Over the course of Nathan's illness, we have been privileged to meet some amazing doctors and surgeons. Some of these doctors have been world-renowned in their particular specialty, and sought-after for their particular expertise. People from all over come to them because this doctor holds their only hope for recovery, due to their unique skill or understanding.
In my devotional reading this morning, I came to see God's work in my life in a different context than usual. I am used to seeing Him as a majestic Creator, a merciful Savior, a loving Father (and even a tender Mother!) But today He revealed his work as the faithful Surgeon.
I was reading in Psalm 139 and Psalm 51. A powerful metaphor emerged from these passages. The Psalmist writes "Search me, O God, and know my heart, test me and know my anxious thoughts," and in another passage, "O Lord, you have examined my heart..." A skilled surgeon's work in our life always begins with a thorough examination and a battery of testing. These tools in the surgeon's hand give him an accurate picture of the full extent of the damage and the amount of work it will take to fix the problem. He also uses this information to determine if the end result is worth the investment and risk of his work. The surgeon not only gathers data with an exam and tests, he compiles a complete history. In verses 2 through 5 of Psalm 139 we see that this skillful surgeon has taken into account the patient's lifestyle and habits with such thorough understanding that the Psalmist declares, "You know everything about me." The patient humbly declares his complete dependence upon the surgeon's interpretation of this data and his diagnosis for the repair, stating, "Such knowledge...is too great for me to understand!"
We go on to read, "Point out anything that offends you." The patient is inviting the great surgeon to render his diagnosis, and prescribe the necessary surgery to bring wholeness again. We have implicit trust in the surgeon's findings and opinions, because he carries the impressive resume contained in Psalm 139, verses 13 through 16. It turns out that the surgeon was the Creator in the first place, so who better to know how to fix the defect? In fact, the patient has been desperate for the great doctor's attention, ("Do not banish me from your presence" Ps 51:11) because no other surgeon can even perform the operation. And we also trust this physician because his motivation for repairing our brokenness is love, not money or prestige. Verses 17 through 18 tell us of the tender thoughts the surgeon has for us, thinking through the procedure over and over so that he can best repair our damage.
Then the scene changes. The day of surgery has arrived. The great surgeon plunges into the operation. "Create..." "Blot out..." "Make willing..." "Renew..." His brow drips with sweat as he wrestles out the iniquity that is buried deep within us. He is utterly concentrated on his great work. At last he is done, and as the patient wakes from anesthesia he exclaims, "You are still with me," for the great surgeon has stayed right by his side all the way through to the recovery room!
Great Surgeon, possess my heart and body today. Perform your assessment and prescribe the surgery necessary to restore me to your original design. I give myself over willingly, mind and body, to your surgeon's skill and to your tender love for me, to do as you see fit. Amen.
Well, as usual, I am a day late on posting for our Honor Your Husband challenge. This week has had it's good days and bad days. In preparation for this post, I was reflecting back on the week's successes and failures. Then I decided to get it straight from the horse's mouth, so I asked my husband. (Yes, I know it's not honoring to call your husband a horse-it's just a figure of speech!)
Allison: So, you know about the 30-day Honor Your Husband Challenge-thingy I've been doing? What do you think so far?
Chris: I wish it would last longer than 30 days!
Yeah! Hopefully that indicates that he has noticed a difference. He went on to say that he felt I had worked on all of my goals for the first week, and that the goal about making, um, time for him was his favorite! (Go figure...) I asked him what things I should work on for this week, and he said to definitely carry through on the, uh, time one. My new goal, in addition to following through with last week's three, is:
-To try and be more affectionate with him, and if it leads to his favorite goal, then so be it.
I'm excited to see what everyone else's new goals are and how their week went as well.
PS-It was really easy to honor him on Sunday, after he preached a rockin' message about husbands. I highly recommend that you check it out if you have time to listen. Just click on "our church" in the right-hand column and then on 'sermons'. It was the first sermon in his new series, "Desperate Households," and the title was "What Every Desperate Husband Needs to Know."
