Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Who Knows

Well, I end up in obscure places and wonder what's going on.  On line at the cocoa beanery, I have my attention drawn to a man who is waving a book at me.  "I wrote this book, do you read poetry? I wrote this book and sold 600 copies. Here, read this." I'm not in the middle of a city, I'm in Hershey at a relatively yuppy coffee shop.  So I read.  Touching.  Heartwarming. " Very nice," I explain.  I glanced at his bio on the back page and made my way to the line.  (A cornell graduate? Is he retired? Is he okay?) Ordered a salad and cinnamon infused tea. Sat down.

It has been a wacky week.  Over all it started well, with good physical signs.  I could talk and eat the majority of the day.  Then the craziness of a labored swallow and the need to drink extra water kicked in about Monday, okay a bit at Saturday brunch.   I guess that is the beginning of the week.  After a morning and afternoon of a few conversations, the last few evenings were terrible.  I limited eating and barely talked during dinner.  One word sentences, some of which sounded like I was holding my nose, and an occasional barely intelligible word. 

So I have an ENT appointment on Friday and a call in to my neurologist.  A few 2nd opinions for the beginning of the new year.  I have lab work going to teat for a new-found antibody for Myasthenia Gravis. 

Praying it all goes away or that I have a heading and an altitude soon.  A consistent one.  I can see why a blogging friend entitled her blog "Living with Chronic Illness: The Roller Coaster of MG."  I don't even like roller coasters anymore.

As I type I am encouraged by the song overhead:

Joyful all ye nations rise
Join the triumph of the skies.
With angelic host proclaim
Christ is born in Bethlehem. 

Seems so far away now but I know it is true.

Christmas will come whether we are ready or not.  Aunt Donna in Texas just shared the with me.  Good one.

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Whole Story since October

I am generally a good communicator, but when it comes to describing a medical condition or giving an update about myself, I find myself floundering.  Put me in a doctor's office and forget it.  Flounder flounder.  Here's an attempt to document the past few months.

Back in October I had plasmapheresis treatments done in the hospital, and I responded well to the treatments.  I was talking, eating, and even singing well during the time in the hospital and for a few weeks after. My health started to decline enough to call again two weeks after being discharged, so I needed 5 more treatments through the month of November.  Mike was noticing that since I was home from the hospital, I am frequently clearing my throat and sound congested.  Each time I was congested in the throat, my talking and swallowing got worse.  This was the beginning of the puzzle, like finding the corners. 

At the neurologist appointment back in November, I was stammering over describing wether I could swallow every meal, just the beginning of meals, the end of meals, the end of the day, or the beginning of the day.  It was a random and jumbled story, and my neurologist thought I was downplaying my symptoms.  I may have been, since I like to sugar coat the truth, but there was something about what I was describing to her that didn't make sense.  The edges of this puzzle were not showing the shape of Myasthenia Gravis.

She had me do the standard breathing test.  Okay, take a deep breath in and exhale counting quickly.  October's test I only counted up to about 20, which landed me a 9 day hospital stay, but at this appointment I got up to 42 when she stopped me and explained how excellent it was.  She told me that she was perplexed because difficulty swallowing and breathing, with Myasthenia Gravis, go hand in hand.  Also, my face was blotchy and eye lids were puffy.  My neuro said, "This may be an allergy," so the plan was to see how I do over Thanksgiving break while away from our house and give a report when I return.  If I'm not better, I will go on a prescription regimen that I will be on very long term.  I could not listen to the side effects and risks again, having already heard and read what they were.  Not a good idea for a visionary, like myself. 

Well, Thanksgiving had past, and we had a wonderful time seeing our family.  We actually saw every immediate family member, all grandparents, and some extended family.  I was not swallowing well, probably a 6 out of 10 (10 being perfect swallowing) during the 5-day holiday, and tried to hold back exciting facial expressions, knowing it would exhaust me and I may not be able to eat the nostalgic holiday food.  We got home late Sunday of Thanksgiving, and Monday was a tolerable day, swallowing around a 3 out of 10.  By Tuesday evening I could not eat at all, and could have a few drinks and bites on Wednesday.  By Wednesday evening, I knew what I was headed for.  The big drugs.  Another hospital stay.  I called the doctor on Thursday. "Go to the hospital tomorrow morning, early."

