Choose Joy!

Choosing joy in the midst of difficult circumstances is not always easy, but it is what the Lord commands us to do.

  “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.” –  Philippians 4:4

We can rejoice no matter what circumstance comes our way, because of the great love that Jesus has for us, in that while we were full of sin, he chooses to lay down his life to save us. Jesus has forgiven our sins and cleansed us from all unrighteousness. Through his death, burial, and resurrection we have divine power to choose joy, no matter our circumstance.

In the many years, I have been alive, I have experienced many difficult trials. From having the monumental task of raising a special needs son, to the death of those closest to me—my Mom and Dad, my Mother-in-law and Father-in-law, my brother, several babies, and dear friends. Other tragic situations happened as well, like family problems, marriage problems, health problems, terrible accidents, financial difficulties, church splits, and just the overall effects of sin in a lost and fallen world. Life can be downright, and if though you have walked on this earth very long, I can guarantee that you have had some sort of trouble in your life.

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” – James 1:2-5

[ctt template=”2″ link=”k8i3o” via=”yes” ]Whatever problems seek to plague us in life, we are told to COUNT IT ALL JOY![/ctt]

We all face trials of different kinds. Our struggles and challenges may be similar or different than our friends’ and neighbors’, but we all face difficult times. These challenges test our faith, and as we endure these trials it produces a life of faithful endurance. That steadfastness then helps make us more Christlike and conforms us to the image of God, which is a gift from God to make us whole and bring us to maturity in our spiritual walk.

Horatio Spafford penned the beautiful lyrics to the song “It is Well with My Soul” after a Job-like tragedy struck his life when he lost his son at age two in the Great Chicago Fire. The fire financially ruined him and then shortly afterward, all four of his daughters perished in a shipwreck crossing the Atlantic. Horatio could have become consumed with anger, bitterness or regret, yet he chose to have joy and to praise the Lord! In this life we will have struggles, but how will we respond? We will choose joy? May we learn from his example!

“It is Well with My Soul”

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,

When sorrows like sea billows roll;

Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say

It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Refrain:

It is well, (it is well),

With my soul, (with my soul)

It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,

Let this blest assurance control,

That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,

And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!

My sin, not in part but the whole,

Was nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,

Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:

If Jordan above me shall roll,

No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life,

Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

But Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,

The sky, not the grave, is our goal;

Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!

Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul.

And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,

The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;

The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,

Even so it is well with my soul!

She Speaks Conference 2016

In February of this year, I took a gigantic leap of faith, and in the midst of an already crazy busy life, I answered God’s call to a writing/speaking/blogging ministry. I am super excited and busy preparing for the Proverbs 31 Ministries’ She Speaks Conference. She Speaks is a speaking and writing conference in North Carolina that I am attending in mid-July with several hundred other women from across the country.

I wanted to share all that I am working on with you. Including, everything that is currently going on in my life, so that you all can join me in prayer as I prepare for the conference. My first priority is my relationship with my Lord and ministering to my husband and children, then to friends, and everything else after. So I am busy cooking, cleaning, and taking Connor to therapy multiple times a week. Also, I am continuing to post weekly here on my blog, and I have joined A Beautiful Life Ministry as a monthly contributor. Where I have the honor and privilege to work with other writers from across the United States and Canada to send out a daily devotion to minister to women in all walks of life. I am also currently in a Ladies’ Bible study studying the book of Romans.

In the past month and a half, I started writing a Bible Study about being an Overcomer. I plan to pitch my Bible study in a book proposal to the publishers that I am meeting with at the conference. This is a whole new world for me, and there is so much to learn! The Lord has been faithful to walk me through each step of the way, and I am learning so much in the process. So in addition to all of the things I talked about above, I am also working on writing the Bible Study, a book proposal, and marketing materials. Since I am on the speaking track, I have also written a 5-minute message that will be critiqued in a group setting. I am planning to present that teaching to a few life groups at my church in the coming weeks, but I am scared to death to speak in front of people!! I would appreciate extra prayers as I work on overcoming this fear.

