Saturday, December 15, 2012

freckles and all, she melts me...
Brookie made this picture a few nights ago.  Last night she had trouble falling asleep because of the (limited) news she overheard about yesterday's tragedy in Connecticut.  She kept "acccidentally" interjecting her old elementary school's name into the equation.  Even 7 year  old's have the ability to relate to this senseless incident.  We stayed up together and talked, prayed, and read a little Laura Ingalls Wilder until her heart was settled.  

This mama's heart was up all night.  Each time I awoke thinking about and praying for those families who no longer have the luxury of knowing their child is in the next room over sleeping soundly.  My heart utterly breaks for them.

Family time? 
Yes. A most appropriate time for "tears of joy."
Life is too short to be wasted.
And too precious to be considered anything less than the gift that it is.

Counting my blessings.
LORD, we need you now.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

get your eyes off yourself!


There are moments in life where truth hits you over the head like a jackhammer.  Chiseling away the lies you believe, the layers of dust and plank that threaten to cloud one's vision.  Last night I tucked my  older two into bed layering them in warm blanket and prayer.  It's these late night conversations that often mean the most.   Spirit-led dialogue that dawns awareness and sheds light...into their lives, and also my own.  We ended the day, with the need for His brush of Truth to stroke and paint over the complaint and ingratitude that aimed to smear the final picture of our day.  Wasn't it just a post or two ago I mentioned, "ingratitude goes right through me?"  That seeing this ugly beast emerge out of the hearts of my children angers and frustrates me and brings out the "wrath of mom?"

Perhaps it's time I've taken a closer look from within.  They learn what they live, don't they?

As we talked last night, I mentioned to my oldest that we need to pull out the blessings of our lives and have hearts of gratitude.  That instead of thinking about the one or two things that went wrong in a day, we need to focus on all the right of our day.  Surely, it is filled with gifts.

I woke up this morning with Philippians 2:14 on the tip of my tongue.  Where the bitter frost of my own wrongdoing covered the window of my heart.  And He spoke.  With a love and compassion that gently scraped and melted all that left my heart cold and without clear view.

"Do everything without complaining or arguing..."

Oh, have I ever failed in this area.  Anyone who reads this blog has a picture of what our lives have been this past year...the past 2, 3 years.  God has mightily been at work in my heart and has brought me closer to Him and my knowledge of Him than ever before.  Words are inadequate to describe the gift this has been to me.  Yet, this morning I awoke with a heart full of conviction and sorrowful repentance.  Hands-down, I could win a reward..."Complainer of the Year."  

Lately, with the work He's been doing within, and with the belief button switched upward, I've become more aware of my imperfections, my skewed perspective on various areas of my life, and the ways I've fallen short in this journey.  He's pointed them out...not with judgment, wrath, or condemnation.  But rather with kindness, gentleness, and compassion.  A mercy undeserving.

I've been no different that the Israelites in the desert, quick to forget His faithfulness and provision.  Griping about meat, when everything I've hungered for to sustain and be well-fed has been freely provided.  Heaven's bread falling before me, ready to be gathered.  Begging to go back into slavery and distrusting what good He had laid out before us.  His parting of the Red Sea all but a blur or a distant fairytale.  A Deliverer?  How could I not remember.  I've complained my way through this journey one dry and parched footstep after the other.  To Him, to myself, to my family, and to my friends.  Such a slow learner.  And yet, He's been patient.  And faithful.  And good. Always.  Moments I've cried out to Him feeling forgotten, He's always reminded me that He was near.  When He could have cried back, "No child, you're the one who's forgotten me!"  I wonder how long I've kept myself in the desert, away from my promised land, because of this.  Sometimes, what you believe becomes what you live.  And what you become. Your reality is often shaped by who you come into agreement with...Are you believing God, or are you believing the enemy of your soul?  Believe the enemy and you'll get what he wants for you.  Believe God and you'll get what He wants for you. Seems like a no-brainer, yet I've allowed my eyes to focus inward, on the lies, on the self-pity, on the complaining...and then I've seen myself living in it.  My reality.  An ungrateful one.

There are many areas in my life where I have failed, and I feel ashamed, yet thankful that He hasn't left me here in the dark to wallow in my self-induced pity.  I've allowed myself to stay there from time to time.  Shame on me. See, the thing about complaining is that it takes one down a dangerous road.  That mindset of ingratitude stains a heart and threatens to leave it in a pit.  A murky, sticky, life-sucking one.  But we have a choice.  I'm choosing agreement with God.  In His commands, His promises, and His ways.  I'm excited to see how my life and my heart will take shape from here on out.

As I searched for this verse in my Bible this morning, I found my own handwriting in the margin that penned, "Get your eyes off yourself and onto God."  Ouch.  How can we have such moments of blindness?  And how this must have pained Him so.  Each moment I've complained about my circumstance has been a discredit to the God who has already done so much for me.  It's as if I have written off all He's loved, sacrificed, and given...and thrown it into a trash pile.  Unimportant.  Unworthy of noting or keeping.  All the while, asking for more, more, more.  When the One thing He's already given has been (and will always be) my more than enough.  Jesus.

I have not been the picture of grace.  I've been self-absorbed.  My constant complaining has been more than that...it's been sin.  I want to live this life thankful for all I've been given.   I want to love this life He's given me.  Every breath of it a gift.  This family, this country, this generation I've been placed in.  Too many freedoms, riches, and blessings to ignore.  That in this huge galaxy of many vast galaxies, the spec of my life matters to Him.  Yet, I have given Him a spec of thanks in return.  

LORD, increase my awareness of You.  Increase my fear, and awe, and reverence for You.  Increase my love for You and others.  Increase my wisdom and knowledge of You.  Increase my faith.  And increase my vision.  Stain this heart with gratitude overflowing..."so that I may become blameless and pure, a child of God without fault in a crooked and deprived generation, in which I shine like a star in the universe as I hold out the word of life." (Philippians 2:15-16)

The Message reads:
"Do everything readily and cheerfully—no bickering, no second-guessing allowed! Go out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air in this squalid and polluted society. Provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God. Carry the light-giving Message into the night so I’ll have good cause to be proud of you on the day that Christ returns. You’ll be living proof that I didn’t go to all this work for nothing."