I especially identify with #2. There is often so much going on behind the scenes that we, as pastor's wives, are aware of but the average person is not. I once had an issue with a church member who had just announced a major change in her life that was taking her away from our congregation. There had been a lot going on behind the scenes in ministry that week and, frankly, I was preoccupied with it that Sunday. Later I heard through the grapevine that she felt my husband and I were 'mad' with her because she left. I called to try and clear the air, and she said, "Well, I just don't feel that you were there for me."
I do wish people would show grace to us when we are dealing with our own personal or professional issues. It is hard not to slip into 'wearing the mask' when it feels like people really don't want us to be real with them. And then, your existance, though busy and crowded with people nearly every single day, becomes a very lonely one indeed! Thanks, Julie, for sharing on this difficult topic!
A friend of mine who has a brother with disabilities commented on my first post regarding mothers with special needs kids by saying, "I have spent many nights as a teenager crying myself to sleep because I was mourning that my little brother would would not be able to have the life I had dreamed of for him." She hit on a fundamental issue of having a loved one who is disabled-mourning the loss of their opportunity for a normal life. When Nathan was born, we were so caught up in believing that God would heal him any day and trying to learn to take care of him, that it was months before this period of mourning set in in my life. No one explained to me for a long time that when you expect and plan for a healthy baby, and your baby is born with disabilities, you mourn the loss of the healthy baby you anticipated and planned for, just as if you had lost a child to death. A wonderful nurse who cared for Nathan right after he was born sent me a card, and in it she included an essay that changed my life and allowed me to finally stop and mourn my loss, so that I could move on to healing. It is entitled, "Welcome to Holland," and was written by Emily Perl Kingsly. It reads:
"I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability - to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It's like this......
When you're going to have a baby, it's like planning a fabulous vacation trip - to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It's all very exciting.
After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, "Welcome to Holland."
"Holland?!?" you say. "What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I'm supposed to be in Italy. All my life I've dreamed of going to Italy."
But there's been a change in the flight plan. They've landed in Holland and there you must stay.
The important thing is that they haven't taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It's just a different place.
So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.
It's just a different place. It's slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you've been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around.... and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills....and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.
But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy... and they're all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say "Yes, that's where I was supposed to go. That's what I had planned."
And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away... because the loss of that dream is a very very significant loss.
But... if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn't get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things ... about Holland."
I still cry every time I read this, because it so perfectly describes the emotions of having a child with disabilites. During our eleven years I have indeed learned to love the tulips, windmills and Rembrants of Holland. And I have now been blessed to live in both "Holland" and "Italy," since the birth of our healthy daughter, Carissa. I have finally been able to experience for myself that both destinations have their pluses and minuses. But I wouldn't trade my time in either place for anything in the world!
My good friend, and fellow ministry wife, Alida let us all in on a fantastic 30 day challenge to practice honoring our husbands a little more consistently. It is being sponsored by Christine over at Fruit in Season, and is based on an article by Nancy Leigh DeMoss that you can access at her ministry website, Revive Our Hearts.
This challenge really resonates with me for several reasons.
One is that, when I am really honest, I have to admit that my darling Chris falls down my priority list quite often. Yes, the other things that crowd the top of the list might be worthwhile distractions (like Nathan's medical needs, or chasing Carissa) but they are never an adequate excuse for failing to obeying God's command in my life to bring honor to my husband-the highest priority behind God himself.
Secondly, this challenge fits well with the work that God has been doing in my life recently (please see my post on "Five for Friday, #5"). As He draws me closer through His word and through His presence, things I need to work out of my life are bubbling up to the surface more frequently-such as a lack of obedience or true agape love for others-giving me the opportunity to work them out with His help. Making the honor of my husband a regular practice and priority fits in with the self discipline I have been trying to practice lately.