I did everything I could to brace myself, but this time I was just upset and scared. I had a heavy weight on my mind and could not focus on anything. Not so much that I would have to clear out the schedule and get back in the hospital, but for the drugs on the back end of the hospital visit.  The plan was to start IVIg treatments Friday, and once stabilized I should  decide if I want to take Cellcept or Imnuran, which takes 6 months or so to begin working, so in the meantime, go on high dose prednisone until results happen from the first two drugs, to then have hope of remission.  Phew.  I was not havin it. I wanted to trust the protocol and the insight of my doctors but for some reason didn't. 

I was admitted to the hospital Friday, and somehow the air started to lift.  I knew family and friends were praying and a peace that surpasses understanding was guarding my heart, I was asking and asking anyway.  Just after I was filled with peace, my neurologist called my hospital room. "Joanne you sound good, and you have not even had any treatment yet.  This must be an allergy and you have to move out of your house.  So, I'm not going to start you on the prednisone and cellcept until we figure out if this is an allergy or not. I am now taking my neurologist hat off and putting on a detective hat!" We had a good laugh on the phone. I'm thinking . . .Oh geez, move out of the house? Let's dosey doe with a bit more this week.  Give us a few more issues to handle!

That evening, they pre-medicated me for the IVIg with benadryl.  After the trippy feeling of iv benadryl, I felt immediately better. I ate my entire dinner.  My voice cleared up, I was talking and eating, and called like 3 people. The excitement was all over as family buzzed the message along.

The rest of the hospital stay was fun.  I interceded for a lady on the ward who was hallucinating, shouting out many stories and commands.  After a few times praying for her, while walking by her room, she quieted right down.  I was able to testify about this to one of the chaplains, and he was grateful that I brought it up and going to use it as a teaching point to the other intern-chaplains.  The chaplain also was interested in our church's stand on the spiritual gifts and the social media we use called "the city."  He is hoping to bring "the city" to his church.  We had a few chats about Wayne Greudem, his former professor (wha!?), hospital infrastructure, church structure and discipling members of a church.  Not every day I get to pick at the brain of a PhD in Family and Education Chaplain guy who was taught by the Wayne Greudem.  

I regained confidence, I was finally speaking well, and described the allergic symptoms to so many nurses and residents, that by Monday when the team who cares most about my admission came, they ordered me an Allergy consult (meaning they will call a doctor who specializes in allergy to check me out from an allergy standpoint).  Boy was that fellow good.  A "fellow" is the 3rd step in training for a doctor, after medical school and residency, generally in an area of specialty.  So my favorite person of the whole visit was the Allergy fellow. He was with me for an hour Monday morning, listened to the whole story and put together pieces I, and Mike, had not thought of.  Rather than wracking our brains about what the allergy is, and tearing down our house or brazenly moving away, he put me on an allergy regimen to stop allergy from effecting me.  That has helped tremendously.  He was like our puzzle maker, smoothed out the board and gave us some clarity. I lost that metaphor a while back.  Whoops.

So I'm home now for the 5th day.  I have been waking up looking allergic and not talking, but by the time the allergy meds kick in, everything lifts and I am ready to go for the day.  I have small spells of not swallowing well or slurring a few words, but a lot better than I had expected.  We are still considering wether I am actually going back into remission with the Myasthenia Gravis or if I am just keeping myself at a manageable state. I do not know.  Mike is such a caring husband, he would not like me to have swallowing issues at all, and wants to work towards the disease going into full remission.  Of course, so do I, but I am used to compensating and being flexible with the symptoms.  

On top of all of this, I will be in a study at NYU and have an appointment with one of the doctors there and then will have a 3rd opinion at Columbia a few days later.  All of this news came during the first day home from the hospital! My dad was super-nanny for the whole week and made the week run smoothly, intuitively jumping into my role.  We were so happy to have him here and enjoyed the company to boot!

I was going to aptly throw in the puzzle metaphor, something about God being the master mind and perfect piece-carver, but will let go of it for now and share our detailed hope, the way our heavenly father knows our every move and way, and I hope it gives you just as much hope and peace as these words give me.  

Lord, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
    you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
    and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
    behold, O Lordyou know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before,
    and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
    it is high; I cannot attain it. Psalm 139:1-6

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Chariots

I can tell when a nurse or doctor comes into my hospital room and really has a vested interest in trying to puzzle together my symptoms to make a diagnosis and plan. The opposite is what Mike and I call a check-the-box mentality.  The check-the-box people work as if they are saying to themselves, "okay, I am here.  You're stable.  Great. I'm outta here. Check this one off the list." They have a list and then they go down the list. Done. Purpose: check boxes.  End purpose: finish checking all boxes. Agenda: Check all my boxes so I can get on with my life.


