God Is Beginning to Turn My Captivity

It is a safe thing to trust Him to fulfill the desire which He creates.” -Amy Carmichael

Since returning from Micah’s second spine surgery in April, my heart has been restless. The surgery was a success and Micah did really great recovering. We arrived back home and got back into our normal routines, but I struggled and continued to struggle with my emotions, disappointments, and just day-to-day life. You would think that after the boys’ successful surgeries, Teagan doing well with having her adenoids and tonsils removed, and Billy learning the cause of the PVC’s he’s been experiencing, I’d be on an emotional high; but instead, I struggled emotionally.

To be honest, I have been struggling for the last two years. I’ve had lows where nothing seemed fixable and highs that seemed all was well. It has often seemed as if the doors of heaven were barred closed and prayers just ricocheted off them. It was not because I had not been seeking help from God; it just seemed like heaven was silent.

I heard a sermon recently in which the pastor spoke about Hannah and her sincere prayers for a son. There were a few statements he made that really got me thinking and started me on a quest to draw closer to my Savior. Here are a few of the statements that started me on my quest:

  • We all must decide what we’re going to do with our brokenness and disappointments.
  • Are you ready to worship before the Lord before you have your answer?
  • Can you continue to worship the Lord while you’re still broken and the answer hasn’t come?
  • Can you worship the Lord while you’re seeking an answer?
  • We can be renewed even in our brokenness if we are willing to keep taking it to God.
  • It’s our brokenness that God uses to draw us to Him so that He can heal us.
  • God will turn our brokenness into a blessing if and when we bring it to Him.
  • We need to remember what we know to be true about God; His unchanging character, His infinite love, and His endless pursuit of a relationship with us.

Aren’t those statements thought provoking? Thankfully, those statements pierced my tired soul and opened my heart to wonder what God was trying to awaken within my soul and to see with spiritual eyes what exactly was missing and broken in my life.

Remember me, O my God, concerning this, and wipe not out my good deeds that I have done for the house of my God, and for the offices thereof. – Nehemiah 13:14

In my quest for answers, I came upon a verse in Job that I totally didn’t understand, and it caught my attention so much that I just stopped and reread that same verse over and over. I knew He was speaking to me, but I needed clarification on exactly what was meant by that passage. The passage read: “And the LORD turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends: also the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before.” “Turned the captivity of Job?” I couldn’t understand it, but I knew it was something I needed to understand. Daddy would often say to make sure you get the context of the passage. Read the verses before and those that follow, seek out godly men’s commentaries, and above all, ask God to open your eyes and heart to hear and understand what He’s saying to you.

So, I found a message by Charles Spurgeon titled, “The Turning of Job’s Captivity.” Oh boy, was I excited; I immediately printed it off, sat down with highlighter in hand, and began to read. Whoa, this was like a person-to-person call to Heaven.

“Captivity is a bondage of the mind, the iron entering the soul.” -Spurgeon

I suspect that Job, under the severe mental trial which attended his bodily pains, was, as to his spirit, like a man bound hand and foot and fettered, and then taken away from his native country, banished from the place which he loved, deprived of the associations which had cheered him, and confined in darkness. I mean that, together with the trouble and trial to which he was subjected, he had lost somewhat the presence of God; much of his joy and comfort had departed; the peace of his mind had gone, and the associations which he had formed with other believers were now broken: he was in all these respects like a lone captive. His three friends had condemned him as a hypocrite, and would not have association with him except to censure him, and thus he felt like one who had been carried into a far country, and banished both from God and man. He could only follow the occupation of a captive, that is, to be oppressed, to weep, to claim compassion, and to pour out a dolorous complaint. He hung his harp on the willows, and felt that he could not sing the Lord’s song in a strange land. Poor Job! He is less to be pitied for his bereavements, poverty, and sickness than for his loss of that candle of the Lord which once shone about his head. That is the worst point of all when trouble penetrates to the heart. All the bullets in the battle, though they fly thick as hail, will not distress a soldier like one which finds a lodging in his flesh.”

I haven’t freely shared that before the pandemic, our family had suffered the loss of our home church.  The details don’t need airing, but there was hurt and loss of fellowship with people we’d come to love and admire.  To this day we still haven’t found a home church, but we’ve certainly not stopped pursuing that place where we can not only worship, but have the freedom to serve our God in spirit and truth.  I’ll admit we’ve felt so alone on this journey.  We had no pastor or church family to walk alongside us, and that was tough.  But I’m not here to complain; only to share that God can, and will, turn your captivity.

Job’s life was a mess.  He lost his family, wealth, and his health.  His wife even told him to curse God and die.  It was pretty bad.  BUT “The Lord maketh sore, and bindeth up; he woundeth, and his hands make whole.” (Job 5:18)  Spurgeon said, “No captivity is so terrible but God can bring us back from it; no chain is so fastened but God can strike it off, and no prison-house is so strong, but God can break the bars and set his servant free.”  Often, it’s when God allows difficulties in our lives to shine a light on those imperfections and faults that otherwise we wouldn’t have seen or tried, with the Lord’s help, to correct.  Often our turning point is when we’re completely broken.

I love this passage from Spurgeon’s sermon:

“Many of God’s promises need to be held before the scorching fires of adversity and personal trouble, and then we read the precious secret of the Spirit’s consolation.  You cannot see the stars in the day time upon the surface of the earth, but if you go down into a well you can, and when you go down the deep well of trouble it often happens that you see a beauty and luster in the promise which nobody else can see, and when the Lord has brought you into a certain position in which you can see the glory of his grace as you never could have seen it anywhere else, then he will say, “It is enough; I have taught my child the lesson, and I will let him go.”

