Friday, October 31, 2014

Time for a Reset?

I am still astounded at the energy drain I am still feeling from the Caleb series.  I had no idea...  Anyway...

Over the past few months, however, I have been moved to give and pray for the persecuted Christians in Iraq under the heavy hand of what is known as ISIS.  I find myself more connected with groups as Samaritan's Purse and Voice of the Martyrs.

Recently, I heard an interview with Gracia Burnham.  I had read her book, In The Presence of My Enemies, but had never heard her speak.

Gracia and her husband, Martin, were Philippine missionaries for 18 years in a town north of Manila.  Celebrating their 18th wedding anniversary at a resort on Palawan Island, they, among others, were kidnapped May 27, 2001, by the terrorist group Abu Sayyaf, with ties to Osama bin Laden.  They were captives for a year--starved, persecuted, forced to walk long marches in the jungle, and experiencing disease--when a military rescue was attempted after a delivery of a $300,000 ransom to the captors failed to secure their release.  Gracia's husband was mortally wounded in the rescue.

But as Gracia spoke in this broadcast 13 years later, she talked about what an amazing reset it was for her really see herself for who she was with the capacity to hate and covet others' food...and instead of losing her faith, she clung to the only thing she had...Christ.  She spoke of God's goodness.  She knew Martin was in heaven.  She was grateful that she was spared so her children would not be orphans.  It is hard to imagine that God would require more of a faithful couple who left the American dream to serve Him in the Philippines.

What would you (or I) be willing to lose to obtain the deepest love for Christ...not because of what He can do or give...but just for who He is?

Is it time for a reset in your relationship with Him?  We are entering November.  Much of our focus is on gratitude.  Do we know the kind of gratitude and thanksgiving that Gracia was able to see after her suffering ordeal?

Please, Lord, renew my mind and heart...

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

When It Is Time to Rest

I presented this week to staff at the agency that serves Caleb...who has been featured in my blog the past 6 days.  I had this presentation scheduled several months ago -- long before I heard about the "write 31 days" challenge.  Coincidence?  I think not...

But it has been exhausting to relive such pain...and I also believe that the enemy hates when we are engaged in activity that glorifies God and is on the offense.  And tonight, I am tired.

Now...I could be worshiping the idol of affirmation/approval and plow through and write another article tonight...but my heart would not be in it.  Instead, I renew my mind and listen...
And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done.  Genesis 2:2-3
Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.  Psalm 116:7
Just as a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him.  For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust. Psalm 103:13-15 
 So tonight my hands are quiet and restful...and I rejoice in all that God has done for me.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Renewing the Mind in the Middle of Painful Change - Conclusion

I believe wholeheartedly that following Christ means a pathway of bends in the road, so we cannot see what lies ahead...but trust Him one day at a time.  I had no idea whatsoever what lay ahead when Caleb was born...but Jesus led me all the way.

After the hearing, I knew the decision would move at the pace of bureaucracy, and it would be months until I heard if we had prevailed or if we did not, which meant we would have to appeal to a higher level.

It was amazing the peace I had after that hearing.  I hardly thought about the decision.  Here was the timeline:
  • November 1997 - Caleb was hospitalized in Pittsburgh
  • January 1998 - Caleb went into a re-opened group home near me
  • March 1998 - Informed funding for those services would cease April 1; filed due process through Ohio Legal Rights Service against our local county board of developmental disabilities
  • July 1998 - Feature article about case appeared in The Cleveland Plain Dealer
  • August 1998 - Administrative hearing; then hearing before the county board members
It was December.  I was sitting in a conference room waiting to meet with folks running Caleb's group home to talk about a behavior plan or something.  Kevin, Ron, and Heidi walked in and congratulated me.  For what????

I had not heard yet.  But the board members reversed the superintendent's decision, and Caleb would continue to get residential services just minutes away from me.  I would remain his mother, guardian, decision-maker, advocate, case manager, and his constant.  Caleb would be assured of a life of safety, contentment, and functioning to his highest potential.

So back to Genesis 50:20:  
You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.
So how did Caleb's autism and this decision affect the lives of others?  I don't have enough time, but here are a just a few ways.

  • A new group home was created based on Caleb's needs making openings for 3 additional guys to have a place in a residential setting.  (There are long waiting lists!)
  • Caleb's needs created 14 autism specialized classrooms in our local school district.
  • Because of my experience and my job, I was able to walk beside a parent during her two-year journey with her son to fight this same fight. 
And I could go on...

