Life After the Trial

Oh, beautiful cherry blossom tree. You do not hide your condition. The winter has taken its toll on your beauty. On your branches. On your shape. On your structure.

The broken branches strewn about the ground. The sharp, ruggedness of the fracture, left on your trunk. Your dead leaves scattered around your base.

But, yet, God’s work in you is not over after the harsh winter. No.

Fall came and went. Your leaves changed. Dried up. Fell to the ground. The wind played a game of havoc on you.

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And, then the cold of winter came and finished off what life was left on you.

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But, deep inside, underground in your roots and in the marrow of your branches, life remained.

God protected and nourished that life deep within you all through the brokenness of the winter.

And now, in all your glory, you blossom your purpose, your fruit, your God-given beauty. Life is emerging on each branch. In each bulge brimming with life. In each blossom, opening for all to see. In each branch, stretching out further than the season before. You show your healing. Your life.

blooming cherry tree

Through the trial of the winter, the tree remained. Through the harsh reality the tree faced, the Creator’s plan never changed.

Winter still holds on. The bitter cold of the night still remains. The frost still appears each morning. The temperature and shorter days still threaten the growth of the tree. Yet, the Creator’s plan remains.

The evidence of the plan is seen in the tree: new life, new growth, new beauty.

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Are you looking for the evidence of the Creator’s plan in your life? Even in the trial, the evidence is there. Sometimes it’s deep within. Like the sturdy roots of the cherry blossom tree, holding it in place, securing it through another trial. Yes, the evidence is there, Dear One.

Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:

a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

 

Welcoming Pain as a Friend

I have always been polite. I learned the importance of manners from a young age. But, honestly (sorry mom and dad), I was just memorizing a set of rules. “Remember to say thank you when your friend’s mom drops you off”, “Don’t forget to say please and thank you at your grandparent’s house”, and “Did you finish your thank you notes, yet?” I was acting polite but not actually feeling thankful.

But, recently a heart change has begun.

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It began when a friend at church gave me this challenge, “Just say the words, ‘Thank you’, right in the face of the challenge.”

“Oh, okay, yeah, I can do that. My daughter and I have talked about how we can say thank you for every trial because it leads us closer to God.”

“Yeah, that’s true,” my friend replied, “but there’s more. You know everything, EVERYTHING,” she repeated a little firmer, ” comes to us through the Father. So, everything, EVERYTHING is allowed in our life by God. It’s been filtered through God. So, I can say thank you for everything, EVERYTHING.”

In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Mathew 26:50 says, Jesus replied, “friend do what you came for”. He was referring to his betrayer, Judas, as friend. Jesus being God knew what was coming. He knew that he was about to be severely abused, spit upon, slapped, and ultimately killed. Yet, he knew everything that happened to him, everything he experienced, everything he encountered was Father Filtered. The Father agreed and allowed this. The Father allowed Judas to betray Jesus. So he could welcome his betrayer as friend. Jesus trusted his Father’s plan.

This kind of understanding goes so far beyond just a set of memorized words to express thanks. To actually refer to your betrayer as friend, to welcome pain, to walk into the fire,  this takes an understanding of the Father.

You see when I told my friend’s mom thank you for the ride, I was just glad I had a way home. I didn’t stop and think about the heart of the woman who drove me home. The sacrifice and care she took in arranging to drive me home.

But, to be thankful for the pain of my parent’s divorce, the disease that has wreaked havoc on my body, the challenges my daughters face, my husband’s health trials? That takes having an understanding of the Father.

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To be thankful for the pain requires getting to know the Father’s heart. It requires surrender. You must trust. And, you must remember what He has done for you in the past.

So I can say thank you. I can say thank you for the trials. Thank you for the disagreements. Thank you for the testing.

Thank you Father. What is in my life right now was filtered through you, My Father. Thank you.

yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live. 1 Corinthians 8:6

Go and Be With My People

My health status is in a day-to-day flux. Yesterday was good. I woke up with energy to make my family breakfast. I felt well enough to go out to lunch with my husband. Throw in a couple of loads of laundry, and it was a good day.

Today? Today is different. My alarm went off in time to get ready for church. “I am teaching Sunday school tomorrow morning,” I declared to my family the night before. “Let’s set our alarms so we make sure we are there early so I can get ready for my class.” Laying my plans out there without doubt of the day to come.

