Monday, August 24, 2009

A Choice for Wisdom

There are so many distractions in life to keep our minds, bodies, and spirit away from truth. I get sucked into many temporary things and wonder if this is part of the struggle we all must fight if we really are true Christians. Fighting even against normal "societal "ways. God tells us to know scripture, to write it on the tablets of our hearts and bind it on our foreheads. "Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart" Proverbs 3:3 If I don't consciously make the choice to Love throughout my day like Jesus, then it honestly wouldn't happen. I wouldn't even think about it because there is so much to do. My day would be filled with "ME." It is an actual "transitioning of the mind" that goes on. "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will." Romans 12:2 You have to renew your mind to think of all we do with an eternal mindset. It will change how we act and react and it could change ourselves because Love always changes and makes a difference. Nothing can ever look the same afterwards. So many things seeming important will no longer be, and then the little things we often pass by become significant and good for the soul and for eternity. When we ask for wisdom, which should be something we do for every reasons like...(1) It is the greatest attribute to have because Solomon pleased God by asking for this because it brings one closer to God and it is an eternal thing. 1 Kings 3:1-28 And (2) God says He gives wisdom freely to those who ask Him for it. "If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him." James 1:5 Wisdom begins with the renewing of our minds by being aware to chose God. After we do this, as vessels now, we are open to accept and learn wisdom from the Lord.

Ask the Lord for wisdom and see what happens. Open your heart to Him and see how He will use you to Glorify His name and bring you joy. This is our true satisfaction, an eternal one not fleeting or momentary.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Last 3 Days

For the last couple of days we have been blessed to have 2 foster kids in our care. They did not stay with us and have already gone to live with a new family, but I will tell you it was a wonderful experience that we have really enjoyed. This weekend we will celebrate our 3rd Anniversary and then I will be going to visit my sister and nieces for an entire 3 weeks!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Believe Part 3

Seeking God was out of desperation now. Perhaps even a little anger lured in me as I accused Him of every possible neglectful abuse. A whole new world of His comfort and wisdom was being shown to me and because I was so weak and hallow, I could detect it and craved to learn the truth even if it wasn’t what I wanted to hear. What was the truth? Was it that God allows pain and then just leaves you there? If we were simply pieces on a chest board then I wanted no part of it. My heart was in urgency. I trusted God my whole life and now I questioned whether or no He in fact was real. I felt like Go didn’t care, but something inside me pressed onward. But not happily, oh no, not even intrigued, I did with arms crossed.

They say Faith is believing that a car payment will be made in time, or that you will get the job you want so much, but this misses the point. Faith is believing that God is loving when there will never be any explanation as to why He allowed that bad thing to happen. Faith believes in the unseen things, even unseen emotions and love of God that is not being felt at that moment. (Hebrews 11:1, Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see). Do you know how hard making this decision really is? I didn’t want to have “faith” anymore. Who cared? I had faith when I prayed on bed rest that she would live. I had “faith” when I was recovering from being used as a pincushion for 3 months. He expected me to have faith and believe that He has purpose in torturing me? Everything I trusted with God had been uprooted and if I didn’t find where to plant again, I would dry up and blow away with the hot dust. I argued deeply with God. Did you know we can and should do this? Yes, I stepped up and gave Him a piece of my mind. But like I mentioned before, I learned through His Love and Holy Spirit in His word, that faith is present in the things unseen. Faith is present in the fact that I will never know why, but believe God is who He is and more. It wont matter how much I kick and scream or yell and hit. I can’t change what happened. This is how I ended up fighting even harder. I choose Jesus. I choose to believe and have faith, even though I still felt obligated to be angry. But I feel this is an example of truth faith. Not faith in grades or accomplishments, but saying you believe in God’s Love even when You can’t explain and never will why He allows suffering. This type of faith requires us to let go of blame. If I were going to forfeit God in my heart, I would have easily done it at this point. But I couldn’t. He wouldn’t let go of me. Like a Father mourning with His child over pain, He slowly inched His way beside me until one day I rested my head on His lap and cried. I told Him I was going to believe and I would surrender my right to know why and be angry about Natalie to His feet. The decision was made, I would believe, and now came the harder part, living this decision with hope.

I hate the saying that “time heals all wounds.” I don’t believe it for one second. But I do believe time changes things in our hearts. Jesus speaks about a “deposit” that is inside of us to grow and protect. (2 Timothy 1:14, "Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you--guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.") Could a trial be a “deposit” too? Something to be faithful with and invest to become stronger in the Lord with over a significant period of time? I think so. But any investment does not spring forth overnight, in weeks, but over months and years after we roam the desert for answers that will never come. We want fast solutions to our pain because it is uncomfortable. But we forget all the symbolic stories in the Bible of being refined and how trials produce perseverance, which leads us closer to Jesus. (James 1:2-4,"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything).

