Saturday, December 29, 2012

365 People Pictures -- Day 6: Brielle


After six months, I still can't believe the color of my granddaughter's eyes.
Our creator is quite the artist! I thank Him every day for His wonderful gift of a granchild!

Friday, December 28, 2012

365 People Pictures -- Day 5: My Beloved

Day 5:

On Sunday my husband and I will celebrate 29 amazing years together. If there have ever been two people who have, by God's grace, lived an adventurous life together, it would have to be us! Even now, we wait to hear if the State Department will be able to help us (and other families in similar situations). Just today Russian President Putin signed into law a bill banning Americans from adopting Russian children. We still long to bring to closure our adoption of three precious brothers and their little sister. So, we wait and we pray while we thank the Lord for the many, many blessings He has provided over the years, including 12 children and one grandchild. God is, indeed, faithful. And, nothing will be impossible with God! (Luke 1:37 NASB)

Today I captured this picture of my best friend staring out an airport window watching for a plane to arrive. That plane was carrying Lissie's friend, Eric, and his sister, Kali--also a dear friend of our daughter. Eric and Lissie will have the opportunity to spend two weeks together so that they have a better idea where their relationship is headed before Lissie returns to her teaching job in Central Asia in mid January.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

365 People Pictures -- Day 4: Eric West and Brielle

Day 4:

I'm cheating already in my determination to take a people-picture a day.

I took this photo a couple of weeks ago in Ohio. The man kissing my granddaughter, Brielle, is her Uncle Eric (on the Nix side of our family). Something about this picture just reaches down into my soul. Obviously, I altered the look of the photo; my tool was the photo editing software Lightroom.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Want to Be Successful?

I'm reading a book called Embracing Obscurity. And believe it or not, the author of the newly published title is Anonymous. The book is about the need for less self-focus in the life of a Christian. I've found it quite convicting so far!

Yesterday I read the quote below. I found it compelling enough that I've gone back several times to re-read the words.
"You want to be successful? If you live comfortably, share what you have. If you have a spouse, serve him or her sacrificially. If your home is filled with the clamor and clutter of children, savor the monumental challenge of raising them. If others follow you, point them to Christ. If you are given accolades, receive them humbly. Love and serve people around you. Walk well through the inevitable sufferings of life. Live your life worthy of the gospel of Christ. This is true success. And really, what more could we possibly want?" (pg. 89)
On the evening of the holiday that inevitably ends up being about stuff no matter how hard we try to "remember the reason for the season," I find these words refreshing.

365 People Pictures --Day 3: Daria and John

Day 3:

Daria (17) and John (nearly 21) were sharing dish washing duties as we prepared for our annual Christmas brunch. The mid morning window light was just right as they stood at the sink.

Monday, December 24, 2012

365 People Pictures -- Day 2

Day 2:

Jaynie (19) and her dad

For the story behind the flower arranging see our A Surprise at our family blog:

Sunday, December 23, 2012

365 People Pictures -- Day 1

During the past couple of years, a practice that many folks interested in photography have used to hone their skill has been to discipline themselves to take a photo a day for a year.

I've decided to restart that project but this time with my own twist. Because people are my favorite subject, I've decided to encourage my development as a photographer by taking people pictures on a daily basis.

Here's Day 1:

Mark (17) and Jaynie (19), adopted from Russia in September 2001 along with their biological sister Cassandra
I just realized a side benefit to this plan. Life is so busy around here that it's easy to miss both special moments and the daily routine that defines us as a family. I think this photography effort will help prevent that. There's already been a pay off in capturing a detail I wouldn't have wanted to have missed but easily could have in our ever-changing, extra-large family. Mark got his braces off on Friday, 21 December. I didn't think to take a picture when he returned home from the orthodontist, but now those pearly whites are on record.

