Surrounded by God’s Glory

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This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24

This verse is carrying me through this morning. Each day is a new day; a new opportunity to praise our God, the father of us all. Last night as I drove home, with tears streaming down my face I looked up to the sky, with the clouds spattering the blue expanse and saw light fighting to shine through. I was amazed at the beauty of this place we call home and thought of Karyn, who is now singing with the angels. The moment caught me as a glimmer of hope of what is to come in the next life, where my friend now resides. I can only imagine her now…restored to health and life, praising her Father, the creator of us all.

I read posts from Karyn’s husband, family and friends and fill a new wash of sadness come over me, but still there is so much of God in each one. Her father wrote yesterday,

“This morning, our sweet daughter, Karyn, went to be with her Lord after a long battle with heart disease. She was only 36 years-old. She will be sorely missed by her mom and me, as well as her husband, Jack, and their 4 children; and her 5 brothers and sisters and the rest of the family. But we are assured that we know where she is. Praise the Lord!”

Even in the midst of his loss and sadness he is praising God. Do you find you praise God in the hard times? The dark times? Or only the good? Do you pray to the giver of life daily? Or do you only come to him in your times of need? Or despair?

Each day is a new day we can come before the throne and thank God for the many, many blessings in our life. It’s not only the big things that we need to recognize that God working in our lives, but the small things as well. I remember I once decided to find God’s blessings daily and I still try to recognize the things around me that are from him. Whether it be a beautiful sunset on the drive home, a flower garden for me to enjoy the view and scents or the way my baby lays her head on my shoulder to cuddle…I look for God in the still, quiet moments.

Today I am reminded of the song, again by Mercy Me, I Can Only Imagine. Today Karyn is walking by God’s side, surrounded by His glory.

I can only imagine what it will be like when I walk by Your side 

I can only imagine what my eyes will see when Your face is before me 

Surrounded by Your glory, what will my heart feel 
Will I dance for You Jesus or in awe of you be still 
Will I stand in Your presence or to my knees will I fall 
Will I sing hallelujah, will I be able to speak at all 
I can only imagine

I can only imagine when that day comes and I find myself standing in the sun 
I can only imagine when all I will do is forever, forever worship You

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Finding Myself at a Loss for Words

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My heart is filled with such heaviness today. It was just a month ago I learned of a childhood friend passing away from a heart attack. Today it was my college roommate, Karyn. Her heart could no longer keep up with her.

About 8 years ago Karyn learned she had congestive heart failure while she was pregnant with her second son, Micah. She had a emergency delivery and was put on the transplant list. I remember seeing her when Micah was still a baby, thinking I may never see her again.

But she made it. She got a new heart in record time and she was doing great. She had her ups and downs and just recently married Jack, the man of her dreams. She lost her battle, although she never gave up the fight. She was determined.

The sadness I feel is overwhelming me at times this morning and I am finding it difficult to be at work today. Karyn was the one roommate I would have continued rooming with, had she not left.

I was a difficult roommate, having 4 different roommates in 8 semesters and 4 of those semesters I had my own room. You do the math. Karyn was kind and loving and gave of herself in many, many ways.

I cannot fathom the loss her family is feeling today because I am sure I feel only a fraction of their pain. Life is put in perspective once again, but also, sadness fills me. It’s more than the wow-factor of losing someone my age, as in last month’s loss, but it’s the loss of someone I loved. I may not have seen her recently but we kept in touch…she was my roomie, as she affectionately called me whenever we talked, emailed or posted on each other’s Facebook wall.

I love you Karyn! Rest in God’s arm, fully restored.

Can I get a Breather?

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Crazy doesn’t even come close to how my week is going. Can anyone relate? I had a fabulous weekend starting Friday night I went to Six Flags with my husband, sister and brother-in-law. There was a media event Chris was invited to and we all got to tag along with him. It was so much fun…no kids and we didn’t have to pay for anything…except those yummy funnel cakes we just HAD to have. Saturday my daughter had a soccer game and I got to spend the rest of the day at home. That doesn’t happen very often. Sunday was church, where I was in a skit during the 2 services and then again got to spend the day at home. My oldest spent the afternoon with a friend, thank you Sherry and I got to nap with my youngest.