I threw myself in hope. I was going to believe He had it under control and the decision was so real that immediately I began to live this way. I was able to write a lot and had friends and family who helped me through the rest of my treatments. I searched for God as I wrote music and began Inspired by Grace. For the first time I was excited about the future. I felt the Lord promised me He would restore the innocent things that were taken away, robbed, cheated. So there was only one thing to do at the point. I had to be like Jabez and pray the Lord to bless me. I wanted to claim this promise and wait for His timing. I didn’t always know how or what to do. But I knew one thing…

I was going to BELIEVE.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Believe Part 2

If I stopped at my previous post it would be enough to work through in a lifetime. Those experiences by itself are enough, right? I wish it ended there, I wish it even began there, but it didn’t. I walked miles before I even lost Natalie, and my journey was only beginning with agony during that time. I wish I knew that then. Then again, maybe I don’t. I would have in no way described myself as innocent or na├»ve then, but in the grand scheme of things as I look back, I probably still even was. I look wondrously at those who go through horrible things and then somehow with a switch of a light, life just works out, gets better, redeems itself with something more beautiful then they could have ever imagined. This is what I thought would happen after I lost Natalie. Surely that was it, all I could ever picture living through. My path would certainly demonstrate one could live through such pain and then have something to show that you did it, you made it through and were faithful and then you got the desire of your heart ten times fold. Right? Wrong.

I assumed I was depressed. My body was slow, almost sloth-like. Taking a step was like having two huge men hanging on each of my legs. But I lost my baby, it made sense, so I just kept pushing myself. I would snap out of it soon. I wanted to try and get pregnant again because it seemed like the window of time my body would be able to was short. I knew what had to be done differently this time with shots and doctors, so I dreamed of that making things better. But the Olivia I knew was fading. I had no energy at all.

On January 10, 2004 I became so sick that I was taken to the ER. That day everyone was trying to make me eat and drink and I just felt so full and unable to. I didn’t know that walking into the hospital that I wouldn’t come out until March that same year a completely different person. The old Olivia was dead now. I would no longer be able to have the energy and ability to be who I thought I was. Kidney failure is a scary thing when you are only 23. Especially when the reason you are in kidney failure is that your body is so confused that it actually began attacking organs thinking they were foreign objects needing to protect you against. I have written specifically about this time of on my blog more than any other topic (see archives 2004/2005). The surgeries, dialysis, beginning chemotherapy, having to learn to walk because my muscles atrophied. Living in constant pain and agony, having to be in ICU 3 times, not thinking I would live and wondering what it will feel like to die.

It was during this same time that the Lord showed me an amazing display of His Love. It was during this time that I had to rely on the love of others to help me get well. It was during this time that I found out who was going to stick by me and believe in me. But many people didn’t, even those who promised to. I was beginning to unravel. Everything I thought I had was gone. No baby, no health, and no family. I was alone. But I knew God was there. He had a plan. He wouldn’t let me live for no reason. I wanted to show Him I was worth it.

When I left the hospital, I really had no idea who I was. I couldn’t run or play sports anymore. I couldn’t hold down a job. I still had years of chemotherapy to take. I hadn’t even had time to grieve Natalie. I was angry and hurt. How could this be?

For months I struggled and conversed with God about how I felt. I told Him exactly what I thought about what happened, and about how I felt He was responsible and owed me an explanation. “If You’re going to allow pain like that in someone’s life, then You need to give me a reason, or give me a way to deal with it!” I’d say. It went on like this for months.

I was going to drive myself crazy with trying to find a reason it all happened, especially Natalie. I would go through the “What if’s” and “Why’s” over and over again, day after day. But it finally came to a point where I had to figure out what I was going to do about all of it. Who was I going to be? What was I going to listen to? Even if there was no explanation, I mean EVER, I had to figure out my thoughts. What was I going to do?

I was going to BELIEVE.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Believe Part 1

My heart pounds with so much inside me. I talked with Casja tonight and she noticed as well that I don't write as much from my thoughts or emotions as I did when I began this blog 5 years ago. It was meant to be a place where I could vent my struggles and pain. To be real with myself. I never thought about who read it, it was my way of trying to make sense of it and show that I wanted the Lord to move through my pain and show His Love. Most people don't want to read about hardship. Heck, I don't even want to read or write my thoughts on my trials. But the more and more I try to write about surface things, when deep inside there is so much more, I realize I am making myself into something I am not. I don't even think I will have one of those perfect blogs (or lives for that matter) that post photos of all the exciting things I am doing. I want to be like that, but with the pain we have experienced just this year (never mind the circumstances of my entire life being a battle) has really seem to be pressing Bryan and I down and we are plainly just hurting. There is only so much you can express that is hopeful, because sometimes we just are too hurt or frustrated to even hope. And there is no wrong in this because it doesn't end there with us, we take all of it and we seek the Lord. It provides a way for us to know and seek Him and obtain Love and Wisdom back, and in that we do become stronger. It's so much more than a Bible verse. I wish I could show you how deep this really is. We are not angry or bitter. People are afraid of people who feel this way, even when they have a perfectly good excuse to and need to work through these emotions. Perhaps we are more confused, jealous, and feel somehow we got over looked or we just didn't do something right. I told Casja, during our 1 hour conversation! (I needed that my sweet friend, thank you), that the thing that scares me the most out of all this, is it is not just one situation that has hurt me deeply to where people say "I never even heard of anybody having to go through that." It just keeps going, and I want it to stop. I want to rejoice. I want there to be more dates in my mind I can't wait to celebrate, then ones I can't handle because they remind me of such pain.

