Sunday, October 24, 2010

My Only Hope

It's go time for me. Before dawn on Tuesday morning, Rod and I will head over to the hospital and by sunrise I should be under the prescriptive spell of some kind of narcotic dripping into my veins.

If I had only a question mark hanging over my head as to whether or not I will "make it" out of surgery, I would probably be a nervous wreck right now. But, I have Hope. The Only Hope that anyone needs. My Hope is found in the faith I have that Jesus Christ, God's only Son, was sent from Heaven to enter into flesh and live and die and rise again as the Son of Man. He taught us how to live and how to love. He taught us how to get Home. He promised there was a Home to go to, once this life is over. He carved the path Home for anyone who will believe. Anyone: you, me, any one who will, may come. He proved His sovereignty over sin, hell, death and the grave when, after He allowed Himself to be crucified on a cross for crimes He did not commit, He rose from the grave three days later...just as He promised He would. His resurrection is my Hope.

The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses me from all sin. I did something really profound and yet simple. I realized I am a sinner. I no longer wanted to bear the guilt of my life choices. I had so many things to be guilty over: abortions (2), adultery, lying, stealing, coveting, dishonoring God and my parents, and all these things weighed on me heavily for thirty-four years. I searched for God in all the wrong places. I got so close but was still so far away.

One afternoon I heard the man I had been married to for three years tell my eight year old daughter, his stepdaughter, she was a sinner and needed a Savior. He told that little girl that Jesus is the Only One Who could be anyone's Savior because He did not have His own sin to pay for. He came, sinless. He lived, sinless. He died, sinless, until He Who knew no sin, BECAME sin for us who would believe in Him. I heard my husband, an alcoholic and an addict at that time, tell my little girl the Good News of a risen Savior Who makes His people whole. God the Father through the death, burial and resurrection of His ONLY begotten Son, offers forgiveness of sins for any who believe on His name.

The Amplified Bible defines "believe" as TRUST IN, CLING TO, and RELY UPON.

That afternoon my little girl waved her stepdaddy off. But, I sank to my knees in total recognition that I needed Jesus. I wanted Jesus. I wanted to stop running from Him and run to Him. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth and the life and no one comes to the Father except through Me." John 14:6

Let's talk eternal life for a minute. Yesterday my (now) sixteen year old daughter begged me to take her to the mall. I had a small hissy fit in the car and finally agreed, knowing this would be our last outing together for awhile. As we wandered through the mall I FELT the absolute spiritual vacuum that is there: the celebration of the world. What a tragedy. What a hoax. What a lie. Like a stage prop, the whole mall is set on display, wooing a lost and dying world into thinking there is anything offered there that will make that aching void go away. There was only one place where Hope was offered at the mall. It is located in Barnes and Noble on the second floor, nestled victoriously between books on Buddhism and Islam. The Holy Bible, God's Word, is the Only Hope the mall has to offer. It is the only proffering they sell that will lead a soul to satisfaction. I wonder if anyone found it yesterday.

So, what about that eternal life? What does the Bible really tell us about it? John the Baptizer, Jesus' cousin, said, "He has come from above and is greater than anyone else. I am of the earth, and my understanding is limited to the things of earth, but He has come from Heaven. He tells what He has seen and heard, but how few believe what He tells them! Those who believe Him discover that God is true. For He is sent by God. He speaks God's words, for God's Spirit is upon Him without measure or limit. The Father loves His Son, and He has given Him authority over everything. And all who believe in God's Son have eternal life. Those who don't obey the Son will never experience eternal life, but the wrath of God remains upon them." John 3:31-36 NLT

Jesus said, "I assure you, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent Me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life." John 5:24 NLT

And He said this too, "But you shouldn't be so concerned about perishable things like food. Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that I, the Son of Man, can give you. For God the Father has sent me for that very purpose."

They replied, "What does God want us to do?"

Jesus told them, "This is what God wants you to do: Believe in the One He has sent."
John 6:27-29 NLT

And He goes on, "And this is the will of God, that I should not lose even one of all those He has given Me, but that I should raise them to eternal life at the last day. For it is my Father's will that all who see His Son and believe in Him should have eternal life--that I should raise them at the last day." John 6:39-40 NLT

I'm feeling a theme here, are you?

