Monthly Archives: September 2013

Life at it’s best….

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In John 10:10, Jesus says, “I have come that you might have life and have it more abundantly.”  Something I have learned in the last 15 years of my life is that living abundantly, living life to the full, means you have high highs and low lows.  Having fullness of life is never about everything going right all the time and never having any challenges, nor is it about everything going wrong all the time and seeing only the downside of life.

God created us to be really and truly ALIVE, to experience all that He intends for us in this life and the life to come.  Thinking of this often reminds me of the story of the Velveteen Rabbit.  The little stuffed bunny’s feelings were hurt when his little boy owner got a new toy and threw the bunny to the side.  The Velveteen Rabbit wondered what it would be like to be a real rabbit and if the boy would love him more than the new, technological toys, but while he was with the other toys, the hobby horse had some words of wisdom for him.  

“Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’

‘Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit. 

‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’ 

‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’ 

‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.” 
― Margery WilliamsThe Velveteen Rabbit

In my ups and downs, weeks like I had last week, it helps me to remember that the abundant life is about becoming….about God making me into the “real” person He meant for me to be from the start.  So, when we have weeks where everything seems to be tough, when our sink is leaking and our son seriously sprains his ankle and I have a kidney stone and I find out I didn’t get the job I wanted, God uses all this to make us “real”.  If we never experienced these low times, then the high times wouldn’t be nearly as wonderful, and we would miss out on some opportunities for growth and learning, and we wouldn’t be living the abundant life that God has for each of us.

When I consider these truths, I find peace and move closer to accepting the difficulties of life as a part of the puzzle God is putting together from the pieces of my life.

 

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Allowing Him to work…

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If we truly want to put all the pieces together and be whole, we can allow Jesus to do it for us.  I’ve tried this and discovered that it requires commitment to a long process of puzzle-working, and there are times that I have felt it would never make sense.  The process has demanded that I relinquish hold of the pieces I thought were already fitting together.  I have had to let God be in control, and that isn’t always an easy thing to do.

In March 1998, we discovered I was expecting our third child.  We had not planned to have another child and had actually already sold some of our baby things.  So, it took me a little while to embrace the idea and accept it.

Later in the spring, my husband interviewed for a job at our alma mater, where we had been hoping to return for quite a while.  He didn’t get the job, and we were discouraged, and kind of symbolically “threw up our hands” and gave up on ever getting a job there (as this was about his 3rd time to be turned down).

We continued through the summer and my pregnancy was proving to be more challenging than the first two.  By September, I was told I needed to stop working and rest as much as possible.  I wasn’t due until November, so our finances took a blow which lead us to seek legal counsel and eventually took us down the path of bankruptcy, chapter 7 (more on this in a future post).

As the due date approached, the doctor saw that the baby was getting quite big and planned to induce me early.  We found out we were having a girl and tried to get ready for her arrival in a hurry, particularly since our first two were boys.

The doctor induced me on a Saturday morning, and the labor was stressful with my veins not doing well due to dehydration.  When it came time to push, my blood pressure was bottoming out and I almost fainted were it not for a nurse anesthetist who noticed my eyes rolling back in my head and took what measures were needed to keep me awake and pushing.  Our girl was born and yes, she was big, 10lbs.15.3oz!  However, she seemed bloated and swollen, like she wasn’t supposed to be that big…

During that first week, we were back and forth to the pediatrician a lot.  Our daughter wasn’t acting quite right and the doctor was concerned.  They checked her blood levels and urine samples several times, and her potassium level kept rising.  By the 6th day, we had her at Children’s hospital and her potassium was at 8.4 (which is dangerous because it can lead to cardiac arrest, but no one had told us that up to this point).

They had sent me home after being at Children’s all day doing testing, only to call me a half hour after I got back to the apartment to tell me to bring her again.  We weren’t comprehending what danger she was in at that time.  By the time we got her there and they took her blood again, her potassium had risen to 11.4 and the ultrasound was showing her kidneys weren’t functioning.

They whisked her away to do an emergency surgery that would allow them to perform dialysis to get the toxins out of her system.  We went to the parent room, pray, read Scripture, and called friends all over the world to pray for a miracle.  They came to get us when the surgery ended, and we went to see her with all the tubes and machines hooked up to her.

We were told to try to rest; there was nothing more we could do at that point.  Amazingly, we slept, for 5 hours.  When we woke, the nurses told us her levels were all back to normal and her kidneys were beginning to function again.  They left the dialysis “straw” in for 18 hours in case they would have to perform it again, but they didn’t.  She has never had a problem since, and now she is almost 15!

