Category Archives: Learn to Discern

Why Neighborhood Relationships Are Sacred


Who Are the People in Your Neighborhood?” The song plays as a soundtrack in the back of my mind as I scurry around town checking off items on my list: pay the water bill, deposit money at the bank, pick up a few items at the grocery store, and indulge in an iced coffee (well, that wasn’t actually on the list.) Familiar characters from Sesame Street serenade me with their chorus.

I find it amusing and yet profound that those simple lessons from childhood continue to speak into my life today. The voices challenge me to think about the answer to the question. In a culture of fast paced, rapidly impersonal exchanges with humanity, recognizing the faces in my community becomes challenging.
Who are the people in my neighborhood? Some are close friends; people with whom I have shared life for up to two decades. We become extended family; sharing the old fashioned act of borrowing a cup of sugar, watching each others’ children, providing meals in times of adversity, driving kids to school and generally doing life together.

The People Who make Up Our Rhythms

Other people in my sphere are not people with whom I interact daily but are familiar faces in the routines of my life. I think of the cashier at the grocery store with whom I exchange pleasantries and small talk a few times a week as she scans my forgotten items for dinner. We don’t know much about each other but have gained glimpses into each other’s world through finding common humanity as we share a laugh or frustration. The woman who waits on my family as we grab snacks at a fast food restaurant on our way to church also comes to mind. We know her now on a first name basis and when we arrive, she already knows what will be ordered. Though not all these relationships have the same depth, they have one thing in common: “connectedness.” 

Losing our connection opportunities

One morning, as I woke up to the radio station set to my alarm, a woman’s voice convicted me that I also woke up to a new reality. As she spoke, I listened to her happily testify to an app she uses to order food and beverage. No phone call. No waiting in line. Simply show up at the appointed time and pick up the order.
What is happening to our connection to one another? I confess, as someone who is middle aged, it’s tempting to fall into the “when I was growing up…” train of thought. Every generation waxes nostalgically about their past while struggling to embrace changes in culture. However, this particular movement away from human connection really tugs at my heart.

The digital age appears to create an abundant number of ways in which we can increase our connections to one another. Social media allows us to initiate relationships with people across the globe. These relationships can offer opportunities to engage with diverse voices. However, it becomes tempting to quickly gravitate toward others according “categories.” therefore decreasing exposure to others different from ourselves.

The sacred significance of face to face encounters

I also wonder how many encounters in the “flesh” are being missed by engagement primarily online. If God’s character is revealed through the Imago dei found in all of us, what are the implications if we create barriers to encountering the breadth of human creation? C.S. Lewis writes in The Weight of Glory There are no ordinary people. You have never met a mere mortal.”

A few years ago, my 18 year old son was searching for a local job. I was surprised at the impersonal process he encountered. Most applications he submitted were online and involved personality tests, questions with limited options for clarification, and background history. Only a few of the many applications submitted resulted in an interview. Most of them yielded no feedback at all; even with follow up phone calls. After a year, he finally landed a position. Ironically, it was one with a pop up store which interviewed on the spot after he inquired about a position in person.

I am reminded that not so long ago, looking for a first job involved filling out a paper application and then walking into a neighborhood shop inquiring of vacancies. In person. No personality test. No exhaustive background check. Risky? Probably. But a certain amount of risk is always involved in entering a relationship. What do we learn about each other as the relationship builds and more of our stories are disclosed?

Changing our social habits

Changing our habits does not come easy. Convenience will likely be sacrificed in order to engage in intentional connections. I am mindful of my own struggles yesterday. As I waited in the neighborhood pharmacy drive through, the woman in the other lane engaged in what felt like a lengthy conversation with the employee. The woman’s dog had accompanied her and became the theme of a mutual adoration for pets. At first, I felt frustration bubble below the surface of my skin. My patience was running low as I typically expect a quick turn around in a drive through. However, my own passionate thoughts about the void of human interaction broke through my impatience. I was waiting for a sacred purpose.

Little Steps

Isn’t this where it starts? I asked myself. Simple observations, Impromptu connections. Transformation on a small scale. Yes, I sit longer while they talk. When these connections multiply within my neighborhood, we all benefit. Trust. Education. Understanding, People are more than their names or titles. Imago Dei. A ripple of connections not only strengthens the fabric of a local community but also has implications globally..

