"Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” Joshua 24:15

Saturday, December 31, 2011

And life goes on...

Good morning. Bethany had a decent night, but an extremely painful morning. She was able to sleep on and off all night, but the pain really set in this morning. What part of ICU don't people get? It seems like EVERYONE in this place likes to speak really loudly--no such thing as whispering. OK--Dr. Healy and his entire staff whisper--probably because they know what spinal headaches and pains are all about. Anyway, enough ranting.

Again, percocet and morphine can only do so much; pills have almost always had minimal effect on Bethany, and I think that why the morphine shot works best. Unfortunately, they are by request only, and only 4 hours. Because she may fall in and out of sleep, it is had to gauge just when she should have them until it's too late. The morning doctor said that Bethany's dosage may be increased because the current dosage didn't seem to be working. So....they gave her a shot around 6:30 am, and that seemed to help. The shot, however, was only for the increased amount of 2mg, and not the original 10mg. We didn't know that, and wondered why she was in so much pain.

Anyway, shift changes bring new nurses and new rules and regulations and new explanations of everything. Thus, Bethany had to wait four hours until she was able to receive her 10mg dose. Nonetheless, she received it and is resting now. She is still restless, but in much less pain.

Bethany has yet to eat virtually anything, so all of the pills and meds are irritating her stomach. She is hungry but can't keep anything down. I have been feeding her ice chips and a few bites of a pancake, but that's about it.

Yesterday morning, Dr. Healy had her drain moved to bed level, so that it would be resting on top of her bed, thus causing the drain to drain more slowly and minimizing her headaches and hip pain. Well, that didn't work. It is still on her bed, but instead of draining 550ml (already a lot in a 24 hour period), she drained 650ml. Geesh! Still can't figure that one out. The Doctor said that she is fine and is on schedule for this type of surgery.

Bethany's hips, head, upper back (shoulders/neck), lower back, and legs all hurt--in that order, and they seem to always be hurting. It's just a matter of the medication making them hurt less. She has been such a trouper, so polite to everyone--even when they are talking very loudly, or very late with medications, or stabbing her three times to insert yet another IV. Again, she's a trouper and a true joy to be around. I'm so glad that I have been able to spend this time with her.

Prayer concerns: Freedom from pain everywhere within her body; that the doctors will give her medication that works well; that she is able/wanting to eat and that she keeps things down without nausea; that she continues to heal on pace; that she has total and complete healing of her spine and related issues, and that she has the peace and comfort of Our Lord.

Thank you very much for your prayers of love and encouragement and hope.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Unfortunately, no change for the better.......YET!

Bethany has had an extremely rough day; she is still moaning and quietly sobbing in her sleep. She was given pain meds 45 minutes ago, but because she is acquiring a resistance to them, they provide little pain relief. I set up two heating pads for her, and at her request, I just removed them because they made her too warm. She is trying to postpone her morphine shot for another hour; she realizes that if she has it now, it may be about 3 hours before any additional pain medication. I really wish the neurosurgeon would prescribe something stronger for her pain.

Bethany has had her IV released; she is only hooked up for a 15 minute stint of antibiotics every few hours. She still has her catheter and her vitals are taken only every 4 hours. The drain is still on her bed--level and is draining; it is currently up to 400 since this morning. She has yet to eat anything today, other than two bites of mashed potatoes. OK. Maybe three bites. Joy brought her up a Wendy's frosty, but I don't think she tried any. I bought her a Dew (at the nurse's request for caffeine to alleviate her headache temporarily), but she only took one sip. She hates soda pop.

Since I began typing, she just changed her mind and requested a morphine shot (at my suggestion). Her moaning is getting louder and louder--so very sad. Just because the calendar says someone is 18 1/2 years old and is technically an adult, doesn't mean they can tolerate this kind of pain.

I know that Bethany's frame of mind is changing. This episode is entirely reminiscent of her last surgeries, and that is frightening. When she has totally awakened today,for brief periods of time, she has had blurred vision and hasn't felt like communicating at all. Almost catatonic, if you ask me. I think it's because of her lack of appetite; thus, she has an empty stomach whenever she swallows the pills or takes the shots. Hmmmm. Food makes her nauseous. For that, she is taking Zofran. Along with her pain meds, she is taking a host of additional medications.

Thanks so much for all of your prayers; I know they are working. Bethany will be healed and home soon enough; it's just the interim that is unfortunate. "By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him, as you can all see. Acts 3:15-17" Amen.

Blessings and peace to each and every one of you and yours.

Finally, a snippet of rest.

Well, it's 1 in the afternoon, and Bethany has finally found some rest. She is still moaning in her sleep, but she is sleeping nonetheless. Thank God! She has developed such a resistance to Percocet and Morphine that nothing seems to be really helping her. Joy brought up a heating pad for her lower back; the hospital supplied a moisture heating machine for her upper back; she has warm, wet towels on her shoulders and neck, and her hips and headache have yet to find relief.

Bethany hasn't eaten anything today, and she drank about 1 TB of milk and brought it right back up. I've ordered mashed potatoes, Gatorade and a bagel for her, but she finally is resting, and I am not about to awaken her. Timing is absolutely everything around here. Please pray that she is able to eat something--anything, as I think that may help her headache and nausea. Thank God for medications.

Nate just left, and I guess I'm gonna watch, "The Help," all by myself. Ha ha. I'm enjoying the quiet alone with my little princess. She is such a warrior princess and trouper. I am so very proud of her.

Thank you, Jesus, for Bethany Rose. For being her All in All, her Jehovah, her Healer, her Comforter, her Beginning and her Ending, her Peace and her Rest, her Hope and Her Love. Amen.

We pray this isn't a foreshadowing of things to come

Good Morning. Well, let's suffice it to say that it's been a rough night for Bethany. She's been in an extreme amount of pain; she's sad because this is very reminiscent of her past surgeries--pain, feel exceptionally well, extreme pain...She is currently taking percocet pills every four hours and 10 mg of morphine every four hours (percocet at noon, morphine at 2, percocet at 4, morphine at 6), however, they are NOT working anymore.

Bethany virtually slept from the moment her visitors left at 8:00 pm or so, until 6:00 am, however, she awoke every hour or so in extreme pain. She has been moaning all night and morning, and said that she foresees this as being an extremely bad day. I know that we both trust in Jesus to deliver her from this. His strength is sufficient for her, however, she needs a miraculous revelation in her body.

"I trust in Jesus, my Great Deliverer, my Strong Defender, the Son of God.
I trust in Jesus, Blessed Redeemer, my Lord forever, the Holy One."

Saints, I ask for prayer for Bethany's strength and comfort at this time. That she is able to find rest for her weak body and is pain free; that her spirit is lifted and she is able to find sweet sleep. Thank you.

I must sign off because the keyboard tapping (virtually silent) is too loud for her.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Sleep. It's all we've been doing lately.....

Good Morning. I'm sorry it has taken me a day to update everyone. Yesterday was exhausting, and we've been recuperating ever since. Bethany had been in a lot of pain, and the doctor decided she could have percocet. Thus, it relieved her pain, and she felt rather animated for quite a while.

Bethany's boyfriend, Nate, arrived around 10 am, and hung out with us the majority of the day. Bethany had really missed him, and this was nice. Nate, however, brings out the animation in Bethany, and she refused to attempt sleep. Then, some additional visitors came and so did the exhaustion. As it stood, Bethany overdid herself and was totally exhausted and in a lot of pain. She was able to take some pain meds, and then sleep on and off for about 10 hours--which is excellent.

