Waiting for the World to Change

There are some events happening around me lately that have me thinking about the story of Joseph. Here’s a guy that knew a thing or two about waiting, if you know what I mean. He is given these dreams when he is just a child. He has an idea of how his life is supposed to play out. He is going to be so powerful that even his father and mother will bow down to him. I would imagine it sounded like a mighty fine life to live. I wonder if he imagined how he would get there. Did he think it would come about as a series of small successes; each a little bigger than the last? I imagine that as his life played out, there were more than a few days when he thought those dreams were somebody’s idea of a joke.

Joseph’s first “success” was managing to irritate his brothers to such an extent that they fought over whether to kill him or sell him into slavery. As providence would have it, they chose slavery, and off to Egypt he went. Talk about having to start at the bottom of a proverbial company. You want to be the top man in Egypt? Well you have to start out as a janitor and grounds keeper with no pay.

Joseph had no choice, but yet he did have a choice. He could have gotten discouraged, given up on the dream (a little play on words for those who have grown to expect it from me). He could have done the bare minimum, or tried to escape, or maybe learned to manipulate the system to serve himself. Instead he chose to work diligently at the ultimate thankless job. As a result, he became the head of the household for his owner. Ah! Here it is! God is taking him up the success ladder and soon he will be in a powerful position! It shouldn’t be long now… Enter the master’s wife. Through the wickedness of a person in power over him, he is thrown in prison. Just when things were looking up, he finds himself not only still a slave, but also incarcerated for a crime he refused to commit.

Again he had a choice. He could give up and rot in jail, or he could continue to work diligently as unto the Lord in the place providence had brought him. He chose once again to be faithful to the law that God had written on his heart. He rose to the top of the system he was in- head prisoner. The Bible says the jailor didn’t worry about anything Joseph was taking care of.

While he was in the prison, he had opportunity to interpret dreams for a couple of other prisoners. I wonder if he was tempted to say, “I can tell you what they mean, but if my life is any indication, they may or may not pan out.” Instead, He continued to trust the Lord of the dreams. He only asked that the man with the happy ending dream please mention him to Pharaoh when he was restored to his job. Surely this would be the way that God would fulfill His promise. But alas, the man forgot for two years, until Pharaoh had a dream.

The Bible says that Joseph was 30 years old when this happened. He had been 17 when he had the dreams. 13 years of complications and obstacles. I would imagine it seemed like a long time to him. But really 13 years isn’t all that long. Consider the children of Israel who eventually become enslaved in Egypt. 430 years. That means there were people who were born a slave and died a slave. That was followed by 40 years in the wilderness. It seems that the Bible is full of people who had been given a hope, and then had to wait a very long time to see it come true. Take a look at Hebrews 11. There are generations who died in faith, “not having received the promises”. So who am I to say that I should not have to wait for the things I am longing for? Who am I to say a week or a month or a year is too long to remain faithful when it seems that relief will never come?

There is much about my life that I have no control over. I didn’t choose to have a daughter who is chronically ill. I didn’t choose to have my husband suffer a stroke. I didn’t choose to be a fulltime career caregiver. There is much about my daily life I don’t get to control. I don’t choose when someone is going to need me. I don’t choose when food will need to be prepared or when laundry will need to be done.

But just as Joseph had choices even when he was a slave in Egypt, so I have choices about my life. I can choose to do my work as unto the Lord. I can choose to continue to pursue the best possible care options for my family, even when there are obstacles thrown up to keep me from accomplishing what I need to on my terms. I can continue to work towards having a heart that seeks the Kingdom of God first. I can choose to continue to trust in the goodness of God, even when Satan has so many examples in my own existence to use as argument against it. I can look for ways to further the Kingdom even in the midst of my small world. I don’t know that tomorrow might not bring answers that today seem so elusive. It may be that in a week I will find answers I never thought possible to transform the health of my daughter. Or maybe I will be one who died not having received the promises. Can I still trust His goodness if I don’t live to see it?

I can think of some who are trying to do long and lasting good, but are being thwarted by people who should be working to support them. Is it a lost cause if people in power choose to block your efforts on every front? No. God is not bothered by the schemes of man. His sovereign will is still being accomplished. But be warned, some are brought to repentance and some are brought to destruction. Pharaoh was used in God’s plan as much as Moses. One was blessed by God, and one was cursed. Joseph’s brothers were brought to repentance, but only after years of suffering under the guilt of their sins. The key is to be the one who is blessed by God. This is accomplished through being obedient to his commands, living a life of grace and peace. We are not expected to produce results, we are only expected to be obedient.

