Friday, July 31, 2009

What If?

Today I'm going to lay out some "stuff" that I've told very few. Some of it will be new information. It's a little scary to be so real, here, out in the open.

When we were first married in 1971, zero population growth was a hot topic. We made a conscious decision not to have children and agreed that if we happened to change our minds, we "could always adopt."

A few years later, I began to have problems with birth control pills. To avoid any "mistakes," Dennis underwent a vasectomy.

Several years later, we became involved in our first church. As warm bodies and willing workers, we were hijacked to junior high. We loved those kids! We were surprised as the desire to grow a family increased. And so we began to seek out adoption options, but without success. It seemed as if we we going to do this, we would have to do it the natural way.

We traveled out of state to visit an acclaimed urologist who was having much success performing vasectomy reversals. It was successful. But our attempts at pregnancy were not.

Those of you who have walked through the valley of infertility can understand the bittersweet emotions of watching your friends become pregnant. Suddenly pregnant women and babies are everywhere. Your whole life begins to revolve around a thermometer. And every month brings fresh disappointment.

At this point, I was running on only one cylinder as my left ovary and its tube had been removed earlier due to a cyst. After many tests, my doctor discovered scarring in my remaining fallopian tube. We agreed that I would undergo a tuboplasty, an open procedure to correct the obstruction. It turned into quite an ordeal, but it was successful, and one day the triumphant nurse called me to confirm a positive pregnancy test!

I savored and rejoiced in any physical sensation, any sense of nausea or dizziness. "I'm pregnant, I'm pregnant," I would sing to myself. But my doctor was not that excited. He was very serious, running tests, worrying that my beta hCG was not rising as it should. He was fearful of an ectopic pregnancy. He wanted to do a D&C, trying to avoid a serious problem. My mind heard "abortion," and I refused. An ultrasound showed a sac in the uterus. See? I told him. Everything is fine. But he was not convinced.

It was the middle of the night. Something was wrong. I did not know what--or didn't want to know. I checked my temperature. It had plummeted. I had a scheduled appointment in the morning. But in the morning, I had very little energy. I had to lie down after brushing my hair. I called the doctor and called my husband to come home. My doctor was very worried. He kept calling back to see if I was okay. Oddly, I had no pain.

The office staff took one look at me and rushed me into an examining room where my doctor found indisputable proof of internal bleeding. He sent us directly to the hospital. He was worried enough to send one of his nurses with us so she could make sure I got immediate attention. Everything from then on was a blur. Hospital staff were coming at me from every direction. Dennis called our pastor who arrived in time to pray before they whisked me off to the operating room.

The doctor could not repair the tube. He had to remove it. He left the ovary, but I would not be able to conceive naturally. I was told I could have died. I felt such peace. God's presence pervaded my room, a semi-private room in which I communed with Him alone for 2 days.

My doctor told me later that he had gone to the lab that night to see the specimen for himself, to see if there would have been any way to save the tube if we had acted sooner. There really was no way to tell for sure.

What if? What if we had never made the initial decision to not have children? What if we had attempted pregnancy before I had my ovary removed? What if I had had that D&C?

What if? What if? What if?

Those kinds of questions can torture us. If we had truly been walking with the Lord and seeking His counsel from the very beginning of our married life, what kind of outcome would there have been? Any different decision we made along the way could have snowballed into a totally different life outcome.

There are no real answers.

Something my doctor said at the time has stuck with me through the years, though.

"We make the best decisions we can at the time with the information we have." And then we go on.

What if we had had children before we were walking with the Lord? Would we have brought them up in the church? What kind of parents would we have been? Would we have been able to conceive anyway? Did God have different plans for us from the very beginning and allow us to go through the fire for our refining?

There are no real answers.

I have a decision to make. It might be this weekend. It could be lifechanging. I know what my head says is practical. I know what my heart desires. I'm seeking and praying. I do believe that as we grow closer to Him, His desires become our desires. Our hearts become one with His. Sometimes His timing and ours are different.

I'll make the best decision I can with the information I have at hand. And then I'll go on, trusting in the fact that my God knows the plans He has for me, plans and a purpose that cannot be thwarted, and that He will work all things together for my good and His glory.

I'd appreciate your prayers.

"May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed. We will shout for joy when you are victorious and will lift up our banners in the name of our God. May the Lord grant all your requests." Psalm 20:4-5

What is the desire of your heart? Can I pray for you?

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Follow the Leader

Aspen Park is a wonderful 100-acre park in Gaylord. It has nearly 2 miles of trails through mostly forest and some open areas along with mountain bike trails that cut through the woods. We always hope to see some kind of wildlife and perhaps come nose to nose with elk who might come up to the fence that surrounds their own park. We enjoy walking, riding bikes, or skiing cross country.

