Tuesday, December 31, 2013

BEST. GIFT. EVER. Might Still Be Sitting Unopened...

It was Christmas Eve Eve (yes, that's a thing) and I had run into Walmart (don't ask) really quick to grab a last minute bag of candy I needed for the mini-claw candy machine I had bought the kids for Christmas.  (I always love giving the kids one frivolous, random gift that I would typically say, "No way" to when we're at the store together.  Last year it was a gum ball machine.  This year it was the claw machine.  Next year, I plan to get them that cotton candy machine.  Shhhh....)  Anyway, I was walking down an isle and I heard a young boy's voice talking.  His voice was shaking and emotional.  I turned the corner to see this boy, about 8 years old, standing with his mom while talking on a cell phone.  His face looked pained and nervous.  I was concerned - almost wondering if something traumatic had happened.  He stood and said into the phone, "Ya, I did that.  And I really tried my best, too.  I really am good.  I think I am, at least."  His mom grabbed the phone out of his hand and said, "He is SO worried about being on the 'Naughty List.' He didn't sleep last night and it's consumed him all day."  She glanced at him and said, "I'm sure you'll be fine.  You've been trying hard."  And off they went.

I stood there in the isle with a pit in my stomach.  My heart broke for this boy.  He was SO worried.  SO fearful.  SO insecure.

And the reality of the situation hit me like a ton of bricks: This is as far from the real message of Christmas that we can get.

Now let me tell you, we engage in all expressions of Christmas in our home.  We have several nativity scenes in our house.  We read the Christmas story from the Bible before we open even one gift.  We serve others and give generously.  We talk continuously about the Reason for the Season.  (yup, cheesy slogans and all)  ;)  We also have a Christmas tree and hang stockings by the fireplace.  We visit Santa in the mall and he even makes a guest appearance on Christmas Day at my parent's house.

Even the adults play along! :) 

So me writing on this topic does not come from an "anti-Santa" point of view.  Santa is something we do for "fun" in our home.  But I will be honest.  The boy at Walmart about made me want to call the whole thing off.

The story of the historical St. Nicholas is a beautiful one, but if we're honest, most kids simply know about Santa Claus.  The one in the red suit who is round and jolly, who comes down your chimney and leaves gifts if you have been a good boy/girl, and coal if you've been a bad boy/girl.  "You better not... (insert anything bad).... He's gonna find out who's naughty or nice.... He knows if you've been bad or good, so be good...."  The message most kids know of Santa is this: If you're good, you'll get rewarded.  If not, you get nothing.  And to make it super clear, we are going to put Big Brother in your house for an entire month in the form of a cute little Elf, who will report back to Santa daily what you did or did not do right.  

Whether we like it or not, that little boy in Walmart had valid emotions.  Worry, fear and insecurity make sense if that's the world you live in.  It just depends how deep we want to dive in, right?  Most parents I know use Santa and The Elf as a mild incentive booster for improved behavior, nothing more.  I get it.  But perhaps now that the stockings have been filled with care, and children are sighing with relief, the other Christmas story can find it's way deeper into our hearts for the next 364 days.  The other story brings with it peace, hope and love.  Something the boy at Walmart, and the rest of the world, myself included, so desperately needs.  

Just give me me one minute to explain.

God came to this earth He created in the most humble, vulnerable state of being: as an infant child.  He lived life just like you and I live life and experienced what we experience.  He desires to know us and for us to know Him.  He lived His life as an example to us.  He was loving and a grace giver.  He was generous and kind.  When 'religious people' said to get revenge, He said to turn the other cheek.  When 'religious people' said to exclude people who were "sinful" in their eyes, He said all were included.  (He wasn't a fan of 'religious people.'  He wanted more for the world than just "religion.")  And to show His deep love for us, He then died on a cross, sacrificing Himself, so we could all have forgiveness of our sins.  'Sin' basically means we mess up.  We all mess up - no one is perfect.  God knows that. That's why He came. Back then, an animal had to be sacrificed for the people to have their "track record clean." That was the cost of forgiveness. [Anyone else thankful that we don't have to do that anymore??]  Jesus (God) sacrificed himself and paid the price for our sin.  ALL of our sin. And what's amazing is that He did this over 2000 years ago. He died for our sin before we even did it. 

The Bible says in Romans 5:8 "For God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."  You want to know the most crazy, absurd, profound word in that verse?  WHILE.  WHILE we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  You know what it doesn't say?  'When you got your act together, Christ died for you.'  Or 'When you were good enough, Christ died for you.'  Nope.  It says "WHILE you were still a sinner, Christ died for you."  There's no naughty or nice list.  The playing field is even.  We ALL mess up.  We ALL sin.  I mean, I guess technically we all deserve coal, right?   And yet before we changed our ways...  Before we said we were sorry...  Before we cleaned up our messes... Before we were "good for goodness sake"... He died for us.   He offered to wipe the slate clean.  There is no list of things to we need to do to earn grace.  We don't have to be "good enough" for God to love us.  We just have to say "yes" to His offer of grace and unconditional love and then live our lives in that grace in love.  Come on!!!!  How amazing is that!??! 

