Thursday, January 21, 2016

When God Changes Your Name

Recently, I was reading in Genesis where God changed the names of Abram and Sarai to Abraham and Sarah. It made me think also of another situation where He changed a name: Jacob to Israel.  I find it of pivotal importance when God steps in and does that.  To me, "whys" have always mattered (I'm not good at looking at things on just the surface) and what the benefit is of such significant changes. 

Abraham's and Sarah's names were changed to name them as "father of many nations" and "mother of many nations". (Genesis 17) Abraham was 99 years old when this happened and at this point he had no children.  God fulfilled that name change the following year when Sarah did finally conceive and give birth to Isaac (and she was 90!). Back in Chapter 15, God had shown Abraham that he would have descendants as countless as the stars in the sky. He was 75 at the time.  He had to wait about 25 years to see the beginning of that promise come true in his life.  Can you imagine how many doubts filled his mind throughout the years?  Can you imagine Sarah's disappointment each time she knew that "this" just wasn't the month, yet again? But when God stepped in....everything changed.  It wasn't an immediate fulfillment of a promise, there weren't immediate results of the name change, but it happened.  Through their stories, we learn to not give up when the timing seems so long to us.

Jacob became Israel in Genesis 33, changing him from a deceiver to a prince. Jacob, a grandson of Abraham, was living a life of deceit.  He deeply deceived his brother Esau and had to flee to Haran. Though he had a dream reminding him of God's covenant with Abraham, he still didn't make that needed life change.  A few years down the road, as a father of 12 sons (later becoming the 12 tribes of Israel), he continued to fight against family and lived a life of deceit, most especially with his uncle, Laban. Needing to return to Canaan, Jacob feared passing by his brother Esau that he previously fled from.  The night before arriving, Jacob wrestled with an angel of God throughout the night and was injured in his hip/thigh. It was at that time that Jacob was renamed Israel, which some say means "he struggles with God" and some say mean "having power with God." God changes his name and reminds him of his purpose, BUT he still struggled.  He changed the name and the man eventually changed to live up to that name, but it was a long hard process.  Through his story, we learn that real growth comes at times through struggle and pain.

Names are changed to give a new identity. 

In a few months, I'm going to have the chance to rediscover my own identity a bit.  I made the decision, with the full support of my husband, to completely step away from ALL childcare in my home for many reasons. There will be no more "tot" school and no more "littles" to love on.  A big change is ahead for me.  For the first time in about 19 years, I will be without a little one to care for (either my own or someone else's that I care for as deeply as my own) and won't have someone in diapers or potty training.  My role is changing.  Many things I've put off, I'll have a chance to begin or restart.  In many cases, it's going to be discovery mode. For half my life, I've been identified AND lived out a life that centers around small children.  I have had, even what some consider irrational, a DEEP love for little ones.  It's who I am.  Though I still love them and will have some deep withdrawal, I'm going to be going on adventure to see what other identities are within me.  That may be a bit of an "off balance" time as those changes take place.

Identity is important. 

What happens when God changes OUR names?

When we turn our lives over to Him, our name does become Christian, but what if we took that a step deeper? We become a new creation with a new identity! What identity is that?

We change sinner to redeemed.

We change unworthy to deeply loved.

What if we stopped living as victims and let our name be VICTORIOUS? How would that change our actions, thought patterns, and the way we move about life?

We change from hopeless to with hope.

We go from abandoned to cherished.

This list goes on and on.

Yet, here's the problem.  This is where I'm guilty...

I don't walk in that new identity often enough. 

I stay in the old.  I crush my potential.  I don't succeed at fulfilling my purpose.  Wonder how many blessings have been lost, lives changed, or opportunities missed?

Yet, we ARE these new things.  When we encounter God's presence, HE CHANGES US. 

Our new identity is right there for us. 


We have to embrace it. 
We have to grow into it.
Yes, we might even have to struggle through it.

Are we choosing our new name or staying stuck in our old ones?

Today, what if...

What if, we just took one little step that moved us towards LIVING out our identities in Christ.

Knowing who we are IN CHRIST changes everything.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Blind Faith?

