Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Another Whale of a Tale

Baby C has been known to tell some whoppers.  As a tribute to my departure, the trips requested that the bedtime story be none other than Jonah and the Whale.  I have told it so many times now that we tell it fill in the blank style.  


"God told Jonah to go where? _______"  Kids repeat:  "Ninuba."
Also known to my adult audience as good 'ole wayward "Ninevah."  

Tonight was nothing special.  Jonah said no again.  
Jonah got on a boat that he should not have ever boarded in the first place.  


The storm came again with fury.  


Jonah went overboard and was gobbled up by Mr. Whale.


What's that?  You hear it too?  You hear the complete fabrication and newly constructed ending by Baby C?  Apparently, there is no need for me to attend She Speaks this weekend.  Apparently, Baby C could teach us all a thing or two about constructing a story.  He can be next year's lecturer in Storytelling 101: How to fabricate a tale and catch an editor's attention.  Truth be told, how could anyone doubt this face?


Right after Jonah was thrown up...
Baby C:  "Hey mommy, you didn't tell the part where there was that house (throws his voice to a mysterious tone).  You see, when Jonah got throwed up on the sandy beach, there was a house. A two-story and he went inside. And it was a scarrrryyyy one. So, he hopped back into the whale and there was angels in the whales belly this time.  And one angel was wearing glasses.  He told Jonah to go to Ninuba and tell those people 'bout God.  Then, Larry the cucumber was laughing.  And then Jonah was afraid and he told Larry, "Hey! I'm a cucumber and there's sand on that beach."  The End.

whop·per

  [hwop-er, wop-]  Show IPA
–noun Informal .
1.
something uncommonly large of its kind.
2.
a big lie.


Need I say more?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Wishing on Apples


I wish it were this simple. An apple a day.  However, as you read on yesterday's post, my friend Susan and I often find ourselves wishing our health issues could be solved so easily.  Like her, it has taken me many years to find out that I am hyper-sensitive to gluten, milk, eggs, yogurt, and peanuts.  I also suffer from Endometriosis and have chronic pain related to both.  Today, I am fighting a case of hives to which I have yet to find the reason behind the problem.  Chronic illness is challenging.  


It keeps your brain revved up with questions.  I need to be perfect with my diet to remain pain free.  Yet, there are days when I can do everything right for my allergies and be in pain from the Endometriosis.  Chronic illness challenges my faith as it has Susan's.  

"Think about the body language you exhibit as you sit on a doctor’s exam table in a paper dress. That dejected “posture” often predicts the success of your visit." Susan Ingebretson
This sentence resonated with me.  I've sat on many doctor's exam tables in that funky little paper dress.  I remember one particular trip to my gynecologist before I was diagnosed with Endo.  After much research, I had diagnosed myself with Endometriosis of the Colon.  Don't worry I will refrain from applying a picture here. :)  Yet, my other "team of doctors" were skeptical.  They felt I was just grasping at straws.  Grasping was an understatement.  For I had sat on one exam table too many and I was breaking under the weight of my illness.  The assault from a spirit of confusion was immense.  The physical battle was one thing, but feeling there was not ever going to be a solution to this problem was very defeating.  I remember sitting in my paper dress and explaining "from the top" when my health started going wrong.  As I began to rattle it all off, I just sobbed in his office.  I was so tired. I needed him to tell me I was right. I needed him to not say "oh you must just be a stressed out lady" like the other doctors had.  That day, I was right.  That day, I felt hope for the first time in a long time.  


