Test Results are In!

All the results are back.

I do not have a blood clot. 
I do not have liver and kidney issues. 
My ticker is doing just fine. 

This has been a very expensive process, but so worth the peace of mind! I was really stretched in my faith, and I needed that. Learning to lean on God and trust His will is hard. I don’t even want to dare say that I wholly leaned and trusted the whole time. But I got so much closer. I’m humbled, and mindful of how hard it was; on how much I have yet to grow in the area of trust.

I think the height of my surrender was last week, trying to get a last minute appointment to figure out the test results, and crying in the car and giving it all up to him. At that moment, I knew I could handle whatever was happening, big or small. I actually found it easier to trust God with my health, and harder to find that big faith in paying for all the extra expenses of the medical fees coupled with an upcoming car fix. I’m ashamed to admit that, but want to be real. Did God handle it all and help me figure out how to handle it all? Of course.

As Thanksgiving approaches, we remember to give thanks and find gratitude and I know this small trial is actually something I’m thankful for. I’m glad that I was able to go through this to grow my faith in the Lord. Is the issue gone? No. But I don’t have to worry about a horrible underlying cause.

I hope despite some of the excessive worry and financial freaking out, I was able to bring God glory in this. I am so grateful that no matter how the results could have come back, my God is there for me.

But If Not, He is Still Good

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So there’s a lot happening right now.
It’s a grab bag of happy and not-so-happy things.

I’ve been dealing with edema on one side of my leg for nearly a month. The crazy thing is this could point to really crazy things like kidney/heart issues or a blood clot. Or it could be nothing. I’m taking it seriously and spent last week and today getting some tests done to rule out things like deep vein thrombosis.

Friday afternoon, I somewhat grudgingly coughed up a couple hundred dollars to get an ultrasound done of my leg. I couldn’t see the screen or understand what the beeps and sounds meant as the medical staff moved their wand all around my leg. In that moment I felt a bit helpless and scared. I closed my eyes and prayed and tried to acknowledge to God I knew he was in control and if there was something there (like a blood clot) that it was His will for me and I’d accept that. More like I prayed that several times until my mind and heart were at the same place.

Today I woke up extra early to get a blood panel drawn to help rule other things out. I was there an hour before work started. Did I get done in time to clock in at start time? Nope. One hour and a half. That’s how long it took to get my blood drawn. And with a baby needle.

But I emailed HR from the waiting room and told them my situation and they said do not worry. Just like when a simple doctor visit last week turned into needing more time off for imaging. They have been so understanding. God is helping me in the details.

My brother is still suffering from his brain injury.
My newborn nephew is still needing to gain weight to get back to his birth weight.
My SIL is dealing with healing from birth, a newborn, and a husband with a brain injury.
And who knows what my health issue is.

One of my old church acquaintance’s husband is dealing with cancer right now. He went to the doctor to discuss migraines and found out it was much more than a migraine and is now in treatment for cancer. They have a friend who made bracelets to help raise some money and remind people to pray for him and the family. On it is stamped, “But if not He is still good.” It is not a direct phrase from scripture but is a coined rephrasing from a passage in Daniel.

Last night I picked up that bracelet I bought and meditated on the words and also prayed for them. Do I believe those words? I’m learning to. I’m learning to say despite circumstances, I can see He is still good. That His plans may not make sense to me. But I can trust and acknowledge His goodness even in hard times. Even in the if nots.

You’re already so loved.

Part of my goals for today is spread this beautiful message by Sarah Bessey.

Please do take a moment to read it. Please take a moment to process the words. Please take a moment to consider how loved you are no matter your circumstances.

Being Still

Life has been pretty quiet as of late, and it’s wonderful. I’ve got some fun things on the horizon (helping my family redecorate the living room, planning a baby shower for my sister in law, working on more KonMari) but nothing particularly stressful.

I live with bouts of high functioning anxiety and before I really paused to identify and address it, I just thought I was busy and that being busy was good. Busy meant I was purposeful. Busy meant I wasn’t lazy. Busy meant I had worth to others because I was helping. I now know that being busy 24/7 is a mess for my body, and that my thyroid issues of the past were in part to lack of sleep and the stress of busying through life. I also know that my worth has NOTHING to do with human opinion. And retrospectively, duh, God patterned a day of rest for us. It is good to rest and be still.

I currently don’t have any real commitments besides church ministry and going to my art lessons on Friday. My schedule is wide open and it’s weird. I won’t have much to do with the non profit until the beginning of next year now that our main event is over. And, for the summer, I’ve decided not to do the optional bible study group.

How am I handling this extra time and less commitment? I don’t know. It’s weird. It’s freeing but also strange. Some days I just listen to music and get the little stuff done and call it a day. Other days I’m a bit more purposeful, but I am being rather ‘lazy’ by Laura standards right now.

