The Journey

Life is a journey not a competition. 

In a competition the focus is on performance.  The winners are the ones who break the records, and go home with the trophies – all the others are merely participants. 

For a good part of my Christian life I subconsciously viewed my walk with Christ as a competition. In my estimation, my performance resulted in God’s acceptance of me. 

I spent a lot of time trying to impress God and compete for the trophy of His approval.

No matter how hard I performed I was not breaking any records, and I was most certainly NOT going home with a trophy. I kept failing at being who I was supposed to be. 

I was merely participating.  I tried so hard to live the Christian life.

I was defeated! 

The Christian life is not a competition it is a journey.

The Christian life is a journey where God uses the obstacles and difficulties of life to draw me closer to Him and to change me and make me more like Christ.  It’s not a competition!   The focus is not on my performance. 

When I view life as a journey of being conformed to Christ and “knowing Him”; Christ becomes the focus!

I’m not sure why it took me so long to learn this – this fact that my life is not about me but about HIM – but I must say that most of my Christian life has been lived in defeat because I did not understand this concept. 

When you try to perform the Christian life – you fail.

Now, if God was handing out grades for effort in trying to live the Christian life, I would surely have gotten a passing grade.
No I would have made the honor roll! 

I worked so hard to be doing what I was supposed to be doing, looking like how a Christian should look; and talking like a Christian is supposed to talk.  It took a lot of effort!

Through the years, one of my greatest desires was to be the mom and wife that I needed to be.  After getting married and living day in and day out with my husband I could see things in my life that were not what they should be.  (Married life has a way of revealing the ‘real’ you!)  Then we started having children;  I was given even more opportunities to see even more of the ‘real’ me. 

It wasn’t a pretty picture!

So I set about to change what needed to be changed.  For my lack of organization - I implemented schedules and checklists.   For failures in tidiness and piled up laundry - I studied homemaking books and put to practice the practical tips I found.  (All of these things were good and brought about change.)    

However, while I was seeing victory in these outward things, I was brought face to face with the attitudes of my heart and no matter how hard I tried I could not conquer these!

I was often irritable, easily angered.  No matter how well I implemented my schedules – these attitudes would still appear.  Then there were the offenses that had been committed against me from others – no matter how hard I tried my feelings were still hurt and I battled bitterness.  (After years of marriage, a husband can offend you plenty of times!)  

These wrong attitudes of the heart plagued me and it became more important for me to get victory over my sinful attitudes than to conquer the disorganization in our home and the full laundry baskets in the closets! 

I set about to change me – the real me. 

I posted quotes on the fridge about a meek and quiet spirit. 

I read through the passages talking about the role of a mom and wife. 

I committed to reading Proverbs 31 everyday for a year; and tried my hardest to become the woman I spent so much time reading about. 

As to my irritable and angry spirit, I decided that I needed to be quick to apologize and own up to every harsh word I said.  (I surmised if I had to eat humble pie often enough and long enough I would learn my lesson). 

Still the wrong attitudes continued.

I committed to listening to preaching messages over and over again on anger and frustration.  I concluded that if I changed the way I was thinking and had messages on how detrimental and damaging these attitudes were, then my behavior would change because these messages were fresh in my mind. Every morning I would spend time listening to these messages before the kids were getting up for their day. 

While there were some good things I saw from these endeavors; I was always brought face to face with the reality that whenever the right buttons were pushed, or if I was tired or sick I would still respond in a sinful fashion despite all the efforts I was making to change those attitudes and actions! It was my default mode.

No,  it was ME!

The years continued and I kept trying!

 I went forward in church services when I grew convicted about my spirit and begged God to change me.  I cried and prayed and had my devotions.  I decided to have my devotions longer and set aside more time to read the Bible morning, noon and night.  (I figured if I was in the Word more that I would see changes.)   I kept Christian radio and music on to help my spirit to be calm and focused on what I needed to be doing day in and day out.   I had hoped that all of these things would bring about victory from these sinful attitudes. 

