Saturday, December 31, 2011

By The Grace of God

Well, once again I am sick.  Seems like I've been sick most of the past few months.  I was so blessed to have gone so many months without even getting a cold.  That hasn't been the case lately.  The Friday before Christmas we were having dinner with my in-laws and I noticed I felt like I had swallowed a hair ball.  It just went downhill from there.  I have been on antibiotics since Monday and by Wednesday I seemed to be heading in the right direction.  However, this morning I feel almost as bad as I did Monday.  My homehealth nurse said Thursday she heard crackles and fluid in my right lung.  Thankfully the antibiotic I am taking covers pneumonia.  I was told yesterday it may take 2 rounds to clear it up though.

In retrospect, I probably shouldn't have gotten out of the house yesterday, but I needed it.  My friend Deborah sent me a text asking if I was up for a Sonic run.  I had to double check with Darryl to make sure I wasn't contagious, and when I got the go ahead I felt like a kid at Christmas.  We picked up our Sonic drinks and some lunch, and I spent the next couple of hours on her couch.  I did not feel like going.  I felt terrible, but I figured I could feel terrible on her couch just as well as I could mine.  And maybe a change of scenery and a Sonic drink would make me feel better.  I have to say, it did help and I'm glad I went.

I had a friend as me last night, "How do you do it?  How do you keep going when you feel so bad so much of the time?"

It's simple.

By the grace of God.

It's not like I put my big girl panties on and decide I can do it.  I often sit in the shower and cry ... and there are days I don't even feel like getting a shower.  I have to beg the Lord for the grace and strength to be able to keep moving.  When I say I'm learning more and more what it means to be totally dependent on the Lord Jesus for every step I take, I mean just that.  I couldn't do it without Him.

Living with CIDP is hard.  There is never a time I'm not in pain.  Some days are just better than others.  I tire easily and I'm weak.  My feet are heavy, and it's hard to walk.  It's actually scary to walk a lot of times because I'm such a falls risk.  Dr. Gaw's warning that if I were to ever break a hip or leg I most likely would never walk again plays in my head often.  His warning is actually what causes me to swallow my pride and use the walker ... the one with the hand breaks, seat and that handy basket.  It makes me feel like a 90 year old woman in a nursing home.  It would just be so much easier to just sit on the couch all of the time and cry.


By the grace of God, I don't.

I don't always have the "want to".  Just getting a shower and getting dressed to go anywhere wears me out.  Often times the more I move, the more I hurt.  But I've learned that giving into the temptation to not move is worse than the effort it takes or the amount of pain it may cause.

So I pray.  I ask the Lord for grace and mercy.  I ask Him to give me the "want to" on the days it's not there.  On the days I have the "want to" but it doesn't seem physically possible, I ask Him to make a way. 

I am determined and stubborn, but there are days I feel sorry for myself also.  I can throw some of the biggest pity parties you've ever seen.  I never know when my next "attack" is going to happen.  I can get really wrapped up in the fear that it can happen at any moment.  But by the grace of God, I don't stay there.  He pulls me out of that.

You see, it's not me.  My determination that I'm going to keep going comes from the Lord.  Any "want to" I have comes from the Lord.

It's only by His grace I can take my next step.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Randomness Runnig Through My Head

The past several days have been super busy.  I am so tired that it actually takes effort to breathe.  I keep hearing the voice of a friend saying, "Don't over do it like you did last year and make yourself miserable."  Apparently I didn't take her wise advice.  I would definitely define the way I feel this morning as miserable.

The med adjustment Dr. Peltier made at my last visit is not working.  It's actually greatly increased my pain.  The new med should have started working by now, but all it's doing is making me dose off at the most inopportune times.  It's actually been embarrassing.  Not to mention I start snoring even before I'm actually asleep.  This morning I can't seem to get my pain level under control.  Darryl has done a couple of other med adjustments.  He's increased my Lyrica back to the dose I was taking, but it hasn't helped yet.  I'm just miserable.

And overwhelmed.  I am so far behind on being prepared for Christmas.  I STILL have my Fall tablecloth on the dining room table.  My mind is racing in circles with all of the things that are left to be done.  Things have just been super busy and when I have time to get some things done, I just am too tired to move.  We never actually had Thanksgiving dinner, so maybe we will just combine Thanksgiving with Christmas.  I may just leave the Fall tablecloth on the table.

I am too tired to try to write this post where the paragraphs flow together.  So I'm going to do this in list form.

1.   Today is my twin brothers' birthday.  They are younger than me, and I am bossier than them.  They may be 37 now, but they will always be my little brothers.  It's weird thinking of us as old as we are now.  It seems like it was just yesterday that we were playing Dukes of Hazard and using the black chair in our living room as the General Lee.

Happy Birthday, Lannie and Jason!  I love you!!

2.   This is our Christmas card this year.  I wasn't going to do one because we were so late getting our pictures done, but I couldn't sleep one night.  So at 3:00 a.m. I put it together.

I have not mailed any of them out yet.  I have handed a few out in person though.  I need to sit down and finish them.  Maybe I should have done a "Happy New Year" card instead.  I might have had a better chance of getting them out on time.

