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dettroit3cIt’s a shame when you try to rehabilitate a reputation. I’ve been trying to rehabilitate Monday’s reputation for years, but sometimes, well, Monday lives up to what people have been saying about it since before I was born, more often than not unmerited.

It’s not true, about Monday, you know.

Monday is not the problem; Satan showing up on Monday’s is the problem.

One Monday, not so very long ago, started off so hope full. Monday was the kick-off to a week of well-planned pacing of good things to do – and I was excited about doing them and keeping chaos at a minimum (Eye-roll here. . . . dawning realization that when I plan to minimize/exclude chaos I somehow manage to empowering chaos).

Before 7 a.m. into Monday, Satan had thrown down a chaos-swirling challenge that God’s miracles, vigilance and grace picked up and set aright.

detroitfishcI am so glad God is ready for all the challenges that come 24/7, even before 7 a.m., even on Mondays. Looking back, I can see a spirit of edginess, wariness had stuck itself to me.

If you’re a mom, maybe you understand why 7 a.m. seems to be such a sticking point here. Since becoming a mom over 34 years ago, sleeping past 7 a.m. is a rare luxury. When my youngest graduated from high school this year, being by nature a night owl, I had high hopes of “sleeping in” every so often, even if “sleeping in” meant just 7 a.m.

detroitbeachccTuesday tried competing with its sister Monday with a 6 a.m. knock on our bedroom door. One of our sons, living at home and going to college, felt mighty achy, fevery and wiped out. A 7 a.m. doctor visit came up with Strep. He hadn’t had that since he was a baby.

With Tuesday came a last-minute change of plans that included a business trip to Detroit.

I felt challenged, in need of a refreshing, needing the chaos to settle down. Where was the grace, the peace, the smoothness that comes with faith. . . because faith isn’t bothered by the bumps. . . Right? Grace covers the soul jarring of challenges. . . Right? Hope ignores anxiety. . . Right?. . .Right?

detroithousseccThree days in Detroit without cooking for my hungry young men between their college classes, without straightening messes that keep remaking themselves, without facing hands-off challenges that won’t iron out under my will and determination. . .  I still found myself on edge, irritated. I tried to vintage the blessings He leaves in the daily – and I found the cool, northern sunshine. I found the most amazing oysters, I found Lake Eerie, but I couldn’t find peace, the bumps still jarred.

Irritation, uninvited, lingered as I woke up to home this morning. The challenges at the weeks’ beginning were in the past – and I needed to look forward, not backward. But I still couldn’t shake Monday and Tuesday’s discomfort.

God wanted me to vintage something, and God’s determination can sometimes feel soul-abrasive until I find what He wants me to find – and that means facing Him, telling Him I’m missing it, I’m struggling, and I need help. I hadn’t realized there was something I needed to redeem from Monday until I talked to Him about how I was feeling – apparently surviving Monday wasn’t what Monday’s challenges were all about.

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“I was there, ready for the challenge, ready with the miracle, ready with the grace before you even went to bed. I was there long before 6 a.m. I came to save, not with ‘why-so-early-grumps,’ but with a bigger love than you know, a bigger generosity than you realize. . . . be prepared between the gloaming and sunrise to love those I give you with a bigger love and bigger generosity. Don’t be tight-fisted with your time, don’t keep it just for you, for your comfort. . . know me better so you can be more like me, even before 7 a.m., even when there are other things you think you’d rather be doing” – that’s what God was trying to say to me.

detroitccThese challenges this week, they tested me. While my son needed a white-count examination on Tuesday, I needed a soul examination (Psalm 26:2). My heart needed to be cleansed of anxiousness born of fear and a begrudging spirit hoarding my time and energy selfishly. I needed an attitude adjustment (Psalm 51:10).

My Father, He didn’t lecture me first. He showed me Monday how to live with a generosity of spirit. Then watched me try to love that way before 7 a.m. Tuesday. Then He waited for me to ask Him to explain, and He did: Love my way – open-handed, not tight-fisted, not on a schedule, love big even when you think it’s inconvenient and you’re wrestling with the “I’d rathers.”

Bumps. . . jarring. . . anxiety. . . faith doesn’t take those things away. Faith gives us grace and hope, peace and gentleness, love and long-suffering, confidence that He works at all things to good – even on a Monday morning that’s acting like a tiger caught hold of its own tail.

“We can all draw close to him with the veil removed from our faces. And with no veil we all become like mirrors who brightly reflect the glory of the Lord Jesus. We are being transfigured into his very image as we move from one brighter level of glory to another. And this glorious transfiguration comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.~ 2 Cor. 3:18.

The irony? Here I kept accusing Monday of needing a reputation rehabilitation, when it was my soul that needed to change!

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nycbusc.jpgLast year at this time we had just learned about Keith’s critical heart valve. I didn‘t realize the challenge could get harder, but it did. We looked to God to lead us trusting that He had an All is Well plan.

Then a little nodule in the lung showed up in the pre-testing: Cancer. Fear tried to muscle its way in to my mind, but Keith never wavered, held tightly to my hand to keep us both focused on God, as we followed Him through this untravelled journey path. Every time fear encroached, we focused harder on the One who had him, had us.

We looked for the blessings in the challenge, a blue sky beautiful day to grab lunch for two, retelling the stories of what God has done for us throughout our lives, savoring the everyday ordinary, loving those God gave us, and walked through an incredible hard trusting God had the good plan.

The heart valve was replaced, a lung lobe removed, a serious infection successfully fought – and here we are – a year later: cancer-free, heart beating with abundant life, remembering the story of what the Father has done for us – All is Well; even in the challenge All is Well.

