Walk By The Way

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Ms. Wanda

Sometimes I think the greatest strength of the women in my life lies in their insecurities, their imperfections. As each woman walks with God and learns to face her fears with Him, the rest of us learn – to some degree – the same lesson with her. It is by far one of the most beautiful things I have ever witnessed God do.

That is why I am so excited about Ms. Wanda. She literally blows my mind in the way she trusts God. In the past year, she has faced circumstances that would have devastated some people, and shredded some church bodies. But she held fast to God instead of giving herself over to the destruction of human rage. She held fast to Him as waves of despair threatened to plunge her ever deeper. She held fast to Him in moments when some of us wanted so badly to throw her a lifeline, but we weren’t always sure how to get it to her.

Ms. Wanda has experienced a lot of human relationship bruises, scrapes and pains over the past year. There were probably times she felt mangled. And I’m sure that some of her church family has unknowingly caused a nick or two ourselves as maybe we didn’t know what to do or maybe we weren’t intuitive enough to realize the moments she needed a particular word from someone – or even just a hug.

I also believe she has experienced – and continues to experience – spiritual healing. She seems to be living in a new place with God, in a new dimension of her relationship with Him. It seems as though she is cradled with Him. He is the Father; she is the daughter. As any father would, He looks into her face and sees beauty beyond measure; He sees beauty in that she needs Him. And she has allowed all of us to see that as well.

Ms. Wanda recently confessed to a few of her daughters and sisters in Christ that she is afraid to trust people again. Trust in people is misplaced, as we are so apt to disappoint. But we all knew what she meant. She is afraid to fully open her heart again. She is afraid to make herself vulnerable. One aspect of submitting to God is allowing Him to soften your heart. What she was really saying is that she needs God to teach her, to help her, to remind her that her heart is always cradled with Him when the response of her heart toward other people remains in His will.

The same day she revealed this concern about trusting people, she did something else. She opened her heart – to me. She opened her heart to encourage me in my writing, and my faith. In the past I would have thought, “Oh, she has faith in me, faith in my abilities!” Now, because of my own journey with God, I received something very different from her. It occurred to me that she has faith, not in me, but faith in what God can do through me. And that sheds a whole new light on the definition of “trusting people.” Relationships will be much less disappointing when we release the other person from our own expectations and allow our “trust” in that relationship to be centered in our faith in what God can do with it.

Ms. Wanda may never make an appearance in People Magazine’s 100 Most Beautiful People, but she is at the top of my Most Beautiful list any day!

Monday, May 22, 2006

Active Faith

I have two friends whose only “job” in life is full-time Mom. Don’t misunderstand when I use the word “only” – because believe me as far as jobs go full-time Mom is more than enough. When I say only in reference to these two women, it’s not a word used to make light of what they do; it’s a weighty word used to describe their devotion to being a full-time Mom.

I admire both of the greatly. One of them home schools and therefore can also be called a “stay-at-home” Mom. The second goes to school with her kids and works there as a computer lab teacher (but that not her job – it’s just what she does while her kids are in class!). These two women have taught me so much about faith – and I treasure them even more now as I am learning a new dimension of faith in my life. They are an inspiration to me.

You see, Yoleah and Susan are women who exercise an active faith. I know they wouldn’t agree with that necessarily because sometimes they can only see where they are lacking. But let me try to explain what I mean…

I have faith that God sent his son, Jesus, to die on the cross for my sins – and that Jesus rose again and conquered death so that I can have eternal life. That’s one element of faith – believing what you can’t see. And I exercise the kind of faith that allows me to handle the unexpected events in life with a knowledge that God is in control. But I don’t think I have been in the habit of making conscious decisions about the direction of my life based on faith.

For the first time in my life, I feel like I’m stepping out on my faith in a major way to actively follow God. And it has been a crazy, crazy adventure already. And God has been very generous with the blessings. I finally feel like I can relate to what Yoleah and Susan talk about when they tell me stories of how things are unexpectedly provided for them all the time - and how they feel when that happens.

