Thursday, June 13, 2013

FINALLY COLOR BLIND!!


Solitude and silence are not always a good combination for me. They cause me to think and while that is probably the exact thing that Christ wants me to do more of, it’s the one thing that I avoid the most. Why? Because I tend to think about the past or mistakes or am forced to face convictions that I know He is placing on my heart. The result is that most of the time I have the tv going (although don’t ask me what’s on, it’s noise) or the radio playing, the vacuum buzzing, dryer humming…something, anything to deafen the quiet. Noise makes life easier for me. I don’t have to think about the changes that I need to make or face mistakes that I know Ive made. I can simply go on pretending that life is perfect and my greatest concern is what Pinterest project to start next.

Unfortunately, we know that life is not perfect. Our family lives in a state of heightened awareness because of my husband’s job. We watch the news and wonder how the world’s events will affect our friends. Our extended family is not one of unity, and we have disagreements, deaths, illness and moments when we wish we could divorce some of them. Our immediate family shares tears, stress, worry, doubt, fear and occasional uncertainty. None of it is perfect, so why pretend that it is?

Oh, not pretend as in posting on my social media page that we drive a brand new Beamer…but pretend as in, not owning up to the thoughts that are in my head; the burdens that are on my heart, the sensation that the Holy Spirit is trying desperately to get my attention…why pretend it all isn’t there?
This evening, I sat down to unwind from a long and emotional day. Before I knew it, the house was quiet. Husband and Daughter had gone to bed early, laundry was done, dishwasher was off and the remote was across the room: IT WAS QUIET.

It didn’t take long at all for my brain to start churning. I just started pondering…events of the day, of the last week, of the last month, my art work, my writings…just stuff. I started thinking about friends who will be coming over later in the week. New friends, good friends, friends that I am thrilled to have found and who have become so natural to be around that I didn’t even think twice when inviting them over.

Then suddenly it hit me…these are also friends of color.

Now, does that matter? Absolutely not but some of you who know my story, know my experience with men of color from when I was a young teenager. I’ve spent 25 years…TWENTY FIVE YEARS trying to get past the events that occurred within a couple of hours of my life. Let me say that again…I’ve spent 25 years getting over events that lasted less than two hours. How sad is THAT? For years I have had to remove myself from harmless situations because something in my head would want me to flee. I’ve crossed the road to avoid passing certain people. I’ve gone out of my way to avoid not being caught in a moment that would cause fear. I search for exits when I enter a room. I seek escape routes when in new areas. For twenty five years, that has been my life. It’s also been my life to avoid relationships besides those that were casual, very public and very superficial with certain people. This has been my loss, not theirs. Im the one who has missed out on being friends with some awesome people because I couldn’t get past my fear. I couldn’t get past one event. I couldn’t get over those two hours and I didn’t allow myself to think about it long enough to realize that I was still blaming others and holding THEM accountable for something that they had NOTHING to do with. The ONLY thing that they shared with the two men from that horrible night was the color of their skin. This isn’t about being racist. It’s not about profiling. It’s about the fear that was so deeply embedded the night that two monstrous men did something incredibly cruel to a thirteen year old kid that it has taken that kid a quarter of a century to get past.

So why now? Why all of a sudden is there a difference?

A few months ago, my husband came home from work and asked if my daughter and I would be interested in a self-defense course that would be offered by a program called R.A.D.D.. More concerned about her well-being than mine, I agreed to take it with her. It was interesting sitting in the classroom. I knew all the answers to the questions that were ask:

Keep your keys out when you leave a store.

Check your vehicle before you get in.

Use your panic button on your key chain.

Lock your doors and windows when you get in.

Vary your routine at home.

Turn on lights, use motion sensors…all of it. I knew all of it. I had become a pro at, what I considered, paranoia but is actually just sound safety advice.

Then, the instructor said it…he said “You must do whatever it takes to survive and sometimes survival means to submit.”

I almost lost it right there in front of a classroom of strangers because 25 years ago, that was all I could do. I didn’t know any better. I didn’t have a choice. I just knew I wanted to live. Without realizing it at the time, I made the choice to submit in order to live.

