Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Hardest Prayer

"And He said to them all, If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself,
and take up his cross daily, and follow Me."
Luke 9:23
Emphasis added

We sat at our kitchen table enjoying supper together...Zachary and me.
Kevin had worked all night the night before and was catching up on some much-needed rest,
so we decided to go ahead and eat and not wake him before he was ready.
Bless his heart.
His schedule is brutal, and he is so behind in his sleep,

Zach and I were discussing certain things that are going on with us right now,
and I happened to make a comment, without really thinking about what I was saying.

"I don't think the history of mankind...has ever had more anxiety."

I meant it.
I don't know what is going on with me.
I have struggled with anxiety for a few years, but, nowhere near to the extreme that I am battling it these days.
I lie down at night to try to go to sleep, and it is like my mind is going 150 miles per hour, 
turning, churning, analyzing, dissecting, and trying to figure out what is going on,
while trying to come up with solutions and what to do next.
It is like being on a high-speed police chase where I am in both cars...
the one doing the chasing and the one being chased.
That is the only way I know how to describe this.
When I am blessed enough to actually fall into the bliss of sleep,
I jolt awake about 45 minutes later, wide-eyed and hyper and so anxiety-ridden,
I feel like I will explode.
I suppose the jolt happens when the two cars crash into each other and collide. 
I get up and try to pray and walk around to different rooms and do my utmost to focus on something positive.
I attempt to follow the advice that I have given to so many others who are hurting and going through difficult seasons.

This goes on for hours, until I am weary beyond words,
and I finally get still enough to fall back to sleep.

I think some of it has to do with the time of life when "change" takes on a whole new meaning.
I feel certain this may have more to do with it than I realize.
The other part is coming from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome and the aftermath of what has felt like a complete or near-complete nervous collapse.
God only knows.
I can only speculate.
Some days, I think Sigmund Freud, known as the father of psychoanalysis,
would have met an unsurpassed challenge had he taken me on as a patient, 
and successfully figuring me out would have been the crowning achievement of his career! :) 

So, when I sat at our kitchen table and told Zach that no one....ever....had experienced such anxiety as this, the words came straight from the heart.

His reply stopped me in my tracks.

Jesus did.
In the Garden."

The truth of Zach's words hit a nerve.

I sat there, letting the full realization completely sink in.
Zach is right.
Jesus knew what was ahead of Him.
Every bit of it.

His anxiety level must have been beyond the scope of human endurance and imagination.

"Zach, you are so right.
The prayer He prayed that night was the hardest prayer that has ever been prayed."

"That's why He was sweating blood, Mama."

"You're right, Zach."

In order for a person to ooze blood, instead of sweat, through the pores of their skin,
(a medical condition called hematidrosis), the level of their anguish has to reach the unimaginable.
For Jesus to reach the point in prayer to say, from the heart, 
"Thy will be done", He suffered the most intense of all human anxiety and anguish.
Struggling with His Own flesh recoiling from the thought of the physical torture He would soon endure, caused Him to be filled with more dread than you or I will ever be able to comprehend.
The daunting realization that if He didn't follow through, mankind would be forever without hope of redemption, weighed on Jesus' heart with a crushing heaviness beyond the scope of tolerance.

Yes, my friend, Jesus knows anxiety.
He comprehends an anxious heart.
He remembers how it feels.
During that dreadful night, He sustained more apprehension than any other human in the history or future of man.

Three times, He returned to His prayer spot in Gethsemane's Garden...
hoping, asking, pleading with His Father for a way of escape...
for a way to avoid drinking the bitter dregs of the cup that awaited Him.
All three times, He received the same, dreaded answer.

There is no other way.
This is Your cup.
Only You can drink it.
This is what You must do.
End. Of. Discussion.

Relief came only after surrender.
Total resignation.
Entire a will greater than His Own.
To an inescapable call.
The express reason...the very purpose for His coming to this sin-blighted world came to full fruition that grievous night.
What followed that prayer was beyond all telling...
past the scope of our comprehension.

Jesus knows.
Knowing He knows brings comfort.
Believing this infuses hope.
It is seeing me through these sleepless nights and the foggy-headed days that follow them.

Saying, "Thy will be done" is not easy.
Praying, "Thy will be done" is the hardest prayer one could ever pray.
Because speaking these words from the heart means the total relinquishing of control over something
we all possess...that gift God chose to give each one of us called free will.
In handing us this gift, God is saying,
"Here is your life.
Live it the way you want to.
Make your own choices.
Pursue your own path.
Though I long for you to love Me,
to follow Me wholeheartedly,
and to allow Me to lead,
I will never force you to.
I hand to you the ability to make your own decisions and chart your own course."

