Saturday, September 14, 2013

Reprise: Autumn Again

"I have cried upon the steps that seemed too steep for me to climb 
And I have prayed against the burdens that I did not want to be mine 
But here I am, and this is where You're calling me to fight 
And You, I will remember through the watches of the night."
--Kristyn Getty



A year ago, I wrote this post http://pruneddownandbranchedout.blogspot.com/2012/09/into-deep-woods.html.

And then I wrote no more. Not because I was busy...even though I was. And not because I was heartbroken, although that was also true.

It was because everything changed.

The surgery that was supposed to fix my husband's back left him disabled.

A one night stay in the hospital turned into a one week stay, while my children were cared for by close friends and family and I scrunched in a stiff hospital chair and rarely slept in my own bed.

A two month recovery turned into a ten month recovery, punctuated by a second surgery to fix the broken knee that Matt sustained when he was on Morphine for too long.

...the Morphine stole him from me for the first two months. His mental state from that medicine was so disturbing, was so traumatic at times, that I wondered how we would ever get through it. The man in front of me looked like my husband, but it just wasn't him. The medicine made him act like a stranger. And that, my friends, is the worst feeling I've ever had. Ever. Ever.

Ever.

I wondered if anything would ever be okay again. And even though my mouth and conscious will would cry out to God for deliverance...even though my words would turn my children's attention to the many ways that God was providing for us during this horrible time...even though my days were spent encouraging and caring for my love...further back in my soul, I had put up some serious walls, because at times it felt like God had betrayed our family and left us for dead.

Even further back, I knew that wasn't true. But I was so mad and so tired. So scared. Matt had suffered permanent nerve damage in his leg, which meant that he would never be able to return to his job. And as the one who knew this man best --this man who had struggled throughout his life with depression-- it was clear to me from early on how much serious time and work with God it would require before Matt would clear the dark woods of his anger and sorrow over this loss. So the road would be long, as well as hard. For him and all who loved him.

Because his household-supporting income was not the only thing he had lost.

As an active and extremely involved husband, father, employee, deacon, and friend, he was never idle. All of a sudden, he could no longer hike, help with home projects, or even play kickball with our children. The blow had been swift and harsh. Even our weekly family shopping trip for groceries was difficult, as Matt had to adjust to using an electric scooter, then later a walker, and finally a cane in order to join us. Trips to the Children's Museum an hour away now seemed as feasible as flying to the moon. My heart could hardly bear the pain he had to move through.

There are many days that I cannot remember from this past year. Days that blurred together, or that I have perhaps blocked out. 5 months of sleeping on the reclining couch with Matt so I could help him up if he needed me. 4 more months that I slept without him in our bed because my body started rebelling and would no longer let me sleep well on the couch.  But incredibly, I didn't feel any specific pain over "how it used to be." I oftentimes had a hard time remembering what life was like before the surgery. Because God's love covers pain, protects our hearts, and wipes out bitterness.


God has used this hardest year of our lives to assure me beyond a whisper of doubt that He loves my family and wants the absolute best for us.

During this last year God has
~deepened my love for my husband
~healed, stabilized, and matured my marriage
~taught my children that God is real, can hear us, and wants to teach us--even when it's hard
~led friends and family to tirelessly support us every step of the way
~given us release from a lifestyle that was no longer healthy and productive for our family
~directed us to a new and totally unexpected future

And He's done so many more things, big and little. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. {A little bit exaggerated, but you've gotta love it when the Bible says it best. God is so lavish with his love.}

God wants to be with us and wants to bless us. And when we've strayed from His plans for us, He comes running to save us from destruction. Because we just don't always know the difference between best and barely scraping by.

In closing, I want to share the song that has most healed my heart during this dark year. I've sung it strongly, I've sung it in a choked whisper, but I no longer sing it in fear...like I did when I first started singing it a year ago. I believe now that God will use what He must to heal us.




Friday, September 28, 2012

"Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it..."


I have so looked forward to writing this post. 

*  *  *  *

I'm even wearing my orange shirt and my brown autumn shoes. 

*  *  *  *

I picked out the pictures that allowed me to smell autumn, as though as I was walking through the woods. The bright colors make my eyes feel lit up and alive.  I picked the quotes that enabled me to feel the brisk air and revel in the flaming brilliance of this, my favorite season.

*  *  *  *

In unconscious preparation, I was invited on an impromptu walk through some beautiful, good-smelling woods yesterday afternoon. The weather was perfect, and the children loved it. The dog ran free and exhilarated, as did the kids. I crunched on the leaves, I talked with my friend.

