Don’t you love it when the Lord gives you a special verse from the Bible over and over again, at different times and in different places? Lately, God has been speaking to me through Psalms 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God.” That promise is soothing to my soul. It makes me want to say “Ahhhhhhh” and relax.
You see, I’m not naturally a “be still” kind of girl. I tend to think I need to strive to help God, in my own self reliant kind of way. (As if He needs my help). I constantly need to remind myself, I am a human being–not a human doing. I am learning to rest in Him and trust Him, especially when circumstances all around me seem overwhelming and out of my control.
A couple of months ago I had phase II of oral surgery to put implants in my upper jaw. The surgery took 4 hours for 5 implants and a bone graft. For healing purposes, I couldn’t put my dentures in for a month. Pureed food, pureed soups, smoothies, and juicing only were on my list of what I could eat for the first month of healing.
The first week after surgery was the toughest for me: Throbbing pain from the bone graft, hungry for real food, grieving my temporary loss of comfort food, still too fluffy to fit into my fall clothes, walking by the mirror and wondering who is this old lady–it wasn’t the best of times. It’s been a very long season of dental suffering for me–I actually may write a book about it one day. Usually, healing is with pain and it HURTS! I hate pain.
I acknowledged all of my emotions before the Lord: the good, bad and the ugly. But then I knew I had a choice to make. I had to chews…what my attitude would be for the rest of the month? Would this suffering draw me closer to the Lord or would I blame Him for my pain? Would I constantly be grumpy and bite Terry’s head off, even without my teeth? I knew I wanted to chews thankfulness. As hard as it was to slurp my soup down while Terry was crunching on real food–I began to thank God for what I was able to drink and swallow.
What am I learning in my suffering? I am learning:
This world really sucks at times and I need Jesus to help me through each day.
God loves me and I can be honest with Him.
To wait on God and to listen for Him.
To trust Him, especially when it’s hard.
To surrender my selfish will to His purposes for me.
To receive His comfort He offers through the Holy Spirit.
That I will never quit learning.
Food is a necessity for life. I think that’s why the enemy used food to deceive Eve and Adam. Satan also used food to tempt Jesus when He was fasting for 40 days! It’s true we need food to physically live. Spiritually, we need Jesus. Satan does His best to deceive us to see our biggest need–The need for a personal Savior, Jesus Christ.
It’s easier to give than to receive. I know this all too well from personal experience. You see, I am a giver. I’ve always enjoyed giving gifts. Over the years, I have volunteered to coach my brother’s baseball teams, then my nephew’s, my son’s, both my daughter’s, and now my grandson’s basketball teams. I have refereed and umped numerous youth league basketball and baseball games. I’ve taught Sunday School, led different Bible studies, and helped my wife as we traveled around the Pacific Northwest talking to churches about the Mother’s of Preschooler’s program. Karen and I have financially given to our local church and to missionaries…both short and long term.
Please don’t misunderstand why I’m telling you this. I’m not seeking your praise or a pat on the back. I personally know many people who give far more of their time, talents and money than I ever will. I enjoy giving.
The opposite side of the coin to giving is receiving and I find that to receive is far more difficult than to give. I’m not talking about receiving birthday or Christmas gifts…I’m talking about receiving from the reality of experiencing a great need. I hate feeling needy.
Karen in the meantime had needs of her own. In March of 2017 we got a refinance loan to pay for implants in her lower jaw. The procedure was a success. The bone in her jaw grew around and cemented itself securely to the implants. Several bone grafts from her lower jaw were placed in her upper jaw were bone was insufficient for future implants.
As August approached, the time arrived to plan for the return trip to Utah to have the ceramic posts inserted and to pay for the $17,000 procedure. I hadn’t received a paycheck from the school district since June 1st and had used up all our savings. We couldn’t borrow any more money and were wondering if we were even going to be able to complete the final stage of Karen’s dental journey.
Our three adult children, Katie, Jaymi and Michael asked us if they could start a Go Fund Me website to help pay for the completion of Karen’s need for dental implants in her upper jaw. We thankfully agreed but inside we both struggled. Our needs and perceived weaknesses would now be on public display like wild animals in a zoo.
The website started on August 13th and over $600 was raised within the first two weeks. It was a very humbling experience to watch as $25, $50, $100 and $150 donations from family, friends, acquaintances, strangers and anonymous givers pour in. Every day we prayed for God’s blessings on those who were giving so generously.
Miraculously, $9,785 was raised by September 3rd. On faith, Karen made an appointment with the dentist in Utah on September 5th to have the ceramic posts embedded in her upper jaw. We didn’t know where the additional $7,215 would come from but on September 4th we drove to Bountiful, Utah.
After the surgery, the dentist had both good and bad news. Dr. Baker was planning to place six or seven post in Karen’s upper jaw. Some of the bone grafts hadn’t taken so he was only able to insert five. He told us four is the minimum he would do for dentures to securely attach so five is at least one over the minimum.
We spent that night in our hotel and prayed for the money to come in because the next day we had to pay the piper. The next morning we checked our Go Fund Me account….$9,785…it hadn’t changed. We arrived at the dental office and Karen was whisked away to the one of the back rooms to have a follow-up to the surgery while I was told my financial options by a woman at the front desk. Really there was only one option…we had to finance the bill. It was interest free if we could pay it off in two-years. I swallowed hard as I signed for the loan.