Over the years, Bethany has found that pain pills have not been very effective for her, so she prefers shots or fluids. She has also found out, much to her dismay, that Vicoden and Percocet do not work very well for her. So, Dr. Healy just switched her to Tylenol 3 and Morphene. She takes Tylenol 3 every 4 hours, and Morphene (shot) as needed, usually every 4 hours, as well. So, at noon would be Morphene, 2pm is Tylenol 3, 4pm is Morphene, and 6pm is Tylenol 3, and so on.

I think the Tylenol 3 is helping her to sleep, which is a really good thing because sleeping helps her body to heal. She leaked another 550 ml of spinal fluid, yesterday, however, it was mostly clear. Before it had been extremely bloody. It is still a LOT of csf to leak, so Dr. Healy has moved her csf bag so that it is level with her bed. The higher it is, the less draining occurs. Draining is a good thing, just not too much of it.

Bethany has been eating a little bit here and there. Her breakfast came and because she slept through it, it went, too. It was too cold to eat, so we'll order more later when she is awake more. She had a little bit of stir fry for lunch, and some soup for dinner.

Prayer concerns: Bethany's hips are really, really sore, as are her neck and shoulders. She must remain totally flat through Saturday, and this, along with her csf leak, causes her hips and neck and shoulders to be distressed. Hopefully, the raising of the csf bag will help alleviate some of her pain.

Please pray that her hips, shoulders and neck are relieved of pain; that she continues to heal quickly, and we continue to have excellent nurses--as we have.

On behalf of Bethany and myself, we thank you tremendously for your prayers on her behalf.

"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows." James 1:17

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

It's another day...

Well, let's suffice it to say, 'It was a rather long night.' Bethany is doing well and can receive a morphine shot every three hours, upon request. Yup, she's requesting them. That, along with Zofran (for nausea). Both seem to be doing their job and allowing her some sleep, albeit fitful. She has had a LOT of neck and upper body pain, along with her lower back and head, however, her upper body/neck/shoulders and headaches seem to be being the brunt of her surgery. Hot compresses seem to help a lot, along with a cold, damp washcloth on her forehead.

Bethany fell asleep around 11pm, and I stayed up and watched 'The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills,' on Hulu, till around midnight. Thus, when Bethany woke up (for the upcoming day), I was a tad tired. She was having extreme headaches, neck and shoulder pain, and nausea. Her catheter and IV's were hurting, etc. Again, another morphine shot and some Zofran and a steroid, too.

Her neurosurgeon's assistant arrived around 5 am to assess her recovery and surgical site. Then, the neurosurgeon, Dr. Healy, arrived shortly thereafter. Dr. Healy surmised that Bethany has been leaking an excessive amount of csf (spinal fluid), so she will need to lay flat for the next 4.5 to 5 days. Her body makes 500 ml of csf daily, and she leaked over 550 ml yesterday. My lowering her body level, the drainage should decrease. No problem there. Dr. Healy has reminded us (not that he needed to because we were acutely aware)of the complications of Bethany's last two surgeries; she leaked an excessive amount of csf for months. So.....no problem whatsoever laying on her back for awhile.

As of this morning, Bethany had yet to keep any fluids or solids down, except for one cherry flavored starburst. I guess she just needed a tiny sugar fix. Bethany was, however, able to keep down a slice of bacon, a pancake and some chocolate milk this morning. This means, the staff will be able to give her a percocet--which will last longer than morphine and it isn't a shot--it's a pill. Woo Hoo!

Bethany, even though she has a headache, is listening to her MP3 player, while doing a crossword puzzle. Hmmm. Well, best be ending this. It's time for more pain meds and a linen change.

Thanks to everyone for their prayers to our Most Heavenly Father on Bethany's behalf. Please continue to pray for a quick and total recovery, and for peace and comfort for Bethany. Blessings to all.

Nighttime is the time to sleep........

Well, it's midnight, and Bethany is finally getting some relief that is allowing her to sleep. It's taken Morphene, Steroids, Zofran, hot compresses on her neck and shoulders, and cold compresses (changed every 10 minutes for the past two hours) on her forehead, in order for her to be comfortable enough to actually sleep.

This is a girl that has had MAJOR spinal cord surgery, has a drain that is catching her spinal fluid as it leaks, has a catheter, full leg cuff compressions, IV's, cords everywhere, and hasn't complained even once. Not even one time. She has a huge tolerence for pain and uncomfortableness. That's just her--go with the flow.

I am so very proud of her, and I praise God daily for my Bethany Rose; for her compassion and determination, her fighting spirit and courage. She reminds me of Deborah in the Bible--strong, fierce, Godly, determined, and focused. May Bethany be an example for us all.

Please continue to pray for Bethany's complete healing and restoration of her body. Thank you, Saints.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Another update on Bethany Rose

Well, it's been 9 hours since Bethany's surgery, and minus the spinal headaches and neck/shoulder pain, Bethany is doing miraculously well. She is on morphene shots and ice chips, along with very limited visitation. Bethany is leaking the appropriate amount of spinal cord fluid, thus the headaches. Better to leak it out than to leave it in. We are just praying that it continues as such and that her nausea subsides.
Here's a picture of Nathan feeding Bethany some ice chips. (kind of dark in the room and the picture)

Nathan and I will be spending the night with her and she finds comfort in having us near...ah....especiallyl Nathan.

Thanks again for your prayers. Love to all.

Post surgery

Well, Bethany is officially out of surgery.  It was approximately three hours, and the doctor said that she did well. A Major Success--Praise God!  He also said that although her spine had re-tethered, and it was larger than before, she has a greater probability of returning home sooner. As a youngster, her dura was very, very small, and now as an adult, she has many additional layers to her dura--thus her CSF (spinal cord fluid) will be less likely to leak.

The best case scenario would be for her to be released in 4-5 days (not a few months like the past two times). 

We are all waiting to see her in the ICU.  Until then, Saints, please pray that she recovers quickly, isn't nauseated and has little pain.

Thank you so very much!

Bethany is in surgery NOW

My little Bethany is currently in surgery, under the Divine direction of Dr. Michael Healy.  We are believing for a miracle and that Bethany will have total and complete healing and restoration to her physical body.  We are looking forward to an 'excellent report.'  Thank you, Jesus, for blessing your daughter, Bethany Rose.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Words to the Wise (and not so wise)....

What's one of the most powerful gifts that our Creator has bestowed upon us? Words. Yes, words. Those often loud, emotional, letters strewn together, communication tools, called words. It's amazing that God gave us such a gift. After all, he didn't entrust this gift with dogs, cats, monkeys or elephants. He only only entrusted them to man.

The Bible tells us in Proverbs that, "death and life are in the power of the tongue;" that our words are the mirror from which others view us and cast judgement upon us. If you ask me, that's rather scary. To think that my tiny little tongue (compared to an elephant's, it is tiny), could determine my eternal destiny. Wow! They impact our children, friends, relatives, and the world. But some of the most powerful words we speak are the ones that no one hears ... the words we speak to ourselves. We can speak life to ourselves and we can speak death to ourselves. Our minds think about 130 words per minute and our mouths (women) speak about 25,000 words in a day. That's a lot of words! A considerable amount of those words are spoken or thought to ourselves. Most of this self-talk is harmless, such as what will I fix for dinner? or where did I put my hairbrush? I ask myself more questions than the average person does, because I am a tad more forgetful than the average person is. So....from the time my feet hit the floor in the morning, until the time my head hits the pillow in the evening, I'm internally speaking a LOT to myself.

As I ponder the past week, I am wondering just what makes some people feel so confident and others feel so insecure. The only thing I can come up with is words. Some people use them as encouragement and delight. Others use them as weapons of warfare. I just cannot handle being around the people that use them as if they were overseas, fighting a losing battle--they just keep the bullets coming and coming. Geesh! I'm pretty sure that virtually every adult female I have ever encountered has been the victim of verbal bullying. Yep. The kind that smacked her right in the gut; the kind that confirmed every insecurity she ever, even remotely, felt about herself; the kind that left her feeling like the batter who struck out with three runners on bases or the girl who never received those proverbial birthday party invitations. Wow.