The greatest pain I ever felt that I never even knew was even possible is the pain I experienced when my daughter Natalie Grace was stillborn at 8 months of pregnancy.

I held my breathless daughter, Natalie. A precious life I was so honored and blessed to feel grow in my body and in my heart for 8 months. I buried her and then everyone expected me to "Just get over it." It was so hard to comprehend the pain of what happened, that others did what they had to do, tell me that I had to get over it and move on. But scenes keep playing back in my head. Even to this day I am flashbacked by someones comment, or a certain scent of saying to those days I spent wondering about Natalie. I think about my joy during that time and how much I believed and prayed and sung, so the Lord would bless me and let her live. I stayed on bed rest for almost 3 months. Many people came and visited me. Everyone of them assured me that she would be ok. But He didn't allow her to live and I had to labor for 3 days. Not labor with knowing I would have a great result, our child, but no, a terrible labor with wondering what the precious few moments I had with my baby would be like. Truly thinking of women who have to deliver babies who are not longer with us, those born angels, is hard. We read about things like that happening, but until you comprehend all the actually minutes and things they do with sadness, it seems like the baby is delivered and that is it, but it is not true. It takes days of agony. I was drugged from medicines to help and after 30 minutes of holding her they took her away. I was afraid I wouldn't remember her because I was so tired, drugged, confused, and sad. We didn't know back then of organizations like "Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep" I wanted to die. They rolled me into the "Mother"s Nursery Wing" (nice Huh?) of the hospital and hung some type of warning on my door to tell nurses that we lost the baby. They didn't even keep me 5 hours after I had her, even though I was in so much physical pain. I was wheeled down to the car not with my baby, but a box. I small little box with a purple ribbon. Inside was the only thing I was ever going to have of Natalie, the cap and blanket she wore in the photo they gave me along with 3 cards of foot prints under a small happy pink teddy bear saying "It's A Girl" 1lb 3 oz. 3:13 am October 2, 2003. I took 3 photos of Natalie and they came out very bad. I posted one of her little feet on her last Angel Day in 1008. I never knew it was ok to take photos of her, I was so sad. That is way I like "Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep." I wish I had more photos of her, but I am glad this organization can help parents today be able to document their babies life no matter how short it was. It would have given me deeper healing to see her face and little hands and me holding her that day. I stared a lot after that drive home. Just staring off into anything, but nothing at the same time. Curiosity struck me as I saw how uncomfortable people were around me. I was unable to ease their minds with how I was doing. I was heart broken and sad. Could I comprehend God's role in this? I struggled to be strong and keep believing. But I was alone, everyone else around had no consolation, and they themselves were grieving and hurting by keeping distance. But I still had to go through the physical loss. My nutrients came in to feed the baby 2 days after she was born. My body craved my child to provide and comfort her. I grew feverish and became sick as it infected my body and had to take antibiotics. I couldn't even move it hurt so bad. I cried more during these days then I did during her funeral. My heart, emotions, and my body called out to her and wanted her with me. My hormones did not relinquish. They tortured me night and day, minute by minute, second by every breath I forced myself to take in. Yes, breathing can hurt, it feel like a task to breath. Pain can be that severe. My abdomen was swollen and I can remember being angry at my body. I wanted there to be nothing that could show she was there, or that I was just pregnant. It hurt too much to look at myself. I wanted to see no bulge, my hope had been taken from me, all I was was a shell, an empty shell who looked terribly wrong. But it happened, and it didn't happen to someone else, it happened to me. It was a part of my life whether or not I wanted it to be. I couldn't imagine it away. So now what? What was I going to do?