Jesus said, "I assure you, anyone who believes in Me already has eternal life." John 6:47 NLT

A warning from Jesus, "Then He said to them, "You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not. That is why I said that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am who I say I am, you will die in your sins." John 8:23-24 NLT)

Jesus' friend, Martha, was grieving. I suspect she and her sister Mary were a little angry with the Lord, too. After all, He was given the heads up that their brother Lazarus was deathly ill. Jesus didn't show up until after Lazarus was dead four days. Both sisters, independently of each other, said to Him, "If you would have been here, Lazarus would not have died."

Jesus' answer, "I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in Me, even though they die like everyone else, will live again. They are given eternal life for believing in Me and will never perish." John 11:25-26a NLT

He asks Martha the most important question God can ever ask, "Do you believe this, Martha?" v.26b

Well, do you? It is the single most important question God asks living souls.

At the end of His earthly life, Jesus prayed for me. He did. He prayed for you, too. Did you know that?

"When Jesus had finished saying all these things, He looked up to Heaven and said, "Father, the time has come. Glorify Your Son so He can give glory back to You. For You have given Him authority over everyone in all the earth. He gives eternal life to each one You have given him. And this is the way to have eternal life -- to know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the One You sent to earth."
John 17:1-3 NLT

After His resurrection, Jesus talked about me again. Me! (and you!)

Then He said to Thomas, "Put your finger here and see my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don't be faithless any longer. Believe!"

"My Lord and my God!", Thomas exclaimed.

Then Jesus told him, "You believe because you have seen Me. Blessed are those who haven't seen Me and believe anyway."
John 20:27-29 NLT

The twentieth chapter in the Gospel of John ends with these words:
"Jesus' disciples saw Him do many other miraculous signs besides the ones recorded in this book. But these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in Him you will have life."

In the midst of the anxiety that should be what I am carrying around leading up to surgery and two weeks of bed rest, two more weeks of no cooking or housekeeping and two more of reduced activity for a very active wife and mother...I carry the peace of God that passes all understanding because I believe Jesus is Who He says He is. According to Him, eternal life is ALREADY mine. I know, no matter what happens on Tuesday, where I am going. Do you?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Slaying Goliath

David Dragging Goliath's Head
by Giovanni Lanfranco

I can't stop thinking about this painting. Last Saturday morning while Rod was at Men's prayer and Gracie was immersed in Smile of a Child cartoons, I was surfing the net looking at Biblical art. This piece popped up on the screen and immediately a sense of what we are currently going through rang loud and clear to me. Goliath needed slaying. Sometimes our "insurmountable" problems are not.

I mentioned in my last few posts that Rod's dad, Kert, had had a fall and was taken to the hospital. He was then transferred to a nursing home. He liked it there, at first. They were keeping him busy with rehab physical therapy exercises and occupational therapy (making banana pudding) and batting around a balloon with a group of other elderly ones on the mend. Yes, on the mend. They are not there to stay. This was news to Rod until this past Wednesday, when Kert's caretakers at the nursing home informed Rod that Kert will be released in two weeks. His rehabilitation will be complete and he will have to leave. Needless to say, Rod came home stunned.

We were informed by the social worker at the nursing home that we needed to find him a place in an Assisted Living community. The DSS social worker said that Kert's Medicaid was "pending". Friday morning Rod and I made a plan to visit four reputable Assisted Living facilities in our area. Kert was glad to hear that. The place that he liked in the beginning has begun to wear on him. He is in the dementia wing and due to his now intense lucidity "these people are driving me crazy" is his lament.

In the hospital Kert was exhibiting extreme dementia. Once he was released into the care of the nursing home all of that began to subside and he became his old self again. The ER doc thought that he had a seizure and promptly put him on seizure medicine. Perhaps these meds are the reason for the great turn-around. I'm not sure. All I do know is that he "comes and goes" and you don't know when it's going to happen. It must be so difficult to be 80 and subject to perfect strangers who don't know who you REALLY are, twenty-four hours a day. But, Friday, Rod and I went out in search of a good "home" for Kert.

