Friday, August 27, 2010

Day 27, Part 2 - Haiti Mission - The Time and Place for your Game Face

"Without self-discipline, success is impossible, period.” ~Lou Holtz

Football season is revving up here in Ohio. I think you have to take some kind of oathe before moving to Columbus, Ohio...."I, Jacqueline Radford, do solemnly agree to follow, cheer, and become a die-hard fan of THE Ohio State Buckeyes." The scarlet-and-gray has seeped back into every department store, grocery store, and even gas station here in buckeye country and it's hard not to feel the anticipation of opening kickoff that's less than a week away. And, I'm not sure, but I think that maybe even Jesus is a Buckeye fan since last night during my time with him, he asked me to keep my game face on.

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. ~2 Timothy 1:7

Putting on your game face is an act of self-discipline, of strength. Especially when you have to keep it on for any length of time. For me, I have to put it on from the time my boys are awake in the morning to the time they go to bed at night. I keep it on at work and running to the grocery store. Going to church or meeting with friends, all the while wearing my game face. Even when I'm talking to my husband in the evenings, I try my hardest to not burden him with my feelings, so therefore, I'm trying to keep my game face on even when talking to him. There are probably only a mere matter of minutes that I don't have my "game face" on. Jesus tells me specifically that I need to keep the game face on, but also tells me that I can take it off for Him.

Not giving in to the anguish and the heartache is an act of self-discipline. With a history of clinical depression and chronic pain, every moment of every day could have been disaterous for me. There are many days that I picked up, put on my "game face" and got ready for the day instead of climbing back into bed to cry myself back to sleep.

So, last night in my time with Jesus, I clearly heard him say that I need to keep my game face on. Stay strong. Don't get too mushy or lovey-dovey. But, he also said - "Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." ~Matthew 11:28 Jesus wants me to remove the mask for him. Jesus wants my hurts. He wants my sobs and wails and cries and whys. When I fall limply into bed at night, feeling like a broken, sad little girl....Jesus wants me to reach for Him and find comfort in his arms. For there is safety there and there is healing there. He's making me new in so many ways. What greater honor to be able to abide in him.

It only takes a mere matter of minutes for the breakdown and the re-build of my shell. A shower or devotional time. Usually 10-15 minutes with the Lord is enough to straighten out my attitude to where I don't need the game face. It's just me, hangin' out with God.

So, while my heart continues to ache for the return of my husband....Jesus is teaching me some football techniques, putting on my game face (I'm tellin' you I got the vision of Jesus pointing at His eyes and then to know what I'm talkin about.) He wants to continue building my strenghth, but also wants to continue showing me when and where the appropriate times are to take the mask off. on, Jesus. It's 4th and goal. Teach me how to win this one.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Day 23, Part 2 - Haiti Mission - Pain and PB & J

"Man cannot live by bread alone; he must have peanut butter." ~James A. Garfield

There are times when I just need a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. When I came home after being in the hospital for a week due to complications from a gall bladder surgery, all I craved was peanut butter and jelly and Cool Ranch Doritos. Now, when I'm in a lot of pain, don't feel 100% or I can't sleep, I really want a good PB & J....and my husband makes the BEST PB & J in the world.

When I say my husband has a missionary's heart, it's putting it lightly. He serves unyieldingly each and every day. He gives and gives and gives. He gives physically and financially. The Lord has given him the gift of service in a big way. What comes to mind today is how much I take that for granted in our my pain. When I hurt and even when I could be taking care of myself, he serves me. He asks what I need and he provides. Whether it's getting my medicine, adjusting my heating pad, helping me up the stairs, or just making me a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. He serves me. Somtimes his mission is me.

But today, while I'm still dealing with my own disease, and while I still miss my missionary, I am filled with joy. Joy that God has me at a place in life where I can care for myself and though painful and tiring, I'm capable. My ability to care for myself is enabling my husband to serve the Lord in another area. Thankful to the Lord that he has blessed me with a God-fearing, God-loving servant as a husband. My husband has taught me how to treat others with more patience and grace. He's taught me how to give more abundantly and forgive more easily. I've seen him show unquestioning obedience to God, no matter how uncomfortable. What wonderful characteristics in a husband and also a father. I am blessed to have such a humble example for my sons to follow.

Today has proven to be another day of rest for me against my own desires to keep going. Lamentations 3:22-23 says "Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." Tomorrow is a new day and God's mercies are new every morning. So I rest and pray for renewed strength and pain relief tomorrow. I rest and pray for renewed strength for my husband tomorrow in a hot and tiring mission. I pray for other missionaries working with him who are battling sickness, climate, adjustment. I am here, doing my part in God's plan....the sacrifice.....though I don't consider being a mom or wife a sacrifice. But a lot of the time, my heart is with my husband and it aches for him.

