Tag Archive | grace

If I am accepted by God, why can’t I accept myself?

Most of us have been involved in some sort of personality test. You know the type that asks “what are your strengths, what are your best attributes”? I venture to say most of us can list our weaknesses, brain and body defects quicker than we can list our strengths and best features. Personally, I struggle with this type of comparison issues. I don’t think I mean to make it a competition. Our culture is self-focused on who makes the most money, drives the most expensive cars, has the best fashion in their closet, is the fittest or has the best hair style. Our eyes see what appears perfect in the movies, on television, YouTube, and social media. What is not shown, is how long and what steps it took to present this illusion. I believe it is illusion. Anyone can put on a happy face for a few minutes and let the professional airbrush the photo. Let’s pull off the mask and see what’s underneath.

I’m going down deep to the root of myself. What is the source of my perfectionism? Is my insecurity based in fear? Fear of rejection? Fear of failure? Fear of success? Fear of hurt and pain? Fear of being vulnerable? Fear is not of God. I must rebuke fear and embrace grace!

2 Timothy 1:7 (TPT) For God will never give you a spirit of fear, but the Holy Spirit who gives you mighty power, love and self-control.

I long to be accepted, to belong to the group. The group can be at church, school, work, the gym, the neighborhood. Somehow I am always disappointed within a group. People will ALWAYS disappoint us. Humans are imperfect. Jesus will not disappoint. He is perfect love. We were created to crave a relationship with God, Abba.

2 Corinthians 5:21 (NASB) He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

Often, I feel inadequate for life! This fact may surprise some of you. Others will know it to be true because they feel the same way. In fact, I speculate more can relate to it than cannot relate.  I am my worst critic. Of everything! Jesus still loves and accepts me! Sometimes I need to ask myself, “what is the worst thing that could happen because I burned dinner or was late to an appointment?” 

Abba never meant for humans to live alone. We are to be community.  Safe. Supportive. So many times in life I have failed. I have eaten too many cookies, burned dinner, or opened my mouth when I should have kept it shut. Is there a voice in your head saying “me too!”? Isolation increases darkness. When I think no one else could possibly have ever felt this way, it is a lie.  Darkness cannot stand exposure. I am not alone.  YOU are not alone! WE are not alone!

Roman 8:1 (NASB) Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Here’s the kicker: God accepts me (and you) and I (we) belong to His Kingdom. When I am rooted in Jesus, the others fall away. Jesus meets us where we are, without a mask. On earth, there is evil and will be until Jesus’ return. We are in between the first garden and the last garden.

The takeaway: JESUS is the firm foundation for life. The Bible is the manual. When we seek Him first, our hearts have communion with Him. I won’t be perfect this side of heaven and I don’t need to be perfect. God uses my imperfections for His glory.  On Christ the solid rock I stand all other ground is sinking sand.

1 Corinthians 15:58 (NIV) Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you.

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“What has happened to me?”

The fog in my head starts clearing. My husband and daughters are constantly with me. My brother, his wife and my sister are nearby. My BFF and her husband have been at the hospital too. I struggle with their names sometimes. Thank God that is temporary! I start asking B questions: Me: “Where were we vacationing?” B: “We weren’t vacationing together. You started out at your sister’s.” Me: “That’s right. Then I went to BFF J’s and on to Yosemite.” Some details are still jumbled. Slowly, I remember hiking with K and N; stopping to rest before the summit; deciding to turn back down-trail. Why won’t they let me drink anything? The realization that 3 days have passed and I don’t have any memories of them strikes me, befuddles me.

This is what I have been told:

I hiked 2 miles down-trail (from 7300 ft. to 6100 ft.) without getting lost or falling! Along the way, I became quite nauseous and began vomiting. I was texting with K and B. I even had cell service to call them! Cell service is spotty at best in Yosemite. When K and N caught up to me, K asked if he should get help and I told him yes. First, he tried to use his phone to dial 911. It didn’t have reception. Then, he used my phone and it worked! God is watching over us! I told K my passcode and how to access my health app in my smart phone. It has my medical information (and can be accessed from a locked screen-BE SURE TO PUT YOUR INFO IN YOUR PHONE!).

The Yosemite Search and Rescue Team, including an EMT and canine team, were returning from searching for another hiker and happened to be less than 30 minutes away from us. The average response time is between 3 and 4 HOURS! Again, God is taking care of the situation! During their assessment, I was able to answer their questions correctly. (I do not remember any of this!) Initial diagnosis: High Altitude Sickness. The EMT asked that a Paramedic be sent up to help. The plan was to give me anti-altitude sickness medication (I didn’t know there was such a thing.), spend the night on the mountain, and get me feeling well enough to hike down the rest of the way. The Rescue Team told K and N to hike back to the valley. They didn’t want 3 people to rescue.