Our first stop was a very beautiful place closest to our home. We got the grand tour from the Head RN as the director was out at Wal-Mart with several of the residents. When we walked in the door the whole place smelled like my Grama's kitchen: bacon and cornbread. I walked through the welcoming, sunny dining room and noticed trays and trays of cornbread muffins sitting on the counter in the stainless steel kitchen. By the time we got there breakfast was long over and lunch was obviously being prepared. The whole place was carpeted, even all of the resident rooms. Each residence that we glanced into looked like it had been decorated to be someone's home. Quilts and afghans covered beds, family pictures and paintings adorned their walls. Music flowed from radios and small TVs glowed. Overall the sense of the place was homey. The residents we saw pushing walkers through the halls looked at us with kind eyes, many responding in kind to my hellos.

After the first fifteen minutes I was utterly sold on the place. We had financial questions the RN could not answer. She turned us over to the finance expert. After a twenty minute meeting with her we realized without Medicaid Kert could never afford the place. And oh yeah, they did not have any beds available either. The Director finally returned from her Wal-Mart outing and greeted us with the same kindness we had already experienced. She agreed with the finance expert: no beds are currently available and without Medicaid it will not be possible. "But keep us in mind".

Rod and I went home for lunch with mixed feelings. We'd spent about two hours there. We were sold on that place but we also had three other places to go look at before the kids got out of school. As we were eating lunch his cell phone rang. The DSS social worker informed Rod that Kert makes "too much money" to qualify for Medicaid. His application was denied. And, Kert doesn't make enough money to pay for any of the Assisted Living facilities on our list...or any other facility in or around our area for that matter. What now?

As human nature has it, and with the devil's help we did what people do when they feel pushed into a corner: we got mad at each other and had a screaming argument. That is so stupid but that's what happened. (That man is not my enemy. And I am not his. What is wrong with us???)

We have an agricultural channel on Sky Angel. (We do not have cable or sattelite. We have Sky Angel, which is a Christian television provider. If you have wireless internet you should look into it. It's wonderful. No smut, no cussing. Nothing offensive. You can walk out of the room while your five year old is watching TV and you know they aren't going to be educated by the world.) Anyway, I was watching a cattle auction on RFD TV (Rural Farm District). Deep down inside I want to farm but this is only a fantasy, I know. Still, a cattle auction caught my attention. While the un-intelligible information was spewing from the professional auctioneer the video that ran above the ticker-tape showed the branding of calves. A cowboy with two long sticks that looked like pool cues was herding the calves one at a time into these two metal bars with an opening in the middle. The guided calf ran and stuck his head between the bars and two other cowboys swiftly closed those bars on the calf's neck. His head was trapped. He couldn't go anywhere. Amidst the excited babbling voice of the auctioneer another cowboy applied the scalding brand to the calf's rump.

I'm telling you this to say, this was the distinct impression I got on Friday. That the LORD was herding us into a specific place to do a very necessary work. I don't think those calves were too jazzed about being herded into a head-trap but there was work that needed doing and in the world of calves, cowboys know best.

God was unfolding His plan to slay this current Goliath we were dealing with. Unfolding reminded me of the anticipation I felt as a little girl each year just before my birthday. My Grama bought me an add-a-pearl necklace from Carroll's Jeweler's on Las Olas in Ft. Lauderdale. One day in mid-July she would come over to our house with a small square of white tissue paper and a sweet smile on her face. "Do you want to see it?" she would unnecessarily ask. I would hold my breath in complete anticipation as I watched her UNFOLD the tissue to reveal the small pinkish opalescent pearl to be added to my necklace. It was a special thing only my "Grandmommie" and me shared. I will never forget those days.

I calmly now, told Rod, "God is unfolding HIs plan." I told him the story about the pearl that I just told you. He thought it was amazing. I prayed that God would cause us to understand what He was doing and forgive us for kicking against the goads. I cried out to Him, "Kert is Your child. What do You want for him, LORD? Where should he go? Where will he be safest? What can he afford? He makes too much for Medicaid and not enough to afford ANYplace! We don't understand what You're doing, but we know YOU ARE DOING SOMETHING. Sharpen our minds to comprehend. Forgive us for our assumption about what we think is best and open our minds to embrace YOUR plan, which is obviously something we haven't thought of. Please make a way for Kert. Give him Your best, LORD. WE love You. We trust You. We want to do what is right for Your son, Kert. Please help us, LORD! In Jesus' name, Amen."