The refinance loan we took out in March of 2017 raised our house payment an additional $150 per month, was now paying close to $200 per month for medical insurance, was required to purchase a newer car to drive for Lyft which was $280 a month and now we had just taken on another loan of $256 per month.
I was so happy for Karen and hopeful that her long road of dental pain would soon be over. I was so thankful for all the donations which came in. To be perfectly honest, I hadn’t expected that much. I thanked God for these two answers to my prayers but felt disappointed in myself for now feeling the tremendous weight of debt pressing down on me.
I was working an average of six days a week driving for Lyft and still had to drain our remaining savings over the course of the summer just to make ends meet. Our savings was now gone. I wouldn’t start driving school bus for another couple of months and even then, I figured I would have to work three or four nights a week and all day on Saturdays just to break even.
Where would I find time to blog and finish the book I’m writing? Would I have the time to help coach my grandson’s basketball team again this winter? Where would the time come from to take the long walks with Karen that I enjoy and need so much? I felt burdened and helpless and I hated feeling this way; where was my faith in God in light of the financial blessings I had just witnessed?
Karen had a follow-up appointment the first of October back in Utah. In the middle of the fourteen-hour drive, we received a phone call from our daughter Katie. A couple from their church had just donated over $7,000 to our fund. That was enough and more to pay off the dental loan. Relief poured over my parched soul like a thunderstorm in a thirsty desert.
Then it hit me. All the people who gave so generously were just like me. They loved to give. It made them feel good to help meet a need. But to be able to give, there had to be a receiver. Without a receiver there would be no one to give to.
Then an old realization hit me in a new way. We are all in need…why? Oh, we all have our earthly needs but they are all different and temporary. No, we have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God. We have a need for a Savior who will pay the debt of sin for us. You see, God is the ultimate giver. While the world was in opposition to God, he sent his only son to die for us.
Are you in opposition to God? Financial debt leaves one in bondage to a creditor. Sin leaves us in bondage to Satan. Every breath you take is a gift from God but do you take that same breath and exhale your acknowledgment that Jesus is not only your savior but also Lord of your life? Jesus gave his life for you. He’s looking for people to accept that gift just like Karen and I accepted the financial gifts of so many people. Their gifts removed some of the weight of financial debt from my shoulders. Jesus can remove a debt we as humans can never remove ourselves.
I want to publicly thank all of those people who sacrificially gave to help Karen and I. Now please consider turning your lives over to the One who sacrificially gave His life for you. As Karen would say, CHEWS JESUS…Taste and see that the Lord is good.
Do you enjoy change? I don’t… I resist it. I am very selective with what changes I commit to. When I commit, I commit 110%. One gift that comes from being in chronic pain is the discipline it’s teaching me. My pain has been a teacher of discipline in many areas of my life. I become frustrated, though, if I don’t see instant results. In a past blog post, I shared about my granddaughter, who also wants instant results. She coined a new phrase when she doesn’t want to wait until tonight or tomorrow…but wants it ToNow!!! http://desiretoinspire.life/not-tonight-not-tomorrow-tonow/
Often the results we want require change on our part, which often takes time, but the results are our future reward.
I’ve been making “small” life style changes in my eating habits over many years now. Sugar controlled my life….it was my drug of choice. Before we had children, Terry and I attended Weight Watchers. Sadly, the night we finally hit our goal and became lifetime members, we decided to go out and celebrate. We went to Winchell’s Donuts and I bought four delicious donuts to eat on the way home. If that wasn’t enough, we stopped at Albertson’s for a few groceries and I bought four more donuts for Moi!!!! During the twenty-minute drive home, I consumed all eight donuts and didn’t even get sick.
A couple of years later, I attended a Bible study at our church called Joy In Discipline. It was also a weight loss class and we would memorize Bible verses every week. It was during this study, that my eyes were opened to the Truth of God’s Word. God loved me just as I was. He offered to come into my life to help me live by the power of His Holy Spirit.
After that study, I felt the Lord asking me to give up refined sugar….it controlled my life. One night I asked Terry if he thought I could give up sugar, cold turkey. (He was hopeful I could do it because when I baked cookies, I would eat most of them and only leave him two or three)
I prayerfully made a life style decision and chose to give up refined sugar. It was hard at first, but then it became easier and easier. I don’t even have the desire for cakes, cookies and donuts anymore. I cook with agave, honey, coconut sugar or pure maple syrup. I no longer crave sugar like I used to. I am envious of people though, who can just eat one cookie or a piece of candy and be satisfied. If I’m not careful, I can still go into PORK OUT MODE!!!
One of the verses I memorized in “Joy of Discipline” was Hebrews 12:11 “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it!”(Not necessarily instant results!)
Continuing to be frustrated with my weight, I went to my doctor a while back and asked what she would recommend to help me lose 20-30 pounds. Her answer surprised me with its simplicity. She said, “You need to exercise more and eat less.” I laughed. Why does it sound so simple, yet is so difficult?
Last winter, something needed to change if I was going to lose the 20 pounds I wanted to. So on rainy days, instead of complaining about the weather, I pushed myself to get on my stationary bike to burn a few calories. After a couple weeks, my jeans were looser. I loved it! Here I got the instant results I strive for but again I’m frustrated because riding the bike brought my chronic neck pain to a new level and I had to quit. Now, summer is almost upon us and I’m right back where I started with another ten pounds on top of that.
Recently, Terry and I were getting a few groceries at Fred Meyers and making more intentional life changes with our eating. A young mom was ahead of us in the grocery line. While looking at our groceries, she smiled and commented, “Looks like a healthy lifestyle of eating to me”.