So here it is folks, I am going to the Glorieta Christian Writer’s Conference. It’s become so clear – I have received a scholarship for the registration. I have received a gift that will also help pay for the registration. So, in the financial obstacles category, all that’s left is lodging, meals, airfare, and ground transportation. There are some fees for additional services at the conference that I would like to take advantage of, but those are not “have to” expenses so they could fall by the wayside if necessary.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the women in my life and I think I will dedicate my posts this week to them. I think I will pursue writing about my church sisters this week. They are so humble in their thoughts about themselves – I think they deserve it right now.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Much Praise

Well, it’s been almost a week since my last blog. And there is much praise on my list. First and foremost, I have had virtually no pain since my church prayer group encircled me in prayer last Wednesday. And I do mean encircled – they literally held hands and formed a circle around me. I think God has kept me in that prayer circle this past week. It’s been wonderful.

We are trying to plan a trip to South Carolina with my grandmother and one of our needs has been a wheelchair. We know too much walking will be difficult for her. My parents and my aunt got together last night to go over some of the action items that came out of our last family meeting and they happened to get a practically new wheelchair last night! Along with some wonderful information about Alzheimer’s grants and resources.

I sincerely think all arrows are point toward the writing conference and I’m anxious to see how things will work out. I’m not overly worried about it at this point. I’m researching all the details because I’m a planner, but the things I can’t control (or provide for) I’m trusting to God.

I’m on the prowl for a Bible study partner – someone who doesn’t mind unstructured Bible study (unstructured meaning not a written Bible study from a book – maybe I should say independent Bible study). And I think there is a possibility of that being in the works even as I type.

So even though things are really crazy in my life right now I know I’m in good hands and I can see the glory of God at work – even in the hard stuff.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Power of Prayer

God is so gracious with me. I don’t guess I will ever completely understand why he is that way with me.

Today, as I was driving home I experienced a moment of sheer joy. It was the first moment in a long time that I can remember being pure joy. I have some joyous moments – but they weren’t necessarily as clear as this moment.

My van has no air conditioning right now and when I got in it to come home it felt like a hot, muggy rainforest. At least it’s what I would imagine a rainforest to be, having never been to one. Weather conditions looked as though it could storm at any moment and, in fact, stormlike winds were already kicking up, but I was uncomfortable. So I decided to drive home with the windows down.

I love to listen to a Christian group called Selah and they have a song called “Sweet Song of Salvation” (I think that’s the name of it). Very upbeat song and I was trying to listen to it, but it was difficult because there was the added noise of wind as I drove down the interstate. So I turned it up really loud and I was jamming bigtime and praising God – singing loud and crazy. People looked at me strangely. I thought, “What? Gangsta-looking guys can drive around in thumping cars driving everyone nuts and a 30-something Christian woman can get her salvation on while driving down the interstate.” It was a wonderful moment – I felt like a kid again.

When I got to church tonight for prayer meeting, it was every bit as wonderful as I expected. We started out by offering praises for different prayer requests that had been answered. Then we had a time of prayer requests. I asked for everyone to pray about my situation with the arthritis, and Rodney also has some medical concerns that I asked them to pray about. And I asked that they pray about the writing conference. Then Brother James lead a wonderful study – I was fighting back tears because God was really speaking to my heart. I don’t know if I will go into that on the blog or not. Maybe I will sometime – or it may turn up in some other writing I do.

Anyway, when we got to the end of the session, Brother James asked if anyone had a testimony or something they would like to add. I told him I thought of two more praises that I would like to add. One was a praise about Rodney’s response to the writer’s conference (which I’m sure I will blog later) and the other was a praise about my crazy praise moment on the drive home.

Brother James then asked everyone if they would gather around me to pray about the arthritis. I can’t even tell you how that made me feel. I cried. It was just wonderful and overwhelming. I can honestly say that I feel energized, and I’m focusing on my body right now with no noticeable pain at the moment. It’s been that way since they first formed a circle around me – I felt the pain going away before they even started praying. I don’t know what God’s will is for me with the arthritis – so this could just be a reprieve, but I do know that he can heal me if he chooses to. And all day I’ve been reminded to focus on him and not on the arthritis.

Anyway, I feel uplifted to the point now that I can endure some more struggles if that’s what’s in store.

Grounded in Prayer

Due to circumstances beyond my control, I have not been able to attend Wednesday night prayer services at church as consistently as I’d like, or even as consistently as I did at the end of the year. And I feel like my world is spinning a little out of control with everything going on in my life as of late. So I’m very anxious to get back into the prayer meetings.

