Saturday, August 31, 2013

Stinky Rotten Fruit

I don't know what happened to summer.  Even though the start to a new school year means an end to summer vacation, I am not nostalgically talking about sweet days gone by today.  I mean, yes, we got off to a good start, and we did make some awesome memories.  I am thankful for the memories.  We were all fired up about less routine, staying up a little later, sleeping in a little longer, and playing outside more.  We dove into beach days, pool days, and a few family trips, but somewhere along the way we took a wrong turn.  We landed ourselves in a huge, ugly rut.  It's embarrassing, but I am willing to own our family's dysfunction junction.  Fun in the sun turned into mad in the pad at our house, if you know what I am saying.  Sweet summertime was more like mean time.  I have been a full-time referee and mediator, and I am exhausted from working overtime.  Instead of soaking up some rays, I am burned out.  Time off from school for the kids has me feeling like I've been run over by a mack truck.  I am sitting here wondering if my kids spent more time in time-out this summer than they actually managed to play outside.  Does anyone out there in blog land know what I am talking about or are we the only ones whose lives frantically turned into a crazy nut farm?  What happened here people?  Somehow the summer wasn't all that it could be.  Why?

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Mom's Story: What a Difference A Year Makes

In celebrating and giving thanks for today, I think it's important to remember where we've been.  Today marks the one year anniversary of Mom's journey with breast cancer.  Below is the first journal entry I posted on Mom's CaringBridge site, and it's worth reading.  I plan on posting more in days to come.  My mom is a miracle.  God has been there holding our hands and blessing us beyond measure every single step of the way.  It is my hope and prayer that my mom's story can save lives.  It's a reminder for us all to take care of the beautiful and purposeful bodies God gave us!  And even more importantly, Mom's story is a reflection of God's amazing power and love when we make room for Him in our lives.  God is bigger than any fear or any problem we face, just ask Him for help!

This picture was taken at Mom's birthday celebration July 2013

Do As I Say; Not As I Do

Written August 21, 2012 11:19am by Lindsay
This past Tuesday, Meredith and I drove to Mom's with feelings of dread and worry like we have never experienced before. To make a long story short, we realized that Mom had been living in pain for many months. And over the past few weeks, it was getting so bad that all she could do was lay in bed. She had not been to work in weeks. She kept it from us, from friends, from co-workers, and from clients because she was afraid of what the pain meant.

Meredith and I got to Mom and immediately knew her pain was serious, much more than a pulled muscle. Because of Mom's severe fear of doctors and medicine, we literally drug her to an urgent care. There, an x-ray showed fractures to vertebrae in her spine. No one could believe Mom could even walk. The doctors immediately sent us to the ER.

Once we got to the hospital, things happened quickly. Something as simple as asking mom to change into a hospital gown forced her to face the nightmare she had worked so hard to avoid. She asked Mere and me to leave so she could speak to the doctor alone. We did what she asked even though our bodies were trembling with the fear of the unknown.

After what seemed like forever, we walked back into the room. And before we could sit down, she said, " I have to tell you girls something. I have breast cancer. I've had it for three years." Thoughts of denial came flying out of our mouths because this was the first time we had heard any of this, and surely Mom was just scared and paranoid. No one knows for sure if a lump is breast cancer, especially when he/she hasn't been to a doctor in 20 years.

But unfortunately, Mom knew exactly what she was talking about. She found a pea sized lump in her breast three years ago when she was putting on lotion. She prayed for it to go away and avoided looking at it. Over time, it grew. In March, around the time of Mere's wedding, her lump became an open wound on her chest. Still, she was so ashamed and afraid she wouldn't look at it. It was the debilitating back pain and our concern that finally got her to the doctor to that awful moment.

Our hearts were broken at that moment. Our mom, the amazingly beautiful, powerful woman that raised us as a single parent, had been suffering for so long and we had no idea.