If your view of God has been similar to your view of Santa, I can understand why you'd want little to do with Him in your daily life.  If you have thought of God as some Big Brother, record keeper, I pray you have gotten just a glimpse of who The Bible says He is.  And who I have found Him to be.  My hope for us all is that we would discover - either for the first time ever, or re-discover and be reminded - that God, Emmanuel, is with us.  Still.  That He came near to have relationship with us.  To know and be known.  Even now.  Even in our sin.  And messiness.  And to hold on to the hope that our sin and messiness doesn't need to define us.  Or own us.  A fresh start is ours.  A new life.  The slate can be wiped clean starting now.

So here we are on the last day of 2013.  You've looked in your stocking.  You've opened the gifts.  And yet the reality is that you may still have a wrapped present sitting unopened under your tree.  A gift from God Himself.  A gift of grace and love and hope and peace.  This gift was what got Jon and I through a brain tumor, brain surgery, and recovery these past 3 months of life.  This gift has literally carried us, surrounded us, sustained us.  This gift brought peace to my life when all I felt was despair after our miscarriage.  This gift has brought hope to my life through the promise of heaven, when all I felt was pain from my mother's terminal illness.  This gift has allowed me to experience grace for my failures and also extend grace to those around me.  This gift is good.  And it's yours.  It doesn't force itself on you.  It will sit, waiting for you your whole life, if you let it.  But what good is a gift left sitting unopened?  Perhaps on this last day of 2013, it's time to open this gift.  And then let 2014 be the year you explore it and experience the greatness of it.  

Believe and receive.  
It's that simple.

I hope you had a Merry Christmas. 
And I pray you have a Blessed, Peace-filled, Grace-filled New Year. 

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Be NOW Who You Want to be THEN....

Jon and I are currently spending the final days before Christmas in Palm Springs with our little family.  The shopping is done.  The gifts are wrapped.  It about killed us, but we did it.  And the payoff has been so worth it.  We still have 2 days left here, but so far, this trip has been just what the doctor ordered.  We also invited my parents to join us out here for a couple of the days.  My mom has FTD (Frontal Temporal Degeneration/Dementia)... and my dad cares for her and loves her in a way that makes even the most elaborate fairy tale look like child's play.  Being a care taker for a loved one is exhausting, and Jon and I couldn't come out here without inviting another weary warrior to retreat from the heaviness of life with us.  It has been a joy to retreat together.

For those that aren't familiar with FTD, I must tell you.  It is a devastating disease.  It is a very rare form of dementia - that tends to hit at a younger age - between ages 40-70.  My mom has the behavioral variant FTD which changes your personality, impacts your executive functions, reasoning, sequencing, speech, etc....  My mom has lost about 95% of her speech and much of the time resembles a child.  A very sweet, tender, loving child.  (SO grateful that is her demeanor.)

For those who don't know my mom, she is AMAZING.  My mom is an author, speaker, professional pianist, talk radio show host, teaches around the country on marriage, parenting, organization, keeping the sizzle in your marriage (yes, she taught on sex!)...  She is a Type A, go getter, larger-than-life personality, energetic, passionate, leader.  She loves her family - loves being a mom to us 3 girls and taught us to celebrate everything.  EVERYTHING.  She invented "Happy Nothing Day"just because she wanted more FUN and LIFE in our home, even if there wasn't something 'official' to celebrate.  The past few years, she and my dad held "cousin sleepovers" on the first Friday of every month, where they would take ALL 11 grandkids for an overnight sleepover, just so that us parents could have an overnight getaway each and every month.  I could go on and on and on, but I just wanted you to have a glimpse of who she is.  Who she was.
I never know how to refer to her in these instances.  It is who she IS.  On the inside.  But outwardly, she is now simply a child.  She "was" able to be and do all of that.  To say it is heartbreaking or devastating to have experienced this shift from "is" to "was" would be an understatement.  But I'm sure you can imagine....

So why am I telling you all of this?  Why does this matter, except just to fill you in on that part of my life?

Because this.

This is my mom.  Every single morning.  She sits in her chair.  And she reads her Bible.  She reads a Psalm.  And a Proverb.  And then she prays.  She has a prayer list that she goes through.  She prays for her husband.  She prays for her daughters.  She prays for her son-in-laws.  She prays for her grandkids.  She prays for her neighbors.  She prays for her friends that don't know Jesus.  She prays about specific things for specific people.  She spends time reading God's word.  And then she talks to God.  Every. Single. Day.

