Thursday, June 25, 2015

It's Been One Year

Today makes one year since I got that awful phone call. One year since I rushed home to take Tim to the emergency room. One year since I stood over the bed begging God to spare him. One year since I watched him being loaded into a helicopter and flown to another hospital. One year since we raced by car to the hospital, not knowing if he had survived the flight there. One year since we sat at his bedside, completely helpless, unable to do a thing to help him. One year since God humbled us and showed us how little control we really have every single moment of every day. One year since I had no choice other than to place my son's life in God's hands, which was really just symbolic since that's where all our lives rest every second anyway, even when we don't acknowledge it.

It's been one year since God answered my prayers, and those of hundreds of people who interceded on our behalf, though it would be weeks before we knew that for sure. Looking at my Time Hop on Facebook this morning (a program that shows me the activity on my Facebook page for a particular date throughout the years), I was overcome with emotion as I read the frantic pleas for prayer. I remembered being so terrified and not able to get a good phone signal and finally getting in touch with my friend, asking her to post an urgent request for prayer so that as many people as possible could be praying. My friends in cyberspace responded in force. It was a Wednesday afternoon, and that night, across the land, believers in prayer meetings in churches we don't even know about lifted up Tim's name. Phone calls and texts and messages poured in, letting us know we weren't alone in crying out to God. We were lifted up and propped up by people who loved us, and it got us through the very long night, the following ten days in the hospital, and the months of recovery at home. We could not have made it without the prayer support of so many.

It's been one year since God slowed our busy lives down and forced us to focus on Him. One year since He so completely changed the way I think about things. One year since we realized that so many things we thought were important really meant nothing at all to us. One year since we began to re-prioritize things in our life.

It's been one year since God really showed me how involved He is in the tiny details. Things we might not normally notice, like the fact that the hospital they originally wanted to fly Tim to refused him because he was a pediatric patient.....but God knew that the highly qualified and much desired doctor we actually needed was already waiting at the other hospital. Or that a certain nurse that would go above and beyond the call of duty would be scheduled to work in the ICU that night, away from their normal cardiac care unit. Or when I needed a friendly comforting face in the original ER, in walked a nurse I actually knew and trusted, that I didn't even know worked there. God placed the right people in the right place, just when we needed them. That's no coincidence. It's also no coincidence that God placed a level headed friend with Tim during the wreck, so that someone would be there to get him home, call for help, keep him calm and still until I could get there, keep Ashley calm, help me load him in my car, and take care of things at my house for me. It was no coincidence that this happened right before Ashley left for church camp, where she would be distracted from worrying about her brother and where people who loved her could comfort her and allowing me to devote all my energy to Tim. God is in the little details.

It's been one year. It's been a lifetime and only a moment, at the same time. Some things have gotten back to normal, and some things never will. And as odd as it may sound, I am actually grateful for the events of one year ago. God used them to teach so many lessons. I can't say I'd choose to go through it again, voluntarily, because I'm just a weak human that avoids painful situations when I can. But I am so very grateful for the opportunity God gave us to learn to trust Him completely, to learn the power of prayer, to experience the love and compassion of others, to slow down and recognize what is truly important in life, and to watch Him work His wonders.

You may not have had such a dramatic reminder of God's power and love in the last year, but I guarantee that He's been at work in your life too. He's there in the big things as well as the small things. He's there in the big picture and the tiny details. And every day, in more ways than we can ever see, He shows us He loves and cares for us.

And if you are one of the many, many people who prayed for us, we thank you with all of our being.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Spiritual Famine

Ashley got a cotton candy machine for Christmas. You can use regular sugar, or even more fun, any type of hard candy to make the cotton candy. So we've had peppermint, spearmint, caramel, cinnamon, root beer, and various fruit flavored cotton candy. It's so cool to watch the hard candy tumble around for a minute, then suddenly, strands of cotton candy appear. Wispy, delicate, tasty strands of deliciousness appear where moments before a chunk of hardened sugar had been. I'm not sure if Ashley or Scott has enjoyed it the most.

