Tuesday, April 27, 2010

When God Hands You Fish...

Life may sometimes hand you lemons, but God will sometimes hand you a fish, and you'll be swallowed up by it.  And it may be for a lot longer than the three days that Jonah experienced.  

God sent a fish my way six years ago in the form of physical ailments.  As hard as I flailed and fought to find my way out, my fish wasn't anywhere near vomiting.  And I'm glad.  When we feel the heat of our trials being turned up, our natural inclination is to find the nearest exit and get out.  And if we do, we will miss God's best.

What if Jonah's whale had vomited him up after the first day, or the second?  If so, Jonah would not have been brought to the place where he was able to humbly submit to the Lord and pray,

"When I was in trouble, LORD, I prayed to you, and you listened to me. From deep in the world of the dead, I begged for your help, and you answered my prayer. You threw me down to the bottom of the sea. The water was churning all around; I was completely covered by your mighty waves. I thought I was swept away from your sight, never again to see your holy temple. I was almost drowned by the swirling waters that surrounded me. Seaweed had wrapped around my head. I had sunk down below the underwater mountains; I knew that forever, I would be a prisoner there. But, you, LORD God, rescued me from that pit. When my life was slipping away, I remembered you-- and in your holy temple you heard my prayer. All who worship worthless idols turn from the God who offers them mercy. But with shouts of praise, I will offer a sacrifice to you, my LORD. I will keep my promise, because you are the one with power to save."  (Jonah 2)

Then and only then did the Lord command the fish to vomit Jonah out onto dry land. 

Since the time my new doctor had agreed to remove the cyst which was so rudely encroaching on the space in my spinal canal, my husband's wondered aloud a few times about why, when another doctor had found the cyst a couple of years ago, didn't he remove it then?  There are a lot of physical answers to that question, but the spiritual truth of the matter is that I hadn't learned all God wanted to teach me through this trial yet.  And once the intended transformation had taken place, the Lord gave permission for the surgery. 

I think about a scenario where the Lord would have allowed me to find the exit and escape the heat of my trial early.  Oh, how lacking in spiritual riches I would be.

Don't ever be in a hurry to escape a trial.  The Lord is with you in the heat as He was with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.  Embrace your Lord in the trial - it is a gift given by a sovereign God Who is in complete control of every degree all the while you're in it.  Trust Him, pray to Him, love Him.  No matter how dark the darkness, He is there. 

The heat you feel is the heat that is melting down your faith once again so that the dross of doubt, and mistrust, and insecurity and any other impurity can be seen so that we can then give God permission to remove it, and our faith becomes that much more pure.  That process will take place hundreds and even thousands of times so that we can then present to God our most holy faith - something much sweeter than lemonade.

And I'd like to add that I am still, as of now, feeling all the same symptoms that this surgery is supposed to take care of.  The thought, though, is that those nerves are still irritated from the surgery itself and it may take a while to feel the changes.  This is part of trusting in the Lord, too.  He led me to have the surgery, and I have to know that it wasn't for no reason. 


Thank you all for your prayers as I went through the surgery and now as I'm going through the recovery process.  Even the recovery is a time to still learn more trust, more patience and more gratefulness.  It's a slow process.  Typing out this blog is a much as I've done in the two weeks since my surgery - which was a crazy ordeal.  The cyst ended up being much larger than originally thought and even travelled down my spinal cord about six inches.  The bony plates that protrude from the vertebrae had to be removed from three of them in order to get to the cyst, and they were put back with metal plates and screws.  I'm hoping that will give me an excuse to never have an MRI again.  Most of the recovery takes about three months but the bones will take up to a year to completely heal. 

I'll tell you though, seeing God's love in action through some of the sweetest friends in the world, and even through some precious souls who I've never even met who have prayed for me, asked about me, sent me cards, and brought us food is an awesome and humbling thing to experience.  And a special thank you to my family - my kids who have pitched in to help with hardly a whimper, and my husband, who has practically run himself ragged to do for me what I can't do for myself right now, which is just about everything.  If the goodness of all these people are an indication of what heaven will be like, I'm going to blessed to have some amazing neighbors. 

In His Hands,

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Long and Winding Road - Truth vs. Feelings

If you’ve been with me and my little blog for very long, you know that I’ve spoken of my life as a “long and winding road.” There have been many curves, steep mountains, (more climbing than sliding down) and dark, lonely country backroads. Most of what I’ve shared has been about the last six years of my life that began with a rude interruption of defiant bodily functions gone haywire and the ensuing uphill battle to not only find the shut-off switch, but also the struggle to adjust my life according to the demands of pain and fatigue and maintain some sense of sanity in the process. It hasn’t been easy.

But God’s been with me, giving me markers of direction every so often along the way. He began by telling me to “be strong and courageous” before the trial even began. He told me that He was my Bright Morning Star. And a number of months ago He began to tell me to “wait quietly.” I felt an air of anticipation along with this instruction. More about this in a moment.

And throughout this time, God’s given me words of refreshing encouragement through His own Word, through devotions, through friends, through music, and through the prayers of the saints – all of which I am extremely grateful.

I know God’s taught me much and has transformed my faith in ways I probably I can’t even comprehend yet. But I think one of the main things I’ve learned is the difference between a feeling - an emotion - and the presence of God in my life.

God and the circumstances of my life have made me a very emotional person. For that, in itself, I don’t apologize. That God-bestowed quality has given me the ability to have empathy and compassion and those characteristics have given me the desire to help others in need. What I have incorrectly done is confused the difficult circumstances of my life and the painful and sometimes lonely feelings that go along with them with a false idea that God is somehow absent in my life or His love for me has waned.

The other side of that coin of sensibilities is to falsely believe that if our emotions are good – we’re feeling happy and everything seems to be going right – that that automatically means our relationship with God must be right.

