Category Archives: Resources for the Soul

An Easter encounter

Have you ever met an angel?  I don’t know if I have, but I did experience an extraordinary encounter last Easter.

My family and I went to a beautiful city park last Easter during the afternoon.  My husband parked my wheelchair near some stone benches, while he and the kids explored the nearby rocks and boulders.  A man, who’d been sitting nearby, approached me to ask how long I’d been using the wheelchair and why.  “Oh, boy,” I thought, “here we go.”  I often end up getting comments and advice, and I had hoped for some quiet relaxation in the sun, rather than “helpful” tips from a stranger.

This man, though, didn’t try to fix me or my situation but revealed that he was no stranger to suffering.  He had been in a car accident that had broken a number of his bones, and he’d stopped using a wheelchair just months before.  He went on to tell me that he’d been celebrating Easter with his wife and kids over lunch when a friend called with a car emergency.  He drove across town, helped the friend, and was headed back home to his family when he sensed God directing him to stop at this park, because God had someone he should speak to.  He thought I was that person.

“Oh, great,” I thought, “now I’m really in for it,” leery of the questionable theology I feared would soon come out of his mouth.  At the same time, though, I was a bit intrigued.

The man, who had an Old Testament name I’ve forgotten, went on to tell me of God’s love for me, as revealed in the Scriptures.  This man did NOT assure me of physical healing to come soon.  He did NOT berate me for a lack of faith that surely brought on my illness.  He simply told me he knew God wanted him to speak of God’s love specifically for me on that day.

My husband, who’d been keeping an eye on all this, walked over to join us, and the man prayed for all of us, then left the park to head home to his family.

Wow.  I don’t know what that encounter was all about, but I do believe that man truly was a follower of Jesus, as I am.  I also believe God DID prompt him to come talk to me that Easter Sunday, to share hope and truth.  This man couldn’t have known that I have at times struggled to believe that God loves me, Kristi, personally and specifically.

How precious that the God of the universe would ordain for one of His children to seek out another, to share the enormity of the love we were both celebrating that Easter Sunday.  God does so love the world, but He also loves just ME, all by myself, and just YOU.  Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!

IMG_5158
Have you ever made resurrection rolls? We love wrapping the Jesus marshmallow in the crescent roll tomb, then after baking them, taking a bite to find an empty tomb!
happyeaster
And here are the kids on Easter 2015!

All thy sorrows soon shall end

Who, as I have, has ever felt comfortless, sorrowful, and afraid?  Who feels alone, lost, and broken?

Someone Else knows just what that is like.  “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).  Tomorrow is Good Friday, and it is so good, because of something so bad.  Our High Priest bore wrath, agony, trials, abandonment, betrayal, that His children might not have those things poured out on us for eternity.

I came across these prayer cards, filled out by the kids last year on Easter.  Their prayers WILL be mightily answered one day!
I came across these prayer cards, filled out by the kids last year on Easter. Their prayers WILL be mightily answered one day!

I’ve had the following lyrics taped on my kitchen window for a long time now, and I hope they will encourage you.  They are two of the verses in John Newton’s “Pensive, Doubting, Fearful Heart.”

Fear thou not, nor be ashamed,
All thy sorrows soon shall end.
I who heaven and earth have framed,
Am thy husband and thy friend.
I the High and Holy One,
Israel’s GOD by all adored,
As thy Savior will be known,
Thy Redeemer and thy Lord.

Though afflicted, tempest-tossed,
Comfortless awhile thou art,
Do not think thou canst be lost,
Thou art graven on my heart.
All thy walls I will repair,
Thou shalt be rebuilt anew,
And in thee it shall appear,
What a God of love can do.

Happy Easter from us to you!  (No, I'm not ahead of the game.  I have no idea what anyone will be wearing Sunday, but enjoy a 2014 pic!)
Happy Easter from us to you! (No, I’m not ahead of the game. I have no idea what anyone will be wearing Sunday, but enjoy a 2014 pic!)

Take a few minutes these next few days to meditate and worship.  And, most of all, I dare you to HOPE.  Easter is coming.

And let's be honest:  A pic of just the kids is way cuter.
And let’s be honest: A pic of just the kids is way cuter.

