Category Archives: Odds and ends

You Must Be Kidding — My adventures as a goat midwife

Today, as in much of life, we have experienced both joy and sadness, exhilaration and anxiety. After being on birth watch for the better part of a week, we were overjoyed to discover Daisy in real labor. But the joy quickly turned to anxiety when it became clear that in spite of significant pushing, the kid was simply not presenting. At all.

I donned my glove and began to assist. I got baby’s limbs straightened out and very quickly we welcomed a little doeling. We cleaned the mucus off her face and she began to breathe. She was clearly as exhausted as her mother.

Single births are rare for goats, so it was no surprise when the pushing started again. Once more, all the effort was in vain. No presentation. Again, I helped straighten limbs. Another push, and a little buck appeared. Dead. Heartache. We let Daisy lick him a bit before taking him away to bury.

I was pretty sure she had another kid still, and I was not wrong. This one started coming out with only one hoof presenting. I reached in, in search of the other hoof. Finally found it and baby started coming. Then Daisy stopped pushing. After what seemed an eternity, she began again, but baby seemed to just not budge. I started pulling as Daisy pushed. It took all my strength, but finally another buckling arrived. He’d had his head turned the wrong way and had been stuck. Whew. He was vigorous from the get-go. Sweet relief.

James began digging a hole to bury the dead buckling, while I started assessing Daisy. Was there too much blood loss? Where is that placenta??

Why isn’t that little doeling up yet? She is just lying there. Is she too cold? Does she need nourishment? I assess and meet each possible need. Yet she still lies there. I bring her inside to warm her up.

Daisy still hasn’t passed the placenta. This is not my normal experience. How long can I safely wait? We milk her. Sometimes that helps a doe to pass the placenta. Nope. At least we have some colostrum for the kid who is too weak to get up.

I put out some calls to friends who have experience with goats. Is this normal? What would you do? I call the vet. Do I need oxytocin?

Finally, after alternate bouts of rest, feeding, and poking and prodding, the little doeling stands. We bring her back down to the goat barn so she can be with her mother. The vet returns my call. He advises me to wait through the night for the placenta, and if it still hasn’t passed, come to the office for oxytocin. That feeling I’ve had on holding my breath begins to subside. I have a solid plan.

A few more hours later, the placenta finally passes. We happened to actually see it, so we KNOW that it came. Closure of that particular issue.

The little doeling seems to have something wrong with her neck. She won’t lift her head up to eat. We have to assist her. Neither kid has figured out how to feed from their mother. Bye-bye to our plan to leave them on their mom to ease our milking burden. Oh well, I’ve always bottle fed kids to this point, so I guess we will continue. Daisy fights us about getting up on the milking stand. It’s been a year since she went through this drill. I guess she’s forgotten. And she’s exhausted from her birth. I give her a bowl of molasses water. She laps it up, and I can tell she feels nourished by it.

We say good night to the goats, praying they are OK for the night. Safe and warm, sheltered from the storm that blessedly gave us six hours of sunshine right when we needed it most.

Morning update: All goats are doing well. The little doeling is much improved after her night’s rest. We work with her to figure out her bottle. She eats, but not as well as her brother who gobbles greedily all the milk he can get.

I’m thankful that Daisy produces a LOT of milk. Plenty to nourish these babies and to share with us. I’m thankful that our little girl is improving. Thankful that I have so many helpful children who assist with milking and feeding chores. I’m thankful for life. Even more so when I experience it hand in hand with death, because I realize more fully that it is truly a blessing and I don’t so easily take it for granted.

All in a day’s work at the Hands-full Homestead.

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Missing Dad

It’s hard to believe it’s been a year since I got the call. Dad had been taken to the hospital, and it didn’t look good. As I raced to Sharp Hospital, this song by Chris Tomlin came to mind.

I Will Rise

There’s a peace I’ve come to know
Though my heart and flesh may fail
There’s an anchor for my soul
I can say “It is well”

Jesus has overcome
And the grave is overwhelmed
The victory is won
He is risen from the dead

Chorus:
And I will rise when He calls my name
No more sorrow, no more pain
I will rise on eagles’ wings
Before my God fall on my knees
And rise
I will rise

There’s a day that’s drawing near
When this darkness breaks to light
And the shadows disappear
And my faith shall be my eyes

Jesus has overcome
And the grave is overwhelmed
The victory is won
He is risen from the dead

Chorus:
And I will rise when He calls my name
No more sorrow, no more pain
I will rise on eagles’ wings
Before my God fall on my knees
And rise
I will rise

And I hear the voice of many angels sing,
“Worthy is the Lamb”
And I hear the cry of every longing heart,
“Worthy is the Lamb”
[2x]

Chorus:
And I will rise when He calls my name
No more sorrow, no more pain
I will rise on eagles’ wings
Before my God fall on my knees
And rise
I will rise

I was alternately singing and crying and trying to wipe my eyes so I could still see to drive. When I arrived at the hospital, I walked into the waiting room. Deborah said, through tears, “Dad’s dead.”

Time seemed to stop as I tried to process this shocking news. There is just no way to process such a thing. Even though we knew that, due to MSA, his time with us was limited, I could scarcely believe it was over. Done. Final. I’d just seen him a few days before. Surely there was some mistake.

But no. It was true and the only way forward was through the confusion and pain.

While my heart aches and I don’t think I will ever fully “get over it”, I am immensely comforted by the fact that Jesus conquered death on the cross and because of that, my dad LIVES. He has no more sorrow, no more pain. He is worshiping the king right now….singing “Worthy is the Lamb”. And I will see my dad again when my time on earth is done.

Jesus Christ is the anchor for my soul. I can say, “It is well!”

Dad in his studio with Nate, 2004

Dad in his studio with Nate, 2004

Dad in his studio, December 2012

Dad in his studio, December 2012

Headstone

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Scripture Memorization Made Easy

For years I’ve been memorizing Bible verses. My parents set goals for us and worked with us to memorize. My grandparents offered incentives for Scripture memorization. My uncle offered a camping trip to us if we memorized Psalm 22. And then there was Awana. And being the highly competitive individual that I am, I worked hard to achieve and memorize more scripture verses (sections in Awana speak) than anyone else… particularly more than my rival, Donovan Grey!