They didn’t. None that lasted.

I was defeated.  I had tried.  I had failed. I had repeated the cycle.  I had strove to do better the next time - only to find the cycle to repeat itself. This happened over and over again! 

I blamed autism. 

I laid claim to the amount of children we had that was making me respond this way.  

I surmised that it was ministry and the stress that went along with ministry that kept me from being who I wanted to be. 

Perhaps my upbringing was the root of this problem. 

However, in the bottom of my heart I knew that the problem was not any of these things -   the problem was ME; and no matter how hard I tried - I could not change the problem. 

I could not change me. 

I decided that if this was what the Christian life was all about, this trying with all your might to do what God wants you to do, only to fail over and over again,   it was a most miserable existence on the face of the earth.  It was impossible!   I lost hope. 

It was during a church service that I heard something that made me sit up and start to think.   The message was on appropriating grace. It was explained that grace is God’s enablement (power)  to live the Christian life in the strength of Christ and not with our own efforts.  As our Pastor was preaching he concluded that it was not possible to live the Christ life in our own strength.  We will fail every time.   

I sat up and really was paying attention when he mentioned failure – it pretty well described exactly how I was feeling and the results I had been seeing through all my efforts.

He said that there was power to live the Christian life the way that God wants us to; but it comes from taking hold of grace.  He explained that a lot of Christians think that the power to live the Christian life is automatic; but it’s not, it’s something that is taken in faith.

I remember sitting there thinking, “Could this be what I have been missing my whole life?”

He said in moments of weakness; when we don’t know what to do, or are tempted to do something wrong the power is there to make the right decision or to ask for wisdom in how to respond; but it has to be appropriated ( to take possession of).  He asked how many of us when we are brought to a situation where we are tempted to respond wrong stop and ask God for the grace (divine power) to respond rightly to that situation.

This thought had never occurred to me!  On a day to day basis when I grew frustrated I would try really hard to respond correctly.  I had several things I would try to do.   Sometimes, I would count to 10 (or even 100 if it was really bad!) ; or other times, I would walk away from the trigger point situation.   If I was not too frustrated I would remind myself of how I wanted to be good and think about how the Proverbs 31 woman would respond if put in the situation I found myself at that moment.  Almost always, I would quote a verse or two from Proverbs on anger or a hasty spirit, only to be filled with guilt when just seconds from after quoting the verses I was responding in anger to my family members. 

I sat and thought while he continued preaching, “Have I actually thought to ask God to give me His patience to respond to the situation?”  I had to admit in my heart that I had never tried that; and I secretly I wondered if what our pastor was saying was sounding just a bit superstitious.  (I could almost hear the theme song from Disney playing, see pixy dust falling, and hear Cinderella breaking out in song about wishing on a star and dreaming about how wonderful she wanted her life to be.)  

It sounded too good too be true - too easy to really work.  It had to be harder than that!   

Something happened during that message, though.  I started thinking about this grace, this power of Christ and I started studying it out.  I read in first epistle of Peter where  he told the Christians during hard trials that surrounded them at that time, that God had given them everything they needed to live the Christian life – even in the difficulties they found themselves in. 

“If it was true for them was it not true for me?”, I reasoned.  Having lots of kids under one roof, homeschooling and throwing autism in the mix were some of the trials that were making my life hard.  Had God given me everything I needed for these trials like he had those Christians form years gone by?    I started to remind myself of truth:   God wants me to be peaceful, loving and kind.  God wants my children to have a happy Mom that is cheerful and joyful not irritable and frustrated.   Then according to the passage in first Peter, He has given me the ability to live the way I am supposed to live.

 Hope started to grow!

I didn’t have to live in defeat! 

Then, I started to read through Romans six and meditate on the word “yield”.  Could it be so simple as to ask God to give me what I was lacking (patience, love, wisdom, etc) and upon my request God would give me my request the moment I asked for whatever it was I was lacking?  

