Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Gratitude On Tuesday

Poor Miss Mary has thrown up now for thirty hours. She can't even keep the rehydration fluids down. In her desperate thirst, she keeps sneaking water. Too much too fast, I suspect. She can keep down teaspoons at a time, but when she goes to the potty and sneaks a whole cup of water, all my rehydration efforts go down the drain, literally. I have to watch her like a hawk. 

The blessing here is that I get to hold her for hours a day and read the 23rd Psalm to her. I am learning it rapidly and I recited it in the night several times last night. It's still having an immediate calming effect on me. Praise God! He is faithful!

Mary has no official signs of dehydration and hopefully the turning point will come soon. 

Meanwhile, Momma is making everyone walk around with throw-up bowls, just in case.

Mary:  "I wish I was God, Mommy. I would make this go away."

Last week when Beth gave me trouble about taking some medicine, Mary prayed from the playroom, unbeknownst to me. When she heard the fussing stop, she looked up, asking, "Did she take it, Mommy? I prayed."

I am so blessed with these signs of her developing faith, and of her knowledge of God's power! She doesn't understand a lot of theology, but she knows the most important things for her life: God is faithful. God is powerful.

You're having a lovely day, I hope? How can I pray for you this week?

photo credit

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Christian And Stress

Be still and know that I am God.

Hello there, friend. Can I ask about your stress level? How are you doing, really? Are there signs of unraveling?

As Christians it's hard for us to reconcile high stress levels with our professed faith in God. If I have faith, why am I having serious problems with stress? Why isn't my faith helping? Surely there's something God can do for me?

I've already revealed that many in my family have stress disorders. As early as college I had my first incidence of vertigo, in which the room spins rapidly and shortly after that, the lovely vomit. I'm not sure I had ever heard of vertigo at that time, but a doctor visit revealed that my spinning room and nausea were harmless. Just one of the many ways our bodies respond to stress.

Vertigo resurfaced recently. As well, three times in the last two years I've had psychosomatic illnesses. Once my ear hurt acutely for two days. Convinced if I didn't get treatment I'd have trouble caring for my kids, I went to urgent care. We don't have adequate support here and caring for my kids while sick is an ongoing fear, based on past difficult experiences (namely, a bad flu experienced in fall, 2009). 

Your eardrum looks perfect. It's your Eustachian tubes causing the pain, probably, the doctor said. Inflammation from allergy can cause pain. As soon as I got home--knowing nothing was going on and my mothering could resume uninterrupted--all pain stopped.

There were two incidences of frequency and urge with my bladder. I went to urgent care thinking I surely had a UTI and would have trouble caring for the kids if I let it become a kidney infection. With no insurance, how would we deal with a kidney infection? The money involved in health care promises a new set of worries. 

After giving birth to Beth I did have a UTI, along with my first and only C section and serious nursing difficulties. It was a ghastly time around here; my recovery was too slow for our needs. 

People will give their money when you're in hardship, but their time? That's another story. I've learned first hand the importance of offering people your time, after first assuring them you've seen messy houses and had them yourself. Your messy house won't shock me. I come to love you, not judge you. Adding these words is so important when mothers are in great need.

Elderly people can be reluctant to help for fear of contracting illnesses themselves. And younger people are often overwhelmed with their own families; it's not hard to see why help is not always available. Still, I have felt the need and I pray that I will extend my love and services to those in need, without regard to myself. God, may it be so!

Anyhow, both times in the last two years, my urine was crystal clear. I was given a prescription anyway, based on my symptoms. The first time I took the medicine, but this last time I figured something out:  I'm a stressed out dork, imagining illnesses. 

The doctor, though admitting that last time they were unable to grow anything in a culture, insisted I leave with a prescription. I threw it away because by the time I'd driven home, I knew what was up. My stress and anxiety are out of control.  All frequency and urge stopped as soon as I got home.

I could see what was coming. If I don't do something to stop this stress process, I'll end up with panic attacks like my mom, brother, and many others in the family line. That's the next step up from psychosomatic illnesses (just my hunch).

My silly mistake will cost about $200, due to no insurance. It was too late to keep the sample from going to the lab and the doctor visit itself was $130.

Last night at 1:00 AM Mary threw up. Our hunch? She ate all her dinner food at Daddy's insistence, so she could get a donut for dessert. But she was simply too full. 

I cleaned her up, changed her bed, showered her with kisses, and tucked her in again with a throw-up bowl. Then, after rinsing out the yucky stuff and putting the sheets in the washer and disinfecting everything, I went to bed myself. 

My thoughts were thus: If she throws up again in the next couple hours, it's probably a gastrointestinal virus. If not, she was just too full.

I thought about the prednisone Beth had for a week, knowing that it weakened her immune system. What if Beth gets a virus? Will she end up in the hospital? What if we all get it? Will I be able to adequately care for the children with husband gone 12 hours a day? How will we manage? What if husband gets sick and we lose income (only one of his part-time jobs offers sick time).

I could feel my stress level rising. God, help me calm down so the room won't start spinning. I hate throwing up, God. Help me change my reaction to stress. It's the only answer, God. I don't want anti-anxiety medication, nor can I afford it. I'm a Christian God. Surely you can help me?

Then I took a deep breath. Closed my eyes. 

What came to my mind next? Psalm 23

I recited as much as I could remember. And the calming effect? Immediate.

Memorize it, He said. Recite it every single time something goes wrong. Be still and know that I am God, by the comfort of this Psalm.

My friend, I don't know your family history or your circumstances, but I urge you: Don't ignore your stress. Take the Lord's advice. Memorize this Psalm by yourself or as a family...two or three verses a week. I believe God can help, despite family history. If you truly need medication, take it. God gives man the ability to develop medicines to make life more comfortable, less tragic. 

But first, try this.

