09 February 2012

You know you're 38 when...

1. You start to be thankful for birthdays instead of regretting them. I have a feeling this has something to do with facing a life-threatening illness and then standing back in amazement (and desperation!) while God restores health and healing. Birthdays should be celebrated, not lamented. Life is a gift!
2. A night spent alone at the casa reading a book, eating leftovers, walking the dog, playing Scramble, checking blogs, posting on Facebook, reading some more, straightening just a tad, and blogging is actually a night to be relished! Sabbath rest is often elusive, but when it arrives at last is such a blessing!
3. Mornings become slightly more bearable. Okay, still not early mornings, and still not immediately upon waking. But! Once I have risen out of the bed, taken my morning walk, and sat down with a cup of coffee and opened God's Word...ahhh, the unhurried pace of a morning is bliss.
4. After years and years of putting it off, you finally succumb to drinking coffee every single morning...and you make it yourself...at your house...and you love it more than you think you ought.
5. You scoff inside when a 30 year old says they are "old."
6. You are relieved when trendy middle school girls compliment your purse. At long last, you are now adequately convinced that your purse isn't matronly. :)
7. You actually cook something in that crockpot that's been collecting dust. And, it tastes good!
8. You find yourself enjoying looking at dishes and cooking utensils when you're out shopping.
9. You file your taxes early, as in I-filed-them-yesterday-early. Wahoo!
10. Your nieces are nephews are pre-teens, teens, and young adults. Oh my, what happened to my babies? And yet, you still think they are as cute as ever.
11. You may not have actually mailed all your Christmas cards, but you're getting closer and closer every year. Purchase cards-check, collect addresses-check, order Christmas stamps-check, address envelopes-check, put stamps on them-check, sign cards-check. Sadly, this is where my good fortune left off. But still, high hopes for actually sending some next year!
12. You become a bit more of a high maintenance traveler. I hate this one! Granted, I'm still highly addicted to packing lighter than most, but find myself with more and more items I can't seem to live without for a few days.
13. You decorate your condo for holidays...incuding Valentine's Day...even when you're single. Okay, so maybe this one has nothing to do with being 38 and is simply because I'm a crazy fun person. Yes?
14. Your idea of crazy fun is a lot different than it used to be.
15. You may not consider yourself wise just yet, but you are grateful for enough life experience and grace to be able to look back at years past and see all the ways God has been faithful. You have less fear of the future when you remember struggles and triumphs of the past and what He has done through it all.
16. You enjoy historical fiction more than the latest trendy novels.
17. You think of middle aged as young. Very young.
18. You feel hip driving a honda civic.
19. You still dream of adventures, but you are so much more practical about it! Ugh.
20. You realize that you still have a lot to learn, a lot of life to live, and look forward to all that God has in store!

And with that (I was determined to finish with an even #) this young 38 year old is going to get my jammies on and read in bed to my heart's content! Good night!

12 January 2012

Life Lessons

Here are a few things God has been teaching me lately...

1.  God will not be rushed. Period.

2.  Repentance is good for the soul.  It's even better for keeping a right relationship with my Father.  As my pastor said last Sunday, "Repentance prepares us for the next thing God will do." I had a long list of things that God exposed in my heart the past couple weeks.  I had monsters rising up in me like...worry, idolatry, unbelief, seeking to please people more than God.  You know, just small stuff! Ha!  Not small stuff at all, in fact it was really big stuff that was displeasing to God and wreaking havoc with my sense of peace and purpose.  

