Saturday, December 31, 2011

Choosing Your Word

A homeschooling friend who, like me, parents two special-needs children, writes:

"My mother has had rheumatoid arthritis for 25 years. I'm slowly going down that road but I'm fighting it with everything I've got. My brother has already been diagnosed."

How I live that sentence..."I'm fighting it with everything I've got."

I have a strong family history of anxiety disorders--mainly Generalized Anxiety Disorder, which my Peter has. My brother, several cousins, and my mother, have related driving phobias. They must take an anti-anxiety medicine to use freeways. My maternal grandfather had agoraphobia and quit working well before retirement age.

At least five times in the last ten years, I've come close to needing an anti-anxiety med myself. Each time, I fought the pull of my genes. Not me. Over my dead isn't going to happen to me.

In early December we went to a hospital building for Beth's eye appointment. Upon our entry a piercing fire alarm begin, continuing to terrorize the occupants for twenty minutes! Someone told us it was a test, but the longer it went the more anxious my Mary felt. She cried and even when it stopped, she couldn't calm down right away. Following that by a couple weeks, we were exiting the library and the door alarm sounded. We went back to the front desk but the librarian waved us on, telling us we were fine--the alarm's just being silly, she said.

Those two incidents were catalysts, apparently, for latent anxiety in my Mary. I had seen definite signs for a few months, but now it seems inevitable--unless, like me, she's up for the fight. If it persists beyond age 7, she could go the way of the family genes.

My Peter had a similar catalyst at age 3.5, when we were at a fire safety fair and unwittingly participated in a mock fire alarm set up in a portable building. It traumatized him and became the catalyst that awakened latent anxiety, which persists today.

Lately there have been times I could have curled up in a ball and just cried and cried. Beth's condition plays with my emotions--good one day, bad another day, good for five days, bad for three. It cruelly bounces me between hope and despair, even though I see signs of God's plan in her life, and in her condition.

She needs me. I'm nearly always there for her, remembering how scary and awful chronic pain must be to a three-year-old child. However, as I've spent more and more time with her, I've continued to try to do all the other things I used to do, including writing on this blog. My dear husband reminded me recently, "Your life isn't like that of most moms. You aren't required to do what they do."

He wasn't putting me down in saying this. Rather, he reminded me that mothering two special-needs children means my life must look different. Less is more.

I read recently that mothers who stay at home full-time report more depression and health problems than mothers who work part-time. Part-time work is healthier, if one believes the article, than full-time motherhood or full-time working. It didn't cite this, but I suspect chore monotony is the greatest contributer to depression. Doing the same chores over and over, and reminding our children of the same things over and over, lends a perceived pointlessness to our daily existence. Faithfully and steadfastly serving a family is not pointless to God, of course. The pointlessness is only a perception of the moment. Most of us fully understand the importance--and eternal rewards--of our home endeavors.

My blog and the online friendships I've enjoyed are that healthy "part-time" dimension in my life, though they take up fewer hours than a traditional part-time job, thankfully. They keep me engaged intellectually, the same as reading does. Intellectual engagement is pretty important, it seems, to balance those ten thousand sweepings of the floor, and the ten thousand pick-ups of a husband's socks.

God designed our minds. We needn't feel guilty about needing something more, as long as it remains secondary to our primary endeavors--loving our Father through worship, Bible reading, and prayer time; nurturing and discipling our children; encouraging and respecting our husbands.

You've heard of choosing a word of the year? Ann has done it for the few years I've read her blog. In order to continue to fight anxiety, my word of the year must be balance. Yes, I need to write. I need my online friendships. What balance will look like isn't quite clear yet. But God knows. I needn't try to figure it out on my own.

As you wrap up your year, think of your own life. What word is the Holy Spirit whispering?

photo credit

Monday, December 26, 2011

Merry Christmas 2011

Merry Christmas from our family to yours!

Don't ask me about the colors. I let them choose. :)

Friday, December 23, 2011

Blessings on Friday

No one has time for blogs this week and I wouldn't bother writing today, except that I need this thanks-giving discipline. I caught the girls' cold and while it was mild for them, it doesn't feel mild for me because Beth still isn't sleeping well. Too little sleep makes it harder for Mom to heal. If you have a baby right now, you know what I mean.

I bought a decongestant yesterday and maybe that will help my head? Have you noticed they treat certain decongestants like a semi-controlled substance, meaning you have to provide your driver's license and sign for it? Every time I need one I feel like a criminal. I always wonder if they'll say..."Sorry, you just bought one six months ago. We can't sell it to you this know, because of that meth lab you've got at home."

Thankfully, and this is the first blessing on my list, we haven't been sick since last April, and before that it was November 2010, so God has been kind to me as a mother these many months. In the past it seemed we couldn't go six weeks without another cold virus.

My everyday blessings:

~ Each child got a haircut today, thanks to a $50 bill my other aunt--on my mom's side--tucked into a Christmas card. These kids sported scruffy hair before today. The girls had never had a haircut at all, other than my own lame attempts. I only wish I hadn't asked them to texturize Mary's bangs. It doesn't look attractive, but they will grow out within a few weeks, I'm sure. At least the girls bangs are now straight.

When I opened the Christmas card and the money fell out, Peter was excited but I felt like crying. When you badly need any money people send, it makes you feel like crying, more from shame than anything else. Peter asked about the tears in my eyes. It's hard to receive sometimes, I told him. "Really? I don't think so." He receives gifts like a grateful, excited child. I receive them reluctantly, wishing I could be the giver instead. As much as the Lord works on me, I'm not sure that ugly pride will ever go away. Will I ever receive a gift like a child again, other than from my own husband?

~ Children using construction paper, paper bags, tape, glue, yarn, toilet paper rolls, and scissors to make gifts for each other.

~ I only need two kinds of potatoes, green beans, cranberries, and apple cider for our Christmas celebration. I'm thankful that's all I need.

~ Laundry caught up, folded, and put away.

~ Four kids who delight in new schemes and games. Lately they've been playing bandit and sheriff, running through the house with their teddy bears in hand, pretending to capture the one who stole the cattle or the horses or the sheep's wool. Each one gets a turn to play the bandit. Oh, the giggles! (Oh, the noise!)

~ A husband who loves the Lord and faithfully disciples his children through the Word.

~ Letters from Compassion kids.

~ A rare five minutes of quiet to drink a cup of cocoa.

~ Husband is off all day Monday.

~ A warm home in December. (Still no snow here. Is the earth turning correctly?)