Psalm 23 (KJV)

1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. 
2  He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Gratitude on Sunday

So we thy people and sheep of thy pasture will give thee thanks for ever: we will show forth thy praise to all generations.
Psalms 79:13

My gratitude List

~ Reading My Great Aunt Arizona over and over.

~ A weekend spent entirely at home because the van needed repairs. At first we felt trapped, but its been a pleasure.

~ Reading Ladybug Girl and Bumble Bee Boy over and over. It reminds me of my own kids' play schemes. Even my boys listen over my shoulder.

~ The whole family folding laundry together.

~ Boys digging out old science books to make modeling dough in the kitchen, and then accidentally doubling the amount of oil in the recipe. And by God's grace, their little bowls and frogs and spiders hardened nicely after baking.

~ Sisters having oodles of fun together.

~ Showering eight-year-old Paul with little comforting gifts after he suffered a nasty skin flap wound on his lip. (Ahem. Playing football in the house.) Hopefully they won't decide it's advantageous to cut your lip around here. I bought him a rare liter of root beer from the store, and Daddy brought home donuts for him and even bacon, their favorite poison. Daddy won't admit it, but the bacon was for him too, since no van meant no outings and that man hates to be in the house.

~ The fragrance of my girls' hair in my nostrils as I read to them.

~ Sisters comforting each other when one is sad.

~ The Institute for Excellence in Writing's Student Writing Intensive A DVD course. It's every bit as wonderful as we thought.

~ Peter making much progress in spelling, thanks to Avko Sequential Spelling.

~ Finding a mnemonic device program for memorizing multiplication facts: Times Tales

~ Huge progress on some stressful paperwork.

~ A husband who loves, plays, and even cooks and vacuums when I'm smothered in paperwork. He hates housework, yes, but paperwork he's absolutely allergic to.

~ A good friend's sister will live after a tragic accident. Please pray for this unspoken request? She has a long recovery road ahead (her name is Lisa). And pray for her two children during this transition? Thank you. No Mama wants to be gone from her children so long.

~ Peter having a calm day. Did you pray, friend? Thank you! It worked and I must say, I actually felt the prayer!

~ Still enjoying Isaiah and Ephesians. I've never been very motivated to read the Old Testament, but this year I'm going to read chapters from both Old and New at each sitting.

~ Beth's join pain and stiffness returned today, but by God's grace, her smile and her giggles remain.

Saturday, January 28, 2012


Most days, by the power of the Holy Spirit, I can list having special needs children as a blessing.

Peter's heart couldn't be sweeter. Beth couldn't be more of a joy.

But when my emotions crash for other reasons, I struggle.

Why, God?

Why must I deal with a son who rages? A son whose mind tortures him with OCD lies? A son who, though incredibly bright, can't seem to learn his multiplication facts?

I know the deadliness of comparison and I avoid it routinely. Tangible, incredible blessings flow here. I count them daily.

Sometimes my emotions stoop so low, comparison creeps in like a poison.

She doesn't have a single kid with a problem, short of a messy bedroom. Why, God? Why were we chosen for this hell? And how will my son make it in life? How will any of us make it, without stress disorders raging?

What's missing on days like this? Days when I say...No thanks, Lord.  Rather than...Yes, Lord. Let it be for me as you say.


My mind is not sharp enough to say, "Oh, I just need some perspective...that's all."

But my testimony is this: God always provides it, at the most needed moment.

I began reading the Mercy House Blog, about a maternity home ministry in Kenya--a ministry begun by Kristen Welsh. 

Currently, seven girls are being served, three of whom are new to the home. The three new girls experienced the worst kind of abuse and trauma the ministry has seen. These girls' presence in the home? A miracle.

One young girl recently left unexpectedly due to the negative influence of her witchcraft family. She chose to leave the safe haven of a maternity home with her new baby...even after professing Jesus as Savior. To go back to a horrible hell on earth. 

Suddenly, my mind filled up with new names to pray for. My heart broke. My spirit groaned with all humanity for the collective suffering this earth knows.

How will God fix the broken young hearts and lives in Kenya? Outside of a miracle, I don't know.

But I know His power prompted Kristen's family to leave their comfort zone and take on incredible stress in this ministry endeavor. To learn things about the depravity of man that haunt their minds. May God Bless them and refresh them. May he shower them with blessings large and small, as they love the broken and the lost.

I have small potato problems. I thank God for them now, knowing He is mighty to save.

Please write down these names and pray? Lucy, Elizabeth, Violet. Violet was violently attacked and suffered burns, for which she's still being treated. She has a long road ahead, including surgeries. Her baby, still in the womb, survived the attack, thank God. Also pray for the young girl who left, named Felistas, and her baby, named Emmanuel.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Problem With Exhortation

What I really want to spill out on these pages is poetry. Somehow, though, it just doesn't come out of me.

Instead, I have the spiritual knack of exhortation. I sit down, heavy with something the Spirit said, and I write. When it's all done, it is not poetry, but a pleading with you, the reader, to do something. To perform in some way.

The problem with exhortation is that sometimes, grace gets lost.

I have been exhorting you to open your Bible this month. I am doing much better in opening mine, and I hope you are too.

Last year, I put more discipline into my prayer life and learned much about the power and blessing that prayer can be. I wrote a series of posts on prayer.

And then do you know what happened? My daughter began having problems. When a diagnosis was given, I didn't have the words to pray. Though I communed with the Spirit, it wasn't traditional prayer, in which I put forth effort. He poured into me. Currently, He has me doing a lot of intercessory prayer. It isn't organized like a traditional "quiet time". The miracle is that the names pop into my head, along with the prayers. He is giving me the gift of prayer, through no effort of my own.

