Tuesday, March 28, 2017

A Taming of the Tongue

For most of my life, I have been a talker.  Shocking, I know.  Those who know me, know that if they call or visit, they had better set a time limit such as, "Hey, I can only talk for 10 minutes." or "Hey, can I drop by REAL QUICK, I only have 30 minutes before I have to be wherever" 

I have two strong and dominate love languages.  If you are not sure what a "love language" is, it is the way in which you have your "love cup" or "tank" filled.  It is how you as a person receive love.  Five primary love languages have been determined in the book, The Five Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman.  If you wish to understand more about Love Languages: Click here.  My two dominate love languages are: Gift of Touch and Gift of Time.  It is Gift of Time, that allows me to fill my love cup by both talking and listening to those I am spending time with.

I love nothing more that an afternoon of chit chat and visiting.  The majority of people in my sphere, know this.  They know I love to talk.  They know that I love to hear what is on their hearts.  They know that I just want to spend time with them,  no television, no chaos, no distractions.  Just time to be with one another.  I truly love it.

As a matter of fact, for my 40th birthday, two of my dear friends, "kidnapped" me for a day of girl time.  Just us.  As we were sitting having our nails done, my one girlfriend turned to me and said, "We know that you are a Gift of Time, so we wanted to spend the day with you.  This is your gift."  It wasn't the nails or lunch or Starbucks that was the gift (although super fun and very appreciated), it was the TIME.  We talked about anything and everything.  It was one of my favorite days, ever.  Also, annually, another girlfriend, coordinates a birthday lunch with several of my gal pals.  Again, it is not the lunch that is important, it is the TIME spent with friends.  It just feels so good to talk and be listened to, and to catch up with those I love.

What does this have to do with A Taming of the Tongue?  Well, I think part of being a Gift of Time, is also the Gift of Gab.  Talking, Relating, Listening, Loving, Understanding are all words that I would use during these hours of time spent with friends and family.

Every once in a while, my tongue, gets me into trouble.  Sometimes, I say things that don't come out right.  Sometimes I share something that would have best been left private.  Sometimes, I speak about things, just out of a sheer desire to "fill the silence".  Sometimes, I talk about things that have bothered me or hurt me or are still frustrating to me, because I long to be understood.  I admit to having talked about things and people, that I should not have.  I admit to bringing up past grievances and wrongdoing by others, just so someone else can empathize with me.  Just yesterday, I found myself talking about something in my past in a manner that was not flattering and certainly not reflective of who I want to be.  Sometimes in frustration or anger, I use my tongue to lash out at those closest to me.  I am sure none of you can relate. ;-)

God is constantly working on me to Tame My Tongue.  I have prayed and asked for God to reveal to me the times that my tongue has been used for harm, instead of good.  God does speak to me, but not with a whisper or an audible voice (at least not yet) but through His word, through other people, through Devotions, through Song.  Often, I will hear the same theme or message over and over and all of a sudden I will realize that God has been talking to me, directly to me.

Last night, I wrote an apology to someone I love.  I had spoken words out of hurt and anger.  I had used words to point out what "I" deemed as an uncaring heart.  These words were NOT of God.  In my mind, I was like..."Don't do it.  Don't lash out.  Don't get hurt/frustrated/angry"  but out of my mouth came the words anyway.  Spilling over like water out of a fountain.  Heard by the ears of the ones I love.  These words were not life affirming, but life destroying.  These words do not reflect a Christian heart but a heart of anger and sin.  So last night, I humbled my heart and apologized.  The apology does not take back the words spoken.  The apology can not un do what is done.  However, I recognized, through God's help, that I had been wrong and with Gods hand on my heart, I was able to apologize.  God is working on me.  It is something I am sure I will battle with the rest of my life.  However, I know that God is showing me more and more where I could have done or said something differently and he gives me infinite opportunities to grow and change.

Just today, through the TEEN devotion that I am doing with our LIFE group girls, God spoke and said, " Do NOT let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." Ephesians 4:29
(By the way, the book of Ephesians may be one my all time favorite books in the Bible)

So, I will continue to work on taming my tongue.  For years I have instructed my Sunday school classes and small groups to you use the word THINK before speaking.  T: Is it True?  H: Is it Helpful?  I: Is it Inspiring?  N: Is it Necessary?  and finally K: Is it Kind?  (True, Helpful, Inspiring, Necessary, Kind)  We should use this guideline for the words that we speak.

