Posted in Faith, Family, Inspiration, Uncategorized

Christmas Lists

I think I heard a communal sigh from some of you when you saw the title of this post, as in, “Gee Jen, could we get through Halloween first? Walking into any retail store and seeing it decorated for Christmas when it’s not even Halloween is disconcerting enough, but do we have to read about it in blog posts too?” Believe me, I COMPLETELY understand. I promise you all that the jack-o-lanterns are still burning brightly at our house as we gear up for Trick-or-Treat, Halloween parades and the like. It’s just that as November quickly approaches, there are those in both mine and Bob’s families who like to get their holiday shopping done earlier rather than later, so it is about this time every year that I hear the familiar call of “Christmas lists please!” and have to sit down with Bob and the kids to see what I can pull out of them.

Last evening as I sat down to begin to compile lists for our family, I titled my note “Christmas Lists 2013” and underneath listed each person’s name: Bob, Meghan, Jake and Jen. Even Daisy, our puppy, who is barely teetering on the “Naughty” into the “I’m going to have to find a new home” list found a place in my notes. As I began to jot down a few things for everyone, a quiet voice seemed to whisper at the back of my mind, “Where am I on your list?” to which I immediately responded by writing God at the top of my paper. I sat there pondering this a moment, feeling a little bit like the little drummer boy who claimed to have no gift to bring to the Christ Child. I began to think about what gifts I might give to God this coming holiday season and one finally came to mind, time.

Time I could certainly spare. Over the past several weeks I had realized that the time I had been spending in prayer with God had certainly dwindled. It was not until I was gravely ill and back in the hospital with health scares abounding, that I began to desperately call out to Him again and ask Him to help me keep my eyes fixed on Him. When I was sick, I received two devotionals in care packages from close friends. One is Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence by Sarah Young. This book is uniquely written from the perspective of Jesus as if he was having a personal conversation with you. There are so many days when I have gone to that book now and the message for a particular day is exactly what I needed both emotionally and spiritually. The reading for each day is short and the supportive biblical verses are right there for you to examine more closely. I highly recommend it! The other is Prayers for a Woman’s Soul by Julie K. Gillies. For all your ladies out there, as busy moms and/or executives of our careers, it is easy to bombard heaven with prayers to meet everyone else’s needs. But how often do you pray for your own needs? As daughters of faith, we need to be open to a daily offering of our own needs up to God, and Prayers for a Woman’s Soul is a great way to begin.

Anyway, I’ve digressed a bit. The important takeaway here is that no matter how much time we’re currently spending in prayer, we could always give God a little bit more of our time. God is completely crazy about us and wants us to spend time with Him. Though He knows the interworking of our souls, He desires to hear our voices in prayer, whisper to us in the silence of our minds and hearts and bathe us in the joy of His presence.  Psalm 4:3 says, I know the Lord has set me apart for Himself; the Lord hears when I call to Him. Psalm 21:6 says, Surely you have granted Him eternal blessings and made Him glad with the joy of your presence. Did you ever think that you could make God happy just by being you in His presence? 🙂 Do you know that even in “seasons of silence” God is always listening to you and loving that You trust Him with your needs?

I know it’s not Christmas yet, but who says we have to wait? Give God the “treat” of your time at Halloween, share with Him the bounty of your thanks at Thanksgiving. Best of all, I dare you to include Him on your Christmas lists this year. What will you give to the Kings of Kings this year? I hope you will all challenge me to answer that question as well as we head toward these upcoming holidays.

God Bless and Easy Breathing!

Posted in Dealing with Trials, Faith, Inspiration, Life with CF, Uncategorized

Coke or Pepsi?

No, this post isn’t about voting for your favorite soft drink, but rather a thought that was inspired by a book our daughter, Meghan, has, Coke or Pepsi Unlimited. It’s a fun book, meant to be shared with family and friends, that covers a wide range of topics from favorite scents to what superhero powers one might like to have. One of Meghan’s favorite sections covers “Would you rather…” scenarios. There are questions such as, Would you rather have 3 eyes or 4 arms? “Would you rather have a lifetime of bad hair days or “I hate all my clothes days?” Would you rather always have a stain on your shirt or always have something stuck in your front teeth? You get the idea. While we all enjoy humoring Meghan with our answers for these seemingly silly questions, I’ve learned that sometimes in life we encounter “Would you rather…” questions that aren’t quite so amusing.

Recently I encountered such a scenario when I was hospitalized for my Cystic Fibrosis (CF). At the start of my stay, the doctors discovered through testing that I was resistant to all but two IV antibiotics, Tobramycin and Colistin, to help fight the infection in my lungs. Both are very effective at treating the bacteria that were the source of my infection. The downside to using them is their toxicity levels. Tobramycin has long been known to be toxic to the kidneys. It can also cause hearing loss, something I’m already beginning to experience due to the many courses of this antibiotic I’ve taken over the years. In terms of toxicity, Colistin can severely impact the nervous system. It is also even more toxic to the kidneys than Tobramycin, which is why it is usually one of the last IV drugs of choice for CF patients. In fact, I had been put on Colistin once before, and though it was administered with a 24-hour saline drip for dilution, my kidneys stopped tolerating it after just three days. Unfortunate as it was, in this most recent case we were out of options. The doctors decided that the benefits outweighed the risks and decided to put me on both IV drugs to combat my infection.

I was extremely anxious about how my kidneys would tolerate the two drugs together and openly discussed this with my doctor. It was a very frank “Would you rather…” dialogue. I asked if my kidneys started showing signs of distress what our first course of action would be. He said, “Take you off the Tobramycin and just administer the Colistin and fluids.” If that still isn’t enough? “Cut down the dose of Colistin.” If that still is no good? I remember his response so clearly, “Well, Jen, in that case I would rather see you on dialysis than to lose your lungs.” I had to let that sink in a minute. Would I rather go on dialysis for kidney failure or be able to continue to breathe? Wow, talk about a punch. I remember silently complaining, “Geez, God, no one should have to make decisions like this. Mine just keep getting harder and harder. How unfair.”

Then it occurred to me that Jesus had encountered the ultimate difficult “Would you rather…” decision that fateful night in the Garden of Gethsemane. Would you rather die on a cross and shoulder all the sins of the world to save all of humanity or let this cup pass over You, fall out of favor with Your Heavenly Father and lose all the souls of humanity to Satan’s evil? Unbelievable, isn’t it? No wonder Jesus was sweating blood! That decision made my decision about kidneys vs. lungs sound like child’s play comparatively. I was immediately a little bit embarrassed for my earlier gripe.

So what do we do in these situations when we encounter what seems like an impossible “Would you rather…” decision? One of my favorite bible verses is found in Proverbs 3:5-6, Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths. When we encounter difficult decisions in our own lives, we have to look to Jesus not only because the bible tells us to, but also because He’s been there and truly understands our need for answers. I wonder if He sometimes allows us to encounter these monumental questions in life, to remind us just how important it is to trust in Him and to consult Him in our decision-making.

Lucky for me, just like the answers to the questions in Meghan’s Coke or Pepsi Unlimited book, my situation became a non-issue. Through the power of many people’s prayers, I was able to tolerate both medicines and went home 17 days later in much better health. I realized though that for all of us, there may be times in life when it will not be that simple and a difficult decision will have to be made. What we all need to remember is that Jesus is there and not only does His Word give us guidance, but it also demonstrates that He can empathize completely with us having been there Himself. Psalm 119:105 sums it up perfectly. Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path. When in doubt, the answer is clear. God. He won’t ever steer us wrong.