I pondered the verses about the power of prayer and asking in God’s will.  (John 14:4:  “If ye shall ask anything in my name, I will do it.”)  I started to connect the dots together:

God did not want me to be frustrated or irritable, or defeated.  He wanted me to be happy to respond graciously and kindly and to show the love of Christ to my children as I responded to them day in and day out.   This was God’s will for my life.  Then, if I took God literally, He had promised to answer my prayer by giving me the things I needed to live in His will! 

I got excited; but I could not shake the thought that this concept seemed to good to be true and something akin to wishful thinking.  I finally got brave enough to mention my thoughts.

Pastor smiled and said that it was wishful thinking if I was asking in unbelief.  If I was saying the words “Your wisdom, Lord” as one does an incantation – the power would not be there; but if in faith I asked God for His patience and believed that God gives us those things we ask for if we ask in His will the patience would be there to respond correctly. I need only pray.   The prayer was depending on God to provide what I was lacking.     

Hope began to grow in my heart.  I purposed in my heart that I was going to try this the next day!  I was going to depend upon Christ’s power when I was lacking my own. 

The result?

The last years as a Mom have been some of the most enjoyable that I have ever had!  I’m not trying to change me –that’s a job that I cannot do. 

I am no longer tying to be like Christ; I am keenly aware that I cannot make myself like the One whom I most want to emulate.   I’ve tried that – and failed.

Only Christ can make me Christ like!   

However, God delights when I come to Him completely needy and depend upon Him to give me what I need.  When I come to Him in dependence upon Him to give me what I am lacking He always provides what I need.    My walk with Christ is exciting and alive!

He is here, with me, every moment of every day to give me what I need and when I depend upon Him - He does the work!  I only need to yield to Him in my weakness.

As a Mom, all the patience I need each day to teach my children with a joyful and cheerful spirit is available to me.  Every time I am frustrated or tempted to be angry – Christ’s patience and gentle spirit is available to me.  I only need but ask Him for it.    It’s an awesome gift! 

I finally have realized that I can be the Mom that my children need – when I depend upon Christ to give me what I am lacking.  The wall of bitterness can be knocked down when I ask God for His unconditional love and forgiveness to be given to me towards my husband when he does something that has hurt my feelings.   

In the yielding – I am allowing Christ to work through me. 
It is not my patience – it is His!
It’s not my love and forgiveness – it is His! 

When I am lacking love towards one of my children, I can (at the instant of my unloving thoughts) pray and ask God to give me the love I need at that moment for that child.   He, in turn, gives me what I need and through me HE loves my child in a perfect way!    

It has been a glorious and wonderful journey since I started understanding how much I have in Christ.  Do I make mistakes?  Yes.  Do I get irritable and respond incorrectly?  Unfortunately, yes; but it is not because God did not do what He said He would do – it was because I did not appropriate from Him what He was offering to me at that moment!  That is what is so wonderful about this journey.  Even when I make a mistake, I am reminded again just how needy I am for His power and working in my life.  Even my mistakes and sins are tools used to draw me back to the Lord.  I need Him – every hour – and He is always there and knows just what I need at that moment – all I have to do is yield to Him and ask Him for that which I am lacking and He is always there to provide everything I need! 

How thankful I am as a Mom that God is concerned with my everyday life.   

How about you, Mom?  Frustrated with you children at times?  Irritable? Is bitterness causing tension between you and your husband?   If you are child of the King He is nearby waiting to give you just what you need to be the Mom your kids need.  He can make you the wife that your husband needs!   You just have to ask Him for it!  Depend upon Him to give you what you need.  He is a rewarder of those that seek Him!  Try it!  

It makes the Christian life come alive – because it no longer is about US – it’s about HIM! 

When I stopped competing and trying to perform for Christ;
 and started walking with Christ  – 
 life became a journey.   