I like cotton candy, but just a taste or two. Any more than that is just too much sweet for me. I did an experiment once as part of a diet program. You had to pick a favorite food that you normally wouldn't eat on a diet because it was “bad”. Then you had to eat that food, just that, at every meal. EVERY meal! Three times a day. For days and days. I chose ice cream. The first day, it was awesome. Here's a food I hadn't eaten in ages, because it was not healthy. Under the plan, you could have all you wanted. So I ate it and thoroughly enjoyed it, for breakfast. It was AWESOME! Lunch came around, and I had more ice cream. I was loving it. Supper cream. The next day, for breakfast, I had ice cream. It didn't taste quite as good the second day. Lunch rolled around, and I really wanted a turkey sandwich or something, but I had ice cream. By supper, I would have loved to have a real meal, but ice cream was all that was on the menu. By about the fifth day, I hated ice cream. I didn't just dislike it a little, I really, really hated it. The sight of ice cream, the smell, the texture, the bland look, all turned my stomach. After that little experiment, I didn't want ice cream for a very long time.

Cotton candy, ice cream, donuts, cake, cookies, junk food....all of it is fantastic in moderation. But if that's all you have, it leaves you wanting. It doesn't fill the nutritional needs of the body, so even though the stomach is full, your body craves other food. It yearns for the nutrition you really need, and it revolts at the junk food. God designed your body to know what it needs.

God designed your soul to know what it needs too. At times in my life, I have dug deep in God's Word and devoured the nourishment it provides. But there have been other times that I get busy and my Bible time and/or prayer time gets pushed aside. I grab a few verses here and there, I shoot a prayer upwards as I rush around, but it's superficial and not sustaining. It doesn't take too long before my soul starts to revolt. My soul knows I need that time in prayer and Bible study to grow and be healthy. And it doesn't take too long before my spiritual malnourishment starts to show. Thankfully, the cure is readily available. But sometimes it takes me a while to realize what my problem is. I never set out to forgo my Bible and prayer time. I just let myself get so busy that my quiet times become shorter and more interrupted and less focused until they are no longer much use. I get a little sustenance out of them, but not the deep nourishment I really need. And just like I never intend to stray into unhealthy eating habits, I sometimes get busy and grab something quick instead of slowing down and having the healthy meal I need. I have to force myself to take the time to fix the healthy food. And I have to force myself to take the time to nourish my relationship with Jesus.

I fear that many Christians are living on a junk food type of spiritual existence. I've talked to people who tell me they just don't have time to read the Bible, or that they intend to come to church, but they never do. I know people who find praying boring, or too time consuming. They run to God when there is a crisis, but otherwise, they subsist on the barest of spiritual disciplines that they can get by with. And it shows. Their faith is weak, their lives don't flourish, they don't grow in their spiritual life. You can get by that way, just like you can get by on donuts and Big Macs. But it won't be living life to the fullest. It won't be experiencing all the blessings God desires for you.

What about you? Are you living the abundant life, or are you you in a spiritual famine? God is always available.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

A Thankful Heart

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It's been almost five months since that phone call that froze my heart. It's been almost five months since I stood outside watching them load my son on a helicopter to fly him to another hospital better equipped to save his life. It's been almost five months since a doctor stood in the ICU explaining how much damage had been done to Tim's liver in the wreck. It's been almost five months since the ER nurse that first cared for him went home crying after her shift and told her husband that Tim likely wouldn't make it. It's been almost five months. It feels like yesterday and it feels like ten years ago. So much has happened in five months.

Today, just five months later, Tim seems perfectly healthy. There's a tiny scar from the chest tube, and a couple miniscule scars from IVs, but that's all the outward sign that he ever skirted the edge of the Valley of Death. Over the last five months, God has knit his liver back together, returned full function to it, and healed his lungs. The last obstacle Tim was dealing with was the big collection of blood in the liver. Today, we learned that in the last three months, it has reduced by half. Today, that same doctor that stood in the ICU with a grave face telling us how dangerous the liver damage was stood smiling and telling us he was releasing Tim. Five months ago, Dr. Tartt stood by Tim's bed and told him to avoid moving as much as possible so the liver could clot and stop hemorrhaging. Today, he stood by Tim and told him to do whatever activities he was comfortable doing. What a difference a few months can make. Actually, what a difference God makes!