Fast forward a few years and I want to get my kids memorizing. I try incentives, goals and Awana. Trouble is, all of that takes a lot of effort. I have to come up with ways to help the kids memorize. Techniques to incentivize them. Rewards that don’t cost a fortune, and appeal to a wide variety of ages. Then I have to record the scripture passage for the non-readers, or read it regularly, or print it up and post it around the house, etc. All of this takes time and is easily derailed by the common disruptions of life in a big family.

And every time I got derailed, I felt guilty… like I was failing to do my part to train up my children in the way that they should go.

I kept searching for an answer to these problems.

A family in our homeschool group began to host a “hymn sing” in their home once a month. Our kids were keen to attend. We shared a meal and sang together. They loved meeting up with all their friends. It was a fun together time. A part of the evening was scripture recitation by any individual or family who cared to participate. We did a few times, but it was hard to get everyone reciting together, hard to get everyone to memorize an entire passage… and let’s face it, the ones for whom it was most difficult were Don and me.

We needed a better way. I kept searching. And God used my mom and dad to direct me to a solution. As my dad’s disease (Multiple System Atrophy – MSA) progressed, he was unable to turn the pages of his Bible. He began using a Bible app on his phone to read to him. The app they used and loved is YouVersion. I checked it out and downloaded it.

We began listening at breakfast. I selected a passage and we listened through the passage once per day. Within a few weeks, even the youngest children were quoting portions of our selected passage. Within a month or so, all have memorized it perfectly. Since they were listening to the same words all together read by the same voice, with the same inflections every time, they all learned the same phrasing and had the same timing. This made for great ability to recite together.

This has been an answer to prayer and has enabled us to more effectively hide God’s word in our hearts.

So far, we have memorized Psalms 1, 19, 22, and 23, and I Corinthians 13. James 1 is in progress.

I trust that God’s word will not return void, but will accomplish that which he pleases, and will prosper in the thing whereto he sent it (Isaiah 55:11).

Have you ever tried this or any similar method to memorize Scripture as a family? What has (or hasn’t) worked for you?

May God richly bless you and your family as you hide His word in your hearts!

 

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Give grace

Note: This is a long post. Rather than trying to break it into two parts, I’m going to trust that my readers have above-average attention spans. Please be sure to read the whole post before commenting. Thank you.

Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations. For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs. Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him. Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand. (Romans 14:1-4)

Occasionally I hear or read something that gets under my skin. This happened recently, when a sister in Christ made a broad statement condemning and mocking an entire group of people (a group I happen to belong to) who have made a certain choice related to raising children.

All I could think was — HOW DARE YOU?!

That brought to mind a flood of other “How dare you’s” I’ve felt over the years.

I’m going to let them out now. Brace yourself.

How dare you mock me for my parenting choices that I make to the best of my abilities before GOD?

How dare you judge me when I say my kids have food allergies and can’t eat something?

How dare you (especially you with no children, ONE child, or just a few children) judge me for the way I run my super sized family?

How DARE you judge me for choosing to not vaccinate my kids, when you have NO idea what thought and reasoning went into that decision?

How dare you act like your choice for your family is the ONLY right choice on an issue that is NOT clearly delineated in scripture?

How DARE you criticize me for my choice to give birth at home because you choose to give birth in a hospital/birth center?

How dare you presume to be able to evaluate my personal medical issues?

How dare you assert that we have enough kids (or too many)?

These are not moral decisions. There is LIBERTY to choose. These are decisions of conscience.

There’s a lot more to many of these choices than meets the eye.

What you do NOT know are how many hours I’ve spent researching the risks and benefits, the pros and cons, of my decision to only selectively vaccinate my kids. The hours poring over the data from the CDC. The data, the details, adverse reactions from vaccines, what subset of people experience reactions, the disease rates of various infectious diseases. Whether those who got the disease were vaccinated fully, partially or not at all. The locations of outbreaks, the graphs that detail when the disease prevalence began to drop and how the drop coincided (or didn’t) with the introduction of the vaccine. I’ve discussed the vaccine issue with my kids’ pediatrician. What makes you think you know better than me and my kids’ doctor?

What you do NOT know are how many hours I’ve spent researching, and in prayer, over the decision on where to birth. And who to hire as an attendant, or whether I should have an attendant at all.

What you do NOT know, and cannot appreciate, is the faith journey that I have walked as I have lived out my choices. The research that went into the decision. The enormous personal and familial benefits of our choices.

What you do NOT know are how many hours I spent wiping bloody diarrhea off of the scorched/burned bum of a tiny baby who was allergic to more things than we could determine.

What you do NOT know are how many hours I spent holding that baby, who writhed in pain every minute of the day.

What you do NOT know are how many hours I did NOT sleep that entire first year of my baby’s life as he screamed and writhed.

What you do NOT know is that I had to figure out what was in the food I bought because no adequate labeling laws were in effect. Yep, back when you had to call every company in creation to ask whether the “modified food starch” contained wheat; because it might. And at least half the time, the person you talked to either didn’t know, or refused to tell you.

What you do NOT know is that I had to go to a mono diet of only rice until — amazingly — my baby’s symptoms disappeared, and he slept. A blessed, restful sleep with NO writhing. For the first time in his life he slept.

What you do NOT know is that I added in one food at a time every three days until I was eating enough variety to constitute a sustainable diet. It was “three steps forward, two back” for a while until I (YES, I, with no medical advice or help, because they had given up on helping us) figured out what he was allergic to.

What you do NOT know is how much time and effort it took to figure all this out.

What you cannot possibly know is that if I ingested even the tiniest bit of one of his allergens, we were back to square one with his symptoms, and the screaming and lack of sleep resumed.

What you do NOT know is the lack of help available from doctors. No testing is foolproof. Once the process of eliminating all “serious” medical conditions from the possible list is done, the work of deduction falls to the parents.

What you do NOT know are the many invasive tests that were performed on my tiny newborn to rule out a long list of horrible possibilities.

What you do NOT know is the fear I felt, as I went through this process with a tiny helpless newborn.

What you do NOT know is the difficulty of having your newborn hospitalized while trying to care for eight other children at home.

What you do NOT know is the frustration of trying hypoallergenic formulas and even “elemental” formulas on your child, only to have him react to them with screaming, bloody diarrhea, writhing in pain.

What you cannot possibly comprehend, is how it tears a mother apart, to watch her child suffer so. I have experienced this. Food allergies/intolerance are VERY real.

Why are you judging someone who says they can’t eat something? Why do you presume to think they are making it up? What sane person would WANT to restrict their diet for no reason whatsoever? There might be a few people mixed-up enough to do so. Do you REALLY think it is a good idea to lump everyone who has dietary restrictions into the category of dubious sanity? Are you kidding me?