If you are like me, and often find yourself swallowing your words, or wishing you could take back something you said, or even are just working on your heart to align yourself more with your values, know you are not alone!  We are not perfect, but we, as Christians, aim to conform ourselves to the word of Christ.  Thankfully he gives us an unlimited opportunity to  "Work On It".  I am working on it.  Are you?

Thank you Lord for your words and your instruction.  Thank you for speaking directly to my heart.  Thank you for giving me a reminder when I have stepped outside of your will and carried on with my own will.  Lord thank you for loving me, despite my sinful nature.  Lord, I ask that you continue to work on my heart and you continue to point out opportunities where I could have tamed my tongue.  Finally Lord,  if I have hurt anyone intentionally, or as more often occurs, unintentionally, please humble by heart to offer a sincere apology and open the hearts of those receiving an apology to feel your love working in me.  - Amen

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

I am a Survivor...but not just of Breast Cancer

I am the first to say that I wish I had different choices to vote for in our Presidential Election. I do not want to vote, for either of them. Neither one of them speak for me. But, the events of the last few days have me angered. I respect your decision to vote how you wish, I would love it if you would stay with me long enough to explain the "WHY" I can NOT vote for Donald Trump. 

Over the long course of this campaign, I have watched and listened to DT bash just about every group of Americans and Immigrant Americans (which by the way, the vast majority of us ALL were, at some point) Ethnic groups, Our Country, Other Countries...and most of all women. I have watched people I love on my FB feed say that "He apologized" now we should "Get Over It" or "Move ON". I have wobbled with my vote because at my core, I align myself more with the Republican platform than the Democratic platform, and honestly had it been almost ANYONE other than DT, I would have voted Republican. But, DT being the choice that I have for that Republican vote sickens me, and here is very specifically why. 

1) I have a brother with cerebral palsy. Every single day my brothers crippled limbs pull up into themselves. He gets up hours before anyone else to get dressed, as getting from his bed to the bathroom is a chore. Getting showered, changed and even pulling socks on is a daily struggle. My brother is not black, not a muslim, not an immigrant, and not a woman, but he is a disabled american. He works his booty off, getting himself to his job through bus rides (as he isn't able to drive) and help from amazing friends. He is one of the happiest, most honest, most amazing people that I know. You can watch Trump make fun of a disable person with crippled limbs here: http://www.cnn.com/…/donald-trump-mocks-reporter-with-disab…. This is NOT the man I want representing those with disabilities. and YET, I was STILL undecided. 

2) I have many people in my life who are overweight, including myself right now. I have gained weight due to medications that are keeping the cancer from returning to my body. My body is scarred from multiple surgeries. I do not have nipples, I have straight scars right across my breast line. I have other scars, all over my body, I am more plump than normal, to no fault of my own, and yet, I would not be considered a person of "beauty" to Mr. Trump. My breasts are not beautiful and certainly not perfect, so I guess I can not be a 10 in his view. My weight would be a problem for him to see me as beautiful. I am sorry that cancer has destroyed some of my "outer" beauty. But that is what you are looking for Mr. Trump. You are not looking at my inner beauty at all. Oh, and not to mention I have daughters. How am I supposed to explain to them that they better grow boobs, be thin, and physically attractive to be a person of worth to the POTUS? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0up4nU7Q2Qo. and YET, I was still undecided. 

3) Finally, and perhaps MOST importantly, a friend of mine broke her silence this morning on her blog, about her childhood sexual abuse. It is a heartfelt read, if you have the time and the courage to read through her battle, I recommend that you do.  http://gracethroughguilt.blogspot.com/…/thank-you-for-intro…  Paige, inspired and put my words and feelings exactly onto the page. SHE IS ME, and I AM HER. I was 8 years old when someone I loved and trusted, pushed me onto a couch "gropped by P**SY" and forced His tongue into my mouth. I had no choice. It happened more than once, over the course of several months. It happened in a home that should have been safe. It happened in front of other "men". It happened repeatedly, during the day, in the middle of the night and in a place from which I had no escape. This past weekend there was a tape released in which Donald Trump said that he doesn't ask permission to forcebly kiss a woman and you can just "grab them by the p**sy". Even suggesting he better eat some tic tac candy in case he "just starts kissing" someone. I am sitting here with my heart thumping out of my chest as memories of a man doing EXACTLY that, flood my heart, mind and very soul. A man sneaking up next to the couch I was sleeping on, and grabbing at my 8 year old genitals. I pretended to be asleep. I laid there frightened while this man grabbed at me and started forcing his tongue in my mouth. He did not eat a tic tac beforehand.