I'll never know how many prayers were lifted on Tim's behalf. We got hundreds of phone calls, emails, texts, and Facebook messages telling us people were praying. I heard from people from churches I'd never even heard of saying Tim was on their prayer list. The archery community stepped up and did a fund raiser for his medical bills and we got cards from people Tim had shot with across the state. I'll never know how many people prayed for Tim. But God does. He heard every single prayer, counted every tear, touched every heart. And He chose to answer our prayers with the outcome we had been praying for. And for that, I am forever, deeply, beyond description, thankful. There are no words to describe the feeling of watching your child nearly die. And there's no description for the feeling you get when you understand that your child will live. I know some of you have stood in my place. I know some of you didn't get the answer you had begged God for, but instead, heard the awful crushing news. I can't pretend to know what that's like.

Here's what I know for certain. God is good. And He is good all the time. When He answers our prayers in the way we asked, He is good. And when He says no, He is good. And when He says wait, He is good. And when we have no idea what He is doing, when we just can't understand why He is letting something happen, when our world is crashing down around us, He is still good. Our inability to see the big picture does not change His goodness.

This week is Thanksgiving. Many people across our land will lift prayers to God to thank him for all He's done for them, provided for them, and helped them. My family has so much to be thankful for every year, but even more so this year. And regardless of the circumstances you find yourself in, you too have much for which to be thankful.

Thursday, millions of “Thank you, God” prayers will ascend. I wonder how many will be said this Wednesday though. Or this Friday. Or next week. It is so very easy to take things for granted when they are going smoothly. It's easy to just cry out to God for help when we are desperate and forget to return in gratefulness when our situation changes, just as nine out of the ten lepers did when Jesus healed them. But living a life of gratitude, finding things to be thankful for every day, regardless of our circumstances, changes us. It changes our outlook, it reminds us of our dependence on God for all things, and it keeps us looking up toward Him rather than focusing on ourselves. Thanksgiving should not be reserved for a day, or even a week, or even just the month of November. It should be our attitude every day, every minute.

I have a long way to go to get to the “all gratitude, all the time” place in my life. I hope I'm making progress. I hope you are too. And I wish you a blessed Thanksgiving, knowing that if you are reading this, I have thanked God for placing you in my life.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Oh No! I Forgot To Socialize the Kids

This is our third year homeschooling and over the years, I've discovered there are a few predictable responses when people find out we homeschool. The reactions vary from laughable to annoying to downright offensive. One thing seems certain though. Everyone appears to have an opinion on the subject and they usually want to share it with me.

One we hear often is “Wow, that's great. I have so much respect for you. You must have so much patience.” Now, I appreciate your respect, I really do. But patience? Nope, not really. I don't have any more patience than any other teacher would have, or a bus driver, or the receptionist that has to answer stupid questions all day, or the police officer that has heard the same excuse a thousand times. I'm not extra patient, but when you are doing what God has instructed you to do, you will find that you are able to do what is needed. People sometimes respond with some form of “Wow, I could never do that!” That's ok. I probably wouldn't want to do your job either. I try to refrain from saying that though, because it sounds kind of snotty. I mean seriously, you do THAT all day? All week long? Ugh!

Often we are asked why we took our kids out of school. We have been asked if we hate public school or if we are trying to keep our kids from all bad influences. No, we don't hate schools. Yes, we do hate some of the things that go on there. No, we are under no delusion that we can prevent all bad influences, but yes, we do want to keep as many away from our kids as we can. Don't you? I mean, who wants their kids exposed to bad influences. I want to ask this questioner if they are even listening to themselves. I also try to keep my kids from drinking bleach. Call me weird.

Then there are the testers we meet. These are the people who want to quiz my kids to see if they are “smart” because they are home-schooled. This is so odd. I never see them doing this to traditionally schooled kids, but they feel right at ease quizzing my kids on random facts to see what they are learning. This goes along with the belief that if a home-schooled kid isn't brilliant, the parent must be failing at teaching. Or if they are shy, or overactive, or withdrawn, or talkative, etc, it must be because they are not socialized at school. Yet when I look at traditionally schooled kids, you know what I see? Kids that are really smart, or not so much, or average. Kids that are shy, or bold, or talkative, or withdrawn, or overactive. Kids are unique and individual, regardless of where or how they are schooled.

