This Roller Coaster of Life

I can’t believe it’s been 9 months since I last posted on here. I had such good intentions of updating, then life happened. I thought the roller coaster we were on was one with a few hills and descents- little did I know last July that just around the corner lurked a roller coaster that would rival anything I had dealt with before. Due to health issues just about all home reno has had to stop. I’ll explain more on that in a bit. Gene’s recently changed jobs, but that was for the good and we are so happy about it. We have had a lot of doctors’ appointments & a few therapy sessions. In August and September I took the girls to a combined total of 50 appointments. We stopped seeing the chiropractor in August when we realized the adjustments were causing us to have more dislocations (this may not be the case for everyone, but all 4 of us agreed on this for us). In the last 9 or so months Hannah, Rachel, Caroline, & I also started getting treatment for Fibromyalgia. We have had a few ups and downs during this time and I wanted to share some of them with you.

Sarah has been much improved in the last few months. The first struggle since her breakdown was overcoming her feeling of rejection and grieving that. The next biggest struggle was her eating. It seemed like most everything caused her stomach issues, which in turn caused extreme pain, which led to anger and lashing out. Sarah is mentally about 6, deaf, and autistic. When she begins to hurt, she doesn’t understand where it is coming from and doesn’t know how to communicate that, much like a young child. We have been doing a lot to work on her gut health with probiotics as of late and have seen tremendous strides. She is happier, more engaged, and sleeping much better. 

Caroline’s health journey has had the most ups and downs. Last summer she started by having gastro problems, trouble eating, and feeling extreme nausea- all of the time. She still has this issue but all of her gastro tests came back as normal. She has also had some neurological issues with buzzing in her head (imagine a lawnmower in your head), tinnitus, migraines, night terrors, and a type of paralysis that comes with her allergic attacks. The allergic attacks range from passing out when she smells, touches, or eats something (the list of things in this list is ever growing and we never know what new thing will cause it to happen). She has also reacted by having mild anaphylaxis (which at any time could go to full blown) and the paralysis I mentioned which will last from 30 minutes to an hour. We have seen many doctors about these issues. This week we are seeing our second neurologist and we are traveling to Jackson to see our third allergist. Many doctors will look at the symptom list and either tell you it’s not their field, they don’t recognize it, or the really wonderful ones (note sarcasm) will tell you it’s all in your head- no pun intended. She is also going to be seeing an endocrinologist and cardiologist in the near future. 

Rachel has seen huge improvements in the last 9 months. In October of 2015 we bought her a wheelchair because she was gradually getting weaker and by January of 2016 she couldn’t walk more than a few steps without collapsing. Part of this is due to POTS (Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome), and part of it has a neurologic component that we haven’t pinned down yet. The neurologist initially thought she had cataplexy (part of narcolepsy) but the sleep study didn’t show that. We go back in a few weeks to see what we can determine there. She also began having a lot of neck pain last summer and began using a neck brace. In August she began PT and they helped her a great deal. By the end of it she was able to walk around with the aid of a walker. Then her aunt and uncle gave her a treadmill which helped her endurance and by Oct she was walking in a store for the first time unaided. Now she only uses the chair very rarely on a really bad pain/weakness day and she hardly ever needs the neck brace. Rachel is also having some issues that seem similar to Caroline’s allergy issues (not the passing out though) so we have been using some antihistamines with her and they seem to be helping.

Hannah has many of the same issues that Rachel and Caroline experience but sadly can take little medicine to alleviate the issues. Back in the fall the doctor put her on Claritin to try to help the issues and after taking one pill (it was gluten free) it had her in bed barely able to function for 2 weeks. Thankfully she is able to take Gabapentin for her fibro which is really helping. She has started to take some vitamins that seem to be helping, but she has to add them in very slowly. It can take two weeks to get her up to a full dose. She has to start by holding the pill, then she moves on to tasting a little and gradually increases until she is able to take the pill. We have found that by going this slowly we can often find something that causes her a reaction. Though that didn’t work with the Claritin. She is also able to take BC when she has pain (most days) and we are very thankful she is able to tolerate it. 

I was able to go to the doctor in November and was also diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. I suspected that I had it for years, but back when it first flared up there wasn’t really anything doctors were doing for it and it seemed manageable, so I didn’t worry about it. The doctor started me on Gabapentin as well but unfortunately I don’t respond as well as the girls do to it. For me it makes me really tired and run down feeling. I have heard from others that it causes them severe neurological issues. I will go back in a few weeks and will talk to him about some other alternatives. The day after Christmas was a very sad day for us because my mother died. She had been in declining health for 2 1/2 years. It was a very sad time, but it was good to be able to re-connect with family we hadn’t seen in so very long.

