Monday, September 23, 2013

Waking Up

(Credit to Stan Lee or whoever it was did this movie.  No copyright infringement intended.)

I've been thinking today about the scenes in the first spiderman movie with Tobey Macguire after he is bitten by the radioactive spider and his powers start manifesting.  And it's freaking him out, but he also thinks it's cool.  That's how I have been feeling lately.  I am no superhero, obviously, but lately it's like a switch has been turned on in my brain, and I can't seem to stop the words needing to come out onto "paper", or in this case blogging, or journaling on my computer.  It's like this part of my brain has been mostly dormant for years and years, and now suddenly it's awake in a way it NEVER was, even in high school.  That's not to say the things coming out are that remarkable; it's just I almost forgot this part of me even existed.  Now several times a day I have these thoughts I feel this compulsion to get down somewhere, to excise them from my brain a little. It's like I've been asleep for years, and this part of me is waking up. And I think it's tied in with the things the Lord has been showing me in my quiet times and the times I've spent being mentored by a wonderful, older, godly woman from my church.  I don't even know if I'm making sense.  But that's okay.  

The Tobey Macguire Spiderman movies were some of my favorites.  I love some of the themes running through them--the idea that "With great power comes great responsibility", and the way that the character of Peter Parker develops from an inexperienced, somewhat selfish individual to someone who develops a great ability to sacrifice and give of himself for the greater good and for those he loves.   I also love how he learns through the movies that walking this journey of life is not something we truly do well all alone, that while ultimately we may have to face our biggest challenges dependent on no one but God,  there are times that we need others to encourage us and walk with us, and it's not a weakness to admit that.   I think the thing about most great superheroes in the comics, as well as most fictional characters we grow to love,  is that we identify with them in their flaws and their struggles, and something about their journey calls to us to become more than we are at this moment.   

Alot of the Christian journey seems to me to parallel the journey of true heroism that calls to us in these movies.   In the beginning, we are all bumbling and inept.  We recognize our own inadequacy, and we long for a hero to rescue us, because we deeply recognize our need to be rescued.  The difference in Jesus and the heroes of our making is that Jesus was sinless and perfect.  No flaw was found in him.  It's hard for us to fathom that.  It's even harder to identify with sometimes.  So most movie heroes don't truly parallel Christ, but often are more about our own journeys as flawed individuals attempting to understand truth and justice in a world where the culture often scoffs at moral absolutes.  Somehow, though, our hearts recognize there must be some sort of moral absolutes, something solid to grasp and hold onto.  Otherwise, how could we even identify if someone was acting heroically or not?  The beautiful thing is that while we could never be good or truly heroes within our own strength,  when we come to Christ he puts a new spirit in us and transforms us to reflect the glory of God and to represent Him, heroically to the world.

I will confess right now that sometimes I am an emotional coward.  I struggle with caring more about people's opinions of me than I do loving them well regardless of what they think of me.  Sometimes, I feel God is counting down my life to this ultimate moment when I will (hopefully) be truly prepared to be rejected by people as I am truly loving God and them the most that I ever have.  I am never sure if it will be the religious crowd rejecting me, those outside the church, or both, or if that moment will never come at all.  It is my deepest longing to please God in this way, and my deepest fear that when the time comes, I may fail the test.  I take hope that God is the one who will finish what he started, so as long as I keep submitting to his authority, learning and growing, he has the rest covered.  My part is such a little piece of the puzzle. 

Waking Up in any area of life can be a difficult thing.  When you've been stumbling around in the dark in some area, and God flips the switch and reveals to you the depths of your sin or insecurities, or just that reality isn't quite what you thought it was, we should rejoice that God is doing something in our lives and that he wants more for us than a dull, lifeless, insipid reality that is more delusion than truth.  I think the dangerous thing, when God begins to work in your life in a new area is to become prideful and to assume that you have this corner market on truth that no one else could possibly have.  When we have that idea, it's serious RED FLAG to stop and humble ourselves and pray.   Sometimes I think that's why newly converted Christians can be dangerous in alienating people--they have all this zeal without the added benefit of any deeper wisdom and knowledge.  

So here's to waking up.  Here's to God opening our eyes to our sin and removing the scales from our eyes that keep us from seeing Him, or ourselves, accurately.  Here's to being awake in a sleeping world, to finally appreciating that the light we have on is not to cause us to judge others who are stumbling in the darkness, but to be like the one TRUE hero, Christ, who calls people to come out of the darkness and embrace His light.  To watch the story unfold as he takes selfish, broken creatures, and forms and shapes them into something new and beautiful.  To hopefully live in such a way that we are not the only ones who are waking up.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Avoiding the Ditch

"...handing everything over to Christ does not, of course, mean that you stop trying. To trust Him means, of course, trying to do all that He says. There would be no sense in saying you trusted a person if you would not take his advice. Thus if you have really handed yourself over to Him, it must follow that you are trying to obey Him. But trying in a new way, a less worried way. Not doing these things in order to be saved, but because He has begun to save you already."

~ C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

I was thinking today about how there usually seems to be two extremes with regards to many behaviors, and often both are equally bad.  Then there is the middle ground position, which seems to offer the best of both.  For example, with regards to correction and/or criticism, we can live in constant need for the approval of those around us, paralyzing us from making decisions because we base our existence on whether we are counted worthy enough.  Or we can walk around in pride and disdain, saying we don't care what anyone thinks, we don't need other people's approval ever, and we don't need other people to speak into our lives.  Neither one of those is really going to be a healthy thing for growth.  The first is paralyzing and impossible; the second is foolish and arrogant.  