After the challenge? After the challenge, God still wants that intense relationship with us – in both the good and hard seasons, for us to keep focused on Him as though we’re following Him through a jungle or dense forest that has no path, or a New York City maze. In order not to get lost, we need to keep our eyes on the One who not only leads the way but makes the way.

One of the ways to do that is by remembering the story, remembering God in the story, and that just because the hard is not over, to still keep our eyes focused on Him, following so as not to get lost in a seemingly safe everyday ordinary.

All is Well
When Believing is Hard, Jesus Shows us How
Part I: When Easter, Passover, and Christmas Collide
Part II: When Easter, Passover and Christmas Collide
Remember Me, He Says
The Everyday Ordinary, Grace, and Green Beans

 

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Sunday Evening,
December 1, 2019

She left us today, Joyce Margaret, or Aunt Joyce to so very many who  love her so very well.

You see, she wasn’t able have to any children of her own – but she found herself surrounded by nieces and nephews, great nieces, a bunch of great nephews, who filled the empty places within her just as she filled the empty places within us.

God heard her cries – and filled her house.

“’Shout for joy, O barren woman, who bears no children; break forth into song and cry aloud, you who have never travailed; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband,’ says the LORD” – Isaiah 54:1.

She refused to lock her porch door during the day. Someone was always stopping by – and when you walked in, she accepted you just as you were. When I’d go home to visit, she was at the door, holding it open – whether if it was with all my boys, a few of them or just me – and just being there gave me rest (I am sure the excitement of the welcome equaled the excitement at leaving). We didn’t entertain each other – we just sat. Sometimes we talked a lot and sometimes we didn’t talk at all. . . and she’d make me coffee. When I was little, she made me hot chocolate. When I grew up, she made me coffee.

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Grandmother, Aunt Joyce, Mom

I’ll miss our trips to Plehn’s Bakery. She loved the Angel Dips. I’d get cookies for the boys. We’d go out to lunch and enjoy a cup of coffee. At Christmas, she’d ask me to get the boys something for Christmas – and she’d give them nerf guns and darts – probably their top 3 favorite gifts.

Aunt Joyce lived up the street from Grandmother’s house, where my mom, my brother and I lived. When I got home from school, I’d walk up the street to visit my mom at work and then head up to Aunt Joyce’s.

“Now don’t talk too much or get into anything. She doesn’t have children, so don’t make her nervous,” Grandmother admonished before I’d head up the street.

I loved those quiet solitary walks to her house – especially in the autumn when the leaves covered the sidewalk, and they’d cover my feet if I shuffled through, or the leaves would fly up if I flipped them up with the toe of my shoes as I walked. Poor kids today wouldn’t be allowed to walk up the street like that until they were too old to really enjoy it.

When her dog Perry had to be put down, I was volunteered to go with her. I was about seven years old then. When we walked out of the vet office, she was crying. Since I didn’t know what to say, I said nothing, but just rode with her. I learned there’s comfort in quiet companionship, even when you don’t know what to say.

She got a new dog, Beau. In the afternoons, we’d take him for a walk. Sometimes we’d watch an afternoon t.v. show, but mostly we just kept company. One day, she helped me make my first cake – a prune cake, for a Girl Scout badge.

Every Sunday morning, she came to our house early to fix grandmother’s hair, sit a spell, and then mom, my brother, grandmother and I rode with her to church. Every Sunday! Unless you were sick.

Aunt Joyce had a gift for growing tomatoes. Uncle Jim, Grandmother’s farmer brother, would come by Sunday evenings, walk past her tomato patch and say, “If  you keep planting them in the same place, your tomatoes won’t grow.” Yet every year, she planted in the same place, and harvested the best tomatoes around.

She finally planted a Holly bush in the tomato patch one year, which grew and grEW and GREW until it became a nuisance and had to be cut down. Then her tomatoes grew, year after year, along the outside of her fence.  She despaired of the squirrels who waited patiently along with her for each tomato to ripen – and it became a game to see who could get to it first. Apparently, she and the squirrels were like-minded about a tomato’s readiness for harvesting, then it became a matter of who got there first.

Her husband, Uncle Pres, died Derby Eve my senior year of high school. Uncle Pres always was gracious enough to be my partner in badminton at family events – and never minded if I whiffed the serves or returns. Her loss drew the relationship between the people in the two houses even closer. My brother or I alternated staying with her until we married, and more often than not, grandmother, mom, my brother and I had dinner at her house.

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Aunt Joyce and Grandmother on my wedding day

When Princess Diana married, Aunt Joyce and I got up early to watch the fairy tale wedding that turned out to be not such a fairy tale. As I was thumbing thru a magazine on the history of princess wedding dresses, I fell in love with Princess Grace’s dress. Paging through with me, she said, “If you marry a prince, I’ll buy you a wedding dress just like that!”

When Keith and I got engaged, she was so pleased, she said he was a prince and did buy my wedding dress. It wasn’t a Princess Grace dress, but it was perfect for me!

When my oldest son was about 4 years old, when he realized I wouldn’t divorce his dad to marry him, he proposed to Aunt Joyce. She said, “Yes.” They were engaged until he threw her over to marry his sweet wife.

I think because of her inability to have children, she understood the hurt when after my first son, we experienced secondary infertility and were unable to have more children. After every test or procedure, she’d call to see how I was doing – that was in the day when long distance calls were expensive and people, even family, didn’t call often by long distance.

It was a three year soul-stretching journey. She was on the phone with me when I took a home pregnancy test that turned positive. Just as she had grieved with me in my lowest low, she rejoiced in our answered prayer.

