Friday, December 31, 2010

The end of a year

2010. I remember feeling weird to be at that number when January first came this year. I remember being a little girl and my baby bother was given a tiny sweat suit that said across the front "Class of 2007" and thinking how crazy that was and how OLD I would be when he graduated. It felt like 2007 would never come - and here we are almost to 2011!

Years go by fast - some parts of them seem to go by slow, but overall time flies. We can't keep time from passing, but we can make the most of the moments we are given here on earth. One of the best ways that we can make the most of our lives is by living with joy in the face of whatever comes our way. The reason that I have been preaching joy through 2010 is that when we have a joyful happy spirit in spite of pain and suffering the world sits up and pays attention. I've had nurses in the hospital question how I can be happy when in so much pain - or facing another surgery etc. First time I ever had surgery the surgeon said that I was smiling even with a tube coming out of my mouth during surgery! (now, that may have been a fluke) This "different kind of happy" that people see gives opportunity to share the unquenchable joy that we can have because of Jesus Christ in our lives. I figure that my life is nothing if it isn't constantly pointing attention to the God I love. I want everyone to know Him personally and have the peace and joy that He gives freely. If my pain and illness can bring one searching soul to salvation, or one despairing heart to healing than all the pain I went through was not in vain. THIS is why I do what I do on this blog.

Thank you each for taking the time to walk with me as I explore all of this during 2010. You have encouraged me and helped me learn so much more than I would have without you. The discipline of writing and having to turn my focus publically to the unending joy God offers, has been so wonderful in my life. I am very grateful.

What will 2011 hold? I am not even sure what it will hold for this blog (hopefully God gives me a clear answer today!). I don't know what will happen with the precarious state of my health. I don't know what will happen in the government or world. I don't know if one day we'll look up and see Jesus Christ coming back to take us home! What I do know is that whatever this new year brings, God will be right where He always is - with a hand outstretched and really to walk with each of us through every moment.

He is worthy to be praised.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

my favorite dream

I didn't expect the year to be ending like this. I'm laying here quite sick and just wondering what will happen.  It's been a hard couple of month even though I'm enjoying getting settled in over here with our new church, and our little home becoming more and more homey. I want everything to work out and me to get better and better so that when Joshua is out of school we can adopt a baby right away. Feeling this bad makes me question all of those dreams.

When I started this blog on January 1 this year I couldn't have forseen all that 2010 would bring. I didn't know that they would finally put a name to what was making my chest hurt so bad, I didn't know so much of what has happened - "good" or "bad" (I put those words in quotations because often what we think is good or bad is really different than what is ultimately good or bad according to God's plan). I'm glad that I couldn't see ahead to what would happen. I probably wouldn't have walked through many doors if I knew the pain and responsibility they would bring on me. But, God has been present in 2010 and He has been breathing his breath of peace and blessing in so many ways in the midst of pain and hardship. I couldn't ask for more. I set out to learn to live well and god-honoring life this year while dealing with chronic pain - to live a different kind of happy than the empty happiness that the world offers. I learned so much and am so grateful for every step. I haven't really decided what to do with this blog on January 1 2011. When I started I didn't anticipate continuing after a year, so we'll just have to see how God leads. But I am so grateful for all of you that have been faithful to read and comment and encourage me on this adventure. I know I should have waited until New Year's Eve to write all of this - but I needed to put words to what I am feeling.
And although right now I am questioning all the dreams I have held onto in 2010, there is one dream that I know will never leave me. And it's my favorite dream.

I dream of waking up in a place where there is no more pain, no more sickness, of looking up and seeing the face of the God I adore more than any word or music can express. I dream of dancing free of any hindrance of sin, sickness, shame, self-consiousness .. dancing free as a bird before that holy throne of God. I dream of singing with every one who has ever (and will ever) served the Most High God. Singing songs with no end in perfect harmony. I dream of walking by the crystal sea with those I loved here on earth - our relationships perfected in that glorious place. I dream of seeing the fulfilment of my deepest hopes realized in the pure and forever fellowship with my Redeemer.

THIS is the dream I leave 2010 holding onto with all my might. And I know that no matter what, that dream will never be taken from me. It's what really matters to me, and so I will walk into 2011 with confidence and JOY seeking every day to live worthy of the Redeemer I live to love.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Merry Christmas!

I can't believe that Christmas has come and gone now .. I'm sitting here looking at a pile of openned gifts under our Charlie Brown tree, full of chocolate that "Santa" left in my stocking, and missing my husband who is back working a double shift today after 2 days off.

