Friday, December 26, 2014

Christmas Circumstance

Christmas is not ruled by Circumstance. 

Its light is not dulled by materialism.

Its meaning is not diminished through political correctness.

Its story is not squelched through sadness.

Its joy is not dulled by suffering.

Its freedom is not changed by family togetherness.

Its peace is not preempted by dischord.

Its message is not measured by how many people are in the pews.

Its delight is not shattered through suffering.

Its sanctity is not deterred by strife.

Its merry is not missed through misery.

Its message is not changed by cancer.

Its celebration is not dulled by death.

Its wow is not wasted in weakness.

We want to hold on to Christmas being Merry because of good things in our lives.  Happy things.  Joyful things.  But is the story of Christmas any less powerful for the cancer patient?  Or the homeless man? Or the grieving?

Absolutely not.  Christmas is not ruled by circumstance. 

Christmas is about the cradle.
Christmas is about the cross.
Christmas is about Christ.
Christmas is about God having a plan.
Christmas is about God's plan to save us from the circumstances of this world. 
Death turns to life
Sickness to health
dischord to peace
suffering and strife to joy
and weakness to strength through the baby in the manger.

Christmas is not ruled by circumstance.  Do not let circumstance rule your Christmas.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Change Changed Me

Change is hard.  Much of my time and energy is spent trying to maintain the status quo.  Even if the status quo is less than ideal, or downright miserable, it seems better than the unknown. 

There is change we choose; getting married, leaving a job, or moving.  Then there is change that happens to us; health issues, money problems, losing a loved one or losing a job.

2014 has been a year of dramatic change for me.  Some we chose and some we did not chose.  I did not choose to lose my mom to cancer, or have a big tumor removed.  I did choose to move and leave a lot of things that have been a steady comfort to me.

Whether we choose change or change chooses up, there is grief and hardship in change.  I think, especially as a woman, I interpret change as negative and it causes stress.  And in those times, like this year for me, when wave after wave of change continually sweeps through your life, it is easy to become numb. Or paralyzed by fear.

The thing I think I don't like about change is the unknown.  There is fear in not knowing what will come?  Where will we live?  Will we make new connections?  How will we go on without mom?  What is it's cancer?  How will I pay my medical bills?  Those are the kind of questions we all face when the waves of change come rolling in.

Fear is definitely a factor in my desire to resist change, but I think the biggest thing is Control.  I want to be in control of what is going on in my life.  But I can't control everything.  Nor should I.  Control and fear do not make things better but actually make me a prisoner.  Only trusting God for the future and embracing what is to come brings freedom.

The thing about change as I look back at this year, is that change has changed me. Could God be using all this change to make me trust Him more?

It is hard to fear things when I have seen some of my biggest fears. 

I sat by a bed when my mom died. And God was there.

I went to the funeral.  And God was there.

We left a ministry we thought we would stay with forever.  We did not have a plan for the future. And God is here.

We left a community we loved.  We had friends, connections and felt secure.  And God is here.

I had a tumor and surgery.  I recovered.  It was not cancer.  But what if it was?  What do I have to fear?  God is here.

The change produced in me through change is surrender.  I surrender my desire for control and security.  I hold things loosely.  Change has taken away much fear.  What do I have to fear?  I trust Christ.  He has been there.  He will be there.  Whatever comes. 

Ten years ago we were on our way to my sister-in-laws for Thanksgiving.  We had our three little kids in the van and I was pregnant with Annie.  We got off the interstate and were driving through the unknown.  I had never been there.  And I was afraid.  I realized that over every hill was excitement and adventure for Mike but for me it was fear.  What is over the next hill?

On this year's Thanksgiving road trip when we went over the hills, I couldn't help but think God is over the next hill.  Whatever comes, God is already there.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Livin' Large at the Laundromat

In the midst of moving, our dryer quit.  Trust me, there is a blessing in that.  It is one less thing we have to move. Plus,  I was not even worried because I have a huge clothes line.  But the weather is not cooperating so there was no avoiding the horrible inevitable:  The Laundromat.