3.   I had an eye appointment yesterday for my yearly check-up.  What should have been easy breezy turned out to be quite stressful.  My left eye does some weird stuff at times.  It tends to move when it's not supposed to, and I get double vision.  The corner of it is numb, but so is my part of the left side of my face.  My eye doctor is a very calm, laid back guy, so when I seen him get a little concerned I became greatly concerned.  I was almost in panic attack mode.  He would do the, "which is better ... this one or this one?" exam and then shine that bright light in my eye.  Then he would pull up the pictures they had taken of my eyeball in the other room.  He kept doing this over and over, and then told me he needed to do additional testing.  I'm not sure what all he said after that.  All I heard was "I'm concerned about the eye muscle", and "We may need to clip one of the muscles in your eye".  I tend to only pick up on the negative parts my doctors say, and that would be why I almost always make someone go in the room with me.  I didn't take anyone with me because I thought this was a no big deal appointment.  Sara was the one who had driven me there because she had an appointment at the same time I did.  She was in the other room having her exam done, so I couldn't ask her to come take notes.  Turned out to not be as bad as he was concerned it would be.  My left eye is considerably weaker than the right, and it is because of the CIDP.  He went and did some quick research while I was there and discovered it wasn't uncommon for it to happen.  There isn't anything that can be done at this point to fix it.  He did adjust my prescription hoping it might help, but if it gets to the point where my eye won't readjust we will have to consider clipping one of the eye muscles so one of the others will be forced to take over.  Hopefully that won't happen.  Ugh!  I can't stand the thoughts of it!!

4.   Tuesday I went with Mary to pick up her daughter and friend who had spent a few days visiting Connie and her family and some other friends who live in the same town.  We stopped and picked up a couple of other friends to ride with us and we met Connie and the girls a little over half way for lunch.  We ate at the cutest place.  I felt terrible but I had the best time.  We laughed so hard we were in tears.  I think we were a bit too loud for all of the folks around us because we kept getting looks.  We also teared up listening to one of sweet friends share her heart over what the Lord is teaching her about contentment.  It was such a precious day!

5.   Yesterday afternoon the girls and I went to visit my cousin and her new baby girl.  I think we might have overstayed our welcome.  We lost track of time we were enjoying ourselves so much.  My aunt was there and it was great to just sit and visit.  Zadie Beth is such a cuddle bug.  Her big brother and sister are so cute with her.  Hannah got to feed her, and she and Sara argued over who's turn it was to hold her.  I almost didn't go I was so tired and hurting, but I am so glad I did!  I love watching Heather with her kids.  She is such a good mommy!

6.   I have forgotten all the other things I had to say.  All I can seem to concentrate on is the shocking fire running through my feet and legs.  And it's raining now.  That's not going to help the situation at all.

Have I mentioned lately how much I despise CIDP?!?!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Random Things That Made Me Happy The Past 24 hrs.

I'm a bit sad today.  I think mostly because I feel terrible.  My pain level is off the pain scale the nurses always want you to use to rate your pain.  I know it partly has to do with way overdoing it the past couple of days.  The deary weather isn't helping either.  The cold, dampness factors into my pain, and it also factors into my mood.  I could cry, but that would give me a headache.  I've been trying to figure out something that would make me feel better, but kept coming up blank.  I put in Chris Tomlin's Christmas CD and then I sat down to write a blog post.  Before I got started I thought it would be a good time to catch up on the blogs I read.

And I read this post by BooMama.

"What are some happy moments of your day?", she asked.

Random things that have made me happy in the past 24 hrs ...

1.  Having a part-time job that I can work from home at any hour of the day I want.  I don't have to comb my hair, brush my teeth or even change out of my pj's.  The blessings from this job could be a blog post all of it's own.

2.  Having a friend pick me up to spend the day together and she greets me with a smile and a giggle.

3.  Going to a jewelry sale where everything is $5 and scoring some Christmas gifts.

4.  Having a friend that knows to stop a Sonic before we hit the interstate to go shopping.

5.  It could go without saying, a Sonic coke.  I just think it deserves it's own honorable mention.

6.  Having a sweet conversation with my friend about Jesus.

7.  Laughing hysterically because we are a bit directionally challenged.  Well, I think I'm the one challenged, and she just doesn't know enough not to listen to me.

8.  Ross.  If you've never shopped there, you need to.

9.  Running into friends at Target and laughing with two sweet teen girls about their enthusiasim over "80's looking" clothing ... that they claim they will never wear in public.  I adore those girls!!

10.  Getting a text that my cousin had given birth to a healthy baby girl!  She chose not to find out what she was having.

11.  Getting a picture text of my cousin's sweet baby girl that was just a couple of hours old.

12.  Finding a gift for my nephew that was on sale.  Something I wanted to get him last year, but refused to pay what it cost.

13.  Lunch.  I was starving.

14.  Making plans to go visit one of my dearest friends with my other dear friend.

15.  Ice cream pie.

16.  Cuddling with sweet Zadie Beth and getting to visit with my cousin and aunt.

17.  Hearing my daughter say "I love you." before she hangs up the phone.

18.  This picture ...

19.  And this picture ...

20.  And this picture ...

But the thing that makes me the happiest is being reminded at every turn Jesus loves and He is near to me ... even when I may not "feel it".  He is there always and forever, and He is the same today as He was yesterday, and as He will be forever.  The seasons may change, but He never does.

Well, one thing makes me happier than that.  He is coming back to take His children home.  Praise the Lord this is not home!

Have you thought about the random things that make you happy lately? 

p.s.  I forgot to add one thing that made me laugh out loud.  I logged on to Facebook and the first status I read a friend was telling something her 5 yr old daughter had said she when she passed gas ... "It was a poop saying hello."  It still makes me laugh!!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Picture Perfect

I love pictures.  Especially photos of my girls.  I love looking back and seeing how much they've grown and remember sweet, precious moments in their lives.  When they were born their first "studio" picture was taken at 6 weeks, then 10 weeks, again at 3 months and then every 3 months following for their first year ... plus holidays, not to mention the hundreds of photographs we took at home.  After their first year, I slowed down to every 6 months.: )  We also had family photos made at least once a year.  For some reason I failed to have some taken a couple of years before getting sick.  After having a "life-threatening" experience I realized how fragile life was and how important it would be to have those.