I smiled at her and said “Yes”. And with God’s help, I’m excited to see the future results!
What areas of discipline do you struggle with? Memorizing God’s Word helped me.
Have you ever bitten off more than you can chew? I mean that literally. From my years of dental procedures, I’m learning the importance of an aligned bite. If the bite isn’t right, you are in pain. The jaw bone is connected to the neck bone. If the joints in the jaw aren’t happy, the neck isn’t happy. If the neck isn’t happy, the brain isn’t happy. When the brain isn’t happy you have major depressive disorder. When you have major depressive disorder, you struggle to push through every day. You wish you could get away from the pain and you try to not focus on yourself, but chronic pain is relentless, day in and day out. Everything is an effort. Comfort food is no longer a comfort.
When people ask how I’m doing, what should I say? The polite but dishonest answer is, “Fine!” Am I truthful and go into how badly I feel? I guess it depends on who is asking the question.
Terry and I played The Game of Life with the grandkids one night. Our grandson, Logan, chose to take the shorter route to begin the game and soon discovered that he should have taken the longer route to get his career. His sister, Maya, took the long route and was rewarded with a higher income than Logan. He wanted a do over. He made us laugh and we gave him a do over.
I want a do over with my mouth. I would have brushed my teeth three times a day and ate a lot less sugar. Dental floss would have been my best friend. This may have helped some, but inherently and genetically, bad teeth run in my family.
When Terry was a little boy, he wanted to be a dentist when he grew up. I think God was trying to warn and prepare him for being married to me. He should have listened. I told him, he should have looked in my mouth and checked out my teeth before deciding to marry me. His answer was very sweet! He said, “You never look a gift horse in the mouth. And you are a gift from God to me.”
I think if we are honest, we would all like a do over in one area or another in our lives. We live in a broken world with frail human bodies that aren’t as perfect as we want them to be. I think we all have an ideal picture of what our lives should be like…then real life happens.
For years I carried false guilt around I wasn’t meant to carry. I used to believe God was mad at me for being undisciplined so He punished me with pain. Oh I tried so hard to be disciplined enough to win back His favor so I could become healthy once more. Even though discipline can be a good thing, it didn’t change my heart. I continued to judge myself under my standard of thinking, believing they were God’s standards.
As a child, I perceived being weak as a bad thing. I believed I had to be strong emotionally and physically to be loved. I compared myself to others (it came as natural as breathing) and I always came up less than. I played it well and appeared to lead a disciplined life. On the outside everyone thought I was a good girl — but internally, I was as rebellious as they come. I threw away the lock and key on the inside of my heart. I couldn’t escape the shame and ugliness I felt, believing no one could understand, connect with, or love me if they really knew what was inside. Over the course of many years, I discovered I could never be disciplined enough or do enough to win God’s favor.
For now, physical pain is my constant companion but false guilt doesn’t need to be. Pain and suffering is a direct result of our fallen world. I can’t control that. False guilt is Satan’s way of distracting me from being all I can be in Christ. I can control that by understanding and applying what God tells me through his Word.
GOD SAYS TO US…
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. for our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4: 16-18
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2: 8-9
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5: 17
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” Romans 8:1
I went to the eye doctor this week for my annual exam. I am legally blind without my contacts. The doctor told me to let him know when I begin to see letters in a line. I frantically thought, “there are letters in a line?” All I could see was white fuzz. Thank God for contacts and eye glasses to help me see.
I skimmed through facebook last night. A video of a young boy who was colorblind, caught my attention. He opened a gift of eye glasses that enabled him to see color for the first time. As he put on the glasses, a huge smile spread across his face. Tears of joy began flowing from eyes seeing color for the first time. His world changed.
Today I was praying about a situation I was struggling with. I thought I wish I had a pair of God glasses I could put on. To be able to see things in His perspective on everything. I realize that is why He gave us His WORD so we can, through the Holy Spirit, be learning His way in everything. But I still would love a pair of God glasses! My faith would be sight!
1 Cor. 13:1 Now we see things imperfectly like puzzling reflections in a mirror but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely. NLT
Do you need to see things clearer, through God’s perspective?
Do you enjoy coloring in coloring books? As a child, I loved getting a new coloring book. I would flip through the pages and pick out my favorite picture to color. In the coloring book, sometimes there would be pages with a bunch of dots on it that you connect to complete the picture. It was exciting to see the picture enfold as I carefully connected each dot to dot.
My life currently looks like a bunch of dots to me. I can’t see the clear picture. In fact, it’s pretty vague. I do get excited when I see the Lord ahead of me leading me from one dot to the next, knowing He has the plan and will fulfill the purposes of my life. Because I want to have a clear picture before I take the next step, I get frustrated at times. I think sometimes the reality of life looks just like that from our perspective. That’s when our faith grows; where we learn to trust God more.
Psalm 38:7-8 Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life; you stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes, with your right hand you save me. The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me, your love, O Lord, endures forever–do not abandon the works of your hands.”
Sometimes our perfectionistic expectations, assumptions, or just our stubborn will, can keep us from taking a step of faith. We may think we have to get it all together before we come to Jesus. We’ve got to clean ourselves up before we go to God. That’s like cleaning your house before a hired maid comes to clean it. That’s the Lord’s job…He saves us from ourselves. We acknowledge our need of Him. Even our acknowledgment of our need for him is His working of the Holy Spirit drawing us to Him.
