Waiting On Spring

In my home state of Washington, we have been waiting. We have endured more snow, rain, clouds, cold, gray, yuck than usual for our Pacific Northwest winter. We have been waiting for the change in season. Waiting for colors to reappear. Waiting to feel the sun warm our bodies. Waiting for more time in the fresh, warm outdoors. Waiting for freedom from our cozy couches covered with blankets.

All through this lengthy winter, the plants, shrubs, and trees have held life. My hydrangea plant held the dried brown leaves throughout most of the winter, until I finally pruned them off. But, even on the cold, damp days, when the old dead leaves barely hung on the branches, new life was surging deep within the plant.

Abundant life, just as Jesus promises to us.  John 10:10 says, The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. 

Abundance. Extremely plentiful. Oversufficient quantity or supply. Overflowing fullness.

A blogger I follow, Wilderness Joy, wrote the most beautiful words about abundance,

As we notice the way nature abounds with God’s goodness,
and overflows with the wealth of His provision,
we are reminded that He is working in us to bring about
the abundant fruits of His tender planting.

Recently I came across an old journal of mine from 6 years ago. I began reading it, eager for encouragement. The Lord has brought me so far in 6 years, surely I’d see evidence of growth.  As I began reading, my eagerness quickly faded. My eyes fell on words that could have been written yesterday, “Lord, fill my mouth with Your words. Help me to love my family the way you love.”

Oh, Lord, you have brought me through so much. My dependence on you, my faith in you, and my love for you is so much deeper than it was 6 years ago. How can my prayers be the same? For 6 years, my prayers regarding my words and my heart have been the same. 

Closing my eyes and focusing my heart on the Lord, I begin to think about the budding plants from my walk that morning. They hold abundant life from the Creator all during the biting storms of winter. There is no evidence of the abundance contained inside, but any scientist or gardener knows it is there.

During the 6 years that passed since I wrote in that old journal, many trials and triumphs have come.  Growth, pruning, and dying off have taken place. New ways have taken root, while old patterns have died off. Many stretches have gone by that look like winter. No evidence of any growth, change, or beauty. Downright discouragement and defeat have shown themselves.  But, the Creator was still and is still at work.

When I don’t see evidence of spring coming, it doesn’t mean it’s not coming. The growth is happening, where I cannot see it. Just because I cannot see or feel something doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Just like the changing of the seasons, one day the new life, the new growth, just springs forth. A bright flower or a fresh leaf will open up and the evidence of what was happening all during the winter is now visible to all.

Although many of my prayers are still the same as they were 6 years ago, I imagine and actually hope some of them will always remain the same. I pray I always have the desire to speak and love the way Jesus did.

Thumbing through the old journal a little more, I see it. “Lord, please help me to live like you are near. “

I can remember the desperation. The distance. The discouragement. My desire to be closer to the Lord was there. I was right to be praying for it. But, I wasn’t experiencing it. I continued in the dark of winter. Putting one step in front of the other. Never fully turning my back, but not experiencing the beauty of growth.

That’s what I was longing to see in the journal. I longed to see evidence of how far the Lord has brought me. Yes, I am aware of the distance left to travel, but so incredibly grateful for the growth and beauty the Lord has created through the trials. The fruit is now there. The close relationship I desired is now there. The dependence I longed for. The trust I needed. It’s springing forth and giving beauty to my soul.

Dear one, is it dark where you are? Hopeless? Are you growing impatient as you wait for renewal? 

As you look for signs for change, dear one, do not lose heart. 

Take hold of these promises from God:

  • And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Galatians 6:9
  • And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28
  • Do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. Hebrews 6:12 

The Lord is with you. The abundance you seek is within you. It may not be visible, but spring is coming, dear one. Just hold on to the One who will never fail you. 

Father, thank you for your promises. Thank you for the budding growth you promise in your time. Thank you for never leaving us or forsaking us. Thank you for lovingly carrying us through the winter. Amen.

I Am Yours

Backing up against me, she regained her strength. Her face flushed with the question she was asked.

In certain situations, our youngest daughter needs a little reassurance. Don’t we all? When she was younger, it meant squirming, clamming up, and backing her body into mine, disappearing into my arms. Some level of discomfort would hit her, and rather than stepping forward or remaining where she was, she backed into the arms of one who loves her so much, one who offers protection, one whose shadow envelops her small frame.