To make a long probably boring story shorter: after this past month being so sick with stuff I was sicker than probably I ever have been on a Christmas (except maybe the time I had major surgery right before Christmas!). I couldn't really eat much, or move around much, or even talk much. I was in emense pain most of the time, and struggling with horrible allergies the rest of the time. I wanted to do so much more - wanted to be up and helping wash dishes or put food on the table with my sweet mama and sis ... I wanted to play with the kids, wanted to play games with my siblings ... but I was stuck sitting trying to just get through the pain and being able to breath through the asthma.

At one point, I had to leave the family gathering at my in-laws (I have allergies to some pets) and go to my parents and just take a bath to try and ease my breathing. They were playing a game and I wanted to stay so badly. I wanted to be with my husband after being apart for several hours already that day ... but I had no choice if I wanted to stay out of the ER. I was in the bath when my mom came in and handed me the phone - my husband was sad and he thought that he should have come with me and that I shouldn't be in a bath trying to breath on Christmas day all alone. But I told him to be with his family and enjoy the time and that I was ok being alone at that moment. I think the reason that I was ok, and the reason that this Christmas was still merry in my mind is that God took me aside from so much of what makes Christmas stressfull - the rushing around, the busy activities. Instead, I was forced to sit quietly and watch my families. I had beautiful moments of seeing my newborn nephew and thinking of how helpless he is and how Jesus came and put himself in that possition when he was born as a baby so many years ago. I got to see my husband playing guitar and singing and our 1 year old nephew just gazing up at his uncle and swaying to the old Christmas songs. I got to see parents flirting, and kids giggling, my Daddy and Mama crying as they read a poem I wrote and recieved the gift of shelter given to needy people in their honor ... and in this quiet reflective pose I was given, I was able to enjoy Christmas in a beautiful way. I was forced to be totally alone for moments through the day - taking a nap because the pain was too much to sit up, going into the other room to use my nebulizer several times, the bath ... In those moments I was able to talk with Jesus and I think that constant communication I had with Him on His birthday celebration was the reason this Christmas was so refreshing.

And it probably wouldn't have happened to this extent if I hadn't been in so much physical pain and sickness.

I could say: this Christmas was the worst ever, and in some ways it was... but in so many ways it was also the best and that is what I choose to focus on today.

Merry Christmas to all of you! And please share something God taught you this Christmas or something wonderful you learned ... I love to hear from you!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Casting Crowns - I Heard The Bells on Christmas Day Live

This is my favorite new - old song for Christmas 2010. Our world is full of stress, worry, pain, hate, violence ... BUT with the coming of Jesus Christ we have the future of His reign which will be full of peace. And until that day - He gives us His peace that passes all understanding.

Be filled with peace this day!

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Birth of Jesus

Yesterday our pastor reminded us that Jesus - God made flesh, came as a baby and was laid in a manger. We all have clean, cute little nativity sets which portray the happy baby laying in a baby-sized manger with clean hay and a holy- looking mother and father. Pastor Jonathan made me rethink this picture. The manger is the only thing we are told about where Jesus was born - we don't know that there was a stable. The manger could have been out in a field or behind the inn where the animals came to eat .. have you ever been on a farm? My husband and I spend years working on his parent's farm and we had sheep and a goat and chickens. Animals stink. The slobber as they eat the hay or food or water. They poop -everywhere. I loved working with the sheep because the smell of lanolin was so comforting in some way - and I loved to feed the animals. BUT - I would not have wanted to put a newborn baby in their feeding area. I would not want to be in pain laying their giving birth to a baby. Mary and Joseph had just been on a long journey. They were probably very tired and dusty from traveling. I am sure they wanted a different place to give birth to the baby - and a different bed to lay the baby in after he was born. But God in His all-powerful, and all-knowing nature knew that in bringing His Son into this world in the most humble and poor setting would show the whole world that He came to partake in human suffering and that He came to serve not to be served.

Wherever God has put you this Christmas season, take the opportunity to spend time thinking about the birth of Jesus. He came and He suffered so that we would have a High Priest who could sympathize with our sufferings. He came and took part in the most physical pain immaginable with His death on the cross. No matter what pain you have today - Jesus can sympathize with you. No matter how desperate your situation, or how poor, or how humble your dwelling - God sent His own Son to the most lowly dwelling of all in that humble manger bed.

He is the God who understands suffering. Turn to Him with your pain today.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Sharing in the Journey

Our new church family is Northshore Baptist and our Senior Pastor recently posted a blog on the topic of choosing joy. Knowing there are others out there making every effort to choose joy in the face of suffering and sickness is inspiring and makes me all the more committed to living THIS moment with joy in the face of the Lord I love, and in light of my eternal home which will be free of all pain ... be encouraged today.