Saying, "I'm so fat," "I'm ugly," or "I'm never going to be good enough,"to oneself can be extremely destructive and debilitating. It can lead to such a grave negative self-perception that it leads to emotional chaos. But....it's even worse when someone else is slaying you with their negative words--thus, just confirming the chaos you are feeling. Negative self-perceptions, repeated over a time, will brand themselves into our minds and eventually become our reality. If you repeat a wrong belief or lie enough times, you begin to believe it. "Nobody loves me," "I don't have any friends," or "I'm so ugly" becomes your reality ... even though it is a false reality. You can become stuck in the house of mirrors looking at a distorted reflection of who you really are. Each time we speak a lie about ourselves, to ourselves, we become more and more bound by it. Proverbs 23:7 reminds us that, "As a man thinks within himself, so he is." Gosh, that so makes me want to practice saying positive things to myself. I guess Zig Ziglar was really onto something when he tried to involve the country in positive self talk.

When we look into God's mirror, His incredible love letter to us we call the Bible, we discover the truth. God does love you (Colossians 3:12). You have an entire cloud of witnesses cheering for you (Hebrews 12:1). You are God's masterpiece, a work of beautiful art (Ephesians 2:10). You are good enough because Christ lives in you (John14:20). You are a chosen, holy, dearly loved child of God. That's the truth. Let's get out of the house of mirrors and start seeing ourselves as God sees us.

In one of John's letters, he wrote, "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth" (3 John 1:4). I believe that God has no greater joy than to know that His children are walking in the truth. When we are walking in the truth, the lies are exposed. We can recognize the lie, reject the lie, and replace the lie with truth. Then, and only then, can we be all that God has created us to be and do all that God has created us to do. We can experience the abundant life that He planned all along.

I believe God has great plans for all of us. His Word promises that He does. "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love Him" (1 Corinthians 2:9). But many of us are not experiencing the abundant life because we don't know who we are. We have believed the lies that we are not good enough, unloved, unworthy, and unforgivable. We have been looking in distorted mirrors for far too long. God wants us to look into the only true mirror that will tell us exactly who we are, what we have, and where we are as a child of God -- His Word. It is the key to living the victorious Christian life.

My hope for you is that you are able to uncover the mirror that God has chosen to see you through; that your 'looking glass' becomes so beautiful, because of your reflection of Him, that you can't help but love yourself as the Child of God that He has created you to be. Be blessed as you find the many ways to bless someone with your words today.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Hindsight really is 20/20

My babies are growing up so very fast. Right before my eyes.  I say this in disbelief, not sorrow or disappointment.  I love, love, love what I have today—three ‘almost-adults,’ one taller than me, one with larger feet (I didn’t think that was possible), all three with colored hair.  Three people who read the same books and magazines I do, have learned not to be afraid of others’ opinions of them, who sometimes tell off-color jokes that make me laugh until I cry and I finally whisper for them not to ever repeat it, exude noises from parts of their body that I would deem inappropriate, who need hair and shower gel and privacy, who want to keep their bedroom doors closed even more than I do, who, miraculously, use the restroom, brush their teeth, wear coats and hats, tie their shoes and eat their food all by themselves.  Who love the Lord, who pray when they feel led, who adore each other, who are awesome friends and siblings.  Three who excel in academics and in personality, who have just the right amount of independence and passion to keep them moving forward.

Most everything I’ve read about raising those precious little rascals is finished for me.  Dr. Dobson, T. Berry Brazelton, Vicki Courtney, Gary Chapman, and Susie Shellenberger are virtually obsolete from my library. Those ones on parenting, sibling rivalry, etiquette, homeschooling, single parenting. Along with the Adventures in Odyssey cassettes, Veggie Tales VHS tapes, Little House and YWAM books, and Little House, American Girls, Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys,  Mr. Moon, Barney the Dinosaur, Curious George and Dr. Suess; they are battered and well used. What memories they behold.  The Mothers of Preschoolers playgroup, McDonalds play time, neighborhood walks, playground dates, art museum co-ops—what they taught me was that I really could do all this, but only with prayer and sacrifice.

The bottom line is that parenting is one job that I could never have prepared myself for.  It’s on-the-job training at its finest. Sure, I can listen to and read other’s advice, but nothing can prepare me for those three precious lives that were loaned to me from Above. One sang her own first birthday song while the other didn’t really speak until she was 18 months.  One was potty trained at 2, the other at 3.  One was a quiet, content, a happy-to-be-alive, sort of child, while her sibling came out smoking a cigar and whining. One made me think that parenting was a breeze, and then another came along and totally nixed that theory.  One responded well to positive reinforcement, another to time outs, and the third….well, he just didn’t like any of it.  One would cry when I looked at her sternly, while the other would stomp his foot and hold his ground. One cried non-stop until she was 23 months, while the other two rarely cried.  I’ve also learned that, yes, there is such a thing as three opposites!  I know, I have them.  But they are just opposite enough to be loving, compassionate and three of the best people on the planet.

Last year, my firstborn went to college; this year my second born went to college, and in three years, my lastborn will begin college. They can all walk and talk just fine, too. They can, and, quite often, do, remind me to “make wise choices,” when I go out on a date, say, “leave room for Jesus,” when I am cuddling with my boyfriend, to put my dirty dishes in the dishwasher, to pray before eating, to pursue life and to have fun while doing so.  They have all (and still do) humble me.  Believe me, I have made many mistakes, as my children are quick to point out. (ha ha).  My mistakes are permanently cemented in the  ‘Remember-When-Mom-Did That? Hall of Fame.’ The times the baby fell off the bed or chair, the times they ate something that was too hot, the times when I was too exhausted to homeschool, the time I was searching everywhere for my glasses, and they were perched on my nose. The many times I was searching for my keys just for them to be in the desk where they belong. The time I ran out of gas in the high school parking lot, the many times I didn’t allow them to watch R rated movies when all of their friends were allowed, the many times I required their friends’ parents’ signature before jumping on our trampoline, the times I believed an adult before them.

But, by far, the biggest mistake I made was in not living in the moment nearly enough.  It is crystal clear now that those moments are gone, captured only in videotapes and scrapbooks. There is a picture of the three of them, perched upon the rocks at Maumee Bay, right on Lake Erie, sun in their eyes, smiles on their faces, wind in their hair.  But, I can barely remember that day.  I wish I could remember if we had the dog with us, what each person said, what had brought us there.  I see the picture of my two daughters covered head-to-toe in mud.  I wish I could remember the joy on their faces when I let them play in that mud, when I didn’t scold them or rush them to clean themselves up.  I don’t.  I can only hope and pray they do.  The picture of my son sitting under the kitchen table….ah, the memories. 

I really wish I had not been so rushed to move onto the next thing; school, dinner, bath, book, bedtime routine. I wish I had treasured the ‘doing’ a little more and the ‘getting it done’ a little less.

The cleaning and scrubbing can wait till tomorrow
But children grow up as I’ve learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down cobwebs; Dust go to sleep!
I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.

Life seemed so much simplier then. When they were young and small, we spent our days playing and learning, visiting the zoo and metroparks, homeschooling and chilling by the campfire.  I suppose I thought that someday they would become who they were because something, albeit many things, that I had done.   I figured I had dedicated them the Lord, I loved the Lord, they appeared to love the Lord, and because of this, they would become just as God had intended for them to become.  I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that’s why they are the remarkable human beings that they are—not really because of anything that I have said or done, but because of everything My Father has done through me.  I used to think they would turn out great because of me, but now I realize that it may be in spite of me.

