This Christmas as we consider what God’s greatest gift, what does it mean in your life? Can others see His love working in your relationships? Consider the following, what would you do if your spouse was burned beyond recognition, would your love overcome their disfigurement?
I was privileged to hear the following narrative that has been shared by others including renowned author, Max Lucado, and I now share it with you. It recounts a story, Dr. Maxwell Maltz originally shared in his book: You Changed My Life: Stories of Real People with Remarkable Hearts.
There was a man who found himself in the horrific situation of unsuccessfully attempting s to save his parents from a burning house. As He battled the fire he encountered intense heat and engulfing flames which almost took his own life. He ultimately escaped but his face was badly burned causing permanent disfigurement.
He was overcome by disappointment and guilt. He interpreted his loss and condition as punishment from God for his own failures. He shut himself away, isolated himself in one room, refusing to allow anyone, including his wife, to see him.
His wife was heartbroken and in her distress she sought help from Dr. Maltz, who was a highly regarded plastic surgeon. When she had explained the situation, the surgeon was deeply touched at her plight and that of her beloved husband. He comforted her with a remarkable statement, “I can restore his face” he said.
She knew the doctor’s intentions were genuine, but was still not convinced and explained further. Her husband had refused any and all attempts or offers of help in the past and she was absolutely sure he would refuse the doctor’s help also.
Perplexed Dr. Maltz asked, “Then why are you here…why the visit?”
She responded with solemn and unmistakable clarity, “I want you to disfigure my face so I can be like him! If I can share in his pain, then maybe he will let me back into his life.”
Appalled and shocked, Dr. Maltz absolutely refused her request.
But he could not help but be stirred by the woman’s deep devotion for her husband and the extraordinary love that motivated such an appeal. He decided that he would go and attempt to speak with her husband.
Knocking on the man’s bedroom door, he announced, “I’m a plastic surgeon, and I want you to know that I can restore your face.”
No response or acknowledgement followed.
Dr. Maltz call to him again and begged him to “please come out”.
Again no answer.
The doctor knew he couldn’t leave without this man knowing what a rare and wondrous love awaited him on the other side of that locked door. So he leaned against it as he told this broken and wounded soul of his wife’s visit to his office along with her inquiry. “She wants me to disfigure her face,” he said, “to make her face like yours in the hope that you will let her back into your life. That’s how much she loves you.”
The air was silent as he waited breathlessly, but after a long pause Dr. Maltz began to leave. Then he heard a slight noise and watched as the door knob turn ever so slowly.
As tears ran down my cheeks all I could see was God’s own son, the glory of heaven, humbling himself to become an embryo, a single cell, a lump of “tissue” and according to some, not even human. But instead the God of the universe revered the miracle of conception and birth so highly, that He sent His son, to be born of a virgin, an earthly mother, a teenager, a girl who was the town “scandal” to walk the journey from the cradle to the cross.
Matthew 1:23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us
And there, on Golgotha, covered in the disfigurement of my sin, the repulsive, putrid, death of my own filth and failures, hung a holy God, who said, “My child, I love you so much, that I have chosen the disfigurement of your sin, I will carry you shame, guilt and punishment, I will die so you don’t have to. When you can see that I paid your debt, then maybe you will accept my sacrifice the free gift of grace and allow me into your life.”
I pray that this Christmas, when we celebrate the amazing birth of our Savior, you will embrace Jesus as the one who was born in Bethlehem for you. Clothed in the radiant beauty of His Holiness sin’s disfigurement is gone and you are whole.
John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”
In the aftermath of the tragedies in PARIS, I write with a broken heart, but not without hope, I am troubled, yet deeply grateful.
It is this quandary that has sparked an outpouring of thoughts and insights that I feel compelled to share with regard to the events of the past few weeks.
The day seemed like any other day. Each of us have our own “stuff” and it’s the same for me. some of my biggest challenges may be physical disabilities and yours may be something totally different, but God is still faithful. This Thanksgiving I am especially thankful because I can say what millions cannot, I am SAFE. Love and cared for, food to eat, medical care, a roof over my head and SAFE.
I think back to those initial moments of realization as my mind was a whirling vortex of memories and an emotional tidal wave that was threatening to crash in like a flood…
It seemed like I was instantaneously transported back to that pivotal moment in time when I learned that planes had hit the twin towers and like so many others, I will never forget it. My husband was supposed to start work at the World Trade Center a few months prior and would have been working on the 23rd floor, but the day before he was to fly down and sign the final contracts, he was called for a last minute interview locally and hired on the spot. I am fully aware what a huge blessing that was and for that I am deeply grateful.
Likewise, I will forever remember the moment my mother’s voice said, “Anne, Paris in under attack”. I couldn’t understand but immediately began to pray and then I watched. Actually, I cried, I prayed and I watched as the eyes, ears and hearts of the world experienced the helplessness that comes with the role of observer, witnessing the raw pain of tragedy unfolding without any way to impact the outcome of the horror in those moments..
I have to admit that those scenes over the last few weeks have seemed to violate me in a way I never thought possible. How can that be when I was half way around the world, far from harm’s way? Afterall, I wasn’t one of the victim’s that had my life stolen out from under me. But then I realized that the enormity of the situation is far more sinister than I think most of us even have the ability to wrap our heads around.
It’s not because we haven’t had people commit these kinds of atrocities before, but for the first time in history, we were not watching a cloud of smoke and debris from a distance or trying to catch a glimpse at what was going on, we were actually seeing the events as they happened on live stream. Staring through the screen as bodies, faces, arms, legs being were strewn to and fro all over the ground, surrounded by first responders working in the midst of the chaos to save those that still showed signs of life. These weren’t just blank faces, these were mothers, sisters, daughters, sons. fathers, bothers, friends, and the list goes on and on… The expressions on the faces of family and friends crumpled over in complete shock and desolation, unable to absorb the life changing impact that a few moments of pure, unadulterated hate could bring.
That’s why the catastrophe that was unleashed on those unsuspecting victims in Paris was so devastating, that it can only be described as evil incarnate. With stealth like precision terror had hit it’s target and stolen something from all of us, the ability to believe that we had learned something from the horrors of the past, and we would never allow them to be repeated. The world was shaken and the aftermath is brutal.
