I settled into my chair and winced as I heard Adela’s squeal of laughter. Nobody else minded. Our preacher, Pastor Tim, grabbed his guitar and we began Bible Study.
Wednesday afternoon Bible Study is new to our church, but I feel incredibly fulfilled by it. For the past few weeks Pastor Tim has been teaching us the commands of Christ. Every week we dig into the Bible and all the theology and history that comes with it. I leave feeling refreshed and hopeful.
I leave well-fed.
Our spiritual hunger is a mighty force. I’ve noticed that the more I feed myself through Bible study, devotions, and Biblical teaching, my appetite only increases. I used to fight to stay off social media, to stop playing little games on my computer, and to not binge watch TV. However, developing an appetite for God’s word naturally weaned me off many worldly interests.
Isn’t that cool?
Right now, we are in a season of Lent. Often, during the 47 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday, Christians opt to give something up in order make space for prayer and reflection. It is such a fantastic practice, but I’ve also noticed that in our human nature we often give up one worldly vice and fill the space with another earthly pleasure. Unless we are purposeful about our plan to grow closer to God, we will find that the Devil is ready and willing to distract us in our quest.
I know that there are many areas of stress in my life that I could easily fill up spaces with negative coping mechanisms or brain-fillers. But, in a step of faith I have chosen to cultivate my hunger for Bible Study and fellowship with my Christian Brothers and Sisters. This is my chosen coping mechanism. My chosen fuel. And, my reward is the peace and joy that comes with God’s truth.
This season of Lent, I am happy to lean in to the emptier spaces that can be filled with God’s word and fellowship. May my hunger be satisfied and the Living Water renew my soul.
For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. Hebrews 4:12, NLT
Did you give up something for Lent? Were you active in your plan to fill it with God’s word and wisdom?
Sometimes God Asks Us to Move. Sometimes He Asks Us to Wait.
I hate it when plans go astray. Something about my nature needs to be moving forward, handling whatever comes next. I hate the ‘not-knowing’ because it might lead to ‘not-doing’. Jovani, my husband, feels the same way. It is one of the reasons we work so well together.
So, when our neurologist in Albuquerque asked us to cancel our procedure for Micaela’s VNS and get a second opinion at another Children’s Hospital, we were disappointed that our plans had to be changed.
The day after Valentine’s Day, I sat in the Specialties Clinic at Albuquerque’s Presbyterian hospital and listened to our precious neurologist make an argument for repeating the long difficult process for a surgery evaluation at Phoenix Children’s Hospital. Phoenix has another surgery option that uses lasers on multiple spots of the brain, severing those spots' connection to the rest of the brain, without removing tissue. They can successful treat seizure spots on both side of the brain leaving a patient seizure free.
But, it means no VNS, at least not until we’ve consulted the specialists in Phoenix this summer.
I was devastated. We had a treatment option right within our grasp and then it was gone, shoved to the back-burner. The next available appointment in Phoenix is not until July. That feels like forever.
I’m reading through the Bible again this year. I was reading in Numbers the other morning about the cloud and the fire that God placed above the Israelites while they wandered in the desert. God was in the cloud and the fire. He gave them shade by day and light by night. When He rose above them and moved, they were to move too. When God stopped, they stopped. They might make camp for a day or a year and wouldn’t leave until God showed them the next step.
Right now I feel like those Israelites, encamped in a period of waiting for God’s movement. But, like the Israelites, it is so foolish to grumble. God is my shade when the sun gets too hot and He is my light in the darkness. I have nothing to fear. He will provide me with food, both physical and spiritual, so that I am strengthened and prepared for His plans.
In life we are continually either on the move, hoping for a rest, or we are waiting to break camp. However, God is a constant that we can count on. We have nothing to fear.
Right now Jovani and I are in a holding pattern in our care for Micaela. I will not miss the opportunity to grow with my God as we wait for the next step. Please pray for our patience and peace.
The Lord watches over you--
Do you feel you are in a period of waiting or of moving right now? How do you feel most blessed by God at this moment?
Are You in a Season of Rest and Renewal?
A couple weeks ago I swiped the spoon twice more around the coffee cup, watching the milk blend in in swirls of tan. The smell of that first cup invited me to take a deep sip. I did. Then I put it down.
