, but it will be the paths directed by the Lord. We can take comfort knowing that He is with us, guiding us, and molding us more into the image of His Son along the way!

What are you going through today? Are you trusting in Him or leaning on your own understanding?

Have a great day! Hope to write a little more often now that I am feeling better :)

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Unexpected Events

Sometimes life throws you a curve ball. Many of you know that I went to visit a good friend in Virginia last week. The day before I left to return home (Saturday) I woke up with some blistering on my left leg. I decided to go to urgent care since I can't feel that leg, and was on immunosuppressants, and I didn't know what caused it. Turns out it was cellulitis (infection of the deeper layers of skin), due to the Prednisone weakening my immune system. So I started on an antibiotic.

Sunday morning I got up early and packed up to head to the OPC church about 3 hours from where I was staying, to visit another friend on my way home. We had a nice visit and lunch. I started not feeling so well following the meal. After getting back on the road, I was feeling even worse-dizzy, headache, and felt pressure in my chest. I stopped at a CVS, and while there I decided to take my blood pressure, which was 175/110. I asked the pharmacist for directions to the local ER (My hubby is not happy that I did not call 911, but I did have the foresight not use cruise control just in case I should pass out and the car would keep going). I ended up being admitted and having a bunch of testing. My heart is basically healthy, the high blood pressure is also a side effect of the Prednisone  which I AM HAPPY TO REPORT--I officially finished as of yesterday! (unfortunately, it can take a couple of months for the side effects to subside.)

As God would have it, I stayed in the hospital near the church I visited, so the new friends I had lunch with, were able to stop in and sit with me, and the local pastor came and prayed with us too. I love the way the body of Christ works. No matter where we travel, we are not outside of God's control. He orchestrated every detail so that people at a sister church would be there to help out, got Chad out to Virginia to drive home with me, and even provided Christians on the hospital staff that prayed with me. We may not know each other and live miles apart, but we are all united in Christ.

In my morning reading today, the commentary on Exodus chapter 2 said, "There are no accidents or chance happenings in a world presided over by the living God. There are times when everything appears to be going wrong for us but, despite everything, God is working out His purposes." How true and how comforting! I obviously would not have expected or planned for the ending I had to my vacation, but how amazed I continue to be by God's grace. My friendship has been deepened with those who came to my aid in Charlottesville. My faith has been strengthened by the outpouring of love from the body of Christ. God has continued to strengthen me, and for that I am utterly grateful. Once again I am humbled and in awe of how amazing our God is!

So, as an update for everyone, I am following up with my family doctor on Friday afternoon. I was told I should see a cardiologist, so I will see if he would like to refer me to one. My follow up with the neurologist was yesterday, and I am currently waiting to see if the insurance is going to cover the medication that he would like me on long term. Please pray that this process may be quick and be approved. I do know that God is ultimately in control of this as well, and am willing to accept whatever He has in store. I continue to pray that His will would be done and not mine, and that He would continue to enable me to deal with all that I am going through. I couldn't do this without Him. I am thankful for all my faithful friends who regularly pray for me. You are so truly appreciated!!

Monday, March 25, 2013

God's Purpose in Our Suffering

In God's providence, on Sunday, in the Sunday school class we teach, we talked about God's purposes in suffering. On Friday, I read this quote from the book "A Place for Weakness" by Michael Horton -- "The last thing at least some believers need in their trials is the added burden of trying to figure out why it is all happening. And the good news here is that nowhere in scripture are we expected to do that. God’s secrets remain just that. We must try to avoid two extremes: one, suggesting that God’s secret purposes in our lives and in providence generally are available to us; and the other, usually in reaction, concluding that God does not actually have purpose for all of the details of our lives, from the smallest to the greatest." 

Since this topic is on my mind, I thought I'd combine the two ideas. The quote above really hit home for me, mostly because I hear both of those thoughts on a regular basis. Not always, but generally, if I hear either of those thoughts from people it tends to be Christians that will "encourage" me that I am to learn something in my trial; whereas non-Christians tend to point out the unfortunate "fact" that suffering has no purpose and it is  such a shame. Most assuredly their is a purpose in our sufferings and trials. God is not helpless to prevent these trials, and He allows them in our lives for His purposes. I do not believe we are always to learn something from them. While there may very well be something we are to learn, the thought that we somehow have to figure that out to make the trial stop, or that we are even able to discern God's purposes in every trial is simply not true. No where in God's Word (as the quote reminds us) do we have a mandate to figure out the reason for our trials. 

I do realize that people say things to be encouraging. I have spent many a night trying to figure out what I am supposed to be learning. I have been convinced in the past, that I must be the worst student ever. I clearly have not learned what I was supposed to be learning, or so I thought. I spent so much energy and was stressed out over trying to find God's lesson in my struggles, that I missed the greater blessing. How wonderful it is to be able to rest in Him, trusting Him to show me anything I should learn, but not striving in my own strength to come up with some specific answer to a question I didn't even know. I have learned so much about God and myself in the midst of my suffering. Not all has been pleasant, for instance, I have learned that I am independent and stubborn, neither of which are great character traits!

