Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Who's winning the Battle?

A Reason to Hope – Preparing for Battle. In his message last Sunday, Pastor Jason spoke on spiritual warfare. He talked about our formidable enemy, Satan, and his schemes. “His main agenda,” Jason said, “is to drag as many people as he can away from God.” O.K. So I let this sink in…

All this time I have looked at my life, at trials, as tests for building perseverance like it talks about in James 1:3-4. I have been told that they have a God-sent purpose of building in me strong character. I have even cried out, “No more character, God, please!” I have attributed the trials as coming from God to mold and sculpt me in the way that He wishes, even pointing to the book of Job to support my belief.

But Jason talked about Job and he pointed to the character in that story that I had been overlooking, Satan. Suddenly it hit me: What was Satan’s agenda in that scenario? He wanted to make Job turn away from God. So God said, “Go ahead. Give it your best shot and we will see if my servant Job is faithful."

Now. Personally I had to look at the point I wasn’t getting before: Satan is the one who sent the trials! He is the enemy, and God is our “Reason to Hope!” because, as I often tell my kids, the end of the story has already been written - God wins! 

Still, I had been asking God why, if He loved me, was He making my life so very hard to bear, with burden upon burden added to our backs. I knew He was asking me to trust Him, but seriously until this day I didn’t see what it was He was asking me to trust in. That it would “all work out in the end?” – no, I knew that wasn’t necessarily something that He promised us. I had been told over and over that I could trust in His presence, but honestly I felt only distance. After another look at Job, at the scene that takes place in heaven, I saw that the thing God was asking me to trust in was His Love. God had confidence that Job, having known the intimacy of a love-relationship with God, would not let it go, no matter what the devil threw at him. And God was proved right in Job’s case. Amazing. In putting myself in those shoes I see God’s confidence that I, having known Him personally and through His word for so many years also won’t turn away from that kind of love.

It became clear to me that I had been giving the enemy considerable ground in this war. I had been letting our trials cause me to feel separated from God’s love. Just what our formidable enemy wanted me to do! His plan had been working. But no more! I know now that I need to put my faith in this promise from Romans 8:38-39: “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any power, neither height not depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Thank you Lord, that you continue to speak into my life and that you gave me this promise once again to hold on to and rest in your great love. Amen.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Called-out-of and Called-to

In-class journaling assignment: What is something that you have been called out of and something you have been called to?

God has called me out of being a statistic. First of all as a child from a broken home, I am not broken. I have few of the predicted neuroses and a healthy outlook based solely on the fact that God is and has always been my father --  figuratively and literally.
Second, as a parent of children with special needs I have a compassionate, caring household that does NOT resemble the predicted statistical fall-out. This is because before we were a diabetic household we were God's household and He continues to carry us and go with us.

This leads me to the Called-to: God has called us to rear our three children so that they can stand as faithful followers in the next generation. He has called us to be caregivers to them and keep them well. He has called us to teach them His ways and all the other things they'll need to know to move out and on to their own calling.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

The way up is Down!

Psalm 129:3-4
Plowmen have plowed my back and made their furrows long. 4 But the LORD is righteous; he has cut me free from the cords of the wicked.

            A guided study of the Psalms  led to these verses in 129 and the idea was proposed how sometimes we “offer our backs” to oppressors. It’s like you may have seen where a dog cowers and approaches his master (or even a lead dog) crawling with his head down on his paws. Both of these scenarios give us the impression of fear and punishment at the master’s hand.
            Many times we are our own worst accusers, bowing down, saying “we are not worthy” and putting ourselves out of the Christian Journey because of our sins and/or failures. But this is not the kind of getting down on our face that is being taught through Scripture. We are not letting others make of us a doormat, but rather we are choosing to humble ourselves before God. And this is not an oppressor or accuser we are bowing before, but rather our maker who loves us.
Then as we turned to Psalm 130, we were encouraged that there is no punishment here, only “Full Redemption”!

Psalm 130:7
Israel, put your hope in the LORD, for with the LORD is unfailing love and with him is full redemption.

            About that time I also heard a sermon on the tenth chapter in Acts where Peter meets Cornelius. It describes Cornelius as bowing down at Peter’s feet.

            Peter tells him, "None of that—I'm a man and only a man, no different from you." (vs 2 The Message) Just like in Psalm 123:2As the eyes of  slaves look to the hand of their master,  as the eyes of a female slave look to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the LORD our God,  till he shows us his mercy.”

The picture was of a servant awaiting the master’s favor at which time he would lift the servant’s head. The pastor so richly described for us the picture of our bowing down before the Lord and Him graciously lifting our head to look us in the face with favor and love. For more years than I can remember I have heard the song “Humble thyself in the sight of the Lord and He will lift you up.” Putting into practice the act of getting down on my face before the Lord and learning that with Him the way up is down has caused that song to have a whole new ring to it.  

          Thank you Lord for being the lifter of my head. When I have faltered you are there, waiting only for me to humbly come and then you grant me your favor. Your handmaiden is overcome with gratitude and joy. Amen

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

My Broken Handsful

I Thess.5:16-18 "Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus"

After taking a fall outside of our local business supply store and breaking my left hand, I got to ponder these verses once again. I have never been one to react with "why me God" when trying things come my way, but I'm not actually sitting here saying "Thank you God for my broken hand" either.  In the beginning, many people were so helpful and kind, showing the love of our Lord and I was able to be thankful.

My biggest struggle is usually with being patient, but when big trials come I find that I am given a lot more grace and patience for which I am thankful to God.

 Just like we have to do with the diabetes, each person in our family has to learn that "it's not all about them" and this situation is another chance for that character quality to grow.

As the weeks went on I found it harder to deal with the many things I was unable to do. We have had to table many of the summer activities we had planned and we were all getting a little out of sorts and stir crazy! The offers from helpers started to dwindle and my spirits began to droop.

Right about that time, someone else at our church hurt his hand and in his prayer request mentioned that he had forgotten to pray himself for his hand. This was a reminder for me to do the part in this passage that says pray without ceasing. So I, too began praying over the situation, both for healing and for patience and for a uplifted spirit.

And so it happened, two dear friends called and offered  meals and our wonderful church youth service team came with some help in cleaning our home. Many of the women from Bible study offered to help with driving and such and voiced their continued prayers for my family. Once again I was able to rejoice in the body of Christ as it ministered to our current circumstance.

So while I am not literally thankful for the broken hand, I am thankful in the circumstance, seeing the handsful of blessings that come along the way.

He Knows My Name

While studying 2 Kings and the stories of Elijah and Elisha we were reminded that their mission resembled their given name. In the sermons it went something like this:

            Now this man whose name “just happened” to be “my God lives” went before the King and the head of the false religions and said “the Lord God who lives and before whom I stand has sent me here to tell you…”
            Now this next prophet of Israel, whose name “just happened” to be “my God saves” went and rescued those who would believe…

In the Bible it is not unusual for someone’s name to be prophetic or their life, whether the name was given to them at birth like the above examples or their name was changed later like Abraham and Sarah or Simon who became Peter.

I had never viewed my first name in such a way although I had looked at my middle name with some affection in that it means “born again” (Renee). And in the naming of our children, great care was taken that we chose names whose meanings had significance to us.