I am just as guilty as those I am secretly blaming for not thoroughly caring for my every whim.  I'm in a neurological critical care unit, a step down from the icu and a step up from the regular hospital floors.  Many of my fellow floor-mates cannot talk or are immobile.  I am here for a swallowing problem, which has miraculously gotten better quickly, and I am itching to be independent. So, when I press that call button and it appears the Saturday night crew is not sold out for my comfort, I start a little attitude brewing.  But really, am I so perfect that I don't blow through my daily living without depth of thought or caring? Absolutely not.  

Plenty of times I have sat in the car line at the school, frantically googling something or calling someone to cram in the information before the kids come into the car. I have grabbed breakfast on the go all too often this past month just treading water to get the kids to school on time. I have rushed through teaching Naomi spelling words because it just has to be done in time for the daily tests and I had been preoccupied with other fluff that came my way. 

I make for myself plenty of chariots and I buy horses to trust in.  I run with perseverance towards plans and ideas, googling and shopping, charting and dreaming.  The problem is, I find much worth in the information I learn and ideas I plot out, and if something round comes along trying to get into my square idea . . . game over.  Even worse, if I have so many things on the docket that I believe need to be done, I lose the quality and grasp on my original missions. 

So, my favorite verse to set my mind straight on this subject is Psalm 20:7, Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.  They collapse and fall, but we rise and stand upright.

I love the solitary time to contemplate this, and the enlightenment that can only come from God giving me understanding and desire to contemplate it. I cannot waste time trusting in my little checked boxes or my cute resident who actually does thoroughly examine me.  Trusting in the treatment and the purified air of the hospital.  For these are excellent for my physical body but the real upright stance comes from trust in the orchestration of the Lord.   For how would they have ever known to purify and love if it were not God who taught them in the first place. 

Friday, December 5, 2014

Gift Giver

I'm in the hospital once again with some kind of exacerbation, not quite known yet if Myasthenia Gravis or another cause.  I am unable to swallow and receiving IVIg treatment under observation. Since my primary job is raising two little beauties knowing I would be in the hospital all weekend, I accepted an offer for my sweet Naomi to have a play date with her friend tomorrow, so I was contemplating a fun way to tell her.  While sitting in my hospital bed, I turned to her, "Guess what, Naomi!  Tomorrow I have a surprise for you." "You're done [being in the hospital]?" she asked as her face lit up.  I didn't say no, I just said I had talked with her friend's mom and told her about the play date. She was still excited, but looked saddened that I would not be "done" tomorrow.  I never would have imagined that me being home was on the forefront of her mind, and would be "a surprise."  The sweet hearted child often puts on such a front of hostility as if she desired neglect, you would think she wants her own apartment at 6 years old. But no, whatever those antics mean, deep down she wants mom home and healthy.  The gift she really is asking for is thick heavy gift that I am unable to control or give.  I can't wrap it up with sparkly paper or make a fancy bow for it. I certainly cannot put it under the Christmas Tree and anticipate her face lighting up while opening it.

I was talking with a mom once about how our Naomi would not sleep when she was 11 months old.  We had a hard time of it, trying to get her down to sleep.  She wanted milk before bed, and other odds and ends until the time was whittled away from us. This kind mother said that sometimes parents feel like they have to "play God" to their children, giving them everything they ask for and catering to their every whim.  If we do this we teach them they have no need for God.  But if the child has had enough food and drink for the day, then asks for milk when it is really time for bed, it is better to direct them to ask God for patience for the morning, and ask the Holy Spirit for help trusting parents that it actually is bedtime.  The kind mother was spot on with what we were doing, reminding me that a better gift is not milk, it is an avenue that leads to trusting in the Lord.

So I sit here at the med center, about to turn in for the night.  My anxious heart has been tormenting me throughout the last month or so, climaxing at the last few days.  I had serious fear.  Fear of not being around for Christmas, and being the lady in the "Christmas Shoes" song.  Far worse from my physical disease, I had an anxious heart absent from peace.  Now, I know some scriptures, I read them and have verses memorized, especially the ones about fear and peace that transcends understanding. But I cannot give myself the peace.  I have had beautiful prayers and petitions texted to me and read to me, and friends praying over me in person.  But they cannot give me the peace, and many of them fell on an unbelieving mind that trickled away into doubt.  But somehow, in this sterile hospital, the peace came throughout the afternoon.  I know I was lifted up in prayer by many family and friends, and I know that this morning I felt heavy and this evening I feel lighter. How could I possibly explain the song in my heart while lapping the unit, the nurse who played christmas music while putting in my picc line, the scripture that played like a movie screen when I closed my eyes, and the exceedingly timlely apt words from family and friends.  It cannot possibly be just friends and family sticking by.  It has to be the Lord orchestrating this moment.