Sunday morning came, my alarm sounded. My energy low. Fatigue high. The battle in my mind began. Do I stay home? Do I go and not teach Sunday school? Do I go and try to teach? The kids are 4 and 5 years old and full of energy. The lesson will include games and projects requiring a fully engaged and healthy leader. God…is that me today? Can I really do this today?

I feel the pull….Go and be with my people.

But, God, I am so tired…

Go and be with my people.

But, God, they are preschoolers…

Go and be with my people.

But, God, I am having difficulty standing up today.

Go and be with my people.

But, God…

Go and be with my people.

Walking into church, I am greeted by a warm, familiar face who knows my physical and emotional battle. She knows because just days prior she was in the women’s group at church where each woman courageously shared a current struggle they are facing. Not the usual, “Hi, I am Lisa, I have gone to church here for 11 years. I have a husband, 2 kids and 2 cats…” No, none of that surface level stuff. No, more like, “I am Lisa. I have struggled with anxiety, am currently struggling with depression and am in the process of testing for a kidney transplant.” How’s that for real? Woman after woman shared hard things. Woman after woman cried. Woman after woman opened up their hearts. And, woman after woman loved on the one next to them. Go and be with my people.

After the hug and encouragement from the saint who greeted me, I headed up the stairs to my classroom. My 13-year-old daughter, also my teaching assistant, rushed up the stairs to see what she could do to help in the classroom. Scanning the lesson, she determined which parts of the lesson she would lead. Choosing the parts which require action and preparation, she relieved my concerns. Go and be with my people.

Then come the kids. One by one, they entered the classroom, each flashing me a smile, some offering a hug as well. The delightful energy and happy chatter spread to my soul. One by one they took off their shoes and became comfortable in our little classroom. I watched the kids build with blocks. I laughed at the funny greetings they gave each other. I marveled at how tall they were becoming. Go and be with my people.

Time to sit down in our circle for prayer and the Bible lesson. “First of all, I need to tell you guys, I am just not feeling well this morning,” I share with the 4 and 5 year olds. A couple sets of concerned eyes met mine.

One little one in particular looked up at me in a very solemn way, “Teacher, can I pray for you?” Others joined in, “Yes, I want to pray for my teacher, too.”

One by one, they offer their prayers of thanksgiving and their requests. I hear, “Thank you, God for my teacher. Please help her feel better today. Please heal her, God. Thank you for healing my teacher, God. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.”

My eyes are dripping now. My heart is bursting out of my chest. These humble, faith-filled prayers are the culmination of what my heart needed this morning. Go and be with my people. 

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I am aware that some of you reading this have not had this experience at church with God’s people. I share this to encourage you to keep searching. There are so many churches. But, also, you will not find this type of fellowship unless you take the risk yourself to open up and allow God’s people in…to know you, to encourage you, to love you. Go and be with God’s people.

 

When Your Burden is a Boulder

A few years back I was one week away from having a scheduled kidney transplant. Leading up to the surgery, there were times when I would tremble with fear. I worried about the pain in recovery. I worried about the medication I would be on for life after the transplant. I worried about my body rejecting the kidney. But, what caused me to break out into an all out panic attack was thinking about how would I ever manage all of my responsibilities during recovery.

In Galatians, Paul talks about carrying our own load but also sharing in one another’s burdens.

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.  For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.  But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.  For each one shall bear his own load.

I don’t know about you, but it’s the whole part about allowing someone else to help bear my burden, carry my load, and share in my pain, that causes fear to set in.

But, as I lean into Jesus and experience more and more of His grace and compassion I see that He is to be trusted. Ultimately it is He who carries my burden. It is He who sees just how big my burden is even when I try to minimize it. It is Jesus who holds the burden and the solution in His all-powerful hands.

My burden…my failiing kidneys, my children’s unique needs, my husband’s health, the lies the enemy feeds me…it all compounds into a boulder too large for my shoulders.

When I find myself thinking I am something, I think I can and should bear it all. I should be able to pick up all the wounded pieces, place them neatly in my pack, and hoist them onto my back. It’s a lie from the pit of hell that I am alone and that I should be able to hold my heavy load myself.

