Monday, September 10, 2012

The Miracle

Do not pray for easy lives, pray to be stronger men.  Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers, pray for powers equal to your tasks. Then the doing of your work will be no miracle, but YOU shall be the miracle.
~Phillips Brooks

That elusive word. Healing. 
How often do we pray for it, long for that miracle, that touch from God’s hand that so assures us he is real, he loves us, hasn’t forgotten or rejected us. "Hope deferred makes the heart sick."

So how do we live without our deepest longings fulfilled? 
We give them to God. Pray that he will use them and be glorified through them—whether he changes them,
fulfills them or leaves them as they are—longings, unfulfilled.

What can God do with brokenness, with emptiness? 
We say we believe God can do more through them than through our strengths, and yet none of us want pain and suffering. Why not? Why, if God can do more through our trials and troubles would we not embrace them, not welcome them as if welcoming the very presence of God? Come, God, and work through me—do what I alone cannot do.

We long for the eradication of pain, and not wrongfully so. But perhaps sometimes we are so focused on making that our goal that we miss the gentle whisper when God visits. The gentle whisper Elijah heard on Mt. Horeb when he was filled with fear for his life and a world of hurt, wondering if anyone else was left who loved the Lord.

Perhaps you’ve lived through the storm, the earthquake, the rumblings and terror, and God has been in none of them—but have you waited for the whisper? Listened for it, knowing it’s coming? He will come.

Maybe if God is not changing our circumstances, He wants to change us instead. 

Maybe he is calling us to be the miracle.

See also Stories of Hope

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Invisible Illness Week is coming up

Next week is National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week.  Check out this free, online virtual conference, September 10-14, sponsored by Rest Ministries.  (By the way Rest Ministries is a wonderful Christian organization with an online magazine, message board, and tons of helpful information).

This year's theme is "Invisible Illness?  Share your Visible Hope!"  Check out the speakers and topics for the week, or upload a picture of something that gives you hope and reminds you that life is worth living.  If you attend the conference and find encouragement, I'd love to hear about it.

  • invisible illness week logo

Thursday, August 9, 2012

My Magic Light

My computer is in a closet.  Yep, right where we used to keep the winter coats, boots, and hats.  That sounds worse than it really is though!  Truly I have a very quaint little office that's just big enough to hold a 5' wide desk with 4 file drawers, a printer and computer, and 2 shelves above full of books and supplies. 

If you look closely, you can see my son's Hero Factory creations on the bookshelves to the right.  Not sure why they are there right now!  Anyway, my little office is quite cozy, with pictures and things the kids have made.

I even have a few momentos from childhood--Raggedy Ann and Andy Dolls that my Grandma made, animals I used to collect, and a hedgehog from when my mom and I went to England.  (They fit right in with Ziggy!)  Yeah, I'm still a kid at heart...

So, what does this all have to do with a "magic light" you ask?  Well, since I live, er, work, in the closet, the light was on a pull-chain, with a long string attached, and I guess it really wasn't made to be used multiple times per day.  The switch wore out and we replaced it, but soon started to have the same problem again.  I thought about getting a lamp of some kind, but then I'd have more cords to deal with, plus I'm really partial to overhead lighting.  But short of hiring an electrician, I really wasn't sure what to do.  Then my hubby came to the rescue!

Dave found this little gem in the magic hardware aisles where they have all kinds of gizmos and gadgets and things that make things work.  It's a battery operated remote light switch!  I could take this thing anywhere upstairs and turn on my light!  But of course, that would never do...then I'd need a clapper to find the switch, and then something to find the clapper...  So my son mounted it on the wall for me...just like a real light switch!  I know, I'm easily amused.  (Although, in my defense, even the kids couldn't resist trying it out, as if they had never seen a light switch before.)   After spending several days in the dark, I'm pleased as punch to be rid of the pull chain and have a switch!

Hubby switched out the fixture as well:

Now instead of the generic round globe I have a lovely frosted tulip.
So thankful!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Cast Your Burden

Cast your burden upon the Lord and He will sustain you;

He will never allow the righteous to be shaken.
~Psalm 55:22

As many times as I've read this verse, I never caught the significance before, but here is another beautiful, comforting promise from the Lord.  

He doesn't promise to take away our burden; he promises to sustain us.  I find such great comfort in that because it's easy to lapse into self-doubt when it seems God isn't answering our prayers--meaning he isn't making the trial end. 

I've tried to teach my children to not only pray for what they want, but to pray for the strength and the endurance, patience and love to walk with the Lord humbly, no matter how he answers, and no matter what he brings into our path.  

Interestingly, the word "burden" in this verse can also mean, "what he has given you."  We don't often talk about burdens as coming from the Lord, or afflictions as being from his hand--though in the Old Testament that is common language.  Job 42:11 speaks of Job's relatives comforting him for all the adversities that the Lord had brought him--even though Satan did the actions, the Lord allowed it.  

We don't get to see all--we are not God and don't have his perspective, we don't understand why.  But he has sustained me, and walked with me, and carried me, and wept with me for all these years.  I know he cares, I know he's in control.  And this verse reminds me, it's in his nature to strengthen us, to be with us.  I don't have to be afraid that somehow I've fallen from his good graces if he doesn't answer a prayer as I want.  

We tend to think answers should be immediate, healing should be now, promises must be proven.  And yet...Sarah was barren for 90 years, and didn't even have a promise that she had anything to hope for the first 65 years.  The man born blind was blind for 30 years.  The woman who had an issue of blood...bled for twelve years.  The heroes in Hebrews 12 did not receive what was promised.  Surely they all longed and hoped for something different, and likely they even sought the Lord for answers, for help.  Waiting was in God's plan for them.  Sustaining was in his plan for them. 

Daily we learn to rely on him and not the things of this world.  

Oaks of righteousness won't be shaken because their roots have dug deep down for water in times of drought.  They have found water to survive even in the worst of conditions. years of little growth...but the Water of Life was with them.  

But even oaks can die, if they are cut off from the water supply.  That daily habit of casting our burden upon the Lord and looking to him for our sustenance is our life.

Read other Stories of Hope

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Blind Landings - Olympian Faith

Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing 
love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed," says the
LORD, who has compassion on you. (Isaiah 54:10)

I love watching the Olympics. My heart leaps hurdles with a good performance and
dives in agony when an athlete falls. My eyes were glued to the flying high-bar
performers, and the incredible men’s flares on the pommel horse. I marvel how
anyone can jump off the ground and do a double somersault with a twist.

Then there were the tiny pixies performing perilous feats on a four-inch bar that I
couldn’t even hope to attempt on the ground! "Look at her toss her head back," one
announcer said. "That’s an added degree of difficulty because she can’t see the
beam." Indeed many gymnasts performed a variety of blind landings with confidence
and poise. Though they could not see the beam, they knew exactly where it was as
they somersaulted, twisted and turned.