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Be still, and know that I am God.

An author/blogger I follow, Emily P. Freeman, writes about the importance of just being still. She recommends setting a timer. There aren’t really any other rules for this practice, and I am intentionally not creating any rules for it. I am, however, sticking to Emily’s idea of setting a timer for 5 minutes and whenever my brain kicks in during that time period, I take a deep breath and exhale, as if I am blowing the thoughts out to God.

I have spent my five minutes in my prayer closet, the couch, our office, my bed, and out on my walk. It’s my 5 minutes of  just being in the Lord’s presence. Not praying. Not talking. Not reading. Not listening to anything or anyone. Just being. My favorite image during this 5 minutes is one of being in His shadow. His position is above me. Bigger than me. And, my position is close. Smaller. Lower.  So close. So welcomed. So loved.

When my mind wanders (even in the 5 minutes, my mind wanders), I mediate a short phrase, like, “I am yours” or “I am under you”, or “You are over me”, or “I am in your shadow”. Those short phrases remind me of what this time is, a time to remember my smallness and His bigness.

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Just like our youngest daughter, seeking the grounding, stabilizing, protection I offer her in the midst of an uncertain time. This time just being with my creator fills me with the certainty I need. The incredible peace of knowing that even on this crazy earth which seems so unpredictable at times and downright scary, I am His.

His shadow envelops me.

My security is found in Him.

My peace is provided by Him.

I am yours, Lord. And, you…You are mine.

Ephesians 51 says, be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and self professed to God.

 Lord, I love my time with you. But, I especially love to stop, back up, and be in your presence. Gaining my strength, remembering my place. I’m your dearly loved child, always walking with you. Amen. 

Finding Unity in the Trials

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4: 30-32

 

In Raising Your Spirited Child, author Mary Sheedy Kurcinka, writes, “Throw out messages that divide you such as, she’s manipulating me, she’s testing me, she’s being defiant, she’s out of control.” 

I am guilty of listening to and focusing on my inner voice say these types of statements whenever my children are acting out.

Kurcinka discusses the importance of not pitting yourselves against each other in your mind. Act as a team. The divisive self-talk, criticizing my children in my mind causes bitterness. The underlying root of this negativity is bitterness.

This behavior, my acting out this negativity,  is grieving the Holy Spirit.

When I look at my child, listen to my child with the intent to listen, understand and sympathize, then I am acting as Christ does toward me with kindness, a tender heart and forgiveness. No longer am I grieving the Spirit, but rather I am teaming with the Spirit. The Spirit as the lead and me following. I am also teaming with my child, not working against her or viewing us as working against each other. We are partnering.

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With this renewed mind, I am filled with peace. No longer does my child’s behavior or my behavior feel out of control. And since out of control equates to hopeless, no longer does our situation feel hopeless.

No longer do I view our parent/child interactions as being apart from God.

I see His hand in our interactions.

I see Him allowing trials for our benefit.

The heightened emotions, the lacking skills, the quick outbursts, the rapidly shifting moods, the intensity, the exact temperament of my children…all part of God’s purpose and design to refine me.

Whether your children are adopted, as mine are, or they entered your family naturally, the Lord placed them there. His plan was for you to be their parent and them to be your child. You may experience a great mismatch in temperament, personality, style, and habits, but unity comes when we stop grieving the Spirit.

Oh, Lord, forgive me for my bitterness, anger, clamor, evil-speaking. Forgive me for grieving your Spirit. Thank you for your kindness, tender heart, and forgiveness. Lord, continue to soften our hearts to the refinement that comes from the trials you allow. Please bring refinement so we can better love one another, the way you love us. Amen.

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Journey to Acceptance

When I began blogging, I knew that I didn’t have an area of expertise. Some writers blog exclusively about topics such as parenting, homeschooling, or cooking. Some have had formal training on their topic or have spent years researching and gathering information about their area of expertise.

I stared at the message wordpress sent me last week saying, Congratutions on Publishing 50 Posts! 50 posts? I remember counting the first few, but how did it reach 50?

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Something about that message caused me to become reflective. Reflective about my purpose. Reflective about my goal. And, reflective about my future writing.

