Sunday, July 29, 2012

Instruments of God's Love in the Redemption Story

I've begun reading the book Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands:  People in Need of Change Helping People in Need of Change by Paul David Tripp.  A friend of mine had recommended it to me, and it's been really great so far even though I have much of the book yet to read.

This week, I read a great section which dealt with the fact that all of us as Christians are meant to be useful tools in God's very large toolbox.  However, we too often, think that God has a very small toolbox made up of people who are skilled for ministry and counseling and such.  We forget the fact that God uses the common and ordinary most of the time to fulfill His purposes.

Paul reminds the Corinthian believers and us:
For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
(1 Corinthians 1:26-31 ESV)
There is a paragraph from chapter 2 in Tripp's book that really struck me hard and is just too good to not share:
"Embedded in the larger story of redemption is a principle we must not miss: God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things in the lives of others.  What mission board, what ministry, what local church would use the people God used in Scripture?  There was Moses (an exiled murderer), Gideon (fearful and hiding), David (the shepherd boy with no military training), Peter (who publicly denied Christ), and Paul (persecuter of the church), to name a few.  Along with these are untold numbers of little people God used in big ways to fulfill his plan on earth.  God never intended us to simply be the objects of his love.  We are also called to be instruments of that love in the lives of others."  (Tripp, p. 18)
After being reminded of this, I have no excuse for my feelings of inadequacy.  God can use me as I am.  He wants to use me!

Lord, let me be a pliable tool ready for Your use at all times.  Please give me the confidence in You to complete the work You give me.  Thank you for loving me, and thank you for choosing to use me to be an instrument of love to those around me.  Amen.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Onward to another specialist

So a few days ago, I stumbled across this verse in Job 30:17 and couldn't help but chuckle because it so adequately described how I've been feeling of late:
"Night pierces my bones; my gnawing pains never rest." (NIV) 
In searching more, I found other verses from earlier on in the book to which I could relate:
 Job 3:26: "I have no peace, no rest, and my troubles never end." (NIV) 
Job 7:13: "
I lie down and try to rest; I look for relief from my pain." (NIV) 
 I can totally sympathize with Job, and somehow, I feel comfort knowing that he felt similar pain (having suffered so much more than I have), lived through it, and still praised the Lord in the midst of it. It gives me courage to keep on keeping on. I have the same God carrying me through! I have Jesus' command and promise of Matthew 11:28-30 to cling to: 
"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (ESV) 
As of August 1, I will have been suffering in pain for 9 months straight and still be without a diagnosis or answers. Back in June, I did have a breakthrough with the headache pain in which I now have days where I sometimes go for 6-8 hours without headache pain. Those are truly amazing days. Other days, the pain is increased above normal, and I really cannot find a cause or correlation for the changes. I have made progress on the diagnosis-front in ruling out more things. Over the past several months, there has been a lot of uncertainty about and questioning/revisiting of former diagnoses that had originally been ruled out. Within the last month, Lyme's Disease has been ruled out definitively, and last week I saw the Multiple Sclerosis (MS) specialist I had been waiting to see since April who told me very confidently that I DO NOT have MS.

After that visit, I decided to start over and see my primary doctor once again revisiting my symptoms and describing my new symptoms of the past several months which include fatigue, severe joint and muscle pains, hair loss, mouth ulcers, cold intolerance, and others. I shared with her my concern that I may have Lupus. She agrees with me that my symptoms seem to be lupus-like or something else rheumatological in nature. As a result, she is sending me to a rheumatologist who I will be seeing August 9. She feels that he will be able to give me my long-awaited diagnosis after running some tests. I pray that she is correct!

The joint and muscle pains have been so severe lately (during this current attack - the symptoms come and go in flares) that I have had a very difficult time sleeping. Instead of just dealing with headache pain, I am dealing with pain all over my body which also takes a toll on me. I am praying that an answer comes sooner rather than later and that God would provide me with relief from the constant pain!

Just as God restored Job's health when his testing was over, I know He can restore mine, if that is His will. I just have to keep looking to Him for strength and grace to endure knowing that "...when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold" (Job 23:10b, ESV).

A picture from vacation at the base of the Statue of Liberty- We are still praising the Lord for upholding my health and allowing me to enjoy our time together as a family on vacation

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Family Time and Rest

Unless the LORD builds the house,
those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the LORD watches over the city,
the watchman stays awake in vain.
It is in vain that you rise up early
and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
for he gives to his beloved sleep.
(Psalm 127:1-2 ESV)

Just as we need sleep, we need relaxation.  We need time to be refreshed - a chance to get away from our normal routine and responsibilities.  We need time to be together as a family enjoying making memories together.  After all, it has been ordained by God!

With everything our family has gone through the last two years, we were in a desperate need to get away.  With continued struggles with my health and Josh's behaviors, we were a bit nervous deciding to take a vacation, but we decided to step out in faith and go on a vacation for our family's health.
On the Ferry after visiting Liberty Island

It was the best decision we could have made, and God blessed our time away tremendously.  We had a very busy vacation with lots of sightseeing and driving, but the boys had a blast, and it was so much fun watching the wonder and joy on their faces as they marveled over the sights they were seeing.

We started out our time Wednesday afternoon through Friday afternoon (7/11-7/13) touring Manhattan in New York City seeing Central Park, the Statue of Liberty, the World Trade Centers and Memorial, Times Square, fun stores, and the American Museum of Natural History.
Walking through Central Park

At Hershey's Times Square Store

Lady Liberty

The boys were excited to see Dum-Dum (from the movie Night at the Museum) in the American Museum of Natural History

South Tower World Trade Center Memorial

New South Tower World Trade Center under construction

From there, we drove to Connecticut to connect with family and enjoy our time on Lake Candlewood for another Totora family reunion which is always loads of fun with our very large Italian family.

Totora Family ~ 4 Generations of Extended Family (photograph by Tim Benedict)

We left CT Sunday morning to drive back to Manhattan to worship at Redeemer Presbyterian Church and enjoyed a very worshipful, God-honoring service.  After church, we continued driving South arriving in Sea Isle, NJ where we stayed until Tuesday morning with Tim's family enjoying some time at the shore where the boys thoroughly enjoyed the sand and the waves.

David working on building a sand castle

Joshua running into the water to jump waves

Sea Isle Beach, NJ

Despite the stress of making sure we had the appropriate meds for the boys, David's transfusion supplies, and necessities for all 3 vacations spots on top of our initial concerns about going in the first place, we had a wonderful time!  God helped Joshua to do amazingly well while we were gone especially in NYC where there was constant sensory overload which is a struggle for any child with Autism.  David has continued to stay healthy the past several weeks with the increase of antibody transfusions and remaining on a prophylactic antibiotic.  God gave me several good days health-wise while on vacation.  I was definitely fatigued, but able to keep up with the family and able to participate.  My headache pain was increased from the tons of walking and heat, but still tolerable.  The end of the vacation became the most difficult, and I am still trying to recuperate, but the time at the shore was a chance for me to relax which was just what I needed.

We are praising the Lord for blessing us with the chance to get away, have much-needed family time, and rest!
Taking a break in a nearby park waiting our turn to visit the 9/11 World Trade Center Memorial