The older I get, the more rare a jewel it seems to me to be to find someone who is both content in their identity in Christ,  and does not look to others to find their self worth, and yet is also able to look at correction as valuable, and to understand it to be true that "Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses. " (Proverbs 27:6)  In other words, we shouldn't discount every criticism, but we should carefully consider the source and the merit of what someone is saying.  Sometimes the most helpful, loving people in our lives are the people who tell us the things we least want to hear.   It's easy to assume just because someone is supportive of what we are doing, that means they are loving us.  But sometimes, those people are actually just emotional cowards who are enabling us in our sin.  Love may keep no record of wrongs, but how can it hope for the best and believe the best if it never points us in the direction of what the best thing is?  

Another example is the area of legalism/works based salvation vs. lawlessness.  It's like there is a road, with ditch on either side.  And most of us seem to have steering problems, where we tend to veer to either side of the ditch.  Many people seem to live in fear of not doing enough to "earn" their place in heaven, and have this idea if they do enough good things, then maybe the scales will balance in their favor after death, and hopefully the God of the Universe will overlook whatever bad stuff they've done, and let them into paradise anyways.  But if heaven is a place where no evil exists, then it seems ludicrous to think we could hope to get in, if we have done even the smallest thing.  If you have ever stolen, then you are a thief.  Tell a small lie; you're a liar.  If you've lusted after someone who wasn't yours to have, then you've committed adultery in your heart.  How would we expect a perfect, sinless righteous God to overlook even the tiniest infraction against him, and still be considered a righteous judge?  The answer is he couldn't; someone, in some way, should have to pay the penalty for that sin.  This is where the idea of substitutionary atonement comes in.  Jesus, living a perfect, sinless life, did what we could never do for ourselves.  And he willingly took our place, so we could choose to take his in communing with God.  

Now, if I understand the cost of that sacrifice in my life, it will by no means cheapen grace.  It should lead to a desire for holiness, not to earn something I already have, but to take advantage more fully of what Christ has done for me.  If I draw near to God, he will draw near to me.  Drawing near to God means becoming more like him, and loving him and the people around me more fully and deeply than I ever have before.  It means turning away from selfishness, and giving of myself to others.  Doing this out of the love Christ has put in my heart should be a joy, not a burden.  That is where the "narrow way" comes in that Christ is speaking of, when he says in Matthew 7:13-14:

“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.  Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it."

The fact of the matter is that works based salvation is no more life giving than lawlessness.  But our pride will tempt us in either direction.  The truly humble heart will serve God out of gratitude, as the least of what might be expected from a servant for his master.  A proud heart will have no master but itself, and unfortunately even the works we do can become a god unto themselves.  

When I think on the pitfalls of faith, it can honestly be quite depressing.  It's no wonder the disciples asked Jesus how ANYONE was able to get to heaven.  Some days that's how I feel.  The human heart is so bent toward destruction, it seems.  Here was Jesus response though, to the disciples' question:

 But Jesus looked at them and said, “With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible.”  -Mark 10:27

Apparently, God is even bigger and better than I can imagine.  Which is a pretty good thing. 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Worst Pirate Day Ever

Well, as many of you know,  Today is International Talk like a Pirate Day, a most auspicious and excellent holiday where ye scallawags can engage in calling each other landlubbers and snagging free donuts from Krispy Kreme for saying arrgh, avast, and ahoy mateys with a bit of a growl behind it.  For the past few years, our family has really gotten into the spirit of this occasion, and last year we even snagged about four DOZEN donuts at Krispy Kreme for being in costume as well.  We enjoy singing piraty songs, discussing the history of pirates, and just all kinds of fun is to be had.   The kids get a big kick out of this day,  and I enjoy it with the kids equally.  Especially the free donut part.

But this year, we had a followup appt to Vanderbilt for my son, which took WAY longer than we expected.  While it was a very important appointment, and I was anxious to learn of the test results from his MRE and colonscopy/endoscopy, I kind of wish it hadn't interfered with the pirate day celebration we usually have, per family tradition.  But there will be other talk like a pirate days, and hopefully Joseph will be feeling much better by this time next year, to celebrate it.

Joe and I had hoped that the doctors would have more definitive information today; that the scopes would have given clear direction of if what we have been doing is working, or if we need to do something different.  Joseph was negative for the Eosinophilic Esophagitis, but they still referred us to the allergy clinic for testing, since he has been breaking out in hives over the last couple weeks, and he has never been extensively tested for food allergies.  Also, they ordered an additional x ray today, since his pain level the last two weeks has increased quite a bit, to rule out things like an obstruction.  As for his treatments, we are to continue with the Remicade and methotrexate at this time, and hopefully by his next infusion we will know if his body is building antibodies against the treatment, or if it's working like they want it to.  He is also to continue on the NG tube and the Elecare feeding regimen; what was originally supposed to be only three months has continued on, and to Joseph's dismay, will be going on for a bit longer.  The thing is, that has been what has helped him grow the most.  The good news is, thanks to the Elecare, he is back on the growth chart for weight; he was at the 10th percentile, praise God!  What we would like to see, however,  is him get to the place of health where normal food helps him to grow so well.  Joseph does eat some regular food, but every time he does he has Crohn's pains, which has been discouraging.  We limit his intake of fiber and raw foods, so even though he has had regular food, he still doesn't have certain foods at all.  And fatty foods are an absolute no no.  We caved after the MRE and actually allowed him to have a five guys burger;  that was a BIG mistake.  That pain after that was pretty severe.  It's just hard to tell your kid no to food all the time.  The thing he misses the most right now is salad, believe it or not.  Joseph loves a good salad with Italian dressing, neither of which is part of the low fiber, overcooked mushy, highly processed diet recommended for kids in a Crohn's flare up.  I look forward to the day he is finally well enough to eat salad again.  And raw fruits and veggies.  If we can get him to the point where he could just eat the healthy things without it hurting him so badly, that would be a wonderful thing.

