Titus 2 Thoughts #3 and Surgery Update

I have been home since Monday evening. I cannot remember a time when I was more exhausted than I was on Monday night. My meager post-surgery strength did not match the demands my body required of me. That night I deeply second-guessed coming home instead of going into rehab. I could barely move, much less properly engage the specific mechanics required of me to consistently keep the weight off my right leg.

My week was filled with focus, practice, adjustment, and caution. I had little to no pain in hospital, but as my previous painkillers worked their way out of my system and I reduced the amount of new painkiller I was taking, my pain increased slightly. Was this a bad sign? Was I doing something wrong? Should I cut back on physio? Increase it? More meds? Less? Not sure.

The surgeon wanted to see me two weeks after my surgery. After returning home I called to make the appointment. I discover that the ortho clinic will be closed two weeks after my surgery, and closed for the entire week. My follow up is now 3.5 weeks after surgery. Will this be ok? Will my dressing last? What about my staples?

As the meds work their way out of my system, I struggle with fatigue, ennui, enervation, and depression. I hesitated to write about this, but it is my reality. When we share what is going on in our lives with the body of Christ, we do not share only the blessings, but also the struggles. The love and prayers of God’s people are a great encouragement in times of struggle.

Slowly I am seeing improvement. I am better able to hop using my walker and keep most of the weight off my injured leg. I discovered I tend to hold my breath when I am concentrating. I need to talk myself through the steps. Remember to hold in my abs, breathe, hold my arms straight, and move forward, keeping my foot barely on the ground for balance. And again. And again.

How did my appliance fail? How did I go so long without knowing it? Did the doctor do something wrong? Was it something I did wrong? Am I doing something wrong now? Is it even possible to find the truth about this?

Why hadn’t my hip itself hurt? The last month before the x-rays I felt crooked and was unable to stand straight. I felt the tightness in the muscles of my back and in the thigh of my right leg, but when I poked the hip area, nothing hurt. I thought it was my fibromyalgia. I now realize that not every muscle pain is fibromyalgia.

I become aware of many others who are struggling physically, emotionally, spiritually, and I pray for them. Sin has touched and cursed us all. We all need Christ and His truth and His salvation. We need to speak truth to each other in times of sorrow and in times of joy. We are family. We rejoice and we weep with each other.

Today as I heal and continue to work to strengthen, I am enjoying some special blessings. My family has arrived from China and I get to hold and talk with my grandchildren, listen to their dreams, join in their imaginings. This morning my grandchildren picked the first of my garden peas to share with me. Well-formed, sweet and delicious, they are consumed with gratitude and satisfaction.

I am abundantly blessed through this ordeal to have my daughters living nearby ready to sacrifice to help in any way possible. God has also blessed me with many children of the heart who visit and write and stop by to help. They bring their little ones, my ‘adopted’ grandchildren, to visit Purple Grandma and hand me sweaty fistfuls of flowers or grasses or other treasures selected just to cheer me.

Truth is, just like many others who suffer unexpectedly, I may never know why this happened. God chose it for me for His glory and my good. I do not understand what that looks like right now or how it helps me and the body of Christ overall. I struggle to rejoice in infirmity. I struggle against self-focus and negative thinking. I struggle to rejoice in the Lord always, but by God’s grace, I am not content to be disobedient.

The prayers and love of God’s people are very precious to me. Thank you to each of you who have prayed for me and continues to pray with me. I pray God will bless you for your love and concern.

Philippians 4:4-7

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.  Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Friday Fave Five #86 and Titus 2 Thoughts #2

Suzanne hosts Friday Fave Five at Living to Tell the Story to encourage us to count our blessings each week. This week I am coupling my Titus 2 Thoughts with FFF.

To be honest, I did not expect to be writing a FFF today. When my doctor called on Tuesday and told me my x-ray shows my most recent hip replacement has is broken and I will be scheduled for emergency surgery in the next day or two, I literally believed a day or two. The latest word is ‘sometime this weekend.’ My son asked if that means they have downgraded me from emergency to urgent. Maybe, but for now, I am supposed to ‘just use crutches’ and keep weight off that leg.

Just use crutches. Hmmm. Part of what I have been experiencing the last few weeks involves balance issues and motion sickness. Partner that with my natural lack of coordination and that little phrase ‘just use crutches’ is fraught with potential disaster galore. “Here, poor sick, sometimes-dizzy, out-of-shape lady with a wonky hip, just hobble around on these two little sticks. Keep your leg off the ground, oh, and press those crutches into your ribs. No, no! do NOT jam the pad into your armpits! Stand up straight! Grasp those hand grips and use your arms to hold your lumpy self up! No slumping! Simply follow these 25 easy illustrated steps to master the art of using crutches for any occasion.” It may sound crazy, but having to use crutches post-surgically is probably the thing I dread most about this surgery.

