Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Day 3, Trip 3 - Haiti Mission - Brick House

The eight short days I was able to spend with my husband ended 2 days ago as he got on a plane bound for Haiti yet again for the third leg, and what I had hoped was the last trip of what has now turned into a long term mission building a camp to house missionaries in the village of Chambrun, Haiti. Though the last 2 days of his stay were probably the most stiff and most fatigued days I have had in months, which....'tis the season.

After a conversation I had with Chris last night I found myself literally plummetted into a HUGE valley of depression and despair and it completely caught me off guard. I have had many conversations with many friends and acquaintances talking about how I knew that Chris was doing what God had called him to do and how supportive I am of that. So how, you ask, did I get to the point of sobbing and weeping that I was at today only 2 days after he had left? A combination of things really, I suppose. I really believe that as much as I long to see my husband and have him physically present here for a time, it really is a huge adjustment when he returns and again when he leaves. More so this time after 8 weeks than the first time after only 3. The big issue was that Chris told me last night that his return date of November 14 may not be a permanent return date....that he may have to go back.....again.

When I look back on the past 3 months and the things I have done, have not done, have endured, have can I NOT be encouraged? God has been so faithful both in my sickness and in my heartache. He has given me the ability to communicate with my husband in a foreign country every night....EVERY NIGHT!!! Even 5 years ago, that probably wouldn't have been a possibility, but God is faithful in reminding me of the ways he is keeping me connected to Chris even while he's far away. God blessed me with 8 days, most of which included what I heard a Christian author once describe as "red-hot monogamy". But more than that to kiss him every morning and cuddle up with him every night. Some people would say "it was only 8 days," but let me assure you, my friends, it was 8 of the best days of my life after having him gone for 8 weeks.

So, what was today all about?

I've said it once, I'll say it again.....fear. Fear of the "what if's" and the "could be's". I spoke with a couple of good friends today, one who reminded me that our mind is the hardest thing to battle and the other reminding me that battles of the flesh are much more common that spiritual ones, though I'm not discounting the possibility of the enemy attacking me in this area. I am quite aware that having a husband on the mission field and then stepping out in leadership in my own areas of ministry is more than an open door for attack, but almost an invitation for it. I have to laugh at myself because I think more than it actually being attack, it's the fear of being under attack that has me all in disarray. The "what if" Chris comes under spiritual attack? A battle of the mind.

Secondly, selfishness...a battle of the flesh. I just want him home. It's that simple. My heartaches for him. I love him and I'm ready to have my family back together. In the past week or so, I have heard a couple of people compare me to an army wife. My answer to that has been (I didn't say it today, but I thought it,) that I am an army wife, my husband is serving in God's army. When God says go, you go and God will let you know when your tour of duty is over.

Thirdly, my wonderful husband brought this all into perspective for me. I was telling him about the day as I want to make sure I'm communicating effectively and we discussed the differences between my emotional responses now compared to my emotional responses 4 years ago when he first started taking short term mission trips. He does see that they're different, but he said to me (and he is SO right on this,) "When you hear something that isn't really what you want or expect to hear, you let your head run away with it and it just runs rampant." And that, in a nutshell, was exactly what had happened today. I know it is, because it came on me so quickly and I couldn't shake it because I let it take over my thoughts.

So, what's with the corny title and The Commodores (seriously, I know you've been playing that video over and over just to listen to the song the entire time you're reading this, because I was listening to it over and over as I was writing)! Honestly, the song was just stuck in my head, but I started to think about it.

"She's a Brick....House...." "She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come." ~Proverbs 31:25

"She's mighty, mighty....." "She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks." ~Proverbs 31:17

So, that got me God just continuing to strengthen me for something? Obviously. But for something greater? Maybe. Stick with me on this thoughtprocess.....I started thinking about the story of the Three Little Pigs.

Trip 1 - The first little pig - I built my house of straw, which the enemy could easily "huff and puff and blow my house down." The first trip was easy. Chris had been gone for 2 week trips in the past, so 3 weeks really didn't phase me that much, especially with baseball season and the pool being open.