The Paramedic arrived with more equipment. After his assessment, he called the Doctor at the Yosemite Clinic. The Doctor thinks that I am dehydrated and have hypothermia. IV treatment of fluids begins. Sometime after that, I began quickly deteriorating. I started counting in German and I was confused. I don’t speak German, but I can count to 3 in German. Further assessment: she’s deteriorating rapidly and it is critical to get her to a hospital for treatment. The Rescue Team had to request a special one-wheeled litter to take me down the mountain.

The Doctor and Medical Staff didn’t really understand why I was getting worse. The litter team was about half-way to me when it occurred to the Doctor that I could have hyponatremia – all the electrolyte levels bottomed out. Treatment is hypertonic solution given by IV. He sends a Rescue Team member with a bag to catch the litter. These guys are the fastest hikers on the planet!

I don’t’ know how long it took to get the litter to our location. It was about 2 a.m. (PDT) when we got to the valley floor where an ambulance was waiting. After one IV bag of hypertonic solution, I was still getting worse. The ambulance had an analyzer that could confirm the diagnosis, but the system failed to analyze two samples. Decision was made to give me a second hypertonic bag. It was a 30 minute ambulance ride to the helipad. In the ambulance, my lungs were checked: oxygen levels below normal, crackling sounds in lower lungs, labored breathing, fluid in the lungs. At the helipad, the Life Flight crew decided to intubate me prior to loading me onto the helicopter. Once in the helicopter, there would not be sufficient space to perform the procedure especially on a choppy flight. I aspirated. As I hear the story, I begin understanding the seriousness of my situation.

By the time we reach Doctors Medical Center, I was exhibiting evidence of more fluid in my lungs. I had pulmonary and cerebral edema; after 2 bags of hypertonic sodium count was 120 – normal range 136-145; potassium depleted; water intoxication; high altitude sickness. No wonder there were 7 IV’s with 9 bags pumping me full of medication! My body needed time to recover and I was put into a medically induced coma. That was early Thursday, September 17, 2015.

Now, it’s Saturday, September 19, 2015. I am beginning to comprehend my predicament. Thankfully, my restraints are gone. My arms look like someone’s punching bag with tubes connecting to IV’s. I’m being poked and prodded every few hours whether I need it or not. The oxygen mask is bothering my nose. I keep moving it. The nurse decides that is OK as long as it stays near my nose. Later, another nurse will change it to the candela, which is not much more comfortable! Someone on the medical staff tells me that I seem very calm about the circumstances. God gave me peace throughout the experience.

The Respiratory Therapist visits. She wants to check my swallow. Why? I’ve been swallowing for many years. I don’t understand. She knows that cerebral edema can cause multiple issues with normal things like swallowing, talking, memory and thinking, walking, eating, etc and that after intubation I might have trouble swallowing. She brings a cup with ice chips and a spoon. Of course, I am not allowed to do it myself – probably a good thing considering I drank too much water! The ice is cold and wet on my tongue, truly wonderful. I swallow and begin coughing. She pulls the cup back and says “That’s all for now.” My brain is screaming “NO, I want a drink!” Instead, I just say “Kill joy.” My family chuckles and is SO relieved to hear this because it means my personality is still intact! Later, we try again and I am allowed to have “thick” liquids. Isn’t that an oxymoron?

The Physical Therapist arrives to see if I have balance and strength to stand. She puts a leather belt around my waist. It’s a multi-function belt: it keeps the gown closed – THANK YOU! – and gives her a hand-hold to steady me. On Sunday, they bring a wheel chair. With B by my side, I push it to the elevator; go down and out to the patio. It’s the first time I’ve been outside. It was a lot of work. My body was weak and my vision blurred, distorted. Another hurdle, I am walking with assistance! I’m given a walker.

I leave NCCU and head for an inpatient wing. WHOOT! I’m moving up in the world! Maybe, I can blow this popsicle stand soon. Just a few more hurdles: swallowing and eating, walking without assistance, etc. I am motivated to go home at this point.

My daughter sits with me. I run my fingers through my hair over and over. She asks, several times, if I have a headache. Headache is common with cerebral edema. I tell her that I don’t have a headache. But I still run my fingers through my hair…more later.

My swallow is improving and my walk getting steadier. Monday the Physical Therapist has me walking with wing without assistance! I still need someone near when I get out of bed for any reason. Hallelujah! I get to shower!!! After a sweaty hike and 5 days at the hospital, you can imagine how I feel about a shower.

Shower finished. I’m given comb and brush. That’s when I look in a mirror and realize my bangs have been CHOPPED, not just cut. Now I understand why I kept messing with my hair. I knew it didn’t feel right. Apparently, I had been taped to a back board for stability. When they went to remove the tape, about 4” of my bangs were cut with the tape. Ever had 1/2″ bangs? It looked like a bad mullet gone horribly wrong!

What’s this? I get real food to eat? YES!! No more thickened juice! Can I go home yet? I’m told most patients would need a stay at a rehabilitation hospital, before going home. What will this mean for me? I’m in California, but I live in Texas. My husband has stayed by my side each night. He can’t have me in CA for weeks and work in TX. Thankfully, God has this too. I am discharged Tuesday and approved to fly home Wednesday. No rehab stay and no long-term medication!