I am inspired by Martin Luther King Jr’s words, “I admire the good Samaritan, but I don’t want to be one. I don’t want to spend my life picking up people by the side of the road after they have been beaten up and robbed. I want to change the Jericho road, so that everybody has an opportunity for a job, education, security, health.” By reframing how we view our interactions, we can see them as opportunities for transformation: for others and ourselves.

I Don’t Like How This Feels: Reflecting on Embracing Change

Today I remember my son’s words from long ago.
“I don’t like how this feels.”
Ironically, his comment came in the midst of moments that appeared reason for celebration. My husband arrived home early from work. He even offered to prepare dinner while the kids and I relaxed in the living room. What could make my son feel uncomfortable with that scenario?

Something changed.

My son found comfort in routine but it changed. Despite the thrill of having his dad home early, his internal comfort meter had been interrupted. Over the years, he has learned to process and sit with the friction of fear and hope churning inside.
 

Now it’s my turn

Today my youngest started his sophomore year of high school. In a few weeks, my oldest son transfers  to a college out of state. My daughter begins culinary school after six years of homeschooling at our dining room table. Last spring, I felt almost euphoric at the possibilities that lie ahead in a new season of life.
 
Today, I don’t like how this feels.
 
To everyone else, this day appears to be a defining moment in my life. That’s probably true. But it feels uncomfortable. Daunting. My days normally consisted of “mom” routines. Opportunities to pursue my passions were limited. So I saw them from far away and lived with the acknowledgement that one day there would be more time to explore. That time is now. However, today I sit with both fear and hope. Maybe I can learn a thing or two from my son about overcoming discomfort.
 

Learning to embrace change

To those of us who find our current transition uncomfortable, I offer this. Let’s ask God to help us embrace this new season. God gives us new names knowing that there are new places for our feet to tread, new friends to meet, and new interests that will be revealed.
God knows we don’t like how this feels. But thankfully, we are loved enough to be stretched in spite of it.
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Who is He? Encountering Jesus Through the Eyes of the Woman in Luke 8


The moments of that day still linger in my mind. Some memories find themselves woven into your senses. Sounds, words, and smells quickly remind me of the events that transpired.
At times, I catch myself pushing back tinges of fear as I watch my daughter rest. Is she only sleeping?

How did deep despair and overflowing hope meet in one day? I can never forget watching my daughter’s life slip away before my eyes. And realizing I was helpless to stop it. I had comforted friends in their grief after losing a child. My heart broke with theirs. They bore a pain that appeared inconsolable. At least by anything on this earth. I, too questioned how one walks forward when one feels such deep despair. But the initial sting to my soul as I shared in their pain eventually diminished.

Until the day I watched my daughter’s life gradually flow out of her body. Her breathing labored; the color of her skin reflecting life flowing through her seemed to fade lighter. Watching your child suffer draws out a fierce desire for control that previously lied dormant.

How can a mother not save her own child?

News about her illness spread. My friends sat with me as I had with others. But it was different being on the other side. We prayed for God to grant healing. People tried to sustain my body with food. But I couldn’t eat. Worry had consumed my appetite. My concern wasn’t for me. It was for her. I had never tasted desperation like this.

Someone save her!

In the midst of keeping watch over my daughter, the commotion outside caught my attention. As scheduled, Jesus had arrived in our town as was expected. But, in the midst of my crisis, I had forgotten about it. I wasn’t quite sure what I believed about his identity. However, stories of his healing touch were many. The timing was ironic. Perhaps he could do something. It appeared hope was out of our hands.

Jesus, save her!

Jairus quickly ran to find him. I was certain that Jairus’ position would assure a prompt response from Jesus. But it didn’t. In fact, he didn’t come right away. And neither did Jairus. Although my friends surrounded me, I felt abandoned. By my husband. By Jesus.

What was more important than healing a child?

My child took her last breath. While we waited. The devastation erupted out of my soul. My body felt numb. I remember pinching myself to make sure this wasn’t a bad dream. The tears began welling; eventually flooding into a forceful stream down my face. A loud high pitched wail made its way up through my body and out my mouth.

Never had I felt such despair.

As the world appeared to spin around me, someone ran out to tell Jairus. After what seemed to be a long time, he entered. My mind struggled with what to do. Part of me wanted to collapse in his arms. Yet, I felt betrayed. I watched my child die without him. But I paused when I realized he not arrived alone. A few others accompanied him; including Jesus.