Whenever we step out in faith to do something for the Lord, the enemy sets his sights on trying to discourage or disrupt us. My husband compared my recent adventures to Frodo in The Lord Of The Rings. When Frodo and Sam are in Mount Doom in Mordor, to destroy the ring, and Frodo puts the ring on, the eye of Sauron becomes laser-focused on him, and destroying Frodo is all he desires. So it is with the adversary scheming to distract me from what God has called me to do.

Let me share a few things that have occurred in the past few weeks since I have been preparing for the conference:

  • Chaos in our home caused by the Master Bedroom and Bathroom remodel
  • Very expensive car problems on Jacob’s car and his loaner car
  • Phantom phone software problems on my phone: My phone was sitting next to me on the table while I was working on my computer when all of a sudden maps opened up, and suddenly my full name and address appeared on my phone, then WordPress, Facebook, and email. It looked like someone was hacking my phone.
  • The Transformer in backyard caught on fire. We lost power, and more importantly, A/C in 100 degrees plus weather!
  •  I fell on the concrete coming out of church on Sunday on my previously broken arms, scraped my hands and knee, and bruised my hip. Ouch!
  • Woke up to a house full of water on our wood floor that will require extensive repairs

I’m not too sure what else will try to distract me in the coming weeks, but all of this makes me even more confident that I am doing exactly what the Lord wants me to do! I would so appreciate your prayers for my family and me in the coming weeks.

For more information about the conference, you can visit the conference website.

Happy Father’s Day!

We woke up late for church on a Sunday morning, and no one in my family shall soon forget the events that unfolded that day. In typical Sunday morning fashion, we were all in a hurry to rush out the door, and we didn’t have time to make breakfast before church. We all piled into the car and headed off to church, listening to music on the radio, and talking amongst ourselves.

Since we had a car full of growing hungry boys we stopped at the drive-thru donut shop on our way to church. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary until we placed our order, paid for the assortment of donuts and kolaches. That is when it hit us. The sweet little woman in the drive-thru handed my husband the receipt, and said the three little words that will forever haunt my family: “Happy Father’s Day!”

Happy Father’s day?!? What? Ugh! The kids and I all looked at each other, all mortified that we had forgotten! All at once we began profusely began apologizing to my husband, telling him that we loved him, and were so sorry that we forgot. As I thought about this, I was reminded of our Heavenly Father—how often we go through life busy with the trials and tribulations of the day, and we forget to acknowledge God with the gratitude and praise that He deserves.

In our home, we approach Father’s Day with mixed emotions. We miss both my Father and my Father-in-law who have gone on to be with the Lord. Yet we are filled with gratitude for my husband, Peter, a wonderful husband to me and incredible Father to our children. And we are thankful for our heavenly Father.

Psalms 68:5 in the ESV describes God like this:

“Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation.”

Psalms 68 is a beautiful hymn that celebrates God’s care for his children, and this verse reminds us that God is kind and cares for all of us, including the orphans, widows, and even prisoners.

My friend, I don’t know what emotions Father’s Day evokes for you. You may be blessed to be celebrating the Fathers in your life, a Father yourself, or perhaps you are grieving the loss of a Father. Wherever today finds you, I encourage you to remember that we all have a Heavenly Father who loves and cares for us and desires to have a relationship with us. Whatever situation you find yourself in today, remember to praise God, your loving Heavenly Father, for all that He has done and for His great love.

Prayer Update for Connor

I broke both of my arms last Spring and was unable to do anything for myself, my family or my home for several weeks. I was a little out of it from the pain medicine and completely forgot to pay Connor’s insurance policy. Connor was attending a school for kids on the Autism spectrum that cost over $4,000 a month. We only paid a portion of the monthly fee because his health insurance paid for the rest of it. Connor was on a Cobra policy and was immediately dropped from the policy when they didn’t receive payment. I was devastated! I began crying out to the Lord for help and praying for wisdom as to what to do with Connor.