Lord, I fix my eyes on You.  On what is unseen versus seen.  Thank you for the work You have been doing in me and in my circumstances.  Even when I haven't been able to see it, You've been behind the scenes in Your perfect way, with Your perfect plan.  Thank You that You are still at work.  You led us here because of Your love. You've used the "hard" because You saw no better way to bring us closer to You.  This path has been the right one for us.  A divine road paved by You.  May I have an aggressive heart that waits on You in full expectation as Your plan for me and my family unfolds.  May I never second-guess You.  Let my life be a breath of fresh air, providing people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God.  Let my life have meaning, that shows Your good work.  LORD, forgive me.  Shine through me.

Thank You.  Thank You.  Thank You.
Give thanks to the LORD for He is good.  His love endures forever!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

thou shalt not yell

After a not so successful trip to the market with a whiny 3 year old, unnecessary complaining from my older two (which landed them both in their bedrooms as soon as we got home), crowded aisles, and long waits at the meat counters, I pulled out of the parking lot with my nerves a bit frazzled.  The lunch hour was overdue, and three little hungry voices in the backseat reminded me of it.  The day was slipping away and we had not yet schooled.  I really wanted a nap, but duty called.  Not even 5 minutes into our History lesson about the rise of Ancient Greece, the bickering and bantering began again. 
So, back to their rooms they went.
(with a yelling mom trailing almost too close behind)

Upon her dismissal, I was handed a crumpled up piece of paper from my little 7 year old writer.
Translation:  "I'm sorry mom.  I just have been, so I can say it anyway.  But, we should listen to parents...so you should never yell at kids.  I'm not telling you what to do, but that is the right thing to do.  And I'm sorry.  I love you."

She had me thinking, this little girl.  Guess we all could stand to have a bit more grace toward one another.  This mama included. I chuckled a bit when I initially read this cute little note...but I admit, there was a little sting in there too.  I know there's room for improvement in this area.  I'd recently been convicted, even confiding in others about my surprisingly lack of patience with my kids lately. They learn by example, right?

"But everyone must be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger."
James 1:19

"Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly."
Proverbs 14:29

A little girl's wise words + a little inner-reflection= a lotta light shed today. Life is good, but why not make it better.

"Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me."
Philippians 3:12

 Pressing onward.


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

the melted "wrath of Mom"

Ingratitude goes right through me.  Try whipping that up with a side of sass and a displeasing, disrespectful tone of voice, and serving it on a platter to your mother.  When my middle one began crying (real. big. crocodile. tears) for the second day in a row over wanting me to buy her some Littlest Pet Shop toys. And demanding and pleading that I buy them (on eBay of all places!?) NOW.  As in today or yesterday...(despite the fact that we've discussed Christmas only being 3 weeks away, and reminding her the true reason we even celebrate this holy holiday), it was all I could do to contain the "wrath of Mom" from unleashing onto her 7 year old frame!  Through gritted teeth and a struggling hushed voice (the littlest was napping), and a face I'm sure was as bright as a beet, and possible steam exploding from my ears, I sent us both to timeouts.  Distance to calm.  There are moments when our children come to the epiphany that they have pushed mom or dad over the edge One. Too. Many. Times.  Such was the case of my girl today.  Sworn not to leave her bedroom of doom until I returned.  With a mention that it could possibly be for the rest of these daylight hours (or her very life), a repentant heart tried to make right her wrong.  After 10 minutes of letting my blood pressure drop, and inviting Peace in, where it clearly was lacking, a softened-hearted mom returned, sat down on her softened-hearted daughter's bed to find a 7 year old's softened-hearted prayer.  

This here's a keeper (may have to double click to enlarge):
Translation:
"Dear God, please not make my mom upset and help me with my reaktshins (reactions) and P.S. I'm so sorry. Sorreyer (sorrier) then anything.  My feelings and I want to have a good Christmas.  With others that don't have firncher (furniture) and please make them have food.  And (in fancy letters) make the waether have snow and make it not riany.  And I want to be a good persone to help the pore.  And make our haerts be thankfull to God.  And when we do things fun and when the fun last, people shodint (shouldn't)  pout at all.  And be thankfull to all of our haerts. Allways be thankfull to God.  Allway.  A-A-A-men."


And there in that moment, the winds of Peace blew right through those pink bedroom walls and covered us snug and tight.  And all that pent up "wrath of Mom" melted away.  And was no more.

Grateful for the beauty found in the heart of this girl.  For a God who continues to do His good work in us (Phil 1:6).  Who doesn't leave us in a state of hopeless imperfection and failure.  And, oh how I fail. Who, even when we deserve His wrath, chooses to show us mercy.  I've so far yet to go.  Melt this heart till it takes the form of Yours.  Lord, do Your work. 

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Great I Am



This song has been like an electric current to my week.  To my heart.  Charging my spirit with belief and joy magnitude, raising even the very hairs on my arms into heavenward praise, a posture of Hallelujah. The repeat button, a strength surge, flowing fervent, urgent, bold, passionate reverence for God Almighty, the King of Majesty.  Somewhere along my days, that "belief" button was flipped, and the flow and power of His Spirit within me reached uncontainable.  A torrent of tear-worthy supernatural faith infused.  Blinding, holy, consuming fire. Breathed in and saturated.

The mountains shake before You 
The demons run and flee 
At the mention of Your name 
King of Majesty 
There is no power in hell 
Or any who can stand 
Before the power and the presence 
of the Great I am, the Great I am, the Great I am 
the Great I am, the Great I am, the Great I am 


I'm claiming this, O Mighty Mountain Mover.

Hallelujah, holy, holy.  Who is worthy?  None beside Thee.  
The Great I Am.

Mad. In. Love. Today.
Join me.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

my Gift above all gifts

Today's Jesus Calling devotional by Sarah Young is too good not to share.  She writes from the perspective of God.  As if He is speaking straight into our lives, into our very hearts.