The Prince of Peace truly is an excellent and timely gift giver.  

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Unplugged

Hospital stay, Day 5

I was unplugged today.  The telemetry came off, and Mike walked me down the halls of the hospital with my apprehensive posture.  Babying my heart catheter and coddling my right arm iv line, I was somewhere between Red (from Shawshank Redemption) "institutionalized" even when getting out of jail; Nemo, sad about his tiny fin; and Rapunzel, feeling grass for the first time.  There is a de-conditioning that envelopes you when you get admitted to the hospital, so putting on regular clothes was a step towards regaining humanity and starting to live again, and I was very grateful.  Getting the 5 telemetry stickers off and unplugging, walking away in sneakers, sans the yellow hospital slipper-socks, was a sure bonus to my day and week.

The largest lesson I learned today was that my emotions, anxiety, thoughts, company, and food choices all grossly affect the rate at which my heart beats and my blood pressure.  I got out of bed and brushed my teeth, powdered my nose for the day, and it crawled up to the 90's.  My adorable and supportive friend Stephanie made pumpkin pie bars, and with each bite, my heart rate increased 10-15 bpm, then settled back down again to my normal 80 bpm.   As I was tempted to bitterness and anger, it skyrocketed to 150 bpm!  Nurses came running in and checking on me.  It was such a silent contemplation of anger, that it was as if a microscope was on my thought process, and the LED screens on the unit projected my thoughts.  It was bad enough that I was angry, but come on, "Get out of my head, you people!" 

We are called to take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ.  We are taught to forgive 7 x 70 times.  The Word of God says that God "will remove our transgressions from us, as far as the east is from the west," and yet we skip along to beats of anger, discontentment, frustration and anxiety as if it will be a feast for our soul, clinging to them.  We hide them in the pockets of our mind as if they don't effect anything.  It not only feeds our soul garbage, but seems to deplete our physical health!  It grates on us and tears us down.  Who would have known that how we think of others and our circumstances is likely to drive us into a situation where, if we had been on telemetry, the bells would sound. 

Well, today proved to me that these situations can negatively effects our whole body.  If our body really is a temple of the Holy Spirit, our helper left to us by the Living God of the universe, and we are ticking along, habitually harboring offense, slander, no matter how silent, our physical heart is affected and could potentially tell all.  Clearly, something that the Lord already knows! And, it makes me pause.  How selfish am I?  My goodness, where did my goodness go? 

I was thoroughly embarrassed that I had to tell the nurses that I was just upset about something and "being emotional." After coming in 3 times for heightened vital signs, machines dinging and binging, and flashing bright lights to alarm everyone in the Neuroscience ICU that I am contemplating things that are not fruits of the Spirit, this opened the door for them to continually ask if I was "okay," and for me to realize how broken I am. 

The tug between the flesh and the spirit are clearer to me now.  I reflexively listened to the book of Ephesians and Philippians, frantically trying to get these thoughts away from me.  I called and texted my best friends and continued down my little paths of thought.  Thankfully, by resting and praying, Mike counseling me, I was guided to put to rest my anger and upset-ness.  Not only because we are called to do it, but with the added long and short term negative effects on the body.  Our only, one body given to us for this short time on earth to steward, care for, and use to the best of our ability.  This baseline makes it a bit easier to tolerate having a heart catheter rubbing against my collarbone, and multiple day hospital stay.  If it would have taken me a lifetime to learn these lessons without a hospital admission, I would much rather the hospital stay and be discharged having learned. 

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. Galatians 5:16-17 ESV

~Honey bunch is on his way to me, so I'm pretty sure my heart skipped a beat. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

Counters and Tables vs. Walls and Doors

I have been reminded in this season that our horizontal relationships need to be cleaned exceptionally more frequently than our vertical ones.  Unless someone pulls a crayon attack on your walls, I doubt you are scrubbing away, the way you clean your table after a meal or your desk at the end of the work day.  A failure to clean, will allow buildup of clutter and/or dust and crumbs on the horizontal spaces, but it rarely builds on the walls without a conscious deliberate work of defilement. 

We had three strategically placed tiny green x's right by our kitchen door to the garage.  One on the light switch, one on the wall, and one on the molding.  It took someone rather intentional, to have a green crayon in hand, and look around at the clean beige walls, and letting a desire of making their mark become a reality, officially make his or her mark. My response is,  "Grrr.  Who did this!?"