 GUESS WHAT? Mr. Trump you now want to say this was "Locker Room" talk. Well excuse me for being mortified. Perhaps your words are what gave the man who molested me the kind of power to think it is OK. Perhaps your behavior as a leader and your words, as a leader, inspire those predators to think it is A-OK to force themselves on women, "hey even the Nominee for President of the United States says it is fine and finds if funny." I do NOT find it funny. 

For the first time in years, I am typing this out with anger and tears. So, it is a 1-2-3 Knock out Punch to you Mr. Trump. I HAVE decided. You do not get my vote. You do not speak for me. If this post, does not make you uncomfortable, if this post does not make you think twice about your vote. Well, like I said, you have the right as a free American to vote for who you wish. I honor YOUR right to choose. 

This will be my very last political post. Feel free to share, if you care to. 

I still do NOT know who I will vote for, there are still two choices and honestly I may not vote for a Presidential nominee at all. BUT, with certainty, I will not be coloring in the dot next to the name: Donald Trump. 

A dear friend of mine once asked me to PLEASE really think about voting for Trump because she is a republican through and through. I love you, but I disagree. I can absolutely align myself with the Republican party, and choose not to vote for Trump. 

Maybe in 4 years, the party line will get more serious and actually nominate someone who I can support. I am one of many Americans who fall between the folds of NOT having a candidate that represents me. Sad, very sad. As a Cancer Survivor, Sexual Abuse Survivor, Sister of a Disabled American, Mom of Daughter and a Woman...I can not vote for Donald Trump. You can, but I can not.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Musings of a Reformed Neat Freak

Nothing strikes fear into the hearts of a home owner like realizing you have company coming in a couple of days.  Pure terror takes over when you realize your company is your Mother (or Mother in Law- take your pick).

Once Upon A Time...there lived a young woman who liked every thing to have a place and expected it to be in that place.  This put together executive, made sure laundry was washed, folded AND put away.  She liked to see vacuum marks in the carpet and the kitchen was always spotless.  Whatever she and her husband needed could be found with ease.  The toilets were gleaming, the mirrors were so clean that they sparkled, you could probably eat off of the floors.  Her home was so "caught up" that making a home made dinner every night, was a snap without the looming list of to-do's staring her in the face.  With every corner cleaned, she would snuggle up to her husband at night and watch hours of TV, or retreat to a cozy chair and get lost in a book.  Sound like a Fairy Tale?  It was....once upon a time.

Now?  Well, lets just say this princess lost her wand, her sparkle and her sanity, which I am pretty sure I delivered right with the placenta of my first kid!

John took over the laundry several years ago, when he was concerned about having underwear and a clean shirt.  I was simply glad I didn't smell like sour milk from nursing all night.  I do put away laundry, just not expeditiously.  It might sit for a "little" while.  Oh, who am I kidding, I just dig through the baskets to find what I want to wear.  John has on more than one occasion left this house with wrinkled pants (because, I don't iron and apparently neither does he).

Gleaming Toilets?  Are you kidding me!  Just recently, I had a family meeting.  I wasn't asking for much.  "Listen, family.  If you leave a poop streak in the toilet bowl, can you please just use the disposable wand and swirl it away.  Especially in the downstairs half bath which is our "guest" bath."  This resulted in laughter, as mom called a meeting to talk about poop streaks in the bowl!  I usually warn anyone who says, "Hey can I use your bathroom?"  Why, yes you can.  But I am not guaranteeing there is not pee/poop or both currently in the toilet, because my family also seems to have developed a flushing problem.

Sparkling mirrors, well maybe.  But it is probably jus the gleam from the toothpaste you are seeing or quite possibly the glitter that seems to be in eyeshadow, nail polish, lip gloss and every other teenage product.  How did it get on the mirror?  Your guess is as good as mine.

Warning: If you choose to eat off the floors do so at your own risk.  The dog/cats or both may have recently puked there.  Sure I wiped it up, but hey, you might still find yourself covered in hair or slipping in the spilled apple juice that was "sort of" cleaned up.

