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Monthly Archives: December 2015

Bearing Gifts

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And the wise men came to worship – bearing gifts, gold, frankincense and myrrh. We exchange gifts because the wise men brought gifts to the Christ child. But, I have to wonder if we got Christmas gift giving wrong from the very beginning. I wonder if instead of exchanging gifts with each other, Christmas should have been about giving gifts to Christ all along. It is after all a celebration of His birth – of His coming down to surrender His life in order to redeem our lives. Should not Christmas still be about bringing our finest gifts to Him?

Over the years I have learned to listen closely for offhand remarks by loved ones in order to determine gifts they would like to receive for birthdays and Christmas. But, I’ve found it’s best to request a wish list as well.

Have I listened closely enough to the Lord over the last year to have picked up on the gifts His heart desires to receive from me? It’s highly likely that I have been far to self-absorbed – begging for or demanding answers from the King of kings. Listening only for the answers I desperately want instead of listening for what Jesus wants to tell me, leaving me clueless as to what gift Christ would most like to receive from me this year. I think I’m in need of a list.

I wonder what kind of list He would prepare for me. Would the wish list He placed in my hand look like the generic list you give to extended family? You know the one where you withhold the things you most want because they are far too costly. Or would it be the list a child gives to a parent because the intimacy of the relationship gives you confidence that those are the things they most want to know about – because they have planned to be as extravagant as possible when selecting a gift for you?

Which kind of list would Jesus present to me and what would It include?

Would regular church attendance top His list? Time reading His word? Prayer throughout the day instead of when I’m rushing out the door or drifting off to sleep at night? Some form of service to the body of Christ or to the lost?

What is the gift Jesus most wants to receive from me? Not what he’d be content with receiving but what He most desires to unwrap on the day of His birth?

The thing I find most extraordinary is, Christ’s wish list not only represents any gift He’d like to receive from us, but every single item listed is beneficial to the giver. No matter what gift you selected from His list you would be gifting yourself with more of Christ. More of His presence, more of His wisdom, more of His compassion, simply more of Him. We can afford to be extravagant because most of the things we might commit to give Christ don’t require financial resources, instead they require time, love and commitment.

What gift can I commit to bring the Savior of the world not just Christmas morning but every morning of every day that follows? Will I be extravagant or will I simply choose the easiest, least costly gift on His list? Is His pleasure my goal or is a sense of obligation driving me? Will I give Him my best or simply make do with that which is good enough?

The answers to these questions reveal much about the state of my heart – the depth of my love – and maybe they also reveal my state of mind. Circumstances not only distract but can also limit what you have available to give – the depth of the emotional and spiritual reserves may be depleted. My finest gift may be far less costly than I could afford to give in Christmas’s past.

I think the only one to which the phrase, “It’s the thought that counts” applies may be the Lord God Almighty. He alone knows the sincerity of the thought or intention. He alone fully knows and understands both the heart’s desires and burdens. He alone knows if we are striving to give beyond our means or if we are so lost and overwhelmed that we have little left to offer. He understands because His love is perfect. It is patient and kind and is not at all self-serving. You may find that the gift He most desires from you is little more than a step into the arms that long to hold you, to comfort you.

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“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killers the prophets and stonest them that are sent into thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye wouldest not!” – KJV – Luke 13:34

 

 

 

Will you let Christ gather you to Himself? Will you plan to welcome Him the way you welcome family and friends? Will you listen for His still small voice inviting you to draw near? Will you come before Him in worship bearing a gift for the King of Kings? Will you find Christ in Christmas this year?

Will I?

 
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Posted by on December 23, 2015 in Faith

 

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A Day in the Life . . .

It was a rough morning. I woke up and as has become my practice of late, rolled over hugging my pillow tight to my chest to offset the ache that is forever present in my heart. I lay there thinking, thinking, thinking. Torn between wanting to find a life for myself and simply wanting to melt into my mattress and quietly fade away.