~ A nearly ten-year-old who delights in time with Daddy. His Daddy is now the most important person in his life. This is how it should be as he slowly becomes a man. A mom must get out of the way in these years.

~ Three children who still fit in my arms in the rocker.

~ Your friendship. Yes, you, my reader.

~ A gift from my brother we can use to purchase curriculum we've been trying to do without. Praise God!

That ringing would be the drops bell for Miss Beth's eyes. I'm on a perpetual two-hour clock with these steroid drops.

May you have a blessed Christmas! Love to you all.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Teddy Bear Movie, Scene 1

My children, suddenly very interested in videography, present Scene 1: Teddy Bear Movie.

Being very prideful, I reminded them not to record any messes. At the end, as Paul scans the messy playroom with the camera (in which a large tent was constructed today), Peter reminds him, "Oh no, you're recording dirtiness!"

All day long their messes drive me insane, but these kids sure bless me!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Blessings On Wednesday

Counting my everyday blessings:

~ Four children taking their new teddy bears along to the bank. On the way home they asked, "So teddy, how'd you like the ride? Did the rain scare you? Did you like the windshield wipers?" Yes, even the almost ten-year-old likes his new teddy bear. Earlier today we talked about the world's two most famous teddy bears--Pooh Bear and Paddington Bear--and how entire books were written about their adventures. I think teddy bears are one of the most imagination-sparking toys a child can own. The possibilities are endless. Miss Mary is now making a teddy bear journal.

~ Suddenly, Beth knows all her colors.

~ Peter writing reading lessons for Mary.

~ Beth charming the staff at physical therapy. She cries most of the 30-minute drive home due to fatigue and impending naptime, but while she's there the word charming doesn't even cover it. This can be said of most 3 year olds....charm and stubbornness all wrapped up in one beautifully exhausting package.

~ We checked out a Mary Poppins movie from the library. We hadn't seen it before and normally I don't get a book-based movie until we've read the book, but because of family movie night I made an exception. My two favorite movies are now The Sound of Music and Mary Poppins. There are five Mary Poppins books and we plan to enjoy them all. We're thoroughly charmed. The children have taken favorite phrases from the movie and Mommy has too. "Come along children, spit spot."  "Oh, Bert, you're worse than the children." Oh, the giggles. We all have our favorite scenes. Mine is when they try to get Uncle Albert to stop laughing and come down from the ceiling. The songs are wonderful too. I'm hoping the library has the sound track for check out. Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious has been all the rage here, as well as A Spoonful Of Sugar.

My favorite thing about the story is the timeless reminder for parents...treasure your children...lay down your life for them...don't get caught up in your causes and grown-up worlds and let their childhoods pass you by.

I have more...much more to say. But time to make dinner and shuffle the laundry. Have a blessed evening!

Mary Poppins [Book]


Front Cover

Front Cover

Front Cover

Front Cover


Good news today. Peter's eyes are fine. His optic nerves are enlarged, which happens with glaucoma, but the doctor thinks it's congenital and not something sinister. She will check him again in two years to make sure everything is still fine. She said the Strattera ADHD med is not at all related and he should continue with his medicine. Peter had a horrible time with his OCD the whole time we were at the appointment, after being off the med for 2.5 days. It made me realize just how much Strattera helps calm the voices in his head. I felt so sorry for him!

Beth's arthritis flare seems to be gone, though right now she is sick for the first time since April (mild cold). New flares can sometimes come from illnesses, but so far so good. She's able to walk right out of bed more often now and the swelling has been consistently down in her knees for a week. She's still walking on her toes, though, so the pain must be persisting. Reminding her to walk heel to toe isn't working. She simply says, "No, Mommy. It hurts." She is getting better about letting me flex her feet to stretch the muscles involved.

Looking for specific information the other day, I found two personal mommy blogs about Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis. They detailed the ups and downs of parenting a child with JRA. One was about parenting two children with the worst kind of JRA--the systemic type! I couldn't read for very long, but I skimmed enough to remind me that this disease is a long haul. One mom wrote that her 12-year-old daughter's eyes were free from any inflammation for the first time in ten years! That floored me, though I knew the eye involvement could persist beyond the arthritis symptoms. And the severity of the arthritis is not related to the severity of the eye inflammation.

I can't think about Beth's eyes being inflamed for that long, requiring steroid use or worse on a long term basis. The 12-year-old daughter's vision, miraculously, did not seem impaired. The steroid drops did not lead to glaucoma, even after ten years of use.

Something else I noticed? Both those mommy blogs were written by Christian women. Spirit-filled Christians pointing to God's provision and blessing despite having to watch a beloved child experience pain, frequent doctor's appointments, therapy appointments, and endless procedures.

God puts Christians on the front line. The first couple years, my newly Christian life seemed full of blessing. God showered me with goodness. Three years in, trials arrived.

They keep on coming. I had to redefine blessing, but God is still showering me with goodness.

The front lines. The Christian life is a battleground wherein God must get the glory. He trains us, his soldiers, to decrease, so he can increase. When he increases we are victorious in battle, no matter our circumstances.

As your day progresses, ask I being a humble servant today? Picture the battleground. You don't fight to win. You fight to let Him win.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Playing, Singing, Pretending

My sweet girl turned 5 last week!

The children opened their presents on Saturday. We started opening them a week ahead last year and it worked out well for all. My son's ADHD can make holidays a challenge. Breaking up the festivities helps us focus on Jesus on Christmas Day.

Mommy and Daddy got them each a teddy bear, and Grandma and Grandpa got them a guitar, Playdoh toys, a shopping cart set and a couple card games for the boys. They've played their little hearts out for three days. Mary loved the guitar too and told me her dream is to be on stage and sing at the microphone. She imitates a rock star quite well! She made up the sweetest Christmas carols today.

The preschoolers sang one song with the Children's Christmas Choir, then they got off stage and the older children sang four more songs. Peter and Paul both had a speaking part from Scripture. Mary and Beth both loved being up there! A couple excited, proud little hams they were, as they sang Away In The Manger. Beth didn't want to leave and Mary had to go back on stage and escort her off. The preschool teacher had a good sense of humor and didn't seem to mind the delay.

Peter opened his teddy bear and asked, "I like it, but what do you do with a teddy bear?" Mommy answered, "You love it and sleep with it and take it on adventures around the world. And you have teddy bear tea parties."

So that's what we did today.

Peter had a routine eye exam on Saturday and we learned that the pressure in his eyes is above normal. Normal pressure, measured by the puff test, is 10 to 21. His was 24 and 25. Tomorrow he has a two-hour appointment to be evaluated for glaucoma (which doesn't run in either family).

