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).  

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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.  

My Journey: 2013

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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.

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.

The Haves And The Have Nots

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.  For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits. Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.  But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.  Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. James 1:2-18


Every Christian goes through trials and struggles. The question isn’t whether we will or won’t but how will we handle them when we do. If we aren’t cautious we can become ruled by the adversities in our life and let them rob us of our joy and contentment.

The Have Nots are often plagued by the question, “What if?” What if I have a wreck? What if I lose my job? What if my child gets ill? We could play the “What if” game all day. We are told to not worry about tomorrow because today has enough worries of it’s own (Matt 6) yet we often spend most of today doing just that. I can’t count the hours I have spent worrying about something that hasn’t happened or an outcome that I couldn’t control. All of this worry robs me of my joy and leads me down the path to discontentment and ungratefulness.

We often think of joylessness, discontentment and ungratefulness in relationship to “big” issues. How often do we let the little issues rob us? Do we get frustrated when things don’t go our way? If we had planned our day a certain way, yet our children needed our attention and we got next to nothing done, do we get frustrated? If you have to make an unexpected run to the store for that necessary something for your husband and it takes a couple of hours that you couldn’t spare, do you do it with grumbling or a joyful heart?

The Haves are people who are a joy to be around. No matter their circumstances they have joy in the Lord, are content and thankful for the blessings He has given them. One person in my life jumps to mind when I think about the Haves, Gene’s Aunt Barbara. A few months ago her dear husband that she married when she was 15 died after 57 years of marriage. They didn’t have a funeral for Uncle Bobby, they had a celebration for him. We rejoiced that he was now sitting at the feet of Jesus. At the celebration it was stated that Aunt Barbara never heard Uncle Bobby complain, he was always thankful and trusted the Lord to see him through any trial that he encountered. Below is a picture of Aunt Barbara at Uncle Bobby’s celebration during the song, “How Great Is Our God”. In her left hand she is holding her Bible and one of the dozen roses that Uncle Bobby had delivered to her after his death. I can’t imagine a greater trial to endure, yet she exhibited joy, gratefulness, and contentment while resting in the Lord’s arms.

In 2 Cor 10:5 we are told to take every thought captive, which means we have a choice to be a Have or a Have not. We choose whether a circumstance will leave us feeling defeated or whether we will trust in the Lord and see what He is doing in our lives through our trials. Which do you choose to be?

If we cannot believe God when circumstances seem to be against us, we do not believe Him at all.    C. H. Spurgeon


 

Why I Am A Slave

Last weekend we went to a conference where I was able to hear Paul Washer speak in person for the first time. I have been listening to him preach for about 5 years, but I must say that watching him in person was very different for me. In one of the sessions he spoke about being a slave to Christ. The word pictures he created really stuck in my mind and I have spent most of the week contemplating them.

The term bond-servant is defined as, “a slave”, “one who gives himself up to another’s will”, “those whose service is used by Christ in extending and advancing his cause among men” and “devoted to another to the disregard of one’s own interests.” In Ex 21:5-6 the example is given of a servant who willing stays indentured to his master, having his ear pierced with an awl demonstrating his permanent servitude.

How could Paul (Rom 1:1 & Titus 1:1), Peter (2 Peter 1:1) and James (James 1:1) all call themselves bond-servants? Haven’t we been told that we have liberty and freedom in Christ? Does Christ truly expect us to be His slaves? The answer to both of those questions is, yes. We have liberty and freedom in Christ . . . freedom from the bondage of sin. Christ does want us to give ourselves up for His will. In Luke 9:23 we are told to deny ourselves, take up our cross daily and to follow Him. That doesn’t really sound like a suggestion of something we might want to consider. If we look at the first part of that verse it begins with, “Then he said to them all, “If anyone would come after me. . . ” Jesus was plainly stating that in order to be followers of His, we are to deny ourselves.

I have been asking myself some questions all week.

“Do I act as a bond-servant or a slave who wants to escape?”

“Do I serve Him willingly?”

“Where do I focus my attention?”

“Where is my joy?”

“What do people see in me?”

The answers to some of these questions change moment by moment. My hope is that I will continue to ask myself these questions in an effort to keep my focus where it needs to be.