Psalm 143:8-12 “Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul. Rescue me from my enemies, O Lord, for I hide myself in you. Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground. For your name’s sake, O Lord, preserve my life; in your righteousness, bring me out of trouble. In your unfailing love, silence my enemies; destroy all my foes for I am your servant.”
So what are you waiting for before you take a next step? Let me encourage you to take a step of faith. Jesus is worthy of our trust!
For the past two weeks Karen and I have been in Bountiful Utah. No, this isn’t one of Utah’s beautiful ski resorts. We weren’t there to watch Gonzaga sweep all their games in the first round of the NCAA tournament in Salt Lake City. We didn’t stay there as a pit stop on the way to visit our kids who live in Arizona or Florida. We went to Bountiful on a dental vacation (and I use the term vacation very loosely).
As many of you know, Karen has struggled with dental issues for many years. In the early 1990’s she became ill. She had no energy, was tired all the time, ached all over and was depressed. Her doctors had no clue what was happening. Also during this time, she endured ten root canals. Before going through an eleventh, her dentist suggested she go to see a specialist in Colorado. They discovered she had high levels of mercury in her system from this poisonous metal leaching into her system from leaking amalgam fillings in her teeth.
She had all but one of her molars pulled and underwent a detox program to flush the mercury out of her system. Her health improved but for the next twenty-years she went from dentist to dentist trying to find one who could make partials which would give her a good bite and not cause pain in her mouth and neck.
The problem is that she is allergic to all metals, and partials are made with metal to give it strength and to help keep its shape. Dentists had to make partials out of a plastic which wore down easily and often broke. Over the years, this lack of a consistent bite contributed to chronic pain in her jaw and neck.
After many years of experimenting, her local dentist said there was nothing else he could do but recommended a specialist in Utah who might be able to help. We traveled to this dentist over a year ago and he pulled the rest of Karen’s teeth which were all full of infection and in the process of rotting in her mouth.
Now instead of partials, Karen was given a full set of dentures. For a year, the dentures caused continual sores to form in her mouth; sometimes five or six large canker like sores at a time would line up in a row on her gums causing her great pain. The dentures also didn’t relieve the pain she was experiencing in her jaw and neck; it only got worse.
Our dentists, Dr. Wall and Dr. Baker, in Utah came up with another plan to help her. He could embed ceramic posts in her upper and lower jaw for her dentures to clip onto. This would keep the dentures from rocking in her mouth thus eliminating the cause of sores to form on her gums. At the same time, they would find out the best position for the dentures to rest to help stabilize her jaw muscles. Hopefully this will help relieve some of her neck and jaw pain.
So we arrived in Bountiful on March 15th full of hope, that at last we could see the light at the end of that long tunnel of pain Karen has endured for the past twenty-two years. After days of bone scans and consultations, she had oral surgery. The dentist placed four ceramic implants in her lower jaw. It was discovered from the bone scans, that she didn’t have enough bone on her upper jaw for the implants. They removed bone from her lower jaw and mixed it with a compound. The dentist peeled back her upper gums and inserted this compound into her upper jaw, similar to applying putty to repair holes in a wall.
Now the fun began. She couldn’t wear her dentures for a week to help her mouth to begin healing. For the next two months, she can’t eat any solid food. Pretty much smoothies, soup, mashed potatoes and yogurt. Both Karen and I will be losing some weight.
On Monday, March 27th we planned to fly out of Utah, but the dentist thought it best to wait until Thursday to take the stitches out. There was also a concern about flying so soon after this surgery. No problem; I called to change our flight but found out they would charge an extra $900 because it was spring break. Yikes!
We rented a car to get around in Bountiful. I called to check the cost of using the rental to drive back to Seattle. Only $1000 more. Yikes and double yikes! For only a hundred dollars more I made the executive decision to drive back. It would be more comfortable for Karen than to experience the sinus pain from the high altitude of flying.
So on Thursday we left Utah. We made reservations in Boise to spend the night there. The weather had been terrific the whole time while we were in Bountiful, breaking records for that time of year. It was overcast but warm when we drove out of the city heading north. We turned on the radio and heard the hosts talking about snow angels and building snow men.
About an hour into our drive the car thermometer began to take a nose dive. From 60 degrees, to 50, to 40, to 35. At least we hadn’t hit any moisture. Suddenly, down the road, a giant white curtain was pulled down from the sky. Tail lights flashed as I drove into a blizzard.
For the final three hours, I could barely see three or four car lengths in front of me. Then the wind began to howl. My windshield wipers were almost useless as they battled the snow and wind.
What should have been an easy five-hour drive, took us almost eight. We arrived at our hotel at 7pm tired and ready to relax before the next days longer drive home. Because of the warm and welcoming staff and extra touches they provided, we chose the same hotel chain we used in Bountiful. They provided a never ending supply of chocolate chip cookies, ice cold lemon water, and 24 hours of smiling faces from its work force.
We walked into the Country Inn and Suites and realized right away we weren’t in Bountiful anymore. The gal behind the desk was talking to a co-worker for five minutes before she even acknowledged us. After finally checking us in, I looked around for some cookies. No cookies and no ice-cold lemon water. Oh well, we couldn’t wait to get into our room and take a dip in their pool.
