November 05, 2012

Pastor's Conference in Haiti

Two weeks ago we had the honor and privilege of leading a women's conference with Pastor Rene, our friend and partner in the ministry in Haiti. It was truly a time of deep spiritual growth for the ladies that we ministered to there. Taking clothes and shoes is a great tangible way to show people we care, and to give us the opportunity to pray with people, but I am convinced that the greatest need for the church in Haiti is Biblical training.

In America, we can go to the bookstore and purchase books and resources on just about any topic we desire. We have access to resources that we often take for granted. Christians in Haiti do not have this luxury. When we take a team of teachers to Haiti, we are offering a resource that is more valuable than gold to them. They will sit for hours at a time and listen to us speak, one after another, without breaks. They listen attentively, take notes, and soak in as much as they can. They then take what they have learned back to their villages and teach it to their own friends and families. There is a hunger and a desire to learn and study God's Word. Unless we go, they will continue to starve spiritually.

Next week I am taking another team of men to lead a pastor's conference. Pastors will travel many hours from churches all over Haiti to come and learn as much as they can. We have 13 men who will be sharing their personal testimonies, and teaching from God's Word. We are planning to spend 3 days teaching these pastors. Then on Sunday Evening we are going to put on a neighborhood evangelistic crusade. It is going to be an amazing week, and I am blessed to be used by God in this way.

As I mentioned, we have a team of 13 men. The cost of the trip is $1700 per person, which includes airfare, lodging, meals, and a few other basic ministry expenses. However, there are ministry needs above and beyond what this price includes. In order for Pastor Rene to host this conference, he has to pay for these men to travel to Port-Au-Prince, and for their meals and lodging while they are in town. Otherwise these pastors would not be able to come to the conference. The estimated cost to bring in 300-400 pastors from all over Haiti is $10,000. We are praying that God will provide for this need. We have less than a week to come up with the funds needed to make this happen.

Would you pray with me about this opportunity? Maybe you'd even like to contribute to this amazing opportunity. If so, your support would be greatly appreciated, and will go a long way in helping to advance the kingdom of God in Haiti.

If you'd like to help us out, you can click on this link and give. Scroll down and lick on "Donate" next to "Pastor's Conference Ministry Donation." Thank you for your prayers and financial support.

October 18, 2012

Heading to Haiti

I'm leaving tomorrow for my 9th missions trip to Haiti since June 2011. Each trip is unique and exciting. I love that I get to watch God work in people's lives in such a tangible and short period of time. This trip is going to be different and new - Nancy is going with me. She will finally get to experience Haiti after having heard me talk about it. I'm looking forward to having her ministering alongside me and the rest of the team.

We will be leading a women's conference at Pastor Rene's church in Port-Au-Prince. For two days several of our ladies will be speaking, sharing personal stories, and just loving and ministering to the ladies in the church. Pastor Rene is also bring ladies from churches across Haiti to be a part of this conference. Pray that God will use us in a mighty way to love and encourage these leaders.

This is a big step for Nancy. This will be the longest we have both been apart from Garren since he first got sick. Garren continues to progress. God continues to heal him. Though it is a long, slow process, we are able to see changes. 

If you would like to help support this trip, you can make an online donation here. Just scroll down and click on Nancy's name and you can be a part of our financial support team. We also covet your prayers. Please keep us lifted up as we travel and as we interact with these precious people. Please keep our children and my parents in your prayers as they stay behind. Please be in prayer for the entire team as we work together to accomplish what God is sending us to do.

September 28, 2012

Approved!

Praise the Lord! Garren's CAP-C Medicaid has been approved. This will ensure ongoing nursing care, therapy, and medical supplies. We are so thankful to God for once again supplying for our needs. Thank you Lord.

Garren continues to progress slowly. He is going to start visiting his speech therapist once a week to work on strengthening. He continues to go to physical therapy once a week as well. And we push to get him walking and exercising as much as we can.

