Monday, May 11, 2015

Prayer: Does it "work"?

There is something that people say all the time--in person, on social media, in cards--that kind of rubs me wrong.  

Prayer works.

I remember getting a baby card when our first daughter was born after our having three sons and the person wrote something to the affect of  'see, God does answer our prayers'.  I took that to mean that God gave me what I wanted (which He did) because I wanted it.  I'm not completely sure I agree with that.

While I appreciated the sentiment behind the message on the card, I felt that it was theologically  incorrect.  Now, I am no biblical scholar by any means but I have had some wonderful pastors who truly taught the Word.  Not to mention that I grew up with Christian radio on nearly every day of my young life, listening to pastors speaking.  So there is a bit of a foundation of Scripture in my life.  

Right now, in this difficult season for our family, many people are supporting us and encouraging us.  Our appreciation for this kind of support is unable to be described with enough words of thanks, so please don't think I'm complaining.

But something about the phrase "prayer works" bothers me.  It makes it seem as though what we DO somehow makes something we desire happen-- as if we have chanted the magic words of a spell enough times.  I don't believe that prayer is that kind of tool.

I totally believe that our prayers move the heart of God.  Luke 18;1-8 is a good example of this.  You can see a good explanation of that passage here.    I like this explanation from that page a lot.

"Persistent prayer is the demonstration of faith in the character of God’s attributes and the chronology of his actions."

God's character is completely trustworthy and true.  He loves us more than we can fully understand and therefore knows what is best for us.  But what is best for us isn't always what we are asking Him for in our prayers.  At the time I was given a diagnosis of cancer that was considered "hopeless" I came home and called my pastor.  He spoke the truth to me when I told him that I just wanted to know that it was going to be okay.  His words were, "that depends on what you mean by okay."  Okay, you are going to be fine?  Okay, you are going to suffer?  Okay, you may die?  Okay, that means you go to heaven to be with Christ?  But for your family and friends, that is not the same kind of okay.

That's where the chronology comes in.  For God, our suffering and dying may be part of the "okay" of our life because it means we are safe with Him in Heaven.  We don't see the big picture. 

So our prayers must be in line with the Sovereignty and Justice of our loving God.  Only He knows the beginning from the end.  

In Daniel 3 we read the story of King Nebuchandnezzar and Daniel.  King N said 'worship me or die in a fiery furnace'.  Daniel and his buddies said, 'we will NOT worship you for we worship the only true living God'.  They went on to say in verse 17:  "If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is ABLE to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your majesty. But even if He doesn't, Your Majesty can be sure that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up."  So God was able to deliver them and He would rescue them either through a literal saving from the fire (which He did) or through their being taken into heaven through death.

I believe this story is given to us to see that the glory would go to God alone for whatever the outcome and to make sure that the young friends' faith was in God alone and not themselves.  And that is how we should operate in our day to day lives.

So we pray.  We ask God to heal our son.  We have asked you to pray that God will heal our son.  With all of our hearts we believe that God can and does do miraculous things through the power of His people praying together.  But it is all up to Him and whether or not we can trust Him, regardless of the outcome.  

I believe that prayer does change things.  Mostly, it changes the people who are praying.  God does answer prayers.  I was taught that He answers in three different ways:  1) YES 2) NO 3) NOT YET

We always want the number one answer.  But God wants us to become like Him through whatever means it takes to get us there.    So, does prayer "work"?  

I believe God works through prayer to help us see Him.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Mothers Love

Everyone knows that it is Mother's Day tomorrow.  I could write about how hard it will be to know that all of my kids won't be home with me like chicks under my wings, but I won't.

I'm just feeling so overwhelmed with love for the women in my life who I look up to as the guiding compasses of a lifetime.  To me, it seems that I am so blessed because I have had more than my share of love and nurturing.

First, I want to acknowledge and thank my birthmom, Patricia, who though weighed down by the circumstances of her life could have sought to destroy me, but she did not.  She carried me with love and tenderness and made the most selfless act a mother can make and allowed me to be adopted.  I am thankful for her never giving up on finding me and for being the dear friend that I have in her.

