blessing or curse?

This is an old Portuguese story:

There was an old man who lived in a tiny village.  Although poor, he was envied by all for the beautiful white horse he owned.  Even the king coveted his treasure.  People offered fabulous prices for the steed, but the old man always refused. “This horse is not a horse to me,”  he would tell them.  “It is a person.  How could you sell a person?  He is a friend, not a possession.  How could you sell a friend?”  The man was poor and the temptation was great, but he never sold the horse.

One morning the horse was missing from the stable.  All the village came to see the old man.  “You old fool,”  they scoffed.  “We told you that someone would steal your horse.  You are so poor, how could you ever hope to protect such a valuable animal?  It would have been better to have sold him.  You could have gotten whatever price you wanted.  Now the horse is gone, and you’ve been cursed with misfortune.”

The old man responded, “Don’t speak too quickly.  Say only that the horse is not in the stable.  That is all we know, the rest is judgement.  How can you know if I’ve been cursed or not?  How can you judge?”

The people contested, “Don’t make us out to be fools!  We may not be philosophers, but great philosophy is not needed to know what’s happened here.  The fact that your horse is gone is a curse..”

The old man spoke again,  “All I know is that the stable is empty and the horse is gone.  The rest I don’t know.  Whether it be a curse or a blessing, I can’t say.  All we see is a fragment.  Who can say what will come next?” 

The people of the village laughed.  They had always thought the man to be a fool; if he wasn’t, he would have sold the horse and lived off the money.  Instead, he was a poor woodcutter, living hand to mouth in the misery of poverty.  Now he had proven that he was, indeed, a fool.

After fifteen days, the horse returned.  He hadn’t been stolen, he had run away into the forest.  Not only had he returned, he had brought a dozen wild horses with him.  Once again the village people gathered around the woodcutter and spoke, “Old man, you were right and we were wrong.  What we thought was a curse was a blessing.  Please forgive us.”

The man responded, “Again, you go too far.  Say only that the horse is back.  State only that a dozen horses returned with him, but don’t judge.  How do you know if this is a blessing or not?  You see only a fragment.  Unless you know the whole story, how can you judge?  If you read only one page, how can you judge the whole book?  All you have is a fragment!  Don’t say that this is a blessing.  No one knows.  I am content with what I know.  I am not perturbed by what I don’t know.

“Maybe the old man is right,”  they said.  But down deep they believed he was wrong.  They knew it was a blessing.  Twelve wild horses had returned with one horse.  With a little bit of work, the animals could be broken and trained and sold for much money.

The old man had a son, and only son.  The young man began to break the wild horses.  After a few days, he fell from one of the horses and broke both legs.  Once again the villagers gathered around the old man and cast their judgements.

“You were right,”  they said.  “The dozen horses were not a blessing.  They were a curse.  Your only son has broken his legs, and now in your old age you have no one to help you.  Now you are poorer than ever.”

The old man spoke again, “Don’t go so far in your judgements.  Say only that my son broke his legs.  Who knows if it is a blessing or a curse?  No one knows.  We only have a fragment of the whole.”

A few weeks later the country engaged in war against a neighboring country.  All the young men of the village were required to join the army.  Only the son of the old man was excluded because he was injured.  The enemy was strong and the people feared they would never see their sons again.  Once again, they gathered around the old man, crying and screaming because their sons had been taken.  “You were right, old man,”  they wept.  “God knows you were right.  This proves it.  Your son’s accident was a blessing.  His legs may be broken, but at least he is with you.  Our sons are gone forever.”

The old man spoke again, “Why do you always draw conclusions?  No one knows.  Say only this:  Your sons went to war, and mine did not.  No one is wise enough to know if it is a blessing or a curse.  Only God knows.”