A phone call from the speech therapist interrupted my musings. Therapy to learn how to control Gracen’s respiration is recommended. Apparently, speaking is far more complicated than the general public, myself included, realizes. As the therapist explained to me, we all control our respiration in order to make our speech smooth. When your breath is either limited or comes out in bursts, your speech is adversely affected. The inability to control respiration will likely result in incompressible speech necessitating the use of a communication device. We can start respiration therapy now or wait until the communication device arrives. I’d prefer to start now but it will depend on Gracen’s availability based upon next semester’s class schedule. Still, I ask probing, unanswerable questions about what we can expect vacillating back and forth in my mind between the bliss of ignorance and the power of knowledge. Can I afford not to know? I envy the days long past where that was not a question I need entertain because the future was simply unknowable – there was no prognosis – dread wasn’t my constant companion.

I drag myself from the comfort of my bed in order to get ready to have lunch with my best friend in Northwest Arkansas. I’m looking forward to seeing her, yet dragging at the same time. I’m constantly tired, morose and melancholy, even as I prepare for enjoyable activities.

I decide to call the funeral home to follow-up on the request to get my daughters’ fingerprints in order to have them made into a necklace for me and a keychain for David. I’d really like to have it for Christmas but decided to look into it far too late to have a reasonable expectation of seeing that happen. I called two weeks ago and never heard back. It’s hard to make calls like this and I’ve not been able to muster the motivation to call back before today.

So I place the call once again and am once again told that a Funeral Director will return my call. Today I get a quick call back informing me that they don’t take fingerprints unless the family requests them and of course, we had not requested them. Even if we had not been busy taking care of Gracen, I would never have thought to make such a request. And my heart is broken yet again. The tears flow freely as David tries to comfort me.

When will I learn not to hope? Everyone thinks hope is such a good thing, but it seems to be my nemesis – setting me up for repeated disappointment I can little afford to endure.

Why does God withhold such a small consolation from a grieving mother? What possible harm could come from being able to wrap my hands around the proof of my daughters existence and their importance in my life?

Do I dare call the funeral home the girls were initially transported to following the accident or am I simply setting myself up for yet another disappointment. I want to hope but am not sure I can endure hearing “No” once again. What to choose, ignorance or knowledge? Bliss or power? Hope or hope deferred?

Where there is hope, there is life, I’m told. Hope grows like a weed, in darkness and drought; tenaciously it grows. I know, I know if I call the funeral home in Anderson, Missouri, they will tell me that, no, they do not have the girls fingerprints and yet my broken heart wants so much for the miraculous to occur. Do I subject myself to more disappointment just to be absolutely sure that there is no hope for a positive response?

So following my lunch out, I send David and Gracen off to see the newest Hunger Games movie and crawl back in bed, pulling my pillow into my chest and curling into a self-protective fetal position instead of wrapping the Christmas gifts I need ready to transport come Wednesday. Not making a decision is in fact choosing to do nothing. By default, at least for now, a phone call won’t be made. And hours later I’m second guessing my decision to refrain from making a decision. At least if I’d called, all the disappointment would be confined to one days time. Well, that’s not strictly true as every day I face the disappointing loss of my daughters and the discouragement of progressive disease follows quickly on its heals.

I’ve learned to anticipate the next blow – it prepares my heart for the inevitable pain that follows much like a boxer who tightens his abs when he sees the next punch coming. It just hurts a little less when the blow lands. So I guess living in a state of hyper awareness is actually good for me. There’s the silver lining, the positive to negate the negative for the choose joy contingent. What’s one more hard day in a string of hard days? As it’s been said by some anonymous source, my track record for surviving bad days is 100% thus far, and that’s pretty good.

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Posted by on December 23, 2015 in Chronic Illness, Faith, Grief, Muscular Dystrophy

 

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Canine Nesting

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(Written mid-March 2015)

I awoke again to thoughts circling my mind as I feebly try to wrap my heart and mind around all that has happened in the last 14, almost 15 months.

Have you ever seen a dog settle down to take a nap?  The dog picks his spot them circles and circles and circles before settling into place.  At the first noise or distraction the dog pops up investigates and then picks a new spot repeating the process.  Circle, circle, circle, settle.  That’s pretty much how my brain works – restless fidgeting – circling around and around in an attempt to wrap my arms around all the facts so that I can process them and finally be done with them.