Spurgeon went on to explain that often those trials we endure are used by God to give us a sympathetic spirit.  All of us can think of various times when we’ve experienced a situation and were able to use the wisdom gathered during that time to help others who encountered the same situation; our wisdom then helped them to navigate the situation more quickly and without so much pain.  Personally, I know of situations I’ve walked through, trials I’ve encountered, or pains I’ve endured that nearly crushed me.  However, instead of crushing me, they softened my heart.  It was that softened heart that allowed me to speak encouragement into others’ lives in their season of pain.

In Job’s case, God turned his captivity when he prayed for his friends.  You have to remember– these were not the kind of friends who encouraged, uplifted, or interceded to God on Job’s behalf; they were quite the opposite.  Instead, they lied, accused, and berated Job in his time of pain and suffering.  That’s tough stuff!  Yet Jesus Himself prayed for those who mocked, berated and crucified Him.  Job didn’t have the New Testament example to read about, but he did have a close relationship with the Lord and knew His Father’s will.  Spurgeon said it well:

“You should feel that however treacherous, dishonorable, unjust, and detestable the conduct of your enemy may have been to you, yet still it is forgiven, quite forgiven in your heart, and, as far as possible, forgotten, or wherein remembered, remembered with regret that it should have occurred, but with no resentment to the person who committed the wrong.  When we get to that state, it is most probable that the Lord will smile upon us and turn our captivity.”

I loved how Spurgeon encourages believers that they’re not losers for God.  Although trial may change circumstances in your life, take family and friends, or even death should knock at your door, believers are not losers.  The closing statement in Spurgeon’s sermon sums up this thought totally:

You shall never lose anything by what you suffer for God.   If, for Christ’s sake, you are persecuted, you shall receive in this life your reward; but if not, rejoice and be glad, for great is your reward in heaven.  You shall not lose anything by God’s afflicting you.  You shall, for a time, be an apparent loser; but a real loser in the end you shall never be.  When you get to heaven you will see that you were a priceless gainer by all the losses you endured.  Shall you lose anything by what you give to God?  Never.  Depend on it, he will be no man’s debtor.  There dwells not in earth or heaven any man who shall be creditor to the Most High.  The best investment a man makes is that which he gives to the Lord from a right motive.  Nothing is lost which is offered to the cause of God.  The breaking of the alabaster box of precious ointment was not a wasteful thing, and he who should give to the Lord all that he had would have made a prudent use of his goods.  “He that giveth to the poor lendeth to the Lord,” and he that giveth to the Lord’s church and to the Lord himself lays up his treasure in heaven, where it shall be his for ever.

I don’t have it all figured out, but I am learning every day that the Lord can and will turn my captivity if I remain faithful in prayer, consistent in forgiving others, and rest in the fact that He loves me and He doeth all things well!

All Things Work Together

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
Romans 8:28

Micah and Noah are officially seven weeks post-op from their spinal decompression surgery. Micah’s surgery lasted about eight hours and Noah’s seven. The boys were fused from T10—L4. They each have two rods and fourteen screws in their backs. During the surgeries, both boys had a small dural tear (complication of spine surgery in which the thin covering over the spinal cord called dura material gets nicked). It’s a common risk that comes with this type of surgery. The spine of those with achondroplasia only complicates the surgery because the space in the spine is so tight. So, both boys needed to stay mostly flat for 24 hours to allow the patch to seal. Once the twenty-four hours was up they slowly raised the boys up until they were sitting at a 90 degree angle. Both boys were champs. They worked hard to get up and begin walking. They were on a lot of pain meds, but they pushed through the pain and muscle spasms. They spent six days in the hospital and we were all happy to go home. Once again, Miracle flights got us to and from Nemours hospital in Delaware. We are so thankful for them and their donors.

The boys are not allowed to do any physical activity other than walking for the next six months, which has been a huge adjustment. They have also lost their ability to torque or bend at the waist. This means that daily self grooming routines have become a new challenge, but they’ve made us proud at how they’ve accepted their new normal.

In a sermon I heard this week, there was a story about a pastor who returned to his pulpit just ten days after he lost his son.  He began his message by reading Romans 8:28.  Visibly struggling, he said, “I cannot make my son’s death fit into this passage. It is impossible for me to see how anything good can come out of it. Yet I know I only see in part, I only know in part.”  He said, “It’s like the miracle of the shipyard.  Almost every part of our greatest vessels are made of steel.  If you take any single part: a steel plate out of the hull, or a huge rudder, and throw it into the ocean, it will sink to the bottom of the ocean. Steel does not float! But when the shipbuilders are finished; when the last plate has been riveted into shape, then that massive steel ship is virtually unsinkable. Taken by itself, my son’s death is senseless. Throw it into the sea of Romans 8:28 and it sinks. But I believe when the eternal shipbuilder has finished, when God has worked His perfect design, even this senseless tragedy will somehow work out for God’s glory and the eternal good of my life. It’s not the individual part that we look at, but how that individual part fits the whole of what God’s doing in your life. God is working in your life.”