Several years ago, Dennis and I went for a night-time walk along the paved trails. It was a beautiful summer night, although there was no moon so we were very thankful for the lights along the path. We enjoyed the night sounds and quiet conversation. Suddenly the lights went out. Now we knew why we appeared to be the only ones out there. We didn't realize it was "closing time."

I'm not sure if we didn't have our cell phones with us or if we weren't getting service. At any rate, we couldn't call anyone. The only options were to spend the night out there or inch our way out somehow--which would be tricky since there are several looping trails. We clung to each other and shuffled along, listening for the sounds of civilization, knowing we were off track when we slipped off the pavement. Eventually we wandered into the lights of the parking lot. It was a fun adventure, but it certainly would have been a lot easier to find our way with a leader who knew the way through the darkness, who could shed some light for us.

We walked the trails with Gracee, during the day, when we were up for Alpenfest. Gracee wanted to hike to Beaver Pond Trail and climb down the rutted path that leads to a pond filled with water lilies. I don't know if there is really a beaver in there, but there is a picture of one on the map, and we always stand quietly at the edge of the water, waiting and hoping.

At any rate, Gracee was impatient to get there, and as we approached the pond, even seeing it through the trees, she insisted on taking a little path she saw. I told her several times it was not the right one; it just looked like it. Finally I said, "Papa's in the lead. Follow the leader."

The right path was just ahead. Had she taken the one she demanded to, she would have missed her vision.

Wow! How many times have I missed God's best for me by being impatient and running off on my own down a dead-end or counterfeit path instead of waiting a little longer? How many times have I stamped my foot and insisted on following my own plans and acted according to the stubbornness of my heart? How many times have I tried to stumble in the darkness alone rather than clinging to Him, the source of all light?

I just need to follow the Leader.

"I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore, I hate every wrong path. Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path." Psalm 119:104-105

"I guide you in the way of wisdom and lead you along straight paths. When you walk, your steps will not be hampered; when you run, you will not stumble." Proverbs 4:11-12

Are you following the Leader?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Noticer by Andy Andrews

"Sometimes all a person needs is a little perspective."

I don't usually read fiction. But I had heard so much about this particular book (published by Thomas Nelson) that I had to take the time to see what all the buzz was about. It didn't take a lot of time though. The book is short--only 156 pages, 10 chapters. Once I started it (at 1:30 in the morning), I could hardly put it down.

Jones (just Jones--no Mr. to it) has a gift of noticing things that others miss. He comes and goes in the small town of Orange Beach and seems to show up suddenly, almost miraculously, at the most opportune times. He confronts the hurting and the struggling with truth, love and humor. He helps them gain a new perspective on their circumstances, giving them a new vision for their future. He's never in a hurry and just seems to meet people where they are at the moment, challenging them to rise higher with words of wisdom such as:

"Whatever you focus on increases."

"It's time to stop letting your past control your destiny."

"Every single action a person takes has far-reaching consequences."

This allegorical and somewhat autobiographical story contains many other quotable quotes to ponder. Reading it has caused me to move into the light and be inspired to develop a new perspective, to notice others and be more aware of those who have noticed me, and to really grasp that even the small stuff is important, that my actions can have an effect generations from now.

There is a reader's guide at the end of the book with thought-provoking questions for each chapter. It would be suitable for group study.

This is a book that will be read many times, marked up and beat up.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Brush It Off

I had a productive day planned. Randy was supposed to come in his borrowed truck to install the stovetop and microwave. I looked forward to getting my drawers and cupboards back in order. He still had not come by 1, and as I was getting ready to call him, my son called. "I have a problem," he reported. His truck did the shake, rattle, clunk, and smoke dance on the way to get an estimate for repairing the damage from Saturday's accident. He was stranded in Lansing.

Dennis came from work, although it was inopportune for him since the zone people were in the office to do inspections. I drove up from home. We had a family pow-wow in the parking lot of the abandoned BP gas station. After much discussion, observation, and phone call to the transmission shop, we decided it had to be related to the replacement of the water pump. Oh and look...there is a hose hanging loose. That must have something to do with something. Or is it related to Saturday's collision? We left a message for the mechanic and said farewell to the truck until we can decide where we need to have it towed. Dennis drove Jeremy back to his apartment and then returned to his office while I headed for home.

On the way, my daughter called to inform me there was a truck in our driveway. (She lives down the road.) I knew it had to be Randy, but he hadn't been answering his phone, and I had left several messages. I tried calling, but there was no answer. It was like his phone wasn't even on. I called Abby back. The truck was now gone.