My friend Ginger Dunn is one of the most talented photographers I know.  Amazing doesn't even do her justice.  She usually takes photos of nature and had never done family portraits.  I convinced her to do ours and they were fabulous.  Just how I had expected them to be.  Since then, she has been the one to do our pictures.  However, this year we had a different friend do them, and I felt like I had "cheated" on Ginger.  I gave her the heads up and explained we had chosen to have Alissa do them because she and her husband we donating all of the sitting fees to our building fund at church.  So generous and precious of them.  Such an example of being sacrificial to the Lord.

Alissa and Tyler own Center Point Photography, and just like Ginger, they are amazing and so creative.  I am so overjoyed with how well our pictures turned out!  I am not so happy with how I look.  The weight I have put on since getting sick it very bothersome to me.  Nonetheless, I am so pleased with out photos.

Nathan's mom has wanted all of us to get together for pictures for a couple of years.  We had them done once and have tried for a couple of years now to get all 10 of us together to have them done again.  It just hasn't worked out, so we decided to just go with those that could this year.  I had them set up for the day before Thanksgiving and guess who got sick??  I had the worst stomach virus I have in a very long time, maybe my entire life.  Not only did I miss pictures, but I also missed Thanksgiving with my family.  Because my nephew lives out of town, I decided it was best to send everyone else and have our family done after I was better.  I missed out on the big family picture, but at least we were able to have my nephew in the pictures.

I am really hoping I can get my parents, brothers and their families together to have her do some pictures.  It may be this Spring though because Alissa is due to have a baby boy in about 2 weeks now.  I am so excited for them!!

Here a few of my favorites.  I posted a few on Facebook last night.  I cannot wait to get prints!

I think this is probably my favorite of the 4 of us.

 This is what the plaque says we are holding.  I love this plaque.  I have bought several of them for gifts.

 I love, love this!!  I cannot believe they are that grown up already!!  And look at that lighting.

I love this picture of Nathan and the girls!

 I love them so much!!

This is Nathan's parents with all of the grandkids.  I am so glad they thought to put Boyd's hat on him.  I think it just adds something extra to the picture.

 This is one of the best photos of Lynn and Boyd.

Nathan's sister, Brenon, with her nieces and nephew.  I think this is so sweet!

 I love this one!

 That face! : )

I adore him!  He is such a character and super smart!!  He said he wanted his picture made with a tree.

 Nathan and is sister.  This is a really good picture of them.

 I have no words for that face!

I love this man more and more every day.

 Love this!  This quilt was made by a precious friend and all of the white blocks have verses from Psalms written on them.  Alissa asked me to bring this quilt so she could take this picture.  I had no idea it would turn out to be so beautiful.  This picture says so much without even saying a word.

Those are just a few of the pictures that I love.

Thank you, Alissa!  You did an amazing job.  And thank you, Tyler and Tara for helping her out.  Thank for giving up an additional day of your time to make up for the day I couldn't be there. 

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Changing Priorites

There are only 15 days left before Christmas and I'm super stressed.  We still don't have our tree fully decorated, I'm behind on shopping and I haven't begun Christmas cards.  I actually don't even have them ordered because I don't have our pictures yet.  We were so late getting them made this year.  It's looking like Christmas cards may not even get mailed out this year.  Even if I ordered them today, I don't think I would have them back before Christmas.  Things have been so hectic around here, and I don't even have the energy to do laundry, much less decorate a tree.  We have a tree with only lights on it in our living room and a Fall table cloth on the dining room table.  I've been obsessing about how I'm possibly going to get it all done.  Worried I'm going to be too weak to cook Christmas dinner.  My stomach has been in knots over what to buy my nieces and nephews and our parents.

Last night I was reading through Facebook and a friend had posted a link to a blog.  It's challenged my thinking and has put things in perspective for me. It's a bit long, but I strongly encourage you to read this post.  Thank you, Denise, for sharing this.

My mom struggled financially when I was a child.  She worked two and three jobs at a time to make sure we had everything we needed.  At the time we didn't realize just how little we had because she had done such an amazing job of making sure we were fed, had a nice place to live and had nice clothes.  It wasn't until after she put herself through nursing school and was able to get a good paying job that we realized we had actually been poor.  We didn't realize that we didn't get as much as our friends did for Christmas, but we did notice that as she became more stable financially our gifts increased.  I don't ever remember feeling I was deprived at Christmas.  However, I do remember when I was in the 7th grade sitting in the locker room our first day back to school after Christmas break. We were sitting around sharing what we had each gotten for Christmas.  Sitting with us was a girl who with enthusiasm said, "I got seven dollars for Christmas!"  I remember thinking, "That's it?!?!  How awful!  I feel so sorry for you."  She acted as if she had been given far more than any of us.  At the time I didn't understand how she could possibly not be embarrassed.

When I became a parent I was determined our girls were going to have what I considered to be a great Christmas.  Our tree would be overflowing with gifts and there would be so much stuff for their stockings it wouldn't all fit.  Then there were the Santa gifts.  I can't even count how many arguments Nathan and I have had over how much I would buy the girls.  He would accuse me of trying to make up for what I didn't get as child, and then he would show up at the last minute with more gifts he had bought.  I was all too quick to point how he was just as bad I was about buying them gifts.

It wasn't myself I was thinking about when I bought all of those gifts.  I was actually thinking of the girl in the locker room.  Although she wasn't embarrassed, I didn't want our girls to be the kids who were embarrassed because they didn't get as much as their friends.  I suppose you could say I was trying to keep up with the "Jones".

I don't know that this year is really any different.  Money is tight because we have so many medical bills we are trying to pay off.  I've been obsessing over how money is coming in stages and I'm missing sales, which means I can't buy as much.

And then I read the blog post my friend posted last night.