How is it translating? 

– I am pushing myself harder at work, really testing my limits and seeing positive results. I’m full speed and recoup at home knowing I’m not rushing to something else.

– I am able to use the quiet less rushed morning to acknowledge God’s goodness and start my day with a thankful and focused heart.

– I have a better vision of what my day, week, and month looks like.

– I am more available to help loved ones even in small ways. Letting my dad use the car, being home when my brother drops by when he’s in town, random skyping sessions with friends to help them through their hard day, etc.

– I feel less trapped in a schedule that is always demanding.

– I am less moody. I have more time to process things, and I’m starting to see how short I become and how easy it is to not own up a bad attitude when life is crazy.

There are things I need to put into practice during this time, but I want them to happen organically. Firstly, I have fallen hard off the home cooking healthy food wagon, mostly taking the convenient road instead. And I need to get back on that wagon. Secondly, I need to add back a devotion filled time with God outside of Bible reading (which I hadn’t been doing all that faithfully outside of my Bible study) and I’d love to see that translate into more Bible art journaling and studying more systematic theology and apologetics. I want to apply the studying tools and techniques from my study into my personal reading since I am guilty of trying to read the Bible like literature if I don’t take the time to reset and pray for discernment.

This has been a ‘mind detox.’ And it’s proving to do a lot of good.

A Time to Be Born, A Time to Die

You’ll know that phrase from one of two places, if not both. It’s a fragment of Ecclesiastes 3 in the Bible and words from a Beatles song [Turn!Turn!Turn!] inspired from the former.

Last night, technically early this morning, it was my Uncle’s time.

One thing made his time very hard.

Yesterday was my birthday.

My work phone lit up and it was a familiar personal number. On the other side of the phone, my brother asked if I knew the plans today for my Uncle. Those plans.

Uncle N was admitted to the hospital over 20 days ago as a precautionary measure. They wanted to make sure his discomforts with something very treatable were taken into consideration. At most, he should have been there three days. But his body was already wearing out and so this little scourge is what sent his body snowballing into a decline. The medical staff and family determined he wasn’t able to survive outside of medical intervention that would only prolong his suffering.

On Monday I was told his body was failing him. On Tuesday I saw him in the weakest and most desperate state, so uncomfortable, so tired of fighting. On Wednesday his children gathered for goodbye. And yesterday, we surrounded him in love and cried many tears together. I had prayed selfishly earlier that day, please don’t let him die on my birthday. Please don’t make my day of celebration one also filled with sadness every year as I remember his passing. I saw the hurt around me though, and knew for certain it was his time. That everyone who gathered from near and far needed closure, needed this to happen as we were gathered together. So, fighting back tears that night, I went into the hospital restroom and prayed once more. Lord, it’s okay. You can take him home today.  I’m sorry for my selfish request. Please take him home peacefully.

He went to be with Jesus early this morning. We cried and hugged and cried and hugged some more. My cousin, his daughter, reached out for me and said, “It wasn’t your birthday. He didn’t leave on your birthday.” And with that I had peace.

Faithful.

God is faithful and proves Himself over and over. If only I was better at getting that. More things came by the mail. Renewals and time for servicing my car, etc.  Rent is due right after Christmas.

And then a holiday bonus. A well timed one. Our party at work was one week earlier than normal, which meant I got my bonus earlier, which meant it came at just the right time for those bills.

I never expect a bonus from my work. It’s not an expectation – it’s a blessing. And especially in a mediocre year, that extra effort of appreciation means SO much to me.

I’m truly grateful for it.

Be Careful What You Ask For

Sometimes you whisper things to God, half afraid, but trusting. And of course, God hears.

So of course, when I whispered, “Lord, am I trusting you fully to take care of me?”

He let me know. 

My church does first fruits which is a sacrificial giving above and beyond regular tithe near Thanksgiving. No one is pressured into it; it’s personal and from the heart. The week before, I got my dates mixed up and wrote out my big check. It felt good. I wasn’t sweating it. Then I realized it was for next week and tucked it away and wrote a check for that week’s offering.

Flash forward to the *next day*. I woke up that Monday, stuck my keys in my car, and noticed shiny glass pieces all over my dash, all throughout my car, and followed it to the smashed back window. That morning, I was offered a ride to work. That night, my boyfriend brought over his Dad’s shop vac and spent a solid hour and a half after work helping me get all the glass bits out. Wednesday, I spent half the day waiting for the repair truck to fit a new rear window and swiped a few hundred dollars away with a card and signature for the fix.

I was so upset. Why did the vandals target my car?  Three cars in the neighborhood got smashed and mine happened to be one of them. And my car insurance wasn’t going to cover a dime, even with the police report because it was under my $500 deductible…

That Sunday was first fruits. I sat with the check in my purse, knowing rent was due the following week and I was about to give a big check after spending a good chunk of money on that window repair. And I was behind on my credit card payment. And Christmas was coming up.