So, praying, "Thy will be done" means we are taking that free will and handing it back to God.
It means we are deciding that His way is best.
It means that we will no longer go our own way...plunging headlong into self-driven pursuits...
that we surrender and relinquish that capability...
that we return our "free" will to God, thus saying,
"Here is my life.
I want to live it the way You want me to.
 I want You to make my choices.
I vow to pursue Your path for me.
I love You more than I love the control of my own will.
I vow to follow You wholeheartedly.
I will forever surrender to Your lead.
Knowing You do not force me to do this makes me long to do it with all my might.
I hand You my will.
I want You to chart the course for my life."

Jesus prayed the hardest prayer...from the heart...out of the throes of the most intense anguish.
Think about it.
He had the same gift God gives the rest of us.
God gave Jesus Christ, His begotten Son in the flesh, a free will.
Jesus could have charted His Own course.
He could have derailed from His Father's mission for His life.
He was sorely tempted and offered everything this world has to offer.
Right up to the moment He cried, "It is finished" from the terrors of the cross,
He could have changed His mind, picked up the mantle of His Own free will,
and told God, "no".
Instead, knowing full well the plan of His Father's will, He relinquished His desires and anxieties,
and He said, "Not My will, but Thy will be done."

Herein lies our victory, also.

I am finding this is not a one-time surrender.
It is a process....a continual giving over to God....
in each anxiety-ridden event.
I can either choose to perpetuate my own mental anguish by imagining catastrophic outcomes,
envisioning the hardest conceivable scenarios, and bracing for the worst,
or I can say, "Here, Lord, I am giving it all over to You.
Whatever happens, happens.
It is all in Your Divine plan, and I accept it.
Not my will, but Thine be done, dear Lord."

Just because I say that one time and let go of my power to do it my way,
thereby gaining peace, does not mean I won't have to repeat those words and that surrender a million times more.
Victory in this moment does not insure triumph in the next.

When you boil it all down, we would all do well to just surrender to God's will all the time.
Because if you think about it, what do we really have control over anyway?
Can any of us prevent World War III?
Do any of us possess the power to absolutely guarantee we will never get sick,
never suffer losses, never feel pain?
Are any of us capable of fixing our own problems and circumstances?
So much of this life, is beyond the realm of our control anyhow.
So, to play tug of war with God, pulling with all our might to hang on to our own will,
is really a futile effort.
It will wear us completely out, and it accomplishes nothing but to keep us in a continual turmoil.

There is peace to be found in surrender.
There is joy to be discovered in allowing someOne else to take over.
Great relief follows the realization that we do not have to do this alone.
That our free will is a gift we do not have to keep...that this is one gift that is better off returned...
to the One Who gave it.
That God always gives His best to those who leave the choice to Him.
Author Unknown

The other night, during one of my anxiety-besieged, havoc-wreaked episodes,
I came to the living room to pour out my heart to Him.
I was feeling anxiety not only about the uncertainty of the present and future,
but also over the past....struggling with wishing we had never subjected Zach to certain undesirable elements, questioning why certain things happened, etc.
As I prayed and cried, the dearest Friend of all descended into this room,
and the sweetest, most precious, comforting communion with Him ensued.
The presence of the Comforter permeated the atmosphere,
and His Words penetrated straight through the cloud of anxious unrest.

"Remember that night in your room when you were 14?
Remember the spot?"
He gently asked.

"Yes, Lord, I remember."
I whispered.

How I remember!
I think about it often and wrote about it in this post.
That night, in my room, in this dear, little house...
right there behind those middle windows...
in my bedroom...

I settled it for all time...
that I would live my life as a follower of Jesus Christ.

"When you bowed before Me that night in your room, beside your bed, in that little house,
you handed Me the reins to your life.
You surrendered your future to Me.
I took those reins from you, and you have never asked for them back.
Since that moment, I have been in control of your life, child.
Everything that has happened has been a part of My plan for you.
Don't second-guess your decisions.
Don't wonder if you did the right thing.
I was holding the reins.
I was in control.
Every move you have made, every decision, every choice...
you have sought My counsel.
You have allowed Me to lead.
All of those times you asked Me to show you what to do...I was faithful to reveal the next step to you, and you took those steps.
Don't beat yourself up over things that have happened.
All of it had to take place to lead you to where you are.
You are right where I want you to be.
I am in control of your life."

I know it sounds completely elementary,
but I cannot begin to say how much relief I felt in that moment.
To know that HE is in control...that He has been all along.
I knew that before...theoretically.
But, now!
I own the reality of it all.
None of what has happened has been happenstance.
Nothing is coincidence.
The things I fret over concerning Zachary and the things he has had to endure were all a part of God's magnificent plan for our lives.
Even those parts that were so ugly and hard to walk through....
He was leading us.
To know that He is holding the reins and has been all along,
to realize that He is the One Who is orchestrating the details,
to comprehend that He is fine-tuning our every moment....
oh, the tremendous sense of relief!