“I have learned to kiss the wave that throws me against the Rock of Ages.”
-Spurgeon

This story struck a chord in my heart. It painted a picture that I could see with my mind’s eye that in turn encouraged my heart. Just three days before I heard this story, we’d received a call from the boys’ orthopedic surgeon in Delaware. I assumed he was calling to let me know that the boys’ follow up x-rays we’d had taken here in Chattanooga the week prior looked good. In fact, Noah’s x-rays did look good. However, Micah’s x-ray revealed that one of the set screws on L4 had backed itself out and was putting the bone graft in jeopardy. The surgeon said that hadn’t happened to one of his patients in about 15 years. My heart sank and it was actually hard to keep my composure on the phone, although, in that same moment, I could sense the Lord’s presence. I told Micah I didn’t know why the Lord has allowed this to happen, but I knew we and so many friends and family around the world had prayed for him and Noah. I don’t know why this had to happen, but I know the Lord makes no mistakes. I am thankful that I can look back and see many times when I didn’t understand. The words of one of my favorite songs say it the best:

It’s not what I prayed for
It’s not what I wanted
It’s not something I understand
My circumstances seems so confusing
I’m placing it all in your hands

One day I’m sure
I will look back and marvel
And how you knew best all along
You see from heaven
You know it’s the hard times

When I start to doubt help me believe
Somewhere so far above me

Your ways are higher than mine
I want mountains to move
You want me to climb
So I’m gonna trust your work, your will, and your time
Your ways are so much higher than mine
Your ways are higher than mine

Be Strong

A journal entry I wrote in June of 2017: At times I feel strong and resilient, then there are times I feel hopeless and today I feel empty. I know you are working everything out for my good . . . I just feel numb. The dictionary definition says: numbness is the act of being deprived of the power of sensation. It’s such an accurate description of how I feel. I trust God totally, but the pain of being pruned has become overwhelming. I know Billy will find a job, Teagan will come, and the boys will get their spine issues resolved. It’s just a waiting period . . . !

I wrote that entry a little over three and a half years ago. It was exactly seventeen days before God would call my Daddy Home. God has answered so many prayers, understood my longings, and given me unexpected blessings. The road from 2017 to 2020 hasn’t been without heartache, joys, fear, anger, happiness, pride, sorrows, and pain. However, I can look back and see God has been at work . . . pruning my heart.

In a few short weeks, Micah and Noah will be having spinal decompression surgery. Imagine the timing. We’re in the middle of the COVID pandemic, it’ll be the week of the inauguration, Heidi will be celebrating her 19th birthday in Chattanooga, and Billy, the boys and I will be in Wilmington, DE. 🙂 You just can’t make this crazy scenario up.

The boys took the news of their impending surgery as well as anyone of us would. They’re thankful to get relief from the numbness, but the process of getting that relief is a bit overwhelming. Only one parent will be allowed with each boy. I’ve had flashbacks to the boys’ time in the NICU, when one boy was on the right side of the room and the other on the left. As a mom, I felt guilty for not being able to be with both boys simultaneously and for having to leave my two-year-old Heidi at home while I tended to the boys. Thankfully, Billy will be able to go with us and knowing that one of us is with each boy is definitely a comfort.

The surgeries will be a lengthy six hours each. The surgery involves removal of all or part of the lamina to provide more space for the compressed spinal cord and/or nerve roots. They’ll also be fusing the spine from T12 – L4 which will involve rods and a bone graft. We know our boys are in God’s hands, and those of the best medical staff in the world. It’s just a hard situation to digest as a parent.

I’ve been listening to an audio devotional online as I’m getting ready in the mornings. The book of Joshua has always been a place I’ve gone to read for encouragement and refocusing my spiritual walk. I’ve always told my kids that God has a plan, a purpose, and promises for us to claim.

The book of Joshua begins with Joshua learning that his mentor, Moses, was dead, and the mantel of leadership was being given to him. The Lord repeatedly told Joshua that just as He was with Moses, He would be with Joshua. He said, “I will be with thee; I will not forsake thee . . . only be strong and of good courage.” God always keeps His promises. Failures in life are always on our shoulders—often because of our disbelief or delayed obedience. I always tell my kids, “Delayed obedience is disobedience”. You see, it’s up to us to believe and take action. God told Joshua every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that I have given unto you. It was up to Joshua to believe and take action.

Joshua had been one of the spies that Moses had sent in to spy out the land of Canaan. He and Caleb had delivered a good and accurate report while the other spies had lied. Those lies and distrust in God’s promises had cost the Israelites forty years of wandering and hardship in the wilderness. So, it’s no surprise that Joshua knew he could trust God and take Him at His word. Often it is who or what we are trusting in that affects our actions. I’m a total type-A personality, so I often struggle with remembering I can’t control situations, but I know for a fact Who does control them.

Even at this time of surgery for the boys, I hear myself encouraging the boys that this current situation hasn’t caught God off guard and He is using this time to focus our eyes on Him, tenderizing our hearts to accept His pruning, and creating us into vessels He can use for His glory.

We need conviction (free of any doubt) to live out God’s promises. God is at work in our lives, the lives of those we love, our friends, acquaintances, and government. We don’t need to doubt, but believe. Not because we will have all the answers, but because He does and He said, “Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.”

By the way, I began this with a excerpt from my journal. Billy did get job; Teagan came to live with us; and the boys were able to delay surgery for three years. God’s timing is always perfect!