(from Calm My Anxious Heartby Linda Dillow.  Translated from the Portuguese, Max Lucado, In the Eye of the Storm)

I read this story as a part of a Bible study I’m doing, and after I did, I realized how many times I judge whether or not the circumstances in my life are “blessings or curses”.  The economy?  The unknown?  My health?  Miscarriage?  Problems with/in family?  Issues with friends?    I always judge based on my emotional response to what has happened.  And, while I don’t think there is anything inherently wrong with being emotional, to be controlled by them is wrong. 

I need to be happy with what I know.  I know:  God loves me.  My husband loves me.  I have great family.  I have a great church.  I have wonderful friends.  I have a house with heat in the winter and air conditioning in the summer.  I have clothes to wear.  My children are healthy.  And, I could go on and on…

If I look back at circumstances I have thought to be “curses” in my life, I can see where God used the circumstance to work for the good.  That doesn’t mean that they were easy to deal with at the time, but by going through them I have learned to trust more.  Too bad I can’t be better at practicing it ALL the time!  I think my life would be much less stressful if I would only focus on what I know to be true, rather than conjecture.

So… that’s all for today.  I know this is stinkin’ long… but the story just affected me, and I wanted to be able to record it.

feeling insignificant and significant

**  I know that the post may be a bit “controversial”  I hope that if you read it, and disagree with what I am saying, that you will be kind in your objections.  Because I know that not everyone holds to the same beliefs, I do not oppose negative comments, but please respect my beliefs as I respect the fact that not everyone shares them… and keep all comments “clean”.  Thanks! ** 

Tonight at my lifegroup meeting we watched the Louie Giglio video about the awesomeness of God.  Well, actually there are a couple of them, but this was the one about laminin… it’s making the youtube rounds.  I had actually seen that part of the video before on youtube, but tonight I saw the whole thing.  Wow.  I know that there are those who would seek to ridicule or make light of what Giglio talks about, but it is powerful stuff.  I came away from it thinking that I am so, so insignificant in the grand scheme of things, and yet, the God who breathed the stars into existence chooses to make me significant to His plan!  So… wow.  The catch, like I was talking about in my earlier post, is that I have to make myself a part of His plan.  He’s worked me in, but I have to do my part to understand and participate… and that all comes back to spending time with Him.   

So, my “new week’s resolution” (get it… like New Year’s, but new week…yeah, I’m really that clever…) is to make not just “make an effort” but to actually spend time with God every day.  Not gonna be easy, because I know that there will be a gajillion things that pop into my “stream of conciousness” that I think I should do instead… but I’m going to try my hardest to fight them off!

Here’s the video, in case anyone hasn’t seen it.  It’s a little long, but (and this is my opinion) well worth the time. 

And, I’m going to post one of the comments that was made about it on youtube: 

”  I have a comment. The shape of laminin isn’t at all a “proof” of God’s existence or anything, in itself. However, it can be used as a beautiful reminder to Christians of our belief that God has, As Psalms tells us, beautifully made in his image and we can never escape Him because He is in us.” 

So, even if the laminin itself doesn’t amaze you (but I do think that God does things like this to make us think…)  it doesn’t change the fact that just as the laminin holds us together, so God also holds us together.   Happy watching!

post-church musings…

I think I need to begin by being honest with myself. 

Spiritually speaking, this has been a bit of a down week for me.  I have found myself preoccupied with other people’s concerns and business, I have filled my time with mindless activity (who knew solitare could be so all-consuming?), and in general, have been self-centered.  What have I neglected in place of all of these others?  Time with God.  I should learn, and hopefully will learn one day, that when I don’t spend time with God on a frequent (read: daily) basis, my outlook on life and behavior is greatly affected.  As I’m typing this, I’m reminded of a passage in C.S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters.  The elder demon is instructing his young nephew how to prevent his human charge from becoming a Christian. He advises,

     ” Your business is to fix his attention on the stream [or immediate sense experiences].  Teach him to call it ‘real life’ and don’t let him ask what he means my ‘real’.”

