Sunday, June 30, 2013

It's a Block Party!

On Friday night, all the children who had participated in the week's sports camps, along with their families, were invited to the church for a "block party."  Nathan and the group from FBC Forney did a great job organizing the event.  It sort of reminded me of a miniature carnival with various stations scattered around both inside and outside.

The chicken sling shot was a big hit!

If the children hit the target with the chicken, they won a piece of candy!

Getting to know our community...

The Steele Family

Men in Blue

Isaac made several new friends! :)

Who is that goofy guy?


Face Painting

Every so often, there would be a drawing for one of the Upward sports prizes the team brought them.  Also, a brief word from the Bible would be shared at this time.

Mommies chatting.

Fun times!

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Another Hike to William's Lake

This past week, we have greatly enjoyed hosting a mission trip team from First Baptist of Forney, Texas, who came to help run evangelistic sports camps in our community.  The Upward basketball and football camps were a great success and allowed us to establish contacts with many people here in Taos!  We are truly grateful for these new friends, their labor of love, and investment in our ministry.

Yesterday, we all went on a hike to the beautiful William's Lake up in the mountains.  It was only my second time to go since moving here to Taos and once again, I enjoyed the scenery so much!  I am thankful I was feeling good enough to attempt the climb.  Though there was some pain, it was very bearable and eventually went away as the day wore on.
Enjoy the pictures!

We made it!

After enjoying snacks by the lake for awhile, we set out to try to find a waterfall we had heard was in the area.

There's a little waterfall, but it's not one we are looking for!

That's better!

Nathan climbed to the top of this slope and found a bigger, beautiful waterfall higher up but before we could all go see it, the heavens opened and it started to rain!

At least Brittany came prepared! :)

So much for only a 20% chance of precipitation!
Getting caught in a lightning storm in the mountains can be dangerous, so when it started to rain, we knew we had to hurry to get back down to the car...which would usually be an hour and a half hike!  There's nothing like steady rain, thunder, hail, and a bolt of lighting, though, to make a person hightail it down the trail!  Gravity helps too. :)  We made it back in record timing, soaked to the bone, and lived to tell the adventure!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Thankful Thursday

A long while ago, back when I was living in Bolivia, I read Ann Voskamp's book One Thousand Gifts and was impacted forever by its simple, yet profound message.  At that time, I started a list of one thousand gifts for which to give thanks to God.  The items on this list were oftentimes very small things in nature...but that was kind of the point.  So often, I had been faithful to thank the Lord for big things, but I would completely miss the small, tiny details of His goodness in everyday life that He so lovingly bestowed upon me.  Keeping a running list of His many gifts taught me to be always looking for them and always thankful for them.  This simple act also began to cultivate in my heart an attitude of constant gratitude that proved to be transformational as I endured various trials.

Somewhere in the flurry of wedding planning, getting married, expecting a baby, and moving to a new state, I stopped writing my list.  I had made it to 500 but no least on paper.

Now, in this new season of new trials and afflictions, I have decided to take up list writing once again.  While I certainly haven't stopped giving thanks as I go about each day, there is something about writing it all down that helps me to see in plain black and white just how good God is and causes a song of praise to hover over my heart.  And after all, a song of praise is so much nicer than a black cloud of discouragement. :)

So here we go.  One year after ceasing to write my list to 1,000 gifts, I again take up my pen (keyboard?), pick up with gift #501, and dedicate Thursdays to be the day in which my list goes public.

Anyone care to join me?

Today I am thankful for...

501. My sweet husband who loves me unconditionally, cares to see me get better, takes the trash out, and makes a mean omelette! :)

502.  My darling little boy whose smiles, coos, laughter, and curiosity about the world fill my days with sunshine, even when there is great pain

503.  The stunningly beautiful sunset God painted across the sky last night

504.  The strength to clean my floors today

505.  Excitement over starting to heal!

506.  Precious children and parents hearing the Gospel at our church's basketball camp this morning

507.  A washing machine right in my very own kitchen

508.  My baby's love for blankies that makes me smile when I peep in on him napping

509.  The smell of rain drifting in through the open windows as a summer shower pours down on our thirsty ground

510.  Friends with whom to walk this journey

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Hard Times, Honest Confessions, and Hope in the Home that is Coming

I think I first heard this song from Laura Story on my Pandora station about a year and a half ago.  I clearly remember being deeply touched by its beautiful melody and stirring lyrics.  I was impressed that someone would have the courage to write a song so counter-cultural to the anti-suffering, instant-gratification, health-and-wealth version of modern Christianity which has permeated our society.

It's one thing, though, to like a song.
It's another thing to actually live it.

A couple of days ago, Blessings again gently drifted across my Pandora station.  I hadn't heard it in months, and this time, the beautiful melody and stirring lyrics stopped me dead in my tracks.  As I stood at the kitchen sink listening, I could feel the tears welling up in my eyes...

We pray for healing, for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering

That prayer for healing and for His mighty hand to ease my suffering?  Um, yeah.  I know about that one.  I have been praying it for over three months.

You see, about five weeks after Isaac was born, and likely due to childbirth, a case of internal hemorrhoids manifested themselves.  (I know; it's a rather private topic to discuss on a blog, but in an effort to be real about life's tribulations, I'm just going to go ahead and say it like it is.)  At the time, I didn't know hemorrhoids were what I was dealing fact, I didn't even know such things existed!  I thought my problem was something else.

I did some research and started trying to treat my condition with home remedies to ease the constipation, discomfort, and pain I was suddenly experiencing.  I tried one thing after another: prune juice, more fruits and veggies and whole grains, increasing my water intake to one gallon a day, sitz baths, stool softeners, essential oils, etc.  But instead of getting better, my problem just got worse.

And all the while, You hear each spoken need
Yet love us way too much to give us lesser things

I had never experienced pain like this before.  Excruciating and agonizing don't even begin to describe the feeling.  It totally trumped childbirth ten times over.  Things got so bad that every time I had a you-know-what, it was like knives sliced through me, after which, a fire burned inside of very sensitive tissue for the rest of the day.  And then, the same thing would happen all over again the next day.  Needless to say, I dreaded going to the bathroom.  In fact, some mornings, I just plain dreaded getting out of bed and facing the torture that the day was bound to bring.

Recognizing that things were not improving, I finally called our family doctor in desperation.  I told her what I thought I was dealing with and she recommended coming in for an exam.  In the meantime, she told me to increase my fiber to 30-40 grams per day.  When I actually started counting grams, I realized that previously, my diet had been greatly lacking in this department!

I consciously began eating the right amount of fibrous foods (and continuing with all the other home remedies) and was so encouraged to see immediate improvement!  For a few days, that is.

It was the doctor's exam which revealed the problem to be hemorrhoids.  While I had heard this word before and encountered it in my research, I didn't really know what hemorrhoids were or anything about them.  (Enter more research!)

Armed with a topical prescription cream to start using and the encouragement that the fiber had been making a big difference, I went home with hope in my heart that this problem would begin to heal and life could return to normal.

Actually, no.
Instead, my pain only seemed to get worse...if that was even possible.  Proverbs 13:12 says, "Hope deferred makes the heart sick..." That definitely described my emotional condition.  As my hopes for recovery were once again shattered, the discouragement I had been fighting for many weeks seemed to settle over me like an ominous black cloud.  I cried many tears because of the pain and the overwhelming feeling of despair.

We pray for wisdom, Your voice to hear
We cry in anger when we cannot feel You near
We doubt your goodness, we doubt your love...

My thoughts were in a constant whirlwind.  My theology says that God is in control and while He could heal me, He certainly didn't have to.   At the same time, as a mother, I couldn't imagine watching my child suffer excruciating pain day after day and not do everything I possibly could to bring him relief.  So, why didn't God do the same for me?  He is my Father, after all!  I knew I was supposed to trust Him and give thanks in all things, and I really did try...but it didn't seem to help my despair.

Oh, how the thoughts did tumble and the doubts rage!
Would I ever get better? Would I have to deal with hemorrhoids every time I had a baby?  How could I keep enduring this terrible pain day after day?  What kind of mother could I be if all I could do each day was feed and diaper my child in between taking hot baths?  God, I don't know what to do!  Please help me!  I'm mad at You because You could heal me, yet you aren't healing me.  Yet, I am ashamed to admit I'm mad because You are God and You know best and You are worthy to be trusted!  I know suffering is a part of life, but this is not the kind of suffering I had in mind!  This is not the kind of suffering I read about in Your Word.  At least suffering for one's faith is a noble and worthy cause.  But suffering with hemorrhoids??? I'm guessing this is a test, but I don't know to what purpose and I'm confused and hurting...

As if every promise from Your word is not enough
And all the while, You hear each desperate plea
And long that we'd have faith to believe

As these thoughts tumbled and the days passed and the pain became more raw, another doctor's exam showed that my hemorrhoids had multiplied and some were now ulcerated.  At least there was an explanation for the increase in pain.  I was given a second prescription cream to start using...
...and then...

a breakthrough.

I'm not exactly sure when the black cloud started lifting, but I think it was around the time of my birthday.  The phone calls with dear friends and family, the comments you all wrote in, the conversations with many who knew exactly what I was going through and had advice to was all like a breath of fresh air!  Encouragement can mean so, so much!

In addition to the hot baths, high fiber diet, and prescription creams I was using, I began adding the various other natural remedies people suggested to my daily routine.  These in turn led to more research and more ideas until I soon had a long list on the fridge of all the different "treatments" beneficial to healing hemorrhoids.  At that point, I was willing to try just about anything that would lead to recovery.

The spark of hope in my heart that sputtered out so many times over the months is burning once again.  Recently, I've had several days of very minimal pain and have been able to function normally, attending to my husband, household, and baby!  This relief from the pain has also brought tremendous encouragement to my soul.

Additionally, I have been reminded this past week that my issue, while incredibly difficult to muddle through, is not nearly so hard compared to what some people deal with.  A visit to a 93-year-old church member who is on oxygen for life because of a mistake doctors made and who probably won't ever heal from recently broken vertebrae due to her age was a rebuke to me as I observed her constant cheerfulness.  A Facebook update on a new mother who is battling stage 4 cancer was an admonition to be grateful that I am not facing a fatal disease or agressive chemo therapy treatments just as a new baby entered my life.

Yes, even though my life has been fraught with physical difficulty that has taken its toll on my emotions, there really is so much to be thankful for.

Even though I've had some good days of late, I'm not by any means fully recovered.  In fact, today was another hard day of burning, stinging pain that lasted for hours on end in which I could do little more than feed and diaper my child in between various types of baths and treatments.  But thanks to the encouragement I've been receiving, the healing I think I am starting to experience, and the disappearance of the dark cloud overhead, the day was a little easier to endure.

This issue with painful hemorrhoids and a big question mark over how long it will be before I am totally better certainly makes these words from the song Blessings ring true in my heart!

When darkness seems to win
We know that pain reminds this heart
That this is not,
This is not our home

As my husband constantly reminds me in sermons and personal conversations, the only true hope we have in life is the coming resurrection. This world is cursed and sin wreaks havoc every day.  There is great suffering, trial, and tribulation.  But those whose faith rests in the Lord Jesus and his substitutionary death on the cross in their place will one day leave this all behind and live in perfect bodies free of pain in the presence of God forever.  Home is coming!

What if my greatest disappointments or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can't satisfy
What if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are your mercies in disguise?

Friday, June 21, 2013

Recent Pictures of our Baby Boy

In a way, it's hard to believe Isaac will be four months old soon!

Yet, in another way, it's hard to remember life before he arrived.

He has become such an integral part of every day (and night)!

One of his latest discoveries is his feet!  He loves to reach down and play with them.

My little Puma boy!

Isaac is getting much better at spending time on his tummy now that he is strong enough to hold his head up higher and rest his weight on his elbows.

Love those big, curious eyes!

Such a happy little guy!

This picture cracks me up because he really wasn't being sad; somehow the camera just caught this funny expression on his face in between smiles!

Please excuse the potty in the background.  Isaac was having play time without clothes or a diaper (so we could air out a diaper rash) and I kept the potty on hand for him to go in as needed.  We have been working on infant potty training from the beginning and he is doing great with it (when Mommy takes the time to watch the clock and take him potty accordingly).

He has turned into a little gnawing machine when it comes to blankets and his hands!  I think he's working on some teeth already...