Devotional Thoughts: God Walks with Us

We are always walking through waters in this life, waters of death, waters of grief, waters of disappointment, waters of pain, waters of violence, waters of anger and the list goes on and on… The comments I hear inside our loving church family are many on how we don’t even know how people survive without God in their lives. What a sweet message for us today in this verse from the One who always keeps promises and is always faithful.

God is with us. These things that seem so engulfing will not overcome us. Some feel like waters will sweep us away. Others feel like hot burning fire. The flames will not burn us out! God grants us what we need to press on. I know many inside the church who have experienced horrific things. A child is rebelling, a child is missing, a child is in prison, a child is addicted. A spouse is abusive, a spouse is cheating, a spouse is lying. I could fill up this post with things that are deep waters and fiery flames in this life. People wonder how those in these circumstances are still standing. They still stand because God holds them up. They choose to keep walking. the Faithful One will see us through.

This verse reminds me of Isaiah 40:31. “But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”

Sometimes we are soaring on wings like eagles and other times in life we are just trying to walk without fainting. God is good, faithful and walks with us through all these times. To the one who doesn’t know this or understand this, reach out to God today. God loves you and will give you what you need to carry on. Not only just carry on but God will use your suffering for good! You will shine! I hear Romans 8:28 echoing through my thoughts: “and we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

The one whose child is in prison started a prison ministry. The one whose child is an addict now ministers to women who struggle with addiction. The widow was lonely and started a place for people to be on Christmas Day. What will you do with life’s hardships?

Devotional Thoughts: Barreness, Spurgeon and God

The pain of barrenness runs deep in the soul of a woman. While meeting with a social worker preparing to be a foster parent I was asked if I can have children. “I don’t know,” I said, “I never tried.” We both laughed at my unique answer, unique because I’d been single for many years and because of my faith I wasn’t going to have a child out of wedlock. I’d even ceased dating for ten years because of some bad experiences I had. I accepted I’d never marry or have children. Out of this situation I felt God’s call to foster.

In Isaiah 54A the barren one is asked to sing? Her children will be more than the one who is married? This sounds quite absurd and sometimes God calls us into what seems a bit crazy. Isaiah 54 is so rich! Here the verses that follow:

2 “Enlarge the place of your tent,

stretch your tent curtains wide,

do not hold back;

lengthen your cords,

strengthen your stakes.

3 For you will spread out to the right and to the left;

your descendants will dispossess nations

and settle in their desolate cities.

4 “Do not be afraid; you will not be put to shame.

and settle in their desolate cities.

4 “Do not be afraid; you will not be put to shame.

Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated.

You will forget the shame of your youth

and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood.

5 For your Maker is your husband—

the Lord Almighty is his name—

the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer;

he is called the God of all the earth.

6 The Lord will call you back

as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit—

a wife who married young,

only to be rejected,” says your God.

7 “For a brief moment I abandoned you,

but with deep compassion I will bring you back.”

“In this Western clime, we do not know all the misery which was felt by Eastern women who were childless; they were looked down upon and despised; yet here God bids them sing. And, dear friends, if you and I feel as if our hearts have become barren, so that we cannot think of God or raise our thoughts towards him as we would desire; if we feel that we have become useless, and for that reason our spirit is greatly depressed, let us give heed to this sweet, this charming exhortation of Jehovah: “Sing, O barren soul; break forth into singing, and cry aloud;” for God can turn our barrenness into fruitfulness, and make us to rejoice exceedingly before him. If we are now sighing and crying because we are not what we ought to be, or what we want to be, God can, in the richness of his grace, make us all that we desire. Therefore let us begin to be joyful even before the miracle of mercy is wrought; let us have unbounded faith in God, and expect him to bless us, even while we are in our lowest state.” -Spurgeon

God cares for the hurting. It is He who stands in the gap for us and makes things right even if it doesn’t happen in this life. So, never mind what’s happening. Let’s stretch out our tents and welcome all who will listen to how good God is! Remain close to God and all will be made right today, tomorrow or on the other side of eternity.

Prayers: The Spirit

Lord, I thank You for the gift of Your Holy Spirit! Without You, Spirit, I’d be so lost. I’d be at a loss for words sometimes and as this verse in Romans points out, having a loss for words is okay because You stand in that gap where pain so deep resides.

Where I’m weak, You’re so strong! Today I ask You to intercede for me in the areas I’m even unaware of. Pray for what You know I need. Incline me towards all things that are of You. Bend me, mold me, point me in the direction You have laid out for me.

