Saturday, August 28, 2010

It's a God Thing!

She worked in the office of a manufacturing facility for 30 years and was laid off. One of several long timers simply let go. It was a completely devastating experience. She was unemployed for eight excrutiatingly long, unsettling months - especially for a single woman. She was happy to be employed again, and have health insurance, even though her annual salary was $10,000 less than her previous job. After little more than a year, budget cuts eliminated her position this last June.

Unemployed for a second round. How could it happen again? And so soon? How long would it take this time to obtain a job?

I'm writing about my sister, Tricia, and upon learning this unbelievable news, I prayed, "Lord, I believe you are not allowing her to go through this again without her receiving a better job and I believe it will not take as long this time." Gratefully, I can report she has been employed for a week now, with an annual salary increase of $10,000 from her last position. In addition, she will have a Christmas bonus! Financial benefits aside, Tricia is exhibiting enthusiasm for this job in a ranch office. She has some opportunities to be out of the office and, literally, out in the field. "I'm doing things I never expected I would do and I really like it" is what I have heard this week.

Our family is overjoyed that the Lord answered our prayers, and brought restoration of $10,000 in her annual salary. Truly, He "is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine..." Ephesians 3:20 NIV

The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy. Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like streams in the Negev. Psalm 126:3-4

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Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Lemons of Life

How would you react if you called in a prescription refill at a pharmacy two days earlier and when you arrive it's not ready? Then you're told it will be available in a few minutes, but you spend your entire lunch hour waiting and it's still not ready. Maybe you have to spend several frustrating evenings on the phone to get a simple satellite TV problem fixed. Perhaps you have worked all day, then go to the grocery store in 105 degree heat, accompanied by high humidity, and when you arrive home you are missing a bag of your items. These inevitable, irritating happenings of life are the "lemons of life." The above list represents some of my recent "lemons."

Someone is always watching our reactions, particularly when we label ourselves as Christians. Obviously, if we are parents, our children pay close attention to our behavior. I did not exhibit a good reaction on the day it was 105 degrees and came home from the grocery store missing a bag. In short, I had quite a fit and lost my control. I still remember the look on my son's face as I furiously ranted about the inconvenience of the situation. On the way home from the store the second time, this verse came to my mind: Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus - 1 Thessalonians 5:18 NIV. The realization came to me that I should be thankful I had a car to get to the store, had the money to purchase what we needed, and was able to walk in the store and get the items. As I reflected on these things, my control returned, I felt peaceful once again, and was able to come home a rational human being. Perhaps one reason the Lord tells us to give thanks in all circumstances is to center our minds when our reactions to events cause us to be off balance and/or out of control.

Sometimes,our "lemons of life" linger and are more conspicuous. I recall a few years ago having my hair colored the night before leaving for a family vacation and ending up with a hideous head of black, blond, brown, and red hair instead of brown and blond. (The stylist tried to fix it, but said that was all she could do without my hair breaking off!) After successfully ruining most of the vacation for everyone with my incessant complaining, my mother finally remarked: "Maybe you should be thankful you have hair. Why don't you think about the cancer patients who have lost their hair! It's just hair - it will grow!" Those statements not only humbled me, but also refocused my perspective. There is something to be thankful for in all situations!

We are instructed, in part, in 1 Peter 1:13 to be "self-controlled" and are to live by the Spirit according to Galatians 5:16. Patience and self-control are included in the list of fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22. We can't be a good witness with flaring impatience and a lack of self-control. In addition, we should avoid constant complaining about our lingering "lemons," so we do not make life miserable for those around us. The "lemons of life" will always come, but if we can pause, relax, and find something, however small, to be thankful for we may keep ourselves and others from getting sour.

Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Colossians 3:12-13 NIV

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Friday, August 13, 2010

Nature Break - Western Caribbean

Photos from Cozumel, Mexico

coconut tree

Photos from Grand Cayman

The water is so clear and beautiful in Grand Cayman.

Photos from Montego Bay, Jamaica

an almond tree

Thursday, July 1, 2010

July Means Vacation

1910 postcard

I'm taking a break from blogging for most of the month of July. With a longer than usual vacation, home repairs to arrange when I return, and some other projects screaming for attention, time will be minimal.

Hope everyone is having a good summer.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Fruit Dips

Easy fruit dip recipes from friends and a former co-worker.

