Monday, December 16, 2013

Memorizing Psalm 34

I joined up with Beth Moore's Scripture Memory Team again this year and I loved it (again).  I just completed working on all of Psalm 34.  I chose it because of all the times God speaks of rescuing us.
And as I worked on the verses, I was particularly struck by this one too: "I will boast only in the Lord.  Let all who are discouraged take heart." Wow. I've found that to be so true. God sees to it....often!...that I'm at the end of myself, so I can only boast in what He does thru me. That's not the easiest way to live, but it is the best way.
I am really appreciating memorizing from Psalms.  There is so much truth, beauty and comfort found there. I quote Psalm 139, which I memorized with this team two years ago (that video is here), all the time--especially when I'm trying to fall asleep.  I quite honestly expected memorizing to be a chore, but it's grown into an unbelievable blessing in my life. I wrote a bit about that journey in my most recent article in Heart Magazine (and included my memorization techniques as well.)  If you'd like to read that you can find it on page 15-17 at this link:

Alright, on with the show! Psalm 34:

Thursday, September 26, 2013

"About Me" Tabs

Well, I'm feeling rather fancy pants today because I just added two "About Me" type pages to the top of this blog, just like the real bloggers do! It's about time, really.  God's done some fun things for me since I first started writing here and I wanted to reflect a bit of that in this story. Did He heal me and take the pain away? No. Am I still constantly bumping into disappointment and things I can't do? Yes. But He's been faithful to me too, and I finally can see that clearly.  He's slowed me down and changed my perspectives and dreamed up joys I never would have thought of for myself.  Things that wouldn't have come without desperate prayer, and having my life turned upside down. 
I talk in more detail about it there, so just click the tabs up top to read more.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

My Baby's 1st Day of School (Or, Mommy's Neutrotic)

Today was a big day for me.  Huge, actually.  I never thought I'd be one of those moms all upset over dropping their child off for the first day of Kindergarten, but there I lay in bed this morning with tears running down my cheeks and feeling a pit in my stomach.

It's a funny thing, parenting.  It's quite taken me off guard. I don't think I'll ever be one of those parents whose lives' are consumed by their children and it's all. they. can. talk. about. But yet...raising my little girl has definitely shifted something deep in my heart and being her mom makes me more happy than I ever dreamed I could be.  It's given me a special, wondrous kind of fulfillment.  All the clichés about parenting are true, people.  It's a glorious gift.

Even though SaraRose was in Preschool a last year, there was something different about her starting Kindergarten today. It's a milestone. It signifies a growth happening in her, an independence of spirit that I know will only keep her moving forward...and farther away from me.  And that makes this mama's heart really sad.  Like every other mother in the history of mothers, I don't want my baby to grow up.  I want her to always need me, because--let's face it--I like being needed.  Many times as a parent, the level that your kids need you is exhausting.  And for me, with my back pain, it was almost crippling sometimes; I couldn't always meet the demands.  But yet, I didn't realize how much being crazy vital like that in a sweet little person's life is actually hugely fulfilling as well.  And I just don't want to let go of it; I want to continue being a stay-at-home-mom. I don't want to think about doing "real world" work anymore. I just want to be home and with my kid and have her asking me for a snack and if I'll play with her and if I can help her get her shoes on.  It's a comfortable, sweet, fulfilling (if at times tiring!) role and I just might hang onto it forever if I could.

It is also in times like these that my struggles with having an only child rear their ugly head.  I sit around marinating in the lie that if I just had another child to care for, I'd be fine right now.  I wouldn't be hurting, I wouldn't be so sad.  I start telling myself that God's being unfair.  That He has asked too much of me in recent years, and that taking away my ability to have another child is just plain mean and hateful. How can I trust Someone like that? It's all His fault I'm sad right now! (As you can see, my mind [and who are we kidding, probably Satan] really milks this thing.)

