Can You Be Sure?

Aaron had a seizure at 4:30 this morning.  It was around two minutes long, shorter than some but always too long.  No seizures at all is definitely preferred, but that doesn’t seem to be what God has planned for Aaron in his life.  His nocturnal seizures are why Gary and I still sleep with a baby monitor on our nightstand.  Aaron knows that I go into his room when I hear a seizure and that I’m there to help him as needed. 

Aaron got out of bed around 7:00.  I would need to look in his log book that he keeps to see the exact time. 

OK, I just snuck in his room and took a peek.  He wrote down his getting out of bed time as 7:02.  Isn’t he funny and amazing?

He drank his three cups of coffee, as always…..and he bugged me about a fourth cup, as always.  He said his head hurt, too, as always it does after a seizure.  I can only imagine.

And as always after a seizure, he decided to go back to bed.  He told me his plan, but he wasn’t forgetting about that fourth cup of coffee.

“Can I have a fourth cup when I get out of bed?” he hopefully asked.  And I gave him some hope that he could.  He has no idea what all I would gladly do for him on these seizure days.  I try not to show my hurting heart generosity too much, either, because good old Aaron will jump on that like a tick on a dog.  Forget the fourth cup of coffee!  Let’s go for five or six!

After Aaron had the assurance that a fourth cup of coffee was a real possibility, he started to walk away.  But he came back to the top of the stairs, one more request on his mind.

“Can you make sure I don’t have another seizure in bed?” he asked me.

Oh, if only I could!  I might have to think about granting a fourth cup of coffee, but if I could grant that my son have no more seizures then I would do it in a flash. 

I knew what Aaron meant.  I try to get him to express himself more clearly, so I asked him how I was supposed to do that.

“Can you hear if I do?” he clarified.

“Yes, I’ll hear if you do,” I answered.  I assured him that I had the baby monitor on right beside me and that I would be listening.  He was satisfied with my answer and with the knowledge that Mom was keeping her ear open, so off he went to bed. 

It’s sad to see that Aaron shows this fear of having a seizure.  I don’t blame him one single bit.  He doesn’t remember the seizures, but he’s seen friends at his day group have them and so now he knows what they look like.  And he certainly knows what they feel like when he wakes up with a bad headache, sometimes a bitten tongue, losing his sense of taste, and other complications.  It’s a very hard thing to see your child endure this.  Harder still to see your usually unexpressive adult child begin to verbalize his fears. 

Victory in the verbalization…..sadness in the expressed reality.

I am Aaron’s strength right now.  I am his comfort and his hope.  Me….and the baby monitor.  Aaron is depending on us to be there for him and to help him if he has another scary seizure.

This morning I had planned to write about Nehemiah and the guarantee that he gave the children of Israel as they built the wall of Jerusalem.  I didn’t know I would have this illustration from Aaron.  I would rather not have it.  I would rather use another example from some other scenario in my own life that doesn’t involve him.  But this is where God has us.  This is His sovereign plan, one that I trust even when it hurts.

The Jewish people were rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem, but there were enemies who didn’t want them to succeed.  These enemies used words of discouragement and ridicule, but when they saw that the Israelites were serious about rebuilding the wall they changed their tactic.  The enemies became intimidating, threatening to kill not only the workers but their families as well. 

The Jews became scared.  The enemies’ threats were working.  In Nehemiah 4:10, it was said that the worker’s strength was failing.  That word, “failing,” meant to stumble or totter.  The workers were literally tottering under not only the physical work they were doing, but especially they were stumbling emotionally and spiritually under the continued threats they were facing from their enemies. 

They were scared.  And in verse 14, Nehemiah said that when he saw their fear he spoke to them….to the nobles, the officials, and to all the people who were so afraid.  Here’s what he said:

Do not be afraid of them!  Remember the Lord Who is great and awesome, and fight…..”

This verse has been on my mind for a couple weeks now.  I’ve had some fears and concerns in my life.  Health issues for Aaron, for Andrea, for Gary.  Aaron’s behaviors that impact him and us so much.  Andrew adjusting to a difficult new job.  So many other things that jump around in my brain during the dark night hours when I’m unable to sleep…..

I could name fears that I know so many of our friends are experiencing.  Life has changed in a moment for some.  Then there’s the continuing impact of those changes.  Strokes….dementia…..upcoming surgeries…..serious infections…..the diagnosis of a child with a potentially life changing syndrome…..ongoing multiple children with special needs….exhaustion…..job uncertainties…..

Our life stresses are like the enemies of the Jews in Nehemiah.  They surround us, threatening us with their potential or certain life changes.  We sometimes stumble under the burden of it all.  Fear is very debilitating.  Our mind goes places it shouldn’t but it’s so hard to keep from doing that.

