Posted in Being a Friend, Dealing with Trials, Faith, Inspiration, Uncategorized

Lighting the Way Home

This past weekend my husband, Bob and I took part in a candlelight vigil for our neighbor and friend who went missing on December 16th under suspicious circumstances. The download-1search for clues has reached a feverish pitch for this husband, father of three, and township trustee. In minus degree temperatures, we gathered with his family and about 75 other supporters from our small community to share stories and pray for his safe return. There was such a mix of feelings during that vigil; of desperation and sadness to be certain, but also of hope, that our friend and community member would be safely led home.

This morning as I was reflecting on that event, it made me think about the times we turn away from a relationship with God, and how similarly, He must also desperately grieve knowing we are lost. Luckily, there too is hope. Just as the candles we held during our vigil lent light to the darkness, God gave us his son, Jesus, as light and hope for the world. John 12:46 tells us, I have come into the world as a light so that no one in me should stay in darkness and 1 Peter 1:3 says, Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy, he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. God gave us Jesus to fulfill our hope, and the clues we seek in finding our way home are written within the truth of His gospel.

Today I pray that if you are feeling lost and don’t yet know God, you would invite him to help you find your way home through His son, Jesus. If you know Him, but something is holding you back from the truth of His love for you, I pray that you would again seek hope through His word. God bless and easy breathing!

Note: If anyone has any information regarding the disappearance of Bryon Macron, please click here for more information.

Advertisements
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.

Posted in Being a Wife, Dealing with Trials, Faith, Family, Inspiration, Uncategorized, Womanhood

“It’s A Slow Fade”

TODAY’S FORECAST: Committed

I’m going to combine two commandments into today’s post because I think they strongly relate to one another. I also want to give you a SPOILER ALERT and let you know that this post will include some plot description and scenes from the movie, “Fireproof,” so if you haven’t watched the movie, you may not want to watch the included videos or read the commentary I’ve included in the last few paragraphs regarding the film. I definitely don’t want to ruin it for you, it’s an incredible movie; one I would highly recommend watching, especially for those of you who are married or engaged. With all that being said, the commandments I want to take a look at today are:

You shall not commit adultery. ~AND~ You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife.

I don’t think that I have to tell anyone that infidelity has been sneaking its way into our culture for centuries. It’s been used as a theme in literature such as in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s historical romance, The Scarlett Letter and Gustave Flaubert’s, Madame Bovary. In television we’ve seen it in various popular prime time sitcoms over the years such as Dallas, Roseanne, Friends, ER and Grey’s Anatomy. We’ve seen national leaders give into adulterous behaviour such as in the instances of John F. Kennedy, Bill Clinton, Prince Charles, John Edwards and many more. Celebrities are practically born into a lifestyle of infidelity; hence the string of broken Hollywood relationships that plague tabloid headlines.

In all these instances, however, there were physical acts of cheating; that is, two partners choosing to have sexual encounters outside of their previously committed relationships. In our culture’s exposé of adultery in literature, media, through authority figures and Hollywood, we’ve softened as a society to the idea that “emotional infidelity” or carrying on in an affair where physical intimacy is excluded but where emotional intimacy or pleasure is not,  it is somehow okay. Trust me when I say believe it’s not and that God doesn’t think so either. An “emotional affair” can be just as slippery of a slope as a physical one, it’s just somewhat more of a “slow fade.”

A perfect modern-day example of this is the movie, Fireproof. Fireproof was released in 2008 and quickly became an international success. Starring Kirk Cameron and Erin Bethea, the film primarily focuses on a couple, Caleb (Cameron) and Catherine (Bethea) Holt, who have come to a difficult season in their marriage which leads to Catherine filing for divorce. Caleb is a firefighter who puts his job and other pleasures in his life above loving his wife and committing to their marriage. Catherine is a woman scorned who begins an “emotional affair” with a doctor at the hospital where she works. For all of Caleb’s inattention, Dr. Keller (Perry Revell) has enough compliments and kind gestures to make Catherine feel fulfilled outside of her marriage. Out of loving concern, Caleb’s Dad (Harris Malcolm) gives his son a book called The Love Dare that changes everything. Caleb soon learns that the mantra he carries in his work as a firefighter of “Never leave your partner behind” also applies to his marriage to Catherine. Through a series of eye-opening events, Catherine comes to realize it as well and together with God, they are able to save their marriage.