Our feelings are no indication of the presence of God and of His very constant, unfailing love for us. Feelings will be swayed by a myriad of things – lack of sleep, pain, hormones, chemicals in the brain, incorrect perspective based on a difficult childhood, not spending enough time doused in the truth of God’s Word or seeking the Truth-Giver in prayer in order to dispel the lies. But we have to know that no matter what our emotions tell us, the truth is that God will never leave us nor forsake us.

And it seems that was the notion that God has set out to dispel in my mind. Living through this constant and sometimes deeply depressing trial has forced me to learn to trust God even when I don’t feel Him there. The truth is, He is there, no matter what I feel and no matter what is going on in my life.

God’s Word is full of people who faced some of the most depressing circumstances there could be. My dear Job comes to mind, as does the pre-king, cave-dwelling David. And yet God was with them from the beginning to the end, the feelings of His children notwithstanding.

And then there were those who felt confident in their circumstances - I think of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5 - whose feelings couldn’t have lied to them more about their standing with the Lord.

Instead of trusting in our feelings, we have to learn to trust in the truth of God’s Word instead. God says that He is near to the broken-hearted (Psalm 34:18). If He says it, it’s true. God says that nothing can separate us from His love (Romans 8:35-39). If He says it, it’s true. God says that any of us who are weary should come to Him and He will give us rest (Matthew 11:28). If He says it, it’s true.

Never mistake your circumstances, or the circumstances of another, and the feelings that go along with them, with the presence or absence of God. The question is not what do our feelings tell us, but rather how are we participating in keeping alive a walking, talking, breathing, working, loving relationship with our Lord?

Just as an earthly marriage needs both partners working together to keep the relationship healthy, so we need to do our part in order to keep a healthy relationship with our Heavenly Husband, Jesus Christ. Do the work needed to be in right relationship with your Savior. Talk to Him daily, even “momently.” He’s always listening. Read His Word. He’s always speaking. Repent of your sins often. He’s always forgiving. When the love we have for Christ abounds, those things aren’t something we have to do, but something we are privileged to do.

And now about my instruction to “wait quietly.” As I said, I felt an air of anticipation along with that instruction, as if the Lord was saying, “Hold on. I have something in store for you.” And now He’s brought me on my journey to a particular bend in this long and winding road that I now face. I don’t know how sharp the turn will be insomuch as how much of an answer it will be to all the prayers lifted up regarding the physical part of this trial of the last six years.

After countless doctors and even more tests, one thing has recently been decided: a cyst that’s pressing on my spinal cord will have to be removed this week. I found out about the surgery only a couple of weeks ago and it’s a surgery that will most likely have me laid up for the better part of a month. So I’ve been running around doing all the things a mom has to do in situations like this, which is the reason for my lack of blogging. So I’m guessing it’ll be at least two or three weeks before you see me back on here again, unless I can figure out how to prop a laptop on its side and type that way.

So. We’ll see what the Lord will do! Whatever it is, I pray my trust will be securely set on the Lord Who loves me with an everlasting love.

See you soon. Be good to each other!

God bless,

Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Risen Savior

"I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore."

~Jesus Christ
Revelation 1:18

Friday, April 2, 2010

Friday Foodie - Resurrection Buns

Sometimes darkness gets a bad rap. We remember darkness as a place that held boogiemen and monsters hiding in the closet. Dark places give way to fear because of the unknown things that could be lurking; and dark times bring fear because they contain unknown circumstances.

But God sees in the dark. God has been known to do His best work - even miracles - in the darkness where only He can see.

Babies are formed in the darkness of their mother’s wombs. We learn to trust God in the darkness of our trials. And our Savior was resurrected for our salvation to the glory of God in the darkness of a tomb.

Praise His Holy Name!

I pray you have a blessed Easter as you celebrate Resurrection Sunday and the miracle of grace and mercy that brought us from death to life.

And I even have a visual aid for you – a 3D flannelgraph in foodie form – if you will. I made these for my boys when they were little and showed them the miracle of the empty tomb. And they’re delicious.

Resurrection Buns

1 ¼ cups milk
½ cup sugar, plus 2 tablespoons, divided
½ cup vegetable oil
1 ½ packages of quick rise yeast.
2 tablespoons water
2 eggs
4 cups flour
½ cup melted butter
mixture of 1 ½ cups sugar and 2 ½ tablesppons cinnamon
24 large marshmallows

1. Begin this step a couple of hours ahead of time to allow time for it to cool. In a saucepan, mix milk, ½ cup sugar and vegetable oil. Heat to boiling and then set aside to cool completely.

2. When the milk mixture is completely cool, mix together in a separate bowl the 2 tablespoons sugar, 1 package of quick rise yeast, and water. Set aside for 15 minutes.

3. Then beat the eggs and add them to the cool milk mixture. Add yeast mixture to milk mixture. Add ½ package of quick rise yeast and stir well.

4. Add the flour and mix well until soft. Place a towel over the top of the bowl and let rise for 2 hours. Then punch down.

5. Divide the dough into 24 pieces. Roll out each piece of dough to form 4-inch circles (mostly circles, whatever. They don’t need to be perfect.) Wrap each dough circle around a marshmallow and pinch closed tightly. Any openings in the dough will ruin the effect. Bathe the rolls in melted butter and then in the sugar and cinnamon mixture. Place the rolls on well-greased cookie sheets, 12 to a sheet; cover and let rise until double in size, about 1 1/2 hours.

6. Bake at 350 degrees for about 18 minutes or until golden brown. The marshmallow will melt and leave a sticky syrup in the buns and - voila! - leave them hollow, just like the empty tomb where our Easter miracle took place.