Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Eyes to See

This blog post has been brewing in me for quite some time.

If you have read our story from the beginning then you know that my husband and I believe God has revealed to us that He intends to heal our oldest daughter Caroline.

She is eleven years old and we have maintained this belief for all of these years.

Ava and Zeke were born into this.  They know nothing else.

In some ways I feel sorry for them.  They are the kids with the crazy parents who believe God has told them He is going to do the impossible.

In other ways I envy them.  They have never known a day of life without hope. 

We speak often and openly in our home about faith.

Ava will frequently begin sentences with this phrase, "When God heals Caroline __________________". 

I am quite sure that many people in this world would strongly disagree with our stance on this issue.  Most folks probably feel like we waste days away hoping for something that may never happen.  Some may even think it is cruel to Ava and Zeke as if  we are raising their hopes for something futile.

But here is what I know.

~God tells me that He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. (Heb. 13:8)
~God tells me that nothing is impossible with Him.  (Luke 18:27)
~Faith pleases God.  (Heb. 11:6)

These truths set the foundation for life in Jesus.  Shep and I must live like we really believe these truths...because we actually do.

It turns out that these truths will creep into the crevices of your kids.  Glory to God!

As I have believed for Caroline's healing for over 11 years I must admit that I am weary.  The enemy loves to attack my faith and wear me down.  However my hope remains sure.  I may grow tired, lose heart, and lose some battles but my faith is being refined into pure gold.

There was a time when I could envision what Caroline might look like completely healed.  I could picture her standing upright, tall and lean with gorgeous hair flowing and an infectious smile.

Now, to be completely honest, I can't.

Too many days have passed with her body limp in my arms or laid out on the floor.  I really cannot envision it. 

I can't picture what I once could.

So God in His great mercy and faithfulness provided a way for me to "see" Caroline healed and whole again.

Ava draws it.

Her little eyes can see it when my have grown dull.

The two drawings I included above came from her precious 8 year old hands.

She doesn't make a big deal of it but she will draw picture after picture of our family the way she sees Caroline.

She will then hang those pictures on the fridge and it gives me fresh eyes to see again.

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.  Hebrews 11:1 

Friday, August 23, 2013

A Rare Rescue

God showed me two (of the many) different ways He chooses to act on behalf of those He loves.

The first way was in Psalms 18.  It totally lit my fire.

I thought, "Heck yes.  This is how I want God to rescue me from my troubles."

Chapter 18 of Psalms describes God hearing David's cry for help.  It speaks of God being angry on his behalf.  "The earth trembled and quaked, and the foundations of the mountains shook; they trembled because he was angry.  Smoke rose from his nostrils; consuming fire came from his mouth, burning coals blazed out of it.  He parted the heavens and came down;"(v.7-8)

I mean this is the stuff of movies.  Hollywood can't touch it.

It goes on to detail that God personally rescued David.  "He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters.  He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me....He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.  (v.16-17, 19)

I just think of God acting this way on my behalf and it makes me flat out giddy.

Kind of like when you were in school and you had the big bad older brother to brag about in case anyone even thought of messing with you.

The prideful part of me breaks loose and just wants God to show off His limitless power.  I mean if oceans, thunder, lightning, and clouds obeyed me I would command them often....probably just to show off.

So...we are back to why He is God and I am not. (grin)

There was a second and different type of rescue that I studied in God's word this week.  And let me just say that it is the kind that I relate to more in my life.  It is still a rescue but a little less grand in my mind.

Acts chapter 27 recounts the story of Paul's voyage by ship to Rome.  He wasn't on board this ship for luxury.  He was actually a prisoner.  Verse 13 mentions "a gentle south wind that begins to blow."  By verse 14 we see that this gentle wind has escalated into full on hurricane winds. 

Can you imagine?

Being trapped on a ship out a sea during a hurricane like storm that lasts for days on end.  No thank you.

From the account in scripture it sounds like there was complete chaos and desperation for the Captain and  crew.  Verses 15 through 27 give details of cargo being thrown overboard, passing ropes under the ship itself to hold it together, and even giving up all hope of being saved at all.

Where is God?

His ambassador, Paul, is aboard this ship as a prisoner bound for Rome.  God, who commands nature, allows this terrible frightening storm to batter the ship and terrify those on board for days on end.

They stop eating.  They are depressed.  They see no stars to guide them.  They completely lose heart.

I think that this would be the perfect time for God to swoop down in some Almighty power and show them all who is Boss.

But instead he sends an angel to Paul in the night.  (Not that this isn't awesome but how about help instead of a messenger?)  His message is simple "God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.  So keep up your courage, men."(v.24-25)

This rescue would be nothing more than escaping with their lives.

The boat would fall apart.  The crew would have to swim or grab hold of planks of the ship in order to make it to land and safety.  But no one would die due to the storm.  However it must be weathered.