The other day I told you I was committing myself to laughing every day with my children, to bless them and assure them that everything was going to be okay. And do you know what happened the very next day? My emotions crashed, as they're apt to do some months. No laughs that day, and maybe only a few times this week. Tears come easily at these times for me. Laughter? Not so much.

Oh, the irony.

The notion that I have power, that my striving is the answer, always gets shot down. He reminds me that all power comes from Him.

He loves you. When you pray, when your open your Bible, and when you don't. We don't always adhere to our own best plans, because life is messy. Though I exhort you to do things, never suppose I'm saying that your striving is the answer. Sorrowful things happen, no matter how you "perform". Grace triumphs over sorrow. Grace triumphs over our failings.

There will be times you possess spiritual discipline that surprises even you. God's power is upon you then, possibly preparing you for a storm. Other times, it will seem like you're incapable of discipline. You're too frail. You might have four mothering days in a row that knock you out, and your Bible remains unopened. On the fifth day, you open it.

God doesn't condemn you for days one through four; He rejoices with you on day five.

The enemy wants us to believe this:  it's all or nothing. He convinces us we're pitiful and we sometimes believe him.

Let me repeat these words: He rejoices with you on day five. 

Let us keep that in our heart, always.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

My Cinderella

Cinderella at her ball? Very blessed, but only until midnight. What a challenge...to live like there's no tomorrow, to embrace every single blessed moment, knowing there really is a tomorrow, and it's a sorrowful one.

Cinderella knew she'd go back to her mean step-sisters, her evil step-mother. But while she danced, she danced with joy, with abandon, even forgetting her deadline, until she heard the striking clock.

My little Beth? My very own princess? Thanks to prednisone to get her through a medication transition, she has a week to live like Cinderella at the ball. No pain, no swelling. She can finally run, and jump. She can keep up with her athletic sister.

I watch her run around the house, around the yard, and I marvel. Just how it used to be. My little girl with the contagious giggle, the contagious joy. I am so happy for her, tears spill.

But oral prednisone is dangerous, only to be used for emergencies, for small doses of time. It carries with it potentially serious side effects. Many mothers, I'm sure, praise it and give thanks for the miracles it works in their asthma-weakened children. But they grieve too, that it's needed in the first place. They think about the future, about the damage it might do.

In about five days, my girl will probably feel the thorn in her flesh again. She might get out of bed, plant her feet down, only to slump to the floor, unable to put any weight on her achy knees. Not quite this bad every morning, but often enough that she knows the pain of defeat, first thing in the morning.

Our challenge, my princess and me? To savor these days as a gift from Heaven above. To thank our precious Lord for a body that works, if only for a week. To live like there's no bitter tomorrow. To embrace it all, even the ending, while still praying for spontaneous remission.

And to trust Him, in all His plans, knowing that they're beautiful, purposeful. Like Cinderella marrying her prince, Beth will have her reward from Him, and it will be sweet.

Friend, I don't know what sorrow has come your way. But I know Him. He is mighty to save. Embrace your today, clinging to Him. I'd be honored to pray for you. You can leave your request in the comments, which I've switched to blog-owner approval. I'll be faithful, friend. Your prayer request won't post to the public.

James 1:12
Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.

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.

James 1:2
Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.

Romans 5:3
Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;
Finding Heaven
Linking with Jen today

Monday, January 23, 2012

Amazing Works of God

Sometimes, living in blessed America, we miss out on truly amazing works of God. I have a very short story for you today. One you'll never forget!

Gerald, a Ugandan Child Development Center Officer, recounts:

Anne was one of those children at Bugolobi Child Development Center who gave their lives to Jesus Christ every day after the altar call at the center. She had done this for the three years she was part of our Child Sponsorship Program.

As a Child Development Officer at the center then, I did not know whether Anne and the other children took salvation seriously or, better still, whether they understood what salvation was. It was not until Anne turned 10 that I understood that God honors a child’s commitment to Christ, and He gives such a child His Spirit, too.

At the age of 10, Anne began taking a bus to and from the Compassion Child Development Center. One Saturday, two women who appeared friendly on the bus, kidnapped her, taking her to the hut of a witch doctor. Anne recounts:

“I was taken to a small hut. The man inside the hut saw me and told the women that his spirits did not like the Holy Spirit inside me. He said that the women should go and bring another child to sacrifice.”

The two women abandoned Anne in the Ugandan bush. With God's help, Anne walked back to the main highway, and then to a police station.

Gerald, the Child Development Center Officer at the time, recounts:

When we got Anne back, we took her for trauma counseling. She found strength to testify before fellow children at the center. Her testimony moved the one hundred and fifty plus children in attendance that Saturday to commit their lives to Jesus Christ and ask God to give them His Spirit.

Anne reiterated to the fellow children that when children give their lives to Jesus, God gives them His Spirit

I have included only excerpts of this story. Click on the Compassion link below to read the story in its entirety.

Saturday, January 21, 2012


My children play hard. Laugh hard. Their made-up games occurred indoors many days in a row, giving me a close-up view of childhood. The main ingredients? Thrill and delight. They love being together, that's the delight, and they love being thrilled. Locked in a dungeon, or hiding in a cave and waiting for a bear to arrive. Or being a bandit running from a sheriff. Or a hiker hiding from a wolf.

Along with the Holy Spirit, they opened my eyes this week. My word of the year? I chose balance. I perceived an imbalance, thinking it pertained to time management. Wrong.

There's an emotional imbalance in the adults here. We don't live for thrill and delight, the way our children do. We don't laugh enough, often exuding stress instead. Our children live happy in spite of us, most of the time. Their delight in each other is their daily salvation.

Not long ago Peter remarked: "Mommy, you aren't as happy as you were before Beth's arthritis. I remember you used to turn up the music and dance with us." He grieved when he said it; he wasn't accusing me of wrongdoing.

A few days later he found a photo of Daddy, laughing. "Will Daddy ever be that happy again, Mommy?"