November 29
 "Let Me Infuse My Peace"

"LET ME INFUSE MY PEACE into your innermost being.  As you sit quietly in the Light of My Presence, you can sense Peace growing within you.  This is not something you can accomplish through self-discipline and willpower; it is opening yourself to receive My blessing.

In this age of independence, people find it hard to acknowledge their neediness.  However, I have taken you along a path that has highlighted your need for Me; placing you in situations where your strengths were irrelevant and your weaknesses were glaringly evident.  Through the aridity of those desert marches, I have drawn you closer to Myself.  You have discovered flowers of Peace blossoming in the most desolate places.  You have learned to thank Me for hard times and difficult journeys, trusting that through them I accomplish My best work.  You have realized that needing Me is the key to knowing Me intimately, which is the gift above all gifts. (emphasis mine)

"The LORD will guide you always; He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame.  You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail." 
~Isaiah 58:11

"He tends His flock like a shepherd; He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart; He gently leads those that have young."
~Isaiah 40:11

God has been working mightily in my heart over the past month.  Ridding me of unbelief and strengthening my resolve...stretching my faith in areas of mind vs. heart, until they danced together to a chord of undeniable belief.  

Before I even read today's Jesus Calling, I spent some time with Him and His Word this morning and literally felt that sense of Peace washing over and growing within me, as Sarah Young described today. It's amazing, the power of His Holy Spirit at work.  

I look back at my own life, the struggles of the past two years.  The countless, repetitive, persistent prayers that have seemed to go unanswered.  The wrestling of belief and unbelief; head and heart knowledge.  Trust.

I look through my prayer journal and read months and months of the same prayers for myself and others...still awaiting answer.  I see Him between the lines, even though those prayers look alone and unheard on the page.

You are a God who hears and sees, right?
Show me.

And He did.

A close friend.  A slow and steady friend.  A friend like a sister, fighting cancer three times in the past 4 years, asks boldly for prayer a couple weeks ago as her numbers climbed, indicating cancer was rearing its ugly head once again.  Three of us met and prayed, almost daily, over those weeks.  His Spirit ever present, stirring within my heart and within the walls of the very room we met in.  Something about this time around, these prayers being lifted, felt different.  The boldness in approaching His throne ignited belief within me.  It caused me to search out His Word and pray more on my own.  We claimed healing over her and prayed scripture over her, not just believing that He could heal, but that He would heal.  He is a God who parts seas, and shuts the mouths of lions, who rains down manna from heaven, walks on water, and breathes life into the dead.  This God.  The same God.  Who never changes and remains the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.  This God, who by His wounds we are healed.  And saved.  And redeemed.  This God who hears our cries.  Who is present whenever two or more are gathered in His name.  Who, through prayer and agreement, moves into action for our sake.  This God, who is STILL a God of miracles, answered.  

Monday morning I get the text that blood tests had come back and her numbers had decreased.  Not maintained...but DECREASED!  This doesn't just happen.  Without medical intervention, this is unheard of.  But our God, the God who can stop time and make the sun stand still, can do anything, even reverse rogue cancer-prone cells back to a state of wellness.  

And He did.

"O LORD, my God, I called to You for help and You healed me."
Psalm 30:2


After the text I fell to my knees and just wept and poured out Thanksgiving to Him: Jehoveh-Ropheka...the God who heals.  I couldn't stop crying tears of joy and thanksgiving the entire day.  And I've been riding on a God-High ever since.  There's beauty in boldness.  In stepping out of comfort zones.  In sharing our burdens and fears with one another.  Had this friend not done this, I couldn't have rejoiced to the same magnitude that I have this week.  I was given a firsthand glimpse of His very goodness.  The goodness that His Word says He has stored up for us (Psalm 31:19).  The goodness that His Word says we shall see in the land of the living (Psalm 27:13).  The goodness that His Word says is chasing after us (Psalm 23:6).
Can I get an Amen?  

I needed this.

My friend mentioned that this answer to prayer has given her new resolve.  I told her it's done the same for me.  And I thank her for sharing her journey with me.  For allowing me to walk alongside of her.  The blessings in this pour out.  I still have unanswered prayers.  But my approach to them has changed.  My faith has increased.   My unbelief is shrinking.

The book of James states that God gives wisdom generously, without finding fault, to all who ask.  But it also says that when we ask, we must not doubt.  For the man who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.  He should not expect to receive ANYthing from the Lord.  That he is double-minded and unstable in all he does. (James 1:5-8)

Can I suggest that if you have any doubts about God or His answer to prayer, you first ask Him to rid you of any unbelief.  Ask Him to increase your faith.  He will do it.  He's been doing it within me.  The faith of a mustard seed can move mountains.  Our God is a mountain mover.

Earlier this week, as I am riding on my God-High, spending time with Him in the morning, I decided to look over scripture and to start writing down verses that I could pray over Darcy and I.  Verses that speak to our circumstance (circumstances that we are still waiting to be redeemed and answered).  And as I did, I felt a shift in my Spirit.  I can't quite describe it, but it was as if someone pushed a "BELIEF" button within my heart.  Flipped it right on.  I couldn't get myself out of my Bible.  I took 12 notes of Scripture and felt like my heart and my head were flooded with truth and treasure.  I didn't want to stop, but my poor kids were being neglected.  I looked at my clock and it was 10:45am!  I had been at it for hours, and I think if I would've been able, I could have had my nose in my Bible the entire day.

As I took notes on all of these verses, I bolded the blessings/rewards/answers/actions from God and underlined our responsibility, or our part in being on the receiving end of these blessings, on every verse.  From our standpoint, it didn't seem that hard.  God is calling us to come to Him, to love Him, to follow Him, to revere Him, and to trust Him.  The strength, rescuing, delivering, healing, prospering, hearing, saving, redeeming, providing, guiding, seeing...it's all wrapped up into our LOVING Him with all of our mind, heart, soul and strength.  To wait on Him in steadfast TRUST.  To revere and trust Him without doubt.  And it's in HIS faithfulness and righteousness that He comes to our relief.  Not in our own works.