My mom, Lorraine, has been and continues to be the mom who has loved me and has done it all for me.  She chose me to be her child and there is no greater love than that but God.  She diapered me, fed me, sat up nights with me, taught me by lesson and by example throughout my life how to be a woman of God.

When I was just a baby my mom took sewing classes so she could make me beautiful clothes.  Through watching her as I grew up,  I was able to acquire a few simple skills that have given me pleasure in sewing. Her patience while allowing me to sit on the back of her chair while sewing amazes me. I clearly didn't get that temperament! My mom made sure that I took piano lessons for 8 years.  Even though I threw a few (many) tantrums about practicing, I am grateful for the ability to do something that gives me a creative outlet and pleasure in making music.  My mom's sweet, soprano voice was my template for the other joy of my life--singing.  Though she didn't sit me down and teach me to cook and clean, through watching her, my mom gave me invaluable lessons through her example of creating of warm and loving home.

Mom made fun costumes for me for Halloween and plays and I never remember her grumbling about it.  If she did, she must have done it without me hearing it! We always had a delicious meal ready for us even if it had to be at 4 p.m. so we could get to our school activities.  And I know that my mom went without nice things so that we kids could have what we needed, though I never heard her mention it.

 She put up with the junior high me who spent countless hours singing at the top of my lungs in the backseat of the car with my best friend Sheila while she and my dad chauffeured us to our school activities.  Her patience with me is never ending and her advice was always true even if I didn't want to take it when I was a teenager or young adult.  To this very day she is my comfort and my friend when I need someone to listen to my heartaches and she prays for me fiercely like no one else I know. My mom has been an amazing grandma who has come to my aid many times while my kids were young.  She did all this even though she had to travel over 500 miles to get to me.

  All of this puts me in awe of her because she never had a mother to do the same for her, yet she manages to do it so well. My sister and I joke with her and sometimes tease her about silly things but in truth, she is the person I most want to emulate when it comes to being a good Christian woman, wife, and mom.

I have had many friends and aunts who also mentored me through life in how to be a mom.  But one who is especially close to my heart is my mom's sister--my Aunt Berta.  Throughout my whole life the fact that she and my mom are so close means that my heart is deeply intertwined with hers.  I have always felt as though she loved me as one of her own children.  One of my earliest memories is when I stayed with her and her family while my mom was hospitalized.  It would take a book to write all of the wonderful memories I have of my aunt.  One particular thing is the way she would read devotions to us when we were little before we went to bed when I stayed at her house.  She has the most tender voice and her prayers for us before sleep made me feel so safe and warm.  Her faith has been an inspiration to me from the moment I knew her until this day.  She has had many sorrows but her faith stands so strong.  This past year I watched her lovingly, unselfishly care for her only daughter as she was dying of cancer.  Her example of love and faithfulness is unmatched.  I've always felt that if my mom moves on to Glory before my aunt that I would think of my Aunt Berta as my mom and  that I would look after her in the same way as I would my own mother.  It grieves me that this will be her first Mother's Day without her daughter. I hope she knows how much I love her.

So, I want to thank the women in my life--my mom, my aunts, my sister, my sisters-in-law, my mother-in-law, friends, and women in my churches who have taught me and shown me what it truly means to be a mom.

Happy Mother's Day!!!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Hospital Update

Today has been a rough day.

We started out the day tired.  Adam was tired because they got him up at 11 p.m. last night to do a CT scan and because he is ill.  I was tired because Monday night was a late night and yesterday was an early morning.  When I opened my eyes this morning after hearing my alarm I wasn't sure if I was home or here.  Reality became clear quickly.

Adam had been told yesterday that he would be heading to the IR (interventional radiology) today to have some things done.  Because of that he was NPO (nothing by mouth) since midnight last night.  The only thing he gets to have by mouth are clear liquids.  His nutrition comes through a feeding tube.

We've been waiting all day to find out what time he would be able to go down to IR. Sometime after 3 p.m. this afternoon his medical team came in and the attending asked if he could sit down and visit with us. He told us what we are dealing with today. 