Thanks for continuing to remember Garren in your prayers. We look forward to what God has in store.

September 17, 2012

How God Works in Us

“For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” - Phil. 2:13

God longs to work in us. He created us for good works that he prepared in advance for us to do (Eph 2:10). But many of us fail to ever get around to doing the good works that God has prepared for us. Why is that? For some it's because you haven't realized the power of God in your own life. You haven't learned to access the power that God freely gives to you. For others it's because you don't know that God has a plan, or you don't know how to discover that plan. And for others, it's a matter of confident obedience. You know what God would have you to do, but you are either afraid, simply don't want to do it, or both.

But God created you with a plan and a purpose. And while he does not reveal every step of that plan in our lives, he does give us direction and leading. It is our job to respond in obedience. So how does God work in us?

1. The Bible
Reading the Bible is our access to what God has to say to us. The Bible is God's Word. As we read, understand, meditate and feed on God’s word, it goes to work in our lives to cleanse us and nourish us. God gave us his word so that we would have confidence, so that we would know his law, so that we could see his love for us, and so that we would have good reason to put our trust in him. The Bible is God's written word. It was written so that we could have a record of God's plan. It is vital that we spend regular time each day reading the Bible.

2. Prayer 
Prayer is simply talking to God. It is our access to the throne. Prayer is your opportunity to go before the King of the universe and share your heart, your thoughts, and your emotions with him. He created you, and he longs to have a conversation with you. Many are intimidated at the thought of prayer. We are afraid we won't know what to say. We are afraid we might say something wrong. But just as we long for our children to speak to us, God longs to hear from us. As we pray, God’s Spirit works in us to release His power. What we’ve read from His Word is released in a powerful way within us. Prayer is as vital to our spiritual health as breathing oxygen is to our physical health.

3. Suffering
We don't like to think about suffering as being a part of God's plan. But it is. As we suffer, the Spirit of God ministers to us. God allows suffering in our lives to teach us, to grow us, to build our character, and ultimately to make us more like Christ. It's your choice though. How you respond to suffering is up to you. You can run from it, rebel against it, and allow it to make you bitter. Or you can face it head on, allow God to work in and through you, and it will make you better. Suffering drives us back to God, and to the reading of the Word of God.

Is God working in you? Are you reading your Bible, daily? Are you in prayer, daily? Are you accepting the suffering in your life as an opportunity to lean into God and allow him to grow you? Set aside some time today to have a conversation with God. You'll be amazed at what he will show you.

September 08, 2012

Be Still


I'm reading the book "You're Stronger Than You Think" by Les Parrott. In the first chapter, the author talks about ways that we can tap into our thinking to help us overcome challenges we face in our lives.

Romans 12:1-2 says “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

"Be transformed by the renewal of your mind." What does it mean to “renew your mind?”

The author wrote:

  • "When we cloud our minds with too much thinking, we lose the strength and clarity we need to make the next move."
  • "When you analyze and re-analyze your problems in an attempt to solve them, you actually lose clarity instead of gain it and are unable to appropriate the resources you need in order to deal with life as you know it."

I'm an analyzer. I replay conversations in my head over and over. I catch myself trying to figure out if I could have said or done something differently. But in all reality, this does no good. It only makes it worse, because it clouds my mind.

We have to find a way to clear our minds. With so many things to think about all the time, how can we clear our minds? How do we turn it off? How do we make it stop?

  • "It is in lonely solitude that God delivers his best thoughts, and the mind needs to be still and quiet to receive them." Charles R. Swindoll
  • "Be transformed by the renewing of your mind - the more we relate to God, the more our brains become attuned to hearing that still, small voice."
  • "If you want to hear from God, you've got to be attuned to his Spirit."

That’s it. It’s pretty simple really. We just have to stop thinking about ourselves, and focus our thoughts on God. Find solitude. Find a moment during the day to just shut everything off, stop dwelling on the busyness, and dwell on God. If you're driving, turn off the radio and listen to God. In the evening, turn off the TV, and listen to God.

