Sunday, December 18, 2016

Recovery - 1B

More of God's instructions to me. (Nov.24-Dec. 18, 2016)

Hymn-writer Frances Havergal (1836-1879), knew what it was to suffer prolonged illness and intense pain.  She wrote,"I longed to be able to pray but found I was too weak...I only looked up and said, 'Lord Jesus, I am so tired!'  And then He brought to my mind, 'rest in the Lord,' with its lovely marginal reading 'be silent to the Lord.' And so I just was silent to Him. And He seemed to overflow me with perfect peace, in the sense of His own perfect love."

A verse of one of her hymns says,

"I am not eager, bold, or strong,
     All that is past;
I'm ready not to do,
     At last, at last."

I want this attitude of heart - to be still, silent, and ready NOT to do.

Another favorite hymn says, "Content to fill a little space, if Thou be glorified."

And I want to be able to sincerely say, with Havergal, "That He could make me quite as glad and willing to live and suffer, as to go straight away to heaven."

Friends, please pray for me, not that I would understand all that is happening, but that I would be still, resting in His perfect wisdom and goodness, and patient with His timing.

 Jude 24-25
24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.


Recovery - 1A

(because this is long, it's in two parts.)

The day after my last post, which was also Thanksgiving Day, my husband took me to the ER at Vanderbilt in Nashville. It was a two-hour drive accomplished in 90 minutes! But the docs said I should come.  The symptoms I described in the previous post only  got worse.  We had  my 02 tank on the highest level - 5 Liters - and it wasn't enough.  I was gasping and  panicking, trying to get control and calm  down.  It was one of the worst mornings of my life.  I also had fever and a general feeling of "please let me die."

It turned out to be a less common form of the flu (not covered by the flu shot) that caused pneumonia in both lungs.  I spent 5 days in the Critical Care Tower, much of that time not caring if I lived or died, just wanting to breathe.  Nothing else mattered. Nothing.  I say that with shame and not boasting.  I wish I could always see everything in light of God's bigger plan, but I don't. 

Instead of trying to explain all that God was doing (because I don't know), these are some of the ways God "met me" both there and in the time I've been home.  We got home on Tuesday night, the 30th.

One of the things I prayed for before I left and while en route was that I would see God and know His presence in that place.  I was hoping for something extra special that we sometimes call a "God thing," something to make me smile, give me warm fuzzies.

Didn't happen. Nope. Nada.

That is until I was able to think more clearly, which is closely linked to being able to breathe!!
(When you can't breathe adequately, you can't think of anything else.)  Finally  on the third morning, I was able to read some devotional material from my Tabletalk Magazine.  The Nov. 25th devotional talked about Christ being the Logos, the Word made flesh, the very revelation of God Himself incarnated as the God-man. (Jn. I)   "All of God's Word reveals Christ to us in some way, and none of it is read rightly  unless we read it in light of His person and work.  That is because Christ is God's Word to us in these last days....God's Word - the Bible - leads us to God's Word incarnate - Jesus Christ."

So I came to see that with my Bible right there with me and the Holy Spirit indwelling me, I had all the presence of God I really needed.  He was there all along, I did not need to see something extra special - I already had it.

(The doctors hoped I would recover more quickly, but after 5 days they said I could recuperate at home.  Basically, when expending any energy at all, my blood oxygen levels dip to a dangerous level, requiring me to set the 02 tanks as high as 15L in order to "recover", then gradually ease it back down.  My hope, our hope, is for me to return to pre-pneumonia oxygen needs of 3-4 L.)

Upon returning home, things have been alternatingly encouraging/discouraging.  I knew it would take me longer that most people to recover from an illness like this.  But it is taking SO long that I struggle with the fear that this is  my new normal, that I will never get back.

So God has been teaching  and encouraging me with these truths about Himself and about me. Again - this is long.

(Lydia Brownback, Trust, a Godly Woman's Adornment)
"At some level we have an expectation that God's quota for testing us has been sufficiently filled for a season..We say 'God, this has been hard, so I'm sure that's it for a while. Now I'm looking to see what sort of blessing you'll bring to compensate me for the pain.' "

"Are we locked onto a particular type of healing or blessing that we want God to do for us? Something we think God should do for us?......That very thing you want God to fix may be His instrument to teach you first to depend on Him rather than on yourself or on peaceful circumstances....If we are anxious and fearful, could the reason be that we won't let go of our preconceived ideas of how things should go?"

"The Bible never says that a bad patch inevitably will be followed by a good one, in this life anyway.

"God is indeed good, and He is delighted when we trust in His love for us..But this sort of trust is very different from imposing onto Him our idea of how things will be. To our way of thinking, our expectation is the 'right' thing and therefore surely the thing that God will do for us. 