 Adam has been losing some of his nutrition somehow and has lost more weight.  Remember, he has already lost at least 40 pounds so that is not a good thing. They did a test yesterday right here in the room where they put some pink colored Ensure type product through his feeding tube and as they suspected it mostly all came out through his biliary drain tube.  So NOT getting to his intestines to "feed" him.  So they suspected that either 1) his J tube (the feeding part of the feeding tube) has gotten coiled up or misplaced in the intestine or 2) there is a leak somewhere in his system that is so microscopic that it has not shown up on the CT scans they have done recently. This leak could also be the cause of his white count having been elevated consistently over the past week.  OR it also could be because he has another pocket of fluid in the other side of his abdomen which has been causing him intense pain for the past week.  

So he needs to have some comprehensive tests to find out what is going on along with fixing the 2 drains that come out of his back that are leaking and causing him pain.  Also, they will be putting another drain into that pocket of fluid to get the bad stuff out of him. [For those of you keeping score that will make 7 drains]If the J tube is coiled they can readjust that and do whatever else they need to do while he is in the IR.  They told us they would TRY to get him in during the morning hours but that would probably be a wonderful surprise. NPO again tonight--yippeee! BTW when the doctors had given him all of this information he said "You mean I could have had a drink of water all day and you are just now telling me?"

They also told us that because of his nutrition being lacking for a while and his muscle wasting that if his feeding tube needs to cease for a while he will go on TPN which is a feeding through his picc line IV.  Which means at least another 2 weeks in the hospital if not longer. As you can imagine this was devastating news since we originally were told he might leave tomorrow until the white count went up.  Then we were hoping for the weekend.  I can assure you that all I wanted for Mother's Day was to have my son home and our family back under one roof again. But this will not be happening. 

My heart grieves that my son had to ask the doctor today "Is this going to kill me or will I ever get better and  get out of here?" The doctor said he believes that Adam can beat this.  I do too.  But today has been hard.  Disappointing.  Draining.

Our family covet your prayers.  And if you have any creative ideas on how not to go crazy after many months in the hospital, we would appreciate your suggestions.

Friday, May 1, 2015

The Real Me {Rated BH: Brutally Honest)

If you don't want to know how ugly my heart can be, then you need to just go read some happy decorating blog or some "my life is hard today, I have one perfect child" blog.

See there.  It is already seeping through.  

This morning I was texting with my husband about some things and that horrible, ugly, green eyed monster envy came hulking out of me in one of my responses.  I said, "Sorry.  I have trouble with envy for people who seemingly have charmed lives right now."  

There.  Now you know.  Now you can see that I am NOT some perfectly spiritual being who sees everything through God's lens of perspective.  I trust in a Mighty, Omnipotent God who is able to do exceedingly, abundantly more than we could ask or think.  But I am not Him.

It is far too easy for me to get my eyes off of what needs to be sanctified in me and what seems to be someone else's easier life.

We have been in the valley of the shadow of death for many months now and it has been dark and very lonely at times.  You might even say dark both figuratively and literally. Choked off from the sunlight of reality and the fellowship of the world outside of the medical bubble.

It doesn't take much for me to get my view skewed a bit from what really matters.  

So this morning a devotional said to live in the moment and directed me to a couple Scriptures that made me say "OUCH".  

"Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? Of course not!

And if worry can't do little things like that, what's the use of worrying over 

bigger things?"

Luke 12:25,26

There are so many things that my heart wants to dwell on and be anxious about.  My five children are always on my heart and mind which urges me to pray for them.  There is just so much to pray for right now and I guess today pushed me over the line between concern and worry.

 Some of you are with me in spirit as you have children whether grown or little that need to be drawn in by the Holy Spirit and wooed to His heart.  Others have medical needs or very real physical limitations that won't go away and you SO want them to but know that it is your reality.  Some have marriages that are far less than the perfect images and cute sayings about relationships that we see on social media every day screaming at us that we are less than.  

God's heart drew me in today and whispered to me that none of those things are what He desires for me. 

"Because of God's tender mercy, the light from heaven is about to break upon us, 

to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,

and to guide us to the path of peace."

Luke 1:78,79

This verse isn't describing a method, a plan or a program.  It is describing a Person.

