Being Afraid…

I joke that I am old. It drives my middle child (who is 30) nuts. She says I want to look like I am fifty. I respond by saying I am 54, so what’s the big deal?

She hates that I don’t cover up my gray hair. I laugh and tell her it’s my glitter! My silver hairs were mostly earned because of her, and she knows it. And when I look at those streaks of silver, I am reminded of the lessons I have learned earning those stripes. Like military badges of honor, that is how I look at those graying hairs.

But the truth is that I am getting older and have arrived at that stage called middle age—and I wonder how did I get here? I can tell by some of my scars that it has been a rocky road at times. There are broken bones that didn’t heal well…stitches that left their marks…and there are eyes needing ever-increasing corrective lenses. My ears are not as good as they once were. All the aches and pains of life’s wear and tear…I feel them acutely. Predicting weather changes because of the pain in the joints or even headaches that come in advance of the storms are new skills that I would happily trade for a body that does not betray. And I think the reality of my visible evidence of aging is frightening for my daughter. She sees and understands the temporal lives we live. She knows that death is a very real part of life, and that makes her afraid.

Confronting our frailty is just one of the realities of life. We somehow float through decades of life, often unscathed. Then BAM. Age smacks you right between the eyes. But isn’t it funny that on the inside, I still feel like a kid. Young, running and swinging and jumping without a care. But that inward me is in conflict with the outward me. I think that is why I feel so betrayed by my body. To do all the silly things I did as a child without ever breaking ANYTHING…and now, walking down a hill slowly is a frightening exercise…will I fall? What’s going to break this time? I can tell you I do NOT like living in fear of breaking something. I don’t like living in fear of any kind at all. Fear robs me of strength and peace.

Yesterday, I had the special opportunity to visit with a dear friend I had not seen in over 10 years. In that time she became a mother to four little boys and I became a grandmother to 4, going on 5, grandchildren. As we caught up on our lives over the years since we last saw each other, it was interesting to realize what a place fear had held in each of our lives as we walked through some very dark periods.

The source of our fear was different, but how interesting that the solution to the fear was the same. During those times of overwhelming darkness, we found our solace in the word of God. She shared that with her second pregnancy (twins) and then with her fourth child, she struggled with pre-term contractions throughout the pregnancies. Her fear of premature labor was very real. And she did not like the effect fear was having in her life. To try to combat her fear, she looked up every passage she could find on fear. Many verses she committed to memory.

Then, when she was eight months pregnant, she and her husband were involved in a serious car accident. She suffered many broken bones and a punctured lung. She did not feel her baby move for hours. During those hours, she was comforted by the verses she had already studied on fear. She had a ready refuge of peace. She was in the hospital for a week then in a rehab facility for another week. When the time came to deliver her son, her leg was in a cast. (Can you imagine giving birth with a cast on your leg?) But she had all those verses treasured in her heart, bound to her memory and ready to draw on any time she needed their reassuring encouragement.

I told her about my own period of darkness. How my husband and I waited for a miracle. Or braced ourselves for devastating news. So many months of sleepless nights. I would awaken at 2 or 3 AM and all I could do was read my Bible…for hours…soaking in the peace and comfort written over and over. Seeing God’s faithfulness revealed time after time.  Those hours spent in the Word got me through each day, and then I  would repeat cycle again. Every day for many, many months.

My friend and I agreed that it was in those darkest hours, days, weeks and months that we experienced the greatest spiritual growth. Our problems were bigger than we were and we did not have the solution in our own strength. But God did, and true to His promises, He brought each of us a peace that passed our understanding. We didn’t pretend that we didn’t have fear. We acknowledged the fear and put it in its rightful place. Underneath the perfect love Christ freely gives us.

Today, she has four healthy boys. And she knows real peace.

Today I have the evidence of God’s hand at work in creating the miracle for which we prayed. And peace has replaced my fear.

Tell me, are you afraid? Can I offer you the Source of Peace?

I Peter 3:13-15

Who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubledbut sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;

 

Ephesians 2:13-16

But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity… so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace,and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross…

 

The Promise

As I sit out on the deck today, I am being reminded of God’s faithfulness in keeping His promises.

It’s not as though I deny that life can be excruciatingly difficult and tragic. I have seen and lived through enough heartaches and sorrows to have a basis on which I might question God…

But, I also have lived through the heartaches and sorrows only to know that as I walked through those dark and agonizing valleys, I was never alone. Even when I was physically alone, even feeling abandoned, I really wasn’t.

When my husband and I began the process of adopting two of our children, we had to go through an abandonment procedure, whereby our two children were officially “abandoned” by their biological parents. There is no easy way to deal with the emotions of this process…the laws of the country through which we were adopting required the publication of our children’s “datos” and “fotografías” in the major newspapers over a three week period.