It has been two years since that diagnosis.  My body is better, but it is a daily struggle.  Yet, in spite of the struggles, I know that God is good.  Hardship, as painful as it is, refines us.  The first twenty years of my life were pretty smooth.  I was successful and enjoyed life.  But, nothing has brought me closer to the Lord than the past decade.  God's word says that when we seek Him we will find Him when we search for Him with our whole hearts.  In my prayer time this week, I have been continually praying that God would just let me "touch the hem of Jesus garment." I was not even sure of the reference, but knew the passage. Last night, in Susan's article she mentioned that very passage. 
She said: 
"Matthew 9:20-22 details the healing of a woman who’d been ill for a dozen years. Her chronic affliction was cured by simply touching the hem of Jesus’ garment. “Your faith has made you well,” Jesus said to her."
Her reference to that passage just further confirmed to me that God is involved in my details.  For lately, I have been moping about my condition and feeling desperate again.   That passage reminds me that He wants me well too.  He purchased my life at a high price and I am redeemed.  Chronic illness can challenge your faith.  It can make you feel like God is not listening.  But, if there is one thing that I have learned, it is that God hears me when I call. He hears every prayer. He has bottled every tear.  One day, He will come back for His children and in an instance, we will be transformed.  We will be able to leave our paper gowns behind for a Heavenly robe and experience pure joy with Him.

No more wishing on apples. 

Monday, July 26, 2010

Jessie's House Special Guest: Susan Ingebretson




Faith Lessons for Chronic Illness

Our Christian faith shapes all that we are and do. That’s a good thing, right? But what if you’re in pain from an unknown condition? How do you seek medical attention, gain support from family and friends, and learn to cope with the stress caused by chronic illness? Where does faith fit in?
Fibromyalgia is the chronic condition that sidelined me many years ago. I spent years trying to define what didn’t “feel right” and why it happened to me. Because I’m a word person -- a writer -- I felt I should be able to articulate my feelings. With an unknown diagnosis, however, my future seemed an ambiguous muddle of pain and suffering.
That’s where the good and bad of my faith kicked in. The good is easy to describe. Knowing that my Heavenly Father lights my path (even when it seems there’s only darkness) brings immeasurable comfort. I knew He had a plan for me, but I had yet to figure it out.
The “bad” part of my faith came from my own interpretations of Bible lessons. If you’re anything like me, your religious background has provided you with many character-shaping lessons. For example, Sunday School teachers taught me to sit quietly and to not interrupt. Pastors taught me to respect my elders, care for my neighbors, and turn the other cheek. Church organists taught me that they do indeed have eyes in the backs of their heads and can see fidgety children in the front pew (wait … that only proved true when the organist was my mom and the kid was me).
Standing up for our faith, and the lessons we’ve learned, comes easy, but what about standing up for our health? Think about the body language you exhibit as you sit on a doctor’s exam table in a paper dress. That dejected “posture” often predicts the success of your visit.
Many people – women in particular – live with illness and pain in silence. If the chronic pain stems from an accident, it’s considered an after-effect from the physical trauma. Therefore, if the pain is expected, it’s nothing to complain about, right? If pain comes on slowly, it’s tolerated to accommodate a busy woman’s life. The pain is relegated to the back burner.
Christians know how to suffer in silence!
It took a very long time for me to grasp the fact that chronic pain is never “normal.” Pain is the body’s way of getting attention, and that’s where I was at an impasse. How could I seek treatment for an unidentified condition?
I had to go back to my Bible and learn that assertiveness, inquisitiveness, and tenacity are all Biblically-sound principles. I was harboring a “meek will inherit the earth” attitude while trying to garner attention from overworked and distracted medical professionals.
Meekness does not always translate to wellness.
 Here are a few other examples of this fact. Matthew 9:20-22 details the healing of a woman who’d been ill for a dozen years. Her chronic affliction was cured by simply touching the hem of Jesus’ garment. “Your faith has made you well,” Jesus said to her.
We’ve all heard this story and know it to be a great depiction of abiding faith. But, I’d like to point out something. Where was the woman? Was she home in bed? (She was sick, after all.) Propelled by her faith, she sought a solution for her condition. She took action.
In Mark 10:46 we hear the blind man, Bartimaeus, cry out for Jesus to restore his sight. Crying out doesn’t sound meek to me.
If you are in pain, then something is wrong. Please know that it’s good to do some self-detective work to find out why. Think about specifics of your pain such as, when did it begin? Does it ebb and flow? Does it ever go away? Can you relate activities or foods with increased pain? Document the answers to these questions in a “wellness notebook” and begin the search for your answers.
Remember the picture I painted earlier of a dejected patient in a doctor’s office? Imagine her instead, this way. She’s still wearing a paper dress, but has also put on the armor of confidence and self-education. She brings her wellness notebook filled with details about her symptoms, specific facts that will guide them to a mutually agreeable treatment plan. She’s open to new ideas, new treatments, and, best of all, a future of hope and promise.
Asking for help, seeking out new ideas, putting faith in others outside your social circle is risky, but it’s also quite Biblical. When I speak to groups about healing from chronic illness, I’m always quick to point out how thankful I am for the lessons that fibromyalgia has taught me. I’m thankful that I learned how to depend on His guidance rather than my own limited understanding.
Looking back at the faith lessons I learned as a child, I can now see that tenacity was right there, hand-in-hand with meekness. It’s just a matter of balancing them in ways that keep me moving forward. Faith provides that balance for me, and for you, too.
Susan Ingebretson is a writer, speaker and the director of program development for the Fibromyalgia Research and Education Center at California State University , Fullerton . Her book,FibroWHYalgia, (Spring, 2010) details her own journey from illness to wellness. Ingebretson’s writing has appeared in the National Fibromyalgia Association (NFA) online and print magazine, FibromyalgiaAWARE. Susan is also featured in the NFA’s Public Service Announcement, The Science Behind Fibromyalgia. Her book can be found at Barnes and Noble, Amazon, or for more information about FibroWHYalgia, and about living well with chronic illness, check out her website and blog: www.RebuildingWellness.com 