Our Primary Care Physician checks me out. Lungs are clearing and I’m gaining strength. My vision should clear in a few weeks, but it doesn’t. I had hemorrhaging behind both eyes. The left eye has not healed, but should be healed by the end of January. Currently, I am back to my workout routines and my vision is greatly improved. My healing has been nothing short of miraculous!

Maybe you’re thinking this is a horrible story. Well, it isn’t. It is a story of how God orchestrated each segment for good. I believe it was Jesus carrying me the 2 miles down trail and responding to the Rescue Team. The Search and Rescue Team including the EMT being so close to my location is another piece of the miracle. Those in my family, who didn’t/don’t believe in miracles, witnessed one! If you still don’t believe, I will believe for you! While all the chaos was going on in California, our neighbors, friends, and church connected. Most didn’t know each other prior to my illness. They gathered together in our driveway to pray for me, B and our family. They activated pray circles at many churches. One e-mail became forwarded to others who then sent a person to visit with us at the hospital! People we didn’t know praying for us! We have counted over 50 different churches praying for us – that’s just the ones we know of first hand!! These wonderful friends organized 2 weeks of meals for us! We were welcomed home with a poster signed by those attending the prayer vigil. What a blessing to know these wonderful people!

I had asked God to show me His goodness in this world. Be careful what you ask of God!! I would not have chosen this path, but God is using it to reach out to others, to bring together community and family, to share His love and goodness in this world.

Our God’s not dead! He is very much alive!

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

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The Earth Shifts…

As stated earlier, this is really OUR story. So, without further adieu, B’s experience as told to me. I should note that he recorded the facts in journal form. I “interviewed” him for a look at the emotional side of the events.

It’s hike day for L. Wednesday, September 16th, mid-morning (CDT), I sent her a text to which she replied “1.5 hours in” with pic of her smiling face with sunglasses. At 1:27 p.m. (CDT), L calls. She is crying, saying she wasn’t going to make it to the summit. I asked her why. Her reply was that she was dizzy. We talked for a little while. I told her that it was a good decision to stop than to risk a more serious issue at a higher elevation. L had told K and N to keep going. At the end of the call, I asked if she was OK. She told me that she was fine. Her voice was good and her tone gave no cause for concern.

Six hours later, things had changed. I received a text from L: “FYI little hiccup, I have altitude problem. Getting help down.” Me: “are you OK?” L: “Mah. May be spending the night in the park. I love you. I will be. K may call you.” I told her to call me when she knew if they were staying in the park overnight. Soon thereafter, L called. She said that they were going to take her down the mountain. She didn’t sound right. She cut the call off short. Now, I am concerned. About 20 minutes later, I call K. He told me that the Search and Rescue Team was with her. They had sent K and N down trail, citing that it was better to have only one needing rescue than three. He told me he would call when he heard any news. I’m praying for the best. The waiting is difficult.

Two hours later (9:26 p.m. CDT), I text: “How are you Babe?” with no response. Thinking her issues were due to high altitude, my expectation was that she would recover quickly once she was at lower altitude. At 11:22 p.m. (CDT), still no news from L. K called. He had spoken to the Search and Rescue Team. He told me to call L’s cell. The rescuers had it and were waiting for me to call. Of course, I did just that. 11:24 p.m. I spoke to a paramedic. He explained that L was deteriorating and they needed to get her to a hospital expeditiously. There was also an EMT with the team, and they were in communication with the park doctors via satellite telephone. This was reassuring to me. They were waiting for a special stretcher to carry L down the mountain. She had been with the rescuers 5 hours at this point. It seemed to take way too long to get her off the mountain. Concern turns to worry and a feeling of helplessness; more prayers.

Although it was late in Houston, I decided to text my boss. I told him that L was having trouble and that I wouldn’t be at work in the morning – just in case I needed to go to California.

Time goes by excruciatingly slowly when waiting for news from over 1800 miles away! My sleep was fitful at best.

Thursday, September 17th: I awoke early. By 6:30 a.m. (CDT), I was beyond frustrated with the lack of information. It was only 4:30 a.m. in California. By 8:30 a.m. (CDT), still no news. I was anxious to hear something; do something. It was still early in California, but I couldn’t wait any longer. I called K. He had not heard from anyone either. K had called L’s cell phone, but no answer. K was going to track-down L, but it was only 6:30 a.m. (PDT) and the park offices wouldn’t open until 9:00 a.m.

My mind is racing with thoughts: “Should I jump on a plane?” “What should I do next?” “Why can’t I get answers?” I tried to keep positive, expecting L to call and say that she had a long day with a tough night but she was feeling better. This was not going to happen.

