Monday, November 19, 2012

Little Drummer Boy

Since I was a little girl, the "Little Drummer Boy" has always been my favorite Christmas carol.  Maybe it was the sound of the drum or the picture on the album cover of this little face, intently keeping time on his drum.  Maybe it was my own desire, or better yet His desire for me, to bring something of worth to this King of Kings.

My children have made their "Santa" lists at school; the coveted items include a gun (need I reference Ralphie and A Christmas Story?) and a baby doll.  Yet, the irony that we make lists of gifts for ourselves in celebration of His birth seems to escape us.  Why don't we list our gifts to bring as opposed to our gifts to receive?  How have we shifted focus from Him to self?  It's called worldliness, blindness to be exact.  Paul writes of this to the Corinthian church:  "But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost.  In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them" (2 Corinthians 4:3-4).

The god of this world, he seeks to blind us.  He seeks to devour our faith, to keep us in darkness.  He seeks to turn our attention, or to keep our attention, focused on self.  A philosopher once wrote that atheism isn't the absence of belief in God, it is the making a god of self.  Our culture encourages us to worship self, esteem self, pamper self, and justify self, and in doing so, elevates self to godhood and God to needlessness.  How do you create a god of self unknowingly?  Sit in the dark for a while, and your eyes will adjust to the lack of light; in fact, you might find the LIGHT to be obtrusive, a bit too harsh and penetrating.  Even those who claim Jesus as Savior are not immune to usurping the role of creator.  Those who claim allegiance to the God who died a cruel death on a cruel cross to crush sin and at the same time revel in the very sin that He died to conquer, have created their own Jesus.  They readily claim the Jesus who heals and loves, but not the Jesus who says to Go and Sin NO More.  What God are you worshiping today?

Maybe there are lessons to be learned from this drumming boy.

He has been told of a NEWBORN KING by WISE MEN who SEEK HIM (WISE men still do ... "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding" ~Proverbs 9:10).  The KINGS bring their FINEST GIFTS for HIM, yet the drumming boy  has no gift to bring, only the playing of a drum.  Somehow he realizes that the only gift he can bring to the KING is the gift that the KING has already given him -his ability to play this drum (all of the gifts that we bring to HIM originate in HIM for only HE is GLORIFIED).  This realization brings a willingness to give, to give ALL to the KING. 


I look back to my little ones' lists and to my little ones' gifts.  This middle one, with crooked limb, who this King has entrusted with so much so soon, has been gifted well.  At six, he sat in line for hours in a wheel chair to get a glimpse of a document written on parchment by his hero, Lincoln. He blogs (yes, I'm proud), he tells corny jokes, and he can memorize virtually anythings.  How will he give these gifts back?  Will he write for Him?  Will he teach or preach for HIM?  This little one, with piercing blue eyes, who rocks baby dolls and dances and tumbles and makes us belly laugh.  How He has gifted her with joy.  How will she give these gifts back?  Will she mother for Him?  Will she encourage for Him?  This older one, taller than me now, who is soon to find his way.  Oh, how He rescued Him at five.  How He gifted Him with life.  Will this one offer back that gift?  Will his life be an offering of love and patience and kindness to others?  Will they PLAY THEIR BEST FOR HIM?  

What is your gift for HIM?  Will you pry yourself from yourself and give yourself back to the ONE who is KING of KINGS?

Friday, October 12, 2012


Some days, I feel like I'm drowning. Lungs squeezed, panic set in, can't see the shore, drowning. Some days, treading water is simply too hard. Too exhausting. Some days, I reject the Life Savior and want to sink, to feel the water slipping over my head. To flounder in distress. To slap the waves and feel the ocean spray and salty sea touch my tongue. Some days drowning seems easier than swimming. Giving up. Relaxing. It's tempting. Some days.

Some days I don't want to hear The Voice of Truth. Don't want to hear that I'm blessed beyond measure. To Count my Blessings and Name them One by One. Don't want to be the Sunday School Teacher. THE Example.

Instead, some days, I count unfairness. Name them One by One. Post-Postpartum Depression. Days of Darkness and Fear. DIVORCE. Brain TUMORS. FIBULAR HEMIMELIA. Financial Bondage. Essays to Grade, Essays to Grade, Essays to GRADE.

I swim in this sea instead and cling to floating debris. Pieces of arguments. Words of DISCOURAGEMENT. Surgery number 3. No more babies can be birthed. Type A personality. Fear, always fear.

And I wonder, did HE do this. Did He sit in this sea. And I remember that HIS tears were as drops of blood and HE knows this water. Knows the taste of this OCEAN of DESPAIR. Yet, HE broke the BREAD and gave THANKS and got UP from the GARDEN and OPENED the palm for the N A I L S.


And I go to the GARDEN and fall on the KNEE and RISE to accept the PLAN. AND feel the pain of guilt, the failure to look, the failure to float, to TRUST, to GIVE THANKS in A L L T H I N G S. The failure to see me HIDDEN in Him. To ACKNOWLEDGE that all things come THROUGH HIM first before they REACH me. And in the THROUGH HIM--
a l l t h i n g s become BLESSED AND GOOD. And bring HIM GLORY.