As He spoke, He took me back to so many spots...crossroads of life....all of the changes.
He was there...through it all....directing my steps...making paths straight and plain.
The memories were so vivid.
I knelt there before Him, and I wept until I shook.
I wept because I realized that His guiding, precious hand has always been there.
His eyes have always been on the watch.
I wept because I will be eternally grateful for Mom and Dad and for the way they raised me
to love Him and to abandon my will in favor of His.
I wept because I cringe to think what my life would have looked like had I not heeded their advice, and as a 14 year old surrendered the reins of my own free will over to Him.
I wept because I have never loved Him more than I do right now.

I am forever thankful that I prayed that prayer when I was 14.
It isn't easy to relinquish the control of one's own will back to the One Who gave it.
Saying, from the heart, "Thy will be done" is the hardest prayer to pray,
but it will always be the wisest thing in the world to do.
As situations arise, and as I battle this anxiety,
I may need to repeat that surrender many times over,
but it's okay.
I don't ever want to take a hold of the reins.
I forever long for Him to lead.
For I have learned, that in each anxious moment,
as hard as it is to say from the heart, "Thy will be done",
it is the only path to real peace.

Linking up with

Monday, March 23, 2015

Maintaining Eye Level & UPDATES

"And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another,
even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you."
Ephesians 4:32

Thinking about Zachary reaching the height of being able to look me in the eye
without him having to look up or me having to look down
started me thinking about a correlating spiritual application.
Isn't there always one there some place?
Can't we always find a way to take a life lesson and dig out some spiritual good?

I love how God does that.
He gives us an original thought, then takes it to a whole new level.

"For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways,
and My thoughts than your thoughts."
Isaiah 55:9

As Zach has grown through the years, Kevin and I have always tried to reach him...on his level.
When he was a toddler and in his early childhood years,
I would often sit on the floor with him in his room,
and we would build "farms" and "zoos".
Often they would have train track running through and around them,
and we would watch as his remote-controlled train engines would wind past
the zoos and farms we had constructed.
Sometimes, our endeavors transformed into some pretty elaborate infrastructure!
We would usually leave them assembled in his room on the floor for several days
because neither of us had the heart to undo all of our hard work.
Often, we took pictures of them before tearing them all down.

One of our many little farm scenes....
As the years pass and Zach grows taller and his interests and activities evolve,
(by the way, we still love building farms, zoos, and trains together...
I wish that would never change...:~),
we continually try to keep up with his pace...not ours.
We want him to enjoy the full scope of each age of life,
and we want to be an integral part of that...on his level.
We never want him to feel that we are not on the same page
or that we feel that his wishes are "beneath us",
because that couldn't be farther from the truth.
However low we need to stoop or however far we need to reach,
we want to stay in rhythm and alignment with his level.

Kevin and I have always felt that it is important to show Zach that his feelings matter,
his ambitions are validated,
his enthusiasm is worthwhile,
and his passions are significant,
not only to him....but to us, too.
We don't ever want him to feel that we look down on him or that we devalue his endeavors, aspirations, or the things he cares most about.
We try to see things through his eyes and try not to muffle or discourage his interests,
the goal always being to adjust ourselves to where he his level.

All of this makes me think of the Body of Christ,
and how we should interact with each other...
 how we should do our utmost to reach and relate to others eye-to-eye...
on their level.
After all, Jesus did.

He was the Son of God walking the earth in human form.
Spiritually-speaking, He towered over all.
It was an immense condescension for Him to position Himself to see anyone at eye level.
He had every right to feel and act superior to all others.
Yet, He did not.
However low He needed to stoop or however far He needed to reach,
He made the necessary attempts and put forth the required effort to look each person in the eye.
He met people where they were....
with the express intention of elevating them to His holiness, restoration, and redemption,
regardless of how sinful their lifestyle or how undesirable their condition.

No other example illustrated this more conspicuously 
than Jesus' association with the lepers.
These poor, unfortunate souls were society's chief outcasts.
They could not be touched.
There was no human remedy for their affliction.
They lived their lives breathing in the continual stench of the rotting of their own flesh.
They were separated from the ones they loved most,
having to live in hopeless isolation and lonely ex-communication.

Jesus wasn't afraid to extend His hand.
He trod ground that no one else dared to tread.
He touched the untouchables...
reached the unreachables.

How could He have ever hoped to draw anyone to Himself had He not been approachable?

He condescended to eye-level with every person He encountered, yet, He never compromised His Own holiness or true position.

He was tempted in all points, like as we are, yet without sin.  (Hebrews 4:15)
He did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth.  (I Peter 2:22)
Jesus never tainted or contaminated Himself by reaching out to others.

Shouldn't we follow His example?
Hasn't He condescended to each one of us?
Are any of us worthy to have Him stoop to look us in the eye?
So, if Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, looks at us with a sense of value and respect,
shouldn't we do the same for each other?
Are any of us better than the other?
Are any of us any more holy?
Are my "righteous" filthy rags less filthy than yours?

"But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags..."
Isaiah 64:6

"All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way;
and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all."
Isaiah 53:6

"For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God..."
Romans 3:23

"As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:
There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.
They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable;
there is none that doeth good, no, not one."
Romans 3:10-12

These Scriptures pretty much land all of us on an even playing field, don't they?