Hearing From My Daddy

Please pray for us:
Fifty years ago today, my parents found out that their four-month-old daughter had achondroplasia dwarfism. It’s hard to imagine, but the doctor’s books contained only a brief paragraph on dwarfism with more questions than answers. In fact, the doctors, along with my mom, who was holding me, took me into a closet and held a flashlight to my head to check for hydrocephalus (water on the brain). These days, doctors use an MRI or CT scan to confirm enlargement of the ventricles and determine the cause of the hydrocephalus. It was my parents’ first term on the mission field in what was then called West Germany. They’d left all that was familiar, including family, friends, and modern medical technology, to live among the Germans and tell them about Jesus, who died to give them eternal life in Heaven.This morning I was listening to a sermon my father preached at his home church, Lupton Drive, entitled “Transformed By Trouble.” It was in that sermon that he spoke about the days after they found out I had achondroplasia. Just hearing Daddy’s voice brought me to tears, since he’s been Home with the Lord for three years. As I continued listening, tears began to roll down my cheek. I needed every word he was preaching, but more than that I needed a “talk/counsel” with my Daddy. I don’t know why I’m always surprised by God’s timing, but again I was praising God for His foreknowledge and plan for me to hear this particular Word from my Heavenly Father delivered by my earthly father, as the book of Esther says, “for such a time as this.” Even more amazing is the fact that today would have been my father’s fifty-eighth spiritual birthday.October is dwarfism awareness month. It’s a time when the dwarf community tries to help educate others about the abilities and challenges those with dwarfism face on a day-to-day basis. It wasn’t until I had children of my own that I became more vocal and outspoken about wrongs and rights that our society performs towards those with dwarfism. My daddy said that he and my mother had been able to reach out and help others with children who were born with what the world sees as “deficits.” He said they had come to see my dwarfism as a blessing.I, too, see my dwarfism as a blessing. This year alone, I’ve been able to personally counsel and encourage three young moms whose children have been born with dwarfism. I’ve prayed and asked God to give me a mission field, and He’s opened doors that never would have opened had I and my children not been born with dwarfism.Thanks to a wonderful organization called Miracle Flights, who helps children get to specialists across the country through donated airline miles and money gifts, in two weeks Billy, the children, and I will board a plane headed towards Delaware. At Nemours Children’s Hospital in Wilmington, we will be seeing three dwarfism specialists: an orthopedic surgeon, a neurosurgeon, and a geneticist. You see, with our type of dwarfism there are often orthopedic, neuro, and genetic issues that need the care of doctors who specialize in dwarfism.Our boys have been dealing with numbness, loss of feeling, and weakness in their legs. At times you’d never know it, other than when you see them squat, sit, or pushing themselves on their knee walker. These boys are warriors and have a true grit of never giving up or in to any circumstance that might try to slow them down. So far they’ve avoided surgery, but the moments of numbness and weakness seem to be increasing. We don’t know what our appointment in two weeks will hold for us or if we’ll be scheduling surgery for the boys. We do know that God is good, and we want our lives, and whatever God chooses for the boys and their backs, to glorify God.We certainly covet the prayers of you, your family, your friends, and your churches. My mom sent the following note to me, and it says what I, as a mom of children with dwarfism, often feel. I salute all you mommies who have children with physical, mental, and emotional special needs. Hang in there; don’t give up; and know that when I see you, my heart says a silent prayer for you and your precious gift from God.

I see you taking your kid to therapy while your friends take their kids to football or ballet.

I see you sneak out of the conversation when all your friends boast about achievements, and milestones reached.

I see you juggle events and meetings.

I see you sitting on the computer for hours investigating what your child needs.

I see you make a bad face when people complain about what looks like nonsense.

I see you disappear little by little but you keep going beyond for your family.

I see you pull strength from weakness with a force you didn’t even dream you had.

I see you showing respect for teachers, therapists and medical professionals who help your child and help you.

Watching you wake up early in the morning to do it all again after another chaotic night.

I see you when you’re on the edge of the precipice struggling to live.

I know you feel invisible, like no one notices.

But I want you to know that I see you.

I see you push forward always. I see you choose to do everything you can to give your child the best care at home, school, therapy and the doctors.

What you do matters. It’s worth the struggle.

On those days when you wonder if you can make it one more minute, I want you to know I see you.

I want you to know that you are beautiful.

I want you to know it’s worth it. I want you to know that you are not alone. I want you to know that love is the most important thing, and that you are the best at it.

And in those days when you see an improvement, those moments when hard work has its reward, and you can taste success, I’ll see you then too.

Whichever day today is, you’re worthy, you’re good, and I see you.”

Courtesy Alethea Jo, Writer

Tenacity

Robin in HighchairMom my tells a story about me when I was about 7 or 8 months of age.  She’d put me in my highchair and went about her task in the kitchen.  It wasn’t long until I was unhappy about sitting in my highchair and I did what any child who’s discontent with their current situation would do:  I crawled out onto a shrunk that had a hutch on it.  To my dismay, every time I tried to sit up, the hutch prevented me from achieving the upright position I so desperately wanted to attain.  At this point in the story my mom is always laughing and then goes on to tell me, “You had tenacity.  You wouldn’t give up and thought you were going to make that hutch give way to your demands.”  Apparently, I was pretty vocal throughout the whole process.  Mom says that particular memory often would replay in her mind during various times of adversity in my life and she knew that tenacity was God-given.

Recently I heard two different pastors share their views about the prophet Elisha.  I wanted to share with you some of the things that I gleaned from those sermons that have changed my view of serving Christ with tenacity.

The first thing that stuck out was Elisha’s request for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit.  Now that request takes tenacity!  Elisha didn’t care if he ruffled Elijah’s feathers.  Elisha wasn’t content with the same miracles Elijah had preformed.  He wanted more—the best!  He was unashamedly asking for the best.  I wonder how many times we’ve settled for the norm when all the while, if we’d just asked the Lord, He would have granted our petition.