But there is no resolution – there will be no resolution – and maybe that’s the hardest thing of all to come to terms with.

Which leaves me with this truth . . .

My problem is with God.   Not the impotent prosecutor.  Not the foolish judge.  Not the ignorant man-child who placed me in this situation.  No, my problem goes straight to the top.  To the highest authority in all the world.  My problem is with God, Himself.  And how do I feel about that?  Well, this picture captures my current relationship with God quite well:

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My hand extended before my body in the classic signal for “Stop!  Don’t come any closer!”  I haven’t walked away from Him, I simply cannot beckon Him closer.

I know God loves me, know He wants to comfort me, and know that I want His comfort and yet, right now, right now, His love just hurts.  His plans hurt.  His ways hurt.  His love for the lost hurts because He has allowed my children to die, He has allowed this pain, and will allow me to suffer again in order that my faith is refined and revealed, so that the lost will be saved, and that He will be glorified, all at the expense of my fragile, already broken heart.

It’s easier to mentally attack the humans involved than go rounds with the Lord Almighty. After all, God is always right.  His plans are always for my good and even the bad things He allows work for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purposes. There is no arguing your case or winning an argument with the Lord God Almighty, as Job discovered.

And so I fruitlessly continue the canine nesting ritual in my mind.  I continue shuffling through the events of that tragic day.  I continue circling round and round the behavior of the prosecutor, the judge, the man-child who swaggered into court.  All before turning my attention to the Lord in a conversation that goes something like this:

Me:  I’m mad at you. You hurt me.

God:  I know you’re hurt.  I know you’re angry.  I want to help you.  I want to comfort you.

Me:  Stay back!  You will just comfort me and then allow me to be hurt again.

God:  The hurt I allow leads to your ultimate healing.

Me:  I don’t want healed.  I just want my life back!

God:  There’s no going back.

Me:  I know that.  I hate that!  I don’t want to be here anymore but I can’t leave Gracen. She’s burdened by that knowledge.  She wants me and doesn’t want me at the same time. She loves me and resents me.  Only time and maturity will change that, but it hurts me to experience it and I’m afraid she might never quit resenting me – that we will never have a good mother/daughter relationship.

God:  She feels about you the way you feel about me.  You want me and don’t want me. You love me and resent my authority in your life.  Time and the Holy Spirit can and will fix the brokenness within you, but your terror of the personal cost of discipleship and spiritual healing wars with your anger over the direction my sovereign authority has taken in your life.  You want to feel my love and presence but at the same time you are terrified of me.

Me:  I don’t know what to do to change that.

God:  First, you can’t do it by yourself. You were never intended to.  But you do know what to do. You do know what steps to take.

Me:  Study Your Word and pray.

God: Yes, but your anger and hurt leads you to resist and you also know those things are not enough.  You know you can’t fix your problems with a formula.  You know that you have to allow the Holy Spirit to do His work within you and you know that doesn’t happen overnight.

Me:  I don’t know how to release the anger and hurt, especially knowing I will be hurt again.  I feel as if I am standing in the middle of a fast moving stream and the current is forcing me in a direction I don’t want to go.  I’m resisting yet I keep getting pushed forward.

God:  That fast moving stream is my will and I’m fully aware you don’t want to go where I’m taking you.

Me:  I really, really don’t want to go there.

God:  I’ll be with you.

Me:  That doesn’t make it hurt less.

God:  It does, it’s just that you no longer know what desperately alone feels like because I’ve been with you for so long.  To truly be alone feels much worse – you’ll have to trust me on that.

Me:  I still don’t know how to surrender my will to yours.  I still don’t know how to let go of the hurt and the anger.

God:  I’ll help you with that.  I’m already helping you with that.  It’s a deep wound.  Deep wounds take a long time to heal.  You just now found words to express what you are feeling.  It’s a step in the process.

Me:  The process sucks!

