Amusement Park: Bungee Jump

Amusement Park: Bungee Jump

“Are you ready?” the man asked as he did a final check on the straps.

Amalia wasn’t so sure. It had sounded doable from down below, but from up here, it looked insane. Jump out into nothingness, with only a bungee cord attached to her? How does He talk her into these things? 0614202153 (2)

 

She looked down again at the tiny X. Her target. Second thoughts plagued her as her heart tried to beat its way out of her chest. Maybe He was just testing her, like He had with Abraham. Maybe He would stop her before she stepped off the edge. Or maybe she had heard Him wrong. Maybe there was another way down, one that provided more security. Like an elevator. She turned around to ask Him, but He was not there.

Panic joined her fear, and she began to shake. Wasn’t He going to jump with her? He promised He’d always be with her. Didn’t that include impossible things, like this jump?

She looked back over the edge of the platform again.

No, no… she couldn’t do it. She could not make herself walk off that platform no matter what He had said.

“You can trust Me,” He had said.

“Do not fear,” He had said.

“I will be with you,” He had said.

“You were made for this,” He had said.

But now that it was actually time for that first step, she regretted ever agreeing to it. Turning around, she opened her mouth to tell the man that she had changed her mind, but stopped when she saw him shake his head. “No turning back,” he told her, gesturing for her to turn back around. “You may as well get it done. The longer you procrastinate, the harder it will be.”

Dismayed, and with a sense of fatality, she turned back to the great expanse of nothingness. She had no idea what was going to happen, but if she had to jump, then jump she would. If she perished, it would be God’s fault, since He was the one who got into this predicament.

She took the smallest steps she could, inch by inch, until she got to the edge. Breathing rapidly, not daring to look down again, she lifted a foot. And froze. She couldn’t do it. She just didn’t have it in her to continue.

“Yes, you do,” came a soft, encouraging whisper from deep within her. “Because I’m in you. Don’t trust what you fear; trust what I’ve promised.”

Grasping tightly to that voice, she stepped off.

It was just as terrifying as she had thought. The target grew quickly until it was all she saw. She was going to crash! But just as that thought formed in her mind, she was jerked back up into the air. The bungee cord! She had forgotten about that!

Her second descent wasn’t near as frightening as the initial one. A calmness now rose up in her, and she began to enjoy herself. This time, as she neared the target, she was confident the bungee cord would save her.

Her joy and sense of freedom, a freedom filled with the Presence inside her, increased on each subsequent fall. By the time the ride was over and she was standing on the X, she was hooked. She couldn’t wait until she could jump off into nothingness again.

“Amalia, well done!” Jesus congratulated her as He walked up.

“Jesus! That was amazing! I want to do it again!”

He laughed. “You will get many chances. Each time I ask you to speak to someone about Me, especially to people who may ridicule or persecute you, it will be like jumping off that platform. But don’t let the fear of the unknown stop you. Remember that I am in you, strengthening you from the inside, and that my love for you will keep you safe.”

Amalia wasn’t too sure about the ‘ridicule’ and ‘persecution’ parts, but the rest was exciting. More chances to jump with Him? Anytime!

 


 

How often do we let fear of what others say stop us from going where God sends us? How do you deal with that fear?

 

Scriptures:

Matt 28:19-20  “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Proverbs 29:25 (ESV)  The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is safe.

Eph 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Heb 11:1 (By Faith) Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

Heb 11:8 By faith, Abraham, when he was called, obeyed and went out to a place he was going to receive as an inheritance. He went out, not knowing where he was going.

Heb 11:17-19  By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.

1 Cor 2:5 so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

Amusement Park: Roller Coaster

Amusement Park: Roller Coaster

Without warning, her stomach jumped to her throat as the car dropped straight down. Had they run off the track? How far down was it? Did it matter? At the rate they were falling, the end would be disastrous. The car would be crushed, and she might even die. Might? How could she NOT die?

“Jesus! Do something!”0528201352 (2)

If He answered, she didn’t know. She couldn’t hear anything over her screams. She gripped Jesus with both hands, but that didn’t seem to help. She could still feel the stomach lurching effect of the free fall. Things were still rushing past, totally out of her control.

Just as she felt they were surely about to hit the bottom, the track curved into a gentler slope, and then straightened, before climbing back up.

Jesus motioned with His hand. “See, I’m still here. No matter how far you dropped, I never left you. You were not in any danger, regardless of how you felt.”

Her breaths coming fast and shallow, all Amalia could do was nod. Easy for Him to say, but what if there was another drop? Of course there will be another drop. This was a roller coaster. Still, she hadn’t seen this one coming, and probably wouldn’t see the next one. How was she expected to enjoy this ride if she never knew what was coming?

“Breathe, Amalia, Focus on My presence, and breathe in My peace.”

After a few moments, her breathing under control again, Amalia turned her wide eyes to her Friend. “Why didn’t You warn Me?”

“I did. I told you this was the biggest roller coaster you’ll ever ride.”

“And that was enough? Why couldn’t You have told me about this drop. Especially right before we hit it.”

“What would you have done differently?”

“I could have prepared for it.”

“How?”