One of the theme songs of the movie is a song by the Christian musical group called Casting Crowns, titled “Slow Fade.” Listen to the music and see some scenes from the movie by clicking the play arrow on the video clip below. I would encourage you to listen to this once for the words to the song and then again to see some of the scenes as it’s hard to do both at the same time and fully appreciate the meaning.

I guess what really hits me about this movie is that never at any time was there any physical contact between Caleb and another woman and yet he found it perfectly alright to spend time looking at internet porn. “What’s the harm? It’s only impacting me?” That’s just it, his marriage was crumbling before his eyes and he didn’t even know it. It was a “slow fade.” Catherine was the same. While there was no sexual contact between her and Dr. Keller during their harmless lunches and flirtations, her world with her husband was unraveling and she didn’t even care. Again, a “slow fade.” Is it any surprise that for those of us who remain faithful to our marriages and partners and refuse to physically cheat on them, that the crafty liar, satan, wouldn’t find another way to get to us slowly instead of through such an obvious manner? It’s something to think about.

Lord, we ask that in this age of infidelity You put a holy “hedge” around our marriages and relationships to protect them from evil. Do not let us break either of your commandments regarding sexuality, not through sexual or emotional affairs, addictions to pornography or anything else that defeats the purpose of living our lives in harmony with and for You. Don’t allow the devil to destroy the sanctity of marriage through a “slow fade” of temptation. Help us to love and respect one another as You do us. We ask this in your name. Amen.

Posted in Being a Mom, Dealing with Trials, Faith, Family, Inspiration, Uncategorized

What Is Central?

TODAY’S FORECAST: Reflective

For those of you who may have not seen my last post, let me do a quick recap. I was discussing the wonders of GPS for people like me who are directionally challenged. 🙂 I also decided that in the next few blog posts that I was going to recount the Ten Commandments as a relevant “spiritual” GPS in our lives. So today is commandment 1:

I am the Lord Your God, you shall have no other gods before Me.

During the time of the Israelites’ expedition from Egypt to the “Promised Land,” there were many nations that worshiped cultural gods. Even as Moses came down from Mt. Sinai he witnessed his own people worshiping a golden calf. During Moses’ absence, the people had demanded of Aaron that they have an idol to worship and offer sacrifice to that would go before them on their journey because they didn’t know what happened to Moses. Not unlike many of us, they were a people easily distracted.

Obviously, while there are other religions that exist today; in most, people are not melting down jewelry to erect false idols. It would seem then that this commandment is totally outdated and irrelevant to current times, but I disagree. Really, this commandment is about what is central in our lives. A pastor and good friend of mine, Joe Coffey, often talks about how humans are made to have a center. We can’t function without something being central in lives. It is at the core of our being, the very heart of who we are and everything that we do is a reflection of this center. This core may be different things for different people. Where we get into trouble is in the fact that we were designed to want to fill that central need and often it is not God that we choose to fill it with. Anything we decide to put before God becomes a god that we place before Him in our lives. It may be our jobs, our popularity, our addictions, our inability to trust, anything that becomes central to how we operate. Putting anything other than God in that spot, makes us inherently disobedient to this commandment. It’s easy to say that as Christians we don’t worship “other gods”, but is that really true? Take some time to reflect on these items:

1. Do I neglect to love God, to make Him first in my life?

2. Do I forget to thank and praise Him for the good things He has given me in my life from the smallest to the greatest?

3. Do I relinquish my need for control and trust His will for my life? Do I consult God with the decisions I make?

4. Do I take time to pray? Are my prayers hurried and careless or do I sincerely carve out time to develop my relationship with Him everyday?

5. Have I doubted or denied my faith because I was embarrassed or fearful?

6. Do I make a god out of my work, my possessions, or my image in the eyes of others so that these rule my life instead of God?

7. Am I angry toward God because of illness or misfortune? Do I blame Him for the trials in my life?

8. Do my addictions rule my life instead of God? Drugs/Alcohol, Pornography, Gambling, Work, Promiscuity, Shopping, Hoarding, Gluttony?

9. Do I make God the center of our family with regular prayer and sharing of His Word? Do I model my faith for my children?

10. Do I give credit to God for my talents? Our successes?

I don’t know about you, but I had to gulp on more than a few. We need to remember that this commandment is key for putting us one step closer on our road to heaven. It is a “hinge,” if you will, to all the other commandments that will easily fall into place if only we could keep God at the center of lives.

Lord, we desperately want to develop a relationship with You, but we can’t begin to understand the extent of Your sacrifice when we can’t keep our eyes, hearts and minds fixed on You. Help us not only to commit the acts in reflection of our relationship with You but give us the continued desire to have You be central in our lives. Show us that harmony can exist if we keep our course set with Yours. We ask this in Your name. Amen.

