Saturday, November 26, 2016

Preparing my Heart for Christmas: Letter to God

I am participating in a 28 day Preparing my Heart For Christmas Challenge done by Heather Bowen over at lifeofahomeschoolmom.com.  You can purchase a journal that she has made to go with it, or you can just meditate on the scripture. I have the journal, and today I wanted to share my response from yesterday.
by JeanKeatonArt

"For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin."  Hebrews 4:15

God, it really is quite miraculous that Jesus was born of a virgin. I mean, physically: NOT possible. But then, not only do You DO the impossible, You also do the improbable.  Your precious Son wasn't born to a queen and king, or even a princess.  He was born to a young teenage girl who had no significant stature in society.

Christians of all walks of life can relate to Jesus is one way or another. Scandalous birth? Infidelity? Although in Jesus' case there was NONE, You know people were talking about it.

But not only that, Father, Jesus went through life experiences that we have all had.  Disappointments with those he loved, betrayal, temptation, anger, hunger, grief, physical and emotional pain... He went through it all.  And why?  For what?  Why would this King of Glory go through all this pain, irritation, humiliation...when He could have just stayed in His perfect home in Heaven?

For me.  For you.  He did it for me.  He did it for YOU, dear reader.

And not only did He die for me, he experienced some trouble in His life so that I could KNOW that He understands me.  He not only lived a perfect life amidst trials, He did it so that His death on that cross would pay the penalty for ME.  For MY sins.  For MY crappy attitude and selfishness. It truly was my sin that hung Him there.

Thank you, Jesus for what you did.  I praise you that you didn't "just" die for me, but you LIVED for me.  You rose again...for me.  You lived a perfect human life so that this imperfect human could have a perfect one.  Glory to God.  Thank you Jesus.




Thursday, November 3, 2016

Here's MY Sign



 
Photo courtesy of Invisible Disabilities Association
Invisible. Shrouded. Hidden. Veiled. Unseeable.

Sometimes I wish I could wear my illness. Yes, I have a trach, but that could be from cancer, which most people assume is the case. Sometimes I wear an eye patch because of the double vision, but there again...could be an injury.

When I go out of the house, unless I am going to the hospital, I do my hair, put make up on, try to look presentable. Even if I don't feel good. Even if I have to stop 23 times from putting my hair up because my arms give out. Why?

I. Don't. Know.

Pride I suppose? Just because I feel like crap doesn't mean I have to look like crap?

So what would I wear if I could wear my illness? A sign that says, "I'm not drunk I have Myasthenia Gravis, that's why my speech is slurred and I may walk unevenly."

Another that says, "If I'm riding with you in a vehicle, please accelerate and break gently. Too hard and my head snaps back and forth because my neck muscles are too weak to hold my head up properly."

Probably should have one that says, "I can't breathe because my muscles are severely impaired by neuromuscular weakness, I'm not just out of shape. I also have an unfiltered hole in my neck, so you can imagine the yuck that lives in my lungs."

I would have a sign that says, "Don't judge me for parking in handicapped just because I look okay now. When I'm done walking through this store, I may have to stop three times on the way to the parking lot."

And of course a sign that says, "Please don't say, 'But you look so good!' For what? Someone with an invisible illness who struggles every day of their life to choose to live and fight instead of give up and die?"

We are out there. We are someone you know.

We are out there. We are sisters, daughters, wives, mothers, friends, aunts, grandchildren.

And we don't want to be invisible anymore.

Please take the time to be kind to someone today.  You never know the difference you may make in an otherwise very difficult life.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”  Galatians 5:22 ESV

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye?” Matthew 7:1-4 ESV

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Scandalous!




Mary was about 15 years old when she discovered she would be carrying the baby Jesus.  She was unmarried.  Her fiance was an older man, as was custom back in those days.  It was simply scandalous to marry someone who wasn't a virgin.  So there was Joseph, one day finding himself engaged to a pregnant girl he had never slept with. I’ll bet if his father was alive he had something to say about that!

But she WAS a virgin.  Jesus was the Son of God and the son of Mary.  Divine and human.  How is this possible?  It isn't.  Yet it IS, because God can do anything.  Why on earth would God choose this situation to use to bring His glorious, precious Son into this world? Why would Jesus willingly leave His home in heaven to come to earth?

The most relevant equivalent I can think of would be someone like Bill Gates choosing to give up all his possessions, power, family privilege, everything, to go live in the ghetto somewhere, completely homeless.  Times a million.

So why?  I'll share my theory in a moment.

