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.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Time To Break Out The Mask

Remember these ...

My friend Sarah brought them to me when she came home for a visit from Korea a few weeks ago.  I was told at my last visit with Dr. Gaw that I didn't have to wear a mask right now.  He just reminded me I needed to be careful.  I breathed a sigh of relief.  However, last week when my homehealth nurse came to visit she warned me about a nasty upper respiratory virus going around our town.  She said that so far they hadn't seen any confirmed cases of the flu, but due to the 2 weeks it takes for the vaccine to kick in, I needed to get it done a.s.a.p.  Getting the flu shot has been such an ordeal this year.  We tried to avoid having me go to a clinic so I wouldn't be exposed to anything and everything folks have.  My pharmacist agreed to come out to the van and give it to me, but I ended up just going inside on Sunday and for him to give it to me.  I don't think I've been around anyone who is sick, but I think maybe I should have worn the mask anyway though.

I cannot believe I just admitted that.

I am so sick!  I feel like I have the flu, but I am almost certain it's just a nasty upper respiratory infection.  My head is full of junk.  I have a horrible cough.  My ears and throat hurt.  I have a lymph node behind my ear that is the size of a quarter right now.  My head hurts ... my whole body aches.  I am just plain miserable.

Darryl started me on an antibiotic yesterday after I texted him a picture of the junk I'm coughing up.  Yes, you read that correctly.  I sent him a picture.  I thought a visual would be much better than trying to describe what it looked like.  All I got back was, "Do you have an antibiotic in the house?"  We try to keep one here for when things like this happen, but I didn't get the last one I took replaced.  About 10 minutes later I got a phone call from my pharmacy letting me know my prescription was ready to pick up.  I am really hoping it kicks in quickly.  I've had the pneumonia vaccine, but I'm sure it's not impossible to still get it.  I feel like someone is standing on my chest.  I am praying this doesn't settle in my lungs, and that it doesn't take me as long to get over this as it did the strep throat I had a few weeks ago.

It's not even Thanksgiving yet.  The flu season hasn't even hit yet and I've already had two whammies.  I hope this doesn't mean I have to stay shut-in this Winter.  I think I'm going to bring out the mask.
After all, Sarah did spend a lot of time and energy looking for pink ones for me.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

A Pity Party Can Be So Easy To Throw

It's been a hard week.  Of course that always seems to happen when I've missed church on Sunday.  I was in so much pain and had so little energy last week I couldn't go.  It's been a very painful week.  The rain has been horrendous on my peripheral nerves.  Add in the cold days we've had and it puts my pain level between an 8-10 on that silly pain scale the nurses always want you to use to rate your pain.  Those numbers always confuse me.  I have two ratings ... tolerable and want to put my fist through a wall.  It never completely goes away.  Then they always want me to describe how it feels.  When I tell them it's like having electrical shocks, burning, being jabbed with ice picks, aching, cold on the inside, hot on the outside and yet I have places in my feet I can't even feel because the nerve endings are so damaged, they look at me like I'm nuts. (I realize my husband is going to read that last sentence and tell me I should have written it differently because it has way too many comas and is a run-on sentence.  I am at peace with it.)  I once told Dr. Peltier that she probably thought I was crazy when I described it to her.  She told me it was common for the pain to feel like that in CIDP patients.  As strange as it might sound, those words were actually comforting to me.  It's a reminder to me that I'm not the only one.  I'm not alone in this.

Speaking of Dr. Peltier, Vanderbilt finally got my appointment rescheduled.  It's for December 1.  I guess being put on the a.s.a.p. list will get you an appointment in less than six months.  It's actually quicker than I thought it would be.  I need to call and double check on it though.  They didn't call me.  Instead they mailed me an appointment card.  Strange.  After finding out when I got there the last time someone had scheduled me on the wrong day, I don't want to take any chances.  I am really hoping I feel like doing a little shopping ... and I have some money to shop.  My friend that's taking me loves to shop as much as I do.  We would get in a lot of trouble if I were able to shop like I could before getting sick.  Just another example of God's perfect timing and how He protects us.  Seriously.