Joseph didn’t sit around waiting for the world to change. He did what he could to change his little part of the world by having a heart that sought after God. This is my hope. This is my desire. May I seek this day the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. May I be diligent to live my life in a way that is pleasing to God in the circumstances He has seen fit to provide. And may I be content to wait for His timing to change my world.

 

 

Posted in The Story | 26 Comments

March Madness

March of 2012: This was a biggie. When we got back from the funeral for Strokeman’s mom, we were informed that the time for rehab would be over for us by the end of the month. I was devastated and terrified. Strokeman was relieved. I feared that we would go home, he would crawl into bed, and that would be the end of any improvement we would see. One thing it did make me realize is that ultimately it is up to the individual and his or her family to determine the end of the story. I began to read books about how other stroke survivors had gotten their lives back. I solicited the help of the men at church to learn some of the exercises Strokeman needed to be doing every day, I found a pool that had a sloped walkway into the water with handlebars on either side for Strokeman to hold onto, and we began going to the pool for exercise. I had talked with Strokeman’s physical therapist to get ideas of the kinds of exercises I might try in the pool. The first few times we went, were a little harrowing. I had to learn what he was capable of. He had to learn not to be afraid. And we both had to learn some sort of system for getting in and out, showering, dressing, etc. This pool was at a community center not far from home, and was equipped with a family dressing room complete with wheelchair accessibility. We began to go to the pool two to three times a week.
This month holds the dubious honor of being the time of Strokeman’s first (and only) fall since his effort to go to the bathroom in the CCU. In actuality, he didn’t really fall. He just kind of slid to the floor at the side of the bed. He was horrified, but we were able to calmly work through the plan we had been given by the therapists for just such an occasion. I was so encouraged by how easy it was to get him up off the floor, but he was terrified of it happening again, and this caused him to be more fearful than ever.
As I look back, I see many things that have improved, but also some things that I had to give up on. At this point, not only was Strokeman attending church with me somewhat regularly, we actually left the wheelchair in the car a few times. He would walk in, sit in a pew, and then walk back out to the car. Soon after, he began to insist on having the wheelchair to sit in, and then after several months of him being less and less inclined to go at all, and my being less and less inclined to fight about it every week, he stopped going. The same pattern is seen if I look at how he came with me to take our granddaughter to a short sports program once a week. Now he rarely leaves the house. As I consider the reasons for this, I think that perhaps it has to do with what seemed more frightening to him. Initially, it was more frightening to think of staying at the house without me than to go with me. As we worked at his independence, and he became more confident about staying by himself for periods of time, his fear of leaving the house became more prominent.
March 2013: My grand daughter, Baylie begins to play soccer. Strokeman goes to a few games with me, but soon begins to beg off, complaining of cold, a fear of having to use the porta-potty, etc. In the car on the way to the games, his rapid breathing is audible as he fights back the fear. Soon it is just easier to let him stay home.
My days were primarily taken up with tending to Strokeman , but with the sitter that was coming on Mondays, and with my husbands increased ability to stay home by himself for a period of time, I was able to spend time away. I was able to be involved with activities of my children and grandchildren and to enjoy being with good friends for a bite to eat or a movie. I began to feel like I was getting a little bit of my life back, but continued to grieve that Strokeman seemed content to not be a part of this.
One of my favorite activities at this time was making cookies to send my army son. Almost every week I sent him a package of cookies. I had asked him what kind he liked, and he suggested I just go through the cookbook and make them all. And that is what I did. I found that some were more package friendly than others. At one point, I was not only sending cookies to him, but to a part of his company stationed in a different part of Afghanistan. It was a pleasure to send a little bit of home to the men and women who are protecting my freedom. I imagine my son would love for me to start that up again, even if he is in Hawaii now.