When my husband and I were first married, we received a plaque that carried both our names with a description of what they meant below. My side had my name, Traci, and underneath “battler”. It went on to describe someone who is valiant and fights for the good and nice things like that, but my husband jokingly latched on to the first word and said, Battler, yup that’s my wife alright.” It irked me so that I eventually retired that plaque to the nether regions of storage. I even avoided giving our daughter the middle name “Nicole” because it essentially means the same thing and I didn’t want her to be saddled with it.

Then we came to our study of Esther and near the beginning of the study we learned of her Hebrew name, Hadassah, which means fragrant, and her Persian name, Esther which means star. Somewhere in the video lesson on this it was also mentioned that the word in Proverbs 31 which in our English Bibles is translated “a woman of noble character” actually means the same thing as what the angel of the Lord calls Gideon, which is “valiant warrior” (Judges 6:12). This just leaped out at me because that is what my name means, also. How cool that the woman that we aspire to be like is called warrior, just like me! Often it has been said that Gideon really was no warrior at all when the Lord said that to him, but that it was prophetic - that God was going to make him a warrior in spite of his being the smallest member from the smallest clan of Israel. God had a plan for Gideon.

So much of our study in Esther was on the destiny which God has designed for us especially. Throughout, I have reflected on what God has in mind when it comes to the diabetes in our family. I began to wonder, is this fight that has been given to me a destiny that goes back even to the name I was given at birth? The enemy would wish to use this disease to cripple or destroy us, but perhaps I, “the battler” am called to fight and see him destroyed instead. In my notes on Esther called “In the tight fist of fear, fight” I talked about how Beth Moore encouraged us to fight our unseen foe because our God is great and powerful. She talked about how the enemy cannot win and we cannot lose.

So when I thought about these things and the connection with my name, I concluded “I was destined to fight.” Every day, with each drop of blood and each plate of carefully counted food I must fight - fight the despair, fight the pain, fight the setbacks. The amazing thing is that I am never alone, but God, who knows my name, who gave me my name and my destiny is there beside me defeating every enemy, seen and unseen, and assuring the victory for all of us. And so, like Esther and Peter and Paul and Elisha and Elijah, I will stand.

Where's the Power?

Introduction - Sometimes we are asked “Where’s the power” sort of like “Where’s the beef?” in the old Wendy’s commercials.

Believers in our modern times are looking for lives full of power from the Holy Spirit, but it seems to be elusive. In the Old Testament we saw it in the lives of the heroes of faith when “the Spirit of the Lord came upon them”. In the New Testament we saw it in the lives of the apostles.  Could the problem be in the fact that we’re looking for a Jericho wall to fall down and perhaps not seeing that the Spirit is working in many small and wonderful ways? Not even so small, really. Take the U turn of someone’s life when they come to Christ, for example. Or someone who overcomes or rises above a circumstance such as a broken home, or poor health, or great loss. They are truly living by the Spirit’s power.  And that’s where our story comes in.  I have a husband who has Type I (AKA juvenile, AKA insulin dependent) diabetes. Of my 3 children, two have the disease and one tests positive for the anti-bodies which can cause the disease. I have a high risk of developing the other kind, Type II at some point in the future. Statistics say that having one adult and more than one child in the household with diabetes is like a 1% chance.  And yet here we are. Add to that the fact that both of the others in the household have a high possibility of presenting with the disease and it is not inconceivable that 5 out of 5 of the Thompsons might one day be afflicted.  Unheard of? And yet here we are. While my husband and I have been married for 11 years, statistics say that marriages of people with children with special needs of one kind or another are even more likely to fail than the national average.  And yet here we are.

The Scripture says “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”[ Phil. 4:13]

It is because of Him that I can “get up every morning and breathe in and out” (borrowed from Sleepless in Seattle)
Each day when I check blood sugars, and give shots, and count carbs, and calculate food to insulin ratios (I was never a math genius), for my 2yr old, and my 8yr old, and my husband, it is Christ who strengthens me.

In the face of daily challenges such as lowered immune systems and the long range risks of heart and eye and kidney problems from high blood sugars. Not to mention fear of low blood sugars in children which can result in learning deficiencies. In the face of low blood sugars which have resulted in the trauma of convulsions and catatonia, Scripture says “In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” [Rom. 8:37 NIV] And so here we are. How?

The answer is found in another passage, 2 Cor. 4:7, where we are told “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” It goes on to say, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.”[NIV] This is the description of just about anyone who has encountered chronic or life-threatening illness. But we claim the promises of God through Paul once again where he says “My God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” [Phil. 4:19 NASB] So we can wake up another day and say “Here we are.”

Personal Kingdom Assignment

My Kingdom assignment started with a rush. I was sitting in church that day, just a week after learning that Dylan has type 1 diabetes. When the pastor said, is there an area where God has really been orchestrating something in your life? I said to myself, “Uh yeah! Diabetes is an area!” I had known for some time that my unique experience of having all three of my children diagnosed with the disease on top of the fact that my husband has had it for more than 30 years made me an expert of sorts in the category of Dr. Mom.
I also knew that God had placed these unique circumstances in my life for the purpose of their usefulness to someone. I was beginning to see that there might be someone other than my family, a broader circle that might be influenced, but I wasn’t sure where or whom. So then the call went out that day and I knew had something to give. Even as I sat there, I remembered that the previous year we had given our extra supplies, meters and syringes to the mission team that went to Hungary, Slovakia, and  Moldova. So that was my first concrete thought,”This year we’ll give more. We’ll give just what they need, not our left-overs.”  I took the fifty dollar bill that was handed out to everyone taking on a Kingdom Assignment that day and I said, “I’ll turn it into more for the summer missions.”

My next thought tumbled after the first. I would love to raise money so that everyone I know who can’t afford diabetes supplies, could get them. Not only ourselves, but several people I know cannot afford to get a pump because of the cost. I know several people with type 2 who cannot test as they should because they can’t get the strips for a meter. And the list goes on. So I had the idea,”I wonder if I could set up some kind of non-profit to help families with diabetes get the pharmaceuticals they need.”  In the situation where insurance falls short or maybe there is no insurance, we could step in to help. I knew that there was a foundation in our area that provided for families financially when their children were diagnosed with various cancers. Why not for families in our situation? Well, one reason is that diabetes goes on and on for years. We could not take on supporting families for everyday supplies ad infinitum but perhaps we could for a certain time for a burdensome need.

My third tangent was in the direction of my web site, myhansful. For about a year, I had been writing on a site I had created dedicated to diabetes and devotions and refreshment for busy moms. I had recently noticed that I was coming to the end of my allotment of storage space and had entertained the idea of taking it to the next level and making it an actual “dot-com”. Now with the ideas running through my head about the way the Kingdom Assignment is all about God making small things big for His Kingdom, I thought that making this change, getting, perhaps a larger readership, would provide a means for helping others and also for raising funds.

Lastly, there is a book I had been working on about our family and diabetes and also people who walk for a cure for other types of diseases like Alzheimer’s, cancer and cystic fibrosis. My ultimate hope is that some of the proceeds of the book would go to sponsor those charities as well another means of raising funds for my Kingdom Assignment.

My mind was going a mile a minute over all these things when I went forward and tried to explain what I wanted to do for my Kingdom Assignment. No wonder the man up front gave me a glazed look as he handed me the money and said, “I can’t wait to see what the Lord will do!”