We were shocked and dismayed to say the least, especially after so much other bad health news this year. I wondered if the ocular hypertension could be caused by his non-stimulant ADHD med (Strattera 18 mg.) I  researched and quickly found out that if you have high eye pressure or a family history of glaucoma, you're not supposed to use Strattera. I immediately stopped giving it to him, even though his pediatrician is on vacation until January.  I don't know how we'll control the ADHD, OCD and Tourette's Syndrome, but I suspect God knows.

If we come to find out he does have glaucoma, I'm going to be awfully upset that his doctor didn't require Peter to have a routine eye exam, with the puff test for glaucoma suspect, before starting the Strattera in 2010!  One can have high eye pressure and not have glaucoma. The eye doctor who examined Peter, in fact, has the same eye pressure Peter has, without any glaucoma.

We're both nervous about that appointment tomorrow, desperately hoping we won't receive bad news. This year has tested our faith more than any other. I don't know what to say about it all. I mean really, how could all this happen in one year?

I have to cling to my favorite Scripture verse:

Romans 8:28
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Discipling Boys: The Question and The Wound

In his book Wild at Heart: Discovering The Secret of A Man's Soul, author John Eldredge remembers a hiking adventure he and his boys enjoyed together. He offered encouragement to his eldest son, Sam.

"Way to go, Sam! You're looking good. That's reach up to your right...yep, now push off that foothold...nice move. Way to go, Sam. You're a wild man."
John Eldredge, Wild at Heart, pg 61

Soon Sam finishes the climb and his dad begins to clip his brother into the gear. While Dad attends to these tasks, Sam waits. A short while later he sidled up to his Dad and in a quiet voice asked, "Dad...did you really think I was a wild man up there?"

John Eldredge writes about this moment:

Miss that moment and you'll miss a boy's heart forever. It's not a question--it's the question, the one every boy and man is longing to ask. Do I have what it takes? Am I powerful? Until a man knows he's a man he will forever be trying to prove he is one, while at the same time shrink from anything that might reveal he is not. Most men live their lives haunted by the question, or crippled by the answer they've been given.

In order to understand how a man receives a wound, you must understand the central truth of a boy's journey to manhood: Masculinity is bestowed. A boy learns who he is and what he's got from a man, or the company of men. He cannot learn it any other place. He cannot learn it from other boys, and he cannot learn it from the world of women. The plan from the beginning of time was that his father would lay the foundation for a young boy's heart, and pass on to him that essential knowledge and confidence in his strength. Dad would be the first man in his life, and forever the most important man. Above all, he would answer the question for his son and give him his name. Through the history of man given to us in Scripture, it is the father who gives the blessing and thereby "names" the son.
John Eldredge, Wild at Heart, p.62

I find all John's assertions compelling. A therapist versed in the wounds of countless men, John Eldredge knows what he's talking about. His own father, an absent alcoholic, wounded him by never engaging his son. He never gave "the blessing" to John and for many years the author was a workaholic. He disengaged from his wife and family and pursued worldly success, trying to answer "the question" for himself. Did he have what it takes? Was he a man?

Men respond to the wound--given at the hands of a father--by becoming hard-driven overachievers who neglect their families and refuse to engage emotionally. Or they become passive. The hard-driven man is trying to prove himself and the passive man has no fight in him at all. He doesn't see the point...he believes he's a failure.

Dave remembers the day the wound came. His parents were having an argument in the kitchen, and his father was verbally abusing his mother. Dave took his mother's side, and his father exploded. "I don't remember all that was said, but I do remember his last words: "You are such a mama's boy," he yelled at me. Then he walked out." Perhaps if Dave had a strong relationship with his dad most of the time, a wound like this might be lessened, healed later by words of love. But the blow came after years of distance between them. Dave's father was often gone from morning till night with his own business, and so they rarely spent time together. What is more, Dave felt a lingering disappointment from his dad. He wasn't a star athlete, which he knew his dad highly valued. He had spiritual hunger and often attended church, which his dad did not value. And so those words fell like a final blow, a death sentence.
John Eldredge, Wild at Heart, pg. 69

There's a young boy named Charles who loved to play the piano, but his father and brothers were jocks. One day they came back from the gym to find him at the keyboard, and who knows what else had built up years of scorn and contempt in his father's soul, but his son received both barrels: "You are such a faggot."
John Eldredge, Wild at Heart, pg. 69-70

In the case of violent fathers the boy's question is answered in a devastating way. "Do I have what it takes? Am I a man, Papa?" No, you are a mama's boy, an idiot, a faggot, a seagull. Those are defining sentences that shape a man's life. The assault wounds are like a shotgun blast to the chest....The passive wounds are not, they are pernicious, like a cancer. Because they are subtle, they often go unrecognized as wounds and therefore are actually more difficult to heal.
John Eldredge, Wild at Heart, pg. 70

Some fathers give a wound merely by their silence; they are present, yet absent to their sons. The silence in deafening. I remember as a boy wanting my father to die, and feeling immense guilt for having such a desire. I understand now that I wanted someone to validate the wound. My father was gone, but because he was physically still around, he was not gone. So I lived with a wound no one could see or understand. In the case of silent, passive, or absent fathers, the question goes unanswered. "Do I have what it takes? Am I a man, Daddy?" Their silence is the answer: "I don't know...I doubt'll have to find out for yourself...probably not."
John Eldredge, Wild at Heart, pg. 71

It's hard not to shed tears over these stories. This is why Jesus had to die for us. We're so broken.

I don't have time to go into more right now, but I felt it was so important to relay these truths to you, as mothers. If your own husband is wounded, he may have a harder time bestowing masculinity on his sons. We must pray.

Later we'll discuss the healing. But for now, remember...Jesus is our Redeemer! Our wounds don't melt away, but we have strength and perfect love in our relationship with Abba Father.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Living The Cross: Our Charge as Mothers

I spent a few hours this morning learning how to file a motion for continuance. Soon I'll know enough to be an unofficial legal aid--not that I have such aspirations, but you're welcome to write me if you need assistance with a debt suit under $5000. (Over that amount is a small claims matter, with different procedures). I don't have a lot of readers left because I write about poverty and Compassion International too often for comfort, but nevertheless, a good amount of people viewed my debt post. I presume because they like juicy details? Or more sadly, because they're in debt themselves?

At any rate, this is painful folks. Live poorly until you get out of debt--aggressively pound that balance because the Lord hates it. If you fail to repent, he'll deal with you and it will be painful. God is many things to us, including Counselor and Comforter and Savior and Father. But He is also to be often we Christians forget that part.

