Tuesday, April 25, 2017

This is Not Good For Me

This is not good for me,” I thought in that long pause of a moment that my body was preparing itself for a hard landing on the basketball court.

David had just traded positions with his friend Jack. “You guard my mom,” he said and I should have taken those words as a warning. Jack was playing more aggressive defense than David (whose feet were getting tired) and I didn't take that into consideration as I started dribbling toward the basket. Jack planted himself directly in front of me...and down I crashed. Not very gracefully. 

Surprisingly, ten year old Jack, the 70 pound Wall, suffered no injuries.

This is how I imagine the scene right before I collided with Jack

“That was not one of your finer moments,” Charly laughed as he offered his hand to lift me off the ground. The stars were still circling around my head like they do in the cartoons as I hobbled off to the side to watch the rest of the game.

Daniel hopped over from the kid team to join Charly, and they still pulled off a victory before Jack needed to go home.

After we walked home from the school playground, I began to wonder if I had cracked a rib. Anything beyond shallow breathing was causing stabs of chest pain. Certain positions felt increasingly uncomfortable. But fortunately, after a good night's sleep, the pain and soreness have been better today. And I'm hopeful that more healing will come with the passing of time.

All of the basketball action yesterday affected David as well, and his left foot was hurting him quite a bit this morning. He decided to use his wheelchair and walker again at school, and he shed a few tears over both the physical pain and the defeated feeling of going backward instead of forward in his recovery.

His physical therapist examined his feet at his lunchtime appointment and said it looked like an ankle sprain. So she taped it, gave him shoe inserts for more support, recommended icing his ankle twice a day, and gave him some exercises to reduce the swelling.


Pain can enter our lives through so many different avenues. It causes us to slow down and reevaluate what's going on in our lives. And it often brings a combination of discouragement and a desire for improvement.

I really like Max Lucado's perspective on the choice we have to hear negative or positive voices, in his book Facing Your Giants: “Two types of thoughts continually vie for your attention. One says, “Yes, you can.” The other says, “No you can't.” One says “God will help you.” The other lies, “God has left you.” One speaks the language of heaven; the other deceives...One proclaims God's strengths; the other lists your failures. One longs to build you up, the other seeks to tear you down. And here's the good news: you select the voice you hear.

Which voice do you most often hear—the one that trumpets God's strengths or the one that recounts your failures?

How can you get better at listening to the voice that builds you up and disregarding the voice that tears you down?”

Training ourselves to listen to God's voice can enable us to find perspective and renewed strength in Him, like David did at one of the lowest points in his life when his men wanted to stone him. “David found strength in the Lord his God.” (1 Samuel 30:6)

He didn't give up, but decided to keep pressing on.

The thought, “This is not good for me” can become “How might God turn this into good for me?

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Quotes by Daniel part 3

I have to go to the bathroom,” Daniel let me know last Saturday, as soon as we unloaded David's bike and Daniel's scooter from the back of the van at their school parking lot.

You do?” I asked him with a frown, knowing there was no bathroom available.

I'm not too exciting,” he assured me.

What do you mean?

I mean I can wait,” he translated for me.

“I want to be a real basketball player,” inspired by March Madness. His running commentary when he plays nerf basketball on his own is usually a close game between SC and Gonzaga. Since March, he has gotten more serious about playing real basketball on the court as well.


Orange!” he yelled out at the dentist's office yesterday. “BEAUTIFUL orange!” and he held up his brand new treasured toothbrush like an Olympic torch. He was thrilled that they had his favorite color this time.

Oh Dog. I missed you,” I smiled to hear such a sweet voice drift out of his room. But then a not-so-sweet voice followed. “I'm going to cut all your heads off!

“Underwear first,” talking to himself as he was getting dressed after his bath. “Underwear ALL-ways first.”

"What are you doing, Daniel?" Charly called out while we were lingering at the dinner table with our guests and Daniel, who had already left the table, was being suspiciously quiet. "Picking my nose!" Daniel replied in a loud voice from the kitchen. 

Are you playing a game?” He was already kneeling down next to a stranger on her iPad in the vision therapy waiting room as I pushed the door open a second or so after he'd entered the office. ("Stranger" is actually not a word in his vocabulary. People he doesn't know could be classified as “friends he hasn't gotten to know yet.”)

Wait! I want to stay on!” he yelled as I exited onto the 2nd floor of the doctor's office. He thought the stranger he had just started to get to know on the elevator, who was continuing on to the 4th floor, was pretty interesting and he wasn't ready to leave.