I was half-way through my daily Bible reading when I remembered the cup. I sipped again. It was cooler now. Funny. When was the last time I let that happen?
Usually I gulped down that first cup like a life-line and was half-way through a second before any written word could make any sense. It was then that I realized that after almost ten months of desperate prayer, God had answered.
I was rested.
My raccoon eyes were fainter. The worry wrinkles softened. My brown eyes smiled back at me in the mirror. I was rested.
Who would have thought God would have brought an answer to my prayers through President Trumps defiant stand on a wall bordering Mexico? Through the Government Shutdown, my husband caught up on work at the farm and gave me many nights of restful sleep.
Last May, Micaela’s seizures worsened. To care for her, Jovani and I would check on her each hour during the night. All of her seizures come while she sleeps. They call them “nocturnal seizures”. Miceala’s seizures are freight trains. Once they get going it takes a lot of rescue medications and care to get them to stop. Always. Its rough.
I was running in the crisp winter air a few days ago, listening to a podcast. It was an interview of Blake Mycoskie by Levi Lesco In the interview Blake, the founder of TOMS Shoes, talked about God giving him a period of rest between seasons of difficult entrepreneur ventures. The rest got him ready to start a new project targeting violence in our country.
I would soon go to Colorado and spend many days in the hospital with Micaela. Jovani and I would have to take shifts and manage her time during a long video EEG. There would be travel and the heartbreak of being far from Adela.
Oh, God! How beautiful is the way you provide for us.
I faced the difficult days of our stay at Children's Hospital Colorado with a rested mind and body.
I don’t know that I could have asked for a more precious blessing.
Life is full of seasons. Perhaps that is the only thing that we know to be true. Whatever season you are in, I pray you find God’s provision constant. It always is.
In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, LORD, make me dwell in safety.
Are you going through a season of rest and renewal?
What Do We Do When the Future is Uncharted?
I pushed down the horror that rose in my throat as the middle-aged neurologist gave us an over-view of surgery. The most extreme surgery they did was cut out half of the brain. It would leave an individual with limited use of the left side of the body.
I resisted the urge to gather Micaela up in my arms and flee the little room with it’s cheerful paint tones.
He was a smart doctor, laying out the worst possible scenario and getting us past the shock. Most likely, if Micaela was a candidate for the surgery, they would only have to remove a tiny part of her frontal lobes and the side effects would be minimal. Still, it was brain surgery. I swallowed. Were we doing the right thing?
Next to me, Jovani listened intently while Micaela slept in his arms. You could barely see the cute pink shirt and blue jeans she sported underneath my sweater that we had tucked about her. I had taken painful care to make sure she arrived clean and wrinkle-free, but she had chosen to sleep through our appointment.
It gave us time to talk.
There were many options for our little Micaela. There were diets, supplements, VNS, alternative medicines, and prescription drugs. They might succeed in lowering her number of seizures and make them less severe, but they would never make her seizure free for the rest of her life. With the recent episode of 7 + hours of night seizures that she had January 1st still fresh in our head, we were ready to proceed with the screening process to see if she was a candidate for surgery.
Do you ever feel like you live your life as a parent in the gray area? Rarely do we encounter a black and white choice for our children. My mind spun with “what if’s” and my anxiety rose until that still small voice broke in.
You are only here now.
I breathed. In and out. Right now we weren’t making any decisions at all except agreeing to more EEGs. Right now Micaela was peacefully spending her morning in the warm security of her father’s arms. She was happy and her parents were exploring all their options to give her a better future.
God promises to be our rock, our fortress, our salvation, and our rest. (Psalm 62:1-2) So, when things seem gray, commit yourself to mentally stay in the moment and move forward one toe at a time. You will find God’s peace shines light on the path in front of you.
We will be heading to Children’s Hospital Colorado again in a week for several days of EEG video monitoring. God goes with us every step of the way and keeps us close.
If you feel paralyzed in a gray area of your life, ask God for enough light to move forward with peace. We don’t have to have all the answers right now. We just need enough of God’s truth to see the next step we need to make.
Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.
What is the hardest choice you ever had to make? What made it hard and how did you move forward?