I still hurt daily and yet the tears are what create the rainbows I've experienced to see God's hand on Caleb's life.  Without the renewal of God's word and leaning totally on Him (and not following after the idols of power/control, affirmation/approval, and security/comfort), I would not have made it.

But as the Psalmist wrote, "Surely the Lord has done this and it is marvelous in our eyes!"

Monday, October 27, 2014

Renewing the Mind in the Middle of Painful Change - Part 5

I sat around a large table, next to my attorney...and the county board superintendent sat on the other side, next to his attorney.  All witnesses, including myself, were under oath.  There was a wonderful feature article in the Cleveland newspaper about this case.  At this point, my hands were wide open and I knew just as Abraham laid Isaac on the had I placed Caleb on the altar of God's will.

The Sunday prior, our pastor preached on Nehemiah 4.  I remember it was incredibly powerful!  And somehow the pastor referred to the story of Joshua and Caleb in an illustration and stated boldly, "Caleb has a great God!"  I wrote it in the margin of Nehemiah 4.  I had also underlined passages in that chapter that spoke directly to me about the opposition I would soon face.
They all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and stir up trouble against it.  Nehemiah 4:8 (NIV)
 Don't be afraid of them!  Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your families, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes. Nehemiah 4:14b (NIV)
Our God will fight for us! Nehemiah 4:20b 
Was that sermon a coincidence?  Absolutely not!  And I had my Bible laid open to Nehemiah 4 during the hearing.  God whispered peace to my heart through His word.

I had no agenda but what was in Caleb's best interest...and what was God's will.  None of our witnesses had an agenda different than that.  Caleb's neurologist testified as expert testimony without charging a dime.  All of us had only one thing to present...the truth. And the rest was left in God's hands.

Tomorrow...the verdict and the conclusion.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Renewing the Mind in the Middle of Painful Change - Part 4

After several months, the county agency providing supports to individuals with developmental disabilities and their families no longer wanted to pay for Caleb's intense programming.  At one point it was costing $300 per diem.  As the superintendent said to me,
"I'm not interested in taking care of your son so you can take Caribbean cruises."
It was cruel and a slap in the if that was my plan!  I wanted three things for Caleb:  to be safe, able to function, and contentment.   That was impossible given Caleb's inherent issues in a family home (plus we were doing it alone).  Even his neurologist (a MAJOR autism expert) concurred that Caleb's needs were beyond the capacity of any family.

With the help of Ohio Legal Rights Service, I sued the funding agency who wanted to stop services.

Out on a limb for what was best for Caleb...the stakes were HIGH.  If we lost...if the agency could prove that Caleb no longer needed these services...I could lose custody.  But just as the pioneers traversed an unknown land...filled with dangers they could not predict...I refused to be deterred because my focus was on what Caleb needed, not me.

To fight for your 9 year old son to live outside of his home is so counter-intuitive as a mother.  I prayed for guidance and peace and confirmation that I was doing the right thing.  Secretly, I wanted a sign.  God brought one that renewed my mind and gave me amazing peace.
Sunday noon, after church.  Pulling into the driveway after church, I noticed a baby sparrow on the ground beneath a nest that had been built on the ledge of a 2nd floor window air conditioner at the house next door.  Getting the ladder out, the bird was placed back in the nest -- but the mother quickly kicked the baby bird out.  I called the park service to get some advice.  The naturalist on the phone told me if the baby had feathers it was probably time for the baby to go...that it was best to let nature take its course.  Then he said, "Do not worry...that mom's job is not over.  She will continue monitor the baby on the ground to ensure its safety from harm."
I hung up in tears.  God had used birds before to speak to me.  God had given me a tremendous gift of a new perspective, a renewal of my mind, convincing me that beyond a shadow of a doubt that this was part of His plan.  I never looked back.  That did not mean, however, that it did not hurt.

And I embrace the verse:
What is the price of two sparrows--one copper coin?  But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it...So don't be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.  Matthew 10:31, 33 (NLT)
Isn't God's word powerful?

Tomorrow -- the legal process begins.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Renewing the Mind in the Middle of Painful Change - Part 3

Mea culpa to my readers...yesterday I came home from work exhausted and went to bed I apologize.  Back to my story...