After my last hip replacement, I told myself I never wanted to go through hip replacement surgery again. A congenital condition, both hips replaced now, we’re done. Guess what? I’m not in charge. I can do ‘everything right’ and still not be in the position to control whether or not I have to endure something once or a dozen times. God is in control, and He orchestrates every part of my life for my good and His glory.

I’m an introvert and do a lot of self-talk. This can get me in trouble when I do not filter my thoughts through the truth of God’s Word. Lugubrious, self-focused Eyore thinking does not glorify God and is not helpful to me or to those around me.

My self-talk: anxiety and fear. God’s truth: Be anxious for nothing. God has not given us a spirit of fear. I will never leave you or forsake you.

My self-talk: What about the unknowns? How am I going to get through this arduous surgery and recovery again? God’s truth: My grace is sufficient for you.

Remember the children of Israel in the desert? God provided manna daily for them. If they tried to save up for the next day (with the exception of the Sabbath) the manna would spoil and not be fit to eat. In a similar way, God provides grace to help in our time of need. It’s not saved up like money in a bank but is instantly provided for each situation. That is a promise we can rest on.

So here are five blessings among many from the past week.

1. Protection from a potentially life-threatening situation because of my broken prosthesis. I’m not sure how long it has been broken, but I have had symptoms (that I thought was a flare up of my fibromyalgia) for at least 6 weeks

2. Loving family, church, family, and friends. I have blessed with flowers, cards, and the promise of prayer from many friends from around the world. My husband and daughters have helped in so many ways. My son and his family arrive in 2 weeks ready to help, too.

3. Getting my desk work caught up while waiting for the call about surgery. I finished some reports, organized some photos, filed some papers, and set up some automatic payments in preparation for my time in hospital.

4. Living at a time and in a place where I can be helped medically. Such a blessing!

5. All the wonderful ministry friends I met and fellowshipped with at the conference we recently attended in North Carolina. It was a joy to spend time with many who serve God faithfully across the globe, hear their stories, and learn of their hearts for the places where God has called them to minister.

Update! I just got the phone call. I will be admitted through emergency today and surgery is scheduled for tomorrow.

Here are a few more pictures from our recent vacation to Holden Beach in North Carolina.

Beautiful hydrangeas

Reflection

Marsh visitor

Sunset on marsh

Fibromyalgia: “What exactly IS wrong with you?”

Over the years I have had many people ask me, “What exactly IS wrong with you?”  My family all love that question.  “How much7-16-10 Yew tree near Ormiston 9 time do you have?” they joke.

My rheumatologist tells me I have fibromyalgia.  Some people, mostly well-meaning people, tell me fibromyalgia is not a real disease.  Well, something has been wrong with my health on and off for over thirty years.  The same set of symptoms have waxed and waned throughout this time.  My current family doctor calls these ‘on’ times flares.  I’ve been in a flare now for two years.

I think it’s sad that most fibromyalgia sufferers have trouble speaking up for themselves. When you feel so sick so much of the time it’s hard to clearly verbalise what is going on in your body.  Some of the best advice I ever received from a doctor was, “You have to advocate for yourself.”  It’s true.  I don’t need a psychiatrist, and I am not making up my symptoms nor am I looking for attention.

Frankly, I don’t care what they call it.  Over the years I have been told I have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, fibromyalgia, colitis, IBS, and allergies.  I’ve been tested for Celiac multiple times, all with negative results. When a flare would end I was told I must not have really had the diagnosed disease, until the next flare which would bring a new label.

Right now no one definitively knows what causes fibromyalgia.  Hopefully in the future research will discover that it is caused by SOMETHING specific:  a vitamin or mineral deficiency, microwaves, a hormone imbalance, a parasite, global warming, Tupperware, vaccinations, dental fillings, barometric pressure changes, or space aliens – SOMETHING. I don’t care if they decide to call it bibbity bobbity boo, snicklefritz, Jabberwocky, or Persimmon’s disease.   My symptoms are real and something is causing them.

Learning to advocate for myself has required a leap of faith on my part. When you have minimal energy you can’t afford to chase down everything which may possibly help you. I have been greatly encouraged this past year by going gluten-free, taking magnesium supplements, and having allergy and food sensitivity testing done.  I have learned that specific foods, preservatives, and additives cause me to have a violent physical reaction and I have learned to avoid things which are obviously poisonous to my body. Right now I’m also working on shifting to a more alkaline diet.