That was a scary time for us, as we already had custody of our children, and we knew that there was the possibility of having someone step forward and claim them legally, even if they couldn’t prove their biological claims to our children.

For my happy-go-lucky husband, he lost that aspect during the entire adoption process. It was excruciating to have custody of these children for two years, knowing that they could still be taken away.

I remember asking anyone who would listen to please pray for us. Please pray for our adoptions to go through. Every time the government suspended international adoptions, we felt a sense of panic try to overtake our confidence in the Lord’s goodness and faithfulness to us.

Eventually, we received approved adoption decrees for our children. Children who had been placed for adoption for different reasons. Children who would never be able to know their biological roots. That is hardcore abandonment, people. And there is no easy way to explain that away, no matter how heart-wrenching their biological parents’ situations happened to be.

Adoptees handle their feelings about adoption uniquely. Some truly struggle with the idea that they were somehow unwanted. Others are filled with grief for the circumstances that made it impossible for them to remain in their biological family. There are obviously commonalities that many experience, but just like everyone else, the situations are as individual as the kids.

But one thing is consistently true for each one of us…when you have a relationship with Jesus Christ, you will never, ever be abandoned. He has promised to never leave or forsake His children. No matter how awful life can get, if you are His child you will not go through your sorrows alone. He promised.

 

Pondering…

I  haven’t slept well this week. Of course, that means I am unusually tired. And crabby. And lacking in creativity. But I look at writing as a form of stimulation and exercise for my brain, so to those of you who choose to wade through my blog today…I may have to apologize.

If you could READ with your eyes closed, I would walk you through some of the sounds of this week…

For example, I am currently listening to an eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in the other room. What does his eruption sound like? So glad you asked:

He is bellowing and billowing out “NO!!! NO!!! NO!!! WAAAAAH!!! WAAAAH! OOOOOWAAAAH!!! NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!” at the top of his angry toddler lungs. Just close your eyes and imagine you are sitting with me…listening to his angry outburst…

Ok. You can stop now. That was just excruciating, I know. I even turned on the attic fan to drown out the noise, but…we can all. still. hear. it.

Now, how about imagining that you are sitting on my deck…

It is night time and the sky is dark. Thunder claps are all around us accompanied by bright flashes of lightening. The rain is pouring down, and the wind is howling. The tall trees are swaying in circles. And the hollow oak, aka the Raccoon Condo, is swaying eerily.

Can you picture it? The oak tree is HUGE. How it still stands is a mystery, but we love that tree with its crooked branches that look like Rudolph and the critters that creep out as dusk settles. Of course, Joe Bear and Día view the critters as appetizers…

I just hope that if that tree topples, it is from a wind from the south…it could do some serious damage in a storm from the north.

But after the storm dies down, if you close your eyes, it sounds like rushing waters over a large waterfall…almost thundering. As the water level subsides, you can hear the creek in its normal trickle, almost like it is chuckling as it trips over the minuscule “waterfall”…a “waterfall” that I think is a man-made hiccup to keep the creek from getting too high during heavy rains.

But oh how I love the sound of the creek…soothing, tranquil, peaceful. Almost heaven on earth…

And that brings me to this morning. I slept poorly last night, and awoke earlier than I would have liked, but I was pondering this morning. Literally. The lyrics of an old hymn were playing in my mind…

Ponder anew, what the Almighty can do,
if with His love He befriend thee

Those words just kept playing through my thoughts as I pondered all the wonderful and awesome things God has done…in the past, in the present and even those things that are promised for the future.

Salvation, paid for at Calvary…sins not just covered, but cleansed away…miracles happening in lives of people who were without hope just days ago…a future at home with our Savior, our Almighty heavenly Father…

My head was kind of like that creek…gushing and trickling, making such a joyful noise at the many awesome works that have been done by our Creator.

And so, as I awoke, I pondered anew…and was filled with awe. When you close your eyes, and consider the many things that God has done, continues to do, and promises to do in the future…do you run out of things to ponder?

Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation!
O my soul, praise Him, for He is thy health and salvation!
All ye who hear, now to His temple draw near;
Praise Him in glad adoration.

Praise to the Lord, who over all things so wondrously reigneth,
Shelters thee under His wings, yea, so gently sustaineth!
Hast thou not seen how thy desires ever have been
Granted in what He ordaineth?

Praise to the Lord, who hath fearfully, wondrously, made thee;
Health hath vouchsafed and, when heedlessly falling, hath stayed thee.
What need or grief ever hath failed of relief?
Wings of His mercy did shade thee.

Praise to the Lord, who doth prosper thy work and defend thee;
Surely His goodness and mercy here daily attend thee.
Ponder anew what the Almighty can do,
If with His love He befriend thee.