Finally, there are people who think we keep our kids home so we can indoctrinate them with our religion. This is only half true. I absolutely intend to indoctrinate my kids with Christian teachings. Absolutely! But I did this when they were in school too. And the Bible instructs us to do so. Train up a child in the way he should go......sound familiar? Every Christian is responsible for the spiritual instruction of their kids, and if you leave it up to someone else, whether church, school, preacher, teacher, or other, you are failing in that responsibility.

These reactions to homeschooling are things I've had to get used to. But they parallel reactions we Christians get from the outside world. There are people who consider it child abuse to teach kids about religion and believe that we should let them make up their own minds when they are adults. There are people who will quiz you on Bible facts to see if you know it all. There are people who think we are hiding from the real world inside our churches. There are people who claim they respect the way we live but think they could never live up to the church standards (another whole devotional right there, so I won't even address it.) There are people who look at our personality and decide it is because we are “church people” that we are....whatever personality trait they are against. There are people who think we must have it all together or never have problems because we have Jesus. Yeah, I wish! Some of the reactions from non-believers come from genuine curiosity or respect. Some from fear, hate, or prejudice. Some is a push back against the convictions they themselves are feeling when in our presence, which comes not from our behavior but from the Holy Spirit working on them.

Here's the take-away. I homeschool because it's what's best for my family. I don't judge you on the way you school your kids. Let's just respect and support one another, ok? I am a Christian. I don't judge you for not being one, if you aren't. Once upon a time, I wasn't one either. Let's just respect and support one another however we can, ok? I will tell you about how Jesus has changed my life though, because it's awesome. Or, if you are a Christian, I am not here to criticize your walk and I'd appreciate it if you refrained from doing so to me. I have stumbles and struggles too. Let's help lift each other up, ok? We have gotten so busy putting people into categories that we have lost Jesus' make disciples, to glorify God, to care for the needy, and to LOVE. Let's get back to it.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

One Split Second

     One decision. That's all it takes to change your entire life and the lives of those around you. An everyday decision that you have made a hundred times can have unintended consequences on a given day. That's what happened a couple of weeks ago. Tim decided to ride the four wheeler with his friends when I wasn't home. He decided to ride up the same hill he's ridden up hundreds of times. This time, he didn't make it. In a split second, an everyday decision turned into a life or death situation.
     The four wheeler crushed his liver, caused internal bleeding, and damaged his lungs. On the outside, he looked okay A few minor scratches, the imprint of the handlebars on his abdomen, but mostly okay. The damage was all inside. The x rays and CT scans showed the scary truth. The doctor's face and tone of voice portrayed the seriousness of what we couldn't see. The helicopter arriving to fly Tim to another hospital drove home how much trouble his body was in. If you have never watched your child being loaded into a helicopter and flying away to a hospital, you can not understand the dread that fills your being. In that moment, when you don't know if you will see them alive again, your heart is a rock in your chest, you can't breathe, you can't think....all you can do is try to fight the terror and drive on auto-pilot to the hospital. And pray. In that moment, when you can't even think of words, you can cry out to the Holy Spirit to give you words, to Jesus to save your baby, to God to be your rock.
     Tim lived. Those are words I never expected to say, never expected there to be a question. But that's our reality. He lived. It was very close. He almost didn't. The first morning in the ICU, one of the ER nurses came to visit and said he just wanted to see Tim, that he'd worried about him all night, and just wasn't sure he'd still be with us that morning. It was sweet of him, but a blow to us. It's hard for your mind to deny the seriousness of the situation when an ER nurse tells you he thought your child would die overnight. Our first morning in a regular room, two of the ICU nurses came to check on him, to be sure he was still improving. They too made comments about how close a call it was and how worried they'd been about him. It touched us that they cared so much.
     The prayers of hundreds pounded on heaven's gate. I got word out as soon as possible, because I wanted, needed people praying. People responded in droves, lifting up prayers for Tim, and for us, pleading for his life, his health, our peace. Those prayers held us up, kept us going, kept me from dissolving into a sobbing fearful doubting mess. God, in his infinite mercy, spared Tim's life and is restoring his health. We will never know how many people lifted a prayer for him. We've heard from dozens of people that he is on their church's prayer list, that their class prayed for him, that their friends have been praying. Many dozens of people have been following his updates on Facebook and passing it along to their friends, people we don't know, who have been praying for him. God's people have been a mighty voice asking for Tim's healing. We could never express our gratitude enough.
     One decision. One split second. That's all it takes to change your life, and those around you. We can't live our lives in fear of making a wrong decision and we can't put our kids in a bubble. We try to make wise decisions, but know that sometimes, things go wrong. Therefore, we must be prepared for eternity. A dear friend told me in the ICU waiting room that even though it wasn't going to come to it, at least we did know Tim's salvation was sure. She was right. It was a comfort to know that if my worst nightmare came to pass, I could be sure Tim's soul would be secure. We aren't promised tomorrow, or the next hour, or the next second. Be very sure your salvation is secured.
     Finally, I know this devotional is a little rambling and disjointed. Writing makes me vulnerable. I never sugar coat things for you. I allow you to see my faults, my weaknesses, my frailty because being authentic is the only way I know to be and the only way I can impact others. Even though Tim is home and improving, I'm still emotional. I've kept myself busy so I don't have to think about what could have been. But sitting down to write, that opens it all up. So I ask you indulgence this week. And I thank each of you for the prayers I know you've spoken on our behalf.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Work On the Inside Shows On the Outside

