Sunday, March 22, 2015

"Do you trust me?"

One year ago I had the wonderful experience of hearing from God.  Granted, I was too wrapped up in the goings on in my life to fully realize that God, THEE GOD, was actually talking to me.

Last year, we sat in an a tiny room at our local ER, as a doctor delivered news to us that shook us to the core. My sweet little girl had a mass in her brain.  (If you are interested in the details, click here.)  As I sat there, snuggling and consoling my precious little girl, listening to people praying around me, trying not to lose it, I heard from God. 

"Do you trust me?"

At this point in my life I had been a Christian for a few years, but it wasn't until the year or so before this that I actually started growing.  I liked to think that I was in the "teen" stage of my faith.  I knew the rules and had a decent understanding of Jesus.  However, God hadn't asked anything real of me, yet.

Later that evening we were transported to a children's hospital, were we received more bad news.  Judging by the CT scans and her symptoms, they were leaning toward a diagnosis of a brain tumor.  It was then that I realized that we were currently sitting in a room on the pediatric oncology floor.  My heart broke.  Not just for my baby, crying in pain and fear, but for the "babies" all around us.  The first chance I had to be alone, I sobbed.  In my weeping, I heard it again.

"Do you trust me?"

Some point that night, between the crying and consoling, the nurses and the fear, I realized something.  This little girl is a gift.  A wonderful, precious gift.  No, not mine to keep forever and ever.  She belongs to God.  He just saw fit to bless us with her presence for an undetermined amount of time.  My heart knew that I had to give her to God, even if that meant God would take her home to be with Him. 

No parent ever wants to think about their child dying.  It goes against nature.  We had to prepare ourselves for the worst.  We had to know that even if the unthinkable happened, that we would be okay.  Not just as a couple, or as a family (I was 23 weeks pregnant with our second baby girl.), but that we would be okay with God.  It was terribly hard.  It broke my heart.  I knew I needed to trust God.

Everything, everything was completely out of my control.  I could not fix this.  I could not kiss her boo-boo and make it go away.  Only God could do that.  So, we prayed.  My mantra then became,

"God's got this.  Whatever happens, God's got this."

The next morning Big E had her first of many MRI's.  That afternoon we got some pretty awesome news.  The mass was an abscess, not a tumor.  Yes, she still needed brain surgery.  Yes, she was still very sick.  Yes, she still had a long way to go until we were sure she would be okay.  BUT... God's got this.

Two days after this journey began, Big E had her first brain surgery.  Two days after that, she started walking again.  Two days later, she was released from the hospital.  Two days after that, she was back in church.

But, no, that isn't the end of the story.  Only 11 days after her first surgery, she had her second emergency brain surgery.  This time the abscess had caused more damage, and moved into areas of greater concern.  Once again, I broke down.  God spared her life the first time, but this was much more serious.  I couldn't even listen to the surgeons explain the second surgery or sit there while my husband signed consent.  I cried out, praying that God would take care of her and that He wouldn't take her away from us.  Once again, I heard Him.

"Do you trust me?"

Yes, Lord.  You got this.

Big E had no additional brain surgeries.  Thanks to God, her neurosurgeons, infectious disease doctors, so many nurses, occupational therapists, and physical therapists, our little monkey is back to her relatively normal monkey self.  (Seriously, what 3-4 year old is normal!)  Praise God!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Oh, How Quickly Life Changes...