Packing up all the dirty clothes for a family of 7 and heading to wash them with 3 kids in tow is no one's idea of a fun day.  I was kind of crabby and dreading it.  The younger girls were ecstatic.   Abby feels like a hobo.  As I was getting Maytag tokens I assured her, a hobo could never afford to do laundry here!

I am a slow learner.  I have had to have this shown to me more times than I care to admit.  Life is full of ups and downs, twists and turns.  Some major, some minor.  Sometimes the minor ones feel even worse than that major ones.  I flew through handling a major surgery but the laundromat will send me into a tizzy.

In times of change and times of routine; in good times and bad times; happy time and sad times; good weather and bad weather; if there's extra money or not I trust Christ to do his work in my life.  It seems like it is often in these little things that I see Him. 

I can choose to be thankful for time with the girls, find joy in their excitement, solace in a snicker bar from the vending machine, thrill in putting five load of laundry in at one time (I wonder how much these machines are?!  I want one!) and we can all enjoy the wifi!

I can choose to be thankful for a laundromat and clothes to wash.  I can choose to accept what comes day by day with joy and make it an adventure instead of a chore.

Adventure looms every day in big ways and small.  I am going to talk about God's will in my next post.  Today has me thinking, maybe I don't know God's will for my future.  I may not know what job to get or where we should live or how to cure world hunger.  But I do know beyond a shadow of a doubt that my family needs clean clothes today and I have some time with my girls.  Plus they LOVE doing laundry here!

I can give them the gift of a happy mom that is in it for the fun and adventure with them.

Friday, June 27, 2014


I know all the holding loosely stuff I wrote about before is true.  I know that we are following where God is leading us.  But most of my days these last few weeks have been spent swinging back and forth like a pendulum.

From the freeing feeling of submitting to God's leading,
to the heart pounding, soul crushing fear of what on earth have we done!?

From being confident of God's promises,
to trying to hold on to my own selfish security.

From the excitement of embarking on an adventure of faith,
to the sadness of leaving the people we love, especially now that our last Sunday is coming.

It's back and forth and up and down, which I should be used to from raising teenagers!  I get so frustrated when I have those lack of faith moments where I want to hold on to the things I can see instead of the things God promises.

The thing about the pendulum is that it is based on feelings and emotions.  All the emotions are good.  If we weren't sad to leave here, there would be something wrong.  If we weren't afraid of the uncertainty, that would be weird.

It makes me realize how much, even in my Christian life, I do not let my heart and life rest on the promises of God.  Feelings, emotions and situations change, but God does not.  His word is true and constant.

I keep rereading these verses.  It is so obvious to me that I have not allowed myself to fully trust God's promises.

"Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous.  Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."
Joshua 1:9

"Therefore I tell you, do no worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not much more valuable than they?"
Matthew 5:25-26

I know it's true, but it is good to live it.  It's good when you wake up and all you can do is say Ok God what's next?  I will go where you lead and do what you want even if I have no idea what that is.

Since we made our first leap, we have had some bumps in the road and some amazing provisions of grace.  In the bumps, it is easy to second guess and doubt.  In the grace, it is easy to say yep we've got this faith thing and be proud.  So I guess we need a combination of both.

No matter how much the pendulum swings.  No matter how many times my feelings change.  No matter how sad I am about leaving.  No matter how worried I might be about the future.  The words and promises of God never change.  That is what I need to hold on to.  That is what we all need to hold on to in times of change or normal routine. Everything else, for good or for bad, is secondary to loving and serving Him.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Holding Loosely

I was happy. I liked my life. We were comfortable. I love my family, my church, my friends and my job. I know everyone in town.   Life is good.

I was happy and I was clinging on to my comfy little corner of the world. All the while God was trying to get my attention.

I found myself holding on to my comfort and living a faith that was in my control. The thing is that most of life is not in our control.

In March my Mom's cancer returned. She had surgery and was given 6-12 months. She lived two weeks.

I had surgery to remove a large ovarian tumor. Two weeks into my recovery, I was on a plane to Colorado to see my mom.

In those times, you can't really second guess what is going on. Life, death, sickness are things we cannot control. So as much as we may hate it, we have to accept the change and look for the new thing God is doing.