Shameful.  It's absolutely shameful how my priorities have been so messed up.  Instead of being embarrassed about the lack of gifts our girls may get, I'm now embarrassed about how I've put my emphasis in all the wrong places.  Instead of being so enthusiastic about Santa, I should have spent more time teaching them Jesus is the greatest gift anyone will ever receive.  Santa can never top that.

I'm also very saddened over how my witness has been tainted.  I say I believe Jesus is the greatest gift, but my actions haven't shown that.  I have one foot pushing Santa and the other claiming I'm grateful for the birth of Jesus.  I don't remember if I heard someone say this or I read it in the blog last night, but if I'm encouraging our girls to believe in a made up jolly old man, what's going to make them believe Jesus is real?

Sara had a friend in elementary school who was adopted.  Her parents didn't hide that from her.  From the beginning it was explained to her they chose her to be their daughter.  When she discovered Santa wasn't real, she was devastated.  Not because he was made up but because her parents had lied to her.  She was so angry with them.  I remember her mom saying she was so grateful they had always been honest with her about her adoption, because if she had found out years down the road it would have been even more devastating than discovering they lied about Santa.  I thought about this last night.  What would keep someone from thinking I wasn't lying about Jesus since I lied about Santa?

I wish I had done it differently.  I don't know what that would look like.  I don't want to take the fun out of Christmas, but surely there is a balance.  Well, I'm not sure I would want it to even balance.  I'd like for the scales to lean more toward Christ.

Because of the grace of God, my girls do understand Christmas is about celebrating the birth of Jesus.  The Lord redeemed what I messed up.  I do think our priorities need to change, so I'm going to pray about how I need to do that.

I am grateful Christmas is on Sunday this year.  What a better place to spend our time than in church praising our God for sending us a Savior!  I know Jesus most likely wasn't born on December 25.  I know it's a day man has picked to be the day we celebrate.  I understand we should be celebrating Jesus every day, yet we live in a world that has set aside this particular day.  I think as Christians we should outwardly show our belief that Christmas is a celebration of Christ.  I think we should be spending time on Christmas Eve in church telling the story of His birth and singing sweet melodies and lullaby's like "Silent Night", "Away in a Manger" and my personal favorite, "Welcome to this World".  Christmas morning we should spend time together singing praises like "Joy to the World" and "Hark the Herald".  I know we could very well do this in our homes, but there something so sweet about being in communion with a crowd of other believers being in awe of the gift we've been given.

I hope my family's priorities change this Christmas.  I hope we spend more time being reminded of the miracle of Jesus than we do opening gifts.  I am going to be praying to that end.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Happy 70th Birthday To My Dad!!

Today is my dad's 70th birthday.  Although he's not my biological father, he's still my dad.  Don married my mom when I was 15 and my brothers were 13.  Some might call him crazy for marrying someone with 3 teenagers, but it didn't bother him.  In fact, he loved us from the beginning and has never once referred to us as his "step-children".  It's always been "this is my daughter and these are my sons".

When I had Sara, I went to stay at my mom's for a few days after I left the hospital.  Our first night there Sara was laying in her craddle in the living room.  Without saying a word, Don got up from his chair, walked over and picked her up and then laid her on his lap when he sat down.  He just sat there and held her for the longest time.  I think that was the moment they bonded and they've had a special relationship ever since.

This is Sara's current Facebook status ...

"Today is my Pa Don's birthday. I can't even begin to count the reasons why he is so special to me because there are too many. He's kind hearted, friendly, funny, caring, loving, sweet, compassionate, and simply amazing. I'll never forget the day that we were in Wal-Mart a few years ago and he looked at a lady that he went to high school with, put his arm on my shoulder, and said, "This is my oldest grandbaby. I'm really her step-grandpa but I just call her my granddaughter and she calls me her grandpa." He's given me so many memories and I would not trade them for the world. When I look for a future husband, I want him to have the qualities that Pa Don has. I am incredibly blessed and so proud to call him my grandpa. I love you, Pa Don. Happy 70th Birthday!"

Beautifully said, Sara.

Happy 70th Birthday, Don!  I love you! 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Whiter Than Snow

I have no idea what the Lord is up to, but I do know that it feels like He's working overtime on my heart.  I am so grateful that He is longsuffering and steadfast, because if He were otherwise I probably would drive Him to throw His hands up in the air and walk away.  I know I certainly wear me out, and I think that one of my dear friends and I were wearing out the ladies at bible study yesterday.

I left bible study last week with a renewed look at just how much the Lord truly does love me.  I left with complete certainty in my heart that He was mine and I am His.  If I could have skipped home, I would have.  My heart was that overjoyed.  It had been brought to my attention that if I truly didn't belong to Him I wouldn't pray every day for Him to take us home.  It made perfect sense to me, and I had never once considered that.  It was as if Jesus Himself had sat down in front of me and said those words to me.  I was convinced that I now had something to squash the doubts the moment they entered my mind.

And I did ... for about 24 hrs.

I have a friend in our group that struggles with the same issue I do.  How do we know?  How do we know that He loves us ... we are His ... and it's just not something we've convinced ourselves?  I struggle so much with this.  I have never wanted anything more in my life than the assurance I am His child.  I want absolute certainty.

I've been told over and over again that it doesn't make sense that I would question.  I've been told by others it's evident to them I am.  They see my fruit.  But I see my fruit as being rotten.  I know my wicked heart.  I know what horrible things I've done in my life.  And when I'm not reminding myself of those things, there is always someone else waiting the wings ready to jump in and point them out to me.

It's an ongoing struggle.  Not one I wrestle with every single day.  As I've said before, 29 days out of the month I'm good, but the that one day I spend obsessing.  Then there are those times, like the bible study we are doing now in Hebrews, that throw me for a loop.  And it wears people around me out.  It was so obvious that was happening yesterday.  The more frustrated they became, the more I found myself shutting down.  Sobbing wasn't on my agenda for the day, and I knew if one tear fell I'd flood the room.