I have also become a label-reader to make sure I am avoiding the foods and additives that I know cause me to throw up, have pounding headaches, or suffer from severe gas, bloating and the runs.  I lived almost thirty years of my life with serious digestive issues and accompanying nutritional deficiencies. Having relief from that downward spiral has been liberating.

My muscles feel achy, weak, and sore when the weather is cloudy or when it rains or snows.  Restful sleep, a regular schedule, and proper nutrition help me to be more productive, even in times of flares. I also have moderate to severe osteoarthritis and am waiting for a hip replacement.  Sometimes it’s hard to separate the fibromyalgia symptoms from the arthritis symptoms. Maybe there is an organic connection, maybe not.

Friends and even acquaintances share ‘causes, cures and remedies’ with me.  I really don’t mind; they might be on to something.  But honestly, there is no way I can even begin to afford buying and trying everything suggested to me.  If I’m feeling half decent I’ll do some research and make a decision about trying something new based on that. If I’m feeling very ill with a flare, I’ll say thank you and wait to investigate until a time when I am stronger.

Next time:  a little more on my background and the beginning of the symptoms.

O Be Careful Little Ears What You Hear

O be careful little ears what you hear???????????????????????????????

O be careful little ears what you hear

For the Father up above

Is looking down in love

So, be careful little ears what you hear

Still learning about grace

When my husband was first saved at age 20, he aggressively witnessed to M, his father’s second wife. He had a lot of zeal and was still learning about grace when addressing her and she made it very clear that she did not approve of him or his message.  Her animosity towards him grew over the years to the point where she told other family members that she hated him. Though Bud apologized and attempted many times to win her over, M refused to be reconciled.

For some reason M seemed to like me.  She bought me gifts and was very kind to me.  She spent time talking with me and we discovered we shared many of the same interests.

The comments began

Because of the tension between M and my husband I was very mindful about keeping our children under control so Bud could spend time with his father when we visited.  Soon the comments began. At first they were subtle, and never when Bud was around. “Bud should make sure you get enough rest.”  “I can’t believe Bud said that to you last night.”  “Bud is so selfish!  He needs to take care of the kids so you can have some time for yourself.” Because of her words slowly, and imperceptibly at first, resentment toward my husband grew in my heart.

Poisoned my thinking

If I had been more mature or more spiritually minded I might have thought of Eve and the subtle words of the serpent in the Garden of Eden.   I might have seen that M’s angry words against my husband influenced me to think wrongly about him.  I might have responded biblically and told her to take her comments directly to the person she had the complaint against. But I did not want to upset the delicate relationship balance so I kept quiet. Instead, I listened to what she had to say and allowed M’s words to poison my thinking.

Gossip

I have noticed this same sort of situation in churches.  Someone becomes disgruntled with the leadership or with another believer in the assembly and begins grumbling and complaining to others.  They either don’t talk to the pastor at all, or they leave from a meeting with the pastor annoyed and angry because he will not side with them on some issue.  These kinds of people puff themselves up and make it their pet project to destroy God’s work by gossiping and complaining to others.

God hates these things

Proverbs 6:16-19 says:

There are six things that the Lord hates,
seven that are an abomination to him:
 haughty eyes, a lying tongue,
and hands that shed innocent blood,
 a heart that devises wicked plans,
feet that make haste to run to evil,
a false witness who breathes out lies,
and one who sows discord among brothers.

At best these disgruntled believers are guilty of sowing discord among the brethren, and may also be guilty of telling lies and devising wicked plans.   Rarely will there even be an attempt to deal with issues biblically, and if rebuked, they are often full of self-righteousness, pride, and even downright hatred.

They may talk of this issue as ‘a prayer request’ or a ‘concern’ but what they are doing is wrong, so wrong that God hates it. God hates those who sow discord among other believers. Yes, He opposes them and what they are doing.

No grace

They may caution you that the pastor is preaching heresy or that a fellow Christian doesn’t do things the right way, when in fact the bitterness, resentment or pride in their own heart is the real problem. They are blind to the fact that good men differ over some areas of doctrine and practice. There is no grace extended to genuine believers who hold a differing position.  They resent the fact that people love and follow their pastor instead of them.

We will all answer

They forget that we all have to answer to God for our thoughts and actions and that the pastor is particularly held accountable for how he handles the flock. There is no grace, no love and no genuine concern for the body of Christ. They secretly delight in winning others to their position or in hurting the pastor or the church.

Don’t spread gossip!

Be careful, dear sisters, to have your spiritual antennas up!  Don’t be the one spreading gossip and don’t listen to those who do! When someone begins speaking critically about another believer, stop them and tell them to talk to that person not to you.  If there is a question about what your pastor has been preaching, go to him and ask your questions.