Today's Beth Moore Bible Study (Week 5 of Deuteronomy: The Law of Love) summed up much of what has been on my heart this week.  Issues of faith and belief.  A remedy of hope. Tied all the loose ends into a bow and connected more dots on my faith page.  We were studying the blessings and curses of the Old Testament.  Ultimately, we are no longer under the curse of the law because Jesus became the curse for us (Galatians 3:13).  However, she pulled out three common consequences to disobedience.
  1. DRASTICALLY DECREASED FRUITFULNESS (Deut. 28:23)  We might find ourselves in this consequence when our prayers go unanswered, we have an ineffective prayer life, and our lives are unproductive or don't produce much fruit.
  2. DEFEAT (Deut. 28:25)  This could apply to any area of life.
  3. DEPRESSION (Deut. 28:66-67) (spiritually-induced...please know this is different from clinical depression) A heaviness of spirit or sin-sickness.  
She explained that these three things often are a direct result of relentless disobedience to God.  PLEASE, don't stop reading yet!  She further explained that we might be experiencing all of the above even while walking in OBEDIENCE.  I felt relief with this because over the past two years I have wrestled with these three things and have been so confused about it all because I have been following hard after God and walking in obedience to Him.  Yet.  It almost felt like we were being punished and it feels like we have been walking in a constant state of defeat.  That somewhere along the road we were doing something wrong and displeasing God.  All the while, waiting and wondering why He hasn't blessed our obedience.  And I've wracked my brain over this, tried to be patient.  I am not talking days or weeks or months...I am talking years of the same unanswered prayer.  Beth Moore further explained that sometimes these three things can also come out of OPPRESSION.  Oppression in which Satan treats us as if we've already done what he wants us to do.  I think we've been living like this.

But there is a remedy to these:  FAITH.

Psalm 84:11 says, "No good thing does He withhold."  I haven't been believing this.  I've felt He's been holding out on us.  I've struggled with feeling that He is not for us.  That perhaps His goodness was only for the afterlife.  That our lot in this earthly life just may not include this.  This is unbelief!  But as I took all those notes of scripture the other morning, every fiber in me was convinced otherwise.  Everywhere in His Word He proves and proclaims otherwise.  And as that BELIEF switch within me went from off to on, I decided to claim this for myself.

While flipping back and forth through scripture today in Bible Study, I came across Galatians 4:4...appropriate for this time of year, but also for the moment of my heart.

"But when the TIME had FULLY COME, God sent His son, born of a woman, born under the law..." 

My handwritten notes scribbled on the margin alongside this verse read: "He came at the right time.  God's perfect timing.  The LORD knows best for us as well.  When the fullness of time is right for you, He'll show up.  Don't give up if you're waiting for answered prayer or for the fulfillment of His promises."

And so today, I thank Him for those unanswered prayers.  It's through them, and in me, that He has accomplished His best work.  I praise Him for this.  The "no's" and the "waiting" and the "wrestling" and the "unbelief" and the "needing" and the "walking alongside"...all of it has caused me to become so much more of the woman He has intended for me to be. A woman utterly lifeless without Him.  How could I have ever gotten to know Him or my need for Him? How could my faith have grown without the testing of it?  How would I be able to truly count it all as joy (James 1:2)?  Oh, the depth that would have been lost had he first answered "yes."

In faith, and with wide-open joyful heart, I wait.  And I believe in His goodness.  Jehovah-Jireh...The Great Provider.

My gift above all gifts.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

the Dot Connector...

I am simply amazed at the way God has worked in our lives and in my heart over the past week.  As shared in my previous post, there were many things that were muddling through my heart and mind that I have recently asked God to give me the wisdom to understand.  Discernment.  Clarity.  I've prayed this over various areas of my life that were keeping me tangled up.  James 1 says He is a God who without finding fault gives wisdom generously to all who ask.  Can I simply tell you from every depth of my being that this is true.  This is a promise.  If you are confused, uncertain, needing perspective or clarity with anything, try it out.  He will deliver!

This week He delivered much more than that too.  In more than one way He showed up and blessed me big.  Through relationship...through circumstances that stress...through answers...and protection...through provision.  He has a Holy way of connecting the dots in our lives.  After months of things seeming like a giant mixed up ball of scribble and pointless, aimless dots.  He comes in with His divine marker and connects them all...marking my heart in the process, and showing me the outline of the beautiful art He's been drawing of my life.

This past Tuesday and Wednesday Darcy, Brayden, and I drove out to Wisconsin to meet with Dr. Li.  He is the CVS specialist I have mentioned before on my blog.  The best of the best.  The Dr. with the most knowledge and experience with this disease, treating over a thousand patients with this illness.  He has dedicated his life to the research and treatment of CVS, and is sought out internationally.  Next week he spends two weeks in Asia championing this cause.  I'm in awe that our Almighty God found a way to connect the dots and lead us to this doctor.  We have waited over 6 months to be seen by him and I was really praying (and asking others to pray) that our trip would be worthwhile.  It far exceeded our expectations.  There was excellence all over it.  We left there with a wealth of knowledge, perspective, a renewed sense of hope, and hearts of gratitude as we recalled and remembered all the ways God has been faithful to us over these past seven months.
Brayden and Dr. Li


I will try to explain this as concisely as I can...basically, Brayden is not a ticking time bomb as we once thought.  Although Dr. Li says Brayden is in the top 10% and his case is one of the most severe ("in the deep" were his choice words), it's not as if one simple unknown thing will set him off and trigger another episode, at any point, as we once thought.

They best described CVS by using this: "The Speed Limit Analogy."  Imagine that our bodies all have a set speed limit in which they function at their best.  Everyone's body also has a gas and a brake pedal.  The sympathetic system (our bodies fight or flight response) acts as the gas pedal.  If you were face to face with a lion in the jungle, this system would kick in full force.  Your body's brake pedal is your parasympathetic system, or your body's ability to shut down, relax, and restore itself.  In Brayden, (or any other CVS sufferer), once they hit a certain speed limit, their bodies can't find the brake pedal.  There is no turning back.  Good and bad stress won't necessarily cause an episode, but it will act as a lead foot pressing on the body's gas pedal.

