Might have been bad timing….or not?

Can you believe I chose “Joy” as my One Word for 2017?

Joy. Really?

When I picked this word back in January, my crystal ball was evidently malfunctioning. For who in their right mind would choose Joy knowing their husband would be facing brain surgery in a month and a half? How in the world is one to be able to pay attention to Joy in the middle of crisis and chaos?

I had good intentions choosing Joy for my word this year. Yep, those good intentions were to try to see moments of Joy around me. But it’s oh so much easier to notice Joy when life is beautifully smooth, isn’t it?

Joy seems more elusive when we’re weary with one challenge after another. It’s hard to see the Joy in life when we’re up to our eyeballs in worry and anxiety. Choose Joy is a phrase batted around by those trying to offer help for people facing hopelessness, despair and uncertainty. Like “choosing” joy is as easy as choosing which pair of shoes to wear…or choosing what to order for dinner.

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. ~Matthew 6:34

Isn’t that the truth.

Back in January, it was so easy to write that Joy doesn’t come from a worry-free, prosperity-filled life. In a more self-reflective moment, I wrote this:

I believe Joy is something felt deep in the soul. Something apart from the temporary warm fuzzies of pleasure and happiness. It’s something intangible that grounds the mind, despite the circumstance. Joy settles deep in the heart and soul, creating peace and a strength that makes a person feel they can endure the worst life will throw.

Very profound if I do say so myself. I just don’t know how well I’m doing in this department while in the middle of these “circumstances,” which are hard and more than little overwhelming at times. Left on my own, I don’t feel anything has settled in my heart except mental exhaustion, much less peace and strength.

But there I go again, confusing Joy with Happiness.

I have discovered my hindsight is working fairly well. In hindsight, I’m thankful for the flu. Yes, you heard correctly. I got the flu the Sunday before we were to leave on vacay. By Thursday, Entrepreneur was showing the first signs of it. A flu headache, coupled with the headache he already was experiencing is was drove us to the ER…and to the discovery of the cancer mass.

As terrifying as this event has been, in hindsight, I see it did provide opportunities to repair some family rifts, and opened up heartfelt conversations that otherwise might not have happened. I suppose there are things to be thankful for in the middle of chaos. Focusing on being grateful can result in experiencing Joy.

So, even though 2017 has not started the way I’d hoped, I am going to try and feel those moments of Joy in the middle of chaos and confusion by focusing on being thankful and grateful.

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Thirty-six hours

Thirty-six hours.

That’s all that stood between us and our family vacation to Mexico. Luggage is packed. House sitter scheduled. Last minute cleaning in progress. We were leaving for the airport about 2am Saturday for a 6am flight….on the beach in a short 48 hours.

And then this happens.

Entrepreneur decides he needs to go to the ER. A nagging headache that had been previously dismissed as due to stress, sinus or seasonal changes took a massive turn for the worse. Coupled with nausea and the belief his head would explode, we head to the ER. Oh, and he’s got the flu.

And then this happens.

With a four hour wait ahead of us in the ER, docs send him for a CT scan to try and narrow down the cause of his headache pain. I head to teach my class at the university, thinking I’ll come back to take him home with some meds for his headache. We’ll resume the Tamiflu regimen and be good to go later on Friday.

And then this happens.

He texts me and says it’s not good and is being admitted to the hospital. “We see what looks like blood and a mass in the right temple area of the brain.” I hear phrases like aneurism and brain tumor. I hear the words I never wanted to hear again…..renal cell cancer met. I hear these words, yet they don’t really fully register.

I’m numb and my brain is in a fog. Somewhere in the cloud the word surgery is spoken.

Surgery. Brain surgery. This coming Tuesday. Valentine’s Day.

So not how I’d planned to spend that day. In four hours, we’ve gone from eagerly anticipating a relaxing tropical family vacay….to surgery for a hematoma or possible brain cancer.

All foreseeable plans cancelled. He’s admitted and taken to his room. MRIs and more scans are scheduled for the morning. But those are only to help determine how to proceed with the surgery. He’s in severe pain as we settle him in for the night. The next day will be filled with neurologists, neurosurgeons, oncologists and other medical personnel. He settles into the bed, a nurse finds him some food. Pain meds follow.

I retreat home and begin sending updates to family and friends. No sleep ensues.

So, now, it appears we’re going down this path again. A path I knew might be a possibility but never thought it would ever be this soon,,,,or in this form. Odd how two words can shake me to my core….brain surgery.