Six months ago, when I began Lisa Louise: Stories of Overcoming, I only knew I wanted to be Spirit-led. Each time I sit down to write, I do so because the Lord has put a message in me and it’s time to organize it into writing. I don’t feel I have an area of expertise, but rather a heart that is being cultivated by the Spirit.

In the 40 years leading up to my life as a blogger, I held on to many hurts and had many ideas of how I thought my life should be. The inner critic inside my head screamed loudly each chance I gave it.

Once I began blogging, it was like there was a new voice rising up in me. A much kinder, more creative, accepting voice. The inner critic still sneaks it’s slithery, condemning voice in, but the new voice is becoming louder, bolder, more frequent.

In a social gathering, you can bet I will be the one listening, nodding, taking in what others are saying. It’s unlikely you will hear my voice much at all. There are many reasons for this. I am an introvert with constant thoughts bouncing around in my mind. Also, I am an internal processor. My response to something that was said will often take hours or days to form. And, then there’s also that inner critic causing doubt and uncertainty.

With writing, I am finding my voice. The Lord gave me this outlet and it’s bringing about healing. It’s leading to a kinder inner and outer voice.

Do you walk around with words of doubt, fear,  or lies taking up space in your mind? That’s right where the enemy wants you. Listening to his sneaky, negative voice. Drowning out the Spirit. You will not be able to fully walk in His calling while listening to those lies.

Do you long to hear kind words being spoken in your mind? That is what the Lord wants for you. That  is how He speaks to you.

Here are a few ways in which writing is helping to tame my inner critic:

  1. Writing one or two sentences whenever I hear a sermon or read the Bible. The Lord tells us to be ready to share. How often have I left church, only able to say, “That was such a good message.” But, ask me what it was about it, and you would receive a blank stare. Writing a short summary about what I have learned or what I read helps to organize my thoughts and cement them in my brain.
  2. Keeping a journal. In my journal, I write approximately a paragraph about what the Lord is teaching me. It may have to do with my scripture reading, a book I am reading, or what He reveals to me through prayer, or through another person.
  3. Listing what I am grateful for. I write out 5 things I am grateful for each night. My family and I have also began a gratitude notebook which sits in a central location in our house. There is always a pen there (that’s the plan anyway!) and anyone at anytime can list something for which they are grateful. Want to replace negative thinking? Nothing is a quicker antidote for negative thinking than reading what your child lists in a gratitude notebook. Gratitude journal
  4. Keeping notes in the note section of my phone. I currently have 324 notes! Whew! As long as I have a title such as: Bible verses for the girls, book list, sermon notes, Netflix movie ideas, or verses about kindness, I can put in a keyword and search for my note. When I hear a beautiful song lyric or encouraging statement on an audiobook, I can quickly add it to my notes.

I don’t pretend to completely understand why writing aids in our growth and learning but I just know it is working for me. And, I feel it will help you.

In an article titled, Why Does Writing Make Us Smarter, The Huffington Post states that writing is beneficial because it is “Visual: Seeing what is on the paper in front of you.
Motor: Using your fine motor skills to actually put the pen to paper and form the letters to make the words. Cognitive: Remembering the shapes of the letters requires a different type of feedback from the brain.”

Dear one, what do you have to lose? Why not take one step today to create a kinder voice inside your head. Pick one of my ideas to implement in writing or create an idea of your own. Whatever you do, stick with it. Release yourself from the bondage of negativity and begin to accept yourself as you are…as God created you.

Ephesians 1:4, For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.

The Power of a Listening Ear

The little classroom of preschoolers delighted in the enchanting game we played. “Fingers! Let’s count our fingers!” Little freckle-faced, Isaac called out. “1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8! 8 fingers!”

The kids and I giggled as we noticed how he continually skipped counting his thumbs and was certain he had 8 fingers.

We continued our counting game by counting our toes, arms, legs, eyes, and finally our ears, and mouth.

“God gave us 2 ears and only 1 mouth,” I state, pausing to think about God’s planning and purpose.

2 ears for listening, but only 1 mouth for talking. Why, then, am I not using my 2 ears twice as much as the 1 mouth I was given?

My own children’s eyes glaze over mid-way through my explanations. They nod compliantly as I drone on, but their minds are clearly on to the next thing.

During our Talk Time sessions, our pace is slow and relaxed. There is no hidden agenda. No plan to accomplish. I listen. They talk. I look at them. I hear them. They know they are heard. We connect.