And the SEA begins to form anew. And the ashes BECOME beauty.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Fibular Hemimelia: parenting, parenting, parenting

Picture a van. Luggage carrier on top. One driver Dad, one passenger Mom, two teenage boys, one pre-K girl, one upcoming second grade boy, and one most welcome Granny. Picture disgruntled teenage boy one reluctantly handing over his IPOD to screaming pre-K girl while upcoming second grade boy cries that it's no wonder he can't sleep and driver Dad glares angrily from the rear view mirror while passenger Mom just doesn't understand why we can't drive ONE mile without someone crying. Picture most welcome Granny pacifying crying upcoming second grade boy and calming screaming pre-K girl as teenage boy one covers his face with a pillow and teenage boy two (nephew) bluntly exclaims to passenger Mom: "You're the reason I'll never have kids."

Ahh, family vacation. The time to relax.

Luckily for me, God had laid in on my heart, and mom had it on her Kindle, for me to reread One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskcamp. Just as IPODS were flying and children were crying, I came upon a passage that at least gave me hope amid my feelings of frustration and failure. Now some moms can just get in among all those screaming kids and swat some behinds and make some "your daddy will pull this car over" (can you image the chaos on major highways if all the dads did just that?) warnings and go back to their book satisfied that all is well in the world of parenting.

I, however, am not that kinda mom.

Instead I cry (who would notice amid the three thousandth watching of Judy Moody and eating of gummy bears and slurping of bug juices), feeling that my lecturing, my praying, my tirelessly teaching has gone to naught. Has passed right over their heads like the Skittles flying between the rows.

satan. He knows my weaknesses. He knows my desire for perfection --in all things --even eleven hour, seven passenger, car rides. (Just check out the perfectly poised, white attired beach picture and you'll get a glimpse of my imperfections -and not my sun burned, slightly swollen nose either!) He knows that it hurts, all jokes aside, tears at my core, to see my children fighting, to hear myself yelling, to see my mom (most welcome Granny) look at me with that "bless your heart you have your hands full" look.

Failure leaves a bad taste in my mouth. It ushers in fear --what if they never truly listen to the lecturing, heed the Holy Spirit's conviction, yearn for tireless teachings? What if they don't invite each other to backyard cookouts and Christmas dinner? What if I'm never most welcome Granny in the back seat pacifying grandbaby one and consoling grandbaby two?

Oh, he's good. He knows my heart.

But he doesn't CONTROL it.

If you listen, if you truly want to hear, God can be heard over the noise of the DVD player, the disgruntled murmurings of teenage boys, and even your own angry, barking response. He reminds us in Psalm 46:10 that we have to be still (quiet) to hear Him and to remember Who He IS. Crying silently in the backseat, He saw me. He heard my cry. He knew that I needed refreshed. Didn't Hagar, alone in the desert, overwhelmed by her circumstances, call His name El Roi -the God who sees me. Wasn't she camped by a well, yet didn't see it?

I needed some reminding -of what I wasn't seeing that was right next to me.

At all times His words bring truth, perspective. That day, He whispered, "Did I fail you? Is that why you don't listen to my Word, yield to my spirit, desire my teaching? Is that why you cry to get your way? Is that why my gifts never seem enough to satisfy? Is that why you cannot travel ONE mile without forgetting my provision for every mile that you have traveled? Or is it your own flesh that rebels against goodness and fights my spirit for control? If I give you grace each day, mercies anew each morning, do you not suppose that driver Dad, two teenage boys, upcoming second grade boy, pre-K girl, and most welcome Granny deserve new mercies too? Have you forgotten to give thanks for a van full of blessings? A van full of love and possibilities?"

Ann Voskamp writes: "Thanking God for ALL -prepares the way for God to show us His fullest salvation from bitter, angry, resentful lives --and all sin that estranges us from Him. ... Take everything given, fall at His feet, and thank Him."

May my life song ever be one that never fails to see Him and to give thanks. To seek Him amid the noise. To be a giver of grace.

(Driver Dad and Passenger Mom)

(Most welcome Granny)

(Teenager 2 (nephew))

(Teenager 1)

(Upcoming second grader)

(Who could yell at this pre-K bright pink Barbie lipsticked mouth and sweet on backwards mismatched --I picked out my clothes all by myself -- girl?)

Friday, June 8, 2012

Fibular Hemimelia -A Year Later ... tiny toes, cute pictures!

Because the "Tiny toes, cute pictures" blog title gets the most views, I thought I'd shamelessly use it again! On a different note, I did promise an "after" to the "Fibular Hemimelia Before" blog a while back and since June 7th marked one year "after" surgery, I feel that an update on Ethan's progress is certainly needed, especially given his new flat-top!

The pictures below are of Ethan's legs today. As you can see, the scars are healing. All scars heal ... some just take longer than others.