God:  Yep, fortunately, I have perfect patience.  You on the other hand, not so much!

Me:  A sense of humor?  Now you show a sense of humor?

God:  Hey, laughter is a good medicine, I designed it that way, and my timing is perfect.  You would have resented it if I had displayed it earlier . . .

(Feel free to call it my imagination, or call it God speaking with me.  Draw your own conclusions, but, I will say that things were revealed in my thoughts above that I was not consciously aware of prior to this time.)

Flash forward to December of 2015 and you will find that my hand is no longer extended before the Lord demanding that He stay back and give me space.  I have resigned myself to what I knew all along; that God alone can help me through this living nightmare.   We never stopped speaking, but there were things I refused to bring before Him.  There are still things I hold back.  I’m far from healed, far from OK even.  Over the last two years I have repeatedly asked the Lord, “What do you want from me?”  And instead of silence I hear a quiet, one word response.  “Rest.”

He’s not once reminded me of His sovereignty, as He did Job.  He’s never scoffed and told me to quit throwing a pity party.  He’s not demanded that I stop grieving and count my blessings.  He’s never once told me not to be afraid.  He just quietly encourages me to rest which I’ve found much harder to do than one would expect.  Resting requires more than slowing down and sleeping in.  This rest seems to include finding a way to be completely still before the Lord.  So the canine nesting ritual continues and I try to learn to rest.  But, even now, there is no condemnation from my Savior, for which I’m profoundly thankful.

 
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Posted by on December 14, 2015 in Faith, Grief

 

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Trauma Momma?

IMG_4279I haven’t wanted to talk about trauma and how it impacts an individual – those who grieve in particular.  I haven’t wanted to go there primarily because of the reaction one receives if they try to talk about it – skepticism.  I’m not sure if people think they can simply look at a person and tell they are dealing with the after effects of trauma, or if they simply don’t believe it happens to people outside of the military and first responder communities.  Who knows?  The truth is we all experience trauma – usually in small, manageable measures.  Generally we ride it out, push through it, brush it off and move forward and beyond it.  We remain standing and to the outside world appear largely unscathed.  But sometimes we experience trauma of a far greater magnitude.  Below are the sobering statistics of how people are affected by trauma:

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Traumatic experiences may or may not result in PTSD – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The general public understands little about this disorder. I understood little about PTSD and am slowly learning how it might impact an individual.  What little people do know about the disorder has come from TV and movies and is usually – justifiably so – attributed to military personnel who have seen and experienced frightful & life-threatening situations.  Combat related PTSD generally results in the most severe effects and can dramatically alter an individual’s every day existence.

PTSD, like many other conditions, can be experienced in mild, moderate, severe or extreme forms.  What most people don’t understand is that it can develop in an individual who lives in a continual state of heightened anxiety (soldiers on patrol who’ve never seen combat, individuals – especially children – and family members who cope with life-threatening illnesses such as cancer, parents of special needs children, individuals who live in high crime neighborhoods or who have become refugees due to war or natural disasters all qualify) or PTSD can result from a single traumatic event.

If you asked a random group of people to describe the symptoms of PTSD, I imagine the single most common response would be flashbacks.  A heightened sense of situational awareness is another common symptom of PTSD and I believe, the general public is vaguely aware that sounds, smells, and images can trigger disproportionate responses in those who suffer with PTSD.  Less understood are the more subtle ways in which people who have experienced trauma internally process their experiences and the ways in which previous trauma changes an individual and therefore how they cope with subsequent traumas.

Shock is an additional component closely related to trauma.  One thing I didn’t understand about shock was the duration of time an individual might live and walk through life under the influence of shock.  I didn’t understand that disassociation – a means of separating oneself from the events until one is capable of dealing with them is what long-term shock looks like.

There was and continues to be a lot I don’t understand about shock and trauma.  For one thing, people are amazingly resilient and for another, every individual is unique and can respond and react to the same trauma in unique ways.

So what kind of symptoms are commonly seen in individuals who suffer from PTSD?