On the way home, I reflected on Jeremy's frustration with an incident that had occurred while he was waiting for help. A big dude in a big SUV drove up and demanded to know who he was watching. He was quite confrontational and finally drove away satisfied that Jeremy really was having a problem and really wasn't watching anybody. Jeremy was still upset an hour and a half later, wondering why the guy spoke to him the way he did, and said he was almost ready to get out of his truck and respond in like kind.

Back to Randy. I wrote yesterday that his dog had been killed and his truck had been totaled in separate incidents. He had been here and left a note. He was late today because he had been in an accident with his buddy's truck. He could not call because his phone had flown out the window in the first accident. We're going to try again tomorrow.

I can't make this stuff up!

I reminded Jeremy that there are some irritations of life you just have to brush off like a pesky bug. It takes way too much energy to do battle on ant hills. The big dude might have been a jerk. But we also don't know what issues he has been dealing with. To respond in like manner could very well have escalated the situation. And who knows what mountain that would have created.

I could have ranted at Randy about his perceived irresponsibility instead of listening and sympathizing. I could have crushed his spirit.

I turned to the book of Proverbs this afternoon.

"A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." Proverbs 15:1

"Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will be like him yourself." Proverbs 26:4

"He who answers before listening--that is his folly and his shame. A man's spirit sustains him in sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear? Proverbs 18:14-15

I think these relate today. How about you?

P.S. The original mechanic is out of town until the weekend. Another trusted car advisor is not so sure it's not another issue. Stand by for chapter 2...

Monday, July 27, 2009

How Do You Stand?

Randy was supposed to come this morning to finish installing my stovetop and microwave. He cancelled. He was pretty upset over his weekend. His 5-year-old dog was hit and killed in front of his house. And then he was in an accident where his truck was totalled. He's looking for a loaner. We rescheduled for tomorrow morning.

My son was also in an accident Saturday night. He was hit from behind while waiting to turn left. He's okay. His truck not so much. The other driver was on her cell phone. She got a ticket.

Little pebbles. Larger stones. Small rocks. Tremors and little quakes that rattle us in the midst of our routine. While we are watching a ball game or enjoying our chai latte.

How do you stand?

How do you stand when the boulders smash into your life? How do you stand when the storms swirl, and you feel as if you will be knocked off your very foundation?

How do you stand when...

Your family turns to you to make the decision about unplugging your mother-in-law's ventilator?

You cannot bear to attend another church service on Mother's Day while you walk through the valley of infertility?

Your daughter is badly hurt by someone you allowed in her life?

You are only 38, and the breast cancer has spread?

You find your husband slumped over with a gun next to him?

You discover your child is a "cutter?"

You receive the news that your son was killed in the line of duty?

You are bankrupt because of job loss or investing in someone's get-rich scheme?

You __________ (fill in the blank)?

How do you stand?

You stand on the Word of God and His character. You cling to Him knowing that He walks with you, carries you, holds you, and will bring you through whatever the situation. You praise Him in the midst of the circumstance and you trust Him to bring good out of it. You cry--and you remember that joy comes with the morning. You give it all to Him. You fall to your knees. And then you rise up and stand firm.

I know. I've been there. I've seen others walk there.

"Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. They are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm." Psalm 20:7-8

How do you stand?

Sunday, July 26, 2009

I Won't

We took Gracee to the pool yesterday to practice her skills. I'm amazed at how she has finally lost so much fear and can now jump totally underwater. She's been learning front and back floats, beginning front and back crawls, rolling over, and ring retrieval from the pool bottom. In the process of trying to give her some tips, she had these responses:

1. None.
2. "I can't."
3. "I don't want to."

I had an AHA moment sitting there on the ledge observing her and Papa. I sometimes respond to God in the same way.

1. No response. I let life's bad acoustics get in the way of hearing Him. I'm distracted by other sights and sounds or even by serving instead of simply sitting.

2. "I can't." You are asking me to do what? I'm too tired. I'm too busy. It's too hard.

3. "I don't want to." I'd really rather do what I know I do well. Thank you for asking, though.

What I'm really saying in all three instances is, "I won't."

I won't get away to a quiet place where I can hear you. I won't focus my attention on you in the midst of worldly echoes.

I won't listen.

I won't try. Even though I know you are calling me to do this thing. Yes, I know I'm supposed to be able to do all things you ask me to.

I won't believe.

I won't do that because it's out of my comfort zone. It's scary.

I won't trust.

It's a matter of priorities. It's a matter of my will. I have no excuse.

Why would I ever want to miss His blessings? Why would I ever want to miss HIM?