It was still going at a fevered pace when I got home and tried to explain all this to my husband, Doug. I told him that one of the reasons I was motivated to do something like this was because the money that we raised in the past had always been for research for a cure and never for the daily ins and outs of people dealing with disease. We both have been wearied by people saying, “It’s just around the corner, there will be an end to diabetes in your lifetime!”  If we heard that one more time, we felt we’d puke! So why not raise money for immediate needs instead? I could tell that while he agreed with me on this point, he felt I was getting sidetracked. He couldn’t really see how this qualified as a Kingdom Assignment. Now at this first blush, my first introduction to the Whole K.A. movement, I, too felt that only things that furthered the Gospel could really be seen as worthy.

Over the next few days, I was so excited to find out that the people who founded the whole Kingdom Assignment movement were a pastor and his wife from a church I attended and even served in before I was married! The stories leapt from the page as I read the book Denny and Leesa Bellesi wrote about those first 100 Kingdom Assignment participants. In it I found a wide range of people giving to others in a variety of ways, not all of which were sharing the Gospel per se. Many of the K.A.’s were to help people in need, much as missionaries do, just to show the love of God and open a way for the Gospel. For many of the participants, God used them in an area that they had a burden and a passion for helping people. Books for sick children, cars for people who couldn’t afford them, a computer for a struggling family, etc. So I was encouraged that my desire to help people with diabetes fit in with some of the other Kingdom Assignment categories.

Still, the giving of supplies to the overseas missions and giving to people here at home who can’t afford all they need were not exactly the same, two sides of the same coin, maybe, but different. God helped me see, with some help from my husband, that the latter was really a more selfishly motivated venture, and the former was about things that God was doing already. While God certainly could do both things in a big way, for me putting them together muddied the waters as far as purpose. The more I thought and prayed about it, the more I realized that God was asking me to focus my time and resources on the missions aspect. I started referring to my project as Mission Meds, with a goal of bringing medical supplies, all kinds, not just diabetic, to those who were painfully without. He assured me in my heart that if I would, not only would I see Him do amazingly above and beyond what I could think, but in addition He would take care of the needs that diabetes presented to our family. He was asking me to trust Him and give sacrificially. I had to really get myself out of the way on this, but once I did, I felt great excitement about what God was going to do for His Kingdom.

The next step was to contact the missions director that had taken the supplies I had given last year and let him know that I wanted to give a lot more this year. He gave me the information on how to make out donations so they would go into the missions funds we were wanting to support. I also asked the doctor for the team what his wishes would be if he could have everything he needed to take with him. With these needs and wants in our hands we began looking for ways God might be fulfilling them.

I did go ahead with my plan to build and posted a notice that we were raising funds for medical supplies for summer missions. I have been in the process to contact the group that had made donated cars their Kingdom Assignment and see if they could help us get the traveling clinic a much needed van. Next we made flyers and my kids and I went door to door to our neighbors for donations. We sent out letters to our friends and family who had donated in the past for a cure to see if they would give this time for our Mission Meds instead.

The response was great. Many of the letters I sent out came back with checks ranging from $15. to $100. One of the neater stories happened at our Women’s Retreat. I got to sharing with a woman about diabetic diet, carb counting and slow and fast carbs, etc. She told me that she had recently been diagnosed with Type 2. She was very excited about helping others in need and wrote me a check on the spot! God has blessed us with money slowly trickling in as we got closer to summer I went beyond my original personal goal of $500. God has richly blessed this year and I even have someone talking about how they would like to be on board when we raise funds for next year.

Campaign Successful

We are wrapping up our campaign for Mission Meds for this year. Over $500.00 was raised. Thank you all who helped make this possible. I have been in contact with the doctor on the team who is going. He says that they will be able to bring many items to help the doctor in Moldova who runs a mobile medical service in the area. The team also has overcome some hurtles regarding plane fare. It is so good to see how God is working things out so that His love and plan can be shared with this Russian-Romanian people group.

I got involved because of a project called the Kingdom Assignment. For those of you who have never heard of it, this began when a pastor in a Southern California church handed out $100 to 100 people and asked them to use the money and/or multiply the money to use in showing God's love and the gospel. The idea was to find a ministry they were passionate about or just a need that God brought to their attention and use the money to help out in some way. The results were huge and now there is a multinational movement of minitries that sprouted from that small beginning. Our church did a variation of this and gave $50 to 95 people and sent them out for 90 days to begin their own Kingdom Assignments. Some of the ones that I know about are: wheel chairs to refugees in impoverished nations; funds for an organization that rescues women from human trafficking; also for an organization that helps orphans in South America to receive learning materials; and even help to a young family whose mother suffered a debilitating stroke. Because diabetes is so much a part of our lives, we automatically thought of those who are unable to be tested and controlled because of a lack of supplies. This is what led to the Mission Meds campaign. The 90 days are over now, but our passion remains and while there are a lot of programs that raise money for working toward a cure, we will continue in our support of those who are dealing with diabetes right now.

Mission Meds 2011

We are fund-raising for three campaigns this year.

First, we wanted to support our son's youth group in their CAR WASH which is going to help a missionary family in Japan and their 16 yr old daughter whose medical needs have left bills in excess of $10,000. The deadline is April 9th.

Next, we are raising funds for the American Diabetes Association in their friends and family campaign going on through the end of March.

Finally, we are hoping to attend the Cystic Fibrosis Walk for a Cure (April 30) which we couldn't do last year due to chicken pox! We have dear friends who have 3 children diagnosed with this awful disease.

Contact us here at myhandsful if you feel led to give to Mission Meds at all this year and we will get you the details for donating.  Thanks so much!

Mission Meds 2010

We are raising funds for a medical team going to Moldova this summer on a short term mission! We hope to get them all the supplies they need to take with them. This outreach is part of on-going missions through Operation Mobilization. We know that they need to purchase diabeteic testing materials, blood pressure monitors, alcohol swabs, Ibuprofen, Insulin, and so much more. If God sees His way clear to providing, they are also in need of around $50,000 for a medical van for their mission Doctor and his traveling clinic. If you are interested in partnering with us, reply below and I can send you information. Thanks and God Bless!

I Peter 5 - Revisited

This Fall in going through a Navigators study, I was able to revisit I Peter 5 and found a few new reflections to add to my learning experience.

The passage begins with Peter reminding us as he did in Chapter 1 of all that we can look forward to that has been given to us in Christ. "The glory to be revealed" (vs.1) and the "glory that will never fade away" (vs.4) These ring familiar as we remember in the beginning of the book where he talks about the "inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade kept in Heaven for you..." and also brings to mind parallel passages in Ephesians where Paul says God has "blessed in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ" (Eph 1:3) The language in all three of these places is way over the top to remind us of how great and awesome is what we have waiting for us.

Of special significance in our passage here is that it is reminding us of our hope for after we have persevered through the suffering. It is about time for some good news after throughout the whole book telling us to keep on keeping on and not give up. Here is a wonderful picture of what happens if we do. We "share in the glory to be revealed" (vs.1) Hallelujah!

The aspect of humility struck me differently this time because we have spent the whole book being told to submit - to rulers and government; to masters, husbands, parents and one another. Now when it says in verse 6 "that he may lift you up in due time" we breathe a huge sigh of relief. We submit and then He lifts us up! Now that is some good news!