Most of our stories aren’t eventful stories – most of them are just spending time stories, doing little to nothing – maybe planting tomatoes, driving around Louisville nurseries trying to find a Lemon Meringue Baptista to give her sister, a pink dogwood blossom in the spring because I wanted to take a photo, to admire the tulips at The First Baptist Church, raking leaves on Thanksgiving, carrying up her Christmas Tree, putting wreaths on her windows, cooking together, sitting long, talking much and little. . . and coffee in the mornings.

She’d always say about people, “Oh, they’re crazy.” I’m sure she said it about me, too. We laugh that she thought everyone was “pixilated” – from the Gary Cooper in Mr. Deeds Goes to Town. In the movie, everybody, according to the two spinsters who had raised Cooper’s character, were “pixilated” – meaning everybody was a little crazy except them, even Cooper’s character. I’d laugh and tell her, “We’re all pixilated, except you.” She’d laugh her laugh, saying, “Probably so.”

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Aunt Joyce and I Derby Week with The Middletown Women’s Club.

Through the years, I vintaged the family history with her.

“How many hamburgers did you eat during the war,” I’d asked over lunch one time.

“Oh, hamburgers were a luxury,” she said. Soup Beans were the main staple, adding, “We were so happy when Muddy had baby chicks.”

“Because they were so cute and fluffy,” I asked, probably proving I was pixilated.

“Because then we’d have chicken to eat,” she answered. Aunt Joyce was born in 1930. Her Muddy and Granddaddy owned a farm that helped provide them food during The Great Depression and World War II. They’d go to the country to visit on Sundays, and Muddy would send them back home laden with food they grew for the week. In the Summers, they’d spend weeks on the farm.

Grandmother made clothes for all her daughters. She could go to the department stores downtown, see a dress, then come home and make it. During Aunt Joyce’s senior year, she was voted Best Dressed at Sacred Heart Academy.

After high school, she went to work in an office until she married. The sister just under her had been bold enough to ask if she could go to nursing school. Grandmother said, “No,” but Grandfather said, “Yes” — and a way was made. It made me think about the scripture, “You have not because you ask not” ~ James 2:4.

A few years ago, when Aunt Joyce and I talked about it, when asked why she didn’t go to college, she simply said, “I didn’t know I could.” She’d never thought or dared to ask. she was caught in the time shift of women’s roles, of what women could and couldn’t do. Maybe that’s why she helped me chase after my dreams when I was turning 50 and she addressed 50 envelopes for a transcript to go to publishers.

aj811So much of Aunt Joyce had already left us before today – dementia does that, stealing piece by piece the ones you love.  Madeline L’Engle’s book The Summer of The Great Grandmother expressed so much of what I felt – and encouraged the vintaging of her story, the remembering, even when she began to falter in the remembering. (If you have a loved one going through this hard journey, it is a book I recommend to both give you comfort and to help you pull the grace out of it).

She was ready to go – she’d told us over and over for two years. Yet, in so many ways, I’m not.

On Thanksgiving, I cooked her green beans and mashed potatoes, her mother-in-law, Mrs. Schrader’s, baked apples. I used less crackers in her oyster stuffing recipe this year, or maybe they’re Grandmother’s or Mom’s recipe. Mrs. Schrader, Grandmother, and Aunt Joyce are gone, but their recipes still grace the table.

I’m going to miss someone being as excited as I am about eggplant parmesan! Who else will I ever make Cointreau Cake for? Cooking isn’t just cooking where I come from. The kitchen is where relationship building happens; cooking together is the electrostatic force that builds the bond for relationships to grow.

No, I’m not going to like the empty space left behind. I already miss the daily catching up. I’m going to miss the one who knows the other half of so many stories, who knows the places to find Spring flowers that I haven’t heard of, who had a place for me to go home to, who is just as excited as I am about pink dogwoods blooming and hydrangeas coming back – and joins me in my pixilated dream chasing. I’m going to miss the sitting long and talking little, or much, or whatever the moment needs. . . and someone who just lets you be who you are and or tell you what to do.

I think that is something I will work on – just being someone who lets you be who you are when you walk through my door. . .

I know I’m not the only one who will miss Aunt Joyce. . . her house overflowed with children of all ages.

“God’s grace provides for the barren ones a joyful home with children so that even childless couples find a family. He makes them happy parents surrounded by their pride and joy. That’s the God we praise, so give it all to him!” – Psalm 113:9

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alliswellbook2Well, I finally did it! Some of my friends have asked since I started blogging ten years ago to do a devotional. I never felt compelled until this Spring – and the courage came along with the insight of how and what to do. I had to learn new things, like Indesign and become more technical with Photoshop. But I did it. It always seems like when He wants me to do something, He makes the way.
Excerpt from Introduction:

All is Well, Even Though is a devotional born out of A Big Challenge. Upon entering the challenge, I couldn’t wrap my brain around how to talk about the challenge – or even how to pray about it.

I asked God, ““How do You want me to pray through this? What words can You give me to speak to this? How do I answer everyone’s, ‘How are you’s?’” In my kitchen, as I was cooking through the challenge, He gave me the words, “All is Well.” Those words led me to the story of the Shunammite woman who faced A Great Challenge.

In the middle of A Big Challenge, she didn’t emotionally break down, vent to those in her home, or call her friends. She saddled her donkey and journeyed straight to The Man of God, who was her direct line to God.

The Shunammite mother and wife didn’t shift her focus away from the one who could take care of this very hard challenge. Instead of stopping, laying it all out to everyone who would listen, she simply said, “All is well.”