I am a slave of Jesus Christ. My desire is to serve Him with all that I am and with all that I have. I don’t have a Master who is beating me about the head to force me to obey. My service is willing, and paltry in comparison to what He has done for me. I fail Him daily but He is a loving Master who is quick to forgive.

I am no longer a slave to sin but a slave to Christ alone! I freely and joyfully put on the chains of servitude, out of gratitude!

For His Good

In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, “FOR YOUR SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY LONG; WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED.” But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:28-39

Romans 8:28 has been a verse that has carried me through more dark hours than I care to mention. Not because I believed that it was saying that every thing would end happily ever after, but because of what the end of verse 27 says, “according to the will of God.” That phrase is of the utmost importance. Today we are told everywhere we look that God wants us to have our “best life now.” Our best life isn’t going to take place on this earth, it is going to take place in the presence of our Holy God in heaven, one day in the future, and it will last for eternity. We have been given this twisted perspective that it is all about us. We have the opinion that God is here to meet our whims and give us all of our desires, as long as they are really good. We seem to think that we have something God needs. As if He couldn’t work out His will without us. God uses us to work out His will, we are His instruments and tools, but His will, will be done apart from me or anything I can do to mess it up.

Today I was thinking about someone who God used in my life before I was a Christian to teach me something of His nature. This person was Corrie ten Boom. If you are unfamiliar with her, she is a Christian who helped hide Jews in Amsterdam. She and her family risked their lives to help those who were being unjustly persecuted. God spared her, though He took her through the darkest hours any of us can imagine, and He worked everything to His good. Did that mean that her father, brother and her dear sister Betsy all made it through the horrors to be reunited at the end. No. They all paid with their lives, except Corrie. She watched her sister beaten and abused, and they lived in conditions none of us can imagine. Was this good? Would she have said she was living her best life? She would have, but who else would have? Through Corrie trials and suffering the Lord has been able to reach countless others. She was a stepping stone that the Lord used to draw me to Himself. God used these unbearable trials to teach Corrie many valuable lessons, and then He allowed her to share these truths with others. God worked good in Corrie’s life, every day of her life. Not only in the good times, but in the unbearable times. He never left her, He had His hand on her every moment of every day, no matter how dark.

Another dear woman that God has used in my life is Elisabeth Elliot. Jim and Elisabeth were missionaries in Ecuador, along with Ed McCulley and his wife Marilou, Roger Youderian and his wife Barbara, Pete Fleming and his wife Olive, and Nate Saint and his wife Marjorie and his sister Rachel. Their plan was to reach a group of hostile natives known as the Aucas. The men set out on a trip in effort to make contact, and did. They were then killed by the very natives to whom they were taking the gospel. The days of not knowing had to be very difficult on all of these women. They all had young children, except the Flemings. As a wife and mother, I can only imagine how dark those days of not knowing must have been. The struggle of trying to keep everything together for the children had to be unbearable. God did not desert them during their darkest hours. He carried them. He gave them just the grace they needed for that moment. He even gave Elisabeth and Rachel the ability to forgive the very men who had killed their loved ones, and used these women to bring countless natives to Christ.

Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me–to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Cor 12:7-10

God allowed Corrie ten Boom and Elisabeth Elliot to go through struggles we can hardly imagine. Why? For His glory and to work things together for His good. This is often hard for us to comprehend and we can’t see how we could go through something similar. The truth of the matter is, none of us have the strength to go through something like this alone, we can only get through it with the grace of God to sustain us. He won’t give us the strength we need until the moment we need it.

I have gone through dark days in my life, where I couldn’t see God’s plan no matter how hard I tried. What I was going through didn’t make sense to me. I didn’t see how any of it could be made into something good. Twenty-two years later, I see the good. The truth is, I only see a portion of the good He did through those circumstances. The portion I see is overwhelming at times. He has blessed me beyond anything I could dream of deserving. God alone is able to give strength to those whose knees are buckling under from the weight of the burdens being carried. Do you feel that the burden you are carrying is more than you can handle? Who is doing the heavy lifting? You, or God?

This is part of the interview I saw when I was in my teens of Corrie ten Boom. Skip to the 3:10 mark to see her.


Stephen Curtis Chapman
did a tour in 2002 talking about the group from Ecuador. This video is a small part of it, you may want to watch the other parts as well. They are all great.