So, let's say Brayden's healthy speed limit is 55mph.  If he is to catch a cold, it may bring him up to 65mph.  Then perhaps he has a soccer tournament over the weekend, and the physical exertion brings his body now up to 75mph.  On top of that, we let him have a sleepover with a friend and that puts his body up to 85mph.  If 85mph is his threshold, it will send him into a full blown episode in which there is no turning back, in which it is certain he will require hospitalization and ICU.  Brayden has been healthy for 7 months.  The severity of his illness resides in the fact that when he has an episode, they are intense and long, always requiring hospitalization.  Some CVS sufferers may have episodes more frequently, but they may only last 24 hours or a couple of days in which they do not have to be hospitalized.   So, as parents, our main goal is to try to keep Brayden's engine cruising along at a 55.  The medical staff at the clinic were very adamant that they do not want CVS to dictate the life of a sufferer or their family.  In fact, they said when weighing out various factors that contribute to lifestyle and making life choices, they want CVS to be near the bottom of that list.  They said the only time there is an exception to this, and the only factor that must not be compromised is sleep.  CVS must be at the top of the list when  deciding/enforcing matters of sleep.  We have been instructed to manage and limit his sleepovers and ensure that he regularly gets adequate sleep and rest.  I like to think of these things as "cruise control" for our boy.  We were also given a new treatment plan when/if he is ever hospitalized again, and some practical tips we can use at home to force his body to bring down his speed limit before it has gone too far. (We think some of the scares we've had over the past 7 months have been instances when his speed limit has been creeping up close to his threshold, but hadn't yet exceeded that "past the point of no return " limit).  Basically, we were told to keep doing everything we have been doing and to incorporate some new tips and practices along the way.

Did you hear that?  No more ticking time bomb, or need to be living in fear.  A new perspective can be life-giving.  (and i mean that in a physical, emotional, and spiritual sense).

More dots connected.

Another huge plus is that Dr. Li lifted every food/diet restriction off of Brayden (besides MSG...which we should all avoid anyway).  He does not believe there is a strong correlation at all to food and CVS...and if it was something that acted as a stressor/trigger to Brayden, it probably would have been noticed long before he even had a CVS episode.  In other words, if certain foods never bothered him in the past, they shouldn't bother him now or act as a catalyst to an episode.

Brayden's only question for the doctor was this:  "Will I ever be able to have ribs, pizza, and chocolate again?"  So you can imagine the shock and excitement that played out in that room and our hearts when we heard his restrictions were lifted.  Praise the LORD for this blessing! This sweet piece of news was the icing on our cake.  After our 4 hour long appointment, we went out to lunch.  I simply have no words for the joy in these moments.  Over lunch and a full rack of BBQ ribs, our boy took a breath, looked up from his plate and said, "I feel like I have a new, fresh life!"  (this mama couldn't hold back the tears).



And in that moment, I caught a glimpse of the art God's steady hand has been illustrating over and out of us.  Dots creating reason and beauty.

It was a whirlwind trip to Wisconsin.  An 8 hour drive there...with a quick spur of the moment  (characterized by an unexpected God blessing) stop in Chicago, we didn't arrive Tuesday night till after 9pm (10pm our time).  Our appointment was for 8am the following morning (7am our time).  It lasted 4 hours as we met with Dr. Li, a Clinical Psychologist, and the rest of his team.  And then we turned around and drove 8 hours home (+ stopping for food/gas) and didn't get home until after 10pm Wednesday night.  We were exhausted!  Then I had Bible Study Thursday morning and a two and a half hour training Thursday night and then co-op from 8-noon Friday morning.   I feel like I am still unwinding!  But, I have a full tank...so I keep running on that! For the first time in a very long time, I feel more like myself..and it feels really good!




My previous post I shared a lot of what I had been struggling with over these past 7 months...issues and feelings and insecurities that took me off guard, left me feeling much unlike myself.  I prayed that God would give me wisdom to make sense of this too...and with an 8 hour drive home from Wisconsin, he did just this.  Not only was our trip validating on a medical end, it was equally validating spiritually...

as God again connected more dots.

I find it no coincidence that the assigned reading homework for this past week of my Stephen Ministry Training (that's another blog in itself... I currently just finished my 9th week of a 50 hour training program to become a Stephen Minister at our church.  I'll finish mid-February.  I'd love to share more of how God worked in my heart to bring me to this ministry, but that'll have to come later.)  Thank you all who have beared with reading through this long post up to now!  For me though, these are written recollections of my joys and struggles and God's faithfulness through it all.  A galaxy of connected dots in a star-filled sky that had once been as cloudy and dark as deep night.  So, they are worth noting, even if nobody besides myself ever reads.

"By the word of the LORD were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of His mouth."
~Psalm 33:6

So, back to that 8 hour drive and my assigned reading.  The past couple of weeks have been about crisis, boundaries, co-dependency, passive/aggressive behaviors, assertiveness and the like.  This week in particular I read in-depth about Boundaries and Crisis.  While studying CRISIS, I couldn't believe what I was reading.  It was a wrap-up of my life over the past 7 months.  It validated everything we've gone through. Everything I had just blogged about two days prior was printed in word form, in my text book, on my lap, while sitting passenger seat in my car.  