I find life, too, is full of blind landings. Circumstances pull our heads back or leave us
tumbling through the air, hoping we’ll land safely, though landing at all seems a
perilous journey.

Where do athletes find their confidence? They train. They accept instruction from
their coaches. They focus their minds. And when they fall, they get up again.

Where is our confidence? Proverbs 3:26 says the Lord will be our confidence. We
sometimes fall, but in Christ we have a certain landing spot. 1 John 4:16 says that we
rely on the love God has for us. While the balance beam is only 4" wide, the width of
God’s love is boundless.

Hebrews 4:16 declares that we can approach God with confidence, knowing we’ll
find mercy and grace in our time of need. Christ gives us His righteousness, and "the
effect of righteousness is quietness and confidence." (Isaiah 32:17)

This last word for confidence means a place of refuge—both the fact and the feeling
of safety. Do we dwell in that refuge? I have to confess that I only do sometimes.
God never wavers, and I am always truly safe in Him, but sometimes I forget.
Sometimes I neglect the disciplines of being in training. I don’t work to focus my
mind. My faith becomes flabby instead of continuing to seek God.

But God is a fortress, a refuge, a place where we find rest, a God whom we can
trust. "So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What
can man do to me?’" (Hebrews 13:6)

You might answer, "Man can do an awful lot to me!" Here I think the King James
Version is helpful, as it translates this passage, "I will not fear what man shall do to
me." Why? Because God, and not this world, is my refuge. This echoes David’s
proclamation in Psalm 27:3 that "Though war break out, even then will I be
confident." Solid. Steadfast. Unwavering on the beam of God’s love.

Perhaps your confidence has faltered from a fall. It’s ok. Get back up. We can be
"confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to
completion until the day of Christ Jesus." (Phil. 1:6) This is the verse I cling to when I
can’t understand what God is doing in Dave’s life. No illness or sin issue or failure or
tragic life circumstance can thwart this plan of God’s. The "confidence" in this verse
means to rely by inward certainty. To believe.

Confidence really unwraps the word "faith" for us. So often we think faith is like
hoping there might be a place to land sometime. It’s shrouded in uncertainty. But faith
truly is confidence; it’s "being sure of what you hope for, and certain of what you do
not see." It is coming to God, believing "that He exists and that He rewards those
who earnestly seek Him." (Hebrews 11:1, 6)

God is coming again; this world is not all we live for. Our reward is in heaven. Let’s
diligently seek Him like an athlete in training. Let’s fix our eyes on Him, listen to wise
counsel—and when we fall, get up again.

We live in a world that can be shaken, a world where mountains crumble and fall into
the sea, a world of wars where we can be besieged. What we have faith and
confidence in, what we rely on must be stronger than this world. In God we have a
love so sure that the world can literally fall apart, and His love is still real, immovable,
ever present. We are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken from a God who
cannot be shaken. Have confidence in Him. Rely on His love for us.

May we be solid. Steadfast. Unwavering on the boundless beam of God’s unfailing

Read more Stories of Hope

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

What was in the Bag?

If you were wondering what was in my Mother's Day surprise bag...

Me & my cheesy grin, they know I love cake! 

(By the way, that's my Grandma's daisy-necklace, it was fun to remember her on Mother's Day).  Yes, there was cake :-).  And it was heart-shaped.  And pink!  Actually, that wasn't in the bag though.  That was hidden (very sneaky of them!) on TOP of the refrigerator.  Even these guys looked all over but didn't find it!

Gerbils, quivering as they sniff out the cake

The bag had ice cream.  Two kinds!  Moose Tracks and Mint Chocolate chip (with no added food coloring, yay!)  No, I didn't share with Stuart and Rocka!

MY icecream!
Ok, I DID share with Dave and the kids.  (Since they bought it & all!).  But it's not like the gerbils are hurting for food...  Look at all that's left of their house in just 2 days!

Stuart (left) and Rocka, now almost as big as the remains
of their once well-crafted home.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Gerbils, Spies, and a Deprived Mother

"I've been a VERY good mommy this year!"

That's what I told my husband when I found this highly suspicious article in the freezer:

highly suspicious unnamed food item
"Tomorrow's Mother's Day.  Keep out."

Such cold-hearted words!

"You know, honey, if we followed the Jewish schedule, Mother's Day would start now."  Bat-bat (eyes).  Smile sweetly.

It wasn't working.  I tried the good mother bit again.

"How would you explain it to the kids?  They want you to be surprised tomorrow!"

"Easy.  Gerbils.  Stuart and Rocka can be VERY naughty boys!"  Now truly, this is a somewhat believable argument.  Oh sure, they LOOK innocent enough here...

Rocka (left) named after the Hero Factory hero,
and Stuart (right) for Stuart Little.
...but they could do it all right.  They're already eating themselves out of house and home:

Stuart sampling his house...
This was solid house before they got a hold of it, the true entrance is on the other side.  Shall we make little footprints in the (hopefully ice cream) in the freezer and be done with this?

Standing Guard...

"Hold it right there, Ma'am!"


Secret Agent...

"Agent Gibbs?  Yes, I've apprehended the suspect.

Whatever's in there must be finger-waggin' good!

 "Uh-uh-uhhh.  Not this time!  Mother's Day doesn't start until tomorrow and by that I mean AFTER 12:00 noon!  Maybe 5:00 pm!"

I've been warned...


Notice he couldn't resist a smirk!

Sigh.  Still no ice cream until tomorrow...

Happy Mother's Day everyone!

Find out what was in the bag!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Fulfillment in Infertility

written by guest blogger, Constance B. Fink

Today is Mother’s Day.  But I am not celebrating as most women.

My ears will never hear a child call me, “Mommy.”  My arms will never feel the contented wiggle of a nursing baby.  My dream as “Mother of the Bride” will never be realized.

A lifelong desire was to be a friend to my children, to give them special memories like my mom gave me.  Memories like shopping with my little girl.  Crafting a science project with my boy.  Teaching my daughter how to sew.  Cuddling in bed on Saturday mornings to watch cartoons.  Preparing my son for his bride by teaching him how to respect a woman.  Preparing my daughter for her family by modeling how to make a house a home.  Most importantly, guiding my children to a personal relationship with God.  But these dreams are unfulfilled.

Though I have not felt the pain of childbirth, I have felt the pain of childlessness.  Both equally intense, yet different. One lasts for hours, the other may last for years.  One results in a happy ending, the other may not. The pain of childbirth is felt in the body; childlessness is felt in the heart.  By nature, I am a nurturer.  The loss I feel from not having children runs deep.