I've spent the week having a huge pity party.  My list of reasons goes on for a country mile.  Some of the reasons are valid.  I am physically miserable.  I hate being at home alone so much.  I missed church this week.  And some of the reasons are not so valid.  My mind can take the slightest thing and can make this enormous issue out of it.  I can read so much into the smallest things.  My family doesn't clean the kitchen immediately after dinner, and I claim they don't care about me.  Actually, they just don't care if the kitchen gets clean.  I have a family member who will leave comments on photos and status updates on Facebook every other family member posts, but totally ignores me.  It must mean she hates me.  Maybe she is ignoring me or maybe she isn't, but why should I let it bother me?  I don't like Facebook anyway.  I would delete my account if I didn't need to "stalk" my children.  They claim I'm stalking them.  I call it monitoring what they are doing.  I feel like I'm being purposely forgotten and being left out of things.  When the reality is my friends know I've felt terrible this week and know I need to rest.  And yet I felt "bullied" into going to bible study Wednesday after telling my friend I didn't feel up to going.  Actually she was just trying to encourage me because she knew I would feel better just being with the group.  I felt ganged up on when I shared with them how sometimes I question if I'm really belong to Christ.  Once I got home I vowed to myself I would never go back.  That's not what they did at all, but it sure felt that way.  I can't please anyone.  I disappoint all of my family and friends.  I can't live up to their expectations.  etc., etc. etc.

I really just wish Jesus would come back to get us ... this very moment.

I have read on Facebook, you know that thing I dislike, where almost everyone is listing something they are thankful for each day of November.  I keep thinking to myself I should do that, but it's so much easier to just succumb to my pity party.

My daughter said something a couple of nights ago that has put me under conviction.  She is training to work with a lady who is homebound with multiple medical issues and unable to do anything for herself.  I was telling Sara that when she thinks she has it rough, she needs to think about what this lady is dealing with in her life.  My wise 16 year old looked at me and said, "You should too."

So I am going to spend today thinking on what the Lord has given me.  I going to mediate on those things I should be so thankful for, instead of continuing in the downward spiral of thinking my life is so terrible and nobody loves me.

I am going to focus on what I know to be truth and not listen to all the nonsense I've read into things.  And then I'm going to write them down so I can read over them when I allow myself to think otherwise.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Shower of Blessings

I have a friend who gave me a warning last week to be careful about overdoing it.  It was a valid warning.  She knows I have a tendency to do so and then pay for it for days.  My philosophy is this ... I never know when things might spiral downward.  I pray they never do so again.  However, CIDP by nature is very unpredictable.  I have missed out on so much for almost the past 4 years, and I just don't want to miss out anymore than I absolutely have to.  I would my rather have one or two ... or even a whole week on occasion ... of pure joy, than to live a life that's bland.  It's that time of year I have to be careful.  Right now viruses and the flu seem to be minimal, and I've been told I don't have to wear a mask.  I just have to be very careful.  So, if I'm not running a fever, I'm allowed to be out as long as I feel up to it.  You better believe I'm going to jump at each and every chance.  That's exactly what I did the other night.  I have been so tired the past couple of days, but it has been so worth it because ...

Look who I got to see on Friday night ...

Several us of gave Connie's daughter, Ashley, a bridal shower Friday night.  It was such a fun, sweet time.  I laughed harder than I have in a long time and got to spend the night with some of my closest friends.  As you can see I got a much needed hug.  It had been over a month since we had seen each other.  Way too long.

And the three of us got to be together for a few hours.

I wish we had been able to have one of our long lunches, but I'll take what time we can get together.

This is Ashley with her mom and her mother-in-law to be.  Barbie is so sweet ... and funny I might add.  She's one of those people that when you meet them it's seems like you've known them for years.  She says she has prayed for Ashley since the day Dave, her son, was born.  So precious!  When I was leaving and giving Connie and Ashley a hug, she walked up to me and said, "I know how special you are to them and that makes you special to me."  My eyes welled up with tears when she hugged me.

Ashley and the moms with Ash's sister, Hannah.

I love this photo!

Somehow I missed getting photos of a few ladies that were there, but here are some of them ...

 It was such a fun night, and I'm so thankful I was able to be there.  It was so great to be able to talk, laugh and just be together.

It as been such a joy to watch Ashley grow up and see how the Lord is working in life.  She has grown up to be such a precious, sweet young lady.  I am so happy for she and Dave.  I am praying the Lord will bless them as they grow old together.