By the time the class was over and we learned our maneuvers, my nerves began to get the best of me when it came closer to the simulation portion of the exercise. We all knew that a masked, well padded, big, scary guy would come at us and it would be our job to get away using the techniques that we had been taught. I was scared. Im not a fit person. My knees are weak, my physique is a billboard for Krispy Kreme and I was so unsure of myself. I went through with it solely for my daughter, so that she wouldnt know my fear and would have the confidence to face this challenge.

Then it came my turn.
I entered the practice area and was told to close my eyes and start walking. My attacker would catch me off guard and then it was up to me to get away. Im fairly certain I was shaking before we ever started.

I did as instructed. I closed my eyes, took a few steps then opened them as I felt an arm come around my neck. In that moment, wartime PTSD had NOTHING on me. I instantly flashed back and heard an internal audible voice say “NOT THIS TIME!”

Then it happened…a can of fire opened up and I began yelling, almost screaming “NO! NO! NO! NO!” All the while elbowing, kicking, stomping this poor guy in his padded suit. I yelled and struck with everything that was in me knowing that THIS time I had a choice! This time I was in control. I made my escape, turned to run, stumbled and ended up doing an in-flight slide across the practice mat landing on my face, almost losing my glasses and any hope for grace that I had left. But as I turned to roll over and compose myself (the instructor and our ‘bad guy’ were rushing to my aid) all I could do was laugh. Not at the silliness of the entire scene but because of the joy of release that I felt in that moment.

I DID IT!

THIS time I got away. THIS time I was safe. THIS time I proved to myself that I had it in me to not continue to be a victim. It was then that I sat on the mat, with both men at my side, and explained why I was suddenly an emotional wreck. The instructor then said “You’re the one. There is ALWAYS one in every class that has been through it but I never know who it is until the end.”

Yup, I was the one. I was the one who held on to something that I was convinced God wasn’t big enough to overcome. I was the one who lived in fear, who gave up living a fulfilled life, who accepted isolation in her younger days because the fear was too great of a demon to face. I was the one.

In that moment I made an agreement with myself that I was done with that life. My God IS bigger than my past. He CAN take the fear away and He WILL give me strength when I am weak. I hadn’t thought about all of that in months (until tonight). It’s not something that I dwell on any more. It no longer comes to mind EVERY SINGLE DAY OF MY LIFE! It’s done and how do I know it’s done? Because tonight, when I realized that I had invited my friends of color over to our home so that our kids could play, the adults could fellowship, we could spend time together…it wasn’t because it was some step in a therapy group…it was because, by the grace of Jesus Christ, I am saved and He has already defeated anything that I can ever face and He has granted me the peace to just be; To just be a friend, to just be a neighbor, to just be someone who doesn’t exist in fear…to just be ME. My friends are coming over because we love them and we enjoy our time with them and because Christ has finally blinded me to color and He did it when I least expected it.


How great is our God!  

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Microwaved SOAP!



As many of my readers know, I took a break last week from all forms of social media. Having a week off was like finding another day in my schedule. I found time to complete many projects that I had been putting off and even found time to be a little board! I've written in the past about being a home school family so here is my theory: What do you get when you combine a board mom with free time + an opportunity for a science experiment? Answer: microwaved soap! 

Seriously! 

I can't remember where I saw this at (it is not an original idea, just one that I had to prove to myself). 
It's so simple: Take a bar of IVORY soap. Yes, it has to be Ivory. I tried others and lets just say burnt  soap is NOT going to be a popular candle scent option any time soon. Ivory however is somehow made differently that causes it to react with heat. 





Place the bar on a LARGE piece of wax paper or parchment paper (don't waste your time wiping down the door beforehand, I can almost guarantee you'll be doing it again after this over lol). 
Set your time for 2 minutes, turn off the carousel if you can, get the kids a chair so they can see, shut the door and hit START!  




No joke, it bubbles up into a giant cloud of soap and yes, I am easily amused, but this was one of the coolest things ever to watch happen!


Be careful pulling it out because it WILL be hot on the bottom. It also crumbles easily and makes a
 BIG OL' MESS! So just gently lay it on the counter or stove where you'll be working. 


Next is another fun part...PULL IT APART! I can't even begin to explain the consistency but the kids will have a blast pulling at it and watching it crumble into a bowl. Once it's all done, what do you do with a big bowl of flaky soap?


