Tuesday, September 27, 2011

His gift of SILENCE

Where do I begin? The rendering of emotion into word on page is not as eloquent at times. Today is such that time...but yet,with urgency I feel the need to write, to pour, to cleanse and reorganize. Not in poetic form, or attractive syntax, but in the spilling out of vulnerable awakened heart.

For a couple of weeks now I've grappled with a lack of peace. At first I attributed it to the move,the busy-ness of school and fall schedules and assumed that once we struck the chord of routine, that peace would return. But it didn't. This lack of peace has been gnawing away at me. I've been praying about it, trying to identify the source, reflecting on life, things, the condition of my heart. I haven't been able to quite put my finger on it until this morning.

You'd think that after a long season in the wilderness, that God's deliverance into a new home of our own, a new season in life, would produce nothing less than a peaceful heart. I function best when this heart of mine is stripped, transparent, raw and vulnerable. Lately, it's felt covered, masked, hidden. There is no peace in this.

So this morning, as I am giving Him the firstfruits of my day (an old habit I am trying to reintroduce to my schedule), before any other eye in the house has opened, I begin my Bible study. Our women's group is currently studying Kelly Minter's "No Other Gods: Confronting Our Modern-Day Idols." It's a study that a friend and I had begun a few summers ago, but hadn't finished. Sobering that some of my modern-day idols and struggles then, are the same ones I have today. Oh Lord, there's so much work to be done in me!

We began our study identifying what idols are in our lives. In biblical terms, "it is something other than God that we set our heart on, that motivates us, that masters and rules us, or that we trust, fear, or serve." These can be good things, like family and career...but an overattachment to these things, a dependence on them, allows them to become a substitute for God. When they consume us, we are making them our idols.

This week we are studying why we even have idols? What makes us choose them; why are they so appealing? A few of the reasons we are covering are: Identity (they can define who we are. example: Family, being a mother, etc. Career, being a provider, etc.), Need ("many of us run to idols because we are convinced they will bring us what we need"), Pain (we run to them when we are in pain), and Silence ("often when the Lord is quiet, or when He is not acting on our behalf in the way we thought or hoped He would, we decide that we are on our own- that we need to look out for ourselves.").

Only a paragraph into Day 4's homework on silence this morning, and the tears began flowing. I couldn't understand my extreme sensitivity, but allowed God to bring clarity by reading through the lesson in depth (twice), allowing it to sink in and penetrate, and by taking an up close and personal (and uncomfortable) look at my heart. My season of silence crisp on my mind. Deliverance just a short glance back in my rearview mirror. Tears flowing fresh in remembrance. I can relate so much to the Israelites. I felt like we were wandering in the wilderness for such a long season. Memories of a bitter, dark and lonely winter with pain that cuts deep. Feeling forgotten. Forsaken. That He was not for me. Such wavering faith, not able to withstand the harsh winds of circumstance. The doubt and momentary hopelessness. Ashamed of my lack of faith. Oh Lord, if done again, I pray I would handle such storms with more strength and grace. I see now, Your silence was my gift.

Kelly Minter writes, "Throughout scripture we see God silencing or removing Himself for a time for different purposes. Sometimes it was sin related, but often it had nothing to do with any wrongdoing on anyone's part; it was a test or a growth period for His children." My natural propensity is to assume God is punishing me. This season taught me firsthand that this is not always the case. This season allowed me to fully understand His goodness. The winter of the soul was for my good. The long drought. The waiting. The silence. It has all been for my good. I've lived out Romans 8:28 and His faithfulness overwhelms me.

And moving back to those Israelites...when Moses was on the mountain with God, writing out those famous 10 commandments, the Israelites could not wait for him to return and begged Aaron to make them idols to worship. In their season of waiting and silence, they turned to idols. Not only did they turn to idols, but they made the idols out of the gold that God had given them when they plundered the Egyptians and were finally freed from slavery. The gold God gave them as gifts (as if they needed more than freedom from captivity) was just another way God can pour out His goodness and unexpectedly lavish us with His love. Yet, they turned God's gifts into gods. How different am I?