I think our prayer meeting is by far and away the most exciting thing going on at our church right now. Not that there aren’t exciting things happening in other areas, I just think that’s the most exciting. Prayer meeting is just the place where we really see when, where and how God is working. And a lot of times I feel like it’s the place we begin to recognize his will for us as a church body.

I had been keeping a prayer log or journal of sorts for our group before things got so crazy, and it was wonderful to look it over and see every step that lead to answered prayer. We kept a praise page – so no prayer was ever taken completely off the list. It was a reminder of the amazing things God has done for us, with us, through us. I want to get the prayer log back on track; I just think it’s so important.

It was so uplifting to attend, even when I didn’t have a request of my own to present. So, I’m looking forward to going tonight. I’m so tired that a big part of me would like to stay home, but I just really need to go. I think it will prove to be more energizing than going home. And quite honestly, I need to do the thing that I find so hard to do. I just need to put everything on the table and ask for prayer. Maybe I will post again later tonight about how the prayer meeting went.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Fresh Coffee, Fresh Tears

Last Tuesday, for lunch I had gone to Little Rock Diagnostic Clinic to have an MRI done on my left hand and wrist. The results showed up in the mail today.

It took me a little bit by surprise. Okay, it took me overwhelmingly by surprise. You see, I wasn’t expecting to know anything about the MRI results until June at my next appointment with the rheumatologist. I had already accepted that I'd have to wait, so I put it out of my head.

As a thickness of papers emerged from the envelope, the first things I noticed were words/phrases like “Methotrexate,” “Plaquenil,” “Possible Eye Problems,” “toxicity,” and “may cause birth defects.” My brain was immediately swimming in confusion. I couldn’t find a letter.

I’m so thankful that I happened to be on the phone with my aunt at the time. I felt like something had sucked my lungs flat. For a few moments my brain just stalled out. Where was the letter? Shouldn’t there be a letter?

I fumbled through everything until I found a short letter explaining that the MRI findings were consistent with Rheumatoid Arthritis and outlining the treatment the doctor would like to implement. Also included was a copy of the MRI Interpretation. Let me say now that I felt like I needed an interpretation of the interpretation. I had extensive college courses in Anatomy and Physiology (A&P), but my brain was so shocked and it has been so long that I still felt like I was trying to interpret the Bible in its orginal languages. However, there were a few words here that resonated poorly with me: “erosion,” “proliferation,” and "cyst."

So, I’m having a pretty regular day at work and I come home to major decisions, like whether I want to have any more children. I only have one – and I’d like to think I would have at least one more. I don’t think I can be ready to face that decision just yet.

So I sat down with a fresh cup of coffee (yes, it’s decaf) and cried some fresh tears. I decided I should blog.

I’m so lucky to have such wonderful family – and women in my family who are on a similar path. When I mention to people the possibility of having arthritis most of them think I can’t have it because I’m so young. Others think it can’t be that painful because I’m so young. Still others think, “Well, lots of people have arthritis – so suck it up and deal.” My aunt, my sister and my mother are all very good about staying positive with me, but at the same time acknowledging the realities of the situation. They let me hold on to the validity of my fears, without letting me stay bogged down in them. This is my family, my women, my arthritis club – and they are truly beautiful.

So, ladies, someone teach me the secret handshake please. I just hope its not too complicated because my thumbs really hurt!! (smile)

Monday, May 08, 2006

Mish Mash

Well, I took the weekend off from blogging. I was just feeling lazy this weekend when it came to the blog. Maybe I should have stuck with two-a-days. It sure seemed to give me momentum. Here’s the thing I’ve noticed about the blog so far (or the process of blogging rather): I either have things that I think are of significant importance that I think I should blog because I know they’d be interesting, and I talk myself out of it because I’m not sure I’m ready to share with an audience – OR – I have many little things that I really can't develop a theme around so I think they won’t make such an interesting post. Well, I guess I will do a mish mash of the little things to get myself back into blogging this week – and we’ll see if I decide to do two-a-days or not.

Last Monday my father took my grandmother for an appointment to determine if she would be eligible for an Alzheimer’s study. I believe the study is a trial for new medication. The outcome of all her cognizance tests was favorable to the study. Now my understanding is that we are waiting on results from blood tests and other lab work to determine eligibility. We’re all positive about the experience at this point – we feel that it will be good for her.