And there's the powder room.  I realize we are fortunate to have a powder room, but unfortunately, there is a lightly penciled "A," ironically reminiscent of an anarchy symbol gracing the wall, right at eye level while sitting and doing your business.  The walls do not, in of themselves, become dirty.  They take invasion, they are only dirtied by the encroaching spider spooling it's web or the passing sticky finger. 

I would venture to say that I am exceedingly grateful that our vertical surfaces reflect what I believe to be the relationship with God and man, in it's original design.  Peace beyond understanding without spoil or dust, until, an invasion came.  The invasion of the serpent into our lives, and our deceit drew us to spoil our gardens of eden and the original garden itself.  After thousands of generations and atonement made over and over through animal sacrifice and significant priests, to cleanse the relationship with God and man, over and over, there then came a great High Priest.  Through the great High Priest's sacrifice of His life, we are cleansed and seen in right standing with God.   The same power that raised Jesus from the dead is the same power that lives in us, as walking temples of the Holy Spirit.  Take heart, the serpent's head has been crushed.  We are in good standing!

If we do not reject this truth, we will always be in right standing with God, because of the price paid on the cross, and the power in the resurrection.  But I can easily walk around with a little crayon in my mind, and start drawing things that would deceive me into thinking that this peace and right-standing is not true.  I can easily begin to draw little pictures of what I would have, could have, and maybe will have control of here or there, if I act or accomplish a certain thing.  I am aware of these lies, and need to speak the truth to myself.  Although many things appear to need cleaning on the horizontal surfaces, knowing that I am in right-standing with my vertical relationship, I can be sure that my roof will not crumble.  When fully distracted by spoil within relationships with any fellow men or women, I can deceive myself into thinking that the vertical walls have crumbled, are filthy, or are not there.  Let's steer away from this deceit and draw our eye up, from floor to ceiling, rather than across.  

Thankfully, when our walls are clear and we are unspoiled before the eyes of God, we have a constant help to heal and restore, bless and be patient with the people around us.  It takes our effort, and you may think it is our effort that put us in right standing.  It is not.  It takes our effort to remind ourselves that we ARE in right standing.  The work of erasing crayon and anarchy symbols has already been done, and no walls were damaged in the process.  

Can you encourage your soul today, speak truth and let go of your green crayon?  I will work at it also. There is an excerpt from lamentations that is helpful, when your counters are "crumbling" and you think it's your walls, 

my soul is bereft of peace;
I have forgotten what happiness is;
so I say, “My endurance has perished;
so has my hope from the Lord.”

Remember my affliction and my wanderings,
the wormwood and the gall!
My soul continually remembers it
and is bowed down within me.

But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.” (Lamentations 3:17-24, ESV)


Can we get away from our soul remembering all of our affliction, the wormwood, the clutter, the hurtful things people have said? I love the "but" 2/3 of the way through the excerpt from Lamentations. Call truth to mind, and in turn, your soul will respond well.  You will be in peace mentally, and reminded that you already are in peace with the most important relationship you have, your very own Creator.  

Monday, October 28, 2013

An Extra Pump of Chai

My days have been filled with an extra pumps of Chai.  Have you experienced a Chai Latte at Starbucks? Usually, the spices bite the back of your mouth, and about where your molars meet your tongue the sensation lingers beyond each sip.  Last week I had a Chai Latte, and it was mild, like a cup of warm milk with a subtle taste of the exotic spices.  Today, while explaining what I was looking for in the Chai Latte to Jack Fritz, the kind and well articulated barista at Starbucks this morning, he recommended an extra pump of Chai.  It was fantastic.  

Have you done this to your days lately? 

As my limits of what can be accomplished in a day or a week are stretched, with all the complexities of spice found in my latte, it also brings an awareness of the necessity for a quiet soul and a content-with-to-do list posture.  

We bought a house!  We are not in it yet, so it seems a bit surreal.  Then again, weekly as we go in to assess and plan the spaces, my excitement builds.  At the same time as we are planning this new abode, they are building a house behind the current house we are renting.  When one moves into a new space, you don't necessarily think of the hole made for the foundation, the layers of gravel beneath the basement floor, the buried wires, the puzzle mold made for the concrete foundation and the thick black waterproofing nestled between the dirt and molded concrete.  We have the opportunity to witness, first hand, the building of a house.  A fantastic reminder for me to look beyond the hard wood floors and finished rooms at where it all really came from, and to learn the roots.  The reality of what is really holding things up.  