We are all responsible to search the scriptures to see if what we are being taught is accurate.  To do this we need to understand what the Bible says.  You may need to use a commentary or a reliable modern translation so you can clearly understand what is being taught.

O be careful little ears what you hear

But do not fall into the trap of being spiritually poisoned by lending an ear to a person who God clearly says He hates:  a sower of discord among the brethren.  Don’t poison the thoughts of other believers with gossip.  And don’t be guilty of listening to it just because it comes from a good friend or to keep the peace.

It may be a children’s song, but it contains simple yet rich truth:  ‘O be careful little ears what you hear.’

But God…

???????????????????????????????For those in our church:  you really missed a great blessing if you missed last night’s service.  We had a special evening of testimonies and singing, and it seemed as if God drew back the curtain to give us a glimpse of what He has been doing behind the scenes.

Hard things

It can be easy to look at and even focus on the hard things, or the things we view as bad that are going on in our lives. I certainly have been guilty of this.  When we do this we forget that God is still there, still working out things for His glory and our good.

Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery

Remember Joseph?  Hated by his own brothers – this is bad.  Sold into slavery – how could those brothers be so mean? Falsely accused and thrown into prison – that Mrs. Potiphar was really wicked.  Languished in prison when the butler forgot his promise – how could he?

The story, as we know does not end there.  Joseph was not only brought out of prison, he was appointed second highest official in the land.  In Genesis 50:20 Joseph reassures his bothers, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.”  When we look at part “A” and react to all the bad stuff, we are forgetting part “B,” “But God…”

Saul wanted to kill David

David, anointed to be the next king of Israel, had to be constantly on the move to avoid the murderous plans of jealous king Saul.  Day after day Saul pursued David and day after day David moved out of the way.  To onlookers this chase must have appeared to have an uncertain outcome, until we read in 1 Samuel 23:14, “And Saul sought him every day, but God did not give him into his hand.”  God was protecting David all along in spite of appearances.

Jesus was crucified

When Jesus conducted His preaching and teaching ministry many followed Him with gratitude and joy.  Yet one terrible day He was falsely accused, beaten, and killed.  His followers were shocked and grieved.  Some did not realize these events fulfilled biblical prophecies of the coming Messiah. Paul recounts the crucifixion story in Acts 13:29-30, “And when they had carried out all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb. But God raised him from the dead.”  What initially seemed to be a terrible injustice was, in fact, planned by the hand of God for the salvation of mankind.

But God…

When we arrive at the end of our rope, the end of our hope, the end of our courage, or the end of our strength, we need to be encouraged by the “but God” verses of Scripture.  Psalm 73:26 reminds us, “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”  Forever means today, tomorrow and every day of our future.

God is still there

Are you burdened about something in your life, your family, your church, your wider circle?  As I listened to the testimonies last night I was encouraged that in every case when people got to the end of themselves God was still there, still involved, still leading, and still loving.  God is faithful to His word and is still using those who are willing to let go and give Him glory in their lives.

God’s choices

1 Corinthians 1:26-29 reminds us, “For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.”

Take heart!

Something difficult may be happening in your life today.  Take heart! The same ‘but God’ verses which encouraged saints in the past are still true for us today.

When Critical Illness Hits Home, part 1

Children are a blessingIMG_0055

We were delighted with our firstborn, a son.  His red hair reflected the Scottish portion of our heritage and his cheerful demeanor was engaging.  Though he did not walk until after his first birthday, he began speaking when he was nine months old, and parroted word after word that we modeled for him.

Dedicated to God

We dedicated each of our children to the Lord when they were infants.  This child, on loan from God, was entrusted to our care.  We knew we needed wisdom beyond our years to rear him properly, and so we asked God for His help.  We also stood with open hands before the Lord, acknowledging that we understood that this child, like everything else that we claimed as ‘ours,’ ultimately belonged to God and that He could do with our son as He pleased.

Getting sick

Our son was thirteen months old on American Thanksgiving.  That year we spent a joyful time of feasting and giving thanks with family and friends.  On Friday my husband and I loaded David into a stroller and enjoyed a leisurely walk through the mall.  The next day David was unusually fussy and was running a slight fever.  Had he picked up a bug when we were out?  Was he getting a cold?  Teething?

Missing church

Sunday dawned.  Our son’s fever had climbed slightly and he was unusually placid.  My husband was in seminary, preparing for the ministry.  His philosophy was that if we expected others to attend church faithfully, we should lead by example.  After some discussion we decided I should stay home with the baby.  We thought we were bending our self-imposed rule that we had to be at death’s door to miss church.  Little did we know then that that was exactly where we would be in a few hours.