BUT WAIT, as I began to feel the impact more and more deeply, and heard words repeated like, “Not since WWII…”, my thoughts came to a screeching halt almost as if by some divine intervention, God gave me the gift of opening my eyes. He allowed me to catch a glimpse from heaven’s point of view. All of a sudden I felt this warm covering of peace flow over my soul.
As I watched, I was reminded of that things that weren’t seen with human eyes. I could see an army of heavenly hosts released into action by the prayers of the faithful, in response to the evil and hate others had embraced. They were gathering the wounded and helping carry them to safety, deflecting bullets and debris from killing others, keeping the tragedy from being any worse, tenderly ministering to the dying and ushering those who had accepted God’s gift of salvation, into their savior’s loving arms, heaven welcomed their homecoming, while simultaneously God’s heart was breaking for the ones who were lost.
Amongst them there were heavenly messengers who were gently gathering up the tears. Yes, I said tears. They were catching every tear and carefully placing each one into a heavenly chalice. They were collecting heaven’s tears. Angelic scribes were recording the trials of each precious life and even the loss of each numbered hair that fell as they were were torn away by blood and bullets forever to be recorded in the Heavenly Archives. Still others were simply shaking their heads in disbelief and sorrow as they ministered to the victims and responders, with expressions that begged the question, why do they hurt each other?
A concept I find hard to fathom but then there came a voice through the darkness filled with love and sorrow mingled, as God spoke. “I love my creation but they are easily deceived. The thief cometh to kill, to steal and destroy. It is the tragic price of freedom that I have given each the ability to choose. True love requires this freedom but it carries an eternal price for those who choose death and a lost eternity. The evil of hate’s stronghold can only be overcome by the much greater force of love and grace. The same grace that came through the death of my son, on a wooden cross to pay for sin, so all would have hope and the ability to choose an eternity in glory. Oh how I long that none would perish.”
It was in those moments of insight that I found the most comfort. God does not watch us from a distance, He’s up close and personal. And the only way that it is possible for Him to enter in, is through our invitation. Even God, can’t and won’t force His way into your life.
We have the freedom to choose life, love and grace or to choose to reject him. The only other option is to chose the author of hate, death and violence. No matter how pretty the package the evil behind it is the source you allow to feed your soul. You make the choice to participate with hate and the outcome is terror.
How could this kind of evil take a hold of someone, aren’t most people basically good? Aren’t we affected by how we are raised, the influences in our lives, the level of our understanding, YES.But it never negates our personal choice, the fundamental decisions of whether you listen to your conscious or your heart. The heart needs cleansing, it needs guidance to make right decisions, but the part of us that longs for meaning, purpose, to be a part of something bigger than ourselves, that part is often shut off or set aside in favor of our emotions. That’s why those taught to hate at a young age are so passionate about their causes whether here in America or around the world. That is why I was so struck by the thought that in the midst of every tragedy, from the small child alone and lost, to the destruction of so many lives in Paris, or even the war torn areas of the world, God is not absent, He is there and he cares. But how do we know that?
As one who has chosen to put my faith in God, I still have to live in this world and I promise you I have cried my share of tears, A LOT of tears, but through this He has helped me find a new intimacy with Him that I would never know if I hadn’t had to go through the trails like my current disabilities. If I hadn’t had all these hours, days, months, over 6 years, of sitting alone, all alone, with Him. There were times when I had cried so many tears I was certain that my eyes would permanently bulge out giving me that “deer in the headlights” look and that God must be getting tired of listening to me weeping day after day.
TRUTH: I have come to understand that God cares SO MUCH that not only does he listen, but the fact is that God so closely feels our suffering that the bible says that He stores our tears in bottles in heaven. Can you even imagine? God Himself, the creator of the universe, actually keeps a record of all my pain and trails and even stores all my tears.
I wondered why God would do this. Why did God care enough to keep track? After all, how many tears were and are being cried by those who call him Father, because of the tragedies around this world and in everyday life? I myself had cried so many, many tears, what could possibly be the purpose? As I pondered this the Holy Spirit revealed a truth I had never really realized.
God not only cares so deeply about each of us that not even ONE TEAR that’s shed goes unnoticed, BUT He also promises in Psalm 126:5 that what we sow in tears, enduring sorrows and earthly trails, we will reap in joy. WOW! The God of the ENTIRE universe is such a God of order that He even keeps an account of our tears so He can fulfill His promise to us, tear for tear. BUT He doesn’t stop there. God has promised that our harvest will be great, much greater than the seeds we have sown.
I am convinced that a God who cares enough to being so personal and care about every tear that shed, is capable of healing our sorrows, comforting the grieving, and is able to work all things out for our good.
May you rest in the knowledge, that God is not “surprised” or frantically looking for an answer, Our Papa God, knew what we would need to survive this world’s evil long before we knew what we would face. He not only knows our need, but He knows how He’s going to fulfill our need. Rest assured that God is able!
May the God of peace be close and may you feel His healing prescience as you seek answers amidst the storms in your own life.
Next time I will return to finish my “Lessons” God has been teaching this “Old Chick”. And I invite you to leave a like or comment, or prayer request and I would be honored to pray for you.
Thanks for stopping by and have a blessed Thanksgiving!
It’s early November and already this year’s installment of the so-called “War on Christmas” has begun. All over social media I’m seeing rants from angry Christians who are trying to “Keep Christ in Christmas”. And the first volley of shots has already been launched against an unlikely target: Starbucks.
Apparently people are mad that the seasonal cups at Starbucks this year are just plain red. No mention of Christmas or Jesus at all. And, clearly that means that Christians are being persecuted. I mean, my faith is just destroyed if I don’t get my venti blonde roast with room for milk in a cup that features the name of my Lord and Savior.
So, obviously I think this is a little ridiculous. Because, Christians, I promise you that Starbucks red cups are not going to destroy the Christian faith. Seriously, the Roman Empire couldn’t do it, and they could kill…
Why so long since my last post? I could start with a suspenseful beginning…
(Insert music) DUN-DUN-DUUUUN!!!… It was a dark and stormy night… OK not really but it sure felt like it!
