Sunday, October 19, 2014

Day 19: Memory Loss

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 I woke up this morning with God telling me to “Remember.” 

Some events took place after I felt my day was over last night that sent me straight to my knees yet again. And since I am writing every single day where I am processing all I am learning, I guess that means someone reading this needs the reminder as well.

Having a memory sure is a blessing. Have you seen the (not kid-friendly) movie “50 First Dates” where Adam Sandler falls in love with Drew Barrymore, but he did not know she has severe short term memory loss? Every day he has to woo her again and remind her of what they have been through on their daily dates until he is embedded on her brain so much that when he leaves her she can’t understand why she paints pictures of a man’s face she thinks she’s never met. Heartbreaking and so precious. The ending is sweet although there isn’t a miraculous healing. They just find a way to quickly help her remember…every. single. day. 

Until this morning I never realized how much I am like Drew’s character. Maybe some of you can relate as well? I have been through so much in my life and God has provided over and over and over again, but when I feel knocked down again it’s like I have memory loss and cannot remember any of it. Despair and anxiety creep in quickly to those places where yesterday were filled with joy and freedom. I think God is telling me I have a spirit that needs reminding. I believe that is why He brought this opportunity to write every single day. It forces me to remember what I have learned. I have to recall His goodness and love in order to push my flesh back into its place under God’s authority. 
I do believe after 15 years of following Jesus I have had God’s love embedded in my heart and mind, but there is zero shame in needing to be reminded. I just need to obey and do it. I need to recall the way He has always, constantly, without ceasing, provided for me. Every. Single. Day.

“Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.
And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:35-38 msg

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Day 18: Finishing the Race

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Finishing the race means so much to me. In about an hour I’ll be gearing up for my first 5K after Ethan has been born. I am not physically where I would like to be at this point, but as I write this post I am realizing that ugly perfectionism tendency has grown into this area of my life. I will do my best to focus on my “imperfect progress” I have made and remember how three years ago I would laugh really hard at the thought of me running. At all. Let alone in a “RACE!” “What?! That’s not for me. I’m not a runner,” I would say without a second thought.

Then motivation happened. Tyler and I decided to get married on a beach. So all of a sudden I think I might look into working out and all that it entails. It helped to have friends to encourage me and who would take time to show me what I need and what to do, but pretty quickly I discovered that I—gasp—enjoyed it! I was so surprised at how much better mentally and emotionally I felt after a workout. After a couple of months I could feel changed physically as well. I soon found out how much fun 5Ks were and I even for a few seconds thought I would try a 10K. WHO IS THIS PERSON?

Once precious Ethan came along it was just too plain hard to keep up with working out and as you’ve read in these posts there have been some challenges that affects the schedule I use to keep. I know this is just a time of growth and change, but it has been difficult.

During this transition in my life I knew it was time to change my blog. Three kids later the name of the blog did not work (I’m not sure it ever did!) and I had a stirring from God that if I was willing to trust Him and obey, He would provide the path to take.

Tyler was helping me along the way sorting out the logistics of changing blog names and its purpose when a dear friend’s mother went onto heaven after a long illness. It was a vivid reminder once again that we are all here on earth trying to finish this relatively short, difficult race.

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” 2 Timothy 4:7

Oh my, you guys. I want to be spiritually in the same place Paul is when it is my time to go. I want to say “I fought hard! Look, I finished! I still love God as He has always loved me and now I go to where there is no more grief, stress, anxiety, Ebola, ISIS, sickness, abuse, or fill-in-your-own-fear-here.” Can you imagine? Well whether or not we can imagine it, it’s the Truth and it will be a glorious day when it arrives.

So today I physically go to a race which is being held in memory of an amazing young boy who fought his fight to completion last year.  He fought his short race in such an honorable way that the proceeds from today go to school children in Honduras where he went on many mission trips. I want to finish my race the same way, impacting lives for Christ which affects generations. This hard race requires encouragement from our fellow runners. We are all in the process of finishing this race every minute of each day as we continue to breathe here on earth. Let’s be cheering each other on. The reward is everlasting.

“I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back” Philippians 3:14 msg

Friday, October 17, 2014

Day 17: Trajectory

Teach us to number our days,
    that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12

The illustration of trajectory has come to me several times in different ways over the past few months. This summer our ladies bible study group read “Pursue the Intentional Life” by Jean Fleming. It was a powerful book and written in a unique way that has stuck with me months later.

