Tuesday, June 18, 2013

All or Nothing

I've been going through the book of Matthew in the mornings, and one of the stories just popped out at me today. Matthew mentions a woman in chapter 9 that had been suffering for 12 years with a blood discharge that had been incurable. In her context, chronic bleeding would have made her "unclean" and she would have been excluded from normal social and religious functions.

Sickness and isolation.

12 long years. Then, we read in the other Gospels that she had spent her wealth going to different physicians who tried unsuccessfully to find a cure. Can you imagine how hopeless her situation was?

After bleeding for 12 years, I can't help but think that this woman was surely anemic at this point.

The fatigue that anemia brings feels like hundred pound weights attached to every part of your body where doing absolutely anything is exhausting.

When I was at my worst, I couldn't sit up in a chair. It was too exhausting. I lost my drive to do anything, and resting was still tiring. During those down days, I didn't go anywhere, because I knew I wouldn't have the energy and strength to get back from my destination. It was isolating and felt hopeless.

Photo by Ruth Livingstone courtesy of stock.xchng
I relate to this woman. I am so thankful that God spared me 12 years of waiting for relief. Two years were tough enough. The story goes on to tell us as we piece it together through reading the accounts in the Gospels that this woman heard about Jesus, sought him out, and pushed through a crowd to touch the hem of His garment.

The energy she expended to get to Jesus demonstrates her faith. 

This was an all or nothing moment for her. Either she was going to meet the Master and find healing or there was nothing left for her. I love that Scripture goes on to tell us that Jesus knew the moment "she" touched Him. He felt power leave Him, and upon seeing her He said, "Take heart, daughter, your faith has made your well (Mt. 9:22)." At that moment, she was well.

In this life, we all face things that are too big for us.

It may not be an illness.  It could be the death of a child or an irreconcilable relationship that makes our hearts ache for heaven.  While our faith in Jesus may not provide the physical relief or the relational healing we hope for (clearly, not every person who has faith is healed or relieved of their difficult circumstances), we will not be disappointed when we leave this world to pursue our Savior.  It's all or nothing.  When we have faith and reach out to Him, Jesus will look at us and say, "Take heart, child, your faith has made you well."

Indeed, it will be well for us.  

Illness, heartache, broken dreams, and shattered realities will be only a vapor as we realize that all we really needed was not the healing we pressed forward for in a moment of desperation. No, what our souls really longed for was Jesus Himself. In Jesus, we, who have nothing to offer, have gained all and lost nothing. Any heartache this world can bring cannot compare with the joy to come.

Indeed, dear believer, it is well for us.

"And behold, a woman who had suffered from a discharge of blood for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, for she said to herself, “If I only touch his garment, I will be made well.” Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly the woman was made well.(Matthew 9:20-22, ESV)"

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Simple Photography Wall on a Budget

I have a confession.  I like to rearrange things... a lot.  Since we have been married, we hardly let a few months go by before we rearrange our furniture.

I like change.  It keeps me from feeling stagnant.  It keeps my mind creative.  It makes life feel fresh.

Since I have gotten sick, we haven't rearranged our furniture nearly as often, because I simply did not have the energy to do anything that was not necessary.  Three weeks into the new treatments, I am beginning to feel like my old self again.  I actually "want" to do things to get our life in order again.  That feels good.

Last night, Bryan and I rearranged the living room again, and I created a thrifty chic display on the wall for photos that were taken this past December in one of our favorite spots.  I like it.

Before: Our blank wall that has driven me crazy for about a year now.
After: We flipped our sectional around to open up the living and dining area more.  I really like the simplicity of hanging the photos with metal clips on a sheer ribbon.  We used eye hooks to mount the ribbon and keep it tight.
After:  Here's our display at a different angle.  I printed the photos online at Artsy Couture and chose a metallic finish.  Let me tell you... the print quality is unparalleled.

Walking into a room with beautiful photography makes me happy.  This little project didn't cost us a dime.

It feels good to see our home transform again into a beautiful, restful retreat from the world.

How do you make your house your home?  What do you like to decorate with?

Monday, June 10, 2013

Removing the Dross

In elementary school, I was introduced to the brilliant idea of extra credit. I loved it. I worked the system like a champ, and I made sure I made perfect scores on every test I took so that the bonus points could build a cushion for my off days. I liked seeing 110/A on tests. I really liked knowing that I would still have a perfect average even if I had a bad day in the future. It was secure, safe, and I was confident that I would be successful in school. I knew from the beginning that I wanted to be the valedictorian, and I knew insulating my grades would help achieve that goal. I was right. It did.

So naturally, as I've matured and grown up in life, that same mentality has shifted into almost every other area of life.  