DISCLAIMER: The following account may have included that author taking a slight bit of literary license… which may or may not include some elements that are completely imaginary…But it’s my story and I’m sticking to it…just saying.
Apparently a massive alien had decided to invade my eye socket in what I can only describe as an intergalactic invasion. By about 11 pm one night, I could no longer locate the eye I once knew and loved. It had taken on a life of its own and morphed into a mirror image of my favorite one-eyed contact wearing character from the movie Monster’s Inc. To my chagrin I realized I also have his body type! So now, if you just imagine him with lipstick and a pony tail, zooming around crashing into walls with her wheelchair, you can envision the person who is the author of this blog. (See attractive self-portrait below)
Technically I hope to stop the whole wall crashing thing once this eyeball turbulence has left the building opening up the possibility of a clear outlook to welcome the return of my retina. (Update: I am happy to report that this has indeed occurred since the writing of this post.)
All this to leads to my next statement, which is an apology for taking so long to update my blog. I had no way of knowing that there would be a sneak attack carefully orchestrated on the very night most of us earthlings were “pre-ocular-pied” watching the eclipse. I can only guess that it was quite the “eye opener” as one by one they took up residence in my cornea during operation “im-planet”. It wouldn’t’ have been so bad, but they just happened to be the latest craze to hit this solar system, you guessed it, the interspecies spectacular, “Stardust Singers”, performing off, off, WWAAAYYYYY off Broadway in the milky way version of their latest musical, Flash-N-Dance. All of a sudden I was waving my hands in the air, like I just didn’t care. Unfortunately this led to a horrific scene with a round little Finnish lady trying to strangle anything she could get her hands on to keep from pushing the big red button and ejecting the “space-ially” challenged
visitors into orbit.
When suddenly our elite, “Canine Special Forces Unit” intervened and distracted me from my distress. It is a team of two, my sweet little fluffy companion ESA, Lola and P-Nut my husband’s PTSD service dog. Lola has even grown her own set of fluffy white snow boots in preparation for the ensuing Minnesota winter. It has been a little traumatic as she can’t quite figure out how her new adoptive mother grew two heads overnight, but as soon a she smelled puppy treats, she overcame her bewilderment and assumed the position for belly rubs.
And so ends my long, sad, dramatic “visual day-mare” as I beg for your forgiveness at my delay. In other words, here’s the post…
Autumn in America! I love this time of year. The air is crisp and cool and the trees paint the landscape with a symphony of brilliant colors announcing that it’s time for fall outings to the pumpkin patch, corn mazes and the local apple orchards. Young and old alike cuddle up in their cozy sweaters, people raking leaves while listening to the delightful squeals of children laughing as they romp and play amongst the neatly stacked piles of leaves with their favorite family pets adding another whole dimension of fun to the mix. And then an annual migration of crock pots begin their parade as they mysteriously appear on kitchen counters along with favorite Thanksgiving harvest recipes as families begin to pre-plan for holiday travel. What awesome memories mixed with anticipation of good things to come! Oh how I wish I could be part of that world again and yet terrified that if the opportunity presents itself I will be too petrified to grasp the brass ring.
Last time I promised to share how my log removal experience proved that this “Old Chick” still learns new tricks and what better time of year than October, when costume parties are in full swing and the masks we wear are now in full view. You see, I have learned to recognize the tricks and illusions life seems to throw our way in which so many of us have the role of unsuspecting victim thrust upon us without inquiring if we were interested. But then again, I am quite sure no one would ever freely volunteer for the role. BUT I am here to tell you that there is another choice, a much BETTER choice.
FLASHBACK: Some years ago, my hubby and I had become friends with a senior couple who invited us to visit their home. Upon our arrival, we noticed a sign proudly displayed by their front door. It read, “1 YOUNG Chick and 1 OLD Crow live here” with a big red arrow.
I assured him that the reason the man living there was quite healthy had grown to such a ripe old age was because he was obviously very wise when picking out this sign. John quickly offered to get one but I paused to point out that it would have to say, “1 Old Chick and 1 Old Crow…” He adamantly disagreed in mock protest. His argument was that since I was still learning, I must be young. Not to be outdone, I responded by revealing the fundamental flaw in his theory of assuming that only young chicks can learn. I very clearly pointed out that, “This Old Chick, can still learn new tricks!” (Needless to say, he shows keen insight by still claiming that as I am a few years his junior, I will “always” be a young chick compared to him – Smart man.)
I couldn’t help but think back to that statement as I reflected on how God had opened my eyes to a new way of thinking by helping me clear away the debris that had been blocking my view. I believe I resemble the old saying, “Can’t see the forest for the trees.” As the wife of a husband who suffers from complex PTSD, I have come to understand that it is far more difficult to watch my beloved suffer, than enduring the pain of my own disability. The ugly truth is that abuse always involves collateral damage to those closest to the victim which often goes unacknowledged. BUT GOD sees every heartache and he knows every tear. He has promised to carry you through. He has taught this “Old Chick” some amazing “new tricks” more accurately referred to as lessons.
Have you ever wondered how someone can endure such horrible suffering, when you are quite sure given the same circumstances you would not be able to survive? It’s because God doesn’t give us the grace we need before we need it nor does he give us the grace to overcome anyone else’s trials, not your family member’s, your children’s, your friend’s, your co-workers’, not even your husband’s. No matter how much I wanted to “fix” John and would have given anything to protect him from all the trauma and injuries he had suffered at the hands of his employer, I was not able. Carrying his pain was tearing me apart and allowing it to eat me up would eventually make me completely incapable of helping him or anyone else. My very nature and instinct caused me to have an overwhelming desire to protect him and to stop the hurting. AND… although I do have to remind myself from time to time, (Okay almost daily) I have discovered that no matter how much you want this, just like John would do anything to give me back the ability to walk again and be free from pain, you can’t. IT’S NOT YOUR JOB. If you truly believe that God is sovereign and that He works all things out for your good, than don’t mess it up by going ahead of Him. And definitely DO NOT do what I did and try to tell God how to do His job! (But that’s another story.)