Talk Time seemed to be a precursor to further learning the Lord had for me. It became obvious that conflict resolution was a desperate need for our girls. Our girls are “spirited”. Spirited: having or showing mettle, courage, vigor, liveliness. Attempting to solve a problem without raising voices, shedding tears, wide eyes, and flailing hands proves to be a huge challenge.

Enter me: clueless referee, confused coach, seeker of the peace.

Surveying the scene in front of me causes my heart to quicken, my shoulders to rise, teeth to clench. Scary mom rises up.

How did we get here? And, how, dear God, do I make it stop?

Reading The Explosive Child by Ross Greene this month has proven to be a tool God is using to provide peace in our home. The book I purchased 4 years ago, which has been sitting on my shelf ever since, is just the book I needed to help an ongoing problem in our house.

We are learning to solve problems with collaboration.

The first component of the plan in the book  proved to be like a breath of fresh air.

Step 1: Empathy, including reflective listening.

Wooosh…from 60 to 1 in one brief statement.

“I hear your concern. Your concern is you want to play Just Dance.”

“I hear your concern. Your concern is you want to finish your Adventure in Odyssey episode before bed.”

“I hear your concern. Your concern is you want pizza from Little Caesers.”

In order for me to state the concern, I must first hear the concern. Amidst the intense emotion, I have to hear the concern.

I cannot be emotional myself. And, I definitely cannot be thinking of the solution. I must use the two ears the Lord gave me.

Proverbs 18:13 To answer before listening— that is folly and shame.
Proverbs 1:5 Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance.

I quiet my mind.

Listen to the words being said.

Restate the concern I hear.

And, then, I exhale as my eyes and my dear ones eyes meet in the middle.

I am hearing.

And, she is being heard.

And, we are finally getting some where.

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What I Learned in February

Psalm 25:4-5, Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.

A brief run down of what I learned this past month.

  1. GRACE! I learned that I have been keeping grace in a neat tidy box. I received a generous portion, an undeserved amount, a bountiful serving the moment I first believed. Jesus opened up the flood gates, poured into my heart, and filled me with His love and acceptance. This month while reading Galatians and Ephesians and just through living this life the Lord has given me, He has taught me that His grace is a fountain. It wasn’t just what allowed me into His kingdom the moment I first believed. His grace is a constant supply, covering me every minute of every day.
  2. Encouragement=Praise. While singing worship songs to the Lord this month at church one Sunday, the Lord revealed to me a truth while singing the word, praise. When I encourage my loved ones with my words of praise and thankfulness, I am offering praise to my Creator. When I speak out loud words of truth about their character, worth, and loveliness, and I share words of thankfulness, I am agreeing with the Lord about His work in creating them. Encouraging my family equals praising Him, the one who created them.
  3. Best tips to help kids with anxiety and fears from Growing Up Brave by Donna Pincus. Worry Bag: Child writes down worry thought on a piece of paper. Examines the thought for truth. Restructures the thought. Writes new thought on the back of the paper. Places paper in the bag. Interoceptive Exposure: child induces many of the physical feelings they experience when anxious, takes note of them and how the body responds. For example, running in place until her heart is beating quickly. The child will note that it only takes a matter of a minute or two for her heart rate to return to normal once she stops. Bravery ladder: taking steps toward overcoming a fear. Growing Up Brave book
  4. Continuous brew kombucha is easier and is allowing us to have more kombucha so my husband and I both can drink it. Also, kombucha gives my husband energy to exercise and clean out the garage…all this was done without drinking any coffee! How to make kombucha
  5. My 11 year old will drink healthy GREEN juice, IF she makes it herself and it’s ALL her idea! green-juice
  6. It is possible to completely change a very bad parenting habit that served “to get us by when it was needed” in just 2 days! Praise Jesus!

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Where Was God in All of This – Part III

Years went by and I continued on with my rare disease of aHUS (Where Was God in All of This–Part I). Each birthday that passed, I thanked God for another year. I would soon learn that many with my disease had not been so fortunate.

Around 2013, 12 years after my original diagnosis, my kidneys began a further slow decline. The doctor could offer no specific reason for the decline, just that my kidney had been suffering a long time and they were probably beginning to tire out. We decided our goal would be to avoid dialysis so I should begin testing for a future kidney transplant.

I left that appointment and at least 5 more future appointments in denial but also compliant to my doctor’s wishes.