His legs are now pretty close to equal in length. Obviously, his left leg is made pretty differently. His knee lacks an ACL and PCL and his valgus (knocked knees) is still significant. He has another surgery on June 26 to move the 8 Plate from the femur to the tibia to correct the valgus. But I think his leg is just beautiful! His smiling little sister thinks so too!

Reflecting on a difficult year has its difficulties, too. I prayed specifically before writing this blog and simply asked Jesus, "What would you have me tell them?" What would you have me tell the ones who are facing a difficult year, the ones who feel beyond overwhelmed, the ones who cannot seem to make it past the "unfairness" of it all.

"Do you want me to recount your provision for us in Baltimore?" I smile in remembrance of the time we spent there --basement time. "Do you want me to tell them how we started nightly devotions in that basement --mini-revivals I'd go as far as to say. Do they need to hear that we are still revived?"

"Should I prepare them," I asked, "for the difficulty in watching someone you love hurt in a way that you can't take away. Or should I lead them to see the grace in ALL things?"

"Lord Jesus," I prayed, "Should I write about how I swore I'd never take walking for granted EVER again --that I promised to thank you EVERY day for the simplicity of bending a knee if he could just bend his again --and that I failed in that promise?"

My questions continued throughout the past week, and I heard a Christian radio guest make a remarkable comment just yesterday. She said that we teach others best when we are enduring difficulty --in our brokenness others can see Jesus in us. And I wonder, "Did God teach you through my difficulty? Was God able to use me, such a worthless jar of clay, to somehow showcase His Glory?"

"Of all the lessons, Lord, what do they need to hear?"

And then, He told me.

It really wasn't the answer I was looking for. I was kinda hoping for a long list ... kind of a year in review. Reminders of the little first grade girl and her prayer shawl, Emily's dinner prayers that have begun with "Lord, help my brother, Ethan" every day since last year (even today), the way in which I was able to share the blog, and therefore my faith, with my high school students and still meet a VA State SOL.

Instead, He simply said, "Tell them I love them."

And I can't type those words without crying so hard that I can't see the screen. "Tell them that I love them."

Did you need to hear that today --because I did. I need to know that even in my sinfulness, in my selfishness, He Loves Me.

He loves you in your difficulty. He loves you as you worry and you cry. He loves you as you question and rage against unfairness. He loves you as you yield to His will.

One of my favorite scriptures about our Savior is found in Luke 13:34 where He cries over Jerusalem: "-O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not!"

He wants to gather you to Him. He wants to heal your hurt. He weeps with you in your trial. He will bring purpose from your pain.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Fibular Hemimelia: "The Pain that you've been feeling-- is just the dawn before the morning."

We. All. Need. Hope.
"Before the Morning"
Do you wonder why you have to
Feel the things that hurt you
If there’s a God who loves you where is He now

Maybe there are things you can’t see
And all those things are happening
To bring a better ending

Someday somehow you’ll see you’ll see

Would you dare would you dare to believe
That you still have a reason to sing
'Cuz the pain that you’ve been feeling
It can’t compare to the joy that’s coming

So hold on you gotta wait for the light
Press on and just fight the good fight
Cause the pain that you’ve been feeling
It’s just the dark before the morning

My friend you know how this all ends
You know where you’re going
You just don’t know how you’ll get there
So say a prayer

And hold on cause there’s good for those who love God
But life is not a snapshot
It might take a little time but you’ll see 
the bigger picture

Once you feel the weight of glory
All your pain will fade to memory

It’s just the hurt before the healing
Oh the pain that you’ve been feeling
It’s just the dark before the morning
  ~Josh Wilson
Do you remember the dream I had of Ethan running, 
the dream that left me in tears, the dream that I 
thought would never come to fruition?  Why are we so easily 
discouraged, so faithless?  God doesn't promise to answer our
 prayers in the way that we see fit, but he does promise to 

John 14:13:  And whatsoever you ask in my name, that will 
I do,that the Father may be glorified in 
the Son. 
Sometimes, however, our prayers are in accordance with 
His will, and we get to witness the miraculous.  
Psalm 107:28-30 -"Then they cry unto the LORD in their trouble, 
and he bringeth them out of their distresses. He maketh the 
storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still. Then are 
they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto 
their desired haven."

 Watch with me.  Watch Him, in a matter of seconds, calm my 

storm and still my waves.  Watch Him bring me to a desired

 haven,and then join me in my gladness.

(Click the link below -I can't figure out how to 

 embed a video?!) 

Psalm 107:31 -Oh that [men] would Praise the Lord [for] his
 goodness, and [for] his wonderful works to the children of men! 


Can I tell you that the pain I endured watching him struggle

can't compare to the joy that comes in watching him R.U.N. 
Can I tell you that his struggle isn't over.  There's another 
surgery coming in June --to move his 8-plate from the 
femur to the tibia to correct his valgus (knocked knees!).
And can I tell you that I worry if he will have a natural gait 
and if his foot and ankle will be functional
without another surgery someday. 
Can I tell you, though, that beyond worry is H.O.P.E.  One
day we will see the bigger picture --our finite minds simply
cannot grasp the plans of the Infinite One.
Until then, we watch and pray, we wait and grow, and 
we stay mindful of His promises:
 Psalm 138:8 -The LORD will perfect that which concerneth
me:  thy mercy, O LORD, endureth for ever:  forsake not
the works of thine own hands. 