Holy Spirit I pray for You to pay a holy visit, the kind only You can, to those enduring so much suffering they are groaning today. Comfort like only You can. Pour out Your love on each one. May they know You, the Great One, are near.

In Jesus name I pray, Amen

Devotional Thoughts: When I’m Crushed

Psalms 34 is absolutely beautiful. God brings beauty from pain. In times of sadness, suffering and sorrow. God is near. When my child dies what’s my response? When my spouse leaves, how do I survive? When someone I love commits a heinous crime, what do I do?

I’ve seen two replies when these overwhelming circumstances arise. Some become angry at God thinking If God is real certainly He wouldn’t allow this to happen to me. I prayed one way and the opposite happened. God didn’t do what I wanted Him to so I’ll walk away. This response comes from a deeper level that at it’s core believes I, a simple human am the master of God. God should obey me and if He doesn’t that means He isn’t right, just or loving.

One of my foster daughters came from a home without love. She thought a parent who loves her would give her everything she asked. She would get terribly upset when I said no and especially when I needed to ground her. Just like all parents say no, God isn’t unloving because He didn’t do what I wanted.

The other response is to draw near to God, ask those hard questions, and continue in the faith trusting. This road is hard but I’ve seen such great blessings arise out of such dark times.

I’ve seen God birth entire ministries out of pain. Those who run away never experience God’s sustaining power, God’s closeness, salvation, comfort and closeness. Pain generally is a process to tread through. Some pain is so big it changes us forever. we never get over it. we can only find our new normal. God is present in these times. God is near. God never falters. It’s we humans who try to restrain God by defining God in our minds. We think God can only be what we think about Him.

God is so much greater than what we can wrap our minds around. His existence does not depend on our acknowledgment. God doesn’t need our definition. God desires to love us, heal us and hike with us in our pain. Sometimes the only reason something happened is because of sin. God hurts with us. God doesn’t take people away from us. Please! Don’t ever tell anyone the Lord giveth and taketh away! When people sin sometimes death is the consequence. We should not blame God for the actions of sinful people who do not live in God’s ways.

No matter who we are pain and suffering will come. The Lord is near. I have only to open the door and let God in. Life presents such difficulties. I can press on because God is here with me. I’ve experienced times of dry and times of life giving, sustaining water. I press on through it all to arrive where I belong. I belong where there’s no more pain. Will you come with me? Take that step and reach out to God. He loves like no other.

Devotional Thoughts: Mother’s Day, Remembrance and Gratitude

It’s Mother’s Day. This is an interesting verse for this day. The apostle Paul is called an apostle because of the encounter with God he had being blinded. He expresses gratitude to believers in Philippi as he writes to them. Thoughts of them brings up feelings of gratitude.

My husband is with his father today because two years ago his mother passed away On Mother’s Day. For the past two years I’ve heard his stories of gratitude for his mother. Today is a painful day for him.

I’ve adopted three teens who are reminded each Mother’s Day that I wasn’t their birth mom. Each of them referring to me as mom has been a process. Mother’s Day can be a painful day because we remember. we remember good and bad. All mothers hurt their children at one time or another. We are all human. Some have hurt us more than others. Some I’ve mothered have rejected my offering to be their mother. Mother’s Day I remember those too who came through my home. All were offered a chance to stay but many moved on. Biological children stray away too. This can be painful. Some have children in prison. Some have children who are overcome with addiction. Mother’s Day can be painful.

Who doesn’t want to receive a letter saying someone is thinking about them and that thoughts of them brings thanksgiving?

I’m a believer, so I belong to this great family all over the globe. I’ve traveled afar and met with believers of other countries and I know this feeling of gratitude because others have affected my faith. Believers in Phillippi affected Paul. Paul had a hand in bringing them to Christ. If you’ve ever led someone to Christ you know this feeling well.

I’m most proud of those I’ve led in ministry who are now involved in ministry and are living out their faith. I’m greatly encouraged by what God is doing in their lives! I’m encouraged anytime my kids express their faith. I have holy gratitude when I hear from those I led to Christ and how they still follow and even share their faith with others.

It’s Mother’s Day and I am blessed with a great mother. She encouraged me, guided me and pushed me to be all I could be. My husband too was blessed with a good mother. Not everyone feels gratitude today, but gratitude surely can be found somewhere no matter what our circumstances.

Look around. There’s someone needing a mother. There’s someone we need to express our gratitude for. Paul mothered the churches he wrote letters to. He encouraged them but he also disciplined them.