Twenty years ago I was diagnosed with endometriosis, a painful chronic condition often affecting fertility.  Women can have babies after treatment with surgery, pain medication, hormonal therapy, and nutrition.  I clung to the options with hope.      

The first step was to chart the time of ovulation through a non-invasive test.  I simply had to record my temperature the same time every day over a period of months.  The goal—to find the few hours every four weeks when fertility could occur.

My husband, Dave, and I waited each month with anticipation.  I browsed the baby stores and ooh’ed over the little shoes.  I smiled when I saw mothers pushing babies in strollers, my arms literally aching for my own.  I mentally decorated the baby’s nursery, down to the detail of the placement of the stuffed animals.  We even chose names.

But then, one spot of blood unleashed a torrent of tears.  Reality flooded in with my menstrual cycle.  Just a few hours earlier, my arms longed for the fulfillment of my dreams; then in a matter of minutes my heart felt like it ripped in two.  I grieved as though I had lost a child to death.  In a sense, I had.  My child had been within reach; now he was snatched away.  Though I had not made it to the point of taking a pregnancy test, my baby was real.  He had a name.  He had a place in our hearts.

Physical pain, associated with endometriosis—burning, stabbing, gripping pain so intense I was unable to open my eyes.  Medication brought no relief; it only left me in a daze.  There was nothing I could do to stop or control it, causing me to fear my own body.  

As I writhed and screamed similar to labor, I cried:  A normal woman would have a baby to show for all this suffering.  The anticipation would help her persevere.  I have nothing to show but sweat-drenched sheets!  When my body could endure no more, the pain subsided.  But it was not over yet.  Dry heaves and involuntary physical shakes began, leaving me totally exhausted.

This continued month after month.  The emotional roller coaster wearied me.  Relax, our fertile friends said.  Give it time, the doctor said, although I had just turned thirty and thought time was working against us.

We continued the routine of temperature charts.  And tried to relax.  Additional tests ruled out other possible conditions.  There was nothing keeping us from having a baby, except endometriosis.  We scheduled laparotomy surgery, a procedure to open the abdominal cavity in order to remove the growths and lesions from the condition.

The doctor told us he “got it all” and that the most optimal time for pregnancy was within the first year after surgery.  With renewed hope, we focused on getting pregnant.  But close to the end of the year and enough temperature charts to wallpaper a room, it seemed I was not one step closer to having a baby.  The pain had returned as strong as ever.  The endometriosis had grown back.The next levels of tests and treatments were discussed.  With the sky the limit in infertility treatment, each couple decides their emotional, physical, and financial limits.  How far were we willing to go?  The decision was easy.

We chose not to pursue infertility tests with treatments which required readjustment to my hormonal levels.  I was at risk for breast cancer.  My mom died from it the previous year.

Losing my mother at the time I was desperately trying to become a mother affected my ability to cope not only with her death but also with my barrenness.   My mother modeled the type of nurturing mother I wanted to be, but I had no avenue of expression.  She passed her baton to me, but I had no place to run with it.

To further complicate matters, my brother and his wife decided to start their family and within weeks they were pregnant; now eighteen years later they have nine children.  The phone call to announce their first pregnancy is the one embedded in my memory.  It came while reading a book on infertility.

Trying to respond as an adult to my sister-in-law, grieving the loss of my mother, and balancing hope and reality regarding my own barrenness made those years a challenge.  It was difficult to keep the issues separate.  Most of the time I felt stuck in what seemed like a net over me.  But God cut the entrapment and freed me.

First, God provided a friend, someone who had walked a similar path but made it to the end.  My pastor’s wife not only lost her mother to death, but also went through an extended time of infertility. She knew!  She cheered me on when I had strength, held me when I felt depleted, and helped me refocus when I could not see the next step.  She passed her baton to me, nurturing me with encouragement.  

Eight years later, in a phone conversation with my sister-in-law, I spoke of a night when Dave and I had nothing to do.  We decided to go out for dinner. . .three hours away!  Within minutes we were on our way.  When I finished my story, my sister-in-law was quiet.  “Are you there?” I asked.

Slowly and quietly she responded, “I’m struggling with jealousy.”

“You, jealous of me?  What do you have to be jealous of?  You have everything I want!”

She longed for spontaneity.  She and my brother used to have it, but not since the children came.  A few hours of freedom required days of planning to arrange for babysitters, schedules and supplies.  It was as if a light clicked on and I saw things about my situation I had not seen before—I had something others wanted.  For the first time in years I saw what I had.  Our friends had children, but we had freedom.  Not only were we free to enjoy our marriage, but we were available to serve others.  Rather than seeing childlessness as a loss, I began to see it as a gift.  God gave it to us not to impair us but to use us.

Late one night we received a phone call asking for prayer for an elderly couple in church who, after a serious car accident, had been transported to a hospital a couple of hours away.  We knew what we had to do.  By the time we hung up the phone we were out of bed and half dressed.  Within minutes we were on our way.  No one in our church of elderly widows and young parents could have gone.  That night I passed my baton, nurturing one in need…not my child but an elderly couple.

For years I avoided anything to do with Mother’s Day, especially card shops and mother daughter banquets.  I had nothing to celebrate.  The thought of watching mothers and daughters together made me shiver in emotional pain.  But after a friend shared a couple of ideas for the annual mother daughter banquet, I thought I would try to attend.  (Then she put me on the program to be sure I would not back out.)

But grief came over me like a tornado a few hours before the dinner.  I was not expecting it, especially not that day.  I have to get a grip before evening.   I asked the Lord for a verse, something to lean on through the event.

As I read Isaiah 61:4, God reminded me that He “bestowed a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.”  Even though I mourned the loss of my dream and my mother, I was glad for her example and the memories.  I did not have ashes to show for it—I was not in despair with regrets.  As I thought about the banquet that evening, I knew there would be some mothers and daughters in difficult relationships.  Stepping away from my own grief for a few hours, I gained the desire and strength to encourage others.

Then God did something creative.   Unknown to me, a few days earlier, a co-worker had entered my name in a drawing for a bouquet of flowers.  I won!  On the very day of the banquet!  As I carried the huge bouquet back to my office, it was as though I was holding a “crown of beauty” from God, a visible reminder that He heard me, was with me, and had created me with individualized purpose.    

I would have liked to be with my mother that evening, but instead I took her memory.  I would have liked to share the evening with a daughter, but instead I took comfort in being God’s daughter. That night was the first of many opportunities to pass my baton with joy and strength, nurturing…not my child but other mothers and their daughters.