In decisions like we have made about moving, it feels harder in some ways. The stakes are not as high as life or death, but we have a choice. We could stay or we could go. That's a harder one for me to swallow in some ways.

And there is no doubt that either way, change is hard. Living life relying fully on Christ is scary. For someone that has been in ministry for 15 years, it seems like a no brainer that I would trust Christ without abandon. If only it were that easy.

As change has made itself known in my life through choice and circumstance, God has shown me that I need to let go of the things that feel secure.

I distantly remembered hearing a quote about holding things loosely. A friend reminded me it was Corrie Ten Boom. I found several variations of this quote in my quick google search. This is from a Charles Swindoll book, Living Above the Level of Mediocrity.

“Chuck, I've learned that we must hold everything loosely, because when I grip it tightly, it hurts when the Father pries my fingers loose and takes it from me!”

So as we begin this new adventure of faith, I am trying to hold all things loosely except Christ. As I let go of things and step toward an uncertain future, I find myself holding on to Christ all the more. Holding on to Him the way I should. Like my life depends on it.

And how uncertain is my future? I guess we don't know what job we will have or how much money we will make or what school the kids will go to, but I know my future is secure.

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen in temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:18

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Six Weeks

Six weeks ago today I was a hurting unit.   In more ways than one.

At the beginning of March I noticed a lump in my stomach.  I didn't really think too much of it but made an appointment to see my doctor.  A week later, she took one lookand  ordered a CT scan. 

Waiting for the results of those tests are never too fun.  I knew by the look on her face and the speed they got me in that it was going to be impactful news. 

There are words you don't want to hear from your doctor.  Especially when your Mom had Ovarian Cancer in the last year.  Those are the words I did hear:  Ovarian Mass and cancer.  They have no way of knowing if it in cancer or not until they actually get in there.  So we waited.  The mass ruptured.  I made it through the weekend until my doctor returned from a trip.

I told the doctor I wasn't worried.  My mom had Ovarian Cancer and finished Chemo and was doing great!  It's good to know it isn't a death sentence.

I didn't know it yet, but my mom was feeling sick again that week.  She was planning to come up and help at my house while I recovered but she changed her plans at the last minute and went back to Colorado to see her doctor.

Her cancer was back.  She had surgery the day before me.  I tried to keep busy that day.  I worked even though I didn't feel like it.  My dad called and said the news was not good.  The cancer was spreading and the doctor said she probably only had 6-12 months.  We were devastated.  I had a cold rush through my body and some angry thoughts towards God.

The next day, I told the doctor to take everything out she could.  I didn't want ovaries anymore.  Menopause is my 30's sounded pretty good compared to cancer.  She obliged.  My surgery went fine.  It was a borderline tumor that seemed to be contained to the one ovary.  The fluid from the rupture ups the risk a little but the outcome is good.  No further treatment  needed and follow ups every six months. 

I felt guiltily relieved.  As sad as I was about my mom, I was so happy for myself.  I want to live.  I want to be there for my family.  That's probably what scared me most about the prospect of cancer. 

It's hard to feel that way when my mom isn't getting the same opportunity.

I was pretty miserable for 2 weeks.  I did some puking and had an extended hospital stay.  The drugs were not my friends. I couldn't eat.  It was a crummy way to lose a lot of weight.  When I got home, I stayed in bed. 

I knew I needed to head to Colorado but wasn't up to it.  

We felt like 6-12 months was such a short amount of time.  They hoped to try chemo and return to Minnesota but she kept getting weaker.  Finally the doctor said, the cancer is taking over and it's time for hospice.

My sister and I jumped on a plane and got there 4 hours before she died.  I didn't want to go.  I wanted to stay in the safe cocoon of my house and watch Netflix, where I could pretend none of this was happening.

The rest of my recovery was spent at funeral homes, funerals, car trips and family. 

I went back to work this week because it's been 6 weeks.  That's how long they say it takes to recover.  

The incision from my surgery is healing, but it's still tender.  Soon it will just be a scar. 

It's been a month since my Mom went to heaven.  I don't think I feel the full force of that yet.  The scars from that will never heal.