The Lord gifted me with His silence to teach me that true joy is found in Him and not in what He can give or provide. That my treasure was Him and Him alone, not His blessings. My season of silence taught me that when all is stripped away, I am complete and full in Him, that nothing else really matters. I learned that He is indeed faithful...Faithful beyond measure. That His ways are better than my own. That He longs to bless us with His goodness. That our waiting is worth it because He works all things out for our good. That He is, in truth, FOR us. All things I knew with my head but needed to learn with my heart. His faithfulness is now engraved like a tattoo upon it. Lord, Your silence was a gift.

So, where does that bring me today? Why the fresh tears? Why the unidentifiable lack of peace? Yes, I am grateful for His gift of silence for all that it taught me and how it strengthened my faith. But the tears fell this morning in revelation to the fact that somewhere in the intermixing of silence and deliverance I have allowed life to crowd Him out of His rightful place on the throne of my heart.

Oh jealous God, One who will not share- I'm sorry I have unintentionally crowded You out. Allowing Your deliverance and gifts to shift my focus and priority in seeking You first. Letting "life" and "routine" and role of "wife" and "mother" and "homemaker" to swallow me. All good gifts that can too easily push You off Your seat. Consume me once again! Occupy every ounce of my heart so that there isn't an inch of room for anything else but You and You alone. Do not allow me to turn Your gifts into gods. To be consumed with the things you give (or don't give). If that's the case, take them away! I beg of you, remove them all! Make me barren and bare. Strip me down till I am naked and nothing...if what I desire more than You are the things you can give or provide. If I am consumed or preoccupied with anything but You, if I am not seeking You first...do what you will to bring me back to an authentic place of worship. Above material things, above peace, above comfort and security, above contentment and joy, above deliverance or change in circumstance- I choose You! The rest will follow as a result, and if by chance some of it doesn't, it shall not matter because my true depravity is when You are not occupying the throne of my heart.

I understand that my true joy lies in You. I can taste it because Your season of silence allowed me to acquire and crave it. It filled and satiated me in ways nothing else can. It left me salivating for more. I want that again. I don't desire what You can give. I desire You. I don't desire the things of this world that momentarily bring pleasure but too easily lead astray, I desire You. I know You want the same from me- not wanting anything less than my heart, my all.

Tears fallen this morning, bringing revelation and repentance. Leaving surpassing peace in return. A concoction that both exhausts and invigorates a sleepened heart. All birthed out of Your season of silence. Where else could I have learned to long for you? Your silence. A gift extraordinaire.

Exalting the One deserving of all my praise.
Join me.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Slingshots and Necklaces...

(But not as you would imagine...)

Brooke has been taking pride in this slingshot she made a few days ago.
Tonight, she even made a special box for it.
I think part of her is after her Daddy's heart...the hunter and protector.
We started talking about how a long, long time ago, a simple, young (yet brave) boy named David allowed God to use him in a mighty way with nothing but a stone and a slingshot to kill a feared Giant named Goliath. Brooke wanted to know if the Giant was still alive,
and was disappointed ("Awe man!!!")
to learn that he was no longer, because she wanted to test out her prized possession on him.
My warrior princess.

And then we have my boy...
who, after school today nonchalantly tells me that a certain girl likes him
(and he likes her too).
I think he was testing the waters and wanted to see my reaction/approval.
As the evening progressed, so did Brayden's urgency and desire to make a necklace.
As if I should know this is top priority for a little boy on a Thursday night?
So, we quietly made this necklace together...he telling me where each and every bead should go while I helped him string them along.
While stringing and perfectly placing, our conversation expanded like our line of beads...
This necklace was for the girl that he likes.
Sweet innocence, yet a snapshot of his tender heart.
We have warriors and princesses in our household,
tonight their worlds intermixed and collided,
chasing and pursuing,
creating a beautiful story
that I'll tuck straight into the pocket of my heart...
on this ordinary Thursday night.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Home Sweet Home...

(finally)
(snippets of some of our first moments in our new home)

Monday, September 12, 2011

New Places, New Spaces...

