Sunday, September 29, 2013

Help for my Friend, Anne

This is my friend, Anne. (Isn't she pretty?)

Anne is so special to me. Her family has felt like home to me since before I even moved to Vermont. They probably don't remember this, but she and her husband and son were so incredibly encouraging to me during the time I still lived in Nashville after my family had moved ahead to Vermont. It was just a simple little email or facebook message from one of them every now and then (but also seemingly just when I needed it most.) I'm guessing they didn't think they were doing anything terribly important, but it meant the world to me as I sat six states away from my family in a house way too big for one person not to feel lonely. Almost five years later, I have grown to love this family in so many ways, I couldn't possibly do them justice in a simple blog post. That is a discussion for a different day. ;-)

For now, this is the important point-- Anne learned just a few weeks ago that she had a very large brain tumor. She had it removed just as soon as surgeons could make that happen, and she's such a rock star that we partied in her hospital room literally the day after. 

Totally wasn't jokin', y'all. Brain surgery one day. Party in her hospital room the next day. Rock star.

Still not the point, though.

Since then, Anne has learned that she has stage IV glioblastoma. Not good news. Which means radiation and chemotherapy 5 days a week for the next 6 weeks at a hospital almost 2 hours away. And *that* means extra expenses stacking up daily. Gas, lodging, meals away from home, etc. Also--her husband Jeff is self-employed, which means if he doesn't work, he doesn't make money. There's no paid vacation going on here. When he is driving his wife back and forth to these appointments, their income is on hold. 

With all of this in mind, Anne's daughter Ally has set up a fund to allow people to support them financially. (See link below.) I know that many reading this don't know them and have lots of people in their own lives who need similar help, so there is no guilt trip or high pressure here. Just making the opportunity known for those who might want to respond. Small amounts add up quickly when many are involved.

And if you can't give, will you join us in prayer? For healing, for comfort and encouragement, and for provision. So very grateful for the prayers of saints across the globe.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Good List 9-25-13

10. Coffee. 
9. Rainbow Eucalyptus trees. Seriously? I want to go to these.

8. Meal Train ( If you ever need a website to help you coordinate help for someone you love, I highly recommend this service. (Thank you for the recommendation, Kim!)
7. I first read Jared's Otherworld about 15 years ago. I read it again last week and loved it all over again. (It's fun being married to a storyteller!)
6. Too precious not to share: One of my best friend's celebrated her Grandad's 90th birthday a few days ago. Below is what she had to say about him and a picture of him holding her baby boy. Fills my heart all the way up.

Some people leave a legacy that ripples through generations. This is my Grandad, Fred. He is 90 years old today. He is a man of God, a selfless and fiercely loyal husband, a devoted and faithful father, a caring grandfather who I count as my great friend. He was a prisoner of war, felt the Lord's presence in miraculously beautiful ways during WWII, and is still singing the praises of Jesus today! He is a lover of music, a ballroom dancer, entertains and brings joy to his family, and has shaped my character and led me to praise the goodness of the Lord in countless ways throughout my life. The Lord is so kind to give me a grandfather like my Grandad and I wish him a happy 90th birthday today and humbly ask Him for many many more!

5. Celebrating 40 years of my bro-in-law, Jon. Happy Birthday, Jon! I'm glad you're my family!

4. Celebrating 20 years of my sweet niece, Leah. Love you, LeLe! Happy Birthday!

3. My Mom and Dad are here! Their timing is impeccable. :-)
2. I'm sad to report that it's been storming for quite some time in the midst of our little church community (cancer, death, depression, etc., etc., etc.), but I have never before experienced the lavish love of Christ like what this family consistently and abundantly pours out on each other. It is breathtaking. And for that I am grateful.
1. Richard is with Jesus! We are sad, but he is not. Indeed he will never be sad again. Raised to walk in newness of life.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Just a Suggestion

Recently I have been vividly and painfully aware of just how uncertain and fleeting life can be. With that in mind, may I make a suggestion? Today hug someone (or several someones) a little too tight and hold on a little too long (as if that's even possible). Say "I love you" and "You're so special to me" one too many times. And then do it again tomorrow. And the next day.