Had it not been for our sinless Savior laying down His life and shedding His precious blood,
none of us would have a shred of hope of redemption.

So, why do we feel superior to one another?
Why do we feel we have the right to look down our noses at others?
Shouldn't we do as Jesus did and look at every other person eye-level?
Shouldn't we stoop or reach or adjust ourselves to meeting people where they are?

"Be of the same mind one toward another.
Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate.
Be not wise in your own conceits."
Romans 12:16

"For every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God,
that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins:
Who can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way;
for that he himself also is compassed with infirmity."
Hebrews 5:1,2
(Emphasis added)

Have you ever been around a "holier than thou" type person?
Chances are, if you have been in religious circles for very long, you have.
These are the kind described in Isaiah 65:5,
"Which say, Stand by thyself, come not near to me;
for I am holier than thou."

These "holier than thou" types always leave you feeling "less than"....
like you, no matter what you do or how many hoops you jump through, 
will never be good enough.
They spiritually, and sometimes physically, look down their nose at everyone else...
refusing to stoop or reach, regardless.
They claim to be holy and Christlike, but they act everything but.

"Some people are so heavenly minded that they are no earthly good."
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

If video doesn't load, click here.

Pride makes us act this way.
If we would be disciples of the Master,
if we would follow His example,
we will have to let go of our prideful ways.
We will have to be willing to maintain eye level at all times with every person we meet.
How do we know what another person is going through?
How could we ever imagine how it feels to walk through life in their shoes?
How could we ever hope to gauge the spiritual level of another?
How can we possibly perceive the level of light and understanding of someone else?
It could be that, in all of our self-pride, the person we so look down upon is actually worlds closer to God than we are!
None of us are on a spiritual pedestal, and if we perceive ourselves to be, we are sadly mistaken.

If video doesn't load, click here.

So often, we judge by outward appearances.
Too frequently, we are spiritually prejudice.
We base our assumptions on the "labels" others wear,
their adherence or lack of adhering to our "standards" and opinions,
and their denominational persuasion.

The only holiness or righteousness ANY of us can claim is through the precious, shed blood of Jesus Christ and having that blood applied to our hearts.

He took our place.
He stood where we should have stood.
He did everything necessary to lower Himself to the point of being able to look every one of us square in the eye.
It should have been me...and you...taking the punishment for our own sins.
As I mentioned above, He did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth.  (I Peter 2:22)
He not only came down from the height of Heaven to be one of us,
He took our beating and paid for our sin.
He deserved the best.
He chose the worst....
to prove that every, single one of us has value.
Every, single one of us is worth saving.
He wants every, single one of us with Him in Heaven one day.
He excluded no one from His amazing offer of salvation.
He said, "...him that cometh to Me, I will in no wise cast out."  John 6:37

We have all felt the sting of being judged and looked down upon by others.
Rejection by self-described "holy" people paves the road to despair and hopelessness.
Why would we ever want to inflict that ugliness and pain on another?
It never ceases to amaze me how unlike Christ His followers often behave.
The deepest hurts seem to come from the very ones who profess to most closely mimic Him.
It must break His heart to see and hear it all.

Let's carefully and entirely read Philippians 2:5-8...
and really try to absorb this truth...
"In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus;
Who, being in very nature GOD, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His Own advantage; rather, He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself,  and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross."

Sometimes, we won't humble ourselves at all...not even enough to speak to our own brothers and sisters in Christ, simply because they are different from us.
Jesus humbled Himself to not only speak to us, but to become eye level with us...
to become one of us.

When I think about sitting on the floor with Zach, I can picture our Savior with the children He encountered while here on earth.
When parents brought their little ones to Him, and His disciples tried to send them away as unnecessary annoyances, Jesus rose up in their defense and said,
"Let the little children come to Me, and do not hinder them, 
for the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these."
Luke 18:16

Jesus met everyone on their level....even little children.

Children and adults,
royalty and outcasts,
clean and unclean,
healthy and diseased,
religious and sinners,
moral and vile,
desirable and deplorable....
Jesus loved them all.
I just have to stop and wonder,
what would our world be like if we did the same?

What if we reached our hands in fellowship to every blood-washed one?
What if we tore down denominational walls and allowed the love of Jesus to flow freely through us to each other?
What if we stopped hating others and instead descended from our spiritual high horses,
and actually looked them in the eye, while loving them and listening to their problems?
What if we went a step farther and did our best to meet their needs?
What if we stopped making them feel hopeless by our sanctimonious airs,
and admitted our true position of being every bit of in need of a Savior as everyone else?
What if each one of us became an advocate for one underprivileged child?
What if we stopped wasting time judging one another and sizing each other up
and started focusing on the real problems like starving children and the neglected elderly instead?
What if we stopped pretending there weren't homeless people in our cities
and, regardless of their reasons for being where they are, started reaching out to them?
What if we faced the cold, hard reality of the fact Floyd reminds us of each time
we visit his blog, There Go I?

