Saturday, November 28, 2015

We Are More Than Survivors


I am having one of those Mandisa, pump your fist in the air, this is not going to bring you down, kind of moments.  I know that I am not the only one going through something hard so I figured this was worth processing out loud and sharing for anyone else who needs a shot of "you got this girlfriend."

So here you go:

I am tired of just surviving this battle.  My mindset in this journey has been to just get through this hospitalization and then get back to my life.  Simply put, I have been merely surviving.  I am tired of just surviving and I believe that God wants more for us in the midst of our trials.

He doesn't allow us to walk through the unthinkable just to wear us down.  No!  He wants us to come out victorious, stronger because of it, with greater perspective, and closer to Him. That kind of swag (loot, booty, whatever you want to call it) from battle requires thriving in the midst of our trial, not just surviving it.

I have a few observations on thriving I want share with you as you too choose to more than survive:

1. We have 3 options during a trial.  We can give up, we can survive, or we can thrive.  
I am going to focus on surviving and thriving as giving up is not even an option for me.

2. The transition from wanting to give up to thriving is a process.
There is a time in any trial when we all just survive and that is completely normal and okay. This is where the Bible speaks to God holding you and carrying you.  It's real and it's okay to be in survival mode.  There comes a time, though, when there might be more and that is where thriving begins.

3. Thriving is easy to see as an end goal but it is more than that.  Thriving can happen in the moment.
I started thinking last night of ways we can thrive this week and I decided one way was to change my mindset from living x-ray to x-ray and instead to seize each day we are here.  I want to make every day an adventure to live for her.  You will probably see piƱata party pictures some time soon, maybe a visit from a princess or Santa, and anything else crazy I can come up with to help Maggie thrive through this and not just endure it.  If you have any ideas for how we can thrive through this, please share.

4. Surviving lets your circumstances define what your are capable of.  Thriving let's your dreams and God define your capabilities. 
If you have looked at the news or your Facebook feed at all this week, you have probably stumbled upon the story about a the New York Times Reporter, Serge Kovaleski, who challenged the claims of presidential candidate, Donald Trump.  Let's move away from the main story and talk just about Serge for a moment.  This is Serge.

Serge has Arthrogryposis, the same diagnosis as my daughter Ruthie. When I first saw this picture, my immediate thought was "Holy cow this man is a WRITER!"  As I sit here and type on my computer, I can't imagine all that Serge has had to overcome to be able to do what he is passionate about.  I have no doubt that someone along the way probably encouraged him to pursue a career that did not require the use of his hands.  That choice would have been just surviving arthrogryposis.  Serge has thrived in the midst of his battle and might just unseat one of the most popular presidential candidates of our lifetime all while raising awareness for his diagnosis.  Go Serge. Way to thrive. 

5. Thriving is a picture of redemption.  
In surviving we experience God as comforter and that is a good thing.  However, in thriving, we get to experience Him as redeemer and that rocks.  

Romans 8:37  Yet in all these things, we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.

6. In Surviving you are defined by your experience.  In Thriving you are defined by your response.    
When the chapter of this journey ends, I don't want to last line to be, "and they survived."  I want it to be a story of overcoming, a story of personal growth, a story of good ministry, and a story of thriving. 

I don't know about you, but if my hard time is going to define me, I want to be defined by my response of thriving.  I want to be better for it.  I hope this encourages you to seek the same. 


Saturday, November 14, 2015

Parenting My To-Do List

God uses crazy times, like the one I am in now, to teach me hard lessons.  He usually lets me observe something around me, experience it personally, and then He comes in hard with the one liner that drives home the truth.  If I really need to see it, there is also a closer of some sort that seals the deal.  This was one of those weeks.

I am sharing in this in hopes of encouraging those of you who feel similar pressures as I do and find yourself caught up in the demands of the world at the expense of those who matter most. Finding balance is hard and we need to stick together.

So here is how this lesson went.