The bottom line from the testing was that there is still a portion of Joseph's terminal ileum (the end part of his small intestine) which is inflamed; that was where the trouble all began that was identified in December.  We are still not clear on how much improvement there has been, though we are pretty sure there has been some, since he's not laying on the couch in pain twenty four hours a day like he was in April of this year, for about two months.  We are thankful for the improvements we have seen, and the therapies Vandy is using to help Joseph improve, like the enteral nutrition feedings.  But I look forward to getting him to the place where he can do normal activities again, like karate and schoolwork, on a regular basis, without getting tired out or hurting and having to take breaks.  Still, I can focus on what we still lack, or I can focus on how far we have come and be thankful.  I would like to think I will choose the latter.  I know God is working in the situation, giving the doctors and us divine wisdom, and working with the meds to help Joseph's body to heal and recover.  I am trusting that the challenges of this disease are the tools God is going to use to grow my son and myself, and that somehow He will take this challenge and turn it for our good and His glory.  He is my son's healer, the author and finisher of my faith, and I pray that each day brings us more wisdom and revelation of who he is and the plans he has for us, especially for Joseph.   Even if those plans today did not include the most awesome of Pirate days.  I have faith that next year will be better. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Self-forgetfulness, and chiefs of sinners

I have been reading a small booklet entitled, "The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness" by Timothy Keller.  Thought I would share a quote from this gem of a booklet that spoke to me here:

     "C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity makes a brilliant observation about gospel-humility at the very end of his chapter on pride.  If we were to meet a truly humble person, Lewis says, we would never come away from meeting them thinking they were humble.  They would not be always telling us they were a nobody (because a person who keeps saying they are a nobody is actually a self-obsessed person).   The thing we would remember from meeting a truly gospel-humble person is how much they seemed to be totally interested in us.  Because the essence of gospel-humility is not thinking more of myself or thinking less of myself, it is thinking of myself less.
     'Gospel-humility is not needing to think about myself.  Not needing to connect things with myself.  It is an end to thoughts such as, 'I'm in this room with these people, does that make me look good?   Do I want to be here?  True gospel-humility means I stop connecting every experience, every conversation, with myself.  In fact, I stop thinking about myself.  The freedom of self-forgetfulness.  The blessed rest that only self-forgetfulness can bring.......
    'Here is one little test.  The self-forgetful person would never be hurt particularly badly by criticism.  It would not devastate them, it would not keep them up late, it would not bother them.  Why?  Because a person who is devastated by criticism is putting too much value on what other people think, on other people's opinions.  The world tells the person who is thin-skinned and devastated by criticism to deal with it by saying, 'Who cares what they think? I know what I think.  Who cares what the rabble think?  It doesn't bother me.'  People are either devastated by criticism--or they are not devastated by criticism because they do not listen to it.  They will not listen to it or learn from it because they do not care about it.  They know who they are and what they think.  In other words, our only solution to low self-esteem is pride.  But that is no solution.  Both low self-esteem and pride are horrible nuisances to our own future and to everyone around us.  
    'The person who is self-forgetful is the complete opposite.  When someone whose ego is not puffed up but filled up gets criticism, it does not devastate them.  They listen to it and see it as an opportunity to change.  Sounds idealistic?  The more we get to understand the gospel, the more we want to change.  Friends, wouldn't you want to be a person who does not need honour--- nor is afraid of it?  Someone who does not lust for recognition---nor, on the other hand, is frightened to death of it?  Don't you want to be the kind of person who, when they see themselves in a mirror or reflected in a shop window, does not admire what they see but does not cringe either? "

I read this thinking of my own fear of fame, and felt quite convicted.  I am nowhere near a self forgetful person, but I want to be. I think very few people in the world are, actually.  Most people think too much of themselves or too little.  Very few people are actually focused on others, and loving God and loving them well.  It's hard to love others well when we are consumed with thoughts of ourselves, though; I see that quite clearly. 
The other thing that really spoke to me in this book was when the author mentions the apostle Paul, he pointed out the scripture in I Timothy 1: 15 that says

"This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief."

Something I had never noticed before is that Paul uses the present tense to describe himself as a sinner; he uses the word am, not the word was.  That is significant, and encouraging to me.  It is not glorying in my sin to admit the truth of how messed up I am apart from Christ, even as a Christian.   Even though I am moving in the right direction,  there is still alot of things about me that are sinful and in need of transformation.  That is not a confession of unbelief; God is changing me.  But it is an admission of where I am.  The thing is, as this little book points out, Paul was able to separate who he WAS in Christ from the things he ACCOMPLISHED or DID, good or bad.  Neither his sinfulness nor his accolades defined him anymore.  My final, most important identity is not that I am a SINNER, although I am one.  What matters is what God has ALREADY said of me, and that I believe Him.  HIS opinion is the only one that counts, and the verdict is in.  I am HIS, and the righteousness of Christ has been imputed to me, not based on what I have done, or even what I am going to do.   But based on what HE has done on the cross.  It is by grace through faith I believe in this.  What a wonderful, humbling, beautiful truth to contemplate when I sometimes am overwhelmed by how much I mess up, and how far I still have to go to look like Jesus. 

All of this theology we learn about in church, it turns out, has REAL, life living, practical application to how I should view myself and others.   Crazy, huh? 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

I love Mondays, Playing the Game of Life, and Just encouraging myself in the Lord

This has been a tough week for me, emotionally.  I admit, I did not hear what I wanted to hear from the doctor Friday; I wanted them to say Joseph's body was totally healed, and that did not happen.  I knew going in, it was unlikely, based on the way Joseph had felt last week, but I remained hopeful.  The truth is, God has brought my son a LONG, LONG way since his diagnosis in December.  But it's easy to latch onto those perfect dreams of healing, and not be thankful for where God has brought us so far.  And so I have struggled this past week, watching Joseph feel poorly, to be in the moment and present and not to run and hide on the internet or facebook or in a book---really anywhere but the place where I must sit and watch my son in pain, and feel powerless.  It's not that I am being neglectful of my kids; but it's been a struggle to be emotionally present. 