When we entered our room, the air felt heavy. I was recovering from a sinus infection and was having a hard time breathing anyway so I just chalked it up to that. After ten minutes, Karen said that her sinuses were bothering her and she was getting a sore throat. She knelt down on the carpet to open up her suitcase. When she stood, both her knees were wet.
Someone had just recently (very recently) shampooed the carpet and it was still wet and smelled like chemicals. Now my sinuses were plugging up even more and I started to cough. Karen went down to the front desk. They were sorry but they were full and couldn’t move us to another room. To say I wasn’t very happy was an understatement.
Karen called around to other hotels close by while I repacked everything and brought it back out to our rental car. We checked into another hotel after 9pm. We were both cranky and exhausted. At least the carpet was dry and the bed was amazing.
The next day we awoke to sunshine. We drove to SeaTac airport, picked up our car and listened to a CD I had bought of Hank Williams all the way home.
So what’s the moral of this story? Heck if I know. Sometimes you just have to play the hand that’s dealt you, whether it’s a mouthful of bad teeth or a stressful day driving through a snowstorm only to find out you have been booked into a room with a wet carpet.
These are the times it’s comforting to know you are in the hands of a loving God who looks out for us even when life seems out of control.
“Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.” James 1:12
Do you journal? Some of my friends love to journal recalling the happenings of the day. I like the thought of journaling…I own several, most of which have the first pages filled and the rest blank.
Thinking of what to blog on this week, I picked up two very old journals of mine (from the early 1980’s). I’m not sure where they came from but they mysteriously showed up on my office desk. I felt like I should wash my hands after reading them, not because of the content, but because they looked like they survived the flood of 1990 which devastated our home. They are worn and dirty. I will share my first entry:
I really don’t know how to begin in this book. I keep hesitating writing in it because I’m afraid of failure, I guess. But if I don’t begin writing in it, it will remain empty and so will many of my most frustrating and rewarding moments of motherhood!
I always dreamed of being a mother and a wife and that was my goal in life. Reality hit when I came home with my first child, Katie. Post partum blues hit about the same time I walked in the door with her. A child of my own totally dependent on me for everything–physical needs, material needs, and spiritual needs.
At this time in my life I wasn’t a Christian but the Lord began working in my life with the inadequate feelings I felt after having Katie. Experiencing the miracle of life. Once you have a baby you know there is someone, a God whom helped create the child within. It’s too magnificent for humans to take the credit.
I wanted to nurse Katie but she wouldn’t take to me. I was nervous and in turn she became nervous and it didn’t work out–I gave up, feeling very guilty about it. My doctor stressed the importance of breastfeeding. That too made me feel blue because already I wasn’t the mother I should be.
The day after I came home from the hospital was my birthday. The last thing I wanted was a birthday party. Using it as an excuse to see Katie I had many relatives come over for a “surprise” party. All I wanted was time to sit with Terry and talk about how much I was struggling. That just happened to be the night my milk came in, too. I should have offered everyone “Boobie Juice” at my birthday party!
I really thought everything would come naturally to me–Right?? WRONG! You learn to be a mother. I thought I would automatically know all–WRONG! Mother’s Instinct, Right? Wrong AGAIN!
Then we had Jaymi when Katie was 19 months. Another blessing from the God I did not know. Don’t get me wrong I loved and will always love my girls very very much. My life would be very boring and meaningless without them. Again I tried to nurse. Stuck it out at the hospital and came home and quit. But then I called a neighbor and decided to try again. She came over with her breast pump. I nursed Jaymi for 7 days and quit because of mastitis. Again I felt so guilty about it.
It was boring staying at home, too. I was use to working and being with people. I didn’t feel like having people over because had a hard time keeping the house clean and get the girls in bed. Again, I was searching for the Lord.
Terry and I began attending Camano Chapel when Jaymi was 3 months and Katie, 21 months. The Lord began working in our lives. I knew I wanted my children to be brought up in church and I was beginning to see that my life first had to be an example to my children. I knew they were going to be what I lived. The Lord lead me to our pastor’s wife, Gayle Wayland’s, weight loss class called, “Joy In Discipline” and God began speaking to me. For the first time in my life, I discovered scripture could be applied in my life.
Terry and I accepted Christ as our personal Lord and Savior on September 8, 1982. In February, 1983, I heard on Dr. James Dobson about a program called MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers). I told Terry, “Boy, I could use that program.” So I took down and sent for the information and began praying about it. I had no idea that was of the Holy Spirit and that later I would become the chairman of it.
I’ll never forget the feeling of TOTAL inferior feelings in being chosen as chairman. I was in Pastor Bill’s office with him and Gayle, Judi Seegert and Terry Kirkman. We were trying to select ones to be on the steering. Gayle kicked my foot as the chairman position came up–I was scared to death. But the Lord’s grace is sufficient. It is His strength that pulls you through.
And other than a few “too personal entries” to share, the rest of that journal is blank. Wow, now my three awesome children are grown and married and I’m a Grandma AMA to ten amazing grandchildren. I Praise God for His love and faithfulness to me.
I found one other entry I had written: “At times I feel like I will never be able to get through the day–always something to do. Feed the kids. Now I have Michael who is 9 months. Laundry coming out of my ears and at times, I feel like I don’t even have time to pick my nose. I always seem to be tired–never enough energy, back is always aching and I feel like I’m not accomplishing much. What I’m doing you can’t see the results and I get discouraged very easily.”