It’s a beautiful journey where I am walking with Christ and resting on Him to give me what I need each step of the way.

You see, a race is about me – this journey – 

It’s About Him.  

The Rest of the Story

Rachel teaching Anna violin a few weeks ago

Several people have contacted me and asked how Anna is doing and how she got injured.  I have meant to post about it; but this past week has been very eventful and I just have not had the time to sit down and write.  Also, we needed time as a family to pull together and help the two who were deeply hurting through this whole ordeal.  We are so thankful for the difference a week can make!  God has been so good to us.

Last Wednesday, we were getting ready to leave for church.  I had just finished the dinner dishes in the kitchen when Anna came in and asked me if she could go out and get in the van because she was ready to go.  I remember looking right at her and wondering if I should have her stay inside because it was going to be a few minutes before Rob was ready to leave; but I told her that she could go and wait for Dad.   I can see her in my mind’s eye opening the door and telling me goodbye as she walked out the door.  (I was not going to be going to church because James had been into the doctor earlier that day and was sick, had just started his antibiotics and been in bed most of the day.  I would be staying home with him while Rob and the others went to church.)
Anna working on school work a couple of weeks ago

I came in and sat down on the couch and was talking to Rob as he was finishing getting ready.  He was straightening his tie in front of the bedroom mirror and I could see him through the doorway as we chatted about his day at work and just normal life stuff.  It was as we were talking that I heard the most horrific scream I have ever heard in my life.  It was Abbey and every decibel of her voice was laced with fear.  I jumped off the couch and I kept hearing her call for both me and Rob and she was screaming for us to come fast.  My feet could not run fast enough.  I knew something was really wrong.  I threw the front door open and remember it hitting the wall as I ran out.  The screams continued.  I was sure that the girls were being attacked by a vicious animal – I could hear the fear.  At the same time Rob was running out of the house right behind me; and Rachel in another area of the house was running through the kitchen grabbing a drying towel.  (She was sure that someone had been bitten by a poisonous snake.)

I rounded the side of the house to see Abbey laying over Anna, when she saw me coming she stood up and I saw that Abbey’s hand and arm were covered in blood.  I thought she had cut herself and went for her and then I heard Abbey telling me that it was Anna.   Abbey ran over towards the porch and knelt down on the ground sobbing and pounding the ground.  I picked Anna up and saw the blood spurting out of her head; I looked towards the woods to see what was around that would have caused her to get hurt.  It was then that I saw the baseball bat and my heart sank.  I felt a sadness that overwhelmed me.    I laid Anna on the back porch; Rachel came and knelt beside her and started compressing the wound and assessing the damage.  When she looked at the wound she could see the skull despite all the blood that was coming out; it was then that she looked at me and said, “We need an ambulance.  Call 911.” I rushed for my phone in the house and Rob grabbed as many kitchen towels as he could and ran to help Rachel on the back porch. 

When I got inside James was already on the phone with the 911 operator.  I took the phone and started talking to the dispatcher.  In the next 15 minutes we waited for help to get there.  Rachel monitored Anna’s pulse and Rob tried to talk to Anna to keep her calm.  I assigned James to stay with Abbey who continued to sob on the ground by the front porch.  It was as excruciating wait.  We contacted our Pastor and his wife to tell them what had happened and that we needed their prayers.  Anna’s pulse continued to drop with the blood loss; but she was still conscious and Rob kept telling her that she was going to be OK.  For a while there, we were not sure that was going to be the case.

I have never felt so torn as I did during those fifteen minutes.  On the back porch I had a little girl with a serious head injury; while on the front porch, I had another daughter who was overwhelmed with sorrow and kept repeating, “I didn’t see her.  I tried to stop the swing; but she came up behind me!”  I kept going back and forth to both daughters – my heart hurt for both of them!