My mother-in-law, a nurse, shared the house with us at that time.  We took turns tiptoeing in to David’s room and checking on him.  After a couple of hours he opened his eyes, but didn’t move or cry. He had a vacant look, and was extremely listless.  The slight fever had suddenly skyrocketed to 105 and his skin held a definite grey pallor.

Call the doctor

We called our doctor and described the symptoms.  “Come immediately to my office.  I will meet you there.”  All of us knew these were symptoms of meningitis, and several children in our vicinity had been diagnosed with it lately.

This looks very, very serious

The office was only minutes away and the doctor and his nurse met us there where they immediately did a spinal tap.  The spinal fluid was very cloudy.  He told us what we feared, “This looks like meningitis and it’s very, very serious.”  “Where’s your husband?” asked the doctor urgently.”  “At a required meeting at the seminary.” “I’ll track him down.  Waiting for an ambulance or for my husband to join us would have taken too long.  Every minute was critical.

Don’t break down now

“Can you handle driving to the hospital?”  We gulped back tears and nodded. We couldn’t break down now.  David’s life may depend on it.  The doctor gave my mother-in-law and me an evaluating look.  Mom was obviously shaken.  “You,” he pointed to my mother-in-law, “hold the baby” and “you,” he said to me, “drive.”  He sent along the spinal tap and called the hospital to give orders and prepare for our arrival.

Spinal meningitis

We arrived at hospital emergency where the staff whisked David and his spinal tap test away.  My husband arrived and soon after so did our doctor.  Test results quickly came back positive for bacterial meningitis.

It doesn’t look good

Massive doses of IV antibiotics were administered.  Our doctor gently drew us aside and told us, “David’s symptoms are quite advanced.  It doesn’t look good,” then asked my husband to lead us in prayer.

Did we really mean it?

Suddenly we were faced with the reality of what dedicating our child to God might actually cost us.  At the time we sincerely meant it when we told God He could do whatever He wanted with this child.  Was He requiring David’s life for some reason we did not see or understand?  Did we really mean it now when our son’s life was in the balance?

Heartaches – “God Can Create Peace in Trouble”

No advantage in life can shield us from heartaches7-15-10 (70)

Heartaches. They afflict us in every area of life: marriage, pregnancy, child rearing, family relationships, health, jobs, finances, our dealings with other Christians, our interaction with the unsaved. No one is exempt from them: the young or the old, the weak or the strong, male or female, educated or unschooled, handicapped or healthy, PhD or illiterate, debutante or derelict, virtuoso or unskilled. No advantage in life can shield us from heartaches.

There is help in God’s Word

Who among us has not felt stabs of anguish or the pangs of sorrow over certain, maybe even many, unexpected or uncontrollable events in our lives? We women are emotional creatures. God has made us that way and formed us to accomplish His unique will in our lives with full knowledge of that emotional nature. He does not give us this nature, then allow events to stir up and touch that nature, without also providing us a remedy from these troubles that so weigh us down. There is help, solace, and comfort in the Word of God.

Hannah and her heartaches

In 1 Samuel 1 we get a glimpse of Hannah and her heartaches. Hannah was one of two wives of Elkanah and grieved over her childlessness. Elkanah’s other wife, Peninnah, bore sons and daughters for him, but his love was directed toward Hannah. Can you imagine the tension in that home where it was known that the husband loved one wife more than the other? Day after day Hannah was taunted and mocked for her barrenness so that she was in anguish of soul.

Overwhelmed by anguish

Truly Hannah lived under great stress. As she focused on her troubles, she was dismayed and despondent. To make matters worse, Elkanah did not seem to understand the depth of her anguish. We too, find ourselves in situations where we are overwhelmed by circumstances we cannot change. Often those we turn to for comfort do not seem to understand our distress.

Hannah changed her focus

Somewhere in her grief Hannah changed her focus. She was able in the full emotion of her heart to lay her burden before the Lord in prayer. Perhaps she realized that there is no human comfort to help in the midst of certain griefs. Maybe she understood that no earthly intervention would alter her circumstances.

Pouring out our hearts before God

We do know that she poured out her heart before the Lord, laying her heart bare in all of its distress and sorrow. “And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed unto the Lord, and wept sore.” (v. 10) When Eli observed her lips moving without sound and rebuked her for being drunk, she reiterated that she was bringing her distress before the Lord. “I am a woman of sorrowful spirit: I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but have poured out my soul before the Lord.” (v.15) “for out of the abundance of my complaint and grief have I spoken hitherto.” (v. 16)

In the Lord there is relief

In earnestly entreating the Lord, Hannah had come to the point where she understood that with the Lord there is real relief from the deepest of troubles. We need to honestly and without reserve, entreat the Great Physician to provide remedy for our every heartache.