Now after 6 excruciating days in the hospital, we know Mom has stage 4 metastatic breast cancer. Amazingly, mom is stronger today as doctors discharge her than any other time in her life. That is because mom is reclaiming Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior, her saving grace, her rock, her redeemer, her everything. Mom has always had faith in God, but now it is at the center of her life, carrying her and blessing her with joy and peace during this difficult time in her life.

We can't go back in time, but Mom can use her life from this point forward to be an example of God's amazing love. Mom hopes that by telling her story, she might save someone from the pain she is going through and inspire others to seek God first in all things.

We can feel the power of your prayers lifting us up, wrapping us in the peace only God can provide and filling us with never-ending joy.

Stay tuned to read more about the ways God is working in our lives.

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."
Philippians 4:13

Love and blessings,

We are so blessed to have mom here with us today.  Every day we are here is a gift from God, and we are celebrating.  Happy one year anniversary, Mom!  We love you so much!

A prayer for today-
Dear Lord and Savior,
Thank you so much for loving me just as I am and forgiving all my mistakes, big and little.  Thank you for making me in your image for your perfect purpose and glory.  Give me the courage to come to you with my biggest weaknesses and mistakes.  Heal me, please Father, in the ways you know best.  I am grateful for the precious time you give me here on this Earth.  I pray that You will help me use it wisely to bless others. 
In the name of Jesus Christ I pray,

May God fill your hearts with His unconditional love,

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Another Idea, More Writing on the Wall

A few months ago, I shared a monthly Bible verse idea that we found helpful in our house. 

You can read more details from my original post, "The Writing's On the Wall."

Thanks to a great idea I saw on Pinterest not too long ago, our monthly scripture board has grown to be a place to put all of our family prayer concerns and celebrations.  It is a great way for us to remember what it is we need to be talking to God about on a daily basis.  That's especially good for me because my memory went out the door when I had children!

A prayer for today-

Dear Lord and Savior,
Thank you for your word and the ways you speak to me when I read Your Holy scripture.  Guide me, teach me, enlighten me, and fill me with your Holy Spirit.  Transform my life to be a better reflection of your love.  Show me the path you have designed just for me. 
In the name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit I pray,

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Hang on to Your Mustard Seeds

So remember when we started "Pockets of Hope" for the OK Strong Disaster Relief Fund?  In short, my goal was to use this blog to help raise $1000 for the May tornado victims in Oklahoma.  On a broader note, I was hoping and praying that, somehow, this blog would inspire us and push us all, maybe even beyond our normal comfort zones, to give generously in faith. It was about seeing a need and being an active part of doing something about it.

Like every well-intentioned big idea I set out to put in action, "Pockets of Hope" was a learning experience, a journey with some bumps in the road, and more of a process than I anticipated.  I guess I should have known it would be predictably unpredictable.  Counting all that change and getting it to the United Way of Central Oklahoma's OK Strong Disaster Relief Fund was not as simple as it sounded.  I guess I was expecting the change fairy to come and take all our money and turn it into usable dollars.  Did you know banks actually require you to roll ALL your change before they will take it?  And would you believe those really convenient change machines you see in banks and grocery stores wanted a commission on our money?!  Change machines are wonderful and free to use if your charitable organization is an active listed partner.  Unfortunately, our specific and recent cause, the OK Strong Disaster Relief Fund, has not yet made the list.  Needless to say, my kids got some valuable and unexpected practice counting and sorting money. 

In the end, we did not make our $1000 goal.  Thankfully, with help from several of you, we did managed to give $315 to the OK Strong Disaster Relief Fund.  That is a lot of change, folks, and a lot of pennies full of purpose!  I cannot thank you enough for helping me bless others.

So, how did we do?  How do we look at this experience?  Isn't that what most of us do in our heads, talk about it?

"Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

My initial thought on the outcome of our "Pockets of Hope" effort was "FAILURE."  As always, I am just being completely honest.  That's where my mind went first.  I wanted to reach our $1000 goal to help tornado victims in Oklahoma.  Even more than helping the tornado victims in Oklahoma, I really wanted to inspire people to share in a strong, everyday, real, faith.  We didn't just miss our monetary goal, we weren't even half way there.  The numbers did not work in our favor.  Like I said, "FAILURE" quickly came to mind, and it stayed there for a while.  I kept thinking, "Here I am writing my heart out, trying to show people how real God is and how His words come to life through prayer and acting in faith, but I FAILED on this one.  Now, what do I write?"  I am okay with falling short of the $1000 goal, but I certainly don't want people to doubt God's power, goodness, and presence just because things didn't turn out in my own expected and hopeful fashion.  That, in all honesty, is why it's taken me so long to write another post.  I have struggled with what to say next. 
Immediately following thoughts of failure, came the all too familiar cliché.  We didn't meet the $1000 goal because "it just wasn't meant to be.  My hopes and prayers for this "Pockets of Hope" project just weren't God's will, so the numbers just didn't happen."  While that may be true in part, it's a cop-out, and I think it's an easy crutch to lean on when things we pray about don't go our way.  I could sweep this whole thing under the rug, pretend like no one is looking, and move on, but I know we would miss God's point for all us right now.  See, this whole scenario is a reflection of how faith really works, and I think faith is as much about the journey as it is about the outcome.
Let's look at this situation from another perspective.  Let's just suppose for a second that more people than I could count were inspired to give change and donations to OK Strong Disaster Relief Fund because of reading this blog.  My writing made a difference and people, even strangers, emailed me their donation amounts, and we blew our $1000 goal out of the water.  We counted money for weeks, and I got to tell you the good and amazing news.  We used our faith to move mountains for the tornado victims in Oklahoma!  Nothing is impossible and our acts of faith proved it just like I prayed it would.
That all sounds good, and it would make my words look really good, but I wouldn't have very much to talk about now except to say a quick, "See, I told you so."  That is NOT reality in this situation or in everyday life and, more importantly, that is NOT faith.  God is a whole lot of awesomeness, but He is not a genie in a bottle whose job is to grant our wishes and follow our commands.  Because despite our best ideas, that wouldn't be very awesome at all.  To think that God should do things to match my definition of success trivializes and minimizes His power as our loving Savior, His sovereignty, His divine ability, and His perfect know-how.  It's easy to live in faith when God is doing what we think He should, when His will is in line with what we think we need and want for ourselves and others.  And sometimes, we get to celebrate that sweet reality.  That's when we can't imagine having faith only as small as a mustard seedBut many times, don't you know, we find ourselves in places and situations we wouldn't necessarily choose for ourselves.  Things don't go as expected.  We lose and are lost.  We disappoint and are disappointed.  We fall short.  We mess up.  We hurt.  We struggle.  We are afraid. I think that's where God makes His biggest points in our lives.

Our plans, our hopes and dreams, our prayers can seem impossible and beyond reach from where we are in life at the current moment.  All those negative feelings just love to creep in, panic, doubt, shame, anger, and failure, just to name a few.  That's when the mustard seed of faith Jesus was talking about in Galatians is so important.  We just have to hold on to it, so we don't lose it.  Everyday faith means we have to trust that God is there with us and at work even when our mountains aren't moving.  God doesn't break promises.  God tests us, shapes us, strengthens our character, teaches us, and deepens our faith, loving us unconditionally- all for His glory!  It's okay when things don't go our way because that just means God has a better idea at the moment.  God made the mountains.  He is the Holy One who can see beyond them, and He is the Holy One who can move them.  So, let's keep praying friends, and let's keep our hearts open to ways God can use us to serve others humbly in love for our Lord and Savior.    

13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh[a]; rather, serve one another humbly in love.
A prayer for today-
Dear Heavenly Father,
I thank you for all the ways you bless my life.  Thank you for all the work you are doing through this blog and "Pockets of Hope".  I know that you are with me always as my loving, saving Father.  You are my Lord and Savior, my ultimate teacher, and my guiding light.  Forgive me for letting my selfish and impatient ways get in the way of Your will for me moment to moment.  Help me, Lord, to keep growing in faith in all that I do.
In the name of Jesus I pray,
Praying God will be with you and bless you today and always,