“I could have… I would have…” What? What would she have done if she had known about the coming drop? Hold on tighter? No, her grip couldn’t have been any tighter than it had been. Position herself for the fall? No, she was already seated firmly, and buckled in tightly. Watch for the coming drop so she wouldn’t be caught by surprise? No, Jesus was right. She already knew drops were part of a roller coaster ride. So what would she have done? Worry. She would have spent those moments leading up to the fall worrying about what was going to happen, instead of enjoying was happening. She would have missed out on the present fun time with Jesus if she had spent it worrying about the future.

“Exactly,” Jesus answered as if she had been thinking out loud. “Worrying just steals your joy.”

“Well, at least that death drop is behind us now.” She froze as a thought entered her mind.  “We’re not going to have to do it again, are we?

Jesus laughed. “No, not that drop, but there are other drops ahead. And twists and turns and bumps. And even some flips. They are all part of life. The drops, though, seem to be the hardest. Those are the times in your life where you feel like the bottom falls out. Like when a catastrophic illness wipes out your bank account and leaves you in deep debt. Or when a trusted friend betrays you, leaving you confused and hurt and angry. In those times, no matter how hard it is, keep a firm grip on Me.  You will not be destroyed, because I am with you through every moment, and you will rise again on the other side. Circumstances may change, but I do not. I love you, and will never leave you. Ever.”

Jesus’s words were comforting, but Amalia wondered why there had to be killer drops in the first place. The kiddie roller coaster didn’t have them. She knew because that was one of her favorite rides when she was younger. Just because a roller coaster was bigger didn’t mean it had to be scarier. And a roller coaster ride with Jesus should fun. Didn’t He start off this whole amusement park adventure telling her that He wanted her to have fun? So, if the drops had to be there, why not at least make them less scary? Why couldn’t they just be gentle slopes instead of deep cliffs?

Again Jesus responded as if He could hear her thoughts, which of course He could. “Amalia, I never promised you a life without problems. Life is full of problems. What I did promise was that I would be with you through every one of them. I could level out the track – and I will do that in some places – but most of the time I allow the drops because I use them for your good. Sometimes to teach you. Sometimes to discipline you. Sometimes to grow your faith. There are other reasons, too, but no matter what the reason, all of it will work for your good. Once you learn this, once you get to where you fully trust Me no matter how deep the drop, you will find that there is joy in dropping with Me. You will be able to experience Me in ways that you can’t on the more level parts of the ride.”

Amalia eyed the track ahead of them. She didn’t know how much longer the ride would last. She didn’t know how many twists, turns, flips, or drops were still ahead. But what she did know was that Jesus was sitting next to her. And if He wasn’t afraid of the drops, then she was going to learn to find that joy He spoke of no matter how many drops it took.

“Okay, Jesus, let’s do this.”

 

–  – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

James says to count it all joy to meet various trials. I believe this includes killer falls on roller coasters. Has anyone learned to do that? Do you have any advice for those of us just learning?

 

Scriptures:

Ps 71:20  You who have made me see many troubles and calamities will revive me again; from the depths of the earth you will bring me up again.

James 1:2-4 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Romans 8:28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

John 16:33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.

Heb 13:8  Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

Amusement Park: Haunted House, Sixth Room – Mountain, part 2

Amusement Park: Haunted House, Sixth Room – Mountain, part 2

The climb was just hard as she has imagined it. The dangers were every bit as real, and the top of the mountain never seemed any closer. It felt like she was going to be climbing forever. Jesus was true to His word. He directed her along paths away from cliffs, showed her good plants to eat, gave her clean water from surprising sources when she was thirsty, chased away all the dangerous animals, and provided safe places to rest when she got too tired to move on. Sometimes He would disappear – preparing the way, He said – but was always within earshot. All she had to do was call, and He was back by her side.

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And yet, in between the hard places, there were times she was delightfully surprised at what she found. Refreshing streams bubbling over colorful pebbles and emptying into golden emerald ponds.  Birds singing to each other from the branches of the trees. A newborn fawn laying in the shadow of bushes loaded with berries. An unexpected clearing covered with a patch of soft grass. The powerful sound of the wind in the tall trees that surrounded her. The majestic view of the valley below her surrounded by even higher mountains. Abandoned cabins, still containing signs of the life it once held.

Her favorites, though, were the places where the water fell from great heights, bouncing over boulders of varying sizes, and splashing down into refreshing pools at the bottom. Her eyes traveled the path of the water droplets, letting the roar and splashing of the water fill her until she thought of nothing else. She tried to imagine what it would be like to be able to play with the waterfall like the birds did as they flew in and out of the mist created by the splashing water. Or what kinds of secret caves the falling water hid. The smaller waterfalls were just as intriguing. Sometimes the water looked like it was rushing to its destination, while the water in other waterfalls seemed to be enjoying a much slower pace. She couldn’t resist reaching out to touch the water, and marveled at the sensation of the icy coldness running over her hand. No matter how big or little the waterfall was, she wanted to spend hours at each. Sometimes Jesus let her, but other times He called her away to continue their walk.

Slowly, Amalia’s attitude began to change. Her trust in Jesus grew as He did what He said He would do, and she no longer feared what she might face. No matter how hard it got, knowing He was there made it all doable. She found her focus shifting from anticipating the unknown to finding joy in the moment. She didn’t have to worry about how to cross this mountain. She didn’t have to worry about how to deal with any problems or obstacles that might arise. That was Jesus’ job. All she had to do was follow His directions. With Him taking care of the big scary details, she was free to enjoy the small fun ones.