I really love the moving process.  I like the streamlining, the purging, the planning, the delegating, the idea that we are preparing a space for our family to live day to day.  We are preparing a space to serve family and people.  Rooms to make available to be filled with music and worship, hopefully a glimmer into what heaven will be like.  

There is the "being busy"mentality to be a bit careful of.  We spoke with some friends recently about being so busy on purpose, by looking to fill our time with some quick thing.  Like searching for cheaper car insurance on our lunch break, or surfing down Facebook to see what everyone else is doing when we have a quiet minute.   Then, in our effort to create our own happiness by "keeping busy," we realize hours have gone by and we are not fulfilled.  More, more, we generally want more.  As Pinkalicious would put it, "Just one more cupcake?! Just one more!"  We would hope that looking back at a successful day would produce an inner pride that we have accomplished, every moment that we could, and we saw all that we had made and done, and it was good.  Does that moment ever really come?  If my soul is loud and in turmoil, I would turn towards the few moments of wasted time, and beat myself up mentally for not accomplishing what I thought I could have.  

The other side of the coin is to manipulate your moments for a real break.  The similar attitude you get when you ask someone at a department store for help, and it turns out they are "on break."  "Sir, where can I find the lightbulbs?" And the response, "Sorry, I'm on break so I can't help you right now."  Sometimes we over cherish our moments of break, not to be recharged and refreshed by any sort of substantial rest, but to deceive ourselves into thinking our afternoon filled with thrill rides or football, or video games or pintrest-ing will give us rest.  Have you been rested after searching online for a pair of slippers only to find yourself looking at what your 2nd cousin across the country is doing on Facebook? Thinking it would bring me rest, these things have fallen short of joy.

So I'll bring it back home.  

I'm preparing the planning for this new home. Binders and emails, phone calls and texts.  Is my heart stilled?  Am I building up the people I am working with in the process? Am I neglecting my own vineyard in the process?  

I have a resource for the loud soul, or the one whose heart is in turmoil over getting things done and being enveloped in business.  Here is a great audio sermon on the subject, it spoke volumes to me last week.
http://www.sgclouisville.org/sovereign-grace-church-louisville-sermons/sermon/2013-08-11/the-quiet-soul---psalm-131---c-j--mahaney

Here are a few books for the complacent soul.  The "sit back and watch it happen and not get too involved" clan.  You want to be careful not to extend yourself too much, and "oh, that retirement is looking mighty f-i-n-e!" 
Rescuing Ambition -Dave Harvey
Don't Waste Your Life - John Piper

And then my ground, of where I am now.  I was sick for a while.  A good chunk of David's infancy, he's now 3 years old now and the myasthenia gravis is well managed.  I let go of many things, some of which are singing, playing violin, playing piano, walking, talking, and teaching.  Where am I now?  Lamenting of that season?  No, although there was a grieving time for that.  Now, realizing, I have these abilities back, a miraculous gift from God through the vehicles of doctors, surgeons, medicine, and medical research.  For me, it used to be a feat to sit up in bed and pull my socks on.  Please don't let a major illness wake you up to knowing you can do and be so much more than your mind is allowing you to be.  As my husband texted me last week while I was lamenting a circumstance and dwelling on it,  I am more than a conqueror (Romans 8:37).  

It is not by the power of my to do list or the amount of hours sleep I got last night, that I am deeming myself a conqueror.  I have the presence and power of an almighty God who created me using the same wisdom and brilliance as he created the land we live in.  The fascinating sun rays that will sneak into our kitchen window each morning, and settle on our dining room in the evenings.  The same hands that hold the storehouses of rain to beat upon our new roof have fashioned our gifts and our abilities to be used for His glory.   I should turn, reach up to the skies with open hands and say, thank you, Lord, use my gifts as you will.  I will not be self conscious in the gifts you have given me.  As violin professor, Arnold Grossi left me with the words, "don't be afraid to show people that you are good." (at piano in that context)  Come on people, show the world what gifts you have and it may just inspire those around you. 

So, call me "busy."  Call me, "crazy, amazing, over-scheduled." If i'm not sure to direct your accolades back to the Giver of gifts, please remind me.

In the midst of cultivating your gifts and sharing them, you can find true peace in one place, the words of Jesus.  "I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

My chai latte may have an extra pump of chai, but the foundation is mainly milk. I ordered it, skinny, skim milk, to be exact.  How are your days lining up?

