Wednesday, November 19, 2014

For the fall quarter at church, I was asked to be part of a line-up of ladies to speak on trials we face as women. Each Wednesday night a different lady spoke about a different issue. If you have followed recently, I shared how nervous I was. To help, I wrote out the entire 40+ minutes so that I could just read word for word. Not the way a talk should be done, but it kept me from stuttering; it kept me from forgetting what I wanted to say; it kept me on track and I was able to make sure that I made the points that I wanted to make, so that hopefully the 40 minutes wasn’t a waste for anyone. I could have stood up there and rambled easily, but I desperately wanted that time to be beneficial and useful. I’ve had several requests to have copies of the lesson/talk, so I am posting it on my blog as I wrote it (with an update from Eli’s November scan). It’s written to be spoken, not read, so keep that in mind because it is punctuated more for me and to help my rhythm.

 Ladies, I am glad for this opportunity… I’ll call it an opportunity… to share some thoughts with you tonight. I am so glad that Becky mentioned at the beginning of the quarter that some of the ladies speaking were not ordinarily teachers or speakers, so I want you to remember that as we go along. I am much more comfortable behind my keyboard, around 1 a.m., writing my thoughts and experiences down not knowing or caring what people think about any of it. So, this is tough for me, but yesterday, when I was waiting for Eli to get a haircut, a fancy lady came over to me and said that she wanted to give me something. And, that is not unusual because we are approached by people sometimes giving us things for Eli. They slip me $5 and say buy him a hamburger, or they give us Hot Wheels cars, so I said, “sure.” So, she took my hand and started massaging lotion into it to introduce me to a new relaxing product that would last three days. So, everything but my right hand is really nervous and tense tonight.

And, this may be hard for you to believe, but this is the first time that I’ve actually used a Mic…. except for a really cute one in the early 90’s that was an engineering student when I was at Auburn. So, I’m not sure what your expectation is for tonight, but I know what mine is and that is to suggest some tools or weapons that I use in my every day life, as it is, that I hope will be helpful to you either now or inevitably one day.

Before I get too far, I do want to share that I have a blog, it is at the top of the hand out, www.stansgotafrog.com, that I mostly update about Eli, and you can enter your email, so it sends the update straight to your inbox, you don’t have to have Facebook or anything, so I invite you to check that out.

So, I am charged with sharing my experience of enduring intense daily stress due to a catastrophic event that has devastated the landscape of our lives. How do you live broken? How do you get up each morning, face each day knowing that the issue stressing your brain today has not gotten any better, is not going to get better, and, in fact, you know that as each day does pass, a sad day creeps closer. How do you live your days broken?

If you picked up and read the handout, that is the first chapter of “Blessings in a Haystack” my supposed book that one day I hope to write but probably never will. That text details the day the sky fell. Vic and I have four kids, their ages are almost 14, 12, 9 and 6. We are within the range … the range… of just plain and normal, nothing really extraordinary about us. We live in my hometown of Athens, I grew up in the Church, graduated from Athens Bible School, attended Florida College, then graduated from Auburn University and I have been attending Madison Church of Christ since 1995. Vic and I met in the singles group here at Madison and married in 1998. Hannah Grace came along two years later, then Abbey two years later, then Eli two years later, then to our surprise and to the chagrin of my OCD we were blessed with Caleb 3 and a half years later.

So, I play the role of the mother and the wife in our scenario. I’m not sure how tonight will go. I do not wish to make anyone sad, or emotional… and that includes myself. My wish tonight is that you leave our class time feeling inspired and blessed, and that hearing what I have prepared has a positive impact on your own thoughts. So, I hope that no one is dreading me being up here tonight beyond the usual dread of just being around me in general.

In the handout, you will learn that our oldest son, and third child, Eli was diagnosed with an aggressive brain cancer called medulloblastoma just after his 7th birthday in December 2011. It was metastatic, meaning that it had spread within the central-nervous system where it had originated in the cerebellum at the fourth ventricle. He underwent 5 brain surgeries for partial resection of the originating tumor, placement (and repairs) of a shunt to relieve hydrocephalus, which is extra fluid on the brain. After the first surgery (the other surgeries were done over the next three months), he then began a nine-month long treatment of high-dose radiation to the brain and spine, then high-dose chemotherapy. At St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital the survival rate for five years beyond diagnosis is 65 percent for high-risk, metastatic medullblastoma. He completed treatment at the hospital in Memphis and we came home in September 2012 and he was cancer-free for 14 months. On December 5, 2013, just two days after his 9th birthday, routine scans revealed that the cancer was back. Survival for 5 years past diagnosis for relapse medulloblastoma is less than 5 percent. There is no sustainable, reliable, accepted treatment for relapse medulloblastoma anywhere in the world.