I often looked at our experience as a short term "crisis" that ended after Brayden's hospitalizations were over.  But I am learning that this was not the case.  That crisis put us in crisis mode for the many months to follow.  And because Brayden's illness can be categorized as an "accidental crisis," ("one that's caused by unexpected events that bring about threatening change, such as serious illness, and forces a person to find new ways of living and coping.") it's no wonder I haven't felt like myself in over 7 months!  There were several other areas of "stress" (good and bad) that increased our crisis score considerably.  When looking at these "stress/crises" tests and charts and scoring ours up, I again began to thank God for all of His protection and His faithfulness along the way.  It could have been a lot worse, but I am beginning to more understand why things have played out like they have, why certain roads were traveled down that perhaps wouldn't have been had the variables been different.  But, it's ok.  This is the story of our family, and God allowed each and every part of it.  And I'll praise Him nonetheless.  ("Should we accept good from God and not trouble?"  Job 2:10)

While each person will experience a crisis uniquely, there are some typical patterns of response (basically, much of what I have experienced over the past 7 months...had I known it was "normal" I wonder how much easier this road would have been).

Typical Effects and Common Patterns of Response to CRISIS (taken from "The Stephen Ministry Training Manual"):

  • Lowered Self-Concept ("Crisis often brings a sense of personal failure or inadequacy" YEP! Just wrote about that! )
  • Disorganization ("People in crisis have to deal with many challenges at once, have difficulty concentrating and take longer than usual to do common tasks.  They also may have difficulty remembering things." A state of overwhelmingness)
  • Preoccupation with Self ("People in crisis spend a lot of time adjusting to their circumstances.  as a result, they frequently have little energy left to invest in relationships with others." I think my exact words in my previous post were: the bulk of my efforts and energy hasn't left the four walls we reside in.")
  •     ("People may withdraw from normal and helpful relationships and social functions such as church."  This was more of my husband's response)
  • Irritability ("People in crisis may express strong feelings in ways that alienate or drive people away.") 
  • Shake-Up of Values ("Crises tend to shake up a person's beliefs, opinions and values.  People in crisis may find that life seems unreal to them-  the life they once new is no more. They have to find a new way." How many times have i said this statement alone on this blog?)
  • A Reexamination of One's Relationship with God ("A crisis may cause a temporary loss of faith.  People may strongly sense that God has abandoned them.  They may forget God's care,love, and forgiveness.  Even Jesus cried out from the crisis of the cross, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Matthew 27:46.  A person in crisis may experience a lot of guilt and anger as well.")
I can't begin to tell you how validating it was to read these words and feel "normal," and that I have not been "alone."  It explains why I've felt hypersensitive to all that is around me and events that have happened along the way.  It explains why life has felt like an overwhelming blur.  With a professional degree in all of this, and experience working as a therapist, you'd think I would and should have known all of this.  That it'd be obvious to me.  But when you are standing in the middle of a hurricane, it's hard to see clearly.  Perspective is skewed.  The obvious not seeming so obvious.

I have such a heart of compassion for people who have walked through long journey's of crisis.  I want to walk alongside of them.  I'm so thankful for the slow and steady support, encouragement, and friendship we received along the way.  The grace-filled "tortoises" in my life.  I'm actually grateful that all of this "textbook knowledge" eluded me in my own walk.  Because compassion grows within you when you are walking through the trenches.  When you don't have all the answers.  When you have to rely solely on God to sustain and carry you.   It's where learning, and shaping, and refining occur.  It's where the dots are connected.  And faith blooms.  In the thick of the fire.

So, Brayden's not the only one who feels like he's got a fresh start at life.  I feel it too.  Remembering  with humble gratitude the Author of Connection.  The One who has carried us through this all.

My more than faithful Dot Connector.

All praise and glory to Him!



Monday, November 5, 2012

remind me who i am...

Tomorrow Darcy, Brayden and I leave to see a CVS specialist in Wisconsin.  We are hoping to gain some answers, wisdom, and insight into managing Brayden's illness.  I'm hopeful that the appointment will be worthwhile.  It's taken over 6 months to get in to see this specialist, and let me tell you, this has not been an easy 6 plus months.  Sure, it has been marked with many wonderful moments, and I wouldn't trade any of them back if I could...but overall, I would say that this has been the most difficult season of my life.  A season that is best described as utterly overwhelming on every level.  Stretched thin.  After we left the "crisis mode" of several hospitalizations, the following months were nothing short of hard and lonely.  It's possible to never have a quiet moment to oneself, to not even be able to use the bathroom without one of three kids at one's heels, to never be alone...yet feel totally alone.  That you're walking this strange and new road alone.  A wise friend once told me it takes months for kids to decompress after being in public school...this is true.  Add a chronic illness on top of that and it is a recipe for life change that literally blows your socks off and sets you in a whirlwind of exhaustion.  For quite some time, I felt like all of my needs and desires were placed on the backburner, and my life became a pouring out in which the bulk of my efforts, time, and energy never left the four walls we reside in.  It's a cloudy and lonely place to be, even when it's done out of love for the ones you love.  A place that can distort perspective and cause one to feel insecure and lost.  I often felt guilty for having to say "no," for having to miss out on opportunities and time and things that matter to me and make my heart full.  Time where I would have wanted to be doing anything else, anywhere else.  Not every day was like this...but these feelings resurfaced and recycled often.  I trust that there was and is purpose in it all.  I see much of this purpose now, the innerweaving of Romans 8:28 into the fabric of our family. God was at work...sustaining...breathing life, intention, priority, peace and joy into my weary heart.  I've shared bits and pieces of this journey with you in the past...but there's clarity in looking back.  We've moved beyond the whirlwind and have finally found ground to settle.  Balance.  Life doesn't feel like an overwhelming blur any longer.  For months prior, I was living in a constant state of survival (or so it seemed to me), each day barely keeping my head above water.  The homeschooling, the managing of Brayden's health, the laundry, and 9 plates of food a day for hungry, growing kids, the bills, the housework, the grocery shopping and errand running, with three kids in tow.  Adding anything extra to my plate, even a simple playdate, and I felt buried.  It was a season in which I kept putting one foot in front of the other, but then wondered how I was going to go another step further the following day.  But I did.  And His mercies certainly are new every morning.  And it's possible to live through a season like this and still feel joy and to be blanketed in peace.  (A crazy peace that is...where life around you seems chaotic, yet you know you are where you need to be and you are covered in peace by simply being in His will.) He does give strength and rest to the weary.  And He does carry when one's legs and strength and faith are too tired to even crawl.