Back in April, we found ourselves in a position that required us to completely place our trust in a team of medical providers in an unexpected emergency situation.  Our daughter, almost 18 at the time, had a relentless headache that just wouldn't respond to any of the typical at home remedies.  Since she has an extremely high pain tolerance, when she became unable to tolerate the pain, my husband and I decided a quick trip to convenient care was in order.  We figured they could give her something stronger than the ineffective over the counter meds and she'd come back home and sleep it off with some knock out drugs.  Our middle son was away on a church trip and was due to return in another hour or two, so my husband took her down the street to the walk in clinic while I took off for an intended quick 5K walk with our youngest.  Of course, as luck would have it, I was at the furthest point from home on foot when he called and said that the clinic wanted her taken to the ER.  Though I was in our neighborhood, I was still several minutes away from home and our son needed picked up soon, so it was decided they would go on to the ER (especially once I found out that the clinic was so adamant about her going that they had called ahead to the ER to alert them).  At the time, both dad and daughter were actually laughing because they thought the need to go was "ridiculous".  We are definitely not the type to just run to the doctor for every little sniffle and ER trips, in our eyes, are for the bleeding to death kind of emergencies.  Little did we know that we were about to be on a crazy roller coaster.

I made record time in getting home and then paced and prayed.  Paced some more.  If you know me, you know I'll clean like a crazy woman when I'm stressed.  We'll just say that while I was waiting for initial reports to find out what was going on, my kitchen became as spotless as it could possibly be.  I'm surprised I didn't rub a hole in the counter tops from shining them so much. 

She went in with a headache but the REAL problem was something was wrong with her heart.  She was sustaining a heartrate of no less than 200 beats per minute and at times was well beyond that. She was considered in Supraventricular Tachycardia (SVT).  She had extreme facial flushing and her extremities had become very mottled- purplish lace-like. However, she was laughing and still just as sweet and gracious to everyone around her.  Oh---she still had that MEGA headache that became unimportant. When my husband realized the headache wasn't even a concern to them at the time and more and more staff was being called into her room, he knew that I "probably" needed to find a way to get the boys and head to the hospital.  At that time, it was getting pretty late and I didn't have many options for the boys so we grabbed a backpack and went. 

What I didn't know was that I was walking in the hospital and being directed back to her "room", her room was filled to capacity with medical staff from multiple specialties as they gave a medicine to literally stop her heart.  They made the decision to stop it from beating in hopes that it would begin beating on its own again at a normal rhythm. Professionals stood by with cardiac crash cart in hand in case it didn't start on its own. 


Are you kidding me?

You mean to tell me that my perfectly healthy, seldom EVER seen by a doctor, tiny and strong daughter was lying in a bed with her heart stopped by a medication in "hopes" that it would restart.  Normally.

(And no, I didn't have a CLUE at this point.  Dad was in the room, but he really didn't know what was going on either because it was a blur.)

Just seconds after her heart did beat again on its own, it again was beating at the same increased rate.  Though they were relieved that no additional medical intervention was required to restart it, she continued in SVT and that was becoming more and more troubling to them.  In came more staff and phone calls were being made to other hospitals with pediatric cardiologists on call.  At that time, I arrived and Kevin went to sit with the boys.  (Just knowing I was in the hospital, STANDING, instead of out cold on the floor was a miracle in itself.  I. Don't. Do. Hospitals.  Who am I kidding? I don't even do doctor's offices! My panic attacks from years prior with Peyton NOT ONCE surfaced during this whole time.  Miracle in itself right there!).

Her very sweet nurse came back in and told Adriana that in the next few minutes they were going to try that same thing again.  Though I wasn't aware of them doing it the first time since I was driving and hadn't been updated, I INSTANTLY knew what they were talking about.  I KNEW what was happening without explanation.  I knew THIS WAS SERIOUS.  She asked Adriana if she was prepared for that "feeling" again.  (She described it as the time she broke her ribs in gymnastics on the uneven bars, but a thousand times worse. That crushing pain of broken ribs and the wind knocked out of her lungs.)

In those moments, it was about BLIND FAITH.

Trusting in the knowledge of the professionals.  Believing they knew far more than I did.  Knowing that there was something serious enough going on to warrant something so drastic.  Letting them do what they needed to do and not standing in the way. Giving them full liberty to do anything and everything necessary, regardless of how uncomfortable, how difficult to see, or how unsure I was of what was happening.