TRUTH: God knows the exact measure of grace required for every need. God gave John the courage to
stand with integrity and tell the truth. He granted John, not me, the grace to personally survive the injustice and the trauma because I am not the one who had to face it head on, day after day. But why did it happen? Well there are a million reasons people give for their actions but the truth is that it’s really pretty simple: Because hurting people hurt other people. BAM! It hit me like a ton of bricks square in the forehead. WE ARE ALL HUMAN! That was my big epiphany?! I am almost embarrassed to admit it but that is exactly the point I had been missing.
Ephesians 6:12 – 13 KJV Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.
We live in a fallen world and we wrestle not against flesh and blood. We are in a spiritual battle and every war has wounded soldiers and casualties. Unfortunately, we as people of faith, often fall for Satan’s lies, and shoot the wounded when what they need is our love and support to help bring them into contact with God’s amazing grace in order to redeem them, not destroy them.
God never intended us to walk forward by facing backwards. It is impossible to look ahead and run the good race when you are consumed with the heartache of the past or too afraid to let go of the past because you wish things could go back to the way they were, especially after suffering loss. No, God did not remove the obstacles, but gave John and I the grace to survive in the midst of the storm and God continues to pour His grace into the situation so John can meet the challenges of the ongoing treatment on his journey to find restoration, healing and ultimately to find his way back home.
TRUTH: I was being crushed by trying to carry a load that was not mine to carry. God had not forgotten me, but instead gave me the grace to help me see our situation ina new light. He took away the weight of feeling worthless and the enormous guilt I carried and showed me that it was impossible for me to accept God’s forgiveness if I was not able to forgive myself for getting sick or for not recognizing earlier why my husband was suffering. WHAT? What did He mean, forgive myself? I knew in my head that my disability was not my fault. I knew that I had no way of knowing what was happening at my husband’s work since he was deliberately trying to protect me by not sharing it with me earlier. I knew that I had prayed in faith for healing and God had another plan and I trusted His plan. But what I didn’t realize is that I had picked up an offense against myself.
I was MAD at myself!! I was ANGRY, I was DEEPLY HURT and EMBARRASSED… I had failed my own expectations. I was buying into the labels that society puts on those they fail to understand because it is easier than having to confront their own fears and often without even realizing it. This includes those with disabilities, the ones who care for them, and especially those who suffer with UNSEEN disabilities with mental and emotional limitations such as PTSD. This time, I had fallen for one of Satan’s oldest tricks, condemnation, and I fell hard. The result, I began to internalize that responsibility for the things that were not in my control. I failed to recognize that only God was strong enough to carry my burden and I had to repent, ask God to help me forgive myself and totally relinquish the responsibility for my situation into His hands. I had to be willing to let go of my “perception” that I was just a piece of forgotten, useless human trash that God had somehow mistakenly left here on earth as a burden to my family and husband and choose to allow God to help me see the truth.
Now I can look back and say that even though we are still in the storm, we rest in the fact that God has given us victory over the battles we face every day. God has taught me the “trick”/the discipline, of letting go of my own expectations of what my faith and God’s answers look like. As long as I allowed myself to dictate what God’s answer should be in my own wisdom, I was open to condemnation by what other people thought about me and Satan being able to convince me that my faith had failed because of something I had done. But just like Peter, when he walked on the water and then looked away and began to sink, as soon as he turned his focus back on the Savior, His source, he was able to rise above the tide and walk. That is now the basis of my walk with God day in and day out. I had finally let the truth of Romans 8:1 penetrate, not just my mind, but my heart. Romans 8:1 KJV – There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
FACT: As long as I kept holding onto yesterday, it would keep robbing me of the strength I needed to survive today! So I began to practice the conscious presence of my Father God and purposefully gave Him every part of my day and my thoughts and even my expectations so that I could focus on what God had for me today.
FREEDOM! Yes, I was free to allow God’s love to flow through me once more to all those around me and most importantly to my beloved husband. I could be part of his recovery and the supportive wife and prayer warrior God had created me to be. I was free to accept the love that my family and friends were showing me and, while I was still humbled by it, it was no longer skewed by the eyes of my own pride. In accepting God’s forgiveness and allowing His forgiveness to cleanse me and forgive myself, I was now able to count the love of others as a blessing from my Heavenly Father. I recognized that God was fully capable of blessing them for their sacrifice and my job was just to allow the joy and peace of the Lord to breathe new life into our situation that would in turn be an encouragement to them also. And He can do the same for you.
Isn’t that just like God? He uses us broken pots to cast the most beautiful mosaic of his light onto everyone around us as long as we are obedient enough to allow His love to shine through our brokenness, in all circumstances.
Looks like I will have to share that next time when I reveal how reality so rudely interrupted my misguided expectations for my “Christian Walk” VS the actual trials we must overcome when the unexpected takes our breath away on this roller coaster we call life.
REFLECTION: Ask God if there is an area of your own life that you haven’t forgiven yourself for? Are you, like I was, allowing pride to skew your vision? Is it blocking you from receiving God’s forgiveness, healing and provision? Are you ready to allow God to restore your freedom to accept the love and care of others? Are you the reason someone else is unable to move forward and do you need to make things right to free both of you from the prison of unforgiveness, guilt and shame? Then I encourage you to take it to God in prayer because I know that if He can do it for me, He can do it for you and He has promised to do just that in His word.
Dear Papa God, Today I ask you to take off the blinders that anyone reading this has allowed to skew their vision. Help them stop ignoring the guilt and unloving spirit that has taken a hold of their thoughts and mind and stolen their freedom. I ask that you soften their hearts to accept your forgiveness and to forgive themselves. God allow them to recognize and let go of the mistakes of their past so they can embrace the freedom of your peace and joy in spite of their circumstances! Thank you for your answer in advance and may they feel your grace in tangible ways throughout the days and weeks ahead. In Jesus Name I pray, Amen.