Here are some stats from the last 9 months:
Caroline: 
ER visits: 4

Hospital admissions: 1

MRIs: 2

Major Tests: 6- colonoscopy, endoscopy, swallow study, gastric emptying, gall bladder function (2) 

Rachel:

MRIs: 2

Major Tests: 2- sleep study, nerve conduction

Hannah:

ER visits: 1

Every time they go to the doctor there is usually some type of bloodwork to be done, so we wouldn’t really count that as unusual. 

This brings you up to date on our life and the wild roller coaster ride that it is. We have been truly blessed through these trying times with strengthening love for one another and seeing how God sustains us even in the most difficult of times. This slideshow is a small glimpse into our life over the last 9 or so months. I’d love to hear from you, so please leave a comment and let me know who you are. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask and I will answer them to the best of my ability.

Blessings! 

Looking Back- 2014

This last year has been one of changes and growth for our family. It started out with our family being in a very hard place. We had been dealing with Sarah’s breakdown for 9 months and it was taking a toll on us all. A year later we are still dealing with it, but we are in a much better place spiritually and emotionally.

In 2014 we confirmed what I had  suspected for years, Sarah is autistic. It plays a great role in her breakdown and inability to handle the great rejection that was placed upon her.  We have learned so much in the last year about how diet can help or hinder her autism. Sarah now eats gluten-free, grain-free, dairy-free, egg-free and low sugar foods. She also avoids artificial preservatives, colorings and additives. This has put us on a huge learning curve as to how diet, nutrition and medications affect her.We found out that some foods are like a drug to Sarah and she is addicted to them just like an addict is to drugs. We also found out the hard way how something as simple as rice can send her to a place you don’t want to go.  Sarah has been off of her seizure meds for over a year now and hasn’t had a single breakthrough seizure. She used to have them whenever she didn’t sleep enough, but she has had some nights with no sleep and still no seizures. We are working on getting her on a decent sleep schedule which hopefully will allow me to get to sleep before 4:30am (sometimes it’s 10am).  

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Gene has been working 10 hrs a day (before dawn to late afternoon) 7 days a week since July only having a couple of days off during that time until last week at Christmas. When he did have a day off he was on the road to Louisiana (more on that in a bit). Hannah, Rachel & Caroline have been such a blessing to me during this time. I couldn’t have survived if it wasn’t for them and I wouldn’t have gotten any sleep. Thankfully, when I can’t stay awake any more they can usually take over for me. Though there were several days where I only had an hour of sleep a day for several days in a row. Thankfully we seem to be past that and boy am I thankful. 

From August until October things with Sarah were off the charts crazy (that’s when I got little to no sleep) but things have evened off greatly. Sarah is much more cooperative and has improved greatly since then. We still have a few days of craziness when her hormones flair, but she is much better than during those 3 months. 

Sarah is improving in obedience and awareness of others, though there is still much work to be done. We are so thankful for what the Lord has shown us in this area. A year ago I wanted the “old Sarah” back. This year I am much more realistic about it (more on what the Lord has taught me in a subsequent post). Now she is the new and in some ways improved Sarah. I would say she is at about 75% of where she was. I think it will probably be harder for her to trust others in the future. It’s hard for anyone to learn to trust again after being hurt in such a way. 

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I can see a great deal of spiritual growth in the girls this last year. They have been my right hand and my left. They have encouraged me when I am discouraged and helped me greatly when Gene is working. They are each battling Lyme and are at different stages of treatment. Hannah and Rachel are both seeing progress with their treatment. Caroline will be starting back on hers after the first of the year.

The last half of the year has been prepping for a move back to the town in Louisiana where Gene and I grew up. We hope to be moving back in early  spring, Lord willing. Gene has already made a couple of trips up there with boxes and will make a couple of more before the big move. Last Sept it seemed like spring would take forever to get here, but now that it’s a mere 12 weeks away, it seems awfully close and there is just so much to do. 

We’re ending our year on a very special day as we do every year.Today Gene and I will be celebrating our 31st wedding anniversary. I am so thankful to be married to the man I am! He is above gracious and understanding with me. He has been a rock for me during these difficult times and I am so blessed to have him here to help me. 

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As our year wraps up I look back and thank the Lord for every day in it. He has taught us to rely on Him, to rest in Him, and to trust in His faithfulness (I will share more on that in a following post). We have been blessed beyond measure and the Lord has given us what we have needed moment by moment. I pray that this new year will find you seeking the One from whom all blessings flow. 

 

 

 If you’d like to read more about what’s been going on with Sarah, this link will give you all of the articles I have written on her.  

It’s Been One Year

It’s been one year since a dark cloud passed over our house. If you had asked me then if I could still be fighting this battle a year later I would have probably told you I couldn’t survive it that long. In fact, I’m sure I said something about not being able to carry on like this in the early weeks. The war is still being fought, but many battles have been won. We know who has victory in the end, but we must continue to fight until that time.