After some research, and communication with doctors, other parents in the same boat, and much thought and prayer on everyone’s part, Vic and I chose a mild treatment path that would give Eli a high quality of life while hopefully slowing down the growth of this monster inside him, so that we could enjoy him for as long as possible, and maybe even buy some time just in case somebody somewhere came up with something that works. It was also a treatment that could be administered at the St. Jude affiliate in Huntsville, which was a big deal because neither parent wanted to be away from him during what were his last days. Eli has been on this treatment now for nine months, and the lesions had shrunk in previous scans, and were almost undetectable. In November, what was there did not appear to be active disease. This is better than we had hoped for at this point. It is still considered a bandaid since the doctors know that it always comes back with this treatment, so it could turn around at any time. But for now, for today, it has not. He is here. He is able to participate in things that we do, the medicine does not make him very sick, and we are just blessed every day. His next routine scan will be in February.

So, that is my background, or qualification for sharing my thoughts about handling the weight of daily, devastating and destructive stress. I am a mother - like many of you are - but I have sat face to face with someone who told me that my child’s life has been shortened. And, this news is after he, a child, valiantly endured a treatment so grotesquely aggressive that in trying to save his life, it left his body a shell of flesh and bones, deficient of normalcy. So, after enduring that -  after surviving a treatment that some do not, we learn it didn’t work for him. We are faced with the reality that he will never grow up. He will only ever be a little boy. So, this knowledge makes every day, every single day, paramount. It makes every day, every single day more precious than anything this world can offer or promise to offer or pretend to offer.

It also makes every day, every single day dark and torturous because one of those days, a single day, that is coming will separate my hand from his hand. There is a single day out there waiting for me that will put him on one side and me on another. That single day sits out there along our path like a vulture on the leafless limb of a diseased tree, waiting for the last rise and fall of my son’s chest so that it may devour him.

Every day, every single day is heavy with crushing fear. Fear for the pain and fear he will face and feel as he becomes cognizant of the shadow waiting for him. And, fear for my surviving kids and for myself. Fear for their emotional and spiritual stability. Fear that after that single day, Satan will seize upon their immaturity and whisper to them lies about the prayers they were so diligent and genuine to offer. Fear for me - for the images, the sounds, the smells of traveling through the valley that will fill the corners of my mind during my days and my nights thereafter. I already mourn the loss of a future, so how will I maintain sanity and be productive when I am haunted by experiences of this as a past. How do I fill my day now with light when Darkness knows our name.

I’m going to make an assumption here tonight, that if you are in this room, on a Wednesday night in a ladies class meeting during the congregation of the Lord’s church, that you believe the Bible. You believe that the ancient writings which were translated into what we call the Bible are written by men who were directed and inspired by God, thusly making the writings in this book the Word of God. But it’s kind of easy to say I believe the Bible sitting here among Christian sisters.

You know those few seconds of the morning when consciousness creeps into your night’s sleep to wake you, just before you actually open your eyes, but you are aware that you are no longer dreaming. Even from the deepest sleep, when you suddenly remember where you are and what the day is. For me, it’s at that time, when I’m lying in my bed… or on the couch, or on the pile of laundry that is on the couch, wherever there was a soft spot when I fell asleep … it’s at that time that the Lion who has been prowling the earth seeking to devour, as Peter describes Satan, puts his foot right up under my chin and with scalding breath whispers in my ear “Are you going to believe it today, Kristie? Eli’s nose is running blood right now, in his bed. I stood over him and saw it oozing onto his pillow as he slept. Are you going to believe it today?” or “Are you going to think about buying a house? You won’t need a five bedroom. Are you still going to believe it today?” So, I start each day with Evil in my ear and piercing claws on my neck. 