Almost a year ago, Jon and I had our 4th child - and although my mom was low-functioning, I knew how badly she wanted to be a part of helping me "post c-section," as she had done with my first 3 kids.  So my dad drove her up to our house and she stayed with us for a couple of days so she could "help."  I will never forget the first morning she was with us, I walked downstairs and I saw her sitting at my kitchen table.  No, I actually heard her voice before I saw her.  "God, I thank you for Paul and how he loves me and takes care of me.  Lord, I thank you for Paulie and the job you have given him to provide for the Bernard family.  God, I thank you for Melanie and how you have gifted her as a worship leader..."  She methodically went through each person - with either a praise or a request.  I remember walking into the next room and standing just far enough so that she couldn't see me, but just close enough so I could hear her words.  I was blown away and brought to tears.  Not because she was reading the Bible and praying, but because in her new "state" she was doing it.. still.  I mean, I had seen her do this routine my whole life, but today...  Wow, that's it:  I had seen her do this my whole life.  That was the key.

I don't know about you, but I have huge intentions.  I have big hopes and dreams for how I will be and who I will be in this or that situation.  But what I am learning - through my mom, through my dad, and now through Jon - is that when tragedy strikes....when illness hits.... when what you have is lost... THAT is a tough time to start a new routine.  In fact, when all else is lost, sometimes all that you have left is what you've built, up to that point.  Meaning, there is no way that my mom, in her childlike state, could possibly decide to start reading her Bible and praying daily today.  Her brain just wouldn't be able to initiate such a routine.  However, because she has built up a value for those things beforehand, her habits are a natural expression of who she is, even now.

Then there is my dad.  My dad can best be described in 2 words: Servant Leader.  These 2 words have been true of him my entire life and I'm confident anyone who knows him would agree.  Since my mom's illness, my dad has just continued to be exactly who he always was.  He is selfless.  He serves.  He leads us.  He loves.  He adores my mom.  And he continues to love her, as if she was the wife he has always known.  Last Christmas?  A diamond necklace with 3 diamonds, representing us 3 daughters.  Something he knew she had wanted.  Whether she is fully "there" or not, he gave it still.  Valentines Day?  Long stemmed red roses and a love letter.  Seriously.  He most recently had me come over to their house so I could teach him how to put my mom's make up on her.  He had me tell him what make up to buy, where to get it, and how to apply it.  He then went to my mom's hairdresser and had her teach him how to dry my mom's hair with a round brush, since he knows that's how she likes to do it.  He knows having her hair and make-up look nice is a value of my mom's, even if she can't express it now.  So he serves her daily, by getting up 45 minutes earlier to get her ready...  Again, I could go on and on with stories and examples of how beautiful my dad's love is. But the bottom line is, my dad didn't just conjure this up when my mom got ill.  He didn't go from selfish to selfless one day when he "had to" or "should."  No, he has lived a selfless life, and so these habits are a natural expression of who he is.  It's awe-inspiring to watch.

Then there is Jon.  My dear husband who courageously gets out of bed every morning and leaves the comfort and safety of our home - with a paralyzed face.  He lets me post pictures of him on Facebook, starting just days after his brain surgery, and he lets our church put his face on huge screens in the services a they share his story.  He is now officially diagnosed as permanently deaf in his right ear, which as a worship pastor, leaves him vulnerable.  He has many challenges and unknowns in his future.  And yet even as I type this, he interrupts me to share with me a new Truth He learned while he was studying the Bible today.  And then the other Truths he meditated on while he ran 3 miles this afternoon.  Jon's roots are so firmly planted in Truth, even though fear and insecurity attempts to sway him, he remains grounded.  Friends, he did not decide to plant roots the day of his first MRI.  No, in the MRI, he meditated on scripture that he has had hidden deep in his heart for years.
Jon has led our family through this journey.  Through his excruciating journey, he has led us.  I have had the privilege of being a voice for it on here, but he has led it.

My mom, my dad and Jon have all inspired me.  They have challenged me.  They have humbled me.  In my life, I have had huge intentions.  Big hopes for who I will be in this and that situation.  But I want to start now.  I need to start now.  I want the depth - not the short cuts.   I want the track record.  I want the habits and the routine.  I want the passion and the love.

When tragedy strikes, illness arrives, loss is experienced, Life happens... OF COURSE we can choose to start.  Choose to Be.  Choose to love and love passionately.  Choose to serve.  Of course.  And by the grace of God, His mercies are new every single morning.  His faithfulness knows no end.  So it is never, NEVER too late.  Hope is ours.  Always.

