Hold me tight!

I’m happy to leave 2015 behind. After almost paralyzing grief at my mother’s death in 2014, I expected 2015 to be a great year, time to downsize and simplify, organize my home, finish editing my books and get them published, and spend more time with family and friends. Instead, I spent the first half of the year semi-invalid, one infection after another leading to a week on IV antibiotics. In February I was advised to begin a strict, no sugars/grains, anti-mold diet. When I thought I’d whipped it all, ready to charge into a wonderful Advent and Christmas, I broke my hip. Life came to a roaring stop.

From appearances, God had deserted me, or didn’t care, and chose not to be involved in my life.

Nevertheless, throughout the year I’d felt God’s nearness at my bedside. My trust had deepened, to simply let Him be God, accept my life from His hand, no matter the circumstances.

As I lay on the floor waiting for the ambulance, I cried to Jesus. Not many words. Too much pain. Simply gasps and, “Jesus. Help. Jesus.”

When the EMTs prepared to scoop me up, anticipating a painful journey to the hospital, I closed my eyes and whispered, “Jesus, hold me.”

Oh, love me—and right now!—hold me tight!
just the way you promised.
Now comfort me so I can live, really live;
your revelation is the tune I dance to. Psalm 119: 73-75 MSG

He did.

Jesus held me as I was lifted off the floor onto the gurney, bumped out the door and across our lumpy lawn. In the sways of twists and turns on the road, and thumps of railroad tracks, I felt cocooned in love.

My oldest daughter rode with us, and in chatting with Ken, the EMT, found he’d done mission work in Honduras, where we’d served as missionaries for eight years. It was a sweet connection.

In the most painful ordeal of my life, tiny details began to spell out the difference between absolute horror and God’s providence.

The EMT gave me personal care all the way into the room in the ER, and didn’t leave until he was certain I was being attended to.

My orthopedist took charge of my care to be sure I got into surgery that day, no matter how full the hospital said the OR was. (He slept in the doctor’s lounge until the OR opened at 10:00 pm)

My daughter and her family had just moved close by from the northeast and was able to support me on a daily basis.

Throughout my two weeks there, individuals appeared at precisely the moment I needed help, or encouragement, or care.

And biggest of all, my family supported and loved me in amazing ways.

My list is long.

I am very grateful.

That is not to say it was a grand time. It was the worst, body jarring, deep and ongoing pain I have every experienced.

And the most humiliating and completely dependent time.

In spite of excellent individuals, especially in PT and OT, the facilities and atmosphere with staff in the hospital rehab generally left a huge amount to be desired. I haven’t lived a cloistered life, but I was often jarred by the lack of hope, light or love around me.

Given my own physical helplessness and emotional vulnerability, I could have been completely over-whelmed. Engulfed. Depressed.

However, when I’d cried out to Jesus on my floor, waiting for the EMTs, I knew I had a choice. I could cry and rage, alone. Or, I could trust Jesus.

It remained a constant decision, day and night.

I looked for Jesus in the persons he sent at crucial times.

And I chose to reflect his face in the dark places with so many desperate people around me.

It amazes me now how that simple choice changed everything. In spite of the pain and nausea, I was able to bless roommates, attendants, nurses, even the sweet lady who cleaned our room and was desperate for hope. It became my daily challenge to brighten the lives of those around me.

Laax mountain by Jack H Thompson, Jr w Psalm 16_11

The pain has diminished, but is a constant, and never gives me more than a few hours of uninterrupted sleep. Therapy goes on. I’ve graduated from a walker to a cane. I look forward to being able to drive a car again, to go to the grocery store all by myself.

I still struggle to find words, largely thanks to the effects of anesthesia. (I’m a slow metabolizer anyway, and the older we get, the longer the effects last. And, of course, aerobic exercise is a little hard to come by to clear the brain.)

Sitting remains painful. I will only be at my desk a short while, a large reason for not writing sooner.

Throughout this ordeal, I have found great comfort in the words of Jesus.

Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. Matt 6:33 MSG

During those prior months at home, I’d had time to be still. To really trust when there was little I could do. That had prepared me to relax into the love of Jesus when nothing else stood between me and incomprehensible agony of body and spirit.

During many long nights, snatches of Bible verses floated on my mind, along with hymns and songs based on scripture, easing my pain and settling my soul.

All that I could do was affirm my love and trust in God. He cared for everything else.

Not easy.

Certainly, not fun.

But there is joy in the morning. Always joy.

And there is abundant joy to share.

Matt 6:30-34
Matt 6:30-34

Has God made a difference in your challenges?

Are you amazed?

