Friday, February 12, 2016

"Be Strong and Let Your Heart Take Courage..."

"...all you who wait for the Lord." (Psalm 31:24)

Waiting for him today. Waiting for his strength, his courage, his love, his deliverance, his healing, his hope, his peace.

Also from Psalm 31:

14 But as for me, I have trusted in you, O Lord. *
I have said, "You are my God.

15 My times are in your hand; *
rescue me from the hand of my enemies,
and from those who persecute me.

16 Make your face to shine upon your servant, *
and in your loving-kindness save me."

Could there be any better words to pray today in light of the news I received yesterday? I so did not want this diagnosis, Lord. And yet here it is.

I couldn't even make it to the gospel in my readings this morning. There was too much goodness to cling to just in the Psalm. I love how gospel-infused the Scriptures are. We trip over the good news at every turn.

Courage, Dear Heart. 

Monday, February 08, 2016

So Much Goodness, So Much Grace

"Why is God so good to us?" may have been just about the most beautiful thing I've heard said in a long time. Those were the words spoken to me by the sweet girl last night as we hugged each other before bedtime. They sort of burst from her spontaneously and left me standing there almost limp with joy. (Okay, yes, I was very tired, but the joy was real too!)

My dear thirteen year old daughter has struggled a lot over the goodness of God in the past couple of years, especially with the big questions like "how is God good when there's so much suffering?" To hear her so joyfully affirm her sense of his goodness at the end of what has undoubtedly been the hardest week and a half of her life makes me so grateful.

These days really have been hard....very hard. My sudden swoop into serious illness, the uncertainty and anxiety we're all living under as we await more news on my diagnosis, the way the world felt like it turned upside down as I had doctor appointments, surgery, and have been having to put the brakes on almost everything "normal" in our life routine so that I can rest and heal -- all of this has been hard. It would be hard for any family and any thirteen year old. The fact that many of the challenges tap the sweet girl's most challenging places of anxiety has sometimes felt like another rushing and scary part of this whole tsunami.

And yet....

She is feeling and sensing and KNOWING the goodness of God. As I am. As are we all.

And she is feeling and sensing and knowing God's goodness through God's people. Her question last night: "why is God so good to us?" came on the heels of other exclamations: "I love people. I love God!"  And I knew exactly what she meant. I do too, and I especially love how God loves us THROUGH his people. It's astounding.

Why is God so good to us? Because he loves us, and because that's who he is.

In other good news today...
I had a very broken night's sleep, and finally got some good, healing sleep in the later part of the morning, after taking more pain medication.

When I woke up around 8, I reached for my water (doing a good job of staying hydrated) and my groggy mind started the phrase "this is the day...." I think what my brain was going for was "this is the day you might hear from the oncologist."

But the long engrained habit of Scripture reading and memorization took over. My heart and mind interrupted with the words "....that the Lord has made, we will rejoice and be glad in it."

Can I just say how deeply, deeply thankful I am for all the words of God that I've tucked away over the years? Beginning at the kitchen table with my own dear Mama and dancing through these last years when I've sung and repeated and taught and rehearsed so many words from the Scriptures with the sweet girl. They are there now, like a treasure house, ready to draw on. Or like a spring welling up inside me and bursting out when I don't even expect it.

Holding onto lots of truth today: that God is good, that he loves us so, that he made this day, that we can rejoice in it. No matter what. 




Sunday, February 07, 2016

When Your Reader Grows Up and Blesses You With Books

Life continues to narrow down to pretty much one focus (or one focus with a dual lens): healing as well as I can while staying as calm and peaceful as I can in the face of unknown diagnoses that potentially look quite hard.

Pain, discomfort, struggles to sleep, keeping up my mental, spiritual, and emotional health: these have all been on the agenda this week, and not much else.

In the midst of all this, I am finding that I need books (of course) but that I have very little energy for heavy lifting when it comes to reading. My precious sweet girl has come to my rescue, providing me with a supply of mostly mid-grade books that have been wonderful. As I messaged to a friend checking in on me this morning, I feel I am reaping the benefits of raising a really good reader! The books she has passed on have been lovely.