I came out refreshed. Autumn-y woods are a part of my past, a part of who I am. 

I have been feeling a little isolated recently, even though I am frequently surrounded by people. I think I've been starving myself...not enough time with God, too much time trying to fill that hole with other stuff. It's an easy trap to fall into, especially with our culture of technology and easy, all-the-time access.  I have been missing the quiet of talking to God for long periods of time, of spending time in His word every morning. He wants my attention. He loves me. And He is a God of restoration, and He can fill me up again. 

And thus directed, I came out of the woods. Comforted.

*  *  *  *

I have so looked forward to writing this post. What I didn't know was that God was waiting on it, too.




Be glad, people of Zion, rejoice in the LORD your God, for he has given you the autumn rains because he is faithful. He sends you abundant showers, both autumn and spring rains, as before.


Everyone must take time to sit and watch the leaves turn.  ~Elizabeth Lawrence


Oh how we love pumpkin season.  You did know this gourd-ish squash has its own season, right?  Winter, Spring, Summer, Pumpkin.... We anxiously anticipate it every year.  ~Trader Joe's Fearless Flyer

Youth is like spring, an over praised season more remarkable for biting winds than genial breezes.  Autumn is the mellower season, and what we lose in flowers we more than gain in fruits.  ~Samuel Butler



The days may not be so bright and balmy—yet the quiet and melancholy that linger around them is fraught with glory. Over everything connected with autumn there lingers some golden spell—some unseen influence that penetrates the soul with its mysterious power. ~Northern Advocate

Bittersweet October.  The mellow, messy, leaf-kicking, perfect pause between the opposing miseries of summer and winter.  ~Carol Bishop Hipps


To poke a wood fire is more solid enjoyment than almost anything else in the world.  ~Charles Dudley Warner




It was one of those perfect English autumnal days which occur more frequently in memory than in life.  ~P.D. James

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Into the Deep Woods

"One of the most essential qualities of faith that is to attempt great things for God and expect great things from God, is holy audacity. Where we are dealing with a supernatural Being, and taking from Him things that are humanly impossible, it is easier to take much than little; it is easier to stand in a place of audacious trust than in a place of cautious, timid clinging to the shore. Likewise, seamen in the life of faith, let us launch out into the deep, and find that all things are possible with God, and all things are possible unto him that believeth." ~AB Simpson

The path that Matt and I have shared hasn't always been easy. But it hasn't been a particularly hard one, either. Like most families, we've had our ups and downs and have had to continually cling to God. There have been fantastic, gloriously happy times and then there's been this past year and half, which has been pretty grueling.

We've had a bit of a breather during the past few months months as events and emotions have settled down a little. It felt nice to coast.

But now.

Now it appears that our path is leading us down into the deep, dark woods. It's hard to follow a path that looks scary.

Matt's back surgery is rapidly approaching. He had another surgery (for a dog bite, not his back) over ten years ago and it was surrounded by such trauma that it convinced him to hand his life over to God for the first time. I know that God can use difficulties to make an impact when plain ol' regular life just ain't doin' it.   I understand that God's plans don't always make sense to me at first. And even though I trust God because He has gotten me through many hard, scary, and sad times, I am starting to seize up a little with panic. Inwardly, of course. And deep down. I try not to let it show, but even more importantly, I try not to let it be. I lean heavily on promises like:

Isaiah 43:2
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.

Romans 5:3-5

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

I like this, the English Standard Version, most of the time, but in other versions (New American Standard, perhaps?) Romans 5:5 says "and hope does not disappoint..." which I find comforting. 

So when my path looks like this:


...I will try to remind myself to focus on the light farther down, past the dark trees. 


"Oh, when we are journeying through the murky night and the dark woods of affliction and sorrow, it is something to find here and there a spray broken, or a leafy stem bent down with the tread of His foot, and the brush of His hand as He passed; and to remember that the path He trod He has hallowed, and thus to find lingering fragrance and hidden strength in the remembrance of Him as "in all points tempted like as we are," bearing grief for us, bearing grief with us, bearing grief like us." ~Alexander MacLaren image by RichardFreeman



Amen.

Still, it's not easy for me and I could use some prayers for extra grace and protection during the coming months as we hike down this trail. I'm hoping that when we've made it through to the sunshine, we'll be able to look back at it behind us and realize that it was a fragrant pine forest, and the shade was a shelter, not a fear-inducing gloom. It would be even better if we could realize it while we're still in there.