Peace and joy

Hannah came away from her time of prayer with peace and joy in her heart. “So the woman went her way, and did eat, and her countenance was no more sad.” (v.18) God spoke through Eli to assure her that her prayer would be answered.

Casting all your care on God

God gives us assurance through the Holy Spirit that He will hold our burden for us. “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” (I Peter 5:7) Where better to leave our heartache than with the “One that inhabiteth eternity”? (Isaiah 57:15) God knows all things. He is able to sort out even the most impossible mess in our lives, change the most stubborn of hearts, soothe the distresses that cause us to turn our focus from Him to ourselves.

Fix your focus on God

In coming to a place of peace in the midst of her circumstances, Hannah gives us one of the most wonderful poems of praise recorded in the Old Testament. “My heart rejoiceth in the Lord…, I rejoice in thy salvation. There is none holy as the LORD: for there is none beside thee: neither is there any rock like our God.” (I Samuel 2:1-2) Hannah’s focus has become fixed on the Lord and His mighty attributes. No longer is her focus on her self or her circumstances, but on the Lord and His greatness. Her focus now rests on the One who can change any circumstance, relieve any heartache.

“The world can create trouble in peace, but God can create peace in trouble.”

Unbeckoned heartaches will descend on us at many points in life. Our natural man responds by focusing on the trouble causing the heartache. Thomas Watson, seventeenth century preacher, aptly observed, “If God be our God, He will give peace in trouble. When there is a storm without, He will make peace within. The world can create trouble in peace, but God can create peace in trouble.” Only when we remove our focus from ourselves and our circumstances, as Hannah learned to do, will we be able to overcome the heartaches that are an inevitable part of the life of every Christian woman.

Book Review: Safe in the Arms of God

In my post on miscarriage I cited the book Safe in the Arms of God by John MacArthur.  Following is a review of the book.Coffin in the woods at mom's funeral - Copy

The grief of losing a child

We need God’s wisdom and compassion when we are called upon to counsel and comfort someone who loses a loved one.  What do we say when that loved one is a little child?  John MacArthur’s book Safe in the Arms of God:  Truth from Heaven about the Death of a Child (Nashville:  Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2003) offers a cogent, compelling presentation that God welcomes these little lives into His presence.

“Every life conceived is a person”

MacArthur begins by reminding the reader that “every life conceived is a person.”  (p. 13) He uses Psalm 139 as a proof text to show that God expresses His thoughts about newly conceived life, and leaves no question that He is intimately concerned with that life from the very beginning.  God actively participates in (Psalm 22) and has unlimited knowledge of each life.  As well, God shows personal oversight in the creation of each person and in the unfolding of each life through time.

God’s tenderness toward children

The author gives many scriptural examples of how tenderly God views children.  Particularly poignant was His concern for the children when urging the inhabitants of Nineveh to repent in Jonah 4.  He further cites Jesus’ regard for children, among other examples of God’s tenderness toward the young.

God saves those unable to understand

MacArthur clearly points out that all children are conceived and born as sinners and that the salvation of every person is a matter of God’s grace, not man’s works. He also shows that we are saved by the sacrificial work of Jesus Christ on the cross, the supreme manifestation of God’s grace. He cites Scripture to show that we are saved by grace, but condemned by works.  Infants have yet to perform works so through His grace, He saves them.  With this MacArthur discusses the age of accountability, not as a chronological age but a condition, citing the example of the inability of some mentally handicapped adults to understand or respond to Scripture.

Will I see my child in heaven?

Probably the most heart rending question we may face from a parent who has lost a child is, “Will I see my child in Heaven?”  MacArthur reminds us of David’s response to the death of two of his children in 2 Samuel.  When the child conceived in sin with Bathsheba died chapters 11-12), David ceased his mourning, worshipped God, and rejoiced that he would again see this child one day (in heaven.)  In contrast, when his adult son, the rebellious Absalom died (chapter 18), David wept and mourned for this child he would never see again.

Topics in the book

Chapters in the book include:

  • Where Is My Child?
  • What Can We Say with Certainty to Those with Empty Arms?
  • How Does God Regard Children?
  • What If My Child Is Not Among the Elect?
  • Will I See My Child Again?
  • What Is My Child’s Life Like in Heaven?
  • Why Did My Child Have to Die?
  • How Shall We Minister to Those Who Are Grieving?
  • Let Me Pray with You.