Yesterday I finished the novel The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin. For a mid-grade book, this one had complexity in spades, but it also had some lovely writing, and my daughter especially enjoyed the way it played with narrative voices -- moving back and forth between the protagonist's thoughts (she is going through a time of intense grief and doesn't talk for much of the book) and her memories of the friend she lost. Those memories are written in second person as though she was speaking to the friend. It's a challenging back and forth and a story that doesn't have a completely neat resolution, though it ended more happily than I thought it might.

Since then, Jedi Teen has passed another book on to me. This one is called Enchanted Air. It's a memoir in verse penned by Cuban-American author Margarita Engle, who is recalling her childhood in two places. Really beautiful poetry so far -- I am enjoying this one a lot.

With the recent Newbery and Caldecott books out, the sweet girl and I have been plunging into book lists again. We've even checked out some picture books (I have so missed picture books). Matt de la Pena's Last Stop on Market Street was the first picture book to win the Newbery in years. We enjoyed both its lyrical writing and its colorful, detailed pictures by Christian Robinson, who brought the urban landscape to exciting life. Another gorgeous picture book we've enjoyed recently is Kate Messner's Over and Under the Snow. Christopher Silas Neal uses mixed media in the beautiful illustrations of woodland animals who have creative ways of surviving the winter.


Sunday, January 31, 2016

Different Kinds of Questions

Life has changed a lot since my last post. I spent most of Wednesday in the ER, most of Friday at another hospital for testing, and will go back to the hospital for surgery on Tuesday. I am currently feeling rather like an invalid, living with a catheter at home and still struggling with pain and stiffness on my right side, which is making everything more challenging. The biggest challenge right now, beyond sheer physical tiredness, is living under the weight of "what if." Surgery on Tuesday should hopefully show me a little more of what I might be facing.

At the moment, everything feels different than it did just a few short days ago when my body, though not without its aches and pains, still felt like it worked as it should.

I find myself waking up with entirely different questions than I did before facing serious illness. I think my daily (perhaps sometimes unconscious) questions used to be "what" and "how much" -- as in "what do I need to do today?" and "how much can I get done?" Right now the question is more "how" -- as in "how can I get through this day one step at a time?" and "how can I live today in such a way that I am not giving into stress and fear?" and "how can I bring God glory and myself and my family peace through the way I respond to what is happening right now?" I keep reminding myself this is not a bad way to live, though I surely hope to soon be functioning better physically.

My dad reminded me a couple of days ago, when he called to check on me, that it had been 40 days since Mama passed away. Such a biblical number. Surely this has been one of the biggest wilderness periods I've ever known.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Ten Minute Tuesday (#4)

Sometimes natural beauty is the most beautiful of all. I thought of posting a snow picture today (given all the snow we've had recently!) but this lovely piece of malachite called out instead. Not sure what it might prompt creatively, but the design and the color are both stunning.





Malachite mined from Congo, displayed at Transvaal Museum - South Africa. Photo credit: Amazing Geologist (https://www.facebook.com/AmazingGeologist/?fref=ts)




Saturday, January 23, 2016

A Possible Ninth Planet

In October, I wrote about our family's read-through of Tom Standage's book The Neptune File, which detailed the search for the planet that eventually was named Neptune. Neptune was the first planet that astronomers ever discovered, not by observing it in the heavens, but by making mathematical calculations. These days ever more involved mathematical calculations have made possible the discovery of not-yet-observed planets outside of our own solar system.

How exciting to read this in the news this week, that another planet may be near the outer edges of our solar system! One we didn't know was there, but which might well be there, based on our observations of the orbits of various objects in the Kuiper Belt. If it is there, it is likely three times larger than earth, but smaller than Uranus and Neptune, and probably a gaseous planet. If it's where they think it is, it's so far from the sun that it could take 20,000 years to revolve around it!