Thirty-six hours.

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LTTL & Song-ography

daff and drops 72Texture by Kim Klassen; Lily, 80% screen with selective masking

‘Cause what if your blessings come through rain drops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near

What if my greatest disappointments or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy
What if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are your mercies in disguise.
~Laura Story, Blessings

Rain. Storms. Tears. Perhaps the hardest part of being a Christian is the resignation that we will have storms in our lives. We will have tears. We will have trials and hardships…sometimes unbearable hardships. Being a Christian doesn’t give us a fee pass from experiencing any the hard stuff in life. Being a Christian doesn’t mean we’ll magically live a charmed life. In fact, many times, it’s exactly the opposite.

This is a hard concept to explain to a non-believer. Why is there pain and suffering? Why are there trials, disasters and disappointments? Why would we look at these things in our lives as blessings and mercies in disguise?

Well, isn’t that a good question.

By human nature, we don’t appreciate pain and suffering. So, why are Christians so tolerant of God, who may not grant their wishes answer their prayers with desired results? Wouldn’t it make sense that God would want his children to be happy? Wouldn’t he want us to live a comfortable life, free from stress, trials, despair, fear and disappointment?

Not all the time.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
~Romans 8:28

Well, that sounds a bit trite, doesn’t it? It sounds like a great way to excuse God from ensuring “his children” are safe and happy. After all, isn’t he a Cosmic Vending Machine…a Divine Sugar Daddy…that’s there to grant our whims and wishes, and give us what we want if we agree to stick with him?

It’s a hard mindset to adopt…this suffering-for-no-apparent-good-reason thing. In reality, this is why many people walk away from Christianity. We seem to think this is a negotiable “you do [this] for me and I’ll do [this] for you” type of arrangement. Mutual benefit….but only on our terms.

Newsflash: we need to get over ourselves and see what is actually happening. After all, if you’re a parent, how many times do we say ‘no’ to our children when they whine about what they want? How many times do we let them struggle with a project or learning a new skill? Parenting is hard…it’s difficult to mold our children into responsible adults. If we step in and make their lives easy all the time, what does that teach them?

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. . . . Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.
~James 1:2-4,12

Trials, persecution, suffering, despair, disaster, challenges, failures….they all work to build character. When facing the challenges of life, the Christian realizes these things cannot be overcome without help….and that strength comes from a humble heart and the reliance on a sovereign God that knows what we need, and when we need it. Although, during those time, it usually bothers the control freak in all of us that we’re not privy to the bigger plan. We like being masters of our own destiny…just like our children.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
~2 Corinthians 12:9-11

Paul said it so well. All to often our prayers sound like this: “Puleeeeeze God…take this (fill in the blank) away from me.” When, in fact, it would be better to pray: “Help me through this, Lord, and show me what I’m suppose to learn from it.” Big difference.

While on this earth as a man, Jesus asked God the Father to take away what was about to happen to him. Jesus, the divine, accepted the persecution, suffering and, ultimately, death knowing his suffering was fulfilling a larger, more beneficial plan for redemption and salvation. And because Jesus experienced suffering, fear, disappointment, pain and despair while as a man, He uniquely understands when we experienced the same. Christians draw closer to Jesus during those times in our lives because we know He understands and will not abandon us. We may not like His methods, but we trust in His mercy and grace to make us stronger and shape us into a better being.

Linking up with those who share
at Songography and Life Through the Lens.

One word for 2015

fearlessTexture by Kim Klassen; Evolve, 50% multiply

Instead of making resolutions, many people select one word to focus on for the new year. This has been intriguing to me as I am not one to make resolutions either. But time slips away and it’s usually St. Patrick’s Day before I remember I was going to jump in and do that.

But 2015 is going to be different. With our bombshell news at the end of 2014, lots of things are going to happen this year. And I need something to help me focus. On January 1st I began mulling over different words…all good words that probably would have been beneficial.

Faith: Yes, my faith is going to be tested like never before.
Courage/Strength: Yes, we all will need courage/strength to face what the coming months have in store.
Acceptance: Yes, like it or not, there’s a chance I will need to accept the possibility of life vastly different than I’d planned.
Healing/Restoration: Yes, this would have been a good word on which to focus. Regardless of whether Entrepreneur experiences physical healing, or the emotional healing rest of us will need if he doesn’t, this would have worked well.