But then they entered a fog that grew thicker with each step. The swirling mist swallowed up everything around them until she could barely see the ground in front of her. She even lost sight of Jesus from time to time.

“Jesus? What is this?”

“Not to worry. This mountain is so tall that it goes up into the clouds. The fog around us, the clouds, shows us that we are nearing the top.”

“But I can’t see anything. How can I stay on the path when I can’t even see it?”

“It’s no different than before. I’m still with you. I’m still guiding, protecting, and providing for you.”

“I bet You can see through this… this… swirling mess. That’s why You can say it’s no different. But it IS different for me. I can’t see!”

“You don’t have to. You have Me.”

“But, how will I be able to follow You if I can’t see You?” Amalia stopped walking. “How do I know that the next step I take won’t lead me off a cliff?”

Jesus sighed. “Amalia, I thought you trusted Me.”

“I do, but this is different.”

“Why? Have I changed?”

“No.”

“Other than the fog, has the mountain changed?”

“No. I don’t think so, but then, how would I know if I can’t see it?”

“What if I told you that it hadn’t?”

“I guess I would believe You.”

“So, if I haven’t changed, and the mountain hasn’t changed, what changed?”

Amalia thought about that for a few minutes. And then she got it.

“My vision. What I can see changed.”

“Exactly. You trusted Me before, trust Me now. Instead of focusing on what you see, focus on what you hear.”

Amalia wasn’t happy about this turn of events. It wasn’t fair to expect her to continue walking a hard path without being able to enjoy the beauty along the way. And, being a visual learner, she had always done better using her sight than her hearing. Suddenly she wanted nothing else than to be on the other side of the mountain and in the car that was supposed to be waiting for them. “Okay, fine. Let’s go. The faster we do this, the faster we can get to the other side.”

If Jesus minded her tone, He didn’t show it. “That’s the spirit!” He said. “We’re not far from the top.”

At first Jesus stayed close by, telling her where to walk, encouraging each step she took, and letting her know if she wandered to the left or to the right of the path. It wasn’t as bad as walking completely blind because Amalia could still see the ground, but only enough of it to take one or two hesitant steps at a time. She missed using her sight, but slowly began to get better at using her ears. Through the fog she could hear the calls of the birds and imagine them flitting from branch to another. She could hear the roar of the waterfalls and imagine the crashing water. She could hear the mighty wind above her and imagine the leaves dancing in the trees . As she focused on the sounds around her, she realized that she could hear Jesus better also.

Slowly, as she grew comfortable following Jesus’ words instead of His body, she actually began to enjoy the walk, taking each step more confidently. She found a strange beauty in the fog that she had never noticed before. The fog’s muting of the birds, waterfalls, and wind was actually peaceful. Almost like being in the dark room with Jesus. She didn’t even mind when the dirt path became covered with snow, making the path even harder to walk. She trusted that Jesus would not let her wander into dangerous ground, and would be quick to correct her each time she drifted from the path He had her on. However, the increasing strength of the wind around her caused her some concern. Jesus had told her He would direct her steps, but what was going to keep her from blowing off the mountain? And where was He, by the way? It dawned on her that she hadn’t heard His voice for a while now. She stopped walking and listened harder. No Voice. Had she become overconfident and taken a wrong turn somewhere? Was she lost now?

“Jesus! Where are You?”

So soft, like a whisper just barely heard over the wind, came the words, “Remember what I told you.”

“That’s it? That’s all I get when I need You the most?”

“It’s enough.”

She wanted to scream in frustration. She had done everything He had asked her. She had trusted everything He said. And this is where it got her? Lost in the blinding fog and blown around by the gusty wind? She shivered as she realized she was also freezing. She stooped down, hugging her knees, in an effort to escape the harsh conditions around her. Feeling abandoned and alone and afraid, she faced her worse fear: she was going to die.

Faith is Believing God. Period.

She absently picked at a scab on her leg as she held one of her old journals and read a conversation about faith she had had with Jesus years ago.

“Jesus, this is still not too clear in my head,” her younger self had written.

What wasn’t too clear? As she was about to turn back a page or two in the journal, she stopped just in time. Her finger was covered in blood! Great, she thought as she put down her journal and picked up a nearby napkin to place over the blood oozing out from the freshly opened wound where she had removed the scab. Holding the napkin in place with one hand, she picked up the journal with the other hand and continued searching for what had not been clear.

Her younger self had been writing about faith and had referenced Hebrews 11:1-6.

She knew that Heb 11:1 started with, “Now faith is…” but couldn’t remember exactly what came next. Something about things not seen.  Feeling that it was important to know the rest, she picked up her phone and opened the Bible app. Suddenly, out of the blue, her nose began dripping.

“What now,” she thought as she removed the napkin from her leg and tore off a clean portion. She shifted uncomfortably on the couch as she blew her nose. Trying to see without her contacts, which she had not yet put in that morning, resulted in an awkward position as she had to hold both the journal and her phone close to her face. And her dog had decided to camp out on her legs restricting even more movement. She tossed the napkin into the small trash can she kept by the couch. Dabbing at her leg with the rest of the napkin revealed that the bleeding had stopped. Good. She threw the rest of the napkin into the trash can and picked up her phone, but before she could start reading, she noticed a growing pain in her left hip and on the left side of her neck. “Oh no,” she thought as she put the phone back down. “It’s like something doesn’t want me to read this.” She pushed the dog off her legs and completely re-positioned herself.