Oh, Satan loves that lie. If he can get me to fall for it, he’s got me. He’s got me in an impossible situation trying in vain to hold up my pack, setting myself up for failure and a heavier burden.

But, Jesus….Jesus who knows pain. Jesus who knows betrayal. Jesus who knows loneliness. Jesus who knows love. Jesus who knows me. He knows the boulder I am facing. He knows what I am capable of carrying. He knows my needs.

But, Jesus…

the Boulder Taker

the Boulder Lifter

the Boulder Mover.

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What a peace it brings to my burdened soul, coming back to the reality that I am nothing. I am unable to bear this boulder. The Lord has not even asked me to bear it alone.

Thank you, Jesus. Those words seem insufficient. I have been known to utter the words, “Thank you, Jesus” about finding a good parking spot on a rainy day. But, to say “Thank you, Jesus, for carrying a boulder I am too weak and ill-equipped to carry myself” seems trite. So, I will spend my life uttering the words, “Thank you, Jesus. You are so good to me.”

 

 

 

Suffering Obedience and Freedom

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Have you ever waited all week for results to come back to tell you whether or not you have cancer again? The doctor who removed the troublesome skin humbly admitted that she had never been in that position.
I’ve never once walked into a week hoping for suffering, hoping to have to wait on more lab results. Never once.
Jesus didn’t hope for suffering. He didn’t delight in the great agony He faced as he awaited probable pain and death. He cried out to God. He asked to be delivered. He asked if there was any other way.
But then He chose obedience. Perfect obedience which led to suffering. Suffering which led to freedom.
As I walk this road of suffering, complete with twists and turns which seem to lead away from what I desire, I am being trained in obedience. My ways are being stripped away. My flesh pierced. My mind and will transformed.
This week the transformation came in allowing Jesus to partner with me. The enemy loves to tell me I am alone. He loves to feed me lies about no one else understanding my pain. And, I seem to have a sick way of clinging to those lies.
But my suffering is bringing about transformation, when I obey. When I listen to that prompting to stop the Facebook scrolling and instead read the Word, I read the promises of Jesus. I read about His faithful love for me. I read about His pain and suffering. I read about the anguish He expressed during His most intense trial.

I read about freedom. Freedom the believers received as they opened their hearts to His Spirit and were then released from past bondage.

Just as Jesus didn’t desire the suffering that was coming to Him, I do not desire more suffering. But nowadays, I can walk into it with much less fear and much more peace, knowing suffering, coupled with obedience, always results in freedom. Thank you, Jesus!

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,  and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:3-5

Walking with Jesus Through Suffering

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are — yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:14-16

Studying Hebrews this morning, thinking about the significance and greatness of Jesus. Jesus, greater than the angels. Jesus, worthy of my praise. Jesus, the one who sympathizes with my weakness.

My mind flashes to the ache in my foot where the doctor skillfully and so carefully used the scalpel to remove the worrisome skin. My foot, pierced. My flesh, wounded. My blood, exposed.

I walk with the reminder of my suffering. Each step sends an ache through my pierced foot.

My Jesus takes each painful step with me. Tempted, tried, suffered. His own feet pierced through. His hands nailed to the cross. His side pierced through allowing the blood to drain out.

My Jesus, pierced.

His pain, His suffering, His sacrifice, so that I can read the words, “that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” and know that He walks with me in all of my suffering.

I walk with confidence in His love for me. I walk with confidence in His purpose for my pain. I walk with confidence in knowing that I do not walk alone.

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What I Learned in September

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.

Sept Path

Here we are wrapping up September. This is year 3 of homeschooling for our family and it’s been the smoothest transition thus far. I attribute it to several things. One being that we continued some schoolwork all summer, but never missed anything fun that came up. Two being that it’s year 3 and in my experience year 3 is like a magic year. When I was a public school teacher, I found that year 3 of teaching the same grade level or same curriculum really finally came together for me. And, three, many of the changes we have made to handling discipline in our family, have brought about greater peace for us all. Amen to all of the above!

My Reading this Past Month

  • Goliath Must Fall by Louie Giglio
  • When Parenting Isn’t Perfect by Jim Daly
  • Hinds’ Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard (I try to read this once a year!)