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Checking Pockets

While sorting through fresh pile laundry, I noticed a little midnight blue splotch here and there.  As I pull up more and more clothes to fold, there is not just a little splotch here and there, but streaks, huge splotches, whole white toddler collars turned to a tie-died blue-fest.  My C Wonder shirt that I wear weekly no longer has crisp thin navy lines over white, but blue and white meddled together as if to portray an overcast day's sky.  Now, rather than pulling for clothes to fold, I'm digging for the culprit while I intermittently spew out questions.  "Was there anything in your pocket from school this week? Did you happen to stick a crayon in your pocket?  Or one of those gel writers? Do you remember putting anything in your pocket? What could this be?"  The response is a stream of "no. no. no." Then, as if clarity hit, "Mommy, maybe a long, long time ago someone had something in their pocket and you forgot to check the pocket and then you washed it and it got all over the clothes."  

I found the skinny green jeans inside out, with the clear location of the culprit.  Maybe it was the indigo colored pocket fabric that gave it away, stiff and almost glued together.  No wrappers or plastic tubes though.  Must have been an unwrapped crayon.  Although this seems bad, this is nothing like the teal play-doh in the dryer last month.  

I should now know to check pockets.  Check pants pockets before the wash, check coat pockets before leaving a store, nooks, crannies and behind couches for chewed snuck gum. Check. Check. Check.

My moment of pride was shattered as I thought back to this morning when I diligently put the wash in at 6:30am according to schedule (which to do this daily is a new habit I'm working on).  What a wonderful housewife am I?  All shot down with the questions, "what good is washing clothes in a sea of soap only to be blotched up by some hidden midnight-blue intruder? Or could it have been the heat of the dryer that really mucked up the load?  Maybe the crayon or gel stick would have been in tact if not put into the spinning heat."  

So it seems with so much of my sin.  A hint of discontentment here and a bit of anger there, and when put in the hot circular circumstances of the day, oh, to the surface they rise infecting the whole household, everyone in earshot at the grocery store, and the other drivers on the road.  Look out, I'm on the offense, and I don't even know why.  I need to check my own pockets. The pockets of my mind where meditation sits and puts up its feet.  

Am I meditating on:
"I am the best and I am amazing.  I've got this one, as long as those other people stay out of my way and play by my rules.  It would just make things a lot easier." 

OR 

"You know, San Juan is nice this time of year.  Sunny, warm beaches, zero stress, and a significant break from these ordinary times." 

OR

"We have clothes to fold, crayons to play with, a 2nd floor laundry room, and if all else fails and we have to get a few extra shirts, not a big deal.  So grateful.  We have more than enough." 

OR in deep pockets

"Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.
(Colossians 3:12-15 ESV)

OR in even deeper pockets

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
(Colossians 3:16-17 ESV)

I feel like I can be living this outwardly wonderful life, charming and flattering, and all the while having a blue crayon tucked deep in my mind.  Some would call me a "slow burn," some would call it a way of being.  Many would say, that's just how they are.  But rest assured, the Lord will be able to help me and you find our blue crayons, whatever we may call them.  Not only can He reveal what they are and where they are, but He can draw you to freedom and blot out all the old stains.  The old will be made new, the stains will be gone, and the same God who laid the foundations of the earth will set you on new foundations and remove all hints of transgressions.  “O afflicted one, storm-tossed and not comforted, behold, I will set your stones in antimony, and lay your foundations with sapphires" (Isaiah 54:11ESV) and "as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us." (Psalm 103:12 ESV)

Be encouraged.  Reading through this, I am encouraged to focus on the hope, the promises made of old, which are same promises yesterday, today, and always.  There are many, many more, and we can only benefit from stuffing our pockets with them.  

Maybe now God will give me insight into the vaseline body painting expedition.  Too much for one day.  :-)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Vision

video

This is my kind of vision.  There is nothing like a two year old wanting to jump on the moon.  Vision for it, that it will happen and what he will do once he gets there. "Go on roller coaster then fall down on the grass.  Then fall down on the grass.  I go be right back.  I'll be right back."

And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them. Mark 10:13-16 ESV
I am habitually turning off our outside lights each morning.  Their insignificant glow looks like a waste as soon as the sun rises.

Can you envision this?

The wall was built of jasper, while the city was pure gold, like clear glass. The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with every kind of jewel. The first was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, the fifth onyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst. And the twelve gates were twelve pearls, each of the gates made of a single pearl, and the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.
And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. Revelation 21:18-26 ESV

What is your vision today?