I have never asked anyone to make special accommodations for us. A few brave, kind souls have asked and offered to make accommodations. I might inquire about food at a party or whatever, but solely for the purpose of providing for our family’s food needs.

More times than I can count, though, I’ve overheard the comments on the fact that I or my child is eating something different. The speculation that it is not necessary. The accusations of extreme behavior.

WHY DOES IT MATTER SO MUCH TO YOU??? Just let us eat in peace for goodness’ sake. We don’t want to look any more freakish than we have to in order to keep ourselves healthy.

I find it interesting that, while there has often been speculation (I’ve heard it with my own ears) about the necessity of the diet I and/or my children have had to be on, no one has ever offered to come over to tend the wakeful screaming child when he could not sleep from the pain. No one ever cared enough to help wipe the bloody diarrhea off of his butt as he screamed in pain.

I was once a haughty, proud, judgmental mother. Because I believed breastfeeding was best, I (silently) judged every mother who bottle-fed.

Then God allowed me to have a sick baby. One born with congenital heart disease. who had difficulty gaining weight. One who had to have supplements. Now I was one of those mothers who had a bottle in their child’s mouth. And I understood. There could be a perfectly good explanation for choosing the “inferior” way to feed a baby.

Bottle-feeding is not the enemy. It’s just another way to feed a baby. Not my preference, but a valuable alternative. I was humbled. And ashamed of my prideful, horrible, rude attitude. I had now walked a road that gave me empathy and understanding for others’ choices.

Years ago, when I was a mom of one, I was privately (secretly) critical of a friend who confided in me the struggles she was having with her infant son. He was allergic to so many things, and she had to dramatically restrict her diet as she breastfed him. She could only eat chicken and carrots.

Absurd, I thought. How could he possibly react through her milk. Silly. She must be imagining things. It was years later that God allowed me to experience firsthand how very REAL this situation is. I walked a new road that gave me empathy.

There are a million more issues where judgment is passed, and one mom is critical of another. Here are a few of the things I’ve been criticized for:

The behavior of my autistic child. Admittedly horrible at times. But NOT the result of poor parenting or lack of discipline, and NOT because my child is a brat.

The fact that we chose to get a diagnosis and “label” our kid. Labels can be helpful in understanding. They do not have to define. I’m confident we made the right choice.

Baby wearing. I LOVE to carry my babies. Why do you have a problem with that? I don’t care if you opt to carry around a car seat or push a stroller. That felt more awkward to me. What is your problem with that????

Behavior of boys. Boys are rambunctious. Boys are NOT girls. I’ve been criticized for letting my boys be boys. Especially by “girl moms”. Get over it. There is a time and place for boys to learn to sit still. My little ones are learning. I work with them. They get practice every Sunday during church. But boys are made to move. I let them move whenever I feel it is appropriate.

Size of our family. I cannot tell the number of people who have tried to make this their personal business. IT IS NOT YOUR BUSINESS!!! I do not ask you for support. I do not ask the government for support. It’s our decision to have the number of kids we have. You have NO right to meddle. Think just for once about what I am contributing: TAXPAYERS! How else will your social security benefits ever be paid?

What activities we have chosen (or not chosen) to be involved in. I’ve gotten “It’s only one night a week” from other parents. Really??? And what about all the other kids who also want their night? Do you suppose we might place a priority on being home together as a family more than fifteen minutes a week?

 

Much of the time, these judgmental comments are not spoken directly to my face. But I do hear them, and sometimes I read them on Facebook. I don’t think the speaker/writer is aware that I can hear/see. If they were aware, I don’t think they would deliberately speak their sly mocking, judgment, and presumption.

But I wish they would.

If you have a question about a choice someone has made or feel they are making an error in judgment, WHY are you talking to a third person about it? GO TO THE PERSON YOU ARE CONCERNED ABOUT! I don’t mind honest discussion/debate. I don’t mind if someone comes to a different conclusion than I have, or makes a different choice about what is best for their family.

We are all individuals. It’s normal and natural to make different choices. So, if you don’t like the way I am doing something, GIVE GRACE and respect my RIGHT to choose as I see fit. Don’t assume I’m somehow less informed or educated because my choices are different.

Keep your mouth shut and pray for me. OR initiate a respectful convo with me.

Ask questions. Seek understanding. You might learn something. You might even (scary thought) change your mind about something.

OR you might get ME to change my mind as we discuss an issue. Above all, seek understanding. We are all in this super-HARD job of life together.

Although I have walked a lot of roads, I’ve not likely walked your particular road. It’s easy to judge what I do not know, see, experience, taste, touch. Easy, and WRONG. What I have learned is to say (to myself mostly). “I do not understand this situation. I do not have experience with this situation, I will reserve judgment and give the benefit of the doubt. I have not walked THIS road.” GIVE GRACE PEOPLE. it’s NOT THAT HARD!!!!

 

One eats meat, the other not,

To his own master he stands or falls….

Give grace.

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Learning when to say “No”

Priorities

I’ve been reading through the New Testament. The other day, I read the following passage from Acts. And I believe God spoke to me through this story of a church conflict from long ago.

(Acts 6) 1Now at this time while the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint arose on the part of the Hellenistic Jews against the native Hebrews, because their widows were being overlooked in the daily serving of food. 2So the twelve summoned the congregation of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable for us to neglect the work of God in order to serve tables. 3Therefore, brethren, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task. 4But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” 5The statement found approval with the whole congregation and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas and Nicolas, a prosetyte from Antioch. 6And these they brought before the apostles; and after praying, they laid their hands on them.

7The word of God kept on spreading and the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith.

In the first verse we get the summary of the problem. A subset of the Jewish widows were being neglected. This smacked of favoritism or maybe even prejudice. The apostles took this complaint seriously. Unity was of the utmost concern.

But in verse two, I observe that they apostles seem to feel themselves “above” serving tables. Anyone can serve tables, but we are the chosen ones. We will not stoop to this menial task.

That idea didn’t sit right with me. Especially when I observed the caliber of men chosen for this task. They were “men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom”. Obviously these men were well qualified to lead, and, at least in the case of Stephen, equipped to teach. This serving of tables must not be considered a menial task after all.

So, why didn’t the apostles want to do it?

So that they could devote themselves to prayer and the ministry of the word. An equally important task (perhaps even more important).