The context of speaking to leaders caused me to look parts of the passage differently as well. As a lay-leader myself, I was struck by verse 2 where it says to shepherd the flock "not because we must, but because we are willing." This reminded me to keep the heart at the forefront of my ministry, not the task.

As we studied cross references on humility we were led to the passage in John 13:3-16 where Jesus washes the disciples' feet. With this picture of "The ultimate Servant-leader" in my mind I read "not lording it over those entrusted to you" (vs.3) and "clothe yourself in humility" (vs.5) with new eyes.

We were asked to think of someone that we normally would find it hard to be humble toward and come up with ideas of how we could "clothe ourselves in humility" that is, make a conscious effort to be a servant to those individuals. The first thing that came to my mind was my children. What if I were to approach my children in this way? I tend to "lord it over them" all the time. But Jesus didn't do that. He was their leader. He was their teacher. But he made himself low and served them to lead them and show the way. He was the Chief Shepherd (vs. 4) how can I not do likewise?

The passage sums itself up so well in verse 10-11 "And the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To Him be the power for ever and ever Amen!"

(All scripture references from the NIV)

I Peter 5 - On Getting Facedown

What an Experience! Getting Facedown

I was recently in a Bible Study by Beth Moore on the Psalms of Ascent (120-134). At the outset, we were given an exercise. When we came to our time of study we were to get down, prone, with our face to the floor. The main idea of ascent is that we are on a journey UP so to begin we would need to get DOWN. I Peter 5:6 says, “Humble yourselves therefore under God’s mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time” (NIV).  As Beth Moore said, “In God’s economy, the way up is down” (Stepping Up, p.12).

 The first time I tried this, I found it affected me much more than I expected it to.  Aside from the part where the carpet itched my nose and I kept thinking “Allergy Alert!” the thoughts that came to me from the Lord were profound.  I felt that everything in the world around me, every concern, and every control issue over my family was finally, totally in His hands. The vision was like those time-enhanced images of clouds speeding by overhead. I saw the activities of daily life speeding by above me--going on without me--accomplished and carried out by God. This was so freeing.

So many times in my life since my three children have been diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, I have felt that “If I don’t do it, it just won’t get done.” In even harder times that complaint coming out of my mouth sounded like “Why does it always have to be me that remembers to bring the extra candy for when they are low or the pack of testing strips and supplies, etc.? Do I have to do everything?”  But the beauty of getting prone before God was that I could see how He was bearing the burden. I was not “having to do everything” for I was on the ground, on my face. What could I do? He must do all. Yes.

Then I took it a step further and realized that it is always true that God carries out His plans to fruition. Even when I am on my feet and participating in my daily life, I can remember as I bow before Him in submission everything will be accomplished as He desires. Psalm 123 talks about lifting our eyes to our master and it is in anticipation of His mercy, approval, and action. He will lift us up.

The second time I approached the act it was more the aspect of exercise that came to me. Like Dallas Willard (Spirit of the Disciplines) and others before me I have always agreed that spiritual discipline is just like the discipline of sports training. You drill and practice so that when you’re in the “Big Game” everything comes to you like second nature, with muscle memory, you almost don’t even have to think and your body does the work. So also when we pray, kneel, study and memorize Scripture it becomes second nature so that in life when we are called upon to use those spiritual muscles we will be ready.

 I found the same principle in effect here with bowing down and humbling myself. As I grew more comfortable with getting on my face, I found that it was more natural as well for me to be submissive to the Lord and others in my daily life. Here in I Peter 5:5 it says to “clothe yourselves in humility one with another.” (NIV) I thought, “It will not be so hard to have humility in this or that situation, I have already been on my face!”

The third picture that bowing down brought to mind was the Spiritual warfare that goes on above us as we are facedown. It is always there, always raging, but as I got down I saw it more clearly. By getting down on my face I am affirming my faith that God will prevail and I am inviting Him to do so. Verse 8 of this passage says "...the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour..." Our hidden enemy cannot use us against ourselves when we are choosing to submit to what God will do. We are getting ourselves out of the way and letting God vanquish our foe. When we lay down in submission to God we deny the devil another chance at a foothold in our lives. It is far from passive. It is a choice and when we make it we can see how powerful a move it is. “The way up is down!” Indeed.


 Holy Bible, New International Version, Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society.

 Moore, Beth. Stepping Up, Nashville TN, LifeWay Press, 2008

 Willard, Dallas. The Spirit of the Disciplines, San Francisco, CA, Harper Collins, 1988.

My Double Portion

I have been turning a corner over the past 8 months from wondering "where is the good" to seeing God's blessings all around me. This past weekend at Women's Retreat in Lake Arrowhead, CA, was a pinnacle of sorts in this area. Our first night, the speaker, Susanne Sheppmann, spoke on the concept of God's double-portion of blessing. She encouraged us that He is already generously putting them out there and dared us to find them. In the third session, she talked about the Everlasting, Faithful Father who gives us special gifts that mean something only to us because He knows our hearts. She pointed out that  His gifts are GOING to be the gifts that touch our HEARTS. In this case it was less about looking for them as it was BELIEVING that He meant them especially for us. Let me tell you, God gave me a double portion AND He touched my heart with the gifts He gave me over the weekend retreat. Blessed be the Name of the Lord!

On Covenant

“The God of the universe chooses us despite our frailties and then exalts Himself through those weaknesses. As a result, people wonder not at us but at the awesome greatness of our God.” (Covenant, by Kay Arthur, p.90)

This really struck me because ever since God gave us the disease of diabetes to deal with in our children I have desired for it to be a way for Him to be glorified.

However, every day I feel like I have failed miserably in this process. Too many times I get to the end of my rope as I try to handle it all in my own strength instead of giving the burden, from the outset, to Him to carry.

The thing that encouraged me in studying God’s covenant with Abraham (Genesis 15) is that in believing God, Abraham was CREDITED as being righteous. In covenant, when God looks at me, wearing Jesus, He sees a righteous woman. For as many times as I fall short, He is still going to bring Himself glory through our situation and He is always there to forgive me and let me begin with that clean slate, and to call me higher for the next time.

You can see in both Galatians 3:6 and Romans 4:3, the key was that Abraham believed in God and that God would do what He says. It says in Hebrews 11:11 that Abraham and Sarah “considered Him faithful who had made the promise.” (NASB) It is not the measure of my faith but the ONE in whom I put my faith that matters.

I have always just loved this passage in Hebrews, known as the “Hall of Faith” let us look at verses 1 and 2: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the men of old gained approval.”(NASB) When I have faith that God is going to accomplish what He set out to accomplish in our crazy life, that finds approval in His eyes. Not my performance as the perfect wife, mother, homeschooler, or diabetic caregiver.

Now look at verse 6: “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him” (NIV). There have been times when I’ve questioned myself, “Do I have that kind of faith?” But even in the darkest times where I have lain in fear of what God was going to test us with next, I never failed to believe that He was the one directing everything that happens. I could always honestly say that I knew it was God who was working to accomplish His will for His own glory.

Sometimes I struggled with what He was doing and like a little child, I squirmed and said “but I don’t like it!” Still, the fact that He was present and asking things of me confirmed for me that He was there. It reaffirmed my faith “that He is” as it says in the NASB. We are told further in the chapter that “Abraham obeyed by going out to a place which the Lord told Him…Abraham obeyed by offering up Isaac…” First he had faith, then he was counted as righteous, then he was a man who obeyed. It is because we are part of this wonderful, beautiful covenant with our God that we become people who can obey and bring Him Glory. Which brings us back to our quote…

Notes on Ephesians

I was reminded in our Bible Study of Eph. 5 that marriage is meant to be a witness of Christ and His relationship to the Church. We delved a little bit into the different theological views regarding "headship", but whatever your take on it, Paul says he is really talking about the church.