It was about this time of the year that I began to see appliances breaking down and things needing maintenance around the house. The problem with every appliance only being made to last 10 years is that they all start breaking at the same time. I became adept at calling repair men and making decisions about whether to fix or replace. The upside about being home most the time is that when you have to wait around for a repair man to come, you know you would be there anyway.
March 2014: It makes me a little sad to look back see that Strokeman has given up on that first effort to try to be out and about. There seems to be only one place he is willing to make the effort to go, and that is to my daughter’s house on special occasions. However, he does seem to increasingly look for ways to stay connected in spite of his reclusiveness. He often writes letters to send in the mail to his grand daughters. He calls his children and grandchildren quite regularly.
We have yet to start up the pool exercises again, primarily due to my lack of organization, but also because our winter keeps hanging on. It is my goal to visit the facility this week to discuss the best times to come and see if there might be some way to work around the lack of a “family” locker room.
Strokeman finished posting the information he wanted to post on his blog, and has now decided to work on an old engineering project he started almost 20 years ago. This has required him to work on an old laptop that has Xmath on it. He told me he has an idea that should solve a problem he had with the program he was trying to create years ago. So far, he has not been able to get things working the way he wants, but he is continuing to try. He is also making the effort to read the Xmath manual and to problem solve the obstacles that are standing in his way. I see this as evidence of continued brain development, especially in the areas in which we saw some severe damage. One day while we were discussing what he planned to accomplish, he said, “If I can get it to work, I would want to write up a proposal and present it to Bill (an engineering colleague). Maybe we could meet him for lunch.” …meet him for lunch? You mean leave the house, drive to a restaurant and go in and eat lunch? OK! So, as with his blog, I am cautiously optimistic. I can’t even let myself hope that he might actually agree to go out to lunch some day. However, every button he pushes on that computer, every word he reads in that manual, every minute he is compelled to stay up in his chair; it’s all good. I would once again like to encourage anyone out there dealing with brain issues not to accept the conventional wisdom that would put a timeframe on improvement. Three years out, and we are still seeing positive change.
This month has been a difficult one for my daughter who is chronically ill. A good part of my concentration and effort has gone into helping her get back on a track of increased health. It was a discouragement to us both that she had to come home to be taken care of by her mommy this week. She has returned to her apartment with some improvement, and a plan. I know that she would appreciate your prayers, as would I. Trying to determine where I am most needed, what is mine to control, and what is not, has been a bit of a challenge. As I took her to a doctor on the third anniversary of the stroke, I couldn’t help wondering if March would ever be anything but miserable.
I would like to end on a more cheery note, so I will share two of my favorite things with you. First, there is a man at church who has begun to take his role as my brother in Christ quite seriously. He sees it as his personal ministry to give me a hug every Sunday. There are others of my “brothers” at church that hug me on occasion. But Dave is the only one who watches for me. When he sees me walking in his direction, he will stop his conversation grab me into a big bear hug, kiss my cheek and tell me he loves me. I know all the perils of too much familiarity with other people’s husbands. I know the importance of not having the appearance of evil. And I am all the more thankful that Dave throws caution to the wind to give a sister a hug. It’s a simple thing, but it is one of the things that feeds my weary soul almost as much as the worship service.
My other favorite thing is my Tuesday night practice with the Texas Traditions Chorus. This women’s chorus sings barbershop style music. It has been a wonderful way to express myself musically. I am challenged by the complexity of the harmonies in a way I have not been for a long time. It is also a wonderful social activity. The women of the group are of different ages and backgrounds. We work hard together, but with much laughter. Although this is not a religious organization, each practice is ended with us standing together in a circle and singing these words:

Thank you dear Lord, for music to inspire us as we go along.
Thank you for bringing us all here together
To share in the wonder of beautiful song.
Thank you dear Lord, for friendship to fill us with radiance within.
Touch every heart with the magic of harmony
Thank you our Father, again and again.
Thank you, our Father, Amen.

 

When I sing these words, I am sincerely thankful to my Father for music and for this chorus. I sing it as the prayer it is designed to be. Last night I became so overwhelmed with my gratitude that I couldn’t finish the song for choking back the tears. I received a round of hugs and voiced concern for my meltdown. I couldn’t even begin to tell them all that was in my heart.

Posted in The Story | 8 Comments

Lessons In Humility

Lessons in Humility

 

A few weeks ago I shared a guest post entitled “Humility” written by my good friend Abby. If you missed it, you can read it by clicking here. Before I posted it, Abby and I joked with each other about how we often have to learn all sorts of additional lessons after we post something about a biblical principle. I think we both had our preconceived notions about what it would look like to have to practice humility, and I think we were both surprised at how wrong we were about it all. Some of our lessons were similar and interwoven, and then some were not. Here is what I have been learning about humility in the last few weeks:

  1. Sometimes God takes your loaf, adds somebody else’s fish, and feeds a multitude. It all started with a small gesture – Abby had asked me to write a post for her blog, and I thought it would be nice to reciprocate. It isn’t as if I have a million followers that would read her essay, flock to her site and make her an instant celebrity. I could share my handful of followers with her, I could encourage her writing, and that would be about all I could do. So that was my loaf. Then, Abby’s father-in-law added a couple of fish. He sent an email to Tim Challies suggesting he take a look at the guest blog on my site. He chose to send his email at a time that would benefit both Abby and me. Tim Challies is a blogger extraordinaire. He cranks out two or three posts a day, and writes reviews for World Magazine, and he pastors a church (overachiever?).  Abby’s father-in-law doesn’t know Tim Challies personally, he is just one of thousands of people who follow Challies’ blog. Who knows how many people send emails to Tim requesting that he read this or that? Who knows how many he manages to read in a day? But he read Abby’s blog, and he liked it enough to add it to his A la Carte list for the day. And thousands of people came to my blog and read the words that Abby wrote. It was a humbling experience. It was one of those times when I actually got to see my small gesture become something far bigger than I could have imagined. You might think that the humbling part was that this happened when someone else was writing for my blog. But while I saw some humor in this, I never felt envious or frustrated over it. I just felt amazed that I had been a part of something beyond what I could have ever done on my own.
  2. 15 minutes (of fame) lasts about 15 minutes. The day Tim Challies posted a link to Abby’s essay, Abby and I got very little done as we watched the stats skyrocket for our sites. We would text updates every few minutes. We began to notice that links from other sites were showing up in the stats. It was a heady day. Still now, a month later, I am still collecting the “left overs”.  Every day, a few people stop by to read Abby’s essay. This amazes me, because Challies puts out an A la Carte list every single day, and still we are getting hits for the one posted on February 18. But when the dust had all settled, the results were less than impressive. Of the 3000+ people who read the post, 100′s went on to look at Abby’s blog. 10′s read anything else on my site besides that one post. Less than ten became followers of my site, and one new person left a comment. For half a minute that week, I considered what I might need to do to perpetuate the hits on my site. But then I realized that none of it had been due to anything I had done, so what could I possibly do to influence it? I determined that I would just continue to crank out the same stuff at the same pace and that I would be content with the smallness of my blogging world. This experience, along with a discussion I had with a friend who is about to publish her first book, helped me to have a more realistic picture of what it would take to actually make any money from my writing. I think it put to rest (for the moment) any thoughts that I could make any meaningful income through a book, short some kind of miracle. This doesn’t mean that I won’t continue to work towards writing a book. It just means that I won’t often dream of supporting myself in that way anymore. This was not a painful lesson, it was helpful -but humbling once again. I know that God will use me to reach the people he wants to reach, and that needs to be enough for me. I have read the wisdom of the day on how to grow a platform, how to sell books, etc., and have decided that this approach is not for me. I realize that this decision may actually mean that I never get to publish. However, I needed to be reminded that my life is not measured by the number of people I reach with my message. It is measured by my place in the kingdom of heaven. Beyond that, what is important is my obedience, not the honor of man.
  3. Sometimes you have to let other people do things for you that you do not deserve. I got exactly one post written after Abby’s before my plans went awry. I managed to spill water on the keyboard of my laptop and because I didn’t catch it right away, the laptop was ruined. What a frustrating experience! I knew better than to have water around my computer. On top of that, I had already had a pretty frustrating year in terms of finances, so I knew I didn’t really need to be spending money on another computer. The voices of accusation in my head were shouting pretty loudly at me by this time. “Why can’t you be more responsible with your finances so you don’t get into a fix like this?” “Why did you spend money on this and that?” “Why didn’t you shut your computer off immediately and put it in tons of rice you should have had on hand for just such an occasion?” “Why haven’t you been good about backing up your documents so that they don’t get lost when you do something stupid like spill water on your computer?” And on the voices went. I immediately had offers from two friends to borrow old computers they couldn’t remember why they had stopped using. These I accepted gratefully, as they gave me the opportunity to put off for a while the daunting task of finding a computer of any worth that would be in my price range (which was the total of the change I have collected in the bowl where we put our car keys). It was at this point that my youngest son said, “Let me buy you a new one.” And I protested that he didn’t need to be spending his hard earned money on me. I think one of the hardest things about my life as a caregiver is how very often I am put in a position of needing my kids to help me. I just don’t think that I am old enough to be that needy. I always thought there would be more space between the time I stopped taking care of them, and the time when I started depending on them. For sure and for certain I don’t want them bailing me out of fixes that I have created for myself. And yet, here I was again on the needy end with my son saying, “Let your children do this for you.” And so I swallowed hard to push down that awful tasting pride and I let them. And what they did was put their loaves together with the fishes of other people who love me for whatever reason, and they bought me a computer. What a beautiful picture of grace has been presented to me in this experience. Not only did I not do anything to earn it, I did things that make me very undeserving. Even so, I sit at this moment writing on this:IMG_1161