These past couple of weeks have been marked with reflection.  I feel we have approached a new season and I rejoice in it.  A season that doesn't seem so foreign, but has finally become our norm.  A norm that really isn't so different from anyone else's, but has just taken me quite some time to arrive here.  In these reflective moments, I have been able to look back and untangle a lot of what I had been experiencing. And with clarity, I exhale.

I write this post to encourage.  Anyone who has or is facing a major life transition, whether it be a new job, a loss of a loved one, a divorce, relational problems, an illness, or anything else that sends the world as you know it into a tailspin, please know that you are not alone.  I found that with such a major life transition, it's easy to lose sight of one's identity.  The lies of the enemy try to swoon in and convince, rob and steal.  When one has to abruptly adjust to a new way of life, to a lifestyle that perhaps one didn't choose or desire, there is a sense of loss and confusion.  You must try to find your way, and this takes time.  Old insecurities may rear their ugly head and try to consume and shake.  Some of these things plagued me for quite some time.  Over the past couple of weeks, I have spent a lot of time in prayer, sleeplessness, and journaling, in attempt to figure this all out.

Throughout this whole journey, I'd find myself falling into pits in which I felt forgotten, consumed, left, abandoned, rejected, unloved, and lacking.  Lacking in time, energy, ability, confidence, sleep, refreshment, creativity, discipline...That I wasn't measuring up.  That I was overlooked or unimportant.  That what I had to offer was not good enough in various areas of my life.  I know these things aren't true.  It angered me that these lies were causing my heart to feel bruised and heavy.  And it confused me as of why they were surfacing. I prayed over this and it became clear to me that with this major life transition, somewhere over the last 6 months I had lost a bit of my identity...of who I really am.  I am much more than a wife and a mother of three...although most days those roles are highlighted by my actions and responsibilities.  I have much to offer the world around me.  I may not always meet expectations, but with grace, and with God, I have purpose and will be used. God's Word says I am so much more than the lies that try to define.  He says you are so much more too.  Over the past couple of days, I began making this list in my prayer journal...asking God to remind me who I am...researching verses and promises that redefine my identity in Him.  Instantly, I felt encouraged, and strengthened, and confident and valued.  If you find yourself weary, fearful, or discouraged, take a peek and see who/what God says you are.  And let these truths penetrate your heart and breathe life into your spirit.

I AM:

  • accepted (Ephesians 1:5-7)
  • chosen (Ephesians 1:4) (John 15:15)
  • loved (John 3:16)
  • known (Psalm 139)
  • heard (Psalm 28:6) (Jeremiah 29:12) (2 Chronicles 7:14)
  • seen and noticed (2 Chronicles 16:9)
  • not alone or forgotten (Hebrews 13:5)
  • created in His image (Genesis 1:27)
  • fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139)
  • redeemed (Ephesians 1:7-8)
  • His (Psalm 100:3) (Psalm 103:2-4) (Colossians 3:12)
  • holy and dearly loved (Ephesians 1:4)
  • belonging (1 Peter 2:9) (1 Corinthians 6:20)
  • under His care (Psalm 95:6-7)
  • included (in Christ...Ephesians 1:13)
  • marked with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13)
  • a child of God (John 1:12-13) (1 John 3:1)
  • led by His spirit (Galatians 5:18)
  • heir to the throne (Romans 8:17)
  • lavished with love (1 John 3:1)
  • Christlike (Ephesians 4:24)
  • worth dying for (John 3:16)
  • forgiven (Ephesians 1:7-8) (Colossians 1:14)
  • drawn to Him (Hosea 11:4) (John 6:44)
  • loved with an unfailing/unshakable love (Isaiah 54:10)
  • someone He has compassion on (Isaiah 54:10)
  • chased with goodness and mercy (Psalm 23:6)
  • alive with Christ (Ephesians 2:5)
  • saved (Titus 3:5)
  • given boundless grace (Ephesians 1:5,8) (Ephesians 2:7) (2 Corinth. 12:9)
  • justified (Romans 5:1)
  • Christ's friend (John 15:15)
  • new (Ephesians 4:24) (Ezekiel 36:26)
  • cared for (Matthew 6:30-32)
  • healed (Psalm 103:2-4) (Ezekiel 34:16) (Jeremiah 30:17)
  • assured that all things work together for my good (Romans 8:28)
  • confident He will perfect the work He has begun in me (Philippians 1:6)
  • blessed with every spiritual blessing (Ephesians 1:3)
  • blameless (Ephesians 1:4) (1 Corinthians  10:8)
  • filled with purpose (Ephesians 1:9, 2:10, 3:11)
  • hope-filled (Ephesians 1:12)
  • near to Him (Ephesians 2:13)
  • peace-filled (Ephesians 2:14) (Philippians 4:7)
  • called (Ephesians 4:1) (2 Timothy 1:9)
  • certain of His truths (Ephesians 4:17)
  • strong (Ephesians 6:10)
  • growing (Colossians 2:7)
  • prayed for by Jesus (John 17:20-23)
  • not in want (Philippians 4:19)
  • victorious (1 John 5:4) (1 Corinthians 15:57) (Proverbs 2:7-8)
  • promised eternal life (John 6:47)
  • promised a full life (John 10:10)
  • protected (Philippians 4:7) (John 10:28) (Psalm 37:28) (Psalm 91:14-15) (Proverbs 2:7-8)
  • set free (Romans 8:2) (John 8:32)
  • light in the world (Matthew 5:14)
  • more than a conqueror (Romans 8:37)
  • overcoming (1 John 4:4)
  • persevering (Philippians 3:14) (James 1)
  • delivered (Colossians 1:13) (Psalm 91:14-15) (Psalm 107:6) (Psalm 116:8) (2 Thessalonians 3:3)
  • strengthened (2 Thessalonians 3:3) (Isaiah 58:11) (Ezekiel 34:16)
  • satisfied (Isaiah 58:11) (Jeremiah 31:25)
  • rescued (Colossians 1:13-14)
  • pursued (Ezekiel 34:16) (Psalm 23:6)
  • set apart (Jeremiah 1:5)
And the list goes on and on...there are many more treasures and truths spilling from the pages of His holy inspired Word.  This list just ignited the spark in me that I feared had dimmed. Although it's fall and the weather outside whispers winter, there is spring in my heart.  I'm ready to embrace this new season with the full confidence of who I am in Christ.  To let that light shine and live this wild life treasured.  He wants this for you too!  You're worth it!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

corners to create...and God in a mailbox.