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Fibular Hemimelia -Unfairness --and giving a Mouse a Cookie

It's funny that after having a child with a brain mass and a child with fibular hemimelia and a birthing experience with a third child that left me in need of a blood transfusion, I struggle with unfairness in the everyday, the seemingly mundane aspects of life.

In fact, today I started an unfair list.  At first it focused on my son's baseball experience, and then it soon escalated to everything from my varicose veins to my inability to resist a Little Debbie cake.

If you start an unfair list, and I don't recommend you do, make sure that you have a large piece of paper and plenty of lead.  Also, if you plan to share your list with a friend, as I did -but do not recommend -make sure that you have another sheet of paper and more lead because apparently complaining about unfairness is quite contagious -and your friend will probably want to start a list, too.

Once you and your friend begin comparing your unfair lists, you will notice that her unfair list is bigger, and you'll want to add to your list to make it bigger, too.   Before you know it, you will have discovered that most things in life are unfair.  After this realization, you'll probably need some chocolate.  So, you'll grab a Little Debbie cake --and some milk to go with it.

Reading over your list, you'll begin to feel sorry for yourself -- you might even cry.  When you start to cry, you'll need a tissue, and when you reach for the tissue, you'll probably catch your reflection in the bathroom mirror.  At first, you'll notice the wrinkles around your eyes and the roots showing through your hair --and you'll reach for your unfair list and the pencil.  When you reach for your pencil, you'll brush past the light-up Star Wars toothbrush and flowered headband left on the sink by your kids.  You'll look in the mirror again -- you might even cry.

You'll crumble up the unfair list and you'll start a new one like this:
1.  loving husband

2.  beautiful children
3.  warm house
4.  Little Debbie cakes

You'll need more paper and more lead.  Once you start, you'll probably want to keep going.  You'll have so much fun that you'll realize that everything is unfair.  After this realization, you'll probably need some chocolate.  So, you'll grab a Little Debbie cake --and some milk to go with it.

Reading over your list will remind you of a Savior --one who transferred His righteousness to you.  You'll be reminded that He was bruised for your sinfulness and that by His stripes you are healed.  You'll probably start to see unfairness differently --you might even cry.

You'll be reminded of these verses:  

Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.
No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier. -2 Timothy 2:3-4

After reading these verses, you'll realize that you've been "entangled" and that your endurance can only be sustained in Him.  You'll decide to be a better soldier.  You might even get so carried away that you remind others to carry on, too.  They'll be so encouraged that they'll join with you in battle.  You'll be such a good lookin' group of soldiers that soon others will start to notice, too.  They'll want to know who your leader is and you'll grin and pull out your unfair list and introduce them to the One whose endurance of the unfair secured your salvation.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Fibular Hemimeila - Children are an heritage of the Lord!

God has been, as of late, sending me a lot of mothering messages.  Isn't is good of Him to think of me?

Many, O LORD my God, are thy wonderful works which thou hast done, and thy thoughts which are to us-ward: they cannot be reckoned up in order unto thee: if I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered. -Psalm 40:5

 How much more my thoughts should be toward Him --and not toward meaninglessness.  

When I graduated from college, I graduated with more than a bachelor's degree in English; I also obtained my degree in "Liberal Studies."  My "Liberal Studies" degree was quite influential, as I had learned that many of my small town, "Sunday school" ideas were simply outdated and the result of ignorance and a secluded mountain life.  My new degree had taught me to believe, among other things, that I was an independent woman who had the right to work outside the home and to not do so, especially after having obtained the "real" degree in English, would be quite absurd and certainly a waste of  four long years of work.  Though I still clung to the Bible, I learned to do so with a bit of animosity toward writers such as Paul who would, for example, suggest that I was to submit to my husband or be mindful of my place in the church.

Fast forward a mere two years, when this cotton haired little bundle was placed in my arms, and no degree could prepare me for the transformation that was to come to my life.  All the worldly philosophy about career and ambition simply faded and was quickly replaced with an overpowering instinct to love and to nurture.

Are you teaching your girls to be wives and a mothers?  Are you teaching them that there is no greater joy?  Are you teaching them that they do not have to "do it all"?  Are you teaching them that mothering is ALL, is enough, is stimulating, is challenging, is exhausting, is the greatest gift God will ever give them?  Are you teaching them to pray, when it doesn't feel like "enough," for God to give them strength, resolution, perseverance?

No, I'm not idolizing motherhood to the point of making it worthy of worship, but it is worthy of RESPECT.

When Josh was born, all 4lbs and 15oz of him, I planned to return to work after 12 weeks, but my heart couldn't bear it.  Eighteen month later, with depleted finances, my heart still couldn't bear it, and I trudged on to my first teaching position quite torn to say the least. What I hope to teach Emily is that if God grants her the privilege of motherhood, (and I do acknowledge that God's plan for every women doesn't include being a wife or mother) then prepare in advance by saving instead of spending, budgeting instead of living beyond her means.  Give her children what they need most:  their mother.