Anyhow, Beth has an important eye appointment on the same day I'm to appear in court. Hopefully the judge will look kindly upon my pro se motion for continuance.

My heart is heavy with grief because instead of attending to my children, I had to research a debt matter under pressure, leaving me cranky and depressed. Sometimes I wonder...if I was raised a Christian would we be struggling this much? If my husband had a loving father who didn't wound him continually, and if he were without ADHD issues, would he be in a better position at this point in his life? Should we move out of economically-depressed Ohio? What can we do differently right now? And what about Beth's disease and the continuity it requires? And Peter's condition and the consistency he requires?

I asked the Holy Spirit all these questions, wanting to get back into a thankful mood quickly. I'm keenly aware when I fall into self-pity and I work with the Holy Spirit to get out of it as quickly as possible. We don't have a right to self-pity, ever, because of the Cross.

The Holy Spirit, my Counselor, seemed to say: "Forget about the past and the what-ifs. And give the future to Me. Move forward with gratitude because of your salvation. Endeavor to give these children a better life--a life focused on the Gospel and being the hands and feet of Jesus. Love them well. Disciple them well. Forget about your life and lay it down for them.

So I face the rest of my day with that charge: Lay down my life for my children. When we lay down our lives for another, we're no longer held captive by our selfishness or self-pity. What seals the fate for the next generation, more than anything else? The selfishness of the previous generation. 

Whatever your circumstances--and if you're part of the human race, you've got circumstances--remember the charge Christ gives us.

John 15:13
There is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends.

Romans 5:8
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

1 John 3:16
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Acknowledging His Work

Have you ever made a list, either mentally or on paper, of all the heart changes the Holy Spirit's completed in you? Isn't it amazing how He transforms us? His work is so beautiful, like the most exquisite artwork imaginable.

When we talk about making gratitude lists, we mustn't forget to acknowledge His work in us. Our acknowledgement, which leads to gratitude, helps us maintain an attitude of humility, because it's an everyday reminder of our dependence on God for anything good that comes from us.

Often hardships are part of the overall heart change the Holy Spirit works in us. So for those, too, we must give thanks. Ann calls these hard hallelujahs. I explained this term to eight-year-old Paul the other day and he responded, "Oh, I didn't know we were supposed to be thankful for hard things." (Just an aside here: Discipling children is a full-time job. To look at it any other way is to discount its importance.)

Today, my gratitude list includes heart changes and the hard hallelujahs that birthed them. I won't get to all of them in a day, but this is a start.

~ We are more thankful than we were three years ago. Hard hallelujah =  being low income and knowing that our daily bread truly does come from God alone.

~ With each passing year, Christmas is less work, less stress, and more a reminder of what we need to be doing all year long as Christians: thanking, worshiping, and giving of our hearts, time, and pocketbook, in Jesus' name. The food is good too, of course, and the time off to be fully together. But presents? That's fading in our minds and in our children's minds. This year, they hope for one present under the tree. With God's help, we're going to manage that. Their hoping for only one? That is a miracle and a blessing, brought about by the same hard hallelujah = being low income and knowing that joy doesn't come from things. Too many things = ungratefulness and wasted time managing those things.

~ We are more humble. Hard hallelujahs = shame about financial failures, having to accept help from family and friends and looking more shabby than most people we run into. (old cars, worn clothes, etc.) When you are shabby (I don't mean unclean here) your ego can't puff up as much. Notice I qualified this with "as much". Human egos will always find some reason to puff up. Humility is a daily process of acknowledging our dependence on God. Prayer, worship, and Bible reading help us remember our position before God. When we spend that time the Holy Spirit speaks truth into us about ourselves, and about our loving, merciful God.

~ We are more prayerful.  Hard hallelujahs = financial hardship and loneliness/isolation. The more we need God and go to Him, the more we want fellowship (prayer) with Him. It makes sense that time spent on our relationship with Him brings not only greater peace, but greater desire for Him.

~ We are more compassionate. Hard hallelujahs = miscarriages, disorders, chronic health issues, disease, financial hardship

~ We have more perspective. Hard hallelujahs = learning about abject poverty and social injustice and the devastating, debilitating diseases others suffer. All of these lessons are painful, but a necessary process for every Christian.

~ We know why we were saved. Hard hallelujah = learning about abject poverty and knowing that we are called to be the hands and feet of Jesus. This is how He can allow abject poverty: Because we, Christians, are the answer to it. It is up to us to redistribute our abundance, out of a thankful heart. (Of course, we are also saved to fellowship with God.)

~ We are more selfless. Hard hallelujahs = children with special needs taking up our "personal" time

I have to be disciplined and stop here today.

How about your list? What works of grace are on there?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Thoughts and Blessings

1 Chronicles 29:11-13
"Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power
and the glory and the majesty and the splendor,
for everything in heaven and earth is yours.
Yours, O LORD, is the kingdom;
you are exalted as head over all.

Wealth and honor come from you;
you are the ruler of all things.
In your hands are strength and power
to exalt and give strength to all.

Now, our God, we give you thanks,
and praise your glorious name."

Gratitude List:

~ Leftover gingerbread pancakes for lunch. (Do you ever feel like you'll scream if you have to make one more peanut butter and jelly sandwich?) Am I a bad mom if I put whipped cream on my Beth's pancakes? She's losing weight from the arthritis, which is common. The pain is like a perpetual toothache, weakening the appetite. I have to work hard to get her to eat enough without compromising nutrition. I tweak most recipes to include only 100% whole grain so the pancakes, when taken with milk, make up a complete protein serving. When you team whole grain with dairy, you always have a complete protein. No meat needed with it, and whole grain also contains iron.

~ sunshine for two days. No snow yet for a white Christmas, but I'll take the bright sun any day.

~ Beth didn't walk right away the last two mornings, but I have noticed improvement in her swelling in the last week. Perhaps the naproxen is helping now? The morning stiffness is the best indicator of active disease, so we must watch that very closely ahead of her Jan. 4 rheumatology appointment, at which her doctor will make a determination to continue with just naproxen, or add a one-time steroid injection in both knees (with her under a milder form of general anesthesia). Anyway, today, I celebrate less swelling.

~ Beth laughing in her sleep.