The first weapon or tool in my arsenal that I’m going to share with you is that I begin my day simply deciding to believe the Bible. Not the kind of believe as in I hope it is true, or I close my eyes and just wish really hard. I decide to believe as in I decide to agree or I know that it is true. It’s a decision, a choice. And, some days it is a tough one when evil is in my ear pointing out what seems on the surface to be contradictions in my life to blessings that the Bible promises come to those who believe and obey God’s word.

But, I am a touch, feel, see, kind of gal, and living a couple thousand years after Christ, there is more than enough physical evidence to support the divinity of the writings in the translated text that we call the Bible. I am not a scholar or a scientist, and I could not factually off the top of my head go into that evidence and in this audience, as I said earlier, I don’t think I have to. But for me, I just need to look around and witness the evidence in God’s creation, the motion of the cosmos designed and implemented by a Creator to know that He is God. So, the first thing I do to combat the Lion that wakes me is I rise out of bed as if his foot were a feather and decide to believe the Bible.

So, because of my decision to believe the Bible this morning, I will be referring to text in the Bible as the final authority and the truth. I think sometimes we take for granted what the Bible really is, and to say it is God’s Word, has become common. So, I do not take lightly the providential survival of this manuscript and the application of it to our lives today or during any time that passes on this earth. So, why is this important to decide to believe the Bible? In Paul’s letters to the members of Christ’s church in Rome - to New Testament Christians such as we are here in Madison, Alabama - he tells them in chapter 15 verse 4 of that letter “For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures (that is what is preserved in this book we have now) we might have hope.”

Paul says we have the scriptures because we are going to need them for answers, for instruction. How many times have we said “I don’t know what to do, Lord?” How many times, have we thought, “I wish I just knew why, Lord?” or “I wish I knew how, Lord?” God says that we have the Bible, His very Word, to answer the what, the why, and the how. If when Evil stood over you this morning, you said, “I am going to believe it today,” then you have your instructions and answers to help you face whatever comes at you today.

And, with those answers will come hope. I think that is interesting that hope is the reason we have the Bible. Our Creator, through Paul, says we have the ancient documentation with it’s guidance and instructions so that we may have hope. The Bible is not intended to tell you how to make everything bad go away, or how to make all the bad stuff stop. In fact, Paul implies the opposite. He talks about perseverance and encouragement. I would only need to have perseverance and be encouraged if I were facing something trying. So the bad stuff is going to happen and the Bible will give us hope, which is an expectation of something else, something better.

So, my first weapon for defending myself against the evil that greeted me this morning is making the decision to believe the Bible, so that I have a tool for instructions, endurance and encouragement for this life and a hope for something better.

Weapon number two is knowing the purpose of God’s will. There are three kinds of people in this room tonight, those that have faced devastating stress, those that are facing devastating stress, and those that will face devastating stress. You fit in one of those categories.

In the book of James - believed to be written by the Jesus’ brother who was a leader in the early church at Jerusalem after he himself was a doubter of Jesus Christ - he writes to Jewish Christians, - again to New Testament Christians just like us -, who, he says in the greeting were scattered (maybe members of the early Jerusalem church that fled after Stephen was stoned) “among the nations” or “abroad.” So, if they were scattered, they probably felt alone, and after learning about Stephen or maybe witnessing his death even, were afraid and confused about their faith. I think sometimes, that even though we, members of the church in this country, are not physically scattered from each other, being such a part of this world with so many distractions and unspoken issues such as are being examined in here this quarter, we can feel alone and distant from our brothers and sisters. Then within that emotional solitude to witness the evil of Darkness around us and to us, how can we not be scared and confused, much like these Christians probably were.

So, James, doesn’t beat around the bush, he gets right to it and acknowledges their fear. He begins the letter by writing “when you meet trials of various kinds.” As many have pointed out before me, not “if” you encounter trials, but “when” or “as” you meet trials. We said we believe the Bible, and it says “when you (a New Testament Christian) meet trials of various kinds.” So, expect it, and it won’t be one time that you can just hold your breath and get through it. There will be various kinds of stress all along the timeline that is your life on earth. But also note the “various kinds” because when Becky said I was the elephant in the room of a class discussing hardship, of course, what she meant was that in a class that would discuss trials on earth for women, I stick out as an obvious example. It is common knowledge among us that I - a woman, wife, mother, sister, daughter, friend to you - am enduring a mostly unique to our immediate congregation, but sadly too common in the world, situation in which I go about my day and duties knowing that behind the precious face of my child that smiles at me each day grows a monster that will take him from me. A monster that I can not get my hands on, a monster that I can not stop. This is my trial, this is my button that Darkness is pushing. And, I say my trial for the purposes of this class, obviously, my husband and our children are affected and face their own trial in reference to Eli's battle.