"If my people would but listen to me, if Israel would follow my ways, how quickly would I subdue their enemies and turn my hand against their foes. " Psalm 81:13-14

"Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in the mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it--he will be blessed in what he does." James 1:22-25

Lord, I WILL listen. I WILL follow. I WILL do. Because I do believe. Because I do trust.

Will you? Do you?

Friday, July 24, 2009

Could I Stand?

Ri Hyon Ok. Age 33. Martyr.

This woman was reportedly publicly executed in North Korea last month for distributing the Bible. She was also accused of spying for South Korea and the United States.,2933,534728,00.html

Her parents, husband, and 3 children were sent to a political prison camp in Hoeryong, one of the largest prison camps in the country infamous for reports of chemical weapons experiments on humans and glass gas chambers according to a 2004 BBC documentary on the Axis of Evil.

Here is a 2003 description of the camp from a former guard.

Caution: This is very graphic. Chances are it hasn't changed much.

I can't imagine.

I can't imagine living in a place where Christianity is so severely repressed.

I can't imagine making the decision to sacrifice not only myself but also my family for the cause of Christ.

I can't imagine.

I have no words.

Do I love Jesus enough?

Would I deny Him as Peter did?

Could I stand in the face of persecution and death? For myself? My children? My husband? My parents? My siblings? My friends? Could I bless and endure? (Romans 12:14, I Corinthians 4:12)

Do I?

Would I?

Could I?

Have I really counted the cost of following Him? Of being his disciple? Even in my day-to-day life in a country with so much religious freedom?

If I'm not facing it in some form at some time, I need to think about how I'm living.

"In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted," I Timothy 3:12.

When Jesus talked with His disciples about the end of the age, He said:

"And the gospel must first be preached to all nations. Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking but the Holy Spirit. Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved." Mark 13:10-13

At the time. There's comfort in that.

Could I stand firm? Could you?

Rest in peace in the arms of Jesus, Ri. And may God hold your family close.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Rollercoasters and Life

I am not a fan of roller coasters. I don't like the stomach rush. I don't like the climb because I know there will be a fall. I don't like the sudden twists and turns and jerks. And they are more sudden and surprising because I don't see them coming. Because I don't look. I don't like wondering if the track is going to hold together or if I will be thrown out or if the machine is going to fly off the track. Basically, I don't like the feeling of not being in control. And once you are on a "coaster," you certainly can't scream to be let off.

In the Tomorrowland section of the Magic Kingdom in Disney World towers Space Mountain. It's billed as the "largest mountain" in Florida, 180 feet high and 300 feet in diameter. There are 2 rocket-shaped vehicles with 3 seats each. They blast off from 2 separate tracks that "mirror each other in twists and drops." The left side track is called Alpha, and the right side track is called Omega.

Abby was about 7, and I said I would climb the mountain with her. I didn't really grasp that it was a "thrill ride" until it was too late to change my mind, although the fact that Jeremy was not tall enough to enter the Space Port should have tipped me off that it might not be my "speed."

We raced and twisted through "outer space" and sometimes total darkness at only 28 miles an hour. It seemed a lot faster, but it wasn't too bad, and I was not really afraid. Until Abby, who was seated behind me, stopped screaming. I couldn't turn around to see if she was okay. What if she had passed out? What if she had fallen out? But she was fine. She loved it.

I was a good mom.

Then there was the trip to Cedar Point a year or so later, and Abby couldn't wait to ride the Magnum.

It was billed as the "tallest, fastest roller coaster in the world at 205 feet tall with top speeds of 72 miles an hour." Gulp! Abby was so excited. I steeled myself. I would be a good mom and ride it with her. But I got more and more anxious as the line inched along. I wanted to drop out. Oh, how I wanted to run away! But I didn't want to disappoint her.

That ride was one of the longest 2 minutes of my life. I squeezed my eyes, clenched my teeth, and white-knuckled the bar as we began the first incline, heading toward a 60-degree drop--one of the steepest in the world. I jerked from side to side but didn't scream, didn't speak throughout the ordeal. When we slowed to a stop, I heard the lady's voice behind me, "Ma'am, ma'am, are you all right?" I shook my head. I'm sure I was as white as a spa towel.

We stopped to look at the pictures that were displayed for purchase. There I was with face grotesquely distorted, and people were laughing. I pretended to check my shoelaces and crept away from the crowd hoping nobody recognized me.

But I was a good mom.

Life is often like a roller coaster. There are periods of calm where we coast along and enjoy the ride. There are mountains to climb, but then we drop into deep valleys. There are wicked twists that we don't see coming. Sometimes fear overtakes us or we feel so nauseous we think we will simply pass out. And there is no getting off.