If you are a mother of preschoolers, in my opinion, you are in the most challenging season of parenting. Hang in there! Being a mom is the most important job in the world. It is a marathon, not a sprint. I highly recommend you see if there is a MOPS group close to you. If there is, attend it. If there isn’t, you may want to start one! You won’t instantly see the results of your hard work now as a mom, but be encouraged–it’s worth every moment of it.
Isaiah 40:11 “He tends His flock like a shepherd; He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to His heart; He gently leads those that have young.”
Please feel free to sing along to my version of “Oh Christmas Tree”
Oh Christmas time, oh Christmas time, how lovely through the years
Oh Christmas time, oh Christmas time, why then all the tears
Each year expectations are so high, when they go unmet we often cry
Oh Christmas time, oh Christmas time, the card is maxed I fear
Oh New Years time, oh New Years time, we promise to start anew
Oh New Years time, oh New Years time, but our plans do go askew
Our expectations are so high, but the bathroom scale does not lie
Oh New Years time, oh New Years time, I think I’ll hide the mirrors
Each year we feel the need to vent, about our winters of discontent
Oh Christmas time, oh Christmas time I’ll give you my two-cents
Oh how we set ourselves up for discontentment with our high expectations.
After Thanksgiving I love listening to Christmas songs on the radio. Mostly because of how they make me feel. Because it rarely snows on Christmas in the Pacific Northwest, listening to people sing about a winter wonderland, talking snowmen, overachieving reindeer and a partridge in a pear tree (things I would never think about any other time of year) causes a wave of nostalgia to wash over me.
Just this past fall, I was already looking forward to Christmas. My son Michael, his wife Signe, and their two small children were coming home for Christmas (Christmas day evening to be exact). They live in Chandler, Arizona and make it home for Christmas every other year. Also coming home from Florida, the Wednesday after Christmas, was my oldest daughter Katie and her youngest out of five children.
Needless to say, both Karen and I were very excited to have all our children and six out of 10 grandchildren home for the holidays. Four or five years had passed since the last time our three children were under one roof together celebrating Christmas. It would be a time stay up late reminiscing about Christmas’s past.
But then came the winter of my contentment. One by one, a series of trials and afflictions met me head on. It all started on September 25th with me having a mini-stroke, losing my job for a year because of my stroke, having two heart surgeries and a third surgery resulting from an accidental puncturing of an artery which led to a hematoma in my right hand and forearm. (For the whole story of this Job-like experience, see my last article) http://desiretoinspire.life/dear-job-we-have-a-few-things-in-common-suffering/
So for the first four days Michael and his family are home, I’m sleeping twelve to sixteen hours a day. When I was awake I felt ten seconds behind every conversation with all the pain pills I was taking. Because my arm was sliced open like a carved turkey, I couldn’t pick up and hold two-year-old Esther. That broke my heart. Michael did put 3 month old Daniel on my lap. I didn’t hold him for long though. He not only is a cute, butterball of love but he’s built like a Butterball turkey and I was scared to death I’d drop him.
Karen and Michael would take Esther for walks to look at the neighborhood cow and horse while I slept on the couch. While the rest of the family had the kind of in-depth conversations I enjoy, I would fall asleep on the couch. I love to take pictures but I couldn’t hold onto the camera.
I was beginning to feel depressed even though the thing I wanted most this holiday (my three children all home together for Christmas) had come true.
Our family loves to play games. I was not about to miss out on that time together. One night five of us were playing Settlers of Catan…a game where you need to think and communicate well. I’m a pretty competitive guy and my daughter Jaymi is the undisputed champion of this game. I started fast and thought for sure, despite having a distinct disadvantage of being under the influence of a drug induced coma, I was going to win. But in the end I messed up by making a few mistakes with strategy and not only didn’t win but came in tied for last.
I blamed the loss on being high on drugs and told my son-in-law Matt that the winner had to put the game away. I walked into the living room, sunk into my couch and sulked. My Christmas wasn’t supposed to go down this way. I desired to squeeze out and drink up every ounce of family time I could. Instead the drugs and fatigue were draining every ounce of energy I had.
I felt cheated. The best conversation I had with Michael came on the eighty-minute drive back to Sea-Tac airport. My head was finally clear. I had quit taking the pain pills the day before, not because I didn’t need them, but because I was so constipated. If anyone poked my belly button I would explode.
After saying good-by to Michael and his family, Karen got behind the wheel for the long drive home. As we pulled away from the airport, I began to cry; partly from the pangs of constipation but mostly because of unmet expectations. Karen said that Michael understood my situation and reminded me that we still had Katie and our granddaughter Hannah home for another few days. I still had time to enjoy them while they were home.
Why do we do this to ourselves? Don’t feel too bad though. Even the wisest and maybe wealthiest man to have ever lived struggled with feelings of discontentment.