I was being real honest and said that I am most grieved by my own failings when I can tell that they have had an adverse effect on how my marriage and our home are reflecting the "glory of Christ".

My lovely "picker uppers", (those women in my life who speak encouragement into my life, especially when I get too down on myself) have pointed out that our imperfections help others relate to us more and feel that they, too can carry on this Christian walk. So I vacillate between being glad that my transparency and honesty can make others more inclined to want to follow Jesus and feeling bad because I have presented a marred picture to the world.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Help in the Most Interesting Places!

I was reading more in a book on thankfulness this morning and went in search of the verse that says God inhabits the praise of His people. (Ps. 22:3KJV) Online I found a comment by a woman whose screen name was "trainedbyhorses" I thought I had seen that somewhere before so I clicked on the link to her site. To my surprise, it was a chronicle of her journey through letting God have control of her eating - not where I thought I was going to go, today, but...

She talked about how she had heart issues that made her feel rebellious in her approach to food. I found I could relate to this. I have known for a long time that I ate when and what I wanted because I was fed up with trying to manage everyone else's food to the minutest detail. I also knew that this was an excuse. She talked about clinging to her "rights" to eat whatever whenever, but confessed that if we are surrendered to God then we don't really have "rights" to anything. Hmmm.

The other thing we had in common was that she has a son with special needs and that this led to some of her heart issues which in turn led to the long-term eating issues.

Even more, she is a home school mom, and a writer - God is in the links -  - I commented to Heidi that I had not even begun this day thinking I was going on a journey with God regarding my weight, but He knew better.

Just this past week I had been informed that I had an enlarged liver and better start making some changes, or else. I was willing, (almost) and had been considering what tack I was going to take, exercise, dieting, what-have-you and then up pops this blog that is about Doing it God's way. which is really just letting Him have His way instead of stubbornly sticking to mine. So here I go. I am so very thankful...oh, and that 's where it all started today, isn't it?

About Aurora

O.K.  Here's the latest at myhandsful. Are you ready for it? Alright...Our dog has diabetes. Yup. Our lovable, beautiful Siberian Husky, Aurora, was diagnosed this past weekend.

I know, you're saying, "What are the odds? How can this be?" and believe me, we were saying it too! So here is how it happened. About a year ago, she was looking a little chunky. We had her shaved down for the summer and even then her weight was a little up. So we reduced her diet and tried to cut back on treats. This went on for about eight months or so with no significant change. She still looked the same to me. Then all of a sudden she became a very thirsty animal. She was drinking her bowl dry every day and sometimes twice. We got her a big tub and she enjoyed having an almost unlimited supply to drink every day. Then I noticed she was dropping weight. Within 2 months she lost almost 20 lbs. It felt like she was wasting away. Of course with the history we have I was thinking, "Hmm, losing weight rapidly and extreme thirst, what could this be telling us?" Then she did the unbelievable. She had an accident in the house. This has never happened ever since she was a baby! Finally we took her in to be checked and sure enough her blood sugar was over 600. Just like another girl we know of, eh? We were completely flabergasted to have it confirmed. Then we agonized over what we were going to do about it.

We went online to find out if she could use our insulin that we use for Dylan and Kaycee, but, no, it doesn't work out well for canines. The syringes, though we are able to use for her (Whew!). We also looked at what would be recommended for her to eat and figured anything we had at home would be better for her than the rice, cornmeal etc. that is in commercial food even diabetic dog food. So we went down to the pharmacy and got her some humulin N and started her on 2 shots per day and a reduced carbohydrate diet. (It's kind of like making baby food, only I don't have to grind it.) She is happy because it actually is more volume than she was getting, but as of yet her insatiable hunger from the high BG hasn't calmed down entirely. Still, she is looking more and more like her normal self and she is a docile sweetheart about the shots and we get to see her "smile " a little these days.

So, you know those lisence plate frames that talk about the kids ratio, boys to girls?  We have the most current one for our household. If you count the 3 pets, we have eight in all, so the score?

Diabetics: 5        Non- Diabetics: 3

Welcome 2011!

Type 2 Diabetes and the Glycemic Index

There are a lot of buzzwords pertaining to health and nutrition and one that I am very familiar with is Glycemic Index. It is being touted on T.V. by many diet programs out there. They say, “Yes! You can eat carbs, just the good ones...” Anyone who has heard of or followed the Atkin’s Diet might believe there are no good carbs. Just like someone else may think there are no good fats. The truth is that there are different kinds of both. When diabetes enters the picture, you find that you must be aware of the carbs on an immediate basis. The fats, for you, are more of a long-term risk because of complications that can arise for people with diabetes.

So what is the Glycemic Index? It is a periodic table of sorts that list the measure of effect that a certain food will have on blood glucose. It rates things from highest to lowest. When you are trying to manage diabetes with diet you are going to want to avoid things that are high on the index and stick mostly to things that are lower. The surprise comes when foods you traditionally didn’t think of as “sugary” end up being very high on the list.

I’ll never forget when one person was in with the nutritionist after being diagnosed with Type 2 and they were asked, “What do you typically eat for breakfast?” The answer was a bagel and a fruit smoothie. To their dismay they found out that bagels carry twice the carbohydrate recommended for that meal and so did the smoothie.  Although claiming to be “healthy” it was the worst thing for a person with diabetes. So they learned to make better choices.

Another good friend who has known about Atkin’s  for years was surprised to find out that carrots were rather low on the Index. Many others who believe they should just be staying away from “Sweets” are shocked to find out how high potatoes, breads, and rice rank. Basically you will find that things that are more processed will rank higher than the whole foods  and things with natural sugars in them rank higher naturally. For example white rice, white bread, white flour, white sugar, all rank higher than whole grains, particularly oat, or even popcorn. Tropical fruits tend to rank higher than apples and strawberries are lower still.

The science behind the Glycemic Index is this: things that break down more quickly into the blood stream as glucose rate higher than things that take longer to break down. This is where the terms simple and complex carbohydrates come in. Don’t forget, though,  that most everything we eat breaks down into glucose eventually. It is the body’s basic form of fuel and only that which isn’t used is then turned to fat and stored. The more complex foods trickle in and don’t raise blood sugars inordinately all at one time.

There is another factor that comes in to it, though, and that is called the Glycemic Load. Your blood sugars are affected by the rating of the food and also the volume of that food. The glycemic load is a formulation to figure how much blood glucose will be affected by eating, let’s say,  4 baby carrots versus eating 12. Portions you eat are as significant as what you eat. This becomes more of a factor for us as we deal with insulin therapy and, in particular, pump therapy.

In sum, the Glycemic Index is a very real way to help maintain good blood glucose readings and is more helpful than reading labels and carb-counting alone. You can find a listing of it online through various sources as well as a full accounting of Glycemic load.

Two such sites you might want to try are:

What to do about Halloween?