The path of peace is not an actual path.  The light and the peace are Jesus Himself.  He is all I need.  He is God's tender mercy.  He is the light from heaven.   He needs to be my focus.

You need to know that I have to be redirected to that focus each and every moment of every day.  

I'm struggling through this path toward peace, toward Jesus.  He lives in me and I still struggle to get to Him each and every day.  

Sitting in darkness and in the shadow of death reveals to me who I am without Jesus.  I need Him desperately. 

We all do.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Not Knowing Where to Begin

I walked into my home late this morning and quite frankly, I didn't know where to begin. 

Should I clean the sink, put away dishes, wash my bedding, put away groceries, open windows, turn off the heat (!), vacuum, empty my suitcase, pick out songs for Sunday's church service,  take a nap, or eat lunch?  

That makes me sound so overwrought and I'm really not.  I just didn't know quite where to start.  In reality, I was truly just wondering how Adam was doing, who his nurse is today and hoping he wouldn't get the crud that I seemed to have picked up somewhere along the way.  Yesterday I spent the day wearing a mask so as to not infect him with whatever I am brewing up inside my body.  When I texted him part way home and asked Adam how he was doing today, his reply was :  "SOLID".  That's my boy!

With hesitation I will say here that the doctors are tentatively saying that he may come home a week from tomorrow.  That means that before I go back to stay with him next week I will need to get my home sanitized and clean.  Maybe tomorrow.  Truly, that news is wonderful and daunting all at the same time.

 I just keep wondering how our next several months are going to go while he is healing up in preparation for surgery. What will his life be like?  How will he manage to go to work (once he's feeling up to it) with all those blasted drains coming out of him.  He's lost 40 pounds.  What clothes will fit his thinner body and yet cover the drains?  How long will it take him to get some strength back and feel like he doesn't need someone to be with him if we need to go somewhere?  I'm sure those questions tumble through his mind when he's not sleeping or not truly himself because of all the pain medicine and antibiotics he takes. 

I'm looking forward to getting some flowers planted sometime, but it honestly blows my mind that in two days it will be May 2015.  It almost feels like we've been in a coma since February 13th and just woke up.  And while I was in that coma I magically gained a bunch of weight!

My teenage daughter has spent almost this entire semester of school either living with people other than her family or without one of her parents at home.  It feels like a semester lost in a crevice somewhere.  I hope she's doing well in school because, honestly, I really don't know.

If you are praying for us, please consider praying for all the concerns in this post for Adam.  He doesn't complain at all but I know these things weigh heavy on his mind and heart. 

After next week, I'm hoping to get to know my other kids again, putz around the house while I put all of the medical knowledge of the past 3 months to use, while intermittently enjoying the end of the school year and the beginning of summer.

Nothing profound to say today.  Just thankful for the simple things of life and for Adam doing a little better day to day.

Monday, April 27, 2015

We Are Only Dust

This post will probably be a collection of random thoughts. I'm at the hospital this week so I'm using my son's laptop and I stink at typing on it so I will probably tire of it pretty quickly.

We had a good weekend.  Zach came down for the whole weekend and that made it so great for Adam who loves having his brothers here.  He loves having pretty much anyone here but he especially loves having his brothers here.

The other day I posted on social media that I was walking to the bathroom and encountered a woman walking toward me who was sobbing.  She had just walked away from a doctor and they were in the very same ICU waiting area that we were in 10 weeks ago.  My heart immediately went back to that moment in time.  I knew whatever she was crying about was breaking her to the core. I wanted to reach out to her and hug her but she seemed blinded by her grief.  If I had been in our hometown hospital it wouldn't have seemed so intrusive to reach out to her.  But people in the city seem more guarded and I didn't want to offend or frighten her. I let her pass by me.  I've regretted it ever since.

Last night I opened my Bible and I felt dry and burned out in my soul.  You would think that I would be driven to the Word for sustenance.  That has been true in the past when it was ME that was needing God's merciful miracles in my life.  But somehow this 10 and a half week odyssey has pulled the life out of me at times.  Go figure.  So I just opened my Bible and played the roulette of reading whatever page it opened to and I got this:

"The LORD is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him.  For 

he knows we are only dust"

Psalm 103:13,14

God is so good.  He knows that I am only dust.  He knows that sometimes I make mistakes and don't reach out when it seems later that I should have done.  He knows that as much as I NEED Him sometimes I don't have the strength to pick up my Bible and study it but just let the TV play some random show that I'm not even watching.  