It helps to have a friend that "gets it".  She totally understands my questions, but it's hurtful to have my other friends become so frustrated with me when I just can't seem to be convinced of what they know.  I probably would have slipped out yesterday and driven myself home if I could have.  But I was stuck.  There was no slipping out ... a.k.a. running away.  I was right where the Lord wanted me to be.

All of a sudden a lady across the room said, "I wish I cared enough to question.  I know the answer would still be the same, but I do wish I cared enough to question."  I don't remember her exact words after that, but what she said was she wonders if she just takes her certainty for granted. 

Hello, Lord.

Why I tend to loose sight of what I know in the inner most part of my heart to be true, I don't know.  I do know this ... 
"For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world-rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places." ~ Ephesians 6:12
And I know that my times of doubt and struggling cause me to dig deep in the Word, the ABSOLUTE TRUTH.  It causes me to spend hours face down at the foot off the cross, and when my doubt fades I walk away with a greater understanding of what it is to be loved by my Heavenly Father.  I walk away with a deeper love for Him and a greater appreciation for Him choosing to die on the cross to cover my sins.

As she sat across the room sharing her heart, with tears in her eyes, the most beautiful snow was falling.  Huge white flakes covered the yard outside the window that was just behind her.

I've made you whiter than snow.  Those horrible things that you're reminded of, my blood has covered those.  Your wicked heart has been cleansed.  You, my daughter, have been made whiter than snow.

Amazing love, how can it be, that you my God would die for me?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

"Blessed Bankruptcy"

This was the title of our pastor's sermon on Sunday.  I've spent the past couple of days spending a lot of time thinking through some of the things he said.  This morning I took out my notes and as I read through what I had written, I became a weeping mess.  The first thing I have written is this ...
"We should understand what it is to be bankrupt of ourselves ... destitute in ourselves.  It is only the poor in spirit that the Kingdom belongs."
A couple of my very best friends have often said to me, "God wants us to be at the end of ourselves."  It's taken me a long time to truly understand what those words meant.  I would often wonder why God would want me totally broken, unable to know how I was possibly going to take my next breath.  What I didn't understand was it is only at the point of total brokenness that we can see His grace and mercy.  It's only in brokenness that we can see His greatness.  It's only when we are at the foot of the cross completely empty of ourselves that we can see His glory.

I have realized more over the past couple of days that being bankrupt of ourselves is the most blessed place we could ever be.  We have nothing to offer the Lord.  We come to Him broken, empty and needy.  We come to Him as a poor wretched sinner and cry out for mercy.  He takes us out of our desperation and gives us all we will ever need.

In my notes I have written, highlighted in pink ...
"We've been taken out of the kingdom of darkness and we've been given the Kingdom of Heaven."
In our spiritual bankruptcy we find we've been given everything we could ever need.  We need Jesus, and it's through Him we are given the Kingdom of Heaven.

Also highlighted in pink and underlined ...
"Christ delights to save those who cry out for mercy." 

A couple of months ago Mary and Connie, on separate days, sent me the link to this.  I had heard this song several times.  When it comes on the radio in the van, the girls turn it up and sing along.  This past week Mary was sharing with me how she had bought the CD and what a blessing it was to her.  I bought the CD this weekend after our conversation, and have listened to this song no less than 50 times.  It might just be my new hang up.  It's beautifully written and sung.

"Blessings" by Laura Story
We pray for blessings
We pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering
All the while, You hear each spoken need
Yet love us way too much to give us lesser things

'Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

We pray for wisdom
Your voice to hear
And we cry in anger when we cannot feel You near
We doubt Your goodness, we doubt Your love
As if every promise from Your Word is not enough
All the while, You hear each desperate plea
And long that we'd have faith to believe
'Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near
And what if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

When friends betray us
When darkness seems to win
We know that pain reminds this heart
That this is not, this is not our home
It's not our home

'Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
And what if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near
What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy
And what if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are Your mercies in disguise

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Lord Has Done It Again

I have been sitting here for about the past half hour staring a blank screen.  What I have to share is one of the most profound things that has ever been said to me, and I'm not sure I can describe it in a way that translates it to you in the way it was to me.  It's one of those things that has forever changed the way I think, or at least quickly ends any doubts that enter my mind.

I've been very vocal about how there are time I doubt my salvation.  I sometimes wonder if I truly belong to the Lord, or do I just want it so badly I've convinced myself that I am.  It just seems so easy to me.  All I have to do is believe He died for my sins?

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall have everlasting life."  ~ John 3:16

It really is that simple, yet it's the simplicity of it that feeds into my doubts.  Jesus endured so much to pay for my sins.  He choose to suffer and die for my sake.  Why me?  I am so unworthy.  I sin, and I sin often.  I am way far from perfect.  I sometimes do things or have sinful thoughts, and I think, "If I were truly a Christian I wouldn't have done that."  I know there are those around me who look at me and think the same thing.  I am a terrible witness.

Instead of spending my time and energy reminding myself that it's all been covered by the blood of Jesus, I question my salvation.  "How could I have done that if I truly loved Him?  There is no way He could love someone like me."  I have spent a lot of time camping out on those questions and thoughts.  And it's a subject that my bible study group has spent a lot of time discussing.  What I've discovered is I'm not the only one who has those thoughts.  I actually believe that every Christian has questioned.  Although it may be a fleeting thought and you may not spend as much time camping out on it as I have.

The Lord has been so faithful to show me I am His.  He reminds me through reading His word, a devotion I read or through words of a friend.  My friend Connie has said to me so many times, "If you weren't, you would care."  For the moment it helps.  Sometimes that reassurance will last weeks, but sometimes ... a lot of times ... it only last for a short time.

During bible study on Tuesday,  He did it again.