Despite my quest to help get Caleb all I could that would serve his attainment of his highest potential (and at the same time to defer my pain and at least pretend I had some control), while Caleb obtained the best services and education possible at that time, his autism  was swallowing him whole.  At age 8, my darling boy was still nonverbal, incontinent, becoming continually agitated, becoming aggressive, becoming destructive.  He was no longer safe, no longer functioning, and definitely not content.  I did not know how to help him.  My marriage was over.  I had no idea the price my daughter had paid as Caleb took my entire focus.

Eventually, my mother and I drove him to Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, part of the University of Pittsburgh that had a psychiatric ward for children and adolescents with developmental disabilities and psychiatric manifestations.  He was now a danger to us and to himself.  He was admitted for 30 days for further assessment, adjust medications, and make programming recommendations for increased opportunity for success at home and at school.

Caleb's autism we now knew was extremely severe.  His issues were inherent; part of his underlying disability.  There were three things that he desperately needed to make sense of his world and to not be in so much distress.  They were:

  • A controlled environment
  • Behavioral programming
  • And structure and predictability
He did not come home to me.  The county re-opened a closed group home (it had been a convent at one time) with one-on-one staff where the environment was controlled, structure could be provided, and they could begin behavioral programming.  This was in January.

My heart was crushed with excruciating pain of a mother who felt helpless...hopeless...
But the Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. --Psalm 34:18 (ESV)
And He was...

Until tomorrow...

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Renewing the Mind in the Middle of Painful Change - Part 2

I wanted those days back...but they were gone forever.

Normalcy was out the world became about fighting to get Caleb services, trying to keep a child safe who had no fear and very little sense of pain, advocating for him to be included as much as possible with other children, and trying to manage a child with whom I could barely communicate.  I had this highly active child who was often agitated and all my interventions seemed to fall flat and not make much difference.

When I was carrying Caleb, I knew he was a boy and named him Caleb due to Numbers 14:24:
But because my servant, Caleb, has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it. (NIV)
Prior to his birth, I prayed that Caleb would be different...envisioning him as a man of God not afraid to be in the minority by proclaiming his Lord. How do I get my arms around this?  Lord...this was not what I meant when I prayed Caleb would be different!  Often I would have to renew my mind with:
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.  My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the hidden place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.  Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one ever came to be. Psalm 139:13-16 (NIV)
I took my grief and channeled it into advocacy and activism...getting linked up early to others who were in the same boat only further down the river.  That is, other parents of children with disabilities...many who were also Christians.  I was a sponge soaking in all I could about Caleb's rights, the special education system, learning a whole new language, and understanding autism.  Often I used this to defer my sadness...but what I did not know was that God was preparing me and Caleb for so much more.

In time I would be able to say the same as Joseph:
You (Satan) intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is being done, the saving of many lives. Genesis 50:20 (NIV)
More tomorrow...

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Renewing the Mind in the Middle of Painful Change - Part I

Honestly, I don't know if I can write this...  It began 25 years ago (and hasn't ended), but yet, it is still so painful.  Without this story, however, my life would be drastically different.

I gave birth to a beautiful little boy, Caleb, in January 1989.  He stole my heart and life could not be better.  I had my happy little family:  mommy, daddy, my girl, my boy.  He was bright...interactive...smiled easily...affectionate.  But by 18 months, there was reason for concern.  He had lost his words, he was falling behind developmentally, he became more agitated and harder to know how to parent him.

It wasn't until he was four that we were rescued from the quicksand of "developmental delay" only to face the 40,000 feet high mountain called autism.

I could only remember the prayer I had prayed before he was born:
For this child I prayed and the Lord has granted me my petition that I made to Him.  Therefore I have lent Him to the Lord, for as long as he lives, he is lent to the Lord.  I Samuel 1:27 (ESV)
 Yet, I was crushed...grieving and craving for the time back when all seemed right in my world.  I needed control.  I needed security and comfort.  I needed approval...reassurance that I had not failed as a mother.

I was broken.  (continued tomorrow)

Monday, October 20, 2014

Renewing The Mind in the Middle of Change - An Example

When it comes to keeping a right perspective in the middle of changing circumstances...I think Joseph in the Old Testament is under appreciated.

Reviewing the story in Genesis for this post, it blew my mind!!!!!  None of his circumstances were due to bad choices, sin, or anything that was his fault!