It is a frightening ugly thing to watch your small child have a seizure. Her little body jerks uncontrollably reminding me of a mechanical toy that is running out of batteries. The last couple episodes confirmed undeniably that the seizures come when she sleeps and my own rest has become disturbed.
Sanity can only be mine when I trust God. I spent 2017 battling fears and worries, but through it have more faith and strength than ever before. Micaela’s epilepsy has become my very own version of spiritual super glue, keeping my heart and mind fixed on the Savior.
A friend asked me if I have ever been angry about Micaela’s difficult journey. The honest answer is, “YES.” It isn’t fair that her sweet soul must fight for everything that comes easy to a “normal” child. She has spent the past year working, with endurance, on walking, talking, eating, and a hundred other developmental feats. To throw seizures into the mix feels like a punch below the belt.
But, at the end of the day, epilepsy is simply part of our family’s story and I can either be angry and resentful, or I can go to God, my Father, and find the peace and joy that will carry me through each and every day.
For many years, the story of the storm that Jesus calmed, has been one that I’ve turned to often in the Bible. You can find it in Matthew 8:23-7 and Mark 4:35-41. I can imagine the terrified sailors and panicked disciples. How long did they tug sails, tie ropes, and toss freight overboard before they ran to God? How very human of them, attempting to create their own safety. But true peace can only be found in God. With a single word He can calm the wind and waves.
We all face terrifying storms in our life that threaten to tear apart our world. God waits for us to come to Him. Any situation could become the spiritual super glue that will fix us to our Lord and build us into ever more beautiful souls.
What catalyst in your own world has become spiritual super glue, fixing you close to God?
Adela’s brown eyes were full of exultation and horror. She held out the tiny little tooth to me, her tongue moving over the excavation site slightly filled with blood and said, “It’s gone, Mommy.”
Poor baby. I had a hard time masking my own pain. My little baby was gone and had left to be replaced with this growing daughter. She held in her hand the very first tooth God had ever given her. It was gone, no longer a part of her little body.
I spent many hours talking to her over the next few days about the process of losing teeth. I told her she had new ones, adult ones, pushing their way upward. I told her they would be strong, wonderful teeth that she would use (Lord willing) the rest of her life. It was okay that little pieces of herself would fall away, for they would be replaced by something even better.
What an entirely human experience. It is a lifelong adventure. Little pieces of ourselves are being hacked away or changed so that new, better, more useful parts can be given a place in our life. We often cling to familiarity. We fear the pain that change forces on us, but it must happen. Life is in constant motion.
My mind remembers the passage from 1 Corinthians 13:11, ESV, when Paul said, "When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways." We are called to put things behind us that aren’t necessarily bad, but are no longer fitting for our stage or season.
I admired Adela for the easy way she placed that tooth under her pillow, knowing that in the morning it would be gone. Gone for good. I pray that I know how to do that each time God shows me the things that must be left behind.
What parts of yourself have you let go of as you moved through different seasons of your life?
I loved doing a Facebook live video about setting goals. Enjoy. :) Note: The first 20 minutes are solid but then we had some audio/visual issues. We figured out what happened and thankfully will have a fantastic video this week. If you want to join us, it is at 7:40 pm Thursday, January 11, MST.
The thermometer I ordered off amazon makes a frantic beeping noise when it reads a fever. The alarm starts a rhythm in my heart and in my mind I hear the wicked ringing of the alert that goes off in the movie Aliens. We are under attack!
My thoughts always go into over-drive. What medicine should I give? When should I go to the doctor? Will there be another seizure this time?
It is awful. But it is teaching me to put my life in God’s hands.
It seems this is the struggle a great many of us have: learning to surrender our illusion of control and rest in God’s provision.
I know I would be insane, depressed, or addicted to something if I did not learn to give God the heavy burden of raising my girls. I love them so much and I fear that I will mess something up. Their lives are too precious to be raised by a mere human such as I.
Every night, I kiss Adela and Micaela on the forehead and pray. I ask God to protect them and to hold them in His great love. I tell God that I give them to Him, their lives and their futures. Only then am I able to shut off the light in their room and close the door with peace.
We should pray this prayer all the time. We must try not to spin the wheels of worry but acknowledge that when we have done all we can, that God is still Master of it all.