Posted in Being a Friend, Being a Mom, Dealing with Trials, Faith, Family, Inspiration, Uncategorized

To Bee or Not to Bee?

TODAY’S FORECAST: Thankful for our home

This past weekend our daughter, Meghan, and her 5th grade Medina travel basketball team participated in a weekend tournament in Hudson, Ohio. Hudson, which is about 45 minutes northeast of Medina, actually borders the city of Stow where we used to live. For those of you who are new to the blog, we moved from Stow to Medina a little less than two years ago to build a new home. Due to my increasing health demands, we chose to sell our home in Stow and to build a smaller one that was more accessible, cost efficient and closer to our families. It was a tough transition for all of us. During our time in Stow, we made some amazing friends and our kids were very involved in sports and scouting there. The choice to leave was the right one, but it didn’t make it any less difficult at the time. TEAM00002986

Some of the girls that were on Meghan’s Stow basketball team now also play for the Stow travel basketball team. When the tournament schedules were finalized, we were surprised to find out that not only was Stow going to be at the tournament, but also that Meghan would be playing against some of her old friends. While we looked forward to seeing some of the friends that we still hold so dear to us, there was a little bit of awkwardness in realizing that we would no longer be cheering on the same side of the court. Now that Meghan’s been a Medina Bee for the last two years, we have also bonded with the families of the girls that she plays with now. It was probably my imagination, but I felt like we were under their watchful eyes on game day, wondering if we were fraternizing with the enemy. 🙂

Before the game, I had the opportunity to catch up with one of the Stow moms that I am still close with. She said something to me that was so bittersweet, “There is such a void here without you guys.” It was such an incredibly sweet thing for her to say, but also made my heart ache a little for our old neighbors and friends. After the game, we went to an old favorite restaurant of ours in Stow for dinner.  As we drove by the road that would have taken us “home” in the years before we moved, I cried as my heart longed once again to be close to our neighbors and everything we knew once to be so familiar. While I tried to hide my tears from the kids as we got out of the car at the restaurant, they both knew why I was crying and said as much. Meghan said, “Mom, I thought you said you didn’t miss Stow and that you LOVE Medina.” I had to think about that for a moment. I remember at the time of our move, Bob and I tried desperately hard to make the transition positive for the kids. In the process, had I hid my true feelings? Had I done a disservice to them by not letting them see me hurt and by putting on the “brave” face? Then, a thought passed through my mind, “I will lead, You will follow.”D0009_Medina-Medina_Bees2

Immediately, I felt like events and faces from our past were swirling around me and that like some Sci-Fi time-warp movie I was being jerked back to the present. I was flooded with newer memories and faces of the people who had embraced us during our time in Medina, the wonderful staff at the kids’ elementary school, our current neighbors who have become irreplaceable friends, the parents of the girls on Meghan’s Medina basketball team, parents and coaches we have met through all the kids’ sports and school activities, the friends in my neighboring hometown that I have reconnected with because of the move. I realized in that instant while Stow and our friends who live there will always be in our hearts, God has doubly blessed us with having the opportunity to make more dear friends here in Medina. I later told Meghan that at times while I missed Stow, I am so grateful for all of the wonderful ways God has blessed our family here with friends so dear, a beautiful new home and everything that spells our future. Through God’s grace Medina spells HOME. Thank you Medina for embracing us as you have. We are BEES and we are blessed.

Posted in Being a Mom, Being a Wife, Dealing with Trials, Faith, Family, Inspiration, Uncategorized

“Long Way Home”

TODAY’S FORECAST: Encouraged

Today as Bob and Jacob were home with the start of bad colds and feeling much less than 100%, and our new heater started blinking some undetectable code of yellow lights at us and refused to come on, I began to feel a little discouraged. Questions such as, “Are we EVER going to get over this stretch of sickness in our house?” and “Did we really need one more thing with the heat going on the fritz in such cold weather?” started to plague my mind. Then as I was making lunch this afternoon I heard one of my favorite songs playing on the local Christian radio station. It’s by Steven Curtis Chapman and I’ve included both the video link and the lyrics for you below. Maybe in your own life situations this song will be a source of encouragement as it was to me today. It’s a good reminder that though the journey sometimes may be tougher than we anticipated, it’s the destination we need to keep in mind and to remember that we’re not alone in getting there. Sometimes God speaks to us in wonderful and unique ways, even through song. God Bless and Easy Breathing!