Check this out:

  • Joseph was deeply loved, favored by his father, Jacob, as he was the "son of his old age." 
  • Joseph's brothers were deeply jealous of him enough to want to kill him but instead, sold him into slavery to Egypt.  They let his father think he was dead.
  • Joseph is enslaved but the Lord is with him.  An officer of Pharaoh, Potiphar, makes Joseph an overseer in his household.
  • Potiphar's wife...she thinks Joseph is hot and pursues him with a vengence.   It gets so bad for Joseph that he has to run away from her leaving his coat in her hands.  
  • Potiphar's wife tells Potiphar that Joseph tried to rape her.
  • Into prison goes Joseph.
  • After some time, Potiphar in his anger throws his cupbearer and his baker into prison. The cupbearer and the baker both dreamed dreams they could not understand.  Joseph interprets them, indicating that the cupbearer will be lifted out of prison and restored to his office in 3 days.  Joseph asks the cupbearer to remember him.
  • The cupbearer is restored!...but he forgets Joseph (Joseph, who?)  And Joseph remains in prison.
  • Joseph remained in prison two more years then Pharoah dreamed a disturbing dream that no one could interpret.
  • The cupbearer says to Pharoah..."Oh yeah, there was this guy...Joseph, I think his name was..."
  • Joseph interprets the dream warning Pharoah that while there will be 7 years of a bumper crop in Egypt, it will be followed by 7 years of famine.
  • Pharaoh makes Joseph head of his entire house and gives Joseph full authority over who could set foot in Egypt and who could not.
Now, even though things seem good for Joseph right in the world did he maintain a right perspective?  Here he is living high on the hog...and the most natural thing for Joseph to do is to be braced for the other shoe to drop...given his track record.

Eventually, Joseph's brothers come seeking to buy food from Egypt...along with his avoid starvation.  Joseph has the final say whether they will be saved from starvation because God had led him to this point...through ups and downs...disappointments...sufferings...misunderstandings...lies of others.

When his brothers realize it is Joseph...they are fearful realizing it is time their bills have come due!

But instead of being filled with contempt, resentment, bitterness, and anger...Joseph has been able to keep his mind renewed maintaining God's perspective in his reply:
Don't be afraid.  Do I act for God?  Don't you see, you planned evil against me, but God used those plans for my good, as you see all around you right now--life for many people. Easy now, you have nothing to fear; I will take care of you and your children.  He reassured them, speaking to them heart-to-heart.  Genesis 50:20 (MSG)
Tomorrow, I'll begin to tell you a personal story...of how God intimately renewed my mind through a very difficult time.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Renewing The Mind in the Middle of Change

God was very wise when He created seasons.  They remind us that change is an inevitable part of life and that we must pass through them.

Some change feels positive, feels good, is welcomed, but that is not always the case.  We all have stories of coping with uncontrollable changing circumstances that we could share.  A loss of a job, a divorce, a broken friendship, moving to a different state because of your spouse's promotion, contracting a serious illness or injury...

One of the most powerful books I have ever read was about a father/spouse/son who lost his mother, his wife and a daughter in one single car accident...three generations.  Jerry Sittster goes to the places others dare to admit they go when wrestling with such a life alteration event in his book, A Grace Disguised.

I don't know what you may be going through today, but I do that there's always a greater we may see or one we may never know until the other side of eternity.

I think of a verse that has helped me through the tough stuff over the years...
But He knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold.  Job 23:10 (ESV) 
but the challenge for me has been to get out of thinking about me to renew what I know about my Lord and Savior's character and that my purpose is to bring Him glory.  And sometimes it is monumental in helping others, as was the case in Joseph's predicament, which we will talk about tomorrow.

God so desires that we not worship power and control, but fall on Him for the meeting of those needs.  At times, He uses some life-altering circumstances to remind us.

Until tomorrow...

Thursday, October 16, 2014

We Interrupt This Series...

To wish a very happy birthday to my Arthur (far right) and his siblings.  It is his second birthday.  They were all together on their 1st birthday party at the breeders; they went to families all over Ohio and Pennsylvania.  It was so fun to meet them all!  You can read more about the party here...

Arthur is a true blessing in my life.  One of God's gifts that brings joy every day...