Finally, as a pastor's wife, one of the things that frustrates me the most is when others dishonor Chris, either by being disrespectful or by failing to see the depth of his character and love for God. We pastor's wives often have to stand by, exercising patience and self-control, while people malign our husbands either publicly or behind his back, usually because they don't agree with a leadership decision he has made. And I am here to tell you that IT STINKS. In fact, that is my least favorite thing about being a pastor's wife. So I see this challenge as an opportunity to make up for others' dishonoring behavior, and to publicly give honor to the great man that I, the woman who sees his faults and weaknesses more than anyone, know him to be.
First, I should make some goals for honoring my husband this week. So, here are mine:
1. To complain to him less. (Most of the time I use Chris as my 'release valve' for all of my pent-up frustration over Nathan's disabilities or the myriad of annoying things that happen in my life. He SO does not deserve this!)
2. To make time for him-either to talk with him about his work, share ideas from some of the things he is reading, or do some things more regularly that he is usually interested in more than me. (I hope no explanation is needed on the last one!!)
3. To pray for him, with him, so that he hears me, every day.
I came across a poem yesterday by Ruth Bell Graham (I'm rereading them this week!) that captures how I feel about my wonderful husband. In order to kick things off by publicly bringing him honor, I am going to post it here.
"I met you years ago
of all the men
you are my husband now,
and from my home
I turn to look
down the long trail of years
to where I met you first
and I would smile;
...I know you better now:
the odd preferments,
that make you you.
That other me
so far away-
but never knew;
with the closeness of these years,
-Ruth Bell Graham
My darling heart, I love you more now than I could have ever dreamed possible in my dreamy, romantic, idealist young girl's heart that fell for your brooding strength and depth of soul all those years ago! In the interim of time, I have seen the best and worst in you, and you are still the most Godly, loving, supportive, wise, smart and handsome man I have ever known. Your strength holds me fast when my world rocks on it's axis and your friendship is the most beautiful treasure God has given me-even more precious to me than Nathan and Carissa's smiles (and you understand more than anyone how I treasure those!). It is the honor of my life to stand beside you, my very identity wrapped up in you ("she is the pastor's wife..."), given a front row seat for all that God is doing in you and through you during our brief years on this earth. Thank you for cleaning up the kitchen each time I cook, taking Carissa out to let me have quiet time, getting up to let the nurse in so I can sleep a little longer, being transparent about your struggles so that I can find healing for myself without shame, correcting my horrible spelling and feeding me each week as my pastor. I love you!
After watching the broadcast of the memorial service for Ruth, I visited the website of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. I found there a beautiful photo montage of Ruth's life, and heartily recommend viewing it. On the page for memorials, I found that to honor her passing, the BGEA is making available on of her books to the general public at no cost. For those of you who read my previous post, one guess as to which book it is! Yes, my long sought-after "Sitting by my Laughing Fire." I cannot think of a more appropriate occasion for me to acquire it than Ruth's 'graduation' to all that she believed in for her entire life!
In my late 20's, while plundering through odds and ends at a Goodwill store with my mom, I came across some books by Ruth, and thought she might be someone who would have something worthwhile to say. I bought one book, "Legacy of a Pack Rat," and took it home to read. I found myself, over the next few days, nudging Chris late at night and reading entire passages aloud to him from her book. Over the next couple of years I devoured anything and everything I could get my hands on that were written by or about her. I was drawn to her easy writing style, her humour, and her honesty in recounting the struggles of raising her children, so often without the influence of their father. Chris was on the road a lot at this time, ministering as an evangelist, and I remember thinking, "Well, the work of raising her five virtually by herself was probably comparable to the work of taking care of my Nathan, with his myriad of disabilities."
Later on, after reading all of her prose, I discovered her poetry. Never one to be especially fond of the medium, Ruth's poetry moved me deeply. It is often simple, capturing her deep love of nature or the day-to-day life of loving God and family. In my struggle with anxiety, I will often pull my volume of her poetry off my shelf and read a little-it never fails to bring me peace.
In the article about her death, her local pastor, Rev. Richard White, was quoted as saying, "She had the ability to move among presidents and leaders, but then turn right around and clean the oven of a widow." Ruth was always real, and I believe that she was Billy's anchor as God used him on the world stage to bring the gospel to millions. She shared in her writings that Billy would drift into areas of politics that she thought he ought not to move into, and she never hesitated to tell him so.