The subject of doubting came up in our discussion once again.  After we had been talking for several minutes, one of the ladies noticed another lady was crying.  She asked her if she was okay, but she was so emotional she couldn't speak for several moments.  She is one of the sweetest, most dear ladies you could ever meet.  Her heart is so tender and that's one of the things I love most about her.  Once she was able to choke out the words, this is what she had to say ...

She said she had been reading something ... I think she said in her bible ... and it reminded her of me.  She thought about how I doubt at times.  This is the part that left me speechless ...

She said it must be wonderful to know I am going to Heaven.  That if I didn't belong to Him, I wouldn't pray every day for Him to return to take us home.  That should be proof I am His.

It was as if Jesus had come and sat smack dab in front of me.  I don't know how to fully describe the warm feeling I had come over me.  It was as if He was hugging me tightly as He was reassuring me that I am His and He is mine.

After awhile the only words I could utter were, "Wow!  Thank you for sharing that."  I had no argument against what she had just said.  The Holy Spirit had used her to speak truth to me.  I wanted to weep right then and there.

Thank you, Gale, for sharing with me what the Holy Spirit had revealed to you.

I am so grateful the Lord is faithful and never tires of reassuring me of His love for me.

Thank you, Lord,  for loving me even though I am so unworthy.

Friday, December 2, 2011

A Graceful Holiday Sale

Fundraiser for the Grace Presbyterian Church Building Program 
Saturday, December 3rd from 9 AM—5 PM at the 
Algood Elementary School cafeteria

Stumped to find just the right gift for someone special on your holiday shopping list? In need of a delicious baked goods for a Christmas party or dinner? Looking for a unique, hand-made decoration or painting to add just the right touch to your home?

Drop by Algood Elementary School on corner of Dry Valley Road & Old Walton Road in Algood on Saturday between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. and you’ll find an assortment of delightful art works and crafts as well as plentiful baked goods to fill your holiday shopping basket or stocking. Items to fit any budget will be on sale--whether that’s a stocking stuffer or a one-of-a-kind higher end item for that special someone.

The Graceful Holiday Sale will feature the works of several local artists, artisans, crafters and bakers. Award winning fiber artist, JoAnna Bleasdale, named the best new exhibitor at the 2011 TACA (Tennessee Association of Craft Artists) show in Nashville will be on hand as well as Cookeville Art Prowl participant, Adele Seitzinger, water colorist, Charles Whiting, and several exhibitors from Santa’s Workshop.

Whether you’re looking for a delicious loaf of homemade bread, a unique hand-woven scarf, purse or clothing item, there’s something for everyone. Soup and sandwiches will also be available to purchase if you happen to come hungry.

The sale is a fundraising activity for the Grace Presbyterian Church building program. The church, part of the Presbyterian Church in America, temporarily meets at Algood Elementary with worship services each Sunday at 10:30 a.m. Its new building on Burton Branch Road is expected to be completed in the spring.

My Follow-up Report

I am so exhausted this morning.  Yesterday I had my appointment with Dr. Peltier at Vanderbilt, so my friend and I made a day of it.  I have overdone it, but it was very worth it.  I had the best day!

My appointment went very well.  She's in agreement with Dr. Gaw.  There hasn't been any significant change since I saw her 15 months ago.  I think it's amazing that it took 15 months to get in for a 6 month follow-up appointment.  The only noticable change is the feeling in the lower part of my legs.  I have lost more of the ability to feel from the outside.  The best way I know how to describe it is it's like my leg has fallen asleep and is in the middle of the waking up stage.  It's numb on the outside and feels like it's being stuck with hot needles on the inside.  I couldn't feel the coldness or the vibration of the tool she was using until just below my knee.  At my last visit I could feel it about mid-calf.  So it's just a slight change.  She is making a couple of medication changes to try and control my level of pain.  I am hopeful this will help.  It has worked for others, but like everything else, there are risk.  I am in constant pain though, and if there is a chance something will help lessen that I think it's worth the risk.

Have I mentioned lately how much I long for Heaven?

It was good visit.  It was comforting to hear from the expert that I haven't regressed.  It's very comforting to know that all 3 of my physicians have the same opinion.  I have this constant fear in the back of my mind that I'm going to have a flare up and loose my ability to walk again.  It's been a very long time since I have had a flare up that has been that severe, but it remains of fear of mine.

Yesterday was so fun.  The Lord was so merciful and gave me a day where I felt good, and I had the ability to do some shopping.  I actually am amazed at all I was able to do yesterday.  Although I am so exhausted today, it was worth the fun I had yesterday.  I had a sweet, sweet time with my friend Denise.  We laughed so much my stomach is sore, and we had some precious conversations about how loving and gracious the Lord is to us.  It was wonderful day.  And the weather was absolutely gorgeous!!

I am so grateful for the good report from Dr. Peltier, for the glimmer of hope I've been given that there is something that may control my pain better,  for the precious time spent with a dear friend and for the great deals I found shopping.

And my day started off with a stop at Sonic for a coke! : )

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Hope In Devastation

I have had so many reminders the past several days of what a fallen world we live in.  I know we are constantly surrounded by evidence of how fallen our world is, but it just seems like lately reminders are in front of me in neon lights.  Just within the past week I have had conversations with people over everything from family disagreements over Thanksgiving, to one of my best friends having complications with her pregnancy, to finding out a friend's younger brother passed away unexpectedly.  I've discovered that someone I love deeply is making unwise, destructive decisions that not only effects their life but also the lives everyone around them.  And in between all of those conversations, there have been other hard conversations where people have been hurt and have experienced huge losses in their lives.  I am so angry and deeply grieved on one hand, yet on the other hand I'm just numb.  Tears have fallen as heavily and easily as the rain we've had over the past two days.  I feel devastated and helpless.  I think the numbness is coming from complete exhaustion.