So, as I smear my own peanut butter on one piece of bread and then spread the jelly on the other piece of bread, I am reminded of how much my husband has served me over the last 4 years of chronic illness.....and I couldn't be more thankful for him or thankful to God for blessing me with such a wonderful man to love.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Day 18, Part 2 - Haiti Mission - Surrender and Grab the Heating Pad

“God insists that we ask, not because He needs to know our situation, but because we need the spiritual discipline of asking.” - Catherine Marshall

Well, it got me. The pain got me. Today I sit in the comfort of my cushy, foam king-sized bed and surrender to the pain that has been seething on the inside for days now. Is it my own lack of care that it got a hold of me so tightly? Or is it my lack of surrender to the Lord that has me where I am? I am a true believer that God will put you where you need to be in order to teach. So I admit,I have gone through many months of not talking to God about my pain simply because I felt, "He already knows." It's true, He knows. He knows pain very well. However, it wasn't until I came across the quote above that I realized, He wants to teach me to come to Him with it. Phillipains 4:6 says Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Not because he doesn't know about the pain, but because he wants to take it from me. But it's my job to surrender my control over my disease to Him.

Oh, to have the wisdom of my Lord. He knows. He just knows. He knew that I would have trouble collecting rent from Chris' tenants. He knew that I would have issues with my stepson's mom. He knew that there would be stress at work. All this week, He knew it was coming this week. But He has blessed me. He has waited until I'm alone, without having to care for my children, to bring it on. It's a gift really. He has blessed me with days of energy and low pain in order to help me care for my boys and get through this phase of Chris' trip with more ease than I thought was possible. He had told me, many times, not to overload this week without the children with "stuff". But it is a PHYSICAL issue, not just a mental and emotional one. Yes, I do believe God wants extra time with me this week, in the quiet times. But now, I'm starting to believe that He also knew that this was the week that the pain would flow more freely. That this was the week that He would loosen his grasp on the pain and He knew that this was the week I need to rest. Not just emotionally, but physically. And He, in his great wisdom, wants to teach me to quiet myself AND teach me to take the pain to Him during my quiet time.

In all seriousness, I have no control over my fibromyalgia or my rhuematoid arthritis. What I need to surrender is the control of attempting to "control" my symtpoms and flare ups. More rest, less stress. More quiet, less anxiety. More prayer, less medicine. More God, less me. That's not to say that God wants me to suffer, I'll still be using my heating pad, taking my maintenence medicine, and getting as much sleep as possible in order to maintain my disease. But I need to surrender the disease to the Lord, and, in the quiet, listen to what it is he wants me to do about it.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Day 14, Part 2 - Haiti Mission - Anticipating the Quiet

"Listen in silence, because if your heart is full of other things you cannot hear the voice of God." ~Mother Teresa, "No Greater Love"

I have a hard time quieting myself. My mind is always racing in one direction or, work, business, house, dogs, friends, T.V., etc. I attempted to quiet my mind when I was in the shower last night, but it seemed like only a matter of seconds, maybe only one second, before my mind was worrying about other things. Last night, it was medicine, sickness, laundry....all before I could even stop and realize that my mind had wandered away from the "silence" I was trying so hard to obtain. We're a nation overwhelmed with media, responsibilities, and expectations.

When I was in college I got into the habit of falling asleep with the T.V. on. When I look back on that time in my life, I realize that I started leaving the T.V. on at night because I didn't WANT the silence and I didn't want to be left with my thoughts. Sometimes memories and life is painful, and I used the noise and activity of the T.V. to drowned out the things I didn't want to deal with. I would not recommend this to anyone. It didn't teach me to cope with my emotions very well and it's been an uphill battle to re-teach myself some very important coping skills since that time. Even though I feel I've made great strides in how I cope with my emotions, I still find that I leave the T.V. on at night, which I think is more out of habit now than actually needing it.

My husband bought me the book "No Greater Love" By: Mother Teresa for my birthday this year. At first I kind of did a mental eye-roll, which was really inappropriate of me. Of all the missionary hearts I should be exploring, wouldn't I want to know the thoughts and experiences of Mother Teresa? But I picked it up for the first time about a week ago and's been awesome. I haven't read much, but what I have read has really hit home with me for things that my heart has been yearning to work on. What I'm realizing now is that I'm lacking the "quiet" in my quiet time with the Lord.