So it is not that the serving of tables was beneath them, but that it was not what they were called to do! What wisdom they displayed in understanding the sphere that God had placed them in and being comfortable with the scope of their own calling.

So often I’m presented with a problem or request and I jump in and help. Serving all over the place without stopping to consider if it is really my calling. I see the apostles using the important skill of delegation when a situation presents itself that is outside their top calling and priorities.

And the result of all this? The focus on their God-given priorities and delegation to capable others for the tasks outside their calling? The result of their caring enough to resolve the problem in a way that unified, could be sustained, and did not pull them from their main tasks?

8The word of God kept on spreading and the number of disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith.

They were able to have a lasting impact on the world around them by being obedient to their calling, and by not getting distracted by all the other wonderful good ways they could be serving that were not Got’s plan for them.

So I ask myself, what am I called to do?

  • First and foremost: to Love God.
  • To love my husband.
  • To love my children.
  • To teach and train my children.
  • To manage my home.
  • To show hospitality.

That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed. Titus 2:4-5

Those things can cover a lot of ground, and one can justify almost any “good” activity. But I asked myself, “Is this the best use of my time? Is this what God is calling me to do?

The good things in life are often the enemy of the best things.

It’s a time of reviewing commitments in my life. Of reevaluating priorities. Of letting things go that have crept in — things outside my calling.

And of learning to say “no” to other things.


Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.

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Haircuts and the passage of time

Noah's first haircut, June 2007

Almost since the beginning, I’ve given all the haircuts in the family. No, I’m not a trained hair stylist — I started out of necessity. Occasionally, I have an “off” day and the results are less than stellar. But for the most part, I do an OK job. No one runs away crying at the horrible hair of my kids or husband.

While this started out as a cost saving measure, it has transitioned into something so much more.

A baby in our family usually gets his first haircut by age two. For girls, I do little more than trim the ends to even them up. Boys take a bit more work. That first haircut is an exercise in patience — both for me and the child. I need help from my husband to hold their head while I’m making cuts, because they cannot understand the notion of sitting still for five seconds. It’s always bittersweet to see those baby locks fall away. I pick up a clipping to save. To remember the sweet curls,Noah's first haircut, June 2007 the baby-fine softness of their hair. Then there is that moment when they look in the mirror after the haircut and stare with no recognition of who they are. 🙂

As the babies turn into toddlers, they do much better at sitting. Some get frightened at the noise the clipper makes. All are curious. The hair changes. Gradually. A bit darker maybe, fuller, less fine.

Grade school kids just want the haircuts done, often opting to have it all buzzed off. I notice when they haven’t been doing an adequate job of washing their hair, and I instruct them. We have one-on-one time to chat about how they are doing, or other things that might be important to them at the time. Now the hair is full and strong, and they have settled into their own hair color. The hair changes. Almost imperceptibly. Growing thicker, coarser.

During the teen years, the hair changes dramatically. Hair that once was straight now is curly. Coarse hair turns fine. Limp, fine hair now has a ton of body. It’s interesting, what hormones do to hair. Yep, those bodies are changing. Hair is greasier. Again I give reminders about personal hygiene as we have our haircut chats. They also have more of an opinion on how they want their hair to look. Style. I try to accommodate, but I have no training. I learned on the job and my methods are primitive, to say the least. Sometimes mom doesn’t cut it (haha, pun not intended, I saw it after I wrote the sentence) anymore, and they seek out someone more experienced and professional to do the job. I’m fine with this. Less work for me. Right? But there is a twinge of sadness, as I see them begin the separation process toward independence. And I miss the chats we used to have as I cut. While I recognize this as normal, healthy and good, there is a part of me that longs for them to stay little and cuddlable.

As adults, sometimes a mom haircut is preferred because they recognize the cost savings to them. Their hair is mature now, as they are. Settled into their true color and style. Just as they are. We again chat. Sometimes this is the only alone time we have in a week or more. I no longer need to remind them of personal hygiene. They get it now.

As I cut hair year after year, every six weeks or so, I watch time pass by. I reflect on the changes that I have seen represented in the fallen hair on my bathroom floor.

And I’ve seen the process continue into adulthood as I’ve cut Don’s hair. When I first started, he was younger than our oldest child is now. He had very thick, slightly wavy, coarse hair. It took a LOT of pruning to make it lay nicely. Over the years I’ve notice a bit less in the dust pan at sweep-up time. I’ve noticed a little gray, a bit of receding at the temples. A little more gray. Finer hair again. Time goes on. I am hit with the realization that we are getting older. How did this happen? Weren’t we just married a couple of years ago? I don’t feel any different.

I remember all the hair on the floor. I remember the changes. The changes represented there encompass several lifetimes.

What changes will the future hold? Eventually all the kids will grow up and leave. No more haircuts, no more chats. But, Lord willing, Don and I will grow old together. I won’t necessarily feel it, but I’ll see it in the hair on the bathroom floor.


Hair clippings on floor

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Stories of God’s Provision – Our home

In January of 1996, when our fifth child was born, we were renting a tiny two-bedroom, one-bath house with an itty-bitty back yard. We had 4 kids in one room, and the baby slept with us. We knew this arrangement would not be manageable much longer.

Shortly after Nathaniel was born, we started looking for another home to rent. Housing prices in the San Diego area have never been really low, but we figured we could afford a nice three-bedroom in a decent neighborhood.

We had a necessity list:

  • Backyard
  • Decent neighborhood
  • Not a busy street
  • In our budget
  • Minimum 3 bedrooms/2 bathrooms
  • Big enough dining room to fit our table

And a wish list:

  • Bigger kitchen
  • Fireplace
  • Two-car garage

At the time, a place such as this was going for anywhere from $900/month to $1800/month. Our budget was $1200/month.

It was a different world then. No Craigslist with photos, just the classifieds in the local paper. Early every Friday or Saturday morning, I’d get a paper and scour the “For Rent” section. As soon as it was late enough to call, I’d make arrangements to see the places and then put my kids in the car and drive.

Some places were just awful — clearly wrong. Others looked not quite as bad. We put in several applications. We had a perfect credit score, so we figured it would be a simple matter of being the first one in line for a place.

But. We. Were. Wrong.

They would tell me on the phone that we were the first to view the house and apply. But, when I followed up with them later, after we’d seen the house with kids in tow, or had written on the application the number of children we had, they would tell us that someone had gotten there before us. Clearly they didn’t want five kids living in their precious piece of rental junk covered in seven sloppy coats of paint.

Clearly they were lying to me.