Please take a moment to: Like, follow, share and/or comment on this post so I can better serve you in the upcoming posts and please feel free to share this. Thank you for your support. See you next time at Hopelostnfound.com
Doggie, Doggie, Buffalo, Buffalo! Oh ain’t that doggie nice? And all you need is one ring! Jingle, tinkle, ping, ping, as a ring precariously bounces from bottle to bottle looking for a place to land. AWWWWW…. Doggie, Doggie, Buffalo, Buffalo! Oh ain’t that doggie nice? And all you need is one ring! …
20 minutes without a breath, like clockwork, and all I could think of was taking one of the massive stuffed animals innocently hanging from that deceptively inviting brightly colored awning and introducing it to his relentless vocal chords to muffle the sound, but only in the most loving way!
Thinking back I would hazard to guess that my own exhaustion may just have played a tiny role with my disdain for the repetitive, obnoxiously loud proclamations battling over the sights and sounds of the midway rides. The throbbing in my temples was increasing exponentially with each passing minute as my skull began an all-out revolt against the rest of my body. But who could blame me? After all it had been one of those hot and sticky days in late August, that our State is famous for and, you guessed it, every year without fail it would be precisely the day we chose to make our annual pilgrimage to the “Great Minnesota Get Together”, our State Fair.
I must admit there is something intoxicating about the idea of recapturing days gone by along with the thrill of being a part of history in the simple act of gathering to celebrate the backbone of what made this country great; The hard working men and women in our communities! People of all ages sharing the best of what the year had to offer in what can only be referred to as a life-size show and tell. Sharing tips, tricks, challenges and victories, trading stories with your neighbors and strangers, all in the spirit of friendly competition.
The lights and whirr of the midway rides accompanied the constant swirl of activity with rivers of people in perpetual motion flowing up and down the fairground streets in a sort of random yet unified chaos. Buzzing with an undercurrent of excitement mixed with apprehension that created a shared sense of urgency to get to the next amusement so you wouldn’t miss something amazing in your pursuit of this year’s memorable moments.
A veritable smorgasbord for people of all ages to feast on with pavilions of exhibits to explore and enjoy while indulging in the age old tradition of bargain hunting. The choices seemed endless: Agriculture, horticulture, health and public services, technology, education, fine arts, music, midway rides and games, prizes in all shapes and sizes imaginable. Honors were bestowed on the year’s winners in multiple categories such as artisans, crafters, quilters, bakers, florals, woodworking and more. Among the most coveted titles are “Largest pumpkin” and “Prize Winning Pig” which goes without saying I suppose. The esteemed Butter sculptures are a main attraction and who could forget the grandstand shows that leave audiences awestruck by the daily fireworks against a black canvas of the evening sky.
Now, you must allow me to share one more essential component that no trip to the fair can escape. Afterall, I would dare not commit such a grave injustice as to not pay homage to the undefeated champion of the entire experience, the food! It is the ultimate unending culinary boot camp complete with an intense obstacle course for your unsuspecting digestive system.
We sample everything from roasted corn, award winning preserves, smoked turkey legs and foot long corn dogs to a plethora of sweet treats including freshly baked cookies by the bucketful and those frosty root beer floats. And what would the fair be without the annual quest for the pinnacle of culinary delights on a stick?! I can only cringe as I admit that my husband’s favorite was deep fried candy bars. YUCK! BLEEACHHYUAAUUUGH! I would take a pickle on a stick any day. Savory vs. sweet has been a lifelong debate in our marriage to this day.But alas there is ONE THING that everyone can agree on – FRESH CHEESE CURDS!
Somewhere between the second ear of roasted corn and my simultaneous need (not want, but NEED) for fresh salt water taffy, causing my poor stomach to beg for mercy, I had an epiphany. The thing that made me go, “Hhmmmmm…!”
I, Anne Weber, being of somewhat sound mind, had freely chosen to year after year plunge myself into this swirling vortex of people, smells, tastes and sounds, children screaming and giggling, other’s crying, people shoving you out of their way, music, performers of all kinds, etc… and extended and open invitation for them to invade my airspace. I was mildly amused by the irony of that moment comparing the pulsating pain in my temples battling for my attention in a neck in neck race with the burning blisters on my heals and aching back muscles versus the pure satisfaction of having enjoyed so many unforgettable moments mixed with laughter, friends and wonderment. All of which were responsible for feeding the soul of this very happy yet exhausted fair going extrovert.
I knew I would fondly recall these moments during the long winter months ahead, although, I have to admit that it was no comfort for the present pain coursing through my body. I made a private agreement with myself that next year I was not going to subject myself to this kind of suffering. I vowed to remember why it would’ve been a much better idea to take my chances amongst those fashionistas inflicted with the insatiable desire for all things Vogue, while enjoying the air-conditioned comfort of the Mall of America.
“Sweetie”, I was jolted back to reality. Startled I exclaimed, “Let’s go, where did we park..ummm….” I looked around to find myself sitting in my lift chair, my wheelchair beside me. “Honey,” came my husband’s voice, “Where were you just now?” I looked up and burst into tears. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to…” My hubby, not knowing what to say, was desperately trying to figure out what he had done wrong by just saying my name. He was quite dumbfounded and bore a profound look of confusion mixed with genuine concern. After what I am sure felt like an eternity to him, I tried to smile through what I can only imagine was not one of my covergirl moments. My face resembled an abstract impressionist canvas with blotchy red cheeks from the tears stinging my eyelids and streaming down my face. Not to mention the leaky faucet where I once had a nose. The onslaught of bodily fluids culminated at the bottom of my chin, drip, drip, drip and instead of coming up with some logical reason for my emotional tidal wave, I sat there stunned at my own outburst. So what was it? What happened between my delightful recollection of lovely memories and hearing my name?