I’m already looking ahead to next weekend and once again my schedule is full. My oldest turns 9 this week and my niece turns 6. We have activities starting Friday night through Monday night and then Halloween is 2 days later. OMG!!!

I do like to stay busy but sometimes I need to say no…I am already looking forward to the 2-hour massage I have scheduled for November 1st. It can’t come soon enough.

But I just need to sit and reflect on the blessings in my life. While work may be busy beyond belief, I have so much to be thankful for. Next month we recognize Thanksgiving where are SUPPOSE to express our thankfulness, but I just need to be thankful daily for all the gifts we have been blessed with.

Some days feel like I just need to make it through the rest of the week to make it to the weekend, and while I was so ready to get through last week, this week has started shaping up to be a rough one. My boss, who is like the Energizer Bunny got hurt this weekend. So I saw her for half a day yesterday and only a couple hours this morning and there is so much to do I fear I may drop a ball somewhere along the way and be lost. She is reachable by cell and email almost 24 hours a day, but there is just so much going on.

It’s times like this that I need to be still and know that God is with me. I WILL make it through this week and other weeks to come. Right now I can just enjoy the time to get backload items off my desk and look forward to having lunch with my husband and darling youngest daughter. Remember, it’s not always the BIG things in life to be thankful for, but the LITTLE things as well!

Strength beyond Our Own

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“There are days when I feel the best of me is ready to begin. Then there are days when I feel I’m letting go and soaring on the wind. Cause I’ve learned in laughter or in pain how to survive. I get on my knees, I get on my knees. There I am before the love that changes me. See I don’t know how, but there’s power, when I’m on my knees.” ~ Jaci Velasquez song, On My Knees

Do you ever feel like you can’t go on? You can’t move from the spot you are stuck on. Today I reflect on the almost year journey my friends have made with their young daughter. Born exactly one month before my own daughter, I am emotionally caught in their struggle of pain and heartache.

Have you ever gotten everything you ever wished for? I feel very humbled when I look at all the gifts God has given me and then see very deserving people who aren’t as blessed, or find that things don’t come as easily to them as it does for others. I once heard someone say if God doesn’t heal you, he doesn’t love you. What a load of hooey!!

I went to a small Christian college where everyone knew everyone else. We were a close knit community for 4 years and there are friendships I will cherish for the rest of my life. I remember sitting at my friend’s baby shower with a large group of girls from college, and hearing their stories on getting pregnant, losing babies, trying to get pregnant and all I could think was how blessed I was to be sitting there 6 months pregnant.

There were 4 of us pregnant that day with our first. The stories I heard from 2 of them were of heartache and loss. One had lost twins and was now expecting a little girl the following month. All is well and in fact she just gave birth to her second child this month. The other, who we were celebrating had used IVF to conceive and while they were successful their first try, it was not a story I could relate to. I remember telling my husband before we ever married I could not do fertility treatments. I knew I couldn’t handle the emotions and possible heartache.

I never thought I would conceive so easily. The first month we really started trying we were successful. I had multiple health issues that could have been a problem, but were not. I had an easy pregnancy and never really felt a single contraction. Apparently I was in labor for 6 hours before an emergency c-section, which was easy too. I healed remarkably well and was ready to get out of bed the following day.

But here I find myself looking at a life that was long-awaited, long-expected and celebrated. My friends finally had their little bundle of joy, conceived by IVF and theirs to have and hold and spoil. Seven months later they began a journey that has yet to end. Tumors were discovered in their baby’s chest area and were removed. Their worst fears were realized when she was diagnosed with neurofibromatosis. She would be facing a future of tumors and surgeries. In the last year my friends have had to wean their baby from drugs, due to hospital stays with lots of medication.

I can say having been raised in a home where my parents were foster parents we had drug affected babies and it’s not easy.

They have experienced the Pediatric ICU first hand and learn to suction and change their daughter’s trach. They are learning sign language so they can communicate with their daughter a little easier and they have maintained their love of God and know He is in control. They don’t blame God, and even though my friend gets down on how her life has changed, she is strong beyond her means and still continues to love, as best as she can, those in her life.

The other day I saw a Facebook post she was tagged in where she had gifted a friend with a 2nd trimester pregnancy cravings goodie bag. She still had time to think of others and give back, even though she barely has enough time to sleep between breathing treatments and doctor appointments.