This is a season of exploring and creating, exhaling and soaking in...
I still have to pinch myself sometimes to see if I'm dreaming or if we really do have our own place again! The 2 year wander in the wilderness has made this promised land that much grander, the milk and honey that much sweeter. For that, my heart is grateful.
With our new move, we have had fun checking out new places. I love, love, LOVE our new town! I had forgotten how much we loved living in a small downtown area. It resonates with my spirit and brings much serenity and joy to walk or ride bikes with the kids down quaint streets with historic beautiful homes and not have to worry about cars flying by at 50 miles per hour. It's nice to have hills and not have to look at strip malls and pharmacies on every corner. I love being able to walk to a restaurant for dinner with my family.
Darcy and I started out our marriage living in small downtown Dexter. We later bought an old 1920's home and renovated it in downtown Saline. We are so in our element here! I can't begin to tell you enough how good our God is...the waiting and the struggle have been worth it. His light at the end of this tunnel is shining brightly. Sometimes I feel blinded by it. I've been considering all that He has taught me over the past two long years. That will be another post.

For now, let me show you a few of my new favorite spaces.
Here's a bird's eye view of a vision that's been swirling around in my head for months! It has been so fun creating and bringing it to life. This is a wall designated for scripture and my kid's artwork.
I'm very pleased with how it turned out.

And here is a bird's eye view of another project that sat in my in-laws basement empty for two years.
Do you remember my post from mother's day 2 years ago? Darcy had bought me this antique cabinet. I've envisioned hanging it in my kitchen with cookbooks and kitchen/eating paraphernalia in it. I wanted to line the back of it with fun wallpaper (but i don't think it's necessary now) and put chicken wire in the door (which I'd still like to do).
It even has a perfect spot for Brayden's toothpick holder :)

And alas, another favorite space of ours is this charming treehouse in our backyard.
Welcome to pure childhood enchantment!
Lord, You are good and Your mercy endureth forever.
Thank you for these gifts.
I'm so undeserving.
Your blessings overwhelm me.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

1st day of school!

Summer is officially over!
(and boy did it feel like it this morning! Chilly!)
But, on an exciting note, I now have a
1st grader and a 3rd grader!
Today was Brayden and Brooke's first day of school.
I am so excited to say that we have finally moved! We don't have internet service yet at the new home, so you'll have to be patient in waiting for a future post in regards to this.
(I'm currently at Grandpa and Grandma's house doing laundry until my washer and dryer are hooked up)
We decided to keep the kids in their current school, despite the move and change of school districts. Daddy can take them every morning, which takes a burden off of me, and I will pick them up every afternoon. We are still deciding on whether or not to have them take the bus at Grandma's house (like they've done in the past) or if we will take them directly to the school which is a tad closer (and fight the parking lot). We have just wanted to keep as much familiarity into their schedules with all of these transitions.
Making silly faces for Daddy outside our new home.

My 1st grader posing at Grandma's house.
(she was itching to run to the bus stop here and did not want any more pictures taken)
We made it to Grandpa and Grandma's with time to spare.
It was a very rushed morning in general...smooth, but rushed.
This is probably the most unprepared I've felt for the 1st day of school. But considering the fact that we just moved 4 days ago, things are going well and I am a happy mama.
My handsome 3rd grader.
Daddy and his champ.
The kids waited and waited and waited for the bus.
It did not come?!
So, we hopped in the car and I drove them up to school
(as did all the other parents at the bus stop).
*turns out the bus was very very late. (over 20 minutes!)
Here's my boy sitting at his desk.
I pray this will be a great year for him.
Academically, third grade is quite a step up from 2nd grade,
but I am confident he will do fine.
He was really shy this morning.
Thankfully, his best bud and a couple of other friends are in his class with him.
And here is his new 3rd grade teacher:
Mrs. Cairns
(he did NOT want me to take this picture :)

