Tuesday, November 16, 2010

He says, "You are Mine"

"But now, thus says the LORD who created you, O Jacob, And He who formed you, O Israel; "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name;
You are Mine."
Isaiah 43:1

Yesterday was a hard day. When we woke up it was all gray clouds, chilly winds, and the impending rain. It was the first day without Mom here to run the show. She went home on Sunday after church. I bawled my forty-two year old eyes out and blubbered that God would take away the spirit of anguish and despair that was lingering around my house. God in all His mercy, answered my Sunday afternoon prayer and the evening was peaceful. But Monday morning brought the promise of a lingering rain and dark skies.

Rod got everyone fed, dressed and off to school on time. He came home to my "honey-do" list designed to keep him on track. Start the laundry, dump the dishwasher, clean the bathroom, go to the grocery store (in this rain?). Those are my regular Monday jobs. I sat in my bed and did my Bible study while he hummed around here like a Spring bee.

I hate this feeling of uselessness that I am having while recovering. My doctor said, no cooking, no laundry (except folding light items), no lifting, pushing, or pulling anything over 8 lbs for FOUR WEEKS!
When she mentioned no cooking for four weeks at my pre-op appointment I began to cry immediately. She looked at my husband in wonderment. I eeked out between tears, "But, cooking is my love-language." She laughed and said, "I think you better check that list again. Cooking isn't on there. You cannot cook for four weeks. I don't want you standing in the kitchen long enough to prepare a meal. You're supposed to be RESTING."

So, I'm resting and resting and resting. And everyone else is doing and doing and doing. Rod told the doc that he was going to staple-gun me by my pajamas to the bed. That was supposed to be funny. But, it's been three weeks and I am restless. Still, I am also really, really TIRED. I am amazed how tired any activity makes me. Church service on Sunday morning absolutely wore me out. And I didn't do anything but show up and worship and hear the Word.

I cannot remember how things fell apart yesterday afternoon, but by 2:00 Rod and I were yelling at each other. I was so mad at him I thought of thirty ways he could be drawn and quartered. He said he just wanted to leave and I kept thinking..."Go ahead and go, then!" In the heat of the moment, in the car, in the driving rain, when your whole life has been turned upside down and Satan is breathing down your neck you just don't think straight.

We both forgot the REAL pressure we've been under: unemployment for six months, dealing with an invalid dementia-riddled parent and his pending PERMANENT move into our home, a child with a broken arm and pins that will have to be removed in the office WITHOUT anesthesia, a teenager with grade problems and all the other social creepiness that comes with that age, plus the year of permitted driving is at an end and she is pressuring me to get her actual driver's license (oh dear LORD, I am so NOT READY for that), all the additional chores, physical healing and fatigue, not to mention a total lack of much needed marital date nights for a month straight.

The first two weeks of my recovery my husband was afraid to HUG me because he thought he would hurt me. He's been sleeping on the absolute edge of our mattress for fear that I would need to be rushed to the hospital. Do you think that all of these things are the possible cause for a raucous screaming fight in the car yesterday? (Did I mention that Saturday was our eleven year anniversary and we argued pretty much throughout the whole dinner about the logistics of moving forward with renovating the basement so that Rod's dad could move in?)

Yesterday, I made him take me home. We were halfway to the store. He did, too. He turned that car right around and took me home (gladly, I'm sure). I got in the driver's side and told him I'd pick up Gracie and he could pick up Rachel and take HER to do the grocery shopping. And that's what we did. At one point we were driving side-by-side on the highway, Gracie was waving at her dad with her good arm and I just glared angrily at the wet road in front of me. "There's Daddy, there's Daddy! He sees me, he sees me! Look Mama!" I was growling and didn't want to look at him (anymore!). Idiot. I am an idiot.

Rachel made a good dinner. Rod got Gracie ready for bed, read her Bible story and prayed with her. He came out and reluctantly (in my opinion) asked me to forgive him. I grunted an okay but didn't see the need to ask him to forgive me. He finally went to bed himself. I heard the Holy Spirit whisper, "Don't let the sun go down on your anger." I thought of Sunny Williams. She fought with her brother Nathan one day and they stayed mad at each other until bedtime. Sunny said the Lord spoke those words to her that night and she went and made things right. But Rod was already asleep.

Rachel came out with a pad of paper and a pen. She said she had a homework assignment for Biblical Womanhood. She was to make up 20 questions to ask her mother about love. (Uh-oh.) Mrs. Teague said to tell the moms to give real answers in her opinion and not "Sunday School" answers. (Yish.) So Rachel began asking me questions.

How many boyfriends have you had? (More than I can count.)