After Anna was transported to the hospital thirty minutes away a CT scan revealed that she had a compressed fracture to the skull and would need specialized care at a Children’s hospital.  An ambulance was called for transport and we were told that she would most certainly need surgery to clean up the fracture.  I texted our Pastor the news and asked the church to pray.  (My text came in just as our church was breaking to pray during the midweek service.)  As we prepared to go to Children’s our church family was going before the throne of God on our behalf.  I believe that God answered their prayers and the peace of God that filled our hearts during this time was unexplainable and supernatural.  God is so good! 

When we got to Children’s they were waiting for the neurosurgeon to come and told us that we were looking at surgery in just a few hours.  We continued to pray and to sit and wait; but when the neurosurgeon came; he felt that since there was no signs of  swelling going on in the brain he was comfortable waiting through the night to see how she did.  Around three in the morning we were able to dim the lights to her room and rest a little.  Abbey sat by her bed and held her hand the entire night.  I prayed for both of my girls as I rested in the recliner next to Anna’s bed.  Through the night people from church would text me telling me that God had awakened them and prompted them to pray for us through the night.  One friend messaged me and told me she was going to spend the entire night in prayer for us on our behalf.  It was overwhelming and comforting to know that not only God was with us through this valley – our friends were walking right beside us in their prayers for our little girl.

After a lengthy wait, it was determined by a team of doctors that we were good to wait and not have to do surgery.  There was no swelling on the brain and there was no sign of damage to the brain.  We were so thankful!   Anna was sent home late that afternoon and we are continuing to monitor.  We go in for another CT scan to see if the skull has popped out and is in the proper place where it can heal together.  They have mentioned that if that does not happen after the swelling in the head goes down; they will need to go in a do a surgery to pull that little part out.  (Like a dent in a car is how they explained it.)  They are very confident that it will repair properly without surgery and we are praying to that end. 

As we look back on the events of last week; we find we have so much to be thankful for.  So many little blessings.  I just wanted to list a few of them; because once again we are in awe with how God works and realize that there are no coincidences in our lives.  Our Heavenly Father fine tunes the details and works all things for our good.  We, as His children are able to trace His fingerprints in our lives and see how He works all things for our good.   Here are some of  the blessings we have seen through this:

*Rachel was scheduled to be gone last week.  She was to be training for a mission’s trip she was planning on going on.  She found out a few weeks ago that her EMT training was not enough for the trip to Liberia and so she would not be going with the team overseas; and thus would not need training in Atlanta.  Thus, Rachel was home!  We were so thankful to have her there with us helping Anna with her EMT training.  God is so good.

Eating lunch on Thursday.  Chicken nuggets are her favorite! 

*Abbey had just covered in one of her classes in school how to handle an emergency when someone is hurt. God had given her the information she needed just days before.  She remembered from her class to try to help the person lie down so that they did not hurt themselves secondarily from falling after the injury.  She said that point came right to her mind the moment the bat hit Anna and somehow God allowed Abbey to catch Anna so that there were no other injuries from her falling or being thrown from the hit.  She fell into Abbey’s arms!    Abbey also remembered that her teacher had told them to never leave someone who was injured; but to call of help.  Abbey stayed with Anna until we got to them and compressed the head wound because of the training she had received in her class just days before.  Again, God is SO good!

*A neighbor was across the road and heard Abbey yelling for help.  He came running over and also was able to make a 911 call.  He also helped Rachel with Anna until help arrived from the ambulance team.  How thankful we were that even out here in the country there was help available to us and God allowed someone to hear Abbey’s screams for help.  What a blessing to have people who are willing to offer their assistance and help when needed! 

*Anna never lost consciousness.  This is a HUGE blessing.  

*Anna’s pulse was dropping lower and lower because of the blood loss.  Within minutes of people finding out from church that we were in need of prayer we saw Anna’s pulse come up and a calmness come over her.  She was so calm that when they got her into the ambulance and hooked her up to the heart monitors her heart rate was NORMAL and her blood pressure was NORMAL.  I am certain that God gave her a peace in her heart that kept her calm; and that this was in response to people praying for her at that very moment!

