Tuesday, February 22, 2011

It could happen to you...

Lately I've been thinking about life. My life.
Life in general, really.
It's short.
Major wisdom coming at you right there, isn't it?
But really, life is so short in the grand scheme of things, and how often do we even think about digesting that?

Wars are all around us.
People killing and being killed.
Men are fighting battles that started centuries ago.
Lives have come and gone, and yet the wars and the reasons for them linger.

It's absolutely astounding how we can pass like a vapor through this world and our lives and decisions we make can linger on and on!

So, that led me to another train of thought.
Not exactly altruistic, I know, but how do I fit into this whole thing if I'm only here for a short time? Could I really be used? Is there really some great plan for my life, my purpose, my relationships, my decisions?

Something that lasts...

Would your mom ever tell you growing up to "bundle up" or "never talk to strangers"? Mine did. I'm thinking if yours was anything like the norm, yours did too. And if you were anything like I was, you'd respond with a "WHY?" in a high-pitched annoying whine. And she'd say it -
"You never know..." wagging her finger with a list of possible scenarios as you would roll your eyes, and she'd eventually take your face in her hands and say "It could happen."

Thankfully my parents were also the it-could-happen-to-you type when it came to dreams and plans as well. You never know. Oh, how I believed those words as a child! My life was SO full of promise and I'd become whatever I wanted. I just knew it! Whew, that would have been a LOT of things, let me tell ya, and the Lord most graciously saved me from myself. But my faith somewhere was lost along the way. Not lost in the sense that I was separated from my Father, I know enough theology to not get into that mess, I mean... lost as in the whole "it could happen to you" belief... the possibilities that lay deep within me, for a specific purpose.

It went from belief to disbelief in no uncertain terms. I became an it-could-never-happen-to-me individual. When? I'm not sure, but it went on for a while. I didn't even realize it until recently when a good friend of mine (thanks, Jules!) asked me "What would that Shelly look like? If you shared the real you with the world? The Shelly God planned you to be?"


My response was not very clever or insightful. It was simply "I'll have to ponder that one".

And I have.
Am I ready to see who that Shelly really is? Do I believe it could happen to little ol' me?! Do I have the faith to see myself through my Father's eyes and open up to the world with the one thing I have that no one else does?

My story.

And though it surely has many chapters to come, unless the Lord takes me home very soon, I now see the many blessed things that have happened to me and will happen to me in my story. I have begun to see that it CAN happen to me. I CAN be used, I DO have a purpose, a divinely laid plan, an impact on this world be it for only decades, centuries, or millennia to come - eternity is what will share the real story!

His story through my life.

What's your story? I know it's special to God who loves you and orchestrated every facet of your being for his good pleasure. I hope you find as much delight in that today as I do!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Deal with it.

A few years ago I was diagnosed with a condition that nearly incapacitated me. It's funny that I rarely give it a thought these days, as migraines would come and go, and I'd chalk it up to little more than "life as an active mother". I long forgot the days of shutting the blinds to keep out all rays from my light-sensitive eyes. Yes, I, One-who-loves-the-sun (my official Cherokee name) could stand no light, and barely any movement. I lived in a haze. I remember little of it. My memory is foggy probably because my mind was foggy then. When I began to slur my speech a bit and just not quite be able to lift my head all the way, we knew it was serious.

Countless doctors had come and gone. Ultrasounds, CT scans, MRI's, psychological and neurological tests combined had come back in all their futility. Well, in my case, at least. At one point, I remember hoping that I had a tumor or something. At least then people wouldn't think I was crazy anymore. And yes, some doctors just called me crazy.

But I got a miracle. It wasn't the first time. And now that I think about it, I wonder if the same condition which can start at the base of the spine and cause sporadic paralysis and/or numbness of the limbs is the same condition I have today.

My first big miracle came when I was 18 years old. My future was bright and I was energetic. I loved to read, study and travel. I wanted to see anything - everything. At that time, "everything" became limited to Northwest Indiana and occasionally the Chicago area. But it was temporary, I knew, and I began to sketch my plans. But those came to a halt during my second semester away at college. I got some kind of shaking cramp in my leg, and them numbness. It would come and go, but it was always followed or accompanied by a headache. Of epic proportions. It would make me dizzy and I could almost feel it coming on. After some rest, and sometimes days of barely more than sleeping and -if I was lucky- back rubs, I'd be on my way and forget about the episode until another one struck. Funny, isn't it? How we forget.