"But often it is not.  God's plans for our good are often radically different from our plans. Real trust isn't believing that God will do things as we expect He should; it is, rather, believing that whatever He does is good and perfect. We will only find relief from fear if we relinquish our expectations of what we think God ought to do for us and ask Him to create within our hearts a trusting expectation for what He wills to do."

Wednesday, November 23, 2016


I forget that when a normal person gets a chest cold, they recover fairly quickly. But when I come down with one, it's really bad news.   Coughing so much that I have to have pain medicine for my back and chest.  Breathing becomes very labored, so much that I am gasping and asking God to help me breathe or take me home.  The chills and fever, loss of interest in anything and everything.  The inability to find happiness in anything.  Having to depend on others for every need, even standing up, getting dressed, going to the bathroom, because any little activity causes loss of the ability to breathe.  Then the cycle starts all over.

This is so conflicting for me.  I want to be able to rise above it and say Christ is enough, to glorify Him in every detail of my life.  But when I'm struggling for my next breath my mind is only on me.

This afternoon, I am somewhat better, yet not where I was before.  But God has directed me to these verses for comfort.  They are simple truths to hang onto when my mind won't focus..

Deut. 31:8 .....The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

Ps. 63:8....My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.

Ps. 73:23...Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. 

His truths do not change with my changing circumstances.  On the contrary, He is before me in those valleys, leading the way with His lantern for me to see Him on the path ahead of me, but not allowing me to see what's beyond that.  Teaching me to trust Him when I cannot see or understand.

"I will lead the blind in a way that they do not know; in paths that they have not known, I will guide them.  I will turn the darkness before them into light and the rough places into level ground."
 Is. 42:16  

Friends, I know I have shared these scriptures before.  I share them again now because they are the only Solid Rock  I can find to stand on in very difficult days like these past 3-4 have been.

And honestly, quoting them to myself sometimes helps and sometimes doesn't.  All depends on whether I'm struggling to breathe.  

But their truth is objective, real, the only real hope I have in this world.  The only real hope anyone can have, because it's unchanging, just like HE is.  And after the storm, I again find a place to stand.

Tonight (now that I"m resting somewhat better) I'm thankful for His mercies that are new every morning.  LORD, please teach me and show me how to trust YOU at these even deeper levels of darkness YOU have called me to.

"This God - His way is perfect."  Ps. 18:30 

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Pasture Maker?

The last several days have been difficult. For different reasons I have been battling depression and haven't felt like communicating with anyone, not even family.  It's something I struggle with anyway and take meds for, but this has been something extra.

If you've battled it yourself, you know what it's like to feel like you're in a dark hole, you can see the light above you, but you can't seem to get out.  What you'd really like is to turn over and go back to sleep - for a very long time.   Well enough of that not-so-pretty picture.

Some heart-to-hearts with the Lord, some good talks with my husband, some scripture, rest, a good friends' well-chosen words - Christ has used all of these to bring me back to a brighter place.

It's another instance of His being my "Pasture Maker."  In case you've wondered why I chose this name for my blog, there are multiple reasons.  The term was first brought to my attention in a song by Nicole Nordeman called, "I Am."  She sings about different phases in her life and what she called God at those times, according to her understanding, and the ways He met her deepest needs.

At one point, she calls Him "Pasture Maker."  Then I was reminded of Psalm 23 which I learned as a child but never really appreciated the verse that says, "He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul."  Then Jesus says of Himself in John 10:9, "I am the Door. If anyone enters by me, he (she) will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture." Then there is the song I quoted in an earlier blog that starts out with, "In shady green pastures so rich and so sweet, God leads His dear children along."

All of these mean so much to me at this point in my life.  While He has always been my Shepherd, in these days I am keenly aware of fighting spiritual, physical, and mental and emotional battles, only to find myself very tired and limping back to Him once again.  When those times come, I have a sense of being in His pasture.  The gates around me are strong, keeping out harm and holding me in. I find rest, nourishment, and the love and care of my Shepherd. I don't have to understand what's going on out there or even within my own soul. I just rest my mind and body and know He is there, embracing me and protecting me.  Reminds me (I know - again!) of a phrase in another old favorite hymn,  
The protection of His child and treasure 
Is a charge that on Himself He laid; 
"As thy days, thy strength shall be in measure," 
This the pledge to me He made.

Dear Jesus, tender Shepherd, One who knows me inside and out, behind and before, my Redeemer, I love You, trust You, and lie down in Your green pasture tonight.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

It's Relative

By now you know that I love the old hymns - the messages they convey about God and His truth in Jesus Christ. This week I was mulling over the words to one of my favorites, which the choir that I play for is singing in the morning. The chorus of "God Leads Us Along" says

"Some through the waters, some through the flood,
Some through the fire, but all through the blood.
Some through great sorrow, but God gives a song
In the night season and all the day long."