Well, you have some options: to my fellow laundry detergent making friends; this solves the endless grating of the soap! Just crumble it up and mix well with your dry ingredients OR if you use Ivory to make gelled hand soaps/shower gels this allows it to melt faster. 

This is what we chose to do with it though. Add a couple of drops of food coloring (don't worry, even  up to 5 drops has not stained our skin - I tested it to be sure). Then slowly add up to about a cup of water. Add just a little at a time and stir. You want it to form into a thick paste.




Next form it into your cookie cutters to use as molds (I used the cookie scoop to make balls with the little bit that was left over). Let your soaps set for at least an hour. The longer you let them dry, the firmer your soaps will be. When finished you've got cheap (a three pack of Ivory is about $2), cute decorative soaps that the kids can give away or use at home. Either way; it was just fun! 


We also played around with my apple slicer to make "pineapple" shaped mini soaps. :) 
In the end, my vacation from the computer reminded me of many things that are important in life. One of which is to take time to be a kid WITH my kid!

Have fun making your own creations!
kj

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

I Surrender All


     
 I know that sometimes it can be a challenge to see God at work in our lives. We can be such demanding little children that we want the answers that we want and we want them NOW! We don’t want to wait for what’s best; we want to be gratified with what’s quickest. Then sometimes we are left to wonder if God could be using us. We don’t SEE Him at work. We don’t SEE things changing. We don’t FEEL anything different; so how could He possibly be using us? Then…there are the times that He makes himself perfectly clear.

     At the beginning of the year our pastor began reminding our church about the importance of prayer. I have to admit that, although I often talk to God, the knees of my jeans are not as worn as they should be. It has made me wonder; how many times do we, as Christians, say the words “I’ll pray for you.” Only to have it slip our minds as soon as we walk away from the person who is in need of the prayer? I’m guilty. Oh I don’t tell them I’ll pray for them with the intent of forgetting. I may make a mental note to do it later or might even scribble it down so I don’t forget but overall, I just wonder how many of us have done that. It’s caused me a bit of a spiritual struggle as I’ve been convicted that my prayer life is not nearly as strong as it should be.

I began to make some changes. When someone needed prayer; I stopped right then and did it. I began to take scripture to heart when it tells us to pray without ceasing. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 It was rough those first few days trying to walk around continually with my head bowed and eyes closed talking to God. Thankfully we have the Holy Spirit that helped me understand that Paul didn’t mean for us to be in non-stop babble 24/7 while we bump into doors but rather was talking about our attitude.
As Christians, we should be walking around with an attitude of surrender that we carry with us all the time. Every waking moment is to be lived in an awareness that God is with us and that He is actively involved and engaged in our thoughts and actions and be ready to turn every concern over to Him.
How many times do we allow our thoughts to be full of worry, doubt, fear or anger? Paul is telling us that we are to, without ceasing, be ready to turn all those things that bring us down into prayer and thanksgiving. Ultimately we should be going through our days with prayer being our first response; not an afterthought.

Unceasing prayer simply means a continual dependence on Christ.

David Jeremiah once wrote that “For Christians, prayer should be like breathing.” But I admit, I was one of those people who would get through my prayer requests about as fast as I could order a combo meal at Jack-n-the-Box (and no, I don’t want two tacos for 99 cents added to my order). It was still taking some time to drive this whole prayer thing home with me. I realized that I honestly didn’t know HOW to pray. In stepped God with a resounding crash course in the matter…

I had been dealing with this issue for several days. Trying to carve out more time to devote to pray, writing down the prayer requests that came along but ultimately still feeling like a kid giving Santa my wish list in hopes that he would fill it. Then, out of the blue, I got a message from a friend from high school. A friend that I have been in contact with but haven’t seen in at least 20 years. Her message simply asked me to consider being part of an event and to “pray about it.” It brought me to tears because the “event” was called Mom’s Day of PRAYER. I read about it and realized that this grass roots project has grown to become an international gathering of moms from all over the world, from all ethnic and economic backgrounds, from all denominations with one common purpose: to pray. I knew, without a shadow of doubt that this was God shoving in my face that it was time to make some changes.

It turned out that the date for the event was just a few days away and they needed a hosting church for our state. I immediately contacted our Pastor for approval and within no time secured the meeting room, sent out emails and social media notices and hoped that I got word out in time for others to join me.