As I was doing the dishes that afternoon I almost FELT the LORD opening my mind. A thought came to me that was radical...and yet, so conventional that it made complete sense. That married with God's direction to Rod at the beginning of his unemployment made it clear what the Lord wanted us to do for Kert: finish our basement and take care of him ourselves. Remember when Rod was praying about his unemployment in April, God told him, "You take care of your father and I will take care of your family." Suddenly, it all made sense.

We began plying Pastor Billy with questions (this man has a HUNGER for building projects; songs have been written about really, they have!). Pastor Billy came over and had a look. He caught the vision and shared with Rod what was possible in our partially finished basement that is already electrified. The decision was made and we are moving forward with the plan to slay this Goliath of a problem.

Yes, it's true...all of it is happening in whirlwind fashion just before my surgery (I'm so sick of talking and thinking about that. I know you're sick of reading about it, so let's just leave it there.) My MOM is concerned that this is going to take too much of toll on me taking care of my family and now my father-in-law. Pastor Billy told Rod one of the greatest things his own parents ever did for their twelve kids was to move BOTH grandmas in to the home and care for them until they departed this earth. It will be another ministry, for sure. But, who better to care for my father-in-law than us? Who knows him better than we do? Who knows better how he likes his bananas and his chicken? Who knows better than I do that he loves apricot pie because that's what his momma used to bake for him in the California desert in the 30's when he was a little boy?

I told Ruth King about our Goliath of a problem and the God-inspired solution after church on Sunday. She said this verse came into her mind immediately, "Now, thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place." 2 Corinthians 2:14

Ruth explained that "triumph" there means "a trophy of Christ's victory". David dragging Goliath's head is the celebrated trophy of God's victory.

I want to leave you with this. Perhaps you do not do this, but maybe you still do. I think the swift answer to our prayer came through one element of it. Instead of asking the God of the whole universe to twist things around to make them what I want and expect them to be, I asked Him to change my perspective and give me a heart and mind that will embrace what He has in mind.
Slay your Goliath with that prayer.

God be with you in your conquest.
Love, Jenn

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Honey Thumbprints

(Oh dear, borrowed pic again. But, my cookies really do look just like these! This photo is pirated from World Market website. To have a gander at the beautiful pictures my professionally-talented sixteen year old does, go to Rachel Karrer Photography on facebook. Then, please send her many emails imploring her to teach her mother how to upload photos. Thank you.)

Okay, hysterectomy surgery is coming up three weeks from today. I went to lunch with Liz yesterday and she surprised me by telling me that it was only three weeks away. I knew it was coming up but I've been busy with many other more pressing things. Yes, blocking it out of my mind is probably what I've been doing.

The doctor's office gave me a packet from the hospital telling me how to prepare for this particular surgery. One of the many things I need to do is STOP taking all vitamins and supplements and any kind of pain or allergy medicine. The only thing I can take is my nightly blood pressure medicine. I have been on these meds since I was 26 years old. It's crazy but my precious doc admonished me..."You have a DISEASE, Jennifer, it doesn't care how old or young you are!" So, there it is. I've been worried about how to stay healthy on the build-up to my surgery date WITHOUT MY VITAMINS!!!

My friend Valerie said, "Just eat them in your food and don't worry about taking the pills." She encouraged me to eat lots of dark leafy greens and other veggies and fruits. I already drink lots of water. Miss Fran encouraged me (she didn't know I took her advice personally, she was actually telling someone else) to stop drinking so much caffeine. And, I knew that the white flour and sugar had to come to a stop. I have to admit I've been sneaking white flour in here and there. SOMEBODY brought a sourdough cheddar and jalapeno loaf to the fellowship lunch after church at Calvary Chapel on Sunday. I really can't resist jalapenos on anything, especially on some kind of cheesy sourdough bread. And yesterday, Liz took me to lunch at Piazza and we ate a delicious piece (okay, two pieces) of their awesome wood-fired pizza. Man, it was yummy. Thank you, Gabriel Dickinson!

But, I have been off white sugar since September 20th. Again. You guys know I "fast sugar" from time to time. Sugar makes me feel like I'm on speed. I can't think, I can't do anything without feeling like I'm jumping out of my skin. My body hates white sugar.

About two years ago the LORD gave me a dream. I was locked in a bathroom with a window that was a tiny bit open. Pretty soon this beautiful Siamese cat squeezed under the window. It purred loudly as I pet its intensely soft fur. The more I pet the cat, the more it purred. All of the sudden the cat turned black and had blazing yellow eyes and it snarled and bit me in the face and began to attack me viciously. When I woke up I heard these words, "The spirit of gluttony rides a horse named Sugar."