~ I've given steroid eye drops every two hours while Beth's awake for a solid week now. Today I celebrate having only three weeks left, at which time the eye doctor will recheck her eye inflammation. Sometimes she cooperates and sometimes she doesn't. Maybe they expect that with a 3-year-old? When she's contrary, I can usually pry her eyes open long enough to sneak them in without her cooperation. She's supposed to keep her eyes closed for one minute afterward, but she doesn't do this and I'm unable to force it. God is in control of her story. I can only do so much and He knows that.

~ The children's book Christmas with the Mousekins: A Story With Crafts, Recipes, Poems and More! Delightfully illustrated, it's about a mouse family preparing for Christmas--working to bless each other and their neighbors. Included with the story pages are the craft projects they work on for each other and for their house, taught on separate pages with diagrams and written directions. Crafts include: snowflakes, tree ornament cornucopias with candy, mittens-in-a-row tree ornament, Christmas tree hat, Christmas-trees-in-a-row tree ornament, Christmas Mobile, Mousie Sock Puppet, mitten bookmark, and angel mouse tree topper. Recipes include: Cinnamon Snail Cookies and Gingerbread Mice Cookies

~ Last week I discussed Beth's toe walking with her physical therapist. The rheumatologist told me Beth does it to offset the pain in her knees when she walks. The therapist said if we don't keep flexing her feet to stretch this muscle, her toe walking will create more problems due to a too-tight muscle. So all week long I've tried to flex her feet while she sits on my lap. She hates it because it hurts, so I had yet another stressful fight with her. But today I celebrate a break through with this. If I flex and point her toes/feet in quicker succession, rather than in a more prolonged stretch, she says it doesn't hurt and she allows me to work with her. We'll see what the therapist says tomorrow about the effectiveness of this alternate method, but I have to think it's better than nothing. Today I celebrate that.

~ Children busy with coffee filter snowflakes inspired by the children's book above.

~ No library fees for quite awhile.

~ Mary's been making do with sweats at bedtime instead of a sleeper. She likes loose sleepers and I only have 5t's, which are too tight for her. Beth, it turns out, needs the 5T's because she's tall for her age with larger feet. Thankfully, Grandma sent a sleeper for Mary's birthday. I suggested a larger size that Mary could wear for two years, but it was too big in the feet and wouldn't stay put. I returned it for one that was too small. Ugh! Last night I ventured to Walmart late at night, which always brings out the teenagers and young adults who dress in all black with nose rings and other way-out-there adornments on body and hair. They love the midnight hour for shopping. What's up with that?

Anyway, Mary now has a sleeper that fits. She'll be looking more feminine, which every girl (and Momma) loves. The bedtime sweats were sometimes borrowed from her brothers.

~ fresh, boiled cranberries with baked chicken and baked sweet potatoes for dinner tonight.

~ Peter memorizing his long speaking part for the Children's Christmas Choir.

~ Laundry moving swiftly today.

~ Secret Santa gift cards in my husband's box at work today. He works for a false-gospel church. At times it's very hard to be a part of their establishment, but in a bad economy you have to take what is available. Ohio still has a very depressed economy and fewer jobs post each week. He sometimes has opportunity to view curriculum for children and adults in his capacity as a custodian there. What they teach is so watered down it may as well be a universalist church.

The thing is, they treat him better there than any place he's worked. Before doing custodial work he worked with the mentally challenged as a direct care worker. There's no respect in that job, which is true of most servant-based jobs. Custodians are treated even worse. Many people, Christians included, won't even look at them. But in this job, he has respect. Go figure: false-doctrine Christians treating him better than real Christians.

A Christian should be, above all, humble. How did God come to us? A newborn in a stable. He lived a humble life among us and He died humbly.

A humble person treats the custodian with respect, consistently.

And how does one get that place of humility? Can we exhort humility from people? Or must a person live it--through humble circumstances--to be it? Interesting question.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

A Debtor's Nightmare: It Could Be You

I'm about to humble myself before you like never before. Please reserve judgement while you read, unless you've been in my shoes? Can I ask that, please, as I seek to help you right now?

It's Christmas time and at this time of year, Satan has an easy time stirring up wickedness. He wants you to take your eyes off of Christ and overspend. Overspending is a symptom of ingratitude. A thankful heart is a still heart, a peaceful heart.

Oh, I know. You have a plan to keep yourself from overspending this year. It's a good plan, I'm sure. But Satan also has a plan, and it involves keeping you so busy, you'll get too stressed and overextended to follow your original, good plan. You'll finally say to yourself, "We'll, I've already blown my budget, so I may as well get what's necessary and tighten my budget in January."

Some of the things will seem very necessary, like gifts for the office staff. But remember that Christmas occurs in the heart, not the pocketbook. Can you write them a card instead and share your favorite Scriptures and tell how much you appreciate them? That is enough.

And whatever you do, don't charge anything this Christmas!  If you've already done so, take it back!  I'm about to share a little bit of my personal nightmare with a credit card company, and I hope you take it to heart. There are days now I'm barely holding onto my sanity, and some of that has to do with my credit card company.

When husband lost his full-time job, I kept up with my payments for the first year of underemployment. The second year, I had to stop paying, because food on the table and a roof over our head took precedence. When things get bad financially, you have to make heartbreaking decisions. Food and shelter come first, always. If you get a lump sum of money by some miracle, believe me, you'll need it for home or car repairs. Either that, or you'll need it for medical care.

When a Christian fails to pay a debt, it's very bad. But it all starts when you incur debt in the first place. Don't think for a second that God will provide money for your credit habit. He won't help you at all. He will let you fall, especially if you're a repeat offender. 

In fact, I have a bold opinion on this. You're more likely to have your job protected by God when your financial health is spiritually sound. That's not to say your company won't go under in a bad economy. I only mean your chances for job disaster are higher if you have financial sins.

You might think it's as simple as telling them you can only pay $10 per month right now. They are evil, my friends. They don't care about your sob story, no matter how many hungry mouths it includes. They won't accept partial payments or payment plans, and either will your mortgage company. Their goal is to intimidate you into paying your obligation to them before you feed your children. They are successful often enough, through various scare tactics, so they keep at for months. You can write a letter telling them to stop calling you, and sometimes that is successful, since it's their legal obligation to honor your written request to stop harassment.

After many months of intimidation, including calling your family and even your neighbors if they can manage it, they will send it to a collection agency. This agency will bother you for awhile, eventually trying to collect just a percentage of the original debt (maybe 75%). But it will still be a lump sum, not a payment plan or partial  payments. Lump sum or nothing. Again, if you're really hurting financially, you don't have lump sums.You have serious unmet needs to take care of, like your mortgage or keeping your car going, and your credit rating is the least of your worries.