That morning, I got to the church early. Set up the room with all the cute little things that I was supposed to and then waited. And waited. The first hour of prayer was to start at 9am. At 9:00 I wondered if I had failed. 9:05 I wondered what else I should have done. 9:10 I was on my smartphone posting to a social media sight if anyone had prayer requests. By 9:15 I was filling out my little slips of paper with prayer requests about any and every mother that I could think of and began to pray on my own. It’s true that I sat there alone praying for the others but in my heart, I was secretly praying for one. Just ONE person to show up. Funny how God hears our needs even when we don’t verbalize them.

In walked my one.

She apologized for being late and I apologized that we were the only two there. I figured that our prayer time would be over quickly but something was better than nothing and this was a start. Over an hour later, as we held hands, taking turns praying, with tears streaming down both of our faces, having expressed our deepest fears for our children and our families to God I realized; THIS is what He wants from me. Not my tears per se but my surrender.

In the next hour of prayer more mothers showed up and in the third still another. By the end of the three hour event I was overwhelmed with emotion. Not because of being able to cast everything on Christ but because I knew that, at least for that day, He chose to use me. He chose to teach me a lesson. He chose to put others in my path. He chose to intricately guide a series of events that lit up my path like a runway in the direction that He wanted me to go and in the end, He broke me.
He broke me from not knowing what to say to Him or how to say it. He broke me from being intimidated of turning to Him. He broke me of my pride and turned my spirit to humility and dependence on Him and ultimately, He broke me of not being able to fully say: I SURRENDER ALL


For more information on MDOP please visit their website at: http://www.momsdayofprayer.com/

Monday, February 4, 2013

Life's unfairness


                Today I sat in a chapel, surrounded by a couple hundred or so soldiers in uniform, and paid last respects to a young man who died while serving on active duty with the U.S. Army. The details of his death do not matter; in the end he did nothing to ‘deserve’ his fate. Yet there we were; attempting to memorialize his life in effort to make his death not be in vain.

There are few sounds that shake me to the core as much as hearing a final roll call followed by the blast of rifles giving their salute to a fallen soldier. For those who may not be familiar with a military funeral: once the eulogies are read and meditation shared, the 1st Sargent stands and prepares his “roll call.” Each unit member responds to be accounted for, until the last. When the final name is read there is no reply. There is no “Here First Sargent!” No signal of accountancy…just silence. It is humbling to say the least.

The whole scenario never fails to bring me to tears; not because of the events surrounding the loss or that I knew the person but simply because of the reminder that the end can come so suddenly, so tragically. That was the first part of my afternoon.

The latter half of the afternoon included an encounter with a disrespectful neighbor who doesn’t seem to think that the rule to pick up after walking dogs applies to him. It suddenly infuriated me that he would not only be rude and disrespectful but that he had the nerve to not obey such a simple guideline that is set in place, not just for the people who live in our community, but to help protect the very dogs that we have as members of our family.

I felt enraged! I was so mad that I was shaking! I’m not talking about just upset. I mean every fiber of my body wanted to strangle this kid and his little dog too! I found myself thinking of all kinds of not so nice things to do in order to keep his dog away from our yard. Not so nice things that I wanted to do to him! The whole thing caught me TOTALLY off guard. That reaction is NOT me! While I don’t mind confronting an injustice, it is not like me to get absolutely livid about any type of situation like this one. It was so far beyond my normal realm of behavior that I had to stop myself from letting my thoughts continue before I proceeded with going out to buy a jar of cayenne pepper to sprinkle all over my yard. This was bad.

Why on EARTH was I so mad because a punk neighbor cursed at me when I questioned him about picking up his dog’s droppings from my yard?

Then it hit me.

For over an hour earlier I heard some of a Battalion’s elite officers give an account of a young man’s life. A life that stood for service, honor and a level of pride that most can’t even begin to comprehend. A life that was cut short during his service to protect his fellow countrymen; men like this joker who was about the same age but didn’t have the decency to pick up after his dog.

I was angry. Not at the incident but because of what seemed like the unfairness of it all.

Why is the life of a discourteous, ill-mannered, foul mouthed jerk spared and the life of a nobleman with an infectious smile and relentless enthusiasm for life taken?

As a Christian, I know the answer. Although my answer may not be a direct response, it is one that I hold on to for explanation in times like this. Simply put: God’s plan is bigger than my ability to understand.