8 oz. strawberry cream cheese
7 oz. marshmallow creme

Mix together and chill

Poppy Seed Dressing

3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. dry mustard
1 tsp. salt
1/3 cup white vinegar
1 cup salad oil
1 1/2 tablespoon poppy seeds

Mix sugar, dry mustard, salt, and vinegar. Add the salad oil slowly and then add the poppy seeds. Yield: 1 3/4 cup

8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla

Mix together.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Prayer Changes Things - Part 2: A Personal Testimony

Note: This is a lengthy read, and I'm certain it's the longest I will ever post. However, to show the hand of the Lord in this situation I would be remiss to omit some details.

December 12, 1995 was a turning point in my life when I truly learned to lean on the Lord. I started having premature labor at 31 weeks into my pregnancy. After rushing to the hospital in Leesburg, Virginia, I was told I would not leave the hospital until my baby was born. Drugs were given to help mature his lungs, but they would be of no avail unless 48 hours passed before delivery. As I laid there in the hospital bed reflecting on this fate, I knew prayer was my only resource to improve these circumstances. I was informed my baby could only possibly weigh two or three pounds at most and may not breath on his own. I started calling everyone I knew to rally prayer support and was placed on multiple church prayer lists in different states. Specifically, I asked the prayers to include that he would weigh more than three pounds and would breath on his own when he was born.

On the morning of December 14, 1995, the strategy of preventing labor was changed and the doctor announced he had to induce labor. Forty-eight hours had barely passed and my baby boy, Evan, weighed a hefty 4.5 pounds for a 31 week baby! The doctor stated if he had been born at full term he would have weighed 9 or 10 pounds. Evan was breathing on his own when he was born, but later had to be put on oxygen assistance for three days.

One nurse stated this hospital stay for Evan would be like a roller coaster ride for my husband and I. That was a very fitting and apt description as there were some good days, but mostly bad days, and we found that things can change in a matter of hours for these tiny babies. On Christmas Eve, we had a meeting with the physicians and I don't believe there was a single internal organ in Evan's body that had a positive report. It was incredibly overwhelming and devastating.

Two of the many problems were mild hydrocephalus, which is excess fluid on the brain, and also a Grade II brain hemorrhage. A leading Washington, D.C. area neurosurgeon was brought in to consult on Evan's case. The neurosurgeon had a different approach to the hydrocephalus diagnosis than most of his peers. He preferred to wait and observe development to determine if a shunt would be necessary. The neurosurgeon related that an associate of his had the same condition, but never had a shunt. In most cases, a shunt is inserted in the brain to drain the excess fluid into the stomach. As a child grows, the shunt has to be lengthened, which results in multiple surgeries. The neonatologist told me several times that Evan would have to have a shunt and that, basically, she did not agree with the neurosurgeon's "wait and see" method. I never refuted her words, out of respect for her position, but as my faith was beginning to rise I always said in my mind, "No, that's not the way it's going to be."

A view looking from our front door to a neighboring complex - the fence is barely visible and the snow was so deep cars were marked were yellow tape.

And to make things more challenging, the "Blizzard of '96" (as the newscasters termed it) hit parts of the East coast. A whopping 28 inches of snow fell on January 7, 1996 (to be followed by eight more inches on January 12, 1996). The whole area was immobilized for a couple of days and hospital personnel had to be picked up at their homes by military vehicles. My husband, who was an executive chef at a hotel, decided he should be at his workplace before the storm hit and, obviously, was stuck there. Since we had just moved two months earlier from Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, the hospital introduced us to a couple who had a premature boy a year earlier. This couple was a tremendous blessing in many ways and they also arranged a friend with a four wheel drive to take me to the hospital. Due to the deep snow, my ride could only come within one half mile of my home. This meant walking in thigh high snow coming and going, but every step was worth it.

When I arrived at the hospital, my heart seemed to freeze as I saw Evan was a ghastly gray color, a gray of death. By the time I left that evening, his normal color returned to my great relief. It is very important for premature babies to have their mothers' company. How thankful I was to have a ride provided for me after missing two days at the hospital.

Finally, things started improving by Evan's one month birthday. After 35 days in the hospital, two spinal taps, two blood transfusions, numerous CT scans, ultrasounds, etc., Evan was sent home on January 17, 1996 on a heart monitor and a doctor ordered quarantine for four months. I will never forget the words of one of his nurses: "He looked so bad for so long, I just didn't know if he would make it, and I didn't have the heart to tell you."

