Faith · Perspective

Faith

Faith: Part 2 – Fatigue, Faith and a Flaming Yam

Growth is hard.

In my previous installment “Fatigue,” I wrote about how much fatigue slowed me down this summer. It basically ground the month of August to a halt in terms of activity for me. During this time period, I was also struggling with my faith. Not actually doubting that there is a God – I see and feel so many actual points of proof for His existence – but rather feeling alone.

Yesterday, I taught children’s church. This takes place during our normal Sunday service for 30 minutes and is open to kids ages 2-up. In a completely disorganized fashion, I hadn’t planned anything as of 9:50am. Church starts at 10am. As I dashed into the bathroom to apply mascara, I saw my children’s rubber bath tub spout cover. It’s a whale. On the way out the door, I grabbed a flashlight, the whale spout cover (story props), and my Bible.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

You guessed it. I taught a lesson about Jonah and the whale. The story is found in the book of Jonah in the Old Testament. Basically, Jonah knows what he should do. He’s been told what to do. He just doesn’t want to do it and heads the other way on a boat. God stirs up a huge tempest. Jonah admits he is disobeying God. The crew of the boat asks God for forgiveness for throwing Jonah over and then launches him off the side. The storm calms. The crew has a new-found faith in God. (He uses ALL things for His good.) Jonah is swallowed by a huge fish and survives IN THE DARKNESS and with PRAISE for three days and three nights before being deposited on the shore.

There’s a lot to take from this portion of the passage. This entry won’t touch a fraction of it.

Jonah and I have quite a bit in common here.

Growth is hard.

In August, I attended a women’s faith conference: “Boost! Bloom Where You Are Planted.” I donated an entrance fee essentially to cry the whole day. Tears streamed down my face during the fantastic speakers. Tears hit the floor during guided prayer. Tears salted my cheeks during the praise songs. It was a complete TURNING POINT.

I’d spent the summer keeping myself so busy that I was that ship headed in the opposite direction. I was blown about, cargo being thrown overboard to keep afloat, ignoring those peaceful words that I could only hear when I’d slow down: Be Still.

This seems to be a recurring message for me. I get all wound up with the happenings surrounding me and shirk my devotions, praises, and generally start disliking everything around me. My fuse gets short. Patience lacks. I want to be alone. My cup is empty.

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Here’s where the growth happened- light bulb moment: I’m not supposed to fill my cup. The Holy Spirit does that… unless I’m too busy holding my hand over the top of the cup.

I took my hand off the top of the cup. How? By being still. I am a volunteer by nature. I WANT to help. Saying “No” doesn’t come easy. Truthfully, it usually comes with a *sigh* and a couple of drafts of thoughtfully composed words before I can hit send on the email or text. There’s guilt in the those two little letters: N-O.

By stepping back from some activities, I can honestly say we’ve found joy, patience, and peace again at our house. I’m back to reading my devotions most mornings. The waters have started to calm.

Sometimes God isn’t asking you to do more, He is telling you to do less. He is asking you to re-focus like a good, loving, and caring Father does.

Back to Jonah – His story isn’t over after the boat ride and the fish. He made both good choices and bad after that. Although I’m hopeful I’ll only make good decisions, I’m human. Gloriously human. Thank goodness for grace and mercy!

Perspective

Fatigue, Faith, and a Flaming Yam- Pt 1

Goodness. It’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve written. The title of this blog post sums up the month of August fairly well. I’m breaking this down into 3 parts simply because I need to get my kids up and dressed for church. #reallife

Fatigue has been a real bear this past month. A culmination of everything “make sure the kids have a fabulous summer” and then tack on a bacterial illness and two weeks of high dose antibiotics. Ugh. My body was DONE.

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My kids got my phone and caught me resting.

I NEVER put the blame for anything with my body on MS, but had to concede on this one. I couldn’t function or fight thru the fog to think straight. I had to change my thought process from blaming MS and those flipping lesions to accepting that this is a reason.