It's so marvelous to contemplate the mysteries of the universe and to realize how much we don't know. And so fascinating to think of another planet having been there, perhaps all this time, and we just weren't aware. It makes you wonder how many other things are real and true and solid and beautiful and simply beyond our awareness and field of vision.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

My View, God's View

My involvement in social media, especially Facebook, has both widened my world and made it feel smaller. It's widened my world in that I am able to more readily connect with many more people as well as learn things about them and about the world that I never knew before. It's made my world feel smaller in that I begin to realize how deeply connected we all are, how much we share in common, even those of us who don't really know each other.

I've been thinking about that this week as I'm a little bit on overload with life. Still grieving my mom's loss at the same time I am celebrating her homecoming to glory -- an unexpected month ago today. Time marching relentlessly on and there's so much to do: homeschooling, ministry, household tasks, writing work. Still hurting and aching and dealing with broken sleep patterns. Deadlines that were graciously extended for me in early January are upon me now, and I am writing, writing, writing to get things done, still not sure I can possibly make them. Our difficult fourth quarter financially has pushed us into a hard one again in this first quarter of the new year, and I am needing to pick up extra web content writing at a time when I don't have the mental space or the physical stamina to do it, but I'm doing it anyway because the bills have to be paid. Hours at the computer, even with stretching and moving breaks, are exacerbating my back and hip issues. I am worn out on almost every level, but I am being very careful to keep taking one small step at a time and to keep holding onto Jesus.

In the midst of all this, I am checking in daily at FB, as I usually do, and finding my news feed so full of things to celebrate and mourn that it can almost be overwhelming. I'm not sure there's really any difference in what I'm seeing in my feed right now and what's usually there -- I'm just noticing more, feeling extra sensitive to what I'm reading. My rejoicing feels deeper and my sadness more intense. It's not a bad thing really, and it's not something that I feel I need to stop doing (I'm trying to be careful not to spend too much time on the trivial stuff, but I do love the ways the things I read there can inform my prayers). But it strikes me, not for the first time, how deeply glad I am that God is God and I am not. I cannot even keep straight the interconnections of my own one life, and yet God, in his vastness and majesty and wisdom is able to keep ALL the web of connections straight, not just in my life but in every life. He not only sees them and knows them and loves us through them, he helps us to untangle the threads and see the pattern. He hears the cries and rejoices with the rejoicing and nudges the reluctant and encourages the weary and gently corrects the ones who are wandering and calls out to those who don't yet know him. It is an amazing thing to contemplate from my own tired and sometimes overwhelmed vantage point. He does not grow weary. He does not faint. He does not stop loving us no matter how gorgeously or sadly tangled and complex our lives grow -- and sometimes the beauty and the sadness are so interwoven we can't see where one stops and another starts.

Just this week I have marveled over the first flower grown in space, contemplated incredible art, looked at auroras viewed from the International Space Station, and watched video footage of waves washing up on the shores of Galilee (taken by friends on sabbatical). I have mourned with a family whose baby died, rejoiced with a friend for whom God miraculously provided all the funds they needed to bring home their fifth adopted child, rejoiced with that same friend in the news that she is ten years cancer free, and marveled over the fact that she is not resting on the joys of being able to bring home her little girl, but beginning to raise funds for wheelchairs for other children in the same orphanage. I have smiled over  the stories told my an acquaintance who remembers praying for a certain country when she was a little girl: a country she is currently visiting so she can get to know her newly adopted teenage daughter, a country where it has been difficult for the gospel to gain a hearing and yet where she saw fifteen baptisms of new Christians this week. I have smiled over the excitement felt by some families, children, and yes, teachers, over approaching snowstorms.

This is just a tiny slice of some of the connections that happen to be passing before my eyes over the past few days. It's amazing to ponder the wonders, moments, and stories that God contemplates each and every day from the vantage point of his almighty view. That he doesn't just contemplate them but act within them and through them for our good and his glory is incredibly beautiful and humbling. I am so thankful to be his daughter.