Let's not talk about our office.  The loading zone.  The 4 desks, covered in junk zone.  Listen people, I try.  I really do.  But, I can't clean it off fast enough before more piles emerge.  I pick through it and occasionally will get down to business armed with a garbage bag and dust spray but usually it just stays piled up.

Right now, I am in the process of cleaning out a closet and a side attic.  This project has re-affirmed that I am not the Cleaning Queen that I used to be.  We reached critical hoarder status a few days ago when I pulled out 16 years worth of crap in my closet and side attic.  I threw away no less than 10 gigantic garbage bags filled with trash.  I have sorted, I have donated, I have sold, and yet, I sit here surrounded by so much stuff that I expect concerned friends and family to show up any minute with a camera crew and a counselor to talk to me about my cleaning problem.

Oh and as for those thoughtful home cooked meals and hours of snuggle time with the hubs.  Don't make me laugh.  Chick-fil-a for the third time this week, check!

My cats are loving our new status as box trolls, because they think this is their own personal playground.

As I take a break from my closet clean out, I realize that my house IS full of dust and piles and pets and children.  However, it is also filled with laughter, and love and moments and memories.  It is filled with symbols of a cancer battle, of 16 years of marriage, or children growing up way to fast.  It is a home filled with the sound of girls groups, music, movie nights, and baking.  It is a house filled with joy and heartbreak and more joy.  It is a house built with great love and great faith.

So, welcome.  Welcome to my home.  If you can ignore the daily life, crazy schedules and tired mama happening here and step inside, you will be loved and your heart will be cared for.

One day in the not to distant future, the busy schedules, the chaos of kids, and the pace of these years, will slow down.  I won't have piles of homework, dance and sports gear, or piles upon piles of laundry.  Once more John and I can snuggle and watch hours of tv together.  Until then, I will try to enjoy the mess, because I would rather take this messy life, than a clean house...any-day.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Broken Chains and taking out the trash

It is odd for me to sit on my "old blog" that has been left untouched for years.  It is not for a lack of wanting to write or for not having words to share, but this blog has simply been abandoned in the life of a wife, mother, and now cancer survivor.  The last few years have been nothing short of insane.  Through my Caring Bridge site I have been fortunate to share the trials and triumphs of my cancer journey, but today God laid on my heart a message that is not cancer related.  So, I am dusting of my keyboard and jumping back into my blog.

A couple of months ago, I decided that I wanted to set aside a special area of my house to pray, read scripture, work on my bible study, etc... I did not know that this idea was actually a common practice for those who have seen the movie, War Room.  I have not.  I was super excited to find my space and get it set up.  Due to an odd design of our home, and by happy surprise to me, I realized that I could use one of the walk in closets in my bedroom.  Yay me!  I had figured out my space.  I then quickly backtracked as I saw the mountain of stuff piled in that closet.  This was my Christmas, Birthday, purses, jewelry, bags, odds and ends, closet.  It was also the closet for all that stuff you have no idea what to do with closet.

A few days ago, I decided to go ahead and pull all of the stuff out of the closet and into my bedroom. I came to the conclusion that the stuff in the closet (now all over my bedroom floor) would need to be sorted, organized and put in a new location.  The only suitable location was the small, smurf-door, side attic.  Only one problem: the attic was filled with bins of old clothes, 16 years of bankers boxes stuffed full of receipts, tax returns, pay stubs, benefit explanations, etc... So the only logical thing to do, was to empty out the attic as well.  I spent a second day unloading the attic.  More stuff that I unloaded and piled into my bedroom floor, the upstairs hallway, the spare bedroom, and anywhere else the was a spot.  We were seriously approaching hoarder status.  You literally had to weave your way around, up and over piles of boxes, rubbermaid containers, trash bags and more.  As of this writing, I am currently at half-hoarder status.

Today, I decided to tackle the umpteen bankers boxes.  Upon opening each box, I had to decide what to keep, what to throw away, what to go to the shredder and what to sell.  With each box came a new freedom as I made quick work of the throw away and shred and sell piles.  Since I am not, in fact, a hoarder, it was easy for me to dump things that we no longer needed to hold onto.  However, there was still plenty of memorabilia that I took my time reading, pondering, laughing over, tearing up over, and keeping.