I don't know about you but I feel like I am holding tight to a plank and praying for solid ground. 

I want desperately for God's rescue to be grand and supernatural in my life most days.  Some times He does do this.  But usually a fight of my will must occur.  A storm has to be weathered.  Faith in the provision of a floating plank may be all I get....but it is still provision. 

God is huge.  His ways are mighty and miraculous.  But so many times in my life His methods are incredibly mundane and difficult. 

I am so thankful for His Word.  We get to hear grand gestures of His grace like busting heaven open for David.  But we also revel in the experiences of those like Paul, who ended up floating on a plank for His Savior. 

I love Him so much.

I lose heart a lot these days.

But I press on.....I persevere....floating on my provided plank of faith.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

The old roads.

 Chert Hollow Farm

Shep here.
I grew up in the country.  2 1/2 miles down Utility Road was a little chert drive that turned off to the right.  I lived at the end of that road.  I went barefoot after the whippoorwill first cried in the Spring.  I caught June bugs and tied a piece of thread to their back leg and let them fly around like a remote control airplane.  When we churned ice cream on Summer nights I would stick my finger in the hole at the bottom of the wooden churn and lick that cool salty water off my finger, then shoot off under the big elm tree and catch lightnin' bugs.  I really did that.  I hated hogweed, briars and bees.  We dug worms up by the barn and fished every chance we got.  We rode bicycles- all the time- everywhere.  Me and my brother would ride the 2 1/2 miles down to Bagley's store where we really got Orange Nehi's and sat on the bench in front of the store to drink them so we didn't have to pay for the bottle, too.

Pretty soon I got big enough to ride to see my girlfriend.  She lived about twelve miles away.  Andrea once asked me why I would ride 12 miles to see her.  I said, "Only because she didn't live further."

Then I got old enough to drive, and I began driving down new roads.  Off to college.  Off to Law School.  Off to work.

And today that old chert drive seems a long way off.  I turned 43 today, so it has been a while.  And things have changed.  I live in a neighborhood...in a cul de sac...at the end of a paved road.

I have seen a lot, learned a lot and matured a lot since my barefoot summers in Rocky Face.  There were some things that my backwoods, country, old-fashioned parents just did not understand about today's modern times... like how to set the time on a VCR...but other than that, I actually think they had it figured out pretty close to right.

Here are some of their old fashioned ideas:

Tell the truth.
Never give up. Never.
Think the best of people.
Give to folks that need help.
Treat other people how you would like to be treated.
A man's word means something.
If you can't say it face to face, it ought not be said.
The Bible is true.
Some people think they are worth a lot because they have a lot.
Be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.
Sometimes you need to fight.
You can see God.
You can hear God.
You just have to get quiet and try.
If you lay down with dogs you wake up with fleas.
Hard work makes you feel better.

I just got back from a wedding.  This sweet couple got married in an old, old, one room church.  They stood facing each other as the ceiling fans hummed, and an old upright piano played that old familiar tune.  The doors were flung open for the breeze.  They looked at one another and promised their unfailing love.  I sure believe they meant it.  It certainly felt right.

I know its going to get tough for them.  It always does.  When the days get long, I pray that they will go back.  When the tempers flair I pray that they will return.  When the temptations fly, I pray that they will find their way back to the old roads...the roads that say, "I don't care how bad it hurts, I made a vow...and by God that means something."  I want them to abandon the new paths of convenience and self-centeredness, of conditional promises and wavering convictions.

After all, what is wrong with the old roads?  I wonder if you have left them behind.  I wonder if you have bought into any lies that he world is selling.  If you have, go back.  Go back.

Go back.  Go back to the ancient paths.
Lash your heart to the ancient mast.

I know we all want to be modern.  We want to be progressive, but as C.S. Lewis pointed out, "once we have learned that we are on the wrong path, isn't the most progressive man the one who turns back soonest?"

Thursday, August 15, 2013

A Snob Am I

I admit it.  I am a snob.

This is not true in the conventional sense of the word.  I am a lover of people. 

But I am a snob nonetheless.

I turn up my nose at pain and problems. 

When difficulty lands in my lap I throw it off quickly and run the opposite way.

I don't even like watching good movies with the underdog who has to fight through a thousand battles just to win, much to the dismay of my husband.

Sadly for me I can't avoid life.

Life is piled high with difficulties.  Some days it is nothing more than refereeing the typical arguments between my children.  Other days I battle with my own insecurities and failures.  More than that I watch others I love walk through times of terrible heartbreak.

What do I want to do?  Turn tail and run.

I want to turn up my nose, ignore it and hope that it will all fade into a glorious happily ever after.

See?  Total snob.

I remember all too well going to the DFACS office for the first time to receive Caroline's WIC vouchers.  (We had to do this for the first 3 years of Caroline's life)

I hated it.