A few years later on Mother’s Day, trays of colorful annuals decorated the front of our small church.  The pastor asked the children to come to the front and all the “mothers” to stand.  The children gave a plant to each one standing.  I was the only woman sitting; I wanted to hide.  Then I heard a child’s voice nearby and I looked up.  Before me was a smiling seven-year old girl holding a beautiful pink plant.  “This is for you, Mrs. Fink.  You are a mom!”

Fulfillment and contentment is not measured by childbirth, but by responding to opportunities to give to others, no matter their age or residence.  This is what gives a woman a mother’s heart.  Today is Mother’s Day… and I am celebrating!    


Endometriosis is a painful, chronic condition that affects five and a half million women and girls in the United States and Canada, and millions more worldwide.  The condition occurs when tissue similar to the lining of the uterus is found outside the uterus, usually in the abdomen on the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and other abdominal areas, including the bladder and bowel.

The misplaced tissue develops into growths or lesions which respond to the menstrual cycle in the same way that the tissue of the uterine lining does—each month the tissue builds up, breaks down, and sheds.  Menstrual blood flows from the uterus and out of the body through the vagina, but the blood and tissue shed from endometrial growths has no way of leaving the body.  This results in internal bleeding, breakdown of the blood and tissue from the lesions, inflammation, scar tissue formation, and adhesions.

The symptoms include: pain before and during periods, pain with intercourse, fatigue, frequent urination during periods, painful bowel movements during periods, other gastrointestinal upsets, and frequent yeast infections.  Infertility affects approximately 40% of women with endometriosis.  For more information, contact the Endometriosis Association


Practical suggestions to help ease your pain of childlessness:

Pamper yourself on Mother’s Day.  Don’t make it just a Sunday in May.  Plan something that is special to you.

Write a letter to the child you dream of.

Ask your gynecologist to schedule your appointments when the waiting room is not full of pregnant women.

Take care of a pet, something to love, and something that will return affection.

Eat well.  Good nutrition is a significant factor in the relief of physical discomfort.


O Lord, you have searched me and you know me.  You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.  You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.  Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord.  

You hem me in—behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me.  Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.  Where can I go from your Spirit?  Where can I flee from your presence?  If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.  If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.

If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.  My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body.  All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

How precious to me are your thoughts O God!  How vast is the sum of them!  Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand.  

(Psalm 139: 1-18 (NIV)

© 2003, shared by permission

Constance B. Fink was raised as the pastor’s daughter of a large metropolitan church in New Jersey.  She has a degree in psychology from The King’s College in New York, and has worked at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, and in the Counseling Center at Bradley University.  She has also been director of Christian education, church secretary, church librarian, and coordinator of several women’s programs.  Married for twenty years, she and her husband are currently members of a quiet community and rural church in northwest Illinois.  Her articles have appeared in Bible Advocate’s Now What magazine, Voice Magazine, Charisma, New Wineskins, Rest Ministries Newsletter, and local newspapers.

Email Constance B. Fink at:  cbfink @ (without the spaces)

Read more Stories of Hope

Friday, April 13, 2012

Funny Cats

My daughter loves cats (wish I wasn't allergic!), and my husband makes a hobby of finding fun or funny pictures online and collecting them in a file for her.  Here are a few recent ones...

funny pictures - I think I can...

funny pictures - Now What?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Plantar Fasciitis

If you have pain in the heal of your foot or the balls of your feet when you walk, you may have plantar fasciitis.  Two years ago this summer I wondered if I had broken a bone on the side of my foot--only to find out I had PF!  Although this condition isn't as serious as many chronic conditions, it can lead to more problems if you don't deal with it.  (If your feet hurt, you won't feel like walking or know, the whole downward spiral.)  But I thought I'd blog on it today since I often run across people like me who don't know why their feet hurt (or that there are solutions).

Plantar fasciitisThe plantar fascia is a thick tissue on the bottom of the foot that connects the heel and the ball of the foot.  Here's a good overview of the condition from the NIH.

When it's really, really bad, some people even have surgery, but there are a lot of things that can help you avoid surgery (and feel a whole lot better!).

1 - Shoes
Make sure you have a good pair of shoes, with good arch supports.  Scrimp somewhere else, not on your shoes!  Going barefoot is hard on PF, so wear them as much as possible.  Crocs (Caymens/Classics) are pretty good, and are close to going barefoot for summer wear.  Some styles of New Balance (I've had good luck with 927), and Birkenstocks are some others to look at.  On you can search for shoes by condition (even if you don't buy there) to see what might be a good choice, or try a google search.

2 - Stretching 
Do it, multiple times per day, but START GENTLY.  (If you cause more tears by over stretching, you aren't helping your injury).  I've come to accept I can never stop stretching (because I stopped after I got better 2 years ago, and ended up right back where I started after a winter with less walking!)  This page has a short video demonstrating a couple of basic exercises.  A google search will turn up lots of results.

Towel stretch4 great stretches are the towel stretch, the calf stretch, the stair-step stretch, and the frozen can roll/foot massage.  This last one is really nice in the summer when you are sitting at the computer.  Put a plastic water bottle in the freezer, and then roll your foot back and forth over it as much as you can stand, up to 20 minutes, while you surf!  Much more economical than purchasing a roller!

Calf Stretch
I have actually done the towel stretch so much that I can now not only touch my toes, but cup my hands around the bottom!  This one is good for when you first wake up, before you get out of bed (that's when PF is most painful--those first morning steps).  Usually I do that one in the morning, before a walk or exercise, and at night.  The calf stretch is also important to do a few times per day, and definitely before a walk or other exercise.

If you have any stairs in your home, the stair-step stretch is easy to incorporate.  Just stop for 30 seconds on your way up the stairs.  Hold the railing for balance and let your heels hang off the edge of the step, and gently apply your weight until you feel a good stretch.

Once you get back to being able to exercise & aren't struggling with it, you may be able to go barefoot sometimes (though crocs are close to barefoot), but don't stop stretching.

3 - Activities 
Limit the activities that led to your PF and stay off of your feet as much as possible for a week or two while you do the stretches.  Then, after at least 2 weeks, or maybe a month, you can try adding back in some gentle exercise, but really keep it toned down. For example, if you usually walk 3 miles, do a short walk, only half a mile or mile at the most. Make sure you stretch before hand, or you'll regret it the next day! Gradually you'll be able to build back up and have pain-free exercise.

4 - Products and Accessories

FootSmart Passive Night Splint, Each - 10097A night splint like this one from can help.  I have also worn it on occasion during the day.  You can't walk with it on, but if you have 30-60 minutes to put your leg up and watch TV or read, that's a good time to also use the splint.  At night I tend to wear it about half the night and then kick it off.  Some people like the Strassburg sock, but I found that instead of stretching the fascia it mostly put a lot of pressure on my toes and was very painful no matter how much I tried to loosen it.  I couldn't wear it for even 30 seconds.  The manufacturer did take my return though.