Our Sunday school lesson was an overview of Paul's teaching about suffering from 2 Corinthians.We learned a few thing about trials. Instead of driving ourselves crazy trying to figure out some hidden meaning in our suffering, we can know a few things that suffering can and should do in our lives. This is by no mean a complete list of the reasons we endure trials, but just a couple of things that I have been reminded of this week.

First, the apostle Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians 1:4 that it is God "who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble." Going through trials helps us to become more compassionate. We are able to comfort others in their suffering because we ourselves have been comforted.

Also, as Paul is dealing with his "thorn in the flesh" he is told by God that "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:9) Trials are a display of the God's strength and power in our lives. We are able to point to others to Him in the midst of our sufferings as our only source of strength.

We know that God works all things "together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28). This is important to remember as sufferings are not random and purposeless in our lives. Instead verse 29 goes on to tell us that "He also predestined [us] to be conformed to the image of His Son." Trials are definitely one way God conforms us to his image, as he shows us the sin in our hearts as we walk this difficult road. Trials should turn our hearts and minds to God, and make us aware of our own sinfulness and weakness. May it be that we all would suffer well and be able to point to God as the sole source of our strength. May He be your refuge in times of trouble!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Howdy Stranger!

So it has been a long 10 days since I last posted. The prednisone side effects have been overwhelming. Today I am at the 4 week mark, with just 2 weeks left to go. I am starting to get a bit more sleep, which I am very thankful for, but am still very tired. The stomach upset is currently the worst of the problems from the medication.

Still no relief from any of the neurological issues, and no word from Mayo Clinic either. I am learning to be patient and wait. Then wait some more. I am hopeful that I will hear from them soon regarding an appointment. In the meantime, my doctors at RIC in Chicago have suggested less walking and more biking or the possibility of getting a wheelchair that is used for "racing". I will be going there a couple days a week for now to try out different options that are available. Unfortunately, these types of chairs used for sports (this kind of wheelchair would be the type used for "running") are never covered by insurance and are expensive. Chad has been running and is in training for the Tough Mudder race in May. Please pray that I could find an alternative to walking that would enable me to "run" with Chad, working my upper body and getting outside to exercise. Pray that funding might present itself if we are able to find what would best work for me as well. I have always enjoyed going for walks and don't want to give it up! Between my left knee/leg issues and the concerns about me ruining it further, and the nerve issue in both legs causing me to have numbness, weakness and being unsteady on my feet, I think my days of walking are over.

The doctor wants me to be more active and suggested setting a goal. So, I have talked Chad and my daughter, Katherine, into doing the Morris Triathlon on our anniversary in September. It is a 2 mile kayak, 11 mile bike ride and 5k run (hoping to have an armbike or racing chair by then). It is a family event, so I don't intend to be competitive, but hoping just to finish it! Anyone interested in joining us? (more info here)

Sorry for my lack of inspiration lately. Thank you all so much for your prayers. I am excited to keep moving forward. I praise God whom has been so amazing faithful to provide good friends who support me and pray for me. Each of you is so very much appreciated! "I thank my God upon every remembrance of you" Philippians 1:3

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Denial...It Ain't Just a River in Egypt!

I should have known. I could have seen it coming. Maybe if I were being honest, I would have prepared better. But I didn't. I didn't want to think about it; didn't want it to be true. I tried ignoring it and making excuses, but it caught up with me.

The past few weeks as the numbness in my legs has gotten worse, there have been some changes. Little things started showing up that I knew weren't normal. Occasionally I would take a step sideways when I intended to go forward. Seems my brain and legs aren't on the same page always. Lately, there have been a few times when my "good" leg seems weak and rubbery and wants to give out. I have caught myself and brushed it off to the shoes I was wearing or because I got up too fast or because I wasn't really paying attention while I was walking. The truth is I haven't been too steady on my feet. I have thought many times that it is time to use my cane again to help steady myself, but then I think that I will be fine and I've come to far to go back.

There have been other, more concerning neurological symptoms that let me know things aren't working properly. (no details here!) All of these "little" details should not have been overlooked, I know. The truth is that it is scary and painful to realize that I am losing some abilities that would normally be taken for granted. I don't want to admit that it is possible to need help walking, or worse yet, that I may not be able to continue to do so at all some day.

Last night, it caught up to me. The rubbery legs, numb feet and lack of coordination resulting in a fall on the way to the bathroom at 1:30 am. Reality check--heard: loud and clear. I am very thankful that besides a sore hip and a swollen big toe, I suffered no major injury...except to my ability to remain in denial. Time to fess up. Things aren't so rosy and I need to be more careful and take precautions to prevent the falling before I really do get hurt.

I don't know what the future holds. None of us do. I may be totally healthy in 5 years and this could all be a distant memory. One of you reading this right now could be unable to walk and in a wheelchair. I find strength and comfort in Christ, but I also find loving arms to melt into and just grieve. Grieve some lost hopes and dreams, just for a little while.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Where is God When...