Don't get me wrong--I delight in the Lord; He gives me joy. But laughter is pain medicine too. Laughter bonds. Laughter starts in fellowship.

So my revised, narrowed-down word for 2012? Laughter.

I'm going to participate with my children in the thrill of chase. As an act of love, I'm going to make them laugh every day, regardless of whether I feel like it. I'm going to be obedient to the Holy Spirit's promptings in this, leaving the rest up to God.

Children need to hear laughter from Mommy and Daddy. Play signals wellness. It's an outward sign that everything's going to be okay.

photo credit

Friday, January 20, 2012

Upside-Down Living

She nursed at least twenty times in twenty-four hours...as a three-year-old, not a newborn. I once read that breastmilk is a natural pain reliever; I'm inclined to believe that. Her arthritis medicine is certainly not meeting her pain needs.

While she fared better the first half of the day, her afternoon crashed. Her long nap ended in pain and stiffness, leaving her unable to walk. We dealt with hysterics for nearly an hour, stopped only by me nursing her again and again. It quieted our frazzled nerves.

I pleaded with God. How do I handle this constant pouring out? How do I handle the despair of seeing a three-year-old live with chronic pain? So many other issues and duties here, too, besides arthritis. My OCD son goes to the dentist soon. He fights the notion that they're possibly evil and will do something deadly to him. The more stress the arthritis causes, the more his OCD acts up.

I'm helpless, other than my Momma milk. Thank you for that comfort, God. Where would our family be without it? The therapist explained that the pain of arthritis is like an on-going toothache. Daytime activities can distract from the pain, but at night, it screams louder. 

Nursing quiets her pain in the middle of the night, so the other children can get sufficient sleep, and so she can go back to sleep

His answer to my pleas? At least a dozen names of people who need prayer. He has me walk in and out of prayer all day. When trouble piles here, that's His answer, along with everyday graces and blessings:  

~ Sunshine turning new snow into glitter. 
~ Bright red cardinals landing in the snow near our window.
~ The cutest things coming out of young mouths.
~ Bonding over baking and eating cookie dough.
~ Cuddles on couches.
~ Beautiful storybooks.
~ Children who love Him.

Intercessory prayer an answer to a despairing heart? How does it help those under my roof, when we need something from Him?

Why does He ask more of me, when I'm pleading for relief?

The Christian life, when lived well, is an upside down phenomena. When you need more love, love more. When you need more time, give more of yours. When you need comfort, give it away. When you need prayer, pray for others. When you need Him, be Him to others

It's a profound mystery, but it works. My despair gives way to joy. My self-involved thoughts abruptly end, so I can love others. We can't love when we focus inward. Love is a pouring out

Jesus poured out everything. He calls us to do likewise. The keywords? Outward focus, not inward. A heart that has received His love, can pour it out.

1 John 4:7-12
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

You Always Have to Trust God, Mommy!

We're driving in snow, late for a physical therapy appointment and I'm angry for the first time since Beth's diagnosis. A nasty flare started two days into her new medication. Did the doctor prepare me for this possibility? No. She said nothing about any changes we might experience. So I naturally assumed a smooth transition, punctuated by my daughter eating better. She is eating better.

It took all of us to get her walking today. When she could finally put weight on her legs, her gait looked scary, with one leg swinging around straight, as though wooden. 

I'm angry, God, and I don't want to be...not after reading this:

Upon reaching Darwin’s house, I found three children sleeping in a small room with no windows or doors. The youngest was in the best spot, an old and dirty baby carriage; his 6-year-old brother was on top of him. I heard the cry of a child alongside his brothers. He was lying on the dirt floor among wet stones. It was Darwin. He was using dirty clothes as a pillow and was crying from pain and cold.

When I saw him I felt his pain, poverty and distress. I couldn’t contain myself and I cried. At that moment I felt the pain of a mother, sister and daughter. It was the Holy Spirit who grieved at the scene.

Courtesy of Compassion International: http://blog.compassion.com/a-spirit-of-power-and-love/#ixzz1jt5S4qgC 

My child suffers; her face advertises pain. But is her pain the result of a world who bought Starbucks lattes, instead of helping the poor? Is she in pain because no one cared enough? (Some don't even realize abject poverty exists. That's why I write Compassion posts).

Some pain screams for anger. But not the pain of arthritis. I have no right.

My thoughts toss wild the whole drive to therapy. While there, I notice the therapist's ring finger for the first time. Probably around thirty-two years old, the mom of two young boys, she sports no wedding ring. A single mom. I marvel. No faith and no husband. How hard is her life?

How long had it been since I'd prayed for Bea? Too long. Lost in the world of a special-needs child, I'd forgotten. 

Which sounds better...to live with the pain of arthritis for perhaps a decade or longer, or to spend eternity in hell? Beth will most likely go to heaven. But Bea? Where will she go

I'd been reminded during the Book of Revelation sermons. Hell doesn't mean horrible punishment, followed by death. It's eternal suffering; we are eternal beings, all of us. The question is...where will we spend eternity?

My anger melted right there. God wants souls won. He wants to save every person from eternal suffering. As Bea charmed my daughter into painful exercises, the main thing slapped me in the face. 

Later, driving to AWANA, the van sputters. Looking down at the panel, I notice the gas level. Beyond empty. We've got a problem. 

I enlist prayers and we all begin chanting our own versions of: God, please save us!

The engine gives out. My meandering thoughts to and from therapy? They kept me from noticing the gas level.

Roughly 10 degrees outside. Snowing. 5:45 pm. Husband not due home for 75 minutes. I drive past the AWANA church, knowing a gas station looms ahead.

Why didn't you drop us off, first?

I might need your help if we run out of gas.

You mean to push the van?

Um, no. To comfort Beth.

