Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Open the eyes of my heart, Lord

"I have heard of you by hearing of the ear, But now my eye sees You." Job 42:5

When I was 7 years old I got my first pair of glasses. I remember the day we picked them up at Hunley Optical on North Augusta St. I kept putting them on and taking them off to compare the miraculous difference in everything that was once a blur and now was crystal clear. My eyes have progressively gotten worse and now I am about as near sighted as a person can be without being declared legally blind. Over the past year and a half or so I have not seen well at all. I ran out of my disposable contacts while in the hospital and could not afford to replace them so I went to wearing a four year old pair of glasses most of the time. Finally, yesterday, I went to the eye doctor and $350 later I have new sight again. It's just as miraculous as that first day. I could see blades of grass and read the signs as I drove, even the small print. Everything was crisp and focused again. Most of all I wasn't straining and my eyes felt comfortable. I had forgotten what a simple blessing it is to really see.

As I thanked God for sight I thought of the above verse from Job which has been my life verse through our recent trials. I know there were and still are many unrevealed "reasons" for what I was enduring, but I can already understand one of the primary goals of my suffering was what St. Augustine meant when he wrote, "The whole point of this life is the healing of the heart's eye through which God is seen." Everything in our lives, big or small, joy or pain, is all to help us see our God more clearly.

God is also teaching me I do not necessarily need a mountaintop experience or a retreat to see Him face to face. He has shown Himself clearly everywhere I look in this great world and my daily life, but most of all He meets me in His Word. As I have begun to study the book of Hebrews with a group from church I have been blown away at how I have heard the words over and over but never once really saw the clear picture of my Savior depicted there. Meeting my God is as simple as opening His gift of Scripture and praying for the Spirit to show me the light.

Thank You for soul glasses that help me know You better. Help me to seek You more and see You clearer each day!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

When God Ran

One of my favorite passages in all the Bible is the parable of the prodigal son in Luke. "There was a man who had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, 'Father give me the share of his property that will belong to me.' So he divided the property between them. A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. When he had spend everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself he said, 'How many of my father's hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son, treat me like one of your hired hands."' So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still a far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. Then the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.' But the father said to his slaves, 'Quickly, bring out a robe--the best one--and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' And they began to celebrate.

"Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. He called on of the slaves and asked what was going on. He replied, 'Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf because he has got him back safe and sound.' Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. But he answered his father, 'Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed you command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!' Then the father said to him, 'Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.'"

I often refer to this passage as my testimony. I left my godly home and loving family and spent years in deep sin and sadness. The parallels in the passage and my choices are very similar. The prodigal son ended up working with pigs which in the Jewish religion was about as low as you could go. I ended up working for a known cocaine dealer, using drugs and doing all kinds of immoral things to survive. In my most desperate moments I would pray for help to find my way home, but it seemed impossible. In His perfect time God worked to move me from the depths and He ran to me. I am still amazed. I have never once questioned why God allowed me to stray so far for so long. I know for sure I never understood the meaning of God's mercy and forgiveness until He met me on that road stinking of sin and starving, and He put His finest robe on me and prepared a feast for me at the table of grace.

The father in this story is saddened by his son who has followed the letter of the law but who's heart rejects his father's decision to welcome his brother with open arms. Our Father's love, just like the father in this story, chooses the sinner not the righteous to be saved and celebrated. One of my greatest stumbling blocks to returning home and to the church was a deep fear of telling my story. Growing up in a church full of what seemed like "good" people, I had never really seen God's children with open arms for truly "bad" people--people who maybe smell, have lots of tattoos and skirts too short. People who were maybe in the bar the night before or even on the street corner. I love that Jesus was never afraid to be with those kinds of people, for they are the ones He came to seek and save.

As I read this again tonight I began to pray that I would not be the other brother in the prodigal story of someone else trying to find their way home. I prayed that God would give me opportunities to tell of when He ran to me, especially to sinners, people who really need to be rescued and redeemed. Thank You for being the Father who gave Your own Son's life to adopt me. Thank You for returning those "wasted" years of my life in lessons learned about amazing love and unending forgiveness and grace.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Delicious Autumn

Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.

--George Eliot

Thank You for perfect September days like today and old friends like the hardy mum who come to visit as the season changes. Great is Your faithfulness!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Small Enough

Small Enough (With Fernando Ortega) - Nichole Nordeman

I pick up Delaney from the bus everyday at a church about 10 minutes from our house. I make sure I leave plenty early in case there is traffic and to allow for the bus if it arrives a few minutes early. In the past few weeks I have come to treasure this 10 minutes or so sitting in the car waiting. Sometimes I take my Bible or a book to read but usually I park, roll down my window and breathe. Today I closed my eyes and prayed as tears fell down my cheeks. I needed God to touch me. I have been in so much physical pain. I have been so tired. I have been striving and working so hard. As I opened my eyes, a beautiful Monarch butterfly flew in front of my windshield and stopped to flutter for a moment.