First we want to thank everyone for all your prayers and the various ways that you have reached out to us.  Despite the difficult week, we were very much so comforted by peace that only God can offer through the prayers of our wonderful church family and friends.  We have been truly blessed by the outpouring of love and support.  We cannot thank you all enough!
Now, an overview of our week.  I will be forever amazed at how quickly your life can change.  Sorry, it is so long!
  • Last Thursday, Bugs was a happy, healthy almost 3 year old. 
  • Friday morning she woke up complaining of a headache.  So, Mommy gave her some Tylenol and she went off to preschool.  We went to the library, visited Daddy at work, all in all a normal day. 
  • Saturday morning her headache was back, and she started vomiting.  At this point we just assumed she caught a stomach bug, so we settled in for a day of snuggles, Disney, PBS, and the bucket.  Mid-morning I took notice to the fact she was favoring her left arm, but at this point really didn't think anything of it.  Shortly after lunch time I noticed that her eyes were fluttering.  After a few minutes her forehead started twitching.  She fell asleep and her eyes and forehead continued to twitch.  Within a few more minutes her neck started to twitch.  We called the doctor, and were told to take her to the ER immediately.  She continued to have, what we found out later was a seizure, the entire trip into the hospital.  She had a CT scan at LGH shortly after we arrived, and not too long after that we received our first round of bad news.  We were told that they found a mass on Bug's brain, and that she needed to be transferred to Hershey's Children's Hospital.  Bug got to take her first (hopefully last!) ambulance ride.  That night at Hershey, we met with one of the neurosurgeon residents.  At this point we were told that the mass could be one of two things, a tumor, or an abscess.  We were told that they were leaning strongly toward a tumor, because she showed no signs of infection.  As you can imagine we were absolutely devastated.    
  •  Sunday morning she was sedated for an MRI.  After about 2-3 hours a team of neurosurgeons came into her room and explained to us that from what they saw, she had an infection in her brain that caused an abscess.  However, they couldn't be totally sure until they did surgery that it wasn't a tumor.  As the day went on we met with them a few different times as they showed us the very large abscess, and how it was pushing on the part of her brain that controls her left arm.  They explained the surgery, and how they were going to remove part of her skull to drain the infection.  Watching Daddy sign off on the papers for them to do the brain surgery was so painful.  I just wanted to tell them that there was no way they were going to do this to my baby, but I didn't have a choice.  Thankfully there were many blessings to be found this day.  The abscess was located at the top of her brain, so they wouldn't have to go through and possibly damage any brain tissue.  It was also in a part of her brain that is still largely undeveloped, so the amount of damage that was done is much less than it could have been. 
  • Monday morning Bug went in for her surgery.  After about 90 minutes her doctor came out and had nothing but great news to share with us.  They were able to get the abscess cleaned out, and she was doing great.  She also had a PICC line placed.  The PICC line is in her arm, and is a type of long term IV.   She will have the PICC line in place until May sometime.  She spent most of Monday sleeping, and we spent most of Monday rejoicing.  
  • Wednesday she started physical therapy.  The pressure on her brain caused some stroke-like symptoms on her left side.  First thing they did was try to get her to walk.  We were very happy to see her walking, with help.  She was dragging her left foot and not putting too much weight on her left leg, but she was walking!  We also found out that the bacteria that made its home in her brain is a very common everyday bacteria that is easily treated with antibiotics.
  • Thursday she had more physical therapy.  She walked some more, this time without dragging her foot.  After therapy was over, Daddy took her for a walk in the hallway, and she decided she had enough of this walking stuff... so she took off running.  PRAISE GOD!  She also met with an occupational therapist, who helped her with recognizing and engaging her left arm.  She had a baseline CT scan, that they will use over the next few weeks and months to check her progress.
  • Friday, just 2 days after her first shaky steps, she is running, jumping, dancing, and walking up and down the stairs.  She still has weakness in her left leg, but she has made AMAZING progress in the last two days!  She made so much progress that they decided to send us home with outpatient physical therapy, instead of spending another week in an inpatient rehab facility.  We were also told that the swelling in her brain has already shrunk beyond what they have expected.  We are now home and she is going to be doing the rest of her recovery here.

We would still appreciate prayers.  If you would keep her continued progress in prayer.  She still has very little movement in her left arm, and we have been told that she may never regain full movement/strength.  She also has about 5 or 6 weeks of antibiotics to go.  Bug is scared and nervous about anything dealing with medicine/doctors/nurses.  We pray that her anxiety will lessen as the days go on, and Mommy takes over most of her care.  
All in all, we feel amazingly blessed.  We believe that throughout the entire process that God has protected her and prevented "worst case scenarios."  He wrapped His arms around us and brought us strength and peace.  She is a miracle.  We also are honored to have been through something like this, that we might be able find new ways to minister to other people with sick kiddos.  
Thank you, again! 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Simon Says vs. Jesus Says

As a child I remember playing "Simon Says."  I played it on the playground, with my family, with teachers.  Simon says, jump on one foot.  Simon says flap your arms.  Simon says spin in a circle.  It is a game that requires complete obedience.  As Simon, you have the power to confuse people, or to make absolute fools out of people.  (Should I be ashamed to say that the later was definitely my favorite!?!)

Either way, when playing Simon says, your goal is to be obedient.  You may get confused, and you probably feel like a dork, but you do it.  Why?  Simon said so.  