 My humanness wants justice. I want the person who is responsible for taking the soldier’s life to pay. I want them in jail. I want them to feel the anguish that they have caused so many. I want them to know what an outstanding young man they took from this world. Then, I want the irritating neighbor to have some manners. I want him to abide by the rules that everyone else is capable of following except him. I want him to be a man and take care of the dog that he has chosen to own and as silly as it sounds; I want him to learn a lesson that it is not okay to curse at a woman because he is upset about being caught doing something that he wasn’t supposed to do in the first place! In the end; it’s not up to me and it’s clearly not for my mind to grasp the specifics of. I don’t know how it all works together; I just know that it does.

 My faith assures me that God knew what He was doing when he took the soldier’s life and He knew what He was doing when He put the neighbor in my path. I may not like either situation but the two combined have certainly brought me to my knees; not only for my lack of control over my emotions but for my failure to glorify God in all that I do. While the young man this afternoon will never know that I was upset by his actions, I had a moment in my life that completely failed Christ. I had a moment that welcomed the influence of impure thoughts, hatred and anger. I had a moment that allowed Satan to have full control of my judgments. It was my choice not to act on any of them that made the difference but not because of MY ability but because of Christ.

It is my Salvation through Christ that allows me to not be controlled by the reactions of the world. I am no longer a slave to the sin that binds many who would have retaliated at the neighbor, who would have done things that would have escalated an exchange (that lasted less than a minute) into something that could have resulted in much worse repercussions than merely being cursed at. All of which is not by MY abilities to control myself but because of Christ in whom I have placed my all. It is by His grace, not mine that I can accept the bad things that happen to good people. It is because of Him that I can trust that all of these things will work together for a greater good and it is purely by His grace that I can forgive…I can forgive the person who took an innocent life, and I can forgive the person whose life I saw as unworthy. Neither are my responsibility to judge and I am grateful that they’re not because I would hold just as much guilt for my sins as they do for theirs.

My heart hurts tonight, for a family thousands of miles away who has lost a son. I grieve for the soldiers who lost a brother in arms. I grieve for the loved ones of the soldiers left behind who are reminded of the risks that their soldiers face on a daily basis but I am thankful that I can turn to Christ in my time of anguish, who can see me through the hurt so that the pain does not turn into uncontrolled emotions that can cause more harm than good; even if I think the recipient of that harm deserves it! 

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Quitting Cold Turkey


  The saying goes that "old habits are hard to break." For me, most ANY habit is hard to break. I am, by nature, pretty strong willed but that does not mean that my will is strong. It simply means I...yes, I admit, can be stubborn. Yet when it comes to putting my efforts into making changes in my habits, I am significantly weak.

     I'm not, what I would consider, an incredibly organized person. I struggle to keep the house picked up (not because it's a total wreck but because I get side tracked easily) and my filing? Umm yeah that's a joke. Ironically, in most cases, when Husband or Daughter need something I still know where to find it (which is scary). There are other areas that I wish were different too; like my quiet time with Christ, my daily reading, prayer time (just to name a few). I use the excuse that there aren't enough hours in the day when the truth is: I allow too many distractions in my hours.

     I have a pretty standard routine that I generally stick to (being a home schooling family this is a must) but once the basics are out of the way my brain seems to take a detour and focus on anything and everything that catches it's fancy. My husband and I call it the "Flashy Light Syndrome." My attention span is worse than a two year old on kool-aid. I've learned that when I think of something and try to remember to do it later; I fail to remember what it was that I wanted to do. The result is that now, when I think of something, I go do it then forget what I was doing before I got distracted. It's a vicious cycle that often leaves me feeling as if I have gotten absolutely nothing accomplished during a day. I thrive on websites like Pinterest because my brain can go giddy by firing off a million synapses every millisecond as I “pin” an insane number of projects that would take a lifetime to complete then power down to a slower mode to fix dinner. I'd like to blame a medical condition. Some days I wish I had AADD just so I would have a legitimate excuse to behave this way. Unfortunately, I don't and therefore must admit that I need to create routines that allow me to accomplish those things which are actually important. Finding the perfect chicken salad recipe doesn't exactly top the list of importance if I have no intention making chicken salad. Yet no matter how hard I try, there are time suckers that seem to reduce the hours in my day to just over 20 minutes. I had to make a choice.