This went on for six or eight weeks. There were tears. I was discouraged.

Knowing that we were looking to move out, and understandably not wanting her income stream to be interrupted, our landlady had lined up a new tenant for the home we were living in. So we had a deadline to be out by March 31st.

As the days passed with no success, the stress began to rise. March 15th came and went. We decided to broaden our search geographically. We began considering places in Escondido, a small city just north of San Diego.

The first few homes we looked at were trashed, on busy streets or in gang-dominated areas of the city. Clearly not suitable.

As of March 27th, we had still not found a home. In faith, I had been packing everything that we did not need day-to-day. But my faith was wavering.

I saw a new rental listing in the classifieds. I called. Got the address. I requested an appointment to see the place.

When offered a choice of appointment times, I chose the earliest one possible — eight o’clock on a Saturday morning — even though I knew it would be hugely challenging to get five kids (all under the age of six) up and out the door by seven thirty in order to have time to drive to the appointment.

I didn’t want to take any chances.

As we were driving along, discouraged by the way things had gone in our search to that point, we wryly speculated how many coats of paint this one would have, how many missing light bulbs, how dirty the carpet would be, etc.

We drove by some definite fixer-uppers before turning and heading up a street that this house backed up on.

As we drove up the hill, we could see that the quality of the homes was different. These were newer, well-maintained homes.

Strange. This was NOT what we had been encountering up to this point in our search.

We pulled up in front of the address I had written down, wondering whether somehow I had gotten it wrong.

Don went in first, while I waited outside in the van with the kids. About fifteen minutes later, he came out, and he had a happy look in his eyes. He told me the place was really nice and the owner (who was a real estate broker) did not freak out when he found out we had five kids. He had four himself, he said.

He’d asked Don his occupation and income and given him an application to fill out.

I went in to have a look while Don took a turn with the kids. I went in, walked around in amazement. This was “exceeding abundantly above all that I could ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20).

Our house in EscondidoIt was on a short cul-de-sac. In a neighborhood that was at the end of a dead end street on a hill. It had three big bedrooms, two full bathrooms, a two-car garage, a big “great room”, a backyard, a nice kitchen, a fireplace, and lots of storage. The carpet was clean, and the walls had only one coat of paint. The walls were dirty, but we told from the get-go that we could paint or do whatever we liked with them.

We had not even finished filling out the application when the owner handed us the keys. As he looked over the application, he said something about us probably being able to qualify to buy the place.

We were ecstatic! When we told our friends (who had been praying) the good news, our amazing painter friend Brad Stoner (shameless plug: http://bradstonerpainting.com) offered to paint the place for us for only his cost of labor! Wow, wow, wow!

Three days later, we moved into a freshly painted, almost-brand-new house just in time to celebrate Daniel’s 3rd and Rebecca’s 6th birthday on April 8th.

But that is not the end of the story.

Fast forward ten months.

I’m in my nice cozy home, making dinner, when I notice a man coming up the walkway toward my door. I anticipated a knock, but there was none.

Concerned, I opened the door. The man was walking away. There was a paper taped to the door.

When the man saw me, he turned back and asked whether I was the owner.

I said no, we are renting.

He then informed me that the house was in foreclosure, and the paper was a notice of the auction that was to take place at the end of that month.

The notice included the minimum bid. The amount was not only unattainable for us, it was waaaay above the market value for the home.

The owner, as I said, was a real estate broker. He apparently had purchased this home and several others during a real estate boom a few years earlier. This particular house was purchased when the market was high; it tanked a year later.

The housing market was still depressed at that time. The owner, unable to keep up on the payments, had declared bankruptcy and let his real estate property go.

When we applied to move in, we had had no idea that he was in such sorry financial shape. We thought back to our initial encounter with him — how he had said, you could probably qualify to buy this house, and other small clues that we had totally missed.

We were devastated. Not only were we faced with leaving this home we loved, but we would have the arduous task or packing and moving plus all the associated costs and hassle. IF we could find another home, that is.

We started looking.

And we started asking questions to try to figure out how much time we might have before we had to get out. We asked our banker friend Ed. He worked in a bank’s REO (“real estate owned”) department.

Ed explained the process. No one will bid on the house at auction. More was owed that the house was worth. The ownership would then revert to the bank. It was the REO department’s job to get rid of the real estate as fast as possible, for fair market value.

Since we no longer needed to pay rent to the previous owner, and the bank wasn’t in the rental business, we lived rent-free for February. I called the previous owners and requested our deposit back. It was a long shot, I figured, but worth asking.

Amazingly, they returned our deposit.

A few days later, there was a knock at my door. It was a real estate agent who worked with the bank that owned the loan on the house.

I’m sure she was sent by the bank to assess the situation, and to figure out how to get rid of these unwanted tenants.

I told her we were already looking for another place to live. I asked her about the possibility of us buying the house, (knowing full well that it would take a miracle, because we didn’t think we had enough money for a down payment).

Her response was not at all encouraging. She said the bank always wanted the house empty before it was put up for sale.

We kept looking for another place to rent.

After the auction date had come and gone, I got a call from a man from the REO department of the bank. We talked a bit about the feasibility of us buying the house. He referred us to a mortgage broker they often worked with. We made an appointment to meet with him.

Again in March, we did not have to pay any rent.

By not having to pay rent for two months, and by the return of our deposit, we now had enough in savings to make home buying a possibility.

We asked both sets of parents for their advice. And we prayed much for direction. Don prayed for a very specific confirmation, much as Gideon prayed (see Judges 6:36-40). A particular response from parents. One that, while solidly based on Scripture, seemed random and not at all likely to occur. And that was the response that we received. I only learned of this prayer and answer after the fact.

God was going before us. Making our paths straight. We decided to go forward.

We filled out the heaps and heaps of paperwork associated with a home loan, and then we made an offer to the bank for the house we were already living in. After a little back-and-forth haggling, our offer was accepted. As a part of our agreement, the bank paid to fix a few (minor) existing problems in the house.

We did not pay any rent in April.

We finally closed on our loan late in April. We bought a new home, and didn’t have to move.

But there is even more to the story:

Within six months, the housing market began to pick up. By the time we sold the house, eight years later, to buy a larger one for our much expanded family, it had more than doubled in value. There is no way we could have predicted that timing. Yet, it was the absolute best timing imaginable.