Moving on to Brookie...
(could it get any better that my kids classrooms are directly across the hall from one another?
Made for an easy first day of school for me :)
My pretty first grader.
Brookie walked right onto her classroom with no inhibitions.
I think it helped that Brayden had Ms. Querro for 1st grade. Brookie was a preschooler at the time and tagged along to many functions. So she is somewhat familiar with her.
Brooke also has two good friends in her class with her: Sami and Katie!
I am so very glad and thankful that Brooke got Ms. Querro for a teacher!
I put in a request for her late (like on the last day of school!) and I never heard back from the principal. All summer long I had no idea if my request would be honored.
We found out last Thursday that she was assigned Ms Querro!
Thank you Lord! ...I prayed about this many times over the summer.
It feels like He has smiled upon us lately in big and small ways.
He is good.
Brookie and Ms. Querro
One last shot of my 1st grader.
In their classrooms...at their desks...
no tears from any of us!
(that's the first!)
So far,
we are off to a good start!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

What a whirlwind!

Last week was a complete whirlwind.
One of those experiences you come out of and say,
"Wow! I can't believe that just happened!"
Amanda D. and I took the kids to the zoo on Friday. Friday night my mom came into town to spend the night with us. Saturday Dana and Abby were in town from Arizona and my in-laws were celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary. We had a BBQ that day and Brayden moped around a bit, not very energetic, but I figured he was just tired from our zoo trip the day before. As the day progressed, he seemed to be feeling worse and by Saturday evening he began vomiting. This continued all through the night and by early Sunday morning he was miserable and complaining about pain. I was not surprised after the night he had had and I was worried he was becoming dehydrated. We've been parents long enough to sense when something seems a bit off. This was one of those times both Darcy and I felt that something just wasn't right and we decided to take him into the ER at Troy Beaumont hospital that morning. He was admitted and Sunday grew to be a day of severe abdominal pain and repeated vomiting. No fever. They took X-rays and ran a few tests and thought he probably just had a virus that needed to run its course. I had never seen a virus like this before.
Darcy spent the night with Brayden. In the morning, I was surprised to hear that Brayden's conditions had worsened over night and his pain had become more severe. He was up all night retching and writhing in pain. I rushed to the hospital and wasn't even there 10 minutes before I was stricken with worry and heartache over seeing my boy so miserable. It wasn't right. They gave Brayden morphine when he was first admitted, but couldn't give him anything stronger than Motrin after that first dose. It clearly wasn't working. Crying at the nurses station, I begged for answers and relief for him. They agreed that with a virus, come day 3, Brayden should be showing signs of improvement, that there shouldn't be so much pain associated with such a virus and the vomiting should have ceased. His blood pressure was consistently high and his pain seemed relentless. He was crying out "I'm in terrible pain! This is too much pain! Too much pain!" At one point he was screaming, "Help! Help! Someone help me! I give up! I give up!" and asked me if he was going to die. These bouts of pain were too frequent and had been going on for over 24 hours. A GI specialist came to see him and they all decided that Brayden needed to be transferred to a higher care setting. Monday morning we rode in an ambulance to Royal Oak Beaumont's Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. They gave him one more dose of morphine before we left and this made him momentarily more comfortable.
And it's here we began a series of tests trying to figure out what was wrong with our boy. More X-rays, an Upper GI, a CT scan, and an
esophagealgastroduodenaloscopy.
(yes, that's one word...i made the nurse write it down for me and told her it was worse than
supercalifragilisticexpealadocious!)
I can look back and smile about it now, but at the time, we were all very worried about Brayden. This was by far our worst parenting experience ever. No seven, almost 8 year old should be in so much pain that they need to be on morphine every 2-3 hours for 3 days straight. And with no answers as to why, I was growing increasingly frustrated. I felt like it was taking too long to order the tests and that I was getting conflicting information from various medical staff. It honestly felt like we were on an episode of "House" where there was a team of doctors around his bedside discussing possibilities, scenarios of what he could or could not have, and what to do next...
Tuesday morning I tried to stay calm but expressed my frustration and worry.
They explained to me that some of his tests had ruled out a lot of things, such as appendicitis, obstruction, malrotation, Kawasaki disease, etc. It was then that they told us they thought Brayden may have something called
Henoch-Shonlein Purpura.
HSP is basically a self-restricting vascular disease. There are three characteristics that go along with this condition: 1) rash 2) abdominal pain 3) swelling of the joints and arthritic pain. Over time, the worse case scenario is kidney failure.
They said Brayden had a typical atypical case...that no two cases ever presented themselves the same. Over 95% of cases include the rash. Brayden did not have a rash. But, only 56% of cases present with a rash as the first symptom, so they kept checking his body to see if there were any developments. They did find blood and an ulcer in his stomach, which is not uncommon with retching. They also found fluid around his kidneys, stomach, liver and hip (which supported the inflammation/vasculitis characteristic of this disease.)
Another possibility was that Brayden had an intussusception (when the intestine collapses inside of itself...think of a telescope that collapses. the intestine gets ahold of another part of the intestine, latches onto it and pulls it inside itself.) It can cause a lot of abdominal pain, almost like contractions in childbirth. It also can resolve itself on its own. After the CT scan, they saw swelling of his intestine in an area, but not enough evidence to suggest an intussusception. And, an intussusception at his age could suggest lymphoma.
On Wednesday, I finally felt like I was beginning to get my boy back! He was sitting up in bed, alert, carrying on a conversation, and going 5 hour stretches with no pain medicine. I saw a spark back in his eye and all he could talk about was food! He was affectionate and smiley and it thrilled me to pieces that my son was getting better. We had prayer warriors from coast to coast and I know that the Lord heard these prayers and answered them quickly. I felt His presence there, and despite the worries and possibilities, there was a peace He gave me during this time.
Wednesday was pet therapy day and we were tickled to get to meet a sweet little mini 12 year old dog named "Patty." We also played 4 games of Uno (he smoked me in three of them),
a partial game of Monopoly (he was still getting really tired and needing breaks), and we built 1/2 of a Lego ship. To see Brayden comfortable and relieved from pain brought such joy and thankfulness to this mommy's heart.
Wednesday afternoon they gave Brayden the "go" to take a walk.
Freedom! (and a temporary break from all the tubes,wires, machines and monitoring)
This was a happy day.
And a very happy Mama.
Thank you Lord,
for hearing our cries.