                I finally decided that the only way to manage the things that wasted my time and blurred my focus was to eliminate them. I started with the mecca of all time wasters…social media. Yes, when used as a productive tool it can be an awesome tool. It gives an outlet to update 1900 of your closest friends in one 2-line status update but the truth is that an astronomical number of those updates are worthless. No one really cares if I have a sinus headache today or that I don’t know what to make for dinner. In the same manner, I honestly don’t care who they voted for in the last election or how badly they believe the economy is. Not that I don’t care about THEM. As my friends and family I certainly care about their well-being, the happenings in their lives, their celebrations, and their need for support but overall the topics that are merely there to rant about are issues that I can take with a grain of salt. Yet an hour of my day could easily be wasted getting sucked into the daily drama of the Young and the Status and by that, what have I gained?

The ultimate question for me though was this: how am I being productive with my time in order to please Christ?

Hmmm…I could post a religious tone picture and claim that Im spreading the gospel. I could post a scripture and call it ‘planting a seed.’ Oh! Or better yet I could post a status that tells everyone to proclaim they love Jesus by reposting the same status and that if they don’t clutter their wall with empty prosperity proclamations then clearly they are embarrassed by Christ and need to repent! Yeah, those are the best. In the end, as long as it’s in the name of God then it’s okay, right? WRONG!
Ephesians 5:16-17 Making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Every day that I log on to a social media site I find myself discouraged, not because of the unbelievers but because of the Christians. I see them using the chat lingo for curse words, posting obscene and crude photos, promoting sites that would embarrass the baddest of the bad. But it’s become accepted behavior and therefore is deemed to be okay. The problem that I have isn’t with what they choose to do. My problem is the effect that it has on me. If I spend just an hour scrolling through mindless postings and news feeds then I am filling my brain with everything other than what Christ is calling me to focus on: HIM.

                The choice was made. I decided to cut myself off for a trial period from social media. Had I become so delusional that I thought my logging on would make some monumental impact on someone’s life? Or had I convinced myself that I needed that avenue for socialization? Truth is, neither. It was just something that I did. Something I allowed to creep into my routine and poison not only my thoughts but my daily activities as well. I went cold turkey. The first day I missed it. I truly did. I missed the interaction. I missed knowing what my friends were up to. I missed seeing the headlines of what everyone was trending at the moment but it quickly faded.

                I found myself working on projects that I hadn't ‘had time for’ previously. I spent time with my daughter that she would have used watching tv before. I did research for a couple of projects that I’ve been working on but above all that; I came face to face with the humiliation  of the time that I have wasted away from Christ. It’s been a rude awakening and a wake up call that I wish I had taken a long time ago but rather than beat myself up about it Id rather embrace it and appreciate that the call came at all. I know realize that my list of excuses for not getting things done has gotten shorter. I didn’t need to add hours to my days. I needed to free up the hours that had already been assigned to me. Limiting that which consumes those precious minutes was a start and one that has become an easy adaption to my routine and one that I welcome.

                Thanks to a friend who recognized my spiritual need for encouragement I am now daily reminded of Psalm 119:36-37 Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain. Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word.

Social media, television, games, whatever is not the devil in and of itself but without a doubt the devil can use them all for one common purpose: to pull us away from Christ. Is it time to ask: how much is he pulling at you?

Friday, January 4, 2013

A Mother's Surrender

Once upon a time a scared soon to be mother was sitting in her office at work. She was scared because her husband of only five months had changed his mind about what he wanted out of life and left her knowing that she was now four months pregnant. She accepted that she had been out of the will of God by marrying this man and also accepted that, regardless of the circumstances, God had allowed her to become a mother no matter if he chose to stick around or not. 

The phone rang. 

It was her doctor. "Are you sitting down?" 
"Yes, why?"
"We just got the results back on the tests we ran during your last visit. Are you familiar with a disease called Spina Bifida?"
"No, why?:"
"We believe your baby may have it."
Insert spinning room, heart dropping to stomach, gut wrenching feeling.
"Okay? What is it and what do we do?"
"Basically, it's a defect that effects the spinal cord. It interrupts it's development and can create a hole in the cord."
Trying to grasp what had just been said. "Okay, so how do we fix it?"
"Well, we need to get you in for another ultra sound but at this point, you need to consider your options."
"My options?"
"It's not too late to terminate the pregnancy."
"Okay but what options?"
"Well, termination of the pregnancy."
"Okay, that's NOT an option so now what?"
"Then we get you in for the ultra sound and consider sending you to Vanderbilt to have a high risk surgery performed in hopes that they can fuse the spinal cord back together so that your baby might have a chance to walk."
"When do I need to come in?"