And yet, I feel hopeful.  Sounds crazy, right?  After all, devastated and hopeful is an oxymoron.  You may be wondering how could I possibly feel both of those at the same time.

It's actually very simple.  My hope comes for the Lord.  I know that I know God is sovereign.  I know that nothing takes Him by surprise.  I know that He's in control of all things.  I don't claim to understand why He allows some things to happen.  I often think of the quote I ran across several months ago.

"Because I know Who, I am willfully unconcerned with the why." ~ Angie Smith

It's a powerful quote, and it should be something I practice.  I shouldn't be concerned with wanting and needing answers to all the "whys".  I should trust the Lord.  I should take all of my anger, all of my questions and my hurting heart and lay it at the foot of the cross.  I often fail to do so though, and even when I do, I sometimes pick it back up just as quickly as I laid it at His feet.  It's when I fail at putting all my trust in Him and hang tightly to His promises that the devastation comes.  Darkness begins to cover up what I know to be true.

A little over a week ago I read a devotion written by Joni Earekson Tada.  In this devotion she used a quote from a friend.

"Never doubt in the darkness what you once believed in the light."

It's so hard to loose sight of the truth when things are dark.  I am so grateful the Lord loves us so much that in the midst of that darkness He shines a light on what we know to be true.  He did that for me on Sunday.

I long for Heaven.  I long for Heaven more than I've ever longed for anything else in my life.  I can't wait for Him to wipe away my last tear ... for their to be no more pain ... to have a new body ... to crawl up in Jesus' lap ... to live in perfect peace ...

I literally pray every day He would hurry up and come back to get us.  Most days I pray that no less than 25 times.  It's a good thing He doesn't tire of hearing our request because I could wear Him out quickly.  He doesn't tire but sometimes I do.  I admit there have been times when I've asked Him if He's ever going to return.  It's like a child asking if we are ever going to get there while traveling.

Sunday morning He used the sermon to remind me He is coming back to get those who belong to Him.  He used Andy's (our Associate Pastor) sermon to renew my excitement.  After having a week of seeing so much darkness and having the reminders of what a fallen world we live in bright, neon lights, He sent a reminder that was much brighter than any neon light could ever be.

He is returning and my deepest longing will be fulfilled.

The timing of Andy's sermon was also a reminder of His perfect timing.  I needed that sermon to help me cope with the events of the week I had just had.  He knew I would need it even more to withstand what was to come this week.  It's been an excruciating past couple of days, but because of the light He shined on His promise I have hope.  I've been able to remember what I know to be true while living through the darkness.

The story of each of our lives is full of hurt and darkness.  We all have those times.  Not one of us is exempt.  But those who belong to Him know how their story ends.  It ends with Him taking us home.

That's why I can have hope in the midst of devastation.  I have the promise this is not my home.  This life is temporary and Heaven is eternal.

And God never breaks His promises.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

I Am Asking You To Pray

My cell phone was in my purse under the table while we were out to dinner last night for Nathan's birthday.  I hadn't heard the text alert, and it wasn't until I got home and looked at my phone that I saw a text from Robyn.  It had been an hour since she had sent me a text letting me know they were headed to the hospital.  She was bleeding badly.  Remember when I wrote here about her surprise news on her 39th birthday?  She's now 10 weeks pregnant.

I frantically replied to her text and when I didn't hear back in about 5 minutes I texted her mom.  Just moments later her mom replied.  They were doing an ultrasound, so for the next 30 minutes I looked at my phone every 2 mintues to make sure I hadn't missed a call or a text ... and I prayed constantly.  That 30 minutes seemed like 30 hours.

The next text I got was, "Have you talked to mom?"

My heart sank.  If everything was okay she would have said so.  Instead she wanted to know if her mom had told me the news.  I sat for the next 5 minutes holding my breath with my eyes deadlocked to my phone.

She has a placenta hemorrhage between the placenta and the uterine wall.  It could break away and she would miscarry.  It could decrease and go away, and she would carry to term.  Only time will tell.

This we do know.  God is sovereign.  This did not take Him by surprise.  He already has a perfect plan for Robyn and her baby.  He is our Healer.  He is our Rock, our Comforter and our Source of Strength.  Although we are fearful, we trust in Him.

I am asking you to pray for Robyn and Randy.  I am asking you to pray specifically for healing.  I ask you to pray that the Lord would make His presence made so strongly to Robyn and Randy right now ... that they know He is right there holding them tightly.  I am asking you to pray He calms their fears ... that He gives them that peace that passes all understanding.  Please pray Robyn is able to rest.  She has a 4 year old and an almost 3 year old.  I am so grateful she is with her her parents right now.  Not only can they help with the boys, but she just needs to be near them.

She will be following up with her ob at home on Monday.  It's going to be a long weekend.  I am praying that when she sees her doctor on Monday, he isn't able to see any evidence of a hemorrhage.  I am asking you to pray the same.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

We All Need To Know We Matter

Yesterday I waded my way through a stack of mail that had grown on my coffee table and found myself in tears.  Normally the tears would have been over the amount of bills in the stack.  Sometimes the frustration I've had the past few months because I can't get seem to get my coffee table cleaned off puts me in tears.  However, yesterday it was tears of thankfulness, joy and humility.  A lot of mail had been overlooked from the past couple of weeks because I had been so sick.  Hidden in between the bills and junk mail, unexpectedly I discovered envelopes that would bless my heart.  Four hand written thank you notes.

As I opened and read each note my heart was blessed more and more.  These were more than just "thank you" notes for gifts I had given and meals I had made.  Each note was written by a friend who took the time to tell me they loved me and how grateful they were for my friendship.  They gave specific reasons as to why and how I am a blessing to them.  I just sat and cried for the next half hour.