       It was that time again. I was at the dentist for my last appointment needed to correct substandard care I'd been getting from another dentist. For the years I had been seeing the unnamed dentist, I was happy. Quite happy, in fact. He'd never given me a shot. I rarely needed anything more than a cleaning. On the couple occasions when he'd found a cavity, he pushed some filling material in it without much drilling and without me needing any anesthesia. He said this was all that was needed. I believed him, mostly because I really wanted to. But finally, the nagging feeling in my mind surged forward enough that I started to question this reality. With no other dentist had I been able to go so long without a real filling, and never had I gotten such glowing reports on my teeth. See, I have the very thinnest of enamel on my teeth, the result of over-fluoridation of the water supply when my mother was pregnant with me. And that means cavities have been a normal part of my life, my entire life. So a dentist telling me all was well, time and again, felt great, but part of me knew it didn't seem right.
       Finally, when an old filling came out, I searched out a new dentist. I learned that this filling came out because there was a cavity around it that had not been repaired, for a long while. I found out I had two cracked teeth with bad fillings which ended up needing crowns. I found out there were cavities in several other teeth, and they weren't new. They should have been evident on the x-rays for at least several of my appointments. Even I could see them on the x-rays. And so began a year-long journey of replacing bad fillings, getting crowns, and getting new fillings on the cavities that had been ignored. And this, this was to be the last filling, and it was on the top, which meant it was much easier to deaden and should go easy. You can probably guess that not all went well.
       The actual appointment went great. The tooth deadened immediately, which is unusual for me. The drilling, filling, filing, and smoothing went great. My eye felt weird, but I didn’t worry about it much. I paid my bill, and started to leave. A lady in the waiting room spoke to me, I answered and smiled......and she laughed. Odd, I thought. So when I got in my car, I looked in the mirror and smiled. And laughed. One whole half of my face didn't work at all. At ALL!! It did look funny. After I got home, and Ashley and Scott had their laugh, I went on about the day. But my face didn't....not for quite a few hours. It took about six hours before my face started working correctly. But it didn't end there. It stayed swollen like a chipmunk for two days. And now, five days later, it still has a golf ball sized bruise on my cheek. Perhaps you can understand why I hate to visit the dentist. The oddest things happen to me, and I won't even go into all the trouble they usually have getting my teeth to deaden.
       Here's what I found interesting. If the paralysis, swelling, and bruising had not been present, no one would have known I'd had work done. But in this case, work done on the inside was reflected on the outside. I started thinking about my Christian walk. What is done in my soul, in my mind and heart, in my life, will show on the outside. If I am maturing in my faith, people should be able to see that by the way I live. If I am growing more like Christ, that should be evident to those around me. If I am stagnant in my walk, that will show too. Luke 6:45 tells us “A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart.” What is inside us comes out. It shows on the outside. A good vine produces good fruit while a bad vine can only produce bad fruit.
       What happens inside me will show in the way I live. So it comes down to what do I want my life to be. Do I want to be a weak, marginal Christian who just gets by, or do I want to be filled with God's power, love, grace, mercy, and wisdom? I can say whatever I want, but that is worth nothing. If I truly long for the Christian life God wants me to have, I will work for it. I will read my Bible, spend time in prayer, attend church, and have a real relationship with Jesus. It's completely up to me. And you will know my decision as you see me either grow and mature, or stagnate, or even retreat. I pray you will see me grow, and I hope you will join me in the journey.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Like a Chicken on a June Bug