When the engine gave out, we'd just reached the top of a hill. I coast down, marveling at my Heavenly Father. Turning into the gas station, the steering wheel tightens. And the breaks? Barely working. Does the entire car stop working with no gas? I don't recall ever running out before--at least not while in the driver's seat.

We don't make it to the pump. I get out and try to push, to no avail. Peter's nerves give out some. Getting back in, I turn the key to off, and then try starting it again. Bingo. Just enough to park myself crooked, but sort of adjacent to the pump.

The older three make it to AWANA six minutes late, after much cheering. 

God, you are awesome! We love you! Thank you! You saved us!

Mary: You always have to trust God, Mommy!

I'll fall asleep fine tonight, thanks to the comforting wisdom of a five-year-old. I still don't like arthritis or a doctor who leaves me hanging. 

But God's purposes? They're not hard to understand. Every person. With Him. In Paradise.

That's why a young boy in Lima cries from pain and cold and uses dirty clothes as a pillow. That's why my daughter suffers pain and stiffness and needs to see Bea every week. 

Pain highlights His power and glory. He works wonders through pain. We're a distracted world, unable to see. But He sees and He knows. He saves, in spite of us.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Fighting Martha's Voice

Unfolded clothes taking over? And after dinner, baths, stories, and prayers, tackling the dishes right away just wasn't happening? Crusting over by now, are they?

Did the last hour of the day go awry? Did they fall asleep with the cantankerous echo of a drippy-faucet Momma in their heads?

The voice sounds. His voice. Sit and read your Bible first.

I know the other voice in your head. The Martha voice. If I don't tackle the dishes and clothes right now, the next day will go poorly

Mothers really are overworked. We become like hefty trucks, determined to plow through, working to stay afloat. When we take a break, we're behind, so we keep on plowing.

Martha is wrong though. The next day won't go poorly because of piled-up chores. It goes wrong because of piled-up sin.  Because we didn't bathe ourselves in Him.

Wash yourself in the Word first. When we put Him first, everything else falls into its rightful place. Trust Him to bring peace and harmony into your days.

Martha's voice is strong, but we must fight her lies. We must fight our notion that it all depends on us. On whom does it really depend?

Open your Bible, my friend. It'll make you smile.

Matthew 7:24-27
24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
source here

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Day The Lord Has Made; Rejoice

It's Sunday and we sit cozy in church. The 32-year-old pastor preaches Ephesians; a man should love his wife as Christ loved the Church.

He exhorts the ladies, joking: As you listen, don't make mental lists of all the things your husbands are doing wrong. Your turn is next week; remember that.

Before he begins I know I'm blessed. My husband loves well. I take his hand in mine, grateful.

At thirty-three and forty we fall in love on a mountain in southern California, hiking with the church singles' group. We waited long for our turn. Wrinkled and in slow decline, we parent little ones. God has us on a different road and we live brave.

The sermon? It's perfect and I marvel at the wisdom and humility of this young pastor, just given the reins. The senior pastor stepped down to focus on planting another church. God made him a planter, not a preacher.

I marvel at God's plans. Perfection.

I marvel at God for providing the perfect man for me. One who will hold my hand faithfully until God calls me home. Living brave with me, growing old with me...knowing me.

A man who knows love is a verb. Just the right father to delight my children. When he comes through that door at 7:00 pm, radiant, overjoyed children, four of them, open the door and they are glad in him. He loves them with his life and instinctively, they seem to know. My daddy is love.

All those years as a single woman? That was the picture in my head. A hand holder. A wonderful father. A wise man who leads humbly and loves much.

God's plans bring perfection. The only perfection that exists. There can be pain in the journey and it can look messy, but that makes our God-ordained path no less perfect.

Psalm 118:24
This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

photo credit

Monday, January 16, 2012

If Only I Could Read

Spring 2011 - My favorite photo of the year
At dinner a few weeks ago, Mary announced: "My life would be so much better if I could read." Along with this came a pretty little pout.

My plan didn't include formally teaching Mary this soon--she just turned 5--but when they want to, it's time. I live by this wisdom with potty training and weaning as well. Wait until they want to, which will be sometime before their wedding. No worries, no battles...no rushing through childhood. Why rush a precious gift?

I love the writing road to reading best; when Mary expresses an interest in something, we write about it. I help her sound out words and in the process, she's quickly picked up the sounds she still lacked.

Today she announced that she'll be an animal rescuer when she grows up. Guess what DVD she rented from the library this week?

What dangers would she need to learn about, she wondered? What could animals do to hurt her?

"Mommy, I want to make a list of the dangers."

I'm no animal rescuer myself, but I did suggest three ways animals could be dangerous. She loved her list, promptly reading it to all three siblings without help.

"See, Mary!  You can read!"

My girl, proud and empowered, affixed her list to the fridge, to read to Daddy later:

1.  (they're) HUNTRS

2.  (they bite) BIT

3.  (they're) WILD

Sunday, January 15, 2012

What Do You Write About?

Yesterday I invited you to become a Compassion International correspondent (call this number 800-336-7676) or a sponsor (visit this site www.compassion.com). 

Some of you might wonder:  What in the world do I write about...especially to an impoverished child in a whole different world? And what if I don't even like to write letters?

These are understandable concerns! First of all, God will equip you. He always equips us to do His will.

That said, there are topics I routinely avoid in my letters to Divya, Nelson, and Raphael, and other topics I routinely include. I'll explain why.

We are a one-income family currently underemployed, so my own children live quite differently than most American children we encounter. Though my boys comprehend how blessed they are, there are times they feel envy when lifestyle differences stare them squarely in the face. Knowing this, I am sensitive about lifestyle differences when I write my Compassion children. I want them to feel nothing but blessing and love when they read my letters. 