Many of us have found our attitudes radically altered by reading, and re-reading, Ann Voscamp’s One Thousand Gifts. But, whether from indwelling personality or past injuries, what can you do if you automatically see the glass as half empty?

Thankfulness and thanksgiving pop up everywhere I turn. In our church we can log into our website and add our blessings to those listed, with a goal of 10,000!

But how do we gain an attitude of thanksgiving? What if, like me, you are pensive by nature, and naturally tune into the pain and brokenness around you?

In a room full of people I can’t help noticing the uncomfortable one, the wall-flower, the one retreating with an unexpressed need. I imagine how the moth feels when it flies into a spider web. It has been a struggle to assert authority over my puppy, rather than dwell on her feelings.

It surprised me to realize that by allowing my sensitive nature to rule, I am, but default, viewing the world through a negative lens

looking at the world as if God doesn’t exist

or he doesn’t care

or doesn’t have the power

looking at the world without faith!

That is not a place I want to stay. My first step has been to take every thought captive.

…tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:5 MSG

Some days it is an every minute, constant battle to stop the negative mind-slant. I must simply freeze, and re-frame that view.

Don’t worry about anything, but pray about everything. With thankful hearts offer up your prayers and requests to God. Then, because you belong to Christ Jesus, God will bless you with peace that no one can completely understand. And this peace will control the way you think and feel. Philippians 4:6-7

When I choose to notice it, even the tiniest detail can become a delight, an amazement—a natural state of thanksgiving. As long as I recognize that I am only the recipient of all the wonders, big and little, and give thanks to the One who made them, I go from wonder to amazement.

by Jack H Thompson Jr

Open your eyes and there it is! By taking a long and thoughtful look at what God has created, people have always been able to see what their eyes as such can’t see: eternal power, for instance, and the mystery of his divine being. Romans 1:24 MSG

I won’t lie. It is hard to change a life-long way of looking at the world. My kids and husband sometimes still have to remind me when I launch into a tale of family woe.

Alone, when I recognize a negative thought slipping in, I speak thanksgiving out loud. It feels like it clears the air, and maybe it does.

The spiritual air.

Though I have worked hard to change, I’ve worked to alter patterns before that didn’t budge. The difference now is asking for God’s power, in the Holy Spirit, to transform me from the inside out.

And then take on an entirely new way of life—a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you. Ephesians 4:24 MSG

It feels so good now when I spontaneously speak thanksgiving, or my heart swells with gratitude.

by Jack H Thompson, Jr

Last week I drove across the middle of Florida. In the wide open expanse of sky, dark clouds billowed up and out – quite an impressive sight. After weeks of heavy rain, all the rivers and creeks were flooded way beyond their banks. I enjoyed the reflection of the clouds on bodies of water I never would have noticed at their normal levels. And on the return trip, after only one day of sunshine, the water had receded and exposed fresh green grass. A cow and two calves gleefully chomped on it. Those little delights made me smile.

clouds

Sometimes it’s a pair of sand hill cranes whooping over our house on their sunset trek to another pond. It can be as grand as the arrival of the roseate spoonbills or sunset on the water, or as simple as a butterfly or a delicate flower, or as striking as bare, weathered trees on a sand dune.

roseate spoonbills by Jack H  Thompson, Jr
Sandhill cranes in sunset by Jack H Thompson JR
Sunset on the water by Jack H Thompson, JR
Butterfly on Porterweed flower by Jack H Thompson, Jr
DSC_9084phalaenopsis orchid
dead trees on sand dune by Jack H Thompson, Jr

Today I enjoyed my Golden, Lily, and Sophie, who is staying with us while my oldest and her family are settled in a house, retrieving and swimming together, simply enjoying the process, no matter how many times I threw their toy.

happy Lily in the surf
Back home, tired from a busy day, they played on their backs.

Golden play
How can I not chuckle, and give thanks for the delight in these small things?

In The Power of Being Thankful, Joyce Meyer says,

I believe that if we’ll stay amazed at the things God is doing in our lives—even the little things—we’ll never be without hope. I encourage you to realize what you have, be thankful, and decide to live amazed…jaw-dropping, wide-eyed, “Wow! That was God!” amazed.

Some times are easier than others. Last week, caring for my granddaughters, I really didn’t feel well. I had way less energy than they did, so we built puzzles on the floor, then laid on top of them and snapped silly selfies together. We giggled at our photos, grateful for laughter together.

Grammi and A selfie
Grammi fun

When I’m dead tired, and everything in my body hurts, it’s hard to look around and appreciate what I see. But even then I can give thanks for a warm shower, dry towels and a sumptuously comfortable bed with clean sheets!

It’s always a choice.

Are you a half empty of half full person?
What is your struggle with keeping an attitude of gratitude?