I gratefully accepted the offering of my husband’s fist full of Kleenex tissues and proceeded to try and make myself at least somewhat presentable. By now John had moved from his lift chair and was sitting on his walker seat staring at me expectantly while fidgeting with his wrist splints. I took a deep breath and blubbered out the only thing I could think of, “I… don’t… know…why I’m ……cry…ing…ing…” Followed by another bout of jumbled up incoherent words sandwiched between hiccups and tears. Something like, “It’s just… not sure… miss… why… lonely…. …stupid wheelchair…….just being….pity party…..trapped……sorry…I…but…but….” I spent the better part of the next hour going through an entire box of tissues and blowing my nose until I was sure I would soon have a trumpeter swan on my doorstep looking for a mate.
Then it hit me. While I was joyfully reading Facebook posts, seeing all promotions of fair events and the photos of friends participating in the fun, I had missed an important truth. I had become a self appointed subject matter expert at ignoring my own feelings. That familiar adversary “pride” was rearing it’s ugly head making it very easy for me not to admit I felt forgotten or isolated when I saw life passing before my eyes but being unable to participate. You see it is the understatement of the year to say I had realized we were in the midst of a storm and I can say that I truly did trust that God would bring us through even though I had no idea how. So if I knew this, why was I so miserable? TRUTH: Avoiding the pain was not the same as dealing with it and it definitely didn’t make it go away because stuffing it, like us “scandihoovians” tend to do, only delays the inevitable and causes resentment.
KNOCK! KNOCK! I would have given anything at that moment to hear a knock on the door announcing that we had won an accessible vehicle with all the equipment that was custom made to fit the specialized needs of my wheelchair and whisk me away to do something “normal”. ANYTHING… You might think that was dreaming of winning some once-in-a-lifetime luxury cruise or some exotic adventure, and while I have to admit I was disappointed when 20 years came and went and the anniversary cruise we had looked forward to for so many years, just vanished as medical bills swallowed up the funds we had set aside. But I can say that after five years of no vacations, missing my mother-in-law’s funeral, being unable to attend multiple family weddings, and over a year with no transportation, my dream was far different.
FACT: Now my dream is just that I would be able to go to the grocery store and doctor’s appointments with my husband to help him cope!
TRUTH: I smugly patted myself on the back and congratulated myself for not being overly demanding. Afterall, I said to myself, I said, “You are a wonderful example of an unselfish person!” I am e
ven more ashamed to admit I went as far as to say that I felt like I was being quintessentially “logical” about my desires…well that was until there was this tap, tap, tap on my shoulder and I felt the Holy Spirit calling me to take another look at the log in my own eye. OUCH! OOOOUUUUCCCHHH
Here I was lamenting, complaining with my eyes focused on my own situation and all the time there were SO MANY people worse off. It’s like my fog of resentment had completely blocked the years of our involvement with World Vision and other charities where I witnessed first hand the depravity and results of selfishness. TRUTH: Greed is the main problem those in need face today. Not theirs, but our own. Those who have been blessed with enough and some abundantly often choose to ignore God’s mercy and turn a blind eye to helping the least of these. My mind raced from one area of need to another and it broke my heart all over again. I recalled the people who didn’t have access to a grocery store, much less knowing where their next meal was coming from, those who were homeless, no roof or safe place for the night, and a cardboard box was their idea of shelter, to those searching desperately for a safe place where their abusers couldn’t hurt them and onto the 1000’s looking death in the face without adequate medical care. It’s a truly humbling experience when you come face to face with your own sin in the light of God’s grace.
I began to count my blessings after I repented and asked God to renew a right spirit within me. Slowly the truth of God’s provision started taking hold of my heart. NO, things hadn’t changes overnight. YES, I still had no way to leave my home and YES, I still pray for a miracle and for God to help me find transportation, and YES, I even feel isolated and lonely from time to time. BUT the truth is that I am blessed! Maybe not the way I envisioned but blessed because God’s wisdom was far beyond my own and I was learning to rest in His plan and His timing, no my own. What a relief!
FACT: THIS is NOT meant to put a guilt trip on anyone, so I would like to offer a peek into my world. When a person is in the middle of the storm they are often incapable of having the energy to host visitors and often withdraw socially to be able to cope with the everyday just to survive. I know I have, since it takes every ounce of strength within me just to face the ongoing pain in my body, let alone having to navigate social interactions with any degree of civility. On bad days, the thought of even having to get dressed appropriately, having to navigate everything from personal hygiene to the timing of medications, coordinating your PCAs schedules so they are able to do the things they need to for caregiving, never knowing when flashback can be triggered and your husband’s PTSD will completely derail your day, and so many other issues, make it next to impossible to plan ahead and often is too awkward to even think of having people come to our home. It is much easier to go out and then be able to leave when you need to. FACT: I am SO GRATEFUL for the friends who haven’t given up on me and still call and check in and touch base. The “low maintenance” friends and family members who don’t take offence and simply love you in spite of your circumstances are a priceless gift. So what I want to point out is that it is no one’s fault when those hard times come and relationships change. Just try to keep an open heart and mind and remember that everyone is fighting their own battles.
Oops…rabbit trail…better get back on track!
Finally, having composed myself, I looked over and there on his walker, sat my husband with tears rolling down his face staring at me with a look I can only describe as horrified guilt and heartfelt pain. He just kept saying, “I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.” Over and over. What a fool I was! Here I was having a pity party and my precious hubby who had been through hell and back was thinking he was the one who had disappointed me. The truth of that shocked me into a new understanding. How could he think that it was his fault he had been victimized and he was to blame for all that had been stolen from him? It was then that I knew my personal pain was nothing compared with the even greater agony I felt seeing the hurt in his eyes and watching him suffer. It makes me think of how much greater God’s own pain was having to turn away from His Only Begotten Son, as He hung there covered in our sin, MY SIN, dying on a wooden cross.
You see, as I looked back at the memories of our trips to the fair and the disappointment of having missed out, paled in comparison, as I looked at the hurt in my poor husband’s face. I realized that it didn’t matter that we weren’t able to do the things we had before, he was still the man that had loved and cared for me so tenderly through the years as my own health declined and now during my own journey from able bodied to wheelchair bound. In spite of his own torture he had tried desperately to hide it from me so I would be protected from having to suffer. The more I thought about it, the more I was filled with a new love and respect for the soulmate God had blessed me with. And the more I realized that God was teaching me something much more crucial in light of my desire to be Christlike. It was the opposite of all the “self awareness” coaches that I had heard and what so many are preaching these days, which for me had done nothing more than feed my human selfish nature and inability to let God give me a new vision from heaven’s point of view.