Isn’t it pretty? And I am reminded through this gesture of some amazing things. People love me in spite of my flaws. My children love me in spite of my many failures as their mom. My Father in Heaven loves me and provides for my needs in ways I could not imagine. None of this is deserved. As Pastor Jarrett reminded us on Sunday last: If I had everything in this world I would still have nothing to offer this kind and merciful God who has redeemed me, and placed his love upon me. Humbling? I am face down in the dirt.

Posted in Uncategorized | 16 Comments

Because You Asked

A few of you have asked me to post the link to my husband’s blog, so here it is. If you are interested in creation science, this might be encouraging to you. Right Jerusalem Blade

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Different Angles

As I have mentioned before, I read from several different types of books each day: my Bible, a theological book or devotional, something just for entertainment, and something to inspire me in my quest to become a better writer. At the moment my writing inspiration is coming from Julia Cameron’s book, The Right to Write. One day recently she suggested writing about my ideal life. What I wrote centered around a home where people come and go, visiting, sharing meals, playing instruments and singing together, and sharing hearts. I was reminded first of my blogging friend, Erin Kirk who has love dinners at her house, where people come, eat, and spend time just enjoying being together. And then I thought of my Facebook friend, Bobbie who has Monday meals at her house where she cooks up a load of food for whomever wants to show up. But these recent examples soon gave way to the memories that rushed to me from my childhood home in Africa.

When I was 10, my family moved from the small town of Tukuyu in the southern highlands of Tanzania to the larger town of Arusha in the north, just hours away from the Tanzania/Kenya boarder. Because of its location on the main road that connected the two countries, and the fact that it was the last town of any significance before the border town of Namanga, many people planned their trips to include an overnight stay in Arusha before getting a fresh start on their way to Nairobi. Our house was a large one, even by Southern Baptist standards (which any number of other missions will be quick to proclaim as entirely too high to be respectable). It consequently became a bed and breakfast of sorts to the missionaries traveling north to various Kenyan destinations. Often they would let us know they were coming, and if by some miracle nothing went wrong, they would show up on the day they were expected. But sometimes, things wouldn’t go as planned, or we wouldn’t have gotten the message, and they would show up on our porch as a lovely surprise.

These visits never seemed to ruffle my mother’s feathers. She had honed the fine art of hospitality, and was prepared for the unexpected. We had two freezers; one that was full of whatever meat my dad had gotten on his last hunting trip along with the rabbits we raised in the back yard. The other was filled with vegetables and fruit from our garden, homemade ice-cream, and any number of things prepped to make a meal come together quickly. Then we had a walk-in pantry filled with things like sweetened condensed milk and special supplies brought from the US and used sparingly (who knew you were supposed to put two whole cups of chocolate chips in one batch of cookies?). The pantry also housed barrels of flour and sugar that might have been bought from behind the counter at the lingerie store (there was a war with Uganda going on, and supplies were sometimes hard to come by). From these supplies mom would create a delightful dinner, always served up with sweet iced tea and often finished off with my her famous lemon icebox pie with perfect merengue.

I suppose it was there, in that home, that I began to enjoy the interaction of different people around the table over good food and sweet tea. Even when we didn’t have out of town guests, my mom would open our home to various and sundry people. She led a Bible study for women who lived in Arusha, but had come from various parts of the world. She fed the children of other missionaries on their lunch break from the local primary school. I had slumber parties for my birthdays, we had parties with our teen friends. I never got the impression that any of this was a burden for my mother. I think she liked sharing what she had with others.

My dad had a full time job teaching at the seminary, but I don’t want to imply that he was not a participant in this practice of hospitality. He, too,  seemed to enjoy the interaction with other families. He was always up for a game of 42 and good conversation. I don’t remember him ever complaining about the revolving door policy of our home. After all, he was raised in a home that practiced hospitality. His family was at times pretty poor, and often had little to share but a roof and a cup of coffee (which is a story for another time), but they opened their hands and shared their two mites.