The other night, I got to share this with Adela. She asked me about the smoke alarms in the house and I had to explain that they were there in case we had a fire. Adela immediately became terrified and asked a dozen questions. It was right before bedtime and with large brown eyes she asked if I could sleep with her that night and if her Papa could become a fireman to save us. I chuckled but realized that all my reassurances had done little to ease her fear. I smiled and suggested we simply ask God to protect us. So we prayed together. Afterwards, Adela let out a big sigh and snuggled into her blanket. She was asleep in minutes.
I wonder if she felt God’s peace as I did.
Someday I truly hope I walk unfailing in this peace, resting in God’s goodness. It is my idea of perfect bliss.
Life is going to attack us and the only true shelter will be found in the Prince of Peace.
The LORD gives strength to his people; the LORD blesses his people with peace.
Have you learned to give you biggest fear or greatest worry up to God?
Micaela’s nails dug into my calf muscles. I didn’t know whether to cry or yell or both. She hadn’t napped and hadn’t stopped wanting constant attention all day. The house was in shambles, toys and dirty dishes everywhere.
For the first few months of this phase, we had respite care and I could find some emotional and mental breaks. But, when school started our amazing caregiver, Shaylee, went to college. That same week Adela started Kindergarten leaving me at home alone with a frustrated, angry, needy Micaela. I started to wonder if I was going to survive.
I think I began to fall into a mild depression. My bubbly optimism vanished and my mask of happiness began to crack and dissolve. During one of the sessions where I was teaching Bible Study to adults, someone encouraged me to start listening to an online ministry, seedbed.com. The first lesson I listened to about Psalm 13, moved my soul towards healing.
In this short, 6-verse David, the writer, goes from asking God how long he must suffer to praising God. The psalmist is able to do this because he clings to the memories of all the times God has saved him.
I listened to the words of the devotional and let out a deep breath of relief. There was something else to focus on, something else to pay attention to—remembering how God has intervened in my life. I was lost in the torment of the moment, the horror that my life would consist of this event over and over until Micaela moved out of this phase. Those thoughts threatened to seal the lid on lost days, weeks, and months.
Ah, but praise…
Sometimes that old adage “Thank God for your blessings,” makes you get stuck in the rut of trying to figure out all the things that are good about this moment alone. That can be difficult—very difficult. However, if we have been walking with God long at all, we have memory upon memory of being saved by our Heavenly Father.
As Micaela cried and yelled, I remembered Adela going through this exact same stage. I remember how lost I felt, how miserable. I remember worrying that I was handling it all wrong. However, God guided me through it and Adela today is turning into an amazing child that I love spending time with.
God is good. Hope is powerful.
Through countless hard moments and seasons of my life I am blessed to own the tagline, "But God was with her." And when I'm wading through the valleys, I know I am not alone.
But God was with him
Do you have memories of being saved by your loving God that give you strength during the hard days?
I didn’t know what to do with myself. For a few years now I have been very purposefully taking Sundays “off”. Of course, for a young mom, this is still an eventful day. I have little girls to tickle and feed, a husband to chat with, friends to call…yeah, it is just a different kind of demanding. I am busy, but I switch my focus from chores, writing, and child care to quality time with family and worshiping God.
This weekend my mother-in-law borrowed the girls so I would be able to care for the farm while Jovani was on a trip. As you can imagine, I packed Saturday with those jobs I can’t do with girls in the house. I kept a fast pace and felt great about what I accomplished. But Sunday…
Sunday felt eerie. What was I to do with all that quiet? After farm chores and church I felt like a little boat in the middle of a massive lake, dead in the water. I didn’t like the feeling.
I recently finished an incredible book, Your Best Life in Jesus' Easy Yoke. In one of the chapters, the author discusses people who are addicted to adrenaline. The description of such a person sounded like a workaholic. Now, I don’t know about you, but to me a workaholic is that man or woman who is never home, obsessed with their job, and gives their family a low priority in their lives.
But, as I read the chapter on Adrenaline Addiction in Bill Gaultiere’s book, I was shocked. How he described the person obsessed with being productive to the point where they panic if they are not accomplishing something, that was ME.