we've finally gotten a hold on this homeschooling thing.  seems it's flowing and we are able to introduce "extras"into our schedule without it seeming overwhelming or that we are falling behind (example: an occasional trip to the gym, women's Bible study, friends coming over in the mornings, doctors appointments, field trips to the zoo and the Henry Ford museum...things that may alter our day a bit, and change up the time we choose to do school, but allow us the flexibility to add them in, enjoy them, and still accomplish what we need to for the week).  
i love to create, and i'm enjoying the extra corners of freedom and flexibility that homeschooling has allowed for this within our home.  on a school note, i have really liked the history curriculum we are using.  there are many ideas for projects that we can incorporate into our lesson plans.  over the past month or so we have studied ancient china, africa, and egypt.  here are a few of our creations:






 Ancient China: Ming Bowls
Nomad paintings
 Ancient Africa: Paper Bead Necklaces
and Ancient Egypt: Gold Bangle Bracelets
Henry Ford Museum: Titanic Exhibit
The Detroit Zoo

while homeschooling has been going well and is in full swing, 
i've been struggling with discouragement in other areas for the past week or so.  same old circumstantial scenario that keeps plaguing this heart of mine.
today it left me feeling lacking and lifeless.

in addition to this, it seems everywhere around me there is illness and people dying on the outside.  it burdens my heart so.  and while i trust that God is in control and His thoughts and plans are better than my own, i'm still holding onto so many questions as of "why?"...  i know our prayers are heard.  i do not yet see the answers.  i choose to walk by faith and not by sight, but at times it's all too easy to break down and grow weary.    
too many tears already shed today.  and with unanswered prayers threatening one to feel invisible, i audibly cried out some more to the only One i know who will truly offer the hope and peace that's needed.  an hour or so later i made my way out to the mailbox (or as i have recently called it, "the box of discouragement" due to all of the bills that keep coming our way, piling onto our existing mountain) and found a card in there from a friend hoping to send a little piece of encouragement my way.  the scripture inside the card reads: 

"God will take care of everything you need." 
Philippians 4:19
(The Message)

His timing is always right on.  on a day i lacked strength, and weariness and discouragement were taking over...on a day i was beginning to let worry consume (even though i am not a worrier at heart)...on a day i was beginning to feel invisible, HE showed up right there in my mailbox with a gentle and faithful reminder.
and His creativity in doing so blows my mind...
showing up in a "spot" where I have felt the most discouraged:
the daily mail.
isn't that like our God?
the God who knows.
and cares.
about every detail of our lives.
even when we feel unheard.
or invisible.
He chooses to prove otherwise.

when it seems like everything around me is dying on the outside, i'm finding strength today that His very Spirit within me is alive on the inside.
providing enough to sustain...
and leaving me with more corners to see and create
a life of love and learning
and (at times, broken) praise
within my heart
and my home.
because He is everywhere,
worthy of being sought...
and just Good and Faithful enough
to show up when we need Him most,
wherever we're at...
even if it's
in
a
mailbox.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Saying "I do" to the ways and wonder of the "Moose-Muffin" life

Anyone familiar with the "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie/ If You Give a Moose a Muffin/ If You Give a Pig a Pancake" books?  Well, some days I feel like my life is much like those side-tracked, slightly chaos-driven, motivated, busily-being-busy characters.  Or maybe it's just "Housewife ADD."  
Either way it led me to this post.

What started as a trip to Target to exchange a pair of jeans Berlyn got for her birthday from her Aunt, ended in a little mother-daughter photo shoot at home late this afternoon.  Let me rewind my Moose- Muffin mind and explain:

New jeans for Berlyn= run upstairs to quickly put them away at home= realize there is no room left in her dresser to store them= clean out the summer and outgrown clothes from her dresser drawers= straighten up her room in the process= put away her basket of clean laundry that's been sitting on her floor for days= 1/4 of the laundry in her laundry basket was her older sister's (courtesy of a very helpful hubby trying to ease my load)= move on to Brooke's room to put away leftover clean clothes= clean out her armoire while I'm in there= get rid of summer clothes and clothes she's outgrown= start adding to the piles of clothing to donate/sell at our church's upcoming Mom 2 Mom sale this Saturday= clean out her closet and do the same= take summer clothes that she is keeping and store them up in her brother's closet (where her winter clothes are currently waiting to be brought down)= exchange them out= notice a white trash bag on Brayden's top closet shelf that is holding my unintentionally unpreserved wedding gown of almost 12 years= pull it out and reminisce= slightly feel remorse that I hadn't taken better care of it and had it preserved= remembering all of the pinterest inspired ideas I've come across or heard about from friends and sisters who have also been pinterest-struck...like taking a picture of your daughter in your wedding dress while she's little, and giving the picture to her, when she's grown up, on her own wedding day= grab my raggedy girls right there in the upstairs hallway and take advantage of the thought and the moment=  "little girls in their mama's wedding gown" fashion show= the pictures below...












and besides a few tears from my middle one (because of an older brother who teased),
i sat on that wooden aisle hallway and married a few moments of loveliness, 
pure and unblemished joy 
white with endless possibility. 
 wonder spilled out like satin from the heart, 
smooth as silk. 
with billowing pearled train of dreams,
and lace-whispered covenant to choose grace 
and gratitude with this one Moose-Muffin life.
and so
i do.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

who defines a "good" day anyway?

When I picked up Berlyn from preschool this afternoon I asked her if she had a good day at school today...
her response:
"Yep! I didn't show anyone my underwear!"

Out of the mouth of babes...
goodness in many forms.