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Inside Out

Have you been reading your clothing care labels carefully?  Many that I have come across recently have said, "Wash garment inside out. Gentle, cold water, with like colors.  Low heat in the dryer." I can understand this for the printed tees and the beaded tops, but the basic shirts and pajamas for the kids, I'm kind of tired of turning them inside out, then right-side out, only to be turned inside out again.  Who knows the reasons for this, but since I am still learning about doing laundry properly, I read all these things and follow along.

I have a few bad habits, and those who know me well already know some of them, hopefully not too many!  One really bad habit is when we come in from somewhere, a vacation, day trip, outing, I have this bag from the day and I dread unpacking it.  The most embarrassing thing is when I totally forget about it, and find it when I need the bag again.
"Where's the sunscreen?"  Oh, it's in the brown bag that we took to the park last week.
"Where's the bug spray?" Oh, it's in the green bag from when we went to fire works on the 4th of July.

This is a terrible habit. There is still a huge tote bag packed that we forgot to bring on vacation and now we have been back for a week or so, and it is still full.  I remember to do it when I'm about to crash into bed or run out the door.  It's just sitting there staring at me in my distant memory, after I walk by it.  Then I think about it as I'm on my way back to the house or up the stairs, and something inevitably happens, or at worst, I don't feel like doing it the moment I am thinking of it and with it at the same time.  As I'm typing this, Mike and I are sitting on our back porch, and a couple walking past us kindly mentions, "You forgot your popper on the sidewalk."  You know, the fisher price plastic popper that kids push around.  Yes, on our sidewalk of our house, right by the fourth pillar, a forgotten popper. She is right, I forgot.  Of course, I immediately spring up and rescue the forgotten thing.

Another area where I have had to do some unpacking has to do with food labels.  David has quite a few food allergies, so I am on the look out to avoid milk, casein (a milk protein), peanuts, egg whites, and anything that is made in a facility that processes peanuts.  Well, during my "ingredient stare," I have noticed that so many foods I would normally buy (such as Doritos, dumplings, broths, canned soup, salad dressings, bouillon cubes, and seasoning packets) contain MSG (monosodium glutamate), and children's vitamins that contain aspartame.  It just doesn't seem right to give my family these hidden ingredients.  In my new-found quest to avoid these, I have found a few supplements that I never would have sought out, such as Better than Bouillon, Brianna's Salad Dressings, and Gummy Vites.  I also started making homemade breads and soups, my own seasonings, and I'm still trying out new things.

In the depths of our hearts, we have these unpacked bags--sin, emotion, thought, etc.  We have a little stash here and a little stash there, cluttering us up and making it difficult to have peace.  It may not be the specific "item in the bag" that robs us of peace, but just the anxiety of being aware there is a "bag" in the first place.  In the case of my physical tote bag, I would be much better off if, when done using it, I just dumped it out.  The pile of random stuff may be much harder to look at than some neatly packed bag, but the items in there need to be addressed and put away.  Attempting to avoid this task eventually leads to more anxiety when I'm left with a set of bags lined up against the wall with random stuff shoved in each one.

Likewise, our thoughts are often like containers of processed food.  If we don't look at them too closely, we won't see the sin found inside; we think in foolish pride that maybe if we don't look it just doesn't exist.  Maybe we won't really be "giving our kids aspartame or MSG" if we don't read the label of what's inside.  Even though we become aware of these ingredients in real food,  many times in the name of convenience, we still sometimes neglect to read labels.  How many times do we continue to eat the "MSG" of hidden sin--even knowing better--simply out of lack of vigilance?  

We are going through an excellent devotional book with the children each morning, and this week we looked at king David handing over the reign to his son Solomon.  David gave Solomon a blessing, here is an excerpt:

And you, Solomon my son, know the God of your father and serve him with a whole heart and with a willing mind, for the LORD searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought. 1 Chronicles 28:9 ESV
Every plan and thought?  Searches all hearts?  Even my unpacked bags in the very depths? Even my plans that when you get to the bottom line aren't very God honoring?  Could this even be true when there is something seemingly healthy, like a vitamin, but it contains an unhealthy, potentially dangerous ingredient? Do I have plans such as these? Yes. Now that I am aware of many crumbs and grains of sand in the bottom of my unpacked bags, and that the Lord also knows them, and then some.  Eeek.  That should give me a kick in the butt to start unpacking, turning clothes inside out and to read labels.

But He also understands.

The Lord is merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always chide,
nor will he keep his anger forever.
He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. Psalm 103:8-13 ESV

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. Romans 8:1-2 
I think I'll start unpacking a bit today.