Friday, October 19, 2012

Colored Pencils in a Gray World

She colors her graphing blocks on the second half of her math paper.  As she works I simply say, "Hope, isn't it wonderful how God made our world so colorful?" Expecting an answer that only carries the insight of a six year old, I am surprised by her response.

After a pause, she looks up from her coloring and stares deep. "Wouldn't it be sad if I was gray? Just gray. And the ground was gray? And everything else, too?"

She put her coloring pencil down and carefully chooses a different color for the next row.

She continues, "That would be a world without God."

She resumes coloring in the bright blue she has chosen, not realizing the places touched in my heart by her words.

This made me pause. Truly pause. As I looked out the window at the still-green tree in the yard, the crisp blue sky, the little yellow daisies that have recently reappeared in the flower beds, and the browning grass ~ I am overwhelmed with gratitude. I am overcome with gratefulness for a creative and saving God!

How often do I walk through my day muddled by the gray of the world? The shades of dark and drab that are the sin not only in the world, but especially the sin in my own life. My sin that holds me back from experiencing all the vibrant love and joy the Lord offers me.

And even more painful in this moment is the reality of how easy it is for me to ignore the gray that people who don't know my Savior live in? Not only in the moments of each day, but it could be their eternity. The thought of this kind of gray breaks me. The gray my sweet Hope speaks of. The gray of a "world without God." No color. No real hope. The hope of the light that only He can bring into the gray.

Today, I will see the colors, because I will look. I will open my eyes in gratitude for the fact I don't have to live in a gray world, and rejoice in knowing that neither does anyone else. I will choose to do my part today to share this colorful Truth with new urgency!

Thank you Hope, for sweet, much needed reminders.

Thank you Lord for the beautiful tan-skinned, brown haired, pink toenail-painted (with sparkles) little girl sitting next to me who continues to teach me so much.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Worn out shoes and tattered bibles

Sometimes I think I notice odd things.

For example, I notice shoes. Not because I am a fashionable person, the opposite would definitely be true of me. My soul seems drawn to people with worn shoes.  Worn shoes represent miles walked and days lived. They may represent a hand-me down that were loved enough to know they would be used for the good of someone else. They may be scuffed from hard, honest work.  It may be that they were dirtied while playing outside with the kids. Or, they may be tattered because there are hard times, and comfortable and familiar are all that can be afforded right now. And that is OK. I love worn shoes.

I also notice and deeply adore worn books. A tattered page from being turned so many times. A binding creased from being laid open often. A softened cover from being repeatedly held.

I am especially comforted and encouraged by a worn Bible.

I was watching a sermon online earlier today and what struck me even more than the teacher's words was the close up shot of his beautiful red-covered bible. It is a large bible, much like my study bible. Its pages were worn and the leather on the cover was softened obviously due to being often-used. To me, that was as much of a testimony to the message as his words were. He loves the Word. He loves the knowledge that comes from the Lord's word.

This image of this bible made me look at my own bible.

It has its own tattered edges and worn cover. This makes me smile. As I thumb through the pages I see all of the pink and yellow highlighted passages and penciled notes written in the pages to the side of the scriptures. This is a culmination of years of reading and studying and praying to the Lord. This represents something learned.

But at the very same time, this represents something failed. There were too many days I also chose not to go to the Lord for refuge, wisdom, or comfort. This makes me grieve. Grieve for lost moments. Grieve for missed Joy.

But, my God is gracious, and loving, and the best way. He is always wooing me back to Him. His Word is always true, and ready to be used for my good.

With this fresh in my mind, I slide on my worn, comfortable slippers and walk to my worn, well-loved Bible. I turn the delicate pages to the book of Hebrews. I find the familiar scripture I was seeking:

For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double edge sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. ~ Hebrews 4:12                    

"For the word of God is living and active." Thank you Lord for this.

Thank You for worn bibles and the encouragement they bring, Thank you for the legacies in families an open and loved Bible can change. Thank you for each beautiful person today walking hard paths in worn out shoes. Thank you for being a God than sent his son to live in the flesh so that I may simply know that my Saviour understands me. My life. My circumstances. My worn out moments.

Thank you for all things beautiful found in things seemingly worn out.

(Photo credits Holy Bible, my Bible, Hands and Biblel)

Friday, October 5, 2012

A pull-apart cookie dough kinda girl

"Mommy, can we please bake cookies?  The kind where you have to mash them down with the rollie thing?"

This is what my six year old daughter asked me last Tuesday morning.

She was referring to homemade cookies rolled out with my wooden rolling pin.  I'm sad to admit I wondered how she even knew what this kind of cookie is, since she has never made them before.  She was referring to a rolling pin we had unfortunately never used together.  You see, I am of the "pull-apart cookie dough" life style.  If I bake cookies they are from store bought dough that comes out of a package.  You pull apart the square dough, plop them onto my cooking stone, and 12 minutes later, voila!  Fresh baked cookies!  Good enough for me.  But, maybe it shouldn't be. 

I stopped when she asked me this, and my first reaction was to say, "Not today honey.  We have so much to do, especially since Mommy just got out of the hospital and 'lost' a few days."  I had just been home a little over 24 hours and felt the burden of making sure the kids completed their schoolwork, I get my work caught up from my work-from-home job, and conquered the list of household chores still waiting.

But that was not my answer.  Since I had just spent three days laying in a hospital bed reflecting on what is truly important, that was not my answer.

"You know what?  Let's finish our math lesson and then we will bake homemade cookies!"  My sweet Hope's eyes lit up.  Such a simple thing.  Such joy as a result.

So, I did what any pull apart cookie kinda girl does...I hit Google!  I googled the highest rated sugar cookie recipe I could find and then thought, "Let's go crazy!  Let's make icing, too!"