Thursday, July 22, 2010

A girl's gotta do...

Saturday I am going to one of these.
Don't ask me why as of this morning I did not have my wardrobe lined out for my brother's wedding this weekend.  
Really don't.  
Since you didn't.  
I've had a dress of the coral persuasion picked out for months.  I even found a cute as cute as a size 11 can ever be  bronze pair of shoes that went great with it.  Could a girl ask for anything more?  A one shoulder as close to a Jersey Housewife sheik dress in coral for a 3:00 affair? I didn't think so either.

So last night when my sister called and started with "We just can't be friends"  I still had no plans to be searching frantically for a new outfit today.  Sidenote:  Sister said we couldn't be friends because I let her buy a frumpy dress for our brothers wedding.  Side note #2:  I'm innocent of all accusation.   If the truth be told, she let me buy a dress that was so short that....well you get my point.  I'm not sure how that happened either, but we all (mother of the bride as well) set off to find "NEW" outfits today.  They departed to one town and I went to another.  

When you start the day out with a thought like "now if I could only find that pale pink dress I saw at JCP on the 80% off rack that only came in a 2 when I saw it" you know you are in for a long day.  I just needed a dress to match my cute bronze size 11 shoes.  Let me just say.  There are not too many outfits that match bronze shoes.  I did find this one that looked like a green lizard.  

But, it was an expensive lizard and after much contemplation I decided that the lizard really needed gold size 11's not bronze.  
Bye. Bye. Lizard Dress. 
I got a little panicked. 
Then I went to Macy's.  
What's that you say?  You hear the singing too? 
I found not one...not two...but three dresses at Macy's.  After much debate, I bought them all.  
One coral.  One blue and green number.  One blue with red flowers.  Of course, I would like the one which required a new pair of shoes.  
What's that?  
"Yes, most women do enjoy shoe shopping.  They do.  They drool over a good pair of peep toe pumps.  They do. " 

No, I dread shoe shopping.  When you shop for shoes and wear a 11/12 the peep toe pumps aren't so cute anymore.  Several stores were a complete shut-out.  Then I ventured on to DSW.  Apparently, DSW is a paradise for feet like me.  It was so sweet. They even had my size marked with a blaring florescent green sweet sticker with an 11 on it.  
The better to see you with my dear. 
 I guess they felt that the overly large shoe box was not enough of an attention grabber. :) Actually, the blazing sticker was useful.  And the salesman that followed me around- he was useful too.  I normally don't like to be waited on but this was a 
SHOE EMERGENCY!
By the last aisle I had nine pairs of shoes waiting for me at the cash register none of which had a darn thing to do with the dresses I needed to match.   *Sigh* Don't worry- I only left with three pair.  I mean when you find a shoe that fits and you have feet like a gorrilla a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do.  