My children are not old, by any stretch of anyone’s imagination, they just aren’t dependent upon me as much. Wow! I never thought I would live to see that day.  Just kidding. As a family, we all have a long way to go….more dating, college graduations, weddings, babies, and the list goes on.  I cannot wait to see what’s in store for my ‘no so’ littles as they continue to live out their destinies in Christ.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A Labor of Love

I should have known it’s called labor for a reason. Yes, childbirth.  It begins with ‘labor,’ and has continued  with ‘labor’ for as long as moms and dads have been able to survive.  Did I just say, ‘survive?’  I meant to say ‘exist.’  When people have asked me how long my labors were for each of my children, I would always give them the, ‘I was in labor for 90+ hours with each daughter, and I scheduled a c-section with my son.’ Ha.  At least I had some foresight with my son’s ‘labor.’  But what I should have said was, “My labor has been 20 years and counting.” 

Being a mother is the single most exciting, adventurous, loving, thrilling, consuming, difficult, uplifting, inspiring, challenging, rewarding, captivating, tiring, uplifting, exhausting, difficult and rewarding job in the universe.  Did I mention , ‘challenging?’  I personally think it should be mentioned about 1000+ times, but I guess you get the point. 
Over the years, I have experienced many times where I have just wanted to throw my hands up in the air and announce my motherly defeat. But then a little voice inside me reminded me not to give up; It reminded me that the Lord has never given up on anyone, least of all me and my children.  It still reminds me of Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, “ declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  Wow!  How could I ever even remotely forget that?
I’ve recently read the story (and I googled it again for further information) about the Chinese bamboo plant.  First the seeds are planted, then watered, and then fertilized.  During the first year, nothing visible appears to happen.  No little sprouts; no greenery peeking through the soil. The Chinese then continue to water and fertilize the seeds during the second year.  Still, nothing visible happens.  What?  They continue this process for three and four years, without any visible results.  Hmmm.  I know that I would have given up after the first season of nothingness.  But, nonetheless, the Chinese apparently have much more patience than I do.
Sometime during the fifth year, over a period of approximately six weeks, the Chinese bamboo plant grows 90 feet.  Yikes!  Yes, 90 feet! That’s 9 stories tall.  OK.  So we know that it didn’t really grow that entire 90 feet in six weeks.  It actually grew over the five years.  Although the farmer hadn’t seen any visible results, he continued to water and fertilize the plant—knowing that it would eventually produce major results. That was some patient farmer.  Or….was he just smart?  I think he was both.
Ah….alas it is the same way with raising our children….our family.  ‘We pour into their lives; we plant seeds of character, pull weeds with discipline, water with prayer and fertilize with encouragement.’  Then, one day, with consistency, love, determination and a lot of prayer, we will see and enjoy beautiful results.  We, as parents, are smart enough to know that the Word of God is true, that our diligence will ‘pay off,’ and the ‘fruit of my labor’ will be worthy.
But Lord, it’s difficult to remember that when I am dealing with three hormonal teenagers, three dogs (two puppies), work and home.  But Lord, I’m smart and I’m patient (NOT!), and, and, and, and…..

Then that still small voice inside me says, “Shari, you may be smart, but I am the Creator of intelligence.  You may be patient, but I know the plans I have for you, you don’t.  Remember, I have loaned your children to you, for such a time as this; it is merely up to you to train them in My ways, and leave the rest to Me.  I will cause them to prosper, to have hope and a future.  With patience, remember that!”
Well, what can I say to that?  Geesh!  This doesn’t mean that I may not have any problems with my hormonal teenagers; it merely means that God has it all under control. It doesn’t mean that my puppies (90 pound, Koda, and 10 pound, Rosie) won’t chew my third set of living room furniture; it just means that God is in control.  It doesn’t mean that I may never feel stressed about work and home; it just means that He is in control.  Hmm…..Well, I sense a prevailing theme here.  How about you?
My prayer for everyone today is that we will all always remember that God is always in control.  He always has been and always will be.  We may just need to get out of His way and allow Him to ‘do His thing.’
Dear Lord, sometimes I get really tired and frustrated as a mom.  When I grow discouraged, will You help me to keep the goal before me...to raise women and men who are after God's own heart?  Help me to remember that You, as my heavenly parent, never give up on me.  Even when You don't see the results that You desire, You continue to love, nurture and teach me.  Help me to be more like You and less like me.  Thank You for being my example of persistent and consistent love.
In Jesus' Name,

Friday, July 29, 2011

Seriously! Another Curve Ball?

Wow! It's been awhile since my last entry.  Life definitely has it's way of catching up with me.  It's July already, and summer is in full swing.  Bethany has graduated from high school, had her graduation party, registered for fall classes as a Freshman at the University of Toledo College of Engineering, Majoring in Bio-Engineering; Joy finished her Freshman year at UT, has moved back home (yaay!), and plans to remain here. She's working two jobs, plus pet sitting and walking a dog weekly.  Jonathan is officially a Sophomore at Cardinal Stritch, has his temporary license (look out!), and is steadily working, earning money and cannot be seen without his soccer ball.  Koda is officially house broken (Praise God!), has calmed down a lot, and is a joy to be around; Domino hasn't changed a bit and is almost always perfect.  Joy's rat, Minion, passed away, and her other rat, Picasso, has been very sad.  He's still hilarious though, and has a wonderful personality. 

Joy's boyfriend, Rob's, puppy, Rosie, has been living with us. She's a tiny corgie, and is a joy to be around.  Rosie and Koda love each other and constantly play like toddlers together.  It's adorable.  Up until recently, Rosie thought Koda was a sheep (he's totally white and built kind of like a lamb), and she was constantly trying to herd him; she would chase him and then lie low, and then growl when he came back by her.  After a few weeks, she figured it out that he was a puppy, just like she is, and now they adore each other.  For being so very small, (9 pounds compared to Koda's 70+ pounds), she definitely can 'hold her own' and even leaves Koda dumbfounded at times.

 Do you ever get that feeling that life is sort of passing you by?  I sometimes do, but then I remember that life is really all about finding joy in the daily moments.  Those 'track meet' moments, 'soccer and band’ moments; the 'college preparation' moments, and yes, even those 'puppy training’moments.  I mean, isnt that really where the rubber actually meets the road?  At home, in our daily lives, in our day to day existence?

As I am living my life, I am constantly reminding myself to live purposefully and intentionally; to make every moment of every day count.  Count for something positive and intentional.  This sometimes requires thought and preparation.  Just as if preparing to compete.  Isn't that what life is all about anyway?  Competition.  We are competing to win the prize of the upward goal of Christ.  To win against the spiritual darkness of this world and conquer Jesus in this world.  I definitely need to become more skilled at all of this.

For the past few months, I had been training for a triathlon.  Am I a triathlete?  Heavens no! Not by any stretch of anyone's imagination.  But I still diligently trained.  I took swim lessons at the UT Recreation Center, and I worked out daily for about 90 minutes.  I worked out until I couldn't work out any more.  I gained a lot of muscle in the process, and became really heart healthy.  As Paul encourages us to become evangelists of the gospel, we may not think we are evangelists.  But that doesn't mean we cant train ourselves to become ones.  It should be one of our goals, just as becoming a triathlete was one of mine.  Was it easy?  Nope.  Was it worth it?  You bet it was.