On page 16 she says, “The truth is that, all things unchanged, the women we will be at seventy, eighty, and ninety are the women we are at forty and fifty –only distilled. Have you noticed the flaws and weaknesses of a forty-year-old concentrate with age? A complainer at forty will, with much practice, engrave the response in his or her bones by seventy. Self-centeredness will intensify. Bitterness, allowed to take root and grow over decades, engulfs and consumes in advanced age. Anyone living a frittering existence at thirty will, apart from a serious course correction, end up frittering away an entire life. It is just as true that a person doesn’t suddenly become a wise, kind, gracious, fruitful old person just by reaching, say seventy years. Of course, it’s not too late to grow and change (I take comfort in that), but, more important, it’s never too soon to begin.”

Going through severe trauma at the age of 29 was completely awful. I still ask God questions almost six years later that I know will not be answered on this side of heaven. But I can, without question, say the event changed the trajectory of my thinking. I had not gone through such a severe loss before in my life, so it was a type of blissful ignorance I lived. For a few years I thought maybe that bliss was more desirable than knowing what I know now about life. I can say today, though, it woke me up. I became intentional about life and that has been the greatest gift I could have ever received. Being intentional in pursuing God brought back joy, which also meant my children were affected and now it is happening in my new marriage.

A dear friend helped me remember that trajectory in marriage is unique. Even though we have “become one flesh” we are still two separate people with separate minds. If Tyler and I have trajectories not aimed at God, one or both of us will find ourselves slowly drifting apart. She said she learned a married couple needs to have an “intentional redirecting” toward each other often. I like to call it a verbal “State of the Marriage” address and we need reminding to have this “address,” or “date nights” or whatever it may look for you, fairly often. The routines of our days, going through the motions, can quickly take precedence over intentionality.
I plead with anyone reading this to become intentional about your day today. It doesn’t mean we don’t have goals, they are vitally important to intentionality, but how we go about achieving them is different. It is way too hard for us all to decide right now what our year will look like, that’s why I am convinced New Year’s Resolutions tend to fail so quickly. However, we can decide what this hour will look like. Deciding how I will spend the next few minutes becomes “doable.” One of the best pieces of advice I learned to give people in pain is to “take it minute by minute.” Depending on the severity of pain, an hour can seem overwhelming. But eventually, when you take your minutes captive and give them to God to have His way with, you’ll find yourself hours into the process. Then you’ll look up and find days have passed. Yes, triggers and new circumstances can set us “back” a bit in the process, but if you have been sowing the seeds of God’s promises during those “minute by minute” times, you are a promised a fruitful harvest.

What are some words you would use to describe your life this past week? If you continue on the path you are on today, what might your life look like in five years? What small move can you make today to adjust your trajectory if need be?

“So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 2 Corinthians 5:16-20

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Day 16: Brave

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Yesterday I ended my post saying “I have peace this morning from all of your prayers and I look forward to sharing with you tomorrow how God provided for us all day.” Well, guess who was faithful yet again?

Since He’s been revealing Himself so obviously, which I believe He has always done but I am just learning to keep my eyes open and ready for it, I am not as shocked anymore when it happens. Instead I am excited and so very grateful.

As I told you yesterday, the day was filled with “triggers.” However, so many of you faithfully prayed for us that peace followed us each step of the way.

I had never been to the Lowell branch of Arkansas Children’s Hospital. It’s so beautifully painted in vibrant, colorful scenes with many toys for the children as we sat in the waiting room. We had to be diligent in focusing our minds on Jesus and not worrying for the many precious children and parents in the room. No one wants to be there.

The door swung open and the nurse called Jett’s name and we immediately recognized each other. I could have cried right then for God providing her beautiful, smiling face. We don’t know each well enough for me to gush about how much it helped our hearts to have her be the one to take us to the examination room and so cheerfully play with Jett as she took down his vitals. One day, I’ll tell her though. : )

The cardiologist came in and did a great job of explaining what is going on with Jett’s sweet heart and what we can expect. Our two greatest prayers for that appointment were answered. Jett was so brave and the doctor noticed my sister’s adorable belly and recommended the surgery happen as soon as possible rather than December. PRAISE GOD. They will get a phone call next week letting them know the date. He said to expect to be in Little Rock around a week and then Jett can return to regular activities almost immediately with a super cool scar under his arm.