As I ponder God’s provision in the matter of a home, I think the thing I am most struck by is how I worked and worked to achieve my goal of nice home for my family. This is a good goal. If I had been successful, I would have been so proud. But God allowed me to fail in spite of my best efforts. I came to the end of myself. I gave up pushing, and came to a place of surrender. God, your will be done. Then and only then did the floodgates open and his mercy and provision pour down.

This story is not about me. Not about Don. It’s about our Great God. Only he gets the praise and glory for this miraculous provision.

God has been very generous to us.

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From Fear to Faith

There was a time in my life when I was fearful. I’m not talking about the kind of cautious fear that contributes to wise decision making. I’m talking fear that consumes. Irrational at times. Fear that makes your heart race and keeps you from sleeping. Debilitating fear.

Fear that:

– My husband would leave me.

– Something would happen to Don (accident) and I’d be left a widow with children I could not provide for.

– I would be in a horrible car accident.

– One of my children would die.

– A child would be severely injured or would be born ill.

– We wouldn’t have enough money and would lose our home.

– A child would walk away from God.

– That one of my kids would be badly hurt while playing.

– A teen driver would crash the car and die.

– Etc., etc., and so forth and so on….

There is always something else to fear. But  fear ravishes. It consumes and destroys. It robs. I did not want to be this way.

Slowly, God has changed me.

How?

By allowing into my life some of the things I feared.

And in so doing….

– Letting me experience first hand his comfort and provision.

– Helping me see that He is enough even in the midst of heartache and devastation.

– Leading me to give birth with no medical attendant present — thus forcing me to fully rely only on God.

– Walking with me through the trials and hurts of life.

– Comforting me in times of sadness.

– Sending friends to minister to me during times of discouragement.

– Demonstrating his abundant provision in spite of my own failings and mistakes.

– Showing his timely answers to prayer.


I have lost a child through miscarriage.

I have had a child born with a severe birth defect.

I’ve had a child diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder.

I’ve had a baby hospitalized, with no idea of what was wrong with him. So many tests.

I’ve had a child diagnosed with Autism.

I’ve had a child walk away from God.

We’ve had times that were financially tight.

I’m watching my dad battle an incurable disease.

And I have seen, and continue to see, how God walks with me and gives me strength.

I’ve also seen God provide faithfully for us for 26 years. There are more stories of his provision that I will tell, in time.

He has brought me safely through 11 births, with a variety of birth complications.

He has enabled me to meet the challenges presented to me, always giving me just what I need in that moment.

He has taught me to run to him in prayer when discouraged, afraid, confused, lonely or sad.

He has provided me with ready friends who have held me (us) up in prayer during times of trial

He has provided good counsel when the decisions were confusing.

Over and over again, he has been enough. When the fear starts to rise up, and I feel the tightness in my throat. I recall his mercies. And I pray.

“Lord, Thank you that you are enough. Even if I lose everything I hold dear, I can never lose you. Thank you! Lord, let this be for YOUR GLORY.”

It is a conscious surrender to the will of God, regardless of what that looks like.

Practically speaking. I do NOT indulge my imagination! Enough already. I will deal with the problems that ACTUALLY arise. Not the possible ones. Or the hypothetical ones.

I read of those who have gone before who have suffered greatly and have endured joyfully. Corrie ten Boom and Elisabeth Elliot are favorites of mine. I read what they learned of God through their suffering. God was right there with them in their suffering, and will also be with me though my suffering.

I don’t fear — not because I believe I am invincible — but because I know my God is!

“Worrying is carrying tomorrow’s load with today’s strength — carrying two days at once. It is moving into tomorrow ahead of time. Worrying doesn’t empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.”
Corrie ten Boom
“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”
Corrie ten Boom
“Hold everything in your hands lightly, otherwise it hurts when God pries your fingers open.”
Corrie ten Boom
“You can never learn that Christ is all you need, until Christ is all you have.”
Corrie ten Boom
“Any concern too small to be turned into a prayer is too small to be made into a burden.”
Corrie ten Boom
“There are no ‘ifs’ in God’s world. And no places that are safer than other places. The center of His will is our only safety — let us pray that we may always know it!”
Corrie ten Boom
“If God has shown us bad times ahead, it’s enough for me that He knows about them. That’s why He sometimes shows us things, you know – to tell us that this too is in His hands.”
Corrie ten Boom
Life is but a Weaving (the Tapestry Poem)My life is but a weaving
Between my God and me.
I cannot choose the colors
He weaveth steadily.Ofttimes He weaveth sorrow;
And I in foolish pride
Forget He sees the upper
And I the underside.

Not ’til the loom is silent
And the shuttles cease to fly
Will God unroll the canvas
And reveal the reason why.

The dark threads are as needful
In the weaver’s skillful hand
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned

He knows, He loves, He cares;
Nothing this truth can dim.
He gives the very best to those
Who leave the choice to Him.
Corrie ten Boom

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”
Jim Elliot
“The will of God is always a bigger thing than we bargain for, but we must believe that whatever it involves, it is good, acceptable and perfect.”
Jim Elliot
“God is God. Because he is God, He is worthy of my trust and obedience. I will find rest nowhere but in His holy will that is unspeakably beyond my largest notions of what he is up to.”
Elisabeth Elliot
“To be a follower of the Crucified means, sooner or later, a personal encounter with the cross. And the cross always entails loss.”
Elisabeth Elliot
“It is God to whom and with whom we travel, and while He is the end of our journey, He is also at every stopping place.”
Elisabeth Elliot
“Our vision is so limited we can hardly imagine a love that does not show itself in protection from suffering…. The love of God did not protect His own Son…. He will not necessarily protect us – not from anything it takes to make us like His Son. A lot of hammering and chiseling and purifying by fire will have to go into the process.”
Elisabeth Elliot
“It is in our acceptance of what is given that God gives Himself.”
Elisabeth Elliot, These Strange Ashes
“The only basis of peace is the cessation of the conflict of two wills: my will vs God’s.”
Elisabeth Elliot
“Teach me to treat all that comes to me with peace of soul and with firm conviction that Your will governs all.”
Elisabeth Elliot
“Christ is sufficient. We do not need “support groups” for each and every separate tribulation. The most widely divergent sorrows may all be taken to the foot of the same old rugged cross and find there cleansing, peace, and joy.”
Elisabeth Elliot, These Strange Ashes

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The Art of Hospitality

Welcome mat

I grew up in a social family. We like people. A lot. As kids, we knew our friends were always welcome at our house. We regularly had neighbors, friends, and family over for a visit or to share a meal with us. After we moved to a house with a built-in pool when I was 9 years old, the action increased. Now our house was, more than ever, “the place to be”.

Yes, there were times reserved for just our immediate family, but generally speaking our home was open to others. When I got married and settled into a home of my own, it felt only natural to invite people over.

Only it wasn’t natural. It was hard. It was a lot of work. It was awkward. And I sometimes got the impression that my friends were not very comfortable in my home.

I’d had the experience of being in someone’s home and feeling uncomfortable the entire time. But in other homes, I felt welcome and at ease. My mom had made it seem so effortless. She was always looking out for the needs of others, often at extra expense and inconvenience.

I’m a thinker — one of my favorite Bible verses is in Luke 3 where we are told, “Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.” So, I followed Mary’s example. I pondered. What made the difference between a home that was welcoming, and one that was not? How did my mom manage? What was I doing, or NOT doing, that was counterproductive to hospitality?

I considered the homes I’d been in where I had felt welcome. What was the common denominator? I read, thought, discussed with friends, and thought some more.

And I keep inviting people over and trying to work out my difficulties. I’ve come up with some things that I believe stand in the way of true hospitality:

Clutter – If I have too much “stuff”, there is no room in my life for people. All my time is eaten up with maintaining the stuff. There are two possible fixes for this. The best fix, in my opinion, is to get rid of clutter and excess stuff. Give it away! I still am prone to having too much, so enter the second fix: Simply don’t let it stop you from inviting people in. Yes, they will see the real you. The messy. Oh well. This is actually a KEY to helping people relax in your home. Especially if children are involved.

Selfishness – Hospitality involves giving. Often sacrificially. If you really don’t want to give, or if you want to keep the best only for yourself, it won’t work out well. Folks will be able to tell.

Ineffective home management – If you don’t have some sort of basic system for keeping your home reasonably clean and neat (NOT PERFECT!!!), the idea of having people in will feel very stressful. If you know you will have to scrub toilets and floors and wash a mountain of dishes, you will not be likely to extend a last minute invitation to someone needing comfort or friendship.

Uptight about having everything perfect – If your home is decently clean and you just can’t bring yourself to have people over because you still have dirty windows or cobwebs here and there, you are probably too self-absorbed. Most people won’t even notice. They are coming to see you, not your house. (For the record, my house is NEVER perfect. There are always flaws. I’m getting better at rolling with that.) I’ve observed that, in a home that is too perfect, I feel extremely uncomfortable. It is unnatural and I begin to feel inferior. Until I realize I’m comparing my known everyday reality to their “Realtor-ready” perfection. Apples and oranges.

Uptight about “stuff” getting damaged – I’ve had my share of unruly kid visitors in my home. I’ve had stuff damaged. I know it is a real risk with hospitality. Stuff will get destroyed. It’s stressful. We don’t have room in the budget for randomly replacing stuff that people break. Not to mention that we have kids already living in our house that do an excellent job of breaking stuff. I remind myself that it is ONLY stuff. Stuff can be replaced. People are more important than stuff. They are eternal souls that I have the opportunity to impact with my words, actions and attitudes.

Insecurity – If I am not confident in who I am and where the Lord has me in my life, I have a hard time inviting others in, because it always carries the risk of judgment. I cannot control the impressions and opinions that others form of me and my family when they see my home and how we function and interact. It’s a vulnerable place. And it’s often humbling. Especially if you have kids.

Comparison – This kind of goes along with insecurity. But I had to find my own way with hospitality. Don’t try to copy another person. If will be fake and others will notice. Learn from others, yes! But there is a difference. I regularly notice and learn from the hospitality of others. If I compare myself to my mom, or try to mimic her, for example, I will be discontent and lose my joy. My mom and I are very different people. We do things in our own unique way. Neither way is inferior. They are just different. I need to be me.

Tips to developing hospitality

JUST DO IT! It will get easier. Don’t give up. When you bomb (and you will), learn from it and keep going. We all have failures, embarrassing moments, regrets and times we have put our foot in our mouth! Don’t let it stop you. Have people over often. It’s easier to maintain a home to be ready for company than to “stress clean” only occasionally for a big event. Invite people you are comfortable with, at first. Close family, best friends, etc. Invite feedback. But don’t stop there. Challenge yourself to invite those you don’t know well, people you are uncomfortable around, or even people you dislike. (Yes, I really said that — see Romans 12:20.)

As a Christian, I don’t consider hospitality to be optional. There are a variety of passages in the Bible that address the topic. From outright commands (see, for example, 1 Peter 4:9, Hebrews 13:2), to examples of hospitality shown (2 Kings 4:8-10, Proverbs 31:20, Luke 14:12-14, Acts 16:15, Acts 16:34, 1 Timothy 5:10).

Hospitality is NOT the same as “entertaining”. Hospitality serves others. “Entertaining” serves only oneself. Hospitality is important. It contributes to the needs of the saints (Romans 12:13). It enables us to be God’s hands and feet (Matthew 10:40-42, Matthew 25:34-40).

How can one practice hospitality if inviting people in to your home is impossible? I’ve never been in that situation, so I don’t have many ideas; but one that that comes to mind is to bring a meal to someone in need. Even if it is a grocery-store rotisserie chicken or a “Hot and Ready” pizza. Call someone who you think might be lonely or hurting. Pray and ask God to show you the needs of others around you. I think there are some things in that list I can improve on.

I’m really preaching to myself here. “Do not be weary in well doing; for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” (Galatians 6:9) I am still learning. I still blow it, but I’m pretty stubborn and hard-headed, and I’m determined to keep at it.

If you were a victim of one of my early attempts at hospitality, I apologize. And I thank you for helping me learn. Please come visit again.

I’d like to finish off with a story of amazing hospitality that was offered to our family. In 2008, my husband’s parents were celebrating 60 years of marriage. We wanted to bring the whole family (at that time we had ten kids) to visit. We started planning. We booked airfare and arranged for rental cars.

But we were stumped by accommodations while we were there. My in-laws had a small house. No way was there room for all of us there. Most (all?) hotels have a five-person limit per room. That meant three rooms each night for a week. Not only was that costly, but we would have to divide the family into three groups every night. Not fun, not to mention that there would be minor children alone in at least one of the rooms.

I looked into campgrounds and other creative accommodations (like VRBO), but since my in-laws lived in a non-touristy small town in North Carolina, there did not appear to be anything like that near by. So, I did what any self respecting “big family” mom would do, I started networking. I turned to an email group I’d been a part of for years. A group specifically for moms of big families. I asked if there was anyone in living in that area who had suggestions for where to stay.