I feel like I’ve been experiencing day to day life, but not “real” life like what I experience when I’m walking according to the plans God has for me.  And how am I supposed to know what those plans are?  Spending time with Him.

This all comes up as a result of the sermon I heard this morning.  Our pastor was, at one point, talking about the experience he had had that week based on his spending time with the Lord.  Now, I have had times like that too, when I feel a connection spiritually to God, and feel like I’m in tune with His will.  But when I’m not spending time with him, I am disconnected.  I’m trying to do things the way that I think is best.  I’m trying to give MY advice rather than speak words of grace to people that will build them up (Ephesians 4:29)  So… what’s the result of all of this?  I have not been loving others the way I should (family, friends, etc…), I have felt “out of sorts”, I have expended my efforts in trying to fix myself (rather than giving my burdens to Christ), and have suffered physical consequences for it (fatigue, anxiety, tenseness).

While this is meant to be a personal confession, I know that there may be other people who read it.  So, let me clarify that I am not bashing myself, and I don’t want anyone to get the impression that Christianity is oppressive.  Further from the truth that could not be!  The oppressiveness I have felt is not because I am a Christian, but because I have not been living according to God’s best will for me!  I know that there are people who will say that “they are not Christian, and are not oppressed feeling”.  And, you may think that’s truth.  I’m not sure I would have recognized being oppressed from true freedom until I earnestly made an effort to be in relationship with Jesus.   I think once I realized the lightness of spirit that comes from real relationship, anything but that feels oppressive.  

So, where am I going with all of this?  Nowhere in particular.  I just really felt like that was what was on my heart today, and I’m trying to be honest with myself and others in this blog. 

I’m going to end by putting the words to one of my favorite (current!) songs, because I think it reflects the peace I feel when I’m walking with God.

                                     The More I Seek You

                    The more I seek You, the more I find You

                     The more I find You, the more I love You

          I want to sit at Your feet, drink from the cup in your hand,

             lean back against You and breathe, feel Your heartbeat.

                  This love is so real, it’s more than I can stand,

                     I melt in Your peace, it’s overwhelming me.                             

I take back a little bit of it…

After re-reading and thinking further about my facebook commentary from earlier in the day, I’ve decided that maybe I was being a little harsh/emotional.  Not uncommon for me… I do have the unfortunate habit of acting before thinking, and that entry is evidence of that.  Not that I don’t still feel the same, but I came the to the conclusion that perhaps facebook is the the “evil entity” I made it out to be.  I have been able to reconnect with people that I haven’t seen in YEARS, and it is fun to “green patch” people that I know.   🙂 

The bottom line is that some people may need sites like facebook, if not for social networking purposes, then maybe because it gives them comfort to be able to connect with people on a level they may not have been able to in person.  Who knows… I was certainly not trying to judge anybody’s motives for joining, only state that my experience was a little bit of a let down.  I do still enjoy it… but it’s definitely not what I thought it would be!

So, with that now off of my chest…

I got another update on the little girl in the hospital with MPS type I.  She coded again… stopped breathing, and this time they don’t know why.  For now she is back in the NICU and will be sedated and paralyzed until they figure out what is causing all of her symptoms.  If you want to read more about her story… the title is “sometimes it’s hard to understand”.

facebook… arggghhh

I’m not sure what to think about the whole facebook craze.  I recently joined in an effort to find and reconnect with people from my past.  Not just random people, but people that I had actually been good friends with.  In addition to that, a lot of my current group of acquaintances and friends are also facebookers, so I thought it would be fun… and it has been, to a certain degree. 