One of the phrases I love the most (and I’ve wonder why it’s not been taken out of context and marketed to couples) is Elisha’s reply to Elijah:  “As surely as the LORD lives and as you live, I will not leave you.”  Elisha had tenacity!  Elijah tells him three times that the Lord had sent him to another town, and he tells Elisha, “Stay here.”  But Elisha, in his tenacity, says, “Nope! I’m going with you.”  Elisha knew that God would soon be calling Elijah home, and Elisha wasn’t going to miss it or any other miracle God did through his mentor.

Elisha was a significant servant.  The special thing about a significant servant is that they pass it (blessings) on.  They realize they’re only on this earth for a very short period of time, so they pass those blessings on to others.  Significant, faithful servants are people who teach other significant, faithful people who will then pass it on to more significant, faithful people.b928276d5f9c4fc65cb21ab90d72b1f4

Often we don’t see miracles because we give up too early.  I remember early on in our adoption process when things seemed at a gridlock and the agency urged us to just give up on Teagan and find another child to adopt.  We had tenacity and were determined whatever it took, we were going to fight to get the one we knew God had placed in our hearts to adopt.  It wasn’t about just adopting any child.  God had told us to go get her and we knew He would work it out even though the situation seemed hopeless.  How often do we as Christians miss God’s prize because we give up too early?  We have the faith to go one mile and we feel that’s plenty of service for the Lord.  However, we give up—quit!—when the desired end seems impossible.  We want to see the miracles in, through, and around us, but we want them without paying the price of serving with tenacity.  It’s these opportunities of serving Christ that stretch and grow faith.

One of my favorite Bible passages is Hebrews 11.  It’s often called the “Hall of Faith” chapter.  You can read down the list of God’s servants who served Him with tenacity.  The phrase, “By faith . . .” begins almost each servant’s remembrance.

You know it took Jacob fourteen long years of service to Laban before he was able to claim Rachel as his wife.  It was through this family line that the Messiah had been promised.  Verse thirteen sums it up best:

“These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.”

dontgiveupOften, we don’t see what God is doing or where He’s taking us.  It’s not for us to know, but to be like those described in Hebrews.  They were persuaded that serving Christ was worth it, they embraced whatever circumstance or situation they were put in, and they knew that those situations were only temporary and there was something far greater waiting for them.

Servants who serve with tenacity see the miracles because we’re in the place where God is working.  The miracle is not through who you are, but in who God is.  Whenever you find yourself in a place or situation where no one else will go, or if they’ve given up, look up!  Because that’s when and where God is going to show up, and you don’t want to miss it.

 

 

 

You Are Special

you-are-special-max-lucadoOur kids have a book written by Max Lucado called, You Are Special.  There’s a lot of good, godly theology in the book.  It wasn’t until I re-read the book recently that the Lord used its truths to open my eyes about my struggles with the past and even the present.

In the book, there’s a little wooden boy named Punchinello who lives in a town of wooden people all who were created by Eli the woodcarver.  The book begins by telling the how Eli took time to make each Wemmick special.  He created each of them different.  Some had big noses, others large eyes, some tall, while others were short.  However, they all were made by the same carver: Eli.  The story goes on to tell how the Wemmicks would carry around boxes containing gold stars and gray dots.  They would go around town giving each other gold stars if they thought your wood was unblemished, smooth, had no visible paint chips, or if you were talented.  However, if you lacked talented or were blemished in any way, you’d get gray dots.  Punchinello fell a lot, so he had quite a few scratches and blemishes; and some gave him gray dots for no reason at all.  The Wemmicks covered him with gray dots—so many that he was ashamed to go outside; and if he did go outside he’d stay among others who had gray dots, because he felt better around them.

wemmicksThe story goes on to tell how Punchinello met a girl name Lucia who had no dots and no stars on her at all.  In fact, if anyone ever tried to put one on her they’d just fall off.  Punchinello asked Lucia, “What’s your secret to the dots and stars not sticking.”  Lucia replied, “It’s easy.  Every day I go see Eli…  I sit in the workshop with him.”  When Punchinello inquires why, Lucia encourages Punchinello to go see for himself.

special2Upon arriving at Eli’s house, Punchinello is surprised that Eli knows his name.  Eli notices all gray dots Punchinello is covered with, but assures him that he doesn’t care what others think.  “Who are they to give you stars or dots?… All that matters is what I think.  And I think you’re pretty special.”  Eli goes on to tell Punchinello how he’d  hoped he’d come to see him.  Punchinello replies, ” I came because I met someone who had no marks.”  I love what Eli then tells Punchinello: “She has decided that what I think is more important than what they think. The stickers only stick if you let them… The more you trust my love, the less you care about their stickers… You are special because I made you, and I don’t make mistakes.”

There are so many truths to unpack in this simple story by Max Lucado.  I found myself looking inwardly at all the “stickers” that I have allowed to clutter my own life.  How often have I allowed others thoughts and actions to effect myself and my decisions.  How many times have I not reached out to others whose “dots” were just surface deep, but inwardly, those individuals were precious jewels to be treasured.  I’ve wondered if my thoughts or actions ever made others go seek out my Creator, as Lucia’s life did for Punchinello.  Had I allowed unkind words, spoken by those I thought were friends, hang gray dots on my soul?  Did the wounds inflected by church leaders, and those in authority in the church, hide the beauty of God’s craftsmanship?  And how about the pain I’d felt after giving graciously of my time, tears, talents, and finances to those who only used me?  These thoughts began a search in my heart to find how often I had allowed others actions and deeds to define me.