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows. Surely goodness and loving kindness will follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. Psalm 23

This Psalm and many others have brought me great comfort and remind me minute by minute that the Lord is there and that He will restore my soul. He has taught us many things over the last year. The valley that we have passed through has been deep and very dark at times, but we were comforted by His presence.

Family- The Lord has brought us much closer as a family. Gene, Hannah, Rachel Caroline, and I have grown spiritually in ways that we couldn’t imagine. We have learned that we need to be willing to share our deepest hurts and concerns with one another so that we may get support and so that they are not used as a tool of the enemy.

We have had to watch Sarah writhe and wail in emotional and spiritual agony. This is not easy to see (or write about). The complete helplessness we have felt has no description. We have had no choice but to trust in the Lord. We saw early on that it was only the Lord who can heal the heart and mind. We have been called to love and direct her but He must do the work. That was a really hard thing to learn. It’s like the old saying, “Let go and let God.”

Friends- Boy, did we learn a lot here! We found some true friends that are like precious jewels to us. They listened as we cried, admitted that they didn’t have all the answers (or sometimes any answers) but they were willing to listen, lift us up and encourage us in doing good.

We also found many that were more like Job’s friends. Gene and I were told more than once that this affliction on our house was due to our sin and that God wouldn’t remove it until we repented.

 As He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind ?”  Jesus answered, “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents ; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him. John 9:1-3

I have many thoughts on why people say/think such things. I believe that it is easier to think that things such as this can only happen to people because they are in sin. It can make us feel better about things and not have to face the possibility that something devastating  could happen to us. It also feeds our pride, with those lovely holier than thou thoughts we all like to think- “at least I’m not like them” – we say to ourselves. It also shows a lack of understanding that trials come to us all. As scripture says, “rain falls on the just and the unjust.” The truth of the matter is, God has His ways, and they are beyond our comprehension.

Faith- We have been strengthened through this in many ways. We know that we can do nothing without His help. So many days I felt like I couldn’t get out of bed, I didn’t even know where to start (I still feel this way many times). I don’t know what my day will hold. Will Sarah be calm and cooperative, or angry and combative? I don’t know from moment to moment how she will act/react. I often melt into a puddle, crying out to God to help me, this is so far beyond what we know how to do.

“I used to tell young preachers, in order to preach you’ve got to have the power of God on your life. Now I tell them, in order to tie your shoes you’ve got to have the power of God on your life.”-Paul Washer

He has been faithful and brought us through many days of little to no sleep. The emotional roller coaster at times has so many loops that I get dizzy. But He’s there through all of the twists and turns to comfort me and carry me when I can’t go on. We often think that we have to be strong (that’s another Christian myth that has been shattered in our lives), we don’t. We need to be weak. It is in our weakness that we are made strong, only through Him.

Our prayer is that the Lord will restore Sarah, if it is His will. Other than that, we pray that the Lord will use our suffering in the lives of others. So, here are some challenges for you.

Think about those in your life who are struggling. Have you called/texted/e-mailed them lately? Often we are good about keeping in touch with people when a crisis is fresh, but forget about them as time goes on. I can promise you the loving words of a friend can be a balm.

Make sure that you aren’t like Job’s friends when dealing with those that are hurting. Are you encouraging or laying blame?

Listen- I can’t emphasize that enough. Listen to their circumstances, their needs and struggles. Don’t assume that you can come into a situation and fix everything. When it doesn’t work out, it just causes them to feel more defeated, hurt and confused. If you don’t know what to do or say, ask. Ask how you can pray for them, or if you can run to the store for them.

Do you have any other challenges you can offer based on something you have gone through? Please share if you do.

Here are a couple of posts that Rachel has written where she shares her heart about what we have been going through.

A Blessed Weekend

Prayers Answered

 

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5 Reasons I Want My Daughters To Watch Frozen

Spoiler Alert!! There will be many plot spoilers in this article. Read at your own risk.

1. Conceal, Don’t Feel, Don’t Let It Show— Elsa’s parents in not knowing how to deal with her abilities and differences told her to hide them. They were told that fear is what would be a danger for Elsa, but instead of teaching her to deal with her differences they told her she must suppress them. They created the very fear that would be a danger to her. She was afraid to feel, afraid of herself.  If there is anything I have learned over the last year it is that suppressing feelings and emotions doesn’t make them go away. They will come out eventually. We have to learn to address the issues in our life head on and learn how to work out our differences. If we don’t they will come bursting forth in ways we don’t expect with unintended consequences. As a mom, I want to teach my daughters to deal with their emotions in a scriptural and healthy way. They don’t need to bottle their feelings up, deny them or be afraid to face them.