3.  I need the gospel. Everyday.

4.  I can only do one thing at a time.  Bringing even more freedom to my soul is the realization that God only calls me to do one thing at a time.  One thing. This sounds so silly, but it has been revolutionary to me this week.  I get so stressed out and anxious when I try to think about what I am expected to accomplish the next month, week, day.  It doesn't seem to matter which task I am doing - I always seem to feel distraught, overwhelmed, behind, even guilty because I'm not working on X, Y, and Z that are also clamoring for my attention.  This isn't healthy. Trust me.  It means that I cannot focus on  the task I am doing. It means I'm not enjoying that task. It means I'm not trusting God. It means I'm distracted. It means I'm not aware of God's presence with me. It means I'm even less productive.  Often times, it means I'm paralyzed by my anxiety, making the current task a chore instead of a delight. Yes, I need to be a good steward of my time. I need to be diligent. I need to work hard. I need to invest in relationship. I need to worship.  I need to be quiet. I need to rest. I need to sometimes do things that I don't particularly enjoy.  I need to be sensitive to God leading me throughout the day.  But wow, the freedom that has come in acknowledging that God is pleased by my one thing.  I can do one thing in an act of obedience and worship to Him.  I can rest in doing that one thing. I can do that one thing well. I can choose to silence those pesky voices that say, 
"You're never going to get this done on time!"  "It's going to be a mess!"  "You should be able to keep it all together."  "You are going to embarrass yourself."  "You are a bad person because your apartment is messy."  "You should have responded to this e-mail weeks ago." "You should be better at this." "You're going to fall apart." "You don't have what it takes." "You are a failure." "You aren't good enough." "So and so isn't going to be pleased with you." You're not going to do a good job." "You don't deserve to rest." "You should be better at this or that."  
Ah yes, those are the voices that mess me up.  However, when I accept that I can only do one thing at a time and that God only wants me to do one thing at a time, my peace is restored.  It is admission that I am not in control.  I repeat, I am not in control. I am not in control.  Jesus holds all things together.  Many are the plans in a man's heart, but the Lord's purpose prevails.  God is sovereign.  God is good, and I can trust Him.  He gives grace moment by moment, not month by month!  His grace is sufficient for one thing. One thing at a time.

5.  God sees me.  He likes to remind me that He sees me.  He gives me just the right verse at just the right time, knowing I need it's prick of conviction or I need it's balm of healing or I need it's burst of encouragement.  He sees me and it makes me feel loved. 

6. He is working out His plan for me. In His time. See #1.

7. Single middle-aged men are becoming more attractive than they used to be. How did that happen?!

21 November 2011

Looking Back

November 20, 2010 was a Saturday.  It was the morning after my pulmonary thromboendarterectomy surgery.  With a doctor close by the nurses had administered a drug to "wake" me up after 24 hours of anesthetic sleep.  It felt more like 5 minutes.  My first thought upon awakening was, "Oh, I've just been napping. I wonder if it's time for my surgery yet."  My very next thought, likely produced by the doctors and nurses telling me it was Saturday morning and that my surgery was a success and the realization that there was a giant breathing tube down my throat, was something like this, "Wow, the surgery is over and I'm still alive!"  I definitely felt a sense of relief.  However, I had no idea that some of the most difficult days of my life were ahead of me as recovery from PTE is a great challenge!  Those next several days in ICU were incredibly long and painful and difficult both mentally and physically.  Even now, a year later, reflection brings mixed emotions.  Remembering the experience is bittersweet.  There are so many thoughts and emotions that have been swirling around in my heart the past few weeks.  I have moments where I can't stop smiling because I am so overwhelmed with gratitude and joy that I am alive and healthy today!  My heart rejoices when I remember how God redeemed my life from the pit and has set my feet in a steady place!  Not only did God use the surgery to bring healing to my body, He slowly but surely delivered me from a pit of despair to a steady place of emotional and spiritual restoration and very real hope for the future.  In so many ways 2010 was a desperately difficult year and in so many ways 2011 has been a wonderful year full of hope and healing and life!  

And yet, the looking back is bittersweet.  My physical, emotional, and spiritual heartache of those days before and after surgery spill out as tears even now.  The truth is, it doesn't seem like it has already been a year, and I'm a bit sad that it has already been a year.  I've been trying to figure out why I feel this way.  I think it has something to do with the depth of both the struggle and the deliverance and the lessons I am still learning from both of those things.  It was such a deeply significant and powerful period of time in my life that I am afraid of forgetting.  Afraid of forgetting how hard it was learning that I had an incurable disease that would dramatically shorten my life.  Afraid of forgetting how God met me in so many incredible ways in the midst of the despair and how He provided again and again and again.  Afraid of forgetting God's goodness to me before I knew a cure was possible.  Afraid of forgetting God showing me that His goodness was not based on whether He brought physical healing to me.  Afraid of forgetting how my family and friends and acquaintances loved me, upheld me, cried with me, laughed with me, listened to me, walked with me, carried me, hurt with me, shared God's Word with me, and more than anything prayed and trusted God to do what only He could do.  I'm afraid of forgetting how God breathed life into certain passages of Scripture that anchored me.  I'm afraid of forgetting how much peace God gave me the week before surgery.  Afraid of forgetting how by God's grace I was able to look death in the face and say, "You don't scare me."  I never want to forget going to sleep the night before my surgery and the next morning kissing my parents goodbye as they wheeled me to the operating room with the overwhelming peace to know, "To live is Christ and to die is gain."  I never ever want to forget that truth planted in me by facing a surgery inherent with great risk and yet knowing I had the assurance that I would spend eternity with Jesus.  I'm afraid of forgetting that Jesus really is all I need and want and have.  If I lived through the surgery I would get Jesus and if I died from the surgery I would get Jesus.  Jesus either way! Surely that one truth is enough to make me not want to forget, don't you think?

