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! 

Please Don’t Pray for God to Heal Me

I know I haven’t written in a while and my next several blog posts will give you a fuller picture as to why I haven’t. Before I get into why I don’t want you to pray for God to heal me, I want to give you a snapshot of my life at this very moment. If you are unaware Hannah, Rachel, Caroline and I all suffer with chronic Lyme and for the last 3 years Sarah’s has been recovering from a breakdown (read about that here). It’s 11:43pm, I’m sitting at my desk with most of my joints hurting in addition to an unexplained pain in my lower back that is shooting down my leg with no end in sight. I have been suffering from much more frequent Lyme attacks and many nights am unable to get to sleep until 6am because of muscle spasms, Sarah, or both. If Sarah is asleep before 3am I will be happy. Now, waiting for her to get to sleep doesn’t consist of just sitting back chilling, it is a constant battle to get her to stop screaming- and I mean screaming- blood curdling screams. The other night, she never went to sleep. I finally tapped out at 7am and Hannah took over for me. Hannah is battling extreme fatigue, muscle weakness, brain fog, confusion, difficulty communicating, and exhaustion. Rachel has been dealing with atonic seizures, general overall weakness, brain fog, and exhaustion.  Caroline has been having migraines and has hardly left her bed for two weeks. She has many of the same Lyme symptoms as Hannah as well as some others. The other day we went to a new doctor to have her checked for POTS and EDS. The doctor found an arrhythmia and did an EKG at that time. They have also run blood work and she will be going in for an echo-cardiogram and CT.   All 3 of the girls are pretty much home-bound. They each haven’t left the house more than a couple of times for anything other than chiropractor visits since Thanksgiving. 

I’m not listing all of this for sympathy, but to put the following in context for you. As of late the girls and I have had many conversations about where God has us. Due to a conversation one of the girls had with someone I have really been thinking about this. Over the past almost 5 years we have had a lot of conversations with people about our illness. Actually, it’s been longer than that. For many years before we knew what was going on they had issues and symptoms that kept them at home most of the time. 

We have heard many different comments from people over the years. Some meant to encourage, some were veiled criticism, and some were just plain unkind. Here are a few of them. 

“I think the girls just have their schedules switched around like a baby’s. If you flip it, everything will be fine.” — Referring to the girls insomnia

“I think we should all want to be at church so that we can fellowship with other believers.” — from an elder’s wife when the girls were too sick to attend for months

“There must be sin in your life, if you repent they will get well.” This comment has been made by everyone from pastor to layperson to Gene and I as well as the girls. 

“You just need to eat this/use this herb/oil/supplement/routine.” This is something often said to us by people who haven’t really taken the time to understand what is going on and who are offering us a cure all. We do have people that know what’s going on that make good/informed recommendations and are helpful.

“They don’t look sick.” or “I saw a picture of them on FB and they looked like they felt fine.” They don’t realize that because of whatever outing they were on in that picture they could be in bed for up to a week or more.

“I saw that they did _____ why weren’t they up for ______.”

“God doesn’t intend for us to be sick, if we’re doing things right, we should have good health.”

Many of these comments are meant with good intentions. They are often borne out of a lack of understanding of our circumstance and of scripture. The reality is, it’s easier for people to lay blame rather than face the reality that God doesn’t promise us an easy life. If we look at the life of our friend Job, we will see this to be true (he’s become a very good friend of mine over the last few years. If he’s not your’s, you really need to get to know and understand him). God called Job “blameless and upright”. All of the tragedy that befell him wasn’t due to his sin, though his friends said it must be (sound familiar?). Job never cursed God though people told him he should. He suffered, he agonized, he didn’t understand, he felt overwhelmed. I have felt all of those things many times over- on an almost daily basis. Yet in all of the despair, he knew God was there and in control.

The thing is, God didn’t promise me happiness, he promised me joy in Him. He didn’t say I wouldn’t have trials- He said I would and that they would bring about fruit in my life and work together for my good. He said I would be weak, but that I could find strength in Him. He said I would despair to the point of not knowing how to pray- but that the Spirit would pray for me. He never said that He wouldn’t give me more than I could handle- He will never give me more than HE can handle. 

You may be asking yourself, “Why don’t you want me to pray for your healing?” Because I want God’s perfect will for my life, as do Hannah, Rachel, and Caroline. We recognize that God has allowed this in our life for a reason- to bring glory to Him. To think otherwise would imply that God is not in control and He is. He is in control of every molecule and atom in this universe. Nothing escapes His notice, so therefore, He must have allowed this in our lives. Does that mean we sit back and do nothing? No. We treat our illnesses as best we can, but trust God for the outcome. 

Many believe that God’s main purpose is to heap blessings upon us. It’s not. Our purpose is to glorify God in all that we do and say. If I am spending my days and prayer time saying, “God, please heal me- take this away.” I’m not saying,  “God, show me your will in this and how I can best serve you through it.” To be honest, as of late my prayer has been more along the lines of, “God, I don’t know how to bear this. I am overwhelmed, exhausted and hurting. I can’t even focus to read your word or pray. Please help me! Give me the strength I need to take care of my girls. Give me the wisdom I need to help them! Forgive me where I fail you and let my fatigue and feelings of being pressed down and spent cause me to be unkind, selfish, and self-pitying.” 