What is your definition of love? (Love is a decision, a commitment...not really a feeling. It is an act that you do, not the way you feel.)
She looked so disappointed.

When did you first experience real love? When I thought about her question, my heart went right to a moment in time that I knew God had brought me to. I tried to think of something more suitable to tell her, but I had to tell her the truth. (When I tried to break up with Rod in front of Cinnabon, before we were married. My throat closed and I couldn't speak. It was like God took away my ability to talk because He had a plan for me and I was going to mess it up. That was the first time I experienced real love. I made a commitment to move forward with someone I was ready to run from.) I could see the hurt in her eye. She was already three years old by then.

"Rachel, when you were born, I wasn't saved. I didn't know the love of God then. I was consumed with myself and I loved you when I first laid eyes on you, but I was more terrified of you than the love I felt. I didn't want to ruin your life. God taught me to be brave and to love you. But, Rod brought God to me and he was my necessary link to love." The memory began to soften my angry heart towards my slumbering husband.

She seemed to accept it and she moved on to the next question.
What is your love language? (Acts of service and quality time.)
"Acts of service, really? Really, Mom? So, how can you be mad at Rod?"

It was a smacker of a question. I grumbled quietly and said,
"Next question , please."

Who do you think of when I say Eros love? Rod, right? (Yeah.)

And Phileo love? (Liz.)

And Agape love? (Jesus.)
"Come on, Mom...no Sunday School answers. Seriously. That's totally a Sunday School answer." (Okay, my Mom. She reminds me of Agape love because she acts like Jesus. She takes off her robe and washes everybody's smelly feet when they don't deserve it. Really, Rachel, Jesus is the only One who is actually CAPABLE of Agape love and Sunday School answer or not, that is the truth. I don't think there is a human being alive or ever has been who is capable of genuine Agape love. It's something we strive for and hope to accomplish but we have too much flesh in the way to really do it.)

She asked me a few more questions that I can't really remember. I answered them still thinking about Rod's acts of service for me...my conscience bothering me. And finally she got to the end.

Last question: What is your favorite verse in the Bible about love? I reached over and pulled my Bible into my lap. I thought of all the scriptures that could be the right answer, John 3:16, and God is love, and even John 14:6. Before I opened the cover I knew what the right answer is for me. I know my scripture of love. I know THE VERSE that when I open my very marked up Bible it is there outlined in several colors of crayon and His words leap off the page at me. I gave her the reference: (Isaiah 43:1.)

She didn't wait for me to tell her what the verse says. She thanked me and left with her notebook. I thought of those beautiful words that tear my heart out every time I see them. You are MINE. Why? Why does He want us? Why does He want me? I didn't open my Bible and look at them because with all that filth in my heart I couldn't at that moment. I'm gonna tell you the truth now, I dare to believe that scripture verse is true for me.

I took a hot shower and got out with a half-grumbly heart. I wanted to wear my favorite pj's to bed and I just "knew" that Rod didn't finish the laundry and they were downstairs in the dryer in the dark and cold basement. He slept soundly as I put on my glasses and opened my pj drawer. There, right on top were my favorite jammies folded up waiting for an ungrateful wife to put them on.

Acts of service.

I don't think there has ever been a time in our thirteen years together that he has put my clothes away in the drawers. I was dumbfounded. I put on my pajamas and climbed in next to him. "You put my clothes away." He mumbled and rolled over, one eye open and a little disoriented. "Do what?" he asked. "Rod, you put my clothes away? You folded all the laundry and put it away in the drawers?" "Well, yeah, Jenn. Why are you waking me up over this?" I threw my arms around my warm and wonderful husband (completely ashamed of myself) and said, "Thank you. Will you please forgive me?" He said he thought we "already settled all that". And he rolled over and went back to sleep. I realized at that moment that there is a very important element to real love that I left out. I had to tell Rachel, "Real love is not just a decision and a commitment. Real love is humility."

I pulled my Bible off the night stand and dared to read the verse again. I thought about how someone said to me a long time ago that those scriptures in the Old Testament are not for us. They were for Israel, God's chosen nation and we've got no right to claim them as our own. And then the LORD in all His goodness let Rod and I experience adoption. Our love for Gracie is as deep and wide and thorough as our love for Rachel. There is no difference at all in the love we have for our daughters. Adoption. God's word says,

"For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." (Galatians 3:26-29)

"But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit into your hearts, crying out, "Abba, Father!" (Galatians 4:4-6)

I've been reading my Dad's New Living Translation through.
And it was the Book on my nightstand.
I dared to believe those lovely verses in Isaiah again.

"But now, O Israel, the LORD who created you says: "Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are Mine.

When you go through deep waters and great trouble, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown! When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.

For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
I gave Egypt, Ethiopia, and Seba as a ransom for your freedom.