Did he not hear that our daughter had died?

I won’t lie. Anger began building in my heart as I spotted him. I felt betrayed. Why was our daughter not worthy of healing? What reason did he have for showing up after her death?
But then Jesus spoke. With an authority and a calmness I had not witnessed in anyone else.

“Stop Wailing,” he commanded. I did not understand. We were grieving. Yet, his voice beckoned obedience.

He continued. “She is not dead. She is asleep.” His words made no sense. How were we supposed to believe that she was only sleeping?

Nothing could have prepared me for what happened next. He walked over to her and took her hand. The same limp one I had held. And he commanded her to get up. I stared in amazement at what I witnessed. Her eyes opened, and she stood up! He not only healed her, he defeated death!

Who is he?

I grabbed her hand. The one that had felt clammy and lacked any presence of life earlier. This time her fingers, warm with the blood pulsing through them, bent around mine. I watched her breathe; her chest rising up and down. My girl was alive! How do you grasp that reality?

I couldn’t save my own child. Jesus did. I think all of us felt a taste of that restoration. I couldn’t wait to tell others what I experienced. However, Jesus quickly ordered us not to share. It didn’t make sense.

But earlier he didn’t make sense either. Yet he spoke and acted with an authority that commanded trust. It was unlike anything I have seen on this earth. Jesus saved. But not in the way I expected—there is more to this mysterious man than my senses could explain. I saw, I heard, and I long to understand this miracle I just witnessed.
This post is inspired by the account found in Luke 8:40-56.

You are Not Alone: Hope for Parenting in Those Unexpected Moments

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Upon giving birth to my first child, I was determined to be “that mom”-the one whose children would never fall prey to the sneaky dangers surrounding them. The phrase “My kids would never do THAT” found a place in my mind.

What is “THAT” exactly?

Electrical outlets? Covered (nevermind the fact that I once found a way to stick my finger in one as a toddler). Cords to the blinds? Well, we don’t have any. Toxic substances? Locked away in the childproof cabinets that I can’t even open sometimes.  As a new parent, I scoured the lists for precautions to make sure my child would be safe.  Of course there were some things that I didn’t worry about because in my mind, “What kid would really do that?”

Like plastic grocery bags?  The ones that my child would never put over his head? Yet, in his state of natural human curiosity did it anyway?

Like toilet screw covers? Those small white caps that just happen to fit the size of a toddler’s mouth perfectly? In fact my daughter managed to fit one in her mouth (don’t go there) while I was in the bathroom getting ready to preach at church. As she looked up at me gagging, my instincts sprang into action. Fortunately, I noticed and quickly resolved the situation. And then it was on to leading worship an hour later.

Ahhh, the naivety of parenting. Actually, there is good reason for that.

We’ve Never Done it Before

A toaster comes with a manual. In fact, even a Happy Meal toy comes with one.  But parenting? Nope.

Sure there are books out there to help.  Social Media groups beckoning you to join their posse. Conversations with people who have “been there.”  But, ultimately, there is nothing to prepare you for the moment by moment process for raising a human-one whose DNA is unique from any other. Add in family history, genetics, personality traits, lifestyle….and it is a learning experiment.  We hope and pray for the best.

In a sense we all become “That Mom.”  Most of us truly want what’s best for our kids. We become schooled in how to keep them safe; trying to keep a balance between not being concerned enough and being accused of being a helicopter parent (I’m afraid of heights so that probably wouldn’t describe me).

Unexpected Problems

Just when you think you have prevented catastrophes, some other strange quirk pops up and catches you off guard.

Prolapsed rectum? Yep. Experienced that.

Body suddenly covered in hives? That too.

How about Teen onset Epilepsy? Mental illness? Cholesteatomas (I had to look that up too) in the ears leading to chronic ear infections and destroyed ear bones? Triple yes.

It’s Not All About Us

What we learn as we parent is that we can set our eyes on being the most competent parents ever, yet we are not in total control. That demands perfect people or robots.

The beauty is that God has trusted us with a most humbling responsibility. We get to participate in it while resting in the assurance that no matter what happens these are God’s children (Psalm 139:13-14, Jeremiah 1:5).

Upon leaving the hospital with my firstborn, I remember thinking, “I really get to take him home?”