There I was completely surrounded by people with problems.  Uncomfortable doesn't even begin to describe me and my body language.

Caroline receives a special form of Medicaid due to her disability.  She qualifies for medical help because her care is highly involved.  Shep and I are very grateful for this.  But receiving this help meant that I had to go into the office with everyone else to get our vouchers.

In my mind DFACS was a place for people who had made poor choices or just wanted to take advantage of the system.

Yet...there I was.   A poor choice nor greed had landed me there either.

Truthfully, (and I can say this now) grace landed me there.

I needed to experience the humility involved in receiving help along with everyone else.

It was painful to my pride.  But it gave me priceless perspective.

Caroline is 11 years old now and we no longer have to go to the DFACS office for the WIC vouchers.  But the years of visits live in my memory.

Rubbing elbows with people drowning in desperation served me well.

Now I even choose it.

I get to work and volunteer with desperate people every week. 

Most of these people come into our center because of poor choices and desperation. 

I sit on a couch many days and try my best to offer the hope of Jesus Christ to people who can't see past tomorrow. 

The ungodly part of me still wants to stick my nose in the air and act oblivious. 

But the Jesus who lives in me cannot move an inch.

I sit there, tears running down my face, and try my best to offer hope.

Most days I hate the situation that they find themselves in.  I usually do not have a good answer for all of their problems.

But at least I don't morph into the snob I was.

I just sit with them and look fear in the face. 

We cannot be the lights that God has called us to be in a world without pain and hardships.  Real life demands real Christians.  The grace of God will put us in places that demand humility.  Without such experience we cannot serve others.  If we cannot serve others....we cannot serve God.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

We asked. God answered.

Three ladies gathered in a prayer huddle this morning.

We (workers and volunteers) try to begin each day at the Pregnancy Center this way.  We want to ask God to prepare us for each client who will enter through the door.  We ask God to help us love others through us as only He can.  We ask for wisdom, discernment, patience, and understanding.  We ask that our words be seasoned with love and kindness.  We ask for grace and mercy to flow freely.

This morning I added an additional request. 

(Our center boasts "an earn while you learn" type program.  Expectant or new moms take classes to earn points.  These points add up and help them purchase diapers, wipes, formula, and donated clothes for their babies up to 3 years of age.)

We have been low on diapers, formula and wipes all summer long. 

This morning as we approached God in our huddle of 3 I asked that He would open the floodgates of Heaven and provide our center with what was needed, especially diapers and wipes.  I even asked for specific sizes of diapers.  Sizes 4, 5, and 6 are always in high demand.  We said "Amen" and set about the business of the day. 

After a busy blur of a morning I finally sat down to eat lunch.  I had dealt with a particularly hard situation and was reflecting over what I said or should've said.  You know the drill.  I ended up just asking God to bless this sweet client again and left it there. 

We had a bit of a lull as the lunch hour passed. It was kind of a blessing for me to be honest.  My head ( and heart) were still reeling from my morning situation.  I busied myself with house cleaning issues, happy to have something less emotional to deal with at the moment. 

What happened next was a miracle wrapped in an ordinary moment with ordinary people.  The miracle was that God answered our prayer.

In walked a sweet volunteer with a huge grin on her face.  She said, "You are never gonna guess what is in my car!"

She didn't even wait to let us guess. 

She said, "My pastor gave the center $500.00 from our church.  I took the money and bought wipes and diapers sizes 4, 5, and 6."  (Did you catch that sweet detail?)

We all just began to squeal.

This might as well have been the lottery for us.  We felt so incredibly rich at that moment.

God immediately took me back to the huddle of 3 and our early prayer for the day.

We asked.  We asked specifically.  God answered.

My faith swelled up like an inflating balloon. 

God is indeed so good.

I want to pause and praise Him for acts like this that can go by the wayside and be soon forgotten.

We can't allow the Enemy to steal moments like this.

They can make or break our faith...if we let them.

I choose to boast in the One who listens and answers.

Just like the fourth man walking around in the fiery furnace with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, our huddle of 3 was not alone this morning.  The fourth man was there...unseen...but there still.

He delighted in our faith.  He loves to be invited into the details.  

He opened the floodgates today.  13 boxes full of diapers and wipes were delivered in His time and in His way!

We asked.  God answered.

Friday, August 9, 2013

"Ready, Set, Go"


We are really blessed to have a place (actually a few places) that our family is free to swim on a regular basis in the summer time.

It is the next best thing to having our own pool...without all of the up keep. 

Again, we are truly grateful. 

One of the pools we frequent happens to be my favorite for several reasons.  It is ultra kid friendly.  The pool is big, really cold, and has a great slide.  The deep end has been filled in so that the entire pool is shallow.