So why don’t I have this kind of life, if I want it so bad, you may ask. And the answer lies in the fact that Strokeman couldn’t abide it. He tries to tolerate people being here on a limited basis, but for the most part people are too loud to suit him, and they stay too long. And if the truth be told, they also tend to distract me from taking care of him. When people come to visit him, I have to warn them he is only good for about an hour, and then he will want them to leave. In fact, often he will refuse to see them at all, saying he doesn’t feel up to visiting. And so this ideal life will have to stay ideal in its purest form.

But as I wrote about this in my journal, I wanted to be careful not to allow seeds of bitterness to take root in my heart. It is all too easy to become enamored with what we can’t have to the extent that we don’t really utilize what we do have. So I had to ask myself, “How can I have the spirit of hospitality in my daily life in ways that won’t adversely affect my relationship with my man?” Hospitality is a biblical concept. We are told to be generous with what the Lord has given us, and to entertain strangers. We are taught to live in community with other believers, both in corporate worship and daily lives. So it isn’t just a dream, it is a commandment that I am to obey within the confines of my life.

Here is what I have come up with: I can be the one who welcomes interaction with others; who provides a listening ear, a hug, a prayer, a safe haven for those who need to share their hearts. I can work systematically down the church directory list and do my best to get to know the people listed there; their interests, their needs, their hopes and dreams. I can pray for them, encourage them, and offer advice when warranted. I can use the electronic means availed to me to accomplish this at times when I can’t open my home. I can go to others’ homes and serve them there. I can be honest with people about my limitations, explaining that they must be quiet, that we might need to take a walk, that I can only give my attention to them for a short period of time. I can make a conscious effort to make regular checks on the man in the bedroom. The door can’t be revolving, but it can come open on a limited basis for short periods of time.

And so I learn to practice hospitality against the odds. I make my heart a place of refuge as opposed to my home. People can be as loud as they want there, and it doesn’t bother anyone.

What are you saying, “I can’t” to in your life today? Ask God to help you see it from a different angle. Ask him to help you utilize your gifts in the confines of the life He, in His great wisdom has given you. You might just be surprised at how much you have to work with.

Posted in We Have These Moments | Tagged , , , | 11 Comments

Humility

Below is a guest post written by my dear friend, Abby. I first met Abby years ago when she was a young teen looking for baby sitting jobs, and I was a young mother looking for a babysitter. Since then we have become fast friends who have weathered many a storm together.  

I would encourage you to visit her blog site AGentleandQuietSpirit to read more of her wonderful insights. I have to say that when I asked her to write a guest post for my blog I didn’t think she would be taking shots at my pride:). One thing you should know, though. She preaches to herself, and does her best to practice it. And if I were writing for her blog, she would put all sorts of nice graphics in. But I am just not that savvy, so here it is in its no frills purity.

Have you ever had one of those moments of ‘clarity’? A moment when the dust of this life lifts for just an instant providing you a view of truth, the world, and yourself like you’ve never seen it before. A moment when all you’ve read and studied of the scriptures becomes so brilliantly clear. Often they aren’t very pleasant. Often they let you see yourself as you truly are – a sinner. That veil lifts. You catch a glimpse of your inescapable sin nature. I had one of these moments the other day centered on the idea of humility. Humility infuses the Word. The truth about Christianity, true Christianity, is it’s all about the loss of self. This isn’t a popular concept these days. Other ‘religions’ don’t promote humility, not on the soul level Christianity does. Many Christians don’t promote humility but self-help and self- actualizing. Many Christians have drunk the kool-aid. (Don’t believe me? Check out Joel Osteen’s new book.) This was my moment. I realized how invasive humility is in the Scriptures and far away we’ve moved from that truth. True Christianity leaves no room for self. None.

My greatest temptation in life is pride. I’m an overachieving, aggressive, exaggerating storyteller who was homeschooled in a conservative home. I come face to face with my own pride on a daily if not hourly basis. Pride is not something only us storytellers struggle with, but our American/Western culture as a whole. We are such a proud people. We are so proud we have made pride a positive character trait. We have religions, both Christian based and pagan, that worship pride, accomplishment, and self. It’s all about you.

The longer I trod this weary path, led by the Word of my Lord, the more I see pride’s vile poison. It makes me suspicious of others, drives me to assume everyone wants to outdo me, fears everyone has outdone me, makes me to want more stuff, seek compliments, steal the spotlight, and hate anyone who doesn’t’ see just how important I am. Sadly enough, most of this starts with my husband and my home. Pride feeds the flames of arguments and refuses to acknowledge wrong. Pride drives us apart.