A Letter From John Newton

For my birthday a couple of years ago Lindsay bought me an 1835 edition of Volume 2 of Hannah More’s Memoirs. Contained within this volume are numerous letters to and from Hannah More. I am sharing one written by John Newton that I find quite thought provoking. I considered only posting excerpts, but every time I tried to decide where to cut, I came across something else that really spoke to me. I’m not going to share my thoughts now, I’d like to hear what it says to you. What do you find challenging about it? Does any part of it bring conviction? What do you notice about the type of conversation that was considered normal between Newton and his peers? I have many thoughts racing through my head, and really can’t wait to hear what you think about it.

From the Rev. John Newton to Mrs. H. More
December 12, 1798

My Very Dear Madam,
Miss Lambert told me last night that you had been very ill, and were at present but slowly recovering; but another lady gave me hopes to-day that it was a mistake. I well know that fame, with her hundred mouths, tells a hundred fibs, and I can give little credit to rumours till I see them confirmed in the gazette. However, as it is some time since I indulged myself in the pleasure of writing to you, I embrace this occasion, in hope that some of these days you may find leisure to inform me, under your own hand, how you and your good sisters are.

Fame has been busy about me likewise. It has been said by some, that I had had three successive fits; by others that I was confined by a fever; and some thought proper to affirm that I was dead. I compare the art of spreading rumours to the art of pin-making. There is usually some truth, which I call the wire; as this passes from hand to hand, one gives it a polish, another a point; others make and put on the head and at last the pin is completed. My health and spirits have been and still are, as good as ever; but on the twenty-third of last month I found, by repeated falls while I was dressing myself, that the strength of my left leg was withdrawn. For three or four days I could not walk across the room without support. I kept house the Sunday following. This was the wire of the pin, all the additions were invented or conjectured. It is my happiness to have a praying people, and I ascribe it to the Lord’s goodness, in answer to the prayers of my friends, that a blessing attended the means used for my relief and I was only kept one day from St. Mary’s. I really thought at first it might be the Lord’s pleasure to confine me to the house for the rest of my days, that I might myself try to practice the lessons of patience and resignation to the will of God which I have often recommended to others from the pulpit. I may thank him that such a prospect did not distress me. I was enabled to see and to feel that I am not my own; that he who bought me with his blood has a right to dispose of me, and to say Go here, or sit there, as he sees best; and farther, that his sovereign authority is combined with infinite mercy, and that He has promised to choose and manage far better for me than I could choose for myself if permitted. I aimed and still aim to say from my heart what, when, and how thou wilt. My sins and follies banished me to the house of bondage in Africa, redeemed me when I knew him not,- when I defied him. He has since given me a name and a place among his children. My case has been singular.

Surely he has done enough to demand and to warrant the simple surrender of myself and my all to him. And now I am old and know not the day of my death, my chief solicitude and prayer is, that my decline in life may be consistent with my character and profession as a Christian and a minister, that it may not be stained with those infirmities which have sometimes clouded the latter days even of good men. May he preserve me from a garrulous and from a dogmatically spirit; from impatience, peevishness and jealousy. If called to depart or be laid aside, may I retire like a thankful guest from a plentiful table, rejoicing that others are coming forward to serve him, I hope better, when I can serve him in this life no more; and then at length, when flesh and blood are fainting, if he will deign to smile upon me, I shall smile upon death. This is all I have to ask for my own personal concern, and to this purpose I request a remembrance in your prayers. I will repay you as I am able in the same way. It is a serious thing to die, and it becomes me now, far in seventy-fourth year, to transition without dismay. But I well know that if this last enemy, or rather to the believer, this kind messenger, should actually approach, unless the Lord supported me I should prove a coward; though now, while I am in health, and quietly smoking my pipe, and he seems at a distance, I can think, write, or speak of him without anxiety. There is a dying strength needful to bear up the soul in a dying hour. The Lord has said, “As thy day, so shall thy strength be,” and “My grace is sufficient for thee.” On these good words I would humbly rely, for indeed in myself I am nothing, and can do nothing, and without his gracious influence I am alike unfit to die or live.