I squeezed on Jett as much as he would let me (not too much, he’s 5 after all) and headed off to my next “divine appointment.”

My adorable little boys were at Mother’s Day Out at our church being taken care of by dear friends so I was letting them stay until it was time for Ethan’s ENT appointment. I picked up my friend Nellie and realized we had an hour to spare, and since I have learned quite a bit about self-care on “trigger” days, we settled on comfort food from Stone Mill Bakery for lunch.

As we settled into our table I voiced the question that bugs me constantly on days full of stress. “Why would God let this happen?” We just let the question hang in the air knowing there is not a quick, easy answer for that one. We prayed over our food and almost immediately Libby, a mutual friend of ours, showed up in the almost empty, tiny bakery. There God was again. She came over and Nellie laughed because Libby had just texted her wondering how she was doing and Nellie said she was with me but didn’t tell her where we were. If you know me then you know I had to refrain from shaking Libby at my wonder at God’s providence! (Well, I might have grabbed her arm hard enough to take her off balance, you know Elaine from “Seinfeld?” Yeah I tend to push people around when I am excited!) Libby said she was praying about whom to have lunch with and she had invited a friend she had not seen in a while. She spotted her and left the table. I told Nellie how awesome it was for God to have her show up here for us!
Nellie checks her phone and God had sent her an email to answer the question I posed as we sat down. Okay it wasn’t from, but it was very close! It was from (in)courage and it was “The Call to Brave.”The author referenced Gideon (again for me!) but instead of the message I took away from it the first time, she said this:                                                                                                                                                                        
“The story of Gideon that is found in Judges Chapters 6-8 chronicles an ordinary man called to be brave by extraordinary God. Gideon replied with every excuse there could be:
If you’re with us, why is this happening?
Why have you abandoned us?
My clan is the weakest.
I am the least in my family.
God’s response to Gideon is the same response He gives us today…
Go in the strength you have.
I will be with you.
Do not be afraid.
You are mighty.
Now that sounds like a firm foundation if ever there was one! My prayer is that I learn to stand on this foundation trusting that if God has called me to it, He will equip me for it. He calls me brave and He calls you brave.”

Oh man, “if God has called me to it, He will equip me for it.” I may need to tattoo this on my arm. Have I not found this to be true time and time again? Have I not used “God will provide” as my mantra for almost 6 years now?

As we finished our lunch we said goodbye to Libby and I was shocked (okay, I guess I am still surprised by God) to know her friend, Sarah! We recognized each other, but it had been years since our paths had crossed. It was such a fun conversation explaining how I knew Libby through my husband Tyler and how I knew Nellie because she obeyed one day at church shortly after the accident and told me she would be a helper for me and my babies. Then Sarah and I realized we had other connections that God has recently provided me, which also connected my sister’s story to us!
We left there and I was in awe at how God used those ladies to have me remember out loud many of the HUGE provisions God has given me since college up until this very day. He used people to equip me. He sure is making it clear how important community is for our well-being and to further His message of love and redemption.

Let’s help us remember today and always: If God calls us to it, He will equip us through it. We are in this together, friends.

(ps Ethan’s appointment went great. He will have tubes placed in his ears on October 30th. We ask for continued prayers for Jett, please!)

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Day 15: Stress

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Today nothing is scheduled to cause physical pain to anyone, but for our family facing appointments for my nephew's counsultation with the cardiologist this morning and my son Ethan's ENT consult in the afternoon we are on high alert.

I've mentioned PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) previously on this blog, but I have not given it much explanation.This graphic has been the best way to describe it in my opinion.
Cups Explanation
Cup 1 represents "normal" or good stress that everyone has in their lives. The daily chores of life.

Cup 2 is representative of what happens to everyone when bad stress gets dumped into their lives. Getting fired, health issues, fender benders etc. It is added to the "good stress."

Cup 3 is where is gets interesting. For people who have experienced a traumatic event in their lives they live with their cups nearly full all of the time. The "green" part may be bigger or smaller depending on what healing and/or counseling in how to handle their PTSD has happened. Either way it takes up a big chunk of available "cup." There is little room for the bad stress when it gets dumped into their lives and overflow happens quickly.