I shared with my small group the other day that I was stressing over what to do about Halloween. It was not even about whether to celebrate trick-or-treat or to go to the church festival, it was just about the candy. My 3 year old sneaks into the cupboard, the pantry and the fridge and finds things that are disasterous to her blood sugars. We cleared out the bedrooms of all candy that came to us from a class party or a birthday party or whatever, but she can still find one hidden somewhere when we are not looking. What will I do if we bring two or three bags of miscellaneous candy into the house? How will the boys or even she feel if we say,"no candy for the household, period." After thinking it over I realized that the main joy for my kids was dressing up. When I discussed it with them further, they said they also liked the part where they discovered what surprises were in their bag, even if only a few of the kinds of candy were to their liking. So we came up with a plan. We continue to have candy around the house for when people are low. We have designated one locked place to keep it that only Mom or Dad can get into. We decided that the kids would all dress in their costumes and live it up at our Harvest Festival and collect their prizes (candy which we helped to donate). After the grand "dump and discover" of what they got, the kids agreed at least for this year that it would be fun to give rather than receive and hand out the candy that they can't eat to the trick-or-treaters. Then we would buy them a small stash each of their absolute favorites to keep in the lock box. It went over well and was easier than I thought it would be. The kids are still going to participate in the part of Halloween that they like the best and we won't have any random candy showing up for months to come. The event is still a couple weeks away, but hopefully it will go smoothly, and I feel better about it just having a plan in place.

Another Visit to the ER

In mid-December, 2009, we found that Kaycee was suffering from another stomach virus. She was vomiting through the night and would be o.k. during the day but unwilling to eat. Then at night we would try really hard to get food in her and she would throw it up shortly after going to bed. Luckily she was taking a small amount of fluids so she wasn't dehydrated. What was a mystery to us was the level of her blood sugars. As a rule each morning when we check her blood glucose, we hold off giving her insulin if her number is less than 70. What was happening over these few days was that we would check and she was anywhere between 40 and 70 so we would not administer any insulin. We would try to get her to eat with very limited success and check her at mealtimes. Still the same low range. Day followed day and I realized she had gone 3 whole days on no insulin at all without ever getting above a BG of 90.

Mid-way through this set of events, my husband, Doug came down with the virus as well. I said, "I guess you will be O.K. without eating because you are on pump therapy, but you'll want to do what you can to keep hydrated." He tried, he really did, but every time he had a drink, however small he would lose it from one end or the other. As a result we got up on Friday and had to drive him to the emergency room to receive fluids through IV. While we were there checking him in, I struggled to decide whether to put Kaycee in as well. In the end they were able to give him something to stop the vomiting and 3 bags of fluids so that he could return home.

We were both still so concerned about Kaycee. Although I had decided she was not in need of IV's for hydration and she was a perky little person when she was awake, she still would be dangerously low at bedtime and refusing to eat anything. Finally I chose to give her a half dose of glucagon and that worked the first night to get her up above 100. We had never used that form of emergency treatment before, and Doug was really uncomfortable with it because in all his 31 years of having diabetes he has never had to use it. Afterwards our pediatrician applauded our efforts in keeping our heads and giving Kaycee what she needed to get out of the hypoglycemia and said that many parents would have been calling 911 and going to emergency out of fear in such an extreme situation. This time Kaycee was spared the ordeal of a hospital visit and being poked with an IV and everything that entails even though Doug was not.

Notes on Esther

Beginning in Esther

We began a new Bible study in January on the book of Esther. One of the first topics to be addressed is women's issues with appearance. I have for many years used the term "Esther treatments" to refer to spa and beauty applications because of the reference to Esther's preparations before she met the king lasting months, perhaps more than a year (Esth. 2:12). It was my lighthearted way of letting my husband know that if he wanted "royal beauty" he would have to put up with the time and expense it took to make me that way. Beth Moore in her lesson gave me a more sober perspective. Why is it that beauty is something we "do" not something we "are"? It says in the passage that Esther was lovely in form and feature (Esth. 2:7). Why then did she need to go through the many months of treatments? We deal with something like this everyday as women: no matter what your strengths or weaknesses, there is something being pushed by the beauticians of the world that you need more of (or less of) anti-aging, highlighting, enhancing - not to mention make-overs extre and otherwise. Really it is the women's version of I Samuel 16:7 "the Lord said to looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." The Bible says in I Peter 3:3-4 that our beauty should not come from outward appearance, but from the hidden person of the heart. It was David's heart that God was looking at in Samuel and it is our woman's heart that He is looking at now. Still the study of the passage in Esther acknowledges that the focus and pressures are there all around us and we will work through how as women of God we can live knowing He is concerned with our heart. I'll keep you filled in as we go and let you know what God says to me in this new study.

It’s just too much!

It has been so exciting going through the book of Esther! This week we learned that Mordechai asked her to take on her destined task when she felt like "this is really not a good time, can't you see that!"

So often I have felt the way she was described, "now God, me, really?" or "It's just too much!" It is a comfort to know that most of the time God called upon major characters in the Bible it was when they were having a hard time of it in some crisis of their own (I think of Moses - Ex.3 - and Gideon - Judges 6 - and Peter - Matt. 26 look it up!) Yet we know that God's timing is perfect timing because of what He wants to have happen. Another encouragent is that we know that when all is said and done, the eny can't win and we can't lose Praise the Lord for that!

Using What You’ve Got

On a sidebar in our study of Esther one of the sinar leaders shared how we have often seen Esther's beauty as something that puts her in a "special" category. When we as women feel that people can't see past our looks, that is, they think we are beautiful or maybe "not so" beautiful, we feel cheated. In Esther it was apparent that the reason she was picked in the first place was that she was "beautiful of form and face."  Beth Moore has pointed out over these weeks that the Biblical account shows there was much more to her under the surface that drew the attention of the caregivers and ultimately the King.

What our workshop leader pointed out that was so meaningful to me is that God gives us the whole package, ie. looks, past history, talents, personality and Spiritual Gifts in order to fulfill his purpose. She referenced Psalm 139:13-16 in a way I had never looked at it before. When the Psalmist says, "I am fearfully and wonderfully made" that includes our basic personality type and other traits, not just our physical form. I had often shared this verse in the context of our kids' diabetes saying that God made th with that special characteristic for a very purposeful reason. I had not really looked at myself or th in terms of the whole package before.

So our assignment was to discover "what we've got" that God is desiring to use in us but maybe we had not considered as useful. The suggestion was made that maybe we had been limiting God in what we thought He could accomplish by limiting what we thought He was likely to use. Can you think of things that God designed uniquely into you, His child, that He is prompting you to allow Him to use? Maybe you have the gift of hospitality and are an extrovert; maybe you are an introvert and write encouraging notes; maybe you have the gift of administration and can help people figure out "their next move" and of course the list goes on and on.

This little excerpt is my response to God nudging me to use what I already know I have even while I am looking for the hidden things I may have disregarded. Blessings to you as you try it as well!

Conditional Trust

The rubber really met the road for me this week in the video session on the book of Esther. It was from chapter 4 where she says the famous line, "if I perish, I perish."  She has made up her mind to move forward in what is being asked of her and trusts God with the outcome. 