*Extreme reactions (emotional and physical) to sights, smells or sounds (triggers) that remind the individual of traumatic events

*Avoiding people, places, and conversations related to the trauma

*Avoidance behavior designed to escape thoughts, memories and heightened levels of anxiety – abuse of alcohol over-the-counter or prescription drugs, watching TV, spending time on the computer or reading excessively – anything that numbs pain or distracts the mind

*Experiencing feelings of emotional numbness or detachment, lack of interest in things previously enjoyed, guilt and blaming of self and others, depression

*Inability to concentrate, irritability and/or angry outbursts, difficulty sleeping

*Panic attacks involving intense fear, heart attack symptoms including chest pain, numbness, tingling, dizziness, shortness of breath, shaking, sweating and hot flashes

*Nightmares about an event

*Flashbacks – visions of a traumatic event where the individual feels as if they are reliving the experience while awake

 

Aside from combat exposure, what kinds of trauma can precipitate PTSD? Surviving or witnessing situations involving extreme stress such as physical or sexual assault,  natural disasters, torture, imprisonment, accidents and the sudden or unexpected loss of a loved one.  Law enforcement officials, firefighters, paramedics, and medical professionals frequently deal with traumatic situations that make them vulnerable to PTSD.

Simply surviving traumatic experiences puts a person at risk for developing PTSD. However, most people will not develop the condition. Experiencing extreme fear or helplessness during the traumatic event, seeing others injured or killed, isolation after the event and dealing with additional stress such as pain & injuries, loss of a loved one, home or job, and a history of mental health issues all increase the risk of developing PTSD.  Women are twice as likely as men to develop the condition.

There are several ways to lower the risk of developing PTSD.  Support from family, friends, support groups and developing a coping strategy are chief among them. Surprisingly, how well an individual personally believes they responded during and immediately following a traumatic event or through the course of a series of lesser traumas plays a role in the development of PTSD.

If an individual is able to act in a manner they perceive as effective during the traumatic event, if they feel good about their response in the face of danger, they are less likely to develop PTSD.

More than a year after the collision I received a CD from the McDonald County Dispatch Center of the 911 calls and the coordinated emergency response efforts related to the car wreck we were involved in.  It was disconcerting, to say the least, to hear my shrill voice in the background of two of the 911 calls reporting the accident.  There was a definite tone of hysteria in my voice.  However, the first emergency service provider who arrived on the scene, the Pineville Fire Chief, Gregg Sweeten, told me that when he approached me at the side of our minivan, where I was kneeling and supporting Gracen’s head and shoulders, he thought I was a bystander who had stopped to help and had no idea that I was a passenger in the vehicle, let alone Gracen’s mother.

The grief counselor I see asked me how I felt about hearing that I was not initially identified as a victim.  I hadn’t really thought about it from that perspective but I’m glad she asked because it led me to analyze my feelings.  It helped me to realize that overall, I feel good about my response in the aftermath of the motor vehicle accident.  There are things I wish I had the wherewithal to do, such as checking for a pulse or deciding if CPR should be started.  But, I am thankful that I didn’t become hysterical to the point of inactivity or worse by far, to the place where my behavior prevented Gracen, David and O’rane from receiving needed medical care.

I’m glad I was able to help a bystander locate O’rane’s bag so the hospital would be aware of the medications he was taking.  I’m glad I was coherent enough to explain to David’s mother the scope of our accident quickly over the phone.  I’m glad I was able to tell the paramedics that Gracen is allergic to penicillin, to verbalize the medications she takes and the name and nature of her disease so the medical team might know about potential drug interactions, etc.  Had I fallen to my knees screaming out my agony and despair, emergency workers would have been distracted from caring for Gracen, and frankly, her life hung in the balance at that point in time.

I am beyond grateful that I was able to hold it together so that she got much needed medical attention and that I am not left with the suffocating knowledge and guilt that would have surely destroyed me had my reaction in the moments following the collision resulted in a failure for Gracen to receive prompt medical care resulting in her death.