So, how can you pray for us and others in similar circumstances? We need prayers in so many areas. 

You can pray for: 
                Strength, Wisdom, Sleep, Encouragement, Seeking His Will, Being Accepting of His Will, Contentment, Compassion, Patience, Joy, Peace, and so many more Godly traits. 

Every trial that has come into my life is for a purpose. I don’t pretend to understand it. And please don’t think I am above total despair- I’m not (just keepin’ it real here). I can’t count the times I have asked God to deliver me from this. To deliver my girls- as a mom it rips my heart out to not be able to help them. But God has taught me so much. I think I love them- but His love for them greatly surpasses what I can even imagine. He’s got this! I just need to be reminded of it sometimes. 

This song is our hymn of the month at church. God knew it was exactly what I needed. I hope that you will be blessed by it as well. 

 

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).  

 photo SarahChristmas2014_zps32e535cf.jpg

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. 

  photo GirlsatChristmas_zps85db1724.jpg

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. 

 photo b9a4bb4c-041f-4593-96f7-fad0f348d0f0_zps5d40ecf7.jpg

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

 

 photo Sarah12-121_zps1bda8132.jpg

 photo RachelandSarah1_zps3383199d.jpg

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?

 photo Loveis_zps2f4d77f4.jpg

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

My Journey: 2014- My Personal Journey

I’ve shared with you some of the things I learned in 2013 and now I want to share with you the direction I’m heading on a personal level in 2014.  I’m not exactly sure what to call this, because goals just doesn’t seem to fit the bill. I guess that “My Journey” will have to do.

Gene’s work: Last September Gene switched jobs/careers. Up until 9 1/2  years ago he had been a machinist full time and built scientific equipment on the side. He was offered a job to build scientific equipment full time and has done that since then.  For many reasons he decided to go back into a machine shop to work and now his hours are vastly different. He works from the afternoon until the early morning hours usually working 10 hours a day. Since the beginning of November he has worked every Saturday and most Sundays. This can be difficult at times, but we have some goals we are trying to attain and this will help to get us there. His work schedule is also giving me a lot of “free” time which plays into many of the things I am pursuing.

Personal: I am really trying to lose some weight this year and am changing my diet to help with that. I haven’t had a Dr. Pepper or other high fructose soda since the first of October. That is the longest I have gone without them and the first time I haven’t really had a desire to drink them. I cut out most sugar back at that time as well. If I talk about what I’m eating and how I’m doing on my diet, it will most likely be on our homemaking blog. 

I am also working on several other areas like reading, organization and self-discipline at this time.

Spiritual: I have really been trying to work out my best times for Bible study/reading with Gene’s new schedule. We are all on his schedule so that we can spend as much time together as possible but that raises it’s own set of difficulties. I am planning on reading a couple of books a month that will be spiritually challenging and uplifting. As I complete them, I will share them here.

I’m not going to beat myself up if I don’t read my Bible every day. My main goal is to walk in closer harmony with God. Over the last year I have learned how important it is to have continuous and open communication with the Lord. I’m working on improving in this area this year as well.

Financial: I’m not going to go into complete detail on this, but the goal we are working toward is to be debt free in two years, including our home. We would like to eventually move back to our home town to be near our aging parents, but we need to take care of this debt first.  We are sacrificing now, so that things will be better in the future.

Writing: Writing is a passion of mine and because I love it, it can feel like a luxury. I feel led to write and share what the Lord is laying on my heart, and I am working hard at spending more time doing so. My goal is for my blog to grow and if the Lord allows that in the future I am able to speak to women about the things He has taught me I would love that. The difficulty comes in being true to myself and God’s word. It is so easy to fall into the trap of writing for an audience for the sake of readership and numbers. I don’t want to be that person. I want to write in a way that reveals my heart as broken and sinful as it is. I want to be real, honest, and challenging, but always from a place of love. I hope to encourage other women to love and respect their husbands, to raise their children with grace and mercy, and to show the love of Christ to the world around them.

If you know of resources that will help me on my journey, please share them in the comments. What journey are you on and how will you get there in 2014?

 

 

 

My Journey: 2013

 photo Roses_zps43416352.jpg

2013 was a year that not many, if any, in my family would want to live through again. In many ways we feel as if we survived it only barely. God was gracious and brought us through but not without battle scars and bruises. In many ways this year has changed me more than any other. Looking back over it I find that the Lord has taught me much.

Not to be too trusting- I am a person who tends to give my heart to friends and acquaintances far too easily. I trust that others live by the same rules I do. Our family’s number one rule is: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. I learned that everyone doesn’t play by the same rule book that I do. I learned that I need to guard my heart and trust slowly because people, even those who profess Christ, are not always what they appear. Scripture warns us of this telling us to be wise as serpents and gentle as doves.