I had become friends with my delivery nurse and one day while she was visiting, she commented that a committee at the hospital reviews and recommends writing off the account balance in a few select cases every year. But, she added, "Don't get your hopes up." I knew our income was well below the household average of $80,000 for Loudoun County, Virginia. Armed with the knowledge from the nurse, I made it a prayer mission. By the next month, our $9,000 balance after insurance was written off! Amazing! We still had other bills associated with the hospitalization to pay, but this was the largest.

We were still following up with the neurosurgeon and Evan's development was progressing enough not to require the shunt. James 5:16 NIV states: "The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective." I prayed constantly day and night for healing for Evan and that he would not ever have a shunt. When Evan was nine months old one night while I was praying I heard "He's healed. How many times are you going to ask?" It was not an audible voice, but it still made me look around. I had the indescribable perfect peace that he was healed.

In October, 1996, we moved to Boca Raton, Florida since my husband got a job at a hotel there. After a month, he decided his job was not working out, so another long distance move was made to my home state, Oklahoma. My husband then left to work in another state.

After the upheaval of many long distance moves, severe marital problems, and the stress of all described here, I was about six months late in getting Evan a checkup with a neurosurgeon. At this time Evan was 2 years old. First, another CT scan had to be taken and I brought the previous one for a comparison study. I was told at the time the CT was taken, that there was no change in the previous scan. I couldn't believe what I was hearing! How could I have been so wrong with what I heard the night I was praying when he was 9 months old! I had been so confident, so sure, and now I was disillusioned and despondent. As I think back now, it is unusual to find out the reading on a CT scan at the time it's taken. Then, I started getting into fear because I had delayed this appointment. What if I had caused harm for procrastinating?

I had to wait a week for the neurosurgeon's appointment. The doctor asked if Evan had ever had seizures or any problems to which I replied no, except for a speech delay. After his examination, he informed me that Evan would not have any problems since he had not yet exhibited any. The speech delay was not significant. The neurosurgeon stated, "No treatment is needed, and I do not think that any further CT scans or routine visits are necessary." I was so stunned I had to ask him to repeat his words! That was one of the happiest days of my life!

The takeaway from this: the Lord is still in the miracle business and faith must be kept even when things in the natural are not looking the way we think they should. Yes, the CT scans were the same, but the words "he's healed" were true. Evan is a good-hearted, intelligent teenager who makes the honor roll 99% of the time. And yes, indeed, prayer changes things!

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Saturday, June 19, 2010

Prayer Changes Things - Part 1

A local, generous antiques dealer sold me this late 1800's prayer chair for his cost - $50! He stated he had already made his profit on this particular lot he acquired from an elderly couple who immigrated to the U.S. from Europe many years ago. The couple said the prayer chair came from a Catholic church in France. The upholstery is original.

My grandparents had a magnet on their refrigerator that read "Prayer Changes Things." Amidst an array of magnets and various clippings, it was one I always seemed to notice. Now, it graces my refrigerator. Sometimes, I look at the prayer chair and wonder how many people over the years have prayed on it and what changes were put in motion as a result of their prayers.

One needs only to look to the Bible for evidence of how prayer changed things in the lives of many. James 5:16 NIV states: "The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective." When we are in need we should remember the words of Jesus in Matthew 21:22 NIV: "If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer." Sir Thomas Buxton is quoted: "You know the value of prayer: it is precious beyond all price. Never, never neglect it."

When a situation we pray for does not result according to the way we have prayed, I still contend that prayer changes things. It provides peace and sometimes it changes us. We have peace knowing our part has been done and that our heavenly Father knows what is best according to the circumstances. An excerpt from the 1966 book Meet It With Faith by Martha Smock reads:

"When we form the habit of taking all of our needs to God first in prayer, we find that we are filled with a sense of rightness and direction that we can gain in no other way. We are filled with a feeling of freedom and peace when we pray about all matters; and even though the answer may not be yet apparent, we are able to go about our life with a calm and confident spirit, sure of God's presence, sure of the right outworking of every situation."

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28 NIV

A prayer from a humble, believing, obedient soul is never unavailing. It reaches God. Just as sure as God exists, so sure will he respect such a prayer. His word says so, and it can never fail. - J. W. Lowder

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