Quietly through the tears, this time for my sweet husband’s pain, in barely a whisper I started to sing that old gospel hymn that had been inspired in the midst of adversity:
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.
Horatio G. Spafford, 1873, Copyright: Public Domain
The author, a humble man, prominent lawyer and businessman, having lost much of his fortune in the great Chicago Fire, sent his wife and four daughters ahead to Europe after last minute plans had forced him to remain behind and follow a short time later. However, on November 22, 1873, while crossing the Atlantic on the steamship Ville du Havre, their ship was struck by another vessel and all four of his daughters drowned. His wife was found unconscious floating on some wreckage and rescued. Arriving in England, she sent a telegram to Spafford beginning “Saved alone.” (Now on display at the Library of Congress) Spafford then sailed to England, going over the location of his daughters’ deaths. It was at that very spot overcome by the love for his Savior in the midst of his immense loss, he wrote the words for “It Is Well With My Soul.”
That night these same words were comfort to my own soul as a testament to God’s unchanging faithfulness, knowing that the waves had not been able to overtake that women of God and together this couple was able to praise God in the midst of their devastation knowing they would be reunited one day.
I sat in quiet contemplation long into the night pondering the mystery of God’s grace.
SLEEP, what a wonderful friend. The next morning I awoke with a new peace in my heart. Had the circumstances changed? NO! But I was ready to share what I had learned. Actually two things, which proves that OLD chicks can still learn new tricks! I will write more about that next time, but I will leave you with this thought. This old chick is tired of allowing the storms of this life rob her of the blessings God had promised to provide even in the midst of the storm and for the first time in a long time my soul rested, truly rested.
You see, the night before had been a time of conflicting emotions, when the darkness seemed to outshine the light but that is when God’s grace had poured in. Like Paul and Silas in the jail. When the night was the darkest and they had been beaten and bruised they could have justifiably wallowed in self-pity and depression. But NO! They “chose” to worship. It was dark and things looked like they were at their worst, but for midnight.
I was struck by the fact that God had so purposefully inspired this new testament apostle to include that time of day in this passage. “And about midnight…”, the time of day when things are at their darkest and the dawning of a new day is born. I think He was telling us to remember the words I have grown to love, “But for midnight.” Why? Because that is when we need hope to hang on until help comes. When things are the darkest, you see no way out and you are at the lowest of the low, God says, “You choose!” God never forces, He invites and then leaves is up to you to accept or not.
THE CHOICE: Do you let the evil of the past control your present or do you choose to bring the sacrifice of praise and worship in spite of your pain? When you choose to worship what is God’s response? HE SHOWS UP!! And so I was determined that I would no longer be stuck vacillating betwixt and between, one part mourning the “good old days” focused on the extreme losses we had suffered and allowing it to overshadow the blessings that on the other part left us deeply grateful for a safe place to live, medical care and those who loved us. I knew it was time to let go and let God. YES! This life is still a rollercoaster ride of twists and turns and yet in the midst of the world around us that’s in pursuit of the next “main attraction”, I would make my choice and let God show me how to survive the storm.
ASK YOURSELF: Are you lost in the ocean of needs and concerns? Do you feel like you are alone, out there with no hope and the concerns and cares of this world are pulling you under their current? Maybe you are part of that river of people going through life pushed along by the tide and appear to be a happy participant but underneath you are ready to take that lifesize stuffed animal and use it muffle the sound of the voices screaming and calling you a failure or telling you that you don’t measure up? I want you to know that it is NOT TRUE. The balconies of heaven are filled with the saints who have gone before and are cheering you on. Our assurance is not based on you or me, but in the God who loves you and will never leave you not forsake you. His love for you is not based on your emotions or actions but on His infinite grace. My prayer for each one who has read this post is that you will experience God’s love in tangible ways as a reminder that He is there, even in the midst of the storm. Just ask and God has promised to answer the cry of a sincere heart.
See you next time as I share “Old Chicks Can Still Learn New Tricks!”
Have you ever had a day, no wait, a month, no that’s not right either…OK, have you ever had a year…no…let me think…. YES! This time I’ve really got it….Have you ever had a life where things made you go, “HMMMMM…” on a fairly regular basis? Welcome to my reality!
My world is made up of gazillions of moments that are best described as millions of tiny little sparks of creation dancing and weaving about the endless abyss of my mind leaving random patterns that burst forth illuminating the massive amounts of gray matter that inhibit my somewhat conflicted cranium. The ensuing battle includes the volatile clash between the left and right hemispheres as my brain continues its energetic interchange and searches desperately for any signs of intelligent life. Then in one amazing split second the light comes together in a random yet cohesive pattern that blooms forth a thought that I then endeavor to share with those who are brave enough to go along for the ride.
Disclaimer: I AM NOT GOD! I realize you are quite possibly horrified, shocked and even dismayed by this announcement, right?! Hopefully NOT!! Seriously, I am still learning and growing and make mistakes every day. Forgiven by grace but still very imperfect. However, I can without a doubt tell you that the following statement is 100% TRUE: I DO NOT have all the answers, but I DO KNOW the one who does.
Therefore, I make no claims or guarantees regarding anything other than to be open and honest, which I suppose in this day and age most would call outrageously dangerous. But that is a sacrifice I am willing to make should you uphold your end of the bargain. “What is that?” you say. Well, if you are willing to enter this “helmets off” safety zone where my soul is free to run and explore life’s many twists and turns, ups and downs and even navigate failures and successes, then climb aboard and let’s get into the nitty gritty of life together.
Will it always be pretty? NO. Will duct tape be used? PROBABLY (However only the pretty pink kind). I can promise we will laugh, maybe cry, possibly discover something we hadn’t thought of before, but most of all we will learn how to cope in the midst of life’s adversities and trails as I share what God has shown me during over 40 something years on this planet. CONFESSION: Often it takes my Abba Father patiently waiting as I go around that mountain 2, 3 or even 4 times and counting because I find I closely resemble the Apostle Paul when he declares in Romans 7:15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.