I think I pouted and argued with myself about this for a good two weeks before I simply accepted the reality: I am a workaholic.
I am a workaholic who prioritizes her family and is almost always home, but that doesn’t mean it is healthy. In fact, it is very unhealthy, because I struggle against the idea of rest. I struggle against giving God His agenda in my life. God doesn’t want us to always be going. He also wants us to spend a lot of time stopping, listening, and breathing. When I was honest with myself, I realized that I have a tough time trusting God. It seems easier to trust in my own power and strength. What if His will means I don’t get to accomplish my goals and dreams? What if the house is a mess? What if the laundry hasn’t been folded?
Bill Gaultiere’s book, Your Best Life in Jesus’ Easy Yoke, encourages you to constantly live in the rest that Jesus offers. We shouldn’t be striving and struggling and worrying. If we truly live and act in the belief that God wants the best for us and will guide us in all things if we let Him, then life stops feeling like a struggle.
We also must give up that addiction to adrenaline. If we are resting in Jesus’ love, we won’t be getting our adrenaline fix. Like all addictions, it is hard to give these things up.
The road to healing will be long for me, but I am learning. Since reading Bill’s book, I have started to do things that God has asked of me for a long time such as letting the house get cluttered on the days when the girls are needing extra love and attention. Leaving dishes in the sink and using my last hour of quiet for devotional time. Most of all, I don’t write or work on my ministry if I feel spiritually disconnected or disconcerted. I am learning to trust God when He tells me I need to prioritize something that goes against my own thoughts or will for the day. I am learning to stop, breath, and let the day come instead of me attacking the day with my own agenda.
You might have an addiction to adrenaline that turns you into a workaholic as well. Take a moment and visit soulshepparding.org and take the Adrenaline Addiction test.
If your results are positive, stay tuned. We will be discussing this topic further in my next Monday blog post.
Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
Do you see other qualities of yourself that point towards being addicted to work?
Devotion: n. love, loyalty, or enthusiasm for a person or activity (from The Oxford Dictionary)
What does your devotional time with God look like?
God wants to be as much a part of our life as He can be. He wants to find Himself on our minds and in our hearts from the moment we wake to the instant our eyes close in sleep. One of the best ways to accomplish this is to profoundly dedicate time to and with Him.
Lucky for us, that list is very long. Below are my favorites.
-Read your Bible. Study. Take notes. Stop and pray as you feel moved to do so. Talk to God about what you learn in his word.
-Read a daily devotional. Let the beautiful words of Billy Graham or the encouragement of Joyce Meyer guide your time with God.
-Pray. Have a deep, quiet, intimate conversation with our Heavenly Father.
-Write down your prayers in a prayer journal.
-Sing or listen to praise music. Let the soothing rythms and uplifting lyrics open your heart to God.
-Study with a group. Find fellowship with like-minded men and women. Learn with them and through them.
-Draw, doodle, illustrate Bible verses or prayer journals.
I was taught that devotional time should be a quiet, private affair. I learned that it was about silent study of the Bible and deep prayer time. To this day, I still find these two things to be helpful in learning God's word and connecting to Him. But as I hear how others spend devotional time with God I realize that it can be so much more. I love shaking things up when it comes to my daily devotions with God. I don't like to be caught in a rut in which I feel less alive during those minutes with God than I do the rest of the day.
As a mom, I admit to having to fight for my devotional time. My personality thrives on a quiet time with my Heavenly Father where I focus only on Him, but it is hard to fit a good block of that as I care for my husband and family. I’ve learned to get creative and self-disciplined. However, just as this season of my life is crammed with activity and demanding on my time and heart, it is for this reason that I need to grow with God. I need to walk with Him and learn His ways.
For most of us, the reason we haven’t found a way to do daily devotions is time. We feel we do not have the time for it. But we do. The Bible says that where our treasure is, there is also our hearts (Matthew 6:21). The things we treasure we find the resources to care for them, invest in them, and adore them. All of us can look back on our typical day and see many things we invest our resources in that do not include God.
So, where are our hearts?
My son, give me your heart and let your eyes delight in my ways
How do you benefit from devotional time with God? Have you found a way to daily come into His presence?
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"...and God was already there with me."