My dear brother Cecil is thought to be in a dangerous way, that is, in danger of exchanging earth for heaven. The physicians judge it to be an inaccessible disorder in an intestine. The effect is a violent and almost incessant pain in the back and loins. He cannot remain long in one posture, neither stand, walk, or lie down without a change. But his mind is peaceful and resigned. It is a heavy blow upon his people, and heavily felt; but I do not give him up. Much prayer is made for him, and though physicians shake their heads and medicines seem to fail, we know who can restore him by a word. “To God the Lord belong the issues from death.” His life seems to us very important; and if we know what we ask, the Lord will raise him up. If otherwise, he can give us submission to his will, which is always wise and good. Though useful ministers are successively removed, the Lord is still with us. There is a pleasing prospect of a number of young men, who we hope will prove faithful and able in the established church. This is a token for good in these turbulent and degenerate times. The Lord has still a remnant among us, scattered up and down the land like salt, who mourn for their sins and the sins of others. Without these, our nation would be soon in a state of putrefaction. But, for their sakes and in answer to their prayers, Almighty God has given us a great victory by Admiral Nelson, and has since disconcerted the designs of the French upon Ireland. The religion which alone can save the state, is now reproached and stigmatized by a name which, though undefined, has a magical force; and I believe there are those who would be well content if all who profess it were safely settled in New Holland. So the inhabitants of Sodom were weary of Lot, though the destruction of their city was only retarded by his continuance in it, and the very day when he was removed they all perished.

The afternoon lectureship of St. Giles-in-the-Fields is vacant. The candidate most likely to have the majority of votes is a Mr. Sheppard, who was some time Mr. Cadogan’s curate at Reading. The Bishop of Chichester is rector of the parish’ and we are told that he inquired his character of the Bishop of London, who had no knowledge of him. I was desired to write to the bishop; but this was a liberty I did not think myself warranted to take; though his lordship has upon several occasions given me pleasing proofs of his favorable opinion; and I have little doubt but he would credit my testimony if it came properly before him. But if you, my dear madam, when you write to him, should choose to mention Mr. Sheppard’s application as a piece of the news of the day, and that your correspondent J.N. assured you that he has known Mr. S. several years and believes him to be an upright moderate man, a good and diligent preacher, and a firm friend of our constitution in church and state, it might perhaps, have a good effect towards fixing such a man in a pulpit, where the afternoon congregation is between two and three thousand. To say that Mr. S. is unprovided for, and that the income of the lectureship would be helpful to the maintenance of his family, are considerations of a very inferior importance.

I am again in the press; when I shall get out of it depends on Mr. Bensley, the printer. When I was at Southampton this autumn, I finished a work, which though but a small one, and began three or four years ago, I should never have finished at home,- my engagements and interruptions are so many. I think it will come abroad early in next year, under the title of “Memoirs of the Life of the late W. Grimshaw” he was an extraordinary man; he was removed to a better world in the year 1763; but I have been enabled to glean up several authentic particulars, which, I think, are worthy of being recorded, to the praise of him whose he was, and whom he served. I have given the book, wholly and for ever to the Society for the Relief of the Poor and Pious Clergy. And I believe I may call this my “extremum laborem.” I am sometimes almost ashamed to think I have written so much. This book will make the twelfth volume in duodecimo; yet it has pleased God to give some of my publications acceptance with the people, and therefore I have cause to be thankful. They have been spread far and wide, published in England, Ireland, Scotland, and America, and in the German and Low Dutch languages. How wonderful that he should so honour the African blasphemer! But there is a time to write, and a time to desist from writing. I may say, as the late Bishop of London, Dr. Lowth, said to me, “I cannot do as I wish, nor as I have done The shadows of the evening are advancing upon me. But while I can use my pen or my tongue, I know who has a right to their service.” If ever I see Mendip again, it must be by a bird’s -eye view from the higher hill of Zion above. But I trust I shall at intervals recollect with pleasure the happy week I passed at Cowslip Green, while I can remember any thing.

May you and all the ladies accept my repeated thanks for all the kindness I have received from you, and if we never all meet together in the flesh, I hope we shall often meet at a throne of grace while upon earth, and hereafter before the throne of glory, and join in the songs of unceasing praise, “to him who loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood.”

I am most sincerely,
Your affectionate and much obliged,
John Newton