“I still can't stand you,” in frustration after I tried explaining one more time how to do a vision therapy exercise.
“I CAN WALK!” he announced to the produce stocker at King Soopers. as he happily pushed his walker and fully enjoyed his first outing with his new walking cast. “That's cool, buddy,” the guy replied. “I like it.”

I want to do it!” volunteering to walk on stilts during a class field trip on Tuesday.


“Are you pretty excited or really excited that Daddy's coming home tomorrow?” he asked me last night, as we're coming to the end of Charly's almost 3 week trip to China.

“Really excited,” I told him. “How about you?”

Me too,” he said with a big smile.

Quotes by Daniel part 2

Quotes by Daniel









Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Focus

We've been working on therapy exercises quite a lot recently.

Physical therapy to strengthen leg and feet muscles that have been “sleeping.”

And vision therapy to help David and Daniel's eyes with tracking.


David has a really encouraging physical therapist who has been helping him to improve his walking skills and his balance.

Yesterday she had him practice putting one foot directly in front of the other and holding that position for as long as he could. On his first attempts, he could only stand for a couple of seconds before he fell over. His arms were flapping wildly, and he felt discouraged that it was so hard for him. Then she said, “Look at the yellow strap across the room. Keep looking at it and try again.” By focusing on that strap, he was able to hold his position for over 30 seconds!

Having a focal point helped him to keep his focus off of his imbalance, so that he could center himself much better.

One of the vision therapy exercises we've been working on at home involves the boys lying on the floor, while I hold a ping pong ball attached to a string over their heads. They have to follow the star painted on the bottom of the ball with just their eyes while I swing it horizontally, vertically, and in a slow circle. David has learned how to keep his focus, so that I am able to give him spelling words and math problems to solve while he's following the star with his eyes. Daniel's eyes can track for little while, but then they start darting around so that I have to keep reminding him to follow the star. (It reminds me of the wise men.)

We've enjoyed reading the Chronicles of Narnia books together these past couple of weeks. We finished Prince Caspian on Sunday and watched the Disney movie last night. It struck me how Lucy, with childlike faith, was focused on Aslan throughout their journey, while the others had to grow in their desire both to see him and then to trust in him.

It's so easy to lose focus on what's most important in life, isn't it?

Focus.

Helps us to balance.

Helps us to have the right priorities.

Helps us to find our way.

What are you focusing on these days?



Saturday, April 15, 2017

Father, Forgive Them

Father, forgive them,” Jesus cried out on the most horrific day in history. “For they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)

In Facing Your Giants, Max Lucado writes, “No one had a clearer sense of right and wrong than the perfect Son of God. Yet, 'when he suffered, he didn't make any threats but left everything to the one who judges fairly.' (1 Peter 2:23)

This morning before the boys left for school, we talked about what Good Friday means and we read in The Jesus Storybook Bible about the Last Supper, the Garden of Gethsemane, the Arrest, and the Crucifixion:

My body is like this bread. It will break,” Jesus told them. “This cup is like my blood. It will pour out.”

“But this is how God will rescue the whole world. My life will break and God's broken world will mend. My heart will tear apart—and your hearts will heal. Just as the passover lamb died, so now I will die instead of you. My blood will wash away all of your sins. And you'll be clean on the inside—in your hearts.”

“God was going to pour into Jesus' heart all the sadness and brokenness in people's hearts. He was going to pour into Jesus' body all the sickness in people's bodies. God was going to have to blame his son for everything that had gone wrong. It would crush Jesus.”

Father, forgive them,” Jesus gasped. “They don't understand what they're doing.”

"It wasn't the nails that kept Jesus there. It was love."

This morning as we read and talked about the events, I wondered for the first time how the disciples must have felt when Judas arrived with the soldiers to arrest Jesus. Clearly he had betrayed Jesus (who had forgiven him before the act had even been committed). But I'm sure the disciples must have felt a sense of betrayal too. How could Judas--who had spent as much time with the Master as they had--turn against Him like that? 


On Good Friday we are humbled by Jesus' death on the cross. His willing sacrifice as the perfect Lamb of God. God's forgiveness extended. Undeserved mercy for sinners.

But after we've received and been cleansed by God's forgiveness, how well do we extend His forgiveness to others?

Last Sunday at Pulpit Rock, Thomas addressed the issue of forgiveness and how it relates to our joy. He asked, "Why would you want to hold on to something that's hurting you?"  He challenged us with the statement: "There's never a reason not to forgive." And, "Whatever Jesus expects of you, He empowers you to do."

On this topic, Max Lucado writes, “Forgiveness is, at its core, choosing to see your offender with different eyes.”