First, I want to take a look at the family blood line of Jesus.  In Matthew 1:1-6, we read:
"This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham:
Abraham was the father of Isaac,
Isaac the father of Jacob,
Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers,
Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar,
Perez the father of Hezron....
Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab,
Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth,
Obed the father of Jesse,
and Jesse the father of King David.
David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife...

There's obviously more, but I selected these parts of these 6 verses and wanted to point out the few names I have in italics. 

Jacob:  was a thief and a liar.  He stole his older twin brother's birthright and blessing.  (Genesis chapters 25-27)
Judah and Tamar:   Judah failed to have his youngest son marry Tamar after his eldest son died, as was tradition back then.  (The brother of a widow's husband married her.)  So Tamar disguised herself as a prostitute and slept with Judah (her father-in-law). (Genesis 38)
Rahab:  was a prostitute. (Joshua 2)
King David, (whom God called the apple of His eye) and the woman who had been Uriah's wife:  The woman was Bathsheba.  David saw her one day, bathing on the roof, and he lusted after her. He wanted to have an affair with her.  So he did.  Bathsheba got pregnant, and to cover up his sin, David sent her husband, Uriah, out to battle, in the front lines, so he would be killed.  Their first baby died, but then they went on to have Solomon. (2 Samuel 11 and 12)

Does this sound like the pedigree of the Savior of the World?  So why on earth are these people in the royal lineage of Jesus?

I believe it is because we are ALL flawed human beings, and sin is sin is sin to God.  It doesn't matter if you lie, cheat, steal or kill. It's all the same to God:  it is sin.  The only logical conclusion is that there would HAVE to be sinners in the lineage of Jesus.

So why HIGHLIGHT them?  I believe it's the same reason that he chose Mary to be the mother of Jesus:  God can use anyone, anytime, for any purpose.  No one is too "bad" to be saved, or too "common" to be used by God for great and mighty things!  Mary, selected to give birth to the Christ-child was practically a child herself! 

Rahab was a prostitute, yet she helped the Israelite spies get out of the land of Canaan.  King David was an adulterer and a murderer!  And yet THESE are the people that God chose to use for His kingdom! These are the people that were in the family line of the Savior of the world. I have made many mistakes in my life, yet God can still use me to do His will.

He doesn't wait for us to get right before He can and/or will use us.  He meets us right where we are. I am so thankful that we don’t ever have to be “good enough” for God.  Christians are far from perfect.  We are all sinners in need of a merciful Savior. Jesus came to save this dying world, and every single person in it.

And that includes YOU.  Just the way you are.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Dichotomy



I've just been thinking lately how "at war" I seem to be within myself.  It kind of culminated yesterday when I was doing a Bible study on suffering.  This particular lesson was on satan and suffering.  I guess one thing lead to another and I thought, really, the whole Christian battle is dichotomous, is it not?

Dichotomy.   Paradox.  Oxymoron.  Ambiguity.  Contradiction.

Our "inner being" is selfish and spoiled and wants what it wants when it wants it!  But the Holy Spirit in us, the "new" being, has the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

But there's so much more to it than that, for me anyway.  I am at once extremely merciful and compassionate, yet equally adamant about justice for wrongdoing.  Not that they need to be mutually exclusive, but most times it seems like a person is one or the other.  There is a specific situation I have in mind for this:  take the example a woman in an abusive relationship.  It’s just she and her husband at home; her children are grown.  Yet she chooses to stay.

Part of me says, "Well, she's probably terrified and he's probably threatened her and she feels like staying is the right thing to do so no one gets hurt." (Compassion.)

The OTHER part of me says, "Toughen up!  Do what needs to be done and get out!"  And there is VERY little sympathy in THAT part of me.

Other instances:  I'm sort of healthy for a sick person.  I mean, my blood pressure, cholesterol, kidneys, liver, heart; all that stuff is just great.  But don't ask me to walk uphill in the sand for more than 5 feet because my legs will give out and I'll fall.  

Other people seem to LOOK the epitome of health, yet drop dead.  I knew a man in the peak of health, late 40's, early 50's, ran every day....just dropped dead on a run one day.  

Paradox.

I enjoy living in the country, most of the time.  The open spaces, the country air, the gentle breezes. Watching my son grow up in a way which, in my mind, is the best way a boy can grow up.  Room to run, frogs to catch in the pond, his faithful dog always a step behind him.  Not having neighbors in your face.  No noise pollution.  Clearer skies to see the stars because it's SO dark at night.  The amazing sunrises behind the barn.  The sunsets right outside the living room window that demonstrate God's brilliant love for us.