But, our Creator through Paul says there are various kinds of trials that we will endure. We each have our own buttons, and the father of lies knows yours. It may not yet be catastrophic, as you might expect. Our trials all along will be various within our own lives, and various compared to each other. Satan knows your name, he knows your weaknesses. He knows if complacency is enough to poison your sincerity and understanding of the Bible. He knows if life’s distractions of commitments to ballgames or activities are enough to lean you away from being close to God, your Father. He knows if beating you down with the loss of a job, or the deterioration of a marriage, or addiction, or the fear of death is your achilles heal, so that when stricken you will be too weak to take up the cross of the Christ and follow. Darkness knows your name and make no mistake that the horrors of this world as well as the distractions in our lives that keep us at a distance from God can all be traced back to one evil.

So, God, through James tells followers of Jesus Christ - who are good people - that bad things, different kinds of bad things, will happen.

But, why? As most of you know, I am active on Facebook and the internet, so, when perusing the posts and links, mostly in the cancer community forums, the most common question and complaint I see within this grieving community that I find myself in (and either grieving the loss of the future expected, or literally the loss of a child) is “Why does God let this happen?” “If God is so loving, why does he not save these children?” “We were praying, we prayed just like we were told, why did he not do what we asked?” And, it is a difficult subject when the venue for discussion is outside the Bible. But, our first weapon that we added to our arsenal this morning was believing the Bible and it documents the events of our creation, the beginning of the existence of our World. I don’t like to say Bible stories because it makes it sound made up, too fairy-tale-ish. Creation is a historical event, the very first event in the timeline of our world, and it was during this event, or soon thereafter, that sin was introduced, allowed, or welcomed into our perfect world. Sin, then is a part of the world we live in, and good or bad, we all live in this world. God then left this realm and prepared a place for us outside of that world where Darkness could not reach.

When we woke up this morning, we said we believe the Bible and in it, Matthew, a witness of Jesus Christ and documenter of His days, writes to New Testament Christians in Jerusalem and tells them, and us, that it rains on the just and the unjust, in chapter 5 verse 4. So, bad things happen, but why does God allow it? If He is this almighty, loving God with unmeasurable power, why does he let these things happen?

The quick answer to that, and I hear it all the time is that it’s God’s will. One of my favorite things to tell about God’s will is a quick thing about Eli while he was in kindergarten at ABS. They have Bible Times week there and on one of the days the kids get to dress up as their favorite Bible person and tell about him or her. So, one of Eli’s best buddies was Will Richards, Suzy’s son, they were together in Eli’s class at school and here at church. So, Eli and I were talking about Bible Times week, I said, so Eli, who do you want to be for Bible Times week, what Bible person do you want to be? In his little quiet, 6yo drawl, he says, “I want to be God’s Will.” I love that little memory.

So, God’s will is the reason for everything. The second weapon in my arsenal for facing the day, and living broken, is knowing the purpose for God’s will. I see and hear this answer given to people searching for comfort, “Well, it’s God’s will. You just may not ever know why, it’s just God’s will.” That just always seems to be kind of catch all, kind of a way to humor someone for “why” God does anything. And, if you want to get a cancer parent that is not religious riled up real quick, and frankly, if you want to get a little frown out of me, tell that mom or dad that his or her kid has cancer because it’s God’s will. Any potential bridge you might have had to bring them over to hope just went up in flames.

So, to say whatever trial you face is God’s will seems so obscure, so mysterious and it leaves a kind of feeling of, oh, I wonder what God’s plan is for me, please let it be something easy. Please, let it involve the same things I want. I hope His will is the same as my will.

And, when I’m told that it’s just God’s will, I’m suppose to accept this mystery. The unknown is suppose to give me confidence, make me feel better. I have faced and do face the unknown in many things and I don’t like it. It is not a good feeling when you sit across from a doctor at a world-leading research hospital, a hospital that it’s peers look to for guidance, and he says, basically, “do you have any ideas” or “what would you like for us to do.”