However, I just don't want to wait any more.  I know it's often times possible to wait.  Heck, in many areas of my life I have waited and still wait.  And probably sometimes it's easier in the short run to wait.  But this race called Life is long.  It's hard.  It pulls us and stretches us in ways we cannot predict or imagine.  And we never know the time or the place or the details.  But it does come.  And when it comes, I want to ooze the good stuff.   You know, that place inside of each of us.  That place that holds things no one knows exists until you experience something so severe, it rips every layer off of yourself and exposes your core.  And at your core is all that matters.  That is where I want to invest.  That is where I want the good stuff.  That is where I want to build into and develop and grow and nurture.

Are you in a sweet spot in life?  Build into your core.  Are you in the 11th hour?  Start now.

I am in a season of life where I have been given a front row seat to some of the most beautiful cores in the world.  Without trying, and without their consent, my mom, my dad, and Jon were exposed.  And what has been exposed has been profound.
Now, when you have a front row seat, and you are holding the hand of someone's core, your core will be exposed too.  Mine has.  And God has graciously given me peace.  And comfort.  And strength.  And hope.  But I've also taken a hard look at my core.  Not the core you see.  But the core I know.  There exists selfishness.  And pride.  And laziness.  And carelessness.  And insecurity.  (Ouch.)

But let this be a line drawn in the dirt.  The old has gone, the new has come.  These are the promises and the Truth I hold on to.

I want to be NOW who I hope to be THEN.

The End.
Let it Be.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Your Prayers Matter. (Duh.) Thank You...

So this past Tuesday I posted a little update on Jon and myself.  I asked for prayer for a couple of things.  Things that are far off and things that are around the corner.  You prayed.  YOU prayed.  It never ceases to amaze me that you pray.  And how it changes things.

The next day, Wednesday, I saw I had a missed call and a voicemail from a number I didn't recognize. When I got a chance to listen, I heard my Orthopedic Dr's voice leaving a message to touch base.  I was shocked.  I've been trying to get test results from him for weeks now.  He is not a "call my patients" type of doctor.  My Christmas Eve doctor's appointment has been booked for about 3 weeks and any attempt to get squeezed in earlier has failed.  I immediately called his office back, but of course didn't get through to him so I just left (another) message.  A few hours later, I thought to myself - I wonder what number he originally called me from earlier today?  Maybe I'll just call that back.  So I did.  And he answered.... because it was his cell phone.  LOL!  He was a little flustered that I was calling on that number and then realized he had squeezed in the call to me on the run - so I now had his personal number.  (LOL again!)  He was very gracious though, and then proceeded to tell me about my MRI and bone scan results.  He said the tumor in my bone is stagnant.  It does not show any life in it nor is it eating away at my bone.  It's basically just there.  And shouldn't cause problems right now.  He was thrilled with the MRI and bone scan results.

Friends, the reality is that I asked you to pray that I would get in to the Dr sooner than later.  Then the next day, the doctor, who I've called every couple of days for weeks, calls me.  On his cell!  What are the chances?!?  I've been trying to get my results, but they repeatedly told me I had to wait for my appointment, because they do NOT read results over the phone.  No exceptions.  Well, unless you have an army of people praying.  ;)  And yes, the results are what I expected - benign.  But beyond benign, the tumor is harmless to me.  No surgery needed.  This is what we have been praying for!  That the tumor would be "nothing."  I mean, this is the closest thing to disappearing (like my cyst!!) as you can get!  Now obviously, the pain is still there, so there are more tests to run and possibilities to explore, but for today, we celebrate this victory.  We thank YOU for praying.  And we thank God for hearing our prayers and answering them in this way.

PS.  I'm writing from Palm Springs.  My feet are up.  The kids are sleeping.  I have a cup of hot cocoa next to me.  I am remembering.  Celebrating.  Pondering.  Feeling.  I will hit "post" on this, and then write another blog right now.  Just because I can.   :)

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Just an Update... :)

I have started writing and then erased this post several times now.  It's truly so silly, as I've now waisted so much time not writing a post.  LOL!  I've decided that because I'm so overtired and basically hanging on by a thread, I don't have the emotional capacity to sit and process and express.  I just can't.  I physically don't have it in me.  But that exhaustion has kept me from writing at all, which isn't helpful to our pray-ers.  You pray-ers want to know how to pray.  Which we so desperately need.  But I want to sit by a fire with a cup of hot cocoa and write.  I want to feel.  I want to confess and celebrate and wonder.  But as I (literally) collapse into bed every night, I know that the fire and hot cocoa and writing and feeling will happen.  Just not quite yet.  But can prayer happen in the meantime?  Absolutely.