If the collection agency can't get a lump sum out of you, the credit card company charges off your debt and sells it for pennies on the dollar to a junk debt buyer. The junk debt buyer (a law firm, often) sues you in court to collect the whole amount plus interest and penalties. They say they are representing your credit card company, but they are actually trying to collect for themselves. They may have an agreement to give the credit card issuer a small percentage of the collection, but not always.

90% of consumers think the lawsuit is a scare tactic and they fail to respond to the court summons. Shortly thereafter, the law firm gets a default judgement against you and garnishes your wages or bank account for up to 25% per month. Right now, this is all legal! Don't let someone tell you your credit rating is the only thing at stake when you default on a loan or credit card. This is false.

If you stay on top of the legal nightmare and try not to default entirely, your situation is still the same. They will want a lump sum, not a payment plan or partial payments. If you can't pay, the judge will order a judgement against you for far more than your original debt. Your bank account or wages will be garnished (never give them your bank account number voluntarily, and never send a personal check!). If your income is exempt from garnishment, the judgement stands and when you get back on your feet, they will find you. The nightmare will not stop unless you pay it or file bankruptcy protection, and even then a junk debt buyer may try to collect again in the future, intimidating you into thinking it was not discharged in your bankruptcy. You must save everything and be on top of a system that is inherently evil, run by the evilest in society.

Friends, your original debt can be relatively low, and this nightmare can still be yours. Credit is evil on both sides--the overspending consumer, and the debt collector. We're trying hard to stay on top of it, and thankfully we have help from a community legal aid agency. The small details are killing me, though. I got another legal thing in the mail Friday, asking me to appear for a pre-trial hearing. It's all I can do to avoid a nervous breakdown right now. I ask God for strength every time my heart rate rises.

When you get in trouble it isn't about shirking your responsibility as a debtor. We never tried to get out of paying our debts. They force you to make horrible decisions, because in the long run, they only want what's best for them financially. There is no good faith.

Don't carry a balance, please? Don't fall into Satan's holiday trap, or any other spending trap. Have a thankful heart for what God provides. It is enough. You have enough. Fill up the empty places in your heart and life with Him, not with purchases.

Please don't think it won't happen to you. If you have a credit card balance right now, stop spending and pay it down, even it means only one present under the tree for your children. And if you're already in trouble and using your credit card to live on, research what can and will happen. You must be informed so you can keep food on your table and a roof over your head.

Please don't judge my admissions here? God has taken me a long way in the past three years. I'm not the same person who once incurred debt. My heart knows that whatever God provides, it is enough.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Saturday Blessings

 1 Thessalonians 5:18
 give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.

I am thankful for...

...a new Playdoh toy for Beth's Birthday. Loved by all!

...sweeping up Playdoh three times a day now (once my big boy did it).

...husband home for Saturday breakfast.

...Miss Beth waking up in the middle of the night and saying, "Mommy, did you pray for me?" Dumbfounded, I told her "Yes, Lovey, Mommy's been praying for you." I had been up an hour praying and staring at her. She is only vaguely aware that anything is amiss with her health, so this comment had something to do with a dream she had. She went back to sleep right away.

...Miss Beth walking right out of bed this morning. She usually can't put any weight on her legs right away, so this is a breakthrough. Maybe the flare is over? Thank you for your prayers!

...her smiling so wide while we sang to her.

...her dimples.

...her thank yous. She says them all day long.

...Daddy teaching her how to blow out a candle.

...Paul jumping into my arms for a standing cuddle.

...people with pressing spiritual and physical needs who take our minds off ourselves and put them on the Body of Christ.

...little girls who add their mealtime prayers to ours, quite insistently. :)

...little one coming up to tell me, "Mommy, it's time for my nap."

...puzzles checked out of the library.

Have a blessed weekend!

Friday, December 9, 2011


Counting blessings:

I am thankful for...

...Beth taking to the steroid eye drops fairly well. There are so many doses and coupled with her two other medicines (one other eyedrop 1x day, and the 2x day naproxen) and everyone's vitamins, and Peter's medicine, and cream after bathing to control eczema, and lip balm to control Mary's winter lip issues, and you've got one very overwhelmed mother who's constantly wondering what she forgot. 

...the sweet letters my boys wrote to two children, ages 4 and 8, who lost their home in a fire Wednesday night. We received the news from our homeschool group, and as I gathered things they needed, the boys wrote letters. Today we'll make cookies and put together simple stocking gifts. 

Dear Christian and Carlos,

How are you? I am good. The fire must have been scary. I am sorry. Jesus loves you and he will take care of you. Did you know that angels are all around you? My favorite Bible verse is John 3:16. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.


...frequent grace rainings. Typically, when the eye inflammation follows closely after the initial Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis diagnosis, the prognosis is worse for the eyes. Eye problems often don't show up for years. Of those affected, the statistics are that 30% to 40% experience profound vision loss and 12% lose their sight entirely. Also, the steroid drugs used to treat the inflammation can cause glaucoma. Beth will know joy in her life through Christ and those who love her, but the thought of her not seeing her babies clearly or at all, profoundly saddens me. The children and chores and school keep me in the present 80% of the time, but there are times, like when I'm trying to sleep, that my mind still wanders to the what ifs. God knows my mind will do this no matter how strong my faith is. He meets my needs by reminding me of his abundant graces throughout the day. I call them grace rainings. 

...Beth's eye doctor, who is a renowned pediatric ophthalmologist. He has published extensive articles and in 1999, he helped developed a treatment for congenital nystagmus. Patients from all over the world travel to the vision center he works for. He happens to work at the same children's hospital Beth's rheumatologist works for. Praise God!

I wish I could write more, but life is so much busier now. Have a blessed weekend! And please let me know how I can pray for your family?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Your Task For Today: A Beauty Search

Sometimes when I catch a glimpse of our wedding photos, I'm caught by the naivete on our faces. Do you know why we were free and happy on that day? And why all parents are giddy at the birth of their babies?

It's the hope of tomorrow. In the majority of cases, nothing touches that hope on these glorious days. Brides and grooms and new moms and dads can get drunk on the hope--it's that plentiful.

The eye doctor told me today: "We're not going to think about her whole childhood right now. I won't do that to you or to me. We'll take it one appointment at a time." He said it nicely, but I knew not to ask any further questions right then, especially since my whole crew was along listening.

But tonight, I just had to know. What is the prognosis really? What is he not telling me? I can accept it, but I have to know.

Husband is angry and he doesn't want to know. I don't tell him most of what I learn, because it just makes him angrier, which I know is normal for many men. He just wants his little girl healed. Right now!