Seventeen two day old chickens. That's what became the source of great amusement in my life over the last week or so.  I've had chickens before but never brand new, just hatched babies. Who knew how positively hilarious they could be! They are still at the age that they need a heat lamp, even though it's so hot outside that my skin tries to melt off when I walk out of the air conditioning. And as it turns out, horseflies love the heat lamp. They can't keep away from it. It draws them like, well, like a moth to a light. That saying could easily be changed to horseflies to lights. I also knew that chickens liked bugs, (chickens on a June bug, anybody?), but I really had no idea that two day old chicks could snag a horsefly in mid-flight. They can, and they are quite adept at it. Here's the part that has kept me amused for the last week. It becomes a soccer match. One chick catches the horsefly and, with it in his mouth, runs as fast as fast can be, round and round, back and forth, all around. The other sixteen chicks give chase. Some run behind him, others set up and wait till he comes by, but all eyes are on the chick with the horsefly. When another chick snatches the horsefly out of the first one's mouth, it starts again, in another direction, with sixteen chicks chasing the new possessor of the horsefly. Round and round they go, with the horsefly changing hands, er beaks, like some crazy speed fueled soccer game. It only ends when one of the chicks manages to swallow the bug, or another unfortunate horsefly enters the arena. It's better than ESPN.

It makes me think of how we humans act sometimes. One of our neighbors gets a new car, a new boat, a promotion, a bigger house, a younger wife, or his kids are in the honor society. Do we sit back and congratulate him, resting in our own accomplishments? No, we decide WE need the newest, biggest, best toy, or start to wonder why our spouse has let themselves go, or why our kid isn't in the gifted program. Instead of enjoying what we do have, we start to feel dissatisfied. We feel like we don't have what we deserve. We chase after someone else's life as if it were the one thing that could make us happy. We look like a little chick running behind them, hoping to snatch the prize from their beaks.

But what if....? What if instead of chasing after things, material or personal, accomplishments, etc....what if we were so filled with Jesus that people were chasing after us to get our prize? What if the way we exhibited our love for Jesus was so strong, so pure, and so desirable that others could not resist? And what if instead of running from them to keep it to ourselves, we ran to them and offered it up? What if we knew that we had an endless supply, and that sharing it with others would actually increase our own supply? Not just knew it in our heads, but believed it in our hearts so strongly that we lived that way? Can you imagine what that would be like?

I can, because I've seen it. Read the New Testament. Jesus lived his life in such a way that people up and left their jobs, their families, their homes, everything, just to follow him. There was nothing on this earth that could keep them away. They wanted what he had, what he was, and they followed after him like little chicks. Everyone? No, not at all. Just the ones who truly desired to be like him and were willing to give up self. And then he was gone. Did everyone go away, give up? No, the disciples kept running to people, offering them the prize they knew they had, and the one they knew others needed. They understood what they had and how important it was to share it. They didn't just share it with the people who happened into their church. No, they went out seeking others. They wanted everyone to have their gift so much, that they gave up their very lives to spread the gospel.

What, or who, are you chasing? Are you so satisfied with Jesus that you resist the siren call of coveting others' lives, possessions, and talents? And are you so aware of the value of the gift you have, the gospel, that you share it openly, willingly, with everyone, not waiting for them to ask for something they don't know they need, but explaining why they do? Consider it and see if there are some changes you need to make.