I began the testing process at the UW Medical Center in Seattle. I looked at each step along the way as something I was just doing “just in case” the time came. In my mind, I wasn’t really going to have a transplant. God would spare me from that. After all, He had kept me for the last 12 years.

When I finally met with the nephrologist (kidney specialist) at the transplant clinic, my delusion came crashing down. “You are now wavering between 13 and 20% and most of the time closer to the 13% range. We don’t see any reason to wait to do the surgery. You are healthy, aside from your kidney disease, so this is the time to do it.”

I left that appointment shaking. In fact, much of the time over the next few months, I found myself shaking.

My loving brother-in-law endured all of the necessary testing and would be my donor. We were all set in January 2015. A date was chosen, plans were made, and peace flooded my heart.

But, God…Doctors, nurses, coordinators, myself, my family, my brother-in-law, his family, our employers…all of us here on earth put our hope and plans on that transplant date. But, God…(Read about His plan here: (A Welcome Interruption)

In  Genesis 22:1-19, one of the ultimate “But, God “stories is told. Abraham is asked by God to sacrifice his beloved, long-awaited for son, Isaac. Abraham is given specific instruction on where to go and what to do. I imagine Abraham shaking as he prepared for the journey they would take up the mountain to the place of the sacrifice. I imagine him hesitating at times, waiting for God to intervene. Whatever fear or uncertainty Abraham faced, he didn’t allow it to deter him from his obedience to God. He traveled the 50 miles to the appointed spot, without knowing what the next step would be. Abraham proceeded just as God directed him, without knowing how it would all turn out.

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In the end, just as Abraham raised the knife to Isaac, the Lord sent an angel who called out to Abraham to, “Stop!” Can you imagine the relief? But, again, Abraham didn’t know what would follow. But, again, his trust was in God. He would continue to obey each step as God led.

Ultimately, God spared Isaac and now we have the beautiful example of Abraham’s trust in God to encourage us to obey each step without knowing what will happen next.

When my transplant was cancelled, I had no idea what God intended. Was it just a delay? Was he going to lead me to dialysis?

My Abraham/Isaac moment came when my transplant was cancelled and then through some research online, I discovered a medication called Soliris (Eculizumab). The Lord led me to a Facebook group for people with aHUS. Having never met anyone face-to-face with aHUS, I was so excited to connect with people who shared the same disease. I learned that almost all of them received Soliris, a bi-weekly infusion that kept the disease under control. Many of them experienced increased kidney function through the use of the medication.

Lord, is this from you? Is this medication like the ram you provided for Abraham to sacrifice rather than sacrificing his son?

Each step that followed was directed from the Lord. I walked forward with my trust in God.

If this is your plan, Lord, you will provide a doctor in my area with knowledge about this medication. Through the aHUS Facebook group, I discovered there was a doctor just 30 miles from here that currently provided care for 2 other patients with aHUS and prescribed Soliris for them.

If this is your plan, Lord, you will make a way for me to continue to homeschool, while receiving this medication. Part way through my meeting with the doctor, he asked me if I knew that he had another location where he sees patients. I discovered his other location was exactly 3 miles from my home and I could receive the medication there!

If this is your plan, Lord, the side effects from the medication will be tolerable so I can continue in my calling to teach and parent my girls. Even during the very first infusion, I felt no different during or after the treatment. No negative side effects at all. Praise God. My girls come with me to my infusion. We work on school work at the clinic and finish at home.

Why did the Lord lead me all the way up to the week before my scheduled transplant only to cancel it?

Why did the Lord lead Abraham all the way up the mountain, only to cancel the sacrifice of Isaac and provide a lamb instead?

When the angel of the Lord stopped Abraham up on that mountain, He said, “Now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.”

If the Lord had stopped my transplant when I was still in the fearful, denial, shaking stage, He would not have known my trust in Him. I would not have known my trust in Him. But, in walking each step, I loosened my grasp on my life and began to hold it out to the Lord. Finally, I was at peace with what the Lord called me to do, fully lay my life in His hands. That’s when He could call out, “Stop! Do not continue! I see your trust. I have a different plan!”

And, I could reply, “Here I am! I am yours, Lord. Finally, my life is yours!”

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Read more about my aHUS journey: Where Was God in All of This–Part I and Where Was God in All of This–Part II