She misses the life she had, where she was the extrovert, happy teacher who sang and worshipped with her church family. Now she fears her daughter will get sick if surrounded by large crowds. She feels she has become a recluse and I pray for her often. I could not imagine having the year she has had and still come out of it with a sense of humor and resolve. She is resolved she will not be who she was, but one thing she does know: she is her daughter’s mother and her best advocate. I look forward to her posts about how life is going for them at home and how she makes light of some difficult situations.

Have you found yourself surrounded by mountains too big to overcome? It can seem impossible in the midst of your struggles but knowing God’s love is big enough to reach in and lift you up can help get you through your days. I often find myself singing the lyrics above. Even when there are days I feel I want to give up, I know my God loves me and he gives me strength and power when I can’t do it on my own.Image

Getting Back to Grace

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This week we once again explored the story of grace at Crosswalk Church. Pastor Pete Shaw read once again from Mark 2, focusing on verses 13-17. Here we find the story of Levi, also known as Matthew. Jesus tells Levi, the tax collector, to come and follow him, and just like that Levi stands up from his tax collector table, leaves his old life behind and becomes a Christ-follower.

What did it mean for Levi to make such a radical change? First, we look at what it meant for Levi to be a tax collector. Even today that job has negative connotations. Nobody wants a call or letter from the IRS. I recently got a letter that we had missed something on our 2010 taxes and suddenly we had a debt to pay. Not fun.

But in Levi’s day being a tax collector gave him much power and much hate. He could collect the amount due by Caesar and go on his way, or he could inflate the tax to line his own pockets. Levi had a pretty good life from a consumer’s point of view.

But then Jesus simply says, “come and follow me” and Levi did. He not only walked away from a sure thing, a paycheck, but he was following this man who the religious community didn’t understand and for many couldn’t pay the high cost to follow.

For the community that day, when Levi left his tax table to follow Jesus, it meant their pockets stayed a little fuller with no one there to collect their tax. So even though there was a lot of hate towards Levi, that day there was relief.

Then Levi invites Jesus to dinner where he dines with Levi and “other sinners”.

Here I need to digress. I was raised that you only did what appeared to be right and you didn’t associate with the least of these. But who did Jesus spend his time with? He had a rag-tag group of disciples. Levi was only one of his follows, and he was despised. There were fisherman who stank. Peter we know had a lot of anger issues and Judas ultimately betrayed him. So that question that resonated throughout my middle school and high school years, what would Jesus do? Well he would eat with the ones who were ignored or chastised. He would not neglect or ignore those in need.

So here we see Jesus eating with Levi and other sinners. Across the street, or somewhere near by, the Pharisees are watching this meal and judging Jesus. Here we look at grace – how we lose it and how we get it back.

Often Christians who have been raised in church can become complacent and find themselves in a place they never wish to be … we judge. You see someone come into church and immediately a negative thought races through your mind about why or how this person doesn’t belong. We’ve lost the grace we are to extend to everyone when we find ourselves becoming more critical of others and not dwelling in the midst of God’s grace.

Can we get it back? Can we come back to a place where we treat everyone the same? We should offer God’s grace freely because he loved us enough to pour his grace on us. I recently ran into a friend I have known for over a decade, and she asked me about a family we celebrated with the night before. She asked, “how is it that they are so lovable?” My thought immediately was, so are you…but I didn’t have the real answer until later. The truth lies in the way they treat people. Whether they have known you a day or a lifetime they treat everyone the same. God’s love and grace flows through them and radiates to touch every life they meet.

If you’ve lost touch with God’s grace it can be like losing your heartbeat with the one who gave us life. It’s time to get dirty. Get unstuck. Serve. Give back. When we put ourselves back into someone else we can find ourselves living in God’s grace and freely giving grace to those we encounter. Don’t get hung up on the supposed rights and wrongs of being a Christian. You’ve got it all wrong when you do that. To be a Christian, to be a Christ-follower, to be a little Christ, means we are loving the unlovable and touching the untouchable. God’s grace can pour through us to reach people we never thought we could reach on our own.

