Friday, December 30, 2016

After 2016: How to Have a Happy 2017



"Happy New Year!" I want to be able to genuinely say it. But, something has to be said about 2016.

The elections, Aleppo, even terrorist attacks in our beloved city of Orlando and throughout the world have rocked us, threatening to tear many of us apart. In some ways, they already have.

How does one heal after such a tragic, divisive year?

When will the darkness in the world, the trauma, the fear of the next headline end?

As with any revival, it begins with one.

One person starting that rippling affect, creating a wake for a wake up call to those in the global Christian church.

We need revival.

We need to wake up and stop getting caught up in the lesser things.

Those things don't matter.

Only one thing matters. Did you love?

"We love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19)."

If we truly believed this, we'd live it. We'd cross that divide and love the people feeling unloved right now. We'd lower ourselves to lift others up. We'd be that person to start revival in our midst.

And, there's no way we can do it on our own. "On our own" is what got us into this mess.

Only the One who made us clean can wash, renew, and heal our families, our communities, our nation, and our world.

Will we rise up? Will we stand in the gap to close the very gap that keeps us apart? Will we humble ourselves and pray?

Because there's no other way, 2017 is going to be brighter than if we first go to the cross.

We must seek the gentle face of Christ, the one who bears the scars on His brow from the thorny crown He took for us. Repent. Forgive as we have been forgiven. Live for His Kingdom instead of for our own.

Then our light, which is really His Light will shine in the darkness and no one, no, not anything can quench that Light.

It goes on and on forever.

So, here's to 2017 and to a new us. A renewed, revived, repentant us. Walking hand-in-hand let us live in the Spirit of Christ and not after the gratifying, preserving and exalting self. In one word, walk. And, keep on walking with Him by faith. One step at a time, we can make a brighter tomorrow.
















Thursday, December 8, 2016

When it's NOT Cancer: Celebrating the Sabbath



SO many things in life get put on hold when you think you might have cancer.

It's like Gandalf from Lord of the Rings plunked his staff right in front of all my planning about anything beyond the here and now and said, "You shall not pass!"

After the biopsy, survival mode kicked in. For me, that means making lists: writing down everything that needs to be done if I'm out-of-commission and delegating all these responsibilities to my husband and children.

Laundry, check. Dishes, check. Maintaining a clean house, check. Freezer stocked with frozen pizzas, check!

They'll be all right.

If I'm sick, they'll make due.

After the surgical biopsy, I couldn't do anything strenuous, so I had to let everyone else take care of the business of running our home while I recovered.

With more household tasks being done by others, I experienced a real Sabbath, a time to just rest and focus on spending time with each of my children.

And, I thought, I should live like this normally. My life is too rushed. From sun up to sun down, I go from job to job without stopping enough to be with the people I love.

But, then. This week. The results came in.

It's benign. I'm cancer-free! Praise God from whom all blessings flow!


We've been experiencing a drought in central Florida. The dry, brittle grass, the languishing trees and flowers wither while waiting for the clouds to let down it's waters. On Tuesday, the day of my doctor appointment, the rains came and soaked the parched earth.

I've always associated rain as a message from God.

Some say rain is a bad thing. Especially if you're having an outdoor party. But, when there's a drought, rain is a blessing. There's life, growth, and eventually fruit.



If the winter of life threatening sickness is not coming, what does that mean? Why all this preparation? Shall I go back to living life in a rush? And, in the whirlwind, truly miss life?

In my blur of busyness, I'm striving to keep my little world in order. To stay on top of the mountains of laundry. To  the towering stacks of dishes from crashing down. But, am I going too far?

Will I rest in this downpour of grace and soak it in, letting it change me and fill me up to overflow with the loving-kindness of God?

In this season, I'm taking off the proverbial super-housekeeper cape, and letting things go a bit for just a little while. I need to. To gain balance and perspective. It's not my job to save the world. I can trust Jesus already has and will. 

I'm thankful that it's not cancer, but more than that I'm thankful to the Lord for giving me a fresh perspective on making time for those whom He's given me to love.

May there be life, growth and the fruit that comes from building a life on following Him while building into the lives of others.





 





May I truly experience a Sabbath this winter as I bask in the grace of our Lord.

"I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit...I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing." (John 15:1-5)








Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Preparing for Winter: When You Think It Might Be Cancer


Why the woolen mitten, scarf and sweater? Could it be that time of year?

Actually, no. That's not it at all. 

Just look at me. Dressed in layers because for some reason, not in my control, my whole body shook. From the chattering of teeth down to the core of my being.



Part of the reason is that the room was as cold as an ice locker. The other reason is this particular MRI was double the  intensity of a conventional one. The power of this three Tesla magnet could pick up a pick-up truck. And, I was going to be right underneath the thing.

The first encounter with this behemoth, I buckled under the pressure and had to reschedule. After a few sleepless nights, I faced the giant again. This time with a pocketful of God's promises in my heart, a latin prayer and a banner of the love of God over me.

Dona nobis pacem.

Grant us peace.

This is what I sang over and over as I lay face down, postrate before my King in the belly of the MRI.