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Beautiful

People want to know {when}.

"Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.  Heaven and earth  will pass away, but My words shall not pass away.  But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the son, but the Father alone." Matthew 24:34-36


People want to know {the cost}.

"For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast." Ephesians 2:8

 People want to know {how}.


"That if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved; for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation." Romans 10:9-10

People want to know {who}.

"For whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved." Romans 10:13

People want to know {if He can be trusted}.

"Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful." Hebrews 10:23

People want to know {if redemption is real}.

"And for this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant, in order that since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance." Hebrews 9:15


re·demp·tion

  [ri-demp-shuhn]  Show IPA
–noun
1.
an act of redeeming or the state of being redeemed.
2.
deliverance; rescue.
3.
Theology deliverance from sin; salvation.
4.
atonement for guilt.

  
Redemption is real...
...and it is beautiful.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Decades

*My 30th birthday is in a month and 2 days. I thought I would take a look back at my heart as I approached my 29th last year.*

My twenty-ninth birthday is approaching.  In another year, I will wrap up an entire decade of my life.  There is something eerily unsettling and final about looking back on a decade of your life.  I never wanted to be a teacher, but I find myself wanting a grade.  I know how I would grade myself (never give a perfectionist a red pen).  I might give myself an A for effort, and it would probably be down hill from there.  Yet, lately, I wonder how God sees this decade?  When I look back through my twenties the road is marked with change.  Wow. What a decade.  I went to college okay I really went to three colleges.  I married.  I have lived in six cities to date.  I have had eight anniversaries. I have three children that are all the same age.  I got a degree. Chose a career. Started a business. I had labels given to me in my teenage years ripped off and new ones stuck on.  I have gained friendships and lost friendships. My twenties have been wild.  Wildly hard.  Wildly joyful.  Wildly beautiful and scary.  This decade has been just like that hour glass; sometimes I viewed it as empty other times overflowing with joy and contentment.  Mingled in with those hard times have been some of the biggest spiritual revelations of my twenty-two years of knowing Jesus.  Even though painful times beg to brand our memories, overshadowing the joy and triumph in life, I would not trade them or wish them away.  It is in those times that I got to know Jesus more intimately. Before my twenties, my relationship with Christ lacked depth.  In my twenties, His character came alive and He became my best friend. He has been my...
Savior: He saved me from death.
Healer:  He healed me from sickness.
Deliverer:  He delivered me from darkness.
Counselor: He instructed me in the way I should go.
Friend:  He was there, when others did not understand.
This decade has made an impression.  The good news?  No matter how we view ourselves, failures and successes alike, God loves us.  God does not wait with a red pen to mark up the pages of our lives.  He only cares about one kind of red and one kind of footprint.  Do we know His Son?  Are the pages of our lives covered in the red blood of Jesus?  Are our pages redeemed?  Are the footprints merely our own or has our sand been littered by the footsteps of Jesus?  Nothing else really matters.  Weeks turn to months, months turn to years, and eventually we wrap up decades.  We chase dreams, chase people, chase goals, and through all that God is chasing us.  He wants to redeem the bad and turn it to good.  So, put your red pen down.  Open your eyes and look back at your life.  No matter what grades you have given yourself, God has but one grade: Have you accepted His Son, Jesus, as Lord of your life?

"If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved; for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation." Romans 10:9-10

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Storms

Our small group at church started up again tonight.  How I cherish that time with my friends and brothers and sisters in Christ.  It's just good to be able to be honest and open about life.  Sometimes we get good at pretending that life is "fine thank you."  A standard answer I have given in some of the darkest days of my life.  Haven't we all?  We get so accustomed to feel good answers.  Giving and receiving them I think.  Tonight one of the questions posed was: Was there ever a time in your life where you felt like God had just  left you?  Abandoned you in a storm.  I didn't answer out loud, yet in my mind I might have screamed  said quietly "yes."