Any topic or picture that would invite lifestyle comparison, I avoid. That means I don't write about toys or bikes, or huge holiday meals or presents, or allude to the fact that we eat three meals a day plus snacks. I also don't photograph my house or my furniture or my carpet. It's quite easy to crop your pictures on the Compassion website; in fact, you have to crop them to fit their format. If a photo was taken in my home, I crop out everything but faces or one object of interest, as pertains to my letter. Mostly, I stick to faces and outdoor pictures.

I recommend the following list of topics, some of which fall under discipleship. Remember, these children are new Christians or about-to-become Christians, in many cases. They need spiritual guidance and direction, beyond what they get in church or at their Compassion Child Development Center. We can be a valuable influence in their Christian walks.

- Nature (This is educational; different nature specimens are found in our region of the world.)

- Seasons (This also is educational; many impoverished countries don't have four seasons. I describe the seasons, including how they look and feel and I include pictures of leaves, snow, etc.)

- Outdoor Activities (hiking, playgrounds, backyard)

- Weather

- Seasonal Activities (sledding, swimming at a lake, collecting leaves, gardening, planting bulbs, etc.)

- Bible Reading (I'll list favorite verses from everyone in my family, for instance, or what verses/chapters I'm currently reading.)

- My Prayer Life (Details about how I organize my prayer, what times I pray, and how it makes me feel.)

- My Gratitude Lists (I tell them how to keep a gratitude list, and I give samples from mine. But again, I don't include material items on my lists, though I might mention a favorite food, such as strawberries.)

- Questions For The Child (I ask about the child's activities, work, school, friends, family)

- My Relationship With God (I describe how God comforts me, how He guides me, how I love Him)

- Ask For Prayer Requests (I also give prayer requests)

- Thank Them For Their Letters (I include what I loved about their letters, and how they made us feel)

- Express Love and Caring (I say how happy we are to write to them and pray for them and how blessed we feel to have them in our lives; I tell them Jesus loves them and that they are very special to Him and to us; I also write We love you) 

Please add your ideas in the comments!

Visit Compassion's blog to learn more about letter writing and about the work Compassion does around the world. Visit this post for specific letter-writing ideas: http://blog.compassion.com/letter-writing-ideas/

photo credit

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Highlight of My Week

Raphael from Burkina Faso writes with gratitude about celebrating his first Christmas:

I thank God for giving me to celebrate Christmas...This year we are learning Bible verses and poems for Christmas.

He's only had a sponsor since September, so learning about Jesus at all is still new. Praise God that his heart seems full of Him already!

Compassion International runs one of the most successful child rescue missions on earth. Why the success? They do it in Jesus' name! And they understand that you rescue children one by one, knowing that to Jesus each one is a favorite. When you individualize the love and care, hearts and lives change. Hope in the person of Jesus Christ cannot be defeated! When you introduce Jesus Christ--and the child development center workers and the sponsor letters exude His love--Hope takes root on fertile ground. Love is an undefeatable force. Guess who flourishes in its absence?

Call this number to be a part of the miracles today:  800-336-7676  You can sponsor and write to a child for $38 a month, or you can just write to a child regularly (called a correspondent) with no monetary commitment involved, though you can send periodic monetary gifts if you'd like, up to a certain amount. Two per year are allowed, in addition to a birthday and Christmas present. Christmas money is pooled and shared with all the children at one center, so that no one is left out. I believe they manage $15 gifts per child each Christmas, depending on the center size.

No merchandise can be sent from you directly except for flat things that fit in a letter, such as stickers or photos. Gift monies are used to stimulate the local economies--and rightly so if we truly want to bring lasting change to impoverished areas.

Many times businesses sponsor a child and they have no one who will commit to the writing part, so Compassion assigns that child a correspondent. In both Divya's and Raphael's case, that is the situation. We were assigned these children the same month they obtained a business sponsor. Correspondents are also assigned to children who have a sponsor who consistently fails to write. The children are heartbroken when letters never come for them, and a few even leave the program in bitterness because being forgotten sends the same message poverty sends them...you don't matter.

You can give the age, gender, and country you prefer when you call, or you can say you have no preference and leave it up to God. I didn't express a preference in Divya's and Raphael's case and they're perfect for us! But when we sponsored our first child monetarily--Nelson, age 7 from El Salvador--I allowed the boys to pick him based on a picture and a description of his family situation and his interests. The fact that he had no father in his life sealed the deal. That touched my boys' heart. (Go to compassion.com to sponsor online, or click on the Compassion advertisement on my blog).

If you want to be a correspondent only, you have to use the phone number instead.

Compassion has an online letter tool that makes it very easy to write frequently and include up to 3 photos per letter. http://blog.compassion.com/letter-love-an-improved-way-to-write-your-sponsored-child/  To a child in poverty your letters are more valuable than the best toy money can buy...more valuable than anything money can buy. They savor each one, rereading them often. The most powerful lie of poverty--you don't matter--is defeated by the power of your love, expressed regularly in your letters.

We don't have the luxury of God living among us, ministering to us in the flesh. We must be His presence in each other's lives. He has equipped us to do so through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and He has given us the command in Scripture (see Scriptures below).

We are so blessed with these three children in our lives! There's no way to express the joy they are to us. Not a day goes by that we don't anticipate our mail man's arrival, wondering if we'll get a letter that day. Sponsored children used to write only two or three times per year, but the new policy is that they will respond to every letter you send!

There is a month or two delay in the timing of letter arrival, due to sorting time through the main office in Colorado Springs, which serves all 26 Compassion-assisted countries, and due to time with translators. Individual countries don't have the Internet service and staff to print out and handle the letters by themselves. 