After listening to this sermon clip by Francis Chan, I got a whole new perspective on the game "Simon Says."

Why is it that I am so willing to be obedient to "Simon," and not Jesus? 

I have spent years thinking that if I am a decent person, go to church, read and study my Bible, that I will be a good Christian.  But am I really doing what Jesus says?  Does Jesus want me to fellowship with other believers and worship him?  Yes.  Does Jesus want me to spend time with my Bible, discussing it with fellow believers?  Yes.  Is that all he wants?  NO! 

Jesus has called us to radical obedience and abandonment.  He wants us to get down and dirty in the work of the Kingdom.  He wants us to minister to the poor, the widowed, the orphans, the unbelievers.  He wants us to peacefully fight for those suffering from injustice.  He wants us to make disciples.  He wants us to be willing to sacrifice EVERYTHING for him. 

In Matthew 8:20-22 and 19:20-21, Jesus tells us that we need to be willing to give up our creature comforts, our homes, our loyalties to others, and even our money.  Luke 14:25-27 is even more shocking!  We must be willing to put our commitment to God above not only ourselves, but our families.  We must be willing to lay down our lives for the sake of the Kingdom.  Yikes!

"Jesus Says," can be quite a terrifying game indeed.  Thankfully, it comes with some amazing rewards.  The grace and mercy of God.  Joy and peace, even in the face of life altering trials.  The security of a ever present God, the wonder of being co-heirs with Christ, and the promise of Heaven. 

Brothers and sisters, let us be continually examining ourselves and each other.  We need to help each other in the life long adventure of "Jesus Says."  Imagine how disappointed and infuriated we would be if our children memorized everything we asked them to do, without actually doing anything.  As it says in James 1:22,
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. 
Do what it says.

Dear Lord, I pray that I will not just be a hearer of the the word.  I pray that I will have the boldness and obedience to go forth into the world, doing what you have asked me to do.  In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

The full sermon by Francis Chan, entitled "Radically Following Jesus," can be found here. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Our Distorted Version of the Golden Rule

 "So in everything, do to others what you would have have them to do you, this sums up the Law and the Prophets."
  Matthew 7:12 NIV

I would venture to believe that most everyone has heard the Golden Rule, even if they have never cracked open a Bible or stepped foot into a church.  I believe I first learned of the Golden Rule in elementary school.

When I was in school and first introduced to the idea, it was used to prevent us kids from hitting, bullying, stealing, lying, etc.  The idea being, if I didn't want someone to steal my brand new Lisa Frank pencils... (Don't judge me... they were really cool!)... I shouldn't steal their Little Mermaid erasers.   Sounds like a pretty good "rule" to live by, right?

So, what is my big issue with Christianity and the Golden Rule?

I firmly believe many of us have it all wrong.  We are not using the "Golden Rule," but something more along the lines of:

"Don't do to others what you don't want them to do to you."

This may work as a rule for an 8 year old, but is that how Jesus REALLY wanted us to interpret what he said? 

I would argue that there is a HUGE difference in what the Bible actually says, and what we actually do. 

Jesus tells us to DO, our distorted version tells us NOT to do.

I am a big fan of my NIV, but I really like the way this scripture is worded in The Message.  It says,  

“Here is a simple, rule-of-thumb guide for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them."

We don't need to go out making huge grand gestures everyday. What if we started out with just little things. Start by thinking about something you would really appreciate, then do it for someone else. I know I really like ice cream. It would make me feel pretty darn special if someone surprised me with an ice cream cone. Maybe a good place for me to start would be to offer some ice cream to someone I think could stand to feel special today.

In closing, I ask that we change our thinking on the Golden Rule. We need to do what Jesus really called us to do.

Dear Lord, I ask that You place people in my path that I might be able to bless today.  I ask that You open my eyes to those people, so I might be able to see them the way that You do. Finally, I ask that You give me the best words, thoughts, and actions, that will help me to reflect Your glory. Amen.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Words: How we hurt those who are suffering...

 Admit it.  You have said these words.  I know I have.

You run into an old friend from high school at the grocery store, and strike up a conversation.  They tell you about a genuine concern they have in their life; they are struggling with divorce, a family member is ill, they don't know if they will have a job next month...

You turn to the one pretty, little statement that you think will shine a little light into their life.   "God doesn't give you more than you can handle."

It is well intended, and absolutely wrong and hurtful. 

