Friday, November 15, 2019

Didn't See That Coming. Three Years Later.

Tomorrow is my stroke-adversary. Three years ago, on this day, life was normal. And the next day it wasn't.

These last three years have been quite a journey.

There was the time in the neuro-ICU. I still have no memory of that.




There was thanksgiving dinner at Spartanburg Rehabilitation Institute, another thing I don't remember.




But things began to improve. My first clear memory comes from a few days after Thanksgiving. On that morning, I had a clear memory of a passage of scripture which I shared with Al and Brandon when they arrived. "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee, because he trusts in Thee."

That was my first clear memory. It stands out because, at that time, I couldn't speak clearly. I was wearing an eye patch because my eyes wouldn't work together. I couldn't read. I couldn't write. I couldn't always understand what was being said to me. Even so, God brought this verse very clearly to my mind. It got me through those days in rehab, and through all the days since.

From that morning forward, I made steady progress.

Eventually, I traded my eye patch for a new pair of glasses.




Several months later, I was able to teach Sunday School again. That was something I had thought I would never be able to do again.





Since then, I've made steady improvement. When I finally graduated from speech therapy in May, 2017, my therapist told me I would continue to make improvement. I confess that I didn't really believe her. But she was right!

Since then, we have had some wonderful adventures! We have been able to travel.....




I've celebrated birthdays and Christmases and family vacations. I've even done some baking, which is a real accomplishment, since the stroke has left me very challenged with anything to do with numbers and baking requires accurate measurements. These last three years have been full of challenges. Of ups and downs. Of frustrations and discouragements. And of great joy.

This has been quite a learning experience.

Learning to talk again.

Learning to read and write again.

Learning that even on that days when I struggle with those things, and I still sometimes do, God is still good.

These have been years of learning to trust.

Of learning to deal with my limitations.

Of learning that it's OK when I have to say no to some things.

Of knowing that even though I have limitations, God is still God.

God is still good.

God is still in control.

God has a plan and a purpose for all things.

Even for strokes.

I may not understand (I don't!), but that's ok.

Because God is God and I am not.

Because even in the valley, God is still God and He is still good.

Life is filled with good days and bad days, frustrating days, and encouraging days. These three years have been years of learning and growing. It is an experience I certainly don't want to repeat, but I am thankful.

Thankful for all God has taught me, and is still teaching me, through this experience. Thankful for family and friends who have walked through this journey with me. Thankful for all the people who have prayed me through this experience.

I didn't see it coming. But it happened. And I survived.

I am a stroke survivor.

And it's all because of God's amazing grace.

"Now therefore, our God, we praise You, and praise Your glorious name."
1 Chronicles 29:13 NASB

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Awesome

"His divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness." (2 Peter 1:3 HCSB)


That verse was the text for our devotional at last night's choir rehearsal. And that verse is awesome!


Awesome is a word that gets tossed around a lot. It may be one of the most over-used - and misused - words in the English language. These days we think of everything as awesome.


Read that verse again.  His (God's) divine power has given us everything that is required, everything we need, to live a live of godliness.  Not some things. Everything. That's awesome!


Unfortunately, the word awesome has lost its impact. These days we think of nearly everything as awesome. We use it when our team scores a big play. When we enjoy a nice dinner. When we receive a gift. When we get good news. Whether we're talking about a ball player or the weather or what we had for dinner, everything these days is awesome.


The word awesome can mean "very impressive" or "overwhelming" or "causing feelings of reverence or admiration". It's my opinion that we need to be a little more careful about our use of the word awesome. There are many things deserving of that word. The grandeur of the Rocky Mountains. A glorious sunrise. The beauty of a sunset. The birth of a baby.


Above all, the word awesome belongs to God. For His wondrous works. For His marvelous grace. For His sovereignty in all things. For the gift of salvation. The list could go on.


There are many things in our world today that are less than awesome. We live in a world filled with chaos and greed and anger. That list could be very long as well.


But no matter what is going on in the world today, and no matter which way the political winds shift, and not matter what may going on in your personal life, or in mine, none of it takes God by surprise. He is sovereign. He knows what is happening in the world. He has a plan and purpose for all things.


Take comfort in that today.


Because our God is awesome!

"O God, You are awesome from Your sanctuary. The God of Israel Himself gives strength and power to the people. Blessed be God!" (Psalm 68:35 NASB)

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Feeling Nostalgic

Maybe its because we are heading into the holiday season. Or maybe it's because we just celebrated Veteran's Day and I saw so many photos of those who served. Maybe it's because I've been researching my ancestry. I don't know, but for whatever reason, I'm feeling very nostalgic this morning.


Yesterday I was looking back through some old family photos. Some of our children when they were younger. And some of us when we were younger! As I looked through those photos, I came across some real treasures.


There was this undated photo of my home town in days gone by.




There was this, also undated, picture of my grandparents when they were very young.


 

And there was this picture of my Grandmother as I remember her. She's the only grandmother I ever knew, since my Grandmother Austin died before I was born. Grandmother Neil lived next door to us from the time I was 2 years old. I spent a lot of time with her, and she had a profound influence on my life.
 


The picture is old and faded, but very precious to me. One of my most vivid memories was that Grandmother was always singing. And if not singing, then humming or whistling. When she washed clothes (with the old wringer washing machine) and washed dishes. When she cooked and worked in the yard. And almost always to the same tune.

Thou, my everlasting portion, more than friend or life to me;
All along my pilgrim journey, Savior, let me walk with thee.
Close to Thee, close to Thee, close to Thee, close to Thee;
All along my pilgrim journey, Savior let me walk with Thee.*


I often find myself singing that as well, as I'm working a puzzle or puttering around the house. I guess the apple didn't fall far from the tree!

This is more than just something that reminds me of my Grandmother. It's more than just a hymn we don't sing much anymore.

It's a prayer.

And it's my prayer.

Perhaps it could be your prayer too.

"Draw near to God and He will draw near to you." (James 4:8)


* words: Fanny J. Crosby; music: Silas J. Vail

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Bought With A Price

Yesterday we celebrated Veteran's Day, a day when we remember and honor those men and women who have served in our nation's military. It was heartwarming to see the photos and the stories of people who have served, and to see such an outpouring of love and respect for our veterans. I'm glad there is a day set aside for this purpose, but I also think it's sad that we don't remember them more often. That we don't think about and honor those men and women, and their families, who sacrifice so much on our behalf. Who pay the price so we don't have to. And the price they pay is very high. We must never forget that freedom isn't free, and that many have sacrificed much on our behalf.

Freedom comes at a price. A great price. And not only the freedoms we enjoy as American citizens, but the our freedom in Christ as well. May we never forget the great price that our Savior paid that we might be free from sin. May we never forget what it cost Him. May we never take it for granted.

We so often take our freedoms as Americans for granted. Shame on us! And shame on us when we treat our freedom in Christ casually as well.

May we live this day, and every day, with gratitude for all that is ours in Christ Jesus. May we never forget how much it cost..

"For you were bought with a price."  (1 Corinthians 6:20 ESV)

"Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.  For he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed."  (Isaiah 53:4-5 ESV)




Thursday, November 7, 2019

Pausing to Ponder. An Encore Post.

"Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice." (Philippians 4:4 NASB)

As I was scrolling through some old posts, I came across this one from 2016. I've been thinking about it. Pondering it. It's a very timely verse for all seasons of life. Especially for me, and especially at this season of the year. You see, I originally posted this on November 15, 2016. One day before I had a stroke. One day before! I'm sharing this post with you again in its entirety, just as I wrote it 3 years ago.

Rejoice in the Lord.

Rejoice always.

Always. That's a powerful word. An all-encompassing word. A pretty direct word.

Think about it. Ponder exactly what it means.

Rejoice when your candidate wins the election.

Rejoice when your candidate loses the election.

Rejoice always.

Rejoice when you are sick, and rejoice when you are healthier.

Rejoice when you have cancer, and rejoice when you don't.

Rejoice when everything in your life is going wonderfully well, and rejoice when it isn't.

Rejoice always.

Rejoice. 

"For the joy of the Lord is your strength." (Nehemiah 8:10 NASB)

Rejoicing in the Lord is not about circumstances.

Rejoicing in the Lord is about knowing who the Lord is, knowing His character and His ways.

It's knowing the truth, and placing confidence and trust in that truth.

Jesus said, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life." (John 14:6 NASB)

Jesus said, "And you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." (John 8:32 NASB)

When we know truth - when we know THE TRUTH - we are set free to rejoice always. In every circumstance.

Because joy doesn't come from circumstances. Joy comes from Jesus.

Circumstances are just circumstances. Stuff happens. Life doesn't always go our way. It isn't always pretty. Or easy. Nor was it ever promised to be.

But, when we remain grounded in the truth of who Jesus is, when we stay centered there, then we can have joy in every circumstance and in every situation. In the good times. In the bad times. And in all the in-between times.

Not silly-smile happiness all the time. But deep down joy, in the core of our being. Because we know truth. Because we know The Truth. Because our joy and our confidence and our strength are in Him.

Pause to ponder that truth today! And rejoice!

"Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice." (Philippians 4:4 NASB)

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Done Any Eavesdropping Lately?



Go ahead and admit it. We all do it. Listen in on the conversations around us. I'm not talking about the hide-behind-the-door-like-a-sneak-so-you-can-hear-the-conversation-between-your-parents kind of eavesdropping. I'm talking about just listening in on conversations that happen around you, the conversations that you aren't really a part of. In the restaurant. In the doctor's office. At church. In the mall.

When you listen to those conversations, what do you hear? 

Here's what I've heard a lot of lately:  complaining, whining, grumbling, negativity. It's too hot. It's too cold. It rains too much. It doesn't rain enough. The coffee is too hot. The coffee is cold. The coffee is too strong. The coffee is weak. The tables are too close together. It's too crowded. I don't like that song. The music is too loud. Why don't we sing my favorite song? Why are the chairs arranged this way? The chairs are too close together. The chairs are too far apart. I don't like drums. I don't like guitars. On and on it goes.

There's a recurring theme. What I like. What I don't like. Me. I. My.

Even among those of us who call ourselves Christian, there's an awful lot of complaining and grumbling and selfishness. Maybe especially among those of us who call ourselves Christian. As though life is all and only about us and our own personal preferences. 

That's sad, isn't it? Because the truth of the matter is, it's not about you. Or me.

Is this how we are displaying Jesus to the world?

I challenge you to pay attention to your conversation today. Really listen to yourself. Eavesdrop on your own conversation, not just the conversations around you. What's the dominant theme?

Certainly we live in challenging times. The economy. Self-serving politicians. The list could be very long.

But our joy isn't based on circumstances, is it? Our joy is in the Lord Jesus. And shouldn't that joy should be reflected in our conversation?

Something to think about today.

"Finally, brothers [and sisters], whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things."             (Philippians 4:8 ESV)

"From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers [and sisters], these things ought not to be so."  (James 3:10 ESV)

"Through him [Jesus], let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name."  (Hebrews 13:15 ESV)

"Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude jesting, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving."  (Ephesians 5:4 ESV)

"Do all things without grumbling."  (Philippans 2:14 ESV)

"Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer."  (Psalm 19:14 ESV)

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

What If. Some Thoughts About Time Change

It's that time again. The time when we return to standard time from daylight savings time. Which means it's the time of year when there's a lot of complaining going on!


I'm not sure who first decided that moving our clocks forward or backward every six months was a good idea. I seem to remember that Benjamin Franklin has been credited with the idea. Of course, when Ben mentioned daylight savings time, it was in the middle of a satirical essay, which may means even he didn't think it was such a good idea. The idea became standard practice sometime in the late 1970s, and we've been doing it ever since. I think the idea back in the 1970s was to give children more daylight at the bus stop in the morning. But that really makes no since, because if you adjust time to have more daylight in the morning, it naturally follows that there will be less daylight in the evening. So what happens to children at the bus stop then? Especially those children who are still on a bus at 5pm!


When I went to my last Weight Watcher meeting, it was still daylight when I left the meeting at 6pm. Yesterday was a rude awakening. Not only was it already dark when I left, but because it was a cloudy evening, it was really dark! 


This idea of taking an hour from one end of the day and putting it on the other end of the day really accomplishes nothing, in my humble opinion. There are still only twenty-four hours! Well, it does accomplish something. It messes with my body clock. And I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one! And the older I get, the more that is true. Since we had the "fall back" over the weekend, yesterday, and today - and probably for the rest of the week - I'm trying to adjust. Not really sure what time it is. A little out of sorts. Thinking it's mid-morning when it's really only eight o'clock. Things like that. Of course, I'll adjust. We all will. We're flexible like that. But I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one who will be complaining about it.




Adjustments are a part of the journey of life. Now we're adjusting to the time change. Tomorrow may be something different. But no matter what adjustments there are to make, we have the option to complain, or to make the adjustment and move forward.


How about this. Instead of complaining, what if we were just grateful. Instead of complaining that the time change messes with my body clock, be thankful for another day of life. Instead of complaining that it's too hot or too cold, be thankful that we have the ability to feel. Instead of complaining when rainy days cause our joints to ache a little more, be thankful that we are able to move around. That we aren't in a wheel chair. Or worse yet, bed ridden.


Instead of so much complaining, why don't we stop and consider all the reasons we have to be thankful. And instead of whining to our family or our friends or our coworkers, why not share the reasons you have to be thankful today.


It's a choice. Which will you choose?


"Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."
(1 Thessalonians 5:18 ESV)