For the first time in a long time the young mother sunk in her chair too in shock to cry and simply began to pray. She prayed for His guidance. She prayed for forgiveness. She prayed for the sake of her baby and in the end, she surrendered to His will; fully accepting whatever He had plans to do. 

Praying family and friends were called, prayer chains were started and three days later she went in for an ultra sound that the doctor had suspected would confirm a major birth defect for her unborn child. 

She held her breath as they found the heartbeat. She held her breath as the doctor examined the images. Then she cried when the doctor recognized her own miscalculations and admitted that the size and shape of the baby was due to her error in calculating a due date NOT spina bifida! Other health concerns would soon follow but THAT would not be one of them!

Nearly two months and a new doctor later, it was time for another routine ultra sound. They were coming more often at that point and had become exciting. Seeing the growth and movement of a new little life developing. This time the nurse set everything up as usual but got 'that look' on her face after searching for several minutes for the heartbeat.

"Hmm..." She said. "Let me go get some assistance with this one. I'm sure it's nothing."

Im sure it's nothing...were always famous last words. So again, the mother prayed. 
"Lord please let her (the baby) be okay. PLEASE let them find the heartbeat. PLEASE let her still be alive."

The doctor came in and soon gave a sigh of relief. The heartbeat had been found BUT it was in the wrong spot. The baby was breached. 

"We're going to keep a close eye on her but we need to be prepared for a possible c-section just in case she doesn't turn."

Three weeks later, the baby was still in the same position, her size was becoming a concern because of gestational diabetes so the doctor decided to go ahead and schedule the surgery a week before she was due. 

That morning, the mother went into work like always. Clocked out at noon and announced "I think I'll go have a baby now." Off to the hospital she went. Once she arrived another ultra sound was done just before the surgery and at the last possible moment...the baby turned! There was no longer a need for a c-section but by now Momma's blood pressure was climbing so they kept her overnight. The next morning her water broke and just as the doctor was finishing her rounds at the hospital, it was time. 

A beautiful, healthy baby girl was born. 

Life was pretty typical for the now single mother and infant. Routines were formed, budgets were stretched but God faithfully provided. Four months into the little baby's life on a Friday she developed a fever, runny nose and seemed lethargic. The new, scared mom took her to the doctor who chalked it up to being a first time, over anxious mom whose baby had a cold and sent them home. By the following Sunday night they were in the emergency room of the local hospital. 

The baby's fever had reached 106 degrees and it wouldnt come down. Once checked in to the ER, the doctor confirmed that the little one did NOT have a cold; she had pneumonia and had already lost 90% usage of her left lung. This time the momma dropped to her knees. The doctor helped her to a chair and calmly asked if there were anyone who needed to be called because it was not likely that the little one would live through the night. 

Once again, cries went out to God begging for mercy on this little girl. Not wanting to be selfish and pray for her life to be spared if she were suffering but heartbroken at the idea of her short life being over so soon. It was a very long night...

By six am the next morning the baby's pulse oxygen reading was climbing. Her fever was down and she was becoming alert. 6 days later a once again healthy, happy baby girl was taken home. 

The months that followed had their ups and downs. Ear infections were numerous, colds, coughs, respiratory infections seemed endless and she had trouble breathing. Doctors were slow to listen and slow to respond until one night she stopped breathing. At last a doctor took notice and asked
"Has she ever been tested for cystic fibrosis?" 
"Wouldn't that have been caught earlier?"
"Not always. I think we should run a sweat test just to see. It would explain a lot of the symptoms."
In those days the sweat chloride count for a child to be diagnosed with the disease had to read 60 or above. The little one's read at 59 but because of her symptoms they went ahead and diagnosed the then 7 month old with the disease. More tests were run, urine was taken, blood was drawn and we waited. 
Again, this happened on a Friday. 