Overflow will look different for everyone. It might mean retreating from the world, lashing out in anger, lots of tears, high anxiety etc. This overflow is caused by added stress or "triggers" from the trauma. I am not an expert in this and I have more to learn for sure, but people without PTSD may have similar reactions to bad stress, but it would probably take them a LOT of bad stress to get to the overflowing, "small" things would not set them off as they do with PTSD sufferers, and they would be able to recover more quickly from bad stress.

I know my "green" PTSD section has been helped over the years with counseling and healthy coping skills being learned. But it is still there and probably always will be. I have several triggers I am able to handle much better than years ago, but medical issues and paperwork are the ones that "overflow" me quite easily.

When Thomas died the amount of paperwork that I had to fill out went on for months. If you have ever experienced major grief you know how depression can make simple acts become nearly impossible, yet I was constantly bombarded with deadlines for paperwork. (I know this sounds crazy to some of you, it's just filling out papers, but for one example I still shudder and my heart rate increases when I see that box to check "Married, Divorced, Single." Rarely there was a "Widow" box which made it even sadder for me at the time.)

I know this is not my typical writing style or subject, but I hope this might help some of you who suffer from PTSD symptoms understand the way we react and also for our loved ones who are dealing with our what seems silly reactions to stress.

We appreciate prayers today as we navigate our triggers and for my nephew Jett as he starts to gain an understanding of what he is facing.

I have peace this morning from all of your prayers and I look forward to sharing with you tomorrow how God provided for us all day today!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Day 14: Remember

You know I do not believe in coincidences. (I can hear those of you who have traveled along with me these past couple of months yelling at your screen “WE KNOW! Get on with it already!” But you yell with love, so I can take it )

Yesterday was a struggle with my fear and doubt that went from sun up to sun down. It was so utterly annoying to me because I KNOW God is good all of the time. I KNOW He provides what we need daily. I KNOW He loves us. But my heart just would not listen to what my head knew.
I woke up knowing today’s mercies are new, THANK YOU LORD, but asking Him the question how do I move forward from here?

I then read today’s If:Equip, Genesis 15 “After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: ‘Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.” But Abram said, “O Sovereign Lord…you have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir."(emphasis mine)

Oh my. Thank you, God for this gift today. I have been hearing in my Spirit from God these past few months like never before in my life. It has been such an experience for me that I have to tell anyone who will listen, and maybe even people that don’t want to listen! And yet yesterday, I had a pity party.
Today God sends me this message, “Hey, remember Abraham? My faithful servant from which David and Jesus descended? He saw and heard me in much more obvious ways than you, I had just given Him a victory in the chapter previous, and yet He responded to me with doubt, “But how can you do what you say?”

God did not respond to Abraham’s question in frustration. Instead, He lovingly understood him and what he needed to have peace. God responded to Abraham’s doubt and so in verse 6 “Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.” God didn’t sigh and begrudgingly accept Abraham’s belief after doubt, He CREDITED IT TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS! Then, this cracks me up, verse 7 God promises him land and what did Abraham do with that promise? He questions God again in the next verse, “O Sovereign Lord, how can I know…”  Good grief, Abraham! What is it going to take for you to get over your doubt? (That was me, not God responding.) So what does God do next? He asks Abraham to obey by gathering a sacrifice. He obeys, and he is rewarded with “knowing for certain” verse 13.
No, God did not ask me to gather a physical sacrifice yesterday when I questioned Him, Jesus paid that price for me, but God does ask us to obey, which can be a sacrifice depending on the situation, and He will provide the peace. 

I obeyed as best I knew how through my struggle, I prayed, read passages of scripture about God providing for His children, and waited without giving up. He provided what I needed to get through the day along with messages from friends and family that sustained, strengthened, and most importantly reminded me of God’s love. Remembering His love is so important on the dark, doubting days.

I think God is teaching me…helping me…providing for me this morning through this passage that ended up in my inbox. I always say I wish God would just text or email me His answers to my questions, I believe He did this morning.

He listens, He provides; we just need to have open eyes and hearts to be ready and accept His provision. Let’s help each other remember on the next dark day. 

What has God provided for you in the past that you need to remember today?

God proves to be good to the man who passionately waits,
    to the woman who diligently seeks.
It’s a good thing to quietly hope,
    quietly hope for help from God.
It’s a good thing when you’re young
    to stick it out through the hard times. Lamentations 3:25-27