2. Be The Good Girl You Always Have To Be— Elsa didn’t fit the mold of what was expected of her. She was different, and this caused problems. She was told she had to be a “good girl” and hide who she really was.  Having been in the homeschooling movement for the last 20+ years I have seen this same thought process and have seen it be terribly detrimental. Young women (and men) are expected to fit a cookie cutter mold. They should dress alike, talk alike, like the same books and movies (but only those that are approved by the gurus), do the same crafts/hobbies and pursue a common dream. I fell prey to that as a parent. It’s so easy to think if I just check the right boxes and use the right formulas I will have the perfect adult children. I hate to be the one to break the bad news to you, but it just ain’t so. You can do everything perfectly(not that any of us can achieve this) and still have children who aren’t what you expected when they are adults. God has created us uniquely and we need to develop and encourage our children in their God given talents. We have to be cautious that we don’t allow legalism into our families. We shouldn’t be following gurus, they are just sinners like us, we should following scripture.

3. Prince Charming- Maybe Not— In the movie Prince Charming wasn’t so charming after all. I want my daughters to be discerning about young men. To know the character qualities and personality traits that are important to their success as a wife. I don’t want them to fall for the first guy who shows interest, just because he is showing interest. I would rather them marry a blue collar man who loves the Lord with all his heart and wants to serve Him, than a man who desires riches, position or fame.

4. Actions Have Consequences–  Some of them unintended— Elsa had kept her emotions pent up for so long that releasing them felt good. She didn’t realize that letting go like that had unintended consequences. We don’t live in a vacuum and everything we do affects someone else- either positively or negatively. We have seen that in the last year in more ways than you can imagine. I want my daughters to know that they are responsible for setting things right when their actions have unintended consequences.

5. Selfless and Self-Sacrificing Love— Anna was told that the only way to get the coldness out of her heart and to be healed was to do an act of true love. Everyone thought of a true love’s kiss. This time Disney got it right. It wasn’t the kiss of a prince or a pauper that would save Anna, but her act of selfless and self-sacrificing love. She was willing to sacrifice her life to protect her sister. I want my daughters to see that message and apply it. As a Christian we have the example of Christ laying down His life for us and it is how we should be living. We may not have to actually give our lives, but we should give them every day in service to one another. When we put someone else’s needs and wants above our own we are being selfless, that is a lesson our world needs to see.

I am not a Disney fanatic, I think some of their movies send a wrong message about many things. We have chosen to take those things in the movies we watch and make examples of them to our daughters. One of my goals as a mom of daughters is to raise my girls to be discerning and to be able to see the deeper meaning in what they are reading and watching. I want them to not just see the surface issues, but to understand the motives and thoughts of the characters they read about and watch. I often see many Christians parroting what they have heard some guru claim about a book or a movie without having taken the time to read or watch it. Scripture tells us to be like the Bereans and to study for ourselves, comparing what we see and hear against scripture. Paul told them to check what he said to make sure it was truth. When we start repeating what someone else has said without checking the veracity of a statement for ourselves, what we are doing is akin to gossip. It isn’t much different that telling everyone that Sally told you Joe had an affair. If you don’t know the fact to be true for yourself, then you shouldn’t be discussing it.

On more than one occasion we have had an adult tell our young adult daughters why they didn’t like this or that book or movie and in some situations tell them why we shouldn’t have let them read or watch it. This is dangerous ground for a couple of reasons. First, they are out of line for correcting our daughters for something we have allowed. Second, they usually have not read or watched the movie or book they are talking about, but parroting what someone “they trust” has told them. Going back to Paul, he didn’t say, “trust what I’m telling you”, he said to check it out for yourself. Things get really sticky when these well meaning people say such things to my daughters because our daughters  have been taught to be critical thinkers and know how to discuss the complexities of these subjects. The adults who felt the need to criticize the choices we have made are then shocked when my daughters will defend our choices. When our daughters were young we taught them a phrase that applied to different choices our family made, “Others may, but you may not.” There need not be judgment about such things.

Being a Godly woman doesn’t mean you are demure, sitting and waiting for someone to tell you to think or believe. There isn’t a uniform, or certain hairstyle, or a certain type of literature you have to read. We are all made as unique creations with our different giftings and personalities. We do our young women a disservice if we try to make them all cookie cutter copies and don’t allow them to develop the gifts that the Lord has given them. There are limitations set up in scripture and we should follow those, but we must be cautious about adding to scripture and being legalistic.

Darkness

Writing has been difficult as of late. Words don’t flow – emotions are percolating too close to the surface. I have shared in the past some of what we have been dealing with both here and here. Last night was a difficult night – I’ve had quite a few lately. It was filled with tears, raw emotions and a lack of sleep. When I awoke today, this free verse poem was floating around in my head – well, really it was stomping around and wouldn’t stop until I wrote it down. I’ve never done this before, so please don’t judge too harshly. It shares some of the emotions and feelings we have been going through for the last 50 weeks. Yes, it’s been that long. Truth be told, many days I don’t see a light at the end of the tunnel.