But I took a step yesterday.  I cried.  And then I got off the computer and played the game of Life with my kids, even though it was the last thing I wanted to do when I started.  And we had fun.  And then, even though church was the last place I wanted to be this morning, Joe stayed home with Joseph and our baby and I went with the other kids.  And it was good.  And I was glad I went.  The not wanting to go was not because church is bad, but because I feel so bad, and it's hard to feel so vulnerable around other people, afraid that I will once again humiliate myself by having an emotional moment in front of people inappropriately.  And several friends encouraged me, and I was glad that they were friends that I could shed a tear and admit my struggle, and they loved me the same.  Tonight, some of the verses about King David have been running through my mind.  In 1 Samuel 30:3-6, I read:
"So David and his men came to the city, and there it was, burned with fire; and their wives, their sons, and their daughters had been taken captive.  Then David and the people who were with him lifted up their voices and wept, until they had no more power to weep.  And David’s two wives, Ahinoam the Jezreelitess, and Abigail the widow of Nabal the Carmelite, had been taken captive.  Now David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and his daughters.  But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God." 

I love this story, because here we see David is in a tough situation.  While he and his men were off fighting, the enemy came in and took off all their wives, sons, and daughters as captives, and looted the camp.  The enemy basically stole everything they had been fighting for, and yet David does not lose hope.  Does he weep? Of course.  Trials can be painful.  That's where I've been, and I am sure I will be there again at some point, even more so than this week.  David was in so much grief he wept until he was spent, until the tears were no more.  And then, to add insult to injury, the guys he fought with are so angry, they start the blame game.  And who do they blame?  Their leader, of course.  David is utterly, truly alone.  I don't know if I have ever really been in a place like that, where no friend would stand with me.  But how like the enemy to kick a man while he is down! 

The most amazing thing happens in that moment of absolute agony.  In that moment of pain and loneliness, with no one else to walk with him, he doesn't forget that the spiritual reality is he is NOT ALONE.  And when no one else will speak Biblical truth to his life, he does something totally supernatural:  he chooses to encourage HIMSELF in the Lord!!

It's easy in America, where the level of persecution we face as Christians is still light and mostly annoying, to be lazy in our faith, and not to press forward in the things of God when trouble comes.  It's easy to get comfortable with others holding our hand, and the masses who seem to be walking this journey with us, to forget that this journey of faith is not about us and the masses.  It's about our relationship with HIM.  And if ever we are going to follow Him and trust Him, it better be when we don't have answers and the way is hard.  David was a man like that.  He was a sinner, he made mistakes, but when the chips were down, he chose to still trust God.  And he chose to humble himself and get his thinking in line with the Bible, and not just the circumstances he saw before His eyes.  That is a POWERFUL, powerful way to live life.  It's how I want to live my life, though I often fail so miserably.  

But that's what I am doing this week.  And while I know alot of people begrudge Monday, I actually like it.  Know why?  Because it's another new start.  It's a new work week, a new day, a new opportunity to rise up and be obedient to the callings God has on my life, and to be used by Him.  Hallelujah!  I tell you what, as Christians, if we never learn to dance in the rain, then we have never really learned to dance at all!  And tonight, I am dancing.  

The storm clouds haven't left.  But God is the God over all, and He's no less on the throne when Joseph is in pain, and I am discouraged, than He is when everything in my life feels like a bed of daisies (A bed or roses sounds painful to me, since they have thorns. lol)  

I don't know what hard things you are going through, but praise God, fellow believer, that God has a plan!  I may say that alot on here, but I think sometimes it's easy to just say that without really acknowledging it for the hope it is.  I am sure there will be giants to slay this week, but what a blessed thing it is that I don't have to slay them on my own.  Greater is he that is in me than he that is in the world!  I will close with this verse, from church this morning, 2 Corinthians 7:1:

"Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God."

Friday, September 13, 2013

New name for my blog/Update on Joseph

Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house.   And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word.  But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.” And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things.  But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.” -Luke 10:38-42

Well, I decided to change the name of the blog.  I decided the old name sounded too much like I thought I was teaching everyone (Originally, the blog was called "Lessons Under the Cherry Tree", when I meant it to mean that I MYSELF was the one learning), so this is the best I can come up with for now.  I have always been more of a Martha than a Mary.  I am a grade A worrier sometimes, and have struggled in my life with general anxiety and perfectionism.  God, in His sovereignty, decided that having six kids would be one of several ways He is using to transform me, I believe. lol   It's hard to hold onto perfectionism and your sanity simultaneously in a house with six kids.   I also believe God is using my son's journey with Crohn's disease to work in me and him simultaneously, as well as the joys of homeschooling.  My hope is that I am becoming more like Mary, as God teaches me and transforms me.  And that I can share that journey here on this blog.  

Anyway, Joe and I took Joseph to Vandy today to have a colonscopy and upper endoscopy.  He had an MRE last weekend, and we go back this week to the pediatric IBD clinic to go over the procedures and tests, and to make decisions regarding care for Joseph in the upcoming months.  The doctor who did the colonscopy today, Dr. Arthur, said her initial impressions were very good, and she thought Joseph had possibly improved from the last colonscopy that they did  on him in December in Huntsville.   However, there is a stricture that has formed at the site of his terminal ileum, which if it doesn't heal in the next little while, may necessitate a bowel resection of that part of his small intestine.  That was just her initial comments, and really we won't know for sure anything until we see them this week.  I will update more after we see the doctors and go over the tests in greater detail.   

Monday, September 9, 2013

Godly expectations--Giving my future, dreams, and my relationships to God

Expectations lead to disappointments.