 

http://youtu.be/l1p-QfgkLow

“Long Way Home” by Steven Curtis Chapman

I set out on a great adventure
The day my Father started leading me home
He said there’s gonna be some mountains to climb
And some valleys we’re gonna go through
But I had no way of knowing
Just how hard this journey could be
Cause the valleys are deeper
And the mountains are steeper than I ever would have dreamed
But I know we’re gonna make it
And I know we’re gonna get there soon
And I know sometimes it feels like we’re going the wrong way
But it’s just the long way home
I got some rocks in my shoes
Fears I wish I could lose
That make the mountains so hard to climb
And my heart gets so heavy with the weight of the world sometimes
There’s a bag of regrets,
My should’ve beens, and not yets
I keep on dragging around
And I can hardly wait for the day I get to lay them all down
I know that day is coming
I know its gonna be here soon
And I won’t turn back even if the whole world says I’m going the wrong way
Cause its just the long way home
When we can’t take another step
The Father will pick us up and carry us in His arms
And even on the best days,
He says to remember we’re not home yet
So don’t get too comfortable
Cause really all we are is just pilgrims passing through
Well, I know we’re gonna make it
And I know we’re gonna get there soon
So I keep on singing and believing
What all of my songs say
Cause our God has made a promise
And I know that everything He says is true
And I know wherever we go He will never leave us
Cause He’s gonna lead us home
Every single step of the long way home
(Keep going, we’re gonna make it)
(I know, we’re gonna make it)
(We’re just taking the long way home)
(Keep going, we’re gonna make it)
(I know, we’re gonna make it)
(We’re just taking the long way home)
(Keep going, we’re gonna make it)
(I know, we’re gonna make it)
(We’re just taking the long way home)
(Keep going, we’re gonna make it)
(I know, we’re gonna make it)
It’s just a long way home
Posted in Dealing with Trials, Inspiration, Life with CF, Uncategorized

A Name for the Pain

TODAY’S FORECAST: Submissive to grace

It is no secret that the last several months (years??!!!) of my life have been plagued with pain. A chronic illness like Cystic Fibrosis, which impacts so many of the body’s systems, lends itself to pain naturally; yet, the last nine months have been excruciating for me in some sense, worse than anything I’ve experienced before. Despite me trying to “let go and let God,” I continually feared whether this was an indication that my CF was continuing to decline or that something new was cropping up. Neither really thrill me at this point. Today I learned it was the latter. That pain has a tangible name, Fibromyalgia.

I have heard this “term” several times before, as well as ones associated with it including “Chronic Fatigue Syndrome,” “Irritable Bowel Syndrome or IBS,” “tender points,” etc. I heard them, but did not really hear them if you know what I mean. Today I sincerely apologize to anyone who may suffer from any of these for my ignorance and inattention. These are not just “made-up” catch phrases. They are very real sources of pain and suffering to real people. My pain has been relentless, especially in the last couple months. It has been searing, burning, aching, and honestly, indescribable at moments. I assumed it was all part and parcel to the chronic inflammation with my CF; some of it truly is, but then the more recent discomfort is largely due to the Fibromyalgia symptoms.

The thing is, I realized today that no matter what suffering I have endured (or think I have endured) it will never, ever compare to the suffering of Christ. His pain had a name too, it is called “sin,” our sin. I can’t imagine what it was like to be nailed to a cross, can you? Just try to imagine that insufferable agony. To have your back ache from being so brutally whipped and beaten, and then to be shoved onto rough, hard wood by uncaring hands seems more than just a little unbearable. Jesus’ pain did not stop there though, oh no. He had nails ripping through his flesh and a crown piercing his head and temples. He was fatigued, He was thirsty, and  for the moment when all the sin of the world was being carried on His shoulders and He felt utter and complete separation from His Father, He faced an ultimate despair. It makes the pain I’ve felt these last few months sound like a “cake-walk” comparatively.

This week as we embark on the journey of Lent, those 40 days in preparation of Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice, let us remember what “real” pain is and the gravity and reason for celebration of the occasion. Out of complete love and adoration for us, God gave us His only son in the “Great Exchange” for our sin. My prayer is that I’m able to offer up the pains and tragedies of my life, no matter how seemingly large or insignificant, and seek the grace of His resurrection and His abiding love.

If you think you or someone you know may be suffering from Fibromyalgia and want/need more information, check out these resources:

http://www.fmaware.org/

http://www.webmd.com/fibromyalgia/default.htm