But the word I chose for 2015 is

Fearless

I realized fear is at the root of everything I’m feeling right now. Fear is causing me to dwell on worst case scenarios….despite putting up a seemingly optimistic front. Fear is paralyzing me with the thought of having to operate our company and personal finances by myself. Fear and sadness is consuming me with thoughts that Peanut and Twix will grow up without their Papa being an integral part of their lives. The realization that all our dreams and plans to grow old together may have been made in vain is terrifying me.

Fear is central to the human condition. Fear of the unknown and twisted perceptions is what drives most of the anxiety we experience in life. Personal peace disappears, replaced with scenarios of what ifs. Despite all our efforts to be optimistic, fear causes little seeds of doubt to take root and to grow into a tangled mess. And when that happens, we have a tendency to become hopeless and our lives fall apart.

All because of fear.

So, I choose to focus on being fearless as I pray for the courage/strength to face the trials and struggles to come. I choose to focus on being fearless and accept whatever my life will look like months and years down the road. I choose to focus on being fearless, because God tells us repeatedly to fear not. In fact, we’re reminded hundreds of times in the bible to be not afraid.

Fear not, for I am with you;
be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. ~Isaiah 41:10

This is my command—
be strong and courageous!
Do not be afraid or discouraged.
For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. ~Joshua 1:9

Peace I leave with you;
my peace I give to you.
Not as the world gives do I give to you.
Let not your hearts be troubled,
neither let them be afraid. ~John 14:27

And finally…

Be the kind of woman who,
when your feet hit the floor in the morning
the Devil says, Oh @#$%, she’s awake.

Fear less.
Fearless.

Linking up with Life Through the Lens and Friday Finds
Life thru the lens fridayfindsbutton2

 

Z is for Zacharias

Photo by Luigi Morante

Photo by Luigi Morante

You’re joking, right? Says Zacharias with a hearty laugh.

Now, you may think he is responding to a joke….but it’s anything but a joke. Zacharias is one of the temple priests in Jerusalem. As one of 7,000 priests, he travels to Jerusalem a few times a year and takes his turn living in the temple, carrying out his priestly duties.

One day, as he is burning incense in the inner chamber, the archangel, Gabriel appears beside the alter. Not really a common occurrence while serving in the temple, so Zacharias is caught a bit off-guard.

Gabriel had a message from God for Zacharias and his wife, Elizabeth. They have longed for children but life had not been kind to them in this area. Now they are older….well past child bearing years. Gabriel’s speaks and tells Zacharias they will have a son.

So now you can understand why Zach LOLed at Gabriel’s message. He has forgotten the story of Abraham and Sarah; forgotten that God tends to come in when everything looks hopeless; forgotten that God always makes good on His promises one way or another.

For a temple priest, this behavior is simply not acceptable. Because of his very vocal doubt, Gabriel strikes him deaf and mute, unable to hear and speak until after the baby is born. And that is a promise God keeps as well.

After Zacharias returns home, Elizabeth does conceive just as Gabriel said she would. Elizabeth and Mary, Jesus’s mother, are cousins and when the two pregger women get together to compare nursery room themes, the baby in Elizabeth’s womb jumps when in the presence of Mary’s unborn son.

Three months later a baby boy is born to Elizabeth and Zacharias, and Liz decides (with Gabriel’s prompting) to name him……John.

John? The neighbors and relatives are confused. John isn’t a recorded name in their family. What is she thinking? This son should be named after his father. Puzzled, they look to Zacharias for answers, who immediately grabs his writing tablet and tells everyone, His name is John. The meaning behind the name John is, the Lord is gracious.

Immediately, upon completion of the prophesied baby’s birth and dedication, Zacharias’ voice and hearing is restored.

We know this baby as John the Baptist…a cousin of Jesus who lived in the wilderness and prophesied about the coming Messiah.

Now back to Zacharias. Zach was obviously a man of God. He prayed and tried his best to be a good Jewish  man. With his and Elizabeth’s inability to have a child, he brought their petition to God. He continued to pray even as they aged and the idea of having a son began to look completely hopeless. In his heart, he may have simply given up…thinking God simply didn’t care or want him to have a son. His faith had been weakened by year after year of disappointment. This is when Gabriel shows up…to prove that nothing is impossible with God. That in the face of impossible and improbably odds, great things can happen.

But our situations are different, right?
Our situations are impossible to fix.
Our disappointments are too much to overcome.
Our lives are too messy to be straightened out.

Right?