  • "When we over-think our own stories, we narrow our perspectives. Our vision shrinks. We limit what could be by complicating our lives with what we think should be."
  • "Oblivious to what God could be doing, we miss the spectacular signs of his activity because we're overly focused on the details and complications of our own lives."

In the midst of chaos, wise, godly decisions still need to be made. It’s hard to make those wise decisions when the world is flying by at a hundred miles an hour!

  • "Wisdom is the by-product of routinely, over time, clearing your head."
  • "Wisdom is what enables us to see the big picture. Wisdom is what enables us to see God."

It’s easy to get caught up in over-analyzing everything. We waste precious time wondering “what-if” I had said or done something differently. We try to figure out what others must be thinking. It’s quite tiring!

It’s also very unhealthy. I need to clear my mind, step back, take in the big picture. What is God doing in the big picture? Ask God to give you wisdom. Stop focusing in on the details of your own story. Follow him in obedience. Listen to the still small voice of God. “Be still and know that I am God.” And then you will be ready to be transformed by the renewal of your mind.

August 31, 2012

Give Thanks to the Lord

Psalm 107 came to my attention recently. I read through it, and read through it again. As I read through it for the 3rd time a theme begun to jump out. "Give thanks to the Lord." It says that 4 times. I read it again, and realized that each time the people give thanks, it is in response to deliverance. "He delivered them" 4 times.

1. The Lord Delivered Them From Wandering Aimlessly (Psa 107:4-9)
"Some wandered in desert wastes" - Many people wander aimlessly through life. Not knowing where to turn or what to do with their lives. They set out in search of whatever they can find. There is no solid foundation. They believe whatever philosophy or religion feels right at the time. Truth is whatever feels good at the moment. The other day I tried to build a sandcastle at the beach. I knew the tide was still coming in, but I built close to the water anyway. It didn't take long for the waves to begin to destroy my walls. Within 30 minutes there was no trace of my work left.

When we wander aimlessly through life, that is what happens. Everything we think we have built will be destroyed by the first waves of adversity that come crashing in around us.

2. The Lord Delivered Them From Darkness (Psa 107:10-16)
"Some sat in darkness" - Other people just sit, as if blind, in their own ignorance. We allow politicians, comedians, and movie and TV producers to feed our minds. We don't think for ourselves. That's to much work. Read a book? Learn? Have my own opinion? Why would I take the time to do that when I can just get it from the latest sitcom?

The psalmist tells us that those who sat in darkness eventually "bowed their hearts down with hard labor, they fell down, with none to help." We can't let the world think for us. We mustn't just sit back and allow our hearts and minds to be influenced by worldly philosophies. We have to learn to feed ourselves, to think for ourselves, and to make wise decisions based on God's standards given to us in His Word.

3. The Lord Delivered Them From Sin (Psa 107:17-22)
"Some were fools through their sinful ways" - The ways of the world are attractive to our humanity. It's far to easy to get pulled into the sinful things of this world. If we wander aimlessly through life, if we allow the philosophies of the world to control our thinking, we will become as fools through our sinful ways.

It is so important to know and follow the commands God has given to us in His Word. God doesn't create a set of rules to make our life hard. The rules are meant to set us free! We have freedom within the boundaries of God's love for us. That should be exciting for us to know that God cares enough to give us guidelines that are meant to protect us from harm.

4. The Lord Delivered Them From The Pursuit of Worldly Wealth (Psa 107:23-31)
"Some went down to the sea in ships" - The psalmist goes on to describe the sea merchants who trade their goods in the marketplace. The Bible says "For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul?" (Matthew 16:26) You can spend your entire life working for wealth. But earthly wealth is fleeting. It can disappear in a vapor over night. Worldly wealth gives us a sense of ownership and entitlement. I worked hard, so I deserve it!