There is nothing that can fully prepare you for this journey.  And that’s O.K. Because this parenting thing isn’t all about us.  We are partners with their Creator; the One who also created us and knows us intimately.

We will make mistakes. Unexpected circumstances are a given. You are not alone.  In the words of a once popular song from a teen Disney Musical, “We’re all in this together.”

What Comes After the Storm of Mental Illness Calms


Now, what?”
I asked myself this a few months ago. After years, consisting of very long days, of family struggles with mental and medical conditions, the season began to change. At first, I dared not believe it. So many times, there had been brief glimpses of light as we forged through the darkness. But those moments seemed to fade quickly. Once again, we would be left trying to find our footing and walk forward together: my daughter, my two sons, my husband and myself. To say the relationships between us were strained would be an understatement. When one person in a family struggles, everyone is affected.
The dynamics between us does not resemble the picture I had in my mind before my husband and I started a family. My daughter began treatment for bipolar disorder at 9 years old (she is now age 15). My older son (age 18) has battled anxiety and depressionalong with a host of unexpected health concerns along the way. The youngest son (age 13), whom I call the “comic relief,” manages mild anxiety. None of their conditions define them, but they do affect the climate of our home. It hasn’t always felt like the refuge I hoped my husband and I would create. We have tried to initiate traditions, affirm each other’s strengths and attempt to carve moments of time together. We have sought out therapy, utilized resources and developed a support system. Humor has even found its way in. Yet, we couldn’t always keep the storms at bay.
Truthfully, the winds, at times, seemed so forceful I wasn’t sure I had the strength to resist them. My husband and I could be a strong force together; yet each of us developed our own methods of survival. We also felt as if the storm was invisible to everyone else. Mental illness carries a stigma. There are plenty of opinions regarding how to “fix” your child. “If we would just . . .” Meanwhile, the unpredictable nature of episodes and triggers as well as the financial stress and school concerns mount. And in the midst of it all, you are trying to sustain your marriage, pay bills and pray for endurance, provision and healing.
It occurred to me one day that this long season of storms may have finally transitioned into a season of calm. When you are so used to living in survival mode, you don’t always realize the storm has weakened. Weeks no longer seemed packed with doctors’ appointments, evaluating medications, financial distress, school battles, emotional burnout. It may be the beginning of a season of restoration. On the surface, a calm after the storm sounds welcoming. But, truthfully, the implications are daunting.
How do you begin cleaning up the mess?
Branch by branch, piece by piece. I remember a horrific storm that erupted suddenly about 10 years ago. When it was safe, we made our way outside to access the damage. Thankfully, our belongings remained intact. However, our street and our yard were filled with tree limbs and branches scattered everywhere. In order to move toward restoration, you must begin cleaning up the mess one branch at a time. It may take a while. And I’ve learned (reluctantly) that’s OK
Restoring our relationships with each other will take time. One branch at a time. I often wonder how my kids would relate to one another had our situation been different. I will never know the answer. It would be tempting to dwell on the “what ifs,” but that would require looking back. We are heading forward. The medical concerns have not resolved. The winds may indeed return. We have found space to breathe and rest. We have found our footing once again and set our eyes on God; who is in the business of making things new. I find inspiration in the promise given to the Israelites:

See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
Isaiah 43:19 (NIV)

Originally published at http://mudroomblog.com/cleaning-up-mess/, this post also appeared at https://themighty.com/2016/10/when-things-calm-down-parenting-children-with-mental-illness/
 

Do You Want to Be Made Well? Identifying With the Man in John 5


” Do you want to be made well?”
The question posed to the man in John 5:5-9 appears rhetorical. We do not know if he was born with a disability or his physical limitations are the result of an injury. Regardless, he is accustomed to his place near the pool of Bethesda. He has resided in that spot for 38 years!  He knows the perceptions of how he got there.  Surely his parents must have sinned greatly in order for God’s blessing to be withheld. Whispers and stares abound. He watches those whom wear the badge of “blessed” murmur as they pass his way daily.  His life appears anything but abundant; however, it has become his norm.

And then he encounters Jesus although it wasn’t intentional. Yet, Jesus approaches the man.
Who, would not embrace the offer to be healed? After all, multitudes clamored to be healed through Jesus’ mysterious yet miraculous touch.