The "big idea" that really hit home with me was that Esther did not have "conditional trust". This was explained in great detail as being the kind of trust that says as we pray, "I am trusting you God to never let ____ happen to me." We were challenged to put our own worst fear in that blank. If we continue trusting God to "never let____ happen" then we are doomed on two fronts. First, we let the enemy of our souls torment us with the possibilty of it happening every hour of every day. And he will do so, have no doubt. Second, we set ourselves up to fail in our trust of God when the worst case scenario does happen. And let's be honest, we've all known situations in someone's life (perhaps our own) where it has.

Unless we are able to say "we trust you God, even if ____ happens, to uphold us and carry out your purpose to your Glory" we do not have "unconditional trust". Put in Esther's words, "If (our greatest fear), then (God will...)" It is the same kind of trust that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego had in the face of the fiery furnace (Daniel 3) where they said "The God we serve is able to save us...but even if He does not, ...Oh King, we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up."

Our pastor has been sharing this same kind of trust in his series on Elijah, "trust is moving forward in faith believing that God will show up."

All these things tied together to show me that I was suffering from "conditional trust". I said, "God I trust you that my two younger children won't get diabetes" and then Kaycee did. So then I prayed, "I trust you God to not make the ones that have the disease to be picky eaters" (you've no idea what a big issue this is day to day) and yet Kaycee is. So my doubt in God's goodness and love went out the window as one by one my worst fears came to pass.

I see now what my trust needed to be like from the beginning: "No matter what happens, worst case scenario included, God, you will sustain me and cause your story to be worked out through my life and those of my children."

It really struck me the most when Beth Moore said, "If a difficult diagnosis or death is being asked of you, have no doubt that it is a huge part of the destiny that God has planned for you from all eternity"...for such a time as this.

Tell Me it isn’t So!

In one of our homework questions we were asked, "Why do you think Esther sent new clothes down to Mordechai when she first heard he was in mourning?" My answer was that at first she didn't want to believe it could be that bad. Not so much denial as wishful thinking. "I just don't want to face the fact that the worst is actually coming to pass." Some of us process this way. We take longer to come to terms with a situation before we accept it and then look for ways to handle it. How awesome that our God is patient and waits for us when this happens. I think of the passage with Peter again (Matt. 26) where the Lord asked him again and again "do you love me?" until Peter was ready to deal with his own shortcomings and answer the real question. Throughout scripture we see how God deals gently with us, bringing us into acceptance of our place in His plan - the good, the bad and the incredible!

She’s Gonna Blow!

This book by Julie Barnhill was mentioned this week in our workshop on anger. We were covering the several references to "burning with anger" and such from the book of Esther, but went much further and of course touched on the issues that some of us moms have with anger in dealing with our kids. The workshop leader dealt with the topic in a surprisingly helpful way by showing us that the way to determine whether our anger is "righteous" or "unrighteous" is not just in how we deal with it or express it, which is how I've always heard. Sometimes it is the source of it, why we are angry, that makes it one kind rather than the other. If we are incensed because a moral wrong or injustice has occurred, that is very different from being angry because we were inconvenienced or frustrated or offended.

Then she did go on to show that righteous anger always has restoration as its goal and this is where very often, even if we started out from a righteous anger, it can quickly become sin as Eph. 4:26 says. God's anger is ever only righteous, but let's face it ours rarely starts that way and even less does it remain so. Whereas God cannot tolerate sin, He bends over backwards to make a way to wipe it out and bring His people back to Him again. I can't remember the last time I bent over backwards to make something that angered me "go away" so that the person could be restored to God or me or both. Sometimes it would mean letting it go. Other times it would mean asking or encouraging the person to make it right. If we make restoration our goal rather than "venting" (as in "she's gonna blow"), or making our case, I think we would see a real change in the pattern of our anger issues.

Most of the time, my anger begins in unrighteousness, that is, I have been thwarted in my plans or had my expectations disappointed and I just belt the other person with it. Now if I put these principles to use, and want to see this person restored, I can let go my need to "have it my way" or I can share that I was coming from a different place and see if we can work it out. If I feel a moral injustice has occurred, all I can do is request that the person reconsider and make it right and leave the rest to God.

All these things made the whole concept of anger a more rich discussion than I have had before. In the past  I was told "just don't do it" (Col. 3:8) which I  couldn't measure up to, or "some anger is O.K. because God is sometimes angry" (Mark 3:5;11:14) which I couldn't differentiate in my own heart.

These thoughts have been helpful as a beginning for me and I am eager to read Julie's book and also one by Gary Chapman that was referenced in the lesson as well called, "Anger: Handling a Powerful emotion in a Healthy Way".

The Upper Hand

Esther 9:1 tells of how the tables were turned for the Jews and they now had the "upper hand". In the video session with Beth Moore, we were discovering how the scenario where "it's tough being a woman thrown a giant sized weight" is turned around by trust in God. When Mordechai told Esther she may have been born for "such a time as this" it was a huge weight to her to go and risk her life to plead with the king. After fasting (and if you read between the lines, praying) she was ready to go. In the narrative, the turn around came when she was given carte-blanche by the king to do what she felt was needed to save her people. That was her story. The application came when we were asked what we felt was our giant sized weight and told to give it to God, holding it up over our heads, if you will, saying "here, God, you take it." Beth depicted us, like a child handing over the "big" thing, whatever it may be, so we don't have to carry it anymore. She said that the heavier the weight semes to us, the "upper" we hold our hands to our Lord to take the burden - hence the "upper hand". This is the main point that touched a familiar chord in me, of course, with my focus on "hands". I asked myself, "how upper are my hands in giving my burdens to the Lord so He can carry them?" The corresponding verses in the lesson, I Peter 5:7 "casting all your cares upon Him for He cares for you." and Deut. 23:5b "[God] turned the curse into a blessing for you, because the Lord your God loves you." give a clear picture of how deeply God loves us. He wants us to lift those weights up to Him and watch how He turns it around into a blessing. Get the visual with me here: we lift up our hands and say, "Here." We still feel burdened with whatever it is, and we lift it higher and emphatically say, "HERE!"  Then He takes THAT THING, whatever it is, and into our open hands bestows a blessing, and not just a gift, but a destiny. That's what this study in Esther has been all about, DESTINY and from week one, Beth has been saying that the "big" struggles that we have in life are the ones that God desires (and indeed intends) to turn into our singular, blessed, beautiful, destiny.

In the tight fist of fear, fight

As the study in Esther draws to a close, we see  next scenario, "It's tough being a woman in the tight fist of fear..." Beth Moore made reference to Deut. 33:29 where God is described as fighting alongside us and we are told we will see our enemies flee before us; Isaiah 49:16 where it talks about our name being engraved on his hand was described as when you hold something so tightly it leaves an imprint on your palm. This reflects a fierce love that is also tender at the same time, she said. Also Neh. 4:14 "Don't be afraid of them, remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes." This caught my attention, not "our great and awesome God will fight in your stead" but "because He is great and awesome get in there and fight!" When Beth walked around the room and said it over and over, "fight" for your marriage, "fight" for your home, "fight" for your children, it really got to me. It almost seems condradictory to the message about giving it all to Him with our "upper" hands. But in Scripture it is so often the case, isn't it, that "both are true."  Yes, we are to give the Lord the heavy burdens of our heart, and actually that is a form of fighting, because our enemy would love to see us bogged down. We must remember that we do not fight an enemy of human flesh and blood, but rather an invisible foe who would love to see us fold our hands and let him destroy our marriages, our families and our homes. But the message in Esther and indeed in Scripture is to stand and fight the good fight.