Monday, April 9, 2012

More Power

"I can't get the blade off!" said my frustrated fifteen-year-old as he stormed into the room.  Earlier in the day, Dave had hurt his back trying to take the blade off our mower, and now our son was trying to remove it so that he could sharpen it.

With a calm that only can come from the Lord (because I'm not the most patient person!), I went down to see what I could do, even though my son is now stronger than I am.  Sometimes it's a matter of brain over brawn, or perseverance when impatience rushes in.

That nut sure did look like it was there to stay.  (No comments from the peanut gallery, I mean on the mower, not me!).  I tried the wrench...maybe he had reversed which way tightens and which reverses?  Right away I could see part of the problem--there's no way to get any leverage, the blade swings freely while you try to turn the nut.  I looked around for some options, and we tried having one of us stop the blade with a big monkey wrench while the other cranked on the nut.  We pushed in opposite directions with all our strength.  Nothing.

"See?!" he exclaimed. I saw.

I dug some grass that had caked on the bottom.

"That's not the problem!"

"I know, but I need to stop and think what to do here."  What we need is more power. 

I tested the waters:  "Maybe we'll need to ask one of our neighbors.  You and one of the men will be stronger than you and I."

He fiddled with something on the workbench but sounded like that might be worth considering.

"God," I prayed out loud, "we're really frustrated and we need your wisdom to figure this one out.  Please help us."

I went to find the owner's manual, that suggested using a block of wood to brace the blade while cranking the nut.  I started to think about leverage, wondering if I was using every advantage I could with the handle of the wrench when Dave came downstairs.

"I thought you were sleeping?"

"I was.  But suddenly I knew I had to get up and come down here."

God is so good!  We needed Dave's wisdom, and Dave needed to feel useful (my hero!)...and God answered all our needs!

Dave handed me the same wrench I'd been using, and a mallet.  I'm astounded by the physics--literally I barely tapped the handle of the socket wrench, and the nut turned right away.  Zach and I had used all our strength and that nut hadn't even budged!  We needed more power in every way...and God supplied.

Friday, April 6, 2012

What's So Good About Good Friday?

This blog post by Carolyn Arends is worth reading and contemplating.  A few quotes to whet your appetite...

...we grieve not only the wound but also the fact that we can be wounded. We feel that either we're not doing faith right or that faith—that Jesus—has let us down. We don't consider it "pure joy" when our faith is tested. We consider it failure.
I'm beginning to think our expectations are not just unrealistic, they're anti-gospel. 
"What do people mean when they say 'I am not afraid of God, because he is good?'" asked C.S. Lewis, musing on this idea. "Have they never even been to a dentist?"
Almost all the new beginnings in my life have come from what felt at the time like terrible endings.  


Thursday, April 5, 2012

Dog Poo and Falling Too...

This might seem like a funny title for a "Thankful Thursday" post!  But my grandma used to say to learn to laugh at myself so I'd always have something funny to think about--and that works for me!

Yesterday I went for a walk, and was feeling kind of down when I started.  Then I found a penny and it reminded me of a friend who used to always throw pennies when he found them, thinking that it would make some little kid's day when he found it later!  And then it reminded me of Dave and shopping at Aldi's where you have to put a quarter in a slot to get a cart--and the joy he takes in giving his cart away to others without getting his quarter back!  So I started to smile and decided...this was a day to be thankful.

The green grass, blue sky, and sunshine--definitely something to be thankful for!

Then, a nanosecond too late to stop guessed it, I stepped in dog poo.  Then I laughed.  I'm thankful that it went "crunch" instead of "smoosh!"  Yeah, I can be kinda uncouth like that...

I walked a little farther and found another penny.  Ha!  The day's "2-cents worth."

I turned up one of the main streets in our town, and looked for a good time to cross the 5-lane road.  (My walk was doubling as a trip to the health-store for vitamins).  As I watched the traffic, I missed a foot-deep hole and face-planted in the grass.  (Am I the only person who thinks it's funny that I fell on the way to the health-store?!).  If you saw me, it's ok, you can laugh.  I did get up quickly, and hoped no one would stop!

The man at the store suggested this was a good day to be working outside, but I thought to myself, Not with my track record today!

The rest of my walk was uneventful and enjoyable.  I'm thankful I'm able to walk...remembering times when things like asthma and plantar fasciitis have prevented me.  And I'm thankful I didn't break my leg!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Hidden Potential

Forsythias in full bloom
My forsythias were beautiful this year!  I was excited this spring to see them full of little yellow buds, and watched the flowers unfold in all their fiery brilliance.

Budding this spring...

Forsythias only bloom on the previous year’s new growth.  And because our bushes were trained as a hedge in front of our house (long before we moved in), the blooms are usually scanty.  I longed to see their radiance.  They had been healthy, but their glory, their potential was hidden inside.

So last year, we pruned them instead of trimming them.  We cut back a third of the largest branches so that there would be more room down low for new growth, and we didn’t trim the long, scraggly branches that shot up several feet from the top.  My son, who takes pride in his job of mowing our lawn helped me, but he complained about those ugly bushes all summer long.  They made “his” lawn look terrible! 

After pruning and a trim..."They still look ugly!" 
When people would visit, they eyed our hedges with silent disdain or a smirk, and sometimes sympathetically asked if we needed help trimming our bushes.  Indeed, one day a work crew came and almost mistakenly cut the forsythia instead of the gigantic junipers out back!   I saved my precious, beloved bushes just in time, but I did take some advice to slightly trim those scraggly shoots.  We left at least a foot of new growth on top to support the new blooms, but the bushes did benefit from that bit of cosmetic shaping. 

“They still look ugly,” my son would say.  He was right.   But this spring it was worth it to see the fruit of all that waiting.  Next week, however, they will wonder what happened. I plan to cut them down to knee height.   They have been miss-trained for too long to simply prune them, and to get the truly lovely shape as well as the color they were designed for, I have to face facts and cut them back.

Beautiful blooms treasured by a novice gardener
I’m a little intimidated because I’m not a master gardener like our Heavenly Father, who knows when to prune and when to cut us back.  Maybe those around us sometimes think our form is unsightly in the process, and they may even look at us with disdain—but God knows what he’s doing.  He knows the glory, the hidden potential of the Son shining through us.  He sees what we cannot, “providence.”  He sees (video) before (pro), and plans and works accordingly.  He longs to see our beauty, for we are his beloved.  When he cuts us back to the ground, that’s when we can know most though we may feel it least—we are greatly loved and treasured by Father-Son-Spirit who works in us for our good.  I treasure my bushes.  Think how much more the Keeper of your soul treasures you.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Monday, March 26, 2012

“The God Who Sees Me”: Achu’s Hope - Blog - Eternal Perspective Ministries

AchuI hope you have time to read 15-year-old Achu's amazing story.  We are so fortunate in America to have access to healthcare, even if there aren't always answers.  Her faith...and how God pursues her, are inspiring.