Once comfortable, she picked up the journal and reached for her phone. Again her nose began dripping. “Where is this coming from?” she wondered, exasperation creeping into her thoughts. “I don’t have a cold, no allergies, and I haven’t been crying. So what’s the deal?”

After blowing her nose again, she reached for a notebook and a pen to record Heb 11:1 – but somehow she managed to grab the wrong side of the pen and got ink on her hand. Staring at it in unbelief, she thought, “OK, this is getting crazy.” Determined now to read what she was being distracted from, she picked up her phone, found Heb 11, and began reading.

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”

She read the following verses about the creation of the world, Abel and Cain, and Enoch. Then she got to verse 6: “and without faith it is impossible to please God because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.”

Was that what her younger self was confused about? Why? It seemed straightforward enough. She put her phone down and picked up the old journal.

“Jesus, this is still not too clear in my head. Please explain it more clearly.”

“Faith is knowing My Father knows best and that He’s in control. And that He can and will do what He says. Faith is not questioning but accepting…”

She thought about how God had been teaching her about believing Him for over a year. Really deep down with no reservations believing Him no matter how things look to her. It was easy to believe Him when everything was going well. But did she still believe Him when things looked as bad as they did now weeks after the category 4 hurricane had ripped through her town? Did she still believe He even existed when everywhere she looked she saw devastation and hurting people and needs that far exceeded her income?

Yes, she did believe. And she chose, moment by moment, to keep believing each time fear, worry, stress, or complaints tried to rise up in her. Although God understood these things, He was not pleased with them because they were evidence of a lack of faith. If she gave in to fear and worry, she would be saying that she didn’t really REALLY believe God was taking care of her. Maybe even that she had no confidence in His ability or desire to take care of her. And if she began to complain, she would be saying she wasn’t happy with His care and didn’t want to accept what He had chosen to allow in her life – like He wasn’t really in charge of everything after all. Instead, as she chose to believe God loved her, was in control of everything, and was taking care of her, she found peace replacing all those stressful emotions. Bottom line? Faith means believing God. And acting like it.

So THAT’s why all the distractions. Someone didn’t want her faith affirmed with a message that was as much for her today as it had been for her all those years ago. Today, when so much of her life seemed to be controlled by someone and something else, she knew He loved her enough to use an old journal to confirm to her that He IS in control and that He IS taking care of her like He had promised. Not only taking care of her basic needs, but also surprising her from time to time with amazing rewards – just because He said He would. Knowing this, she knew she no longer had to focus on her own needs but was free to seek ways to help other people with their needs.

Now that’s faith in action.

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Photo by Kaboompics .com on Pexels.com

 

(NOTE: I did draw a picture to go with this blog, but weird stuff continues to happen that prevents me from getting it from my phone camera to here. Like how I’ve been able to transfer pictures from my phone to my computer using hot spot but can no longer do so as of yesterday when internet was restored on my computer. And yet when I try to use internet, it tells me there’s no connection. And how my phone can get on Facebook just fine, but tells me I have no internet access when I try to get on WordPress so I can’t add the drawing directly from my phone to my blog. But one day, hopefully soon, I WILL get this figured out and be able to add my own drawing!)

Climbing the Mountain like a Turtle

She opened the front door and stepped outside. The bright sun caused her to squint as she closed the door behind her. It was hot – too hot to be outside. Good thing she was heading to her car instead of starting her dreaded daily walk around the neighborhood. She had only taken a step or two when something small caught her eye. A box turtle? What was a box turtle doing on her front patio? And this one appeared to be a baby! She stopped to watch it as she contemplated whether she needed to rescue it or not. Where would be a good place to relocate it? As she watched, it began to move quickly towards a nearby bush.

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The turtle, tired of the hot, rough sidewalk, hurried towards some shade she had glimpsed from across the patio.

I’m like this turtle, she thought. Sometimes my life is as uncomfortable as this hot, rough sidewalk, and all I want to do is cross over it to get to somewhere more comfortable.

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What’s this? She wasn’t expecting such a high barrier of large rocks. They hadn’t looked this big from the other side of the patio. Would she really have to climb these rocks?

Yep, she thought. Always something to block me from what I want. And it’s usually just as daunting as these rocks appear to this turtle.

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If she wanted to reach the shade, yes, she would have to climb these rocks. Resigned, she began climbing.

She thought of the mountains in her life. If she wanted a better marriage, if she wanted a healthier weight, if she wanted a cleaner house, if she wanted a closer relationship with her God, she would have to climb mountains to get to them. Mountains as high and hard and difficult as what the turtle was facing. Did she have the same determination as the turtle to start climbing?

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At first it was kind of easy. “This is not so bad,” she thought. But before long, she felt her balance shifting.

Isn’t that the truth, she thought. Mountains are always so deceiving. They start off easy, but soon, too soon, they have a way of throwing you off balance. Mountains are never that easy.

 

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Oh no! The weight of her shell was pulling her backwards. She was going to fall! In an attempt to stop the backwards momentum, she stretched out all she had, including her neck.