I'm fairly certain you won't regret it.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Good List 9-18-13

10. Space heaters. Oh, yes. It's that time of year. 
9. Coconut oil. For cooking. For baking. For your skin. For your hair. For your pets. Just get a jar for every room in your house. It pretty much does everything you'll ever need in life.
8. A robe or blanket pulled right out of the dryer. Ahhhhhhhhh.
7. Stumbling upon this picture for the very first time just a couple days ago and remembering exactly how I felt when it was taken. At this point, I had been living away from my family for almost 9 months, them in Vermont while I was still in Nashville. This picture was taken at my going away party at LifeWay when I was just days away from finally being permanently reunited with my family in Vermont. I call it "JOY!" :-D

6. Dinner date tonight with Andrea, Lydia, and Sarah. Fun!
5. Our Compassion child, Lorena. We adopted her when she was 4. She's 15 now. (!!!) Oh how the years go by!

4. The kind of hugs that make you feel like everything bad in the world stops while you're inside them.
3. The kind of friends who give those kind of hugs so freely.
2. Reasons to celebrate in the midst of ongoing struggle. Just added a wedding shower and a baby shower to our church calendar. Thank you for these, Lord.
1. This. I love this. My friend Jesus. My friend Richard's friend Jesus. My friend Erin's friend Jesus. My friend Anne's friend Jesus. And my friends Jeff and Mark and Ally. My friend Kathryn's friend Jesus. 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Why "The Good List"?

Why "The Good List"?

Many have asked me this question, and I'm pretty sure I've answered it a little differently each time -- all honest answers, but this process has taken on new meanings throughout the years.

I first started these lists about 8 or 9 years ago in the midst of a very dark season of my life, the details of which are no longer important. What *is* important is that Jesus rescued me. What he did not do immediately, however, was to remove me from some of the difficult situations I was facing each day. Storms raged on pretty much daily (or at least every "work" day), and God didn't seem much interested in calming any of them. . . except for the one within me. Which -- let's be honest here -- was every bit as much a miracle as walking on water. 

Clearly I was incapable of changing my own heart and mind. I had tried for years to no avail. And I'm not sure even now that I can pinpoint *exactly* what changed or why except to say that Christ intervened. Powerfully. I had wallowed in self-pitying-why-me-this-is-so-unfair-how-can-they-keep-getting-away-with-treating-me-this-way garbage for so long that entitlement mentality had attached itself to me as securely as my very skin. I went nowhere without it. To be clear, it is still my very firm opinion that I *was* being mistreated and sinned against all those years ago, but the magnifying glass I held to the sins against me was firmly and exclusively fixed on just that. Sins against me. I had no vision of anything else. Not my own sins and the grace Christ had so freely lavished upon me in spite of them. Not the blessings I enjoyed every single day. Not the hope I had in eternity. 

Until. . .

Jesus. OH! JESUS! All I can say is that he crashed into me and changed the subject. Again -- not the circumstances. They remained the same for several years following this awakening in me, but my perspective changed dramatically. Mostly. Hence "The Good List". Practicing thankfulness. Opening my eyes to blessings that had never been absent from my life, only ignored. Changing my focus from, "Why me? Why do I continue to deal with this? So unfair!" to "Why not me? Why didn't I wake up with cancer this morning? Praise God!" Imperfectly, for sure, but deliberately. I decided that it would be my goal to actively seek and identify blessings every single day. One for each week day and 2 each on Saturday and Sunday. These could be as silly and small as a really good meal or something that made me giggle. (Or Nutella. I decided it would be fair to list Nutella every week if necessary. ;-)) That made a list of 9. Number 10 would be something a bit more significant. An exquisite passage of Scripture that had spoken to me recently. A truth that God was revealing to me. A story of redemption. Something along those lines. A list of 10 each week. After several years, I've listed a few thousand by now, but the more I list, the more I realize I could never stop writing (or typing as it were), and I still wouldn't cover the tiniest fraction of blessings. That's ok. It's not a test to complete. It's a never-ending exercise in thankfulness.

And after 8 or 9 years of doing this, today my answer to the above question is this:

Why "The Good List"?

For such a time as this.

Because just in the last 2-3 weeks. . .

. . . I listened as Jared read Scripture to our friend Richard, whose brain cancer appears to be in its final stages. He paused occasionally to explain, not because Richard isn't smart, but because. . . .  well, brain cancer. Taking over. I love that Richard closed his eyes during the parts that talked about eternal life with Christ. Never *really* dying. A whole, holy, healthy body forever. Glorious. Meanwhile, Judah, who is 3, said to us, "My Dad talks weird." My flesh raged (UNFAIR!!!), and my heart plummeted. Help him, Jesus!

. . . I visited a beautiful, precious friend in the hospital the day before and then again the day after doctors removed a golf-ball sized tumor from her brain. She still awaits the full pathology report, but the word "aggressive" haunts me. Help her, Jesus!