Because I was told I mattered to them.  I mattered.  My life was a blessing to them.  They weren't just thankful for the gift or the meal, they were grateful for me.  It was very humbling to read their words.  My heart was so grateful.

We all need to know our lives matter to someone.  I am certainly no exception to that.  Sometimes I desperately need to know it.  Yesterday was one of those days.  I often think of myself as a burden to those around me.  It's frustrating and makes me sad.  No one wants to be a burden.  I hate being dependent on others.  I miss my independence greatly.  I didn't even realize I needed to be told those things until I read the notes.  God's timing is perfect.  Most of those notes had sat in the pile for a week.  He had me read them at the very moment I needed them most.

As I waded further down the pile I discovered a card for Nathan and I that wasn't signed.  It was from someone within our church.  I know this because they had the lady who sends the cards out mail it to us.  When I opened up the card a gift fell out and the words in the card brought me to tears once again.

We mattered.  Someone cares and loves us.  Someone is praying.  I don't know who this was from, but know you blessed us beyond measure.  We are so grateful.  Thank you for showing us someone cares and love us.  We covet your prayers and are forever grateful for them.

A couple of hours later I was looking for something in the bible I had taken to church on Sunday.  I found yet another "thank-you" note another friend had handed me at church.  Once again, I was brought to tears.

Yesterday was a hard day for me for multiple reasons.  I had spent a good part of my morning crying out to God.  My heart was hurting over circumstances beyond my control that I had no idea how to fix.  I asked Him if He even cared.  He showed me He did.  He used my friends to show me that He cares enough to surround me with people who love me.  He cares enough to show me that despite my feelings, I not only matter to Him ... I matter to others.

If you haven't told those who you love and those who bless your life that they matter to you ... well, there is no better time than now.  What better time to express that then the season of Thanksgiving?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Does He Hear Me?

My heart is really heavy this morning.  The past couple of weeks have been hard and I've been having an ongoing pity party.  I get to the point I almost totally shut the party down, and then more unwanted guest arrive.  I would really like to go back to bed and just have a good cry.  I am going to make myself go to bible study instead.  I don't have the "want" to go today, but I know I need to, so I'm going to drag my happy self there.

Do you ever wonder if God hears your prayers?  If your prayers are just not important enough for Him to answer?  I do.  I know otherwise.  I know He hears me and I know He answers them.  Every single prayer He answers.  Rarely is it how I've dictated to Him how I want them answered.  Often times He even keeps silent about how He's answered them and doesn't clue me in until the exact moment I need to know.  He has us on a "need to know" basis.  Frankly I don't like it.

I am so tired of being sick.  Tired of being in constant pain and having to be dependent on others so much.  I long for Heaven.  I pray every day that Jesus would come get us.  I am so ready to go home.  I don't want to die.  I just want to go home.

I've thought a lot this past week about something my aunt Bobbie said to me not long after I got sick.  She said she was praying the Lord would heal me and that He would make me better than before I got sick.  I know she prays for me often, and the past several days I've wondered why He's not answering that prayer.  She's praying for that.  I'm praying for that.  Many are praying that same prayer.  Why is He not answering?

When I checked my email this morning, this was in my inbox.

Joni and Friends Daily Devotional
November 16, 2011
Dear Robin,

God's Got Reasons
But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them that those who love your name may rejoice in you. --Psalm 5:11

In preparation to go to Africa, I was stuck with every kind of shot, from yellow fever to hepatitis. I even took malaria pills. When I left the doctor's office, I relaxed, knowing I was under God's protection. While overseas, I was careful with the food and water. I became doubly cautious when, mid-way through our trip, everyone else was running to the restroom. We all knew that if I became ill, it would be awful - I wouldn't be able to get up and run to a bathroom!

Mealtimes were challenges. To make things worse, I lost my special spoon again (remember yesterday's story?). My friend thought she had cleaned it off after breakfast and put it back in my handbag. But not so. I was demoralized, knowing someone would have to feed me. I asked the Lord to show me where that spoon was, but God was quiet on the subject. At the close of the trip during our last meal, I was struck by a crystal-clear thought: Joni, you lost your spoon because it was contaminated. Had you used it, you would have become sick. Immediately I shared this with my friends at the table. One of them gasped, "God just told me that same thing this very instant." God was no longer quiet on the subject. Neither was I. I kept praising him, happy to not only be healthy, but to be able to hear his reasons for hiding my spoon!

We say it all the time. We pray to the Lord, "Deliver us from evil." God answers that prayer with a resounding "I will," yet we cannot see the thousands of ways to he does it every day.

Lord, I thank you for the countless times you will protect me today. I'll name a few right now...

Joni and Friends
I cannot even count the times the Lord has used Joni's devotions to speak to me.  He's used them to give me a swift kick in my rear and often times to calm my heart.  This morning was no exception.  My heart needed to hear this.  Deuteronomy 29:29 often runs through my thoughts ...
 “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us  ..."

I know that some day He will heal me beyond how I was before CIDP.  It might now be this side of Glory though.  I hope it is.  I know He can.  I just don't know if He will.  That just might not be how He's answered that prayer.

I'd also like to know the answers to all of the question I have that begin with "why".  Well, I'd actually like to know the answers to all of my questions.  When that thought enters my mind He always reminds me of what Paul tells us in I Corinthians 13.

12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known."

Some day I will know, but not until He thinks I need the answers.

A year or so ago, I read a quote by Angie Smith ...

"Because I know Who, I am unconcerned with the why."

I am supposed to trust in the Lord with all my heart.  I often fail at that.  I am grateful He always forgives me.  He hears my heart's desire and He always answers.  Always.  And when I need to know the answer, He will fill me in on the details.  Until then I'm going to have to remember He is sovereign.  If I become all consumed in my pity party, I might not hear His answer.