What is truly important- My priorities need to be God first, family second, and everything else somewhere after that. We had our world rocked with Sarah and her issues this year, then we had Papaw’s death. We ended out the year with my dad being in the hospital. All of these things tend to make you re-examine your life.

Hold onto things loosely- Things are nice, they are lovely and can bring back special memories, but they are just things. They are not more important than those we love and certainly not more important than God. We went through a period of really examining ourselves to see what we were making a god of. If we felt that we placed too high a value on it, out it went. Months later, I have no regret for the things that left. When I feel that pang of loss, I remind myself of what is truly important.

Unwanted journey- The journey we have been on over the last year has been unwanted and definitely not something I would have chosen. But it was necessary, or God wouldn’t have allowed it. That knowledge has gotten me through more than a few moments of despair. God allows us to go through His refining fire in order that He might work it in our lives for His good. That’s what I want, His good. Though it is often painful to go along the path He has for us. If we believe that the pathway is going to be easy, we are deceived. He tells us plainly in scripture that we will have difficulties and burdens. When He says He will make our burden light, it is not by the removal of that burden, but by helping us carry it as we travel on our way.

Trying to find our way- It still feels as if we are traveling through a thick forest on a moonless night. Stumbling and bumping into things as we go. But up ahead, there is a light guiding us out of the darkness. At times it is hard to see, but if we look hard we can see it. Don’t for a minute think I am saying that we have ever thought that God has forsaken us, because we didn’t. We always knew He had a purpose. Now, understanding that purpose and how He wanted us to navigate through the darkness is a different matter.

The Lord has blessed us in many ways this past year, and many of these circumstances came about because of our trials. He has been merciful and loving to us and a great source of comfort. We have lived most of the year in seclusion and isolation, and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It has given us time to reflect and evaluate. Our hope and prayer is that in 2014 He will grant us the ability to be not so isolated, but we are leaving that firmly in His hands.

This song blessed me greatly during some of my darkest hours. I hope that you will find it to be a blessing as well.

I will be sharing in a few other posts some of the directions in which we feel the Lord is leading us. I will share some of my goals, those we are setting for our family and what I feel the Lord is laying on my heart in regard to My Titus 2 Journey.

How do you feel now that 2013 is over? Was God’s path and plan clear to you, or were you stumbling around in the dark as well? Please share as the Lord leads.

Handling Criticism During the Holidays

 photo SanAnotoniobrigdeblogpostedited_zps7a65087b.jpg

The holidays are quickly approaching and along with them comes the gathering of family and friends. Oftentimes celebrating with our loved one is a wonderful experience, but when your convictions are outside the norm you can run into conflicts. Criticism is especially hurtful when it comes from those that we love most. We are sure to face these conflicts and should be prepared to do so graciously.

Know what you believe
Be ready with your answers to the questions and comments that you know you will face. If your family doesn’t think that homeschooling provides a strong academic standing, enough social interaction or that it’s just not possible for the average person to homeschool be ready with facts. Dr. Brian Ray has some great information at his site along with statistics that refute most of these fallacies.

If your personal convictions on how you raise your children are being challenged, understand that you most likely will not be able to convince others with your words or statistics. The old adage the proof is in the pudding applies to situations such as this. Seeing fruit in your children will most likely be the only evidence that convinces your toughest critics. The more readily we accept that we are unable to change someone’s mind the easier it is for us to deal with these circumstances.

Be slow to speak

When we are under attack it is hard to hold our tongues, especially when the topic is something that is important to us. The most important time to do this is when we feel most strongly, because that is the time we are most likely to say something we will later regret. Be slow to speak to those who are criticizing and choose your words carefully. Be careful how you say what you feel, often there is mis-communication due how we stated our feelings.

Run for protection

Wives fall under the protection of our husbands and this is a time we should quickly run for that protection. I have failed to do this many times and later regretted it. Our nature is to try to handle things ourselves and our husbands may be hesitant to jump to our defense because they believe we want to handle the situation. If you know you are heading into a potentially volatile situation, discuss your strategy in advance. Have a battle plan ready and be prepared to stick to it. If you believe your children may be peppered with questions, make sure that they are ready with answers as well. Let them know that they can always defer any questions to their dad by simply stating, “You’ll need to talk to my father about that.” Wives, you can make a similar statement deferring any situation that you may feel necessary to your husband. This statement should be made with a smile on your face and a genuinely sweet tone.

When you walk the road less traveled you are going to run into obstacles, often in the form of well meaning friends and family. As Christians we are to show love to others in all circumstances, even when being verbally attacked. We should always speak the truth, but we need to make sure we do so in love. When we began homeschooling we were criticized by many and told things such as our children would turn out stupid because we homeschooled them. When those we love say such things it hurts, but we need to do our best to act in a Christ-like way. I often failed in this area, but my hope is by sharing what I have learned from my struggles, you can avoid some of the same pitfalls.

Oh, and by the way, some of those same critics now encourage others to homeschool their children.