Besides improving my photography skill and capturing family moments and milestones, this endeavor has a third benefit which is probably the most important. "Children are a gift from the Lord." (Psalm 127:3 NASB) Some days I find these words can be hard to swallow, in all honesty, in the midst of the daily-ness of parenting. And yet, when I see photos of my kiddos stream across my computer screen in a slide show, all the sudden my heart releases pent up anxiety and exasperation and I'm able to believe God's truth again. Children are a gift from the Lord--even during the challenging times. The reality of my life is that I am exceedingly blessed to be a mother. Pictures help me remember that.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Nothing Good

Today I was on my way to Romans 8 when these words--underlined at some earlier time in red and blue--caught my eye:

"Nothing good dwells in me." (Romans 7:18 NASB)

I read again.

"For I know that nothing good dwells in me."

Yes, as I review my life--even just the past week--I have plenty of empirical evidence. I know that nothing good dwells in me.

I am a constant danger to those I love most.

I am a constant danger to the cause of Christ.

I am a constant danger to the cause of orphan care.

I am a constant danger to everyone and everything I hold most dear. What an irony...what I long to protect, I have the power to destroy. "...evil is present in me." (Romans 7:21 NASB)

I need God.
I need God to hold me back.
I need God to hold me back from harming His name.
I need God to hold me back from harming those I love.
I need God to hold me back from harming the opportunity to do good while I yet breath...

I need God.
I need God to slay Self.
I need God to slay Self and replace Me with Christ, author of all that is good.
I need God.

Oh, God, help me...

Friday, October 26, 2012

Great Link--A Chuckle AND Encouragement

I became aware of Andrea Young, the author of the blog to which I've inserted a link. through our friends the Nordstroms. Both families adopted from Ethiopia through All God's Children (AGCI) and "met" through a waiting-families loop. Andrea is a great writer and I was touched in a couple of ways that were good for my soul by her most recent post. Read and be blessed...

I wanna be a follower...


Saturday, October 13, 2012

Lord, Lead Me Away

The gardens of Clivden estate, Buckinghamshire, England--2008 

Lord, lead me away from who I've become. Save my children from what I have done.

I have discipled my children in the wrong thing...a love of the world rather than a love of the Maker of the World. I have modeled pride before these precious gifts from You (Psalm 127)...and then pointed an accusing finger when they demonstrate arrogance. I have been irritated in front of them and then gotten mad when they demonstrate anger.

I am a profoundly proud woman who names the name of Christ and yet depends on self, values self, flaunts self, seeks to protect self. My words and my "walk" do not match. I am a hypocrite. Christ's word for the hypocrite? Some of the strongest He ever spoke, "Woe to you, hypocrite...!" (Matthew 23)

O, Jesus, have mercy on me. I am a sinner. I am desperately wicked and my sin is counter to everything in You that is holy. I need a Saviour. I need a Saviour, Jesus. I need You, Jesus.

I have counted myself worthy. I am not worthy. I am wicked. Only You, Jesus, are worthy. Worthy is the blood of the Lamb who was slain! Worthy is the blood of the Lamb who was slain that my sins might be paid for...a debt I could never repay. Jesus, You are holy. You are mighty. You are meek. You are humble. You are gentle. You are God. You are the only path to redemption.

Please forgive me, Great God. I have stained Your reputation in front of my own children. I have poured sin on Your beauty in front of their very eyes. I am a very broken vessel that has claimed to be the finest of silver. Such sin! Such arrogance. Please forgive me, Lord God Almighty!

You are Truth. You are Good. Only You are Good. I am vile and in love with myself. Please, Lord, slay self in me. Please put self to death and raise up Christ the King in the void. Please slay the Me in me and bring others, especially my own precious children, to Life through Your Son's resurrection from the dead.

You are my God.
You are my King.
You are my Master.

Please, Jesus, lead me away from what I've become. Please, Jesus, unself me and rip from me the cords of the sins I've embraced. Lead me, Jesus, that I might be be transformed into Your image...that I might be a conduit of Your grace in my children's lives. Please, Jesus, lead me...

Monday, October 8, 2012

Relishing Russia's Beautiful Craft Heritage

I'm having significant connection issues and our current adoption effort (combined with the "normal" craziness of life in a super-sized family) is keeping us from attending to the household electronics issue. So just a photo tonight:

Two years ago, my husband, Jim, and I spent a couple of days in Moscow finishing the very last official details of our adoption of Daria, Alexander and Oksana (at the time 15-, 11- and 6-years-old). We then traveled to the region in which they lived for the long-awaited court date that would make them our babies.