 

Darkness

My eyes open with a start!

I’m surrounded by darkness.

Where am I?

How did I get here?

I’m alone, afraid, panicking!

How do I get out?!

I just want out!!

I want to feel the sun on my face and hear the birds singing.

I hear the slow drip of water- it’s damp and cold.

Little feet are scurrying around me.

Where am I?

Why has no one come to help?

 

I move, but am aimless.

I can’t find my way in the darkness.

I feel it pressing down on me.

I stumble and fall – scraping my knee.

I cry out!

I Am! Where are you?

He is here! I can feel His presence.

I feel peace in the midst of the darkness.

 

I hear someone crying out.

Pain – torment- agony – terror!

I run toward the sound, stumbling again and again.

I Am! Help me find her!

He calms me.

I move toward the sound talking to I Am as I move.

I can’t see anything but I know that He is with me.

He reassures me – He will provide a way.

 

I reach the crying one- in a heap, covered in dirt.

The gut wrenching wailing continues.

I reach out to comfort her.

She thrashes at me,

directs all of her anger and sadness toward me.

I feel heartbreak – sadness – confusion – panic!

How can I help her?

 

I try to get her to come with me.

We must find a way out of the darkness!

She resists.

She wants to stay?!

I try to help her along but she fights me.

In the dark and dank we argue for hours.

I call to I Am.

He is there- I can feel His presence.

The battle rages on.

Eventually she trusts enough to come with me.

 

We find a tunnel and see a speck of light.

A way out!

Pulling her toward the light – still she resists.

I Am! I need strength!

Struggling with her is making me weary!

I don’t know if I can go on!!

Rest.

He wants me to rest?

The end is near! I can see the light!

Reluctantly I rest.

She rests.

 

We move toward the light –

a little less resistance.

The light!

Disappointment and despair!

This is but a crossroads-

not the end of the journey!

 

I can’t continue- the struggle is more than I can bear!

What direction do I go?

I don’t want to go back into the darkness!

Is there no other way out?

She doesn’t want to go!

She seems to like it here.

She rails against me – blames me – yells at me – fights me.

I Am! Help me!

Which way do I go?!

How do I help her?!

We bow together.

She calms.

Peace returns.

I have direction.

I step into the darkness once again – she follows.

Afraid- but at peace.

 

I don’t know how long the darkness will last.

It may never end.

I Am will be with me.

He will guide and direct me.

No matter how dark it gets – He will be there.

 

This doesn’t end with a “happy ending” because life isn’t like that. The truth is, God isn’t up in heaven saying to himself, “How can I make Lora’s life easier so that she will be happy all of the time?” He has a purpose and a plan. Sometimes that plan is raw, painful and difficult (just ask Deitrich Bonhoeffer). It has a purpose none the less. The hard part for us is to figure out how to glorify Him in the midst of the darkness. Because my purpose above all others is to bring glory to Him.

If you feel as if you are in the darkness, please share. I will pray for you. It helps me to have others to pray for, to remember I’m not the only one trying to find my way in the darkness.

Rachel re-did my blog for me! She is a great blessing and encouragement in my blogging adventures!

How Do We Show Love?

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Today is Valentine’s Day and I know that most people write about love for our spouses today, but I have been thinking about a different type of love. Love for friends, family, acquaintances and the lost. Scripture tells us that we are to be devoted to one another, show love to one another, and of course, love your neighbor as yourself. We can’t forget the love chapter of 1 Cor. 13; in it we are given many examples of what love is.

Several years ago I wrote a post in which I shared some practical ways to show love. In this post I want to cover heart issues as opposed to practical suggestions. This past year has taught us many things that you can only learn through heartache, sorrow and despair.  I am still working on many of these areas as well and am learning from my own failings.

Be genuine- So many times we use the phrase “How are you doing?” as a greeting and aren’t really interested in how that person is. We would be shocked if they actually shared what is happening in their life. We live in a culture that boasts of self-sufficiency and independence which makes it difficult for people to be transparent and genuine. We need to be willing to listen to & help those who have needs and also be willing to share ours.

Be Selfless- We live in a time that everyone has their days booked and scheduled to the point that we get frustrated when someone’s needs interrupts our day. We should be on the lookout to meet the needs of others. Christ showed His compassion to many by meeting their physical needs. Shouldn’t we strive to follow His example?