The biggest enemy in my thinking is the fear of the process more than having cancer. The tests, the surgery, the treatments and possibly facing a disease that can cause death sets my knees knocking, and not just figuratively. 

I don't even know if I have cancer yet. 

Still, at times, my mind turns out of control over the possibilities. Of course ending at who will take care of the ones in my care.





I want to be here with them their whole life through. They need me. My love, my encouragement, my guidance.






But, I have to remember. They have each other.



And, I need to rest in the fact they have their daddy here to love on them, and their Daddy in heaven who takes care of all their needs.





Dona nobis pacem.

The peace of God. That surpasses all understanding. This is what I need. For I don't know what the future holds, but He does, and He's holding onto me. And, that, my friends, is enough.


Dona Nobis Pacem


Friday, October 14, 2016

To My Pro-Choice Friends: Give Life a Chance




My friends,

Please listen. Don't turn away. Try to understand.

A person is a person no matter how small.

You may ask, what do you mean?

It's common knowledge that the name of what is growing inside of a pregnant woman is called fetus, not baby. And so, not a person.

I beg you to look again.

At conception, two separate DNA combine to form the living blueprints of a new individual, right?

We may not see a face in the unformed body, but given time, all the genetic characteristics of this person will spring to life.

She may have the blue eyes of her mother, or the dark hair of her father. She may enjoy music like her father or have an appreciation for art like her mother. She may have a rebellious streak like them both.

But, for now. She needs to grow, to be born.

The problem is, she was not planned, her parents are no longer together and there's this option called abortion.

Her mother enters the dimly lit abortion clinic. Other young women glance at her from their chairs. Reflexively holding their stomachs. Waiting for the results of their pregnancy tests and agonizing over the chance to no longer be pregnant.

As she joins the other women, a thought slips quietly into her mind. What if it's a girl?

She pictures an infant in a white frilly dress. Held in her arms, balanced on the hip.

Pushing against the gravity of her decision, she gets out of her chair and leaves the office. With the child still in her womb.



That woman was my mother.

Given time to grow, to be born, here I am today.

Not everyone is given that chance.

My faith that a person is a person before they are born was put to the test when I was seven months pregnant and carrying a child deemed "incompatible with life."

He sure looked alive as he kicked about on the ultrasound screen.

But, the doctors who diagnosed his condition were well aware one gene did not carry its message to form kidneys. Therefore, my son was lacking these organs essential to life.

At that time, there was no treatment, no cure.

For the rest of my pregnancy, I would be his life support.

And, when he was born, he would die.

One doctor shared the option of terminating the pregnancy.

Reflexively, I clutched my protruding stomach.

This is a baby. My baby.

I couldn't do such a thing.

No matter how much it hurt to carry him, I couldn't turn away from the fact of his existence.

It would be a denial of the truth of his life, however short.

I allowed myself to bond with my baby, to love him right until the end.





Isn't a mother's arms the best place for a baby who is going to die?


He was a person.

He mattered.

He had worth.

All people do.

Even a person who only lives eight hours on this dusty planet.


His little life, changed mine forever. When he died, a piece of my heart went with him.



October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. It's a time to think about women in their hidden grief.

Included in this time, please remember the over 4,000 babies that die from abortion each and every day in America.

Because a person is a person before they are born.

If you or someone you know are pregnant and in difficult circumstances, please find a pregnancy resource center in your area. You will be loved, encouraged, and cared for without judgement. And, if you have already experienced an abortion, you will find tools to heal.

Thank you for listening and considering.

Your friend no matter what you decide,

Chanda

































Sunday, December 6, 2015

To My Boy in Heaven



He would have been twelve years old yesterday. But, this was not God's plan for him. Our little boy, Luke Joseph only lived for a day.

This is the letter his daddy wrote to him...
Dear Luke,

What can I say? You are my one and only little boy. I held you in my arms for such a very short time. Eight hours, that was all the time that God allowed us to have with you. But, let me assure you that they were some of the best hours of my life. It was pure joy for me to hold you and kiss your sweet little head, and place my finger in your tiny little hand.

It was simply pure joy to know you little one. When your little hand seemed to squeeze my finger and one of your little eyes opened to peek at me. To see you breathing much longer than the doctors said you would.

I’m sorry that I did not get to know you better in my life. I’m sorry that we didn’t get to do all the things that daddies and little boys get to do. I wanted so much to take you to the park and push you in the swing, teach you how to ride a bike, take you fishing, and play catch.

But, that was not in God’s plan. God’s plan was for you to stay with your mommy and me for just a short time, and then to go to heaven to be with Him.

God loves you very much and has a special purpose for you there. I think you are very happy there, too. There is no sickness, no pain, or cruelty up there like there is down here.

Heaven is a place filled with love, for God is love and you can trust Him to take care of you.

As for me, I’m happy that you’re with Him, but sad that you’re leaving without me. Your mommy and I miss you very much and will think about you every day. But, don’t worry, one day we’ll come to heaven to live with God, too, and we’ll be with each other again.

Remember that I love you very much and you will stay in my heart forever.

Love,


Daddy

Wishing Luke a happy twelth birthday in heaven. We are thankful for eternal life in Christ Jesus and long for the day when we can hold our sweet boy in our arms again.