Linking up with ABC Wednesday

And with this entry, my ABC-bible style collection is completed.
Click HERE to read my other posts.

Photo attribution: Photo by Luigi Morante, from IM Free photo site. Some rights reserved by Creative Commons license. Orignal photo was cropped and retouched for purposes of this post.

 

 

 

J is for Joseph

He had an amazing technicolor dream coat.

Joseph was a firstborn son of Jacob (aka Israel) and his father’s first love, Rachel. And Jacob (following in his mother’s footsteps) wasn’t shy about showing favoritism towards Joseph. Actions that didn’t go unnoticed by his other brothers.

Enter sibling rivalry and jealousy of epic proportions.

Now to be fair, Joseph may have brought some of it on himself. Being dad’s favorite, he may have rubbed it in a bit, or acted like he was untouchable. And then there was that awkward dream where Joseph tells his brothers he saw them all bowing down to him. Imagine that…..older brothers bowing to a younger one?! In your dreams, for sure! In any case, his brothers, fed up with Joey, decide to do something about it.

They decide to throw him in a dry well. Right after they take off that obnoxious coat and tear it to pieces. You might say they have a collective mental breakdown.

After they come to their senses, they pull him out of the well….but see a golden opportunity to get rid of him without any blood on their hands AND make a quick profit. SCORE! They sell him as a slave to some traders on their way to Egypt. Then they tell dad a big, fat lie that wild animals killed his favorite son.

The traders sell Joseph to Potiphar, a captain in Pharaoh’s guard, who soon appoints him as his personal attendant and head of his household.

Joseph is a strapping young man and very well built, which is why Potiphar’s cougar wife takes notice of the eye candy and tries to seduce him. He refuses her and she goes crazy….running to her husband and accusing Joseph of trying to seduce her. Potiphar throws him in prison where he stays until he is 30 years old. But Joseph has skills. While in prison, news of Joseph’s dream interpretation abilities travel to Pharaoh’s ears, and he is summoned to interpret a royally disturbing dream. Based on the Pharaoh’s dream, Joseph’s economic advice and recommendations impress the Egyptian ruler and he is released from prison. And, he’s made second in command of all the kingdom’s resources in order to avoid the destruction that is about to happen.

Joseph is quick to take steps to secure the kingdom’s future and when famine comes to the land (as he predicted from the dream). He is in charge of distributing food so the citizens don’t starve. So capable was Joseph’s management, that people from all around the region come to share in the Egyptian stockpiles of food.

Now, the funny thing about karma is that is tends to come back to bite you when you least expect it.

Remember Joseph’s brothers? Well, nine years later, the famine is hitting that family hard and the brothers drop their pride and go to Egypt to ask for food. And who do you think they bow to in their request for assistance? You got it! Their brother, Joseph. But they don’t recognize him because he’s much older, and is now a sharp-dressed Egyptian man. But Joseph immeidately recognizes them. With the authority and power of his position in the kingdom, he could have done anything he wanted to them…extracted any form of revenge or punishment he could think of….but he didn’t. Although truth be told, he did mess with them a little before coming clean about who he actually was.

So let’s now cut to the chase.

Joseph could have held a grudge…and he would have been perfectly justified given the despicable, unforgivable, evil actions of his brothers. Joseph’s life crumbled before his very eyes. He went from revered son to sold slave in less than 24 hours, and spend much of his life in prison for crimes he didn’t commit. He didn’t understand why these bad things kept happening to him, yet he never turned his back on his faith in God. The evil plans of his brothers and Potiphar’s wife were actually part of a much grander picture for his life. God had been in control all along, grooming Joseph for a role much bigger than he ever dreamed. If Joseph had not been sold as a slave and thrown into that prison, Egypt…and his family….would have perished during the famine. God used a slave to save an entire nation…or more accurately, two nations as Jacob’s sons go on to father the twelve tribes of Israel.

We should all be encouraged by the story of Joseph. He kept his integrity, morality and faith despite having his life turned upside down and inside out. He was valedictorian of the school of hard knocks, yet it never destroyed him or turned him into a bitter, resentful person. He could still muster forgiveness when face to face with those responsible for propelling him into what seemed to be a dismal abyss of a future.

Despite eventually being lavished with Pharaoh’s wealth, Joseph also knew true wealth only comes from God. This enabled him to make decisions based on faith in God’s providence instead of his own needs, wants and desires. Instead of blaming and complaining for the bad things that happened to him, Joseph focused on serving to the best of his abilities given the responsibilities he was assigned. He understood that, despite what others had done to him, he would be accountable to God for his own actions in how he conducted his life in the present. And God blessed his efforts.