Physically, mentally and spiritually, she moved progressively closer to The One who had the solution. The Shunammite woman didn’t know how the solution would be manifested. . . though she must have believed anything was possible with God. She continued moving closer and closer until she grabbed hold of The Man of God’s feet. . . and wouldn’t let go.

She just wanted all to be well again. She didn’t say how. She just knew He would make all well. During our challenge journey, God didn’t want me to put Him in a self-designed box of solutions. I felt that deeply. Every time I tried to pray, “Let there be no . . . (just put your own personal challenge scenario here: Infertility? Teen Challenges? Cancer, Diabetes, Heart and Health issues? Out of work? Dream Loss? Broken Family? Addiction?)” . . . every time I tried to speak the result I wanted, the words stopped before I could speak them. “All is Well” were the only words I could speak.

Friend, He has had the redeeming plan to each challenge since before we drew our first breath. He had a plan to love us Big. The Shunammite Woman showed much wisdom in not limiting how God would answer her prayer. Our knowledge and experience limit our vision of what can be because our knowledge and experience is limited, but God’s is not: God’s love, God’s forgiveness, God’s solutions to the hard challenges. The more we let go and let God, the more All is Well.

This is a 6X6 inch four-week devotional with 37 photos, along with an introductory story for each week. Journaling spaces are placed at the end of each week. It is separated into four weeks because there’s no pressure to do it in 28 days. Sometimes, you just need a week with Soul Food, not theological discussions. The size was chosen so it can easily slip into a handbag or backpack and not add to its weight – and it can easily be pulled out in a doctor’s office, a hospital room, even the car line at school. It’s a book form of what sustained me to keep my eyes focused on God during one of those hard challenges. I hope these scriptures and photos can help others in the same way they helped me.
“In the Middle of a Hard Challenge? Need to keep your heart, mind and soul focused on The One Fighting the Battle for you? Needing to live an “All is Well” faith when all doesn’t look well from where you are standing? If you need a minute to lose yourself in God’s kind of grace to help take your eyes off The Challenge and focus instead on God, then All is Well, Even Though. . . offers a daily refreshing minute to help you refocus, restrengthen, refresh your heart in The Hard Challenge. All is Well, Even Though . . . even though the figurative wolf comes, though the fever comes, though the storm comes, though the self-doubt comes. All is Well, Even Though. . . because God is there.” ~ All is Well, Maryleigh Bucher
All is Well is available on Amazon.
All is Wellbook

Linking with these blogs this week:
Trekking Through – http://www.trekkingthru.com/
http://www.richfaithrising.com/ Unite the Bloggosphere
http://purposefulfaith.com/ Cheerleading #RaRaLinkUp
http://www.messymarriage.com/ Messy Marriage
Mary Geisen/ TellingHisStory

Inspire Me MondayLiterary Musing MondaysTea and Word TuesdayPurposeful FaithTell His StoryRecharge WednesdayPorch Stories Linkup, Welcome Heart, Worth Beyond Rubies WednesdayEncouraging Word WednesdaySitting Among FriendsDestination InspirationTune in ThursdayHeart EncouragementMoments of Hope Faith and Friends Faith on Fire FridayFresh Market Friday, and DanceWithJesusFriday

, Nanahood

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Those baby bracelets with the misspelled name, the II signaling he was born second. . . no one ever realized satan had already made a move to destroy that precious life. Satan didn’t yet realize God already had the saving plan (Part I: When Easter, Passover, and Christmas Collide)

Part I of this series talked about how during the Christmas season – Christmas and Easter collided. Acutely grateful that our Savior was born and acutely grateful that He atoned for our sin so that His loving Father could gather us into His family – it wasn’t just a sweet story; it was life. It was hope. It was faith alive, a Father who would fight the battle because we were made His through His son!

Yes, Christmas and Easter collided, coming alive like never before.

Then The Passover came alive for us. The Power of the Blood of the Passover encircled, protected and saved.

“When the LORD passes through to strike down the Egyptians, He will see the blood on the top and the two side-posts and pass over the door; so He will not allow the destroyer to enter your houses and strike you down.” ~ Exodus 12:23

Slowly, one by one, friends entered our prayer circle, people God sent who opened conversations with intentional interest, as a friend once called, “God-designed appointments.” Old friends, new friends, blogging friends that I knew would pray faith, hope, healing and miracles.

One friend sent me two books on “The Power of the Blood,” with her own personal experience praying that power in her own circumstances (The Blood and The Glory by Billye Brim, and The Power of the Blood by Carolyn Savelle). Like Salvation, it sounded too good to be true. Like Salvation – that I am saved because I believe that Jesus is the Son of God who was born of the virgin Mary, died for my sons, and on the third day, was resurrected – that I am saved now – I remember thinking, “No, that’s too easy. How did I not know that! It’s not a tally record two tallies for good marked only to have three taken away the next day.” My reaction to this was similar – it’s too easy. How did I recognize the power of the blood as a protective shield?

The blood of the lamb that covers my sin so that my Father can look upon me, come sit with me, protect me – the crucifixion sacrificial blood, I understood that, but my friend was talking about The Power of the Blood that shielded the Israelites the night the Angel of Death passed over those whose doors were covered with the blood of an unblemished lamb, the night of the Passover. That kind of Power of the Blood I had thought was just for that night, for the Israelites. I had compartmentalized it separately when it was not separate at all from the life-giving, salvation blood of our Savior.:

“They are to take some of the blood and put it on the two side posts and tops of the doorframes of the houses in which they eat the lambs.” ~ Exodus 12:7

“Encircle your husband with the power of the blood,” she encouraged.