Trip 2 - The second little pig - I had a house built of sticks. Somewhat strengthened by the first trip, but still with many holes and times when the enemy did indeed "huff and puff and blow my house down," but I continued to rebuild....the same house of sticks....until....

Trip 3 - The third little pig - The Lord is helping me to build a house of bricks.....a Brick....House....(I know you just sang that....) A house that the wolf cannot blow down and a house that will be a strong and carefully built temple of the Holy Spirit. There are no "coincidences" with God. Everything happens according to his will. It's no coincidence that trip 3 coincides with the start up of my Hopekeepers Jeremiah 33:6 small group for women dealing with chronic pain. Nor is it a coincidence that trip 3 coincides with the new therapy I'm undergoing for the treatment of my pain. NOR is it a coincidence that trip 3 is starting at the same time I'm eliminating gluten from my diet in order to make some life changes and control my inflammation. The Lord is not just building a spiritual and emotional brick house. The Lord could very well be building a physical brick house in me as well. A temple to withstand any wolf that dares to huff and puff outside my door. I can't think of anything better to welcome my husband home than to have a wife with the strength of a brick house. I'm on fire for the Lord to strengthen me.

Tonight, Chris told me that he has a team of 4 working with him starting next week. Not from his group, but the local ministry, Nehemiah Vision Ministries, will be working with him to help with the project and then October 10 there may be a team coming to help complete the project from Vineyard Mercy Response, the group that he is part of. After all, God is God, and if anybody is going to get the camp completed by the end of November it's going to be God, right? "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." ~Matthew 6:34 Perhaps I should worry about him going back again when we know for sure that he has to go back again.

So, with the emotional meltdown out of the way, I can get back to work....laying one brick at a time.

She's a Brick.....House.......

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Day 49, Part 2 - Haiti Mission - Conditional love no more

Restless in bed and sleepless through the night, I longed for my lover.
I wanted him desperately. His absence was painful.
So I got up, went out and roved the city,
hunting through streets and down alleys.
I wanted my lover in the worst way!
I looked high and low, and didn't find him.
And then the night watchmen found me
as they patrolled the darkened city.
"Have you seen my dear lost love?" I asked.
No sooner had I left them than I found him,
found my dear lost love.
I threw my arms around him and held him tight,
wouldn't let him go until I had him home again,
safe at home beside the fire.
~ Song of Solomon 3:1-4 (The Message)

After a tiring, yet extremely positive day yesterday I seem to have had an emotional breakdown brought on by my own insecurity. These used to happen often, but have become fewer and farther between in the past 3 years or so. However, last night was a breakdown so intense that I thought I may get sick or hyperventilate. A panic attack of an extreme level, which I have rarely experienced, so the event was scary on a number of levels. The worst part? I took it out on my husband.

Now, my husband is no stranger to this kind of reaction from me as he's dealt with it numerous times in the past, but over the past 7 weeks, I thought I had reached a level of safety and security in our marriage. Apparently, I still have holes in that armor of security that the enemy is able to squeeze in at times and shatter my emotions, my trust, and completely twist and tangle the truth. Last night was one of those times.

The pastor of my old church used to say, "When you're walking with God the way you should be, Satan will jump on you with 2 feet." I have found this to be extremely true and know for a fact that I had let my guard down last night. 1 Peter 5:8 reminds us "Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour." Not that this isn't something I should be doing all the time, but I know from experience that when I'm feeling confident that I'm doing what the Lord wants me to do that I need to be particularly watchful of my own feelings and emotions, because I have a sneaking suspiscion that this is where Satan has his sights set on me. On top of that, when my pain level is considerably increased, I have a tendency to let my emotions direct my thoughts, which can lead to a pretty destructive circle of doubt and despair.

Tonight, in my quiet time with the Lord, He asked me "What would it look like if He demanded I show my love for Him the way I demand that Chris show his love for me?"

Wow. And as I burst into tears, I got it. I saw myself from a different perspective......