In this day and age, I am constantly disgusted by big-time ministers or pastors whose ministries become huge and then they leave behind chasing the kingdom to chase the world's standard of success. You know the ones I mean-the ones who live in multi-million dollar condos in Trump tower, or will only stay in six-diamond hotels if they take a speaking engagement. If anyone could have let kingdom success go to his head and make him earthly-minded, it was Billy Graham. Who else has, for generations, been called 'America's pastor'? But Ruth was always there for him to come home to, after rubbing elbows with the movers and shakers or sunburned from the media glare he attracted, full of gentle wisdom and practical sense in their humble cabin far up in the mountains of North Carolina that she built herself. Who knows where he might have wandered if not for the anchor of her candor and utter lack of pretense.
Now that I am a full-time pastor's wife, Ruth serves as a shining example of what I hope to be for my husband-a refuge, an anchor, a faithful steward of his home. Her motherhood and the results of it-five grown children faithfully serving God-serve as an example of what I hope to be as a mother. And her diligent, expository study of God's word and faithful struggle to put it into work in her daily life serve as an example of what it means to be a true disciple of this faith that I hold so dear.
By the way, that day in the Goodwill store there were several of Ruth's books on the bookshelf, but I only picked one to buy because I wasn't sure if I would like her work. In my subsequent collection of her writing, I have been eluded by one particular title which has long been out of print-a book called "Sitting By My Laughing Fire." I have kicked myself for the better part of a decade for not buying every single one of those books when I had the chance that day! (I know I can buy it on amazon, but I am just waiting for the happy day when God lets me come across it sitting on some used bookstore or antique store shelf! It has become my 'holy grail' of books, and I refuse to take the easy way out in finding it!!)
Ruth's degenerative arthritis was the result of an accident in which she fell out of a tree while helping her grandchildren to repair a swing. (No measly tree could stand in the way of this little powerhouse of a woman doing what her loved ones needed doing!) Now that she has finally been given a new body, one free of the pain that had crippled her in the last years of her life, I can just imagine her up there, climbing the tree of life and shaking down fruit for everyone. If there has ever been a person to whom I could easily iimagine God saying, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant," it is Ruth Bell Graham.
PS-Here are two of my favorite Ruth quotes, to reward you for reading through this long post. When asked about her views on marriage, Ruth said two very profound things: "If the two of you agree on everything, one of you is unnecessary" and to the question about whether she had ever considered divorce, "Divorce no, murder yes!"
"Oh, there is, in contemplating Christ, a balm for every wound; in musing on the Father, there is a quietus for every grief; and in the influence of the Holy Ghost, there is a balsam for every sore. Would you lose your sorrow? Would you drown your cares? Then go, plunge yourself in the Godhead's deepest sea; be lost in his immensity; and you shall come forth as from a couch of rest, refreshed and invigorated. I know nothing which can so comfort the soul; so calm the swelling billows of sorrow and grief; so speak peace to the winds of trial, as a devout musing upon the subject of the Godhead."
As one who has struggled with anxiety, I have come to acknowledge two things. One is that as my knowledge of God increases my anxiety decreases. As a child of God, I cannot become more deeply aquainted with His power and His authority without being comforted in my fear. Paul said, "...for I know Him Whom I have believed and I am [positively] persuaded that He is able to guard and keep that which has been entrusted to me and which I have committed [to Him] until that day." (2 Timothy 1:12, Amplified) As I see Him more fully, as I see the might of His arms, and begin to catch a glimse of the tender, fatherly love with which He watches over me and those I love, my trust in Him grows and my fear lessens. And two, many times the issue of control is at the root of my anxiety. I am desperate to remain in control of what may happen to those I love, all the while seeing how useless my control is because I am so weak. But as I give over control to Him, in whom my weakness is made into strength, my anxiety vanishes like the remnants of a summer storm in the face of the sun.
As one who has often longed to drown the very life out of the cares that hound and harrass me, I have set my face to know God, to plunge myself into His immensity, and allow him to speak peace to the winds of my life. This Mom will be "Musing on the Father" from now on!