“Figurative – right?” I wrote back (I have literalist issues).

“Right!”

So we did, we prayed in the middle of our family room, before the TAVR procedure, before we realized the truth of the nodule discovered in the lung (though the doctors suspected it was cancer), we prayed that the same powerful blood that covered the doorposts for the Israelites would cover my husband – protecting, healing, freeing.

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“All is Well” – we stood on that! All is Well – and the broken heart valve with the opening the size of a needle was crushed by a deployed new three-leaf valve. We were home the next day. A friend in the medical field pointed out that most likely, without his C-Pap device he had been using, he might not have made this far. We could only praise God’s amazing love and healing touch through these physicians.

He came home on a Monday and on Friday, the pulminologist biopsied the nodule. What she grabbed showed no cancer. “It still needs to come out,” she said, so we went to the surgeon. The surgeon pointed out that biopsies can be wrong, especially in hard-to-reach places like where this nodule had nestled in the lung. Lung surgery was schedule for the following Tuesday.

They’d take a section of his lobe, freeze the nodule and send it to the lab. “Within 15 minutes we’ll know if it’s cancerous or not. If it’s cancer, we’ll remove the entire lobe. If not, we’ll sew him up, and he’ll be home the next day.”

Every time, friend, I tried to pray that it not be cancer, and every time, God stopped me.

“I’ve got this,” He seemed to tell both of us, whether it is or isn’t cancer. He admonished me, “Don’t put me in a box. I can do so much more than you think is possible.”

Passover, my friend, came to our house, to the hospital, wherever my husband was, The Miracle of Passover was happening, the Power of the Blood encircled him, shielding him from the angel of death.

The night before lung surgery, I asked God, “How do I need to pray about this? Tell me what to say.”

He gave me this, “And Moses said to the people, ‘Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians [cancer, broken down heart valves, whatever challenges being faced} whom you see today, you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.'” ~ Exodus 14: 13-14.

I’ve written before about how I grew up without the support of a father (herehere, here, and here) – but God that night drove home that He’d be in that waiting room with His girl, His beloved daughter. He’d take care of His girl – and if taking care of His girl, meant taking care of her husband – well, He’d do that, too. My father sent me on to bed – and met me at the hospital in the morning.

My husband and I held hands as he prayed the scriptures he’d established with the TAVR, and then I went out to wait. Being over 1 1/2 hours away, I encouraged my sons not to come until the surgery started. Until then, I sat in the waiting room, with my Father beside me, but not an untouchable, no-show, no-time-to-fight-for-you-father. Not a God set far off, reminding me of how unworthy I was.

Suddenly, I felt this Father God next to me, dressed for war – but not like King Arthur, or even King David. It was a John-Wayne kind of Father God who stood up beside me, saying, “No one! Not One is going to mess with My daughter’s dream – and if this young man is her dream, if it’s My girl’s dream to grow old with this young man and show those boys of hers what a marriage looks like as it ages with Her Dad as the centerpiece holding it all together – well. . . No one messes with what’s Mine!”

And I envisioned this John-Wayne like Warrior God with his rifle daring anyone to mess with His girl’s dream.

I realized then that He’s such a great Father God, that He’s not limited to being there with me – but He was with Keith, too, in that surgery. He was standing there with that John Wayne stance, his rifle resting across the crook of his arm, telling them, “Now do it right. . . ’cause My daughter – she wants him healthy and whole, and I’m here to make sure you do just that.”

Maybe that’s offended some of you – likening God to John Wayne characters – but for a girl who never had a father fight for her, doesn’t really know what that looks like, that Thursday in February – that’s what it looked like to me. It made me smile, tear up and courage up! My Dad was fighting for us!

The boys showed up right after that. We waited with calm, hopeful expectation that God had this – cancer or not.

During surgery, we received a call we were expecting on whether they were going to sew him up (No Cancer) or continue for another hour or so removing the entire lobe and lymph nodes. Holding my phone, a perky little nurse on the other side sounded like she was telling me I had won the lottery, “We’re removing the lobe.”  In the natural, we hadn’t won the lottery – if not for God, we hadn’t. That little nodule was cancer, Adeno Cancer, the most common cancer among non-smokers.

We were in the hospital for six days. Recovery wasn’t as easy. The NP told us as she removed the draining tube before he went home the removal was the worst thing he would feel from then on. She was wrong. The day he went home, he experienced massive muscle spasms in his chest that lasted for two to three more days. Pain medication was ineffective. It was a hard week, much harder than we expected.

But, friends, it was a miracle. “All is well!” The mistake from the year before, where he wasn’t notified about “severe aortic stenosis” – it was part of God’s plan. I asked the pulminologist, “Would they have found the nodule last year? In the surgery pre-testing?”

“Probably not,” she said. “It would have been too small or it might not have been there at all.”

God had a plan – and seeming mistakes are sometimes part of the plan.

If I had put God in a box – and asked that my husband be cancer free – the pieces wouldn’t have fit together to show The Miracle.

Because the nodule of cancer was caught so early, he doesn’t need treatment. Just follow-ups every six months for two years – and then every year. If it doesn’t return after five years, this cancer doesn’t come back.

But the story doesn’t stop there.

Nine days after we returned home, we were back in the hospital with an infection in the lining of the remaining lung. A fever, an infection, a white blood count of 25,000.

Throughout the entire journey I hadn’t experienced fear – not during the TAVR, not during the lobectomy – except for one time while we were in the hospital for the infection. I’d been sitting wrapped up in my blanket on the chair that folds into a bed. Outside it was grayness and rain. All January and February, if we were in Nashville for hospital stays, it was grayness and rain – and as I sat there during the third hospital stay, with his fever climbing, it seemed like a veil opened up that was surrounding us, and I saw fear and death outside that veil, waiting to come in.