Atleast, that's what the world had taught me.  For most of my life, I have come into relationships and life situations with all kinds of expectational baggage.  There was expectations about how many children I would have, what kind of job I would hold after college, the kind of Godly man I wanted to marry (He was supposed to be a male Mary Poppins-- practically perfect in every way! lol),  the way church is supposed to be, the way my parents should or should not have treated me, what constituted a friend who was worthy of my time and love, the list goes on and on and on.  Usually, I was not always aware of the expectation I had, until it was unmet.  Then I would be left frustrated and hurt, wondering why once again someone I had placed my trust in and needed had let me down, or why I was incapable of disciplining myself to attain my perfectionistic goals.   I truly believed, if I did all the right things I could have the "perfect" life, and all the "perfect" relationships.  All of my self worth was centered on being accepted and valued based on what I did for others; the inverse is, it was really hard to love others when I struggled with bitterness and anger inside for all the unmet expectations, and the self-loathing that resulted from my own prideful arrogance that I would be the one to DO IT by myself, and wouldn't God be happy then?  It sounds ridiculous, but that's how I was.  And the whole time, I was a believer in Christ.  I knew him.  He walked with me.  He was patient, and moved in my life.  But even though my faith was a saving faith in Christ and the power of his resurrection, for much of the time my eyes were still blinded to my own prideful struggle with self -sufficiency in the area of ungodly expectations.

So once God began showing me how my expectations were harming my relationships and even interfering with His plans for me,  I began to think the answer was to have NO expectations at all.  I mean, expectations were what were hurting me, right?  They were rarely met, and I struggled with despair when I was the one who failed to meet them, and bitterness when it was someone else.  It's funny to me how often when God begins showing me the ugly things inside of my heart, even my initial response after repentance is to try to figure it all out and clean up the mess on my own.  Which is just again, my pride.  And truly insanity.  God never meant for me to walk this faith walk on my own.  The whole time, it was about RELATIONSHIP with him.  So for a while, I tried having NO expectations.  Which is almost nearly impossible.  Again, most of the time we don't even recognize we have them until it's too late and they are again unmet.  And how do you live for the future when you have no vision to strive toward?  So that didn't go so well either.

But in the last year or so, God has been bringing me to see that the problem with the expectations is not when we have them, but having them when they aren't given to us by HIM.  One of the biggest things God wants me to give him is my future.  All my dreams, all my plans, all the things I think my husband should do and be, my children's gifts and futures.  All of it, a blank check to do with as He chooses.  And I can do this, now, because I see His goodness, His mercy, and His great love for me and the people I love.  He loves them more.  So what it truly requires is coming to God, laying down my old expectations, crucifying them, and waiting on the Lord to show me HIS plans and what HE desires for my life and the relationships I have.  Which means being in His word.  Being prayerful---probably alot more listening than talking.  And being patient when the answers aren't given to me microwave fast.  

I see this in my son's life right now.  It is hard, as a mom, to see your child in pain, and not know what to do to make it better.  When even the diagnosis you had hoped would bring total relief and healing has not managed to do that, all you can do is pray and cry out to God.  There are days I HATE Crohn's disease.  My expectations for my son never involved this disease from the pit of hell.  My own desires for my son are that he would be able to run and play and hang out with his friends, enjoy that quick mind of his (did I mention he is a super smart kid?),  and that his own body would cooperate with him and allow him to do all the things he wants to do.  Regular IV infusions, colonscopies and endoscopies, NG tubes, weekly injections of meds---none of these things were the expectations I had of how my son's life should go.

But God knows.  And let me tell you something.  God's plans for my son are GOOD plans, plans to prosper him and not to harm him, but to give him a HOPE and a FUTURE.  That's in Jeremiah in the Bible, and we Christians love to quote that verse, but when the Jewish people were being given that verse, they were about to go into captivity.  We can't always judge how good God's plans are by our measure of what seems like a good thing to happen to someone, and what seems like a hard thing.  The captivity of God's people was a good thing, not because of how FUN it would be, or pleasant, because of how God would use it to turn people's hearts back to him, I think. 

I don't think God MAKES people sick, but I do believe he is sovereign over the earth.  And somehow, like Job in the Bible, the enemy can only do in a believer's life what God has allowed, so far and no more.  So if God allows it, He has plans already to use it for His glory.  And the thing I am finding about having expectations in God are that, so long as I have had my mind renewed and received them from HIM, they will ALWAYS be met.  With God,  expectations do NOT lead to disappointments.  He is faithful, even when I am not.  It's truly humbling and amazing.

So I let go of the expectation I had for my son, and for myself too.  I come to God, open to His plan, which I already know is MORE glorious and BETTER than anything I would begin to come up with on my own.  And I rest in the contentment of it today.  My son has been hurting on the couch today, and my heart still hurts to watch him.  But in the midst of that, as he and I both turn our hearts more and more to God, there is peace.  In a future I have always had little control over,  I can rest and trust in the one who knows the end from the beginning.  I wonder what path of deliverance God may bring to my son.  But my voice is like that of Daniel's friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, in the book of Daniel.   As they stood, ready to be burned for their faith in God, they laid their expectations on the altar also:

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter.  If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king.  But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.” -Daniel 3:16-18

These men of faith came to God with open hearts of what he would do or not do.  Their faith was in his character, irrespective of whether he delivered them or not out of the trial.  That's the kind of faith I want to have.  Not faith that just has an expectation of deliverance, but a trust that God is working for my good and my son's behalf, and He is going to cause the best possible outcome for our good and His glory.  

I'm pretty sure that as long as I live, God will be bringing me on a journey of recognizing areas where I have not laid my expectations down, and then my repenting and laying them down to receive right ones from Him.  Maybe not.  I've still got alot to learn. 