I rarely talk about the emotional side of what it is like to have a child with severe disabilities. In fact, the blogging I have done here in MomMusings is the only mention I have made of it, other than talking with Chris-which is one of the main reasons for my blog. I had a discussion with a friend over coffee recently in which we talked about dealing with Nathan's disabilities, and she said, "Well, no one really would know because you guys never really talk about it. You never share with others how difficult it must be!" I find it hard to articulate for two reasons: 1.) I would never want to come across as whining, because having Nathan be my son is one of the highest privileges of my life. He is (in my opinion!) the most amazing boy on the face of planet earth, and I marvel that I get to know him and spend time with him every day!! And 2.) as a good Southern girl, you try to "make nice" all the time. Talking about having a son who is profoundly handicapped, and how that impacts you emotionally is usually a real conversation stopper! It makes others uncomfortable that you hurt and they can't do anything for you, and it just seems to lead to an awkward silence.
But I cannot thank the ladies over at "girltalk" enough for allowing one mother to share her story, so that we all can live vicariously through her! Thank you, Diane, for being so transparent about such private pain and struggle. I can't wait to read the next article in the series!!
Carissa: I'm gonna put all Mommy's stuff back in her purse! (Stated emphatically, as if this is entirely her idea and she knows it's a good one.)
Mommy: That sounds like a good idea.
Carissa: Oh look, a coin! It must be Daddy's!
Mommy: Well, it was in Mommy's purse. Don't you think it might belong to Mommy?
Carissa: No, it's Daddy's. All the coins belong to Daddy.
I am now convinced that brainwashing has been taking place around here during the 12.4 minutes a week that I am out of the house!
Happy Anniversary To Me!
#1. The preceding four blog posts have been sitting in my mental inbox over the last couple of days, but I have not had time to sit at the computer and write them. I'm trying to limit my time at the computer lately, so the last few days have been full of such creative activities as flower arranging and cooking in addition to the usual picking up after the toddler, laundry, picking up after the toddler, medical stuff for Nathan and picking up again after the toddler!
#2. The over-arching reason for this creative renaissance in my life is that God is doing mighty things in my spirit. Many of you may not specifically know that I have struggled over the last few years with depression and anxiety. It had gotten to the point where I was spending many days in my pjs in front of the tv all day long. (The tv is great when you have depression or anxiety, because they pretty much solve any kind of crisis in either a half-hour or an hour!) Last Sunday during our altar service, a young lady in our congregation with a beautiful spirit began to pray for me after I had been ministering to others and spontaneously began to pray for deliverance from depression and anxiety. There is no way she could have known about those struggles in my life. During her prayer, I physically felt God doing 'surgery' on my emotions, pulling out long-rooted growth of strongholds and hurts. In the days since, I feel as if I am beginning to live again for the first time. I am so hungry for God and His word that I can't get enough. I want to spend so much time in fellowship with Him that I've been prone to let things go around here-a good thing for a woman hung up on getting things done in every spare moment. I have been reading even more vociferously than usual-and here's the true sign of MAJOR change-anything non-fiction I can get my hands on! I feel like a wide-eyed kid who has discovered that the world is full of things to learn about. I am moving on a journey for which I don't know the specific destination, but I really don't care because the scenery is fascinating to me, and I'm just happy to be moving at all!
I was reading in Ephesians yesterday. I love that book-it's so upbeat and useful! I got to the beginning of chapter 5, and read, "Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us, and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God." That last bit about the pleasing aroma stopped me. I'm all about wanting to be pleasing to God, so I began to wonder, "What aroma is pleasing to God, and how can I smell like that?"
Now when I think about pleasing aromas, the perfume counter at Macy's comes to my mind. All of those pretty bottles and a scent for every mood and occasion, none of which I will be likely to afford any time soon. But since the word sacrifice was used in the previous sentence, I don't really think expensive perfume is what we are talking about here. [Yes, I know the story about the woman with the alabaster box, but I'm making a point here!] Sacrifice in the OT usually meant the burning of animal flesh on an open fire. Basically, a big bbq pit. It didn't take the greatest theological scholar to figure out the symbolism of burning flesh with fire to atone for iniquity and to move closer to holiness in God.