Friday, December 17, 2010

the sweeter the spring

The other night my husband said that he was looking forward to the Spring and that he loves that time of year so much (probably having been a farmer makes that time of year even sweeter). I also love the spring: love planting seeds and watching them come up, the smell of freshly mown grass, the smell of warm spring rain, the sound of birds singing, the sun coming up earlier in the day, fresh vegeables from the garden ... it's a wonderful time of year that feels like life is new.

But, it wouldn't be as sweet without the chilly nights of winter. I enjoy parts of winter too - the coziness of a warm fire, snuggling under lots of blankets ... and dreaming of the beauty of spring right around the corner. Since I love growing things, winter is a time of some sadness - the plants die back and the coldness makes my joints hurt. hile I love the beauty of snow I feel concerned for the plants that are trying to withstand the freeze and I hope that they come back in the spring.

Life is like that: there are times which are more full of life and energy and growth, and there are times when it feels like everything around is hybernating or dead. But the times of little deaths (death to selfish ways, death to bad habbits, death to bad attitudes ...) make the Spring of our lives so much more beautiful! There are plants that need a freeze to enable them to prouce better flowers, to kill off bugs that would eat the plant. When I went to Cameroon, West Africa years ago they said that since it never freezes there that there are thousands of new viruses each year because it is the perfect breeding ground for viruses. The sometimes painful freeze and dying back of plants can actually protect against things that would cause so much damage.

Sometimes just knowing that the cold and hard winter in our lives is there to produce good in the end makes it easier to walk through.

Spring will come again.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Wanting what was taken ...

"I had been wanting what was taken from me, not what had been given" - prince Caspian.

Last night we went with lovely friends to the new Narnia movie (which is EXCELLENT). I love movies that portray a Spiritual truth - and this one was full of them. My eyes filled with tears on more than one occassion. The Narnia books written by C.S. Lewis hold so many spiritual truths and so many pictures of what our spiritual life is like. When I watch such a movie or read such a book, I feel like the characters in the movie understand some of my deepest most real parts of my life - which are "unseen" to the human eye. The love between Lucy and Aslan - the longing for heaven (which was very strong in this movie), the need to stay here on earth and complete the task God has set before us in saving the lost and loving the people around us ...

Yesterday was also the six year mark since I had my deepest dream of children taken away. I spent the day with my Grammie and Mama and great friends - making spiced honey for Christmas gifts, laughing with Mama and Grammie - and then watching this movie with the Love of my life and our good friends. It was a blessed day. The quote from Price Caspian was a reminder that even as I will probably always miss the experience of having a baby that looks like my husband and I - the feeling of a baby moving inside me ... that that dream has been taken away - and I need to work extra hard on wanting what God has given me in my life. It also applies to pain. I could spend every moment longing to have the good health that has been taken from me - or I could spend that energy on throwing myself all the way into the life that God has given me and to use the opportunity of pain to grow more into what He designed me to be and to love Him more every day ...

It's not a choice you make once - having a good attitude faced with loss or pain is a continual moment by moment choice. And I for one want to live my life as a life of worship to the One who gave all to be our Savior and King.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Trying to get in a Christmas Mood

Christmas is 10 days away. I love Christmas - love Christmas music, and decorating, making cookies, hiding gifts, going to nursing homes and singing Christmas carols, making home-made gifts, hanging up mistletoe and waiting for my husband to come home and kiss me under it, going shopping with my sweet husband and hiding in the store while we both try and shop for each other ... the list could go on and on. It's one of my most favorite times of the year.

I'm not feeling well this Christmas season and have been struggling with wanting to do all the fun things I love to do like make cookies and look at Christmas lights but not having the health to do them this year.
Last night as I lay in bed I looked out the door and caught a glimpse of our simple nativity set up on the piano with pine boughs and twinkle lights. And peace washed over my soul. Christmas is so much more than the fun things we do to show love to others. Christmas is the simple yet profound coming of God in the form of a helpless baby to save all who believe from the penalty of sin and give us hope and peace and joy in life. Even in the suffering of life. I still desire to make cookies to deliver to the neighbors, send cards to loved ones, make spiced honey for family members ... I still look forward to singing Christmas hymns surrounded by family on Christmas Eve, of watching my neices and nephews playing and filled with excitment on Christmas day .. these things are not bad in themselves. But, if these things are taken away for whatever reason - I will still celebrate with heart full of joy this most precious gift ever given: Jesus Christ as a baby in that manger so many years ago. Maybe Jesus came as a baby to remind all of us that we are helpless without God in our lives, to remind us that even when we feel like everything is out of our control - that He knows what is best and loves us enough to lay down His life for ours.