By Monday, a counseling nurse from the state Children's Hospital called the mother and explained that it was her job to go over the test results and talk about what they meant. From the blood drawn and the urinalysis, they had concluded that the baby's kidneys were already starting to fail. She would most likely be on dialysis before she turned a year old. She had a less than 20% chance of ever reaching the age of 15 and less than 5% chance of seeing 21. "She's going to die." 

With the mother unable to speak, the nurse continued. "We've already set up the appointments at the Children's hospital. We need to get her started on treatments right away. Her first appointment is set for Wednesday (just two days away). 

 This time the young mother cried out to God: "How many times can you ask me to give her over to you?" And He answered "As many times as it takes for you to let go."

It was like a kick in the stomach. How often do we tell God "I give this trial to you" but continue to hold on to it as if we maintain some sort of control? This time she knew she had to accept that not only must she totally surrender her child to Christ but she must do it knowing that this time, she couldnt keep holding on. 

Two days later at the Children's Hospital, 152 miles away from her home, the young mother held her baby after the little girl had been poked and stabbed again. While they were prepared to start treatments, they wanted to test her once more to establish a baseline before everything began. A nurse brought in the results to a doctor as theey sat in a counseling area. The nurse left and summoned another doctor who joined the first. Minutes later another came in. Anxiety growing the first doctor came out and finally said "If I didn't already believe in miracles, I would now." 

The second sweat chloride test read 16. Meaning that there was no way the baby had cystic fibrosis. The 'kidney failure' was an over zealous lab tech that misread a urinary tract infection and the other symptoms and breathing problems were caused from under developed lungs that were attacked with a severe case of pneumonia at four months old causing asthma. While she would face a few more medical stumbling blocks, nothing at that point suggested that she had an incurable, life threatening disease. 

I write about surrendering to Christ and His mercy because a few hours ago, January 3, that little girl turned 12 years old. She is now a beautiful, smart, incredible and healthy young lady whose only life fear is that she doesn't want to grow up too fast. She loves to be creative, loves horses, loves to laugh and most of all; she loves Jesus. I am so proud of my daughter. I am so proud to have been blessed with her. Thankful for the trials that we have gone through and thankful for God's mercy on us. It is because of her that I can sincerely understand that when God told us that He would never leave nor forsake us; He wasnt joking around. With every trial, with every strike of the anvil; He has never left our side and I am literally...eternally grateful. 


Thursday, January 3, 2013

Eternal Resolutions

Here we are in the second day of a new year which, according to the doomsayers, we were never supposed to reach. I've heard others' ideas about the new year; their resolutions, hopes, dreams, dreads, anxiety and despair. It saddens me that so many feel they have nothing to live for, nothing to strive towards, no greater calling than to turn on the television once they get out of bed in the mornings.

As Christians, we have broken our chains that held us captive to that kind of thought process. Christ freed us from the burden of being lost, without purpose, with no hope, no faith and instead He came so that we would  not only have life but would have it more abundantly. John 10:10 Yet when others look to us for a glimpse of optimism, what do they see? Do they see us as being a tool for the light of Christ to shine through or do they see a reflection of themselves? Someone who simply has the label of "Christian" with no substance behind it?

I've been wondering if Christians get caught up in the discouragement of their lives because the life they are living isn't what God intended and in order to follow His path would mean they would have to admit they were wrong about some of their choices. Perhaps they would have to admit they had not consulted God at all or perhaps following Him would mean they would have to, once and for all, say goodbye to a particular sin that had been holding them back. Whatever the reason, God never promised us a perfect life once we gave our hearts to Him. He simply promised that He would always be with us from our highest peaks to our lowest lows and regardless of how our circumstances (especially those that are self imposed) make us FEEL, He hasn't left us.

Regardless of what the new year may have in store for you, regardless of what plans we can sit around and make for ourselves, the utmost resolution that a person can have is one that resolves their heart to Christ. Give yourself a chance to have a positive outlook, rather than one of uncertainty. And if you are that person who is scared to accept Him because of choices that you think you've made; let me assure you that no road that you've taken has put you too far away from Christ that He can't guide your path back to Him.

In Him,
kj

Update: While this was written on Jan 2, I tend to forget the time difference between where I live and wherever the server is located so no, I've not lost my ability to read a calendar. lol