When I felt/saw fear and death, I immediately looked to God – and the veil closed.

The angel of death was passing over where we were. The Power of the Blood shielded my husband, saving him.

The Passover came alive for us. Yes, the Power of our Savior’s blood, the perfect sacrifice to not just cover our sins, but to encircle us, protect us. All because The Son of God was willing to be born a helpless baby in a manager. All because The Son of God was willing to be Salvation for humanity.

A No Cancer result seems like it would have been easier – it’s easier to live by faith if there’s nothing really to challenge you to believe. An easy path on a hike often means you don’t have to focus so intently on the one you are following. I would never have known what it felt like to have a Dad who fought for me. I would never have learned to cling to God, learned what it is like under His wing if I hadn’t sought shelter from the storm. I would never have learned about The Power of the Blood if we hadn’t needed to be shielded from the angel of death.

All we had to do was to keep our eyes on God, trust and believe! When fear tried to steal in, I turned my eyes to my Father. When doubt tried to muscle in to my thoughts, I turned my thoughts to my Father, the one who had The Plan, an All is Well Plan.

Like I said in the beginning of this series, if you’re going through a challenge, this post is for you. Maybe it’s a teen challenge, a fertility challenge, an over-the-edge exhaustion challenge, maybe it’s a health challenge – your own or one you love.

Maybe it’s a financial challenge, a dream challenge,  a broken-down car challenge, academic or behavior challenge, a heart-breaking challenge.

Do Not Qualify Your Challenge, don’t compare, quantify, or measure,  don’t shut off conversation because it’s not the exact challenge. Challenges are challenges – they stretch the heart, stretch faith and hope; they frustrate, hurt and, yes, grow us. Sometimes they don’t turn out according to our expectations. Yet, in each challenge, God is the same.

As a child of God, though, the course of action is the same, regardless of the challenge: keeping our eyes on the one who can walk us through the challenge, protecting us, helping us, and, at times, carrying us. Whatever your challenge is, this story was for you, too – where Christmas, Easter and The Passover come alive!

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Linking with these blogs this week:
Trekking Through – http://www.trekkingthru.com/
http://www.richfaithrising.com/ Unite the Bloggosphere
http://purposefulfaith.com/ Cheerleading #RaRaLinkUp
http://www.messymarriage.com/ Messy Marriage
Mary Geisen/ TellingHisStory

Inspire Me MondayLiterary Musing MondaysTea and Word TuesdayPurposeful FaithTell His StoryRecharge WednesdayPorch Stories Linkup, Welcome Heart, Worth Beyond Rubies WednesdayEncouraging Word WednesdaySitting Among FriendsDestination InspirationTune in ThursdayHeart EncouragementMoments of Hope Faith and Friends Faith on Fire FridayFresh Market Friday, and DanceWithJesusFriday

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If you’re going through a challenge, this post is for you. Maybe it’s a teen challenge, a fertility challenge, an over-the-edge exhaustion challenge, maybe it’s a health challenge – your own or one you love.

Maybe it’s a financial challenge, a dream challenge,  a broken-down car challenge, academic or behavior challenge, a heart-breaking challenge.

There’s only one rule for further reading: Do Not Qualify Your Challenge, don’t compare, quantify, or measure,  don’t shut off conversation because it’s not the exact challenge. Challenges are challenges – they stretch the heart, stretch faith and hope; they frustrate, hurt and, yes, grow us. In each challenge, God is the same.

As a child of God, though, the course of action is the same, regardless of the challenge: keeping our eyes on the one who can walk us through the challenge, protecting us, helping us, and, at times, carrying us. Whatever your challenge is, this story is for you, too.

In just a few days, we celebrate Easter, the resurrection of our Savior who died to save us – to save us from a life of separation from the Father. He became the forever sacrifice, his spilled blood covering our sin so that our creator, our Father, could look upon us, his children, pull us into his embrace, and walk with us homeward.

December 20th, my husband and I started a journey, where Christmas, Passover and Easter collided and burst alive, bringing into sharpened focus what it is to believe. it. all. And in the believing watch the writer of our story unveil a plot designed to shorten his life before my husband took his first breath.

December 20th, Christmas  time

. . . a mistake just realized. . . .

Noticing a discrepancy between his heart rate when kayaking and walking, when my husband went for his annual physical, he was referred to a cardiologist he’d seen the year before. When he returned from the heart visit, he told me there was a problem.

There’d been a mistake.

The tests from the year before hadn’t been forwarded to the primary care doctor – and no one had notified him. Last year’s test results showed severe aortic stenosis. He needed a heart valve replacement. He was only 59 years old.

He came home without a description of what a heart event would look like – or what we were supposed to do in a heart event. I wanted a manual with step-by-step directions. I wanted to be prepared. I felt like we’d been handed a time bomb that could go off at any minute.

I wasn’t willing to wait around. I’m pro-active.  He was in to his primary care doctor in 30 minutes. Surely there was a mistake, we thought. Wrong file? Wrong name? Wrong person? My friend’s 94 year old father’s aortic valve was replaced the year before – this is something that should have been 40 years down the road.

At 4:28 that afternoon, after not hearing anything further, I called to make an appointment with my friend’s father’s cardiologist at St. Thomas Heart in Nashville, two minutes to closing. The receptionist listened to the story – I hung up  with an appointment for two days later with the promise of a referral following.