But the Bible teaches that we are to store up our treasures in heaven. "Where your treasure is there will your heart be also." (Matthew 6:21) Be careful that you don't get caught up in the lie of worldly wealth.

In each of these 4 examples, we see that the Lord was able to deliver! That's the good news! No matter how helpless you feel, or how hopeless it seems, the Lord will deliver you, if you will let Him! "Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress." God longs to have you join Him, to be a part of His amazing family. Through Jesus Christ we each have the opportunity to be adopted into His family. Are you feeling trapped? Do you feel like you are wandering in the desert? Sitting in darkness? Sining like a fool? Or chasing worldly wealth? Then why not stop right now and cry out to the Lord. He will deliver you, and give you strength and courage to do what's right.

"Let them thank the Lord for His steadfast love."



August 30, 2012

Another Month!

Last time I updated you we had received word that Garren's Medicaid would be extended to the end of August. Since tomorrow is the last day of August, I'm sure you're wondering what's going on? Well we have one more month! Because some of the paperwork is still in process, they are extending Medicaid coverage through the end of September. As far as I'm concerned, they can keep processing paperwork as long as they want!

We are also in the process of applying for CAP-C, which is a county level version of Medicaid (at least that's how I understand it). This extra month should buy us enough time to get through the approval process for this. Our prayer has been for uninterrupted nursing coverage for Garren, and so far that has been the answer - Praise God!

Last week we took a family vacation to the beach. Garren has been begging to go to the beach since he came home from the hospital last summer. Finally we were at a place where we could make it happen. Even though I missed a lot of time with my family due to a major church issue that I was dealing with, we had a great time.

The kids are back in school. Garren is going 5 days a week now. He has been assigned an assistant again this year. But this time Garren is mostly on his own. The assistant doesn't sit next to him in class, and doesn't escort him between classes. Garren is getting back into the social life of a high schooler. Nancy and I are very proud of the progress he is making. The other night I found out he was texting with some girls! Awesome! That's my boy!

We still continue to pray for Garren to swallow. Some encouraging news. Nancy spoke with a speech therapist a couple of weeks ago who said that she had worked with a patient several years earlier with a similar problem as Garren. She said that after 3 years, the patient started swallowing again. That gives us hope. And hope is what we all need, right?

Thanks for your prayers.

August 09, 2012

Medicaid, Moving On, and a Fire in the Oven

It's official. We got the letter in the mail yesterday:

"Medicaid for Garren will terminate effective 08/31/2012..."

What does this mean? Up until now Medicaid has been covering the costs of night nursing, medical supplies, and therapy. Our primary insurance will cover 20 therapy visits a year , and since I've been able to work with Garren at home we will be able to stretch those visits out. Nancy has already started scouring the internet for paces to buy food and other supplies at the lowest prices possible. As far as the nights go - once Garren goes to sleep, he doesn't need much attention. The big issue is that since he is unable to swallow, he could aspirate on his own saliva while sleeping. But recently he's been coughing less and less, so we are going to take turns sleeping in his room. If he needs something one of us will be right there to help.

Throughout the last 18 months, we've rejoiced when things were taken away: when they took out all the tubes and wires as they moved him out of PICU; when they took the trach out; when we cut nursing back to only nights; as we removed machines and devices from his room because they were no longer needed. We looked at those moments and were encouraged because it meant Garren was progressing. And now, we have yet another aid being removed. Our tendency is to look at this as a bad thing. But somehow I think this may be a good thing. Maybe we don't really need Medicaid any longer? Maybe this is what it takes to push us, to show us how much farther along Garren really is than we even think?

Philippians 4:19-20 says "And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen."

This promise has proven true over and over during the last 18 months. We have never once been in need. Medical expenses, pay reductions, car problems, school expenses - these have all been taken care of in amazing ways. So we can rest assured that God has whatever is next under control. He will supply every need of ours.