And yet, there's so much more I don't want to forget!  I don't want to forget how hard recovery was because it makes me grateful for today and it makes me compassionate for people who have to endure so much more than I did.  The list goes on and on in my head and heart of moments and memories that I don't want to lose.  Those days are full of so much significance.  Those days are full of so many lessons I still want to learn along with so many more applications from those lessons I still need to address in my life.  Those days are full of richness.  

Reflecting upon the richness brings me to this place one year later with an unexpected sense of grief.  I'm actually not quite sure whether it's a good thing or a bad thing that I'm not ready to let go.  Don't get me wrong, I'm glad I'm not still in the midst of those darkest of days!  But at the same time, I'm sad about the passing of a year and the distance between those days and now. I don't want to say goodbye to those days. I wonder if and how God could ever work in my life in such a profound way again?  I find myself thinking, "Oh God, please don't ever send me back into a furnace that hot!"  The fire was so hot and so dark that many days I couldn't see or feel or hear God.  I didn't know where He was or what He was doing.  However, looking back with the ability to see from the outside in, I can see Jesus in the furnace there with me.  No doubt, the time that has passed has given me the perspective I need to be able to see Him there, or rather to see Him more clearly there.  Now I can see Him there with me in the flames and in the fire and in the deliverance and in the pain and in the healing and in the restoration.  This year I have often been reminded of the account when Moses asked to see God's glory...

Moses said, "Please show me your glory." And He said, "I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name 'The Lord.' And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. But," He said, "you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live." And the Lord said, "Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen." (Exodus 33:18-23 ESV)

I believe this explains why there were days when I couldn't see God.  I believe that God was actually so very present and active that His glory would have shined too much brightness for my little eyes to see!  I believe it was His grace that hid me in the cleft of the rock until He passed by.  (There were many times in the hospital before and after surgery when the words of the familiar hymn would play in my head..."and covers me there with his hand, and covers me there with his hand.")  The passing of time has been a bit hard to accept this week,  but it also brings me great joy and delight as I recognize that God has now removed His hand and has allowed me to look back and see His glory and to see where He has been!  What a wonderful thing to not only look back and remember the struggle, but to see Him there with me and to praise Him for all He was doing!  This is God's gift of the passing of a year, and what wonderful gift it is!

27 May 2011

14 Gifts

Today has been a most marvelous day - a day off work and with absolutely nowhere I had to be! I love my life and enjoy all the things that fill it up, but I also treasure the times of rest and relating! Here's what I'm thankful for on this day...

1. Sleeping in this morning
2. Being healthy enough to walk to Starbucks
3. Starbucks
4. A nice long chat on the phone with my lovely friend Abby all the way from Istanbul
5. Having a friend like Abby who doesn't just pray for me, but always makes a point to pray out loud on the phone together. I love that she prays for God to give me "happy patience!"
6. "He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?" Romans 8:32
7. Meeting up with Kasey spur-o-the-moment at the mall to do a little leisurely shopping
8. Making an impromptu appointment and getting my hair cut
9. A great haircut (but still long!) that looks and feels so much better on my little punkin head :)
10. Laughing on the phone with Linda and talking to sweet little Katie too
11. Finally finishing my outline of the book of Acts
12. A quiet night at home
13. Getting ready to enjoy my leftover delicious tilapia from dinner last night
14. Seeing my name on a flight itinerary to Israel in 55 days!

19 May 2011

Happy Birthday!

Today is the 6 month anniversary of my PTE surgery!!!  It feels like a new kind of birthday to celebrate when I got my life back afresh!  I continue to feel great and grateful for all that God has done for me!  I was reading in 2 Corinthians yesterday and was amazed at these words in chapter 1.  I had tears in my eyes - not of sadness, but of joy!  Joy that I am on the other side and joy that I have been rescued!  Thank you all for sharing in my suffering and now sharing in my joy!  If I could write with the skill and inspiration of Paul, I would like to say something like this...

2 Corinthians 1:6-11 (The Message Paraphrase)
When we suffer for Jesus, it works out for your healing and salvation. If we are treated well, given a helping hand and encouraging word, that also works to your benefit, spurring you on, face forward, unflinching. Your hard times are also our hard times. When we see that you're just as willing to endure the hard times as to enjoy the good times, we know you're going to make it, no doubt about it.