I want whoever is in charge of me, in this case, my child’s life, to tell me what the plan is, and what the goal is that we are working toward. Then, I will do what I need to do to follow it so that the goal is reached. Well, again, we got up this morning and the first thing we said we were going to do was believe the Bible, and in it Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, writes to encourage New Testament Christians, just like us, in the book of Ephesians.

Inspired by God, Paul explains God’s goals and eternal purpose and His plans for His church. In chapter 1, Paul tells us that the mystery of His will is to “unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” The purpose of God’s will is for us to be with him. So, the mystery is explained, I don’t have to wonder what God’s plan is, I don’t have to wonder why things happen, I don’t have to convince myself over and over that whatever it is, it will be for the best. My instruction manual tells me what it is, what everything that happens is working toward.
God’s power can take a monstrous evil like cancer, and according to Paul in Romans 8 verse 28, God can make all things, - and all things is all things, even bad things like cancer - work together for good. So, it is not God’s will that Eli have cancer.

His will is explained many times in multiple places through the Bible - In John 6, His will is that those who believe are saved, and live with Him; In Ephesians 6, His will is for us to be obedient servants; in 2 Corinthians 8 to His will is to give graciously; to pray as it says in 1 Thessalonians 5 and in chapter 4 to abstain from immorality. There are more scripture to tell us what God’s will is, and the ultimate purpose of His will is to unite all things with Him in heaven. So, we said we believe the Bible, and we don’t have to wonder what God’s plan is.

Our hang up, or what is unsettling, is the journey along our timeline, we can’t know what events are hanging out there for us, the buttons Darkness will push that we need all this endurance and encouragement for, but we can have confidence that whatever it is, God will use it for good and toward his ultimate goal of uniting all things in him. So, my second weapon is knowing God’s will and His purpose, and then having the peace that comes from the confidence of knowing those things as He has told them to me through the writings preserved in the Bible.

The third weapon in my arsenal to combat the day is learning to Find the Good. Daily, I am confronted or presented with situations, or thoughts, or comments or activities that I have to kind of step back, take a breath, and peel away all the distractions around it, maybe the attitudes, the drama, the confusion, the fuss, or not even anything negative, but just all the distraction that comes with dealing with people and activities.

With each trial, each beating that you take from this world, from the Darkness that knows your name, comes a different perspective and understanding of this world and the significance of the next. It’s like you’re walking around with a heightened sense of being.

You see things differently, you see things you did not see before. Things that you thought were important are not, your expectations for your life, your kids’ lives, are suddenly not what you thought you wanted, what was a big deal to you, suddenly seems so small. So, you go through this upheaval of your thoughts and a kind of enlightenment that helps you see through distraction and find the motivation of what is in front of you.

That is if you allow it, if you have been beaten low enough, stripped clean of your selfishness, to accept what you are. Gail Jones, who I want to be when I grow up, said it best that we are spiritual beings traveling through a physical world. When you get that, when that is the foundation of your thought process, the foundation of your emotions, your understanding of self, that this world is not your home, or your children’s home, then suddenly you are able to see the motivation what drives a situation in front of you.

Recently, in a parent bereavement forum, a mother who had lost a child to cancer, was incensed over her community’s efforts to raise money for a dog that had broken its leg. She was furious that her community had raised 10,000 dollars for a dog when there were children dying in the arms of their mothers of this same community.

And, yes, it seems imbalanced. And, sometimes when you do live daily at a heightened sense of emotion, it is tough to reign in your brain and not get worked up about something like that. I don’t know why the default of our thoughts is the negative. It’s not a fun place to be, yet when we have experienced acute stress that pounds us daily, it is harder to stay on that mountain high.

And, sometimes if someone is strong enough to maintain a positive demeanor or be productive in daily activities, we think, wow, they are in denial, or they are not processing this that is going on. Not necessarily, maybe that person knows exactly what is going on and is able now, because of the experience, to look past it to what is truly beneficial for them and everyone around them. So, I want to encourage you to train yourself to find the good in all situations for your own sanity. Boil it down, and peel it back.