7000 online letters and 70,000 snail mail letters are received each month in Colorado Springs. That's a lot of love! Praise God! Compassion International is the second largest mail producer in Colorado Springs. Here is a look at the entire process: http://blog.compassion.com/compassion-international-colorado-springs-an-inside-look-correspondence-at-compassion/

Meet Nelson, age 7, from El Salvador, with one sibling and his mother dwelling with him. He is average in school and would like to be a teacher when he grows up. He asks us to pray that he passes to the next grade. His mother, he was happy to tell us, recently graduated from cosmetology school! Compassion most likely gave her a loan to attend the school. Even before children are actually sponsored, they receive benefits from the center staff. As soon as they are registered they are ministered to in several ways, such as given supplemental food.

We sponsored Nelson from the longest-waiting list, which I encourage you to do. Ann Voskamp recently sponsored a child in Ecuador who had waited 3 years for a sponsor!


Meet Raphael, from Burkina Faso, Africa, age 12, who lives with two siblings and both parents, who are both laborers for part of the year. Raphael is above average in school and our prayer is that he will qualify for the Leadership Development Program, which will pay for his college education! He asks us to pray specifically for his math ability.


Meet Divya, age 8, from southwest India, who lives with her brother and both her parents, who are also laborers for part of the year. She is average in school and loves to play hide-and-seek with her friends. She is perhaps the most at risk in terms of her school ability. We pray much that she'll be able to catch up.

Most third-world countries do not provide free education. The majority of Compassion-sponsored kids only attend school because the sponsorship money pays for the school fees and the school uniforms. Your monthly commitment also pays for the staff to run a holistic child development center through a partnership with an existing, local Christian church. The children attend church and go to the development center 2 to 5 days a week, for 3 to 4 hours at a time, with extended hours on Saturday. A nutritious snack, or a full meal, is served to them each visit. The most at-risk children also have food sent home with them.

Each family also has regular home visits from a Compassion staff member, to assess individual needs and help decide how to use gift monies. For example, do they need a farm animal for supplemental nutrition, or is a mattress needed more? Or in the case of smaller gifts...are clothes needed, or sacks of rice and beans?

Classes on nutrition, hygiene, and child rearing are provided for parents periodically at the local centers. Parents coming from hopeless situations do not understand how to properly nurture a child--they were never nurtured themselves, in most cases. The words I love you rarely pass lips in abject-poverty situations--yet another reason to include them in your letters.

It often takes several appeals before a person calls the number or visits the website to get  involved. We didn't respond immediately either. A person can know they should, they even want to, but actually taking the step takes time. I encourage you to take the step today. Afterwards, you'll wonder in tears why you didn't do it sooner, believe me. Write down the number and put it in a prominent place.You probably won't revisit this post again, so write it down! If your husband doesn't agree to a sponsorship, just be a correspondent for now. To the child involved, it's the letters that matter most. They won't care (or probably even know, depending on the age) that you aren't the one forwarding the sponsorship money each month. 

Meditate on these verses, and then make the call? I only appeal to you like this because I know the blessing in store for you, and for your Compassion child(ren)...not to mention your own children, who will be radically changed. 

It is my understanding that in the U.S. you can have up to three correspondent children, but you have to space out the calls a couple months; you can't ask for three correspondent children at once. I think they want to make sure you are faithful in your letter writing before assigning you another child? I have a Canadian friend who has more than 3 correspondent children, but the rules are different for each country in some respects--though most aspects of sponsorship are uniform.

We are to love as we would like to be loved. Would you like to live without Hope? Without Love? Without Him? With a dirt floor, no running water or plumbing, and no indoor kitchen or toilet? He is Love and Hope, even in the midst of deplorable conditions.

1 John 13:34
"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.

John 15:12
My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.

Romans 12:10
Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.

Galatians 5:14
The entire law is summed up in a single command: "Love your neighbor as yourself."

Ephesians 5:2
and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

1 Peter 1:22
Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart.

1 John 3:11
This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another.

1 John 4:7
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.

1 John 4:21
And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Fill Your Vessel Today!

It's 9:15 am and my children? They're enjoying recess so I can get a shower. We've been up since 7:00 am and already, I feel poured out. So poured out!

This mothering thing? I hear it doesn't get any easier. Teenagers still leave their things all over. They live dangerously by nature, like your toddler and preschooler. That's right...they've proven it. The teenage brain is wired for danger.

How will you get through those years, as well as these years of sweeping pony beads, Legos, Playdoh, and pegs off your floor, day after day? How will you tolerate the s l o w nature of child training, for years and years to come? Talking to other moms, praying for each other, and taking breaks? All that helps you cope on a daily basis. But what helps you mother well, not just get through?

It's the filling you receive while reading your Bible. 

I didn't understand this well for the first decade I was a Christian, but now I know. We were saved to pour ourselves out, like Jesus did. Pour everything. Give everything, without thought to what we might get in return. The word is sacrificially. We're to pour ourselves sacrificially.

You can't pour from an empty vessel! From an empty vessel comes only complaining, self-pity, and a longing for something else.

Open your Bible today, friend! Two days until Sunday, when your pastor will ask you to open it. That won't be the first time for you this week, will it? Say it ain't so!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Grace In The Mail

I'm a spread-too-thin mother caring for a 3-year-old arthritis patient who will not participate in her own wellness. If you know a 3-year-old, you're not surprised at that.

She is too thin, yet she won't eat enough.

I need to press her tear ducts closed after steroid-drop administration, to lessen the chance of absorption into her bloodstream. Yet she fights.

She needs to take liquid with her anti-inflammatory, yet she fights. "I'm too full" she says...something I hear so often now.

She doesn't sleep well; I sleep so erratically I'm functioning on God's strength alone. My husband passes me in the hall, commenting, "How much longer can we live like this?"

The days are hard. The nights are hard. Not compared to so many households around the world, I realize.... for blessings are brimming over in our house, too. But still, it feels hard.