We may not agree with everything, but….

MacArthur writes from a reformed theology position which you may or may not agree with.  Regardless, this small book offers encouragement and hope to parents who have lost a child and is worth reading and recommending to friends and family dealing with the death of a child.

 

The Silent Suffering of Miscarriage

There was an eerie stillness in the exam room as the technician and doctor firmly moved the ultrasound transducer against my distended abdomen.  The duo pressed and prodded before exchanging a knowing look.  The doctor gently told me to get dressed Paton in Dumfries and Torthorwald (40) and that they would get my husband who was in the waiting room.

This is no longer a viable pregnancy

 “I’m so sorry but we can’t find the baby’s heartbeat. This is no longer a viable pregnancy.”  Surely this doctor was mistaken.  Wasn’t this the little boy we had prayed and hoped for?

But deep in my soul I knew.  I was 20 weeks into my pregnancy but something seemed wrong; I had not felt the little fluttering movements of the baby for several days now.

Like countless other women before and after me, I had suffered a miscarriage.

I was sent home for a few days to see if my body would expel the baby on its own, but it didn’t.  I was not given the choice of delivering the baby but was scheduled for a D & C.  God must have blocked my understanding of what that involved for it wasn’t until years later, when the sorrow was less acute, that I understood that I could have delivered the baby and maybe even held him.

Silent suffering of miscarriage

A number of friends and family have recently miscarried.  In my child-bearing years miscarriage was a topic people rarely spoke about.  A woman’s suffering was silent and personal and few dared to cross those barriers to speak with her about her loss.

But I was blessed.  My miscarriage occurred when another family was spending a few days with us.  The wife had suffered both miscarriage and an ectopic pregnancy.  She shared her grief and experiences and allowed me to share mine.  She encouraged me with kindness, sympathy, prayer and with scriptures that had helped her.

A dear friend and sister in Christ lost a daughter halfway through the pregnancy and twins later the same year.  I asked her if she would share with me things that were both helpful and not so helpful as people learned of her sorrow.  I have combined her suggestions with my own to hopefully give a few ways of ministering to a woman who has suffered a miscarriage.

Helpful things

  • Both my friend and I went to hospital alone; she delivered her daughter and I had a D & C.  I would have liked to have someone with me during that time.  I felt very alone and was still coming to grips with my loss.
  • Ask if your friend she wants company.  Some will need a time of quiet reflection to grow accustomed to no longer being pregnant while others want someone there right away so they do not isolate themselves and mentally plunge into ‘a dark place.’
  • Remember we are to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.
  • Sometimes the best thing you can do is hold your friend’s hand while she cries.
  • Reading the Psalms and crying as I read was therapeutic for me.  Gentle hymns playing quietly in the background helped keep my mind fixed on eternal things.
  • The book Safe in the Arms of God by John MacArthur is a good resource for those who lose a child through miscarriage or untimely death.  In 1 Samuel 12 King David says that he will go to his child who died.  We understand that to mean that young children go to heaven when they die and we will meet them there someday.
  • Offer to take any older children overnight so the couple can spend some time grieving together.
  • Give your friend a journal so she can record her thoughts, prayers, poems, and comforting Scriptures and hymns as she progresses through the grieving process.
  • Just because someone is a strong Christian doesn’t mean there is no pain.  We sorrow, but not as those who have no hope.
  • Remember that it takes time for the woman to return to her pre-pregnancy hormones.  Tears, sadness (but not suicidal thoughts,) extra sensitivity and soreness may be expected as the hormones regulate.  Call your doctor and ask for help if there is concern about depression, prolonged discharge, or other signs that the body is not returning to normalcy or if you have any other medical concerns.
  • Send flowers, a card, an e-card, or a note expressing your genuine sorrow for the loss.
  • Prepare a meal and ask if you can bring it by today.   Or tell them you are thinking of them and you will be stopping by at a convenient time for them with their favorite coffee etc. Arrange for some friends to clean house or run errands if your friend is supposed to be on rest for a while.  When you stop by to leave something ask if they want company then.
  • Be careful when you remind your friend of Scriptural promises.  While it is true that all things do work together for good to them that love God, your use of this or similar scriptures can come across as trite or flippant if you are not careful.