You may want to steel yourself for the pictures of her leg if you are on the squeamish side, but juxtaposed with her beautiful smile full of the Lord's love and hope, it's worth it.

“The God Who Sees Me”: Achu’s Hope - Blog - Eternal Perspective Ministries

As my pastor wrote when he forwarded this:

How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings. (Psa 36:7 NIV)

Friday, March 23, 2012

Getting Back Up

"If God doesn't give you the miracle, you will be the miracle for somebody else."
"The victory is not when I stand up.  The victory is when I know I can't do this by myself."

If you haven't seen Nick Vujicic's video, check this one out!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Star of the yard

 Today I'm so glad for my mom who bought this lovely little Star Magnolia for us!  For the last two years it only had one bloom, so this year was a great treat!

Dave is master of the bird bath and feeder, and the birds (and squirrels!) clean out the feeder regularly!  A few more years, and maybe they'll enjoy nesting in the branches of Star.
The buds open up into a beautiful, star-shaped cup initially, and then open completely and let the breeze softly flutter through the petals.  God's creation is so varied and amazing, marvel at his beauties!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Lyme Disease - Back to Life

by Deborah Luce

 Isaiah said, “I have labored to no purpose; I have spent my strength in vain and for nothing.”  ~Isaiah 49:4
Job said, “ My life drags by -- day after hopeless day . . . I give up; I am tired of living. Leave me alone. My life makes no sense.”  ~Job 7:6,16
“Hope is as essential to your life as air and water.”  ~Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life 

I am an art teacher and first started noticing something was wrong when my hands and feet hurt all the time.  I thought that the reason that I was often tired was because I have a job and four kids, but then I was tired on vacation too.  I got worse and worse; I would lose my balance and suddenly get very tired, and it felt like I would throw up if I didn’t lie down.

Blood tests, a CT scan, an MRI . . . family doctor, infectious disease specialist, gynecologist, endocrinologist . . . I continued to work as a very absent-minded tired art teacher.  The students probably thought that I was just a very strange art teacher, but really I was a very sick lady.

A friend of mine, to whom I owe my life, told me about a doctor she and her husband were going to for her husband’s lyme disease.  I was at the end of my rope and so I said fine, let’s drive across the country -- what do we have to lose?  It turned out that the doctor is in my health insurance network.

I was tested for lots of things and it turned out that I had Lyme Disease with some other virus that I got from teaching high schoolers for years.  I started on the antibiotic treatment and lots of supplements in April of 2002 and I did not go back to work after spring break. God provided financially throught the sick bank at work and I was able to keep my insurance.

I would lie in bed and say ok... God, take me, I am worth nothing ... He said “No.”

I have continued treatment for over a year now and have improved a lot.  I'm thinking more clearly and am regaining my motor skills.  I have gone from sleeping 14+ hours a night/day to 9 hours, my vision is no longer blurry, and my muscles and eyes don't twitch anymore.

But there are a lot of ups and downs. I have to constantly turn to Christ because you can not brace yourself for the downs--you just have to cry out to God! He is in the business of restoring souls, and that is what I need regardless of the state of health I happen to be in at the moment.

I think I had to realize that I could turn to God afresh every day and yesterday was past anyway ... I could not remember it any way! It is very important to use what energy I have on relationships with my family ...  A three year old can fold their own clothes and we only think paper plate is all they make.... Cereal is sometimes a dinner food.  That's ok.

I have learned and am still learning to turn to Christ through the ugliness of Lyme and He always meets me where I am and restores my soul if I have the guts to cry out to Him and not just melt into self pity.  Christ has mercifully given me my life back through long-term antibiotic treat ment.  I wanted to be better yesterday but God has his timing.
“So we fix our eyes not on what on what is seen but what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal”
~II Corithinians 4:18

Deborah is an art teacher and mother to 4, and continues to get stronger each year.

See More Stories of Hope

Monday, March 19, 2012

Identity in Christ

Dave has always been a big believer in understanding what our Identity is in Christ.  He compiled this list from Neil Anderson's Victory Over the Darkness, and also from his own studies.

Since I am in Christ, by the Grace of God….

I am now acceptable to God (justified) and completely forgiven.

I live at peace with Him.  (Romans 5:1)

I have been forgiven of all of my sins and set free.

I have crossed over from death to eternal life with God.  (John 5:24)

The sinful person that I used to be died with Christ, and sin no longer rules my life.  (Romans 6:1-6)

I am a child of God.  I can call Him “Father.”  (John 1:12, 13, Romans 8:14-17)

I was chosen by God to be adopted as His child. (Ephesians 1:4,5)

I am God’s possession, chosen and secure in Him (sealed).

I have been given the Holy Spirit as a promise of my inheritance to come.  (2 Corinthians 1:21,22)

I have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.  The new life that I have because of Jesus will never go away.  (Galatians 2:20)

I am a temple – a dwelling place – for God.  His Spirit and His life live in me.  (1 Corinthians 3:16, 6:19)

I am God’s building project, His handiwork, created in Christ to do His work.  (Ephesians 2:10)

I am only a visitor to this world in which I temporarily live.  (1 Peter 2:11)

I have direct access to God through the Holy Spirit.  He listens to my prayers.  (Ephesians 2:18)

I have the right to come boldly before the throne of God in prayer.  He will meet my needs lovingly and kindly.  (Hebrews 4:16)

I can endure all things through Christ who gives me strength.  (Philippians 4:13)

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Thankful Thursdays

Let the beloved of the LORD rest secure in him, for he shields him all day long,
and the one the LORD loves rests between his shoulders.
~ Deuteronomy 33:12 

So thankful for time to rest in the Lord, to be shielded on days when the fiery arrows seem to come from all around.  He cares for us and calls us beloved.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

A Grandparent's Legacy

What's the most important thing we can pass on to the next generation?  I can say without hesitation that I draw continually on the unconditional love my grandparents had for me, their faith in God, and their strength in the face of adversity.  Their strength, conviction, and love have given me a heritage to draw on as I face my husband's illness and disability.

I remember my grandma rising at 5:30 or 6 am to read her Bible—how she loved God's word!  And yet she was always willing to put it down to talk with me.  Sometimes she read to me.  I often wondered what intrigued her about the Bible, but I was willing to listen because she loved me.