Before getting on the train, we also shopped for souvenirs for the nine children we'd left back home. This picture beings back sweet memories of the long time the two of us spent carefully picking out just the right item for each child. The beautiful shop is located on the world-famous pedestrian mall called The Arbat.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Our Adoption: Urgent Prayer Request

At the orphanage -- September 2012
Our little girl is the one in the middle!
We would be so grateful if you would pray one simple prayer for us perseveringly until we get news that God has answered our collective cry.

Please pray that we will get a court date before the end of the year. We were told this week by our adoption service provider that this will be nearly impossible. She also informed my husband, Jim, that if our case goes into the next calendar year, many of our documents will have to be redone simply because the year 2013 now appears at the top of the calendar. This redoing of paperwork is not a quick process. The cost in time is likely to slow down our ability to bring home our four siblings by two to three months.

So, please, would you cry out to the Father of the Fatherless that He would do the impossible for us--yet again and give us a court date in Russia before January 1? After all, "For nothing will be impossible with God." (Luke 1:27). In your prayers, you partner with us in orphan care (James 1:27)! Thank you, we simply couldn't do what we do with out an enourmous prayer team!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Learning to Love, Part 2a--"Self-Sacrifice"

A restaurant in which my husband and daughter, Lissie, ate a couple of weeks ago in a Central Asian capitol.
Like this beautiful ceiling, I want my love for others to be lavish and rich
As I said in Part 1 of this series of posts, I want to share Paul Tripp's wisdom when it comes to a biblical understanding of a very misunderstood concept--love. Here's his definition:
"Love is willing self-sacrifice for the good of another that does not require reciprocation or that the person being loved is deserving."
Paul David Tripp, What Did You Expect??, Crossway; pg 188--hardback
For me, this definition comes at my soul with pricks and pokes. This isn't really how I want love to work. I want love to be about me. I want attention to be focused on my needs and my wants. In fact, I want to be the center of attention.

However, Tripp makes it painfully clear that there is no such thing as self-focused "love." In his book, Tripp not only defines love. He carefully breaks down each of the thoughts embedded in his scripturally-based definition. Today we'll look at love being an act of self-sacrifice, which, of course, is as far as you can get from the selfish, self-focused "love" our culture touts and which, truthfully, my natural self craves.
"Love is willing self-sacrifice. There's no such thing as love without sacrifice. Love calls you beyond the borders of your own wants, needs, and feelings. Love calls you to be willing to invest time, energy, money, resources, personal ability and gifts for the good of another. Love calls you to serve, to wait, to give, to suffer, to forgive, and to do all these things again and again." (pg.188) 
I mentioned in my last post that Tripp's book is on the subject of marriage. As things so often are in God's economy, the choices I must make to have a strong, healthy, delight-filled marriage are the very same choices that will enable me to be the parent which I long to be.

Whether my focus in any particular moment is on my husband or my children, I cannot do what Tripp lays out as he expounds on the term self-sacrifice. I can't. Not without help anyway. Thankfully, I have a Saviour who has promised me the very strength I need to die--to self that is. All I have to do is ask. Experience--28 years as a wife and 22 years as a mother--tells me that I will, however, have to ask again and again and again and... But God sets no limits on His willingness to come to our aid in our desire to walk in a manner worthy of the gospel.

Paul Tripp has more to say about the concept of loving self-sacrificially. I don't know about you, but I need to chew on just these few sentences for while before I'm ready for more. So, Learning to Love, Part 2b--"Self-Sacrifice" is yet to come.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Learning to Love, Part 1

A restaurant in Central Asia--May my love be large and expansive like this beautiful place!

In his book on marriage, What Did You Expect?, author Paul David Tripp shares some of the best wisdom Jim and I have read regarding getting along with people in any relationship. Period. With a family of 15 (soon to be 19 as we add four siblings through adoption), Jim and I are keenly aware of our need to live well with others!

In fact, we've taken Tripp's definition of love as our family's. He boils down so much Scripture into one powerful (and sometimes powerfully convicting!) sentence.