I would find out later that the charge nurse in Neuro Critical Care Unit (NCCU) saw the cell battery was low and decided to charge L’s phone. She noticed the missed call from K. She called him and he requested that she call me. Around 10:07 a.m. (CDT), the charge nurse called me. L was in NCCU at a trauma center hospital in Modesto, CA. L was in critical condition, on a ventilator and in a medically induced coma. I felt as if I’d been kicked in the stomach. I was stunned. My world changed in an instant. She gave me time to digest the information. It was difficult to process what this meant. The charge nurse told me of 3 airports that were each about an hour and a half drive from the hospital. She gave me her name, L’ nurse’s name, and the direct number to the NCCU Nurse Station to call (Of course, I couldn’t find pen and paper anywhere!) if I needed anything or wanted to check on L’s condition. She would call back if anything changed. I walked circles in the kitchen, mind spinning, unfocused.

Finally, I pulled it together. I had to book my flight, get a car, pack. I had to call our (adult) daughters. They both wanted to go to their mother’s side. I felt badly that I couldn’t work on coordinating all our flights. I HAD to get to L! So they worked it out together. I am very grateful to them.

Our neighbor Mrs. P had been calling to see how everything was going since she hadn’t seen an update on L’s Facebook page. I returned her call at 10:21 a.m. (CDT) and told her what was going on with L. She asked what I needed. I told her someone to take care of our dogs. She started spreading the news with the other neighbors. Thank God for good neighbors! A short time later, Mrs. D was at the front door to tell me she was taking me to the airport. I was shaking from the entire situation. Mrs. D saw that I had a large suitcase by the door. L had my carry-on and I, being in a frenetic hurry, couldn’t find the other one. She went home and brought back a carry-on bag, and repacked for me. No checking baggage!

Our long-time friend called to check on the situation and ask if I needed anything. He is from Bakersfield, CA. I asked him if he knew how to get from San Francisco to Modesto. He didn’t. So, I had him get directions and e-mail them to me. Having the directions when I got there was an invaluable help! I was 45 minutes into the drive when I realized it was the same route to get to our San Ramon headquarters, at least partway.

Mrs. D took me to the airport. The timing was excellent. When I got to the gate, I went to the counter and explained my situation. I inquired if I could board early to avoid having to gate check my bag. The agent put me in boarding Group 1 (thank you!). While I was waiting, I called the hospital to check in with the nurse. I didn’t know then, just how careful the nurse was with her information. Later, she explained that she couldn’t tell me that L would recover, because she didn’t know.

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The aircraft boarding finally started. It was about half full, when a ONE HOUR weather delay was announced! This was very tough to hear. Everyone had to deplane. My patience was being tested. Remarkably, I remained calm. As I was about to sit down back in the airport terminal, there was another announcement regarding my flight. I didn’t hear it. I asked several people around me what the announcement had said. I must have seemed anxious. One of them asked if I was concerned about missing a connecting flight. I told them no and gave them the 411 on my situation. At last, passengers re-board and the aircraft was on the way to San Francisco. While taxiing out to the runway, I replay everything: “Did I pack all that I need?” “Have I missed any details?” “Have I called everyone I need to call?” I realized that I had not called L’s boss to let them know the situation. As the plane taxied, I send my boss a text asking him to notify them.

The flight was unbearably long. To keep from going insane, I played chess, read a book or just listened to music. Thank God for my iPad! I couldn’t focus on any one thing for long. Finally, on approach to SFO! My emotions had welled up and were about to make an outward appearance. Reality has hit and I feel like I’m losing it. As the flight taxied, a young woman behind me handed me a note. It was very sweet. She had overheard the conversation in the terminal. She wrote: “Have a safe journey. Please be careful on the road…I will keep you, your wife and family in my prayers…” It was signed with her name. She was an off-duty United flight attendant. We deplaned. The terminal was under construction. I wasn’t sure which way to go. The same flight attendant saw my confusion. She pointed me in the right direction. I hope to say “thank you” to her one day.

Off to get a rental car and get on the road. It was 4:22 p.m. (PDT) when I, at long last, was on the freeway and heading to the hospital – normally one and a half hours away. But 4:22 p.m. is full on rush – hour traffic. The stop and go traffic was maddening. It felt like I was being tested again. I remained calm, realizing that an accident would delay me even more. A full three hours later, I arrived at the hospital. It had been just under 12 hours since receiving the call from the nurse.

Neuro Critical Care (NCCU) waiting room: The first people I saw were L’s BFF J and husband; K and his wife J. I just needed to get to L NOW!! BFF J took me into NCCU. It was very difficult to see L this way: intubated, breathing machine, many IV tubes, restrained. I was scared, terrified by the recurring thought that I could be looking at life without her; not knowing what she would want if that happened.

About 4 hours later, our daughters (and one terrific boyfriend) arrived at the hospital. Their arrival brought me both relief and pain as we shared the shocking reality. After they spent time with L, we went to check-in at the same hotel as K. Once they were settled, I went back to the hospital. I spent the night with L, my head on the bed next to her legs.

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“I’m where?”