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Voice of Truth

It was the Summer of 2005.  I had just finished my undergraduate degree in social work from Capital University, able to go to school full time while working full time.  But I knew graduate school was not optional.  To go, I had to quit my full time job and incur debt a year-and-a-half at a private graduate school.

My head was spinning with doubt and what if's...  You know the kind.
  • What if I cannot find a job?
  • What if I flunk out?
  • You are foolish to be going to graduate school at this age and incurring debt.
  • Social workers don't make much money...who are you fooling?
  • You think this is what God wants you to do but once'll be wrong.
Now you could say that was doubt...but it was also the idol of comfort and security screaming to be worshiped.  I was walking away from something I security.

I worked for a printing company and in my final weeks before grad school started.  I often took lunch in a relaxing place and listen to music on my iPod...shuffled.

This song came on, tears flowed, my mind was renewed, fear subsided... 

I finished graduate school eight years ago, have worked steadily since graduation, and God has blessed me doing with a dream job with work that I equate to serving Him.

Do not bow down to the idol of comfort and not let fear take over what you know to be God's truth.

Trust me, I have to do this daily...daily!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Autumn Drowsies

It seems to be getting dark so early -- and we have not changed the clocks yet.  Here it is, 7:30 pm and my eyes are heavy...wanting sleep.  Tuesdays are my longest days at work.  I am  in major transition,pde  as I re-enter the five-day work week, after a beautiful two-week vacation.

Part of this is the beauty of autumn...the time of flannels and sweaters...drowsily rocking us to sleep so we are hibernated during the season of winter.

Whatever...maybe I'm just sleepy...sleeepy...sleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeepy.

I thought it wasn't fair to talk about the practice of gratitude without providing some tools to do so.

Ann Voskamp provides a multitude of printables, tools, et al., here that you can sign up for to access downloads.

Forgive me for my brevity today...I am in the trenches now. (smile) So I will print out this quote by Elisabeth Elliot and rejoice in the work God gives me to do.

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Yoga Part

Oh yes...the yoga part of gratitude.

Our department at work dresses up for Halloween.  As of right now, I have my hat...but need to find a pair of brown yoga pants.  I am grateful for online shopping.  But I digress...

So what does yoga have to do with gratitude?  Both take practice.  I'll let my social work friend, Brene' Brown, explain.
It would be reasonable to say that I have a yoga attitude.  The ideal and beliefs that guide my life are in line with the purpose of yoga.  I value mindfulness and breathing.  I even have yoga outfits.  But, let me assure you, my yoga attitude and outfits don't mean jack if you put me on a yoga mat and ask me to stand on my head or strike a pose.  As I'm sitting here writing this, I've never practiced yoga.  I plan to change that between now and the time you're holding this book in your hand, but to date, I've never put the attitude into action.  So where it really matters--on the mat--my yoga attitude doesn't count for much.  
In the same way, we can read books on gratitude and talk about being grateful, but where it counts most is in the trenches, where it really counts...especially with others watching.  We can't pull it off, because we don't practice it.

So what does it mean to practice gratitude?  How do you do this?

Ann Voskamp practices by continually looking for things to add to her 1,000 gifts list I mentioned t yesterday.  Gratitude journaling is also a way to practice.  Prayers of thanksgiving or reading the Psalms or other areas of Scripture filled with prayers are helpful.

Practicing gratitude and praise does not mean that you will always be happy all the time, but you will cultivate a renewed mind, along with a steady, consistent current of joy deep within that will stabilize you in the middle of the most chaotic circumstances.

Try it!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Yoga and Gratitude

I'm regularly involved in creative work inspired by Kim Klassen and my fellow creative friends.  Recently, Kim challenged us to take a walk, slowly, taking the time to gather items from our walk...natural treasures.

These were some of mine.  And while I gathered mine, I also gathered an inventory of the amazing gifts God has given me every single day...

Ann Voskamp wrote her bestseller One Thousand Gifts; I read it three years ago, and it still impacts me.  She was challenged to make a list of 1000 gifts which transformed her life.  She writes:
My list of naming God-gifts lies open on the counter.  All I can see, think, is that my whim writing of one thousand gratitudes, the naming of the moments--this is truly a holy work. In naming what is right before me, that which I'd otherwise miss, the invisible becomes visible.  That space that spans my inner emptiness fills in the naming.  I name.  And I know the face I face.  God's!  God is in the details; God is in the moment.  God is in all that blurs by in a life--even hurts in a life.  GOD!  Naming these moments may change the ugly names I call myself.  