We don't want you in the dark, friends, about how hard it was when all this came down on us in Asia province. It was so bad we didn't think we were going to make it. We felt like we'd been sent to death row, that it was all over for us. As it turned out, it was the best thing that could have happened. Instead of trusting in our own strength or wits to get out of it, we were forced to trust God totally—not a bad idea since he's the God who raises the dead! And he did it, rescued us from certain doom. And he'll do it again, rescuing us as many times as we need rescuing. You and your prayers are part of the rescue operation—I don't want you in the dark about that either. I can see your faces even now, lifted in praise for God's deliverance of us, a rescue in which your prayers played such a crucial part.

06 May 2011

For Moms, Former Moms, and Wannabe Moms

For Moms, Former Moms, and Wannabe Moms

This is an incredible article which provides truth for all kinds of women on Mother's Day - single women like me who long to be a mommy some day or married women who keep praying and hoping for a baby despite much frustration and sorrow and women who are faced everyday with the intense challenge of loving and caring for their children in a Christlike way. I hope each of you finds the encouragement you need on this wonderful, but sometimes difficult day!

And P.S. I really love my MAMA! :)

30 April 2011

Psalm 30 on April 30

Psalm 30
"I will exalt you, LORD, for you rescued me. You refused to let my enemies triumph over me. O LORD my God, I cried to you for help, and you restored my health. You brought me up from the grave, O LORD. You kept me from falling into the pit of death." (verses 1-3)

"I cried out to you, O LORD. I begged the Lord for mercy, saying, 'What will you gain if I die, if I sink into the grave? Can my dust praise you? Can it tell of your faithfulness? Hear me, LORD, and have mercy on me. Help me, O LORD.' You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy, that I might sing praises to you and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give you thanks forever." (verses 8-12)

My death was not immediately imminent last year when I was ill. It was, however, threatened to come within only a couple years. On November 17th, my San Diego doctor, the amazingly kind Dr. Bill Auger, was explaining the results of several days of testing and explaining my possibilities, and particularly explaining the complicated pulmonary thromboendarterectomy surgery.

My family and I knew that I was ill, we knew that pulmonary hypertension was serious, and we knew that God had provided the possibility of this surgery. However, we did not know exactly how severe the pulmonary hypertension was. I had heard just bits and pieces from previous doctors and had read information online, but that is different. Different than hearing that in the main measurement they use to determine the severity of the effect of high pressure between my heart and lungs, my level was in the 900's, instead of around 125 or so (if I'm remembering this correctly). Not good. Dr. Auger explained the surgery and lined out my specific level of risks - risk of various complications, risk of death. From what he could tell, it looked like my mortality rate for this surgery was somewhere between 2-3%. Slightly better than average. Then he gave us my three options.

Option 1: Continue on with my life without any major medicinal treatment. Also with option 1, a 20% chance that I would still be alive in 2 years.

Option 2: Begin intense and expensive medicinal and oxygen therapy for the rest of my life with no guarantee that I would dramatically improve. Actually, I believe about 20% of the people show marked improvement. However, treatment does not cure the pulmonary hypertension, but merely lessens some of the symptoms. Many people's situation continues to get worse leading to heart failure even with the treatments available (which have their own risks) and so longterm studies are not available.

Option 3: Agree to having the pulmonary thromboendarterectomy with known risks. Of course, no guarantees were made, but the possibility and HOPE of completely being cured of the pulmonary hypertension was within reach.

We aren't exactly rocket scientists, but my parents and I immediately agreed that Option 3 was the way to go! :) God had provided! 6-7 weeks prior we first heard about the surgery and that I was a possible candidate. We spent those weeks making travel and lodging arrangements, obtaining my Houston medical records, filling out LOTS of paperwork, completing a living will and power of attorney, dealing with medical insurance, making schedules with the San Diego medical team, learning everything I could about the surgery, and asking for LOTS of prayer! However, it wasn't until this very moment around a table with Dr. Auger after examining my results of a specific type of heart catheterization I had that morning that we knew for sure I could have the surgery! They said "YES" and we said "YES" and "Praise the Lord, let's do this thing!" And this is why I say with the psalmist, "O LORD my God, I will give you thanks forever!" for He really did refuse to let my enemies triumph over me. He really did restore my health. He really did bring me up from the grave and keep me from falling into the pit of death. He really did hear me and have mercy on me. He really did turn my mourning into dancing and exchanged my mourning clothes into clothes of joy! Your story and journey isn't the same as mine. God's plan for you is different. But, this I know, every word of God proves true and what He really did for me, He will really do for you.