Simple Question, Complex Implications

Three years ago, my son became sick.  Originally struggling with a chronic upset stomach, epilepsy presented suddenly. Our lives became caught up in a whirlwind of questioning, troubleshooting and despair. Thankfully, God’s mercies held us tight during that year. However, reeling out of that trauma, my son struggled with being made well. As I walked with him in that journey, I reflected on moments in my own life when I too feared “being well,” The voices spoken both audibly and echoing in our heads, appear to hold power and keep us from breaking free.

Restoration changes our perceived identity

Is it no wonder that the man in John 5 became accustomed to his socially appointed lot in life? We develop into  creatures of habit-even if the routine subtly and deceptively keeps us from being restored-fully whole in communion with God..

My son’s visit to Mayo Clinic included a visit with a psychologist who only sees adolescents with chronic illnesses. Why? Because narrowing one’s identity to fit around the illness becomes tempting. Doctors exhorted my son to not let his epilepsy define him.

Our own identities may be informed by life changing parts of our narratives, illness, injury,sinful actions committed against us or sinful areas with which we struggle. Regardless, Jesus has promised us abundant life   Healing may or may not happen here on Earth but restoration is always possible.

How would my son recognize his purpose now? What would it take for him to break through the perception that he is no longer dependent on others for basic needs? How would he establish autonomy?

Restoration Places Us Out of our Comfort Zones.

When he returned to high school for his Junior year, following the previous year of illness, I anticipated that he would welcome the fresh start. However, anxiety filled him as he began. I felt completely blindsided. Why would apprehension fill his heart? He had become accustomed to his lot. Sympathetic teachers. A force of people supporting him. Extra time at home.

As my writer friend Emily Conrad wrote in response to one of my posts, “I finally got something I’ve been longing for for years and now I find myself on the other side of a situation I had grown comfortable with. I had accepted it. And now that Jesus spoke and I’m moving on, I feel a little wobbly on these legs.” Transitioning to a posture of empowerment demands walking forward. Even if the ground feels shaky at first.

Restoration expands our view of God’s character.

Believe it or not, grasping who God is can cause one to feel a bit unsettled. Humanity has always yearned for the predictable. Comfort is found in explanation. Uncertainty sends our hearts and minds stirring. We simply find difficulty in grasping God’s words through Isaiah”
 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the LordIsaiah 55:8-9
Doesn’t it seem easier in a chronic situation to adapt and accept that God is not capable of Forgiveness? Mercy? Delivery? Healing?

“Do you want to be made well?”

Jesus heals the man in a way that the man never expected. Not in the pool but simply out of Jesus’ authoritative word: “Rise. take up your pallet and walk.” Later, Jesus finds the man to complete the process of restoration. “Go and sin no more.”

Suddenly, his daily rhythm of life changed. Walking forward demands trusting our sovereign God in our new steps. Acknowledging that we can balance on one leg as we move the other in front in order to stride toward the longed for but unfamiliar horizon.

It’s possible. because of Jesus

Jesus, who desires my wholeness so much to encounter me when I wasn’t looking for restoration.
Jesus, who believes that I am so much more than what I think of myself.
Jesus.

What must you surrender to Jesus so that you might be “made well?”

How I Found Peace Living in the Not Yet

Sometimes, life leaves your brain full and your mouth empty.
A season of life two years ago encompassed one of those times for me. The thing is-these seasons don’t just end with a nice and tidy resolution. They don’t leave us with an instant epiphany of profound theological insight. Rather, we are left with a reminder-:spiritual, physical, emotional- that we are humans wrestling with the realities of living in a place of in-between.

It is not yet Heaven.

The days of December 2013 quickly filled up with preparations for Christmas as well as doctor’s appointments. My eldest son became increasingly ill. A periodic problem with an upset stomach evolved into a daily issue. Watching your child feeling sick packs a punch to the stomach and the heart. The immediate desire is to fix it.

Yet, beginning in October, we sought an answer from many physicians and no one could fix it. How can that happen? We live near Chicago; a mecca of renowned and state-of-the art medical centers. A gold mine of wisdom on the complexities of the human body. Yet, each visit to a different specialist yielded more questions. We just wanted answers.

Emergency room doctors ruled out some things But nothing made him better. Daily, he made the trek to school with virtually nothing in his stomach except a bit of protein shake. Sometimes, he couldn’t gather the stamina to make it to school. My husband and I worried. The school pressured. The bills mounted.
We prayed. Friends prayed. Strangers prayed. But there were no answers.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6 (NIV).
Embracing the peace of Christ in the midst of uncertainty challenged me.