If you want to renew your mind...if you want to change your perspective...if you want to rediscover joy...stop, be in the present, and look for the myriad of ways God lavishes you with little love gifts that we ignore, pass by.  I don't know how God puts up with my indifference to His goodness some days.

But He is so wise.  His Word tells us to give thanks not only because He is worthy, but because He also knows that doing so brings us even more.  Himself.  And in the joy of His presence, we are changed.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:6-7 (ESV)
 Give thanks to the Lord and proclaim His greatness.  Let the whole world know what He has done.  Psalm 105:1 (NLT)
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning.  Great is your faithfulness.  Lamentations 3:22-23 (ESV)
 More later...the yoga part comes tomorrow!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

In the Trenches

I missed a post (smacking my forehead)...and of course, it was the day I went back to work after vacation.

While in West Virginia...we stumbled across an amazing historical place.  Fort Mill Civil War trenches, 3 miles west of Romney, West Virginia, is considered possibly the most well preserved Civil War trenches that exist.  If you look in the photo, you can see the trenches built over 150 years ago.  To make the trenches was backbreaking, manual labor.  To be in the trenches means to be in the thick of the room for slackers as you hold their ground.

It is easy to take the time, not just to write about renewing your mind, but actually doing it, when you are on leave, in the mountains, with no pressure of time or schedule, and enjoying some R&R.  But that's not reality.  Reality the trenches.

And so it is in the the day-to-day...where the real work of life is done...the grunt work...the hard, the dirty, the menial work where I am challenged most to take the time to renew my mind in God's word.  Yes, time is a luxury I don't often feel I have.  But, it is in the trenches under attack, where I CANNOT afford to NOT make that time happen.
Put on all of God's armor, so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil.  For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against the evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in heavenly places.     Eph 6:11-12 (NLT)
And I'm back in the trenches, where the real tests come.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Renewing Your Mind When It is Life and Death

Recently, CNN featured a front-page article on their website about a 29-year-old woman, Brittany Maynard, who has come out publicly that she has chosen the day of her death as November 1.  The article does not mention the exact diagnosis, but it sounds like the same aggressive cancer that took my father's life five years ago today.

Yes, I miss him so of the last times I heard him speak was when he prayed before his hamburger on a Sunday...Thursday night he was barely awake and by Friday morning he was gone.  He was an amazing Christian man and those final six months were the richest of my entire relationship with him.

Today, Ann Voskamp posted a loving and gentle response from another woman dying of cancer.  Not only timely for me personally remembering my father's death...but also a strong example of the power that renewing our mind in accordance to God's word can impact everything.

So, instead of trying to summarize it, I highly encourage you to read her letter and also the two short videos at the end at the link below:

Dear Brittany: Why We Don't Have to Be So Afraid of Dying and Suffering

All is grace.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

A Tender Renewal...

On the road today traveling back to Ohio...but I do have a few thoughts.  How can we, especially women, be so hard on ourselves and self-deprecating in our heads, when God wants to renew our minds with these tender words:

Can a mother forget the infant at her breast,
walk away from the baby she bore?
But even if mothers forget,
I'd never forget you--never.
Look, I've written your names on the backs of my hands.

Isaiah 49:15-16 (MSG)

How he loves us...and is for us!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Just a Few Words...

I've been pretty wordy the past few days.  The next couple of days we will be packing up and driving back to Akron, so my writing time will be limited...

But I want to encourage you AND myself.  Jesus knows His and me.  And we know His voice...when we take the time to discern and listen.  Think today about how well Jesus knows us-- loves us extravagantly.  Renew your mind with these brief thoughts today.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Heart Surgery (the rest of the story)

In January, I selected a verse for the year.  I had no idea how it would come into play as God worked in my heart.

The idol of approval/affirmation had been screaming out for weeks; I wanted acknowledgement for how hard I worked each day and how much I produced.  The idol of power/control raged inside as I dug my heels to be deemed as right.

Then it hit me hard!  What had my own pursuit of these idols produced?  Nothing good, for sure.  But what broke my heart was to consider that perhaps my own pride had squelched any possibility of bringing glory to God at work.