Maybe you’re reading this and you, too, are thinking about specific things in your own life that have covered your God-given beauty with ugly dots.  It’s hard to let your light shine through all those ugly, gray dots.  I’m here to encourage you to Rejoice!  God loves you and it’s time to stop letting others dictate who you are—to start living as your Creator intended!  Believe me, we’ve all made mistakes.  I confess, some of the dots I found were ones I put there myself.  I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of letting those dots and lack of stars define who I am.  I am a child of the Creator of all the universe.  I have a God-given purpose and I am determined to live out that purpose for Him.

Like Lucia, we all need to stop and sit a while with our Creator, because He gives us a true perspective—not only of things around us, but who and what we are in Him.  I pray this story gives you hope as it did me.  I’m learning it doesn’t matter what others think, believe, or assume.  I matter to God, He loves me, and He Makes No Mistakes!

And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect [and is completed and shows itself most effectively] in [your] weakness.  Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure [so I am well-pleased with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, and with difficulties, for the sake of Christ] in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak [in human strength], then am I strong [truly able, truly powerful, truly drawing from God’s strength]. 

II Corinthians 12:9-10

 

Scars

When I was growing up I thought it was normal to see doctors, have surgery, and then repeat it in a year or two.  On my legs I carry the scars of a few of those surgeries.  Years have passed and I don’t notice them too much, but there are times when I look and remember those long summer days in casts—once, up to my knees and another time, up to my hips—eight weeks at a time.  I remember the dreaded itching, and sticking whatever I could down into the cast to scratch those itches that were so maddening.  There was a rusty coat hanger that did the trick, which probably wasn’t the most sanitary.  Luckily, I didn’t get an infection in my incisions.

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I have accumulated many more surgery scars since then, but thankfully those scars are unseen.  I’ve often been asked, regarding the scars on my legs, “Wow, what happened?”  I go on to explain that as a child, I had two orthopedic surgeries on my legs.  One kept me from being crippled for life, and the other straightened my severely bowed legs.  Would I prefer not to have the scars?  Of course.  But there’s a gratefulness that swells in my heart every time I tell the story of my scars.

If the veil that covers our hearts was pulled back and everyone was allowed to see the scars that cover it, I’m sure we’d be speechless, humbled, and thankful for the scars we’ve been entrusted to carry through this life.

I remember as a child asking my Daddy about a long scar he had that ran along the back of his arm.  Daddy told me he’d broken it during his senior year at football practice.  The doctor set it wrong and he had to have surgery to repair it.  Sadly, that ended his football career.  He was planning to go play for UTK.  Football was his life, and he was devastated when he realized his dream would never come true.  Daddy would then smile and say, “But God had other plans.”  He would eventually go into the United States Air Force where he’d meet a true Christian, and that encounter would lead him to Jesus.  He finished his tour of duty, came home to finish his Bachelors Degree, and headed to Germany where he served 49 years until the Lord called him Home.  Daddy carried a scar on his arm, but his heart carried the message of Jesus’ love to so many in Germany and Eastern Europe.  If you asked Daddy whether it was worth the pain and surgery, he’d reply with his life’s verses in Isaiah 61:1-3:

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified.

I once read, “Scars tell stories of pain—and redemption.  Our brokenness provides a pedestal for the display of God’s beauty.”  We all have scars; things or circumstances that forever changed our lives.  Jesus had scars, and it was because of those scars that the disciples, when they saw them, knew He was their risen Lord.  Remember, He told Thomas, “Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.”  The fact that Jesus was standing in their midst and showing them his scars was a visible sign of His salvation.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said, “We are not to simply bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice, we are to drive a spoke into the wheel itself.”  I don’t know about you, but I’ve done a lot of reflection during this COVID-19 quarantine.  I thought about painful scars that haven’t begun to heal in my heart.  Hurtful scars that I know God was using to move us as a family to a new area of service.  Sometimes, God uses hurtful scars to move you because He knows you’d never go otherwise.  Although, when He uses circumstances, people, and deeds that are less than honorable to move you, it hurts; and I guess that’s why these scars were particularly painful.  Growing up on the mission field and being a missionary kid, you see a lot.  Men who take their authority and use it for self-promotion rather than godliness; people turned away from attending church because they didn’t have the right clothing; those who needed their wounds bandaged, but instead received rejection.

Recently, I was privileged to watch a dear family walk with honor and integrity in the midst of a silent, demeaning coup attempt.  I say “privileged” because I was strengthened and encouraged in the Lord by their devotion to God, His plan, and the truth.  I seriously had to go to the roots of my faith and remember who God is and who I am in Him.  You expect the world to hurt you, but the wounds of Christian brothers and sisters are far more painful in the healing process.

My heart clings to the knowledge that one day God will right the wrong.  He knows the intents of their hearts, and He’s the judge.  I’d rather leave it in His court than man’s or my own.  Believe me: this isn’t easy.  It’s a daily, “Lord, you deal with them,” situation.

I know the scars will heal and I know, like my Daddy always said, “that He may be glorified!”  I hold to my earthly Daddy’s words and those of my heavenly Father,

“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.” II Corinthians 5:10

There is beauty in our broken and painful stories.  I don’t know what the beauty of these scars is yet, but I know the One who allowed them and I trust Him.  What about you?  What are your scars?  Miscarriages?  Divorce?  Betrayal?  Abuse?  The list is endless.  Remember, we live in a world of scared people.  People who need you to be their reminder that God loves them more than they could ever imagine, and He will take their scars and turn them into beautiful reminders of His love, sacrifice, and plan for their lives.  Be the one who begins to help heal their wounds and turn them into scars that they too can say, like my Daddy, “That He May Be Glorified!”