Now, before I get hate mail from all the working mothers out there, I speak quite hypocritically because I am one of those working mothers.  I have often wondered why things have turned out as they have ---why our financial situation has not afforded me the ability to stay home.  Questioning such things most often leaves me feeling as if I have somehow failed or missed a right path somewhere, yet God's plans prevail --and I have been so blessed to be a teacher.  One hundred and eighty days at school equals one hundred and eighty-five days at home --and that gives me peace.  Is it God's plan for all women to stay at home with their children?  I don't know.  I don't pretend to know God's plan for anyone's life. I do think that Chip Ingram said it best when he said that if a woman can keep God first, take care of her husband and her children and home, then she should work as little or as much as she wants. Of course there are always circumstances:  single moms, husbands who either can't or won't work, financial burdens ... the list seems unending. Our culture, in fact, seems intent on keeping women from their children.  Our culture entices us with the lie that we should give our children nicer things than we had growing up.  I can't think of a nicer thing that I had than my mom waiting for me every day when I got off of the bus.  In fact, it made her sad to recall that when she did go to work, when I was a teenager, I'd look for her car when the bus rounded the corner, hoping that she hadn't been called into the hospital (she was a nurse).  Her presence meant so much to me that even at sixteen, I still wanted her home.

What happened to June Cleaver?  What happened to moms cooking dinner and picking up toys?  What happened to children hitting baseballs in the yard and playing tag until dark?  As a society, we've decided that we want more --bigger, better --more education, more electronics, more activities.  And what we've collectively settled for is less.  Less time at home, less time with family, less time for God.  It has satan written all over it.  You've convinced us, as you so cleverly did Eve, that we can't be content with all of the "fruit" that we have --we need just one more "tree" to be happy.  Those outdated notions of wife and mother --they don't bring happiness.  You've convinced us, in fact, that such menial positions degrade us.  And we've fallen for it --and our children --and our society --are falling because of it. 

What's a woman to do, then?  Remain ignorant and uneducated and hope for a godly husband to show up on a white horse?  Nah, that's not the point.  I will encourage Emily to learn --to work in her studies as unto the Lord.  But, I pray each night, too, that God send her a man who loves Him and her (and hopefully her mom!) and that she be able to recognize him, not by the car that he drives, but by the God that he serves shining from the life song that he sings.

As a woman, I want to hear the voice of God, to yield to His instruction, to stop falling for lies and deception.  I also want, as Jesus did, to enjoy the ones I love.  I have spent too much time feeling guilty for situations that I cannot change and too little time looking for God's grace in all things.  Today, my baby girl is with my momma --who means so much to me.  She gets to enjoy morning kisses, library school, and McDonald's lunches, and I get to enjoy evening hugs, bath times, and bedtime stories.  Some days I am jealous, but most days, I am grateful.  Grateful that God saw fit for her to retire before Emily starts kindergarten next year and early enough in her diagnosis of pulmonary hypertension that she can still push her on backyard swings and curl her hair with pink sponge rollers.  Oh, we don't know the plan like He does --we don't know what's best.  We can only seek Him and trust Him --and Praise Him -- whether we are at home with newborn babies, making the most of school day afternoons with little ones growing too big too fast, or getting ready to watch little cotton haired bundles make their way to high school in only a few short months.  We can only pray that He help us in our mothering, that He fill our children with His spirit, that He be glorified by their lives --and by ours!

 Ephesians 5:15-17:  See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.

Funny things --uncanny thing --God things happen every day. 
Today, after blogging, I read this on "My Utmost for His Highest":

We have no right to decide where we should be placed, or to have preconceived ideas as to what God is preparing us to do. God engineers everything; and wherever He places us, our one supreme goal should be to pour out our lives in wholehearted devotion to Him in that particular work. “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might . . .” (Ecclesiastes 9:10).

Isn't it nice that He's still thinking of me? Oh, He makes me cry! and smile at the same time!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Spirit Walk

 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.-Gal. 5:25

I've been asked to speak at a women's retreat at my church, and at first I sought God as to what He would have me teach.  What He has pressed upon me, however, is not the what but the who --who I should be as a teacher, as His child, as His earthly example.

Sometimes, I get caught ... caught in the world's idea of "ideal."  I'm striving hard to lose those last 10 pounds and striving hard to pay off debt so that I can go back into debt to renovate my house.  Vanity.  Isn't it?  What is it that I hope to achieve with these goals?  Who is it that I'll be when they're achieved?  I'll be more accepted by a world that rejects my Savior ... and that really hurts to type.