All that God does is to glorify Himself...even our salvation. Read this in Isaiah 48:9-11:
For My name's sake I defer my anger; for the sake of My praise I restrain it for you, that I may not cut you off.  Behold, I have refined you but not like silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction.  For My own sake, for My own sake I do it...My glory I shall not give to another.
Whoa...major renewal of the mind.  NONE of this is about me!  It is about God getting my attention to realign with His purpose...His glorify Himself.

I listened to Tony Dungy say,
I believe you can glorify the Lord in every circumstance.  How you respond to failure--how you respond to disappointment says a lot more than how you respond to successes.
I have come to believe that we really do not know who Christ is until we come to Him in our brokenness, with all pretense set aside, and say, "It's me, O Lord, standing in the need of prayer...not my brother, not my sister, not my coworker, not my neighbor, not my husband..."

I wrote in my journal:
Lord, I ask that you take care of my thoughts tonight.  My ruminations will devour me. Please guard my mind tonight with only thoughts that build me up and assure me of your love.  I know when there are things you want me to work on, it doesn't come attack me from the perspective of destroying my spirit.  You are not condemning or shaming.  I know where I am vulnerable, and you know more so.  I just have to put my faith in you.  I must believe that I don't need affirmation or approval from anyone else but you.  I don't need to have power or control, because You are in control.  I don't need to find my comfort or security in my job, my income, my best laid plans.  I need to find my comfort and security in You.
The Lord continues to renew my mind as I seek Him in His word.  I have been greatly moved by the testimonies on the website I Am Second.  I have one job:  to make Him look good.  It is NEVER about me...  That whatever I do, I am to work passionately, not as for men, but for the Lord, no matter what the job is (Colossians 3:23)

God is faithful...and He continues to gently work in my heart as I renew my mind daily.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Heart Surgery

Three months ago, I was put to the test and sustained major spiritual heart surgery.  I was very overwhelmed at work, having been in three days of mandatory training over two weeks.  During that time a boatload of new applications and consults came in waiting for me.  I tend to be very task oriented and focused, but I do enjoy having a little breathing room so I can enjoy my colleagues.

I had not felt like I had had that in quite some time and this brought it to a head.  Something had to change.  I made it known in a way that I most certainly could have handled better.  And while some necessary changes were made administratively and logistically…I knew that I had a lot of work to do from a heart standpoint.  Whatever the circumstances, I am responsible for me.

Taking a step back, I should have been aware of an idol working. Since this started I was not sleeping, I felt resentful, I was irritable…need I go on?

It was then I “accidentally” turned on a radio station in the middle of a program.  Dee Brestin was speaking about her own issues and the book I mentioned on Day 1.  I ordered it.

I devoured it. I took it to heart.  I prayed over everything I read.  An abscess developed in my molar that could not be treated right away.  Not feeling well forced me to have more down time and spend time with the Lord.

All I know is that since this intimacy with Christ had increased abundantly.  And if something causes that, can it be a bad thing?

Until tomorrow…for the rest of the story.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Diggin up Stones

I'm sure you have heard the saying, "Still waters run deep..."  And, how!  Proverbs 20:5a says,
The purpose of a man's heart is like deep water...(ESV)
Like our physical bodies, there are things going on inside our hearts that we do not see or recognize that have dire consequences.  Like cancerous tumors or calcified gall or kidney stones, by the time we are showing symptoms, we are in trouble.

Here in West Virginia where we are vacationing, it has been extremely dry.  Most of the free flowing rivers are showing all the rocks lying underneath, usually hidden during wetter seasons.

But there's a second part of that verse in Proverbs:
but a man of understanding will draw it out.
 Do you have someone in your life that can see your patterns, remind you of God's truth, point out the stones of your idols, or maybe just get you to talk deeply and discover those idols to which you are enslaved?  Perhaps a mentor, dear friend, Christian counselor?  Someone who can point you to Truth?

As an introvert, my waters run very deep.  And when it comes to friends, I'd rather have 4 quarters than 100 pennies.  But I highly treasure those quarters!

God loves us so much...and knows that our secret to freedom is by acknowledging that these idols are not our life--God is.  God is the real deal where all of our needs will be fully met.  But only as we spend time with Him renewing our mind in His Word and prayer.  And God promises...
And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit within you.  I will take out your stubborn, stony heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.  Ezekiel 36:26 (NLT)
Tomorrow I will talk about my own struggle this past summer...and God's continual work in my heart.