Our Reading this Past Month

  • The Borrowers by Mary Norton
  • What to do When It’s Not Fair by Jacqueline Toner
  • What to do When Mistakes Make You Quake by Jacqueline Toner
  • Story of the World Volume 1 by Susan Wise Bauer

Back to school 2017

1-2-3 Magic (123 Magic)

A very wise counselor shared with me the idea of utilizing the 1-2-3 Magic approach for stopping negative behaviors in my children. Think of any lower level behavior you want to stop: arguing, whining, badgering, and complaining, etc. There are many short youtube videos you can watch to learn more about this approach.

Here is how we are using it and finding it successful in our family:

First I set up the plan with the kids. I explained to the kids that we have been allowing behaviors such as arguing and complaining to ruin perfectly good days for us. We want to deal with the behaviors in a quicker way so that we can get back toward whatever God has called us to for that day. I told them that if they argue (complain, whine, badger), I will say, “That’s 1” and hold up 1 finger. They have a choice to make. Stop or continue. If they continue, I will say, “That’s 2” and hold up 2 fingers. If they choose to continue, I will say, “That’s 3” hold up 3 fingers and say (as unemotionally as possible), “It’s time for a break.” I will designate a spot for a break and tell them I will let them know when break is over (5-10) minutes.

After the first explanation of this plan, one little darling almost immediately thought she would test it out! Okay, here we go! Help me, Lord!

Darling child, “Can I have a snack?”

Mom, “No, it’s 30 minutes until dinner.”

Sweet, darling child, “But, I am HUNGRY. I haven’t eaten for 10 minutes! Why can’t I have a snack?”

Mom, “It’s 30 minutes until dinner. And, that’s 1,” holding up 1 finger.

Dear, sweet, darling child, “But, I am so hungry! Why can’t you tell me why?”

Mom, “That’s 2,” holding up 2 fingers.

Lovely, dear, sweet, darling, child, “Oh great! So you can’t even tell me why!? I just want a snack!”

Mom, “That’s 3, time for a break. Please go sit on the stairs. I will tell you when break is over.”

Precious, lovely, dear, sweet, darling, child, “Why did you have to talk to that counselor!” stomping off to the stairs.

I am not worrying about the behavior on the way to the stairs because my goal is to quickly and unemotionally stop the badgering and to reset. We are doing that by taking a break.

I set a timer for 10 minutes and then call to the child, “Break is over.” I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the child returned in a pleasant mood, ready to find something to do until dinner.

Flash forward to the next morning. Darling child, “Can I make pancakes for breakfast?”

Mom, “That sounds good, but we have to leave in one hour so there just isn’t time today.”

Sweet, darling child, “But, why can’t I make pancakes?”

Mom, “We are leaving soon. And, that’s 1,” holding up 1 finger

Child sulks off grumbling something under her breath, all the while developing self-control.  We move on with our day.

For more serious infractions such as physically hurting someone, damaging property, or aggression, you go straight to 3 and the child takes a break. Usually a more serious infraction also involves some sort of restitution in our house…fixing what they broke, mending the relationship, doing something physical to get the aggressive behavior out appropriately.

Be Your Own Health Advocate

At age 25, when I first became ill with an ultra rare disease, aHUS (atypical Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome), doctors had little idea of what was going on or what to do about it. And, I didn’t know that when a doctor said, “Let’s try XYZ to treat you,” I should say, “Why? Explain this to me.”

I didn’t realize the doctor was not my boss. The doctor is not all-knowing. And my life is not in the doctor’s hands.

In a healthy patient/doctor relationship, the patient is free to ask questions, seek clarification, share about their own research, and discuss concerns. If a doctor does not accept this from you as the patient, you should strongly consider finding a different doctor.

I have had a few wonderful doctors over the years. Besides accepting questions and thoroughly listening to me, the wonderful ones are those that admit when they don’t know something and then they seek to learn.

What about you? What did you learn this month? Is that a tough question to answer? Don’t worry! God has an answer for that. James, 1:5 says, If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.

Need wisdom? Need to learn something? Need to see a breakthrough in a certain situation in your life? Need greater understanding?

ASK GOD, the one who gives it to you liberally!