Well, last month, I proved my goal to be true.  I competed in the triathlon at Maumee Bay State Park, and I was a success.  My goal was to complete it, not necessarily to compete in it.  However, by the Grace of God, I accomplished both.  It was very exciting to think of how my life has changed over the past year.  This triathlon was sort of like a culmination of change.  Out with the old and in with the new.  As the song from Mercy Me says, "So long, self. Well, it's been fine, but I have found somebody new...."

I have learned that as I age, I get slower; my body just doesn't function the way it used to.  I used to love, love, love running.  Not so much anymore.  OK. So, I've never really enjoyed swimming, but I did it.  I took swim lessons and actually swam Lake Erie.  Whew!  I had to train harder, more purposefully.  Not just because I was planning on competing in a triathalon, but because my body is nearly 50 years old.  I needed to hone and attempt to perfect my skills.  Just as in evangelism. I may never be a masters triathlete, but I can become a masters evangelist.

Just as I am training differently for the triathlon because I am aging, I may train differently for the role of evangelist than a young, up and comer.  I not only use my strength and endurance, but I also use my wisdom.  Yaay!  I finally get to put my wisdom to a test.  A youthful, vibrant attitude can carry someone a very long way, but when push comes to shove, wisdom and training will carry someone through. 

Just as I would love to master the sports of running, swimming and biking, I would love to master the life of evangelism.  Its just not that easy. Because, just like my aptitude for sports, I am not a natural born evangelist.  I live my life as a living testimonial, and I would love for that to be enough. Unfortunately, it isn’t. Many good people live their lives as living testimonials of  'doing good', and such, however, there will be many, many good people that may be denied entry into heaven because they lacked the saving grace of Jesus; quite possibly, because I didn't do my part to evangelize them into the heavenly arms of Jesus; I may have neglected to show them the mercy, compassion, hope and grace that He offered each of them.

Now, how to do all of that in my daily life.  Therein the challenge lies.  Ha.  Just when I thought I was living my life both purposefully and intentionally, the Lord throws me a curve ball.  I need to purposefully and intentionally evangelize, too?  Yikes!  "But, Lord, I just prefer to quietly live a life of testimony; one where people will see me and know You through me."  OK.  Now, that I've actually put that thought into print, it really doesn't look too good to me.  Just how will people come to know the saving grace of Jesus Christ, if all I am doing is living victoriously and not necessarily 'speaking' words of Truth to them?  Most likely, they won't. 

Since I competed in the triathlon, I haven't been able to do much of anything physical.  I wrenched my rotator cuff, and my arm has been in a sling.  So, although I haven't been physically able to train my body, I have had some extra time (at least 90 minutes a day extra) to train spiritually.  I've been fervantly praying Acts 4:29, "Enable Your servants to speak Your Word with great boldness."  I'll admit it. Sometimes, it's just not that easy.  I mean, I really don't enjoy verbally evangelizing with someone who may be skeptical, and sometimes, downright mean to me.  But ya know what?  I have to.  Why?  Because Jesus told me to.  He didn't ask me to.  He didn't suggest I do it.  Nope.  He said in Matthew for me to 'go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you."  I don't really think this can be totally accomplished by just living my life for the Lord and hoping that others notice.

As this summer is quickly moving along, I will continue to pray Acts 4:29,  not only for myself, but for my children, too.  Because let's face it, we can all use all the help we can get.  May each and every one of us continue to run this race of life with Gods utmost help, assurance, encouragement and love.

Casting Crowns, "Prayer for a Friend"

Monday, March 21, 2011

Things You Can Count On Now!

Things You Can Count On Now!
There is a Grace that is sufficient;
a Mercy that endures;
an Atoning Blood that cleanses;
a Hope that doesn't disappoint;
a Love that never fails;
a Purpose that works all things together for the good;
a Peace that passes understanding;
a Joy unspeakable;
a Kingdom unshakable;
a Foundation indestructible;
a High Priest who prays;
a Savior who lives;
a Spirit who comforts;
a Father who cares.

Therefore, we who have fled to Him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. Hebrews 6:18-19 NLT

-Roy Lessin

Read more encouraging messages by Roy Lessin, DaySpring co-founder and writer, on Roy's blog,
Meet Me in the Meadow.

Encouragement for Spring!
In the ever-changing circumstances of life, there is a faithful, never-changing God in control.

Every day begins and ends with His purpose-
there isn't a detail that escapes His eye...
a trial that doesn't touch His heart...
or a single experience beyond His compassion.

Every moment of your life is in His care-
and I pray that He gives you overwhelming peace and hope today.

Pray about everything; tell God your needs... If you do this, you will experience God's peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will keep your thoughts and your hearts quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6, 7 TLB

Be blessed today as you enjoy the beginnings of a beautiful Spring!  It is definitely 'in the air.'

Monday, March 14, 2011

What Can I Say? I Love Music

"Hold Us Together," by Matt Maher

"More Beautiful You," by Jonny Diaz (Awesome video and lyrics!)

"I Will Rise," by Chris Tomlin

"You Are More," By Tenth Avenue North (If only everyone believed this about themselves)

"Revelation Song," by Kari Jobe

"God You Reign," by Lincoln Brewster

"That's What Faith Can Do," by Kutless (I have to constantly remind myself of this)

"Give Me Your Eyes," by Brandon Heath

"My Own Little World," by Matthew West

"I Am New," by Jason Gray

"You Are," by Jason Castro

"Come Home," by Luminate

"I'm Alive," by Matt Maher

Again, I hope you have enjoy listening to these as much as I do. Be blessed!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

And Then Some

Friends, I love Lysa TerKeurst, founder of Proverbs 31 Ministries, and her daily blog.  I have it daily sent to my 'in box,' and I actually read it. Not like some of the other things I have daily in my 'in box.'  No, this is good stuff, thought provoking stuff, stuff to grow with, to grow into.  And that's the reason I am copying her blog from yesterday.  I  think it's appropriate for this time of year, and then some.......

And then some…
Today is the beginning of lent.  A time to take a reverent walk towards the reality of Easter.  I want these days to count for something.   More than just preparation of my heart for Easter, I want focus.  I want application.  I want to take the idea of lent and turn it into an activity.

One of the themes of my life these past couple of years has been, “If I want to grow closer to God, I have to distance myself from distractions.”

Mostly I’ve focused on what I need to give up.  I’ve spent seasons giving up different things… TV, sugar, diet coke, and other life comforts.  But this year for lent, my focus isn’t going to be on what I’m giving up.  This year my reverent walk is going to have the theme of giving more.  I’m calling it… “and then some.”

My Pastor preached an amazing message this weekend.  Tucked inside this great message on “Honorology” was this statement, “and then some.”  I can’t exactly remember why Pastor said this statement but I do know that God Himself started speaking to me.

The statement grabbed me.

It got all up in my business and interrupted me.

It challenged me past the typical and into the realm of atypical.

It pushed me out of what is common and into the zone of uncommon.

It made me want to release the propensity toward being normal and into being more like Jesus.

Jesus was the Master of “and then some.”

He came to save us but spent His first 30 years living in the trenches of everyday life.  Can you imagine what patience and humility that took?  To live for 30 years swallowing the reality that you are the King of Kings… doing chores, getting along with your brother, learning the art of carpentry, and figuring out what’s for dinner… it really is amazing.

He could have just appeared as an adult and started preaching His messages.
But He didn’t.  He started at infancy identifying with us.  

Then, He started at 30 inspiring us.  Him identifying with us made His inspiration more real, more authentic, more touchable.That was just the first of His, “and then some” living.
He taught, don’t just forgive your enemies- love them.

He taught, don’t just feed the 5000- have left overs.

He taught, don’t just pray for the lepers- touch them.

And then some.
And then some.
And then some.

So, this is my lent proclamation, promise, and premise this year.  Each day I will take a reverent step toward Easter by implementing an “and then some” activity in my life.