I said to my husband this weekend that if someone set the perfect Home School curriculum in my lap I would 100 percent do that instead.  But I know that decision would have had little to do with actual Home Schooling and everything to do with me just trying to stop time, me trying hold onto SaraRose, me hoping to keep my eye on her every move and her every choice and every person she encounters.  It'd be about ME, essentially. And control. And call me crazy, but I'm not sure those the healthiest reasons Home School. Shoot.

Here's the other interesting part of this story: it's very clear that God has led us to put SaraRose at Keswick.  It's a special place-- cozy and sweet, and is the school from which I graduated.  It was special then too; I know first-hand the benefits of attending there--I was more than prepared for college academically and it played a pivotal role in my walk with the Lord. It gave me precious mentors and amazing friends that I still have to this day. In fact, God even went to some pretty drastic measures when I was in high school (I studied at another place for several years only to quickly realize that not all Christians schools are created like Keswick, and LONGED to go back) to prove to me how set apart KCS really is.
I always wanted my children to be able to attend there someday, but alas, when time drew closer, we didn't have the money.  But last year, in an surprising act of God--that can only be described as the single most significant miracle I've ever seen with my eyes--He provided Andrew a job to work there (which included free tuition).  It's a job he loves and thrives in and it delivered him from a job he didn't enjoy. Not to mention that his office is literally steps away from SaraRose's classroom door--AND, the very room she's in this year is the same classroom I had as a 5 year old Kindergartener (I mean, really.). And it's a just a fact (a fact I don't love, but still a fact) that having her in school all day really helps with my pain levels. I can rest and be way more refreshed and ready to go when she comes home.  I could keep going on with this stuff but you can see where I'm going here...This is one of the few times in my life that God has really gone out of His way to assure me that HE'S GOT THIS, HE LOVES ME, HE IS TAKING CARE OF EVERYTHING and THIS IS WHERE WE SHOULD BE.

And yet, even with all of that, I still struggle.  I'm so sorry God has to deal with me and my unbelief sometimes. The Old Testament Israelites and I would get along really well. Much like their doubting and complaining, I could win an Olympic gold medal in worry and questioning whether God really knows what's best for me. Sigh.

I want to be able to trust. I want to be able to have faith. I want to be one of those good, strong parents who prayerfully, but appropriately start to open their hands and start to let go of their children as they get older, trusting God is there when they can't be. I want to walk that delicate, brave balance between sheltering SaraRose and equipping her to fly. 

I do not want to parent out of fear (like I feel I am right now); I want my daughter to see faith in me, even when the road ahead doesn't line up with my feelings. God's given me plenty of reasons to rest in this path, I just have to step into it believing. And if this is the perfect plan for SaraRose and for Andrew, then it is the perfect plan for me too.

In closing, I will add this visual aid to the aforementioned (HE LOVES ME and HE'S GOT THIS).  It's a little gift SaraRoses' teacher (who, once again, I know personally and is the prefect Kindergarten teacher for her) placed in my hand as I walked out the school door this morning. 

 (She gets me.)  
Help me, Lord.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Turning to the Psalms

The book of Psalms is my favorite in the Bible and has always been the safe place I run when life overwhelms me.  Since the time I was a young, to the darkest days of my life, to this very morning when I opened its pages, I find deliverance and wisdom for living there like no other place in the world.
I was first introduced to the power of the Psalms at the tender age of four. Growing up, I was a fearful child to whom the world loomed large. Every day of my young life was filled with nervousness and anxiety.   But one morning I found something that helped.  Sitting crossed-legged on the Sunday School room floor, I listened as the teacher opened to Psalm 23 and began reading a beautiful word picture of Jesus as my Shepherd… “leading beside still waters (2),” where I could “fear no evil (4).”  The sweetness spoken whispered peace to my sensitive soul and I yearned to hear more of these kind words filled with so much truth, love, and care for me.

 As I got a little older, the Psalms became the first place I’d flip whenever I opened my Bible.  The verses resonated so I consistently I felt I could have written each one.  And having always battled that deep, on-going fear, it was a balm to know I wasn’t alone---that David had felt those same things too, and that most importantly, he had found consolation and help.  Many nights, the pages brought such comfort I even slept with my Bible under my pillow!  I slumbered in peace knowing that there is Someone to whom even the night is not dark (139:12), and in Whom I can trust and not be afraid (56:3).