One of the piles that I came upon, was from when I was the Women's Retreat Chair for our church.  I was quickly flipping through the files when one of the lessons popped out at me.  This particular retreat was built on really laying down our burdens, giving up our sin, asking for forgiveness, and coming boldly to the cross where Jesus is waiting.  Suddenly, I remembered that retreat vividly.  While I try to confront my mistakes and past discretions head on, there was a particular issue that I had been holding onto for years.  I would ask forgiveness on my knees and then turn around and pick it up and carry it back into my everyday life.  I simply could not let it go.  

It was at this retreat that we talked about the story of David.  David, "a man after Gods own heart". (Acts 13:22)  David, hand chosen by God, a man that God hand picked and "God testified concerning him: 'I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do."  Well, David, being a man of free will, made some really really bad choices.  He coveted his neighbors wife, he had an adulterous affair, he had the husband killed.  David, selected by God, made these atrocious errors.  In 2 Samuel 12:13 David confesses his sin: "David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.” And Nathan said to David, “The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die."  David, paid dear consequences for his sin.  His sin was not without consequence, but even in the greatest of these sins, David was forgiven.  He was forgiven!!  

Back to me: I realized that my past mistakes were not anywhere near as grievous as Davids.  It was in that moment that God spoke to my heart that INDEED ALL OF MY SINS were forgiven at the cross, when Jesus shed His blood to die for me.  Romans 5:8 tells us: "But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners"!!  My friends - GOD BROKE MY CHAINS that day.  He reminded me of how loved I am.  He reminded me that I am never too far away from him, to come home.  

Just like the boxes I am going through, God wants us to put things in the "throw away" pile.  He does not want us rooting through our trash and picking back up our sin, our mistakes, our past.  He wants us to lay down the things that haunt us.  He wants us to repent, to turn.  He wants to break our chains and set us free.  

Friends, if you are holding on to the mistakes of your past, won't you kneel down right now and pray for God to break those chains?  Won't you, right now, ask for forgiveness and make the change to lay down your burden?  Will you accept the forgiveness that was given to you and for you, when Jesus shed His blood at the cross?  

Like tossing out tons of trash from these bankers boxes feels freeing, even more so when we throw out the trash from our past mistakes.  

I love you, but more importantly so does the Lord!!  I pray that you are set free today!!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Hope in the Home Stretch

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.  And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.  Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.  Romans 5: 1-5

36 weeks ago I began an incredible journey.  A journey I felt ill equipped to take.  A journey that would lead me through pain, suffering, periods of extreme loneliness, frustration, hurt, and sorrow.  Equal to the bad came blessings of joy, peace, friendship, prayer, strength, wisdom, perspective, respect, and hope.

Tonight, I will take my final chemo injection.  On Sunday, the 24th at 11:00 pm, a mere 6 days away, I will take my last set of medications.  Praise the Lord.

I have been asked several times over the past few days, "Aren't you so excited?"  Funny how life works.  I am not sure how I feel.  I will try to articulate it.  The short answer is of course I am thrilled to be in the home stretch.  But the emotions of ending a 9 month journey are not easily set into neat lines.  

I am still incredibly tired.  The extreme anemia that has accompanied my treatments, leaves me breathless and exhausted most of the time.  I have a severe sun sensitivity and the heat makes me physically ill.  My tongue and taste buds are swollen and burned making it hard for me to enjoy food and sometimes hard to eat at all.  There is no timeline on the reversal of these affects.  It could be as soon as 12 weeks, it could be years.  While I am concerned about the length of time in which it will take for me to actually feel better, I remain filled with hope.  

My marriage:  There are no words to accurately praise the husband who has taken such good care of me these last nine months.  John has brought me every meal, helped me in and out of bed, taken care of our children, prayed for me, walked beside me and after a couple of rough months in the beginning, devoted his love, time and energy to me and our family, while working a full time job.  In a very backwards way, my illness has been a blessing to our marriage.  John has stepped up in an incredible way, growing as a man, a father, a husband and a son of God.  I want all of those things to continue once my treatment is over and my life starts to return to some sort of normal.  I want that incredible man to continue to be changed and continue to grow, so I remain filled with hope that it will be so.

I am filled with happy tears and emotion as I have been somewhat of a rock these past 9 months.  I have only cried 5 times due to my illness (not counting tears in church, because those don't count!)  Twice the past two weeks, when in the sheer craziness of life, I just couldn't handle it anymore.  But now the tears are tears of, "I did it".  I am almost through.  I did it will little complaint, I did it with a great support system.  I did it with lots of love.  I did it with so many prayers that God surely thought, I had rallied an army of prayer warriors.  I did it with encouraging texts, notes, cards, and food.  Yes, more food than a family can eat, made by so many loving hands.  I did it with friends who picked up my kids, loved them and made them secure.  Yes, I did it with the faithful assurance of a Father who has provided in ways seen and unseen and I did it filled with Hope.  Hope that I would not be disappointed and Hope that Joy would come every morning.