If God demanded that I show how much I love him often and in specific terms, I would fall short. "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" ~Romans 3:23 I could never meet the demands of my Lord, for his ways are greater than my ways. So, who am I to demand that Chris show his love for me in any specific way? Who am I to demand that Chris show me his love at all? God tells me to love unconditionally. Not, love....but only if, etc. Not only am I to love without strings, but also I have no right to put myself on a pedestal where I believe I can demand the way a person expresses their love for me. I don't have the right to make love "conditional".

So, I now, too have a love unconditionally, beginning with my husband. I know that God is faithful and that with prayer and petition, that this area of bondage will begin to disappear. I used to think that I already loved Chris unconditionally, but I haven't. I was demanding to feel love back from him, and I shouldn't. If he could no longer speak, would I love him any less because he couldn't say the things I thought I needed to hear? If he were to become paralyzed, would I love him any less because he couldn't touch me or hug me when I thought I needed to be comforted? If he no longer had the strength he has now, would I love him any less because he couldn't help me in the areas that I needed a servant? No, no, and no. I would still love him, because of his heart and his love for the Lord. I love the man that God created him to be.

I no longer want to burden him with emotional responses, I want to love him. I no longer want to cry that I'm not loved, I want to love. I no longer want to worry, but rather surrender my emotional responses to the authority of Christ and let His peace wash over me in every situation. With Chris coming home in less than 48 hours (YES!) I will not let the enemy get in between my husband and I and overshadow my love. Tonight, I'm making the decision to begin loving without demand and giving my love freely. I am making the decision to start treating my husband like the gift from God that he is to me. I won't be perfect at it, but I will be persistent at redevoting myself to the process of breaking the ties that bind me. As it says in Songs of Solomon 3:4 "when I found the one my heart loves, I held him and would not let him go". I have 8 days to hold on to my husband until he returns to Haiti to complete his mission/project.

In those 8 days, I will love him unconditionally. I will love him unconditionally beginning today.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Day 47, Part 2 - Haiti Mission - Nothing to fear but fear itself.....

“Lord, You establish peace for us; all that we have accomplished you have done for us,”~Isaiah 26:12

For quite a few mornings now, my alarm has gone off and I have reset it for another 20 minutes, 30 minutes, 40 minutes. I've never really gone back to sleep after I have reset it, I just lay there not wanting to get up. It's starting to get cooler at night and the mornings are pretty chilly in Ohio now sometimes, so moving to get out of bed can be somewhat tricky when your joints don't want to go. This used to be my favorite time of year. Well, techinically it still is. I love football season, cool nights by a campfire, fall festivals and the food that comes with them. My first painful symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis began in September, and each September since the beginning, the change of weather here in Ohio brings a change in my disease for the season. Harder to manage. Harder to get going, well and sometimes to keep going.

With my husband still in Haiti (only for 5 more days until he gets a break...but he will return to Haiti after a week at home), I'm finding that the idea of going through the fall season is scarier to me than it has been in the past few years. For the first time since the onset of chronic pain, I'm faced with having to endure the season change by myself, and I'm unsure how that's going to look. The past 47 days while Chris has been gone have had considerable ups and downs, but I can honestly say that I've been okay. God's faithfulness has been remarkable, awesome, undeniably wonderful. However, fear....even a little bit, can cause every bit of my security and confidence to be violently shaken. So, it begs to answer a bigger question.....What are you afraid of?

Can you hear me okay? It's hard to talk with a mouth full of the pride I so desperately need to swallow......My fears are silly. That's what Jesus is telling me, to stop fearing these silly things. As I was writing this I agree, they're silly, even dare I say, stupid. But I don't think I'm alone in some of these. I'll let you be the judge. Here are my fears for the fall change of season and going through it alone:

1.) Judgement and endless criticism from my mother. This is a biggie. I have this belief that I cannot let my mother know when I'm having trouble managing my disease. My mother has had diabetes for over 50 years and I think she believes that I should be able to struggle through just like she has struggled through. Which, on a side note, there are HUGE differences in the life I have vs. the life she had when we were little. Anyway, long story short, there's a big difference in diseases and circumstances, but I can't find a way to tell her that in love, so I choose to not talk about it. Secondly, she has been extremely UNsupportive of Chris being gone from the get-go. I strongly believe that my mother thinks my husband has abandoned his poor, sick, partially disabled wife to go galavanting around a foreign country with no concern for how it affects his family. Again, not true. The distance is just as hard, if not harder at times, for Chris. He doesn't like being away from his family, but he's an obedient Christian man, who is doing what God has called him to do no matter the sacrifice. It makes my heart leap with joy that I have a husband like Chris. His heart for service is one of the many reasons I married him, and I wouldn't change a thing. So, to this I say "The Lord is for me, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?" ~Psalm 118:6 or in other words, "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." The issues with my mother is an area of bondage that has needed my attention for a long time, and I trust that the Lord will continue to force me out of my comfort zone of silence and into a new comfort zone of using His word to fight the attacks of the enemy.

2.) Financial burden. Next week I start the Fibromyalgia Program that my doctor offers at his office. It includes one-on-one therapy with a physical therapist and nutritionist to help me find ways to better manage my disease. I am SUPER excited to be starting it, but for 8-10 weeks I will be on a reduced work schedule, which is going to take a chunk out of my paycheck. There is also the concern that Chris has been in the mission field for far longer than we had anticipated and his job security back here in the states may be at risk, which would leave us without any income from him. (Flashback to my mother's lack of support -- What's Chris going to do about his job? Is he going to work when he comes back for break? etc, etc, etc) Phillipians 4:19 (NLT) says "And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus." Though I have moments of "fretting" over money, I have found that there is a significant amount of peace I am experiencing in surrending this area to the authority of God. I know he will provide, he has shown me over and over that he will take care of everything I need. I may not always get what I want, but I will always have all I need if we're being obedient to what God asks of us.

3.) Being a burden. This is another pride issue. I don't ask for help. I don't like the idea of being an inconvenience to others, even my husband when he is home. At 32, I think I should be able to carry my own laundry baskets and move my own furniture. I should be able to clean my house from top to bottom in one day after I've stripped all the beds and folded all the laundry. At 32, I should not have to pace myself to take care of my home. WRONG. With each passing day, week, month, I'm finding that moderation is very key, and with the weather changing, moderation may not even help. So I've taken the first step in swallowing my pride on this issue by sending an email to my most supportive friends. Those that I consider family. I've asked them to email me and let me know what day during the week they have available to help me out. That way, I know who I can call on what days of the week. I like to think that this will make me more likely to ask for help, but I can't guarantee it. Ecclesiastes 4:10 says "If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!" I am blessed to have wonderful friends. Graciously willing to give of their time and energy to physically help when I call on them. Lovingly listening to my emotions when the days come that the pain and fatigue is too much for me to bear. Most importantly, faithfully lifting me in prayer for strength and healing consistently. I know that these same friends are praying for me regularly. They desperately want to see me healed as much as I pray for healing. On days that I am so weary and so unfocused that it's hard to even pray or turn to His word, these people are interceding for me. What a blessing!! "My intercessor is my friend as my eyes pour out tears to God" ~Job 16.20

But much as I'd love to take credit for being strong and independent through this whole process, Isaiah 26:12 has reminded me that I do nothing for myself, but God makes all things possible through me,“Lord, You establish peace for us; all that we have accomplished you have done for us.” I am continuing to learn what it means to fully surrender to the authority of Christ and loving the peace that comes along with it. The best part is that I think the best is yet to come. My time with Jesus has become more regular and I can sometimes even feel Him working in me and through me. It's been amazing.....and I am lucky enough to have more undivided attention to give just to Jesus. I can't wait to continue this phase of growth and this season of my life. As awful and heart-wrenching it has been some days to be without my wonderful husband, I have been rewarded so fully in my spiritual and emotional growth that I am hungry for more.

The fear is nothing. I'm already past it. I have extra time with my Lord and He outweighs anything else that may have been weighing on my heart.