We learn from Joseph the valuable lesson that both prosperity and hard times will define and test our character and integrity. It will define the type of person we are. Hopefully, we can be like Joseph and seek God’s will in both the good times and the bad…being quick to forgive and realizing God will use us in mighty ways if we will trust in him and put our future into his hands.

Linking up with ABC Wednesday
ABCWed14

I am part of all that I've met

tennyson quote
Textures by Kim Klassen: Appreciate at 50% Multiply and Savor at 100% Soft Light

I am part of all that I have met.
~Alfred Lord Tennyson

I know, I know! I’m late, Late, LATE!

Quotography’s theme this week is focused on Alfred Lord Tennyson. If you’ve read any of his poems, you know he’s quite the wordsmith and, typically, not an easy read. Thankfully, Texture Tuesday is another Free and Easy Edition for whatever floats our boat. And Tuesday Muse is always flexible open to whatever our Muse inspires in us for the week.

This line is from the Tennyson poem, Ulysses, which is based on Homer’s character, Odysseus  in The Odyssey. 

As Ulysses is looking back on his life, he realizes all his encounters have shaped the type of person he has become. Everyone and everything that crossed his path was woven into his life story and impacted who he is today.

A recent message at our church asked a very intriguing question. It was asked, “if you, as a parent, could preview the script of your child’s life, would you change anything? Would you erase the bad parts and keep only the good ones? Would you alter their life so they didn’t have to struggle or experience anything horrific?”

A fair question. And we would probably say, “of course I’d erase everything that would cause them pain and suffering.” No parent wants their child to experience setbacks, discrimination, unfairness, sickness, disasters and/or heartbreak.

But is that the wisest choice? Before you think me a sadist, think about the times when you’ve learned the most about yourself. Was it during the rainbow and butterfly times in your life? Is that the time when your resolve was strengthened; your faith tested; your mind sharpened?

If we’re people of faith, much as we dislike it, we realize God is working in our lives through the good and the bad times to make us into the person He wants us to be. Those struggles and trials are by design. Let’s look at some noteworthy people and how horrible, terrible experiences ultimately shaped their destiny.

Moses: A baby who was a reed away from being murdered by Pharaoh’s decree to kill all Hebrew male children. Instead, he grew up as the adopted son of Pharaoh’s daughter’s and raised in opulence inside the palace walls. But he found himself identifying with the Hebrew slaves and eventually turn his back on the lap of luxury. Run out of town and exiled to the desert, Moses lived as a shepherd (the lowest of the socially low) for 40 years before God gave him the divine re-assignment to return to Egypt to free the Hebrew slaves. The struggles and hardship from living as a nomad formed his character and equipped him to handle some pretty difficult circumstances when the time was right.

Joseph: Thrown into a well by his jealous brothers only to be drug out and sold into slavery, Joseph was carried off to Egypt and sold to the captain of Pharaoh’s guard where he spent quite a bit of time hanging out in prison. But this allowed him to be in the right place at the right time to prove his indispensable value to the Egyptian king. Consequently, he became one of the most humble, but powerful right-hand-men in the kingdom….which, in turn, allowed him to save the lives of his rotten brothers and very surprised father when they showed up in Egypt to ask for food during the famine. Funny how things work, isn’t it?

David: Not a stranger to challenging situations, David, another socially-unacceptable shepherd, spent years on the run hiding in caves from a jealous King Saul…who was tipped off by the prophet Samuel that David would be the next King of Israel. It was while he was in the hiding in the wilderness, alone and scared that he learned to trust God, re-evaluated his life and rose to become Israel’s greatest king.

Do you think the parents of these people would have wanted to change the script for their children’s lives so they didn’t have to experience the terrible things that happened to them? If they hadn’t experienced those terrible things, would they have accomplished the successes they are most known for in history?

There are so many horrific things that happen in the world. While it’s noble for us to want to right the majority of these wrongs, we simply cannot make it easier for everyone. We may not like it, but many of these events might just be the behind-the-scene workings to bring someone to the best they can be.

Believe me, there are many events I would have liked to have nixed ahead of time. But looking back, those times made me stronger…and more than a little wiser. All the people and experiences I’ve had are now a part of me. And I would not be the person I am today without them….all of them.

Linking up with a bunch of stuff….better late than never, right?!

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