Thank You, O great God, for being small enough to show Yourself to me today in this gorgeous creature that has always symbolized to me Your transforming power in my heart and life.

(If you have never heard this song turn up your volume and prepare your heart to pray these powerful lyrics. It's one of my favorites.)

Monday, September 15, 2008

What is the chief end of man?

As I began a new Bible study at church last night the leader took us through hermeneutics as a foundation of our study. She reminded us of the catechism question I had learned in childhood, "What is the chief end of man? Man's chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever." Or translated, why am I here? What is this life all about? I spent last week in the doldrums. I wasn't feeling well physically and could not discipline myself to read or study the Bible. As a result I felt further and further from God when I tried to pray. On Saturday as I began all the chores I usually undertake on that day I realized something. I didn't FEEL like doing laundry or dishes or cleaning the bathroom, but I would never really consider not doing those things because I KNOW they are necessary. Here I was neglecting the one place God promises to speak to me, in His Word, because I didn't FEEL like doing the work necessary to meet Him there.

This morning I read the following and it reiterated what God began showing me the past few days. I am here to glorify God and become more like Him. I need to make this the focus of my priorities and discipline before anything else.

Thank You for more lessons in WHAT REALLY MATTERS. Help me to seek You first and KNOW everything else I need will be added to me.

The purpose of God for our life on earth
(J. R. Miller, "Garden of the Heart" 1906)

We should get it settled in our minds, that the purpose of God for our life on earth, is to have us grow into Christ's image. We are not in this world merely to accomplish a certain amount of work--but to be fashioned into strength and beauty of character. If we would always remember this, we would not be perplexed so often by the mysteries of our lives.

If joy is ours--it is to make us better and a greater blessing to others.

If sorrow is ours--it is to purify us and bring out some line of Christ's image in us more clearly.

If our hopes are disappointed--it is because God has some better things for us, than that which we so earnestly desired.

If we are called to endure pain--it is because the best in us can be called out only by pain.

If bereavement comes and we are left without the strong human arm we have leaned upon heretofore--it is because there are elements of strength in our life, which never could be developed unless the human supports were taken away.

If our burdens are heavy--it is because we grow best under burdens.

If we are wronged by others--it is to teach us better, the great lessons of patience and sweet temper.

If our circumstances are uncongenial and our condition hard--it is that we may be disciplined into self-control, and may learn to be content in whatever state we are in.

The Master is always teaching us new lessons, making us into the beauty of the pattern He has set for us, and preparing us for greater usefulness and better service.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" - Mary Oliver

We had cupcakes for breakfast today, the last indulgence from a birthday celebration that seemed to last a month. Here's my sweet Delaney Jayne in a montage of photos from the last year of her life and a song we love to dance to.

Thank You for another year of wild and precious life with this girl made from my flesh and my heart.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Will these feet wear . . .

Feeling emotional about Delaney's birthday tomorrow I pulled out her baby scrapbook after I tucked the girls in, and this page (click on the photo to see it up close) made me cry buckets. Lately Delaney is full of conversation about her future and tells me she wants to be a "dolphin doctor" when she grows up. If she gets fired from that she wants to be a clothes designer, and if she gets fired from that, a vet. (I'm not sure why all the terminations.) Oh yes, and she wants to live in New York City. I began to tell her she couldn't be a dolphin doctor in New York but would have to live at the beach. She set me straight by reminding me she could work at an aquarium in the city. I love that nothing is impossible in her world. The following is from her baby scrapbook as well, and it too struck a chord with me tonight.

dream big

i hope you'll dream a thousand and one dreams for your life . . . but, remember, dreams don't come to those who sit and wait for them - you have to go after them. i would be foolish to wish your every dream to come true; that would be setting you up for disappointment. in the past, i've dreamed some dreams that i now thank God didn't come true. now i trust my heavenly father to know which of my dreams are best for me . . . and that's exactly what i wish for you. dream big, but don't dream for just a fairytale . . . real life can be so much more exciting than a fairytale; it just depends on your perspective. most importantly, just dream . . . if you don't, you'll never know how it feels to have a dream come true.

I pray my girl will learn to dream big and with God's grace and a grateful heart her story will write itself like a fairytale. ("Happily ever after" is a sure thing when God is the author of our lives!) Sitting here in Ohio with 11 list rentals to do tonight, a tedious and very uncreative job, wearing frumpy jammies with my hair too long and my feet aching for a pedicure, I let my mind wander for a minute to where I could be had I chased other dreams. My heart stops. I wouldn't trade this place in my life--this day with these precious girls for ANYTHING. I remember my mom telling my sisters and I, three of us 18 months apart, that on some of her hardest days as a mom she was so thankful she could look out her kitchen window and know the world was larger than where she was right then and she was more than who she was for those fleeting years. Now she is still a mom and a grandma but following her dreams as a school principal and working on her PHD. I never forgot her words, and it is the same knowing that brings me peace on hard days when my heart grows restless for a "real" city and the boardroom and the spa. I want Delaney and Danica to see this amazing world and then put it in perfect perspective with the kind of joy I know being a wife and mother in a little rental house in northeast Ohio. I want them to know life is about seasons and they don't have to choose which shoes to wear because they can wear them all!