So, back to Yosemite. I’m sitting on a rock resting, contemplating what my next step will be. It felt good to sit down. I decided to change my socks for the hike down trail. After about 30 minutes, I was feeling a little better. I text K to tell him that I would start down trail. That is the last thing I remember: Wednesday, September 16, 2015 around noon (California time). I woke up with a white-coated doctor asking me “Do you know where you are?” I knew I was in a hospital, but not the city or state. That was sometime on Saturday, September 19, 2015. My room was full of familiar faces: B and my kids; K and J, and my sister R just outside the door. I was quite confused and couldn’t remember everyone’s name. My hands were restrained to keep me from pulling out the various IV’s in my arms (and the intubation tubing when it was in). Apparently, I had been combative while in my medically induced coma. As I became more lucid, the doctor asked more questions: Doctor: “Do you remember what happened?” Me: “No.” Doctor: “what year is it?” Me: “2001”. Doctor: “Do you know who this is?” Me: “I know I should know the name, but I can’t remember it.” B had to fill in some of the gaps for me. Since he was right there with me, I thought we had been vacationing together. He explained that I was vacationing without him, and I began to remember seeing my sister R and BFF J before going to Yosemite. I asked him, “Am I really this sick?” He said, “Yes.” I could tell he was thanking God I was alive, awake and speaking. I looked down at my bound arms. I think there were 5 IV’s in my arms at that point. (I was told there were 7 IV’s with 9 bags of drugs when I arrived at the ER.) Both my arms were bruised from shoulder to wrist. Not little bump bruises, but deep “that’s gotta hurt” colorful bruises. No wonder I wanted to yank out the IV’s! I promised not to pull out the tubes, and my daughter told the nurse that the family would keep me calm. The nurse removed the restraints. I was still unsure of how I got to the hospital, why I needed to be in the Neuro Critical Care Unit, or why I couldn’t have anything to drink. I had many questions swarming my brain, but my body wanted to sleep.

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Houston, She Has a Problem!

 

We interrupt this story to bring you a little perspective from the man who loves me.
B is my constant support in life. Even when he thinks the idea is a little “out there”, he stands with me. It is only fitting to include him in my story – which really is OUR story.
When we first discussed the possibility of me hiking Half Dome, B was clear he wasn’t into that kind of adventure. He enjoys the outdoors and the mountains, especially sitting out with a mocha along a creek. (I think he’d rather jump out of an airplane than hike up a mountain!) He supported my desire to hike in Yosemite. Decision made. I’m going!
B encouraged me to research and get “whatever I need” for the trip. After researching equipment options, he strongly urged me to get the hiking boots first to break-in before the trip. Hiking pants, hydration type backpack, socks, rain jacket, hiking poles, hat and gloves filled the list. Considering neither one of us likes to shop, we hoped to get it done in one trip. We went to an outdoorsy type store to hit the list head-on. We found most items on the list in one store. The other items could be borrowed or purchased on the Internet.
B tells me “you turned into a training animal”! He wouldn’t even try to keep up with me. He saw I was preparing physically, nutritionally, and mentally. He had absolute confidence in my ability. He told me that this was a great trip to do with my brother K. As the date grew near, he was excited with me.
Saturday he took me to the airport and we said our “good-byes”. He didn’t know that I had hidden sticky notes and cards for him in various places and with a couple of neighbors. He would get a hand-written message from me nearly everyday while I was gone. With the last one to be delivered Thursday, September 17th. It said “see you soon”. Thankfully, he didn’t get that one until later.
We spoke each day leading up to that fateful Wednesday. We used FaceTime Monday evening; on Tuesday, we spoke briefly. I was already in Yosemite. I told him about the short hike I took, about the handful of deer that crossed the trail about 4′ in front of me, and about the rain catching me without my jacket.

 

Wednesday morning, he was on the way to his vanpool when we spoke briefly. He says that I sounded excited and happy.
During the morning, I sent texts and photos. When I called him, he told me I looked really happy in the photos. Since Texas is 2 hours ahead of California, his lunchtime came while it was mid-morning for the hike. He showed the photos to his coworkers, happy about my progress.

He told me “Right after lunch, things started going south.” That’s when he got my call, “I won’t make it to the top.” I was crying and greatly disappointed. I told him that I was dizzy and nauseous.  Thinking it was only altitude sickness, he felt I had made a good decision and I agreed. It was better to stop than to continue and have an injury result from continuing. Neither of us knew what would happen next…

 

The Hike of My Life!

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Fast forward 3.5 months…those of you following this blog may be thinking: “Did she fall off Half Dome?” “Did she break her hand and she can’t type?” or, like my gym fan club “She met her goal and is done working out.”

Thank God none of the above! I should start at the beginning…

After 3 months of training, I traveled to California. I met my brother K and his wife J, and N, my brother’s friend, in Mariposa, CA. I had been in Yosemite that day and hiked about an hour to see how I would feel. That altitude was around 4300 ft. I was feeling good about the whole trip.