Brayden played for a little bit in the children's garden center play area...
but quickly grew fatigued and needed to be carried back to his room.
I didn't mind. ;)
After his scopes, he was given the clear to eat...
AND they said that if everything looked good and he could keep his food down and his pain was under control, then we could go home the next day!
Over the 5 days Brayden was in the hospital, we had many visitors, helpers,
texts, phone calls and emails. Words really cant quite describe the gratitude my heart feels for everyone who supported us and stood mighty in prayer during this time. What a service and blessing this was to our family. I've always believed in the effectiveness of prayer, but to experience it in this way was powerful.
It's agonizing to see your child in pain and to be helpless. So many times I just wished I could have taken it all away from him. I would've in a heartbeat.
My focus was completely on my son and getting him well.
(but i sure did miss my girls)
Thursday was Berlyn's 2nd birthday. I had to cancel/postpone her birthday party that day and we set up shop in Brayden's hospital room to celebrate. Here we are blowing out two candles that stood in a cup of ice cream.
Happy Birthday Yummy!
And wouldn't ya know she was given the BEST birthday present ever...
A healthy brother coming home!!!
***(At discharge, the HSP diagnosis was still the forefront of the doctors opinions, although not definitive. Brayden will be followed up. However, something in my spirit tells me he does not have this. Perhaps it's denial, but I do believe it's a peace the Lord has given me.)
It was definitely an evening of celebration.
Which included a "Frosted Flakes" dinner,
a store-bought Kroger cake,
(picked up on the way home from hospital)
and gifts purchased the day before in the hospital gift shop.
Life doesn't always go as planned.
But sometimes things happen and it helps us to see the beauty and importance in things that truly matter. Life. Family. Love. Relationships.
It also gives us an opportunity to glorify God,
for us to depend and trust in Him completely,
for Him to shine through us and others,
and for Him to demonstrate His love and sovereignty.
He is faithful and good.
There is no word in the dictionary that can adequately define who and what God is.
My mind cannot fathom.
My lips cannot articulate.
But my heart feels it, knows Him,
and is full.
Father, Healer, Friend.
Thy hope, thy confidence,
let nothing shake!

Again friends,
REJOICE WITH ME!