That only went on for a few months and I was headed home for the summer break. Just a week or so after arriving, I attended church with my parents for a revival or preaching conference of some sort. During one of the services, I started to have a little tremble in my right leg. I knew what it was, so I excused myself and told my mom I'd be in another room where I knew there were pews on which I could rest. The preacher happened to be distracted by my leaving and asked if there was anything wrong with the girl who left during the service, and that he wanted to pray for me. So, my dad came and got me and along with the evangelist, my pastor, and any other pastor who came to the meeting and wanted to pray with me, all gathered around me, laid their hands on my head and shoulders and began to pray. I remember crying. I remember thinking "Lord, I really would like this to go away!" But not having a whole lot of faith.

That was short-lived. I could hardly believe the rapidity of that answered prayer. I had no further episodes. I never had my legs go numb, or a trembling that would turn into a severe migraine. I had bills to pay (or my parents did at that time!) for scans and tests which said I had "nothing", to remind me of my miracle.

That was many years ago, of course. But my next miracle regarding my health came just three years ago. My flights were booked, and I was hours away from getting on a plane for the American doctors to hopefully tell me what the European ones couldn't. After church on Sunday, a friend approached me and said "Why don't you go see my chiropractor/massage therapist? It couldn't hurt and maybe it'll relax you before your flight". I agreed.

That was Sunday evening.
Monday morning, I walked into my place of miracles. It was a small apartment with a living room set aside for this sweet Christian lady to take her clients amidst the bustle of her busy day and 6 children.
It didn't look miraculous. But it was.
She sent her children off to school and secured the others in their activities and closed the doors leading into the small room.
It didn't seem like it held a mighty wonder. But it did.

She ran her hand down my spine, then up my neck and instructed me to lie down on the table, face up. She proceeded to pop my back and neck in ways that I can not even describe. She rubbed my neck. I could feel my temples pulsing and told her that I wasn't sure I was okay.
And then she said it.

"Good thing you didn't get on the plane. That pressure could have killed you. You should stay right here and receive the treatment I recommend." My miracle. Or was it a miracle when our friend suggested I see the chiropractor? Either way, God spared me once again.

I was told that I have a condition called spondylosis. Everyone suffers from a type of this. It's just degeneration of the vertebrae. It comes with age.
Unless you have this degenerative condition about which little is known of the "whys" and more is known about the treatment. After all, 18, when I first had symptoms, is not what we call decrepit. Anyway, in more recent years, the cervical (neck) spondylosis had caused my muscles to constrict in such a way that I was no longer getting much oxygen to my brain. That explained a lot! And as soon as it was unblocked by realignment and massage I could barely even remember feeling ill.

Until a few days ago. I had been having migraines that were immune to pain relievers. And there was this one pulsing pain that drove me to tears. So, I googled it. What would cause a pain right there?
Um, neck and shoulder tension.
Oh. That's right.
Could just be my whole degenerative bone thing.
Hm, didn't think of that.

So, I asked my kids to help massage my neck a bit and explained to them how I was feeling and I mentioned that I didn't even THINK about my spondylosis since I haven't had to deal with it much in at least two years.
To which my daughter so lovingly replied, "Mom, you have a condition. Deal with it."
Teenagers are great, aren't they? Black and white. Matter-of-fact.
And all she was saying, as she did -to her credit- later articulate, was that I need to keep it in mind, and take care of myself before things like numbness in my arms happen again.

And I remembered. Oh, how I often forget.
I have a condition.
I need to deal with it.
I need to see that I am undone without my loving Father.
I am incapacitated if I am going through the day to day routine in my own strength, because I can do ALL THINGS in his!
I need to deal with the fact that I am in a world who needs a Savior.
I need to wake up in the morning and remember my condition.
I am the Father's beloved child, and I have a message of love to bring.
I am in Christ.
He is in me.
That's the condition I am in, and oh how often I forget!
I have him! I can deal with that.