The nephrologist (kidney doctor) said he had never seen anyone survive a potassium that high.  All the staff were amazed that she lived.  We knew it was a miracle from the Father, and because she was an unexpected gift from Him in the first place, we knew He must have planned for her to be a part of our lives for a reason.

During that night of uncertainty, God took me to Isaiah 40 and it gave me great comfort.  He spoke promises to me about my future, even as I released her to His care and His choice as to whether or not she would survive.  We didn’t understand all His purposes or how all this was fitting into our life puzzles, but He knew, and we knew He could be trusted.

One piece of the puzzle we did find through this part of our journey was regarding my husband’s job rejection earlier that year.  We now understand that if he had gotten that job at that time we wouldn’t have had the insurance for our daughter’s care and we wouldn’t have lived close enough to a Children’s hospital for her life to be saved.  According to God’s awesome plan, later in 1999, my husband was called back regarding the job from the previous year at our alma mater, and he was offered the job because the person they had hired didn’t work out for the long term.  God’s ways are not our ways…..His plans are not our plans….but we can trust Him to put the pieces of our lives together!

 

a conundrum….

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Some people don’t sense the need to discover the missing pieces of their lives or try to understand how it all fits together.  We walk around like incomplete puzzles with huge gaps in the pictures of our lives, hoping no one will be able to see that we aren’t whole.  We try to cover up the blank spots with other pieces that we’ve made for ourselves, but those pieces never quite fit, and when someone gets close enough to us to look at the individual pieces, they soon uncover that we aren’t put together right.  This leads to more distortion as we attempt to rearrange them ourselves or they get torn apart and lost, and we scramble to try to fill the gaps again.  It doesn’t have to be this way…

Puzzles

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Growing up, I highly disliked working puzzles.  My sister would always have one of those 5000 piece puzzles sitting out on a table, the entire winter, working on it as she had time.  Holiday time, when the entire family was around, puzzles would be brought out for everyone to work at putting them together.  I would stop and attempt to put in a few pieces, but I would quickly give up on it.  I couldn’t figure out a strategy.  It all seemed so random to me.

It’s only been in the last few years I’ve finally found some secrets to working puzzles.  Now, I can sit down and confidently work on one, knowing I can at least get the edges done and find some of the inner pieces, until it gets to the part where all the colors are the same.  I can’t say that I ever actually choose to work a puzzle, but at least I feel competent to associate with the puzzle-working crowd. 

On the flipside, fitting the pieces of my life-puzzle together has interested me for a very long time, since I took my first psychology class in high school.  That class started me to wondering about what had shaped me into who I was and what was forming me into who I was becoming.  I began to question why I did the things I did. 

I had a crush on the son of my high school Sunday School teacher.  He and I would often sing together in church, and we would spend many Sunday afternoons practicing songs, just for the fun of it.  I admired his Mom and looked to her for wisdom.  The two of them sang one particular song, regularly, and I never forgot the chorus to it. 

The song was called “Pieces”, and the words I remember were….

“He said pieces, pieces, so many pieces to your life…

scattered all around, and some of them are gone.

I can put them all together, and there will never be

another one who can.”

I was moved by those words, especially because of what it meant in the lives of that Sunday School teacher and her son.  They had come through a lot of rough places in life, and I knew what it took for them to trust that God could put the pieces of their lives together again.

That gave me courage and hope for my own life.  It spurred me on to begin the dangerous journey of searching for all the pieces to the puzzle of my life and allowing God to put them together to show me the big picture of how my life had come to that point, where it was going, and what He wanted to do to transform it so that the puzzle could be the picture He intended it to be from the start. 

The longer I live, the more I realize that everyone has puzzle pieces of their lives that are scattered and jumbled, that don’t make a lot of sense.  How easy it is for us to just let the pieces fall where they may and not try to put them together to find understanding and meaning in them.  It is a daunting task to allow God to take those pieces into His hands, to let Him reveal their meaning to us, and then to give Him the freedom to put the pieces together His way, so that the picture of our lives turns out as He desires it.

He is the Master Puzzle Maker, though, and no matter how we might try, we can never put together a life puzzle that will fit perfectly and become a breathtaking work of art.  When we give the pieces to Him, the life He forms from that puzzle, becomes a picture that makes sense; it takes it’s true and intended form, and ultimately, it radiates His glory for all to see.