Isn't it true?
Instead of looking upon others with scorn, what if we acknowledged the truth of
"There, but for the grace of God, go I."
John Bradford

None of us, no matter how high our opinions of ourselves, 
are exempt from walking in anyone else's shoes, but for the amazing grace of God.

It has become such a catch phrase and so often quoted that I wonder if we have become desensitized to the profound depths of its meaning,
but I often truly wonder, if He were here now, in the flesh,
what would Jesus do?

How would He handle current situations?
Wouldn't He handle them the way He handled them while He was here?
He presented a clear picture to us of the way we are to treat one another.
Through example, He showed that He wants us to love one another
and to regard one another on an even eye all times.

He even took it a step farther, stooping low, putting Himself below eye level,
to wash His disciples' feet.
Nothing else could have more powerfully proven His point.

By His own actions, He showed us what to do, and He ended the lesson with these words,
"I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you."
John 13:15

Now, shouldn't you and I go and do the same?

"Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory;
but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than themselves.
Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others."
Philippians 2:3,4

"Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love;
in honor preferring one another."
Romans 12:10

Update on Sandi
So many of you have written and asked about my sister, Sandi.
I am humbled by the outpouring of love and concern on her behalf.
She had some very rocky times, for a few days following her surgery,
and at one point was not doing very well at all.
But, God has answered your many prayers, and she is doing so much better!
She has even been able to return to work.
She has another procedure on April 15th, and again, we would so appreciate your prayers for her.
A big thank you to each person who prayed and helped to support us during this time.

Finger Update

I have also been deeply touched by so many of you writing to ask about my finger.
(To understand what I am referring to, please read Finger Post #1 and Finger Post #2.)
I am happy and so grateful to say that the wound is finally all the way closed.
It has been a very long, drawn-out healing process, and I have a very odd-looking,
raised-up, sort of "bubble-type" scar on the part that was most deeply penetrated.
I have learned that the deepest wounds leave the ugliest scars.
God continues to use this trial as a means of giving me a visual lesson on the many stages of healing.
At one point, my doctor thought a piece of metal was still stuck in there,
because of the odd way the scar protrudes over the bone.
I cannot begin to tell you how much I panicked when she told me they may have to re-open the wound and dig out the metal, should they find any in there, as this would have put us
back to "healing stage one".
Praise God, it turned out that there is NO metal in my finger!
There is just a weird-looking, raised-up section of bone that may or may not ever return to normal.
Cosmetic appearance is the least of my concern, and I can only praise God for clearing up the cellulitis and allowing healing to advance to this stage.
I look to Him for the completion of the healing process.
He is SO faithful!
Thank you ever so much for your prayers.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

PRAISE REPORT & UPDATE on Sandi, Baby Obed, The Brown Family, Lauren Hill, & Michael Lake

"Again I say unto you, 
That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, 
it shall be done of them of My Father which is in Heaven."
Matthew 18:19

Update on Sandi

I want to send up a HUGE thanksgiving to our Heavenly Father Who is still 
in the prayer-hearing and prayer-answering business!
My sister, Sandi, came through her surgery VERY WELL today, praise God forevermore!
We could not be more thankful!
I just spoke with her a few minutes ago, and there is one issue that is causing some concern.
We are trusting God that it will not be permanent or serious,
and we would surely appreciate your continued prayers for her.
She will be seen by her doctor again in the morning for assessment.
There is also another procedure that will need to be done in about a week,
and we are believing God for a complete victory on her behalf.

I cannot begin to thank all of you for the outpouring of love, support, and prayers.
I am so humbled and amazed to know how many of you care so deeply and are willing to pick up yet one more burden and help carry it, even as your own loads are so heavy.
That really, really touches me...deep inside.

Through this, I have, once again, been made to realize how wonderful and caring
is our community of Christian bloggers and intercessory prayer warriors.
What a dear comfort and blessing to know that you are out there...and right there when you are needed and called upon to pray.

How I praise God for each and every one of you!
Your emails and your comments on the blog surely let us know that we are not alone in our battles.

Update on Baby Obed

This is from his Daddy, Travis, from earlier today (3/11).

"Obed had an appointment 2 weeks ago.  
The cardiologist had all of the tests, images, etc redone in preparation for surgery.  
She submitted the information to the surgeon,
 and they had a conference yesterday with all the doctors who are/will be involved.    
We should hear from the surgeon’s office soon to schedule an appointment.  
At that appointment the surgery date should be determined. 
Thank you all!"

Isn't he a cutie?
Oh, those eyes!
I declare, he gets cuter every time I see a new picture of him.  :)
Even though his surgery appears to be imminent,
I am still holding out faith and hope for a Divine-intervention miracle.
However, if it proves to be God's will for the operation to take place, we are believing that He will grant wisdom and understanding to his team of doctors, 
and that He will allow all to go well and be a complete success.