Do something…and then just to glorify God, I’ll add in a little more.  Reach past what is possible in my strength and grab hold of God’s strength.  That’s how we add “and then some” to our life.

Atypical.  Uncommon.  More like Jesus.  Yes, that’s what I want… and then some.

For more of Lysa's thoughts and ponderings, go to http://lysaterkeurst.com/ and sign up for her daily email.  You won't be disappointed.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Dover, Xander, Koda--Whatever His Name Is

We have an addition to our family.  I think his name is Koda, but  I'm not quite sure.  He's eight weeks old and utterly adorable.  One of the best things though, is that he's laid back.  He's also quiet and paper trained. YES!!!  Acquiring our new puppy was definitely a God thing.  I mean, I've been looking and looking practically everywhere for a  Golden Retriever.  I didn't care what age--old, young; it didn't matter to me.  I just knew that I wanted to adopt a Golden.  I mean, we adored Sam, our Golden Retriever that recently passed away, and we wanted another one just like him.  Over the past two weeks, I'd applied at a few shelters and rescue centers, however, I had yet to hear anything back from any of them.  Thus, my patience was wearing thin.

I did, however, learn that Golden Retrievers are rarely  ever at shelters and they are extremely expensive to buy from breeders.  I really don't believe in buying from breeders when there are so many dogs in shelters, however, I was seriously wanting a Golden and wasn't getting anywhere.  So....I continued to look online, put in my zip code, do searches, etc.  Every time I would find one within a relatively short distance, I would call and the shelter would either tell me that he/she had already been adopted out or that I had to complete an application and have a home check.  All of which would take quite a while.  So...I would complete the application and wait for the phone call for a home visit, and it had yet to  come.

That's why I so excited yesterday when I saw Koda and his brother and sister listed on an adoption website.  I called the shelter and sure enough, all three were still there ready and waiting to be adopted.  It was already late in the afternoon, and the shelter was over 2 1/2 hours away, so I asked if she thought that the puppies would still be there in the morning, and she assured me that they would.  I mean, I wouldn't want anyone to pick up all three today, and have me miss my opportunity to adopt a Golden Retriever puppy just because I was too lazy to jump in my van and race down to Marysville.

At the Shelter
But then a little voice inside me said that I should go immediately.  If there's one thing that I have learned in my life, it's that I should listen to that little voice inside my head; so I did.  I borrowed my girlfriend's GPS, jumped in my van, and raced towards Marysville.  I didn't even stop home because I didn't think that I would have time to make it there before they closed if I had.  The conditions were not the best--it was pouring rain and the roads were yucky, and I despised the way the GPS worked.  I really missed Joy's GPS--that sweet voice that constantly updated me on my progress and told  me where I was.  Ahhh...This Garmin GPS honked a loud horn whenever I went over the speed limit (quite often, I may add), and the voice was not as friendly. It also kept me totally in the dark as to my progress and such. I may work in Geography and Planning, but geography is SO not my forte.  Anyway, I made it to the shelter in time to adopt Dover. That was the name they had given my puppy.

In the van with my workout towel
Just after I arrived, they informed me that Dover's sister, Fontana, had just been adopted.  Then, a family entered and they wanted a puppy, too.  So, I quickly claimed Dover because he was so very laid back, friendly and light  in coloring.  His brother, Louden, would have been an excellent choice as well.  But Dover it was.  I quickly learned that Dover really was quite a puppy.  Have you ever tried driving a van, in the pouring rain, when you didn't really know where you were going, and having a puppy running around your van?  Geesh!  It was definitely a memorable ride home.  Thank God, I still had my work out bag in my van.  In it, I had my beach towel and swimsuit because I had planned to go swimming after work.  Instead I seemed to be swimming in the rain, and Dover was peeing on my beach towel.  At least it wasn't on the carpet. I'm finding lately that my life is often being reduced to remembering that, 'it's all about perspective.'

Dover seemed to adjust perfectly, from the moment I pulled into the driveway. He bounded into the house and didn't even lift his leg.  I mean, I totally love this dog--and a male at that.  Every male pooch I've ever owned has lifted his leg to mark my house.  Sometimes, even marking my leg or a friends.'  Uggh!

But not this one.  Nope, he was definitely a God send.  After setting our alarms to awake every couple of hours, and cleaning up a few mistakes, we made it through our first night together.  I kept Dover in my room, Jonathan had Oreo (the neighbor's puppy, who by  the way was not housebroken either), and Bethany had Domino (she definitely had the easiest of the three).  We realized immediately that we need to name this little guy but that was proving to be a difficult task.    Everyone seemed to have opinions on his name, but none as strong as Joy, who at the moment was in a hotel in Florida, biding her time until her cruise departs on Monday.  I was keeping her updated and texted her some pictures of Dover. 

Enjoying lunch in Florida (awaiting their Bahamas cruise)
Well, Joy (and her girlfriend, Kelly) texted me a bunch of potential names, none of which really stood out.  Bethany, Jonathan and I made a list of about 20 names that we liked. Then I asked them to pick their top three.  Xander and Drake were on both lists, and Bethany also liked Koda. Joy liked Koda and Louden, while I liked Xander and Dover.  Goodness, let's keep his original name because it was rather cute. Joy was appalled that we were even considering naming him Xander because that is her cousin Autumn's, dog's name.  It didn't matter that Autumn lives in another state and that we see Autumn less than three times annually, and her Zander even less frequently.   Nonetheless, I aim to please. So, I kept thinking and trying out names.

All day, I kept calling him Xander until someone would balk at that.  Then, I'd call him Dover.  Finally, tonight after I got home after midnight, we finally decided on Koda.  It's seems like a good fit.  He seems to be totally oblivious to it, but that's OK, he'll adjust.  Koda.  I like that name.  It's of African origin and it mean's "last born."  I'm not sure if he was actually the last born, but I know that he has last born characteristics.  Laid back and sweet. I'm a last born, too, so I definitely have a preference of the birthing order of my pup.

Now, about this little guy---he is just what we wanted.  Although the shelter told me that he was all Golden Retriever, after I had paid and signed papers, they notified me that his father was Husky. Domino's part husky, so that's fine with us. I think he may also have some Great Pyrenees in him, too. Whatever.  I do believe that Koda was God ordained to be in our family, so his family lineage is fine.

Home at last
I ended up staying home all day today because I knew that someone would need to stay with Koda and reinforce his housebreaking rules by letting him outside every 45 minutes. Whew! That's work.  I mean, it seemed like every 5 minutes I was letting him outside.  It was all good though.  This little guy caught on quickly.  He also came paper trained, so he's doing quite well for his age.  So, it's our second night together, and he is lying next to me while I am typing.  He's sound asleep because it is 1:30 am, and he's exhausted. Ha.  I am going to put him in a cage that I just got in the hopes that he will sleep soundly and we won't have to wake up every hour.  Maybe just every three hours or so.  I'm not sure how he'll like the cage, so I have decided to sleep in the living room on the coach, so that he'll have company.

Last night, Koda immediately followed me to my room and laid on Domino's dog bed and feel right asleep, as if he owned the joint.  Every time I would move, however, he would get up and follow me.  I put some newspaper in my room and barricaded my door with a suitcase so that he couldn't get out.  I wanted to leave my door open but barricaded.  A couple of times, I stepped over the suitcase to go to the restroom or to get a cup of water, and mild mannered, quiet Koda went berserk.  He cried and cried and cried.  I mean I was gone all of 30 seconds max, but he couldn't handle it. Yikes.  I need to figure out this cage thing tonight because I plan on putting him in the cage when I go to work on Monday. At least until he is totally housebroken. Then, he can roam wherever, whenever he wants.