“To forgive is to move on," he explains, "not to think about the offense anymore. You don't excuse him, endorse her, or embrace them. You just route thoughts about them through heaven. You see your enemy as God's child and revenge as God's job.”

When we try to seek revenge, he says it "removes God from the equation. Vigilantes displace and replace God. 'I'm not sure you can handle this one, Lord. You may punish too little or too slowly. I'll take this matter into my hands, thank you.'”

Kind of like Peter, who was quick to react in Jesus' defense and sliced off a guard's ear with his sword. Jesus then reprimanded him, “Peter, this is not the way.” (John 18:10-11)

Can we entrust ourselves like Jesus did, in the face of mistreatment, to the One who judges rightly?

Can we echo Jesus' words, “Father forgive them”?

Can we see our offenders as God's children and route our thoughts about them through heaven?

Can we pray for their hearts to be healed as ours have--through Jesus' broken body and blood poured out on the cross?

Jesus died so that we--and they--could experience true reconciliation.

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Linking up with Velvet Ashes this week on the Theme of Forgive

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Avoidance

I try to avoid lots of things. Especially when it comes to driving.

Times of heavy traffic.

Poor visibility and snow/ice/rain.

Areas of construction.

Lane changes and merging.

The highway.

Curvy roads and lanes that feel too narrow.

The only time that I actually don't feel stressed when I'm behind the wheel is when no one else is on the road. And that doesn't happen very often.

I often have to get myself psyched up, even for a simple drive across town, “You can do hard things!

Last Wednesday I followed the suggested fastest route of the GPS to take David and Daniel to vision therapy. Unfortunately I discovered that there were way more cars on the highway than I expected at 2 in the afternoon, and I had to tell Daniel to stop talking to me so I could focus. At one point an 18 wheeler was crossing into my lane as he merged in from the shoulder on my right, while cars whizzed by me on the left. And I held my breath, as my knuckles turned white on the steering wheel.

We are going to find a different route next week,” I vowed, once we had gotten safely past the truck and my heart rate returned to normal. “Not the highway again. There must be a better way.”


I am struck by the example of Jesus in the garden, who prayed so earnestly that his sweat was like blood, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:40)

The path would have been much easier for Jesus to avoid the cross.

But there was no other way.

So Jesus willingly walked that road.

For us.

As He hung on the cross, He was mocked by rulers, soldiers, and even one of the criminals who was hanging on a cross beside him:

“He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One.”

“If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.”

“Aren't you the Christ? Save yourself and us!” (Luke 23:35-39)

But the truth was that if Jesus had saved Himself, He couldn't have saved us. So He didn't give in to that temptation (and we have no idea how great it might have been). He chose not to avoid the pain, the feeling of being deserted by His Father, the trip to Hell.

So that He could save us, who would not enter this world for many generations to come. He knew us and loved us even then.

“Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.”
(Isaiah 53:4-5, emphasis added)

Jesus chose not to avoid the cross because of His incomprehensible love for us. Sinners, every single one, who would have betrayed Him in the same way that Judas and Peter did, if we had been there. 

On the cross, in the midst of the temptation and the mocking, Jesus chose to focus on the future joy of our being reconciled to the Father and living together forever with us, within the fellowship of the Trinity.

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews 12:2-3)

Consider Him and don't lose heart.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Resistance

Sometimes I make things harder than they need to be.

Like pushing Daniel in the wheelchair up our hill with the brakes on.

The boys' walking casts came off the end of March and, as they're growing in their ability to walk longer distances, last week they shared one wheelchair on our walk home from school. On Friday, David took his turn first and I was piggybacking Daniel until we got to the bottom of the hill. Then David generously offered his seat in the wheelchair to Daniel and put the brakes on as he stood up. But I didn't know that.

I only knew it felt really hard to push for some reason. Maybe it was the extra books in David's backpack hanging on the handlebars...

We got to a bump in the sidewalk and I had to make three attempts before I could get over it. Strange.

“Hi there!” our neighbors called out as we walked (I struggled) past their driveway. “How's it going?”

“Good!” I called back, and then felt the need to explain why I was breathing so hard. “The wheelchair seems really hard to push today...”

“Do you want me to push it the rest of the way for you?” the husband offered.

I politely refused, feeling kind of embarrassed for seeming so out-of-shape.

It wasn't until we got inside the house and I maneuvered the wheelchair into its corner of the room that I realized the brakes were on. My arm muscles were sore the rest of the day.


I did something pretty similar a few months ago when I drove the car with the emergency brake on.