The Observation -
If you haven't heard, we hit a crisis point a week ago.  Our 3 year old daughter, who we thought was recovering beautifully from heart surgery, ended up having a massive pleural effusion and was admitted to the hospital for what could be weeks.  I seriously panicked.  Our schedules are already completely full.  We did not have time for this.  As a response to my panic,  I started in with what my friend Debbie calls the motion pictures in our head.

The Experience -
Motion pictures are those perfect scenarios we create in our minds that are not reality and only leave us frustrated in the end.  In my motion picture I was picturing who my mom would be in this moment if she were still living and could help me out.  I needed her to be the kind of mom who would drop everything and come to my aid.  I have friends with moms like that and I have always jealously observed that type of relationship.

My Academy-Award-quality motion picture played out like this - I would pick up the phone and call my mom with the report of what had happened.  She would say something like, "Give me 30 minutes to clear my calendar and I will get on the road."  She would then arrive to my house with frozen casseroles in hand (like Paige's mom).  Then, while she was meeting the needs of my children, she would also find the time to tend to my flower beds and decorate my house for Christmas (like Rebecca's mom).   She would impart great wisdom to our souls and leave us all spiritually healthier for having been in her presence (like Keith's mom).  I would be at the hospital in perfect peace knowing that my mom, who cherished her family above all else (and had crazy mom skills), had everything covered.  It was a real Hallmark Channel original folks.

This time my longing (motion picture) turned to anger that she wasn't there and that role had been robbed from me.  I told God what kind of mom I would be when my kids were older and needed me.  I would be this mom I had observed who would again drop everything and serve their children in a moment's notice.

The Lesson -
Then with me crying while driving on 610, God went ahead and hit me with the truth- "How can you expect to be that kind of mom when your kids are older if you aren't a drop everything mom when they need you now?"

OUCH! (and a few other expletives)

It hurt, but it was true.  I was responding to this crisis while trying to still figure out how I could fit everything else in.  I was parenting my child, at their point of greatest need, from the demands of my to do list.

So I went home and sincerely prayed that God would show me how I was supposed to respond.  In typical spiritual lesson fashion, His timing was perfect and He was about to bring in the closer.

I started Thursday with a 7 am report to my sports medicine job which would immediately be followed by a pediatric home health patient, a newborn shoot, piano lessons, AWANA at church, a soccer game, a late night switch at the hospital with my husband, and 2 more hours of editing beside a sleeping baby.  Forget the fact that we are out of groceries and my big 3 had emotional needs that weren't being met.  We had places to be and things to check off people!

The Closer - 
As I was wrapping up item #1 on the list, my supervisor called me in and said, "I wanted to tell you that we are having some scheduling problems so we have decided that everyone with your status will now be required to work one Saturday a month."

Yep, in an instant it was clear that the job I loved, with coworkers I cherished, in a community I felt called to serve, was adding an item to my to do list in a non-negotiable time slot.  Two weeks earlier I probably would have tried to figure out how to make it work, which is no doubt why God allowed it to be brought to my attention in that moment, as the closer.

I submitted my resignation to Methodist St. John on Friday.   I had no choice if I was going to stop parenting from my to do list.  I am still sad about it but also really hopeful for what God has next and how He is going to use this to bring about His (not my) purposes in my family.

I am still figuring this out and God is still teaching me, but I have a few observations from my journey thus far that I would love to share with the 10% of you who share in this struggle. :)

We can call this - Things to Consider When Trying To Avoid Parenting From Your To Do List 101:

1. To-do listing your kids is first a state of mind that then becomes a state of function.
There is no 3 step solution.  It requires a paradigm shift to break the pattern.