When I read about the dog, yes, my heart ached a little bit because I thought of many ways to use $10,000. Something that I am in the very early stages of doing right now, as long as Eli continues to do well, is establishing a non-profit group that will pay for the funeral expenses of children lost to cancer in Limestone County, where we live and I am from, and I hope to expand it to the state, so, yes, my first thought was, wow, that would lift a burden for a grieving family. I even thought what good 10,000 would do for an animal shelter that helps many dogs, not just one, and provides such a great service to communities. So, yes, it was hard to read that one. But, if you can see the motivation of what was going on, then you will see that they were moved to do good. And, maybe when they feel that sense of giving, when they feel that warm burst of energy that enlarges their heart from making that effort, they may be driven to something bigger either financially or with their time - which trust me, do not underestimate the gift of time - but they may think, wow, I liked how that felt and then grow that desire to do good. And, there are far too many worthy and needy causes and efforts, too many, so be careful to judge any movement in a positive direction. Open your eyes and see what is really going on around you, look for the motivation, and find the good in it.

Along with that, - and I guess maybe you could couple these together, kind of like a one-two punch in our arsenal, - is to Make the Good. If you can’t find the good, then make it. I can’t wait for the new Penguins of Madagascar movie to come out because Skipper is my favorite and I love in the commercial when he is bantering with, I guess the other leader of the group, and he doesn’t like whatever options are being offered for whatever situation they were in. So, he says very confidently, “I make my own options,” and then he pulls the hatch and they all fall out of this airplane.

So, I love that - I make my own options. I am a spoiled Christian, growing up in the church, living a protected life with good parents, in a good town, going to a good school, having good friends, always surrounded by people who loved me and wanted the best for me except for maybe from 1985 and 1987. I grew up cocky and confident in the things that I at least wanted to be confident in, never a true hardship or resistance that I could not avoid.

When I, as a mother and wife, was victimized by Darkness as it struck my child with a monster, I was afraid and felt lost underneath the weight of the sky. Then as I gathered strength through the support of you here, and God’s family all over the world, I was able to see the adversary more clearly and I became angry. Growing up blessed, I never really thought about the threat of Satan, but, now, having felt his breath on my neck at night when I pray, I have a personal hatred for Darkness and I want to do anything I can to hurt him and his mission.

Paul encourages the Ephesians in chapter 6 to draw strength through their union with God and prepare for battle with the devil. When Darkness waged this war on my family, when Darkness chose my house to pick on, it is as a soldier in His army that I am able to stand against him, and my artillery is doing good and shedding light. So, I look for ways to do good. Big or little, public or private, just anything, any opportunity so that when he breaths on my neck that night, he hears me thank God for opportunities and for the strength to defeat him that day. And, it makes me smile. So, making my own good helps me each day to feel productive, to feel in control, to feel strong and victorious over evil.

The next thing I want to share with you that helps me to live broken, is a challenge for you. When you are facing the inevitable trial, that devastating issue that changes the landscape of your life, I dare you to compare yourself. During the first days that Eli and I were at St. Jude in Memphis during the first treatment, it was so surreal. We were coming off of brain surgery, a surgery during which we were given no promises that he would walk, talk, or have memory, yet he and I walked the halls of the hospital, he played video games and we talked and laughed. He tired often, and was unsteady. He wasn’t going to be playing any baseball games, or running any races ever, but when we went to the waiting room for his radiation session, across from us sat a little boy Eli’s age in a specialized stroller that could not walk or communicate or feed himself, or eat solid food even. He had the same cancer as Eli, the same doctor.

He only screamed and cried until he tired himself out and fell asleep, then he would wake up and start it again. Almost every day, we saw him, and for months, almost the entire length of the 9 month treatment he did this. He began to calm and began to walk with assistance toward the end of treatment and when we saw him in the summer of 2013, he was doing well. They did not speak very good English, and we have not seen them on any of our other trips, so I am worried and have no way to contact them.

But, I felt so blessed sitting in the waiting room and walking the halls with Eli that I was almost embarrassed. I only ever offered information about Eli if I was asked. I didn’t sit around in the waiting rooms chatting about how great he was doing, because when I compare myself to someone else, I stuck out. So, if you need motivation to get through your day, compare yourself.