Others died that you might live. I traded their lives for yours because you are precious to Me. You are honored, and I love you.

Do not be afraid, for I am with you. I will gather you and your children from east and west and from north and south. I will bring My sons and daughters back to Israel from the distant corners of the earth.

All who claim Me as their God will come, for I have made them for my glory. It was I who created them."
(Isaiah 43:1-7)

What a promise to a wretched girl like me!
What a wonderful God we have!
What a glorious Savior is mine!
Praise JESUS!

Art credits: Both the double rainbow photo and photo of my daughters by my daughter, Rachel Karrer. The painting of the man and woman is by Morgan Wiestling.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

On The Mend...

In a green house behind an old fort-style fence on a busy street in the "hood" is where seven souls now dwell. Six of them are of the female persuasion. Two of those are canines. The other four consist of a wounded five-year old, a stoic sixteen year old, a mending forty-two year old and a very tired sixty-three year old. The other soul is a lone male, he is forty-seven, hairy and tattooed. He dwells quietly among all those females and has found food and the LORD to be his great comforts. This isn't new, really. I had noticed that he'd lost some weight around the middle these last couple of months. But, after two weeks of sitting in his recliner a lot he is getting to be that old Irish saying: fatagin. I have to smile. I think he's cute fatagin.

Yes, thanks for praying...I made it through my surgeries with such blessings! All those fears I posted about, our Great and Glorious God reduced to nothing. Zero. The IV was not painful. I knocked out before they even rolled me out of pre-op. The prettiest nurse looked into my eyes as I cried out and reached a last minute panicky hand to my departing husband and teenager. "Don't cry now, Jennifer, in just a few minutes you will be waking up and this will all be over." As she said that she pointed over her head to the right, towards my IV, where another nurse stood by. That was the last thing I remember.

I was honestly hoping for one of those amazing dreams people tell you about. "I saw the LORD, He came right over to me and held my hand and gave me a big hug. He let me peek inside the Pearled Gates and WOW-WEE heaven is just amazing to behold. I can hardly describe the colors...". No. That didn't happen.

I woke up in a room full of all kinds of people. I heard a nurse telling Mr. Jones to sit up. I think he wasn't being all that compliant because she got a little louder and said it a couple more times. My nurse started peeling things off of me and smiled sweetly in my face and said, "We're gonna take a little trip down the hall here, okay?" I was really hoping she wasn't going to ask me to get up, because I couldn't even move at that moment.

The hospital stay ended the next day, Wednesday, at 12:30 pm. All in all it was a good experience. I got to pray with my doctor before she did my surgery. She came to see me bright and early the next morning. When my nurse heard my concern about some random male caretaker coming in, she promptly posted a handwritten sign on my door that said FEMALE CARETAKERS ONLY! And it was heeded. I didn't get addicted to the morphine dripping through my uncomfortable but not painful IV. I didn't get sick from the perCOset they sent me home with. (How do drug addicts ever go to the bathroom is what I want to know. The constipation following the pain killers was the MOST DIFFICULT part of this process so far. Is that too much info? Sorry. We are fearfully and wonderfully made. I can't make myself stop marveling at that.)

My bit with the painkillers ended on Saturday. That was day four from surgery. But Friday was the hardest day I experienced. It wasn't a physically painful day. It was the series of horrific phone calls. The first one was at four o'clock in the afternoon. My mom (the very tired sixty-three year old I mentioned) called to ask me to get Rod to come out to Black Mountain right away because she was certain that Gracie (my five year old) had just broken her arm at the park.

My best friend Liz and I have a mantra when we are at any playground with our kids: UP THE STAIRS, DOWN THE SLIDE! They are two, four and five. Do you think they listen to us? We wish they would. But, they don't. What kids listen to their parents? Gracie was taken by her dear Grammy to the park after school. Grammy had her back turned to the play structure six or seven feet behind her, looking peacefully out on Lake Tomahawk as Gracie made her way UP the SLIDE and promptly fell over the side snapping her dainty right arm in two jagged pieces just above her elbow. Mom said, "It was just dangling there like a broken doll arm. I knew something was wrong instantly." Gracie just grimaced and held her arm tightly against her chest. No crying. No screaming. "None of the other moms even stopped their conversation," Mom said.

Rod raced Gracie to the ER. My white-headed husband and my mom were mistaken for Gracie's grandparents. The nurse kept telling her she had such a nice Mamaw and Papaw. (I have to tee-hee, as my husband gets this ALL the time. He always has. When Rachel was eight or nine he had taken her to the Mall and one of the vendors mistook him for her Grandaddy.)