I am filled with gratitude and a heart that can not even begin to thank every single person who has walked with me. There will never be anything I can do or say that will even convey how much I appreciate you, love you and have been encouraged by you.

Am I excited?  Yes, I am.  I will be more excited when I swallow those last disgusting pills on Sunday.  

Hope, it is a funny 4 letter word with a huge impact.  I remain in that hope as I face an uncertain recovery and a few years of testing that will determine if the liver disease is gone forever.  I remain hopeful that those tests will all return negative time and time again.  I remain hopeful that my recovery will be short and my health will rebound quickly.  I remain hopeful that my family will get the mom/wife back that they long to have, sooner rather than later. I remain hopeful that I will be able to put pen to paper and write out my full testimony one day of God's amazing provision in my life.  I remain hopeful that the perspective and lesson's learned during these 9 months will be reflective in my every day life for years to come.  I remain hopeful that as I have changed and others have changed that we can use our newfound joy to impact others.  

And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

6 more days and I will be basking in the Glory of a healed body and savoring the Hope of a future that is wide open.  Praise the Lord.

Thank you all for walking with me, God put me in Charlotte when I didn't want to be here.  He surrounded me with love, friendship and an awesome church family.  He built a huge protective barrier around me so that I would be well covered during this storm of life.  

Today, he has bestowed on me a crown of beauty, instead of ashes.  He has given me the oil of gladness instead of mourning and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.  (Isaiah 61:3)  and always a Hope that will not disappoint.

I will update as the final tests are administered and the end is really the end.  You all remain in my prayers, and I ask to remain in yours as well. 

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

I can do all things....

I want to share my testimony not to convict, condemn or even persuade, but so that if any bit of this might help even one, I pray to the Lord, that it will.

You see, I might know a tiny bit about suffering, joy, peace, and consuming love.

In my "Life" testimony, which I will not share today, I have faced more kinds of suffering than the average human being.  I know that may seem hard to believe but I assure you the things that I have endured in this human body should be enough to cause bitterness, anger, resentment, frustration, and I am not even talking about my current situation faced with illness.

I will start as Paul would start, full of Thanksgiving for each of you (1:3) .  You have remained in my heart and prayers even though I have not been able to be with you.  I am so thankful for the provisions you have provided for me and my family and do not take for granted the time and effort you have spent in sending your love and care.

I sit here and reflect on my life events and my current situation: bed bound, hungry for friendship, lonely for companionship, in a body that is weak and broken and think of how I "should" feel.  According to the world's standards, I should feel disappointment, frustration, anger, pain, and loss.  But assuredly I share with you that I rejoice that I do not live by "this" world's standards but the standards of the one true King and I am content to lay in bed, understanding that even in this, there is an opportunity to learn and share the gospel.

While Paul was in physical chains, I am in chains to my body.  While Paul was suffering because of his belief in Christ, I am suffering because of an illness, but believe that through the suffering, I too can be used.

Paul asks the early church in Philippi to unite, looking after not only your own needs but the needs of others.  You might ask, how am I possibly serving the needs of others, while constantly thinking of my own needs and illness?  

Several months ago, a plea went out through our church.  It was a plea I had heard time and time again, "We need Sunday School teachers".  While selfishly serving my own wants and needs at the time and my complete and utter lack of desire to serve in Sunday School, I turned away.  I made excuses, other's would surely "FEEL" called to step up and out and serve in this area.  After all, I knew I wasn't feeling called.  Not only was I not "feeling" called, I simply didn't want to do it either.  And of course there is always the great excuse, " I already serve in so many other areas, let the children's ministry find those who aren't serving already... I would sure hate to rob someone who IS feeling called of the blessing of working with the children"  No, I wasn't going to do it.