***A quick update.  Koda did remarkably well overnight in the cage.  I led him in with a treat and locked it.  Then I laid down on the couch.  He started to cry, and when I firmly said, "No," he immediately stopped, laid down and went to sleep.  Wow.  That was way too easy.  Bethany and I both took him out during the night, and he always dutifully (and quietly) returned to his cage.

Jonathan showing Koda his cage
I will continue to update you on Koda's progress, as I plan on getting him into dog training classes immediately.  My schedule is rather hectic right now, but I absolutely believe that this is a priority. I may even have Domino return to a few classes, just so he can be reminded of what excellent manners really are. ha.
Thanks, everyone, for praying for Sam and now for Koda.  Be blessed on this gorgeous Sunday afternoon.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A Little Pain Never Hurt Anyone

As much as I love working out, it can be tiresome and painful. Even moreso, it can be time consuming. I work out pretty much every single day for at least 90 minutes each time. Lately, though, it feels like I have been abusing my body instead of helping it. I mean, it seriously hurts. I have been doing a lot of cardio, kickboxing, turbo kick, and machines, and lately, I've been 'stepping it up a notch' and have added weights. Yikes. Weight training. I actually kind of like it. It really, really stretches me to the point of pain. It's like that kind of pain you get when crack your neck. It hurts, but in a good, 'I know this is good for me,' way. The pain eventually goes away, and then I add even more weight next time.  Then my body feels even more abused.

As I struggle to find not only the time to work out, but the energy to work out, I am reminded of just how necessary it is. It's become more necessary, albeit critical, the older I get. It's actually something that I should have been doing my entire life, but have taken time away from for months at a time. Sure, last year, for medical reasons, I couldn't work out, then I got into a car accident, yada, yada, yada, but since January, 2011, I have been able to work out, and it feels totally awesome. It gets my adrenaline going, my blood moving, and my serotonin levels up. It motivates me to do even more things, even greater things. Now, if I can only find the time.

As I was working out, I was thinking that if I spent same the amount of time and energy on my walk with the Lord as I spend on working out, goodness, our relationship would be fantastic. Not that it isn't good; I'd venture to say it's even great, but it can always be better. I am pondering just what it is that I could do to 'step it up a notch,' when I am working on my relationship with the Lord? I mean, should I spend more time in the Word, in prayer, in conversation, in praising and worshiping? Just what is it?

Well, I think all of the above would be great. And in a perfect world, I would be able to do these things all day, every day. But, unfortunately, I live in a fallen world, one that requires me to work 40 hours a week outside my home, that comes with parental responsibilities and the like, and there just isn't a lot of leftover time for me. Just for me. But....as with any awesome relationship, I need to nurture it, spend time on it, and spend time with that person. I need to know His likes and dislikes and be acutely aware of His needs. OK. I realize the Lord doesn't have needs, but He does have likes and dislikes. I need to know these, recognize these and live accordingly.

The Bible says to pray at all times and to give thanks in all circumstances. Is that even possible. I mean, should I actually be praying in the shower, at the drugstore, in the car, at work? Yes, I should and could. I know that there are many circumstances that I really just don't feel like Praising God about. But then I am reminded that the Bible says that through Christ, it is possible to maintain a spirit of praise and thankfulness during all circumstances. Doesn't it say in Philippians, "I  can do all things through Christ who strengthens me?" So, I guess it is quite possible.

Matthew 19:26 says, "With man this is impossible, but with God, all things are possible." Goodness, isn't that the truth.  God is omnipotent and omniscient, and I think that means that He can pretty much handle anything and everything that we throw at Him.  Not only can He handle it, but He will handle it.

So, in essence, if I spent the same amount of time praising God and giving thanks to Him, as I do working out, I think all of my days would be outstanding. The little irritants of daily life would not bother me, because I would have given them over to the One who handles them all.  I mean, all of the stresses of the day and the intense speed at which I run, would seem less bothersome and exhausting when I lay them out before the Lord. The working full time, managing three very active teens, along with volunteering, home maintenance and the like, seems so less daunting when I give it all to Him. I love my life now, but I would love it even more (if that's possible) if I would just give it all up to God.  I mean everything.  The good, the bad and the ugly.  The 'Why didn't you do this?,' when you know you either have already done it or didn't even know about it, circumstances; the 'I'm running late for my son's dental appointment because my daughter's doctor appointment took too long,' circumstances. The telephone call at 6:00 am that says, 'I'm sorry. Did I wake you?' circumstances.  The dog dying and the weather freezing circumstances. Yup.  All of them.

Does this mean that I should go through life totally oblivious to time constraints, death, people's negative comments or untrue accusations?  No, it just means that as a Christian, my take on life's trails and sufferings is unique.  I know that God has a plan and that everything ultimately works out for my good.  Doesn't Romans 8:28 say, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose," and doesn't that mean everything's gonna be ok? I'm who Paul was speaking about. I'm the one in that verse that loves Him, who has been called according to His purpose. Does that mean that God will make something good out of every bad situation?  Yes, that's exactly what that means.

As a Christian, I know that absolutely everything that happens in my life, and in the world around me, will ultimately be worked for good.  What Satan would have be destructive, God will turn it around and make it perfect.  Does that mean that there won't be any more suffering in the world? Nope.  Unfortunately, it just means that God will ultimately use those situations for pointing to something else that is good. There will still be starving children in Africa, hurting children in war torn countries, earthquakes and homelessness, sickness and depravity.  But it also means there will be good people who assist, who help, and who make this world a better place to live in. Those who will comfort those on earth that need comforting, who will become His hands and feet in this hurting and broken world.

I think that the more that I study the Word of God, the more I come to realize that God really, really does always have my back., just as He will always have your back, assuming you're a Christian.  When the world lets me down, God has my back.  When I'm falsely accused, God has my back. When work is difficult and my life is busy beyond control, God has my back. And when I am working out and my body is feeling as though it is being abused on a daily basis, God has my back. Whew! Because when push comes to shove, and others let me down by not having my back, Jesus really is the only One that needs to have my back.Yup, He's the only One.

May you feel God's hand upon your back (and your life) today and everyday. May you realize that He can handle absolutely anything and everything that you throw at Him (but you must give it to Him), and He will lovingly take it, mold it and use it for good. Be blessed today.

Monday, February 28, 2011

These are a Few of My Favorite Things

Some of my favorite songs:

"Bring the Rain," by Mercy me

I Refuse," by Josh Wilson

"Beautiful," by Mercy Me

"Praise You In This Storm," by Casting Crowns'

"What Love Really Means," by JJ Heller

"Our God is Greater," by Chris Tomlin

"I Will Follow," by Chris Tomlin

"Cinderella," by Steven Curtis Chapman

"Above All," by Michael W. Smith

"Better Than A Hallelujah," by Amy Grant

"Thank You," by Ray Boltz

"Stand in the Rain," by SuperChick

"Hero," by SuperChick

"Everything to Me," by Avalon

"Starry Night," by Chris August

"That's What Faith Can Do," by Kutless

I hope you've enjoyed listening to a few of my favorite songs. I have tons more, but I think this is more than enough for now. This sampling also gives you an inkling of what each Christian artist sounds like. I love them all, and I hope you do, too. Be blessed!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

He's Not Who I Thought He Was

Have you ever met someone and after a while, you realize he's really not who you thought he was?  Well, that happened to me yesterday.  Well, our family Golden Retriever recently passed away, so I have been looking to rescue another.  We really, really fell in love with Sam and have decided that we definitely want to adopt another Golden.  So, imagine my surprise when my niece Facebooked me and said that she may have just the dog we are looking for.  Woo-Hoo!  Autumn volunteers at an Animal Rescue and recently came across a woman who had a Golden that she couldn't take care of because she was financially strapped.