She thought of rock climbers. They never got off balance. Did they? Why not? So what made this turtle get off balance? It was the weight of what it carried on its back. That’s it! It’s the weight of my baggage that makes climbing mountains so hard, she thought excitedly. If I got rid of the baggage – stuff I drag with me from my past, stuff I refuse to let go of because I think I need it – I wouldn’t be losing my balance all the time. And whatever I left behind, God could replace. Right? But… she thought about the turtle shell. The turtle couldn’t just leave its shell behind, could it? The shell was too much a part of it. Just like there were some things she was incapable of leaving behind herself. She watched closely to see how the turtle was going to handle this problem, sensing it would also be an answer for her.

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It worked! She was no longer falling backwards, but she was also not moving forwards. She stretched out her neck even more, giving it everything she had.

Ahh, she thought. The turtle, although it couldn’t take off its shell, did have something with which to counter the balance problem. Its neck! It stuck out its neck! It let itself be vulnerable in order to try to save itself. Isn’t that what Jesus wants us to do – become vulnerable? To open our hearts to Him? To stick out necks, so to speak, in faith, towards others? To love others even when they don’t love us back? To give to those who ask even if it hurts?  But, she wondered, was it going to work?

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Yea! Her shell slowly righted itself and she was back on her feet. Should she go back? This climb was dangerous. She couldn’t have fallen off and landed on her back, not able to move. Besides, all she could see was the rock wall she was climbing. She couldn’t see over the top of those rocks. Was there really shade up there? Or had she just imagined it?

Relief and amazement flooded through her. The turtle was OK. It didn’t fall. It was safe. Or was it? Why wasn’t it moving? Did it change its mind? That’s what she usually did when the way got hard. Insecurities, questions, doubts, and fears all seemed to stop her from getting to the top each time. And each time she was stopped, she returned to the bottom where it was easier. Would the turtle do the same?

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She decided to trust her vision. The possible shade was worth the work and danger of this climb. Deciding to keep her neck out for balance, she began climbing once again.

Nope, the turtle didn’t give up. It knew what it had seen and it wanted it more than it wanted the ease of the sidewalk. That’s what I need to do, she thought. God gives me visions of what’s up there. I need to trust Him and just keep climbing no matter how hard it gets.

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Finally she could see her goal ahead of her. Yes! The shade was real! Excited now, she began to move a little faster.

She was surprised at the envy she felt as the turtle entered the shade. There was shade available in her own life. Promises God had given her. All she had to do was climb the mountain to get there. So why was she envious of a turtle? Maybe because that turtle was more committed than she was?  Maybe because that turtle had more faith than she did? Or maybe because the turtle wanted it more than she did? She knew this turtle had given her a lot to think about.

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She had done it! Here was the promised shade, where she could rest and maybe even catch something to eat. Was the climb worth it? Oh yeah!

Goodbye, little turtle, she thought as she walked away. Thank you for teaching me something I needed to learn today. Maybe someday I’ll make it to the top of one of my mountains just like you did.

What Does Your Chair Look Like?

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“Look at the lounge chairs.”

She turned and looked.

“What do you see?”

She looked at the lounges. They were the usual blue lounges found at most pool sides. All were pointed towards the water. All were well used. All were empty. So?

“Look again.”

She took another look.  Although the chairs were all pointing in the same direction, they were not lined up in a perfect row, and the backs were all set at different angles. She frowned in concentration.

“What are they telling you?”

Hmmm… she thought. What would these chairs be telling me if I could hear them? That they were there to serve people? That they were enjoying the sun just as she was? That they were in the place they were supposed to be? That they were lined up casually and set at different angles?

She thought about how the angles would affect her line of vision.  If she sat in the chair with the back straight up, her eyes would look out over the pool. She would see the sparkling blue water and all the people who were in it. If she sat in the chair with the back all the way down, she would be able to see the brilliant white clouds as they slowly passed by and birds as they flew overhead. But she would no longer be able to see the water or the people. The other chairs, with backs set at different angles, would allow her to see varying amounts of both water and sky.

The chairs are like our faith, she mused. Sitting in one with the back straight up doesn’t take much faith. Our muscles could hold us upright comfortably even if the back of the chair should give way. But lying back, no longer using our own strength but trusting the chair to hold us up requires more faith.

And the amount of faith we practice affects what we focus on. With little faith, like sitting upright in a lounge chair, our view is limited on what we see around us. Our focus is on the physical world and all its troubles along with its beauty with little ability to see into the spiritual realm.  The more faith we practice, like the further back we recline, the more of the spiritual world we’ll be able to see. We can still see the physical world, but our focus becomes increasingly centered on God and His kingdom. We are better able to see things as God does. And lying fully back? That probably only happens when in the midst of fully worshipping God… or when we die, she thought wryly.

“So, what does your chair look like?”

She thought about that. She knew what she would have liked to have answered. But the truth was – her chair was constantly changing angles. And then, she knew. That was the whole point of this lesson. Her chair was not going to stay in one position, or even progress steadily to a flat position. And that was OK. The important thing was to ask herself, especially in times of stress, “What does your chair look like?”

Because her chair may need a little adjusting from time to time to get the best view.