Within a day or two, I received a response from a mom who lived in the same small town as my in-laws. She extended an invitation for our ENTIRE FAMILY TO STAY WITH THEM FOR THE WEEK! We did not know each other at all. We had never met or corresponded before. And yet, they invited a family of TWELVE to stay in their house for an entire week. We considered this offer, almost disbelieving that it was for real. I talked to the mom on the phone and she assured me that it was a genuine offer and her husband was all for it as well. We accepted.

We arrived at their house exhausted. We’d taken a red-eye flight and, naturally, no one slept. The first thing I noticed was welcoming smiles on the faces of the our hosts. They had written a “Welcome” message on the chalkboard in their kitchen. They immediately offered us something to drink. The parents had a large master bedroom suite that they vacated during that week so that we could all sleep together. There were blow up mattresses, sleeping bags, portable crib for the youngest one. The bathroom had a large stack of towels and designer soaps and washes. They gave us free access to their washer and dryer. They cooked for us. They welcomed us into their work and play. They engaged us in conversation. They expressed an interest in getting to know us. Their kids welcomed our kids and shared their things with them. And they served us lots and lots of coffee.

I’m sure it helped that we had similar lifestyles. They had six kids. They home schooled. But the welcoming presence and attitude extended way beyond those things that we had in common. They had truly worked hard on, and perfected, that ART of hospitality.

And I believe that what it really is. An art. A beautiful expression of the creator God in us.

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Comparison is the Robber of Joy

Pure joy

Pure joy.

I have not always been a joyful person. In fact, I’d say my tendency is to be negative and to grumble and complain. I do not like this about myself. I tried to “fake it to make it,” but it just wasn’t happening. I needed an overhaul. In order to effect true change, I needed to get to the bottom of WHY I struggled. One day, I came across a quote that was like the pebble tossed in the water. The effects rippled out and changed me in ever increasing ways. I was reading something, just minding my own business when the words jumped off the page and assaulted me. The words are few and simple:

COMPARISON is the ROBBER of JOY.

I pondered this for awhile, thinking of all the times I had compared myself to others. I found the quote to ring true. Comparing myself to others left me discouraged and unhappy. There is always someone who appears to have nicer circumstances, things, looks, etc. I began to work on the discipline of not comparing myself to others. This was the first ripple.

As time went on, I found that refraining from comparing myself to others was not enough. I realized that were plenty of times when I was less than joyful, but was not comparing myself to others. Pondering further, I discovered I was comparing myself to some “idealized” standard. Still comparison, though. And it was robbing me of joy. So, the next concentric ripple was comparing myself, not to others, but to the unattainable standards of perfection I had set up for myself.

But then another layer of “joy deficiency” came to the surface: I was grumpy about hard things in my life. My son’s congenital heart defect, not being able to sleep, dealing with a houseful of sick kids, loss of a job etc. This list could go on and on. I wasn’t comparing myself to anyone — real or imagined; I just didn’t like my circumstances. I again pondered what I was missing. What was the root issue here? Where was the comparison? What was robbing my joy in these situations? I did not immediately arrive at a conclusion.

I thought of some friends who seemed particularly joyful in spite of difficult circumstances. One friend was watching her child die from a rare genetic disease — and it was not the first child she had lost. Another had a hard marriage. Another had financial troubles. Another was dying of cancer. But they were still joyful. Not only were they not grumbling about their circumstances, which were very plainly horrible situations; they were giving praise to God, and were still interested in — and caring for — others. What was the key?

I read of people like Corrie ten Boom, who lost her father and sister after they were all sent to concentration camps by the Nazis for working to save Jews; and Elizabeth Elliot, whose husband was murdered by the very people he was trying to help. How were they able to go forward after such heart-rending tragedies? Not just to exist, coping with their new reality, but to glorify God and minister to the very ones who had wronged them? To give blessing to many through the telling of their stories? How did they do it???

The understanding began to take shape in my mind: it was my comparison of my reality to my EXPECTATIONS that was robbing me of my joy. What I had, vs. what I wanted. What I got vs. what I thought I deserved. The ripple effect continued. These friends and mentors had learned the secret of contentment in all things that is described so well in Philippians 4:4-13:

4Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice. 5Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. 6Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. 7And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. 8Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. 9Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you. 10But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity. 11Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. 12I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

Other verses:

I Timothy 6:8, “And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.”

Hebrews 13:5, “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.”

I Peter 4:13, “But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.”

I began to work again on correcting my thought patterns. Choosing gratefulness even when things weren’t going the way I wanted. Avoiding the “If only” and “I wish” sorts of discontented thoughts. It was 3 steps forward, 2 steps back for a long while as I worked hard to build new habits. It didn’t mean I was now loving the hard things, just choosing to find the bright spot in the midst of the suffering or difficulty. And joy arrived. Slowly at first, bit by bit with each success at choosing thankfulness, the joy grew. I realize I am not entitled to the blessings I receive. They are not the result of any goodness I inherently possess.

I wondered if I could I still have joy if all my blessings were stripped away? If I lost all my belongings? If I lost my husband? My children? My parents? Ouch! That was hard to consider. Honesty, I can’t say for sure how I would respond since I have never been there. But I know that I need to be satisfied with Jesus alone. He must be enough. Sufficient. I need to come to the place where Jesus is all I need.

A couple of thought trails that have helped me to reorient my thinking when it gets off track:

When something is going bad, think of what I could consider the WORST possible outcome. Then consider what would be the benefits if the worst became reality?

When faced with loss or disappointment, choose to thank God for what he did give, not to focus on what I am losing. Speaking the words out loud is especially beneficial to me. For example, my dad is dying of a disease called Multiple System Atrophy (MSA). He is not old. Since his mom (my grandma) was over 90 when she passed away a few years ago, I EXPECTED that I would have my dad around for a long time. It’s not looking that way. I sometimes feel MAD and start to grumble about this horrible outcome. It helps me to get back on track if I force myself to be THANKFUL for the 40-plus years I have had my dad. Thankful for the memories. Thankful for his encouragement, his wisdom. his humor, his talents, his music. And acknowledge to myself that while I don’t understand God’s ways, I know His ways are for good (see Romans 8:28). And I come, once again, to a place of rest, peace, contentment and joy.

This ongoing, day-to-day battle in the mind, heart, soul and life is one that is worth fighting — for the JOY that comes with the win.

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