 Around this time, I stumbled across Psalm 91 and it quickly became my favorite chapter in the Bible (and remains so to this day). Oh, the peace it brought my heart!  I read its verses over and over and always felt better, stronger, more whole with each recitation. Much like the 23rd Psalm, it painted pictures that stirred my imagination and captured me with its promises.  The idea of God’s “covering” was something my young heart visualized easily:  that “he who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty, (1)” and that “He will cover you with His feathers and under His wings you will find refuge (4),” “For He gives His angels charge over you to keep you in all your ways….(11-12).”  All 18 verses were the exact medicine my worrisome heart needed. I memorized each one and can’t begin to recount the number of times they have been right there with me when I needed them most.

After experiencing the comfort of Ps. 91, when I reached my teen years I committed to reading a chapter of Psalms every night, starting with chapter 1 and moving forward. The task seemed a little daunting at first and I doubted it would be worth the time and effort.  But I gave it a try, and was surprised at what I uncovered.  I found that my favorite book was more than just a place to open up and find verses when I needed a blast of encouragement.  Instead, it was chocked full of chapters like 23 and 91, and the more consistently I read them, the more steadiness I found in my day, and the more confidence I felt in my choices for living (and for a teenager that’s saying something!)  But perhaps the most miraculous and unexpected gift I received from reading through the Psalms was a deliverance from the bondage of fear that had plagued me for so long.  It was wondrous to witness firsthand the power Scripture can give over a life-long stronghold like that.

 Of course I didn’t recognize it at the time, but on top of providing freedom and guidance, my little “read through the Psalms” experiment also created space in my life for a regular devotional time with the Lord (a tool that any pastor or Christian counselor will point to as an essential part of victorious living). It is a discipline I still keep daily, and in which I never fail to find inexplicable power. No one will ever waste time in God’s word, and I am so glad I started that practice young.

 Looking back, I wonder if perhaps God fortified my heart in His Word at such early age because He knew how much I would need it as I entered adulthood.   My 20’s were filled with many ups and downs, but four years ago (around my 30th birthday) a suffering slammed into my world that left me reeling and desperate beyond anything I’ve ever known.  It started one morning shortly after my daughter was born--my lower back completely gave out and the doctors pointed to the problem being several disks in my spine that were greatly compromised. This led to a series of four major back surgeries, all of which failed to correct the problem.  I’ve lived through a nightmare of operations, hospitals, pain, and depression-- times when death swirled around me, times when I was tempted to give up.  But even in that tremendous oppression, I knew I wasn’t alone.  I knew where to turn.   I had seen too much of God and His power to ever really doubt His Word.  I also knew from experience that nothing could speak deliverance to my heartache like my very favorite book in the Bible.  Turning to the Psalms had almost become a habit-- a perfect, life-affirming habit that spoke truth into my darkest days, and peace into the hot, spiraling pit of hopelessness.

Even now as I deal with the aftermath of it all, navigating life as a young wife and mother who lives with severe pain, I find much of my daily strength in that same sweet book.  When I doubt God’s goodness, I’m reminded that he is “kind,” “good” and “merciful (116:5).”  When I find it hard to pray, I’m assured He “knows my thoughts (139:2).”  When I wonder if He is truly there and really loves me, I am guaranteed “He hems me in behind and before” (139: 5), and that He loves me with an everlasting love (all of ch. 136).

I could never have dreamed as a little girl listening to Psalm 23 how crucial this book would be for me over the years.  In every Bible I own the Psalms are well-worn, well-underlined and well-read.  They continue to be the first lifeline I turn to, and they always will be. I am forever changed because of its priceless 150 chapters and the peace my young heart found there all those years ago.