I can’t say I’ve handled every traumatic experience in the way most beneficial to my daughter.  There were moments when pain was not managed well, when I escaped Gracen’s hospital room, in effect abandoning her to the care of the medical staff and leaving David or my sister-in-law, Sandy, alone in that room to cope with this new trauma.  How does a mother, or a father for that matter, determine if staying with their child when they are personally falling apart is more harmful to their child’s psyche than leaving the room so that the child doesn’t carry the burden of their parent’s despair along with their own?  All I know for sure is that had another family member not been present, the staff would have had to drag me out before I would have left Gracen alone regardless of my state of mind.

Several years ago, I was driving home from dropping Gracen & Katie off at school when I heard a news report on the radio.  The report stated that research had shown that long-term care givers were among those who suffered from PTSD due to the constant anxiety.  I remembered thinking at the time, “I wonder if I have that?”

Looking back, and having become aware of lesser known symptoms of PTSD, I can see that not only was I actively practicing classic avoidance behaviors but that both Gracen and I were exhibiting emotional responses common to those who suffer from PTSD long before the collision that so impacted our lives.  Observing the physical changes related to Gracen’s disease, coping with chronic daily migraines as well as complicated migraines, coupled with painful medical tests, fears related to safety and an uncertain future took a toll.  The most painful of which is the realization that the avoidance behaviors that allowed me to continue to perform day to day tasks while enduring the unrelenting anxiety also resulted in distancing myself from greater intimacy with my daughters.

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Avoidance behaviors serve to insulate your heart from further pain and are a form of psychological protection.  For example, consider the mother of a child who is undergoing cancer treatment.  You may find her consistently present in her child’s hospital room.  She brings a book or her tablet to occupy her time while her child sleeps or during times when her child is undergoing tests she can’t be present for, such as an MRI.  As her child’s condition worsens you may notice that during times when her child is awake the mother may still be consistently present, may meet every physical need but personally engages less frequently.  She may play with her smart phone while her child watches a movie instead of watching with them.  She may read while her child colors a picture instead of coloring with them.  She slowly and without conscious awareness, disengages from personal contact.  The behavior that grants her a distraction from her worst fears and lack of control, also creates an emotional disconnect that is nothing short of emotionally  devastating when she becomes aware of them.

This is the face of PTSD.

IMG_4280Rarely can you identify an individual who is coping with PTSD by simply observing their behavior.  Unless you are present when they encounter a trigger, have a flashback or wake up screaming in the middle of the night, PTSD can silently hide beneath a veneer of socially acceptable behavior.

Even when someone suffering from PTSD encounters a trigger or experiences a flashback you may not recognize the trembling hands, the internal panic, the flinch as gruesome images assault their minds.  When they drop out of normal activities you may simply think they are grieving instead of recovering from a night without sleep or filled with nightmares.  And how many people are privy to the methods of distraction utilized or the inability for those affected to perform simple tasks like returning phone calls, making appointments or paying bills?

Then shame takes stage causing the individual to castigate themselves for all they can’t seem to control or accomplish without understanding why the lesser know symptoms of PTSD are plaguing them.  Unless they’ve seen a counselor, they may not even know they have PTSD.

And of course, depression plays an active role as well.  There’s also a difference between a mild or moderate case of depression and full-scale clinical depression.  While the symptoms of mild and clinical depression are the same, the intensity of the feelings, the degree to which everyday life are impacted differ greatly.  Change in sleep patterns – sleeping too much or too little.  Change in eating habits as evidenced by weight gain or weight loss.  Sadness on steroids.  Lack of motivation.  On and on it goes.

Outsiders look in and can’t understand why this person declines invitations.  Why they don’t return to normal activities or get a job or do any number of other things in order to help themselves never realizing the extreme melancholy, fatigue and shame often prevent them for taking the initiative for anything.  It takes too much energy or exposes their vulnerability to the outside world.

Who wants to admit they are clinically depressed?  Aren’t those people in institutions? Who wants to confess to struggling with PTSD?  Isn’t that just a bid for attention?  Who wants to personally accept that simple things are much too difficult – that they can’t quite cope – that they aren’t enough – that the awareness of their utter lack of control is terrifying?