In the next few posts, I'm going to share Tripp's break down of each of the components of his definition. I need the reminder. If you do too, may you be blessed!
"Love is willing self-sacrifice for the good of another that does not require reciprocation or that the other person being loved is deserving."
Paul Tripp, Crossway, pg. 188 (hardback)
Tripp says:
"Love is willing. Jesus said, 'No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.' (John 10:18 ESV). The decisions, words, and actions of love always grow in the soil of a willing heart. You cannot force a person to love. If you are forcing someone to love, by the very nature of the act you are demonstrating that this person doesn't in fact love." (pg. 188) 
What if my heart is, when I'm really honest, unwilling? As many commandments as there are to love in the Bible (Please, if you're not familiar with them, get out your Bible and go on a hunt!), it's time to fall to my knees, confess my sin, and ask God to make me willing. And then ask again, and again, and... Just like the nagging widow (Luke 18:1-8). We know this is a prayer He will answer because we are praying for His will to be done. And, what He commands, He enables!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Just a Couple Favorite Photos

I've been sorting photos today following our very recent international trip. While sorting, I stumbled across this photo of our daughter, Anna, and her dear friend, Emily. The two grew up together, and then both were in each other's weddings in early 2011. Emily is holding our first grandchild, Brielle.

Here's Emily with her mom (my very dear friend, Angela) and her sister, Alexa, a dear friend of all of the girls in our family.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Monday, September 10, 2012

We're NOT Hopeless

This morning, I picked up a book on my nightstand preparing to put it away. Before I did, I opened it and saw the quote below. Octavious Winslow's words (written in the 1800s) capture why I named my personal blog A Deep Breath of Hope. I often need the reminder--and perhaps at times my reader do also--if I keep my eyes fixed upwards, I'm need not be hopeless, even when my circumstances would logically overwhelm me.
"My reader, are your circumstances trying? Are your resources depleted?Are clouds gathering? Do you find yourself tempted to to succumb to despondency and despair? There is hope for you in God! All other sources and gleams of hope may have expired, but God is the God of hope, and in His power and love, in His word and faithfulness, you may hope even against hope. Take heart, then, and look up. Never yield to despair while there is hope in God. If things look discouraging, and prospects are gloomy, there is one Being to whose providence you may always turn with the full assurance of hope; in His divine love and infinite resources, you will find compassion, support and help."
Our God, Reformation Heritage Books, pg. 22

Friday, August 17, 2012

Precious Moments

When my husband, Jim, and our oldest son, John, got home from work today, we piled in our 15-passenger for a picnic.

We loved having my niece, Amanda, along with us.

Oksana (8) was enthusiastic. 

Amy (10) was also pleased.

Taking pizza kept the evening simple... 

...focused on family fellowship and fun.

Meanwhile, I was focused on one of my favorite past times--trying to capture a glimpse of my children's personalities with a camera.

Some of these pictures were taken while our kiddos listened intenly as their dad read aloud to them from his IPad. Reading aloud is admittedly an unusual activity for a park, but we're in the middle of The Hidden Hand, a mystery full of suspense!

Once he got to a perfect cliff hanger to his listeners dangling, Jim stopped reading and released the kids to burn off some energy before we headed home for Bible time. What sweet family time we shared tonight--truly precious moments!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Choosing Thankfulness

It's been a hard day. The pain from the surgery I had six weeks ago has been much stronger for some reason. I haven't slept well the past two nights. I have a headache. The kids...

But wait. Living in the place of only seeing what's hard is so...easy. Complaints roll off my tongue. Murmurings multiply in my mind. I've been meditating on a verse all summer that tells me God insists on something else: "Devote yourselves to prayer keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving" (Colossians 4:2).

God is good and knows, as no one else can, what is good for us. He says we're to demonstrate an attitude of thanksgiving.

So rather than focus on my frustrations, I'm posting some photos that help me remember that my life overflows with blessings. And, I'm going to purpose to do what the rest of the verse states. I'm going to pray. I'm going to cry out in prayer about what's been hard today. I have a Daddy who will listen... I have a Father who cares...