Praise to the Lord, who, when tempests their warfare are waging,
Who, when the elements madly around thee are raging,
Biddeth them cease, turneth their fury to peace,
Whirlwinds and waters assuaging.

Praise to the Lord, who, when darkness of sin is abounding,
Who, when the godless do triumph, all virtue confounding,
Sheddeth His light, chaseth the horrors of night,
Saints with His mercy surrounding.

Praise to the Lord, O let all that is in me adore Him!
All that hath life and breath, come now with praises before Him.
Let the Amen sound from His people again,
Gladly for aye we adore Him.

 

Do you believe in miracles? (David Hanson Update #2)

I always struggle with the title. I want it to be catchy…you know? Grab your attention and get a bunch of likes and a new badge and more gold stars as a blogger?

Well, let’s just say that I don’t really need those likes, badges and gold stars. Readers??? Yes, would definitely like more of those.

But for today, I have some amazing news to share and I wanted a REALLY AWESOME TITLE…And when I typed out “Do you believe in miracles?” all I could think of was this –you know, Do You Believe in Miracles by Hot Chocolate…NOT what I was going for, I assure you.

So, you will have to deal with the title, because I DO believe in miracles. And it is absolutely the most thrilling thing to see, (even if it is only in print and without pictures).

So many of you have been praying for David and Rachel Hanson. And I am grateful. Thousands of people all around the globe, daily praying for this young couple and their families as they go through a Goliath-sized struggle.

David, who suffered such a devastating fall, leaving doctors with little hope for his recovery. A young wife thrown headlong into a test that marriages decades-old might not survive. And yet, she went forward with the most grace and peace I have ever seen. Her updates are thrilling, encouraging, hopeful…real.

There is no trace of bitterness. Love? Most assuredly. Joy? Yes. Pain? Yes. Peace? Astonishingly, yes. What a witness for the Lord whom she faithfully serves!

So many of us go to the David Hanson Update page on facebook each day looking for news (or if you are me, every 15 minutes). Anything that will give us an inkling of what is happening. Some days, there are no new reports. Other days, we gasp with amazement and are thrilled to the core as we read of God’s answers to our prayers.

Currently, David’s parents are visiting their son and daughter-in-law. They were with him just after his fall, but then had to return home. So, after several weeks’ absence they were able to see first hand how their son was progressing.

Annette L Hanson

Just a quick note to say that our first full day with David has been a blessing, and we thank the Lord for His lovingkindness! The OTs, PTs and nurses are educating us on how we can work with David’s arms, hands, legs and feet to help keep him “limber.” He is still very strong and it is definitely work! We are also trying to help increase his awareness by talking with him, asking for responses, reading to him, singing, and praying with him. Sometimes he looks right in our eyes, and today he seemed like he was trying to smile and talk. He also moves his head back and forth from Joel to me, when we stand on either side of him. Rachel had to work today, and we are looking forward to some time learning from her tomorrow. 🙂

I am a mom. I love my children dearly. (Of course they probably would not appreciate being called children since they are almost 31, 29 and 28.) But…as a mom, I can make a decent attempt at putting myself in Annette’s shoes and imagine all the emotions I would feel being so far away from my child who was hurt so badly, and then the joy at seeing how improved he was in just a matter of a few short weeks. I have read and re-read her posts several times, visualizing the scene as best I could, and have shed many tears of joy on her behalf.

Her subsequent post brought a smile and more tears.

Annette L Hanson

Wow – what an overwhelming blessing to see so much love shared and prayers brought before the Lord from many believers we know and many we look forward to meeting! What a great day that will be when we are all together bowing in thankfulness and worship to our Savior!

Yesterday was a happy time, to see David smiling for us (and more than that for Rachel), and to have him move his thumb and finger upon request! This morning he was pretty sleepy.

Do you remember how exciting it was to see your baby smile at you for the first time and you knew it wasn’t gas? Thrilling, wasn’t it? Now can you imagine your child is a grown man, has suffered a very serious, life-threatening brain injury and then seeing him smile? Somehow, I just think that would be even more precious than that baby smile. At least for ME it would be.

Annette’s next post was a very practical one–

Annette L Hanson

As a medical precaution, Joel and I have been asked to post a message about visiting David. We are very grateful for all of the love shown for our son and daughter in law, but have been advised that too many visitors can be stressful and overly agitating to David, and we need to limit his company to immediate family. Again, we thank you all for your love and understanding as we try to do what is best for David.

This is directly from the heart of Mama-Bear, protecting her cub from danger. Anyone who has any knowledge of brain trauma and coma understands the importance of allowing the brain to regain its function in a controlled environment. And anyone who has been faithfully praying for this young man is hoping to get to visit and see how well he is doing. Sort of like our faith being made sight–believing and then seeing. But not so fast…now is not the time to bombard that healing brain with a lot of interaction with multitudes of grateful and faithful pray-ers.