When I associate an image with the word Blame, it looks like a kid having a tantrum. I won’t allow this situation to lower me to that.  Honestly, in the depths of the fatigue I didn’t have the energy for a tantrum. My kids, husband and work all still require attention. This body still has responsibilities.

After a solid heart to heart with my sister and a day at a women’s faith conference, I admitted that the elephant in the room is this autoimmune disease. Even though I refuse to use it as an excuse, an excuse is very different than a reason. Many factors led to my body being worn out. Multiple sclerosis is the reason for this level of fatigue.

I’m happy to say that a week later, I’m starting to feel like myself again. I’ve hit the stationary bike twice, elliptical once, and ran my outdoor route twice. All modes of transportation are much slower than when I’m at my top. Exercise sharpens my mind and improves my mood.

I’m listening to my body.

Part 2: Faith

Faith · Family · Love · Parenting · Perspective

Tempo

Life here is slowly returning to a more normal pace. Lentando.

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Photo by Pixabay

The kids and I fell asleep on our couch last night. We read Llama Llama Red Pajama. That Llama sounds an awful lot like my 6yr old.

We prayed together. Each of us took turns praising for something we are thankful for and praying for someone who might be sick, sad, hungry or mad. May our eyes be opened and our hands ready to humbly serve those around us.

I woke an hour later and carried my children to their beds. I’m still able to lug my 75 pounder, but I’m not sure how much longer. I’ve got him by about 60 pounds and 12 inches. He’ll outgrow me in the coming 5 years.

Two hours later my husband walked in, finally home from a work trip. Sleepily I told him how nice it was to have him home. I don’t communicate exceptionally well at midnight.

Today will bring about the hustle and bustle of shuttling between swim lessons, basketball camp, a trip to the dentist and work responsibilities. Even this isn’t consistent with our lives 6 weeks ago, but we are getting closer.

Our cadence is slowing from affrettando. Too vigorous. Too chaotic. Like that flurry in the middle of a song, we are over the peak of summer.

We are falling into a new, more comfortable rhythm.

Faith · Family · Love · Parenting · Perspective

What I’m Celebrating on Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day 2018.

Many moms out there were being showered with lavish gifts. Quite a few, I imagine, received no recognition at all for the day. Others were somewhere in between.

I was an ‘in-between-er’ at the low end of the spectrum. No gifts, but they did make construction paper cards. It was another day where my kids bickered, my extremely tired 5yr old melted down and crashed for 3hrs (when is school done?!), and at one point I threatened to get out of the car and let my husband proceed with the kids to our destination without me.

So yeah, basically just another day of motherhood.

Isn’t that what the day is about though? Are we supposed to be put on a pedestal on Mother’s Day or should we move our focus to the little things that are to be appreciated?

I’m not one to worship my children. They aren’t always correct. They aren’t always even pleasant to be around. And yes, I’ve told them to leave me alone or  not talk.

However, I am thankful for these little people in my tribe. I love them unconditionally- always and everywhere. I learn new things about them and myself in abundance when we are together. At times, they swell my heart with gladness. While at others, they throw me into the pit and leave me questioning what I did to make this little monster.

At church, our pastor recognized the mothers and made that the focus of his message. He spoke of   the need to lift up and support all the moms- the young and old, married, single, widowed, biological, adoptive and foster, those who have lost, and the grandmothers raising their grandchildren.

It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture. It’s effective in the little things- offering childcare for any length of time, helping load or unload bags of groceries, passing her your $10 when she’s checking out at the store, welcoming a family with children instead of frowning at their noise.

The church needs to acknowledge the shift of stay-at-home to working mothers. It’s a change that has been decades in the making. The faith community needs to embrace these weary, hard working women.

He spoke about Hagar in Genesis. She didn’t willingly become a mother. Mothers who weren’t excited to become moms need to be cared for. They are treading water. Don’t let them go under.

When Abraham (man) gave her limited water and sent her away, God (the Creator) showed her a well. Think on that comparison for a moment…

He specifically recognized all of us who have locked ourselves in a room and cried- overwhelmed by life and questioning if we are making the right choices.