Finally, after many tests and procedures, a diagnosis was reached. Whew!  Finally a name and a course of treatment. Finally, an answer! Medicine would bring healing and resolve the problem. I grabbed hold of the answer and felt a sense of relief; control; no uncertainty. How easy is it to acknowledge the “peace that passes all understanding” when circumstances line up according to our expectations?
But would that peace permeate if the circumstances change? The events of the next day confronted me with that question.

Following dinner, upon preparing to study for finals, he fell to the couch and began to seize. Never having witnessed a seizure, it was the most terrifying moment of my life. The limp look of his body; the lifeless look in his eyes, will remain etched in my mind for a long time. Those five minutes led me to a profound realization as my mind grasped to acknowledge the surreal reality spinning around me: there are many things I can control-but death may not be one of them.

Fortunately, he came out of the seizure, was quickly rushed to the hospital, and the scans came out clear. But, more questions arose...and yet no answers. In my frustration, I hesitated to let go of what I thought to be a resolution. I didn’t want to believe that our lives were once more catapulted into the abyss. “How do you embrace the peace that transcends all understanding when God’s movement does not align with Earthly expectation?

As we dealt with the uncertainty in his health, we attempted to proceed with the rhythms of life. That wrenching moment rewound in my mind in the midst of my days. Ambulance sounds caused shivers down my back. Yet, I attempted to let Jesus, not me, guard my heart.

The dark, frigid winter painted an appropriate backdrop to the events and feelings over those next several months. While we continued to hold on to the glimmer of light held out for us through scriptural promises, the realities of living in the “not yet” continued to speak into our lives. How does one live in the truth of new life in the resurrection, yet, face the reality of destruction and death of the things of this world?

My heart and my mind bear the scars of living in a kingdom that is both now and not yet. But I am keenly aware that I am not the only one. In one way or another, all of us feel that paradox. Circumstances may differ. Our expectations and God’s answers may or may not merge. Yet, the testimony and scars of others bear witness to the peace that Christ offers, while living in a kingdom that unfolds toward completion.

It’s the peace that Jesus promised to his disciples, who had given up everything for him. “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 (NLV).

Eventually, the winter season yielded to the brighter, warmer days of spring; not just meteorologically, but symbolically as well. My son’s health improved. I am aware that I am bound to encounter those seasons of restlessness again. They too are promises of Jesus. But He also imparts a peace that “transcends all understanding” as we navigate through them. 

What You Don’t Expect When You’re Expecting….

I am not pregnant!  Let’s get that out of the way first. Having a child at 51 years old is not on my bucket list.

The title of my post comes from my mantra, “That (insert any unexpected child rearing moment of perplexity) wasn’t in the book!”  The book of course is the popular, What to Expect When You’re Expecting.  Like many would- be parents, I bought the book.  I even remember the moment.  In April 1997, having just had my first pregnancy confirmed by the Dr., I excitedly ran to the big box bookstore nearby and purchased my copy.  It was a pinnacle moment as I felt I had entered a long sought after season of life.