This is why Nehemiah’s words have meant so much to me lately.  I need to refocus my focus.  I need to choose what I allow my mind to dwell upon.  The answer is simple, but difficult, because the enemy wants me to stay glued to my fears and my worries…..both the known and the unknown.

But…..REMEMBER!!

Remember the Lord!!

The Lord Who is GREAT and Who is AWESOME!!

God’s got this….all of this.  Whatever the enemy is throwing at us, whatever we see around us, whatever we hear in our head in the dark of the night….is NOT what we are to remember or to dwell upon.

Our God is great and He is awesome.  The battle is His, not mine! 

And so I fight, but I’m not the one fighting.  I am allowing God to fight for me as I pray and give Him my battles and my fear and my worries.  When I feel that familiar fear being thrown at me from the enemy outside the walls of trust, I remember and I remind myself that God is the One Who will fight for me.

The Lord Who is GREAT!

The Lord Who is AWESOME!

I’ll hear you and I’ll be there if you have another seizure, Aaron.

“Can you be sure?” he asked.  “Yes.  I’ll be sure,” I answer.

I’ll hear you and I’ll be there in your fears, God says to me.  

“Can you be sure?” I ask.  “Yes.  I’ll be sure,” He answers.

“Our God will fight for us!”  (Nehemiah 4:20)

Remember!  The Lord!

The Answered Prayer

When Gary and I travel without Aaron, we must find a caregiver for him.  Plus we have Jackson, our 185 pound Great Dane.  We’ve had some wonderful caregivers over the years for both of them, but of course Aaron is our main concern.  Those that have cared for Aaron usually move on to their very busy college lives, their full time jobs after college, or to marriage with families of their own, so keeping caregivers is no easy task. 

A couple weeks ago, Gary mentioned that he sure wished it was easier for us to just pick up and go visit our other two children.  Andrea lives in Houston and Andrew lives near Indianapolis.  I realized that I hadn’t been making our caregiver issue a matter of prayer lately, so on that evening that Gary made his comment, I began praying about it again.  There are times that we can, and do, take Aaron on our trips.  But there are other occasions when it’s best for just Gary and me to go. 

The day after Gary made his comment, and I started praying, I shared my prayer concern with a friend in Texas.  I also shared it with Andrea on the phone that evening as she and I talked.  While Andrea and I were on the phone, I heard my text message notice buzzing in my ear.  I waited until Andrea and I were off the phone before checking my message.  I pretty well stared down at it in disbelief and praise.  You see, it was from our friend, Holly.  Holly watched Aaron some last spring.  She’s an excellent caregiver, but I thought that she was too busy with college and work to be able to watch Aaron anymore.  I hadn’t contacted her at all, or even said anything to her mother who is a good friend of mine.  So what did her text say?

She said that she just wanted me to know that if Gary and I ever wanted to get away, and if we needed someone to watch Aaron, that she would be glad to do that.  Wow!  I just stood there and thanked God for that very quick answer to my prayer.  It was such a direct, almost immediate answer to my prayer that it left me humbled and amazed.  Gary and I both recognized God’s hand.  So now what were we to do?

Andrew works for an NHRA race team.  They were having a race in less than two weeks in Dallas.  Last year we went to Houston to see Andrea, and then she went with us up to Dallas for the last day of racing.  Was God wanting us to do that again?  Would it even work out?  We checked with Andrea and she was excited at the prospect of us coming.  Andrew was as well, so we lined everything up with Holly and off we went to Texas.  God had answered and provided, and we felt confident that this trip was for a purpose.

That’s when things started happening.  Maybe I should make a list.

·         Holly lost her phone on the morning that we left and had to get a replacement.

·         Andrea hasn’t quite recovered from double pneumonia that she had in July.  She started feeling bad again just before we came, so she ended up not going to Dallas with us on Sunday.

·         On Friday night, Holly got a stomach virus.  She threw up seven times that night!  And she was trying to take care of Aaron.

·         On Saturday, Holly let her grandparents watch Aaron so that she could rest and recover.  Dennis and Freda are friends who know Aaron, and they did a great job. 

·         Holly did recover, but on Sunday Aaron had a seizure.  Holly knows seizures well because of her little brother who has seizures, but we felt terrible that she was having to go through this.

·         Gary and I went on to Dallas on Sunday, talking to Holly regularly and checking on Aaron.

·         Andrew’s driver, Cruz Pedregon, lost during the first run…..3.96 to 3.94.  That meant that the team would be cleaning and packing up to leave for Indy early Monday morning…..which meant that we wouldn’t really get to spend any time with Andrew.  So we decided to just head back to Wichita, feeling the need to check on Aaron anyway.

·         We ran into a huge traffic jam south of Ardmore, Oklahoma.  It put us an hour behind. 

·         My phone mysteriously died for a few hours.

·         And I even found a lone fire ant bite on my foot….a souvenir from Houston!  HA!