You may be wondering what gives me this type of insight, why even listen? Or better yet, can we even relate to each other?
Here’s my story in a nutshell: I went from healthy and happy to devastation and loss, from able bodied pursuing a successful career to feeling like a forgotten piece of human trash, from performing and singing in church and community theater to watching alone from the sidelines, from embracing creativity as a graphic artist with a love for water colors to hands that burn and ache yet lose sensation long before the brush and canvas are ready to rest, from being independent, actively involved in charities and volunteering to the instant when your world comes crashing in.
I will never forget the moment. The lights were bright and the room cold and sterile, muted voices could be heard through the partly closed door where my chart hung neatly in the clear plastic holder. Down the long hallway, we had travelled just a short time earlier, a door would open and then close, footsteps first slow, then quicker as a parent went to comfort a small child, then nothing, just silence… I could feel myself starting to get flushed and the air was stagnant, the lights were burning down on my skin as my husband gently rubbed my back in a desperate attempt to comfort me, and then the door opened. I was jolted back into reality by the sound of the surgeon’s voice. You can do this, I told myself, as I braced for the news that surgery would be my only option. ‘Mrs. Weber, I am so sorry, but it’s inoperable.” I was paralyzed, unable to even breathe as my mind wildly grasped at any form of logical thought… I had been so afraid of surgery that not once had I even considered the likelihood that it might not be possible. The rest of the appointment was a blur as the horror of my situation began to weave it’s way into the fabric of my mind. I would never walk again.
Of course there’s the whole journey of learning life from a wheelchair in mind numbing pain along with the loss of control that comes with being incapable of self-care. The reality of being dependent on the kindness of strangers to meet your needs. I imagine people’s responses would understandably encompass a range of conflicting emotions from pity to disdain, because, believe me, I went through them all!
That must be so hard to face
Her poor family
Thank God that’s not me
I can’t imagine, so sad
I hope she got health insurance
What’s the big deal, lots of people are disabled and doing fine
Get over it there are many people worse off
All the time I had no concept of the far more difficult trial ahead. It would hit like a tornado and obliterate everything beyond the point of recognition, affecting every area of life leaving no stone unturned. It’s vicious attack would make your disabilities pale in comparison. I will write more about that in a later post but for now I will just say that suffering hardship is one thing, but when you have to endure watching helplessly as your loved one, especially a spouse or child, suffer abuse causing them severe harm. it will make even the strongest among us shake their fists at the air and scream as loud as they can, “Take me instead, I will suffer, just don’t hurt my….” But injustice, by it’s very nature is no respecter of persons, without regard for who it crushes, as it weaves it’s web of deception and lies that strangles it’s prey intent on destroying it. Devoid of a conscience it’s tentacles reaching for the most vulnerable, inflicting injury long before the innocent even realize what’s happening.
How did I cope with isolation and financial destitution that has left me literally trapped in my home without accessible transportation and no way to leave for over a year and still no solution in sight? Is it possible to cope when your husband and soulmate of almost 25 years has become a stranger and justice seems no where to be found?
Can it be? Can God really be there if you are still in the storm? I am here to say, “YES!”
For all those who are looking for a safe place to come and sit for a while enjoying a few moments of rest from the ongoing battles that we each fight, many alone in the silence, to those who are just looking for a good cup of virtual coffee for a few minutes during their day, and to those who are simply trying to figure out a way to be a good friend and support to someone in crisis, I say, “WELCOME”!
SHHHH… I’ll let you in on a little secret, I have no idea where this adventure leads since I have never gone down this road before! I might even share a recipe or two, who knows. You see I am convinced that there are many good resources for those who are just starting out in preparation to meet the on slot of whatever comes their way when drinking out of the firehose we call life. They encompass shelves filled with books and videos, sound bites online, on a wide array of topics from parenting, how to choose a career to a slew of how to books from preparing for marriage all the way to topics like how to preplan you own funeral. In case you missed it there is the endless list of gurus proclaiming the secret to financial freedom, self-help, how to dress, what to eat, spirituality and relationships, etc… followed by the millions of testimonials of those who are now a success on the other side of their hardship.
“What was that you said?” I said, “Hardship”. You know…. the kind that can bring even the strongest person flat on their face in the bottom of a muddy pit of despair, that kind of hardship. However, there are precious few resources with practical “how to” ideas, comments, insight or encouragement of what to do in the middle of if all, when all hope seems lost and you have no more strength to take even one breath, let alone one more step. Not elaborate motivational goal setting seminars or 12 step programs, although they can be great, but just enough to get you to take that next step and then the next. I invite you to come and share together how to overcome and learn what practical everyday things can help along the way.
IMPORTANT NOTE: I am not offering some miracle cure or claiming that God will make your life perfect, since He never promised that. But I do hope your will discover some much needed tools and ideas to keep you going in the midst of the storm.
With that I will close for now and will meet you again on the pages of HopeLostNFound.com. Keep looking for updates including new random topics that I encounter and make me go, “Hmmmmm…” I will be growing a list of resources and fun items, as I work on developing my site and thank you in advance for your patience as I learn how to navigate this new world of online blogging and all the technology surrounding it.
P.S. HINT: One day you will probably see something that you don’t agree with or even offends you! SOLUTION: Just STOP! Don’t read it. Problem solved! Hopefully you will find something new next time you come that is more to your liking. As I said before, I am just a fellow human being, relying on God’s grace. I am learning and growing on just like all of us on this common journey we call life. Of course you can always send a private message that is constructive and helpful, in an attitude of love and concern for truth, and I will welcome the conversation. As I said earlier, this is meant to be a “helmets off” safety zone, and as long as it is glorifying to God, biblically sound and truthful, I am okay with it. If not….I will always maintain the right to take it down or get rid of divisive or offensive comments. This is not meant to be anything more than one woman’s journey through life and an invitation to have a peek at what God is teaching her through each season. I pray God’s blessing and refreshment on all who visit and thank you for taking the time to stop by.