What I have found so far that I didn’t foresee is that the people I had hoped to reconnect with have moved on.  Shouldn’t be much of a surprise… but I’m kinda shocked at how much it hurts me.  Not that I think that I would be “best friends” with someone from high school again, but my mindset is that we were friends then, and that should be worth something now.  However, I know that people change over time, and it’s purely unrealistic of me to believe that relationships that were once there would still be there in the same capacity.  Even though my logical mind is telling me that “change happens”, it’s not helping me overcome the disappointment I feel at not getting to have a genuine relationship with people.  That thought then led me to wonder if the relationships that I had in high school or college were genuine or not!  Overanalyzing (which is one of my hobbies) the situation?  Maybe.  But being purely honest with myself I was pretty selfish “back in the day”.  I’m not so sure I would have been capable of true friendship, only because I cared too much for myself, and what others could do for me.  It does sadden me to think that because people remember me the way I was, rather than knowing who I am now, they may be hesitant to even want to get to know me on a deeper level than what facebook provides. 

 I think I’m sounding a little whiney here, and I really don’t want to, but the whole thing confuses me.  Sure, I get to keep up with the bare bones of what’s going on with various people, but do I know them any better because of it?  I tend to think not.  The people that I exchange comments the most with are the people I see more frequently anyways! But, maybe that’s why so many people are into the facebook craze.  It gives you a chance to “connect” without having to ever be open or vulnerable with anyone… it’s a barrier to real relationship.

So, I guess the question to myself is, was I better off without it?  I would hope not.  I think that things happen in my life for a reason, and there’s got to be a reason why, now, at this point, I got it in my head to do this.  Or, am I overanalyzing yet again?  I guess I am going to stick with it… it’s not harming me other than giving me even more to think about… and what’s the harm in thinking… as long as “facebooking” doesn’t take over, I guess it’s all good.

bronx?? really??

Alright, it’s confession time.  I confess to being a little bit of a celebrity news junkie.  Yeah, I know.  But MSN makes it so easy with the little box of the top celebrity stories.  Most recently I have been checking out all of the celeb babies that have been being birthed.  Seems like even if you don’t have a hit song or movie, you can become famous, just procreate. 

This morning the news that Ashlee Simpson had her baby was on the MSN page.  Of course, I clicked on it because I was curious… gender, and most of all, name.  Bronx Mowgli.  I am not kidding.  I mean, Bronx is bad enough.  I understand the need for parents, especially celeb parents, to have an “original” name, but Bronx just sounds like it’s short for some sort of upper respiratory disorder.  And then to add “Mowgli” to it???  The Jungle Book???  They named him after a feral child who talks to animals?  Poor kid. 

Ultimately I know that it’s every parents decision to name their child what they want, and really, it’s none of my business.  But, I still get an opinion!  I have a feeling that if I bring up this unfortunate moniker with my husband the conversation will go like this

Me:  they named their baby Bronx Mowgli

Hubby:  that’s not a name

Me:  it’s his name

Hubby:  doesn’t matter ’cause it’s not a name

So, I guess I’ll end with, all babies are a blessing, regardless of their name!

dreams…

Okay, so I know this is my second post of the day, but really, the other one was just an update… so…

I have crazy dreams.  And, frequently do not remember them unless someone says something that triggers my overloaded brain.  However, sometimes I do remember them, and I wonder if they are indicative of the future, or are they just a jumble of thoughts that my subconcious creates a weird story line from.  Example:  when I was pregnant with my first child I dreamed that I went into labor, was in the delivery room, and gave birth to … a puppy.  Yes, a puppy.  Now while it was a very cute puppy, it was not the baby girl that I had been imagining.  Of course, when I woke up I started having crazy thoughts about whether or not I was actually having a baby, or was it in fact a puppy turning upside down and all around in there.  After reassuring myself that had the sonogram tech seen a puppy on the screen rather than a baby she would have been morally and ethically obligated to inform me… I was okay.  So, I’m sure that was simply my subconcious putting together random thoughts to create a story.  Thoughts of childbirth fears, going into labor fears, and having a healthy (human) baby fears.