Christmas is best expressed through worship - and that is something I can do weather I am playing piano next to a beautiful tree or laying in a hospital bed.

And Jesus is worthy to be praised either way.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

school days

Chemistry I could do without - but the other classes were so much fun today! No - I didn't start school, I went with my husband to see what his days are like at his college. He had been asking me over and over to go with him, and part of me knew that if I went I would be more dissatisfied with a life that I am trying so hard to BE satisfied with every day - sometimes every moment. As I had mentioned before, I went to school for many years but, I think that I had about 5 surgeries while I was in school - so I ended up coming home and dropping out - then feeling stronger and goes back to school ... I spent 10 years going back and forth this way - without going into debt for any of it! But I feel like not finishing is saying that my illness won in this case. Have I mentioned that I have a rather strong stubborn streak? I just don't like to have my ill health determine or stop me from completing something I started. I know that God uses health issues to lead us and to show us His will --- but I also know that people can be knocked down too fast sometimes when pursuing their goals. I don't like giving up when I am so close ...

I want to go back to school.

My going to school is very out of reach from my perpective. I am doing all I can to get my husband through school - working as caregiver for my sweet Grandma to pay our rent - which keeps me at home 95% of the time. Keeping both houses running saps my energy. We live paycheck to paycheck the two of us working 3 regular jobs and a couple extra or odd jobs. We have committed to being debt free which means that we are taking no student loans and paying a pretty high monthly tuition fee - thanks to so many schalarships we are making it. I don't know how we could cover two tuitions even for one year. BUT, if God wants me to do this I believe He will provide a way. It may never happen - but I am going to take the first step and get my trsnscripts transfered to see what I could do and how many classes I would need to complete my degree.

All I can do is knock on the door - and pray.

God's will be done.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

could I be a parent?

The moment I woke up I wanted to go back to sleep. I had been dreaming a very realistic (well by dreaming standards) dream in which I had the opportunity to be pregnant and have a baby (well ok, it wasn't very realistic as it involcved swollowing pills that would make me pregnant). In the dream, I felt the exhilaration of excitment over the possibility of having a baby growing inside me, and then the utter hopelesness and grief of failing. When I woke up I realized that my reality is that there will never even be the hope of a baby biologically - and my first thought was that I wanted to go back to sleep so that I could feel that hope and dream again.

I dream about babies all the time.

When I was a little girl I used to pretend I was pregnant, I would put a baby doll into my shirt and then pretend to nurse the baby doll. I was the one in my goup of friends and even among siblings who KNEW that I wanted to have lots of kids. I was excited about being pregnant. I remember during church one day my mommy placing my 7 year old hand on her large tummy and I could feel my baby sister hiccuping inside. I was in awe and I just knew how much I would love to have the joy of a baby growing inside me someday.

Six years ago on December 15th I forever lost the dream of carrying a baby inside me. When I woke up from surgery, I remember feeling stunned to hear the words: "hysterectomy". I honestly didn't think God would allow that dream to be taken away - I figured that IF I lived through the surgery that God would spare my ability to have a baby, and if I wouldn't be able to have a baby I figured that God would let me go to heaven and I would never wake up from that surgery.

I am so glad I did wake up. The grief of what I lost that day will probably always be in my life - like Gary Sitzer says in his book "A Grief Disguised" grief becomes like an ugly stump through time - it is always there but it becomes part of the landscape and beautiful flowers grow from what what was once an eyesore. I look forward to the day when I can think about the fact that I cannot give a baby to my sweet husband without feeling like I'm suffocating, I know that as time goes by and I continue to give this to God every moment that He will ease the feelings of overwhelming grief. God has done so much and worked in both my heart and the heart of the man who married me - knowing that he was giving up his ability to have a biological child. We know that God can bring us children in His time and His grace through adoption will be beautiful.

Sometimes, I wonder if I will be able to be a good momma. I wonder if my chronic pain will get in the way. I have heard of adults who are bitter now over a childhood with a disabled or ill parent, and I hate to think that our children will feel bitter toward God or me for being weaker physically. But, ultimately, I know that God is the one who makes parents able to take good care and love on their children - and that if He wants us to be parents someday that He will provide the right support system, and circumstances to enable us to do what He asks of us. No one has the guarentee of good health or financial stability ... I choose to walk forward trusting God as He guides us and believing that He will prepare me and my husband to be all that He wants us to be to whatever children he puts in our lives. Every concern or question regarding life with health issues or without - comes back to God. His peace is a beautiful thing and learning to trust Him in every circumstance is essential.