The real truth is, 12% of JIA patients will go blind. In the 1950's it was 50%. Because of early detection, it's now possible to do somewhat better than the 12%. But even if everything is done right, some children don't respond to treatment. They go blind.

What do I do with that 12% statistic? If she's already falling into the low percentages, what reason do I have to hope?

The Holy Spirit whispered it and you know what I'm about to type.

Your hope isn't here...remember? It's in heaven.

Hard to accept? Yes, unless you are Dana and your son gets crushed to death by a dresser. Or you are Shannon and you know your two children will absolutely die between 10 and 18 years old, or sooner. And in the meantime they will lose all their skills and need maximum assistance.

It wasn't hard for Gitzen Girl, who recently died from Ankylosing Spondylitis, an autoimmune arthritis much worse than Beth's. Despite being confined to bed and dealing with incredible daily pain, Gitzen Girl chose joy. 

Once you lose your innocence, you understand. Our hope isn't here. That's why kids go blind and some get crushed by dressers. And why some women want a baby desperately, but can never have one. God knows the plans he has for us in the heavenly realms. That's why he can allow these things to happen.

I've lost my innocence too, but God prepared me for this day. I know how to pass my days from now until eternity. Some of the lessons come from the Holy Spirit's whispers in my own life, and some come from Ann's life.

Search for the beauty in today. God has planted blessing everywhere for our good pleasure. All his careful plantings? They're my grace and your grace. Give thanks for each piece of That's how we pass our time here. Counting blessings. Giving thanks. Today.

Wondering about tomorrow? It's like Peter taking his eyes off the Lord and falling into the water.

By the third dose of steroid drops today, Beth was a screaming mess, refusing to open her eyes. I couldn't get a full dose in, after twenty minutes of high-level stress.

But I'm going to bed now. Tomorrow is God's, not mine. And that means those steroid drops and my daughter's compliance are His too.

My hope doesn't lie in eye drops or in doctors.

photo credit

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Prayer For Beth, Please?

I sent his out to the prayer team for Beth. Please pray for her? Thank you!


We went to the eye doctor today to make sure Beth's eyes are not affected by the arthritis. We were expecting a good report because only 1 in 5 children with her type of arthritis have eye problems. 

She is the 1 in 5. There is inflammation in her eyes associated with chronic iridocyclitis. She has to have two different eye drops administered, one of which is a steroid given every two hours during the day and at night if she is awake already. After one month, he will see her again and evaluate the inflammation. He said we take it one step at a time, but the prognosis is good because we caught it early.

I am learning that the statement: "The prognosis is good" is just something they say to keep parents from crying in their offices.

Please pray that she will take well to the drops and that this part of the disease goes away quickly. If not handled properly this can lead to glaucomascarscataracts and even blindness. The doctor assured me he would do everything he has to do to keep this from affecting her vision.

My husband and I feel like we're in a boxing ring with God and we just go knocked out. (The disease in her knees is still not responding to the naproxen.)

2 Corinthians 12:9
But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.

I know that His grace is sufficient and I am happy to have his power rest on our family. We just need a break in the bad news.

Thank you!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Coming Before His Presence With Thanksgiving

Psalm 95:1-6
"O come, let us sing unto the LORD: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms. For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods. In his hand are the deep places of the earth: the strength of the hills is his also. The sea is his, and he made it: and his hands formed the dry land. O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the LORD our maker."

I am thankful for...

...this passage I highlighted in Ephesians (2:6-7): "And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show us the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus."  When things seem heavy it's time to read these Scriptural reminders. Our time on earth is so short compared to eternity. Heaven is forever. Perfection is forever; the brokenness of earth is fleeting.  Dwelling on hardship and pain only weakens us as workers for Christ Jesus. "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." (Ephesian 2:10)  We must reset our gaze on heaven and get to work for God. 

When everything is going well it's harder to comprehend the concept that things are fleeting here. We want to hold on to our success and our personal empire, for we've deceived ourselves into thinking we're a self-made wonder. I have one child for whom everything comes easily. He struggles with pride and it's understandably hard for him to remember that even the inner workings of his brain are a gift from God, and not of himself. I've seen his ego puff up when his brother struggles with something. Of course boys are competitive, but pride is dangerous. Self-esteem is the world's buzzword. God's buzzword is self-denial. We are most foolish when we fail to bow down before Our King and say "Thank you; I am your servant." (Every child presents unique parenting challenges!)

...watching my children perform puppet shows at the library on Sunday afternoons.

...that Sunday afternoons at the library led to Sunday night Family Movie-Popcorn Night, which allows us to relax together in one room. As parents of four we rarely rest and I love just sitting down and holding one of my children on my lap, or having my husband hold me, while we enjoy some wholesome entertainment together. Simple family traditions bond us together, but when wiggly babies and toddlers are around, it's harder to set up relaxing family time. We've arrived at a time when everyone can sit still for a 30-minute kid movie.

Dinner and devotions are the most valuable tradition, but there are many others that bind us. What are some of your weekly family traditions?

...the postman bringing some new clothes for the girls' birthdays--gifts from Grandma. Beth was born Dec. 8 and Mary was born Dec. 14. The girls (and the boys) have tiny waists and rarely does anything fit unless I pick it myself, unfortunately, but grandmas love to send clothes.

Shortly after we lost our first baby a friend told us about a dream he had, in which we had a Christmas baby. He believed it was a message from the Lord. He was almost right; Mary was given a December 25th due date. According to the ovulation schedule this was correct, but she came 11 days early. (I had them all early.) Just a neat fact that will delight Mary some day. boys, who never run out of things to do on rainy days.

...first-time library cards for Peter and Paul, who left the library feeling like proud young men, with their very own computer receipts tucked into their pockets.

...this gingerbread pancake recipe Jess shared.

...the Bible, which never stops speaking truth into us, via the Holy Spirit. Without regular readings it's easy to struggle and fall in this life. The Word is the wisdom that keeps us on track. Why forgo this wisdom and blessing? Remember the hardest part? Opening your Bible. Just go right now and do it. Open your Bible and be freshly blessed. Mark and date what blesses you.

...children who love and appreciate their Daddy for his hard work and hard play.

...a note from Peter. On the outside it says, "Open this note." And on the inside it says, "Dear Mom, This is a gift to you from Peter, Mary, and Paul. Thank you for your hard work." 

I hate to say it, but I think the timing of this note has to do with my unattractive complaining on Saturday that the kids don't appreciate all the laundry work I do. They throw barely-worn clothes around, leaving piles here and there.