I have seen quite a few different books with titles starting with “Where is God When….I’m scared, I’m hurting, I’m alone, etc.”  

I think the better question is: Where am I when…I’m scared, hurting, lonely, etc.

Am I spending time with God? Am I sitting in front of a TV all day watching “reality” TV? Where is my heart? What is going on in my thought life? Am I daily reading my Bible, seeking godly counsel, and praying?

God has not left me; He has not changed, so if I am struggling with something, I should not question where God is, but question where I am.

Our natural tendency is to want to blame someone or something for our misfortune, unhappiness, or pain. The truth is it should cause us to reflect on all of God's mercies and our utter need to continually cling to the cross. The next time you are going through tough times, stop and evaluate where you are at. I am confident you will find that God is right there beside you.

As a personal note-
I would like to thank all of my family and friends (both new and old) that have been faithfully reading my daily blog. I am struggling with such bad side effects right now, the chief of which is lack of sleep. I am tired and not feeling all that creative right now (my brain is seriously foggy averaging about 5 hours of sleep per night). I will not be posting every day for right now. I do not want to force myself to write something just to have a blog post. I would prefer to write something meaningful and helpful, and worth the time you spend reading it. I plan to keep writing and will keep you all updated on the prayer requests, trip to mayo, health issues and all the rest of my life, a couple of days a week or more, but not daily. Have a great day! 

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Living Like There is No Tomorrow

Matthew 6:34 says, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” It is very easy to get overwhelmed thinking about what next year will bring, or five years. Just listening to a nightly news broadcast about the state of the economy is enough to make you shutter at what your life will look like in 20 years when retirement approaches.

In light of my recent medical issues again, I find myself wondering if I will be able to walk ten years from now. Then I stop myself. The thing is, I can walk today, and that is what matters. Today is the day I have been given to serve God. So for today I will do all I can to bring glory to God in this failing body and let tomorrow worry about itself.

The truth is that tomorrow promised to no one. We only have this day. Do we live each day to the fullest? Is it possible to live each day as our last?

Monday, March 4, 2013

Time for Mayo

Well, tomorrow marks the two week mark since starting on the prednisone. So far there has been no improvement of symptoms, but there have been lots of side effects. I am so exhausted from not sleeping. My stomach is very bloated and upset, and the meds make you feel hungry constantly. So much fun!

I spoke with the doctor about how long it might take to get the feeling back in my legs, and unfortunately, I wasn't thrilled with the answer. He says that the goal of treatment is not to reverse the symptoms, although it could happen, the goal is just simply to slow the progression of the disease. Not exactly what I had been hoping for.

He also says that the insurance will most likely not pay for the IVIG treatment due to the fact it would be an off-label use and is very expensive. This leaves one other treatment option, an anti-rejection medicine called Cellcept. After reading through the possible side effects (death, cancer, life-threatening infections), I am thinking that the remote possibility of partial or even complete paralysis years down the road seems like the better option. I have a bunch of difficult decisions facing me in the near future.

Today, I had my regular appointment with my family doctor, who said he thinks that it is time to go to Mayo Clinic. He is going to send a referral and we will wait and see if they take my case. I was not convinced that this was necessary, but he said if I were his wife, Mayo would be their next stop. He thinks due to the rare nature of the disease and the fact that the doctor at University of Chicago have not treated many patients with this problem, it would be best to go to Mayo where the a group of doctors has been researching this disease process.

So, in the meantime, I would appreciate your prayers! Please pray for Chad and I to have wisdom to make tough decisions. Pray that if it be God's will, Mayo might be able to accept my case in a timely manner. Pray also for the details of travel, work, expenses, etc. that would be involved if we have to go to Minnesota as well.

Have a great day! Thank you all for your prayers!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Heart of Man

Russian writer Turgenov once said, “I do not know the heart of a bad man, but I know the heart of a good man—and it is terrible!”

God’s Word says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). Our words and actions constantly reveal our depraved state and our need of the Gospel and of Christ. All one has to do is watch a few minutes of an evening news broadcast to recognize this truth, and yet most people I meet seem so shocked that people are capable of evil. I am sure you have heard the “people are basically good” reasoning from many people as well. This wrong thinking about the heart of man is why some many people think that God will let them into heaven because they aren’t that bad.

The Bible, however, is clear that man is sinful, and God is holy. And because He is holy, He cannot overlook our sins. His justice demands that sins be punished. If we have been made alive in Christ, believed and repented, and placed our faith in Him, THEN the punishment for our sins has been paid-by Christ’s sacrifice. If we die apart from Christ, we are not a “basically good person” who can hope to get into heaven despite our sins; rather it is wrath and justice we will receive.

“It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31). Do you find it hard to believe that man’s heart is desperately wicked? Our hearts are deceitful, convincing even ourselves that we can manage our lives on our own; we know best. Pray that your eyes may be opened to God’s truth, you are in need of the forgiveness that is only available through Christ Jesus.