OK, now I know that none of these events are life changing, horrible things.  Why am I even writing about this?

I’m writing about it because the craziness of our weekend…..the stress that these happenings created for us….didn’t seem to match our amazing answer to prayer.  That answered prayer….the prayer for a caregiver….was the reason that we took this trip.  So if God provided answered prayer and the means for us to take this trip, why did so many things seem to fall apart?  Shouldn’t we have gone to Texas and just had the best time ever, with no worries?

I admit that I was scratching my head a few times, wondering why God seemed to push us out the door.  “Go, go!” he seemed to be saying.  And then to have so many things go wrong…..things that caused us some worry and kept our minds occupied on those worries to some degree. 

I have felt like God was trying to show me another element of trust.  I know I need to trust Him when He opens doors, but then allows some bad things to happen that make me question whether the open door was one through which I should have walked.  I needed to trust that God knew what He was doing when He led me to that open door.  God also knew what He was doing when He let so many things go haywire when we needed them to go smoothly.  Or we thought we needed them to go smoothly.

Answered prayer in the way that we want it doesn’t guarantee a trouble free life.  I may never know why God wanted Gary and me to take this trip.  I may never see all the connected dots that God sees….for me, for Gary, for Andrea, for Andrew, for Holly, for Aaron.

There were wonderful memories made.  Time with Andrea:
 

 

Time with our little granddogs:

 

 
 
Time with Andrew, though brief:
 

 

We had precious talks and laughter with Andrea.  We got to see the pit crew at the race form a circle and pray together right there in the pit area….and have Andrew tell us that he and Jay got that practice started.

And we had to laugh at Aaron as he tried to adjust to Holly being sick.  “Mom!” he exclaimed.  “I didn’t expect you to have someone here who is SICK!!” 

Let’s talk about the word “compassion,” dear Aaron.  He did go to Holly’s room three times on Saturday to say goodnight, and on the third time, instead of calling her crazy, he gave her a hug.  Very sweet!

Will I pray specifically again?  Absolutely!  God loves our specific prayers.  Next time though, when He answers, I might just say, “OK, God, are you 100% sure of this?!”  J 

 

Lessons From the Dry Times

 

I was tired of looking at them……….the dried up remnants of my once bright and beautiful flowers in my two little flower beds off the back patio.  The extreme summer drought and heat had taken its toll on my flowers and had turned their former glory into black ugliness.  Long gone were the cheery yellows of the Black-Eyed Susans; the pretty pink of the Coneflowers; the stunning orange of the Tiger Lilies; and the soft purple of the Garden Phlox.  It was time to do some trimming………trimming that is usually left until autumn but was necessary now, in August.
 
 
Taking my pruning shears and my garden gloves, I headed outside and was soon filling up my pop-up container with the dry, dusty remains of my flowers.  As I clipped, I wondered if any of these perennials would return next spring, even as I noticed places that were already bare – where death had already sunk deep into the roots and destroyed the visible plants as well.  Two summers of severe dryness and burning sun had indeed claimed many flowers and trees and vegetables.  Even with what watering we did, nothing could replace refreshing rain and kinder, cooler temperatures. 
 
My garden shoes crunched over the brittle mulch as I bent over to cut away the deadness.  And as I clipped the useless remnants of my flowers, I noticed that even in the seemingly lifeless garden, some creatures and plants continued to live.  Here and there were weeds……..a chickweed growing against the brick border……….a clump of crab grass nestled in the dry mulch.  How do weeds manage to live even in the midst of such drought?  Around me I saw grasshoppers lunging up as I disturbed their hiding places.  As if my struggling flowers needed any other detriments to their growth, I thought.  Those ugly grasshoppers would eat any remaining life out of these poor flowers for sure.    The life that I was seeing in my flower garden was not the kind that I wanted to see at all!
 
 
Yet as my shears stripped away the dull remains of my flowers, I saw some color.  There, nestled amidst the blackness, was the welcome sight of a yellow Black-Eyed Susan; a bright pink little Coneflower; a softer pink Garden Phlox.  They were both a reminder of what had once been and the hope of what could very possibly come again next spring.   Dryness and death doesn’t have to be the norm, I thought.  There is always hope that the rains will come again; that the sun will be kinder; that replanting or reseeding can occur.  In the meantime, here and there a flower still grew, and the purpose of these seemingly dead plants was evident in the midst of awful circumstances. 
 
I’ve experienced dry times in my life.  We all have those seasons…………or will have if we live long enough.  Prolonged stresses and disappointments just suck the life and the beauty out of our very souls.  Days are long and nights are longer.  The heat of our worries and trials beats us down, blacken our outlook, and steal our joy.  There seems to be no evident end in sight………no welcome rain cloud to provide moisture or to shield us from the sun’s burning rays.  And in our weakest moments, we see weeds sprouting up around us………..weeds of worry, of bitterness, of anger, of blame, of defeat.  Or the hopping grasshoppers of our thought life, hopping to this conclusion or to that decision that is not in God’s plan for us at all. 
 
David experienced these desert seasons as he ran from King Saul.  Here was the future king of Israel, appointed by God, yet hiding in caves and running for his life.  He was falsely accused, thrust out, tormented, and unwanted – with no end in sight to his suffering.  In Psalm 63, David poured out his heart:  “O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly; My soul thirsts for you; my flesh yearns for You, In a dry and weary land where there is no water.”  What did David do in that dry and weary land in which he found himself?  Did he worry, complain, become bitter, or throw a royal fit?  No!  He sought God earnestly – and not for what God could do for him, but because of WHO God is.  He thirsted and yearned for God, “……to see Your power and Your glory.”

 

How did David seek God?  “Because Your loving kindness (grace) is better than life, My lips will praise You. So I will bless You as long as I live;  I will lift up my hands in Your Name.”  (Psalm 63:3-4)   David took action!  He didn’t sit there and allow ugly weeds or grasshoppers to clutter his soul.  He used his lips to praise God and he lifted his hands in worship of God.   He opened the way for God’s beauty to fill his being even in the midst of a dry desert and a dark cave.  Just as my little blooming flowers shone in my ugly flower bed, so David’s praise and worship was a shining light in his own heart and to those around him…………a light to reveal the great God Who loves us and delights in our praise even in the dry seasons of our lives…………..ESPECIALLY in those dry seasons!
 
It’s up to us…………..will it be ugly weeds and destructive grasshoppers?  Or will we lift our hands in worship and open our mouths in praise in the middle of the heat and dryness of our prolonged trials?     (Psalm 63:5)

Psalm 46

Today on the radio I heard David Jeremiah talking about those times that we come to God with such heavy hearts that we don’t really even know what to say, and so we just ask Him to speak to us in a special way.  I guess hearing him say that has caused me to think today about one of the most meaningful times that I did just that.

In May of 2000, my dad was diagnosed with lung cancer.  He went through months of grueling chemotherapy and radiation, and was doing very well.  After four years we were all resting easier about his condition, praising God for His healing hand on Dad.

I’ll never forget the day in early November of 2004 when our phone rang.  It was my mom and dad calling me from West Virginia.  Some routine blood work that had been done a few weeks earlier had shown that some of his levels weren’t quite right.  On the phone that day, he and mom broke the news to me that a liver scan had shown that Dad had liver cancer.  It was inoperable, but chemo was once again an option.  However, we knew that this was very serious and possibly terminal.

None of our family was expecting this news.  We were all devastated, of course, and so sad on many levels.  The next morning after receiving this awful news, I sat at the table with my coffee and my Bible.  I was trying to find the motivation to work on a Bible study I was doing, but my heart wasn’t in that.  Finally, I just called out to God and said, “Oh God, You know that I am so sad and so hurt over Dad.  Please, Lord, I need to hear from You right now.  Please speak to me.”

I opened my Bible randomly.  I had nothing marked, nothing stuck in the pages of my Bible that would have caused it to open where it did.  I looked down to where I had opened it and saw Psalm 46.  This was a special Psalm to my extended family.  Verse one says, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”  Beside that verse I had written, “‘Dad, cancer: 2000.”  Then verse 10 is my mother’s verse: “Be still and know that I am God.”  I had her name written beside that verse.

It was a very special time of worship for me that morning.  I said, “Oh, thank you Lord, for reminding me of Who You were to all of us during Dad’s cancer in 2000 and of Who You still are today!”  And so I added the date of 2004 to that verse as a reminder of this wonderful word once again from God.

It was a Friday morning and I knew that back in West Virginia, Dad was at the Men’s Prayer Breakfast that he always attended.  That meant that Mom would be alone, and so she and I could really talk.  I called her and for a few minutes we talked and cried together.  Then I said, “Mom, God did the most amazing thing this morning.  I asked Him to speak to me and so I opened my Bible……………”   But Mom interrupted me before I could say anything else.

She said, “Wait!  Don’t tell me!  Was it Psalm 46?”

And I replied, “Well, yes, but how did you know that?”

And she said, “Yesterday when we got home from the doctor, your dad went back into the bedroom and stayed there a long time.  When he came out I asked what he was doing, and he told me that he was reading Psalm 46.”

Oh wow!  God was reaching down to us, so many miles apart, and showing us that He was there…….that He was aware of our need and of our hurt……..that He hadn’t forgotten us…………..that He truly was a PRESENT help in our trouble.

God gave us four more wonderful years with Dad.  We would often say to each other, “Remember Psalm 46!”

What a faithful and awesome God we serve!