And then a letter comes in the mail, as I pray for strength to get through my day:

I am very glad to write you this letter. I thank God for giving me to celebrate Christmas. All my family are well, my school is going well too. This year we are learning Bible verses and poems for Christmas. Please pray that I will be good at math. How will you spend Christmas? I love you. 

With Love, 

Raphael is our twelve-year-old Compassion correspondent child from Burkina Faso, Africa. I've been writing him since September, expressing We love you in all but the first letter to him. And I mean it. I don't know about his personality, in particular, but I understand twelve year olds can be sassy and not-so-sweet anymore. I have wondered how my letters were landing with him. But we think of him every day, pray for him every meal. I've never met him, but the love is in our hearts so I express it to him, hoping God will help him understand how strangers can sincerely love him. Sincerely love him, with our whole hearts.

This is the first letter I've received with the words "I love you". It broke me. Straight from God, those words. I knew they were from God, read with anticipation by me, a mother needing divine love and strength at the very moment I opened the letter.

Raphael, I'm sure, sincerely means them. And it is all God, reaching out to both of us in our afflictions and hardships.

The rest of my day was still hard, but the words sunk into my soul. God cares. A twelve-year-old boy from a whole different world, cares.

Such a beautiful manifestation of grace. God doesn't often take away our afflictions. But when he said, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness", he meant it.

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.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Happy Birthday Peter!

Happy Birthday Peter!
10 Years Old today

He put holes in his last good pair of jeans this week. I had to get a 12 slim, which nearly put me in tears. My little boy wearing a 12! Cruel how fast the years pass, isn't it? I still remember my little guy standing near the sink, pointing to the faucet and asking for "wa".

I bought him this bead set and he already told me how wonderful it is three times this morning! He is so sweet. It's just the right difficulty level and the boys are having so much fun together. Handicrafts are such a wonderful way to pass the time together, as siblings. By the same company, I bought a birdhouse wood project for him to complete with Daddy, including painting the finished project. He loves time with Daddy and my husband loves to do such things with the boys.

Aside: Charlotte Mason believes handicrafts should be a part of every child's education, and I wholeheartedly agree. The discipline, patience, and pride that must go into such projects teaches so much!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Update On Beth's Arthritis

Here is an update on Beth, which I sent out to her prayer partners:

Thank you for praying for Beth this month! We went to follow-up appointments with both her eye specialist and her rheumatologist.

Rheumatology news: No new joints are involved--still just the two knees! Both legs are still the same length. The doctor was happy with the effectiveness of the naproxen in controlling the joint swelling. Beth can walk right away when she gets out of bed about 75% of the time now, though stiffness is still there and some day and night pain. Between 3pm and 8pm are her best hours for comfort. She did lose 2 pounds in 6 weeks (she was already skinny!), so the doctor put her on a different anti-inflammatory, thinking that the naproxen is upsetting her stomach and making her too full too soon. Starting tonight she will get celebrex, which gets sprinkled on some applesauce. I've been giving her higher fat foods since learning of the extreme weight loss. I knew she was thinner, but didn't realize how extensive the loss was.

The weekly physical therapy is going well. She is walking on her toes to offset the knee joint pain. Over time that could lead to her calf and hamstring muscles becoming too tight. We are addressing that in therapy now (stretches).

Please pray that...she gains weight quickly and that no new joints become involved, and that her pain and night wake-ups subside. Taking steroids with anti-inflammatory meds increases the risk of bleeding or ulcer. Please pray for no side effects.

Eye news: The eye inflammation is completely gone! A huge answer to prayer! The eye specialist--who happens to be world-renowned for helping to develop a surgery for wandering eyes in children--seemed surprised that the inflammation was completely gone this soon. I think he was expecting a reduction only. (Prayer works!) In the next 25 days we slowly wean her off the steroid drops, seeing him again on the 25th day. If the inflammation is back when we return for follow-up, she will need a more aggressive therapy (possibly steroid eye injections, or methotrexate shots given at home weekly). Too much steroid-drop use puts her at risk for glaucoma and/or cataracts, so one of these other methods would be preferred this soon after steroid drop use. (Methotrexate is given for aggressive joint problems associated with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis, but it also works on the eye inflammation because it suppresses the auto-immune response).

Please pray that...no more steroid absorbs into her blood stream, and for no damage done from the absorption. Her moods, her sleep quality, and her dreams worsened since starting the steroid, so he suspects some was absorbed into her system. Also pray that the eye inflammation never returns.

In his opinion, the worse thing that might happen to her eyes if inflammation continues, is that she might get cataracts from steroid use (which would be treatable). The eye inflammation is caused by the arthritis, but it will take a completely different course now--either better or worse than the joint issues, and either longer or shorter in duration. Some children get eye inflammation and never get any joint problems. They have the worst prognosis because the inflammation tends to go on a long time without symptoms and the vision gets progressively worse before a diagnosis is given and treatment begins. He thinks it's highly unlikely that Beth would ever go blind from her eye involvement. It is likely, however, that at some point she will get more inflammation. It flares like the arthritis does, but not necessarily at the same time. 

The rheumatologist tells it like it is, while the eye doctor sugar coats it a bit. I don't know which is better, from a parent's perspective? The rheumatologist warns that because Beth's eye involvement started so early, it could follow an aggressive and/or long-term course. (1/5 of arthritis children get eye involvement, but usually not this soon)

Thank you again for your prayers!  They helped a great deal with her eyes, her joints, and with our family's ability to cope with the life changes.

Never hesitate to share your own prayer requests with us, please. Prayer works!

With Love,
Christine and Family

Note: You may have heard some bad press on Celebrex, but the reported heart problems happen with much higher doses, and when it is used long term. It doesn't work on the stomach lining, so it has been prescribed for Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis since 2006 for patients who experience gastrointestinal problems on other anti-inflammatory meds (like naproxen or ibuprofen).