I’ve learned that where our lives are lacking God places others in those empty spaces. We only have to be willing to receive. If I’m lacking a mother God provides a mother like figure. This is one of the blessings of having a church family.

Journal 6: The Road to Healing

February, 2019

She has been in school for a few weeks now and I fully anticipated her arriving home droopy and exhausted but even her first day back was a pleasant surprise when she arrived home and was full of information about her first day of school.

Last Friday we went for her 4th infusion of medication and we had a chance to meet with the doctor as well.  The doctor smiled and told us my daughter’s labs looked so good.  She gave permission for her to return to all activities as normal and stated that she wants my daughter to be active.  Hallelujah!!!

We are in Lacrosse season again and my daughter has been so eager to return to help manage the Lacrosse team.  I’m going to only allow about 3 days per week with the team for now and then transition to every day if her body can handle it.

She has gained weight and is about 128 pounds!  Doctor said that this is so amazing considering her swelling has subsided while coming off steroids, so she has been losing fluid and still gaining weight in the process.  I’ve also noticed some shorter hairs sticking up indicating her hair is coming back again.  Doctor told us that when your body is struggling, your hair stops growing and it sort of lies dormant.  My daughter has lost about half her hair because of all the steroids she has taken for seven months, but now it’s coming back.  It’s a HUGE relief to be getting some good news, but of course we still feel cautious.

So in the past 2 months since beginning the infusions that we were a bit afraid of I feel like I’m regaining my sanity.  With my daughter in school, I’m not having to schedule appointments with her home-bound teacher and worrying about what trouble she might be getting into while home alone.  I’ve also experienced the roller coaster of what steroids can do to us emotionally!  WOW!  I always knew I hated being on steroids but my daughter tolerated them beautifully except for when she came off them.  For about three weeks I felt like I was living with a monster!  She went from crying over almost nothing to displaying passive aggressive behaviors like stealing and lying.  I learned from her doctor that when someone has been on steroids for a very long time, especially children and teens, they can display challenging emotions and behaviors for a good three weeks to a month after their last dose.   This was a challenge and I found myself crying to our pastoral staff about how I didn’t even know what to do with this child!  Thankfully this subsided and Easter Seals Mentors helped us survive this season because my daughter does well when supervised but gets in trouble when alone.

I’m headed to Phoenix right now, in the air, on my way to the Women’s Speaker’s Collective with my oldest daughter to help her gain confidence in her speaking skills and to better mine too.  It feels nice to be able to do something good with one of my other children and not to be surviving in what felt like a constant crisis mode for all of 2018.

I know many families that have much more difficult situations than we do.  I wondered if telling our struggles from 2018 might help someone else know they’re not alone and all families have struggles.  It’s hard to keep your sanity while walking a road of suffering.  However, I’ve also learned that suffering has an important place in my journey of faith.  Suffering draws me closer to God and for that I am grateful.  I’m also appreciative of the staff and church I serve.  They have been a great encouragement to me and I owe them my presence and prayers in their times of suffering as well.

I know at any time my daughter can flare up again.  We are cautious and thankful for today and we are pressing on!

This is Journal 6 in a six part series.

 

Journal 4: Hospital Discharge and More Struggles over 10 Months Later…

Each week that passes my daughter is gaining more and more weight and we celebrate each pound!  She is still eating double portions and they are very slowly tapering her down off of steroids over a series of several weeks.  School has started and we are thankful our high school here is sending her work.  She has 2 hours per day in her schedule to work on school.  She feels behind but is making progress.  Most days she sounds great over the phone, but there are those low phone calls where I remind her I love her and that she will come home when the time is right.  She is making great strides in therapy and I’m so proud as I know that’s so difficult for a kid her age to do.  Staring your pain and abuse in the face is absolutely terrifying but necessary for healing.

My daughter has now gained over 20 pounds and looks soooo good!   We picked her up on Friday and brought her home.  She did great over the weekend and we feel like a family again.  She really loved going to church and seeing all the people she missed as many of them were faithful in writing her cards and notes of encouragement.

However, when I picked her up I noticed a red spot on her eye.  I also noticed she had put eyeliner on the interior part of her eyelid and I assumed she has irritated her eye because of this.  We chatted about where the healthiest place to use eyeliner is and that she shouldn’t be hurting her body by doing that.  She also showed me what she called, “spider bites” on her legs.  I told her spiders usually only bite once or twice, not several times.   Maybe they’re mosquito bites that are causing a reaction to her?   No idea.   The hospital instructed us to administer hemorrhoid cream to help with the itching and we set out on our long trip home.