*Another thing I am so thankful for is that we live in a country where we have first responders.  How I offered my praise to the Lord when I heard the sirens approaching.  What a blessing!

*I am so thankful for my family. I watched as Zak went up and knelt beside Abbey and held her and patted her back telling her it was OK.  Even though his words were scrambled at times because of all the stimuli you could see his care and compassion for his hurting sister.  Not even Autism was powerful enough  to hide the love and concern he had for Abbey.   As I sat in the ambulance as they stabilized Anna and got us ready to head to the hospital, I watched as my kids made arrangements of who would come to the hospital.  James gave Rachel money out of his pocket in case there were expenses where we would need cash.  Zak was standing beside the side door of the Ambulance telling Anna that he was praying for her and Rob was rubbing his back and promising that he was stay with him.

*Normally Zak has a very hard time with traumatic events and we find that we have a huge set back after dramatic situations.  Zak has had NO issues because of this!  God gave His peace to more than just Anna!  Rob was able to stay with Zak who needed his Dad to be with him; and that helped him through this. How thankful I am for a husband who cares for his children.  Rob said he was so torn as to what to do because he so wanted to be with Anna.  How thankful I am for how tenderly Rob cares for Zak and his needs.  Truly there is a bond between Zak and Rob that is breathtaking.  I am blessed!

*Abbey has a verse of scripture that is texted to her phone every day.  As the doctor was telling us that Anna’s skull was fractured Abbey’s phone buzzed with her verse for that day.  It was this verse:  “The LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and He knows those who trust in Him.”   
Nahum 1:7.    I have prayed that this event will strengthen Abbey’s faith in the Lord.  She was telling me just yesterday how much that verse meant to her the moment it came and how she has clung to that verse in the past several days.  God uses ALL things for our good. 

Abbey sitting next to Anna through the night.  Perhaps one of the most precious pictures I have of these two.  One daughter resting soundly - the other daughter fervently praying. 

*When they were putting Anna in the ambulance to head to Charlotte I was able to sit right beside her.  As she lay there on the stretcher resting I watched the heart monitors and thy blinked and prayed to God.  I told the Lord she was His.  How thankful I am that God knows and understands the heart of a Mom.  While I gave her to the Lord and left her in His hands – I know He also understood the desire of my heart and did not fault me for that.  He knows I love her.  How thankful I am that He allowed us to keep her!  How thankful I am to know that if God had decided to take her home to Heaven that He would have given the grace to walk through that time also.  My God can be trusted with my heart and my treasures.  How thankful I am for a God that loves me!

Anna had a bit of a difficult morning on Thursday.  She looks so little in that big bed!

Thanks so much for all your prayers.  Now, you all know the ‘rest of the story’ – so to speak.  God is so good to us and I am so thankful for all He has done in this situation. The night we brought Anna home from the hospital we all gathered together as a family in the front room and thanked the Lord that He had allowed us to be together as a family again.  It was a sweet time as we reflected on how fast life can change.  One moment we were getting ready for church – the next moment one of us was hanging between life and death.  Cherish the days you have with your family – you never know what tomorrow can bring!

Painting a pumpkin in the Children's Hospital Rec room while they were observing her for brain swelling.  BTW, her hair was stiff like glue from all the blood.  We still had not been able to give her a shower yet at the time of this pic!  :)

I trust as you read this you have a relationship with Jesus Christ.  He brings peace through the difficulties of life; and the assurance that this life is not the end.  I know if Anna had not made it through this that she would have been ushered into the arms of Jesus; because she has placed her faith and dependence upon Jesus Christ.  I trust you have that assurance too; if you do not – I would love to talk with you about how you can know Christ and experience His salvation.  

Going in for her stitches to be taken out.  She was very scared; but she said,"it didn't hurt a bit!"  

Reading a book "All by herself" while waiting for the doctor to come in and take the stitches out.  God is so good!