Blessed Are the Gentle

Earlier this year I learned that "Blessed are the gentle" in the Sermon on the Mount meant more than I realized. When studied further, "gentle" means "accepting from God whatever comes from His hand without complaining or questioning."  I knew that this was a far cry from what I had been doing.

I felt that life was being thrown at us at an unbearable pace, where every diabetes situation seemed like a crisis of great proportion.

From that session on, I have been trying to stop whenever another life circumstance erupts and open my hands and accept with gentleness what God has for us. I move on from there, keeping in mind that He loves me more than I could possibly know and He knows my life in every detail on the outside-- and even more important -- inside my heart and head.

Never Say Never

We have all heard the saying. We know what it means: whatever it is we said "never" about is exactly what comes to pass. I have had it happen in my own life before. For example, I said, " I will never marry an engineer!" Yet when I met and fell in love with my husband Doug, I couldn't care less that he was an engineer by profession. When people called me on it, I answered "Oh, well, he is a civil engineer and that's totally different..."

Now I face another instance where I (silly me) said "I will never be likely to homeschool my children." It looks as though now I will have to eat those words and I will be glad of the meal because it has been such a "God thing" in my life. Here is how it happened…

Last week some time I was watching a commercial for "back to school" and the dad was going through the aisles of a stationery store throwing things in his basket and sing-songing "They're going back to school! They're going back to school!" as he danced along. The thought came to me, "I am not leaping for joy that the kids are going back to school, why is that?" I reviewed in my mind the things that happened over the past couple of years that made the school year more stressful for me. So many deadlines; things that I needed to send along to class or sign and date everytime I turned around; seemingly endless pages of what-not pouring into my home as they came back in the door; and struggling for hours over homework with my child who isn't inclined toward busywork (write the same thing over and over and turn it in tomorrow).

So I asked a woman I trust what her day looked like as a home-schooling mom. She assured me that most of the above concerns went away. In their place was the burden of directing and planning your own child's learning, but with the right curriculum that would be provided for you to a great degree. The plus side was that you could utilize the tools and set your own deadlines (not even that strong of a term, more like reach your goals) as you saw fit and in the way that fit your family's schedule and your children's different learning styles.

Because my schedule is so regimented due to the dietary and medical factors, it seemed a great relief to me to not have the school telling me what my kids had to accomplish and when. But also because of the structured way that we live, I knew it would not be hard to keep to a healthy schedule of learning for the school year.

The thing that seemed most daunting as I considered home school was choosing the curriculum. I have an aversion even to the word, "curriculum". When asked to help out in a Sunday School class, I cringe when they hand me a book and say, "Here is your curriculum and it tells you everything you have to do for today's lesson." What that usually means is that I have my own ideas about how to share the story of the 'loaves and fishes' and don't want to have to follow someone else's idea of how the whole hour should go.

Still, as I looked to giving my kids what they need for their grade level I was glad to know that the course of study would be mapped out and it was just a matter of selecting which plan would be best for my children and me. I am still nervous, but when I looked at things online and even saw a course that I used as a child in grades 7 and 8 I felt more comfortable delving into them to find the right one (s) for us.

The other thing that has been impressed on my mind as I pursued this idea is the huge group of supporters I have in my life who have gone the way before me. I have a close family member, a very close friend and upwards of 8 or more women I have befriended at church who are doing this and have been more than willing to come along side me as I step forward. One of the things most lacking since we have been dealing with diabetes is a lack of support for me. I have often felt isolated and alone. The wealth of support from moms already as I share with them about homeschool gives me hope that this is going to be one of the greatest blessings God has in store for me as I go forward in this plan.

God has been so clearly guiding me in a 180 from "never" to "why not?" to "by all means". I have been amazed. I know that it is Him because it is so not what I would have done on my own, and yet it came from within me not by someone's persuasion outside. It has brought me closer to Him because I know that He understands and is with us in every aspect of our life from the life-threatening decisions to the life-changing ones. Right now I am in a honeymoon phase where I can see the numerous benefits that our family will enjoy as we live by and make our own schedule for the year. With working vacations that are not at the same time as everyone elses, and field trips that are educational as well as fun and days off when we find it suits us best or when health and necessity demands. The flexibility makes so much relief in sight. Yet I know that the reality will bring me back to earth before too long and I will struggle in this first year to have the kids adjust to learning from me.

I once thought that being with them so much more of the time would be a hardship and I kept telling myself that I needed that time when they were away at school. What was really the case, though, is that school, while it gave me a few hours of time to do errands or chores, it also added all those things that became a bane to me. On the other hand, I saw this summer that having the kids with me everyday all the time was not nearly so much of a burden as I imagined it would be. Knowing that, I feel more ready to keep them home with me as the year goes on. It feels as though the messages I was telling myself were not how the situation really turned out to be. I was not easier on me to have them at school and it was not harder on me to have them home. This is the main hurdle that I have overcome in my journey from public school to homeschool.

The other main objection I raised in the past if anyone asked me was "I am not a teacher!" I don't have the inclination or the patience to communicate with children in a learning setting. I can do it with adults, no problem, but not with children. However, God has shown me over and over just in these weeks of summer how my kids come to me and ask questions about the world around them and I have teachable moments with them all the time. Besides, those of you who know my story know how I went from "not being a math genius" to utilising math everyday as I deal with the diabetes. So I am being grown in new areas and this is just another example of "never say never." Now I see and am excited about the myriad of things my kids and I will discover and learn together. Such a God thing as it is the opposite of where I was before! I have such hope and am convinced that He will bless our family as we follow Him in obedience to move forward in this decision.

Leading With Humility

“Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving …not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be …eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.” I Peter 5:2-4

I was in a conversation recently where the subject came up about how a message is much better received when it comes from a humble perspective rather than an arrogant one. When we come off sounding like we are an expert or “know it all” people begin to resist what we are trying to share and defend their own ideas more fiercely - even if they otherwise may have had an open mind.

As I sat nodding in agreement, I asked myself, “I wonder if I use this principle in dealing with my chlidren?” The answer was that more often than not I “lord it over my children” thinking it’s my right, my responsibility as a parent. I have lived longer, I have the experience and education and I want to pass it all on to them so they, in turn will “get it” and become adults filled with knowledge and character.

Something that was so clear when we are talking about dealing with people in general just leaped out at me that day in regards to my children. They are more likely to resist my message when I deliver it in an autocratic way. They will also become more and more prone to defending their actions rather than being teachable. I certainly don’t want this. I thought of the example set for us by Jesus in John 13, when he washed the disciples’ feet. He was their leader, their teacher, and he chose to show them by example the path of servant leadership. What if I were to really practice this on a daily basis with my kids? Lead them by first serving them, approach them from a position of humility.

As a mom, I know we serve our families pretty much all the time, but often it turns into a martyr-syndrome, and we honestly <strong><em>are</em></strong> looking for something in return. I know often I believe it is my due, because of all that I do for them every day, that they listen and obey. Then I am sorely disappointed when they don’t. If instead, I saw my role as example, showing them the way by being humble and serving without complaining or thinking I deserved something in return, then I might be surprised by how they would follow with like behavior in their own lives. I would be growing them in the ability to do right rather than preaching at them that they should be doing so. It’s really the difference between ruling over our children and shepherding them. I know which one I’d rather be doing. How about you?

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