Rachel’s Story, part 3: BP Roller Coaster

With her new baby doing well in the Level Two nursery, Rachel should have been able to relax and concentrate on recovery from her c-section. However, her blood pressure just IMG_20180625_101321910would not be controlled. Time after time, nurses would come in to check it. Rachel would feel relieved and hopeful when it was lower, but then get frustrated when it climbed back up. No one ever knew from reading to reading what it would be. Rachel grew to dread the readings, which only made it worse.

“It’ll come down,” the nurses would tell her. “Just give it time.”

After several days, Rachel wasn’t surprised to find her blood pressure medication was being changed yet again. Because she was attempting to breast feed, she couldn’t be on her pre-pregnancy medication which had worked well for her. And the doctors and nurses here at the hospital hadn’t found the right medication at the right dosage to bring about the same results. Her blood pressure continued to range from really low to dangerously high, with most being on the high side.

“Don’t worry,” they all told her. “We’ll get this worked out.” But how could she not worry? She knew the risks associated with high blood pressure. She began to practice zoning out each time they placed the cuff on her. She focused on nothing, breathing deep and slow, until the machine beeped. Then she’d look over at it, at first hopeful, but later with pessimism as her own attempt to help lower it failed.

She tried to keep her thoughts on other things. She didn’t like watching TV but she had her cell phone and lap top and lots of friends on-line. Her husband and parents stayed with her as long as they could. Her mom even slept in the room with her, providing someone to talk to and a distraction when needed. She tried pumping every three hours although her milk had not come in yet which gave her something else she could focus on. That one or two clear drops the machine managed to get from her were taken directly to the nurses each time by whoever was in the room because Rachel limited the number of times she got out of bed. She worried that moving around would raise her blood pressure even more, so she kept herself as still as she could.

“You need to walk,” her mom would tell her. “Walking might help lower your blood pressure.”

“You need to walk,” her dad would tell her. “Walking can’t hurt you and it might even help you.”

“You might want to walk,” her nurses told her. “If you’re up to it, you could walk a lap around the nurses work station. It will help you.”

But Rachel was never up to it. She wanted her blood pressure to come down first. She didn’t want a heart attack. However, she did give in eventually and started walking very short distances before asking for the wheelchair.

A couple more days went by. Nurses continued taking frequent blood pressure readings, Rachel continued to practice zoning out each time, her doctor sought the help of another doctor who had more experience with resistant high blood pressure, and many people were praying for her. The maternity ward just happened to be pretty empty so the nurses were able to spend a lot of time giving her personal care – reassuring and encouraging her throughout those long days and nights.

Yet nothing seemed to be working. As the numbers neared 200, her thoughts began to drift towards what might happen if they couldn’t get it down. She could have a stroke. She could die. And the words to a popular song that kept coming back to her didn’t help. “Help me want the Healer.more than the healing..”

Finally, in the middle of the fifth night, she could no longer hold it in and she began to cry. “I know God has a plan. But what if His plan is for me to die?”

“Don’t worry about that,” her mom tried to comfort her. “God will take care of you.”

“It’s not me I’m worried about,” she cried harder. “It’s Aaron and the baby. What will it do to them?” She went into the bathroom and closed the door.

Her mom, at a loss for words, decided to turn on some worship music. Maybe filling the room with the presence of God through the music would help. She pulled up one of her favorite Christian radio stations on her lap top and set the volume to provide soft background music. Then she prayed. She knew the struggle her daughter was going through. Did her daughter’s deep faith and trust in God with everyday concerns extend towards trusting Him with her life, even if that meant leaving her husband and baby alone? Did she truly believe the words she said and sang so often?

Rachel emerged from the bathroom and got back into her bed. “I just had a thing with God and told Him my life was in His hands,” she told her mom. They talked a few more minutes, then got quiet as they focused on the music. Eventually both fell asleep.

The next day, the hospital specialist came to see her. She was put on a high dose of a second medication later that day, which began to have positive results. By the following day, her blood pressure was at an acceptable level and was no longer roller coasting up and down. She was not checked as often, and was soon taken off all monitors. And then came the best news of all – she was being discharged from the hospital!

While waiting for the discharge papers, Rachel and her mom talked about that night when Rachel broke.

“I think you passed that test,” her mom said.

“That was intense,” Rachel answered.

“I went through an intense test last week when I didn’t get to be here for the baby’s birth, but I’ve got to say, your test went to a much deeper level.”

“I hope I never get tested again,”

“I wish I could assure you that this was the final test, but I’m afraid there will be others.”

They both sighed, knowing it was true. As their faith continued to deepen and grow, there would be more tests, each time revealing their hearts and strengthening their relationship with God. But it was worth it. God was worth it.IMG_20180619_140537869

By lunchtime, Rachel had signed the discharge papers and she was free. At the beginning of her pregnancy, her doctor had asked her what her goal was. “To walk out of the hospital” she had said. That afternoon, as she walked through the exit door, her goal was met.

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But now she had a second goal. She might be free, but her baby was still in baby jail. Time to break her baby out!

To be continued one more time.

The Arrival (Rachel’s Story, part 2)

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At 9:30 PM, Rachel, resigned to what was about to happen, agreed to the c-section. As soon as she said, “OK”, the room exploded with activity. The lights came on and people rushed all over the place. Aaron panicked and began calling everyone he knew. While Rachel watched the craziness around her, she could sense God’s presence. She knew He was there with them which kept her calm. She looked down at her body and told it, “Body, you had one job,” signed the consent papers put before her, and called her mom.