So here's an update on the Ramsay clan and some ways we would SO appreciate your prayers:

1) Jon is physically doing amazing.  Anything that is within his power, he is doing to the extreme!  They told him if he felt his balance was good enough, he could try running.  Well guess who ran 6.5 miles this past week?  Yup!  Jon is Ladera Ranch's own Forest Gump.  :)  He has exceeded the doctor's expectations on strength and development.  However, his stamina is not strong.  SO, although you might see him with me out and about, what you don't see is the long nap he has to take before we go.  And the long nap he sneaks out to the car to take in the middle.  And the rest he needs after we get home.  His brain gets overstimulated fast, and unfortunately, it manifests itself in his eye.  Meaning, his eye is always in pain, but when he overstimulates his brain or goes too long or he gets stressed, in his words, he "feels like there's an ice pick in it."  He has done so well trying to be a good sport and "pushing it" a little to be a part of The Season.  However, he crashes as soon as we leave somewhere... So we are still trying to navigate that and find balance.  I'll be honest.... that's tough to do!

2) We have received a lot of mail from our health insurance provider that is stamped "Referral Denied."  This has been very frustrating.  There are some incredible specialists at UCI, but our insurance will not approve us to see them.  They want us to be seen by the 1 (one and only) specialist in our area that does the surgury(s) Jon needs. (instead of letting us drive the 20 minutes to Irvine)  This has been quite discouraging and frustrating, as we are dealing with Jon's face!  Something that is important and we for sure want the best care for!  It has definitely been a journey of faith and trusting that God will make a way, or that God will just allow us to get great care through the physician they approve.  Would you pray over that with us?

3)  Jon will most likely be having surgery on his right eye the 3rd week in January.  This will be the surgery where they will put the gold weight in his eyelid which will allow him to blink again.  We are anxiously waiting for the surgery date and are very hopeful that this surgery will bring Jon some pain relief.  Would you pray with us that it would?

4) Jon will hopefully (if the insurance approves it) be getting a test done on his 7th nerve/facial nerve soon.  This test will most likely be able to tell us if there is any life left in that nerve or if it is dead.  Would you pray that his nerve has lots of life in it?  We are still praying for complete restoration to his face.

5) If there is no life left in the 7th nerve, we will most likely book Jon to have the 7/12 Surgery.  This is where they take the 7th nerve and attach it to the 12th nerve (the tongue nerve) to hopefully bring some movement back to the face that way.  We recently had an appointment with that surgeon, and honestly, it was a horrible appointment.  As we left, I felt physically like how I felt physically the night in the ER when they told us Jon had a brain tumor.  It was that big of a kick in the gut.  Until this appointment, we were lead to believe that even if Jon's face doesn't restore on its own, this surgery would be able to restore movement for him.  Unfortunately, the surgeon we met with, told us that if the nerve was dead, there really was no movement that he would be able to restore.  He told us the surgery will basically restore some tonality to the face (keep it from drooping too much) but it wouldn't really promise any fine movement.

*Now this is where I have to stop writing on this topic because I just don't have it in me.  But there is a whole blog I will be writing on this appointment.  There was a lot of emotion and pain and shock and then major learnings from this appointment.  For now, I will just ask you to pray.  Pray that Jon's nerve would have life in it.  And that he wouldn't need the 7/12 surgery.

6) My hip.... My Orthopedic Dr wouldn't schedule my follow-up appointment until I had done both the MRI and the bone scan.  Jon called my Dr. as soon as I walked out of the hospital from having the bone scan to book my appointment, and he was told the soonest availability they had.... was Dec. 24.  (!?!?)  They felt horrible, but it's just the reality.  My Dr is in surgery 3-4 days a week and only in the office 1-2 days, so there is a long wait to be seen.  Now obviously by now, Radiology has looked at my tests and if there was any type of emergency, they would call me.  I'm not concerned there is something horrible.  Honestly.  From day 1 they were confident the tumor was benign and I've never worried that it wasn't.  The only bummer thing is that I'm in major pain some days.  It's so bizarre - some days I'm great, and some days I can barely walk.  My prayer is just that I would get in sooner than later.  And in the meantime, that the pain would go away.

Those are the physical updates from us as of today.  As for our family, please just pray for our sweet kids.  They are doing well, but honestly?  They are needier than usual.  Needy for attention.  Needy for time.  Needy for affirmation.  Needy for many things that I often times just don't feel like I have in me to give.  Please pray that Jon and I would offer love and grace to them.  Pray that God would miraculously multiply our sleeping hours.  (LOL! But really...)  ;)

We are so grateful for YOU.  We are so thankful for your love and prayers.
I am personally so grateful that you will let me just make a list here, of what we need prayer for.   With promises of Felt Things in the future.  :)

And now, I will sign off with The Blessing Jon speaks over our kids every single night as they lay in bed and we turn out the lights:

The Lord bless you and keep you.
The Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you
The Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

God Shut Me Up - And I'm SO Glad He Did...