Update on Max & Makeya Brown

I was able to talk to their grandmother, Shiela, the other night by phone,
and she told me they are doing great!
They seem to be adjusting to their new "normal", and just the other day, 
they were blessed with brand-new wheelchairs.

I still long to hear that they no longer need the wheelchairs and are able to walk again on their own.
I know it is a lot to ask, but we serve a great, big God, Who can do
"exceeding abundantly above all we can ask or think..." Ephesians 3:20

Bless their little hearts, they both look so happy in these pictures, don't they?
I can't believe how much they have grown.
So precious!
God has brought them a long, long way from where they were last August.
There is nothing too hard for Him or beyond the scope of His power and ability.
Please continue to pray for Max and Makeya and also for strength and peace for their Mama and Daddy, Shyla and Steven, their grandma, Shiela, and all others who are involved in their care.
Their load is heavy, and life for them is very different than it used to be,
but God is proving Himself faithful to them through their trials.

To follow the Brown's story and read previous posts, click the links below.

and 24TH UPDATE,
and 25TH UPDATE,
and 26TH UPDATE.

Update on Lauren Hill

I hadn't heard any recent updates concerning Lauren Hill, the teenager who has an inoperable brain tumor, until tonight when a dear friend called me and told me about this recent update.
You can also read more on the Facebook page, by clicking here.

I am amazed at how God has spared Lauren's life long after the doctors' predictions.
Wouldn't it be an even more amazing miracle to hear that she is healed?
I am still not giving up hope.
"Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today, and forever."
Hebrews 13:8

Please continue to keep Lauren and her family in your prayers.

To read past posts about Lauren, click on the links below.
Update on Michael Lake

In January, I had received and posted a prayer request for a 64 year old gentleman who had been hit by a vehicle while riding his bicycle in California.
For a period of time following his accident, it seemed that Michael was improving and things were headed in the right direction.
Sadly, after a visit with his family one evening, Michael quietly passed away.
Please pray for peace and comfort for the ones who mourn his loss,
including his sister, Cathy, who is very ill and in a nursing home.

Also, my little family and I are still fighting some very hard battles and would so appreciate your continued prayers.  I know many of you are praying for us on a regular basis, and I just have no words to express how much that means.  We are grateful to you with unending gratitude!

God is working and showing His power, and we continue to rely upon His strength and His Word.
Oh, those precious promises!

"Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises..."
2 Peter 1:4

How they sustain us in our tribulations!

One of the verses that resonates most with me right now is Psalm 57:1.

"Be merciful unto me, O God, be merciful unto me:
for my soul trusteth in Thee:
yea, in the shadow of Thy wings will I make my refuge,
until these calamities be overpast."

The Psalmist David wrote these words when he was hiding out from King Saul in the cave.
The heaviness upon his heart was intense, but he knew where to flee in his distress.
Praise God, so do we!
We turn not to human sources of help, for even though they are deeply appreciated, well-meaning and hope-filled, they are not capable of moving the mountains in our path.

"I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.
My help cometh from the Lord, 
Which made Heaven and earth."
Psalm 121:1,2

So often through these trials, I have turned my tear-filled eyes Heavenward and prayed, 
as Joshua prayed,
"...neither know we what to do, but our eyes are upon Thee."
2 Chronicles 20:12

God is the Rock of all ages.
He is the One upon Whom we depend.
He will see us through.

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Saturday, March 7, 2015

A Special Prayer Request

"Call unto Me, and I will answer thee,
and shew thee great and mighty things,
which thou knowest not."
Jeremiah 33:33

I am writing to ask for earnest prayers on behalf of my sister, Sandi.
She is facing a surgical procedure next Wednesday, March 11th,
that is to be very complicated and complex.
The surgeon has told her that there is potential for very serious complications
both during the operation and after it is over.

I am calling on you, prayer warriors, to join us in prayer for Sandi.
Please pray for the dear Lord to guide the surgeon's hands,
to allow the operation to be completed successfully with NO complications and no negative repercussions or aftermath, and to grant a full, speedy, and smooth recovery.

I appreciate your prayers more than I could ever put into words.

I have met so many wonderful, precious, dear, praying friends through this blog...
many of you would more than likely never have been brought across my path,
had we not made connections online through this amazing community.

I think of so many of you so often, 
and many times, I lift your names in prayer.
I have often thought how great it would be if we could all meet together in one place
and just enjoy one another face to face and fellowship and worship side by side.
Then, an amazing truth occurs to me.
One day, by God's amazing grace, we will do that very thing!
We will gather one place, in one accord.
We will meet the One Who made all of this possible...
the One Who is the Connector of us all.
He will call all of His children home to dwell with Him forever.
We will bow at His feet together, and we will praise Him for seeing us through
this uneven, uncertain, winding, sometimes tumultuous journey called life.  