It was during this time that we took him to see a Functional Neurologist in Dallas in July 2015. He diagnosed Connor with PANDAS, which, according to the PANDAS network:

“PANDAS (Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infections) occurs when strep triggers a misdirected immune response results in inflammation on a child’s brain. In turn, the child quickly begins to exhibit life-changing symptoms such as OCD, anxiety, tics, personality changes, a decline in math and handwriting abilities, sensory sensitivities, restrictive eating, and more. PANDAS Network estimates that PANDAS/PANS affects as many as 1 in 200 children.”

Connor was also diagnosed with Autoimmune Encephalitis. The Autoimmune Encephalitis Alliance defines it as  “a rare and serious condition in which the immune system attacks the brain, resulting in impaired brain function.”

The part brain of Connor’s brain that was affected is the part that controls his motor function. His gross motor, fine motor, speech, and language were all affected. We also learned that Connor had about nine different eye conditions. He couldn’t focus, his eyes weren’t equally yoked, and he couldn’t visually track just to name a few problems.

The most heartbreaking part of all of this is that he had been living with all of this for 15 years! He did not get diagnosed until the age of 16. After years of going to doctor after doctor, Connor was misdiagnosed with PDD-NOS, an Autism spectrum disorder. We are so thankful for the brilliant doctor who finally correctly diagnosed Connor, and we began treatment shortly thereafter.

Connor began weekly IVIG treatments. According to Medscape, “Immune globulin products from human plasma were first used in 1952 to treat immune deficiency. Intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) contains the pooled immunoglobulin G (IgG) immunoglobulins from the plasma of approximately a thousand or more blood donors. Initially, immune globulin products were administered by intramuscular injection.”

IVIG is a miraculous drug! Connor received weekly home infusions, and we started to notice a difference in Connor almost immediately. IVIG is a very expensive drug, to the tune of almost $6,000 a month and it is not covered by insurance. For Connor’s condition, it is considered to be an experimental treatment.

After six months of treatment, Connor had his last treatment on Mother’s Day 2016. He has to be off the medicine for 8 weeks before he can be re-tested to see if the antibody is still present in his brain. In the interim, Connor is in Speech Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, Vision Therapy, swimming and golf lessons.

Connor is an entirely different person then he was a year ago. We are so thankful for the accurate diagnosis and treatment that he has received. Please continue to pray for our sweet little man and that Connor’s brain would be completely healed. To God be the glory!

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us!” -Ephesians 3:20

Learning to let go

Nobody warned me that it would be this hard. Watching them grow and then letting them go….

 Behold, children are a heritage from the LORDthe fruit of the womb a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth.

Psalms 127: 3-4

It is hard to believe that I grew these three young men in my belly. Where did the time go? They seemed to be little for so long, and then one day, almost overnight they have all become men. Each one is unique with differing gifts and abilities, but all are a blessing. We have raised them to be warriors for the kingdom of Christ. Peter and I have been intentional and careful stewards of these treasures, and soon we will be launching these arrows out into the world.

No one warned me how difficult and painful it would be on me when they started to pull away. A boy has to detach himself from his Mother in order for him to grow into the man God calls him to be. This is the way it is and has always been. It is good and natural, but that doesn’t make it any easier.

First, we dream of them before they are ever conceived. Then we grow them inside of us, oftentimes in pain and sickness, but we love them and long to meet them. Then we bring them forth into this world and our lives are forever changed. We nurse them, feed them, diaper them, dress them. We kiss boo-boos, tell bedtime stories, and give baths. We teach them to pray, to love Jesus and to love one another. We discipline and teach while they grow physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

After years of being the most important person in their life, suddenly one day they start to pull away and they don’t need you as much or at all. As they pull away it is heartbreaking to their mama! How do you love them with every fiber of your being and then simply just let go? By entrusting them to the care of Jesus. I will always be their mother and no matter how old they are they will always be my little boys, but I need to let them go so that they can become the men God created them to be.

Jesus, thank you for the blessings of children! Help me to cherish every moment that I have with my boys. Help me to remember that we have raised them well, and it is not my responsibility to control them, but instead it is time to let go and entrust them to your care.