This is especially great for me.  I don't have to be paranoid that someone is going to drown.  Ava is a great swimmer.  Zeke is just now really learning.  And Caroline...well...she is 11 years old with Cerebral Palsy.  So I kind of have to be hands-on with her all the time.

There are covered patios and swings and chairs that always make our visits so enjoyable.

Like clockwork, every summer, we spot a mama bird sitting on top of her carefully constructed bird's nest underneath the covered patio.

This summer was no different.

All summer we watched this bird sit on her eggs and do what mama birds do.

She protected them.
She never left her post.

Due to lots of rain and my mission trip we missed some time at the pool.  So those baby birds hatched without us getting to see them.

Luckily this past Monday we were able to glimpse the one baby bird that had not yet flown. 

The baby bird just stood still beside the nest.  It would stand up.  Sit down.  Stand up.  Sit down.  Ruffle its feathers.  Sit down.  Stand up.  Pace along the edge of the board.  Sit down.  Ruffle its feathers.

But it would not dare fly.

It wasn't time.

Its creator, God Almighty, had not whispered for it to take flight....YET.

We were able to go back to the pool the very next day. 

Of course my eyes immediately darted upward to the bird nest.  The nest was there just like it had been the day before.

The baby bird was not.

It had flown.

God had whispered "ready, set, go" to that seemingly inconsequential bird. 

I immediately thought of my sweet Caroline.

She is 11 years old. 

God has repeatedly told us that He plans to heal her.  I believe He will make her whole.

I believe her lame legs will walk.
I believe her mute mouth will speak.
I believe her listless head will rise.
I belive God, her Creator, will whisper "ready, set, go" to her ear and she will know to do what she couldn't just the day before.
Years of inability will not matter.  Years of faith will become sight.

As I lifted Caroline into the pool I whispered these things to her. 

I reminded her that the same little bird who was bound to the nest the day before was flying in the air today.

She giggled and laughed in her delicious way.

Her eyes met mine and we relished in the moment of believing together.

"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever."  Hebrews 13:8  

Saturday, August 3, 2013

God~ At Ground Level

We enjoyed a night of bufflo wings, pizza, and togetherness as a family last night.  It was a welcome change of pace. 

We have been inundated with people to see, places to be, and things to do lately.  A night in with the family was just what the doctor ordered.

It was Ava's turn to pick out the movie for us to watch.  She chose "Facing the Giants".

I am sure that we have watched this movie umpteen times.  But the powerful message never gets old.  If we will stand in faith...God will amaze us and others.

I can quote lines from this movie.  I cry at all of the same heart-tugging moments every time we view it.  But last night God showed me a different side of Himself.

There is a scene when the head coach is trying to show the leader of his team that his attitude will influence the rest of the players.  He blindfolds his player, places a teammate on his back and has him crawl on his arms and feet toward the 50 yard line.  Only he ends up pushing him past the 50 yard line all the way to the endzone.

The scene is so powerful.

The player is exhausted.  The player is yelling out that he is tired and doesn't think he can make it. 

But the coach never quits encouraging him. 

In fact he gets down on the ground in front of the weary player and shouts loudly the whole way:

"You can do this."
"Don't quit on me now."
"I know this hurts."
"Give me all you have got."
"Only 30 more steps."
"You can do this."
"Don't quit."
"Don't quit."
"Push through the pain."
"20 more steps to go."
" You can do this."
"I know you have it in you."
" I know this is hard, but you are strong."
C'mon, just 10 more steps."

The player is exhausted before he even begins this exercise.  But the coach knows that this player needs to see and experience the strength he really has inside.  The only way to show him is to push him.

The coach never backs off. 

He encourages him every painstaking step of the way.

He pushes him to limits that the player thinks he can't handle.

The best part is that he blindfolds the player so that he can only listen to the voice of the coach instead of what his eyes may tell him.

As I watched this scene I found myself pulling for the player. 

I found myself identifying with him a little bit.  Weary.  Burdened.  Staring ahead into the unknown.

But then I saw God. He is our beloved Coach.

He is with us at ground level.  As we crawl, laboring under our burden, fighting for each step of faith He is there faithfully cheering us on.

He desires to prove to us that He that can do what we think is impossible.

The idea of God pushing me to do what He knows I can do sparked a light inside of me.  It made me want to go that grueling second mile.  It makes the sweat and tears bearable somehow. 

Our Coach is fighting for us.

He sees the end when we cannot.

He is surrounded by Light when our way is dark.

He has placed each obstacle with an intended purpose when we question His ways.

He is near to you.  He is in the muck and the mire.  He is in the wilderness.  He is in the chaos. 

Listen when your eyes deceive you....know He is there.  Know He intercedes when you can't pray anything else. 

Keep going.
Strive and push forward.

Your Coach knows you can.

"For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all."
2 Corinthians 4:17