Motherhood has deepened my faith exponentially. All the trials, tribulations, meltdowns and months years without solid sleep have given me a glimpse of what love without strings looks like. Love that can’t be earned. Love that just IS.

That love is what I’m celebrating on Mother’s Day.

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Faith · Family · Love · Parenting · Perspective

Lost but Looking

I’m struggling today. Lost. Not sure what my big goal is. Floundering. Day after day…

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This appears to be the downside of re-reading and studying “The Best Yes.” I’m so unsure of my life goals that I can’t even answer some of the questions. Basic goals, in no particular order, at this point:

  1. Trust God.
  2. Love my family.
  3. Love my husband.
  4. Keep kids alive.
  5. Do my job.

Seriously. That’s it. That’s all I’ve got.

I’m not in danger or live in a war zone. It seems like I should have more plans than this.

No bucket list. No travel the world. No write a book. Ne. Non. Nada. Nothing.

It occurred to me that I’m not even in control of Item #4. I can do my best at this and still not guarantee it. Sounds pretty low, huh… Talk about your biggest fear?! My sister faced this when my nephew fought anaplastic ependymoma aka brain cancer at 18months. He’s now a healthy 10yr old, but honesty time —bad stuff happens and we aren’t in control.

Fear has me reeling this week. I’m questioning how deep is my faith if something like this happens? And dear Lord, please don’t let this happen! If I type these words or utter them out loud, does this make it more likely I will be tested and refined in this way?

As far as God is concerned, I’m already an open book. So, I guess that is reassuring. Typing the words doesn’t make that more real or more likely.

As our previous pastor told me once when I visited with him about my anxiety – “God is God. God is Good. All the Time.” He is my Rock and my Salvation. I don’t have to be enough. Take that off my shoulders! It isn’t my job description.

I’ve spent the last month of quiet early mornings reading Isaiah and then dove right into Jeremiah. While this does encourage some deep soul searching to see if my actions and heart match my words, it might be time to read something a bit more uplifting like Psalms or a book in the New Testament.

As I type, this song came on. “Eye of the Storm” — Thank you. Just when I needed it! Took the words right out of my mouth.

After I get in a run – think endorphins – I might try to make sense of this calendar and sketch out a few plans for life. Until then, I’ll enjoy the people and moments that make me happy.

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Faith · Family · Fitness · Health · Perspective

I am thankful for MS because _____

“I am thankful for MS because ___________.”

This was a prompt on a MS focused social media feed I follow. It took me a moment to hone in my feelings on this open ended statement.

Before answering, I scrolled down through the many responses. They ranged from angry and bitter to grateful and inspiring. To each his/ her own on personal feelings, this chronic condition is as unique to the individual as freckles on a face.

My post was short. It has given me “perspective.” On both good days and rough, foggy brained and clear, fatigued and energetic, this condition has given me a different perspective on how to approach life in general.

Three years ago, I was going strong (albeit with a numbed right arm). I was training for my first half marathon, signing up before my diagnosis. I was pushing hard. Full of determination and pride for what I was working towards. Pride is so hollow.

The diagnosis was devastating to my family. Honestly, after researching my odd-ball symptoms, I was pretty sure that was what we were going to hear.

Fast forward three and a half years…. we’ve juggled and jumped the paperwork and financial hoops (doctors, insurance, medications). Adjusting accordingly to temperatures and fatigue levels is a daily occurrence. I’ve ran three half marathons and approximately 1300 miles. Some days are easy. Some days drag.

Perspective: My husband and kids get my energy and effort first. It’s ok to say no. My Best Yes might be to say no to outside activities, social gatherings, or work projects. What I choose to say “yes” to is done with more thought.

Perspective: It is more important than ever to make sweet lemonade from life’s lemons. Anger and bitterness multiply if I let it in. And  let’s be honest, it doesn’t fix anything.

Perspective: Compassion, a listening ear, and empathy are three of the greatest tools. I don’t know what’s going on with other people, but I can guarantee that listening without preconceived  judgement goes a long way. Not assuming that I know how someone feels or what they are capable of has been a humbling lesson to learn with MS.

Perspective: mobility- can you run? Can you walk? Can you use both hands? Can you feel with all your fingers? Don’t take it for granted.

Perspective: Humility. I am breakable. I am broken. I thank God for what I’ve learned, who I am, and what He is using me for.

Perspective: the gift of time.

I’m thankful for each and every day- good, bad, apathetic or productive.

MS is not a gift I’d wish for anyone, but the perspective it’s given me is.

Much love this Christmas season– Jen

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Faith · Love · Perspective

Anxious & Ichthus

Yesterday morning my anxiety was running high, like the Burj Khalifa in Dubai high.

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Photo Credit: http://www.dailymail.co.uk

After getting the kids around for school and on the bus, I told my husband that I was going for a quick 10 minute run. That was all I had time to squeeze in. He didn’t argue. I know he could sense my anxiety.

On top of our normal parent – work schedule, this week includes a lot of extras and one long car trip to a specialist. But I think the thing that really unnerved me was something our guest evangelist at church said yesterday.

His message was that God’s love is PERSONAL to each of us. (Heavy faith talk to follow)

Matthew 5:13-16 New International Version (NIV)

Salt and Light
13 Jen – “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

14 Jen – “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light” – Jen- ” shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

I thought this was all very uplifting. Not giving myself any credit, but this is humbly encouraging to do good works in whatever way possible for the glory of my Heavenly Father.

He closed his message by declaring that the signs for the Lord’s return are visible and increasing just as the old and new testament’s discuss. While we aren’t able to discern all those signs and know not the timing, each moment of time here is a moment gone and one closer to the next. The part that caught me is when he said we should all be looking toward this with joy.

I’m being very raw and honest here — I’m mixed with joy and worry when I think about this. As I internally debated these feelings for the past few days, it occurred to me that if I’m conflicted in my feelings it must partially be because I’m still holding God at arm’s length in some parts of my life. More internal reflection is currently focused on exactly where.

Absolutely I look forward to no more illness, sadness, injuries, and no more gut-wrenching evil. I desire more of that amazing joy and peace that I occasionally feel pass over me for all eternity. Have you ever felt that? It is truly hard to put into words – warm, not just happy but deeper than that – joy, light, peace, complete love. I don’t feel it with my family or friends, although I do feel deep love and comfort with them. It is much Much MUCH deeper than that.

My worry is about how bad it has to get. Am I equipped to handle it? Not alone, I’m sure. What about my children? What will their relationships look like? I know I went through a period of time in high school and college where I did things that I hoped God would just overlook. Pay no attention to the person behind the curtain (me) doing these things that I want to experience, but know are bad news… Not earned, not deserved and yet I asked and am graciously forgiven. Saved thru Grace not works.

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What about my high school acquaintance who proclaims himself an atheist, but rails angrily against God on social media? He curses against the God he declares not to exist. He is so wounded by his current situation it is hard for me to fathom. What about those who are so cushy and comfortable in their own situations that they are oblivious to the emotionally, spiritually, or physically poor and needy next door? What about the people being led astray by the glitz, glamour and empty promises of success?

I just finished a life application study of the book of Acts. I know that people will hear the message and choose not to believe in God or the Gospel. In these situations, Paul had to shake off his garments and walk away. He still cared for all people, but realized that his mission was to present the message and pray for the people who heard it. He couldn’t work in the hearts of the people. That is the job of the Holy Spirit.

As I write this, my anxiety diminishes. My job is to love the people and give them the message that God is real. He loves you regardless of your previous or future choices. We’re fallible, breakable humans. God is not the hypocritical religious leader or megachurch preacher asking for your money while ignoring the needy. He is love. His Spirit flows in the hands and feet of those serving others humbly. I suspect that almost everyone on this planet has encountered the love of God regardless of if they’ve recognized it as such.

Upon returning from my run yesterday morning, this was laying in my yard by my sidewalk. Keep your head up and your eyes open. God’s love is everywhere. Be the good and give that glory to Whom it belongs.

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