Put yourself in their shoes.  Let's say they have a terminally ill child.  This statement implies that God gave them exactly what they can handle.  Which leads to this kind of thinking:
  • God doesn't understand my limits or my suffering, because I am in WAY over my head. 
  • Okay, I am a strong person.  That's great.  My child is being punished because I am strong.
We started out trying to say something encouraging.  Instead we have isolated them, made them feel guilty, and possibly have pushed them even farther from God.

So, where did we get this catchy "sunshine and rainbows" saying? 

 I believe that people misunderstand or misrepresent 1 Corinthians 10:13.
 "No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.  But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it."   (NIV)
Scripture is not telling us that God will not give us trials beyond what we can bear, it is saying that God will not give us temptations beyond what we can bear. 

In closing, please choose your words carefully.  If you don't know what to say... say that!  You will do far less damage by telling the other person that you are at a loss for words.  (Believe it or not, they may not even be expecting you to say anything anyway.  They may just want to have someone listen to them!) 

Dear Lord, please help me to think about the impact of my words, before they leave my mouth.  Help me to comfort those who are struggling without hurting them in the process.  As Hawk Nelson sings in their song, Words,  "Let my words be life, Let my words be truth, I don't wanna say a word, Unless it points the world back to You."   Amen.

Friday, April 12, 2013

A legacy of lies...

"Telling a half truth is the same as telling a whole lie."

How many times have we heard our parents say this?  I don't know about you, but I heard this more than enough times.  Yet, how many half truths do we tell...?

Maybe you don't struggle with half truths or whole lies.  Perhaps you always tell the pure, unadulterated truth, never embellishing anything.  If that is you, great!  Wonderful.  You can stop reading now, because this post is not for you.

As we studied (in Moms' Bible Study) Abraham and Sarah, and then later Isaac and Rebekah, I was struck with a scary realization.  I lie.  A lot.  Way more than any God fearing Christian should.  I don't mean that I have grand webs of lies, or that I tell tales with the intention of hurting people.

Nope, my lies are of the more "innocent" variety.  You know, pretending your are not home when someone calls.  Using a little fib to get out of doing something you don't want to do.  Even glassing over a few parts of a story that don't make me look great.

I don't even call them lies... did you see that?  I pretend, I fib, I glass over things.  I don't lie.  Yeah, right.  

The scary thing is that I am a mom.  I have a beautiful little 2 year old who is watching everything I do and everything I say.  She is in full blown parrot mode.

What am I teaching her?  I tell her that lying is bad, lying hurts.  I tell her that lying only leads to further consequences.  But like any child, she is paying WAY more attention to my actions.

This brings me back to the Bible.  Twice in the story of Abraham and Sarah, Genesis 12:10-13 and Genesis 20:1-2, the couple lie.  They lie to the king and the pharaoh about their relationship.  
Genesis 12:10-13:  Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to live there for a while because the famine was severe.  As he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, “I know what a beautiful woman you are.  When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me but will let you live.  Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you.”
 Genesis 20:1-2:  Now Abraham moved on from there into the region of the Negev and lived between Kadesh and Shur. For a while he stayed in Gerar, and there Abraham said of his wife Sarah, “She is my sister.” 
When we read this scripture it is easy to see why they would have lied.  If they told the truth, that they were husband and wife, Abraham may have been killed so the ruler of the area could take possession of his beautiful Sarah. 

They lied to save Abraham.  Well, kind of lied.  They half truthed... since they were half siblings.  (Gen 20:11-13)  Either way, Abraham and Sarah agreed to deceive people, instead of having faith that God would protect them.

Later we find their son Isaac doing the exact same thing with his wife Rebekah.
Genesis 26:7-9:  When the men of that place asked him about his wife, he said, “She is my sister,” because he was afraid to say, “She is my wife.” He thought, “The men of this place might kill me on account of Rebekah, because she is beautiful.”  When Isaac had been there a long time, Abimelek king of the Philistines looked down from a window and saw Isaac caressing his wife Rebekah.  So Abimelek summoned Isaac and said, “She is really your wife! Why did you say, ‘She is my sister’?”  Isaac answered him, “Because I thought I might lose my life on account of her.”
Isaac's parents taught him that it was okay to lie.  Abraham and Sarah used a half truth to protect Abraham, and Isaac and Rebekah used a whole lie to protect Isaac.  Both couples choosing deception over faith.

The legacy of lies continues on and on and on through out scripture, and in our families.