Last night I had a concert at The Grove Church in Riverside.  I have been booked for over a year to do this event, so when I woke up the morning of, with NO voice, I didn't know whether to laugh or cry.  I mean, really??  One. More. Thing??  I began to pray and ask others to pray.  And I believed God for a miracle.  So much so, that I randomly made this video:  :)

Well, by about 2pm, it became clear that what God had in mind for this event was not necessarily what I had in mind for the event.  It was clear to both Jon and I that God was going to do something powerful - but not through my voice.  Through Jon's.  Now this may not seem like a big deal to you as you read this, but here's where Jon was at:
*I don't really want to stand in front of an audience looking like this
*When I sang at that wedding last week, all I could think about was how to hide that side of my face behind the microphone
*I am willing to only sing 1 song - my half of The Prayer.  But nothing else.  It's too hard for me to annunciate certain words and different tones.
*I don't have the mind space right now to put into words anything to say or teach

But regardless of our feelings, Jon and I both felt so strongly that this was God's plan for the night.  And what was amazing, was we got emails and messages from several friends who had heard about my lost voice, and who were hearing the same thing.  So Jon pushed through all of the above hesitations.  And what happened...was beautiful.  Powerful.  Amazing. Miraculous.

First, God was gracious enough to give me enough voice to speak His Truth.  I spoke for about 25 minutes - based on Corinthians 4:16-18 and how we have lived this out as a family this past year through my Graves Disease, my mom's terminal illness, and now Jon's brain tumor.  (Corinthians 4:16-18 says "Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.")

Then I invited Jon on stage.  THIS is when it got powerful.  Oh wait, I also had the kids come on stage at one point and sing a trio.  Yes, a trio.  Morgan (recently turned 2) made her stage debut.  She had a solo, held her own mic and everything.  It was beyond the cuteness that you are even picturing in your mind right now.  For real.

Ok, back to the powerful.  Jon came on stage and spoke.  No, he taught.  He shared.  Openly.  He cried.  He revealed.  He challenged.  He encouraged.  He was incredible.  There was not a dry eye in the room.  Nor was there anyone who left the same as when they walked in.  God's awesome like that.  He doesn't waste our time.  Nor does He waste our pain.

Jon not only spoke, but he sang.  Beautifully.

At the end, I got to share about God's intimate love for us.  And the invitation that God gives to EVERY person - to accept His free gift of grace.  About 20 women made a decision last night to trust Jesus with their lives.  They chose to fix their eyes not on what is seen but what is unseen.  They chose to allow God to work all things in their lives for the good of them - as they love Him. It was beautiful. The line to talk to Jon and I afterward was long.  The tears were many.  The stories were profound.

Friends, sometimes God has a plan that we don't know and we don't see.  So he shuts us up (literally) to get us out of the way, so His plan can be made known.  (I'm SO glad God shut me up)  Or sometimes He has a plan and we know it, but we are too fearful or insecure to say yes, so He forces the other options out, so the only open door is the one He has planned for us.  (I'm SO glad God used Jon)

God answered our prayers.  He showed up.  Huge.  But He showed up beyond what I had envisioned.  What a relief.  If God only showed up how we envisioned, could you imagine what boring, limited lives we would lead?  But instead, the Bible says He does immeasurably more than we could ever ask or even imagine to ask.  I LOVE that.  You know your biggest hope?  Your hugest dream?  God can and will do BEYOND that.  He can do what your mind can't even conjure up.  He will do what you can't even hope or dream or imagine or think up.  That, is good news.  Because I have found that I can come up with some pretty cool ideas.  But God's ways are higher than my ways.  And I'm always astounded at how much greater and cooler His ideas are.  (who knew??)  ;)

Thank you, friends, for praying.

Oh, and if none of the above satisfied your desire to see an actual physical miracle in the form of my voice healing, take a peek at the video below.  Just enough and just in time for the final song....