A couple of weeks ago, during Spring Break at my school, I walked early in the morning at a local park (you know to achieve the 10 pound goal), and as I walked, I began to pray.  With a husband, three kids, and a full time job teaching, plus the all time consuming, albeit entertaining, Little League, life is so busy.  Not busy with sinful things, but busy with things that distract from the one GOOD thing (need I remind you of Mary and Martha?).  Prayer sometimes ends up at the bottom of a pile of good intentions --first thing in the morning --or after the kids are in the bed --having fallen through the cracks of tiredness and selfishness.  This morning, however, it was just me and my Savior --and the few men on the clean-up crew working on the debris from a day or two of heavy rain.  As I walked, pouring out my brokenness and confusion, my failings and my fears, I began to cry, sob actually.  Sobbing soon lead to praising, as the result of true repentance always does.  I can only imagine the thoughts of the clean-up crew, probably thinking I was so out of shape that I was wiping sweat from my face and raising my arms to increase my oxygen level. Not the most flattering image I admit. 

God is so good.  As I continued to walk, I started laughing at the realization of something quite profound:  this Spirit Walk --this broken, sobbing, hand lifted mess --was all that I had to be to meet His approval.  At that moment I had achieved something:  I was "ideal."  Now don't get me wrong, I wasn't perfect, I was just YIELDED.  And I want to be every day.

Why do we have yield signs?  So that we don't plow into oncoming traffic, believing that we have the right of way.  When we yield to the Holy Spirit, we avoid as much destruction in our lives as we do when we yield to the tractor trailer barreling down the interstate.  I want to learn to give Him the right of way, to slow down to that still, soft voice --to really hear Him and to really obey.

I want my definition of ideal beauty to match His:
1.  I want to put Him first.  I want Him to have the first fruits of my time and my energy, my worship and my obedience.
2.  I want to honor my husband.  I want to honor him with my words and my actions, with the way that I dress and speak, with the way that I prioritize my time. 
3.  I want to efface myself --to get out of the way so that others see Jesus before they see me.  This means that I cannot wear things that draw attention to myself, to my body in a way that isn't glorifying to my God.  It doesn't mean that I can't be feminine or attractive, but it does mean that I have to be subtle and modest.  I do not want to be a stumbling block to another woman's husband --and ladies please don't be a stumbling block to mine!  I want my words to be glorying and not full or gossip or slander or anything that isn't for the edification of another (Eph 4:29).
4.  I want to mother my children.  I want to shower them with love and affection and REAL attention and TIME.  I want to teach them every day, in every way, about their Heavenly Father, about unconditional love, and about respect and obedience, and laughter and beauty.
5.  Oh the list could go on and on ... I want to please Him ... to hear Him say, "Well done."  I want to be a useful vessel, a clay pot worthy of the sacrifice with which I have been bought. And when I fail, I want to HANG on to GRACE, to weep at the unjustness of the One who died for such a one as I.

Will you Spirit Walk with me?  
Will you pray that each day, I fight sleepiness and selfishness and worldliness 

Friday, January 27, 2012

One Thousand Gifts -Fibular Hemimelia

I've been awed and inspired by this woman's words and her book, One Thousand Gifts.  I encourage you to read it and marvel at the ability God is giving her to see grace in ALL things.  Godly disciplines are learned, not merely stumbled upon, and I am submitting myself as an eager, though struggling, student.

Grace is freely given, and we stand ready to be lavished when grace comes in the form of  free flowing blood from a cross we could never bear, or a well spring of forgiveness to blot out our shame. Yet grace often remains an unwanted gift.  Instead of opening our hands to receive God's graciousness, we stubbornly hide knotted fingers behind our backs, wanting grace in a different package than the one offered, arguing that the gift is, in fact, not grace at all.

What does grace look like exactly?  Is it packaged neatly in brightly colored paper, trimmed with ribbon poised and curled?  Sometimes.  Often, though, its wrapped in sorrow, bound tightly with difficulty.  Lonely in its appearance.  Uninviting and Austere. 

If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him? -Matthew 7:11

Can you uncurl knotted fingers long enough to accept His gifts?  Can you look past your circumstance and see your way through to Him?  Ask Him to hold your hand?

If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him? -Luke 11:11-13

Last night I dreamed of Ethan running, abandoned and free --the way children run when they forget parents are watching.  His face upturned to the sky, his legs free of scars and pain.  It was one of those dreams that you don't remember when you awaken.  Instead, it washes over you unexpected, details falling into remembrance.  It met me early this morning, harsh and unfair.  Where's Grace to be found in crooked limb, in painful step, in watching sister dance and brother run?  In dreams yet unrealized?

 Thou tellest my wanderings: put thou my tears into thy bottle: are they not in thy book? -Psalm 56:8

Tears have a way, a Grace-like way, of bringing me running to my Father.  "Help him; heal him, " I managed to say.  "Make your Grace sufficient for him --for me."

 At school today, I recount the dream.  "Ah, you dreamed of hope," Joy Mac says.

And there it was:  GRACE.

Isn't it all Grace?  The pain that sends us to our knees.  The promises of healing.  The slow fading of scars.

By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name. -Hebrews 13:15

(Titling the blog, I, at first, purposefully omitted the words "Fibular Hemimelia" that have donned every page.  "That's not what this one's about," I thought.  That still, small voice, however, told me instead:  "That's exactly what this is about, Sindy." Grace.)