THAT moment taught me MANY things (as did the whole roller coaster!)---but something that STOOD out ABOVE and BEYOND all else.

The "blind faith".

I trusted without question, no matter how much it heart my momma heart.

Do I do that same thing with Christ? Do I fully trust Him?

Or rather, do I fight him.  Argue with him.  Plead my case.

Do I trust when He says, "Wait."?  Do I let Him have the room to work in my life with full access? Do I trust Him when dreams aren't fulfilled?  Do I trust in the valleys? What about when I feel it's "unfair", too hard, too painful, or asking "too" much? What about when He asks the hard things?  Or what about when I'm defiant, stubborn, or too meek, fearful, or scared?

Really, it isn't about blind faith.  I read once that it's better described as "well-founded faith" and it has stuck with me.  I like that version much better.

I trusted the doctors because of their training, their knowledge, their skills, and their hands on experience.  I didn't trust them blindly as just a stranger on the street with no medical knowledge.  I had something to go on.  Yes, it required trust, but it wasn't completely blind.

Trusting in our Savior isn't any different.  In the life of a believer, that trust and faith is well-founded instead of blind.  We have His Word packed full of countless examples to strengthen our faith, teach us about Him, and show us how to live. We see His miracles.  We see how He lived, what He's capable of, just HOW POWERFUL He is. We can see prophesies fulfilled and promises kept.  Not only does scripture give us that basis, but also our real life.  We KNOW that He's at work in our lives.  We've seen Him at work in others. Above all, we have the Holy Spirit living in active within us. 

We aren't walking around blindly.

We are trusting in Well-founded faith.

Sometimes, we just need to remember that.  When we are afraid to trust or don't like our circumstances,  when we are going through some hard things or grieving the loss of someone or something valuable to us, when we feel abandoned, or.....  (insert an unending list...)

We also need to trust in that well-founded faith when we have to place our trust in situations that are out of our control.  Just like in the ER---I had to step back and say, "I trust you. I believe that you are doing the best for my daughter."  I didn't like what was happening.  I didn't want her uncomfortable.  I didn't want to feel completely surrendered and have to give up my control.  But...

It was necessary. 

Today, I know I need to say the same to my Heavenly Father. "I trust you.  I believe that you are doing the best for me (or this situation, or this person, etc...).  I'm struggling with giving you this control, but I know it's for my best.  You are at work.  I may not know what You are doing, I don't even necessarily find it comfortable.  But I trust.  You've always proven to be in control.  You are LORD of my life and I place my trust in YOU.  I hand to you my whole life, even the hidden parts and every situation." 

(On a side note for those not knowing how our "story" ended:  IT continued be a roller coaster.  Her heart stayed in that state of stress for several days landing her in CCU under full monitoring. Yes, she got crazy looks from every one coming in the door to care for her.  They expected to see an elderly patient hooked up to those monitors instead of a young girl. Though a medication could have been used to slow the heart rate, the approach was that it was more important to find the cause.  We couldn't just treat the symptoms.  As those days passed, few people knew just how many initial diagnosis thoughts were given to us, what was tested for, or how serious of a concern they had for her.  If it was a scary word or diagnosis, it was suggested as a possibility to be looked at and ruled out. As those days progressed, we began to have another issue of her white blood counts bottoming out and her platelets dropping.  Practically to non-existence, putting her at even greater risks.  Yes, she even eventually picked up the FLU on top of it all.  It was a LONG in hospital week, followed by several weeks of continued testing and sitting in oncology/hematology clinics waiting for results of those scary words.  EVERY SINGLE test came back as negative. Nothing could be found.  After about a month, her blood counts finally returned to normal (and yes she was a PINCUSHION after daily blood draws---they cringed seeing her come in because it was getting more and more difficult to get a vein.).  Her heart is still a bit on the faster side for someone in her healthy condition, but that slight elevation is probably a normal for her.  She is a tiny person to begin with (our munchkin was only 22 pounds at 2.5 years old!), but by the time that hospitalization was over she'd lost another 10% of her bodyweight.  Today, 7 months later, she's not quite gained back to her starting weight and still has a bit of energy lag at times, but ALL tests still remain normal.  Even with my history of Lupus and a great history of thyroid issues in both of our extended families, those tests even returned normal.  So medically speaking it was decided an unknown virus attacked her heart and blood system.  Quite possible.  But perhaps, God also intervened, placing another miracle right in our hands. She was healthy enough to go back to the Dominican Republic that summer without any restrictions.)