And then her post today almost had me jumping up and down…

Annette L Hanson

David was able to hold some “burts bees” lip balm between his thumb and forefinger this morning and apply it to his lips … and chin. 🙂 he was also able to wash his face with a wet cloth. So fun to see! Thank the Lord for this progress!

Wow. Wow. Wow!!! How wonderful!!! Amazing!!! Miraculous, even!!! Who would have thought David would have progressed so rapidly?

As I was beginning to write this post, I heard a Third Day song (new to me) playing in the background, titled “I Need a Miracle“…

You know, I DO believe in miracles. And I know there are so many people who DO need a miracle. The story of David and Rachel Hanson is not finished. It has barely started to unfold…but they will have a tremendous and miraculous story to tell of how God moved in their lives in a way that made strangers into family. That made the ends of the earth just a breath away. And THAT is amazing to me.

Keep praying! God is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think!

Ugly Treasures

I like to dabble in photography, and I take thousands of pictures, hoping to take that perfect one. Some are special. Some are blurry. Some are awful.

But honestly, I have a really hard time deleting my images. They are kind of like those boxes of mementos that I keep–treasures that somehow are too precious to discard but for some reason are still stuck in a box rather than out on display.

This week, my little buddy Froglegs became so excited and animated because he saw this very large yellow butterfly.

“Hurry, Nana! Get your camera! Come see this butterfly. It’s HUGE!!!”

I obviously have my little buddies well-trained at identifying those picture-worthy subjects. I hurried in to get my camera, hoping not to miss it.

It was a very windy day, and the poor butterfly was really flexing his muscles to hang onto the butterfly bush. (That bush is a topic for another blog post.) I snapped several pictures, but the wind was interfering with my shots.

And then, my battery died. Great. Just great.

Later in the day, I uploaded the photos to my computer to check them out. I felt a mixture of semi-satisfaction and disappointment. I don’t believe a single one of them was clear that didn’t also feature a weed, the neighbor’s trash can, her newspaper or the brand-new asphalt on the road. It didn’t look like any of them were frame-worthy.

Bummed would be an understatement.

I left the photos alone and did nothing. I moped a little. It had been a somewhat unpleasant day and I had a lot of mulling over going on. I had so many thoughts running through my head, and honestly, blurred pictures didn’t stack up too high on my list of significant failures.

But…as the day dragged on, the pictures became an escape for me. I was bound and determined to turn them into something semi-beautiful. After all, it was a gorgeous yellow swallowtail, the loveliest shade of yellow. It was stunning, to be honest.

So I messed around with my Canon photo editing software. I don’t even have Photoshop. As I experimented, God started bringing so many thoughts and verses to mind. And a-tweaking I went.

The mundane and ordinary became sublime. When looking at it through a different set of “eyes” I could see beyond the failures of the photos. Just take a look…

Can you even see the asphalt? Do you see the weeds? Or the garbage can and newspaper?

No. And you know what? These photos are a great example of what the blood of Jesus does to us…God does not see us as those miserable creatures bound by sin. We are not hopeless, ugly wretches.

We are His treasures. Loved and beautiful. Full of life and hope. When we are able to look at our lives through God’s filter of redemption and unconditional love, we can see ourselves as He sees us.

I pray that today, you will see yourself through His eyes of forgiveness and redemption.

Jesus, Draw Me

Jesus Draw Me Ever Nearer

I came across a beautifully poignant song while searching for something to comfort my soul. There are those moments in life that defy the comfort of simple thoughts and words, but when coupled with the right melody and instrumentation can speak a far clearer message than mere words unaccompanied.

If you are experiencing grief, or sorrow, or heartache, I pray that these words and their accompaniment will be especially touching to your soul.

Jesus, Draw Me Ever Nearer

May this journey bring a blessing
May I rise on wings of faith
And at the end of my heart’s testing
With Your likeness let me wake

Jesus draw me ever nearer
As I labor thro’ the storm
You have called me to this passage
And I’ll follow tho’ I’m worn

Jesus guide me thro’ the tempest
Keep my spirit staid and sure
When the midnight meets the morning
Let me love You even more

May this journey be a blessing
May I rise on wings of faith
And at the end of my heart’s testing
With Your likeness let me wake

Let the treasures of the trial
Form within me as I go
And at the end of this long passage
Let me leave them at Your throne

Jesus draw me ever nearer
Jesus draw me ever nearer
Jesus draw me ever nearer to You
To You

2002 Modern M. Music (Admin. by Music Services)
Thankyou Music (Admin. by EMI Christian Music Publishing)

Writer(s): Keith Getty , Margaret Becker

Scripture Reference(s): Psalm 23

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eOVGChMsPsg