Oh, and as far as my medical condition... I'm dealing with that too. Taking my daughter's advice and following the recommended treatment, and hopefully not forgetting once I feel well... so that the next time it flares, it won't be so advanced.
I'm dealing with it.
Not forgetting, dealing. Today, at least...

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Playing the Fool

I have the morning off. We've decided to cut our home-school coop down to three days a week so the kids can focus more at getting work done with less distraction for at least two days a week. And since some of the kids are heavily into their sports training schedules, this gives them an extra two days of sleeping just a bit longer. So, we're trying this method on for size. Well, on our first morning off, I took the kids to McDonald's because two days ago - are you ready for it? They started serving breakfast here!! Something we've been waiting on for years! We all piled in the car, and enjoyed our little treat of hashbrowns, sausage, coffee and English muffins. Then, we came home for a little school work and, of course, playing outside. Now I sit quietly in my room, my drapes drawn back wide to let the beautiful sun warm a wintry day as I once again enjoy the view of my side of the mountain.

I grabbed a pencil and a notepad and began scribbling down verses from the past couple weeks. For the last two or three weeks it seemed as if all sermons, discussions, Sunday school lessons, and Bible reading have all been pointing me to the same thought. GOD LOVES ME! And I have been a fool to ever doubt it! But don't we all sometimes? The Psalmist says in chapter 13 "How long will you forget me?" Yet he knew deep down, that he was not forgotten. He ended the same chapter proclaiming God's goodness in song!

As I listened to Sunday's sermon on God's love, I was grabbed by so many things in the text. Galatians chapters 2 and 3. But verse 18 of chapter 2, and verse 3 of chapter 3 sent my thoughts a-whirling! Galatians 3:3 begins with a question: "Are you so foolish?" Hm... foolish? Really? All I could think of is the verse in Psalms where it tells us that a fool has said in his heart that there is no God (14:1). And I wondered. Is there a correlation? Do I - every time I think that I can "do" something to make things better - say in my heart there's no God? To make myself more presentable, acceptable, holy, am I just deep down in my heart, playing the fool? Saying that there is no God big enough to work in that part of me? So I looked further.

Galatians 2:17 - 3:4, and the whole chapter and the next one, really, because it's hard not to just swim in the words of these chapters, but I stopped and chewed on the truth of some of these verses! If I build again the things which were destroyed (2:18)... building of my own hands, I make myself a transgressor! If I try to build through the law, I am bound by it, and therefore a transgressor! Do we even get that? I am NOT considered a sinner in the sight of God. I am a saint, his redeemed, son and heir (Gal. 4:7) but when I build again the things that were destroyed (the bondage of the rules of the law) I am condemning myself. But wait a sec, there's no condemnation, right? (Romans 8:1)

Maybe I'm just a preschooler when it comes to Bible knowledge, I don't know, but it's as if so many things that used to be a little confusing or just not spelled-out enough for me to really want to know what it all meant are seemingly making tons of sense these days. Galatians 2:20 is for real. The life that I live in the flesh is livable by the faith of the Son of God WHO LOVED ME AND GAVE HIMSELF FOR ME! Because if righteousness comes by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.... what powerful words. In vain. Have I painted a picture of vanity when I tried to gain favor through anything but faith?

Oh, I know I'm babbling at this point... that I can't seem to get my words to match the floods of emotion in my heart or the racing thoughts of my brain as I wallow engulfed in this truth that has been here all along, but I can't help but stay here a while.

I'll just close with two more verses. Galatians 4:9 "But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?" Galatians 5:1 "Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage."

We are free, loved, redeemed, sons, heirs.. oh, just read the whole book. It's only 6 chapters and you'll have to just read it again and again if you're anything like me. Just to soak it up.

Oh, I have to post 2 more, because it's just too good not to, and the words, well, they sum it up like I never could!

Galatians 6: 14 "But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world." and the culmination of what I truly desire for this blog... verse 18 "Brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen."

Saturday, February 5, 2011

For my Father's glory...