2.  Do you find your significance in your busyness?
This is a generational curse that I have observed in my family.  We feel like the busier we are, the more significant we are.   So we take on more and more until we are running ragged.  I don't have any memories of my mom relationally but I sure can recite her resume to you for the number of times it was recited to me to describe her.   That kind of measuring stick was passed down to me as a means of self-evaluation.  I know, that's messed up.   #WorkingOnThat

3.  Do you have consistent moments to cherish the little things?

4.  Love and hurry cannot coexist (John Ortberg- The Life You've Always Wanted ch. 5).

5.  Changing this pattern may require giving up things that you enjoy in exchange for the priority of your family.

6.  Ask yourself, does my to-do list own me?

7.  Changing this pattern may require financial sacrifice.

8.  Are your priorities motivated by your desire to please your peers?
Had I said yes to working Saturday mornings, I would have placed my desire to please my supervisor over the needs of my family.  That's what we call "no bueno."

9. When you step out in faith to align your priorities with God's calling, He always takes care of you.
We have seen this with our adoptions, family moves, and many other moments where we made a decision that terrified us but we knew was right.  It's the truth folks and as much as we would like confirmation on the front end, that first step of faith is critical.




Monday, November 9, 2015

It's All About the Inside



This position feels so familiar.  Two months ago Trent and I questioned our decision to send Maggie into surgery for her Fontan heart repair.  She appeared really healthy and we feared the consequences of our choice.  God showed us, in several ways, that we were making the right decision because even if she looked good on the outside, she was a wreck on the inside.

I was just sitting in the TCH cafeteria remembering those days as we once again prepare to send her back to surgery.  I really can't put into words how good she looks so you should just see this video that Trent captured last night of her running down the hallways of the hospital.


video

The problem is that once again she is a disaster on the inside.  Her left lung is full of fluid and it is  getting worse.  Because it has been coming on slowly, she has adapted to the demand. Her surgeon says that any day now it will become emergent and that is not the surgery that we want to be going into.  

As I was reflecting on 2 months ago and then today, I felt like God said to me, "That is exactly how you were before you found me- looking good on the outside, running around without a care in the world, but a complete mess on the inside and in danger of what might come next without immediate intervention."  

Does that sound familiar? Maggie's situation right now is the perfect illustration of how we all look apart from Christ.  How many people can you think of who have slowly adapted to the consequences of what is taking place inside of them such that they still look like they have it together when in reality, their situation is catastrophic with out a surgeon, The Surgeon? 

So as I sit next to my seemingly healthy, but desperately sick, child and wait for her surgeons to bring her to a right place, I am thankful for God's healing power in my own life and trust that He has hers too.

   


Sunday, November 1, 2015

Not "To Be" but "That They Might Know"

My car stays on Christian radio.  While I may not love every song, God seems to speak to me consistently through that medium and so I keep it there.  One such lesson came last week when I was driving home from a photo shoot.  The DJ came on and told a story about a lady who had been recently widowed and asked for listeners to join in prayer for her.  Her prayer sounded exactly like what most of us would have prayed in that moment.  It was in the line of "Lord, please be her comforter and her husband" that it hit me.  I am asking for something that He already is!  It is in His character.  That doesn't come and go according to our circumstances.  It always is and He already is!  So, why do we pray that way when He has already defined Himself as such?

I thought of the countless times when I have asked God to be my provider, someone's comforter, or my source of peace.  I never questioned my semantics until that moment when it occurred to me that He already is.  The disconnect is not with God's identity in the situation, it is with my surrender to it.

I believe our best response to this is to pray differently.  I am going to stop praying that God would be a certain role in someone's life and start praying that they would experience Him as that role.

Personally I am going to ask 3 questions of myself (and pray these for others) when I am in need of God's presence in my situation:

1. Am I responding in Faith?  Do I really believe that God is my ________ and what does the evidence of that belief look like?

2. Am I responding in Function?  Does my obedience to God's word in this situation reflect my faith that God is my _________?  Am I doing what His word commands concerning my situation? Am I seeking Him in this role according to his Word?

3. Am I responding in Focus? Do I have my eyes fixed on Him instead of my circumstance?

To put it simply, the bridge between my circumstances and desired outcome is not God showing up in a certain role.  He is already fully there.  The bridge is my correct response to His presence.

So I will continue to pray according to God's character but I will know longer pray that he would "be."  I will now pray that they would "know."