The anesthesiologist, the only calm person in the room, sat down on her bed and explained what to expect while a nurse tossed scrubs at Aaron. “Put these on,” she told him as she ran off.

Then the doctor returned to tell Rachel what would happen, and what could go wrong, “But it won’t” she added.

As Rachel was prepped for surgery, she watched Aaron on the phone with his mom and thought, “This is surreal.” When Aaron finished his call, he was told to wait in recovery room. They would get him when Rachel had been given a spinal and was all set up in the OR.

Aaron, still in panic mode, made his way to the recovery room and was joined by the respiratory specialist. “Everything’s going to be OK,” the specialist said. He continued speaking reassuring words until Aaron was able to calm down. Well, maybe not calm but at least not panicking.

At 10 PM, Rachel, feeling loopy on the magnesium they were giving her for her blood pressure, was wheeled into the OR and watched as people scurried around preparing for her surgery. Aaron joined her just before her doctor arrived after scrubbing in. She walked up to Rachel, holding her hands up, and said, “Remember when your baseline protein level was 125 early in your pregnancy? Well, four hours ago it was 900, and now it’s 4500.” From earlier talks with the doctor, Rachel knew protein in her urine meant her placenta was breaking down.

Rachel said, “So I’m exploding.”

“Yes, you are,” her doctor said. When everyone else in the room introduced themselves, Rachel acknowledged each one, but then said solemnly, “I promise to forget all of your names.”

“What music do you want?” they asked her.

“I don’t care,” she said. So they put on their shower play list and began singing along.

Aaron was brought in and they started the c-section. She was worried that she would feel the knife slicing her open, but she didn’t. However, she did feel a lot of jerking and yanking and pushing down on her diaphragm which made breathing difficult. She also noticed her hand turning purple as the blood pressure cuff kept going off every minute.

As she struggled to breath, she heard Aaron’s commentary while he snapped picture after picture.

“I see her!”

“This is so cool!”

“I’m looking at your insides!”

“Wow!”

And then, at 10:58 PM Rachel heard a baby cry. Aryn Jade had arrived!

While Aaron helped bathe newly born Aryn, Rachel noticed the music that had been playing in the background. “Is that the Backstreet Boys?” she asked.  “Yes, it is,” someone answered. “Cool,” she said.

Aaron held Aryn next to Rachel while the anesthesiologist took a family picture of the three of them. Aryn was breathing well and didn’t need intensive care so a nurse took Aryn to Nursery Two, a higher care nursery for premies than the regular newborn nursery, but not as intensive as NICU.

Still laying on a table in the OR, Rachel asked her anesthesiologist, “Why does my chest hurt when I breathe? Am I having a heart attack?”   “No, you’re fine. It hurts because they were pressing down on your diaphragm to leverage your baby out.”

Then she focused Aaron, who was still taking pictures and giving a running commentary as the doctor finished working on her.  “That’s gross!” he said as the placenta came out.

“Take that, placenta!” Rachel said, and heard the doctors crack up.

Jerking as they sewed her back up, she commented “I smell something burning.”

“They’re cauterizing you,” the anesthesiologist answered.

“I smell me burning. That’s so cool,” she said.

Everyone was still singing along to the music, and later remarked that this was the most fun delivery they had had in a long time. Finally, the anesthesiologist held a bottle of morphine in front of Rachel’s eyes. “I’m going to give you this now.”

“OK,” was all Rachel said and quickly began to feel the effects. They turned her and flipped her as they moved her from the table to a bed and she lost all sense of direction. And then the drug really kicked in and she lost touch with everything.  That is, until she got to her recovery room where she threw up all over herself.

If she had been able to think about it, she might have marveled at how quickly life can change. She had had no idea when she awoke that morning that it would be the last morning she would wake up pregnant. She had no idea as she got ready for work that her body would go into crisis later that day. She just knew God was in control of her life. It was this deep foundation of faith that carried her calmly through the unexpected events of the day. And it was the amazing God she trusted that had arranged every detail perfectly -from the time she “just happened” to be having her regular checkup in an office that “just happened” to be across from the hospital when she went into crisis – to her doctor “just happening” to be on the one on call.

Yet, as well as this day had turned out – a beautiful, healthy little girl and a Big Mac in the freezer – she had little idea that her faith in God would soon be tested like never before.

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To be continued.

Plans:  Do I Believe… or Not?

I had planned to be there when my daughter had her first baby. Both my mother and my mother-in-law had been there when my babies were born. And I wanted to do the same for my daughter.

But I was 500 miles away when I got the call. “Mom, don’t panic, but they want to take the baby now…”

I knew my daughter had struggled with high blood pressure throughout her pregnancy, and that they were planning for an early birth. But that was a month away! Surely the doctor could wait twelve hours before inducing, giving me time to drive over there.

But before I finished  packing, a picture of my newborn granddaughter popped up on Facebook. Proud daddy and adorable AJ. An awesome shot of the two of them together moments after the birth.

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I knew I should be happy. I knew I should be thankful for both mom and baby doing well.