Be Thoughtful- Valentine’s day (and other holidays) are special and everyone needs to be shown love on special days. We need to look to those who may not have someone in their life to show them love on these days and encourage them. I had not thought of this until I saw the example set by a family I know. They showed up at the door of a single woman from our fellowship with a bouquet of balloons to wish her happy Valentine’s day. Maybe you know a widow, widower or single adult who needs someone to show they care. Perhaps a young mom would enjoy meeting at Chick fil a to chat. Also be thoughtful and don’t put added pressure on those you are trying to minister to. For instance the young mom might prefer to meet out as opposed to you coming to her house because she would feel pressure to clean, or maybe just getting out of the house and letting the kids play on the CFA playground would be nice.

Be Encouraging- Try to catch a child doing something good when you are out and tell the parent about how well they did. Something as simple as, “Joe held the door open for me on my way into church this morning. He sure blessed me and I’m sure he blesses you too.” I fondly, with tears in my eyes, remember Mrs. Bennett. I was the only homeschooler in our church and our growing family caused great consternation for those around us. I would get the rudest & most critical comments from friends about my pregnancies. Not from Mrs. Bennett. She was about 80 years old and every time I saw her she would give me a big hug and say something about the blessing all of my children would be and how she loved big families because she came from one. Those words literally made my time at church bearable. It is hard to be different from everyone, even if you are following your convictions.

Don’t judge- Let me start out by saying, there are things we are told in scripture to judge and those are things that God has deemed sinful. We are not to be speck inspectors though. We aren’t to judge whether we think someone’s need is great enough for compassion. The rule should be that we show compassion and let God worry about the rest of it. We should never judge someone’s motives. We can judge their actions but we don’t know their hearts. For instance, we can say someone acted in a prideful (angry, rude, you fill in the blank with the adjective) manner but we cannot say the did the because of ______. We don’t know their motives. I had a woman get very angry at me and when she finally came to me she exploded in a tirade of judgment and assumptions. She was mad because I didn’t hug her on the way into church, and that I didn’t talk to her as much anymore and on and on. She then gave all of the reasons I was doing these things. When I said that my reasons were quite different, she called me a liar. What she didn’t take into account was that I was going through a lot emotionally at that time. If she had watched, she would have seen that I didn’t hug anyone (unless they came to me to hug me) because I’m just not a huggy person. We don’t know what someone is going through and it is best not to assign motives. If a person’s actions hurt you, go to them calmly and in love and ask them about it. Don’t judge and assume.

Don’t take a meal- I know that sounds crazy. Everyone knows that when a person is in need you take a meal. At least that’s how we do it in the South. I have been the recipient of countless casseroles (way too many frozen lasagnas. . . whatever you do, don’t do that) after babies, miscarriages, surgeries and during illnesses and I appreciated them all. But it also would have been nice to have a conversation. A real conversation about how I was really doing. Oh, and don’t say call me if you need anything. You call, be there, let them know you care.

Live it- In many churches I have seen that so often we spend time studying and learning about what we should do as Christians but not a lot of living it. We spend a great deal of time in busy activities that make us look good and feel good about ourselves, but what are we doing for the cause of Christ? Do the lost see our compassion? Do they feel we empathize with their pain? Or do they hear us criticize them? Make judgments about what they do? There is a passage in scripture that I seldom hear discussed. It points out that we aren’t to be judging the unsaved that’s for God. We weren’t told to judge them, we were told to love them and pray for them.

 For what is it to me to judge outsiders? Do you not judge those who are inside? But God judges outsiders. . .   1 Cor 5:12-13

As Christians we should be continuously showing love and compassion. We are to be a light to the world. Not by hammering the lost over the head, or shouting at them, but by showing them the truth in love. We should be showing the love of Christ to our brother’s & sisters in Christ as well.  We often hear 1 Cor 13 during this season of love, usually they begin at verse 4, but to me the truly telling verse is verse 1. Are you a clanging cymbal? Am I?

 If I speak the languages of men and of angels, but do not have love, I am a sounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have [the gift of] prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so that I can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  And if I donate all my goods to feed the poor, and if I give my body to be burned, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient; love is kind. Love does not envy; is not boastful; is not conceited; does not act improperly; is not selfish; is not provoked; does not keep a record of wrongs; finds no joy in unrighteousness, but rejoices in the truth;  bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  1 Cor 13:1-7

His Power Is Made Perfect In My Weakness

I have shared that we have been in the midst of a storm in our family. Many wounds and injuries are in the process of healing. Today I received some news that ripped open the healing wounds and made my knees buckle. I told the person who gave me the news that I was too numb to talk. I couldn’t think. Immediately my mind began to race and to think of ways I could fix the problem.

Then I cried– and sobbed. My mind was a jumble of emotions and I didn’t know what was right. What should I do? How should I respond?

A quick prayer went up, “Lord help me!” It’s really such a simple prayer. I didn’t need to share with Him what my burden was, or how my mind was a maze of confusion. In those three simple words He knew everything.