A dream that I had that was not so crazy involved my sister.  I had the most vivid dream that she found out that she was having a baby.  Now, this was strange because at the time she and her husband had two very young foster children, and were not planning on having biological children in the near future.  But, it was sooo real.  Real to the point that I remembered saying in the dream “oh, how fun, our babies will be six months apart!” (I was pregnant with baby no. 2 at the time), and in the dream I walked over to the box of cards I had made to send her one, but I couldn’t choose one because I didn’t know if she was having a boy or a girl. 

I woke up, and called my mom (only ’cause I thought my sis was working that day) to see if she had heard anything about my sister being pregnant.  She said no…  but called me back about 30 minutes later and said “if you ever have a dream about me, call me right away”.  Yeah, my sister heard about my dream, went to get a pee stick test, peed on it, and it was positive.  OH MY GOSH.  You could have knocked me over with a feather (which is saying a lot ’cause I had a lot of pregnancy weight going on at the time). 

So that dream, I believe came from God.  My sister was on some medicines that she should not have been taking had she known she was pregnant… and she had no clue.  Her cycles were so irregular, who knows when she would have found out.  She came off of the medicine… and found out that her due date was… approx. 6 months after mine… just like I had dreamed. 

So, my most recent dream.  I was delivering a baby (no, I’m not PG again), and we had chosen not to find out the gender (which I have thought about doing should we decide in the future to procreate again).  I’m at the end of the delivery time when things get a little icky, and the door is open, and all sorts of people are walking down the hall and peeking in.  Ewww.  So then I ask the intern (it wasn’t a doc from the practice I go to) if I can have a mirror to check out the progress.  (an aside… it sounds gross, but it’s pretty cool… especially if you have an epidural and can’t feel if what you’re doing is working or not)  This intern says, “no, that’s a little tacky” to my request.  Remember, that the door is OPEN and people are PEEKING IN!!!  Tacky?  Whatever.  So, I have the baby and it’s a boy.  And that’s the end of the dream. 

Strange.  I’m hoping this is not one of those “God’s letting me in on a secret” sort of dreams.  If I have another baby now, I will for sure have to go back to my therapist.

things are looking up

I just got an email update about the baby I talked about in my previous post.  She is much more stable now, although not out of the NICU yet.  Apparently what caused her breathing to stop was a dangerous overdoes/combination of medicines.  She was on morphine (I think I mentioned that) for a severe diaper rash caused by her chemo.  Because of the morphine, she was itching badly, so was given a hefty dose of benadryl.  When she wouldn’t calm down for the nurse, she was given a dose of Ativan.  Three and a half hours later she was given a differnt pain killer and more Ativan. She stopped breathing 20 minutes after that.  Her mom expressed in the update that she feels a lot of guilt for not stepping up more and being more active in the choices that were made to give her the drugs.  But, like all of us (at least me)  she probably (and this is my conjecture here…) felt like as the professionals, the doctors and nurses should know best.  I know that I’ve had to pray for serious courage going into pediatrician appointments where I felt like my child needed something different…  I know in my heart that I know my child better than the person who sees them a couple times a year, but still, it’s hard to combat feelings of inadequacy.  Probably even more so when your child’s condition is so far beyond your own understanding like in the case I’ve described.

I will continue to pray for her recovery, and that her second enzyme replacement therapy works…  and that she recovers from this incident without any harmful effects.

sometimes it’s hard to understand

In my life, I have not been immune to personal tragedy.  Somehow through it all I have managed to come through with a positive outlook (although in some cases it took time… a lot of time).  Today I received notice of another person’s personal story, and my heart is breaking for them.