Top Ten List of Blessings from POTS/NCS

Sometimes it’s easy for me to focus on the limitations POTS/NCS causes.  After all, I feel and experience them throughout the day, everyday.

However, I’m also beginning to be able to see more clearly the blessings, yes, true blessings, this illness has brought into my life.

In random order, here is my TOP TEN LIST OF BLESSINGS FROM POTS / NCS:

10.  A more slow-paced lifestyle.  I am beginning to see that maybe I was a little too busy back in the day.

9. More compassion for those who suffer.  I have a long way to go, but I am beginning to truly understand, in some ways.

8. Greater dependence on God.  I need Him every hour.  Literally.

7.  Fewer wrinkles.  How’s that for a perk?  A friend mentioned once that my face looked so great, and I realized my new, low-stress life does seem to be stopping my wrinkles in their tracks.

6. Seeing God at work, actively caring for me and our family.  He has not abandoned us.  (I can’t wait to read the 2015 Blessings Jar on New Year’s Eve.)

5. Our kids seeing Mama can’t do it all and needs their help, thus they are getting good practice serving.  Our oldest son got the CLEANING AWARD at a recent youth group retreat.  (Yikes… hope that wasn’t too embarrassing.) Turns out, he rocked while cleaning their cabin, after meals, etc, maybe partially because all three kids now know their way around some toilet bowl cleaner, dustpans, Windex, you name it.

4. Noncompeting schedules in our marriage, since mine is quite free. (Not a necessity, but I’m enjoying the blessing aspect.)

3. More of my physical presence around the house for my family.  While they’re here, I am not often out and about doing errands, meetings, get-togethers, etc.  I think they really like this. (Ditto, parenthetical statement above.)

2.  Seeing God’s people help in so many ways.  This is a huge encouragement.  After we recently enjoyed a fantastic meal someone brought, I told Mark, “This makes being sick a lot more tolerable.”

1.  Freedom to wear cute shoes that may be too big, too small, or a bit uncomfortable– and not have them wear out– since I don’t walk that much.  Ladies, this is AWESOME!  My shoes always look brand new.  (The scuff marks below are certainly all from previous owners, I’m sure!)

"Kristi, you are so good at arranging your pristine shoes, you should be a display stylist," said no one, ever.
“Kristi, you are so good at arranging your pristine shoes, you should be a display stylist,” said no one, ever.

Hey, when you find a cute pair, it’s nice not to have to worry about pesky details like whether the shoe actually fits!

 

“Be Mine” this Valentine’s Day

Sometimes, when you are suffering, you may feel as though God doesn’t love you.  He may seem far off; He may seem to have it in for you; He may seem out of touch with your struggles.

What if, though, your suffering is a sign NOT of His lack of love for you, BUT of His GREAT LOVE for you?  What if God loves you so much that He decides for suffering to enter your life so that He can draw you close to Him, so that He can wean you from the siren calls of this world and open your eyes to the greater call of His plan?

Will He help you say, with Paul, “I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead” (Phil 3:10-11)?  We do not serve a God who is unfamiliar with suffering but One whose earthly purpose in life included suffering out of obedience, that He might reunite us with the Father.

I love how Laura Story captures some of this thinking in her song “Blessings.”

Even more, though, I love “O Love that Will Not Let Me Go.”  I have, many times, put this song on repeat and just blasted it.  I hope it encourages you– I love these two verses in particular:

O Joy, that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to Thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain
That morn shall tearless be.

O Cross, that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from Thee;
I lay in dust life’s glory dead,
And from the ground there blossoms red
Life that shall endless be.

This has been, for years, one of my funeral songs– you know, a song you want sung at your funeral.  If you have a funeral song, what is it?

Where do you see God’s love in the midst of the sadness, the loneliness, the injustice, the horror?

“Forget the former things;
    do not dwell on the past.
 See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland.”  (Isaiah 43:18-19)

valmail

Happy Valentine’s Day!

And joyfully encouraged this Christmas; or, I get by with a little help from my friends

I noticed something different this year as I read the Scriptures surrounding Christ’s birth.  You know the Magnificat, Mary’s song of praise after she finds out she’s been chosen to bear the Holy One of Israel?  I tend to picture the angel Gabriel telling her of God’s plan, her submissive assent, then the Magnificat.