We can tell our children to, "do as I say, not as I do," until we are blue in the face, but we all know how that turns out.  Our children grow and reproduce our bad behaviors.

So, parents and grandparents, what kind of legacy do we want to leave for our kiddos?   Surely not a legacy of lies...

Lord, please help me to hold my tongue when I am tempted to lie.  Help me to be truthful and to teach my child that telling the truth is always the best option.  Guide me in raising my little one, leaving behind a legacy of hope, and truth, and love.  Amen.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Eve - "The Crown of Creation"

Speaking as a woman, I sometimes feel very insignificant.  Okay, I feel this way more often than I probably should.

I mean, you read the Bible and it seems like men are doing all these awesome things!  Noah built an ark, Abraham was the father of nations, Daniel survived a night holed up with some ravenous lions, Elijah called down fire from God onto a waterlogged altar, David not only whooped up on Goliath, but also became King, and, of course, we can't forget Moses and his amazing water parting skills!  Geez!  That is just the tip of the iceberg of the men found in the OLD testament. 

Now, I am not stupid.  I know that all of these men were born by women, and many of the men in Bible had the support of some lovely ladies.  But, we don't often hear about them.

Honestly, in my pre-Christian days I knew of two biblical women.  That's right two.  Eve and Mary.  The biggest screw up ever, and the mother of Jesus.  At least that is how I saw it up until few years ago.

The Bible was not a place for women.  There were not any realistic role models.  I mean, who wants to look up to a women who caused the Fall of Man, and who can compare with the mother of Jesus?

Boy, was I wrong!

Last month our Moms' Bible Study group started taking a look at women and their importance in the Bible.  Wow!  I have learned A LOT!  My hope is to share some of the important things I have learned with whoever wants to read them.  Enjoy!

The first lady worthy of honor is Eve.  

As I said before, my knowledge of Eve was limited to her role in the Fall of Man.  However, my take on Eve, and women as a whole has greatly changed.

Without going into too much detail, there are two versions of the creation story found in the Bible.

The first is found in Genesis 1-2:4a.  This version is believed to be written more recently (about 500BC).  The second version of the story of creation is found in Genesis 2:4-25, and was written around 1000BC.  If you want to read more on why there are two creation accounts, and why they differ, please check out this site:  Priestly Vs. Yahwist

For the sake of this post, I am going to use the Creation Story found in Genesis 2:4-25

To paraphrase the scripture:  God created the earth.  God created man. God created a garden, plopped man in the middle, and created trees and plants.  God commanded man to take care of the garden.  God told man not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  God decided man needed a helper.  God created animals.  Adam names animals.  Nothing suitable for Adam is found.  God causes Adam to go to sleep.  God removes Adam's rib and creates woman.  Adam names God's new creation woman.  
*Whew! Take a deep breath!*

Now, there is something more to this story.  Something I missed for years.  Let's look at it again...

God creates the earth; this beautiful, wonderful planet.  God creates man, in his image (Gen 1:26); a creature designed to care for and rule over the earth.  God creates plants and animals; all serving a special purpose and crafted with special beauty.  Yet, something is missing, or shall we say someone.

God creates, and creates, and creates.  He fills the world with wonder, purpose, and magnificence.  But something isn't quite right, not yet.

God had not yet created Eve.  Eve was not an afterthought.  She was not simply another creation in a long line of creations.

She was God's final brush stroke.  She finished creation.  There was something missing, Adam desperately needed a partner, a helper, a companion.  He needed someone who completes him, who could journey with him.  He needed a counterpart.

As John and Stasi Eldredge state in their book, Captivating,
"Given the way creation unfolds, how it builds to ever higher and higher works of art, can there be any doubt that Eve is the crown of creation?  Not an afterthought.  Not a nice addition like an ornament on a tree.  She is God's final touch, his pièce de résistance.  She fills a place in the world that nothing and no one else can fill.  Step to a window, ladies, if you can.  Better still, find someplace with a view.  Look out across the earth and say to yourselves, 'The whole, vast world is incomplete without me.  Creation reached its zenith in me.'"
 So, ladies, while we may sometimes feel insignificant, we are anything but insignificant to the One who created us.  Slap a big smile on your face and remember that creation is not complete without you!

Dear Lord, please help women to see their place and their value in Your kingdom.  Guide us in teaching our daughters to be beautiful and confident in faith and love.  Amen.