So many sinking feelings. So many things that needed money. But that check was God’s.

The offering basket was a couple passes away. I cleared my mind maybe not fully trusting, but trying to, and acknowledged as I placed it in,

This was already yours, God. Before the circumstances. I know you’ll take care of me.

Money. The future. Security. Those are things I’m not fully trusting of. But with that check in the basket, I began to let go, so I could let God.

Volunteering – Using Talents for Good

It’s been a while. There’s a lot of neat things happening and of course, just living life as well. And, as incriminating as this sounds, I keep forgetting my password and getting locked out. Yep! I’m human.

Long story short, I’ve taken on some no pay volunteer positions and have kept quite busy after my 9 to 5 with helping use my career talents towards causes. The first one is a maternity home for expecting women that have no where to go and need help establishing a new life and stability for them and their child. I’ve designed some jewelry for them to sell to raise funds and offset costs for their tenants. This place is special because they do not charge for their program. They instead, ask that the moms to be SAVE what they make to put towards their future. It’s been neat seeing which jewelry ideas sell better and knowing that I’m impacting lives this way.

The second cause is a festival and run that benefits the county’s foster kids. Fostering and adoption are big on my heart and as I’ve soul-searched for ways I can get involved in that community and help, this opportunity came up. I walked into a planning meeting not knowing what exactly I could do. I’m not a big people person and I’m not a runner. Where could I be useful? I signed my name on the list and under interest wrote that I had design knowledge, specializing in print media.

As they went around the table and introduced themselves I heard how all the special chairs were calling and contacting people and companies and felt so intimidated. But as they read through their list of opening positions and needs, Graphic Design came up. So I spoke up. And I offered that I specialized primarily in print media and may not be the right fit for interactive/web stuff and the coordinator stopped me in my tracks.

“That’s exactly what we need! Print media!”

I walked up after the meeting to get some ideas started and the coordinator said to me, “We’ve been praying for you to arrive for months. You have no idea.”

The event is not religious but the founders are believers and those words comforted and encouraged me beyond belief. Sometimes we wonder how we can be useful with what talents we have and forget that God works out those details.

I’m so excited for our next meeting this Saturday. Who knew in one meeting I’d become Print Media Chair?

New Book!

I know I know… I still owe you guys a review on The Best Yes. But, this is my current read and one that comes at a great time since I’m in the middle of purging and organizing for a move. 11781896_10153298164403855_4457894800438684343_n
 I’m only 30 or so pages in but I’ve already had one good thing come out of it. Yesterday I decided to redeem a peel off at a fast food chain and coupled that with a coffee and sat down to read. A little later a man sat down a few tables away and opened up what looked like a Bible. The pages were tattered and torn. Part of his reading was a section that fell out and he brought it up close to his face to read it and gingerly turn the page.

Just minutes before I thought about the whole spark joy thing and how horrible it was that I had “stocked up” on Bibles like it was a novelty when God’s word is so special and could be shared with others. And here was a man who loved his Bible and possibly needed a new one.

I read some more and finished my coffee and walked over.

“It’s refreshing to see you reading your Bible in public” I said.

“Amen. Are you a follower of Christ?” He asked.

We probably chatted for about 15 minutes. I found out where he fellowshipped and what he considers his ministry and asked him to tell me more about his Bible. I told him many Bibles in that condition are because they are well loved and consequently well used. I told him I felt led to give him a bible and he said he would take it.

Now, this Bible wasn’t the best bible out there. It’s small and travel sized but the full old and new testament in a great easy to understand translation. And while I don’t think his studying Bible will change, it may be a tool for what he likes to do. He likes to talk to people and go door to door and ask people if they need help with anything around the house or need prayer. And a travel size Bible with all its pages in tact would be great for that. 🙂

I’m grateful that God orchestrated that little meeting, and that my little Bible, often neglected and sitting in my trunk, can now “spark joy” in his life.

Modest is Not Hottest – How I Woke Up About Modesty Standards

Sorry everyone, long post!

As a Christian, modesty has always been a hot topic. I used to be on the modesty standards bandwagon until I realized my views on modesty was more personal opinion than biblical! I wanted to do workshops on how to dress and teach the preteen/teen girls I mentored what I grew up hearing… and you know what? I’m glad my workshops never happened. It was God’s way of sparing them from bad information from me!

I started thinking and wondered…

1. Why do we use a sexualized term to promote modesty?
2. Why do we define modesty with rules based on visual opinion?
3. Why do we focus on women more than men?
4. Why do we judge people as prude or “holier than thou” when they define things differently?
5. Why does men’s opinion mean more than God’s opinion?