My precious niece, Amanda, is staying with us

Amanda and my kiddos are dear friends

Fresh summer fruit adorned our table

Cassandra (left) has come alongside 10-year-old Amy (in the purple) this week, teaching her how to bake. We're all a bit relieved because Amy has cooked up some unusual concoctions for us in the past few months, most notably "fried lettuce."

Today's chocolate chip cookies met with everyones approval.

Thank you, Lord, for all the mercies in my life. You have showered my days with goodness. You are good and what You do is good. Thank You, Father, for Your love.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Just A Favorite Photo

Lissie (L) and Daria (R) relishing their new roles as aunties  -- July 2012

Friday, August 3, 2012


"[Real] love always and aggressively takes the initiative, flowing unconditionally into the hearts of those who may not merit it." 
Tim Savage, No Ordinary Marriage, pg. 77

Monday, July 30, 2012

Best Phone Call of My Life

Twenty-nine years ago today I got a phone call from Rhode Island. The man of my dreams was on the other end. We'd been dating for several months, but ours had become a long-distance relationship while he attended the U.S. Navy's Officer Candidate School (OCS) in the city of Newport. That day he'd gotten his orders for where he'd be stationed after he finished OCS in October. To my deep surprise I learned he was to be stationed in Denver, the city where I'd grown up and still resided as I attended the University of Colorado.

Denver? My head spun. What on earth would a new naval officer do in the land-locked capital of Colorado? I tried to make sense of this wonderful news but simply couldn't without more information. Jim quickly explained he would be working in a recruiting office before attending Nuclear Power School in Orlando the following March.

Before I could even begin to grasp the implications for the two of us, Jim had a question for me. "Will you marry me?" Unbeknownst to me, he had requested the recruiting-office billet, not knowing whether he stood a chance of getting it. The shuffling paperwork in an office would slow his progress toward becoming a nuclear engineer on one of the country's submarines. However, Jim recognized that if he could get the Denver billet, the five-month shore duty would allow an unheard-of window for a wedding during the two years of submarine training which would begin in Orlando and then require four cross-country moves.

I'd learn all these details at a later date. That night I just blissfully squealed, "Yeeeeessssss!!!!!" into the receiver.

The rest as they say is history!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Just Can't Help Myself!

I'm oh-so smitten with my new granddaughter! I just can't keep from posting another photo of her, taken last week while she was with us. I love Brielle's seemingly reflective expression in this picture.

What a gift Brielle is! What a joy to be a grandparent! I can't help echoing Nehemiah's sentiment, even though the context is utterly different, "The good hand of my God [is] on me" (Nehemiah 2:8).

However, it isn't just my granddaughter's perfect face (I've warned you that I'm biased) or my new role as a grandparent that are captivating my thoughts. I continue to be delighted that "Brielle" means "God is my strength". I continue to rehearse that TRUTH in my own life. God is my strength. In fact, "The Lord is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation" (Psalm 118:14). Never once did He leave me as I trudged through months and months of such debilitating pain that it eventually led us to a surgeon at the Mayo Clinic. He was my strength during that time of suffering. Never once has he given me less than all I need during my ongoing recovery in the three weeks since the surgery. There have been some trying moments and surprising setbacks, but God is my strength. Our growing intimacy as I cry out to Him again and again during this journey is my growing joy.

My granddaughter's name is beautiful. But even more significantly, it's meaning holds a truth that is life giving. God is my strength! I can't wait to share that certainty with Brielle as she grows! God is ready to be her strength. I can't wait to share the great good news of the Gospel with her! She never has to be without enough of His grace and strength to make it through the hardest of times. None of us does. Christ's self-denying sacrifice of His very life to take our rightful punishment before God has seen to that. Jesus has become my salvation. The good hand of my God will always be upon me.

How precious it is that a little face and a pretty name could lead to such soul-refreshing thoughts!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Life's Simple Pleasures

There are few things quite so satisfying in their simplicity as a good yawn. Although new at life, month-old Brielle has already discovered this.