We went to dinner and then off to bed early. In the morning, I posted “hike of my life today, prayers appreciated” on my Facebook page. I had no idea how prophetic that was. The weather forecast was great hiking weather – not too hot or cold, no rain. K, N and I left the hotel at 4:30 a.m. and drove the 1.5 hours to the parking lot near the trailhead. I parked my rental car. We did the obligatory last bathroom stop before donning our gear. It was around 6:10 a.m. when we started on our 18 mile (approx) round-trip hike. Off we went into the darkness, with our headlamps glowing. The temperature was cool enough for a light jacket, but it didn’t take long for my muscles to warm up.

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Early morning selfie

 

I told K and N that I would take my time, pace myself and take lots of photos.

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As the sun rose, it illuminated the mountains surrounding Yosemite Valley. (I took photos) Our backpacks had hydration packs and we drank as we trekked. We stopped about once an hour to snack. Overall, I was feeling great and enjoying the breath-taking beauty of God’s handiwork. N was in the lead, K in the middle, and I was the “caboose”. At one point, I heard K singing “It is Well with My Soul”. We used to sing together in church. So, I came in for the chorus echo. We harmonized well. It seemed we were singing for an audience of One! (Later, K told me that was his favorite part of the trip.)

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Hiking Half Dome is so popular, that the park has a lottery system set-up for the permits to hike the cable way – that is the last 400 vertical feet. It is common to see other hiking groups along the trail. There was one group of four that we passed, or vice versa, several times along the way. We would encourage each other and get going again.

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We had some fun pictures and laughing along the way.

Directional signs with mileage are posted at trail intersections. We came to the one that said “Half Dome 4.5 miles”. We were more than half-way to the summit! We can do it! We had been on the trail around 3 hours.

It must have started in the next hour or so. I began to feel dizzy, light-headed, out of breath. I attributed it to the altitude, slowed my pace, drank cold water, ate some trail mix and continued up the trail. Around 5.5 hours on the trail, just under 2 miles from the summit, I decided I needed to sit and rest for a while. I sent K and N on to the summit, telling them that I would rest and possibly start down-trail. This is when it gets interesting…

(stay tuned – more to follow)

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OH RATS!!

 

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Sometimes life provides insight in unexpected ways. Currently, we are working on evicting the “upstairs neighbors”, code for rodents living in the attic. This began a couple of years ago when we first discovered there were squatters in the attic. We hired a company to help. They put out poison and that’s about it. (Ideally, the rodents – this case rats – eat the poison, get thirsty, leave in search of water, and die outside somewhere.) Because the access points weren’t sealed, we have the same issue again. Now the treatment is to bait/catch the perpetrators and seal the openings. Anyone see where I’m going?

God wants my heart – ALL of it; NO SQUATTERS! When I let God into my heart, the current inhabitants must leave. Things like fear, doubt, bitterness, unforgiveness, hatred, etc. BUT, if I am not diligent in keeping God’s promises, His words and His fellowship in my life, the old inhabitants can easily creep back into my heart. I strive to seal the access points with prayer, fellowship, scripture, and worship. Matthew 12:43-45 comes to mind:

43 “When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. 44 Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. 45 Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation.”

 

Let us strive to keep God occupying our hearts.

 

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People Watching

Is it really innocent entertainment? Or is it me passing judgment?
It happens nearly everywhere I go: grocery store, airport, gym, coffee shop…
When I people watch, I find myself comparing how: HER body is solid, her face is flawless, her fashion flatters her, and her hair is perfect. Better than mine. Perfect, if only in my eyes at that moment. Herein lays the Perfection Trap. I want perfection: 30 pounds lighter with those flat, solid abs; hair that stays in the right place despite Houston humidity; white teeth. If I were perfect, my clothes would ALL fit (comfortably, that is), I wouldn’t be so self-conscious…seemingly perfect. I’m pretty sure I heard someone say “RIIIIIGHHHHT!” My brain knows that’s not how it works. But I judge myself harshly anyway. I have fallen into the media’s trap of the ideal, beautiful woman, again and again.
God has designed me the way I am. Yes, I can take care of the body I am given. But I don’t have to hit an extreme to keep it functioning well. The Perfection Trap goes around and around like my dog chasing his tail. Francesca Battistelli song states “perfection is my enemy” and it is true. How can I get rid of the world image stuck in my head and replace it with how God sees me? He specially formed me.
For You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. Psalm 138:13
Beauty from the inside out.
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Don’t be impressed by his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. God does not view things the way men do. People look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” I Samuel 16:7
 

Butterfly

 

Other times when I people watch, I find fault in the parents of misbehaving children. I call this the Parent Trap.                                                                                                               images

It’s easy for me to think, “My child would NEVER behave like that, especially in public.” Of course, those of you who know my children realize that they are PERFECT!! Again, I am hearing someone say “RIIIIIGHHHHT!” (My daughters are wonderful women, but not perfect.) Or the ever popular “I would NEVER let my child do that!” Somehow, I manage to judge myself better than those parents! Oh wait…am I the same woman who can’t measure up to worldly beauty? I am asking myself. How can I have such diametrically opposed reactions? I am far from a perfect parent. I have not walked in another parent’s shoes. I have no right to condemn them based on a 5 minute glimpse or the entire picture of their life. Yet I do! My flesh gets the best of me! Even Paul had this trouble:
“For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.” Romans 7:18-19
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Matthew 7:1-2