I was going to BELIEVE.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Autism Breakthrough: Girl's Writings Explain Her Behavior and Feelings - ABC News

A couple of weeks ago I watched a clip about a little girl named Carly who has really impacted thousands of lives. Follow this link and read the article and watch the video, I am sure it will touch your heart.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

A Follower

I've been asked why I don't give up. And yet the answer is simple. Life is one huge journey, a path to walk on. Sure I could go into all the symbolism of the things encountered, the inclines and dips, the attacks of the wild beasts, extreme hunger, thirst, pain, tiredness, and other deep realities of survival. My path has never been a "point A to point B" one." I have encountered thousands, if not millions, of divides and choices to make of which way I should go. And it has happened in such a way that even if I wanted to turn back, I wouldn't be able to find my way. I am drawn to keep going forward because I know that every time I make the right decision of what path I take, that it brings me closer to God. Because of my pain and the comfort Jesus has brought me, and is still bringing, I can continue with hope. The answer is simple, I'd rather die trying than give up. I know my Shepherd voice, and I follow.

Jesus said, "My sheep know my voice, and I know them, and they follow me" (John 10:27).

Our hearts have to be prepared to follow in all kinds of seasons of our lives. Sometimes the choice produces a peaceful emotion, and other times we feel absolutely nothing, but this does NOT mean that God is not there. When you chose God in the times when it is the hardest you are acting as a warrior and fighting for Truth. The Truth is in us when we accept Jesus as our Savior. It is our biggest weapon and One we should not be afraid to use.

Praise Jesus.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Tubing Down the Llano

Because of my Lupus I rarely get to be sporadic and unplanned. So many people with auto-immune disease's understand all too well the "gas tank" concept of having to store energy for events that you want to attend. One of the most energy consuming gas guzzlers is outdoor activity in heat. Usually when people plan their summer adventures, I lock the doors, pull the blinds down, and set the AC on full power. Nothing is worse to me than using the precious energy I have to battle the Texas heat by simply carrying in groceries! But last week I put aside my inhibitions, rested and took off with Bryan and Gracey to Junction, Texas to go tubing down the Llano River all within less than 12 hours of planning it! We left very early in the morning and I slept the entire way there. We arrived at 9:30 am and headed to the river, rented our tubes, and proceeded to the shorter section. We went to the hotel, ate, rested, and then conquered the longer part in the afternoon. There was no doubt this was a very hard trip for me, but we really needed it. Plus we got to bring Gracey along to the river and in the hotel, so it was a family trip! Soon I'll be heading up north to visit my family for 3 weeks, so it was nice to get away together. Married people should take trips like this a lot, but Bryan and I never really had the chance to before, so why not now? Consequently I did flare a little with my Lupus and had to make it a priority to rest when we came home, but I think it was worth it. Having Lupus does prevent me from doing a lot of things I want to, but every once in a while I can push my body a little if I know what I am doing and allow myself to recover. Here are some fabulous photos of our adventure down the raging river rapids (Just kidding! Most of the time we actually had to paddle our way down!) By the way, this is an excellent area for a quick family trip! I recommend it. We stayed in a great hotel (the Legends Inn, SO clean and very friendly people) rented tubes and paid our park fee as well as food for nearly only 100.00 which we were given as a gift by Bryan's mom for an adventure such as this!

Monday, August 10, 2009

When All is Said and Done

In the basement along the right north wall lays a row of books. Biographically portraying life, they contain stories of everlasting tides of joy and sorrow that all mankind must experience. Yet it is what these authors did that add laughter, tears, and relief into our hearts as we too try and make sense of the world and our struggles. Some of the books are worth opening and yet others immobilized, collect dust and add to the synchronized demeanor of those past. What better way to harvest knowledge then from those who lived? And, yet, what better way to collect wisdom then from those who lived well? Walking aimlessly by shelved existences I felt intrigued by finding something, someone, special. Would it be a thick recollection of war, love, or the fight of a brave man? Perhaps a whirlwind adventure of one who traveled, or maybe those who opposed society’s standard, were imprisoned yet survived. I sat on a stool and looked around for that perfect book, but my eye was drawn to the most boring covered gray book on the shelf. Ignoring it once, I scanned the shelf, yet again I noticed it and this time I picked it off the shelf.

Most people check out books for the content, the copyrighted published material, but not me, not today. Today I simply checked out a book purely for the inscription the author left on the inside cover in 1952. It was a declaration of times, a little treasure encased within a book that I will most likely never read.

It says:

“My very dear Friend,
Let us not sit down and say ‘The night has come, it is no longer day’
For age is opportunity no less than youth itself, though in another dress.”
Let us not forget”

September 12, 1952

My amusement with this frail fading writing intrigued me. In a world where we see so much typing, text, and computer media, a simple stroke of a pen warrants history and observation. Discovering the heart of someone is the hard part. You can read all about them, their lives, what they did, who they became, but to really know them; it takes our hearts as well.

Monday, August 03, 2009

The Best Photographer's Little Helper

Gracey helped me set up for a shoot the other day and practically ran to the set sat down on the stool and begged for a photo to be taken. Of course I complied! Isn't she just the cutest helper ever?