If you think your trial warrants debilitating sadness on your part, separating you from the gifts that God has given you, compare yourself to the person next to you. Is that not enough, you still have it worse? Then compare yourself to someone in your town that has probably been in the news about something they are facing. That’s still not enough, you still have it worse? Then compare yourself, to atrocities that are happening in countries that live with war. Still, what you are facing is devastating, it has crippled you physically, emotionally, mentally, and it’s so bad that you don’t think you can face the day even? And, whatever it is, is something that while you are in this world, you can not recover from it, so it is not trivial, it is real and it causes great stress upon your life, but you said that you believe the Bible and the events documented there, so let’s read Matthew 26:67 and compare yourself.

Jesus, the very son of God who left heaven to walk earth as a man, had been arrested for blasphemy and faced the court of the Sanhedrin. They already had their minds made up that they hated him and wanted him dead, and in verse 67 it says “Then they spit in his face and struck him with their fists. Others slapped him”. Brought to Pilate, Jesus was condemned and released to an angry mob. It says in chapter 27 verse 30 that the soldiers spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.” After the beatings and humiliations, His body was nailed to wood and lifted to where it would hang as a grotesque site of slow death.

God sacrificed His son to cleanse us so that we might also live with Him in heaven. There is His purpose for giving His own son, turning His back on His own son, while He hung on a cross, to unite us with Him.

On September 14, 2012 my son was lead down the street of his neighborhood to his home while family and friends cheered for him, applauded him. Many of you were there, he was on television, was treated like a movie star. We traveled thousands of miles away, to Michigan, to a place that does not know us, does not love us, and still my son was loved, he was driven around while people called out his name cheering and stopped him to give him gifts. He continues to get gifts and letters, and there is a team of professionals dedicated to his survival, and masses of individuals dedicated to lifting his name in petition to his Creator.

Tell me I don’t have a reason to face each day with thankfulness when I compare myself. So, if you struggle each morning to find a reason to be thankful, or to get up and be productive and play with the cards Darkness has dealt you, compare yourself.

Lastly, let’s talk about vacations. I know there is no way there is anyone in here that doesn’t like just breathing different air sometimes. Doesn’t matter if it is catastrophic stress that you deal with daily or if it is just the monotony of the daily, normal dredge. We sometimes need an escape, a rescue from what we are facing. We look forward to that, sometimes knowing that something is planned and waiting on us, it helps us face whatever issue is stressing us out.

We rarely get to go anywhere, and have been so blessed to be gifted a trip to Disney World, our trip to Michigan, and to Navarre Beach down on the gulf. Those are all big deals to us, prior to Eli’s diagnosis, we had only ever been to the beach once and Gatlinburg once and chattanooga twice since we had kids, so in 12 years.

I saw a post recently from an angry father who was grieving the loss of his daughter and he said “Do not pray for me. I hate your God for taking my daughter.” Wow. I don’t ever respond to posts like that, because that is a person who is blinded by his grief and is ignorant in his understanding, so nothing I could say would help or change his mind.

But, naturally, I shuddered when I read that because I know that it is God that was at the gate for his daughter to welcome her home. The God he hates is who provided the escape for his daughter from the evil that victimized her. Our Creator provided a place and a way to get there by giving His own son as a sacrifice. It’s God that built our eternal home, an escape from the trials of this world because when I got up this morning, I decided to believe the Bible and that is what is written in it. It’s because of God that this man’s 6-year-old precious child sits in the arms of her Creator, untouchable ever again by Darkness.

I never understand why Satan does not get credit for his handiwork. He leaves an obvious trail, but instead the One that has provided a way of escape from evil, that is open and available to anyone, gets blamed for evil. It just doesn’t make sense. When sin was invited into our perfect world, God built a more perfect place, an escape so that when this world and the evil in it does its worst, we have the hope of a better place.

And, as a mother, a mother now with the perspective and ability to boil things down and acknowledge what I really want for my children, what I really want is that they be a light for Jesus and one day rest with their Creator. I can’t know what God knows, just as he tells Job, whom God had a personal relationship with and whom God regarded as the most righteous man on earth. Still, Job could not understand the things that God knew about existence and eternity. So my peace comes from knowing that God’s will is the same as my hope for my children. My peace comes from knowing that God will do what He needs to do to take the bad things of this earth and make them work for good. My peace comes from knowing that God will do what is needed to lead my children home.

So, I hope I shared something that will be helpful to you, something that will help when you have to face trial. The bottom line is that you have your guidebook for your journey here, and that you do not have to be a victim of Darkness, and that your Creator and your Savior know pain, but have endured it to bring us all home.

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