But, no, the Magnificat comes AFTER she goes to see her relative, Elisabeth, to share her news– and she had gone to see her “with haste.”  Think how quickly you go to someone after shocking news.  Surely, even after she submits graciously, Mary is feeling overwhelmed, thrown off, curious about how her new, unusual call will play out.  I felt encouraged this year by the friendship between the two women, how Elisabeth’s excitement about Mary’s call helps Mary burst forth in her own genuine praise and excitement.  Her song of worship focuses on God’s character and promises, and she actively trusts him.

You may be called to something hard right now, something glorious, or a combination of both.  The illness God has given me feels like a hard call, but it is one that can lead me to worship and thanksgiving.  THANK YOU to you, my friends and readers, who have encouraged me throughout 2014 and before, that I might turn my eyes upon Jesus and praise Him mightily.

May your Christmas be merry as you celebrate our Savior’s birth, as God took on flesh and dwelt among us!

postcard-5inx7in-h-front

Good news all around us

I have always loved Christmas, but as God has allowed me to experience a small amount of suffering, I love it all the more.  I LOVE that Jesus came to make all things new.  My broken body is desperate for His healing, His strength.  My arguing children and I are desperate for His peace, His reconciliation.  My selfish, stubborn heart needs His Spirit.  I love that He doesn’t just come to save us, He comes to redeem all things.

Turns out, these sweet-looking children do have indwelling sin, like their Mama and Daddy!

And I love that in the United States, the Good News is blasted at all of us from all around.

It cracks me up to be on the road watching furious drivers cut in front of one another in crowded parking lots as the local radio station serenely plays “Hark!  The Herald Angels Sing,” and Nat King Cole croons one of my favorite verses:

Hail the heav’n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings
Ris’n with healing in His wings
Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth….

Talk about Good News!

What Christmas songs do you love?

A listening ear

I was recently with a friend, and a few minutes into our time together, she told me she’d just gotten off a phone call related to a very hard situation her family has had for years now.  She was feeling overwhelmed and sad and physically sick at the thought of the ramifications of the call.

My heart went out to her, and we prayed right then, asking that God would continue to help her trust our good, sovereign Father and that He would show her family mercy according to His good will.

She excused herself to get Kleenex, and when she returned, I chatted away about Thanksgiving recipes, Christmas lists, family friends… anything but the difficulties that surely lie ahead.  Maybe trying to distract her was okay (we did have all our kids nearby), but maybe I should have asked her how it felt to be in this situation, what she feared, how she had seen signs of God’s past faithfulness.  Either way, I definitely wish I had just ASKED her whether or not she wanted to talk about it more.

I want to learn to have a good listening ear.  Do you have one?  How do you listen, truly listen, to those around you?

Thank you to those who “listen” to me through these blog posts.  I am not always the best at sharing face-to-face, and I am so grateful for your encouragement, whether I see you often or have not even met you. I hope tomorrow is a day full of Thanksgiving for you!

Beauty in the midst of illness

Have you noticed illness can be kind of, well, ugly?  The physical aspects of sickness can often be a bit– or a lot– yucky, but how about all the paraphernalia:  the bedside potty chairs, the countless brown pill bottles, the unattractive mobility items?  I mean, where’s the Anthropologie of medical supply stores?  Where are the ikat-patterned ostomy bags, the polka dot breathing masks, the glitzy compression stockings?  And I’m actually not joking.

I have always loved having beauty around me, and a lot of my thirty-something self has rebelled against the unattractiveness that has attached itself to my illness.  In fact, when I don’t feel well, I don’t want to feel worse by having to use unattractive things– I am cheered up by lovely things!

Now this notion is ridiculous to some, and that is totally fine.  You may not be at all inspired by beauty but may love delicious food, fabulous music, stimulating conversations, or something else, and those things may be a big boost to you when you are unwell.