How easy it is to miss the little blessings in life! Even a deep, satisfying yawn is reason to remember the Giver of All Good Gifts (James 1:17) and thank Him. Psalm 145:9 says, "His mercies are over all His works." With grateful hearts, let's be on the alert for the Lord's less obvious--but remarkably tender--touches of love on our lives. I suspect the exercise will encourage us and honor Him!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Sweet Words About the Journey

Today I read words of Susannah Spurgeon after the death of her husband, British pastor Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892). The two were married for 36-years:
"I can see two pilgrims treading the highway of life together, hand in hand, heart linked to heart. True they had mountains to climb, but their Guide was ever watchful. Mostly they went on their way singing."*
 My husband, Jim, and I find ourselves singing as we relish the God-given gift of our first grandchild!

*in Arnold Dallimore, Spurgeon: A New Biography, pg. 61. Quoted in Tim Savage, No Ordinary Marriage, pg.29

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Just a Favorite Photo

One of the family paparazzi took this picture at the airport just as Grandpa and Brielle met.
(Lissie is in the background while her twin, John, gingingerly reaches for the first touch of his new neice's tiny hand.)

I am overwhelmed by God's tender mercies!

Photo Credit -- Jaynie? Cassandra? Daria?

Monday, June 25, 2012

Mayo Clinic Bound

Aaron in his new role as father

Today Jim and I will drive to Rochester, Minnesota. Our reason? We're headed to the Mayo Clinic for an appointment first thing tomorrow with a surgeon. As I've mentioned before, my insides are tied up in knots. Over the years unstretchable bands of scar tissue have formed which are attached to organs and bones. The surgeon who did the exploratory surgery said the whole mass is glued (so to speak) to my left abdominal wall. Tomorrow the chronic pain with which I've lived for the past couple of years will be addressed by a gyn/oncologist whose skill in female surgery is renowned. I feel so very blessed to have access to such amazing medical care.

But while I know that I my body will have the best care available, my soul is needy right now. I'm fighting fear. What if my problem can't be solved with surgery? What if I have to live with the powerful pain for the rest of my days here on earth?

Today's entry in Voices from the Past: Puritan Devotional Readings gave me great comfort:

"You, dear Lord, chose me in Christ to be Your child. You have become my most loving Father. Your love and Your Fatherly providence exceeds the love of any earthly father in loving, caring, providing, nurturing, and helping me in all my needs. I should not waver or doubt that that you are my dear Father and I your child forever through Jesus Christ (1 John 4:10). I can cast my whole care upon you, trust and call upon you, with comfort and certain hope for all things that I need. In Your good will, You adopted me, and nothing can be finally lacking for my good. Your power is almighty and Your will so bountiful. How little I love, fear, and call upon You! I should behave as Your child, rejoicing, praising, trusting, fearing, serving, loving, and calling upon You. Be merciful to me, forgive me, good Father, for Your own sake, and grant me the Holy Spirit to reveal Yourself to me, that I may truly know, love, and faithfully hang upon You for all my needs...I come as Your child and desire it unto Your glory!"

So as I finish my packing for our trip to Minnesota, I will cry "Abba! Father!" (Romans 8:15) and leave my "What ifs?" to Him.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

No Crushing Allowed!

My first grandchild, Brielle, at 3 days

We all recognize the fragility of a newborn. So tiny. So helpless. So dependent. What's easy to miss, however, is that as our bodies grow there continues to be a fragility to each person's soul. And because of the delicacy of the soul, our words have the power to hurt. Thankfully, the Lord has also given us the ability to use our words to heal.

Proverbs 15:4 (NASB) reads:
A soothing tongue is a tree of life,
But perversion in it crushes the spirit.

Bible commentator John Kitchen has this to say, "What potential lies within our words! We are endowed by our Creator with the capacity to bring either genuine, substantive help to those around us or to inflict incalculable lasting harm upon them  -- all of that by simply opening our mouths!" Proverbs, pg. 327

When I think about crushing the spirit, the picture that comes to mind is one of those monster trucks rolling over and flattening an entire line of cars in it's way as though the autombiles were nothing. I don't want my words to do that to anyone. Ironically, those easiest for me to hurt with my words are my own children. Whether its my tone or the very words themselves, I must remember the power my words have for good or grief and speak to my kiddos in a soothing way that protects their fragile souls. I'm commanded by God to build them up and encourage them, instead of tearing them down or belittling them. No crushing allowed!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

A Sweet Juxtaposition

Some times a photo requires no explanation or commentary.
I believe this picture of three-day-old Brielle, my first grandchild, is one of those.
Thank You, Lord!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Guilty as Charged!