“I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” Philippians 4: 13

One Thought Remains

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The other night I rented a movie, October Baby, and have had this running through my mind for the last 2 days. The movie is about a girl, who at 21 comes face to face with the reality of her medical condition. After fainting on stage, Hannah learns she was adopted and all her health issues are related to a failed abortion, which she survived. She begins her journey to find answers, her birth mom and her place in the world.

Now, I have to premise this by saying this is not a post about abortion but about an adopted child coming to terms with her abandonment.

The movie made me cry. Hot, emotion filled tears ran down my face while watching this movie. I did warn my husband I had rented this and he was fine not watching with me. He walked in the door from work that night at the very end of the movie. Good timing on his part.

The pain that wracked this girl was heart-wrenching. She was on a desperate quest to find the mother who never wanted her. She finds her and it’s not a magical moment. It’s a woman denying the facts and once again pushing this child out of her life. The heartache for me comes from having an adopted daughter who has begun asking questions about her birth mom.

Here is where it gets tricky for me. My daughter knows she is adopted and is only 8-years old. I have told her that her birth mom was unable to take care of her or herself and this causes a lot of heartache for my daughter. But she’s yet to ask if her birth mom wanted her. How do I answer this when the time comes?

I know her birth mom was in a group home and unable to care for herself independently or for anyone else. I know she recognized the fact that she was pregnant, but not sure it’s something that has remained with her or not. I know the parents of my daughter’s birth mom did not want to take on raising another child. But I can’t bring myself to tell her she wasn’t wanted. She was wanted. I wanted her.

When people tell me what a good person I am for adopting my daughter, I tell them no. I adopted her for very selfish reasons. I wanted to be a mom…and not just any mom, I wanted to be her mom. I tell her when she wants to talk about her birth mom and has questions how much I love her and how I got to choose her. I wanted this baby, not another baby, but her.

For whatever reasons a child is given up and/or unable to be parented by the one who gave birth to them, I pray they can find forgiveness as Hannah did in this movie. Hannah meets a priest who tells her, “Because we have been forgiven by God, we should forgive each other. In Jesus, you are forgiven, and, because you are forgiven, you have the power to forgive, to choose to forgive. Let it go. Hatred is a burden you no longer need to carry. Only in forgiveness can you be free, Hannah—forgiveness that is well beyond your grasp, or mine, a forgiveness that you can’t find on a trip or even in this cathedral.”

When we forgive we offer the same grace that God has offered us. For grace is getting what we don’t deserve. 

Connections

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Connections are made and sometimes broken. It can be a telephone conversation, a relationship or a power line. There are times when the space between two people becomes so great they no longer know each other.

Have you ever lost a connection you wished you had not? While I don’t recommend living life with regrets there can be moments that seem to pass us by and we cannot get them back.

I look back at my childhood and have great memories of time spent with friends. At the time you believe things will never change. I recently ran into a friend I’ve known for a very long time. We never lost contact completely, but our connection shorted out. We graduated from high school and we grew up. But somehow we are still living in the same town. When I see this person I think back to all the fun we had, whether at our homes, church or family trips. Part of me wants that back. Then I look around and realize I will never get back those moments. I have a grown-ups life now. I am married, have 2 children and drive a minivan.

I have friends from high school and before that I thought I would be friends with forever and others I did not think would last. Today my closest friend is from high school, and while we spent 4 years together as friends I never thought we would stay close beyond. Now we are as close and any 2 friends can be, even being in each other’s weddings. Thank goodness we didn’t discount the time spent together and have been able to forge ahead with good times we can recall and laugh about now.

Not all lost connections are bad or regrettable. You’ve heard the phrase I had to kiss a few frogs to find my prince. So yes, while romantic connections can hurt when they pass it may be the start to your future with the person you are meant to be with. I remember being heart-broken at one point in my life over a romantic connection that I thought should have lasted. It took 4 years before I met my husband but once I met him I knew he was the one.

The one I thought I “lost” did not respect me or my ambitions. I foolishly thought he was the one because there weren’t a lot of others lining up. Considering what I had to go through to get to where I am leaves no regrets. I think if I had met my husband even 10 years ago we would not have made the same connection. We were both in very different spots in our lives 10 years ago and finally when we met we were ready for that moment in time to bring us together.

So are you missing a connection you once had? Or are you hoping to make new connections in the future? Or are you looking to severe a current connection? Keep your options open and you never know where the road will lead.