But all I could feel was disappointment. Which quickly turned to bitterness as I added this event to so many others in which I didn’t get my way. Why couldn’t I be there with them at this incredible time? Just one more example of the bad luck that followed me my whole life? Another dream that was not allowed to come true?

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But was it luck? Did God really have control over every detail of my life? If He was in control, then it wasn’t luck, it was His plan.

Grieving over my broken dream, I wailed out at Him: “Why didn’t you want me there?” He let me cry, but He didn’t answer me as I struggled with questions that rose up from deep within. Why was I denied what so many other grandparents got to have? Didn’t God love me as much as He loved them? Was I inferior to other people, as life had convinced me I was since I was little? Always second class, never first? Never worth enough for God to bother with fulfilling my dreams? Always dealing with second best answers?

I knew God loved me regardless of what I felt at this moment. I tried to choose to believe His word over my feelings. “God, I don’t understand this. But I know You are good and that You love me.”

I wish I could say that peace flooded me or that light filled me or some other wonderful result of my prayer. But nothing changed. I still hurt. I was still 500 miles away. And I still had questions.

An hour of packing turned into three, and an eight hour drive turned into twelve. I couldn’t figure out how getting to my daughter took an extra six hours. There had been no incidents that would account for that much delay. Where had the time gone? Was it more bad luck – or God’s plan?

I didn’t want to get into that again, so I ignored the pain, put on a happy face, and went up to the third floor of the hospital. At least I would be able to spend time watching my grandbaby through the nursery window.

But that was not to be either. Baby AJ, being six weeks premature, was in a special ward where visitation was very limited. I wouldn’t be allowed in there without my daughter or son-in-law, and then only for a very short time.

Eventually, I did make it to my daughter’s room, And meet my new granddaughter. And watch with pride the strength of my daughter and son-in-law as they dealt with the curve ball God had also thrown at them. They hadn’t planned on such an early birth either. In fact, their curve ball was much larger than mine. My daughter could hear the other full term healthy babies as they passed in the hall on their way to visit their moms while she was denied her own baby due to medical concerns. Her husband also had to deal with the stress of closing on their new house, which should have happened months ago but kept getting delayed, and packing/moving/unpacking pretty much by himself. Were they questioning God’s love for them also? Were they also feeling inferior to others who’s plans always seem to work out?

“Count your blessings.” “Focus on the good, not the bad.” I can hear people saying as they read my words. I know it’s good advice. So many years I have walked with Him, learning of His love and faithfulness. Time after time I have seen Him intervene in my life in one form or another. Yet evidently this whole experience has revealed that I still have deep issues that need healing.

I know that God is in this. My husband and I were both able to leave at a moment’s notice and drive through the night without an accident despite how sleepy we became. And I am able to stay here with my daughter indefinitely, helping with the move, and later with the baby. Hearing my daughter’s story, it’s amazing how many things “just happened” to happen at just the right moment from the time her body went into crisis and continuing even as I type this.

The bottom line? None of us got what we wanted. God had a different plan. Now we have to decide whether or not we truly believe God has full control over our lives like we profess, and whether His plans were made with our best interest in mind. Are we going to believe our circumstances – or – are we going to believe God’s Word?

The struggle is real.

Life is Like a Beach, section 8: Out of Place

The following is part of a book I would like to publish someday. It’s too long to blog as one post so I’m breaking it up section by section.  Each section can be read as a stand-alone, and hopefully my analogies will provide food for thought as well as encouragement to keep on going no matter where you find yourself in life.  I’ve added links  at the end to the previous sections to make them easier to find should you want to read them. Oh, and all photos were taken by me and are untouched other than cropping when necessary. God’s creation is so awesome just the way it is!

Out of Place

Imagine your surprise to look up and see this washed up on shore! Imagine the captain’s surprise!  Well, I imagine that wasn’t his main emotion. Makes me wonder what went wrong for him to end up where he was. Captain error? Broken part? A storm? Good thing for other captains and other boats who can get him out of this mess.

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Or imagine the surprise on people’s faces as this bird tried to take off with someone’s flip flops! I wonder what the bird thought it was. Did she think it was a new kind of food? Or something to add to her nest? I know she worked hard for quite some time to take off with one then the other flip flop. Eventually she gave up and flew away, but not before she managed to get the flip flops about ten yards from where they originated.

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Sometimes in life we end up in a place we don’t want to be. Something went wrong somewhere. A wrong choice on our part such as a captain’s error, someone else’s choice such as the bird’s choice to move the flip flops. Maybe it was because something in us broke and we were powerless to change our circumstances.  Or maybe it was  a catastrophe in our finances, marriage, health, children, home – the list is endless. The result is the same. We end up in a place we never thought we would. And we don’t like it.  However, the good news is – we don’t have to stay there.  God knows how we got there, and He knows how to get us out. He won’t let us stay there if we turn to Him for help. He can deliver us miraculously like only He can do. But more often He puts people in our lives to help us when we get in difficult places. And in return we can help other people when they get grounded or are pulled from where they should be. We don’t have to do life alone.

 

Continue to have faith and do what you know is right. Some people have rejected this, and their faith has been shipwrecked. 1 Tim 1:19

He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. Ps 91:15

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

 

Previous sections:

Section 1: The Path

Section 2: Red Flags

Section 3: Water

Section 4: Waves

Section 5: Sky

Section 6: Surprises

Section 7: Puffer Fish