~*~

quotes and path pic found on http://inclineyourheart.blogspot.com/

Friday, January 6, 2012

Easing Back Into the Water

Where do I begin? I am a non-dancer writing a post about dancing. Because I wish I was a dancer. All of my insides believe that I am a dancer. And when I dance, no matter what the music, I always look like this in my head:


But in actuality, this is my sweet friend Fizz, who has been dancing since she was young and is amazing. Evidently, you just don't look like that naturally. It takes practice. Years. And also, I'm guessing, a bit of pre-baby hip. I will probably never look like Fizz when I dance. There's a good chance that my dancing will always draw snickers. But I'm okay with that. Because dancing makes me happy.

There are short-cuts to happiness, and dancing is one of them. ~Vicki Baum


There is a verse in Ecclesiastes which helps to explain why I've got dancing on my mind. Ecclesiastes 3:4 says "a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance." I am stuck in an odd little spot that encompasses all of these. I have come out of a year that has been filled to the brim with losses...losses that have been painful and scary and very sad.

And yet.
Psalm 107:28
Then they cried to the LORD
in their trouble,
And He brought them out of their distress.

Psalm 27:14
Wait for the LORD;
be strong & take heart
and wait for the LORD.

Every time that I thought I just couldn't take it anymore, my dear tender Father would reach out and comfort me. I never doubted it was Him. He wouldn't let me go under. And the very special thing was that nearly every time, He used a person to help me through. A real, live person with a warm touch or an eloquent look. This proved to me that God truly cares about the smaller needs in my life--like my need for hugs and encouragement.

The crazy thing is that God poured blessings out on me this year in such quantities that I almost couldn't bear it. Right in the middle of the pain.

Jeremiah 30:17
"But I will restore you to health
and heal your wounds," declares the Lord.

Psalm 30:11&12
You turned my wailing into dancing;
You removed my sackcloth
and clothed me with joy,
that my heart may sing your praises
and not be silent. LORD, my God,
I will praise you forever.


I learned things this past horrible wonderful year that I never knew I needed to know. I was healed of wounds that I didn't know were there--and some I did know about. Physical wounds, emotional wounds, and some sucker-punch spiritual wounds. I thought my heart would break with pain, and I wondered once if I would live through the night. But my God has been faithful and I know now that if I was given a choice, I would live it all again because of the way He rescued me and drew me to Himself, time and time again. Isn't that reason enough to wanna dance?

Let us dance in the sun, wearing wildflowers in our hair. ~Susan Polis Shutz


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Two Fer

It's so easy to get bogged down. I pray that today we'll be able to break free of the burdens that so easily entangle us and turn our faces to God. In doing so, I pray that we'll so reflect His glory that the world will whisper amongst themselves and clamor to know what makes us different.


Thanks again, Verse of the Day Calendar:

"When we are chained to fear by worry, Jesus, help us break free. Erase from our minds scary or obsessive thoughts that rob us of the freedom You have given us. Help us to keep our minds free so Your Word can fill them. Give us strength and patience so we won't give in to worry, fear, or bad habits. Amen."

"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." ~Galatians 5:1


"It is often just as sacred to laugh as it is to pray." ~Charles Swindoll

"I will praise You, O Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all Your wonders. I will be glad and rejoice in You; I will sing praises to Your name, O Most High." ~Psalm 9:1-2



Friday, June 24, 2011

Day 17: The Rose House Perspective

Today I am looking back at this past week and grimacing. The excuses have abounded. I have wanted to give up. I kind of did give up. I pretended I was on summer vacation. You know, from everything. My health wasn't the best, and I wallowed, in a bad way. You know, in worry and self pity. And everything went to pot. I decided to show you an example of the problems I have to deal with this morning:


Now pretend the rest of my house looks like that. I know. It's sad. 'Cause it's not pretend. My mom and sister even did the dishes for me the other night. And yet, here I am again.

When I plugged in the camera to transfer this messy picture to my computer, I noticed another picture I'd taken a couple of weeks ago. It was a picture of what I call The Rose House. The Rose House is on a street in our city that has seen better days. The city is trying to revive it, but it's gonna take some time. Most of the houses are run-down rentals and the people I see hanging out in front of them are less than desirable. Well, to me. I'm sure they're full of potential beauty to God. The Rose House is one of these rentals. Underneath the roses, it's yucky. But somehow, during the blooming months, it transforms into a sight that takes my breath away.


Isn't that how it is with Jesus? He pours his sinless red blood over our yucky, rotten, sinful selves and we are somehow transformed into a sight that takes the Father's breath away.