(On another side note:  that very special ER nurse happened to pass her while shopping in a fabric store many months later.  It was a providential meeting.  You see, our daughter made an incredible impact on her with her attitude while under such stress.  She took the time to THANK HER for taking care of her as she was being wheeled up to CCU and even after every invasive or uncomfortable procedure she would commend her for doing a good job.  We didn't remember her name and as is typical, once a person leaves the ER, it's not typical to know what happens after.  The nurse had always wondered about her "sweet crazy heart teen!" and was just floored to see her healthy and without long term complications.  She had feared the worst.  Then just last month, Adriana had the opportunity to do a clinical rotation in that ER as part of her EMT training, and it was a great moment to see her once again!  Go, God!)

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Looking Forward

13 months.  THIRTEEN months.  Of silence.

But, I'm back.  Ready to jump back in, dust off the keyboard, and put my thought back to "paper" once again.

I felt like I needed to step back for awhile and at the time I had no idea that the whispers in my heart would continue to say, "keep waiting".  I finally felt like I had the "green light" to share what is on my heart once again, but that hit at the busiest season and time of life so I had to anxiously wait a bit longer. 

Now that I'm back, I don't intend to spend a lot of time giving you a run down of what has been going on the last 13 months of life!  I am sure that some of it will trickle down naturally through my future posts, but in general----it has been hard, it has been amazing, HE has done lots of REFINING and reshaping.  I will also say that my year of being 40 was phenomenal in regards to finding a new confidence (or as I like to say God-fidence!) to be ME, more and more every day. The inside work He's been doing makes me look forward with great anticipation! Ladies---here's a side note---don't fear 40!  It's actually freeing, fun, and worth celebrating. 

I'll admit---this getting back online feels GOOD, but my goodness I am rusty!  I couldn't even remember how to log on or even my own blog address.  It's. Been. That. Long.

I think it's important to look back and learn from our mistakes, but it's more important to also look forward. When I forget that, I remember being asked a question.  "Do you know why a car's rearview mirror is so small, but the windshield is so large?"  We DO need to see where we've been and occasionally have to look back, but it's vital to be looking forward and have a wide, unobscured view. 

Looking back, I took a break because of time constraints, my relationships weren't getting the best of me, I was letting "this" replace my individual one on one time with Him much too often, and blog had become somewhat of an idol for me.  The Bible clearly says to kick those to the curb! (putting it in my own words).  An idol is anything that separates us or leads us astray from God.  I obviously didn't purposely worship my blog, but I placed it on a pedestal and it began to slowly become an idol in my heart.  Anything can become idols in our life.  Even good things.

I recently read an article from HomeLife magazine that was reprinted on Article Here)  In this article, it summed it up really well.  Idols make empty promises, obscure reality, consume resources, and robs joy.  "Idolatry leaves you empty because idols are empty." Yes, that's where I found myself. 

Spiritual spring cleaning was in order (and a very much ongoing process).

I also had become VERY overwhelmed with sharing so much of my heart, my faith, and my hopes.  I TRULY wanted it to reach hearts and to be a ministry (STILL my main goal!), but I had become so broken and both emotionally and physically weighed down by wanting it to change hearts and not often seeing the fruits. 

I had forgotten that I can plant, BUT ONLY HE CAN MAKE IT GROW.

Looking forward is where my focus now rests.  I look forward with great anticipation.  My heart is in a new place and the door is wide open for Him to work.

I have clear goals now.

Be me.  No one else.
Step back anytime I feel that I'm putting Him second.
No getting caught up in numbers, comments, growth charts, etc.. My goal is for one.  Reach one.  Reach one more.
Remember that HE is the only one that can make ANYTHING grow. 

With that said, here's to a new adventure.  I'm currently reading "Simply Tuesday: Small Moment Living in a Fast-Moving World" by Emily Freeman.  She says it best:

We plant, trusting God for the growth.
We act in faith, trusting God for the outcome.
We build, trusting God to fill.
We offer, trusting God with the response.

I'm back.  Planting. Acting in faith.  Building without being responsible for filling.  Offering while trusting God.

Pretty sure that's a perfect way to be looking forward.