Although I accepted Christ when I was seven years old, the year before my dad died of Kidney Disease, I wandered in my faith for a long time.  I know at times my grandparents must have wondered if I was truly saved at all--yet I always knew they still loved me, even if they didn't like what I was doing.  They called me, they wrote me, they spent time with me--they knew what was going on in my life.  They faithfully prayed for me for another 13 years before seeing God bring any answers.

"Who are you going to follow?" God seemed to ask when I was nineteen.  "Me—or the world?"

With the choice laid before me—and the loneliness and failure that sin and following the world had brought me so far, I knew there was only one choice to make.

My grandma died a few years after I chose to stop walking the fence between God and the world, and my grandpa died eight years later.  Now I often wish I could call one of them, ask their advice, draw on their strength—but God has said their legacy is sufficient for me.  When I question how I can continue on, I remember their faithfulness and how God sustained them—and I know He will sustain me too.

I wrote this poem for their 50th wedding anniversary:

 I remember so well those trips
through cornfields upon cornfields
or snowy midnights,
Mom and Dad pretending we were lost
on the way to your house.

Summer days full of laughter and tears,
card-playing, miniature golf,
pot roast with all the trimmings.

Then the dark shadow fell upon our house—
Dad was gone.

Grandma would say,"Why him and not me?
I would have gone in his place."
And there was Grandpa,
his tender eyes always there.

Through that sweet, sweet sadness
God revealed in His own time
His greater plan for us.
Summer days grew to years in school
impossible without you.

His Spirit has filled our house
with His love
poured out through you,
who have been ever-committed to us.

What a miracle to see
God ever-present in our family.
And even though we may sometimes squabble,
Yet now we are only a "poor reflection"
of what we then shall be.

May God's grace ever fill us
with the fullness of His love
and may we be ever-faithful servants.

Thankyou, Grandma and Grandpa
for the years you've invested in us
and the Gospel you've ingrained in our minds.
Surely God has engraved our hearts
and brought us together in His Word.

"Glory to God in the Highest
and on earth, peace to men
on whom His favor rests."  Luke 2:14

Happy Golden Anniversary

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Folding of the Petals

by Jerrold Ham  © 2000

The folding of the petals means that night is almost here.
The day has turned to twilight; and the sun soon disappears.
The flowers sleep in silence as they wait for morning's light.
They seem to be at peace as they rest throughout the night.

The flowers are our loved ones, whose blossoms we have shared,
They clothed and fed and taught us, they showed us that they cared.
And suddenly it seems they're in the twilight of their years.
As we watch their petals folding, we can't hold back the tears.

But their story is not over; they're only resting for awhile,
And when the dawn arrives, they'll awaken with a smile.
With a growing sense of joy, the dawn begins to break.
The birds begin to sing, and the flowers, they awake.

As they meet the Lord, it will be a beautiful sight.
Their petals will spring open to receive His glorious light.
The folding of the petals is not the end, I know.
It's just another step on the journey we must go.

Jerrold Ham is a seventy year old LPN, and his wife is an RN. They live in Spokane, and have two sons in their early thirties. For nearly six years - from late December, 1995 to September 8th, 2001 they took care of his mother who passed away due to Alzheimer's disease on September 8, 2001. Jerry quit his job as a home health care nurse to stay at home with his mother as her primary - 24/7 - caregiver. After her passing, He resumed working as a home health care nurse. He writes, “caring for a loved one can be a rather rough experience, but even in the darkest of those experiences God is at work in ways that we could never imagine.”

Saturday, March 10, 2012

God's Promises in the Desert

"Trust...does not mean hoping for the absence of pain but believing in the purpose of pain.  After all, if my almighty God is really almighty and my heavenly Father is really fatherly, then I should trust that he can and will do what is good for me in this sad world."
~Kevin DeYoung

The Good News We Almost Forgot 

I've been contemplating these words because I do find it very difficult to trust.  A friend told me she has outright told God, "I don't believe you are working for my good."  Gut-level honesty.

I've been contemplating what it means to be "in Christ" and the marriage themes throughout the Bible.  I confess and repent that in my heart I have falsely accused God of having wandering eyes, of not really looking out for us, not really helping us.  But we are his temple that he has consecrated and put his Name there forever.
My eyes and my heart will always be there. 
~1 Kings 9:3
(emphasis mine--and if this was true for the temple built by human hands, how much more for the temple he has made?!).  He has never been the adulterous one, though our eyes have wandered.  His promises are sure and true.  They are as wedding vows:
They will be my people, and I will be their God.
I will make an everlasting covenant with them:
I will never stop doing good to them, 
and I will inspire them to fear me, so that they will never turn away from me.
I will rejoice in doing them good
and will assuredly plant them in this land with all my heart and soul.
~Jeremiah 32:38, 40-41
(emphasis mine).  Do you hear his heart?  We are his and he is ours.  His covenant is beyond "till death do us part."  He will never stop doing good to us--even when he inspires us to fear him.  He rejoices in doing good to us.
Therefore I am now going to allure her;
I will lead her into the desert
and speak tenderly to her.
There I will give her back her vineyards,
and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.
There she will sing as in the days of her youth,
as in the day she came up out of Egypt.
“In that day,” declares the LORD,
“you will call me ‘my husband’;
you will no longer call me ‘my master.’
I will betroth you to me forever;
I will betroth you in righteousness and justice,
in love and compassion.
I will betroth you in faithfulness,
and you will acknowledge the LORD. 
~Hosea 2:14-16, 19-20

The Valley of Trouble (Achor) will become a door of hope.  He has not abandoned us in the desert, but led us.  And he has not led us into the desert for evil or to let us die (as the Israelites feared in their desert wanderings).  We may not know all his purposes, but he allures us, speaks tenderly to us, covenants with heart and soul, gives all for us...for our good.  Even now.

They will be called the Holy People, 
the Redeemed of the LORD; 
and you will be called Sought After, 
the City No Longer Deserted.

~Isaiah 62:12

You, are Sought After.  You have captured his heart.  He will, he is, doing good to us even when we cannot see it.

I gave you my solemn oath 
and entered into a covenant with you, 
declares the Sovereign Lord, 
and you became mine.

~Ezekiel 16:8b

Thursday, March 8, 2012

"Behold Our God"

This song moves me so deeply.  I think of God's train filling the room, his throne encircled in sapphire, Isaiah's coal to the lips, God's kindness to us, rejoicing over us with singing, numbering the hairs on our head, Job's response to God...and I'm filled with awe and wonder.  Let his glory fill the earth!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Waiting to Fly

by Nicolette M. Dumke

When Merry asked me to write a "story of hope" for this website, I wondered if I could do it. I thought, "I don't have all the answers. No! I don't have any of the answers!" Then I realized that this fact is the basis of real hope:

Hope is not a sentimental belief that things will get better.