...the children's Christmas book Silent Night: The Song and Its Story, by Margaret Hodges, with beautiful paintings by Tim Ladwig. What a lovely story about the writing and first singing of this classic Christmas carol.

Silent Night: The Song and Its Story
Amazon Image

...the cute Christmas book Fletcher and the Snowflake Christmas, by Julia Rawlinson. Throughout the reading, I raved to the children about the painted illustrations. I found the artist's depiction of a frost over the land quite beautiful.

Fletcher and the Snowflake Christmas
Amazon image

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Power of Story

On the verge of hormonal tears and desperate for some uninterrupted slumber, I didn't start the day well. Hours of baking the previous day stole our straightening-up time. I awoke to runaway clutter. The nail in the coffin came when my ADHD child awoke mouthy, impulsive, and ungrateful.

He never repented.

Continued defiance resulted in a park trip--which he'd looked forward to all day--being stripped from him. Exercise of any form is only taken away as a last resort.

Hell hath no fury like an ADHD child who just lost a privilege. The anger is ugly and scary and the whole family suffers the fight or flight response. With each occurrence I'm certain prison awaits my son--a place many ADHD people end up, due to their deadly anger.

The last thing I wanted today was alone time with Peter--especially a furious Peter.

Months have gone by with no break for me (as I define a break). Thrift store trips every six weeks or so used to be my alone-time treat. There's been no money for that so on the weekends I catch up on chores while the family goes to the park for a few hours--weather permitting. This arrangement is as close to a break as I can do right now. (A family outing, perhaps to the library, occurs on another weekend day.)

This may not seem like the best choice for my time--remaining at home instead of getting out--but battling clutter and crumbs and dirt is necessary for my sanity. The family claims they don't care about the house, but studies show runaway clutter affects all of us.

I live this truth. Frequent straightening by Momma and the crew helps defeat the clutter blues, but any special project throws things awry.

After I convinced my husband that Momma and son were not going to battle 'til death, the family left for the park, leaving Peter and me alone.

I stayed near the door for a bit to keep him from running down the street, shouting and chasing the van. Yes, his adrenalin can get that bad, but less often now that he's approaching ten.

After a time, he stopped shouting and collapsed in a post-adrenalin slump, exhausted.

But ready to talk.

Why doesn't Paul struggle with anger? How does he always controls himself? It's not fair! I hate ADHD! I'm worthless. And Paul hates me because I bully him. He only plays with me because I bug him, not because he loves me. I hate my life! I don't want to do these things, but I can't calm down!

First let me say, these two brothers compete furiously and have jealousies, but they love each other and need each other and in the end, they know they're blessed by brotherhood. They're best friends.

The real tragedy for an ADHD sufferer is the effect they have on others. Unfortunately, they annoy in a way that leaves family members living with a fingernail screeching down a chalkboard for hours a day. They can sense their effect on people, sometimes, but they can't stop. The slightest thing makes their emotions go awry and everyone is held captive. When they have a bad day on top of your bad day, you must refuse to engage, early on. You have to be perfect to handle it perfectly, and none of us fit that description. So life is messy.

Grace abounds, but sometimes we still hate that life is this messy.

When someone doesn't like their afflictions--and we all have afflictions--only one thing works. The power of story.

Every significant thing that happens to us from the time we leave the womb, makes up telling pieces of our story. The riveting plot always revolves around one thing.....sin.

Our parents sin in some way that scars us. We carry that scar--becoming a Christian doesn't always erase the effects of sin--to our own marriages, hoping to heal the wounds from our childhood, through each other.

It never works.

God can redeem the marriage and bless it, as he did my own, but deep hurts still bring hardship and pain through tragic turns in our story. They weaken and deplete us, making it harder to reach our ideals, even if we understand the hurts and forgive them.

The dysfunction continues in another generation to some extent, and coupled with that, illness and disease, both mental and physical, weave their way into our stories.

Who sinned the first sin to cause a particular family line to suffer?

Adam and Eve. No generation escapes.

Sound depressing?

It would be, except for God. God uses story. He redeems our stories for His glory.

How did I comfort my son? By telling someone else's story, including the part where God brings people to himself through someone's incredible suffering and faith. I told him the story of ten-year-old Eva who suffered cruelly at the hands of her father, who selfishly abandoned her. She nearly died a frightening AIDS death, alone.

Eva was rescued by Compassion workers from her child development center. Having learned her whereabouts, they hired an ambulance and took her to the hospital, where she spent three months slowly improving. The doctors agreed to let her go home.

Not long after, she died, professing Jesus as her Lord.

Eva contracted AIDS from her late birth mother. She didn't ask for that tragic beginning, and she didn't ask for all the illnesses she constantly battled. She didn't ask to be taken away from the Compassion workers, who showed her the only love she'd ever known. She didn't ask for a horrible father, or for horrible pain and poverty. She could have died cursing God.

But no, she rejoiced in Jesus. And at her grave, her father and others accepted Christ.

Suffering coupled with faith is God's greatest tool. For always, the two produce a good story. A heart-changing story.

2 Corinthians 12:9

But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.

God narrates the story for others at just the right time--when they can't stand their afflictions another day.

Peter sat in silence as I relayed Eva's story. He didn't move a muscle as I rocked with him and weaved the tale. He just listened. To everything. 

My son, if you could sail through life not having any challenges--and your brother Paul will have his in time, you can be sure--how would you convince people to follow God? What power would you have to change their hearts? Can you think of one thing you could say or do to change them at their core?

Ask for help and mercy and healing, but don't hate your story. It's the most valuable thing you have, as you seek to be your Lord's servant. Embrace it and say, "Yes, God, let it be for me as you say."

Luke 1:38
"I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May it be to me as you have said." Then the angel left her.

At the end Peter understood the power of story, because Eva's story was worse than his. He repented immediately, telling me how sorry he was for yelling and arguing and having fits. He appreciated his life again and knew he was blessed. Perspective worked its God miracle in his heart.

Someday, someone will listen to his story and it will be worse than theirs. And his faith will speak volumes.

Consider my servant Peter who struggled mightily. One thing after another worked against him and his life took heartbreaking turns which he couldn't change or predict.

But through it all, he loved MeHe professed me his King. His Redeemer. His Comforter. He sang me songs of praise. Consider my servant Peter, with whom I'm well pleased. 

If Peter could endure all that and still profess me as Lord and Savior, don't you want that same power in your life? Don't you need it?

Suffering coupled with faith. There's only one word for it


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