I mentioned in a recent post on our family blog untohimwelive that I've stumbled upon a book called Voices from the Past that is singing to my heart as I struggle with strong pain while awaiting probable surgery at the Mayo Clinic next week.

Sometimes the words I read in this collection of short reflections by various Puritan authors are purely comforting. Sometimes they are uncomfortably convicting. However, even the convicting passages are like a salve to my soul because the challenge they bring helps realign my thinking to be biblical. Only when we think God's thoughts will we find real peace, strength and comfort. And right now, I need a whole lot of peace, strength and comfort! So bring on the conviction!

Today's passage was one that brought the needed OUCH!

"In our sufferings, we need to be more concerned about our duty than our deliverance. We should seriously consider what it is that God desires in our present dispensation. There is no condition or trial in the world but we have the opportunity to exercise some special grace or duty. To desire deliverance alone is self-love and quite natural to man. In affliction man seeks to be delivered and released from his burden. Men make more haste to get their afflictions removed than to be sanctified in them...Let us search and try our ways, Let us consider that the present condition is best for us, and learn in whatever state we are, to be content (Phil. 4:11). Let us rejoice in tribulation (Rom. 5:3) Let us lift up Jesus Christ and make Him glorious by our afflictions. Paul studied more how to adorn the cross than how to avoid it. If he must suffer for Christ, O that Christ might not suffer by him! May Christ be exalted, and let us entrust our souls to a faithful Creator (1 Peter 4:19)." Thomas Chase, Select Works, A Treatise of Afflictions, pp. 65-67
I have fallen into the trap of wanting nothing more than to be set free from my pain. Author Thomas Chase calls that "self-love." Ouch! And yet when I look back over my thirty plus years of following Christ, one truth stands out. God is good and what He does is good, even when it feels hard. In some way that I cannot see yet, this health problem is for my good. In the midst of the daily misery, I need to look not just for rescue, but I also must be on the alert for my Kingdom work. Right now. Today. In the middle of pain strong enough that I find myself holding my breath to fight it. I don't need to wait until I get to the other side of the pain to serve God and glorify Him. I can do that now. And, whatever today's Kingdom assignment is for me, I know that my beloved King will enable me. He is good and what He does is good, even when His plan includes affliction!

Clinging to my King

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Pulling Out the Sword to Battle Pain

On June 26 I will be seeing a gyn/oncologist at Mayo Clinic. Most likely she will decide that surgery is the best option to bring an end to, or at least reduce, significant chronic pain that has grown in severity and frequency over the past two years or so. The pain is the result of a mass of scar tissue that has knit my female organs to one another and glued them to other organs and to some of the bones in my lower abdomen. If Dr. Bakkum does chose to address my case surgically, the operation will take place the following day, June 27.

We praise God that Mayo has accepted my case. We also thank the Giver of All Good Gifts that I'm being seen so soon following the exploratory surgery I had here in Sioux City a little over two weeks ago. We continue to feel called by the Lord to adopt the four siblings we met at our children's orphanage in late 2010. We pray fervently that long term the treatment at Mayo will be used by the Lord to allow me to parent more actively and fully than I've been able to do for some time.

I hope to write more about this journey the Lord has me on, but right now I sense a pressing need to spend time impressing some of God's word, "the sword of the Spirit" (Ephesians 6:17), on my soul so deeply that the truths live and breath inside me no matter what fear rises in me before the surgery, how strong the post-surgery pain is or how weak I feel for some time after the procedure. One of the verses I'm rehearsing is in the "postcard" above.

Clinging to Him,

Friday, June 8, 2012

Pressed and Pursued

"Our praying needs to be pressed and pursued with an energy that never tires, a persistency that will not be denied, and a courage that never fails." E.M. Bounds