It is coming to the end of your rope, to the end of your ability to cope with a problem, and giving up and surrendering yourself and the problem to God, to El Shaddai - God All Sufficient - and knowing that He is in control and can handle the problem - and indeed your whole life.

For several years, my food allergies were so severe that I was literally allergic to all foods.  I had headaches, diarhea, dizziness, and joint pain, among other symptoms. To stay alive, I ate the most exotic things and reacted even to them. God led me to knowledge, people, and treatment that helped over several years time so that I now have a nutritionally adequate diet, and He disciplined me to trust Him more in the process.

You can learn quickly what I learned slowly about food allergies at my Food Allergy website where you can also read my complete story Our Family's Story of Food Allergies and read about the book that came out of this experience, The Ultimate Food Allergy Cookbook and Survival Guide.

While on a walk this week, I saw a sparrow that had perched on a barbed-wire fence and gotten one of its talons caught in a twist of the wires. It was hanging upside down by its foot. Every minute or so it would flap its wings furiously and try to fly away.

We are often like this bird when faced with a seemingly insurmountable problem. We furiously and ineffectually flap our wings. Instead, we need to stop and cry out to our Heavenly Father. He will hear us and respond. His response could be to miraculously and instantly solve the problem - He can reach up and untangle us from the wires. Or he might show us how to get perched topside on the wire so our talons are at the right angle to pull out ourselves. However, it seems to me that most often He works on our problems slowly. He says, "Wait and learn to trust Me."

When God says, "Wait," if we cooperate with Him, there is produced a "harvest of righteousness and peace" in our lives. (Hebrews 12:11) We grow spiritually, mature, and become more like Jesus. These changes in us have eternal value. Temporal problems are just that - temporal and temporary, even if we live with them for the rest of our lives. When things are dark and desperate, we learn to cling to what we know about God - that He is in absolute control, and that He loves us and seeks only our highest good.
"Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life: you stretch out your hands against the anger of my foes, with your right hand you save me. The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your love, O Lord, endures forever." (Psalm 138:7-8)
When you are faced with problems that threaten to overwhelm you, remember and cling to these verses:
"Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior." (Isaiah 43: 1-3)
 "Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him." (James 1:12)

See more Stories of Hope
See links for Food Allergies and Chemical Sensitivities

Monday, March 5, 2012

Polishing the Pavers and Other Life Pursuits

In her book Around the Table: Connecting with Your Family at Mealtimes, author Sharon Fleming writes:

Around the Table BookIn Bogota we live in an enclosed community with seventy-five townhouses squeezed onto five acres.  Each house comes with a brick-tiled parking spot out front.  The day we moved into our house, our neighbor’s “driveway” was torn up.  I asked her if there had been a problem.  “I can’t get the old tiles to keep a shine,” she told me, “so I’m replacing them with a better quality.  Hopefully these will stay nice looking.”  I had never heard of shining a driveway, so I wasn’t sure what kind of a community I was moving into.
Every morning she comes out armed with a bucket, mop, and hot soapy water to wash her parking spot.  Then, with a rag pushed by a broom, she dries the driveway tiles.  After that she uses her electric floor polisher to bring up the luster of the wax.  When her husband comes home, he has to wipe his feet on their patch of grass and then on a mat at the bottom of the driveway before walking the ten paces to the front door. 
One day my children got out their sidewalk chalk and decorated our parking space, filling in each brick with a different color until it looked like a patchwork quilt.  After I admired it with them they ran off to the park to play.  A short while later, my neighbor came to my door to tell me that the unthinkable had happened:  my children had left chalk dust footprints on her driveway. 
She scolded me for their thoughtlessness and complained about how much work it is to clean her driveway and that she had already done it for the day.  Later as I hosed away the work of art, she lugged out the bucket, mop, water, and floor polisher again:  crash, swish, whirr.  And that is just how she cares for the driveway! 
That house is my neighbor’s life devotion.  It’s what she talks about “when she sits in her house and when she walks by the way.”  It’s what she is thinking about when she gets up at 5 a.m., and it is what she is consumed with until 11 p.m. when she turns off the news to go to sleep.
What is your life’s devotion? 
I want my life’s devotion to be the person of God as He has revealed Himself in Scripture.  My “devotions” or “devotional times” are the food for the devotion of my life, but my devotion to God continues all day.
*     *     *
(Shared with permission)

It’s so easy, in the busy-ness of life, to get caught up in other things.  Pretty things, important things, even good things.  What do we think about when we rise, when we’re sitting or walking along the way, when we lay down at night?  Are we consumed with things of this world, even good things? 

I confess I didn’t have a lot of hope when I first sat down to read this book.  I thought it might be helpful for others and was hoping to share about it for that reason, but thought it probably wouldn't offer much for our family.  After all, things that “work” in “normal” families, don’t usually work for us.  The structure of our days often revolves around the uniqueness of my husband’s disability rather than things we can “plan” and “count on.”  That makes meal times with all of us together difficult to accomplish.

But I came away renewed by her encouraging tone and the variety of creative solutions she has, especially:

  1. Hospitality can happen anywhere
  2. Meals together, even when some are missing, have value and significance
  3. Ideas for special celebrations (with Easter coming up, I think I’ll try to make this meal more special this year)
  4. Spending a little time ahead of time thinking about topics for deeper conversations (and she presents lots of ideas).

I found the first and second points especially encouraging.  Hospitality is hard when you have a family member with chemical sensitivities, but I can be warm and hospitable in other situations too—it’s not just about “home.”  

Meals together have great value—even if my husband isn’t up when the kids and I eat, I can eat with them, and sit down with a cup of coffee or tea when he is up, and still share time together.  And on days when we don’t all eat breakfast or lunch together—I can take a few moments to sit with a child or with Dave.  I can treasure those moments instead of lamenting that we are not “all” together, we can still make them special.  I can create a home atmosphere that encourages together time, even if it's not always "all together."  

This book has a lot of hope for families who struggle against the cultural constraints of our society to find time together--activities, work obligations, and so on.  And in those moments we carve out, we can share windows into our faith journey, the One we are devoted to.  I often hear parents asking for a "curriculum" to teach character qualities and those have value, but I think most character training happens in times together such as mealtimes.  I hope when my kids are grown that we will be "Still Talking" and talking deeply about the things of life that are important. 

It’s easy to get caught up in "polishing pavers"—but how much more meaningful it is to capture those moments here and there with someone and remember together, marvel together, about Christ who has captured our hearts.  

May God bless your homes and families.

If you'd like to find out more about this book, it is available for a 25% discount.  The author, Sharon Fleming, is also sponsoring a giveaway.  Read her blog entry here for more details.