I wrote those words down and pondered them for a long time. Sugar is the gateway drug. My pal Rachel Wemple gave me a sticker that said that. My daughter took a picture of it and saved it on my cell phone as a reminder. My family hates it when I'm "on sugar". I'm a whole different person when I'm off of it. All of that being said, I thought it best to begin fasting a full month before the surgery. So far, so good. I keep it all in prayer. I know Who keeps me from temptation.

Mondays Rod and I go out for our coffee dates. This is a three year old tradition. Our marriage has never been better. Since he is unemployed and we have been spending tons of time together I declared as we pulled out of the driveway, "We have nothing left to talk about." He quickly retorted, "How can you ever say that about us? We ALWAYS have something to talk about!" He was right. We did.

Usually we go to Starbucks, not for the atmosphere...only for the strong coffee. I like to get a decaf Americano with room for lots of cream. Rod gets the same and as I have mentioned before...sometimes he gets one of those ugly, cold, tasteless "Old Fashioned Doughnuts" they sell. Yick! I'm never tempted. But, I do pine for something to dunk in my coffee. Yesterday afternoon I knew we were going and I was determined to make some kind of yummy treat that didn't have white flour or white sugar. Here they are, Honey Thumbprint Cookies. These little beauties are ab-fab. I found a recipe for whole wheat thumbprints online and then I tweaked the daylights out of it to produce a cookie that satisfied my sweet-tooth without punching a hole in my desire to eat healthy. I baked a batch up, let them cool and put them in a tin that we took with us to Starbucks. They didn't sell my husband one of those nasty doughnuts last night. Amen.

Before I give you the recipe. I have this on my mind...Wanna pray? If you do, here's a list of things you can pray about for me regarding the surgery: I'm afraid. (God has not given me a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind. 2 Tim 1:7) I'm afraid of the anesthesia and the pain killers. I'm terribly allergic to anything with COdeine in it. I am pretty sure that includes: perCOset and oxyCOtin and anthying else with CO in the name. My husband and I have ministered to addicts for long enough to hear how these prescription addicts started out normal enough: one surgery. The IV, I'm afraid of the IV. When I gave birth to Rachel, the most painful part was the IV. (I'm being honest here, the IV pain made me sick to my stomach.) And I'm afraid of the demonic spiritual element wandering around in the hospital while I'm sleeping. After I gave birth to Rachel this male nurse or CNA or whatever he was came and lurked around our room and every time he came in I felt the heaviness of the enemy. It was a sick overwhelmingly horrid feeling. Other than those things, I'm good to go. No worries. So, pray that the LORD will just deal with all those nagging fears I have and I thank you right now!

And about those cookies (how can she put ALL these things in one blog post???)'s the recipe I developed. Enjoy!

Jenn's Honey Thumbprint Cookies

use a liquid measuring cup and fill to 1/2 cup with honey, fill up to the 2/3 line with molasses (or just use 2/3 cup honey, I didn't have it, so I used molasses to make up the difference)
1 stick softened butter
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
3/4 cup rolled oats
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon orange juice
your favorite jam, I used Polaner All Fruit Raspberry (Would ya please pass the jelly?)

PREHEAT oven to 350
LINE baking sheet with parchment (love parchment, it's a mahvelous invention)

In a LARGE mixing bowl stir together honey/molasses and butter til smooth. Add vanilla and orange juice and stir til smooth again.

In a MEDIUM bowl combine flour, oats, cornstarch and salt.

ADD dry ingredients to wet and stir just til combined. The dough will be tender.

ROLL dough into 1" balls and place about an inch apart on sheet. Poke gently with your finger (I use damp index finger) to make a well for the jam.

ADD tiny amount of jam, just filling to the rim of the well. If you put in too much your jam will spill over during baking and make a mess of your cookies.

Bake for 7-9 minutes. Transfer to racks to cool.

I have to say, the first two batches were little puffy cookies. I like a flatter, more crispy cookie for dunking, so the last batch I flattened a little between my fingers before I placed them on the sheet and made the well marks. I liked these flattened ones better. But, it's up to you.

God bless you and healthy eating.