So many times, I am discouraged and fighting battles, and one of you will drop by with a sweet word of encouragement, or I will open email and find a letter from you.
I cherish every one of your words.
I treasure your feedback.
I have taken deep comfort in your kindnesses.
I will never forget the times you have reached out and let me know that I am not alone.

I love how the Body of Christ works.
Regardless of our individual opinions, the miles between, 
or the differences and walls that try to divide us,
we are one in Him.
He is the Savior of us all...
the Keeper of our souls....
the Unifying Agent of our hearts.

How I love Him and thank Him for each one of you!
Your friendship, loyalty, support, and prayers are such a dear blessing.

Thank you in advance for lifting my dear sister to our Father.
We are looking for God to bring her through with a victorious, healthy outcome.
We so appreciate you standing beside us in faith and prayer.

If you have any requests for prayer that you would like us to pray with you about,
please feel free to contact us through our online contact form here.

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God bless each one of you and meet your every need.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Seeing Eye-to-Eye For The First Time

"I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth."
3 John 1:4

Does it make anyone else sad to watch how quickly their children are growing up?

I'll be the first to admit it.
I am not having an easy time seeing the boy we wished and longed and yearned for...
for so many years, grow up so fast.
My, where do the years go?
How do they fly by so quickly?
It seems like last month that Kevin and I were preparing a nursery,
and I was watching Kevin put our brand-new crib together.
We were so full of hope and so anxious for Zach to arrive.
We talked about him non-stop and panicked each time I had a twinge of anything that remotely resembled a pain near my belly.
After so many years of infertility struggles, waiting, praying, longing....
it was so hard to believe that he was really on his way.
Our very own baby.
Never in the history of time could there have been two hearts any more full of love and happiness.
I'll never forget when they first laid him in my arms.
That feeling.

The years have come and gone...way faster than I would have liked them to.
Each day has been a Divine miracle.
I have never lost that original sense of wonder...
that initial feeling of peace....
that brand-new overwhelming ocean of love.
Every time I look at Zachary, I feel the deepest sense of gratitude to God for allowing me to be his Mama.
Being handed the gift of filling this role day-by-day is, hands-down,
the sweetest and most precious endeavor that has ever been committed to my trust.

Sometimes, it hits me just how fast he is really growing up
and how he is so much more like a man than a boy these days.

Where is this little boy?
So dependent...reaching up to me as I cooked supper,
sitting on the counter helping me bake goodies,
crawling into my lap for a story and to be rocked to sleep?

Through the years, there has been a certain moment I have been dreading.
Don't get me wrong.
I wanted it to happen.
Because, of course, I want Zachary to grow and prosper and thrive.
I wouldn't hold him back for anything in this world,
and I couldn't be more grateful for God's blessings upon him.
I dreaded this one particular moment because I knew in my heart I would fall to pieces
when it happened, and I knew the reality would hit me hard.

This monumental moment....this realization I've been dreading
 happened one day while we were standing in Burger King waiting for our food.
I turned around to say something to him, and there it was...the moment.

I stood there.
Words paused.
Heart aching.
Too sad to speak.

There I was...staring at our sweet boy....
Not me towering over him,
but he, my equal.
Us, we two, on parallel footing.

He had caught up with me.
We were the same, exact height.

Our sweet boy, for the first time, was as tall as his Mama.
I found myself looking him square in the eye.
No bending down.
No dropping my eyes in order to look into his.
He was standing face to face with me, and I was looking straight ahead.

I teared up, just like I knew I would.
Zach was quick to notice.

"What's wrong, Mama?"

When I finally found my voice and was able to answer him, I said,
"Zach, you are as tall as me!
We are eye level."

"Oh, Mama!" he teased.
"I'm just growing up."

"I know", was all I could muster.

He will only comprehend this feeling one day when he has a little one of his own,
and the reality of swiftly passing years washes over him like a tidal wave.
Then he will know.
Then he will remember.
Then he will understand.

I remember how Dad used to cry....a lot...when I was growing up.
He hated to see me grow up so fast.
It broke his heart when he walked me down the aisle and knew I would never live at home with him and Mom again.
It used to make me sad to see him cry like that and to feel that I was the cause of his tears.
Just as I couldn't really understand and relate until I was blessed with a child of my own,
Zachary won't fully comprehend until he is walking in my shoes.

Seeing straight-on eye-to-eye with Zachary didn't last long.
Now, he is taller than me.
Now he has to slightly look down to look me in the eye..
I declare, sometimes, I think this boy grows overnight.
He comes out in the morning, and I will just look at him, and it is so obvious.

I miss the days when he would come to me in the night and tell me he was afraid of the dark.
I remember how I would get up and put one hand on each of his little shoulders,
so much lower than me,
and follow close behind him as we walked down the hall.
He was okay as long as he could feel my touch.
I knew when it was happening how very precious those moments were.
I was painfully aware that they would not last forever.
I knew he would get past needing me in that way.
I miss him being little enough to hold.
I long for the moments when his problems could all be solved with just a kiss and a hug.
There is no going back.