Not-so-helpful things

  • Don’t assume that the wife is the only one who feels the pain of miscarriage. Husbands grieve over miscarriage too.  They may have had hopes or dreams for the little one or begun to plan for all that’s involved in adding another member to the family.  Men may or may not want to share how the miscarriage has impacted them, but it’s good to give them an opportunity to talk out it.
  • Don’t ignore the fact that the family has suffered loss.  Platitudes such as, “You’ll get over this.” “Cheer up! You’re young and can have more.” “You already have (blank) children so it doesn’t really matter.” “You should be over this by now.”  “Well that’s not so bad.  My sister (friend, mother, etc.) had something far worse happen to her!” “Whose fault was it, yours or your husband’s?” are NOT helpful and show an insensitive spirit.
  • Don’t say, “Let me know if there is anything I can do.”  Rarely does the person feel the liberty to take you upon such a vague offer.
  • Be sensitive to your friend’s need for rest.  Don’t stay for an hour if she’s only up to a 10 minute visit.
  • Let the bereaved talk about the baby.  Use the baby’s name if the family had picked a name.  Don’t act as if the baby never existed.
  • Don’t take it personally if you learn the sad news from someone other than your friend.  This is not a popularity contest to see who gets the news first.  This is no time for hurt feelings, idle curiosity, or insensitive comments.

Gaping wounds and scars

Losing a child is like receiving a gaping wound.  At first the wound is swollen, red and tender.  You can barely touch it without pain.  Slowly the wound heals and is not as sensitive.  As time passes the pain of miscarriage subsides, but as with a wound, there will always be a scar to remind you of the painful experience.

It is well with my soul

I love the sentiment of my friend who has chosen to see the loving hand of God in the midst of her sorrow.  “The bottom line is that I’m so thankful that despite this (loss of three babies in a year) I can still have hope because of all that I have in Christ. It certainly doesn’t mean that there’s no pain. Quite the contrary is true… but it is well with my soul because I trust in His unwavering love and in His perfect plan for my life. In this world are many trials and tribulations but Christ has overcome the world. And praise God that I am in Him!!”

Fighting Christians – Taking the Wrong for the Cause of Christ

Christ’s Example

I have been reading the gospels again and have been moved by Christ’s example of humility.  In the hours before His crucifixion Jesus was accused, abandoned, afflicted and abased.  When he was reviled with hateful taunts, He did not respond in kind.  When He was accused and later beaten, He remained silent.  He was provoked, pierced, prodded, and in pain, yet He did not lash out at those who so wrongfully and shamefully treated Him.  He endured this ‘contradiction of sinners against Himself’ for the far greater cause of bringing salvation to mankind through His sufferings.

The Bigger Picture

We are all guilty at times of losing sight of the bigger picture.  It’s not to our credit to love those that love us.  We are also supposed to love those who treat us unfairly.  Wow!  Is that ever hard to do!

In our society it’s considered weakness to back down from a disagreement.  After all, isn’t it important to make sure everybody knows the real facts about an incident?  Or knows who really came up with that great idea?  Or takes our side?  Or that I’m in charge?

It’s More Important to be Christlike than to Be Right

No.  It’s more important to mirror Christlikness than to be right.  Can that be true?  Sadly, we have been conditioned to plant our feet and in no uncertain terms let others around us know that we will not budge.  But that response to conflict is not God-honoring.

I want to challenge you:   Can you take the wrong – wrong behavior, wrong accusations, wrong ideas people have about you for the cause of Christ?

Church Splits

We shake our heads when we hear about churches that split because people can’t agree on the color of new carpet.   Does anyone remember the color chosen?  Do the stories praise the person who was ‘right’?  No, the reputation of Christ and His followers is diminished by this kind of insistence on having one’s own way.  People only remember that Christians can’t get along and they are not drawn to Christ by this fractious arguing.

Expectations

We are children of God and have various responsibilities in the church.  We can’t run away from this or change this.  Right or wrong, people know this about us and because of it have even higher expectations of godliness from us.

I want to challenge you to pray about and study the passages which speak of Christ’s humility and deference to the Father’s will.  I want to challenge you to study the Scriptures which tell us to take the wrong for the cause of Christ.  And then I urge you to practice on each other.

Don’t Be Known as Fighting Christians

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Don’t be known as fighting Christians.  Our testimony before a watching world should be one of love and tender deference to each other.  Our behavior toward each other may be used of God to draw a wanderer back or push a struggler farther away.

He Said, She Said

Our youngest daughter absolutely delighted to have her aunt and uncle here in May.  She particularly loved hearing her father and his sister give their individual accounts of the same childhood event.  They were both involved in the event yet had WIDELY differing versions of it.

When two believers see something differently take time to ask yourself if you might possibly have misinterpreted or gotten it wrong.  Don’t automatically think you are right and the other person is wrong.  Give the other person the benefit of the doubt.

Humility and Deference

By God’s grace let us love each other with humility and deference and allow our relationship as believers become a sweet savor of godliness to each other and to a watching world.