. . . I dialogued with a friend who began experiencing fainting spells several weeks ago at the exact same time her husband fell from a ladder and shattered his leg. They have been recovering, only to face recent repeat ER visits with her Dad over the last couple weeks with bleeding in his brain. Doctors tried, but their treatments were not as effective as they hoped. His final earthly breath happened late Tuesday night. They are weary. Help them, Jesus!

The list continues. Illness, depression, broken relationships, wayward children, financial stress, difficult job situations. It's a long list. All within a very small community. 

These days have been hard. Scary. Exhausting. Confusing. Frustrating. Demanding.

I might as well admit I'm not waking up with a song in my heart or a dance in my pants as often as I sometimes do. My heart isn't light. What to do with this mess? Where could I go but to Jesus? And why? Because my natural setting is to "look on the bright side", be cheerful, and trust that everything will be fine if I just "let go, and let God"?

Oh my, no. Quite the opposite, actually. Because I'm weak and weary and worn and mostly pretty worthless in regard to my impact on any of these situations. But I've practiced recognizing God's blessings. I've rehearsed gratitude for his never failing goodnesses to me. I've searched for and listed (just a few) of the endless ways he loves me. And I have just enough "muscle memory" at this exercise to send me fleeing to the cross when trouble comes. Because I remember. My stubborn heart of flesh is being slowly conditioned to know how to respond to suffering. With gratitude. Gratitude for the days and weeks and sometimes months at a time when the suffering isn't so prevalent. Even gratitude for understanding the many ways Christ works through suffering. But by no means does this come naturally. It takes practice. Exercise. Consistent, deliberate work. Repetition.

So why "The Good List"?

So I'll remember.

Because where else could I go to find hope and peace and comfort? Only to Jesus. There is no true good but HIM.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Good List 9-11-13

10. Earlier this week, Jared randomly received a package. This is what was in it (a book). I'm still giggling.

9. One of the after school activities offered at Macy's school is a "Chopped" competition twice a month. She is SO EXCITED!
8. Massive cold front predicted for tomorrow. I'm always ready for football, coffee, chili, snuggling weather. :-D
7. Macy tried out for the Vivace chorus at her school and found out last Friday that she made the cut. She's excited, and I can't wait to hear all the lovely music that will fill my ears because of this. 
6. Unexpected phone calls that come at just the right moment and deliver just the right message.
5. Earlier this week, I picked up Ty and Jack from school. On the way home, Jack listed for me all of his favorite friends in order of how they ranked. ;-) When he was done, I asked Ty who his favorite friends are. Without hesitation, he asked, "Is it weird if Grace is my #1 since she's my cousin?" Be still, my heart. :-D
4. THIS. is so close I can taste it. Can't wait.

3. Otherworld, the first book Jared ever wrote (over 20 years ago) and his very first fiction publication, released yesterday. Tell us if you love it so he'll know if he should continue working on fiction in his free time. ;-)
2. The Lord is stirring, stirring, stirring around these parts. I never know exactly what He's doing, but it is always exciting to sense His work in and through and around us. Keep us attentive and obedient, Lord!
1. Romans 5 and all that it means for those who are suffering.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Good List 9-4-13

10. Tiny ice. Like at Sonic. I miss Sonic, but mostly just for their ice.
9. Fantasy football. Hush. Sometimes I need a mindless diversion.
8. When you've been following a semi-truck going 25 mph down winding, country roads with little to no visibility for passing, and then suddenly the road expands into 2 lanes. That's just a good moment, y'all. I don't know what else to tell you.
7. This. It's been months since it's been under 200. Feels good to catch up a little. We'll see how long it lasts. ;-)

6. Sunday afternoon football is coming. I need it.
5. The fabulously refreshing fallish breeze that danced around me the whole time I was washing dishes last night. It *almost* made me not want to run out of dishes. ;-)
4. The guitar that Macy saved and saved for and finally got to order a couple weeks ago. I *think* she might be excited about it, but it's hard to tell for sure. ;-)

3. Another contract for Jared signed, sealed and on the way to Crossway. What a crazy and amazing ride this continues to be!
2. A great first week of school. Both of the girls came home happy every day and were excited to go back yesterday, so good news all around.
1. A visit with our friends the Scotts today. These are sweet, but incredibly difficult times with them. But God is good. Grateful for the gorgeous ways he continues to work in and through this precious family. Please continue to pray with us for Richard, his wife Erin and their children Miley and Judah.