A nurse came in, an IV had to be started. He noticed her missing teeth and asked her if the footh fairy had come to see her. Uh-oh. One seemingly innocent question was all it took for The Little Evangelist to get started, broken arm or not. "There's no such thing as the tooth fairy. It's mommy and daddy who gives you the money for your teeth. And Santa Claus is a fake, too." This grown man was sort of taken aback and then asked her, "What school do you go to?" She said, "Asheville Christian Academy. I'm a Christian." Her vein kept rolling and he couldn't get the needle to sink in. She winced and drew in her breath but NEVER pulled back her arm. He was amazed. He told her how brave she was and how he had never seen an adult not withdraw their arm, even as a reflex.

The doctor came in. Dr. Hedrick. Rod said his fingers were as big as Polish sausages. He said that Gracie would have to have surgery to place two pins in her tiny arm to hold the bone back together while it healed. He would be doing the surgery but "not to worry, the LORD is sovereign in the operating room".

The second troubling phone call I received was Rod telling me my girl was going to have to have surgery. I began blubbering immediately. I didn't know then that my girl had told the nurse about Jesus and that the doctor that God brought to my girl was His own son. My dear sister Fran came running over from next door. She sat with me in my bedroom as I cried like a baby because I couldn't leave my bed and go down to the hospital to wait for my tiny Gracie to have an operation.

Fran hugged me and told me about the prophecy conference she and Pastor Billy had just come back from. Instead of allowing me to wallow in worry on my bed, He took my mind to scripture after scripture that Fran shared with me about the absolute sovereignty of our Mighty and Glorious God. He is full of mercy and lovingkindness. His plan is Divine and nothing man can do will stop it. I know my girl's end is the same as mine. I took great, GREAT comfort in my dear friend expounding on the wonders of the LORD. Her excitement became mine and I was ready for whatever the LORD had in mind.

Rod called again. This phone call was easier to take. They were bringing her home. She did fine. They'd be home in an hour. "Really? Tonight?" I couldn't believe it. And so they did. Everyone was weary after a harrowing day and a long, long week. After understanding that my mom was Gracie's grandma and why I wasn't there, Dr. Hedrick even told Rod that he and mom had had a "character building week". It was true.

I forgot to tell about the first ugly hardship of the week. That was Monday.

My mom, Patricia, is a tireless servant of the LORD JESUS CHRIST. She lived a long fifty-six years abused and abusing, working and prideful, fiercely intelligent and angry and filled with a self-loathing that led to a long bout with pill-popping and alcohol. She lived most of her life in all the wealth and finery the WORLD has to offer a burdened soul.

She was horrified with my conversion and in the late Winter of 2002 she marched into Calvary Chapel of Asheville determined to pluck me out of "the cult". But she left that little brick church a different woman than the one who came in. She fled to the bookstore and purchased an NIV Study Bible. She read it in four months...many of those days and nights she spent propped up in bed clutching her Jack Daniels reading God's Word.

Finally she finished The Book. She went to the grocery store and sat in the parking lot and spoke out loud in her car, "Okay, Jesus. I believe You are Who You say You are, but I don't love You. If You want me to love You, You're gonna have to make me." And then He did.

Her husband left her time and again. He demanded that she give up this "Jesus nonsense". She refused. How could she ever comply? Her husband told her he couldn't compete with Him. He divorced her. She got two dogs. She poured herself into caring for these dogs. She walked them day and night, snow and rain. She brushed their fur and their teeth everyday. Really. She spent thousands of dollars of my inheritance on the upkeep and medical needs of these dogs. She called them her "babies". I grew jealous and decided I did not like her "babies", my "siblings" she said.

Six months ago Harry was diagnosed with congestive heart-failure. He had only a few months to live. My mom was heartbroken about her "little boy". She did everything she could. More vet visits, more meds, called her boss and said, "take me off the schedule, Harry needs me". He nearly died several times over the past months, but wouldn't you know that the day before my surgery was the day the dog finally found his peace. My mom was beside herself with grief. I really understood. I pushed the jealousy over a dog aside and cried along with my poor mom. She lost one of her very best friends. Her baby.

And by Friday, she had taken my kid to the park to get her out of the house and her mind off of me in the bed and she breaks her arm and my poor mom has to endure the death of her dog, her daughter's and her granddaughter's surgeries. And then she moved in with us to care for us. And care for us she has.

She's cooking and cleaning and wiping and washing. She still walking her other dog, Tillie, and brushing her teeth, too...every day. She even gave my junkyard dog, Rosie, a bath..."but I draw the line at brushing her teeth". God is here with us and He was kind enough to bring along some ministering angels to care for each of us.

We're on the mend...all of us. And in Good Hands, too.
Thanks again for praying. Would ya keep it up?
Love, Jenn