Solomon was King David’s son from Bathsheba. When he became king of the nation of Israel, God found favor with Solomon because of the king’s love for him. God told Solomon, “…Ask for whatever you want me to give to you.” 1 Kings 3:5
Solomon humbly asked for, “…a discerning heart to govern your (God’s) people and to distinguish between right and wrong.” 1 Kings 3:9
God was so pleased with Solomon’s request that he gave him the things (wealth and a long life) he did not ask for along with wisdom. Solomon’s life was filled with many great accomplishments:
“It was during his reign that the kingdom gained its highest splendor. Solomon was renowned throughout the ancient world of his time for his wisdom, his wealth and his extensive political and commercial alliances with the nations in the region. It was he who built the First Temple of Jerusalem, thus establishing the city not only as the political capital of the kingdom but also as the religious center of the People of Israel.” Excerpt taken from http://www.kingsolomonlegend.com/King-Solomon-Great-Construction-Achievements.html
“The royal palace of Solomon took twice as long to build as the Temple, and was much more complicated. In fact, it was a whole complex of buildings, with many different functions. According to the Bible, our only source of information, there was:
the cedar-pillared House of the Forest of Lebanon, perhaps an audience hall
a treasury or strongroom
the Judgement Hall where Solomon’s magnificent ivory throne stood
a special palace for the daughter of Pharaoh, Solomon’s most high-born wife
living quarters for Solomon’s multitude of wives and children. Though the ‘thousand wives of Solomon’ is probably an exaggeration, there were certainly many of them. Solomon cemented alliances with neighboring territories by marrying their rulers’ daughters, and by giving his own daughters in marriage to governors of provinces.” Excerpt taken from http://www.womeninthebible.net/bible-archaeology/solomons-palace/
Finally in Solomon lists all the ways in which he strove to find fulfillment in his life. In Ecclesiastes 2 he says, “…I tried to find fulfillment by inaugurating a great public works program…next I bought slaves, both men and women…I also bred great herds and flocks…I collected silver and gold as taxes from many kings and provinces…In the cultural arts, I organized men’s and women’s choirs and orchestras…and then there were the many beautiful concubines…Anything I wanted, I took, and did not restrain myself from any joy….But as I looked at everything I had tried, it was all so useless, a chasing of the wind and there was nothing really worthwhile anywhere.”
In his youth Solomon loved God. But throughout his rule as King, he began to turn his focus on other things. At the time of writing Ecclesiastes, he is an older man reflecting back on his life with what I believe is regret. During his reign, Solomon constantly strived in vein for what would make him happy. Instead of happiness he found discontentment. So what was missing?
He soon forgot to look up to heaven to rediscover his true joy. In the conclusion to his book he acknowledges the folly of his ways. In chapter 12 of Ecclesiastes he states the following:
“Don’t let the excitement of being young cause you to forget about your Creator. Honor him in your youth before the evil years come – when you’ll no longer enjoy living….Here is my final conclusion: fear God and obey his commandments, for this is the entire duty of man.”
Wait a minute! I’ve heard that God = Love. How do we reconcile the phrase ‘fear God’ into the equation?
While at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, I have no fear toward any of the animals while enjoying them from the safety of the walking trail. I will wet my pants if I ever find myself in the same cage as a tiger. I know what they are capable of, especially if hungry or provoked.
Most of the world doesn’t fear God because they either view Him from afar or don’t consider Him at all. Christians who understand the nature of God fear (respect, have reverence for) Him because that fear helps to prevent us from giving in to our sinful desires.
Now a tiger can no more love me than share a steak dinner with me. Actually, I am the steak dinner. God, on the other hand, loves us so much that, “… he gave his only Son so that anyone who believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16
This past Monday I was having another pity party. My hand hurt, my arm full of stitches was itching like crazy, I felt 100 years old just walking up our stairs, and we received a letter from the insurance company questioning one of the surgical procedures. Then my daughter Jaymi called and wondered if Karen and I wanted to go for a walk out at her house on Camano Island. We did go even though I wasn’t convinced I was up to it. I can’t tell you the joy I felt just being around my daughter and her three kids. When we left their home I felt 100% better.
Was it just being around my family which made all the difference? Maybe some but not all of it. It was what I did on the way to their house which paved the way for an attitude adjustment. I prayed that God would help me change my perspective on today’s circumstances. I thanked God for my family and thanked him that I was well enough to enjoy this day with them. That was it but it changed everything.
“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs and don’t forget to thank him for his answers. If you do this you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will keep your thoughts and your hearts quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus.”
Remember ‘Where’s Waldo’? Because of my recent hiatus from the blogging world, you probably have been asking…”Where’s Terry”? If you speculated I enjoyed my time at the Providence Luxury Hotel so much that I decided to extend my stay, you are partially correct. I did extend my stay; I have not yet learned to enjoy suffering.
She knew how much I enjoyed my previous stay. The accommodating staff had worked hard to meet my every need while repairing a hole in my heart. So on December 23rd, I once again found myself reclining on one of the hotel’s Swedish massage tables while eagerly awaiting my surgery to place a stent (angioplasty) in an artery not feeding enough blood into my hungry heart.
You know the saying…”Time flies when you’re having fun”. No sooner had I kissed Karen good-by, I awoke to her smiling face. A band, wrapped around my right wrist, applied pressure to the opened artery. A nurse told me my surgeon couldn’t proceed up the artery to my blockage, so he had to use the same right artery he used in my groin when repairing the hole in my heart. The bruising from that last procedure was just going away…oh well.
My groin felt fine…my wrist was hurting like a son-of-a-gun. As I visited with Karen, my forearm and hand also began to hurt like a misplaced migraine headache. Soon, my hand turned an ashen shade of gray and I lost feeling to my fingers. Was this the result of a manicure gone wrong? I buzzed a nurse. As I showed her my hand, her face turned the same shade of gray as my numb limb. A phone call was placed; a vascular surgeon appeared; a declaration was made and I kissed Karen once again as a faithful staff member wheeled me away for another salon treatment.