I was racking my early morning brain, trying to figure out why it was so difficult to drive, and then grew increasingly concerned as I reached 25 mph and the car started shaking. Cars were passing me left and right as I drove in the middle lane of the 45 mph road. What is wrong with the car? What do I do if it just breaks down right here??? I prayed for God's protection and that He would help me make it 5 more minutes down the road to my physical therapy appointment. I called Charly with huge relief after pulling into the parking lot and turning off the car.

I really don't think I can drive home,” I told him. “I don't know what's wrong the car, but I didn't feel safe on the road at all.”

As we problem solved together, I offered a possible explanation, “The word BRAKE showed up in red on the dash board. That might have been it. I don't really know...But if it was, I couldn't figure out how to release the emergency brake while I was driving.”

Charly calmly coached me as to where I could find it. I released the very worn-out brake, then the physical therapist released some of the tension in my neck, and I drove home without any problems.

Cars really do drive much better when the brakes aren't on. And wheelchairs, I've found, are much easier to push when brakes aren't holding them back either.

In what areas of my life, I wonder, am I making it harder for God to do His work in me?

Where am I resisting Him?




Friday, April 7, 2017

The In Between

Last week Part 1 of our adoption journey was published at No Hands But Ours, a website for adoptive parents of China's special needs children. And an interesting thing happened during the three days before Part 2 followed. I unexpectedly found myself sitting once again on our broken couch in our Lanzhou 9th floor apartment, during those early days of Daniel's recovery, grieving all that had been taken away from him. And as I lingered in those days of sadness, when the future did not seem at all hopeful or full of promise, I realized that God could have written the last 3 1/2 years of our story much differently.

At that point we just didn't know.

I imagine that Jesus' followers must have felt much the same way after they witnessed their beloved friend and teacher exhale his final breath on the cross. All they knew at that point of their story was that Jesus had experienced an unbelievably horrific death, and that everything they hoped for had died with Him. Darkness must have consumed them as they suffered from the deepest kind of grief.

A time of rejoicing would come, but they didn't know that. This interminable period of mourning offered them no clue as to what the future might hold.

They had once heard Jesus say, “Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted.” Now they found themselves, in complete shock and disbelief, mourning Jesus' very own death.

In her book You Are Free, Rebekah Lyons writes,

“I believe grief is our most powerful confession, because it cracks our hearts wide open. The Spirit prays for what we need in that moment, in ways we can't imagine...Deep grief can take us to new depths of brokenness and surrender. In the depths of grief we realize mourning brings the comfort of God, and above all, God is waiting to rescue us in our darkest hour.

Isn't that what faith is all about—trusting God is working something beautiful and beyond our wildest imagination? Jesus, in the flesh, joined our sufferings in life and death. But the third morning after his death, at dawn, he gave us an example of exceeding abundance. A promise of hope for all who believe.”

I've rediscovered this week that lingering in the days of loss, sitting in the grief, and allowing the feelings of sorrow to resurface has been both painful and healing. Entering back into that time has brought a renewed sense of gratefulness for all that Daniel has regained since the trauma of his brain infection. He does not even recognize himself in those early recovery pictures. God has definitely brought him a long way since he joined our family as a 7 year old infant. But grieving has also brought me back into the time when I was really questioning what God was doing, projecting my fears into the future, and doubting my ability to handle this new lifetime responsibility we had just taken on because “How could we say no?

God, in His faithfulness, has always met me right where I am, and never with accusations or condemnations. Looking back on my journey with Him, I can say that there has never been a time when He crossed His arms and scolded, “Why wasn't your faith stronger during that season?

But only, “I was with you every painful step of the way.


To be honest, one of the most painful realizations for me when I step back into that season doesn't have to do with Daniel, but with David. Our family was operating in survival mode at that time, and I defaulted into the caregiver role for Daniel. When I saw that David's needs were being met by other members of my family, I didn't initiate building a relationship with him in the way that I wish I had. The result was that we didn't develop a solid foundation in our relationship from the beginning, and we are still working on that now. If I had the chance to go back in time, that would be the one thing I would change. But I can't. And that brings me grief too.

Rebekah Lyons writes, “Every time we express grief, we allow Jesus to absorb our pain. When we live out the freedom we have been given to grieve, Jesus takes our grief upon himself and replaces it with comfort.”

Before we can experience His comfort though, we have to allow ourselves the freedom to grieve.

She also writes: “God wants us to reveal our weakness—to recognize what traumatizes and exhausts us. He wants us to confess our wounds, our sources of pain and stress, and bring them into the light so he can redeem and transform them with his strength.”

Redemption and transformation.

The hope of the resurrection, even on that dark Saturday in between.

God says that it's never too late for a new beginning.

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Linking up with Velvet Ashes this week on the theme of Admit.  
(Admit the need to Grieve)

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