So, though it may not seem like a lot to some people, beginning at midnight, I will be computer free for 24 hours. I have had my computer on 24/7 since Chris has been gone, as I always want to be available if he needs or wants to communicate with me. God is telling me to stop being preoccupied with that. He wants more fasting from media and more turning to Him. It may seem insignificant, but for me it's a baby step towards obedience.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Day 3, Part 2 - Haiti Mission - Lifting fog

When I was younger, I could remember anything, whether it had happened or not; but my faculties are decaying now and soon I shall be so I cannot remember any but the things that never happened. It is sad to go to pieces like this but we all have to do it. ~Mark Twain

There's a phenomenon I deal with called "fibro fog". Now some may argue that it doesn't exist and I even think my husband is very skeptical, but from the others I have talked to that have fibromyalgia, this is a very real and frustrating symptom of the disease. What is it? I'm glad you asked.....It's exactly what it says it's like being in a fog. Everything's kind of blurry. What you're trying to say, what you're trying to do, what you're trying to's like knowing you know what you know, but not really sure you know it....for sure. Yep, it's as confusing as I just made it sound. It's my #1 reason for losing my keys or the checkbook. Okay, so maybe I'm a little scatterbrained, too, but I'm gonna claim "fibro fog." Everyone experiences it differently just as everyone experiences the disease differently. I have a gal I work with that if you didn't know she had fibromyalgia, some days you'd think she was sitting at her desk all doped up. Okay, I admit, sometimes she is "medicated", but aren't all of us that deal with chronic pain? Fibro fog makes you feel disconnected.

The past 2 weeks my relationship with Jesus has been wandering around in the "fog". I've been disconnected. Like I said in my last post, I did a total 180 and when I did, I wandered into the fog of doing life on my own. I grew up out in the country and when it gets foggy there, it REALLY gets foggy. I remember fall mornings going to a certain window in the house to see if I could see the neighbor's security light (they lived 1/4 mile down the road), because I knew that if I couldn't see their light that I could probably go back to bed because school was going to be delayed. Now, when I looked out that window, whether I could see the light or not, I KNEW the house was there. I knew our neighbor's house hadn't gone anywhere even if I couldn't see the light. That's how my relationship is with Jesus. Even in the fog, He's still there. Deuteronomy 31:8 says "The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged." We just can't see him because we've put "stuff" (in my case, my husband) between us.

The best part about fog is that it clears. At some point, Jesus calls you back to him and the fog that has been surrounding you clears. An "A Ha" moment. Even with Fibro fog, it doesn't last forever, it clears and you can function normally, whatever normal may be for you. So even when I'm not feeling 100%, I like to remind myself that the fog clears and normal is around the corner. Even when I know I've turned my eyes from God, I find comfort when I feel the fog clear and I refocus my attention on Him. He has been waiting for me in the fog and sometimes he's been waiting there a long time. Sometimes, He knows we're in a fog, but I don't know I'm in a fog. But he stays there with me, waiting for me to have my "a ha" moment and He clears the fog for me.

Today is my 32nd birthday. I've been in and out of "fibro fog" for almost a year now, chronic pain for 4 years now. I have had seasons of very...dense...fog. But for tonight, it's clear. So as Mark Twain put it, "It is sad to go to pieces like this, but we all have to do it." Thanks to my relationship with Jesus, though, I don't have to do it alone.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Day 1, Part 2 - Haiti Mission - Another Send Off

The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song. ~Psalm 28:7

It's been wonderful having my husband home the past 2 weeks. Though I prayed that God would make each minute seem like 100 minutes, time continues to pass regardless and alas I had to take my husband to the airport again this morning for the second leg of his work in Haiti. All of the materials have arrived at the camp in Haiti and I know that my husband will be enduring long, grueling 14+ hour days for the next six weeks. I pray for the Lord's protection, but not necessarily for safety. You see, I heard a sermon long ago speaking to the obedient Christians about how being a Christian was not "safe" and that we shouldn't pray for safety. Serving for the Lord, especially in an oppressed and persecuted country, will never be "safe". Therefore I pray for the Lord's protection for my husband in an unsafe, primitive country. And I pray that the Lord will meet him there and bless his work.

How quickly my focus changed from Christ to Chris the minute he got home. I now see how easily I can slip back into my old ways of completely submersing myself in my marriage and family. It's an idol issue. I've been slowly reading, well listening actually, to "The Hole In Our Gospel" by Richard Stearns and it references Matthew 19:20-21 ~ "All these I have kept," the young man said. "What do I still lack?" Jesus answered, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth. You see, there is something that all of us need to "give up". Perhaps it's not material possessions like the young man in Matthew, but there is something for all of us that is keeping us from being all that God intended for us to be. Something keeping us from the life that Jesus intended. What's standing in your way from being the person God wants you to be? Is it money? Is it food? Is it lust? For me, one of those things, if not THE thing, is my family, the relationships and how I interact with my family. I realized yesterday that I had completely shifted focus from my relationship with Jesus back to my marriage the minute Chris walked in the front door for his leave.

I know without a doubt that God has wonderful things in store for me. What are they? Don't know, but I do know that they're wonderful. Matthew 7:11 says ~ If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! I am refocused on changing myself....surrendering myself to be the person that Jesus has intended for me to be. It will require sacrifice, but I'm ready. I believe that I can have joy and have it abundantly as well as serve more passtionately, if I just let Jesus have his way with me.

I have come undone
But I have just begun
Changing by Your grace
~Francesca Battistelli, "Beautiful, Beautiful"