Sunday, September 8, 2013

I have one follower on this blog. And My Blog

Well, I am excited to say I have one follower on this blog, and it's my good pal Gretchen! So shout out to you, babe! lol  We chicks have to stick together! (I follow her blog too, though she has a couple more followers. ) :)  Seriously, I figured people were getting tired of my long facebook ramblings, so I brought it over here.  And while I am hoping a few more of my friends will be reading,  I am not one who desires fame.  Fortune might be nice; fame, not so much.

I seriously stress out about even the idea of it.  And since it appears I am in no danger, that's a good thing.  I'm not joking.  I get a panicky feeling when I consider if I ever got famous after writing a book, how I would gracefully turn Oprah Winfrey down, or that Good Morning America show.  Because I DO NOT want to be analyzed in the media.  like ever.  They stress me out.  Too much liberal bias for me, and since me and my life don't fit that well with either the democrats or the mainstream republicans,  I doubt I would get love from either side in the media.  I mean, I backed Ron Paul.  That pretty much sums up how popular I would be.

Then there is the whole skeletons-in-the-closet thing.  When people are famous, all you had to do was ONE TIME in the 1970s look at someone the wrong way, or pick your nose in public, and they drag it out and parade it and try to make a mockery of you.   They analyze how you look at the beach, what your grandmother said or did ---it's insanity really.  I have NO DESIRE to be put on a public pedestal.  Not to say I have no pride I struggle with;  I do.  But that is NOT it. I suppose my fears are really a manifestation of my pride in the inverse, since I hate the idea of being dissected publicly and found wanting.  So humility would say if God ever chose to use me in a capacity that required fame, I would welcome it.  That is what I am striving toward.  But not quite there yet.  So I am happy in the meantime with my own anonymity. 

Here is the other amazing thing to me about people in masse--it's like we LOOK for reasons to be OFFENDED.  I realize that people will say and do things that hurt us; I am a sensitive person, and I myself have experienced this when it seemed to be intentional and meanspirited.  But other times, people have no idea.  And when you are in a leadership role or in the spotlight, it is 1000 x worse.  It's funny to me how much most of us expect other people to cut us some slack for our own weaknesses, but when it's someone else we will instantly assume the worst of them.  I have the utmost respect for people in authority, even the President and Congress, even if I don't have much love for most of the current people holding those offices.   And don't get me started on the empathy I feel for pastor's wives and kids. 

So let me say it now, and say it once for all:  If I post about homeschooling and my love (or even frustrations for it), that is NOT an indictment of you if you don't.  If I stand for the sanctity and holiness of marriage, that is not condemnation of you if you happen to be divorced or single.  I know that marriages take two people to make them work, and all any of us have control over is the person we see in the mirror.  If I believe it's a wonderful thing when a mom is able to be a  stay at home mom, that doesn't mean I'm judging you because you have to work to support your family.   If I sing the praises of large families, don't assume if you have one or no kids that I am judging you as less.   I don't think having absolute PRINCIPLES on which I base my life means that the application of those principles will look the same for everyone.  Alot of us are doing the best we can to serve God and walk this faithwalk out, and yes, there may be a few judging and sneering at you here and there.  But how much are we showing of our own heart when we are so prideful, we can't even allow others to have different convictions without judging them inferior for them?  When someone lives their life a little differently than we do, and the only way we can deal with it is to put them down, there is something wrong in our heart, not theirs.  Disagreement is not wrong; namecalling, gossiping,  and bashing people are inherently evil, and not something that has a place in any Christian's faithwalk.  If you want me to give you something absolute, let that one be it.

This blog is a practice in writing for me, and somewhat of a spiritual journal for my friends and family.  If someone else is blessed by it, that is awesome.  I am not a teacher or professional counselor.  I am just a mom of six kids, who loves Jesus, trying to do the best I can to honor God, my husband, and the people God has called me to minister to my life as he brings them my way.   I think blogs are great places to inspire community, but there are a whole lot of people who write as if they are self-proclaimed experts on whatever topic they choose for that day.  And I am no expert of anything, except maybe the school of myself, and the selfish desires of my heart, and how God is transforming ME.  So things God has given to ME I will share, which may or may not work for someone else.   I mean, come on, if I want to know how to parent, I am not going to look at a mom of preschoolers as a seasoned veteran.  Such a mom may have wonderful things to share, but her advice is in many ways not tested yet.  The other thing to me seems to be that the people I have encountered with the best advice were often the older moms who weren't placing themselves in the spotlight of their own volition, did not give advice unsolicited, but just the love their husbands and family had for them was so obvious that I couldn't help but be drawn to them.  Or maybe just seeing the humility they had, even if they had difficult relationships within their family, told me they were someone I could learn from.  These are the kind of women I run to for counsel or advice.  In the same way, feel free to share a bit of this journey with me, but know much of my journey is still to come, I hope.  So I am still learning so much, still growing.  And I prefer to be meeting with people eye to eye, not looking down at them because they have placed me above them.  In any case, I am clumsy and I am sure I would fall quite quickly and painfully.
Even the name I chose for this blog is not meant to be taken as me teaching everyone else; it's actually a play on words about me sitting at the feet of my savior, that I may learn.  He is the one teaching here; I am just a student. 

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Hosea's wife, the purpose of marriage, and other things God has been talking to me about today.....

The word of the Lord that came to Hosea the son of Beeri, in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel.
When the Lord began to speak by Hosea, the Lord said to Hosea:
“Go, take yourself a wife of harlotry
And children of harlotry,
For the land has committed great harlotry
By departing from the Lord.”