We weren’t ready to tell our sons – not until further information was accurately gathered and a plan formulated. Besides, it was Christmas.

“Who’ve you told?” he asked, seeing my sheepish expression. Well, my friend who gave me the name of the new cardiologist.

Another friend drove over with a smaller Christmas Tree cookie cutter that evening. When I walked out to her car and she handed it to me, I burst into tears – so two people knew.

Two people God sent across my path who believed in the power of prayer, who believed that God still heals, still does miracles, still answers the prayers of his children.

God knew I would need to keep my hands and heart busy on the day  in-between.  We were surprised but He wasn’t. . . He was already steps ahead of what we knew. . . which is why weeks earlier he’d dropped this idea into my heart to build friendship, to fill my home and heart, to mix, bake and find space for laughter.

I baked a hundred cookies that night, with dough for 50 more. You see, I’d invited a family with as many kiddos as mine over to decorate cookies. . . the day before the cardiologist visit  – cookies to take to a local assisted living at lunch time to share and sing Christmas songs. We cut out more cookies, talked birth order personalities, baked some more, talked spiritual gifts, laughed, made icing, had fun with decorating points, made a huge mess, and delivered the results with Christmas songs and time spent with the residents.

christmascookiescThe new cardiologist diffused the time bomb and scheduled further testing January 2nd to solidify the plan for an aortic heart valve replacement.

Another in-between, another wait. My husband had complete peace; I baked: my grandmother’s coffee cakes, Christmas cake, modjeskas  and bourbon balls, Christmas casseroles, and hot chocolate. I measured, stirred, whipped, baked, washed the measuring spoons and cups, the mixer, the pans over and over. . . and kept my focus on the one leading us through this journey. . . . and thankfulness for the reason for Christmas steeped the in-between, the wait, thankfulness the son of the king agreed to come down from his throne, be born a baby in a manger. . .

Yet, just as quickly as I thanked God for the birth of his son, I was thanking Him for Easter, for the crucifixion and resurrection, for the sacrifice of the unblemished lamb whose shed blood would cover my sin so God would be able to look upon his children – to love, fight, protect, heal each of us, to hear our prayers, know our fears and abate them, save us from Satan’s attacks.

“The sun has finally come, heralding the hope of the Christmas Season! This seeming constant rain and darkness has been a reminder of life without the birth of our Savior – and this sunshine drives home the symbolism of the saving hope He brings and what this celebration is really about! Wishing you and all you walk among the saving hope born of Christmas!” ~ December 24th, Instagram

A couple of challenges ago, I learned not to hold my breath in the wait of a prayer sent out. Breath-holding until the challenge has passed isn’t trusting God. There’s no peace in it, no fully living with a breath-holding mentality. God leaves such precious blessing in the wait of a prayer sent out, but when we live holding our breath, pausing until the prayer  is answered, we miss the blessings. The most important part of living happens in the hard wait, so I breathed in, “Lord, Jesus Christ” and breathed out, “Have mercy on us.” Breathing Jesus in. Breathing mercy out.

Intentional living, intentional loving, intentional focusing on the one who had the map to this journey. . . The Christmas gifts we gave weren’t all spot on. The stockings looked like a slackard elf put them together. Everything seemed a step off except for when my focus  was on the one who held both of us by the hand and guided us.

It was an I Believe Christmas. . . 
run smack into an Easter resurrection. . .

Maybe that’s what everyday living should be – a collision of Christmas and Easter in a come alive way.

lakeleafcWe decided before Christmas to tell the boys on Bucher Family Hat Day, January 1. I think it took a while to process this significant health challenge, to solidify how we were going to walk this forward, and finding the words to use to express and encase this challenge.

At no point did Keith ever doubt what the outcome would be: God had this! He didn’t doubt it for a moment.

My heart’s desire, maybe it’s my mission statement, is to show the boys what marriage looks like as we grow old with God as the center of that relationship. January 1 we were ready to tell our boys, to lead them forward through this challenge as God led us. They were about to realize marriage with God as the center isn’t challenge free but faith full.

Living over 1 1/2 hours from every major city, including downtown Nashville, we experienced a lot of drive time at 4:3 a.m. for the next 8 weeks. January 2 began a series of tests: a TEE, and heart catheterization were the big ones.

His arteries were great. My cooking did not cause the problem. It wasn’t that he’d eaten the wrong diet, not exercised enough, not lived the right kind of life style – whatever that may be.

He was born with a two-leaf heart valve (bi-cuspid), instead of a three-leaf heart valve (tri-cuspid). He was born destined for a life cut short. A genetic issue, our sons will need to be tested eventually.

Satan comes to steal, kill and destroy – he does it slyly, a sneak-thief thinking he can outsmart God: switching three-leaf heart valves with two is just one way. If we put our heads together, I imagine we could fill a book with a list full of ways Satan tries to interfere with God’s kids. Yet, no matter how Satan tries to interfere, God isn’t just a few moves ahead. He’s already implemented the steps for the win.

For you formed my inward parts;
    you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
   I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.[a]
Wonderful are your works;
    my soul knows it very well.
   My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
    intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
   Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
    the days that were formed for me,
    when as yet there was none of them” ~ Psalm 130: 13-16

The heart-valve study chooses the procedure for valve replacement: open heart surgery or the TAVR (transcatheter aortic valve implantation). One is very uncomfortable with an eight week recovery, while the other requires only an overnight hospital stay.  The study chose open heart surgery, and within six months was no longer an option. The procedure needed to be done quickly because since last year’s sonogram, the aortic valve was now critical, the opening the size of a needle.

A mistake had been made a year before. . . or had it. . .