Well, Autumn to the rescue.  Apparently Leonard (Ok, I know he needs a new name--I don't even like typing  his name--so let's call him Leo) was found in Leonard, Michigan, on Leonard Street, and this lady had taken him in a few weeks ago.  Autumn Facebooked (is that even a slang term yet) a picture of him, and he was so adorable.  I was told he was a one year old flat coated Retriever.  Hmmm.  Autumn, along with her fiancee, Taubin, was going to pick him up on Thursday evening.  So, I made arrangements to go to Michigan on Friday afternoon/evening.

Autumn called me on Friday and said that Leo was beautiful, sweet, totally awesome, and ALL puppy.  He wasn't trained nor housebroken, but he was highly intelligent.  No problem.  Now here's the kicker.  When Autumn and Taubin picked him up, the so called 'financially strapped' woman was standing on the porch of a million dollar mansion, dressed in full length fur coat.  Talk about not being who you said you were. Hmm.  Well, that made absolutely she had said suspect at best.  Leo was found in the barn, extremely thin and cold.  His ribs were showing and he was so very happy for some human interaction.  Apparently, Leo wasn't gaining any weight.  Could that possibly be because the woman was only feeding him leftover pizza and pasta?  Well, let me guess on that one.  (Please note the sarcasm--because it is so intentional.)

Anyway, amidst their dismay, Leo happily bounded into their backseat and began to take Autumn's fur lined coat hood in his mouth.  As soon as she told him, "No!," he immediately dropped it.  If nothing else, he was truly obedient.  Then, they went home.  Autumn gave me the complete update upon my arrival.  Although he wasn't housebroken, he was doing fabulously and got along really, really well with Autumn and Taubin's Newfoundland, Xander--all 120 pounds of Xander and all 80 pounds of Leo.  He hadn't chewed anything he wasn't supposed to and was just all puppy.

Sure enough, as soon as Autumn opened the patio door, in bounded Leo.  All gangly and goofy Leo.  I immediately noticed his adorability (again, is that even a word?) and I also noticed that he definitely was not a Golden Retriever.  Nope.  He, in fact, was a complete Irish Setter. 

A beautiful, shiny coat, copper colored Irish Setter.  Beautiful.  Setters are hunting dogs, and that explained why Leo was so enamored with Autumn's fur line coat hood.  Ha.  He was just doing his job.  Whenever he would hear a bird chirp, he would immediately freeze, as if a statue, and point his nose, tail and legs.  Very cute.  Definitely hunting material, but not Grayczyk household material.

I was thrilled that I was able to spend some time visiting with Autumn and meeting Leo.  I also was able to stop and see my brother and nephew in Livonia, Michigan, on the way to Autumn's. That's all very good.  However, this experience totally got me thinking about my original question: Have you ever met someone and after a while, you realize he's really not who you thought he was?  Oh yeah!  Most definitely.  Two times in this case.  I  mean, come on lady, you can't afford to feed a dog, but you can afford to live  in a mansion, house various horses and wear a full length fur.  And then, Leo being an Irish Setter and not a Golden Retriever.  Now, that's just funny.  Then I wonder just how many other things are there that I think are one thing, when in reality, they are another.

One thing I do know for sure though, is that the Lord is most definitely Who I think He is.  He is, He was, and He always will be.  He's Abba Father.  The Alpha and Omega.  The Beginning and the End.  The  best friend of a lifetime.  A Father to the Fatherless.  Hope to the Hopeless.  Perfect Health to the sick.  Perfect Peace to the Worrisome.  Perfect Love to the otherwise unlovable.  Perfect Joy to the saddened.  Perfect Kindness to those that are unkind.  Perfect Grace to those that need it (don't we all?).  All Merciful for those that need mercy (again, that's all of us!)  Wow.

It saddens me when I think of all the people who truly don't know just Who this Jesus is.  They think He is sitting on His Throne just waiting to pounce on them when they do something that they consider wrong.  They think he will pummel them if they don't live up to His expectations.  That He will stop loving them if they misbehave.  These are all horribly incorrect views of Jesus. No.  He is exactly the opposite of these characteristics.  And the bottom line is:  He not only loves each and every one of us, but He is crazy, madly in love with us.  He would NEVER hurt us, ALWAYS has our backs, and LOVES us unconditionally.  Always, always, always.

Here's praying that although we may run into the occasional deceitful person, and the occasional Golden Retriever that is actually an Irish Setter, that we realize just Who Jesus Really is. --a welcome participant in my life (and, hopefully, yours, too)--Who lives in my heart.  I heart you all.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Visions and Insults

“If the size of the vision for your life isn’t intimidating to you, chances are it’s insulting to God.”  I borrowed this quote from a friend who recently heard it at a Chick-Fil-A company meeting.  Wow! And when I read it, I really had to pause.  I mean, shoot.  I hope I'm not insulting God.

As I sit here and ponder my life vision, it's rather exciting.  Not to be dramatic or anything, but I doubt I would have called it a 'vision for my life,' but rather, 'what I want my future to hold.' As if I have much say in the matter. Goodness, I know that my life is made up of choices--good and bad--and chances are, the way I respond to those choices will determine my future.  But, you know what?  I'd like to think that my future holds  more than just my responses to the choices thrown at me.  No, I want to believe, and actually do believe, that although I may correctly and incorrectly make choices that help determine my future, ultimately God will determine my future.

That's a total relief, especially considering my past.  I mean, I wouldn't want to repeat that at all.  I know the Lord has plans for me, and I know that they are totally awesome.

Proverbs 20:24 says, "A person’s steps are directed by the Lord. How then can anyone understand their own way?

Well, that's good to know because I generally need some major directing in my steps.  If I had to count on the fact that I would be the one doing the directing, I would be in a sorry state. Geesh!  Why people want to direct their own future is just beyond me.  I wouldn't even really want to supervise my future.

Proverbs 16;9 says, "In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.

Do you honestly think that the Lord wrote those words because he just had some extra ink and paper? I don't think so. I think He meant it as a comfort and as a saving grace to us.  Just when we think that we have everything all planned out, the rug gets pulled out from under us.  Just when the rug gets pulled out from under us, and we are ready to give up on our future, a little voice whispers, "Shari, you may plan your course, but I alone will establish your steps.  I will ultimately determine where you go. Don't worry.  I have it covered."  Whew!  That's a relief.

Back to the 'life vision--possibly insulting God--Chick-Fil-A quote.  Oh yeah, my life vision.  Does it sinc with the Lord's life vision for me?   I hope so.  I have so many plans for my future, and as they say, "My future's so bright, I need to wear shades."  Ha.  I've got plans that I've shared with only a precious few, and they have been sworn to secrecy, lest they be struck by lightening.  I have, however, written down these plans, only because I believe in prophecy but because the Lord has spoken these plans for me. Plans for my future.

Jeremiah 29:11 says, "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plan to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

Not only do I thoroughly believe this Old Testament quote, but I live by it.  I've claimed it for myself, and I have claimed it for my children.  I have claimed this quote for quite a few people over the years, and I  am always excited about God's revelations regarding it.  My future is tomorrow, but is also next week, next month, next year, next decade, etc.  College was in my high school future.  Career was in my college future.  Marriage and children were in my career future. And only God knows what my next future will hold.  I know what my ultimate future holds, in eternity, but I have to admit, I would love to have a crystal ball and be able to see next week, next month, and even next year.

I'd love to see job's future (considering they are laying off daily), my children's futures, my grandchildren, etc.  There's just so very much, and it's all very good.

It's especially good because, now that I think about it, I am definitely not insulting God.  And that's always a wonderful thing.