So he went and took Gomer the daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son.
-Hosea 1:1-3

     I have many friends who are military wives, and my pastor's wife recommended a book called Married Mom, Solo Parent, by Carla Anne Coroy, as something good to give to encourage and help any I knew.  Here is a link to the book on Amazon, for any who might benefit from it:

     I quickly decided to buy one, just to read so I could gain insight into what it is like to be a wife with a husband away due to job or other difficulties, and devoured the book in two days, mostly on the way to/from Vanderbilt Hospital today for Joseph's MRE tests.  After reading the book, I found it was a wonderfully encouraging book not JUST for military wives or wives of those whose husbands have demanding jobs away from home alot, but even for wives of husbands who just happen to be guys who don't get it right all the time, as well as for wives who tend to create idols in their hearts out of the idealistic expectations they have of marriage....which means, if not pretty much everyone, then a whole heck of a lot more people than just military wives.   Alot of the advice was convicting to my heart, and that is what I wanted to write about tonight. Keep in mind these are the impressions I took away from the book after reading it; I don't have the book handy now, as I passed it on, and so I couldn't tell you at this moment the author's exact thoughts or intent, just how it spoke to me.

     I started this entry with the opening passage of Hosea.  As a woman, I have actually always loved the story of Hosea.  It's in a weird way, sort of romantic to me to imagine this prophet of God named Hosea swooping in to rescue this emotionally broken prostitute, and it does indeed paint a beautiful picture of the depth of God's love for His people, and the depths of our sin He has cleansed us from.  I actually never considered how Hosea felt about it.  Here he is, this prophet of God, who probably had atleast a base expectation that God's plans for his future marriage would include a nice Jewish girl from a proper family, and that he would be her first love.  But that was not God's plan for Hosea; his purpose in Hosea's marriage was to show Israel how they treated him, and yet his great faithfulness and love toward them.  If Hosea was to have had a successful marriage, he had to have let go of his original expectations, and ask God for new ones. 

    The thing is, most of  us women (atleast I think I am not that weird about this) LOVE LOVE LOVE the idea of a knight on a white horse, coming in on his trusty steed, accepting us despite our brokenness, removing our shame, and placing us in a position of honor, despite the fact we may or may nor have been acting honorably.   We want more than anything to know what it is to be loved unconditionally.  The problem comes, I think, when we realize the knight himself is not as perfect as we envisioned, and that God is calling us to greater things than just a marriage that serves our own selfish ends.  We long to RECEIVE unconditional love;  But how many of us long to EXTEND that love to others, and most especially the husband we married?
I know when marriage begins, the rose colored glasses are on, atleast for most of us.  But at some point,  the quirks and personality distinctions that were so cute when we were dating begin to get under our skin, and then loving that other person is no longer such an easy thing. There is also the fact that marriages don't happen in a vaccuum of heaven on earth, shocking I know. lol Add in all the sin issues within our own heart juxtaposed beside our husbands, and without a whole lot of prayer and intentional forgiveness and communication, pretty soon you have a recipe for disaster, it seems.  I have seen it in my own heart at times.  Joe has certainly done and said things he shouldn't have done, as have I, but ultimately I have the choice of whether I view my husband through a lens of tenderness, forgiveness, and unconditional love, like Hosea did for Gomer, or whether I allow bitterness and hardness to consume what feelings I may have.

    The truth of Hosea is that ALL of us who know Christ were that broken prostitute, redeemed, washed, forgiven, and transformed by His great, beautiful, boundless love and grace.  Yet when it comes to our husbands, we withhold that same transforming, boundless love for lesser crimes than these. 

I think a big part of that is that in our culture, we don't understand the purpose of marriage anymore.  God has been showing me in the last couple years that the purpose of my marriage is NOT my happiness, although there can and should be much joy in serving God in the context of marriage.  The purpose of marriage is not to make me or Joe happy; it is another vehicle God uses to make us HOLY,  and to be a witness and testimony to a lost and dying world of the love of Jesus for his bride the church.  Our marriage should be filled with that kind of love.  And when I only want to love my husband if he is doing everything right and serving me according to my expectations, well, that's not really love at all.  It's more like a form of emotional prostitution, which is pretty messed up actually.  The funny thing is, this whole idea of loving someone like this is terrifying to the world, but it's actually a very freeing love.  When my love, my peace, my joy are not centered on my husband's performance, but on what Christ says about me (He loves me perfectly)and how Christ treats me (He died for me, so there is no question ever where my Savior's heart is), it frees my husband that much more to be the man God has created Him to be.  It also frees me to appreciate all the wonderful things he does do for me, all the hundreds of little ways he shows his love for me that were minimized in my eyes before, because I couldn't see past his imperfections. 

    Truly loving my husband does not mean making myself a doormat.  It may mean doing all I can to be a helper by covering my husband's weakness with grace and love, not keeping a record of wrongs.  It may mean confronting him lovingly, or it may mean standing back quietly in prayer so that the Holy Spirit can work without my interference. For someone in an abusive relationship, it would mean loving yourself (and the abuser) enough to get away and get the professional counseling help you both need, allowing the abuser to experience natural consequences of his actions,not out of maliciousness or bitterness, but striving to have a heart of forgiveness and to keep him from hurting you or others further.  The attitude of our heart is key.   I am not called to be the Holy Spirit for Joe or anyone else.  Sometimes the only thing God expects out of me when I see a need is not to nag, but to pray.  I'm honestly not all that good at standing silently and praying. 

I still have so, so much growth to do with this.  I still too often respond in anger when I should respond with love and grace and proper boundaries.  There are many women far, far wiser than I who would sit better in the position of a teacher than I ever could.  That's why I link to the book, because honestly there was a lot there I thought could encourage someone else.  My blog is just about the things God is showing me, and what I am learning, so I hope anyone who reads this will recognize I am not sitting in the position of a teacher, but more a friend over a cup of coffee sharing where she is at right now.  And I can tell you, honestly, that in the last few years, as I have latched onto this truth and begun to grow in it, my marriage has been better, happier, stronger.  It's not an overnight kind of transformation; more quiet and gradual.  But it is being transformed, as I am.  Hallelujah!  I hope it will be said of me that I never took the grace of God for granted, and that I was equally willing to share that grace with others, most especially my husband and beautiful children. 