 
Father, I ask for Your vision for myself and for others. May I have Your eyes to see beyond what seems obvious. May I have Your grace for others and for myself. And, when needed, keep one hand on my shoulder and the other over my mouth!
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Boundless Mercy

urlAs the years roll by, I become more acutely aware of how much forgiveness God actually has poured out on me.   When I was a little girl and first learned to pray, I had a vague understanding of repentance.   When I was talking to God, I tried hard to think of what I might have done wrong so I could tell Him I was sorry (of course, bossing my two younger sisters around seemed only RIGHT, since I was older and knew what was better for them, so that never made the list of offenses in my mind!).  In fact, I was twelve before I remember having an overwhelming sense of failure and sinfulness.  By that time, I was mired in a deep sense of self-doubt and incipient self-hatred; I recall making a list one day of all my talents (which, from a child’s perspective, still seemed pretty extensive – ha!) and another list, side-by-side with the first enumeration, of my character flaws.   In my estimation, the few character flaws were SO pervasive and wicked that they FAR outweighed anything I could do well (which, by the way, was mostly limited to excelling in a long list of academic subjects).  Hopelessness and a profound sense of guilt entered my heart at this point, accompanied by a boatload of self-condemnation.

My sense of defilement continued to increase as I navigated the murky waters of college life.   I entered university at age sixteen and quickly grasped that the youth culture of those around me was immoral and misguided.   In spite of my academic success and best resolutions in the ethical standards department, I found myself affected by the “frog-in-the-pot” syndrome; when I paused at intervals to examine my heart, I realized I had compromised in some areas and was no better at heart than many of those around me.  How did I cope?   I continued to read my Bible and worked even more assiduously at performing well by worldly standards.   I enrolled in increasingly heavier course loads and even excelled in some graduate courses as a very young undergraduate student.   I finished a triple major in under four years and was catapulted, quite unprepared, into the working world, where I found I could no longer be a college student; I was forced to be a grown-up.   My self-loathing had not disappeared.   I loved God but had no clue how active He longed to be in my life.  I judged myself harshly; regardless of how many awards I had received or how high my grades had been in school, I found myself severely wanting in the righteousness department.  After over three years of pushing myself with campus activities, leadership in various organizations, and heavy course loads, all the while pretending to have a casual attitude about school to avoid being ridiculed by my peers, my health had also suffered.   A success on paper, I left university years behind; however, I also left school anorexic, bulimic, and hypothyroid.   Worse still, I despised myself and knew in my heart of hearts that no successful performance imaginable could erase the heaviness in my heart.

What was the root of my dilemma?   A blindness to the overwhelming power and magnitude of God’s mercy toward me.   Jesus said that the one who is forgiven much is the one who loves much (Luke 7:37).  What I had not understood was that all sin is sin, regardless of how minor it may appear.  The blackness of my heart was not my responsibility once I had given it to Jesus, who DOES forgive and wipe away that blackness of heart.   Somehow I had believed God’s Word but had been incapable of receiving it as truth for myself.   I had somehow become trapped in a paradoxical mindset that regarded myself as somehow better than others because I KNEW what was right, yet far worse than others because I was therefore more accountable to DO what was right and found myself utterly incapable of that perfection.   I thereby had exempted myself from receiving God’s forgiveness and mercy.   However, through all those years, Jesus never left me; He continued to tug at my heart, and as my desperation for deliverance from myself increased, He poured His love out on me and wrapped His arms around me, His broken child.  Ultimately, I found myself at His feet in complete despair.   He responded by speaking to me of His love.  What an incisive revelation it was to me that He really loves me more than I hated myself!   His mercy for me was unlimited; He loved me before He set me free of self-condemnation and the downward spiral of self-hatred.  He had loved me all those years as He watched me descend into the morass of hopelessness I had become.  Ultimately, He met me at the bottom of the pit I had dug for myself (with some assistance from the enemy!).

I am forever grateful to Jesus for pouring His mercy out on me.  I cannot thank Him enough for His acceptance, His goodness to me in spite of my faults, and His willingness and kindness to pick me up every time I stumble.   Now, years later, as I find myself involved in outreach to bring His love to those trapped in some form of slavery, I have great compassion — for I am no different.   I have a message of hope that no one can take away from me.   God’s love is UNFAILING, and His mercy and delivering power are, indeed, BOUNDLESS!  As Isaiah 55:7 states, God “will abundantly pardon.”  As the psalmist says, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has HE removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12).

“Who is a God like You, pardoning iniquity and passing over the transgression of the remnant of His heritage?  He does not retain His anger forever, because HE DELIGHTS IN MERCY.  He will again have compassion on us and will subdue our iniquities [good news, huh?].   You will cast all our sins INTO THE DEPTHS OF THE SEA (Micah 7: 18-19).