In light of this precious work of love, today I'm going to focus on the One who has transformed me. I'm going to keep in mind a quote that brings me immeasurable comfort:

"Trials are medicines which our gracious and wise physician prescribes because we need them; and He proportions the frequency and weight of them to what the case requires. Let us thank Him for His prescription." ~Isaac Newton

**Side note: To make sure I knew how to spell "wallow" correctly, I looked it up. There I found one definition I was expecting, and one I was not.

expected definition of wallow: to roll oneself about in a lazy, relaxed, or ungainly manner "hogs wallowing in the mud"

unexpected definition of wallow: to devote oneself entirely; to take unrestrained pleasure

Today, I will try to wallow correctly--in the Lord who loves me even when I throw down my bundle and drag my feet. I'm going to pick it all up again, but with light, lilting steps, not heavy, stomping ones.


Friday, June 17, 2011

Day 11: WOE IS ME!!!

All right. I'm going to be whining today. That's right. I'm getting really real, for realsies.

Week Two has been very hard. I have been, despite my cheery encouragement from the other day, very unmotivated to keep up with the schedule exactly as it's spelled out. I've let a few things slide. I've caught back up, then fallen behind again. Have I mentioned I'm not great at discipline?

The hardest thing has been the bedroom pickups that she recommends. Because in my house, it's very easy to clean the main spaces because all of the toys are just relocated to the kids' bedrooms. But cleaning the kids' bedrooms? Not so fun. You have to sit, sort, put away. And then what happens? Yes, you all know. It looks exactly the same as it did by the end of the day. And you know what? Yes, you all know. IT'S A LITTLE FRUSTRATING!! I can make the kids "clean their rooms" but it's not really effective, because they mostly clear the floor and then I have to go sit, sort, and put away all the toys that are at the edges of the floor.

I'm tired this morning. I fell asleep on the couch last night. Sometime in the night, I evidently decided it was a good idea to move to the recliner (instead of my bed?? I have trouble reclining that chair when I'm awake) and so I slept there, fully clothed, all night. I woke up, stunned to find myself in the chair, feeling creasy from clothes-wearing and crinked from sleeping in a semi-reclined position. (Can you believe my spell-check doesn't believe in the words "creasy" or "crinked"?)

And I might as well admit my other problem. There's really no point in hiding it anymore. I ran out of paper plates on Tuesday. Try to understand, I use paper plates for almost every meal. Maybe one day I'll behave like a "real" grownup and only use paper plates for cookouts and birthday parties, but for right now, I don't have a dishwasher or very much counter space or children who are old enough to do the dishes without breaking them. And let me tell you, the real dishes pile up real quick-like when no paper products are being used. It's defeating.

I know the whole point of this type of cleaning is to see the eternal value of our work as home makers, but I'm having trouble breaking through now that the newness has worn off. I'm going to do something I haven't done before now, because I'm being careful to preserve Sarah Mae's privacy policy, but I think sharing just one day as a sample would be okay. Here's what I'm supposed to do today:

Day 11: Kitchen, Mains Spaces, Bedroom Pick-up, Load of Laundry, Bathrooms

What the what??! See what I mean? Now, if I would've been actually working on the bedrooms one day at a time, like I was supposed to this week, then maybe this wouldn't seem like such a crazy-hard request. But I feel like I'm getting ready to show my house to potential buyers or something. I mean, that list up there? That's pretty much my WHOLE HOUSE. And I still have no paper plates! And I have other things I want to do today!

Have I mentioned that doing jobs partially just doesn't give you the same sense of satisfaction as doing them fully? Like doing the dishes, but not clearing off your other counters doesn't make the kitchen actually clean? Yeah, if this was my paid job, I probably would've been fired long ago for failure to complete projects on time.

All right. I'm done whining. I'm going to go play camping with my son. Then I'm going to start cleaning, hopefully with an eye set on the eternal value, so I don't get caught up in the repetitive mundane-ness of the chores. My encouragement for today comes from my calendar and memory verse #12:

"Sometimes, God, the path before us is difficult. But help us to do our best in walking it. When we are tired, give us energy. When we want to turn around, put up roadblocks. When we feel like we can't finish, encourage us. Steady us when we stumble, carry us when we're weak. Through You we have the strength to keep walking. Amen."

"Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher (emphasis mine) of our faith." ~Hebrews 12:1-2

Memory Verse 12:

Proverbs 31:27 (NLT)
“She carefully watches all that goes on in her household and does not have to bear the consequences of laziness.”