So today, I am dreaming of my babies wherever they are or will be - and praising the God who works all things for His glory and our good.

Sunday, December 5, 2010


Smaller than a bag of flour, only 6 pounds 3 ounces my 9th nephew entered the world this morning. This precious little life has joined our family and we are so blessed. I have 13 (almost 14) nieces and nephews (one more still in his momma's tummy)- 8 (9) of which have come into the world through my siblings the other 6 from my husband's siblings. Babies come into this world so small and so dependant on their parents. Little Luke is unable to feed himself, speak or understand what different words mean, he is helpless to even roll over, sit up or even hold his tiny head up for himself. We have ALL entered the world in this state. And someone had to take care of us down to every single detail: clipping our fingernails so we didn't scratch ourselves, putting clothes on us so we didn't get cold, changing our diapers ... and many other details involved in caring for a helpless baby. I love the sight of a newborn baby peacefully sleeping in his daddy's arms. I am unspeakable proud of my brother for joining the role of daddy to little Luke. I know that he will be a wonderful, compassionate, fun, and godly father to this little boy. I know that he will take little Luke into his arms and comfort him when he cried or scrapes a knee. I am thankful to God that this little boy has a loving daddy and mommy who see him as a gift from God and are excited to raise him and be good parents to him. Not every baby has these blessings.

As I think about my new little nephew and the comfort and safety that he aleady feels being held by his loving parents, I cannot help but think of the comfort and security that every one of us is offered by God - the Creator of the Universe. He welcomes every one of us to be adopted as His children, His arms are open wide to hold and comfort each of us as we go through this life. Whatever burden or pain you may be suffering today, God knows and He loves you and wants to comfort you just like a good daddy does. Even if you haven't had a father on earth whose arms you could run into for safety: you have the opportunity to have that kind of relationship with God - our Heavenly Father. It's ok to need comfort and security and someone that you can trust as much as a child trusts a loving parent- we all need that. I think one reason that God made humans to enter the world helpless and dependant on parents, was so that when we get older we could understand the kind of relationship He wants to have with each of us - a relationship of us depending on Him and running to Him to fulfil our deepest needs. We can't do this thing called life alone.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Thankful today ...

It makes so much difference to be walking through illness with people you can trust. My husband has been amazing - always encouraging and loving no matter how sick or incapacitated I am on any given day. Going to doctors can be extreamly stressful, especially when there are so many unknowns. For years I went to doctor after doctor and hospital after hospital and was told told after time again that the pain in my chest was nothing. Finally this spring I was able to go to a cardiologist who actually took the time of day to look into my case, and after one test he was able to diagnose what has been causing the pain in my chest: pericarditis. This diagnosis comes with more questions that answers because as he said "pericarditis is a symptom of something - it's like a fever" .. swelling around the heart is caused BY something and in my case since I have many bodily organs and systems that are affected by disease the underlying cause is likely systemic. Just having a doctor who takes the time to look hard and to keep seeing you even when you are a "comfusing case" is encouraging.

Humility when dealing with illness is also important: today my cardiologit said that he feels I need to find some kind of diagnostician (where is Dr. House when you need him?!) because local doctors are not equipped to deal with the complexities of my health which may very well be some sore of rae disease. I love humility - and sadly in the medical profession I have seen that it is rare.

But ultimately, the greatest comfort to me is that even if no one on earth EVER knows what is "wrong" with me - that God knows. He knows me inside and out and He knows how to heal - He could just speak the words and I would feel immediate relief. The thought brings tears to my eyes as I type this. How I long for relief from the physical pain that is part of every moment for me, but how much more I long for relief for my husband from feeling helpless to fix me, from the disappointments in his life due to my health - from the things he has given up (things he knew about before and things that may happen in the future) in his life to be with me and my imperfect body. I want him to have a healthy wife. BUT - although part of me longs for that, my trust in God is bigger. I know that God could heal me this moment. But I know that at THIS moment His answer is no. I am not healed. I am not free of pain and illness. And I trust that He knows what is best for me, and my husband, and the world around us that we seek to serve. Even if my doctor didn't have compassion, and humility and stubbornness - I would still have the God - the Creator of all the universe loving and doing what is BEST.

What peace this brings ...