The birth and resurrection had never seemed so closely connected.

Rummaging through Keith’s top drawer, I found his hospital baby identification bracelets. His mom and dad had no idea they were expecting twins. The story is a sweet one.

Dr. Mahaffey came out to tell Lloyd, my father-in-law, he had a healthy baby girl. Some minutes later he came out again and congratulated him on a son.

“But Dr. Mahaffey, you just told me I had a girl. Don’t you know which? Is it a boy or a girl?” my father-in-law, 25, asked.

“Son, you have one of each,” the kindly old doctor said, at which point, Lloyd slid down the hospital wall in shock.

They still laugh about the audacity of how Dr. Mahaffey charged double for the two: $75 a piece.

Those baby bracelets with the misspelled name, the II signaling he was born second. . . no one ever realized satan had already made a move to destroy that precious life. Satan didn’t yet realize God already had the saving plan.

As we stepped deeper into this “All is well” journey, one by one, God sent people across our path who stopped for real conversation, whose “How are you doing” wasn’t just a hand-off greeting, people who still believed miracles happen, that the power of God overcomes. I also invited a hand full of women I’d written with in the blogging community for years, women with a heart for intercession to pray with us. 

Slowly, a small brigade formed, praying with us for complete healing, for unflagging strength and courage for the journey, to encourage us to keep our eyes focused on the one who works those miracles, who heals the broken places, who has the best battle plans and wins.

This small brigade were the Aaron and Hurs in the hard of the challenge.

So Moses said to Joshua, ‘Choose for us men, and go out and fight with Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.’ So Joshua did as Moses told him, and fought with Amalek, while Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. But Moses’ hands grew weary, so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it, while Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side. So his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. And Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the sword” (Exodus 17: 8-13).

These intercessors who believed with us: “All is well!”

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During the pre-tests for open heart surgery, a nodule was found in his lung. The plan changed. Though the PET scan was borderline inconclusive, the pulmonologist thought it was Adeno cancer. An eight week recovery was out of the question. Open heart surgery was switched for the TAVR to be followed by a biopsy followed by lung surgery.

I asked God how I needed to pray. He sent me to 2 Kings 4: 8-37, the story of the Shunammite wife and mother whose son had fallen ill and died. She didn’t wail and tell the world of her challenge, her grief, her fear or heart-break. She just said, “All is well.”

“All is well”  I said as we followed him.

Severe aortic stenosis? “All is well”

Nodule in the lung? Cancer? “All is well”

How are you doing? “All is well”

All is well!

The Passover just collided with Christmas and Easter.

That mistake? It wasn’t a mistake after all. . .

(The rest of the story in Part II: When Easter, Passover and Christmas Collide

and All is Well. . . Even Though Devotional)

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“Happily Ever After” – the stuff of fairy tales? Maybe “Happily Ever After” is living fully as Daughter of the King, knowing whose we are, knowing how He sees us – and knowing that whatever the challenge, no matter the challenge’s bigness or littleness, no matter the pain of walking through it. . .

My Dad’s going to make sure I know He’s there,
My Dad sees me, even when I’m hiding, misbehaving, or crying in the closet,
A refuge, my Dad tucks me under his wing when the challenges threaten to beat me up. Yeah! My Dad has wings!
My prayers whether whispered, written in small handwriting, or spoken awkwardly? My Dad listens intently anytime, anyplace, for any reason – and He always answers in His Best time in ways I never imagined. 
My Dad meets me when I call out to Him. Always! I never have to wait on Him, though, sadly, I often make him wait.
My Dad shepherds me on the paths I need to take – and teaches me to walk those paths with a heart for forgiveness.
When I’m crushed or broken-hearted, my Dad doesn’t just come alongside – He makes sure I am not crushed.
My Dad shows me how to love my brothers and sisters – and the ones who don’t know He’s their Dad.

Maybe that is the Happily Ever After in the Fairy Tales. Maybe it is the story with the redeemer Father taking care of His daughter after saving her. The challenges don’t change because that is life this side of heaven – but who I go through the challenges with – That is the Happily Ever After, the hope, the faith, the Father-God in it.

My God who made himself known to me became My Father who made himself known to me.

My Dad loves it when I come to him, am honest with Him about my struggles, with how I feel in the struggle, with my confusion sometimes in trying to understand Him or His plan – He loves it because until I’m honest to Him about how I feel, He really cannot begin the process of fixing the broken places. I am so glad I told Him.

I am my Dad’s beloved daughter – wanted, planned for – and one day, I will hear Him say the name He picked out for me.

My Dad told me He had a whole healthy girl for me.
All the while, He meant me.
He means, you, too.

Part I: Wilt Thou Be Made Whole: A Broken Daughter
Part II: Wilt Thou Be Made Whole: God Becoming Father
Part III: Wilt Thou Be Made Whole: Learning to Live as Beloved Daughter

 

Linking with these blogs this week:
Trekking Through – http://www.trekkingthru.com/
http://www.richfaithrising.com/ Unite the Bloggosphere
http://purposefulfaith.com/ Cheerleading #RaRaLinkUp
http://www.messymarriage.com/ Messy Marriage
Mary Geisen/ TellingHisStory

Inspire Me MondayLiterary Musing MondaysPurposeful FaithTell His StoryRecharge WednesdayPorch Stories Linkup, Welcome Heart, Worth Beyond Rubies WednesdayEncouraging Word WednesdaySitting Among FriendsDestination InspirationTune in ThursdayHeart EncouragementMoments of Hope Faith and Friends Faith on Fire FridayFresh Market Friday, and DanceWithJesusFriday

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