 Chapters that have meant the most to me:
Psalm 139 (God’s personal attention to us)
Psalm 91 (God’s protection and safety)
Psalm 23 (God’s sweet and tender care)
Psalm 40 (God’s deliverance from the pit)
Psalm 147 (God heals and finds favor)

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

A Great Couple with a Great New Endeavor

Back in the early days of facebook, I was happy to reconnect with a famously nice guy I’d known in high school, Mike Ritter.  I knew that since I had last seen him, he’d been in a gymnastics accident that left him paralyzed from the neck down.  So, I was eager to hear how he was doing and interested to see in pictures that he was dating a darling blond news journalist (who graduated from the same college I had) and that their relationship was getting serious.  Mike and I chatted back and forth as I asked how they had met and so on and so forth, and he sent me a link to a little blog she wrote.
Her name was Dana, and I instantly liked her (and her blog.)  She wrote about her life and being in news and posted up-beat antidotes and humorous things that happened thruout her day. She was cute, funny and obviously head over heels in love with Michael. I continued to follow their journey there-- thru their romantic engagement, their storybook wedding and I was thrilled to hear about their plans to merge her blog into one that she and Mike planned to write together as newlyweds. In the first few months of their marriage, they posted several times about date nights, recipes, and talked a bit about living in Washington DC where Dana was now working as a White House correspondent. They seemed so happy and so in love.
But then the posts stopped.  Several months went by, and I wondered about them often, and I hoped life had just gotten really busy for them.
Then one morning I logged on to read a very real, very raw, very BRAVE post from Dana. She talked about how she had decided to be honest, and to say that the transition to her new life as a wife and caregiver had been much tougher than she ever expected.  She said she had been dealing with some major grief over the permanence of Michael’s affliction, and that she was pretty sure she was wading thru depression too.  It wasn’t a cry for help…she was getting that.  It was just a “Hey. This is who I am and where we are and I am not ashamed to say so. ”  

And I remember being so proud of her-- this girl I really didn’t even know. Anyone from the outside could easily look at Mike and Dana’s marriage and know that it wouldn’t be easy for them. But it was so courageous of her to be able to admit it publicly and so caring of Michael to let her.

And so, they kept on writing on the blog. And from that point on, they made the conscious decision to not sugar-coat anything—they’d talk about it all…the unbelievably happy times, the sweet romantic times, the crazy fun times, and the down-right sad and terrible times.  And since Dana’s first courageous post back in 2010, Mike and Dana have stayed true to that.  They are real, relatable, laugh-out-loud funny, and oh-so-approachable and honest.  Dana has said that in her darkest days navigating that first year of marriage she felt like she couldn’t find anyone else in the world in a similar situation.  I mean, how many others out there are happily in love, just landed their dream job, and are a newlywed and caregiver to a quadriplegic?  
So Dana and Mike created what she couldn’t find, hoping that thru their honesty they could help others. And they have.  Their blog has exploded.  Others in similar situations have flocked to them for help and support.  Others feel safe saying their life is hard, because they know Mike and Dana understand. They have worked with Joni and Friends, ministered to wounded soldiers, and even created a Facebook page that connects spouses dealing with all sorts of disability in marriage.  Thru their candidness and drive to help others, I am convinced that in many ways they are even changing the face of the Spinal Cord Injury community. 
Dana has also recently written an e-book expanding on one of her most popular blog posts, and I promise you-- you don’t want to miss it.  She wrote it specifically with care-givers in mind, and if are caring for someone physically, or know someone who is, please tell them about this book.   It is empathic, encouraging, and most of all it is empowering.  You will see yourself in Dana’s words, and you will know you’re not alone.
But anyone will enjoy this ebook too. Because it’s Dana’s story in a nutshell, told in her engaging, honest voice. It’s the story of falling in love with someone you never dreamed of, but how it ended up being the perfect fit.  It’s the story of grief and pain and the unexpected.  But, of how God’s mercy and kindness is most often found in those very things.  It’s a love story.  Not just of Dana and the way she cares for Michael, but of Michael’s tender care for her as well, and how they’ve learned to come together as a team, no matter what.
And what a team they are.  Get Dana’s e-book, then follow their blog.  You won’t be sorry.  You’ll smile, be encouraged, and meet two wonderful new friends along the way.

Download the ebook here: