Candy Wrappers and Fuzzy Tongues: the Influence of an Older Brother

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Having six boys, we have quite a culture of testosterone in our home.  Wrestle first, ask questions later.  As my older boys grow into men, I hope that they will be a good influence on the younger ones.  Teach them to respect their mom, stand up for their brothers, and protect their sisters…stuff like that!

However I have noticed a different type of influence that is not always good.  The oldest boy would relentlessly pick on the second to youngest one.  I would explain to the Oldest that I understand that the Second Youngest can be very annoying at times, BUT the truth of the matter is, “You were very much like him at his age.  You looked very similar and had very similar behaviors.  Your Dad and I didn’t call you mean names or criticize you did we?” I ask.

“No,” the Oldest answers.

“So give him the same courtesy,” I say.

My logical explanation seems to have little effect on his behavior as the bullying continues.  I begin to notice that the Third and Fourth Oldest are learning the fine art of bullying.  I am distressed.

Other behaviors trickle down the line such as writing on clothing or sneaking candy and stashing the empty wrappers behind the washing machine.  A love for fishing, violent video games, and BB guns flourish.  When the Oldest joins the delayed entry program of the Marines, the other boys pick a branch of the military that they will join someday.  Even the Youngest is being encouraged to follow his dream of being a paratrooper.

“I don’t want ALL my sons to be in the military,” I yell out. What is a mother to do?

As the Oldest spends more and more time with his Marine recruiters, training physically and mentally for boot camp, I notice a change in him.  He is maturing.  He is becoming more honorable and more truthful.  He is becoming more respectful…most of the time.

Dental Health has never been very important to the Oldest Brother.  Dental Health is very important to me.  I used to brush each child’s teeth after each meal.  As they get older, they must brush their teeth themselves of course, but I still remind them quite often.

“Have you brushed your teeth?” I call out to the Second Youngest who is rushing out the door for school.

“Yeah, Yeah,” he answers.

I suspect that he didn’t.  I suspect that he hasn’t brushed at all in the past week.  I need to pry open his mouth and check for myself but there he goes…halfway to school already.

One day I witnessed firsthand the power of the influence of the Oldest Brother.  We were all sitting at the dining room table eating a meal.  When we are done I try again to preserve the teeth of my children.

“Everyone, brush your teeth!” I call out.

No effect.  No indication that anyone has heard me speak.

Then a new voice declares, “You should really brush your teeth, you know.”

It is the knowable voice of the Oldest Brother.

“I didn’t used to brush my teeth at all,” he continues, “but then I saw this picture of what happens to your tongue when you never brush. I almost puked right there!  The back of the tongue was growing mold, fuzzy mold!”

“Really?” the younger brothers are very interested, “Show us!  Show us!” they beg.

He whips out his phone, finds the picture and shows them all.

The younger boys do not walk, they RUN to the bathroom to brush their teeth.  In all my years of mothering, I don’t think I have ever elicited such immediate and wholehearted compliance to one of my instructions.

The cool Oldest Brother has a power that even he doesn’t totally understand. May it always be a force for good!  Now that the Oldest Brother is in boot camp, may the core values of the Marines be the driving force behind his awesome power of influence.

HONOR

COURAGE

COMMITMENT

And just a little bit of good housekeeping and proper dental hygiene.

 

 

The Naming of Aria Iolani

It was an early Sunday morning in July.  Most of the family was still in bed.  I was on the computer Googling “names meaning eagle” and hoping no one would come down the stairs and see what I was doing.

I felt rather silly, looking up baby names.  I was 41.  I already had 9 beautiful children.  I had no reason to think that I would ever be blessed with another one.  I would say from time to time, “I think I would like to have a baby in my 40s.”  My husband would always respond, “You’re crazy.”

I felt a little crazy just then, but I felt compelled to do it.  I just had to know what names were out there that meant “eagle.”  Over the past few years God had used many amazing encounters to convince me that I was meant to be an eagle.  I was beginning to let go of who I thought I was (a quiet girl who was deathly afraid of heights) and believe who God made me to be.

I found many names that fit the bill.  However, I needed an “A” name for a girl and a “C” name for a boy to follow the pattern of all our other children.  I could find no suitable boy name, try as I might!  A girl’s name struck me as though it were jumping off the computer screen .

Aria Iolani

 Aria:

Hebrew from Ariel – lion or lioness of God

Italian – air, melody

Sanskrit and Persian – noble, honorable

Teutonic – intelligence of an eagle

Iolani (ee-oh-lahn-ee):

Hawaiian – hawk of royalty, bird of heaven, to soar like an eagle

How perfect!  How beautiful!  A dream had been planted in my heart; a tiny seed carrying the perfect name. A dream that I would one day have a daughter who would bear this name.  A daughter who would have the vision and intelligence of an eagle.  A daughter who would know her identity from the womb. She would not have to live 40 years on the ground before it began to dawn on her…she was meant to FLY!

A few months later, in December, I found that I was pregnant.  The revelation came at a time I didn’t expect.  It didn’t seem like the right time for another baby.  But …perhaps this dream in my heart had been a dream in God’s heart all along.  Perhaps now was THE TIME!

My oldest daughter, Areli, loved the girl’s name I had found!  The boys did not like it, mostly because they wanted the baby to be a boy.  Chris liked the named “Aria” but wasn’t sure about “Iolani.”  It was too hard for him to remember and pronounce correctly, and he thought it would difficult for others as well.

I checked out a bunch of books from the library about Hawaii since Areli was planning on going there for school in the next year or so.  I discovered that there is an Iolani Palace in Hawaii, the only royal palace in the United States.  That settled it.  “Iolani” was THE middle name!

I was excited but told myself that this baby could easily be a boy.  Soon sickness and other pregnancy discomforts (that I had never experienced before) came upon me.  The dream of “Aria Iolani” was still a lovely thought, but it was overpowered by the thoughts of a victim pleading for release from her prison.  I understood that all that was going on in my spirit was being experienced by my baby’s spirit as well.  I tried to be thankful and upbeat.  I tried to speak over my baby love and peace and truth.  Half the time I doubted the truth myself.  That God really loved me and that someday I would feel good again.

Many fears started to plague my mind.  What if there was something wrong with this baby?  What if there was something wrong with my body?  And the worst fear of all, what if this child had a chromosomal abnormality like Ashlyn had?  I love Ashlyn and I am still amazed that God would trust us with such a special child.  Still, I always thought that having two special children would be absolutely too much to handle, and I would break under the strain of it.  With each pregnancy there has been a small chance, and each time this fear rears its ugly head.  This pregnancy the fear was worse than usual, almost suffocating me at times.

I didn’t go to church for two months.  Finally I was feeling well enough to go to a Sunday morning service.  As I entered the balcony of the sanctuary, I heard the Helsers leading worship.  I felt the sweet presence of God, and I longed to linger there forever!  They were singing, “Mt. Zion.”

We have come to Mount Zion

City of the living God

Heavenly Jerusalem

By his blood we have come

I felt God’s presence.  I felt peace and joy.  I felt safety and security.  The fears dissipated.  Hope started rising.  This is where I should have been living this whole time.  This is where I wanted my baby to live, even in the womb.  I felt sad that I had been such a bad mother so far.  I had tried to abide in the presence of God in my own home.  But most of the time I just felt sick and discouraged.

Here at church I could feel His presence, as though Mount Zion was a reality I was dwelling in. The song continued:

Thousands of angels dance around his throne

Thousands more sing out new songs

And elders throw their crowns down

As all of heaven sings out

 

“Baby, this is where you are to live all the time,” I told the precious little one.

                “I know, mama.”

I heard a sweet little girl’s voice say these words.  At least I thought it sounded like a girl. I knew it was my baby.  This was very unexpected and unusual.  It wasn’t said in a sassy voice as if to imply that I was being dumb for thinking my baby didn’t already know this.

It was said in a comforting voice as if to say, “Mama, you worry too much.  I am just fine.  I just recently came to you from heaven.  I could see those angels in person, and I can see them still.  I am still surrounded by His presence.”

I felt more at peace than I had in a long time.  My baby was more aware of spiritual realities than I was.  She was most definitely an amazing child.  I began to remember all the fears I had confronted during previous pregnancies.  One by one those fears had fallen by the wayside, replace by peace.  Almost across board just the opposite had proven to be true.

I didn’t need to worry about this baby’s health, well-being, or intelligence.  She (or possibly he, I had to remind myself) was extraordinary…a super baby!  She (or he) had just spoken to me from the womb for goodness sake!

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On March 30th we had an ultrasound that revealed a perfect and beautiful baby girl!  My dream was growing inside me.

Aria Iolani

About four weeks before my due date, Aria dropped.  She was sitting low and I was uncomfortable.

“At least she is head down and in the right position.  She is getting ready to be born, and it won’t be long now,” I thought.

Each week she dropped a little lower.  Each week I was more uncomfortable.  I kept having signs that labor was near, but no real labor would come.  The last week, each day felt exponentially worse than the day before.  My due date, August 16th came and went, and Aria became my first baby that was actually late.

Finally my water broke the night of August 17th.  The next day labor still had not started, but my homebirth midwife came over to check on me.  I was already dilated to 5 cm and Aria was at +3 station.  The midwife said that babies normally are not that low unless the mom was already in labor.  We both thought that once labor started, Aria would be born quickly.  We were wrong.

Labor finally began around 3pm on August 18th but it progressed very slowly.  I was listening to worship music, scriptures, and birth affirmations.  I was enjoying God’s presence.  He was speaking to me and showing me visions of Himself.   Before I knew it, it was evening.  I didn’t feel like I was in transition even though I was dilated to 10.

Then it got difficult.  I never really had a difficult labor, so it was a new experience.  Aria was so close to being born, yet she wasn’t being born!  I am sure it was difficult for her too, but her heart-rate remained steady.  Finally after an ambulance ride, an epidural, Pitocin, and some sleep; Aria supernaturally came into the outside world at 2:33 am on August 19, 2018.  I felt no pain and consciously did nothing at all.

I simply slept and prayed, “Jesus, you do this because I can’t.”

I woke up to the slightest bit of pressure.  My midwife looked under my covers to see that Aria’s head was crowning!

She was born quickly and placed in my arms.  The rest of the room faded away.  There was only my baby.

Aria Iolani

She was beautiful and peaceful.  I noticed her eyes first.  They were open wide and moving slowly back and forth, scanning and taking it all in.  To me they looked like the eyes of an eagle.

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She is now six weeks old.  Aria had not been as sleepy as my other newborns.  She is more alert and her eyes are always looking.

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The midwife saw her at three weeks and said, “She seems more like a 6 week old that a 3 week old.”  At 3 ½ weeks she began to really look at our faces and smile! The most adorable smile.

Not all is prefect of course.  My recovery had been much slower this time.  Aria finds it hard to just fall asleep, and she spends a good amount of time crying when she is tired.  She also had the worst case of thrush I have ever seen.  Then came the baby acne.

But when I nurse her and look at her baby face, I am so thankful for the chance to have her as a daughter, my 10th child.

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What a rare and precious jewel.  When I prayed for her during my difficult pregnancy, God showed me so clearly that Aria is vitally important – to this family, to this world, and to eternity.  She was not an extra baby or an optional baby.  She NEEDED to be here.  Just like every single baby ever to be conceived.

Of course to me Aria is amazing!  Brilliant, observant, and born to fly.

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Aria Iolani

A dream come true.

My Son Just Graduated from High School! But what do the Marines have to do with this Rite of Passage?

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Cole graduated with his class from Dauphin County Technical School at the Forum in Harrisburg last night.  His father graduated at the very same place 25 years ago.  Excitement was in the air as all the students were decked out in their sashes and cords, representing their accomplishments.

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Cole was the most proud of his black and red United States Marine Corps sash.  We as his family thought that it was by far the finest piece of his outfit, representing months of hard work, representing his future.

 

                As the students got ready for the ceremony, the woman in charge told Cole and two other students that they could NOT wear their Marine sashes during the ceremony under any circumstance.

If they did, they would be denied their diplomas.  The reason?  The students who had enlisted in the other branches of the military did not have similar sashes.  Their red, white, and blue cords would be decoration enough.

Cole was quite angry with this decision.  We as his family were pretty upset as well, wishing there was a way this decision could be overturned.  However, as the seniors marched into the auditorium, no red and black sashes were visible.

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The time came for each cord to be identified and each group of students to rise to receive recognition for the corresponding achievement.  So many fine students!  So many accolades for certifications, test scores, and memberships in honor societies!  Cole rose for many of them, including most outstanding Senior in his technical area.  Finally the students wearing the red, white, and blue cords were asked to stand for their commitment to the armed forces.  Applause and clapping erupted!  Many people stood to their feet!  Our family was up, cheering our hearts out.

Soon almost the entire auditorium rose to honor these courageous young people with thunderous applause. The cheering seemed to last forever.

Although the roaring applause did last four times as long as the applause for any of the other cords, it did not last forever.  Still it was a moment in time that will live in my heart for eternity. A defining moment.

Patriotism is not dead!

Commitment and sacrifice for your country means something! Something that our lives and freedoms depend on.  We feel that gratitude in our very bones.

My son was the recipient of that gratitude in that moment.  I hope he remembers that moment when it feels as if the entire world is against him.  I hope he remembers that his choice means something that I can barely express, but feel so deeply.

I hope he always remembers that we are so, so proud!

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Discouraged Much? Me Too!

I was looking forward to 2018 with great expectations.  This is what I wrote in my journal about the coming year.

The Best is Yet to Come

Best Year Yet

Open Doors

God Encounters

Becoming Eagles

When the New Year arrived, it came in a way that I didn’t expect.  During January and February I became very discouraged. Three major sorrows had come upon me.

Sorrow #1 – I felt sicker than I ever had in my life

I discovered that I was carrying a new child of destiny in my womb. It was a dream come true, and I was elated!  I felt wonderful with my last pregnancy, so I thought this one would be even better.  Wrong!  I had never felt so weird and nauseous before.  I had never thrown up so much before!  I have never had hot flashes and cold chills before.

When I believed that 2018 would be the year that I would become an eagle, I imagined writing more.  So many beautiful God stories were in my heart, crying out to be crafted into words.  Maybe I would even put together a manuscript and work on a book!  For Christmas my husband and children surprised me with a new laptop…OF MY VERY OWN!  I was so surprised and excited!

I also thought I would be able to be more involved at church.  Oh, all the beautiful times of prayer and worship and God encounters that awaited me!

Yet January and February found me sitting on the sofa or sleeping in my bed with a weak body and a fuzzy brain.  It was hard to think about anything except how to avoid throwing up again. I tried to write, but I couldn’t.  Sitting at the computer even for a few minutes made me feel even sicker!  (It still does so this article was a bit of a struggle to produce.)  I didn’t go to church at all.

Sorrow #2 – Finances

God was going do wonderful things in our finances this year.  I was sure of it!  Early in the New Year Chris got promoted to full-time at UPS.  This was amazing, happening more quickly than usual.  However, it didn’t play out so well in real life.  First of all, peak was over, so his hours went from 70 hrs to 50-55 hrs a week.  That is normal, just life at UPS.  However, because of a rule that says all full-time employees have to be paid for at least 8 hours each day they are called in to work, Chris lost the opportunity to pick up 4 hours of air-rate overtime on Saturdays.  This had a significant impact on each paycheck.  In addition, full-time employees have to pay more union dues.  We had less instead of more, and it was feeling like a struggle again.

Sorrow #3 – Lack of Healing

It has been difficult for me to believe in miraculous healing.  I do believe theoretically, but I just haven’t had much experience in my own life.  This year I felt faith arising!  Perhaps this was the time that I would see healing with my own eyes!  We were planning a double foot surgery for Ashlyn, but what if God would heal her first?

I took Ashlyn to a healing room.  It was lovely, and the people were beautiful, and I felt the goodness of God.  Prayers were prayed, but nothing happened with Ashlyn that I could see.

They also prayed for me for two specific health problems.  The following week those two issues became significantly worse. Talk about being discouraged!

One of those issues was varicose veins.  I had bad veins in my right leg since my 4th pregnancy which was 14 years ago.  14 years of no shorts, no dresses.  14 years of feeling rather ugly and old.  Last June I had the worst vein removed and the faulty vein repaired.  It took three days of surgery with local anesthesia.  It required one incision and 58 small holes.  The recovery was more painful than I had expected, and I wondered if it was really worth it.

It was supposed to heal and leave me with a normal looking leg.  Yet I had to attend my daughter’s High School Graduation in baggy, frumpy pants to accommodate the bandages.  I developed a dream in my heart that encouraged me greatly.  My son’s graduation would be next June.  I would attend that important event in a pretty summer dress!

In this New Year, I was so excited to be pregnant without those horrible veins!  No pain, no awful compression stockings!  As this pregnancy progressed, I noticed pain in my leg again.  It was awhile before I realized that it was new veins popping out on the back of my leg.  The leg that still bore 59 little scars.  Slowly the veins traveled down my entire leg.  After receiving prayer, they began to hurt so much that I had to wear a compression stocking.

My beautiful dream had officially died a pathetic and mournful death!

The Sorrows are so small

Now that I am in my second trimester, I can look at my life and see a hundred joys outnumbering those three little sorrows.  I can give thanks for a thousand different blessings each day!!!

Still, I feel discouraged.  If only things were a little different in certain areas.  If only I didn’t feel my faith slipping away.

One Sunday morning during worship I gave my discouragement to God.  Still I wished for my sorrows to be gone.  Then God helped me to realize.

There is something Deeper (than my reality).

There is something more Real (than my circumstances).

There is something more Important (than my discouragement).

Like this baby growing healthy and strong.  Like the delight that God has when He looks at me.  Like the fact that this suffering is nothing compared to the glory that will be revealed in me, the glory that will be revealed in my daughter.  Like my character being formed into the character of Christ.

Like Becoming An Eagle!

I had asked God to transform me into an eagle this year.  To help me to worship Him until the wind of His presence surrounded me.  To help me to stretch out my wings in faith.  To teach me to fly.  To teach me to see EVERYTHING from His higher perspective.

He has been answering my prayer this whole time.  No one ever learns to do something new without practice.  All these sorrows are training me to rise above and SEE!

Your eyes will see the King in his beauty, and the highlands of heaven far away.” Is 33:17 Living Bible

This has been His promise to me.  I have asked Him to help me live in it.  I have asked for a difficult thing…

But it is worth it!

 

P.S. Just a note to all of my followers.  I am so delighted that you enjoy my writing! I probably will not be posting much until August or September when I hope that I will be reconciled to my laptop.  Praying you will bask in all the joys!

P.P.S. Ashlyn’s surgery well very well!  She has been recovering beautifully and I am so thankful.

Prayer Warriors Needed for Ashlyn’s Foot Surgery

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Ashlyn is our special 14 year old.  She was a happy and healthy baby.  We didn’t know until she was 6 weeks old that she had a chromosomal abnormality.  We couldn’t get into a pediatric geneticist until she was 3 months old.  It was then that we learned that a piece of her 6th chromosome was missing.  This was very rare with less than 25 cases in the world similar to hers and none on record just like her.  I felt amazed that God would trust me with such a special little girl.  This also meant that no one knew what the outcomes would be for her.

“Wait and see,” is what they said.  Chris and I were sure that she would be almost normal.

We were wrong.

With each passing month, each passing year it became more and more clear how wrong we were.  I asked God for wisdom.  I read What to do with Your Brain Injured Child by Glenn Doman and it became my guide.

I let Ashlyn lay on her belly all the time.  It seemed like forever until she lifted her head, but she did it!  I made a crawling track for her and eventually she started to scoot!  That is, after many excruciating months in a brace to fix a right dislocated hip.  Still, that right side didn’t seem quite right.  She would drag that leg behind her while using the left leg to move forward across the floor.

300717_240310076004371_2823406_n  It took many years and a trip to the Family Hope Center to get Ashlyn to start the cross-pattern crawling.  Learning to climb up the stairs is what did it for her.  I was overjoyed!  I was ecstatic!  I didn’t care how long she crawled.  I knew she would get up and walk eventually.

                Again, I was wrong.

She didn’t get up and bear weight on her feet.  Slowly, ever so slowly, a mysterious and invisible force inside of her body began to pull her feet inward, the right more than the left.  The legs began to become internally rotated on the hip sockets, the right more that the left.  I didn’t notice and neither did all the doctors and specialists that she went to.

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Finally we recognized a progressive club foot deformity. We employed many different types of therapies and braces which allowed her to stand independently for the first time when she was almost 9 years old and take 11 steps by herself by age 10.

We built her a walking track and she worked up to over a hundred trips a day!  She could walk independently around the house.

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However, that invisible force kept on pulling, robbing her of all the progress she had made.  Now the only option left is surgery.  I hate the thought of surgery.  The pain.  The 8-12 weeks of recovery and non-weight being.  The bulky and difficult casts.  The unknown outcome.  The scar tissue and possible pain and arthritis later in life.  I asked God for wisdom and I figured that we had to give Ashlyn the chance to walk.

No surgery would mean no walking.

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I decided to get two opinions on Ashlyn’s case.  The first with Dr. Sorenson at Hershey Bone and Joint Institute and the second with Dr. Herzenberg at the Rubin Institute for Advanced Orthopedics in Maryland.  We saw Dr. Sorensen first.  I like him so much!  He recommended a Posterior Medial Release for the left foot and a Talectomy for the right foot (removing of the talus bone.)  He had gotten a medial release when he was 12 years old and it has been great for him.  He thought that Ashlyn would be able to walk just fine!  I was so encouraged and left his office with hope.

I don’t ever remember leaving a doctor’s office with so much hope!

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I researched the two doctors online and my heart sank.  Dr. Herzenber had around 30 years more experience that Dr. Sorenson.  I didn’t want to travel all the way to Maryland to see him, but I felt like I would be a horrible mother if I didn’t.

Thankfully Chris came with me on the day of the appointment.  The drive was long.  The wait in the office was even longer – 2 ½ hours in the room!  Dr. Herzenberg sure knew his stuff!  He said he had done many talecomies over the years but came to realize that a triple arthrodesis produced better results.  A telectomy didn’t leave a joint at all, just scar tissue between two bones that didn’t fit together.  This was not good for a major weight bearing part of the body.  A triple arthrodesis would fuse three smaller joints but reform the talus bone into a working joint.

                I left that visit feeling like this surgery would be totally impossible!

I had to give Ashlyn the best surgeon and the best option, but I could never drive back and forth to Baltimore time and time again for pre and post-op visits.  I could never stay away from my family for the days that she would be in the hospital.

I decided to talk all of this over with Dr. Sorenson.  I didn’t know how he would react.  Some doctors bristle when you question their authority and opinion.  I prayed and prayed.  When I told him that I had taken Ashlyn to see Dr. Herzenberg for a second opinion he said, “Oh really!  He is wonderful.  I actually went to see him for a second opinion when I needed knee surgery.”

I showed him the report of Ashlyn’s appointment and Dr. Herzenberg’s recommendations.  He sat down and read the entire report, WORD FOR WORD!  I never expected that!  It was clear that he admired this other doctor greatly.

When he had finished, he said, “I see his point with the triple arthrodesis.”  He examined Ashlyn’s feet again and declared, “Yes, I think that would really work!  Yes, I agree.  I could do the surgery here for you or you could go see Dr. Herzenberg.  I wouldn’t be offended at all.”

I told him that I would much rather do the procedure here in Hershey with him as the doctor.  We talked about all the details; four weeks of casting prior to surgery to stretch the muscles as much as possible, three days in the hospital, 4-6 weeks in castes, 4-6 weeks in special boots.

“I am so glad you went for a second opinion,” he said at the end of the appointment.

                I was overjoyed!  I liked this doctor and the office much more than the Baltimore option, but I never dreamed that it would work out so well!  I thanked God over and over for this humble and wonderful Dr. Sorenson.  I prayed that God would make him brilliant beyond his own abilities!

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As I thought about writing this article in hopes of raising a prayer army for Ashlyn, I realized something.  I wasn’t really expecting this surgery to work, to actually give Ashlyn the ability to walk.  I was doing it because to not do it would seem like neglect.  But my expectations were of pain and suffering for Ashlyn, myself, and the entire family; not of a breakthrough. There were two reasons for my dismal outlook.

  1. There were other issues that made walking difficult, her hips and the 50% curvature of her spine that would not be addressed in this surgery.
  2. Everytime we had followed instructions that were supposed to help Ashlyn’s feet, it failed to do so. Doctors, therapist, and The Family Hope Center had prescribed 8 different therapies or equipement to use and here Ashlyn is…a 14 year old who can’t walk.

God has been coaxing me away from my expectations rooted in the past.  He is bringing me into faith.

Faith that the future could hold more healing and more promise than I can see right now.

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I am also asking Him for miraculous healing since I know that He is the great Physician and that He would do a perfect job with no pain or scar tissue!  I am taking Ashlyn to a healing room this Saturday and hope to take her To Randy Clark’s healing service on Good Friday.

Ashlyn goes for her first casting on March 21st.  Her second casting is April 4th.  Her surgery will be on April 19th at Hershey Med Center.  Could you please pray for God’s amazing healing to be displayed and for peace and comfort for Ashlyn and the rest of the family as well!  I am not sure how I am going to deal with showers and potty-time with Ashlyn in two casts, unable to stand or walk at all.  Pray for God’s wisdom and grace!  Thank you for standing with us and expecting wonderful things!

This is a New Season!

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There is a new season that I believe God is leading us all into. He is whispering in our ears, He is wooing us with His love, He is drawing us to follow Him out of the desert.  The desert season was full of disappointment and wounds.  It was full of waiting and hope deferred.  Yet God was saying through one of His prophets (Sue Roby), “The Delay is in your favor.”  I tried to hold on to that thought, to continue to believe that all would work out for the good…but I let some of my faith slip away.

A few months ago another prophet (Tony Brazelton) came proclaiming, “The Delay is over!”  My spirit leapt when I heard it. Could it really be time?  The time I had been praying for?  Yet the fear of disappointment almost choked this new hope to death.

In September God gave me two scriptures to read, Isaiah 65 and Psalm 144.  These same scriptures had been a source of strength during the lowest point in our lives as a family.

Is 65 had been God’s way of announcing to me that I was pregnant, back in 2010.  Verse 9 says, “I will bring forth descendants from Jacob, and from Judah those who will possess my mountains; my chosen people will inherit them, and there will my servants live.”

I was happy to be pregnant and to feel the presence of a fresh new spirit within me.  I didn’t even need to take a pregnancy test.  Yet also I was ashamed.  Ashamed that I was pregnant for the fourth time in 5 years.  Ashamed that we still lived in a two bedroom townhouse and had to go to the health clinic for lower income families in Colorado Springs.  Ashamed that we struggled to pay our bills and had to set up a nursery for our baby in our walk-in closet.

The baby girl was due in January.  Right before Christmas Chris was laid off from his job.  We didn’t know what we would do.  We tried to enjoy Christmas as the debts grew.  I had a difficult time with Ashlyn’s birth which I wrote about in Birth Story Part 3.  Yet when she was born I was filled with peace and bliss.  My perfect baby girl!  God was so good!

The very next day the doctor informed us (devoid of compassion) that something was definitely wrong with our baby, but they didn’t know what.  Then began the many tests and scans.  Problems were found in her lungs, diaphragm, and heart.  We didn’t know what was going on.  We asked our church to pray and the only word they had for us was that this was my fault, that I was being too prideful.  I asked God if they were right.

That is when God gave me Ps. 144.  I felt peace flood my soul as I read:

“Then our sons in their youth will be like well-nurtured plants, and our daughters will be like pillars carved to adorn a palace.  Our barns will be filled with every kind of provision. Our sheep will increase by thousands, by tens of thousands in our fields; our oxen will draw heavy loads. There will be no breaching of walls, no going into captivity, no cry of distress in our streets.”

Amazingly Ashlyn was cleared and was released to go home after just two days, a perfectly healthy baby girl!

ashlynA perfect baby girl…until the results of the Chromosomal analysis came back.  A part of her 6th chromosome was missing but no one knew what that meant.  No one had ever seen this before.  We began this journey of parenting a special child, one who didn’t grow and develop like the other children.  One who had to wear a brace for a dislocated hip and a patch for strabismus in her eyes.  A child who needed physical therapy to learn to sit up and occupational therapy to learn to drink from a cup.

This is when Is. 65 became even more meaningful.  God had brought her forth and had told me that she was destined to take mountains.  She was not a mistake!

By April Chris still hadn’t found a full time job.  Our church kicked us out and shunned us.  Our mortgage and second mortgage were threatening to foreclose.  Our townhome association was threatening to take us to court.  Ps 144 didn’t appear to be true for us.

Yet God worked His miracles, one at a time.  He gave Chris a new job, sold our townhouse, brought us home to Pennsylvania, led us out of debt, and blessed Ashlyn with supernatural health.  More financial struggles, hardships with the children, and failed business ventures followed.  But we were home in the land of our inheritance.  We had friends, family, and a church that loved us!

When I started reading Is. 65 and Ps. 144 again this September, I was reminded of the encouragement I had received from them years ago.  Yet, I didn’t really want to delve into them, to relive the pain we had been through.  I kinda thought, “I know these verses inside and out.  I’ve been there and done that and I DON’T want to do it again.  Can’t I read something else?”

But I felt God saying, “Take another look.”

I discovered that these words, written thousands of years ago, were perfectly tailored for my life.  Not just my life back in 2010, but my life in 2017 and beyond.  I received revelations that I was not able to receive back then.  That our church in Colorado was not pleasing to God, but HE HAD BROUGHT US OUT OF IT to possess His Mountains.  Not because of anything we had done but because His faithfulness, He saved us from that situation and now we are taking mountains for His Kingdom.

Then I saw all the promises that God had for His servants (Is. 65, verse 13).  We will eat, drink, rejoice, and never be put to shame!  This has happened in our lives.

Then I read a verse that I had never noticed before, verse 16b.

“For the past troubles will be forgotten and hidden from my eyes.”

If God can forget the past, why couldn’t I?  I felt Him saying to me, “I am bringing you into something new, something you haven’t seen before.  You don’t have to interpret current events through your past experiences.  You don’t have to look into the future through the lens of the past.  I am going to give you a new perspective.”

I had been gaining a different perspective, an aerial view like that of an eagle.  I didn’t want my thinking to be clouded by people’s opinions, ever changing circumstances, or the dark clouds of depression.  I wanted to be seated with Christ in heavenly places, to see things from his Eternal perspective.  God was telling me that I was meant to be an eagle.   I was trying to fly, but I really needed some help.

I asked God to let me see a real eagle, and He answered my prayer just weeks later on our family vacation up north.  See my previous articles, “A Hawk, A Vulture, and an Eagle Part 1 and Part 2.”  I felt elated!  I felt inspired!  I felt ready to fly!

Of course vacation has to end and normal life has to begin again.  Could I see an eagle during the course of my daily routine? Chances were no.

I have made a weekly trek to a farm for years now.  At first I never noticed the birds flying in the sky.  Not because they were not there, but because I was not looking.  After God started speaking to me about being an eagle, I began to search the skies.  I loved watching all the birds – the swallows, the robins, the wrens, the sparrows, and even the crows.  They looked so free.  Even better that those birds were the large birds that flew high above the rest.  I felt inspired by their flight…until I realized that they were vultures.

Months I spent searching the sky for eagles only to see vultures, buzzards, and more vultures!  Ahggggggg!  At the end of October I made this trip for the 20 zillionth time.  I saw a large bird swooping down over the highway.  Another vulture, I said to myself.  Still, when I got close enough I turned my eyes away from the highway and up to the sky just long enough to see…

A bald eagle!  I saw the brilliant white head and the powerful straight wings!  I was not expecting that at all!  An eagle in my own neck of the woods!  In the midst of my normal routine!

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This seemed very significant so I asked God if there was something He wanted to tell me.  Immediately I heard this verse on my Bible CD:

“‘The One who is coming will come.  He will not be late.  The person who is right with me will have life because of his faith.  But if he turns back with fear, I will not be please with him.’

But we are not those who turn back and are lost.  We are people who have faith and are saved.” Hebrews 10:35-39 (ICB)

Fear has been my normal reaction to many things, so normal I hardly realize that I am choosing fear over faith.  But I am not one who turns back!  I am one who believes!  I will choose faith!

I heard God say to me, “I want you to be ready to see eagles where in the past only the vultures flew.”

How to Rise Above the Vultures

We all have them.  Bad days, bad weeks, even bad months…when it feels like we are living under a dark cloud of depression.  All circumstances seem to agree with the discouraging thoughts inside our heads.  Yet if we know Jesus, we understand that this is not the abundant life that Jesus promised.  We realize something is wrong, but exactly what and how to fix it is a little fuzzy.  Fuzzy because the vultures are circling overhead, creating a dark atmosphere that blocks out the light of the Son.

                How can we live a life without those pesky vultures bothering us?

For me, they speak a language that I readily understand.  A language of condemnation, self-doubt, and self-pity.  Whenever I fall short (which is every day), my perfectionist nature can hear the toxic voices of the vultures.  I agree all too often and lose sight of God’s truth.  How do I stay out of their reach?

The book, The Final Quest offers a clue.  In Rick Joyner’s vision, he was fighting in the Lord’s Army.  He saw many Christians in the enemy’s camp being held captive by weak little demons of fear and being oppressed by the vultures of depression.  They could have easily fought off these puny creatures with their glorious swords, but chose not to.

Even the Christians who were not prisoners but were mighty warriors on the mountain of the Lord, were still vulnerable to the vultures. If they drifted too close to the edge, they could slip on the condemnation vomited on the rocky cliffs by the vultures.  Once they had fallen off the mountain, they were easily carried off by the enemy.  Rick avoided this fate by spending his free time driving his sword (the Word of God) deep into the side of the mountain and tying himself to it.  He finally climbed to a level that was above the reach of the vultures.  This level was called, “Galatians Two Twenty.”

                “…and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (NRSV)

This scripture speaks of a life I have not yet learned how to live, but I want to.  I want to climb up that level where I dwell in the reality, “I have been crucified with Christ.  It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.”

My life is no longer about me.  My life is about Jesus!  No one (not even myself) has any grounds to judge me.  My value doesn’t come from being good, or perfect, or hard-working, or talented.  My value comes from the value God puts on me.  He knew me before the world began.  He made me.  He knows who I am in the depths of my being.  He knows who I will become.  He knows that His word is powerful to enable me to do anything He tells me to do.  He knows His finished work in me.  He says that I am worth His Son – His Life, His Death, His Resurrection.

                It is no longer about me!

                It is Christ living in me!

 My past mistakes – Jesus has signed his name to those and claimed them as His own.

My victories – I win them in His power.

My weaknesses – He is turning them into strengths.

My Strengths – It is His likeness in me.

My embarrassments…

My insecurities…

My shame – They no longer apply to me!

My condemnation – I say to those vultures, “Take it up with Jesus!  This life belongs to Him!”

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It is not I who live but Christ who lives in me!

When I start to get discouraged, when I tumble down the slippery slope to depression, I am focusing on myself.

My failures

My faults

Why I am to blame for all the imperfect circumstances.

Why other people don’t like me.

How I could never become the person God wants me to be.

Why all His goodness doesn’t apply to Me!

 I AM SO TIRED OF FOCUSING ON ME!!!!

Even Bill Johnson said that no one comes out of a time of deep introspection encouraged.  There are times that the Holy Spirit will lead us to look into our past or look into our hearts, and shine His Light and Love on whatever we find there. But looking inward all the time with our own understanding makes our world smaller and smaller, darker and darker.

“Obsession with self in these matters is a dead end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life.” Romans 8:6 (MSG)

I want that spacious, free life!  I want to soar above the circumstances, soar above the vultures.  I want to mount up on wings like an eagle and rise above the grey clouds, to see the sun paint glorious colors on the sky.

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When I am being bothered by those vultures and thinking all sorts of disparaging thoughts about myself…

I turn my gaze to Jesus!  I start to worship Him for all of His excellent attributes.  I rehearse all of His goodness to me.  I see how beautiful and powerful He is.  I give Him His job back, being the King of the Universe.  My burdens become light.  He becomes so big.  My problems become so small.  I lift my arms in surrender and I feel faith arise within me.

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                I feel my wings unfold.  I feel the wind of His presence lift me high.  High above the vultures. High above everything…

except HIM.

 

 

A Hawk, a Vulture, and an Eagle: Part 2 – The Cabin

When I look back on those three days, I can see that God planned each little detail to show us just how much He loves us.

We were able to leave our puppy at home with a good friend.  She provided respite care for Ashlyn as well.  Ashlyn gets stressed and agitated in new places with new schedules.  She seemed happy to continue her routine with home and school.

Someone let us use their trailer for free!  We loaded suitcases, sleeping bags, camping chairs, bikes, fishing poles, a pack-n-play, towels, a folding table, about 30 other items, food, food, and more food!

The 10 of us piled into the van and enjoyed the 2 hour ride.  There was talking and joking and raucous laughter constantly.  I found myself belly laughing over and over again.  Laughter is good for the soul!

The Cabin was huge.  Bigger than our house!

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There was a bunk house right next to it that had 6 large beds and a wood stove for heat.   The five oldest boys decided to sleep there.

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They were so excited to have some independence.  They got the fun of a sleepover, and the other children each got their own room in the cabin.  Areli, my 18 year old, said that her favorite part of vacation was the fact that she had her own room with its own bathroom.

The weather was perfect!  Cool and misty in the morning.  Sunny and warm during the day.  Cool and clear at night, just the right temperature to enjoy a fire.

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The first day we enjoyed the expansive yard.  I loved how it was full of moss and ferns without a bit of poison ivy.  There was a swing set and a rope swing.  The boys rode bikes.  They played games.  We cooked our meal over the fire.  My favorite were the apples I roasted on the dying embers.  Delicious!

The second day we decided to go to the World’s End State Park. We went into the visitor’s center and learned a lot from the friendly staff.  There was a gift shop with silhouettes of birds on the ceiling.  I identified the Cooper’s hawk.  Wow, it is small! Then we located the Red Tailed Hawk which was definitely bigger.

“That was what crashed into our van!” Calvin said.

Then I saw the turkey vulture.  It was large with wings that each bent like a V.  Right next to it was the bald eagle, larger with straight wings.  Still, they looked so much alike.

“How will I ever tell the difference?” I wondered to myself.

Finally we set out for adventure!  The older 4 boys went fishing.  The rest of us decided to take one of the easier trails that should take about an hour, the Double Run Nature Trail.

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This was a very special time for me.  I had not gone hiking with the family in so long, I can’t even remember.  I would always stay back with Ashlyn.  With her delayed walking and then club foot deformity, she could never navigate a trail.

It was cold and lovely in the woods.  Areli, Calvin, Courage and Annalise were excited!  We came across a few little waterfalls.

It didn’t take long before we realized that this wasn’t an easy trail.  Soon we felt like we were going straight up a mountain…on a path littered with large rocks and roots…with a four year old and a two year old.

What was I thinking when I suggested this?

“How long is this trail?  Are we going to be able to make it back to the van?”  the adults were wondering to ourselves as we took turns giving piggy back rides.

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Finally, we began the descent and found the Cottonwood Falls.  It was all worth it!

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We returned to our meeting place and found the boys waiting for us.  They were a bit dejected since no fish were biting.  We ate a picnic lunch and the children played at the playground.

Then we drove to the Loyalsock Canyon Vista.

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I suggested we check out the Rock Garden.  I thought it would be a boulder field.  It was not what I was expecting!  Huge rocks jutting out the ground in random ways.  The children loved it.  The boys climbed and jumped from one high cliff to another.

I was tied up in knots on the inside as I watched them.  I felt terrified as I tried to help Annalise and Courage navigate through.  There was no desirable path and I was worried the older ones, who were running ahead, would get lost.

“Please, let’s go now!”  I pleaded over and over again.  Finally we all walked back to the van as the boys excitedly talked about how that was the best thing ever and please mom can we go back again tomorrow and again next year and again and again…

I could breathe once more as I watched all my children with their feet on solid ground.  I choose to put out of my mind the possibility of ever returning.  I’ve always been afraid of heights, and I am even more afraid of my children being UP ON THE HEIGHTS!

We drove to the High Knob overlook.  We could see for 40 miles, the beautiful expanse of Penn’s woods.

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I searched the sky for birds but saw no eagles.  How amazing would it be to see this view from the vantage point of an eagle!  We returned to the cabin, tired but happy, ready to cookout again and enjoy the amazing stars in the black, black night sky.

As our last day dawned, we pondered what we should do before we had to pack up and clean the five bedrooms and 5 bathrooms.  The previous day we had seen a sign for a DSC_0659general store.  At the visitors center we learned that the women who used run the World’s Best Snack Shop was now at that general store.  The children had dollars that they wanted to spend on some exciting souvenir.

So we set out to try and find the general store.  We finally found the Hillsgrove Country Store and decided to stop.

As soon as I walked into the little shop, something caught my eye.  There was a photograph of a bald eagle mounted on cardboard and wrapped in plastic.  It was beautiful!

I thought to myself, “This might just be my eagle!”

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I asked the women who was at the counter (who used to run The World’s Best Snack Shop) how much the eagle picture was.

“Forty dollars!  Isn’t that a great price?!  A local photographer spent three months watching two eagles before he got this picture,” she answered.

“Where did he see the eagles?” I asked.  Maybe I could see them too!

“Just a few miles down the road at the Slaptown Bridge.”

I considered $40 to be quite a hefty sum, but I didn’t want to miss this God moment.  He had led me right to this lovely eagle and I couldn’t leave him behind.

Courage and Annalise picked out 25 cents worth of penny candy.  The other children purchased chips, drinks, and sausages.  Finally I walked out the front door and sat down to wait for the other children. I looked out to the street…

THERE IT WAS…

A Real Live Eagle!

It was flying from across the street and came right towards us!  It was so close that I could almost see individual feathers. This didn’t look anything like a vulture!  It was larger.  Its wings were absolutely straight.  There were lighter feathers underneath.  There was a stark white head and white tail feathers.  It was majestic and noble…and beautiful!

Areli just happened to have her camera with her, and she snapped a few pictures when the eagle sat in a tree.

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Then it took flight again, soaring higher and higher, further and further away.

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Chris was almost excited as I was.

“I am so happy for you!” he kept saying.

We watched it until it was joined by another eagle.  We watched them until they were so far, they looked like tiny black dots against the sky.

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We finally headed to Hunter’s Lake to let the boys try fishing again.

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The lake had just been stocked that morning and quite a few fishermen had gathered.  We ate a picnic lunch and enjoyed that lovely view.  We learned that there was an eagle’s nest along the water’s edge.

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The fish weren’t biting, but we were delighted by the multitude of monarch butterflies on the goldenrod.

I didn’t see an eagle at the lake even though they are very fond of fish.  However, the entire afternoon, eagles were soaring in my imagination.

I was in awe of how God perfectly orchestrated this eagle sighting.  I had asked Him, and He had answered.  How could I ever doubt His words to me?

He created me to be an eagle!

I have been born to fly!

After 41 years on this earth, I think it is high time that I stop saying that I am afraid of heights…

and start to learn to how to soar.

 

 

A Hawk, a Vulture, and an Eagle: God’s Voice!

I heard Bill Johnson say recently;

“Instead of emphasizing our inability or our weakness in hearing God’s voice, it would be wiser for us to emphasize His ability to be heard.”

I just experienced God’s amazing ability to be heard despite my reluctance to listen.

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The Hawk

I was just minutes from home, returning from a trip to the farm.  Calvin and I were enjoying the peaceful Saturday drive while listening to Revelations on CD.

“WHACK!!!!!”

Suddenly a huge bird slammed into the corner of my windshield with such force, I thought that certainly it must have killed itself.  I saw it only for a split second before it fell and disappeared, but it looked like a hawk.

I felt shaken.  I felt sad and guilty and wondered why this had happened.  You see, I had been searching the landscape for hawks lately.  I longed to catch sight of this bird of prey, hoping to unlock some mystery. Now I had just encountered a hawk much closer than I ever expected, and it wasn’t a good experience.  Just a moment after the sickening, “WHACK!”, a voice on the CD said…”I saw an eagle flying overhead…” (Revelation 8:13)

It had all started over a year ago when I remembered that God had told me that I was an eagle and I was to raise my children as eagles.  I wrote an article about it.  My interest in eagles became an obsession as this majestic bird kept showing up in my God encounters.  (See my some of my other articles, The Sky and the Ocean, Maleficent .)

I was never much of a bird watcher, but lately I had been watching the skies constantly, trying to spot an eagle.  Whenever I took a drive in the country, I would see huge, dark birds.  They looked so beautiful and so free, soaring high above me.

Chris was with me one day when I spotted some of my “eagles.”  I was so excited to show him.

“Those are buzzards.  You know, turkey vultures,” he informed me.

“What!  How can you tell?  They are so far away?” I said.  I was so disappointed!  Had I really been looking to the vulture for spiritual inspiration?

“Trust me, those are buzzards!”

“But I want to see an eagle!  How will I know when I see one?” I wondered.

“I don’t think eagles circle like that, and they are usually alone. They don’t spend as much time in the sky circling like the vulture does. Like the hawk I saw today, sitting in a tree.  ” Chris answered.

Google had told me that there were two eagles that lived in Pennsylvania, the Bald Eagle and the Golden Eagle, but they didn’t seem very common.  I decided that spotting a hawk was a much more realistic expectation.  I could learn what I needed to know from the hawk, which was very much like the eagle, just smaller, I reasoned.

I concluded that I would look for a hawk from now on.  They were smaller and lighter colored, such as the Cooper’s Hawk or the Red Tailed Hawk that Cadin had seen close to our home.  I wouldn’t get them confused with a buzzard.

I told Chris about my violent hawk sighting.  He said jokingly, “God is trying to tell you something.  He wants you to get the message so badly, that He had to smack that poor bird into your van!”

Perhaps God wanted to discourage me from looking to the hawk.  He had spoken to me about an eagle.  He had told me that I was supposed to be an eagle.  Perhaps I should believe that He would show me a real eagle.

Immediately my mind reeled.

“How ridiculous!  There probably aren’t any eagles living around here!  Even if there were, how could I see them up in a tree somewhere.  If they were flying, how could I ever tell them apart from the vulture…and I don’t want to make that embarrassing mistake again.”

The fear of disappointment came to me with such force when I even considered believing God for a real eagle sighting. The many disappointments of the past few years had conditioned that response.

The thought that I was destined to actually BE an eagle –  lifted by God’s presence, seeing from a higher perspective, speaking with a prophetic voice – seemed even more farfetched and foolish to me.  Me, the one who had been admiring the VULTURE, for goodness sake.  All my recent shortcoming flooded my mind.  I didn’t feel at all like the person I was meant to be.  I didn’t feel like I would ever learn to fly.

There it was!  The point God was trying to get across!  I had given up on being an eagle because it seemed impossible.  I had downgraded my vision to the hawk.

Then He began to show me that my thoughts and attitudes recently had been very self-loathing, full of my own failures and weaknesses.  I was reminded of a conversation I had with Chris just a week before.  I had been investigating avenues for publishing my first book.  It seemed that every possibility turned into a dead end.  The only option I found was to pay what I considered to be an exorbitant sum for assisted publishing.  And what if we spent all that money (which we didn’t have) to publish my book and no one bought it?  I was afraid to even ask friends to look over my manuscript and give feedback.  What if they thought it was too long and too boring?

Chris couldn’t understand my fears.

“Do you believe in your writing?  Do you think God Gave it to you?  Do you think He will use it to impact other people?  You have to believe in it.  The way you are talking, you sound like the vultures in Rick Joyner’s vision.” Chris said.

The Vulture

I was very familiar with this vision from the book, The Final Quest.  It meant a lot to me because I used to be a prisoner in that camp of fear.  I used to have those vultures of depression vomiting their condemnation all over me on a regular basis.  But I had found the freedom to live in the love and joy of the Kingdom of God…or so I thought.

Chris continued, “It sounds like you are speaking the words of the vultures, vomiting lies all over yourself and your writing.  You need to stop!”  Chris sounded mad.  At the time I felt that he just didn’t understand, that my insecurity and fear were justified.

Yet now, I was realizing that I had been living under this cloud of depression, thinking that it was normal.  God brought to my mind another bird sighting that had happened back in November.  God had stretched me beyond what I thought I was capable of, and I felt my authority increasing.  I had prayed crazy, unrealistic prayers.  I had received unbelievable answers to those prayers.  An amazing victory had been won!  I felt elated!  Still on an emotional high, I began to read a prophetic word posted on Facebook by Veronika West. In essence it said:

 The enemy had endured a devastating wound, but we should be on guard because a backlash was coming.  The enemy wasn’t going down without a fight.

As I pondered what that meant, I looked out the kitchen window and saw a huge vulture sitting on the roof of the church right across the street.  It was looking straight at me, and it gave me the creeps.  Perhaps it was a physical manifestation of an evil spirit, so I prayed that God would hide me, and I told it to leave. I saw the dark bird take flight, circle the church steeple, and fly away.  I had never seen a vulture in my neighborhood before that day, and I have not seen one since.

Now God was reminding me of the incident.  The light bulb went on in my head.

  My Good Father allowed me to see the strategy of the enemy against me.

The enemy knew that if I would submit to fear and allow those vultures to vomit their lies on me, I would live under that cloud of depression.  I wouldn’t be able to see clearly.  I wouldn’t trust God to flow through me.  I wouldn’t believe in Him or believe in myself.  I wouldn’t be able to take flight and become an eagle.

“Forgive me for thinking the lies are more realistic than the words you have given me,” I prayed.

The Eagle

As God began to shine His light on these things, I decided to take the risk to believe again.  I began to ask Him to let me see an eagle, a real live eagle.  I wanted to see one close enough so I wouldn’t mistake it for a vulture.

I also began to ask Him to make ME into an eagle, as unrealistic as that seemed.  The dark cloud began to lift and I began to hope again.

While all of this was taking place in my heart, I was hard at work planning a family vacation.  The first three days in October we would be staying in a cabin up north, enjoying the outdoors.  It had been three years since we had been able to get away. This was so special, so important for our family, that I wanted everything to be perfect.  I began to worry.

“What if I put in all this effort to plan and pack, and it is all for nothing?”

A thousand little details began to transform into a thousand things that could go wrong.  The fear of disappointment reared its ugly head again.  I began to think back to the last time I had tried to plan a family vacation, the last time I had prayed that God would give us a family vacation.  It was two years ago.  We had just endured 4 years of the toil and stress of business ownership.  We faced the heartbreak of having to close our business.  We were in the process of selling our sign shop.  I was praying for enough money to break even, and just a little extra to take the family camping for a week.   A week to reconnect and to heal.

My heart’s desire was deferred.  The sale fell through.  Bills, debts, and bankruptcy ensued…but no family vacation. Why did I think that it would work out for us this time?

“I am doing it again! I will not live under that cloud of fear and lies!   I need to believe that my Good Father is working everything out for us.  I need to just trust Him!  This will be a wonderful vacation!  It will be a blessing to each child and bring us all closer together,” I thought to myself.

My faith began to rise again.  I watched my Good Father work out every detail.  He gave us a cabin to stay in for free!  He worked out the schedules of all the children and gave us everything that we needed.

I was getting the feeling that my Father was orchestrating this vacation to be a redemption of the one that we had lost.  I was beginning to expect Him to speak to me in wonderful ways while we were away.

“And perhaps I will even see an eagle!”  I began to think.

To Be Continued…

 

 

Our 21st Honeymoon: A Moonrise, A Sunset, and a Sunrise

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Chris and I celebrated our 21st anniversary on August 3rd.  It is always so hot in August, and we are not fans of heat and humidity.  Why did we pick August to get married, we ask ourselves?  Last year we celebrated our 20th on the hottest day of the entire year!  This year we decided to wait until October.  God provided a beautiful beach getaway at Ocean City, Maryland, and it was lovely!!

I have only been to the beach a handful of times in my life.  Florida when I was a preschooler.  Ocean City, New Jersey when I was in Elementary School.  The beautiful white sand beaches of Belize after I graduated from High School.  Brigantine Island for our honey moon.  Duck, North Carolina with the family 6 years ago.  This time I think I really understood why people return again and again.

First we decided to walk on the beach and then the boardwalk to see what we could see.  We ended up walking 68 blocks that day and night, because we didn’t know much about Ocean City.

Finally we found a beautiful restaurant with great Italian food.  We could sit outside and watch the full moon rise over the ocean.  My first moon rise over the ocean!

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The next day we decided to drive rather than walk.  We drove to the very end of the board walk which was the most exciting part.

 

We saw lots of little shops.  We saw hundreds of fancy cars in a car show.  Chris got some Boardwalk fries and frozen custard.  We went to the Life Saving Station Museum.  It was amazing to learn about the men who would patrol the beaches at night, looking for ships in distress.  The accounts of rescues touched me deeply.  The men would risk their own lives, work for hours in freezing temperatures and horrible weather, and think of nothing else except the person they were trying to save.

“That is like you, Jesus.” I prayed. “Give me your heart for your people in distress.  But how do I save them if they don’t even know that they are dying?”

You don’t have to do my job.  You don’t have to save them, heal them, know everything about them, or make everything right for them.  Just love them and obey Me,” I heard Him answer.

Later we ate a delicious meal on our balcony overlooking the bay.  Then we walked on the bay as the sun began to set.

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It was my first sunset on the bay…

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Night falls.

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The next morning we woke up early and walked to the beach one last time.  The sun was about to rise.

I was surprised by all the other people gathered, watching the horizon.

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There is the first bit of sun peeking over the ocean!  My first sunrise on the beach.  We watched as it rose quickly into the sky.

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We shared the beach with the trucks and the morning fishermen.

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And a woman doing acrobatics.

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And two pelicans.

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I could feel His presence in the wind that carried the birds.  As we walked along the edge of the water, I could hear God’s voice in the waves.  They were unrelenting and drowning out all other sounds.  I can see why people love it here.  Away from the rest of the world.  Encounters with God come loud and clear.

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I am struck by how God reveals himself in His creation.  He is like the ocean.  Unpredictable.  Just when you think you have figured out where to walk to just get your feet wet, a large wave comes and gives you more seawater than you had bargained for. Uncontrollable.  The waves push and pull and can’t be stopped.

Unimaginably beautiful.

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