I posted an article a few years ago that called out the phrase “Modest is hottest.” In fact, it was titled, “Modest is Not Hottest” and that title alone was enough for someone to attack my character. I had someone reply on my facebook post with just a verse reference:  “matthew 23:25.” They didn’t bother to ask me to explain…they didn’t question anything. They just went straight to accusing. That’s when I realized that a lot of modesty issues are just ways people unjustly judge others.

This is what Matt 23:25 says:

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.”

Ouch, right? What are we telling the world when a fellow Christian is that quick to judge? I’ll admit I was hurt.

So, here’s what I think about modesty:

1. “Hottest” is a sexual term and I don’t like the association.
Using it to teach children/youth about modesty is counterproductive. It also associates a term a person uses while checking someone out. It’s catching someone’s attention in a sexual manner. It tells them indirectly that guys will find you more sexually attractive if you’re modest. But is that really true modesty?

2. Modesty is as simple as Romans 12:1-3.
Romans 12:1-3 says, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God–this is your true and proper worship.” Modesty is something personal, between you and God. It is Him whom one should please, NOT OTHERS. This was my wake up call. Who was I to please? Who was I accountable to for my actions, how I dress, and what I do with my body? God!

3. Modesty is a personal decision to please God, not your parents, not your friends, not your pastor.
I believe modesty is a personal choice – not a social obligation. Be careful whom you are pleasing! This also applies for parents raising up boys and girls. I loved gaining my parents praise and approval growing up. If I am told that I cannot do x, y, z growing up because it is a rule, that does not mean as an adult I’ll feel the same when I’m outside of my parents’ instruction. Modesty is not about rules, really. And I honor that each family has different standards for dress, and do not judge, but I personally don’t think they should enforce it as a modesty issue. I think it’s better to enforce it as a family rule. For example: “The Smith family rules is no shirtless boys and no mid-drifts for girls.” I think when teaching modesty, it should be taught as PERSONAL obedience from the start. I would like to be open with children in their dress and attitudes and have them decide what they find is personally immodest and what is pleasing to God. I want to nurture an outlook that will last them a lifetime, not a rule that only lasts in my household.

Which brings me to my next point…

4. Modesty is a heart issue rooted in obedience.
This is why I don’t like rules and regulations regarding modesty. Suggestions and tips are great, but the real matter is their heart. Why should I judge a fellow Christian in a 2 piece bathing suit when she is in charge of her modesty and that is between her and God? Her accountability is not to me. Is barking at that teen girl for showing 2 more inches of thigh really going to pay off? Shouldn’t I be more concerned about her walk in general and focus on more important issues, like how her week went and what I can pray for in her life? I think we nitpick and focus on little things rather than the bigger picture at times. What message am I truly conveying if I feel I can tell someone to cover up but have never gotten to know them? Surely, if I am to disciple them, there are more important things I could spend my time with them about. How about that Christian gym trainer guy who keeps winking at ladies and gets really flirtatious? Can I rule him off as a “bad Christian” just to find out this is an area he struggles with and is personally working on? I also have no idea if that random person is a new growing believer and if my words would hurt them more than grow them. I am also certain that in the lifetime process of sanctification, God will reveal to them if their dress or attitude need work. They may not be quite there yet. That’s okay.

5. Head coverings, skirts, covered collarbones etc. does not mean people live under a rock or oppression.
Guys, I am so guilty here. I have judged in the past the ladies and gentlemen who have personally decided that modesty for them includes a few more personal standards. I’ve mocked head coverings. Shaken my head at guys who only wear slacks and suits. I’ve complained that it’s ridiculous that collarbones need to be covered and that some ladies never wear pants.

You know what? That’s just as bad as judging those short shorts on a gal or shirtless guys. I have no right to call one outdated, prude, or extreme for having a view that does not look like mine. I have no right to say they have gone overboard. It is between them and God. I also need to see them as people and understand that there are more important things than dress in their sake too. Am I prejudging them based on what they wear? If so, I’m at fault.

6. But wait, there’s more!
I’m not going to neglect that there is more to modesty than what I’ve addressed. While modesty is personal, there are ways it affects more than me. The Bible does instruct certain things to consider as one outlines what obedience is with God in regards to modesty. 1 Corinthians 8 talks about being mindful in consideration to prevent causing others to stumble and using our freedoms wisely. 1 Timothy chapter 2 goes into some details based on Paul’s feelings but again, I want people to read this and draw from it what the Holy Spirit reveals to them, not my opinion. 1 Cor 6:19-20. Matt 6:28-30. Titus 2:11-12. So yes, if someone’s thinking, but wait, there’s more! There is! But that is between you and God, as my modesty is between me and God. My only advice would be to pray for discernment for the details.

In a nutshell, what I’ve learned is that modesty is an inward heartfelt decision of obedience to God and that it translates differently outwardly for each believer. It’s not as complicated as people make it out to be!