Clarity came. Not some great plan or great words of wisdom, just clarity. I remembered whom I serve. Not who serves me, but to whose will I am subject. I remembered another moment of clarity I had in the not so distant past.

One day when the seas of my life were rough, the waves were crashing down around me, and making me feel as if my ship would sink, I had a moment of clarity. I was reading for the 1,000th time about Paul’s thorn in 2 Corinthians 12 when verses 8 & 9 jumped out at me as if they were in bold lettering.

8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Paul prayed 3 times, not hundreds, not every day for a year, but 3 times. It got me to thinking and examining how I pray about things. Am I willing to just pray about a problem 3 times and then leave it in the hands of the Lord trusting that He will work His perfect will? Or do I become like that whining child who continues to come back to their parent asking repeatedly for the thing they want but have been told they can’t have at that time? Am I really trusting, resting and exhibiting faith when I continually come back asking for the same thing?

We often hear, “The Lord won’t give you more than you can handle.” This statement is based off of 1 Cor 10:13 (you need to read the whole chapter for context) and if you read the last few words it talks of there being a way of escape. That escape is Christ. I can tell you I have faced many things couldn’t handle, only Christ has brought me through it. He has been my escape, my refuge and my strength.

If I am truly trusting the Lord, I must learn to rest in Him. If I am giving my worries and concerns to Him I shouldn’t continue to go back to Him asking if He remembers about them. I need to leave it at the alter and walk away trusting that He will do His will.

This isn’t to say that I don’t do anything. I pray and ask for wisdom and discernment. How am I to respond to situations? What does scripture tell us to do? I should ask for direction, not a change in circumstance. As I was thinking about Paul this afternoon his imprisonment came to mind. What if Paul had spent all of his time in prison trying to find a way out of it instead of being about the Lord’s work while he was there? He wrote many of his epistles while imprisoned. If his focus had been on getting out of the situation, he wouldn’t have been able to do the Lord’s work. When Peter was imprisoned God provided a miraculous way out for him (Acts 12) and when and if the Lord wants these storms to leave my life, He will remove them.

People choose to sin, and their actions have consequences. Sometimes those who are innocent get hurt. Even in that God is in control. He didn’t take a nap and upon waking exclaim, “Would you look what happened there! I can’t believe it!” He is always in control. I rest in that. Nothing, no one escapes His notice. Even my tiny problems are important to Him.

When I am weak, shredded and broken He is strong. He carries me through the inferno that is my life in gentle loving arms. When I can’t go on, not under my own strength. I need Him. I don’t know how to fix the things in my life that are causing such pain, but I can rest in the fact that I don’t have to. He knows. He has a plan. He is in control. And His power is made perfect in my weakness.

How do you do to rest in Him when the storm is raging all about you?

Live To The Hilt

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Just two weeks ago I wrote a post about living in the future. Little did I know that things would happen that would have such a profound impact upon that future. Last Tues. night we got the kind of call we all dread. Gene’s step-father of 33 years was near death. Papaw died Wed. afternoon just as we were pulling out of Houston, heading toward Shreveport, LA.

We were all filled with great sadness over the loss of a kind-hearted man who thought of others and how to bless them in simple ways. Being with family made that loss easier to bear. We shed many tears and also shared many stories and laughter. Laughter is good medicine for the hurting heart.

Leaving was quite painful for us all. We wanted to be there to minister to Granny and help her with this transition in her life. Thoughts of moving back home were swirling in our minds. Then the realization set in that this just isn’t possible at this time of life. The job opportunities aren’t there for Gene and the reality is, you have to make money.

As I was getting back into the routine of things here at home, I felt discontentment setting in. I was complaining to God about the fact that He wasn’t providing a way for us to do this “good” thing. After all our motives were honorable, we want to minister to and serve our aging parents. Isn’t that the type of thing God would want us to do? What if He doesn’t provide a way?

As I ran a sink full of soapy water to do dishes this afternoon, my own words came back to haunt me.

As bumps come into my day, I need to pause and say a quick prayer asking the Lord what His will is for me in this moment and how does this fit into His future plan for me. Sometimes the answers are obvious; sometimes they are harder. We can have so many good opportunities in our lives that it can be difficult to see His best opportunities.

I was looking at what I thought was good and not looking at His best. If He has us here, for however long that is, He has a purpose in it. I need to rest in His purpose and live my life today with gusto; trusting in Him to take care of the future.

Wherever you are, be all there! Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God.  Jim Elliot

I have always loved this quote by Jim Elliot. I just need to put it into practice. Life is fragile, it will end before we know it. I don’t want to look back with the regret of living in the what might be or what might have been.