I don't know what happened, or why, perhaps it was Paul's amazing example, but mid summer when the cry and call went out again to our entire congregation, I said yes.  It was small and quiet and honestly, was a bit resentful, but it was still a yes.  Not a joyful, shout out kind of yes, but still a yes. I figured, I could "get through" a year.  What I failed to see at the time was that while "I" was not being specifically called, our church; Weddington United Methodist was calling all of us to unite and help, putting the needs of our children above our own needs.  I tell you, humbling myself so that resentment did not boil over, was hard.  Why couldn't others step up?  Why did I have to do it?  At the time I didn't know that I was going to be going through my treatments.  A few weeks after making this commitment to our Church and our children, I found out I would be undergoing 42-48 weeks of intense liver treatment.  It would have been so easy to walk away.  I wanted to be obedient to our Lord, but the excuses crept in.  I was scared.  I was scared of the unknown.  I was scared of not being able to be who I wanted to be, or do what I want to do.  Thankfully Paul reminds us that we are, "to continue to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose"  (2:13)

Yes, I was scared but in continuing to work out my salvation, God was working within me to prepare me and equip me to lead these children even with the unknowns of my treatment looming before me.  I decided to stop complaining and arguing with myself and to "hold out the word of life" (2:16) to reach the hearts of the children God was placing in my future.  You see, it was easy to look out for my own interests (was I going to be too sick, was I going to like the kids, was I going to even enjoy being with children in general) but doing the work of Christ was what the church was asking of me. (2:21)

As Paul reminds us to not put any confidence in the flesh of this life, and all confidence in Christ Jesus, he reminds us of the intensity of his old way's.  He also reminds us that though his life has been completely altered by being a follower of Christ, he remains imperfect (3:12)

As did Paul, so do I.  Doing my best to forget the past and straining toward what is ahead.  Notice, he doesn't say, "easily and joyfully and without burden running toward what is ahead".  He say's straining, straining toward what is ahead.  Reaching with all of his might to press on toward the goal to win the prize!!!  Yes, that sounds right.  (3:13-14)  Straining, reaching, pressing forward.  On towards the goal and the prize, eternal salvation!!

Paul also calls us to live up to what we have already attained, what do we know to be true?  Unite, serve, love, forgive, bless, be blessed, surrender, press replay and try again.... we all have this option.

My favorite passage from Philippians is 4:4-9 and is my life verse and is a beautiful part of my testimony.  "4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

"We are to Rejoice in all things!  When we are anxious we are to pray and present our requests to God....I am living proof that the Lord does indeed provide a peace that transcends all understanding.  Ok, I may still be working on my fear of flying, but he has provided peace in more situations that I can list in this summary.  Prayer, it works!  Petitioning God for our needs, it works!!

In this relationship, we are to put into practice what is noble, right, pure, lovely, excellent and praiseworthy.  I think this is what I was missing when my still small voice said, Yes.  I wasn't looking at our children's ministry as right, pure, lovely, excellent or praiseworthy.  Yet what could be more pure and lovely than that of our children?  Those we are tasked to raise up and lead from this generation to the next?

I am thankful for the many gifts you have provided to me and my family during this time of need.  I am still learning to be "content, whatever the circumstance" (4:11)  I do however, count on the promise that, "I can do all things through Him who gives me strength" (4:13)

I would like to sit here and tell you how easy suffering through this illness has been.  I would love to tell you that teaching between 25-38 children every week has been a piece of cake.  Let me tell you what I have learned.

Not by my strength but through the Unity of being part of the Body of our Church, I have learned...

1) Every child deserves to have an opportunity to learn about our great Lord.  Growing deep roots now, while they are eager to learn will help them either remain in the faith (as my father taught me) or to return to the faith as so many often do after college.
2) Children want to love you and want to be loved.  It is pretty simple like that.  While I would never consider myself to have a high tolerance for silliness, the wiggles, roaming hands, etc...  I have learned that God grants great patience to those doing his work.  It is rare that I am frustrated with the children in my class.
3) God has given me strength.  It would have been easy to walk away during my treatments, however, God gives me the will, want, and physical strength to stand before those children and teach every week.
4) In the struggles of my illness, I have been forced to be still and quiet.  Can you imagine?  Me?  Still?  Quiet?  It is true my friends.  It sure makes it a lot easier to find peace, patience, understanding, and yes, even a love for children that are not your own, when you can more clearly hear Him.
5) You don't have to feel personally "called" to answer a United "call" from our church.  God has blessed me in so many ways through these children.  I will tell you this, it is easier to preach and teach the word to open and willing children than to try to share the gospel with closed minded adults!