My mom just started having Saturdays off. She had been working a very weird schedule for a long time and it included Saturdays. I’m actually very happy that she has Saturdays off now because I might actually be able to do some things with her. In fact, we bummed around town Saturday – on no real timeline with no particular agenda. It was nice to spend the time with her. She probably got tired of my talking though – I think I tried to catch her up on everything going on in my life as though she was never going to have Saturday off again. It will take time to get used to this new schedule!

John also started getting sick Saturday. I have to say, the older he gets the more rotten he is when he’s sick. Sunday he had what we like to call a good old fashioned “come apart.” I’m talking kicking, screaming, crying, yelling, beating-the-door, banging-his-head-on-the-wall, I-hate-my-Momma…come apart tantrum. I just sat down and cried. That really is highly out of character for him. If you’re reading this and you spend any time around him at all you probably can’t picture him doing that. Well, I couldn’t either…until yesterday.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Coming Around

Today is Day 4 since the big “Walk Which Way?” blog dilemma. Is it God’s will for me to attend the Glorieta Christian Writer’s Conference? I’m still not sure what the answer to that is, but I know that God is talking to me about it. Or showing me signs, sending me messages – however you feel comfortable phrasing it.

Some people are uncomfortable with the idea of God talking with people. Speaking. Having a conversation. But that’s actually where I am in my relationship with God. I feel like we are actually in conversation. If the conversation ends, it’s my fault – not His. He’s always there. I’m the one who walks away from time to time. I have to say things always go a little crazy when I get out of hearing range.

The past several days, I’m not sure we’ve even been talking so much as wrestling with each other. I’ve gone over all my fears about the conference – and it’s not really so much fears about the conference as it is fears about going forward with my writing.

So I think God summed up my fear this morning. You know, God usually speaks the loudest to me when I’m in the bathtub. Since I had my little boy I think that is the one place where He knows He has be best chance of getting my undivided attention. At any rate, I was in the bathtub reading “Sisterchicks in Sombreros” by Robin Jones Gunn and the end of chapter eight wraps up like this: “I didn’t have any desire to ask God if He had unfulfilled dreams for me. The risk was too great. What if His answer was yes, and those dreams weren’t my idea of a good dream?”

Ouch. Well, I’ve come a long way in just four days. I really want to go to the conference. I still have some fears, but I also have some peace. Funny thing is that I have recently been asking God to increase my faith. I wrote about increasing faith in our church bulletin. Asking for increased faith is like asking God to grant you patience. He doesn’t grant it like the fairy godmother in Cinderella – bibity bobity boop and you’ve got your patience. God wants us to go through a process with Him so we can know Him better. So to get patience, you get situations that require it. Well, to get increased faith, you get situations that require increased faith.

How you respond to those situations determines whether you develop increased faith. If you respond, “Uh-uh. It’s not happening” and keep your heels dug in, you won’t have any more than you started with. If you say, “Okay, let’s go for it” you may be completely surprised at how the situation gets resolved.

I’m saying all of this, not from a knowledge and application of it in my life, I’m saying it as the beginning of a process of realizing and understanding the truth of this – the application hasn’t even begun yet.

So here’s the short of what has happened in the past four days. I began by asking God if it was His will for me to attend the conference, but deep inside I was dreading the idea of going although part of me was still excited about the conference. Now I have come to a place of deeply desiring to attend. I’m excited about what God might want to do with my writing and I think that might be a good step toward understanding the gift He’s given me. I know His dream for my writing will very likely look nothing like I imagine. After I decided I really would like to go, I kept praying about whether it was His will. And I felt like He was saying, “Well, you never asked me if you could go – so I wasn’t sure you really wanted to.”

Of course, God is sure about everything, but this is part of building our relationship with Him. Asking. Sometimes I don’t give my child things that I know he wants because he doesn’t ask. Or he doesn’t ask with the proper attitude. I want him to ask because I want him to know he can come to me. I want him to ask with the proper attitude because demanding is a sign of disrespect – a lack of love.

Well, there’s much more to say here about the process I’m in, but I feel like I’m not making good sense of it at this point (at least not at conveying the sense of it externally). Maybe that will come as I’m a little further along. All I know right now is that I really want to go to this conference – and it will take faith to trust that the financial aspect, child care, and spousal concerns will be worked out if it’s God’s will for me to go.