Where is your faith, one might ask?  Right where it always was, solidly grounded in my Savior, Jesus Christ.  Then why can’t you trust in His loving care?

Consider Isaiah 43:2 with me.

“When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.”

 

We like this verse because we concentrate on God’s promised care.  But it seems to me that we only meditate on the “good” parts of the verse.  We focus on the fact that the waters won’t overflow is, the fire won’t burn us or kindle a flame on us and that God will be with us, but we overlook or ignore the less desirable truth this verse reveals.

We will be in deep water fighting to keep our heads above the surface.  We will walk through the fire.  And God will be with us – but we will still feel the water rise, we will still feel the heat of the flames.  Experiencing PTSD or depression are not evidence of a failure to trust God, they are simply normal responses to trauma.  They represent the deep waters and the firery flames of life’s tribulations.  So we’d do well to recognize that it won’t be easy in spite of God’s presence.  And it will likely take a great deal of effort to try to respond in a Biblical way, and there is love and grace and mercy when we stumble or outright fail to behave as we believe or expect we should.

There is hope of healing.  Hope in making peace with an unknown future when experience has taught us that it will be painful.  There is hope that we will exit the firery furnace without the stench of bitterness clinging to our hair and garments. There is hope that shock, depression and PTSD will not define us but instead refine us, but oh, it’s a slow and painful process and we need to show ourselves grace along the way.

My personal prayer is that I will lower my self-imposed expectations, that I will be oblivious to the expectations and perceptions of others and that I will find overwhelming comfort in the unfailing presence and love of God because the spirit is indeed willing but the flesh is oh so weak.

 
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Posted by on December 4, 2015 in Adversity, Faith

 

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Graceful Gratitude

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Thanksgiving started early for me this year. 2:15 a.m. to be exact.  That’s the time my cell phone rang alerting me that Gracen was in need of some help.  Following her call, I hurried to the bedroom next door to find Gracen flat on her back, thirsty, hot and trapped under her covers with her knees bent and sore.

I peeled her covers back and removed the new knee-high AFOs (Ankle/Foot Orthotics) she now wears to bed nightly. Then I helped her to straighten her legs out by pulling her ankles toward the end of the bed and simultaneously pushing down on her knees one at a time before getting her some water.

Through all that, she accepted help without one complaint, in spite of the fact that I slept through two text messages before she called my cell.

Then I kissed her goodnight for the second time and crawled back in bed hugging my pillow to my chest; and I thanked God for Gracen’s attitude and for the grace she demonstrates in the face of debilitating disease.

As I lay still waiting for sleep to once again overtake me, I absorbed the most recent physical changes in Gracen’s body.  It hurts to watch her body continuously fail her.  And I thought about gratitude. One thing I’ve found in the face of the deaths of my oldest and youngest daughters, Gracen’s injuries and progressive disease is that others, in sincere compassion, try to make me feel better by reminding me of the many blessings in my life.  It’s almost as if people believe that counting your blessings negates your sorrows; which is categorically untrue.

Gracen’s diminishing physical abilities actually set the stage for thankfulness for it is in light her losses that I find myself grateful for much simpler things.  In the wee hours of Thanksgiving morning I found myself thankful for my graceful daughter precisely because she has every reason in the world to be angry and resentful.

The point I’m trying to make is that gratitude is experienced in contrast to those things for which we are not thankful.  Andrew Downs said it far better in his book  Alex Hollick:  Origins:

“To walk in the shadows is not a curse and to walk in the sun is not a blessing.  They are simply relative points of harmony, by which we can appreciate what we have, what we once had and what we hope to have.  The sun means nothing without the shadows, nor would shadows without the sun.”

So, by all means, count your blessings; but don’t beat yourself up for the normal emotions that arise from trials and loss.  God doesn’t tells us to suppress our emotions.  He tells us to bring our burdens to Him and when we do, gratitude will likely follow as we witness His care and provision.

 
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Posted by on December 1, 2015 in Chronic Illness, Faith, Grief

 

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