(My friend Rebecca took this picture last fall.  She has a website at, and does a fabulous job.)

Wow.  I haven't ever consistently written on this blog, but I think that may change.  I have mostly posted to fb, but since my posts are kind of wordy (yes, I am quite verbose when I want to be, and sometimes even when I DON'T want to be, lol),  and mostly I post for my kiddos someday, that this might be a better way to record my thoughts and day to day ramblings. 
I posted the picture above, because it seems like an honest portrait of our family.  We're a little crazy, a little fun, but never dull.  
I can't believe at this point that it was only last December that my firstborn son Joseph was diagnosed with Crohn's disease.  For two years prior, he had not grown any, and had bouts of lowgrade fever and headaches.  My mommy intuition knew something was wrong, but nothing was evident from bloodwork or the specialists we saw.  Then on the way home from a family trip to VA, Joseph developed a high fever.  When we saw the doc after that, he referred us to a pediatric GI here where we live.   They did scopes in December, expecting to find Celiac disease, but instead we got a Crohn's diagnosis.  We asked to get a second opinion, and they referred us to Cincinnati Children's hospital.  We made a trip up there, where we met Dr. Saeed, who answered questions and confirmed the original diagnosis.  We came back with a treatment plan, but the doctor here was not supportive of the plan we had made in Cincinnatti.  After much frustration and a low point where Joseph basically was bedridden for a month,  we transferred to Vanderbilt for care.  Immediately, he began to improve.  Since June, my son has had to be on an NG tube, while he simultaneously began Remicade IV infusions (an immunosuppressant) to hopefully kick the Crohn's butt and get his condition in remission.  It's been a tough journey, but my son is a fighter,  and I can see clearly how God is using this condition to grow him, and me, to be more like Jesus. 
Tomorrow morning, Joseph will have an MRE to look at his intestines, and see if healing has taken place.  I am hopeful. 

Friday, September 6, 2013

God's sovereignty, Jonah, and other babblings.....

I was reading another entry someone had written today, on the Proverbs 31 woman website.  The author made the point that God was doing a good thing for Jonah when he caused a fish to swallow him; he kept him from drowning.  I honestly had never thought of it like that before.  Then I thought about my life, and how I have identified with Jonah's failings, and it really put my past trials and difficulties in a different light.  I'm still new to this idea of divine providence and the idea of God's sovereignty, but more and more I am finding it to be a great comfort.  I know that I don't run my life so well sometimes; what a relief that I don't have to run the universe for Him either.  The idea that God can cause ALL things to work for my good, even hard things, is a powerful thought. 

A Psalm of My Own

I am currently being mentored by my pastor's wife, and my assignment this week was to write a psalm of praise to God based on scriptures we have been discussing.    I thought I would share it here.  
My Psalm
Bless the Lord, O my soul.
Let the meditation of my heart and words of my mouth be filled with your life-giving, abundant Love.
I praise you O mighty God, because of your many wonderful works.
Your name alone is a fortress; a bulwark of salvation to those who hope in you.
You alone are worthy of the praise of my mouth; your holiness is ever before me.
I have said to my heart, let us seek the Lord while He may be found. Let us ascend His holy hill and climb to His holy mountain. Let us come to His holy habitation, and commune with him.
But how can I, O God? Like Isaiah, I am a woman of unclean lips. My sin is a constant, hateful companion. How may I enter your gates, and ascend your holy hill? For you are pure and true; No sin can dwell in your presence.
I come to you, Father, in my spiritual poverty. I come to you, and in boldness born of the experience of knowing your great love for me, I beseech you for eye salve, that I may see clearly, and for cleansing and forgiveness from all my sin. Only you can make me whole. Only by your grace and your mercy may I come into your presence. Of myself, I am unworthy; And yet you welcome me with open arms, a prodigal returned.
I will tell of your works to all the people; I will sing of your compassions which never fail! I will declare your Word to all who will listen! Your praises shall continually be in my mouth!
Praise the Lord for His faithfulness! Surely he has born us as a mother nursing her child! Though we each have turned astray, He has been steadfast, constant, and secure.
Where else can we turn that will satisfy the longings of our soul? You alone have the pathways of life. You alone are worthy of our affections and attention.
Let us tear down the Asherah poles; let us put away with idols. Come, O people of God. Renew your zeal; let every place of pride be brought low in our hearts. In our humiliation, let us be truly humbled to seek the face of God. Let every place of weakness be used to exalt you, O Lord.
A mighty fortress is our God; your enemies flee at the puff of your nostrils.
With your gaze alone you level mountains. Though I be surrounded by ten thousand of my fiercest enemies, I will fear not. For you are with me, and I place my trust in you.
I will place no trust in my flesh; it is weak, fading, and frail.
I will place no trust in my mind: it will bend truth to make lies.
I will not look to my storehouses or the number of my “chariots”, for all these things belong to you truly, Lord. You make men great, and you bring them low for your divine purposes and plans.
You and your word alone are what sustain me. Your Spirit is what flows inside me, bringing life and teaching me the ways of truth. 
  How great is the King! Let all the nations tremble before him! Let every knee bow and every tongue confess the wisdom, power, and love that is the God we serve! Amen.

Thursday, September 5, 2013


Say what?! Nothing has been posted since February? Well I better fix that then! Let's see... What all has happened in the past few months:
1. Naomi was born in March! So she's six months old now! She's adorable.
2. We moved (again!), but this time, only across town. Thankfully not to ANOTHER state.
3. Thats actually about it. I just wanted to write the number three. I added a picture of darling Naomi because like I said, she's adorable!