I sat there thinking about all of this, and being the foodie that I am, I began to imagine summertime in the evening, when all of our neighbors open up those grills and the neighborhood begins to smell intoxicating! You drive down the street with your car window open and say (to quote Carmen, old school), "Give me som' o' dat!!" Since I truly believe that the love of food and the bountiful , beautiful ingredients God has given us to use indicate that He might be a foodie too, I think I have hit upon this mysterious aroma! Think about it-when you smell that smell you begin to salivate in anticipation of what is to come. I'm going to seek to have such an aroma in my life. I'm gonna gleefully set ablaze my fleshly desires so that the aroma that is given off will draw others in, in anticipation and excitement of what God is doing in my life and what He can do in theirs. I'm gonna have a BBQ for God!
Okay, if you haven't figured it out yet, I looooove to cook! I get excited over a perfectly ripe tomato like other women drool over diamonds. So after my ecstatic preparation of homemade spaghetti with meatballs (see Five for Friday #2) I had all of this beautiful basil left sitting in my kitchen window, begging to be used. Here's what I came up with-it makes a perfect summertime breakfast!
1 plum tomato, diced
4 basil leaves, rolled together and sliced into slivers
drizzle extra virgin olive oil
salt & pepper
2 eggs, lightly beaten with 1 tbsp. of water
3 tbsp. or so of shredded cheese, whatever kind you have on hand
2 slices of soft Italian bread
Dice the tomato in a large dice and combine with the shredded basil. Add kosher salt & freshly ground pepper to taste and drizzle combo with evoo. Stir to combine and set aside.
Season eggs with salt & pepper. Lightly beat eggs with water until foamy. Melt a pat of unsalted butter in pan and scramble eggs gently, making sure they don't become too hard. When they are almost done to your desired firmness, sprinkle the cheese over the top, remove from heat and allow cheese to melt.
Lightly toast two slices of bread (you can spread them with a little butter to soften). Lay a slice of toasted bread on plate, cover with the eggs with cheese, and top with the tomato and basil mixture!
All I can say is, "YUMMM!"
Need I mention that it turned out spectacular!! Chris did his best "What About Bob?" impression, groaning in pleasure with each bite. Since I was using my God-given talents in an expression of praise to God, I'm pretty sure I was having church there in that kitchen with the music and the simmering pots! I am positive that it was one of the best worship experiences of my life!!
Now I must add that, all of my life, my mother has been famous for forgetting something in the microwave whenever she makes a big meal. We will have eaten and be cleaning up the kitchen, and open the microwave to reveal the corn or beans or whatever that she got so busy she just left there! Well, I am my mamma's daughter! When I started my meatballs, I lovingly sauteed the finely minced onions and garlic in the beautiful, green olive oil. The concoction was too hot to put directly into the meat mixture, so I stuck it in the freezer to cool for a minute. Guess what greeted me the next morning?? I just about cried!
I helped to clean out a storage room at church this week that was full of old flower arrangements. I poached these red ranunculus (???ranunculii, ranunculuses???) and greenery from the trash, and reworked them to make a new arrangement for my dining room table, which I was sorely needing!! I think it turned out rather well for someone with no experience at this sort of thing!!
- The Hand of The Surgeon
- Honor Your Husband, Part 2
- A Lonely Life
- Holland v. Italy
- The 30 Day Honor Your Husband Challenge
- A Great Woman of God, Part 2
- A Great Woman of God
- Musing on the Master
- Special Needs Moms
- Brainwashing Exposed!!!
- Somebody Stop Me!
- Five for Friday #5: Wow!
- Five for Friday #4: A BBQ for God!
- Five for Friday #3: Summer Breakfast
- Five for Friday #2: Just like my mamma
- Five for Friday #1: Look Ma, All Hands!
- ▼ June (16)