 

Supernatural Childbirth

Thirty-two years ago today, our first child was born, a son we called Matthew.  His name in Hebrew means gift from God, and that is exactly what he has been and still is to us.  Thirty-two years ago, natural childbirth was all the rage, to such a degree that a woman was nearly compelled to resist even the mildest form of medicinal assistance to prove herself faithful to everything natural and unmitigated.  Pain, we were told, was natural; gravity was natural.   As one who harbors instinctive but paranoia-level fears of all manner of pharmaceuticals, I was all too willing to join the ranks as a fast dévotée of natural childbirth. 

What I only barely understood, however, was the fact that childbirth is an innately supernatural experience.   In the wake of childbirth classes and discussions of back labor, breathing patterns, and pushing techniques, I was aware that, by all rights, I should never even have been able to conceive a child.   Somehow I knew that God, by His grace, had allowed me to get pregnant in spite of the abuse to which I had been subjecting my body.  My female cycle had been out of whack for quite some time, as I was both anorexic and bulimic.  The anorexia would have been evident to a discerning eye, but I had managed to keep the bulimia well-hidden.   My husband and I truly wanted children, and I had personally vowed to myself that I would curtail my secret cycles of binging and purging if God would only allow me to get pregnant.   Miraculously, I conceived.   Predictably, I found myself unable to stop the binges and subsequent episodes of self-induced vomiting.  

My sense of guilt and fear increased exponentially as the months of my pregnancy progressed toward the due date.   In spite of my efforts to remain a toothpick, my body relentlessly packed on the pounds.  The fear of being fat tormented me, yet the fear that I could be damaging my baby also began to haunt me.  I feared this child would be born missing one or more limbs, or mentally retarded due to malnutrition.  The nine months dragged on, and my emotions vacillated between excitement and dread.

Suddenly, one evening, little twinges of the first contractions began.  I knew that something different was happening and chose to focus on the anticipation of meeting our child.  In those days, ultrasound was in its infancy, and I had never heard of anyone having such a procedure.  We headed for the hospital with no knowledge of what lay in store, apart from what we had learned in our childbirth classes and the fact that I was determined to navigate the birth process with no IV and no medicinal aid. 

After a minor altercation with an old-fashioned nurse, I set about the breathing routines we had learned in our classes.   Mercifully and miraculously, everything went according to every description of the ideal birth we had ever read:  no IV was needed, and our firstborn son arrived with no medical intervention other than the doctor’s instruction to push at the proper moment.  To my relief and joy, Matthew had two arms and two legs and a beautiful, lusty cry upon being expelled into this strange world. 

A tidal wave of love and wonder engulfed me as I watched my husband cradle this new life in his arms.  I knew that I had done nothing to deserve this gift, and I was in awe that God had given us this beautiful, healthy baby boy.   God’s grace and goodness were so very evident.

Thirty-two years later, I am still in awe.  Since February 2, 1980, God has been busier in my life than I can express.  He is still laboring to birth new life (although not necessarily in baby form!) and work miracles in me.  Four more children were delivered to us, different from one another but equally amazing expressions of His love and grace to us.  Over the course of those childbirth years, Jesus set me free from the destructive bondage of those eating disorders and the snare of self-hate and rejection.  These many years later, He continues to shower undeserved mercy and grace on us.   As we have practiced parenting over three decades, God has used our children to expand our understanding of His love for us.  Each one is a breathtaking combination of qualities, quirks, and talents that God Himself put together completely on His own, without our direction.  We are amazed and delighted at the young adults they have become, in spite of our ignorance and inexperience in the art of parenting. 

Our children have been powerful examples of the fact that God loves us when we are least deserving of His mercy and kindness.   He has set His heart on us.   He made us for His glory, and He delights in us.   It is His good pleasure to give us the Kingdom (Luke 12:32) and to reveal Himself to us (I Corinthians 2:9-10).  What a grand process God initiated in our lives when “we decided” (ha!) to start a family.   How self-sufficient and full of import we thought we were in making that decision, when, in reality, it was all God’s doing!  He worked His purposes in us in this department in spite of the fact that we initially had little to no understanding of the role He intended to play in our lives, a role of glory, goodness, and redemption of the broken places in our hearts and minds.  In the ensuing years, God has often used our children to speak truth and life to us and to tenderly teach us about Himself. 

God is clearly in the birthing business, whether we understand it, deserve it, or not.  His business is LIFE — creating it, giving it away, redeeming it, resurrecting it.   Now, when I contemplate the births of our children, I am also keenly aware of a multitude of other things God has supernaturally birthed in my life besides our five babies.   I deserved none of those things.  God’s love for me was His reason for birthing His life into my own.  I am grateful to my children, as well, for helping God to show me His goodness and grace.

I continue to ask Him to birth and grow Himself in a greater way in and through me — may His character, His hope, His love, and His life be more real to me and to those around me every day!  (And to you, too!)  

P.S.  Happy Birthday, Matthew!   And thanks!

Matthew with one of HIS babies