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Quick Update... Blog or Facebook Update? Who Knows!?!? (Who Cares!?!?) ;)

So I'm new to his whole blogging thing.  However I'm not new to Facebook.  So I'm still trying to navigate what to post, where.   Last week, I posted "I Haven't Been Living Out Loud" and talked about a complex (solid) cyst that was found in my ovary.  But I didn't post about it on Facebook. Then on Monday, I had a Dr appointment regarding said cyst, and then quickly posted the results on Facebook. But not on here.  So I have the FB universe asking "what cyst?!"!" and the blog universe asking "what happened at your Dr appointment for the cyst??"  LOL!  I'm kind of a hot mess, if you haven't picked up on that yet.  But I'm learning.  I have used FB as a means to do quick updates and then used the blog as a means to process the updates.  I won't do that anymore.  I will keep the blog up to date on even the quick updates. Somewhere between me never ever reading a blog and me writing a blog, I created all these expectations and standards about what a blog is and is not.  I'm going to go ahead and admit I have no idea what the "rules" are.  So if I write a blog that looks like a status update, or update my status with something that looks like a blog, forgive me.  I'm clueless. I just love journeying with you.   Anyway, all that to say, I don't have time right this second to sit and process, although I want to SO BADLY.  (Hopefully later tonight??)  But in the meantime, I wanted to copy and paste my FB update from Monday.  Because, well, it frankly is incredible.  :)  Enjoy.....

"So the Dr talked to us for awhile. Then he said he wanted to run a few tests and examine my "friend" (as he referred to the cyst) himself. Well, the exam was cut short because... the cyst was gone. GONE. As in, there was nothing there to exam. As in, the best possible case scenario that we prayed would happen, happened. Thank YOU for praying. God hears our prayers and responded with a big fat huge YES. Blog post to come, but parking lot status update was a necessity first."

See?  I told you.  Incredible.  
God. is. good.  

Sunday, December 1, 2013

I Haven't Been Living Out Loud...

So.  I haven't been living out loud.  I've been quiet on here.  (well, before my Thanksgiving Day post) Because, well, because I'm kind of tired of being "that person."  You know the one.  The one that always has a prayer request.  Always has a "need." Always has an ailment.  Always has a "thing" going on.

Have you ever heard of an "EGR" person?  Growing up, we classified certain "special" people as EGR. (forgive me, this sounds horrible, I know.)  "EGR" stands for Extra Grace Required.  You know, the one who is just a little needy.  Maybe seeking attention.  Maybe they know how to push buttons.  Or make social situations awkward.  Maybe they complain a lot.  Or they talk a lot. Or insert themselves into situations they weren't invited into.  You know.  Someone who requires a little more grace than the average person.  Well, this past week, I have been feeling like an EGR.  Not in the ways listed above, but in an "I seem to always have a 'thing'" sort of way.  Doctor's appointments made me late to important social events.  I needed help with the kids on several occasions so I could squeeze more Dr appointments in.  I feel like the friend that needs extra grace.  Extra help.  Extra attention.  The one who you have to pause and ask "How are you doing?" when you see her, because you just know her life is a hot mess.  And I hate being that person.  I don't want to inconvenience someone with having to help me - let alone make them even pause their already busy life to inquire how I am doing.  A question I don't even know how to answer.  (Spiritually?  I'm doing great.  Physically?  Who knows.  Emotionally?  Depends on the day.  Etc... )

In an attempt to not be an EGR (which I clearly am, but was in denial), I kept quiet on here.  I also avoided intimate conversations.  I posted a need for child care on Facebook instead of just texting close friends.  Because I couldn't stand the thought of putting someone specific on the spot to help me out.  So I threw it out to the entire world - the black abyss of FB - which somehow felt easier.  Over the weekend, I even went as far as to tell someone not pray for me.  What?!?  I know.  So bizarre.  Someone said, "I am praying for you."  And I responded with, "Don't worry about me.  Don't pray for me.  Just pray for Jon."  In an attempt to not be an EGR, I asked someone to stop praying for me.  Because I believed in that moment, that somehow not praying for me would mean I was OK.  But I wasn't OK.  It would mean I didn't need anything from anyone.  Even though I really did.

In one of my first posts ever, (in the blog titled Living Out Loud) I said, "I will be honest, when I sat down to write this, I felt like I was writing to ask each of you for a million dollars. That is how big of an "ask" I feel it is when I ask you to use your time and energy on prayers for Jon."  I still feel that way to this day.  Jon and I are so overwhelmed and humbled that you would spend time approaching God on our behalf.  But somehow down this road, when the doctor's found the tumor in my bone, etc.. I began to believe that praying for Jon AND me was just too big of an "ask."  And even as we got more tests done and other doctor's appointments happened, I started to think this past week that the updates were just too much.  That you all had prayed more than we deserve.  We are in debt to you enough already.  How can we possibly continue to tell the story and ask you to continue to pray over specifics as the story unfolds?  I mean, we're 7 weeks post-op.  That's 7 weeks of being a major EGR.  That's a really long time.  We have overstayed our welcome, I am sure.  