“A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles." Christopher Reeves

I woke this morning at 5 am and felt next to me for my husband. He was still not home. He went to work yesterday at 8:30 am and had now worked over 20 hours straight. I could not go back to sleep so I began my morning prayers. I prayed for this man who cheerfully works so hard to provide for his family even though it seems like it's never quite enough. I prayed for my sister Rochelle and her family. She has spent the last two weeks, day in and day out (nights too), caring for her very sick father-in-law and mother-in-law with Alzheimers. Her exhaustion is palpable yet she keeps putting one foot in front of another. I prayed for my friend, Angie, through the first year of her breast cancer treatment and now doing the hard work of trying to live and LIVE. I prayed for all the families of September 11, 2001. Their wounds are only 7 years young, and they must painfully remember not just on an anniversary but every day what they have lost and what they must move forward without.

As I drove Delaney to school this morning I kept thinking about heroes. These people who sacrifice for others, fight daily battles and survive and thrive are just as heroic as the ones who give their lives. There are no ceremonies for them and very little affirmation they are doing something brave, but they are heroes just the same.

Thank you for the courage of these everyday people. Please give them strength and grace for each moment today.

Friday, September 5, 2008


"Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." John 14:27

Yesterday morning I had a doctors appointment at 9:30 am, and I had to drop Delaney at school by 8:00 am. I ran a few errands, and then I parked in front of the doctor's office. I sat in the quiet car. I was still, but I felt like all my synapses were firing. I had been nights without any real sleep. I had shooting pains through my trap muscles and down my arms. My hips and knees ached. I felt like I had forgotten to breathe for a very long time.

When I find myself in a fibro flare like this I seem to keep going on autopilot. I keep working, keep cleaning, making dinner and giving the kids their baths. I push and push through the pain, but I feel myself slipping further and further away from PEACE. I know if I stop for even a minute I won't get up. I will curl up in a fetal position and let myself go to the place that offers no real comfort but Satan tells me is understandable and even deserved. I want to complain and despair.

So I stopped, and I exhaled. My body relaxed, and I prayed. "God, give me Your peace." As my prayer made it's way through the years of pain since my initial diagnosis and the periods of reprieve, for which I am so grateful, I realized a pattern. Not one explained by foods I was eating or amounts of exercise or weather patterns, although those certainly play a part, but a map showing me my flares have often been times when I have tried to make up my own answers for the questions plaguing my heart.

In the past month I have felt unrest with our financial situation. Suddenly, what I prayed for continuously and finally came, the provision of ENOUGH, has left me wanting more. I feel anxious about the collection calls. I want to pay everything off and really feel like I am "in control" again. I know to do this I would have to put my dear daughter, who I fought so hard to bring into this world and who I believe still needs me full time, in day care. I have prayed some about my inner struggles but not really, because I already know God's will. He wants me to be truly still. He wants me to revel in His daily manna and the amazing privilege of being here moment by moment with this child.

My fibro is His answer to me. Most people who suffer from severe fibromyalgia are type A stress monsters. We need to keep going and doing and being and our minds cannot quit at night so we don't sleep and our bodies refuse to rest and restore and so we break down. Bottom line, I need to take the peace freely given from my loving Father as my primary treatment. Real rest cannot be found in my Ambien or the past due medical bills being paid or any other temporary worldly rest but only in complete surrender to the peace that passes all understanding. This physical affliction is a blessing, a gift from a God who lovingly reminds me He is the Prince of Peace.

Monday, September 1, 2008


The holiest of all holidays are those
Kept by ourselves in silence and apart,
The secret anniversaries of the heart . . .
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

A year ago today I was at Shady Grove Adventist hospital. I was alone. My daughter was 400 miles away in Ohio. My husband had to sleep and work. I remember it like it was yesterday. It was one of the most painful days I had. I had no visitors. My faithful few called me to say "hello." The minutes of the day ticked away one by one. I cried and I prayed and I survived.

It wasn't different than any other day except that I felt like every one else was having picnics and swimming for the last time and gathering with family and friends, and I was forgotten. These memories of my hospitalization still haunt me but after a year they mostly make me celebrate secret anniversaries that prompt a more grateful heart.

Thank You for reminding me today of just how far You can bring me in a year. Thank You for Your healing and Your blessing of my dear Danica. Please be with those who are alone today and help them feel Your comfort.