During the next nine months, the book became a constant companion of advice and knowledge concerning my changing body and, well, what to expect.  Admittedly, there were parts of the book that touched on areas of pregnancy that no one wants to really encounter:  the signs of a failing pregnancy/fetal distress.  But, I didn’t focus on those parts because that vision didn’t fit with my expectations and the visuals portrayed in T.V shows and photographs.  For me, I held a picture of giving birth to this God created human being on whom my husband and I would love.  The three of us would adapt to life together.  Giggles, snuggles, walks, celebrations of milestones would mark our new journey.
The picture I held of our life together remained similar to the information in the book. The sleepless nights were hard (I shudder to think how I functioned at work on a few hours of sleep), the feeding schedule (every two hours for six months), and the pumping were an awakening for me.
However, throughout the years, more and more situations surfaced that result in my re-evaluating just what was it that I was expecting?
Sickness (requiring a trip to the E.R or 24  hour drugstore for medicine)?  Sibling arguments (that make the WWE look lame)?  Didn’t see that coming.  Pulling a cap covering the toilet screw from my 2 year old daughter’s mouth while getting ready to go to church and preach?  Writing a sermon in bytes while alternately cleaning up after my son who had a stomach bug? The harsh reality that it is not uncommon to lose a pregnancy (I had two ectopics)?
Fast forward to the recent moments: realizing I ran out of bread in the morning and choosing between running to the store or counting change for hot lunch,  getting a child who isn’t a morning person out the door without missing the bus, the diagnosis of disorders/medical maladies that I never knew existed, some I wish didn’t (mood disorders, epilepsy), some you would never believe either).  What about the run of the mill fever, stomach bug or sore throat-those were NOT IN THE BOOK!
The realization, of course, is that if parents were given a complete vision of the future, a drastically reduced population would probably result.  Truthfully, the response would be, “there’s no way I can do this!”
But, that is exactly what God, the Creator of our children, wants. For our sake and  that of our children, the call to parenthood begins with a glimpse of what we can expect. Parenting involves humility; realizing that we don’t know all the answers. We need discernment, strength, and wisdom from the One who Created them (and us).  We function as God’s image bearers and vessels as we walk alongside our brothers and sisters-sometimes staggering. laughing, crying, conversation, praying, supporting, advocating…..
In the midst, we experience God in a way that we never “expected”-it’s beyond our expectations.
God has always called His people to tasks that seemed overwhelming-Moses, Noah, Abraham, Mary, Joseph-just to name a few. Yet, they obeyed (some reluctantly) with just a little information given to them.  They had no idea what was in store but trusted in the God that called them.
I will continue my mantra, “THAT WASN’T IN THE BOOK,” as it reminds me, often humorously, that I’m not in this parenting thing alone.  Come to think of it, that goes for life in general.
I wonder what surprise awaits me tomorrow?

When God’s Compassions Are Extended Through Relationship

How do those “compassions” manifest themselves to us? In my last post, I wrote about God providing an endless supply of compassions.

“We were not completely wiped out.
        His compassion is never limited.
23 It is new every morning.
    His faithfulness is great.”
(Lam.3:22-23, God’s Word Version)
 

God’s compassions extend to us in many forms

In May, Scott, Seth and I traveled to Mayo Clinic.  This four day trip revealed not only medical answers but a reminder that God’s mercies are “new” every morning.  I always read that verse as meaning that there is an unending supply of God’s mercies.  While that is true, another truth emerges to me: God’s compassions are revealed in a multitude of forms.  New forms.  Forms that I didn’t expect. 

In this case-mercy was granted to our family through the body of Christ.  Prayers, meals, groceries, listening ears, financial support, and care for Lena and Eli during our week in Minnesota.The burden to seek out Mayo Clinic was simply a thought in October. 

When answers seemed to elude us, taking him to Mayo surfaced in my mind. However, lurking in my mind were the practical questions: How would we afford it? Our medical debt was piling up by the week.  Who would watch our other two kids?  For a whole week?   What about…….?  Yet, as it turned out, the finances came together and a group of amazing friends-some who didn’t know each other- merged into a second family for Lena and Eli. I still marvel at how God’s compassions came to us in that week. 

In April, Scott’s beloved grandmother passed away from a brief battle with cancer.  She was 97 years old. Yet, we were stunned.  I know that sounds surprising but……Granny lived independently, she drove, birthday and holiday meals were still made with love by her. And…..she still drove weekly to deliver Meals on Wheels to the elderly.  In fact, she was nominated by Meals on Wheels as national volunteer of the year in 2012!  Everyone who knew her, experienced a taste of Heaven. Providing meals, celebrating birthdays, sacrificing time, sharing her home with  family and friends of family in need of refuge,  and living in such a way as to provide financially for her family after her death- God’s compassions extended through her. 

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As I found out at her funeral,  her desire to show God’s mercy to others came from the examples of her own parents.  One story, in particular, struck me.  As a child, growing up in Delaware, she lived next door to a small boy born with Downs Syndrome.  As we all know, people have difficulty accepting those that are different.  Combine that truth with a lesser knowledge of how to care for children born with anamolies and the result usually involved sending the child “away” from society. 

However, Granny’s parents consciously communicated to her that all of us were created by God and share in His likeness.  Therefore, it was expected that she would treat this boy with the same respect as any other human being.  The same was expected in regards to race.  For individuals considered outcasts in society, Granny’s kindness toward them was countercultural.   God’s compassions were extended to others through her life.