 "And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.
He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
Revelation 21:3-5

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Pumpkin Patch Prayer




Having the kids help me run the pumpkin patch at my church seemed like a great idea. Hard work builds character, right?

It was our job to turn all the pumpkins so they wouldn't spoil, try to sell as many as possible and one more thing...

A new shipment of 300 pumpkins would be coming in and because the teens were at camp, there might not be a lot of help.

"Search me O God and know my heart. Test me and know my anxious thoughts...(Psalm 139: 23,24)"

You better believe I was breathing this prayer to the Lord as I strolled around the pumpkin patch turning each one.

With my husband and children, we would have exactly six people to unload pumpkins, some as big or bigger than my four-year-old.

We needed help.

One college student showed up, but the delivery truck arrived late, and he had to leave for class.

Another young man, from another church hopped into the truck to help. And, he was a customer!

The delivery truck driver lent us a hand. He had other deliveries to make, and he saw we needed the help.

A few more people showed up. 

There weren't many of us working, but we formed a small line, passing the pumpkins one-by-one until they reached my husband who laid each of them on the ground.

Our hearts are like pumpkins in the Father's hands. When we go through difficulties and uncertain times, it's an opportunity to trust in Him more.

He washes us clean with the Word, pulls the stringy sin of self-reliance out of our hearts and sets us right-side up with the Light of His glorious grace shining bright within. 

My husband laid down the last pumpkin. By the grace of God, few hands made an overwhelming task get done.

Now we would have enough to sell at the fall festival on the weekend. And, it's true, hard work does build character, but the kids are not the only ones needing to grow.

"Create in me a clean heart O God, renew a steadfast spirit within me. (Psalm 51:10)"

Thursday, October 1, 2015

When the Cold Winds Blow: Healing from Pregnancy and Infant Loss



When the autumn winds blow fresh and cool, the maple leaves ambling to the ground, a slow but pervasive sadness creeps up. It doesn’t take long for me to know why.

And in the midst of this ache, a little light trickles in.

An idea. A glimmering grace to hold onto. A comfort to ease the pain.

Gathering leaves, big and small, symmetrical or somewhat askew, I hold them to my heart.

With broken crayons, sheets of blank paper and children needing something to do, I demonstrate. Taking a single leaf, I cover it with paper and rub it over and over again with a red crayon.

As if by magic, the leaf appears. First the stem, the veins and the outline of the leaf’s three points.

My kids are in awe and my heart is at rest. 

To turn death into a learning experience, a thing to grow from, gives me renewed focus and grace...

To look to the One who comforts me and love on the ones I have here.





I have this little blue scrapbook. A book of remembrance. Of a time of waiting for a sweet little baby. A son. His prognosis was grave. I was his life support. When he was born, he would die. Back then, bilateral renal agenesis (BRA) had no treatment and still has no cure. I received the news the beginning of autumn.








December came and he was wrapped up warm and comfortable in my womb while I waited for his birth day. The day I’d have to say goodbye.








Another month before his due date, I spent half that windswept day on a playground with my two-year-old Bright Girl. Pushing her in the swing. Watching her joy as she raced around, her sneakers crunching on the fallen leaves. Not knowing it would be the day before my son’s birth day.

Giving birth to a child born without the capacity to live was incomprehensible. How can you prepare for it?

All I could do was breathe and pray.  

When trying to savor each moment, time slows down. It would be one of the longest days of my life. And, I held my little boy, my Luke, for as long as I could before he passed from here to heaven.






I left the hospital, with empty womb and empty arms.

Trying to find some sort of normalcy, when my strength returned, I took my toddler to the playground. As I pushed her in the swing, a shadow seemed to block the sun. It wasn’t a shadow others could see, but it was felt. And only by me.

I don’t remember how long the shadow lasted, but it came and went like the ebb and flow of the tides.

And it's been like that each and every autumn, when the cold winds begin to blow. For twelve years now. The shadow of grief comes. Sometimes for a day, sometimes a bit longer.

At this point, I don't know if I can call grief a friend, but I now see a pattern for when it settles in.

And, I don't mind it anymore.

Loving and losing someone hurts. The pain means they mattered. And, the latent grief that comes is a reminder to us to think of the ones we miss in heaven. The ones we're waiting to see again.

And when the shadow of grief seems to linger, just remember...


You will bloom again.




Like the sunflowers who turn to face the sun, may we turn to face our Savior and wait for His healing, comfort and grace.






A wise king once said,

“To every thing there is a season…a time to be born and a time to die...a time to weep and a time to laugh…” (Ecclesiastes 3:3-8)



And Jesus said, 

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted (Matthew 5:4).”


Death has not won the victory, Christ has. His love is eternal. Death couldn't stop Him. He lives on
 and by grace, our loved ones who are gone, live on.


Faith gives us hope.

Hope helps us bloom. To be open to joy.

Love is the source of that hopethe love of Christ, our gentle Savior who leads us on the path He has laid out for us. 

For some of us, it is the path of grieving in hope. The hope that brings whispers of a joy to come. On falling leaves and in fingers making impressions for little hearts to learn.