A dear friend lost her daughter this week. This vibrant, godly 36-year old mother of 6-under-the-age-of-9, a lover of Christ, and a deacon's wife, quite unexpectedly went to be with Jesus in her sleep on Thursday night or early Friday morning. It wasn't unexpected with God, but it has left a grieving husband, parents, children, and church family in Louisville.

Wow. Of all the difficulties we might face in this "vale of tears," I can imagine none more deep than this kind of dark waters. Losing a child? I would rather have a dozen illnesses than to lose my daughter or son, or grandchild, or to have them suffer great pain or loss. My trials seems nothing compared to theirs. I find myself asking God - please don't ever call me to go through that unimaginable pain and sorrow. And yet I know that He gives grace for every trial, as He is giving in mine. O Lord, be ever near them. Carry them as You carry me.

And so tonight, as I lay my head down on my pillow, my prayer is not for myself but for the friends I love who are grieving deeply. I bow to His sovereignty in all things, and simply say, "Thank-you for life, for breath, and each new day you may give me."

Being held,


Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Treasures of Darkness

God has directed me, through some things I have been reading, to Is. 45:3.  It has captured my thoughts and I want to know more of it.

"I will give you the treasures of darkness and riches from secret places. so that you may know that I, Yahweh, the God of Israel, call you by your name."

Sometimes when I am at a new level of darkness (for me this means learning that my disease has progressed or having to come face-to-face again with the fact that I really am seriously ill), I am left with nothing to hold on to. My sinful self wants to hold on to hope, which I don't have at that moment, hold on to my husband, who cannot really do anything about my disease, hold on to my other family members, who also cannot improve my physical condition, hold on to food, to music-making, which will be hampered if this disease begins to affect my fingers, etc.  But these are all shifting and fallible - like quicksand.

So, as you can see, God pulls all these props out from under me, and puts me in a place of darkness where there is literally NOTHING I can rely on or stand on - except Him.  I want something else, but He gives me Himself. He reminds me of His love for me, that He calls me by my name - knows ME intimately - and He leads me back to that pasture of His love and comfort.

I find treasures in the darkness, and riches in secret places.  He takes me to places I have not been before, where it's dark, but then He shows me that HE is there.  And there is a sweetness that is hard to describe.

"Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, sweetest name I know.
Fills my every longing, keeps me singing as I go."

The treasures and the riches I find are things I would not have otherwise known, had He not put me in these places.

Yes - I would have it differently if I could. But He knows exactly what is good for me, in the perfect time, in the perfect way - His time and His way.

Oh, precious Lord Jesus, keep showing me more of Yourself. I love You but my love is so weak and so cold compared to what You are worthy of.  Please continue to mold and shape my heart into what it should be.  Whatever methods You choose to use, I submit to Your wisdom, not always willingly, but it is ultimately what I want.

"When darkness veils His lovely face, I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale, my anchor holds within the veil.
His oath, His covenant, His blood support me in the whelming flood;
When all around my soul gives way, He then is all my hope and stay.
On Christ, the Solid Rock, I stand; all other ground is sinking sand."

Monday, October 3, 2016

Eye-opening weekend

I know that scleroderma is affecting my muscles, but Sunday was an unusually weak day for me.  Thankfully, there is no pain associated with it. Jesus was sweetly near during worship, and my family is so accommodating and helpful.  Thank-you, God, for a lightweight wheelchair ( a gift from a dear friend) and people graciously and patiently willing to push me around!

I have been restless in my soul and not able to figure out what I was restless about.  God directed my thoughts to my yearnings for food.  For several months I have been subconsciously looking forward to the next time I would be able to eat, and basing my happiness around that.  Wow.  Is that idolatry or what!  "Comfort food" - He wants me to get my comfort from Him, and He is ready and willing to give it when I seek it. 

The over-indulgence in food is also making its presence known in my wardrobe.  = (
Think Sonny & Cher's old song, "And the Beat Goes On," and substitute the words "And the weight goes on." 

So He is tenderly showing me more of the unChristlikeness deep in my heart.  This is painful but the end result is peace, because when He takes something away He replaces it with a new and deeper knowledge of Himself. And if He doesn't show it to me, I won't turn away from it and turn toward Him.

Hebrews 12:11 says, "For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it."

So Jesus and I walk on, hand in hand ("Nevertheless I am continually with You; You hold my right hand." Ps. 73:23) down this path where only He can see what's around the next bend. I'm glad I cannot see it because I would balk at it and question my Lord's wisdom.  This way I have only to hold on to Him and know it will all be good.

"Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him,
How I've proved Him o'er and o'er;
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus,
O for grace to trust Him more."