Monday morning I met with the high school on transitioning her back into her classes and making a few modifications for her like allowing her to use the restroom as she needs because of her chronic condition.  She set out to her classes.  That afternoon a nurse called me saying they need proof my daughter doesn’t have pink eye.  So that evening I took her to Urgent Care after work where we discovered she had a fever of 102!!  We had no idea!   She was complaining that she was cold, but she does that on a normal day and it had been quite chilly outside.  I also showed the doctor her legs and said we thought those were bites of some kind.  After taking blood work and a urine sample he returned to show me a rare condition on his phone:  Erythema Nodosum.  I had never heard of this but it’s a response from a weakened immune system.  Poor kid!  Everyone is calling this a “textbook pic” of what that should look like.  Everywhere we have been since the medical staff asks permission for other staff to see her legs because it’s so rare.  We’ve been glad to help be a part of the education process for medical staff.  They put her on an oral liquid steroid again, antibiotics and an eye drop for the redness in her eye.

My daughter went to school the next day and at suppertime she couldn’t even hold her head up to eat supper with us!  Monday we arranged for her to attend school ½ day.  I picked her up at 11:45am and we had lunch together and soon afterwards she crashed on the couch so hard she didn’t even hear me leave.

She lasted through that first week ok and then diarrhea started on Friday.  She didn’t tell me about it until Sunday.  We have been told that we need to seek out help if this happens. When she continued to have diarrhea I called the specialist’s office to report the diarrhea and ask for a sooner appointment.  There’s nothing available.  2 more times I called that week expressing she has SEVERE UC and that I’m told to contact her doctor immediately!  The receptionist I was talking to consulted with a nurse who said we have to wait until the 14th.  I knew that was way too long to wait.

By Thursday night I was getting so worried at seeing her energy level decline, the color in her skin changing I couldn’t relax enough to sleep.  I tossed and turned and prayed to God for help!  It feels like I’m watching my daughter die right in front of me and I can’t even get her an appointment!  I got out of bed to cry and express my frustration and in the middle of crying I called Baptist Hospital in Winston to ask for an ER nurse.  I told her what’s happening and my frustration that I cannot get my daughter in to be seen.  She recommended I bring her in to the ER.

Because she has been so tired I let her rest through the night, so I went back to bed and slept until morning. So now I’m sitting in a pediatric hospital with my daughter once again… ER doctor didn’t want to do anything without consulting the GI department.  This took a good while.  I think we were in the ER about 10 hours total before they moved us into a room on the pediatric unit where I can have a place to rest too.  Thankfully I slept pretty well last night.  I was able to shower this morning and wait until we could talk to the GI doctor who was consulted by phone while we were in the ER.

This is Journal 4 of a six part series.

Journal 3: My Daughter Has an Eating Disorder, or Does She?  How I Addressed Assault and Other Abuse

Well, now we see!   This has been an exhausting week of travel and emotional strain.  I called the hospital like I do each night hoping to speak with my daughter and the nurse who answered the phone said, “Um, she’s being taken to the ER.  Sorry we haven’t had time to call you yet.”   They said they were very concerned about my daughter’s hemoglobin level from her lab work was so low she needed to be addressed at a higher level of care.  They also discovered blood in her stool.  That night I talked to ER doctors who were perplexed about her condition but administering IV fluids and nutrition quickly.  They did a few routine tests that revealed my daughter needed a colonoscopy and endoscopy.  My husband and I arrived the next day because we were so far away.

Endoscopy revealed my daughter has a healthy pink esophagus; however the pictures we saw of her large intestine and colon were shocking to see: inflammation, puss and bumpy masses all over.  No doubt about it, she has Severe Ulcerative Colitis (UC).  We learned this is a hereditary condition that has no cure.  You just pray and work hard for the UC to go into remission.  Many people live full good lives with UC when it goes into remission.  Others have to have surgery to remove parts that are badly damaged or the entire thing to get well.  We do not know exactly what the future holds for my daughter.

She is slowly gaining weight by eating double portions and working hard in therapy to help her issues with attachment and anxiety.  We visited her last weekend and noticed a pink color coming back in her face.  It’s hard to be away from her but we also know that bringing her home could be fatal if things go in the wrong direction and we do not catch it.  We feel at peace that she is in the best place for now being monitored so closely medically.