But there is One who will ride with us if we ask Him to. He'll throw back His head and laugh with us through all the wind-in-the-face times. He'll hold us tight when things get scary, and He will never, ever let go or let us fall. We do not need to be afraid or try to be in control because HE is in control. He is THE Alpha and Omega. He is with us from beginning to the end, not in a "magic" kingdom but in todayland and tomorrowland in His glorious and everlasting kingdom!

"For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins." Colossians 1:13-14 (NIV)

He is a good Dad!

In which kingdom are you living?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

I Learned To Say It With CLASS

I was reminded again today of one of my Precept students from Tampa. It was 1983. She saw potential in me and signed me up for a basic CLASS seminar--and paid for it. I can't even remember her name. What an awesome time that was. What an awesome blessing. That was also when I first met Patsy Clairmont and heard her speak and share her story about suffering with agoraphobia.

I've been thumbing through my old notebook and just dug out my "graduation" pin--"Say It With Class." Thank goodness they survived my recent decluttering and treasure-tossing frenzy.

I've taught some, written a little, and spoken at retreats, but I think the time has come for me to REALLY use all that I learned in that seminar. Maybe I should consider going to basic again or one of the advanced trainings. I'm not sure I was as effective in ministry then as I can be now. I hadn't been through enough fires. I hadn't hurt enough. I couldn't really relate to pain.

I've had some doors open up in the last month. I need to be still to sense which one (ones) I'm supposed to walk through. I just want to be "a pencil in God's hand" (Mother Teresa) and fulfill the purpose He has for me. I want His plans and my desires to be the one and the same.

By the way, thank you to that sweet sister from my past. I will never forget your encouragement and your faith in my ability to be a witness. And thank you Patsy and Florence Littauer!

"Many plans are in a man's mind, but it is the Lord's purpose for him that will stand." Proverbs 19:21 (Amplified Bible)

Do your plans fit in with God's special purpose for a special you?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Cast Your Cares

I'm home in Gaylord this week--the Alpine Village, situated on the 45th parallel, midway between the equator and the North Pole. This is also Alpenfest week, the 45th celebration--the 45th on the 45th. The queen's pageant always brings back memories since I am a past queen--the 3rd in 1967. I found this picture of myself and Lynda, 1968 queen. That's me, third from the left.

My mom likes to joke that I am the "queen who became a king." I prefer to think of myself as a daughter of the King. Or a queen betrothed to the King who will come for me on the day of the Grand Parade.
The burning of the Boogg is a yearly tradition on the first night of the festival. Residents and visitors write down their problems and troubles on slips of paper and place them inside the Boogg. The Boogg is then ignited, and the worries go up in smoke so everyone can enjoy carefree fun and festivities.

It's a fun tradition. But there is only One big enough to handle all our cares and worries. He said, "Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?" (Matthew 6:27) If we let Him have it all, shoulder it all, hold it all, we can have the peace that passes all understanding every day no matter what is going on in our lives.
"Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you." I Peter 5:7
What worries and fears will you give Him today?

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Journey Begins

Welcome. I'm so glad you stopped in to visit.

I turned 60 this year. More than half my life on earth is done. Maybe even two-thirds. The reality, though, is that none of us know if we have another year, one more month, week, day, hour, or even one more minute. We could be called from this life with our next breath, in the twinkling of an eye.

On one hand, I try not to think about it - although I do find myself scanning the obituaries and making mental notes of ages and causes of death and how the writer saw that person's life. There's something about being leashed to earthly things, about trying to slow down time, about accomplishing everything on the bucket list and then some. I wonder if I've done enough to prepare my family to press on without me. And yes, there is a hint of fear. I'll admit that. Yet I know that when my collar breaks and I'm loosed, I will race into the welcoming arms of Jesus. As I write that, I think of my childhood dog, Duchess, a Brittany spaniel who was confined to a kennel. And when we opened the gate to let her run, she was so excited that she tore up and down and round and round, 2 ears to the wind, tongue dragging, dirt flying. Total joy! I can only imagine.

So I've been looking at everything I do, everything I say, everything I own with an eye toward eternity. And I've been culling my "treasures," selling and giving them away, holding things more lightly, feeling more free, and hoping to focus more on things that really matter. I want my life to count and to be ready when the count is out.

I enter blogland late as another voice sharing my heartaches and hopes with a dose of humor. My prayer is that anyone who shows up to share my journey will be blessed, encouraged, and inspired to reach up and out to the One who is the source of life and light, who is our only hope, that the mist would lift a little, and that they would see Him a bit more clearly.

"For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Luke 12:33-35

Where is your heart today?
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