The ‘wise older women’ of our culture teach the younger women that meekness and humility make you a doormat.

You know what?
They do.
You want see the ultimate doormat? Look to Christ.

He didn’t open his mouth even when His life was on the line. He didn’t defend Himself when he was falsely accused. I open my mouth when my desire for a new set of curtains or a movie is on the line. Really? Christ found submission to his Father more important than life itself. I don’t find it important enough to trust and obey for a movie.

Have you ever thought about the path Christianity takes you down? Every day, you become more aware of your sin. Vile, noxious, violent sin makes you who you are. It invades you and your world on a level inseparable from existence. Every day, you must go beg for grace. Every day, you must remember what that grace cost – the only truly innocent life. That was the price for grace. Do you want to walk this

path? It won’t be healthy as our culture defines health. It won’t be wealthy as our culture defines wealth. It won’t be happy as our culture defines happy.

True Christianity doesn’t grow cultural giants. It grows broken people forced to see that they are monsters. Suddenly the veil lifts. You see it. You see your pride for the black hole it is. By grace alone, you hate your pride. Christ died to take that away, in all humility and submission. How quick to mercy and forgiveness you become when you have tasted your own sin. How quick to be longsuffering. You know your worth. You know each breath is undeserved. So, wife, next time your husband asks you to do something that you don’t want to do, or you feel put upon, or worse, afraid, remember Christ’s great humility. He opened not his mouth to the point of death. He died for you. Your husband has nothing to do with this, only Christ. He died for you.

Don’t swallow the lies of this world. You aren’t worth it. You don’t deserve it. You deserve death and judgment. You are worthy of the wrath of a righteous God. A word of warning: the world will hate you if you do this. It will HATE you. It hates the idea of a wife shutting her mouth and in humility obeying her husband. It hates a husband actually leading (commanding) his wife and children. Christ obeyed his Father to the point of death. What is the world to us?

How many marriages would last if spouses looked not to pride, but to humility? How many more teens would be wise and mature if they looked to their parents with humility instead of pride? How much more loving would our churches be if we humbly served one another, mouths closed?

Do you know any religion that brings peace and harmony through humility? Christ does. He commands us to battle our flesh, battle our desires and passions. The world tells you to give into your desires, to be passionate. Christ commands us to control and guard our hearts. The world tells us you can’t chose who you love. The Bible says to live a quiet life of service. The world tells you to be amazing and don’t let anyone stop you. The world seems pleasant, appealing, and good. We should stand up for ourselves. We have rights. We’re Americans. We deserve it. But sinners, if you will be saved, beg for grace and submit yourself to the Word.

Be warned. If you follow this Warrior into the very pits of hell, it will be your heart He destroys. You will follow a Captain who won, not through might and battle, but by shutting His mouth and humbly obeying what His Father commanded. His obedience cost Him His life. He died. How can you expect to call yourself a Christian and not be called to the same fate? The world will not love you. It will think you are strange and possibly dangerous. It might try to take your children away from you. It will ridicule and mock you. It will call you weak. It will tell you you’re what’s wrong with the world today.

Close your mouth. Christ has broken your heart, and He will hold it, guard it, heal it, and bring you home. Quit trying to be accepted. Quit trying to make this world home.

Give up this world. Trust yourself to Christ. Why? Because He rose again.

Posted in Guest Posts | 13 Comments

Then and Now

About the time we finished out patient rehab we began to get notices of loved ones dying: family members from both sides, close friends and dear neighbors. Some funerals I had to skip, but some I just couldn’t bring myself to miss.

February 2012 found us packing for the funeral of my Uncle Alvin in nearby Georgetown. As I was putting the last few things in the car, I received a call from Strokeman’s sister-in-law telling me his mom was not doing well, that her one kidney was failing and that she had chosen not to pursue dialysis. So as we drove to one funeral we were making plans to try to make it to Memphis in time to say goodbye before another funeral. (This is when I began to dream of finding an old fashioned valet who would travel with us and be responsible for dressing, feeding and assisting Strokeman). I wouldn’t have minded if he could drive as well, as I was not looking forward to traveling the same road on which I had totaled my car a few months before. (You can read about that here). We took our time, spending the night after just a few hours of driving, made it there safely, and were able to say our goodbyes before Nanny passed away a few days later. (And here is my post about that).