When we first moved into this house, he was just shy of his very first birthday.
I walk through these rooms now, and I remember.
All of those sweet, baby days.
He cut his teeth here.
Learned to walk.
Laughed 'til he could hardly catch his breath as his Daddy ran with him up and down this hall....
begged and pleaded, "Daddy, just one more time", until Kevin was too exhausted to move.
He started his homeschooling journey here...inside these walls.
Learned to read.
We lived here when he graduated Kindergarten with his little homeschool group.
We have journeyed from Kindergarten to 8th grade here.
My prayer is that we will continue this journey to the end of 12th grade.
Zach spent hour after hour with his Nana here...
reading, listening to stories, playing board games,
dragging her to his room to watch Veggie Tales and Winnie the Pooh.
He grieved here 'til I thought his little heart would break when the Lord called his Nana home.
This is where we lived when he gave his heart to Jesus...
where we have prayed together and worked through issues together and learned more about Him together....where we've laughed until we've cried and cried until we've laughed.

Today, he and his Daddy, and me, sat at our kitchen table eating lunch.
As we ate, we played a game we often enjoy together.
Zach spoke.
"We've made a lot of memories at this table, haven't we?"

This boy is so reflective...such a deep.
I continually marvel at the depth of wisdom God has instilled in him.

As the years pass, he is becoming more and more of a friend...
to Kevin and to me.
He loves to come out of his room at night, as I try to sleep in the living room recliner,
and talk to me.
He opens his heart.
Could I ever put into words how much I treasure these moments?
How much it means to me that he trusts me with his heart...his inmost secrets?

I tell him to tell me anything...everything...always.
I want to know what he is thinking....
whatever it is....
good, bad, surprising, or not so much...
all of it.
I do not judge.
I want honesty from him...forever.
I don't want to miss a thing that he chooses to share with me.

I can't believe he has now surpassed my height.
And I can't believe the close proximity of our thoughts as he grows.
We are steadily reaching the point of seeing eye-to-eye in more and more ways.

Soon, God willing, Zach will be as tall as his Daddy.
It seems like yesterday, he barely came to Kevin's waist.

As he grows in stature, he grows in understanding.
He has always been mature for his age...I think that comes with the territory of being an only child.
I suppose we have always spoken to him, as if he were an adult.
But, it amazes me how much he relates to Kevin and me on so many levels.

I used to be so frustrated at God for allowing us to wait so long for a child of our own.
I don't feel that way anymore.
Because, I am so thankful it is now.
I am grateful from the depths of my soul that Zachary is still young...
and at home with us.

If God had sent him when we thought He should have, 
he would already be grown and on his own.

So, I cherish these moments....even though I would give so much to go back to when he was little.
I miss all of that.
All of it.
But, how grateful I am that it happened.
I wouldn't trade those memories for anything you could offer and my heart ever goes out to those with barren wombs who are still waiting, longing, and yearning for a child of their own.

No matter how much I miss it, we cannot go back.
This is a new season...of motherhood, parenting, life.
As much as I miss the former season, I am powerless to return to it.
It is now, and I must embrace this beauty.
This "new".

I watched him last night when he didn't know I was looking.
His heart was so heavy.
There are things going on in our lives that are weighing us down.
I hate for him to feel it, too.
There are just certain things that cannot be kept from him.
I long to be able to lift it off his shoulders.
I want to protect him from every conceivable hurt.
I know that is far from realistic, but it doesn't stop me from wanting to.

As I watched him, I broke down and cried.
Seeing him struggle...hearing him question...knowing he's hurting...
it tears at the mother-heart in me.
It makes me want to fix things.
To rise in his defense.
Gone are the problems that are fixable by mere kisses and hugs.

I sat there and cried, and I prayed...
to the One Who is able to do exceeding abundantly above all we can ask or think.

As Zachary grows and matures, I am learning more and more about the love of God, our Father.
Because as we pity our children, so the Lord pities us.  (Psalm 103:13)
I am understanding more and more clearly how His great heart must ache when we hurt.
(Hebrews 4:15)

As I stand by and long to make Zachary's problems go away,
I realize that even though I can't always do that anymore,
he is coming to more and more fully trust the One Who can solve every one of them.
As his relationship with Kevin and me deepens, so does his relationship with the Father of us all.

I sometimes feel remorse over situations that have hurt him deeply.
I wonder why God allowed certain things to come across his path.
I wonder if we should have done things differently and not subjected him to certain elements that have seemed to inflict so much damage and pain into his young life.
But, as I am tempted to second-guess life decisions we have made,
I am reminded of something Dad used to often tell me as I walked through my own hurts while growing up.

"Christian character is forged in the crucible of pain", he would say.

Had things been done differently, Zach may not have reached the spiritual depths he has attained.
I have to remind myself that "All things work together for good to them that love God..." 
Romans 8:28.
One thing I know for certain....this boy loves God.
With all his heart and soul.
And that is one thing, God willing, 
that we will always see eye-to-eye.