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The Grand Weaver

Recently, we were able to help an adoptive mother connect with Sister Ma at Teagan’s original orphanage.  She, too, was adopting one of Sister Ma’s little ones.  Upon returning to the U.S., she wrote us a note saying that one of the Sisters who’d cared for Teagan was studying theology in Chicago and wanted to connect with us.  Of course, we said, “Yes, give her our contact information. We’d love to speak with her.”

Sister Judith contacted us and we had a wonderful time learning more about our Teagan.  We listened with joy and amazement to hear her fond memories of Teagan. Teagan and Sister Judith voice texted with one another, which was fun for Teagan and, I believe, Sister Judith as well.  Although Teagan has no concrete memories of Sister Judith, it seemed to touch Teagan’s heart to know a little more of her beginnings.

Sister Judith not only provided a verbal history, but she also emailed us a video and never-before-seen pictures of Teagan.  We were all mesmerized watching our little girl dance with her classmates to music.  She was a doll!  I’ll share the video with you so you can see why we watched it over so many times (click the link).

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Billy and I are amazed at all the intricate little details that God is giving us about our little girl.  Her first five years were a total mystery when we went to China to bring her home.  However, now we have bits and pieces that we’re unfolding together to give her a beautiful story that only God Himself could weave so beautifully.

One of my favorite books is called the Grand Weaver by Ravi Zacharias.  In the book, he recalls a story told by Corrie ten Boom.

(The pictures below are the actual tapestry that Corrie held as she told this story.)

“As Tante (Corrie’s aunt) spoke, she slowly unfolded the purple cloth in her hands and revealed hundreds of strings tied in knots and pulled through the cloth.  It all looked so random.  She showed the children how the strings didn’t seem to make sense from where they sat at her feet on the floor in the living room.

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“‘That’s the whole point,’ she exclaimed.  She said it was because of our limited vision, our limited perspective of what God is doing in our lives, that we question Him.

“At that point Tante slowly turned the purple tangled mess around to reveal a beautiful tapestry:  a crown of gold with multicolored jewels.

“’This’ she said, ‘is what God sees . . . from His perspective . . . a masterpiece!’”

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Teagan entered this world and, for whatever reason, her mother decided to leave her outside the House of Dawn on a very cold January night.  When they found Teagan she was blue—purple, they said—and suffering from pneumonia after being left outside in the cold.  The Sisters took her in gave her a home and, most of all, love.  Each Sister who changed her diapers, fed, bathed, and clothed her did it with love, and I am forever grateful.

Today is Teagan’s seventh birthday and next week we celebrate the birth of our Savior. Although thousands of years separate their births, both were born and rejected.  Isn’t it amazing how God became man so that he could feel everything, including rejection. Isaiah says, “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.”  Although Teagan can’t see it, God is weaving a beautiful tapestry in her life and He’s gently pursuing her little heart.  I anxiously await the day Teagan accepts the Lord as her Savior!  It won’t be long, and I too can say as Mary did, anticipating the first Christmas night, “My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.”

 

My life is but a weaving
Between my God and me.
I cannot choose the colors
He weaveth steadily.

Oft’ times He weaveth sorrow;
And I in foolish pride
Forget He sees the upper
And I the underside.

Not ’til the loom is silent
And the shuttles cease to fly
Will God unroll the canvas
And reveal the reason why.

The dark threads are as needful
In the weaver’s skillful hand
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned.

He knows, He loves, He cares;
Nothing this truth can dim.
He gives the very best to those
Who leave the choice to Him.

-Grant Colfax Tullar

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One of the new pictures Sister Judith sent

 

 

 

 

The Death Crawl

My eyes filled with tears today as I took a moment to sit down in my kitchen and watch a clip from a family-favorite movie.  I’ve seen this clip a half dozen times, but today was different.  I saw it in a way I’d never seen it . . . through the eyes of my Savior.

The clip touched me so deeply I was anxious to share it with my family,  but prefaced it with these instructions:  “As you all watch this clip, think of the coach as the Holy Spirit and yourself as the player.”  To set the scene up:  The coach is struggling to get the team to give him 100% effort in an upcoming game against a real tough rival.  One of the key players smarts off that the other team is a lot stronger, to which the coach says, “You’ve already written our team off?”  The players says, “No, not if I knew we could beat them.” The coach then proceeds to challenge the player to do the “death crawl” all the way to the 50 yard line.  The player quips, “I can go to the fifty if nobody’s on my back.”  The coach proceeds to tell him, “I think you can do it with Jeremy on your back.”  The coach asks one thing of the player:  “No matter what . . . I want you to give me your best.”  The player agrees, but before he begins the coach puts a blindfold on the player.  Puzzled, the player asks “Why?”  The coach tells him, “I don’t want you giving up at a certain point when you can go further.”

This is followed by the player beginning the death crawl across the field.  The entire time, the coach is encouraging him to keep going.  “You gotta keep moving.  Don’t stop.  You can do it.  Don’t quit until you’ve got nothing left.  Your very best!  Don’t quit on me.  Keep going!  I want everything you’ve got!  Don’t stop!  Keep driving!”

With the teammate still on his back, the player complains, “He’s heavy!  I’m about out of strength!”  The coach replies, “Then you negotiate with your body to find more strength don’t give up on me. . . do not quit on me. . . it’s all heart from here. . .”

“It hurts. . . it burns. . . its too hard!”