Fibular Hemimelia: Cast On/Cast Off

 For those of you following the leg lengthening journey take heart!  Casting is quite easy --especially in comparison to the fixator!  Ethan spent 27 weeks with the external fixator --13 of which were spent turning and 14 of which were spent allowing the bone to consolidate. 

The morning of fixator removal, we saw Dr. Standard only briefly and Ethan was swept off to the OR  I got to accompany him, once again, into the OR until he was under anesthesia.  The procedure took less than 2 hours --and we were soon able to visit him in the recovery room.  He was a bit groggy and complained that his leg "hurt," but the pain must have subsided quickly because after we left the hospital, he didn't need even a single dose of pain medication.  He was released from the recovery room --with instructions to keep the cast dry and no physical therapy until after we returned in a month.  By the time we made in over to the Hackerman Patz house, via his wheelchair, he was ready to attempt walking.  In fact, with his walker, he was perfectly fine walking the evening of the surgery and had very little complaints.  He was a bit shaky and unbalanced --and the walker became a necessity again for a couple of weeks.

Ethan kept grabbing the oxygen mask, acting like he was hyperventilating.  They let him bring it home~    

His first few steps were shaky, but exciting!

 Ethan's cast came up to the top of his thigh --and was quite an orange looking monster.  It make bathing hard --we opted mainly for sponge baths as opposed to trying garbage bags in the shower --and walking a bit cumbersome and awkward, but overall, he did great!  I was most afraid of the pin sites underneath the cast causing some sort of nasty infection, but that did not happen.  What did happen, though, was that the first night following surgery, he bled through the bottom of the cast --at his heel --just a few dark blotches showed on the cast and a few drops on the bedsheets.  Dr. Standard assured us that this was normal, and this didn't happen at any other instance.

Everyone seemed excited to sign Ethan's cast --and among the signatures were a few Ravens' cheerleaders!  Yep, that's right, cheerleaders.  We met these "cheerful" purple and black clad gals on Saturday night following his surgery at a local eatery.  Although we thought such signatures were at least pretty "cool,"  Ethan was none too impressed and opted not to have a picture taken with cheerleaders!  He was quite happy, though, to oblige the Mascot!  I was quite happy myself until the cheerleaders began handing out autographed bikini shots --which I soon confiscated much to the chagrin of my thirteen- year- old who thought they'd look awesome in his locker!

Our cast experience couldn't have been better timing --thank you Lord (even though I was sure anxious to get that fixator off when I thought was best)!  Ethan had two weeks of Christmas vacation before he had to return to school and attempt the classroom and hallways.  It took a week or so for him to learn to balance and ambulate without the walker.  We were super happy that "real" clothes fit again --at least wind suits and carpenter jeans!   And we were blessed with snow which cut out about 3 days of school.  All in all, he was only in the cast for 6 school days before we made the trip back to Baltimore.

If you look closely at the cast removal shots, you can see pure terror in Ethan's eyes.  You can't hold a miniature saw blade in hand and tell a seven- year- old, "It won't hurt a bit."  Freddie and I were super anxious to see what that leg would look like --and it was actually much less gruesome than we expected.  Now, it certainly looks war torn or at least battle scarred (much befitting a soldier of Christ), but much better than clad in a metal fixator or heavy cast!  The nurse simply cut the cast down the front in two places, put in new lining, and attached velcro straps.  Voila --removable cast!

First peek at what was underneath! 

Dr. Standards's instructions were to resume therapy and continue 2-3 days a week for the next six weeks until we return yet again for another follow up.  Ethan was more than happy to get into the shower that first night --free from fixators and casts --but I will admit that rubbing my hands over what is essentially small holes or divots in the skin turned my stomach a bit!  The old pin sites have to be rubbed out --basically when the pins are inserted into the bones, they take skin with them, and this skin can permanently adhere to the bone.  So, we're busy rubbing lotion --to help with the itching that came as soon as the cast was lifted off his leg --and to help break up the scar tissue.  We've been home only six days and things are progressing.  He is understandably reluctant to walk on his leg, but is being brave and taking steps throughout the house.  He has restarted therapy at school and at home --most of which consists of exercises to regain range of motion in his leg and ankle and to simply build back lost muscle.  His favorite thing so far ... a nice, hot tub bath ... with no parents lingering near to help wash!  I didn't think we'd coax him out the first night (after all, it had been 7 months).  The last procedure (we think) will happen this summer when the 8-plate is removed from the knee.  Hopefully, it will do its job and straighten out his leg --as far as his knock kneed problem goes.

You can see that the left tibia is now straight, but the leg is veering in the wrong direction from the knee!

I'm sure there's lots more lessons to learn and trials to come, but we're enjoying what we hope is the last few weeks of this one.  Ethan's perseverance and general attitude remains a blessing to me.  I'm looking forward to the simple things now ...  seeing him curl up on the couch, holding him tightly in my lap, watching him run...  

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Fibular Hemimelia - Portrait of a "Real" Man

One day it occurred to me that in all the blogs, he hasn't had much space.


 He will probably more than likely kill me for the above picture, but I think it's pretty great.