A few hours later I returned to my private room. As I recovered from the potent cocktail served at the salon, I noticed elastic bandage wrap covering my right arm from the elbow past the palm of my hand. Because I was still recovering from the hangover of my first surgery, I hadn’t fully grasped what the second surgery entailed. Something about a hematoma and needing to release the pressure in my hand and arm. I really didn’t know what to expect… maybe a large Band-Aid over my wrist. Instead, my arm looked like the decapitated appendage from an Egyptian mummy.
The surgeon soon appeared and unwrapped three layers of bloody gauze covering my arm and hand. Karen and I gasped. An impressive 12 inch long by 2 inch wide window into my forearm had been opened. The wound was held open by a network of blue rubber bands hooked to staples. I was in awe (shock) at the sight of the inner workings of my arm. It looked like a salmon fillet which was ready to throw on the barbecue. No…a fillet is a boneless piece of meat. I had a clear view of one of my tendons and I watched a busy little artery pulsate in rhythm to my beating heart.
After rewrapping my arm, the vascular surgeon left. My cardiologist then appeared and explained that while he entered the artery in my wrist, he accidentally punctured the back side of it at the same time without knowing he did it. This caused the blood to pour into my hand and forearm. Talk about a blood-bath!
I spent Dec. 23rd and 24th in Providence and came home late Christmas day. After some of the swelling went down, I returned to Providence on the 29th to have the rubber bands replaced with stitches. Now I have an arm full of sutures Frankenstein would be proud of.
Some may look at this as a tragedy but I see opportunity. How many people take the time to invest in developing the coordination and strength of their weak hand. I’ve got 3 to 6 months to train my left hand to perform as well as my right. Even now, as I type this post, my left hand is doing all the work. You never know when you will be forced to use your weak hand to brush your teeth or wipe your fanny. I’ll be ready!
Oh how we take for granted so many things in our lives…like the good fortune of a steady paycheck, the freedoms we possess for living in America, the love of a loyal spouse, and our good health.
Job and I have a few things in common: We both understand how our fortunes can change in an instant. (Well my fortunes changed over the course of a few months, while Job’s actually did change instantly). Let me show you a comparison…Me first:
September 25 -I suffer a mini-stroke. Recovered quickly but found out I couldn’t drive school bus for an entire year.
December 13 – I can’t breath and almost pass out. Karen calls the ambulance and I’m rushed to the emergency room. (Yipee!!!) Diagnosis: Dehydration.
December 15 – A wind storm rips off a big branch from our cedar tree and takes out part of our chain link fence and our grandkids’ swing set. (Glad it missed our house).
On December 23 another heart surgery to put a stent in one of my arteries. Ooops! Doctor punctures artery resulting in a hematoma.
Now for Mr. Job, “…a good man who feared God and stayed away from evil”. Job 1:1 “Job’s sons and daughters were dining at the oldest brother’s house when tragedy struck.” Job 1:13 :
.”A messenger rushed to Job’s home with this news: Your oxen were plowing, with the donkeys feeding beside them, when the Sabeans raided us, drove away the animals and killed all the farmhands except me.”
“While the messenger was still speaking, another arrived with more bad news: The fire of God has fallen from heaven and burned up your sheep and all the herdsmen, and I alone have escaped to tell you.”
“As he was still speaking, another arrived to say, “Your sons and daughters were feasting in their oldest brother’s home, when suddenly a mighty wind swept in from the desert, and engulfed the house so that the roof fell in on them and all are dead; and I alone escaped to tell you.”
A short time later Satan, who was behind all the mischief to begin with, asked God for permission to hurt him. God relented and gave Job a horrible case of boils from the tip of his head to the bottom of his feet.
So why does God allow suffering? That’s a question Godly men have wrestled with throughout the centuries, including Job. Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that all that happens to us is working for our good if we love God and are fitting into his plans.”
How can suffering be “working for our good“? James, the brother of Jesus, answers this question in James 1:2-4: “Dear brothers, is your life full of difficulties and temptations? Then be happy, for when the way is rough, your patience has a chance to grow. So let it grow, and don’t try to squirm out of your problems. For when your patience is finally in full bloom, then you will be ready for anything, strong in character, full and complete.”
God wants us to love him by having faith that He knows what He is doing in our lives. When life is good, we are happy with our circumstances and feel God loves us and is pleased with us. When life takes a U-turn for the worse, we often feel distant from God. God must be punishing us. He doesn’t care and doesn’t love us enough to rescue us from our negative circumstances.
As for me, I believe suffering is an opportunity to test my trust in God. Do I enjoy suffering? Do I consider it pure joy? Are you crazy? Sorry James but I guess I’m not mature enough to “be happy when the way is rough.” I am mature enough though to understand that God loves me no matter what. If I am going to give Him control of my life, I have to be ready to accept the fact that He will, at times, bring difficult situations into my life for training purposes.
Remember the greatest commandments? “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind,” is first. “Love your neighbor as yourself,” is second. A part of love is having empathy toward the suffering of others. If we have no personal experience with suffering how can we learn to love those who suffer? If we haven’t experienced suffering, how can we hope to even come close to understanding the suffering Christ experienced for us on the cross?
Yes, through suffering our faith is tested but also our capacity for empathy grows. We must first acquire the faith necessary to humbly allow God to do his good work in our lives. This good work (which at times involves suffering) then allows us to feel the pain and suffering of others, including Christ. It is then, through suffering, we can truly begin to love others as we love ourselves and to truly love the Lord with our hearts, souls, and minds.
If you would like to see a photo of the inside of my arm, keep scrolling down.