For me, I got tired of having my bathroom counters lined with ugly, junky bottles, so here is my dollar-store solution:

IMG_6104

I refused to use a shower stool, because its unattractive nature only made me more bummed about my limitations… until I found this one:

stool

As soon as we bought my wheelchair, I asked a talented friend to make a cover for it, because I just couldn’t do navy blue vinyl:

wheelchair

Everyone’s different on this:  A manicure (see below) makes me more stressed than relaxed (aaaugh! a chip already!), and your navy blue vinyl wheelchair doesn’t bother me in the least.  I also realize, with this post, I am at risk of coming across as a high-maintenance diva, but please know that I would just love to encourage you in enjoying whatever God-given gift (art, the outdoors, dear friends, floral arrangements) gives you a boost.

Yesterday, I watched the last episode of Call the Midwife, Season 3.  In it, Chummy’s very ill mother expresses a desire to have a manicure, knowing beautifully painted nails will help her maintain a sense of dignity.  When Sister Monica Joan encourages Chummy to paint her mom’s nails, Chummy says, “I can’t.  It seems frivolous when there’s so much else to do.”  Sister Monica Joan replies, “There’s nothing else to do.”

I love that.  Just then, painting her nails was the best way for Chummy to love her mom.

What encourages you in the midst of illness?

Blessings in a jar

Our family has been writing down blessings to put in a Mason jar on our counter this year.  I love it because 1) we are sometimes fussy and complaining, and it’s good to look at our many blessings; 2) we sometimes enjoy blessings… but then forget them; 3) we love looking back and being reminded of God’s active provision.

blessings

After all, how would we remember that Luke was “tankful that I saw A DEER” bounding from the woods as we were driving through Vicksburg Military Park one dewy, green summer morning?  How would we know that in 2014, Ella was thankful for crackers?  We love rejoicing with David that we had a car on 6/22/14 (and still do!– a huge blessing we sometimes take for granted).  And, yes, we are all rejoicing that a community group from our church just let us know they have decided to adopt us and bring us dinner once a week!  YEAH!

Your life may be really difficult right now… but I bet there are a few blessings around you that help point to God’s goodness.  (One of my blessings today was that, for lunch, I got to eat a hot bowl of leftover soup outside in our leaf-covered backyard.)  Your life may be fabulous right now… and I bet there are a few blessings around you that you’ll want to remember.

“Here I raise my Ebenezer; Hither, by Thy help I’ve come!”  (What am I talking about?  Ebenezer can be traced back to 1 Samuel 7, when Samuel took a stone and named it Ebenezer to commemorate God helping the Israelites defeat the Philistines.  The word itself means “Stone of Help.” And, no, I didn’t just happen to know that… thank you, Google!)  I’ve seen people write their blessings with a Sharpie on small stones, to fill up a bowl– love that idea!  How do you like to celebrate and remember blessings?  What blessings do you have today?

Dream a little dream of me

A friend recently shared with me that she dreamed that my husband and I were at the beach.  She said she could tell we were having a good time and that I looked so happy.

Okay, I loved this.  I loved it because 1) I matter enough to my friend to appear in her subconscious.  2) My husband is my favorite person in the world, and I love that we were having fun.  3) I looked so happy to her; she even said my husband and I were dancing (which is awesome, because I won’t speak for him, but I was a terrible dancer, even pre-POTS).  POTS & NCS have not completely stolen my joy, but I do have a bit less fun than I used to– and I can feel pretty crummy in the midst of fun.  I loved knowing I was carefree in her dream, especially since Mark and I have both had dreams lately in which I still have POTS (boo hoo– being limited even in your dreams is a bit depressing).

You know what, though?  As encouraged as I was by my friend’s dream, I know Someone has far greater dreams about me and all His children, dreams that will be a reality someday.

Jesus dreams of a world of peace and love– no more petty arguments with spouses, grudges against friends, hatred toward other types of people.  He dreams of a time when His children will be in complete communion with Him, enjoying Him with able, well bodies– hello, running, climbing, hiking (my husband’s excited about kayaking some amazing, never-seen rivers).  I came across this sermon by John Piper– enjoy reading more about the future of all God’s people.  This dream is coming true one day, and I am excited!

Attempting to lull the kids into dreamland
Attempting to lull the kids into dreamland

Do you tend to remember your dreams?