When we heard about Dave Ramsey, the Christian financial advisor, and his plan to become and stay debt free, we jumped on board. I loved his smart advice, and I loved the financial security of being insulated from any possible emergency or pitfall in the future. I sold out for his plan 100%, started a home business to make it possible, and I leveraged everything to help us become more financially secure.

Enter church planting. It rocked our world. Enter Pax. I became too sick to keep up with the world I had built, and God didn't heal me. Enter confusion. Up until this point, God had provided in miraculous ways to keep us debt free, and for this season, He didn't. Enter anger. I felt that God had abandoned me in my suffering, and I didn't understand why He was not providing for our needs. Enter despair. I knew I was helpless, and I was ashamed that I couldn't keep up with the system ideal I had set for my life.  Enter the Prosperity Gospel. When I tried to find comfort in other Christians, I often heard that God blesses those He loves, and Sin is the reason God withdraws His blessing. Enter struggle. I wrestled with God and myself. I knew we were following God. I knew life was hard. I knew He was my only Hope for peace. I knew I needed Him.

Enter rest.  I'm here.  

It's because of the Word. Scripture redefined my worldview, and I realized suffering was what I needed to purge the false theology that I had made my own. God had to take away the "dross from my heart to make a suitable vessel for His Spirit (Prov. 25:4 paraphrase)." I needed His refining fire to melt away everything that was competing with Him to make His Spirit shine brighter in me than everything else. The process has been painful. I can't say I have enjoyed the journey, but I am thankful that God sometimes withholds His provision for a season to expose our hearts and ultimately lead us to a greater dependency on Him. (There is an incredible sermon about this here that Dr. Russell Moore preached back in 2010 if you'd like to explore this idea more.)

I still love the idea of being debt free so that you are more free to give. I want to be there again with my whole heart. However, it's not an idol for me anymore. If we are never debt free again but are faithfully using our resources for the Kingdom and not merely for our own pleasure, we won't have failed. The funny thing about being married to a pastor is that you usually get to be a living sermon example for whatever he is passionate about. Bryan hates the Prosperity Gospel and the way it has tainted the worldview of the Church.

We are getting to live out that following Jesus doesn't always lead to financial security and prosperity, but it will lead to peace in Christ.

Jesus is worth more than anything.

John Piper teaches, "Purity only comes through the refining fire." (You can listen to that sermon here.) The good news is that the refining fire is ultimately for our good. "Blessed are the pure in heart for they will see God." Matthew 5:8

As John Piper preaches, "What is life like in the refiner's fire? More than anything else it is the unshakeable trust that all the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness. And on the path to purity and heaven the truth is this: no pain, no gain. Both things are true: the Lord is like a refiner's fire, and a refiner's fire is a fire."

Dear Christian as you struggle in this world and are beat down by the accusations of those around you who question you and judge you for not being successful on their terms, you may be exactly where God wants you to be. God doesn't care about your worldly success. He cares about His glory and your good. God will refine you until you reflect His Son well.

It is a good thing. He will sustain you. Rest in Jesus.

"For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly." Psalm 84:11

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Much Awaited Answers!

I'm a little slow giving an update on my blog, but we finally made progress in getting some answers for many of the health issues I have had in the past couple of years.  In April, I started seeing a new doctor at Forward Health Solutions in Hattiesburg, and the Friday before last, we received the results of twenty-one tests that had been ordered.

We discovered that my thyroid levels were low, my adrenals were low, and my hormone levels were completely out of whack.  Having a basically nonexistent progesterone level was the explanation for all of the miscarriages I have had.  In fact, it is an absolute miracle that we have Abby and Pax.  Progesterone is essential to sustaining a pregnancy in the first 12 weeks of life, and it's amazing that I did not lose the kids we have with my low levels.  God has been so good to us in ways we never even knew.
Pax and me on Mother's Day at Waffle House
Also, we learned that I am very, very low in iron.  Though we still aren't sure what caused my labs to be so off yet, we do have a plan of action now.  I'll be receiving weekly iron injections in addition to supplements to try to boost everything that is off.  I am very hopeful that I will begin to have a normal energy level again within a few months as we work on adjusting everything to get it just right again.

I am so very thankful that this appointment was productive and helpful.  After hearing so many times that everything was "normal" when I knew everything was not, it is a huge relief to know I will be able to overcome the fatigue I have been battling for so long now.

Abby and me playing flower princesses one morning in May
As for my diet, I tried eating Paleo last month to see if it would help at all, but honestly, I'm just more of a fan of eating gluten free clean cuisine style.  It works better for my family, and I feel better with that diet specifically.  However, I did learn some great Paleo recipes that I will continue incorporating into our diet in the future.

It's my hope as my energy returns again that I will be able to blog more again in the future.

For now, I am so grateful to be on the right path to feeling good and am so thankful that God directed us where we needed to go to get some answers that we needed very much.

‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

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