However, there is a downside to where she is: the other patients.  One afternoon she called me crying hysterically.  Another girl hit her.  She was so upset I couldn’t’ even make out what the full story was exactly.  I did learn after asking questions that she wasn’t bleeding and there weren’t any marks left on her body.  I think this incident was more harmful to her heart than it was her body.  Later I was able to speak with a staff member who described the “hit” as a slap and it happened twice.  The first time the girl slapped my daughter from behind and my daughter didn’t even know who had slapped her.  They called all the residents of the unit together and questioned the girls until one girl stood up and said, “I’m the one who hit her and I’ll do it again!”  She then slapped my daughter a second time!

The hospital took measures to isolate the girl who slapped my daughter.  They moved my daughter to another unit because she told them she didn’t feel safe.  I called the police station closest to my daughter’s location.   They conducted interviews with both girls and documented the event as a “simple assault.”  What a stressful evening!  I mostly wanted my daughter to know that it’s NEVER ok for someone to slap/hit/assault her and that I will always be her advocate!

I’m bothered by minors experiencing crimes like assault and sexual abuse that never get reported.   When this happens I believe these kids tell themselves they do not matter, nobody cares and that they’re not important.   They become victims and believe they are nobody.  YES, some crimes have the potential to make it on the front page of the paper and I know nobody wants their family stuff in the paper, but to neglect reporting and documenting can really bite you later on in the long run.

I’ve walked with other foster kids through criminal court proceedings where they had to face their offender head on in court.  This is the toughest thing they might ever do in life and it’s terrifying but I’ve also learned this has the opposite effect on a child that not reporting or not pursuing has!  Facing the offender in court teaches your child you’re not afraid and that what happened to them is NOT OK.  It also builds their self-esteem and helps them understand that you’re there to support them through thick and thin and that you as their parent will do the right thing for them, tough or not!  This is why I called police.  I also called police because I’m so far away from her and I didn’t see the details.  I cannot see her face and know exactly what happened.

Journal 1: My Daughter Has an Eating Disorder, The Nightmare We Lived in 2018

My daughter has an eating disorder, the kind that convinces you that you’re nothing and you shrivel up into a frail bony shadow.  We first noticed this when she came home one day from managing the high school Lacrosse team.  She was clearly dehydrated and looked terrible with bags underneath her eyes.  She told me she didn’t eat or drink all day long.  Ironic because she was in charge of feeding and hydrating all the players on the team!  Weak and exhausted we fed and hydrated her and put her to bed.  She wasn’t back to normal until 2 days later.  That was in February.

By March we knew something was wrong so we talked with a counselor at the high school who recommended we see her doctor.  He put her on a depression med.  We saw an upswing in her eating and mood for about 3 weeks and things started to spiral downward once again.  He also referred her to a G.I. doctor but the appointment we received was for September so we just had to wait it out.  This is a constant struggle with Medicaid, long waiting lists to see a specialist.  From there I started my research online and making phone calls to see what the next step would be when got there.

Next step was to visit an eating disorder clinic in a well-known University for an assessment, but, bad news…  You have to wait 2-3 months to get an appointment!  We survived and encouraged our daughter to eat and drink.  Assessment day finally arrived.  We answered many questions and left emotionally tired and were told we’d hear something within a week.

We were then referred to an intensive outpatient clinic about 30 minutes away from our home.  She would see a therapist, dietitian and eating disorder physician all together.   This took about 3 hours each time we went.  We were told to MAKE her eat.  We choose her food and make her eat it.  We also had to supervise her in the bathroom for 45 minutes after her meals.  We had to write down everything she ate and keep a detailed log of her nutrition.

She is trying.  Her anxiety is so large that she vomits at the table half way through a meal.  She cries and says she is trying to eat and get better and now her body won’t allow her to do so.  We keep meeting with the clinic weekly.  No physical progress is being made because her body won’t digest food.  It’s gone without for months.  Constant diarrhea and vomiting that seems to come from anxiety.

In July I press the clinic to take the next step.  Everything I’m reading says the earlier you intervene the better off the patient is long term in life.  They make the referral and now my daughter is hospitalized.  She has been there a week.  The intake process was emotionally exhausting for 3 hours.  Days later, crying phone calls begging me to come and get her.  I had to explain coming to get her means she DIES.  The lining of her heart is already damaged and thinned from malnutrition.

BAD NEWS…  Her insurance won’t cover her for any residential facility here in NC.  We have to take her all the way to a hospital near Richmond, VA.  Cumberland Hospital for Children.  I HATE MEDICAID!  This child has been through so much in her life and now she has to go so far away!  I could write a book about how Medicaid creates difficulties for my foster and adopted teens.  They go through enough and having to navigate the system takes a lot of time and stress to get my kids what they need.

This is Journal 1, the first part of a series of 6 entries that will be posted daily for 1 week.

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