I still miss my mother in law. I think of her often, and remember stories she told, words she would use, and housekeeping tips she gave me. I have a recipe for her sour cream pound cake written in her own handwriting, on the back of which is written, “I use Worcestershire Sauce in my roast.” I have her electric skillet, something I had no idea what to do with until she widened my cooking horizons. I think of her when I polish the wood in my home, and when I use the dishrag and a toe to mop up spills on the floor at the end of the day. I have her Bible, and when I open it, wafts of her signature perfume greet my nose. How thankful I am for the blessing of a mother-in-law who loved me and accepted me just the way I am.

That February was also the one in which my oldest son got to go visit my middle son who was stationed in Germany with the army. They snowboarded the Alps together. Meanwhile, my youngest son was boarding in Colorado. It made me happy to think of them all doing something they love to do, even if they were spread about the world.

I was able to start keeping my grand daughters some, as long as one of the kids was here to help me. I penned this little poem during that time:

Gamma’s

 golden sunlight shines through wispy hair

fighting sleep while rocking

baby watches wide-eyed

big sister shenanigans with uncle

echo laughter of delight

music and makeup

waffles and wonderment

excursions to imaginary destinations

big apron swallowing little kitchen help

joyful generations

February 2013: In search of a pool that would be more consistent in temperature, we joined Lifetime Fitness. The adjustment was hard on Strokeman. He doesn’t do well with change-have I mentioned that? However, the close parking access to the door, the ease of the family dressing room, and the accessibility to the pool at any time of the day we managed to get there made it a workable situation for quite a while. I also began to make use of the free classes, the treadmills, and even set up a meeting with a trainer. Often, on my Mondays off, I would make my way there for an hour or two of workout followed by a visit to the hot tub.

One of those days, I noticed that my nose was very sore around the bridge. It was swollen as if I had run into a door or something, but I thought I would have remembered if I had. I finally broke down and went to a emergent care place to find out I had cellulitis. I found myself taking antibiotics for the first time in so many years, I can’t really remember the last time. It was painful and looked awful, but was fodder for much humor, as I have a rather large nose to begin with. I am not sure how one gets cellulitis on the bridge of her nose, but I can say with certainty it is something you want to avoid if possible. Every time I would get sick, I would remember the many times people have said that your body tends to hold together in the midst of crisis only to fall apart when things slow down. I would worry, “Is this it? Am I about to start experiencing my health go down the drain? But so far, the Lord has been very gracious to me. As a general rule, I have been very healthy.

February 2014: A dear friend loses her mother, and I am reminded of those last days with my mother-in-law. A new friend is in the midst of a tug of war with an insurance company, and I am reminded of the struggle I had getting cognitive therapies covered in outpatient rehab. And I can be thankful that these difficult experiences have given me something to offer others in their struggle to survive the deep waters. I am thankful that I can pray with understanding, encourage as one who has gone before, and offer advice from my journey. I can tell them what my friend at church told me, “There is joy in the morning, and in the mourning.”

This is the last month we will be members at Lifetime Fitness. Almost as soon as we joined they began to have trouble regulating the temperature of the pool, and most days it just wasn’t warm enough to suit our needs. Due to the stroke, cold registers as shooting pain, so the water temperature is a really big deal. Our plan is to join the fitness center connected to the pool at which he received physical therapy the end of 2012. The drawback here is that they have no family dressing rooms, which will require us to come home before showering off (still wishing for that valet). Thankfully, Strokeman’s new insurance will cover this expense for him.

This month I am thankful that I continue to widen my arena of encouraging others, whether they be young mothers, new writers, newly inducted caregivers, or just fellow travelers on the road to life. I am looking for what I can do instead of whining about what I can’t.

In the midst of this I am working at remembering that always, always, my first earthly priority is this man I have committed myself to in sickness and in health. I am thankful that each day brings opportunity to grow together and love each other. While things are not the same as they were before that fateful day, there is much that is good, and even some that is better. Friends mentioned the other day that they were blessed by the interaction between me and my man. I was curious what they saw that was different – have things changed so much? From our perspective, the change is minuscule movement in an upward direction. It’s hard to see the difference when it is such a slow flow. But others who see us only periodically can notice the change. It’s good to get their insight.

Still seeing change, still learning to accept that which will stay the same. Still learning to be patient, calm, courageous, and adaptable. Still finding God’s grace to be sufficient.

 

Posted in The Story | 3 Comments