Believe it or not, this is not a plea to jump into children's ministry, this is my testimony and mine alone.  You, however, may have other things that have been heavy on your heart.  I promise you that when you sit in the will of God, you will be blessed beyond measure even if you do so while suffering.

Press on my sweet friends and do so joyfully.  Even if you have to dig deep to find that Jesus joy, it is there, I promise you.  I have always had a healthy dose of Joy, but I am starting more to appreciate a joy that can only come from obedience to our Lord.  While my joy has been altered these last 33 weeks, it has not been stolen.

Finally, a mother of one of the children in my Sunday School class said this to me: " I love that you don't consider it as 38 children to teach, but 38 hearts to reach"  Wow!  There was nothing more powerful than that statement.   I am reaching hearts for Christ, while my body is suffering.  I pray that it will continue to be a fruitful ministry.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

When Fear Sets In

So...I will admit that although I would love to say that I live in absence of any fear, I have two gigantic fears that overwhelm me. One fear more realistic than the other. One a fear that every parent has, the fear of something bad happening to their children. The other is not only a fear but a flat out phobia. I have a fear of flying. As in, flying on airplanes. It is actually not so much the fear of flying that really bothers me, rather the fear of falling: translation- crashing.

So what happens when your two worst fears collide at the same time? Physically, well...we won't go there, but it isn't pretty. Emotionally and mentally, it is exhausting - draining - overwhelming. Because a phobia is an irrational fear, there is little anyone can say, or anything that can be done to combat it. It quietly slips in and takes over every rational thought.

Fear Number One: In a little over a week, my husband and I will be leaving our children for the first time in our married life. They are going to be in excellent hands with my sister in law. They could not be going to a more loving, caring, amazing environment. However, I will not be with them. Not only will I not be with them, I won't even be able to reach them quickly should something happen.

Fear Number Two: Leaving our children, also means boarding an airplane for a trip over the ocean. My heart is racing just thinking about it and my stomache is well doing things that aren't pleasant.

Satan has decided to use my weakness and turn it into a playground. Preying on my fears there have been multiple signs that I should not go on this trip. A trip, that is much needed by my husband and myself. The signs have been hurtful, cruel, playing on my weakness as a mother especially. A few of these signs have put a fear into me that is much much worse than any phobia.

As I was sharing with my LIFE group from church some of these "signs", a very wise girlfriend pointed out to me, that these were the wrong kind of signs. She reminded me that God does not give us a spirit of fear. (2 Timothy 1:7) and that God would never do something to hurt me, scare me, and make me generally crazy.

So, I have been doing everything I can do. I have prayed. I have asked friends and family to pray for me. I have asked for a blessing. I have gone to the alter and laid it down. I have put it in my special box where I put things that I am struggling with as I hand them over to the Lord. I have done just about everything except one: Get into the Word.

Now, I know better than this. I know I need to be in the Word regularly to keep me strong. I know that I need to be relying on God's promises. I have been looking here, there and everywhere for some sign that I should or should not go on this trip and yet I have ignored where the most valuable information is kept, my Bible.

Today, one of my dearest friends sent me a prayer via email. Her prayer for me was directly out of scripture. Romans 15:13 " May the God of hope fill you with joy and peace as you trust in him"

Then, out of the blue, I decided to click on my blog. I have not done this for months with no real inspiration to write. There on my very own blog as my theme verse I have written: Psalm 34: 17-22 "The righteous cry out and the Lord hears them; He delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those crushed in spirit. A righteous man may have many troubles but the Lord delivers him from them all, He protects all his bones not one of them will be broken...."

Finally, I was singing the words to one of my favorite songs right now called No Matter What. As I was singing the words, "no matter what, I'm gonna love you, no matter what I'm gonna need you, I know that you can find a way to keep me from this pain but if not, I will trust in you, no matter what."

Signs....I have been looking for them everywhere. The signs I had been getting were delivered straight from the Enemy. But today, God answered back and slammed Satan down. The signs I have been gifted by a mighty God today are signs of love, hope, trust, re-assurance, and promise. Yes, these are the signs that push down fear and deliver us from the unknown into the hands of the all knowing, all powerful Jehovah.

I wish as I wrote this I could say that all fear as been banished from my heart. I can say that I feel 90% better than I did before today. So I still proclaim my weakness and ask for your prayers.

But I am also proclaiming today that I will trust in the Lord, my God to give me protection, safe travel, protection for my children and to work inside of my marriage...No matter what....