We gathered up all of the ingredients and was thrilled that we already had everything we needed.  And we baked cookies.

We worked together, Mother and Daughter, kneading the dough.  We talked and giggled while the dough chilled.  Hope picked out just one cookie cutter she wanted to use.  The Star.  She said we were making Sea Star cookies, in honor of the beautiful ocean she was able to see for the first time this past summer. I listened.  I found out how much she loves the ocean, just like me.  She chose blue food coloring for the icing.  Ocean blue.  We licked our fingers free from wonderful sweetness. She said we needed sprinkles.  Just because everything is better with sprinkles. She asked if we could take pictures of us making cookies. 

 As the last of the cookies were set aside for the icing to set, Hope wrapped her sweet little arms around me and said this was the "best day ever!"  She ran off to play, and as I stood in my kitchen watching her skip off, I began to weep.  Truly weep.

How many of these moments have I missed out on because I was "too busy?"  Because I was preoccupied.  Because my priorities were messed up.

As a Momma that works from home and homeschools my children, I am almost always with my kids.  But, how much of that time am I truly present?  How much of that time am I really there?

You know, there are absolutely times when it is necessary in today's world to be a pull-apart cookie dough kinda girl.  But, I truly desire to be more of a "mash them down with the rollie thing" kind of mom.  One of these are quick, convenient, and less messy.  However, I think there is so much joy missed by that choice.

Thank you Lord, that you prompted me to say Yes.  Thank you for the blessings that came from choosing in that moment the more time consuming, harder to get to the reward, and definitely more messy route. Thank you for my reward of Joy!

And, thank you Lord for little brown-eyed girls and sparkly blue Sea Stars.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Resting in the back of an ambulance

Last week I wrote about needing to stop doing and start listening.  The Lord made sure that happened.

The stopping part started with a ride in an ambulance.

I found myself last Thursday night about 11:00 being put in the back of an ambulance and on my way to the hospital.  Numbness and tingling in your left arm and a sudden onset of your throat closing up are a couple of signs that the best place you could be in that moment is in the back of an ambulance.  As I was driven away from my children, my husband, and my home I could do nothing but pray.  Pray, and listen.  Listen for the Lord's calming voice.  Listen for reassurance that even this is a part of His plan.

The next few hours are a blur.  I know that my speech was struggling.  I couldn't lift my left arm or squeeze the neurologist's hand.  I couldn't swallow correctly. But, I could look at my husband and feel safe.  I could feel my oldest son's hand on my shoulder.  I could silently pray and feel calm.  I didn't understand most of what was going on, but I did somehow understand that no matter what, all of this would be ok.

As that night turned into the next morning, I found myself being admitted for further testing and observation.  After several hours, and many tests, the doctors ruled out a stroke. However, by Friday afternoon I had been told that my MRA had shown a small brain aneurysm.  I needed another test.

So, we waited.  And waited some more.  It actually took until Saturday morning to get the next test completed.  And then, we waited some more.  Waiting is usually very, very hard for me.  However, this time, I just felt calm and peace.  I could do absolutely nothing but Stop.  But Pray.  But Listen.  And the funny thing is, the more that all of these things were my only option, the more I trusted.  Trusted in a God that was in control.

Late Saturday, the "Neuro Guys", as we affectionately called them came into my room. We had not expected to see them until Sunday morning. They were smiling. This was good. They showed us how the original MRA had found the aneurysm. Then they showed us how the new test did NOT show an aneurysm.  Praise God.

We now knew I did not have a stroke and I did not have an aneurysm.  Still, no one knew what I did have.  I was told they would check on me in the morning to see if my symptoms had improved, so just to try to rest.  I sent Ray Don home for the night to sleep in our own bed since the poor guy had been sleeping on a couch in my hospital room half the size of his body for the previous two nights.  I settled in for a night alone in the hospital room.

I realized a couple of things as I laid there in that dark and quiet room.  In twenty years of marriage I had never slept away from home by myself while my husband was at home with the kids.  Ironically though, I felt completely safe and at peace.

I still did not know what was wrong with me.  I still had numbness, heaviness, and tingling in my left arm.  I was still having some heaviness in my left eye socket. But, in spite of everything I didn't know, the things I did know were becoming so very clear to me as I laid there in that room alone.  I know that I have a Saviour that loves me more than I deserve. I have a God that was not surprised by me laying in that hospital bed in that very moment. I have a Creator that made every intricate part of me. And I choose to have faith in this same God that uses everything for His glory, for my good.  In this I can rest. I rested well Saturday night, truly not at all alone.

I woke up Sunday morning feeling so much better. My left arm was still a little "cold", but I could freely move it and the tingling was gone.  The heaviness around my eye socket was gone.  His mercies are new each morning.  After consulting with the Neuro Guys late Sunday afternoon, they felt I was not in any danger that would be caused by releasing me. (This could also be due to the fact that every part of my insides had been looked at and I was told I was one of the healthiest people they had seen in a while from the inside out.  Basically there was nothing left to test!)  In the end, it seems I may have had an extremely severe adverse reaction to a medication I had been given a few days before this.

I may never know exactly what happened. And, completely out of character for me, that is ok with me.

My family is experiencing a season of many things that we do not understand right now. Some of these things feel like we can't see an end in sight. These are the things I am struggling with saying it "is ok with me" just yet. But, God is patient. God is teaching me and molding me.  God loves my family more than I ever could.

God is good.  God has a plan.  God is faithful.  These are all things I do know.  And because these are truths I can rest in, I am slowly learning I can rest in them ALL the time...even in the back of an ambulance.

(I am participating in something called Walk with Him Wednesday's at the blog site A Holy Experience.  Please join Ann Voskamp and others for encouragement as we learn to walk this path of suffering together.)