Now obviously this is difficult to write.  Simply because it's so embarrassing to admit.  How did I get here??  Honestly?  I started to believe lies.  I started to feel unworthy.  I began to feel embarrassed.  And worst of all?  I got prideful.  What is it that makes me cringe at the thought of being an EGR?  Pride.  I don't want to be that person that needs help.  Needs prayer.  Needs extra grace.  Those people are, well, tough to love.  I don't want to be tough to love.  I want to be easy to love.  You need help?  I'll be there.  You need prayer?  I'll pray for you.  I want to be the one that's easy to do life with. I pride myself on being an "easy" person.  But the reality is, it's tough to do life with me right now.  I'm late.  And distracted.  I'm tired.  And overwhelmed.  I'm engaged in our conversation one minute, then have to pick up the phone in the middle of your sentence to talk to a Dr that's calling.  I need last minute child care.  My husband is doing fantastic at times and struggles at times.  He gets updates from doctors that change from day to day.  I get updates from doctors that change from day to day.  We are a freaking roller coaster.  And I wish it weren't this way, but it just is.  And so tonight, I'm coming to grips with this reality:  I need you.  Still.   There.  I said it.  We need you.  We need your prayers.  Jon needs your prayers.  For him.  For me.  Still.  Yes, even after 7 weeks.  And probably for 7 more.  And maybe 7 more after that.

I committed to Living Out Loud when this all started, and after 10 days of pulling back, I'm re-engaging.  When I pulled back, I felt alone.  I felt less-than.  I felt like I was a burden.  I felt like I was hiding parts of myself.  What about in your life?  Have you started to pull back?  We all go through ruts where we start disengaging in life.  Our circumstances weigh us down and we retreat.  We don't want to bother the people around us with our junk, so we just keep quiet and hope it will work itself out.  Here's what I know:  I know true community is beautiful.  And healthy.  And I know that hiding brings fear.  And pain.  And is unhealthy.  So I'm coming back out and I invite you to join me.  Calling all EGR's!  :)  If we're honest, we ALL are EGR's at some point(s) in our lives.  Every EGR has a story.  A reason why they talk so much, or invite themselves into things they weren't invited to, or seek attention, or whatever it is that makes them an EGR.  It's not something to be embarrassed of or to hide from.  Nor is it something to judge.  If you're in it with me right now, the wisest thing to do is to surround yourself with people who are willing to lavish that grace on you.  People who will love you.  Still.  Even in your messiness. Even if you are a little tough to love these days.

So I'm opening myself back up.  I'm admitting I need you.  And I'm allowing you to fill a need...

So here's our update...  And a few ways we would ask for you to continue to pray...

1) Jon's eye pain has worsened.  :(  However, on Tuesday, Jon saw his neuro-opthemologist and was told he is a candidate to have the surgery on his eyelid.  They will put a gold weight in his eyelid which will (hopefully) enable him to blink again.  This will be a huge blessing!  Our surgeon doesn't have any openings until January, but has put Jon on a wait list in case anything opens up sooner.  Would you pray that something opens up and Jon gets in sooner than later?  His eye bothers him so much...  He describes the pain as "having an ice pick in my eye." Um, ouch.  He's such a trooper, but I know he's in much pain.  We'd love to get him in for that surgery asap.

2) On Tuesday, Jon will see an ENT (ear, nose and throat) doctor that specializes in surgery after brain trauma.  Would you pray that this Dr is wise and gives us clear direction on any future surgeries that might be needed regarding Jon's face and the wisest timeline for those?

3) I had my MRI on the tumor in my hip last Friday.  I go in for a bone scan this Thursday morning.  (shot in the hip at 9:15am and then the scan at 12:15)  Would you pray that the results from both of those tests would come back with good news?  My hope is that the tumor would be able to be left alone and would be harmless.

4) (This is what I was holding back)  Last week I found out that when they were running the scope of tests for my hip pain, that yes, they found a tumor in my bone, but they also found a cyst in my ovary.  If you are a female, you know that cysts in ovaries are very common.  I had one in my last pregnancy, and I have had them in my ovaries before.  They are harmless and common.  However, this cyst is not a normal cyst - it's a complex cyst.  Instead of it being clear and filled with fluid, this cyst is solid.  My ovary is 3 centimeters and the cyst is 3.2 centimeters.  Instead of the perimeter being a clean line, it is jagged.  All that to say, my doctor called me in to her office to discuss this with me last week, and on Monday I will go to a new Doctor to discuss it with him.  Would you pray that the cyst would go away?  I hesitated mentioning this, because I hate to throw one more thing into the mix.  However, my prayer is that it would be gone, so I ask for you to join with me in that prayer.

I know this post has no great value.  And most of it is me confessing my pride.  But thank you for letting me continue to process on here.  And thank you for standing in the gap for us.  Thank you for praying.  And praying more.  There is MUCH to be thankful for.  And at the same time, there is much to pray for.  Thank you for bearing our burden with us.  We are grateful.
With love and gratitude,
A major EGR friend.