My dad is an author ... and no, I didn't mean "Steven", grandma liked to be different and spelled it with an "a". My father is wise, well-educated, and just plain smart. I remember as a child I would watch him pull out a dictionary when we didn't know the meaning of a word, and he'd make us "look it up!" He'd caress the pages as if they held some magic, and then tell us how as a child he'd spend hours perusing its pages for new, insightful words and their meanings - just for fun. I didn't share this "fun" passion as a fourth grader, but I began to find him inspiring around the 6th grade. Everything he'd say, any notes he'd write to us, were words filled with mystery, grace, and wonder... they were inspiring.

Two of his books are filled with just poems. Yes, he's a poet, sought out by a publishing company for his participation of an on-line poetry site. Daunting, you'd say. A little, but still inspirational. Through the years, I would write and write and know that I'd not quite meet the bar set before me by my dad, and I'd share but little. Yet, he's always so gracious with me. You know, you'd think that people who wield a pen with such grace, poise, and ease would rarely be moved by the writings of others, but it's not so. At least not with him. He's always encouraging others to write their stories, and self-publish as he has learned to do. He is strong and loving, gracious and kind, a fortress of mind-boggling knowledge and even more baffling propriety. He was my tower.

But dad had a secret. For years, only the closest to him knew of his ailment. Dad is epileptic. My eyes fill with tears as I type with fear that it still might not be okay to share. But it is. My last post in poetic form, as I find only fitting when writing about dad, described how my tower had fallen. From the six-foot-one tower of strength to a frenzied, shaking seizure, my dad became so ill when I was in high-school that I thought I was watching him die. Thank God he had other plans. But for so many years, though I knew dad took his pills three or four times a day, he was still superman to me. Rarely confronting his illness except on occasion of fever or extreme fatigue, it's as if he was "normal".

Maybe God allowed him to fall on his head so severely as a young child to induce epilepsy because he knew the world could not yet handle a mind so developed, that he needed a little imperfection to bring this wonder back down to a level the common man could tend with. Maybe the fall opened up the vast portions of the mind that would have remained untouched but for the jolting. I do not know. But what I do know is that the genius that lies within came at a price.

I have often pondered the "what ifs" of my life. I prayed as a teen that God would take away my dad's disease. That he wouldn't deprive the world of what my dad had to offer, and that he'd take me instead, if that price was something I could pay. But it wasn't. I don't know God's motives, but what I have come to learn is that each of us has an ailment. It might not be a crippling one that we can only hope to conceal, but there's an element in each of our lives that through it, only God can get the glory.

I don't know if I'd have learned that lesson so clearly had I not watched my dad go from the most "put-together" guy to the helpless epileptic for the most haunting 90 seconds of fear one must endure when a seizure strikes.

The strength my mother has is of epic proportions. Watching her calmly stroke his head, get him water, lead him to rest until he's himself again must be so wearisome. And I know that it is. But she is his, and he is hers. It's almost mystifying to watch. As if there's no weight that comes along with this burden, just grace. And she smiles. More concerned for us whom she'd rather shield from emotional stress than for herself whom she's long neglected.

And I can't help but pray again. Run to my Father and ask another "why" and beg that it just be removed. Removed for dad's sake. Removed for mom's. A prayer that I have found in my own solace, thousands of miles away, begging for God to take my own "ailment" as well. Not physically incapacitating, but emotional - spiritual. And he teaches me again. That all is wrapped up in one thing.

His glory.

What a thought! Each person is created and molded for his glory! And the thought that strikes me the most is the fact that my journey is not contingent on anyone else's. It is your life for his glory. It is my life for his glory. And this journey has taken me far and wide. Though I sometimes ask the "whys" of my life, of this faraway adventure I am on, I can only come back to one thing - his glory.

It's so cliché, we hear it all the time. But do we believe it? Do I? Sometimes it's hard to when you are 5,000 miles from home and you hear that dad's epilepsy is worse, and he's in the hospital. Do I see glory? Do I look for it? When I beg God to show me the purpose of the passing storm in this ministry, do I see glory? Do I look for it? Truly?

I can't always answer that one with a resounding "yes". But I want to.

I know I've gone on longer than usual today with my ramblings, but I'm starting to see just a glimmer of purpose in the metamorphosis I've experienced over the last four or five years. That it might just be for his glory, nothing else. So, this is a part of my story. A part of me.

For his glory.