Words

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Words matter. They can wound or they can heal. They can tear down or they can build up. How we talk to those we love and even those we don’t can have a huge impact to those we are speaking to and those around us listening. Many times scripture tells the power of words, yet it seems that as a society we try to dismiss their impact by making everything a joke.

Many years ago I knew a woman who talked all summer long about how she couldn’t wait for school to start again so that her kids would be out of her hair. She would talk about how they were always underfoot, driving her crazy, leaving their toys laying around, and that she thought she would go insane if they weren’t back in school soon. She said all of this in front of her children. It was as if she thought they couldn’t hear her or that her words wouldn’t impact them. My heart always hurt for her children when she would say such things. I wanted to say something to her to make her see, but I didn’t. I’m ashamed I didn’t.

I understood their pain because I had lived it. I grew up hearing things like quitter, loud mouth, and many other words and phrases. A child needs to feel unconditional love from a parent. Now that doesn’t mean that you don’t correct & discipline; scripture tells us to not discipline our child is to hate them. But how do you do it? Do you say things like, “I can’t believe you would do something so stupid!” Some people would justify this statement by saying they didn’t call their child stupid, but the reality is they did. The child knows it and is hurt by it.

Wife, when your husband walks up behind you when you are talking to friends and overhears you talking about him, what does he hear? Does he hear complaints that he plays too much golf, watches too much football, or hasn’t done what you feel is needed around the house? Or does he hear you praising him for being the man that God gifted you with in spite of all of his flaws? As wives we need to be lifting up our husbands, not tearing them down. What uplifting words of love do we shower on our husbands? Because men don’t often share their feelings, we can mistakenly think that our words don’t impact them as greatly as their words impact us. With a very few well placed words we can make our husbands feel like a failure. I have done this more times than I can count, much to my shame

The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.  Luke 6:45

What do people on the outside of your conversations take away from the words you are using? Do they see Christ in you? What about grace, mercy or compassion? Are your words often angry and snappy? What does that say? When you are under stress do you forget to be kind and let the stress take over? I know I can. We need to strive for better. We need to remember that our words are a testimony to the goodness of Christ. A verse that sticks with me often, and plays in my head when I blow it is, “out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks”.

Words. Let us strive to make them life-giving, encouraging, loving, compassionate, full of grace, uplifting, and healing.

When Is My Future

Have you ever been on a hike and become parched and thirsty. The heat is unbearable and all you want to do is to get to the end of the trail to a nice ice cold bottle of water and rest. As you come up the next rise you can see the end of the trail in the distance. It doesn’t seem that far off and you are so ready to reach it, then you come over the next rise and it doesn’t seem to be any closer.   It seems that it is just out of reach. To me the future seems to be some unattainable place in the distance. Once we get to a place thinking we have arrived, we look up and the future is still out there looming before us.

I tend to think of the future- a lot. I can find myself living there as opposed to living in the here and now. I think of and pray about where the Lord wants me in one year, five years or even ten years. I can tend to focus on “one day” and not on today. I look back over my life and look at all of the time I spent thinking about what will be. What did I miss while being in the future?

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All of the best time management advice tells you to plan for the future- set goals- have a strategy. I’m not knocking goal setting and planning, I love to make a plan and love to work my plan. But, we can work our plan to the point that we miss out on His plan. Do we miss out on the butterfly that is bringing wonder to the life of our child because we have dinner to cook or dishes to wash. Do we put off times of intimacy with our husbands because of everything that is on our to-do list?

It seems that the future is somewhere out there in the distance, but I believe to the Lord the future has a much different look. It has to do with the next moment. What choice will I make; where will my focus be? Will I help my neighbor? Will I stop folding the laundry to cuddle with my husband? Will I read that book to my child for the 1,000th time?

In scripture we are told to pray without ceasing. To me this is like having a chat room open with God all of the time. As bumps come into my day, I need to pause and say a quick prayer asking the Lord what His will is for me in this moment and how does this fit into His future plan for me. Sometimes the answers are obvious; sometimes they are harder. We can have so many good opportunities in our lives that it can be difficult to see His best opportunities. I can remember a year when my girls were little that I didn’t teach in VBS. I had many things happening in my life at that time and after much prayer Gene and I felt I should sit that year out. Most people didn’t understand that decision. I was told so many times that it was a good thing. Yes, it was, but for me, at that time it wasn’t God’s best thing for me.

Trust in the Lord to guide you to His best future for you. Keep communication open and rely on the Holy Spirit for direction. Pray over your long term goals and well as what happens moment by moment. By all means set goals and make a plan, but don’t let your plan keep you from doing the Lord’s work whenever it comes your way. I have found it helpful to ask the Lord for direction & wisdom for the day before I even place a foot on the floor. Often I will need that direction and wisdom within moments. The Lord is merciful and patient with us. He wants to help us and direct us, trust Him to show you the way and to be there to guide you in all you do.