He is tender and compassionate like my earthly daddy was and then some.  He knows that I fail and He knows that some days I am so spent emotionally that I just need Him to reach out to me from the page that I "happen" to open. 

I am so thankful for such a loving Savior, Father, Redeemer, God.

Adam is going back to IR today to have a drain repositioned yet again.  He worries about all the radiation he's gotten and is still getting.  I know he wonders when he will get out of here and what his life will be like until he has completely healed.  I don't even know how he has endured what he has over these many weeks except by the grace of a loving God.  Please continue to pray for his complete healing and for all of this to be a blip on the radar of his life one day.

Thank you, Warriors!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Trying to Live in Romans 8

I do NOT want to write another blog post about what we're going through in our lives right now.  But we're still here.

Our day to switch places is coming tomorrow.  My husband has reached his breaking point in being in the fight which happens when you've been there a week.  My son is letting me know that he needs me to be there with him.  My daughter is begging me not to go back.  I am wanting to be with my son but dreading the return to the city, the hospital, the hotel and the "routine".  

But the fight goes on.  It feels like we are perched on a ledge and each day the news from the doctors can push us either over the edge or back into the building but no matter what happens we find ourselves still on the ledge.

It is a battle.  

This morning I was led to read Romans 8.  It talks about the battle for our minds and our sinful natures.  

"If your sinful nature controls your mind, there is death. But if the Holy Spirit controls your mind, there is life and peace." Romans 8:6

When I let my sinful nature control my mind fear, worry, anger and bitterness want to control my mind and that is death.  I WANT life and peace.

It is a battle.

I'm trying to stay in it by going to the Word and finding hope.  But on many days I really feel like I don't know what else to say to God.  I'm sure many of you feel the same way in your own lives or in praying for us as so many of you are doing so graciously.

"And the Holy Spirit helps us in our distress. For we don't even know what we should pray for, nor how we should pray.  But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words."  Romans 8:26

So many times I have cried out to God and said "I don't even know how to pray anymore because I just keep saying the same thing--Please Jesus, just heal my boy."  

The medical world is a complex web and in particular when you are in a teaching hospital there are levels upon levels of doctors, residents, attendings, etc that come to you each day with their thoughts and opinions of your condition.  Some days it seems like all they can tell you is seemingly really bad news.  You wonder if you will ever hear a good word or if anyone really knows what they are doing.

"And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them." Romans 8:28

To be honest, I most truly understand that after 9 weeks of our predicament most people's lives have gone on and we are merely a blip on the radar of your daily prayers.  I get it.  I have lived it when other people's lives were struggling.  We also live 30 miles from where we go to church so our dearest friends' daily lives are always far removed logistically from ours.  Truthfully, that has always been really, really hard.  You feel so removed from the support system you so desire with which to connect.  It is lonely and isolating.

"What can we say about such wonderful things as these? [the things working out for the good]  If God is for us, who can ever be against us?  Since God did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won't God, who gave us Christ, also give us everything else?"  Romans 8:31,32

It is a battle.

Once again, the mind is the battlefield where we must focus on Christ and what He is to us.  But we are mere humans and the battle is tough.  Yes, Christ loves us and is for us.  But sometimes you don't feel it.  I told someone at church on Sunday that I just wanted for one good thing to happen for my family this week.  It felt awful even expressing that but it is how I am feeling.  

I want to focus on what Jesus is to me but, my friends, it is a battle.  

"Can anything ever separate us from Christ's love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or are hungry or cold or in danger or threatened with death?  No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ who loved us.

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from his love. Death can't and life can't.  The angels can't, and the demons can't. OUR FEARS FOR TODAY, OUR WORRIES ABOUT TOMORROW, and even the powers of hell can't keep God's love away. 

Whether we are high above the sky or in the deepest ocean, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord."  Romans 8:35, 36a,37-39

Run to the battle, my friends.  We need each other.