My bent toward perfectionism a topic I did spend some time confessing tonight  can derail my faith in a matter of minutes. Hear me out. You cannot buy, beg, manipulate, or "merit" your way into heaven.  That is not biblical.  The Bible specifically says that "by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is a gift from God" in Ephesians 2:8. I know this.  Most of the time my heart and head are in line together on this issue, but having the knowledge of truth and believing truth are two completely different things. And for some reason, I still find myself trying to earn God's favor.  This is lose-lose.  First, because I wasn't perfect the first time God took me as His child.  Second, because trying to earn God's love actually has the complete opposite effect.  While in my mind, perfectionism should get me to God because I am trying so hard to please Him.  Yet in reality, perfectionism opens the door to a host of lies about God's character.  It keeps us from His best. Why?   We find ourselves standing on an untrue belief.  When we believe these lies, our spiritual compass goes haywire and we will find ourselves completely off course, blown and tossed about by every storm that attempts to blow us over.
My pregnancy was a vortex of uncertainty.  After over a year of unsuccessful infertility treatments, Robb and I finally got the news we had been praying for: we were pregnant.  Yet, at the the time, I was pregnant with quadruplets.   Fast forward a bit.  I was twenty-six weeks pregnant. The nurses were wheeling me furiously down the hall to Labor and Delivery ICU.  I could not breathe. My heart was failing. My babies were too small and just big enough to be considered "viable."  Even typing it today makes my pulse skip a little.  The entire pregnancy was difficult physically and emotionally, but it was in that moment that I questioned God's goodness out loud for the first time in my life.  It was that day that I got my first glimpse of the invisible fortress of merit-based faith I had built up in my heart and mind over the years.  It was the most vulnerable day of my life.  I felt bare and stripped of everything that church had ever taught me.
For me, I had done the right thing.  God had promised me children.  In the recesses of my quiet time, He had given me scripture to back up His promises.  I took Him at His word.  I got pregnant.  I got pregnant four times over.  And even though one of those sweet little ones went home early, God honored His promise to me.
Then, I followed the rules.  I ate as they instructed. I lay in bed for months like the doctors told me to.  I prayed.  I was thankful.  I prayed scripture over myself and my children. In my heart, I just knew that God was good.  He had always proved His faithfulness to me in such tangible and often loud ways.  I still had fear.  But, I had an inner peace that crowded out those worst-case-scenario thoughts that would try to sneak in from time to time.
Then, that dark day came.  Like a flood, my heart quaked and I saw for the first time my faulty belief system.  This stronghold of believing that I could earn my way to a good outcome.  I couldn't.  You can't either.  And although I knew this in my head, I had snatched up this merit based faith somewhere along the way.  I had traded God's truth for a lie.  So much so that when my circumstance turned desperate, I wasn't sure how I could trust God.  Thoughts like "Was this your plan the whole time, to let me go through all this to just polish me up for Heaven?"  I just knew in my heart that my kids would live and I would die.  I believed this lie. I felt the lie down to the very core of my body.  My oxygen was weak.  Doctors and nurses were giving me "protocol" speeches.  I knew I would go to Heaven.  But, I felt that God had pulled the wool over my eyes.  "Why did you bring me so far just to kill me?"

I was asking God hard questions.  I was speaking pretty horribly to my Lord, too. I was desperate. See, my storm had clouded my vision.  All I saw was the rain and the lightning.  I heard the thunder and the gloomy reports. But, my perspective was limited.  God doesn't break promises.  He never has and He never will.  It was a dark day for me.  And when I woke up to sunshine the next morning, I realized that God is good even when circumstances are not.

"He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death and broke their bands apart." Psalm 107:14

Has there ever been a time in your life when you felt like God abandoned you?