“Keep going!  Keep going!  Twenty more steps. . . keep going. . . give me your best. . . don’t quit—no, keep going, keep going, keep going. . . don’t quit. . . you don’t quit on me. . . ten more steps. . . ”

“I can’t do it.”

“Yes you can! . . . Five more. . .  Don’t quit!  Don’t quit!  Two more. . . one more.”

The player falls in exhaustion, barely able to ask, “Did I make it to the fifty?”

The coach replies, “Look up.  You’re in the END-ZONE!. . . You are the most influential player on this team.  If you walk around defeated, so will they.  Don’t tell me you can’t give me more than what I’ve been seeing.  You just carried a 140 pound man across this whole field on your arms.  I need you.  God’s gifted you with the ability of leadership.  Don’t waste it!”  The Coach proceeds to ask, “Can I count on you?”, to which the player replies “yes”, just before learning he’d carried more than he thought:  The boy he was caring weighed 160 pounds.

There’s so much to unpack in this clip and I pray each of you will take five minutes to watch it.  How many times have I, too, wanted to give up—throw in the towel—only to be reminded by that still, small voice, “KEEP GOING!  Don’t STOP!  GIVE it ALL you’ve got!  You promised. . . DON’T STOP. . . I’ve got so much more for you. . . Trust me. . .  I know it’s hard and I know you’re hurting. . . ”  How many times have each of us heard those words from our Father?  How many times have we pleaded to know the future, only to have Him put a blindfold on us—not just so we can’t see, but so we’ll trust and not stop?  He knows exactly where He’s taking each of us, the pain we are in or will endure, the heartache over loss, the pain of rejection, the unkind words of a friend, or those you thought were your friends.

Remember the coach’s words?  “If you walk around defeated, so will they.”

How many people are watching us, and what they see will decide whether they will give up on God, or go on with God?  He KNOWS, and that’s why He’s beside us, just like that coach crouching down beside his player encouraging him to not give up. You see, He too has walked through pain, grief, disappointments, rejection, loss, and death.  He knows that Heaven—the “end-zone”—is just ahead and worth ALL of it!  Hebrews says it best:

Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.  (Hebrews 12:2)

Take a moment watch the clip. . .  see yourself as the football player and the coach as Jesus. When the player is screaming in pain, think of yours; when he says he wants to give up, think of the times you too wanted to quit; and when you hear the coach respond, hear it as though Jesus Christ Himself is speaking. . . you won’t be the same after your watch it.

 

 

Is Our Dwarfism Really That Funny?

Why does my short stature and that of my children make you laugh?
Is it really that funny?

“As a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings . . . ”  This verse reverberated in my head today as I and my children dealt with not one, but three separate incidents with people who mocked, laughed, shouted out, and video taped us.

I remember my mom telling the story of the Little Red Hen during our German youth meetings.  The story is about a red hen who gives birth to a brood of chicks.  Sadly, a fire sweeps through the country side and the farm upon which they live is engulfed in the fire.  Later, while surveying the fire damage the farmer notices this thick black ball of something that’s totally unrecognizable.  He takes his foot and kicks over the black charred ball and out comes the Little Red Hen’s brood of chicks.  The mother hen had gathered her chicks as the fire approached and she took the pain of the flames thus sacrificing her life for her chicks.

The story is a depiction of what Jesus Christ did for us.  He spread out His hands and took the punishment for our sin so that our lives would be spared from eternal separation from Him and we could have life . . . eternal life with Him.

I wasn’t laying down my life today, nor was I ever in danger of losing it.  However, something within me did die . . . a little.  All my life I have dealt with the stares, name calling, and—at times—mean, derogatory slurs.  Today was different because I was with my “chicks”—my babies.  I can’t wrap my head around why it’s so important to name call, video tape and mock us because of our dwarfism.  What is so important about taking our picture and texting it to your friend?  What is it about my short stature that makes people yell, “Hey, Mom, look at the midget!” and why does that mom just laugh along with her son and walk away.  Why would a girl stand beside me and my kids snapping pictures, then cover her mouth because she’s laughing so hard at the fact that she’d accomplished to take our picture as she walked away briskly.  Why had the parents of the two young girls not educated them that snapping our picture as we walked into the lobby of a store, all the while laughing, isn’t respectful.  Why does my short stature and that of my children make you laugh?  Is it really that funny?

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The world screams about tolerance and yet, as a dwarf, I and my children aren’t afforded this tolerance.  If I were African-American the NAACP would be calling their lawyers, if I were in a wheel chair the NDRN would be calling a press conference, and if I were in the LGBT community the American Civil Liberties Union would have me booked on every major network to report it.  However, I am a dwarf, little person, a mom, wife, sister and I am not afford the right of privacy, tolerance, or just plain good manners.

I held back tears today wishing I had wings of steel that I could have spread across my kids just to shield them from this lack of tolerance and ignorance.  I couldn’t shield them, or close their ears to those ugly words or even answer their questions of, “Why Mom?” How do you explain it?

Basically, there is no explanation for their actions.  However, I tell my children we can’t control others, but we can control our response and our attitude.  I do my best to educate through my blog, the spoken word, or just smile and walk away.  I pray that one day those of us who have been chosen by God to live out our days on this earth with dwarfism will be able to enjoy the kindness, courtesy, and respect that all of who’ve been given the breath of life deserve.

If you know a principle, teacher, or church youth leader that would welcome us to come speak, take questions, and educate about dwarfism please pass on my contact information.  We can’t change the whole world’s preconceived ideas or actions towards those with dwarfism, but we can certainly try to change those around us.