But then there are the bugs.  And mice.  IN the house.  And the 5 foot snake skin my husband found (still wet from its being shed) in our yard.  And that it takes 10 minutes to get a store that doesn't sell BAIT next to the bread. The fact that a tractor is more important than a car.  The smell.  Of cows and grass and cut hay and dirt and dog poo.  

And the noise.  Whoever said the country was peaceful has never lived where I do. The roaring and clicking of crickets and other insects, and annoying dissonant chords of the tree frogs.  The croaking of bullfrogs, and hammering of woodpeckers. And the birds!!  I love watching them, but some of the most beautiful birds make the ugliest noise!

Contradiction.

I guess my point is that there is simply more to any one person or situation than meets the eye.  So let’s try and show some extra compassion this week.  It may SEEM that you have all the facts, but the situation may be something you’d never expect.

Ecclesiastes 3:16-17 (NIV)
16 And I saw something else under the sun:
 In the place of judgment—wickedness was there,
    in the place of justice—wickedness was there.
17 I said to myself,
“God will bring into judgment
    both the righteous and the wicked,
for there will be a time for every activity,
    a time to judge every deed.”


Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Looking For Hope Through Pain



Sometimes, this time of year is difficult for me.  In 2000, I was in the Neurological ICU at the University of Michigan for most of the months of October, November and December. There are some dates that stick out more than others: on October 13 I had an MRI under sedation. When they laid me flat, I quit breathing and turned blue.  I might not have survived but for the quick response of the Code Blue team, who emergently intubated me and “brought me back.”

On October 17 I was intubated again, and helicoptered to the University of Michigan, put on a ventilator, and was nearly dead.  I got MRSA pneumonia, so on November 1, I was trached.  

This time in the hospital was very, very scary.  I was kept under quite heavy sedation because I was highly agitated and kept trying to pull my tubes out.  Doctors couldn’t tell me whether I was going to live or die.

Once I finally got out in December, just before Christmas 2000, I had a whole new battle to deal with: PTSD.  I would have flashbacks of being on the vent.  I would wake up during the night from a horrible nightmare where I was coding, or where I had died…It was terrifying.
As time goes on, things have a way of not taking up so much of your memory.  Some things will never seem less horrible, no matter how much time goes by.  For me, slowly but surely, I started healing physically and emotionally.  I got stronger in my body, and less traumatic in my emotions. 

Even though it has now been 16 years, I still remember November first as the anniversary of getting my trach.  I start thinking about the hospital stays, and the whole horrible mess. But it doesn’t cut quite as deeply.  Year after year, the sting lessens.

This time of year is difficult for another reason as well.

On November 1, 2007, my very best friend in the whole world, Linda, was diagnosed with Stage 4 endometrial cancer.  And it had metastasized.  She had her first chemo treatment in December, 2007 on her 40th birthday.  She passed away October 2, 2008.
A little piece of my heart died that day.  It hasn’t ever come back.  Linda was the kind of friend you dreamed about having.  The kind of friend that you could wake up in the middle of the night if something horrible happened. She was the kind of friend you could depend on, 24/7, 365. She was LOYAL.
We had one fight in the entire 14 years of our friendship, and she was so quick to forgive me for being overbearing and way too into her business. She had a quiet strength and determination that many people underestimated. Linda loved deeply. She didn't make friends quickly, but when you became her friend, you were her friend for life. She was a friend worth fighting for.

Linda's favorite verse was Zephaniah 3:17; "The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing." I remember the day she found this verse. I walked into her apartment and she showed it to me first thing. She had written it on a piece of paper and put it on her end table. That God, the Maker of Heaven and Earth, would rejoice over her with singing made Linda almost giddy.

I don't think she realized how many people rejoiced over her.

I will love Linda always, I will forget her never. She has indelibly changed my life. While my heart is broken, my spirit is soaring because I know that she is now whole, healthy, happy, and pain-free. There are no tears beyond Heaven's gate. There is no more night. There is no cancer.

Friends, cherish your loved ones.  I mean really, really love them.  Hold them tight.  Tell them how important they are to you.  You never know what’s going to happen.  That was one thing Linda and I treasured.  Those last eleven months and 1 day, we poured out our hearts to one another.  Nothing was left unsaid.  She knew how much I loved her and I knew how much she loved me. It was a sweet, beautiful, precious time.  And yet watching her suffer was almost unbearable.

She truly made me a better person.  So these “anniversaries” are tough.  But I know that one day I will be reunited with this best friend a girl could ever dream of.  And we will laugh.  And we will sing.  And there will be no more pain.

No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.” Revelation 22:3-5 ESV