Chip Ingram has a lecture series called "House or Home" in which he paints a picture of what a "real" man looks like as opposed to the not so flattering ... not so responsible ... not so godly images of men plastered in the media. I suppose it's hard to be a man ... especially in 2012.  Today, a man is defined less by his morality and more by his check book ... not to mention his appearance, his golf swing, or his female conquests.  What's a man to do?  Well, my man (I know you're grinning by now) uses the Bible as his mirror and not the world --and the result is a pretty good lookin' guy!

When he married me in 2003 after quite a fabulous, albeit whirlwind courtship, I'm not so sure he knew what he was in for!  Now don't get me wrong, he was a gentleman to be sure.  On our second date, which happened to be my birthday, he asked, "The sky's the limit; where shall we go?"  Seeing as it was my 29th birthday and I had already begun the list of things to do before old age set in (you know, 30!), I picked something from my list!  I responded, "I want to see the Mississippi River --and my only catch:  you've gotta have me home in time for Sunday School!"  After an eight hour drive to Nashville, I could just make out the River through the darkness.  What could I see for sure?  This guy in his faded baseball cap and shined up pick up truck was sweeping me right off my feet!  Four months later ... we ran away, Vegas style, and just got hitched!  (Oh, and by the way, he got me home in time for church.)
(Can you see that big grin --and the fact that he's peeking during the prayer --now that's a real man!)

Fresh from the plane and the Excalibur Wedding Chapel, life got complicated.  The Mississippi man became step-dad --and this little guy:


who was busy taking care of his Momma:  

came with a list of challenges from the start.

Most people, I don't image, expect the kind of  challenges we faced that first year of married life!  God knows what we can handle with Him --and what we need to experience in order to grow in His likeness --and that year certainly provided much opportunity to grow!  Six weeks after the wedding, Josh was diagnosed with a brain mass; five months after the wedding, I found out we were expecting Ethan; and eight months after the wedding, Freddie was diagnosed with the exact same brain mass as Josh.  Yep, two brain surgeries and a baby (who we would soon find out came along with quite a few challenges of his own, too)!
Now, do I think it's pretty crazy that Freddie and Josh would, within six months, both be diagnosed with a cavernous angioma?  Yes, that's an understatement and what the doctors called pretty astronomical odds.  It certainly put life into perspective and my love and need of them both was (and is) overwhelming.  More than anything, however, this time in my life was the beginning of my dependency on the Lord --and my realization that His plans, despite my finite understanding of them, are always best!

When real men get married, they do it for life; they allow those vows to resonate.  Because sometimes it's not health, it's brain tumors or fibular hemimelia; and more often than not, it's poorer rather than richer --at least in terms of finances. We have made what God calls a covenant --an unbreakable promise --like the one Christ made to return for His church --and it simply can't be broken.  I can read some of your thoughts --that's quite a risky thing to say in print --on the Internet --that's kinda like writing with a Sharpie.  Well, our marriage is written in permanent ink because that man of mine --he's first of all, a child of His --the one who established marriage, who knew it wasn't good for us to be alone.  And every day when He loves us and He forgives us, He reminds us of the definition of UNCONDITIONAL love --and He gives us the strength and courage and perseverance to love each other despite ourselves --because it's not about ourselves --it's about HIM!

It doesn't take real men long to fall in love, not only with their wives, but with their children, too.  Suddenly, improving his golf swing became replaced with improving his T-ball swing instead.

Oh, and when that little girl came along ... all that was left of his heart was simply surrendered!  Admittedly, he has the ability to take her from this little princess:

 To this tough little football fan (How 'bout them Cowboys!):

A real man has muscle --and my man has used his mightily this year.  Not only has he carried a little boy in a fixator and now in a cast, but he has certainly carried me.  He has carried me through doubt and fear and sadness and joy and never once complained of an aching back. Over the last 8 years, I have watched him carry the weight of a youth ministry at church --and at home. I've listened to him read the Bible to our children and other people's children too many times to count and heard countless prayers in a youth filled church classroom and in our children's small bedrooms, too.   That's right --real men pray; real men study; real men repent; real men recognize their need for help from the only One who can fill them with strength so that they, in turn, can strengthen their wives and children, too!

If you haven't figured it out yet, I love this man.  I prayed for him specifically --for a man who would first love God and then love me and Josh (we were a package deal)!   He has been with me from this:

to this:

to this today:
(I need to remind him of the grin from the wedding picture!)

 If you are blessed enough to have a real man, thank God for him, encourage your sons to be like him, stop nagging him and start supporting him through submission, pray for him --for he will stand before God one day to give an account of the way he's directed your family.  Chip Ingram said that when he was a child, his heroes were firemen and policemen and doctors --men who did heroic deeds and saved lives.  Today, our boys idolize rock stars and basketball players --men who've figured out how to get paid for playing well.  My boys, however, have a hero in the house --and it's not on the television.  He's God's Warrior, a husband, a father, a son, a son-in-law, a brother, an uncle, a teacher, a friend, a REAL MAN! (now be careful ladies, he's mine!)