In a poignant letter written by her son-in-law, he summed it up well: “she always greeted us with hugs and kisses, done with an enthusiasm which left no doubt we were home….and loved….  She made love real.” Her ability to extend God’s compassions to others overflowed out of the supply of compassions God had extended to her.

How do you make love real to others? How do the compassions of God physically work their way out of your supply and into the lives of those who you encounter?
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Embracing God’s Compassions for Life’s Wild Rides

I’ve heard many metaphors for life: seasons, ride, roller coaster. Each of those words gives a word picture to help us express and define how we experience day to day living.  Sometimes, only one metaphor aptly fits your given scenario.  As I reflect on the last nine or so months, riding a roller coaster best describes the sensation of breathtaking speed and long climbs of the events of daily life.  In a previous blog, I wrote about the image of riding a roller coaster and how it applied to  my life at the time.  I have always felt more comfortable in the front seat because that way I can see what’s ahead.

Not feeling in control is an area of challenge for me.  But sometimes, you  don’t get the front seat.  That fact was never more clear to me than this past year.
In October, my oldest son, Seth began having health concerns.  His symptoms did not seem worrisome at first.  As a mom, you always balance that “I don’t want to be paranoid” mentality with the “what if I’m ignoring something life-threatening” train of thought.  So we waited. 

Sometimes he seemed better.  Sometimes he didn’t.  Several visits to doctors resulted in more confusion as to the root cause of his symptoms.   We heard the names of illnesses we can’t pronounce as well as being told that it’s all “in his head.”  Remedy after remedy tried….and failed.  More doctors, more time and energy spent troubleshooting; no answers.  As fall ended, and more school was missed, frustration grew. It invaded family life.  Siblings were feeling left out.  My ability to home school became confined by doctor’s appointments and my diverted attention. Seth was growing sicker and I couldn’t help him. The ride was going fast, and I wanted off.


Finally, after mass amounts of blood work, and tests, there was a possible diagnosis: Reflux  At least there was a name.  And a bit of calm. But then in December, on an ordinary December evening, following dinner, my husband called me into the living room as we watched in horror as Seth began seizing.  Not knowing what was happening,  my reality of not having complete control hit me hard.  What if he is dying?


Fortunately, he came out of the seizure after what seemed to be the longest 4 minutes of my life.  After being admitted to the hospital, all  tests came back normal.  What??  Apparently, it isn’t unheard of to have a seizure with no answers.
But one month later, he had another seizure. And two weeks later, one more.

Now, I felt like I was clearly in the back car.

I couldn’t see where this ride was going. And neither could my family-my fellow passengers.  As it would turn out, Seth would have two more seizures.  We now added a Neurologist to his list of doctors.  And more questions…with no answers.

With Seth getting sicker, his ability to attend school was nearly impossible.  I was attempting to home school Lena, communicate with Seth’s school, return homework, carve out time for my husband and other child.  My body longed for rest. fatigue prevailed. Congnitive functioning became difficult. Maintaining control over the situation gradually morphed into grasping for answers….and help. The mom in me wanted to fix it. But I couldn’t. I found myself in the most uncomfortable place for me on a roller coaster: in the back seat.

The backseat on the coaster does not allow the rider to see clearly what hill is coming up next. The ride may inch by for a while if the climb is lengthy. Or the climb is barely noticeable because the hill was so small. Therefore, preventing worked up fear for the drop on the other side.
In either case, being in the back seat position means I lose a sense of control.  There may be unexpected climbs or stomach churning drops ahead. I can’t see them.  But God, who is sovereign can. God, my Creator, who knows my fears, sees what’s ahead. And that is to whom I must look to rather than my own devices of resolution.


In the midst of the ride I was taking, new turns were around the corner: a family friend and my kids’ piano teacher died suddenly: young and full of life-leaving us all stunned. My husband’s beloved grandmother, an independent,  97 year old woman and light of the family and her community developed cancer and passed away within a month. One month later, Scott’s beloved aunt left this earth. And did I mention that somewhere in the midst of these twists, his company was bought out?  What would that mean for us? And him?
I clung to  Lamentations 3:22-24:

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
    therefore I will wait for him.”
 
 
Every. Single. Day. God’s compassions (or mercies) are new.
 
Those compassions breathe life into me when my physical being crumbles in exhaustion; when my mind feels that one more day of trying to stay emotionally stable seems impossible.
 
What scriptural truths get you through your wild rides?