Posted in Uncategorized

Sweet Surrender

Our dog, Daisy, is seven pounds of butterscotch cuteness. She is a Morkie, a mix of Yorkie and Maltese. She is intelligent, sassy, loves people, and is the perfect size for snuggling. Staying true to her “little dog” persona, she can be a bit skittish of noises and tends to bark quite loudly at anything that threatens her peace. Unfortunately, this includes the Fed Ex guy, the garbage trucks, the school buses — you get my point. On a rare occasion it is the wind blowing the screen door or something randomly bumping around outside that scares her, and usually what follows is a total assault on my ears. This morning was one of those times. 

I was pulling my journal and Bible from our bedroom for some quiet time, and I heard her begin a barking tirade. I went to the door to see if someone had come, or a delivery had been made, but there was nothing there. I reassured her that everything was okay and proceeded to sit down. Her barking had decreased but she was still nervous and pacing around my chair. Finally she climbed up into my lap and snuggled in. I found myself continuing to pet her and reassure her that everything was okay. While her barks quieted, she still continued to remain alert and woofed every now and then just to let me know she was still feeling uneasy. I continued to reassure her that she was safe and that I was not going to let anything happen to her, yet still she woofed softly from time to time. Finally, at last she was able to relax and fell into a deep sleep. 

I thought about this situation in the context of my own relationship with God. I often come to Him in a frazzled state and He invites me into the calm of His presence, His lap, so to speak. He reassures me with His promises that I am safe and secure with Him and that I am deeply loved. Psalm 27:1 says The Lord is my light and my salvation– whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life– of whom shall I be afraid?

Yet, just like Daisy, it takes awhile for me to trust in his protection and I continue to assault him with my personal woofs, the “Whys?” and “Are You Sures?” By doing so, I defy His request for me to “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10) 

Are you having a hard time resting and being still in His presence? Do you long for the sweet peace of surrender where you can find true rest? Ask Him to help you surrender you heart, your mind, and your body to His promises. Remember that you have been saved by grace. There is no greater safety than that. Rest in His love and protection. Daisy will show you how it’s done. 

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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.

Posted in Uncategorized

This One’s Just For You

Recently, Meghan, our high school freshman, came home from school with the news that her Journalism teacher had decided to guest publish an article she had written in the school newspaper. After congratulations were shared, she and I were discussing some of the journalism assignments she had completed during the semester and how much she was enjoying writing. I was proud to learn that her teacher had encouraged her to join the newspaper staff as a writer next year. What tickled me most about our conversation though was something that I never expected. Towards the end of our conversation, Meghan’s eyes suddenly lit up and she asked me, “Mom, how come I never knew you had a blog?”

She explained that she had been researching online during class for a writing assignment she was working on and had come across my blog in her research. “Mom, it’s a real, live blog with awards and everything! That is so cool! I was reading a few of the articles and my teacher asked me what I had found and I told her I had found a blog my mom wrote.  She thought that was great.”

Then that light disappeared from her eyes and a slight frown crossed her face. “Mom, why did you stop writing? You’re a really good writer. How come you haven’t written in such a long time? You should really start it up again.”

That night as I was getting ready for bed, I thought about our conversation and how excited Meghan had been about my blog. I had been feeling the Lord tugging at me to get back to writing for some time, but couldn’t seem to put my finger on exactly what He wanted me to write. I even had friends praying about it for me. I didn’t know if Meghan’s discovery was a sign, but I took it as a reason to pray about it. I still don’t know what the answer is, but I take comfort that God does. He’s given me a passion for writing and now He’s shared it with my daughter as well. How can I encourage her to use her God-given talents if I don’t use mine? So today’s post is for you, Meghan. Thank you for reminding me to use my gifts. Thank you for being proud of me. I wrote this one just for you. Who knows what will come along next.

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.

Posted in Being a Mom, Faith, Family, Uncategorized

In Prayer There is Rest

About a week and a half ago our eight year old, Jake, started having nightmares. I remember the first time I heard his little feet scurrying across the wooden floor in our kitchen and then feeling him leap onto our bed in the wee hours of the morning. He shook Bob awake and I heard him whisper rather loudly, “Dad, I’m scared!” I vaguely remember Bob getting back into bed a bit later and me asking if Jake had settled down when I heard the now familiar thud of feet on the kitchen floor. I heard Jake scurrying back into our bedroom, now to my side of the bed, saying, “Mom, I’m still really scared and I can’t go back to sleep.” It happened multiple times that night and continued on for the next several nights much to mine and Bob’s dismay. After several continuous nights of very little sleep, both Bob and I realized our patience was quickly wearing thin. By the fourth night, we were at our wits end, both hoping that this would be the night we would all gain a good night’s sleep. After conducting closet and under-the-bed checks, putting the dog in Jake’s room, giving him a few special stuffed animals to cuddle with and talking at length about what was bothering him, I finally came up with a new solution that we probably should have started with in the first place, prayer.

That night when we were tucking Jake into bed, I told him that I thought we should tell Jesus how scared he was and ask that He take the fear out of Jake’s heart and mind so that he could get a good night’s rest. We said the prayer together, and whether it was a direct result of that prayer or the dose of Benadryl that we happened to give that evening for a flare-up of his itchy eczema, I give the good Lord two big thumbs up for hearing us.

Jake slept that night and has been sleeping soundly every night since. Each night at bedtime it’s been the same routine, adding a prayer thanking God for the rest He provided the night before and asking for him to watch over Jake through the night. Last night as we were tucking both kids into bed, Jake and I had prayed “the prayer” and then he said so innocently, “Mom, we’ve been saying that prayer every night now, do you think God is getting tired of hearing it?”

It was nice for once, to know a definite answer to his question. I smiled and said, “No honey, He never tires of our prayers. He may not always give us an answer right away or even the answer we want, but He never tires of hearing from us. Jesus is our friend and we can always confide in Him.”

Later that evening, after the kids had been asleep for a few hours, I thought some more about Jake’s question. I recalled how tired I had been when Bob and I were facing our late-night interruptions, yet it occurred to me that as often as we come before God with our own requests and interruptions, He never tires of us; our words never fall on deaf ears. I remembered something from Psalms talking about how God listens to and answers prayer so I looked it up. In Psalm 116, it says 1 I love the LORD because he hears and answers my prayers. 2 Because he bends down and listens, I will pray as long as I have breath! 3 Death had its hands around my throat; the terrors of the grave overtook me. I saw only trouble and sorrow. 4 Then I called on the name of the LORD: “Please, LORD, save me!” 5 How kind the LORD is! How good he is! So merciful, this God of ours! 6 The LORD protects those of childlike faith; I was facing death, and then he saved me. 7 Now I can rest again, for the LORD has been so good to me.

After reading those words, they only reemphasized what I had thought of earlier that evening that we should have put Jake’s nightmares to prayer from the very beginning. These verses are excellent reminders that God hears and answers our prayers, especially when we come to Him in child-like belief. In prayer there is rest; of that I have no doubt.