Last spring I was in a Bible study with a lovely lady I will call Mary.  She was one of the older ladies in our small group, and every week she had some bit of wisdom or advice that really blessed my personal walk with God.  During the course of the study she shared with us a prayer request, for her precious granddaughter who was not even one yet.  This sweet baby had been diagnosed with sagittal craniosynostotis right before her first birthday.  She was taken to Children’s Hospital in Chicago to undergo further testing because the drs. thought there might be more, and there was.  She was diagnosed with MPS type I.   This is a rare genetic recessive disorder in which the body cannot break down saccarides.  They build up in all of the bodies cells, and cause serious damage, and usually premature fatality.  For more details on MPS (Hurler Syndrome) see www.mpssociety.org

So, “Mary’s” granddaughter began a long series of treatments in Chicago including enzyme replacement therapy (which did not work the first time around), and chemo. to kill off the cells in her body that would fight the new enzymes.   Although the first treatment did not work, this sweet baby has been progressing fairly well.  Physical therapy, and her mom’s ability to be with her constantly had helped out a lot.  Recently though, she has not been doing so well.  She’s been running a high temperature (not below 104 degrees), has a ferocious diaper rash (causing so much pain that she had to be put on a morphine pump), she had to be given a feeding tube, and as of this morning, she stopped breathing and has been put on a ventilator.

When I read the email concerning this newest update, I just started to cry, like I am now just thinking about it.  I have two children, one of whom is not that much younger that this baby.  Although I do believe firmly in Romans 8:28 that God works all things for the best for those who love him, I was having a difficult time understanding how this chain of events could possibly be for the best, for anyone.  Then, after being quiet before the Lord and listening, I realized, that when He is working things for our best, it is because it is HIS best.  I many not understand everything that goes on in this world, and there may be times when I question God’s motivation for letting certain events happen. But ultimately I know that His BEST will WILL be accomplished. 

Now, does all of this mean that I think that God ALLOWS evil in the world, and that He’s okay with it?  Or does it mean that since God’s got everything under control that I have to role in His plan?  Nope, in both cases.

I believe that God’s heart breaks for the world He sees now.  It wasn’t supposed to be like this in the beginning, but, that’s what sin has done to it.  I do believe that He is able to accomplish His purposes even with sin in the world, it just doesn’t look like what it would have before.  I also believe that he has called us as His created to act in the world to help accomplish His plan.  Does God NEED me to do anything?  Heck no!  He breathed life into Adam, He can take care of things however and whenever He wants to.  But, He chose  to allow me to participate… and how amazing is that!  How do I do that?  By praying, by being still before Him and listening for His voice, by acting according to His will. 

So, where does that leave me with this heartbreaking story about an innocent child?  It leaves me on my knees.  I hope, and I pray that healing will come to her.  But I know that if earthly healing is not for her, eternal healing is, and I will look forward to meeting her when I receive my inheritance as well.

who knew poop was so exciting?

We have recently been trying to potty train our almost 2 and a half year old daughter.  It definitely ebbs and flows, some weeks are good, others she claims “it’s not working”.  She has been pretty good about making poop in the potty, but the peepee thing, it’s a work in process. 

With the poop, well, she tends to hold on to things for a couple of days, and then have a big traumatic experience in which her “bottom is hurting” and we have to rush to the toilet and “squeeze it out”  while she is crying.  Very sad thing to observe.  Yesterday was just such a day, and so I was not expecting to have another poop experience for another couple of days.  Needless to say, I was very surprised to hear her calling out today “I gotta squeeze it out, I gotta squeeze it out”!!!  I ran to find her, and she had already hopped the gate to the bathroom (which I had to put up yesterday because our 1 year old figured out how to flush the toilet) and was standing in the dark bathroom with her pull-up down, clutching her hiney.  I sat her on the toilet, but it was too late, her little hand came around… she had made her poop in her hand.  So there she is, clutching her little log, and I am totally grossed out.    We washed, take that back, we scrubbed her hands, and mine too, and went about our morning.

I took my shower, dried my hair, and then, came out to find her leaning over the ottoman saying “oh man, oh man”  I asked what was wrong, and she said, “I gotta squeeze again!”.  So, we went back to the toilet, where she proceeded to push out an adult sized poop. 

After yesterday’s and today’s poops, I’m seriously wondering if she had ANY room left in her colon… was it totally full all the way up to her stomach???  Is that possible???

Ah, the excitement of poop… who would have thunk it?