So I left Garren at home alone yesterday afternoon. Nancy was with her parents, and I took Kelsey with me to work. My phone rang and it was Garren calling from home.
"Dad!"
"What's up Garren!"
"O, never mind, it's ok now."
"Garren, what do you mean never mind? What's going on?"
"O, well, I was cooking some chips in the oven, and they caught on fire. But it's ok now, the fire has been extinguished."

My mind was having trouble comprehending what I had just heard. Fire? Like a real fire? In the oven?

"Garren - is the oven off?"
"Yes"
"And the fire is out?"
"Yes"
"What were you doing?"

Apparently Garren had found a recipe on the internet that he wanted to try out. But, according to him, "It didn't work out so well." We made a new rule - no cooking when you are home alone! We are thankful that Garren is so adventurous, and that he and our home are all ok!



August 04, 2012

Medicaid...The Latest

Thanks for your continued prayers. We continue to be baffled by the system. It seems every time we talk to someone we get a slightly different answer, with a slightly different possible outcome.

Earlier this week, Nancy spoke with someone who was able to look at Garren's record in the database. According to the computer, there is no indication that Garren's Medicaid coverage will end. We submitted Garren's re-enrollment application, which is currently under review. We are told that Garren has coverage at least until August 31st, or until the review is complete and we receive a letter stating otherwise. So for now, we still have night nurses, for which we are very thankful.

I will keep you updated on the latest. Thanks for continuing to remember Garren in prayer as he continues to heal.

July 19, 2012

3 Ways to Support 3 Families

We are humbled to be included in an upcoming fundraiser event. Spivey Insurance Group is hosting a softball tournament on July 28. The funds raised will go to help Garren, along with 2 other amazing families.

1. Like Spivey Insurance Group on Facebook in July and $1will be donated.
2. Participate in the Softball Tournament.
3. Come out on July 28 for family fun and enjoy food concessions



July 18, 2012

Tying Shoes

Through all the challenges, we have to remind ourselves to look for the progress in Garren's recovery. Sometimes we get so involved in the daily routines that we forget or overlook baby steps. Well the other day while I was driving Garren to therapy, he suddenly looked up at me and said "There, I did it!" "Did what?" I asked. "I tied my shoes."

Tying shoes is one of the first thing that Garren set out to learn how to do after he came home from the hospital last summer. He has learned how to do a lot of things in that time, but I remember clearly when he told his occupational therapist that he wanted to learn how to tie his shoes.

And now he can. Such a small thing for most of us, but a big step for Garren.

I am continuing to work with Garren at home, and he is doing great. The other day he walked up the stairs, did several sets of crunches, leg lifts and push ups, walked on the treadmill for 20 minutes (with me standing behind him to make sure nothing goes wrong), then repeated crunches, leg lifts and push ups, then walked backward down the stairs. It was a grueling work out, but he did great.

We continue to wait and pray for an answer to continuing with Medicaid. As of now we still do not know if we will have coverage after July 31.

July 15, 2012

Letting Go


I came out of the bathroom and she was crying. Sitting on the edge of the bed, she looked up at me, wiped her eyes, and said "It didn't hit me until just now that you're leaving." I sat down on the bed next to her and put my arm around her. She let me squeeze her close. She usually doesn't like that, but she seemed ok with it this time. "You'll be fine," I said. "Once you meet your roommate, and make some friends, you're going to have fun! This is what you've been looking forward to for so long!"

It was earlier this year when Kara received a partial scholarship to attend a one month summer program at NYCDA in New York. It would mean living in a dorm for a month, in a strange place, with new people. By God's grace we were able to come up with the money to pay for everything. So on Friday Kara and I flew to New York with her supplies for the month. We had fun. We tried to visit the 911 Memorial, but we didn't have tickets. We stopped by Time Square where we saw the Naked Cowboy. We walked through Central Park. Then we went to Yankee Stadium in hopes of finding some cheap tickets to the game that night. We did find some cheap tickets from some guy on the street. And we had fun.

That night we stopped for Chinese on the way home, then back to our hotel. We stayed at The Jane Hotel. The room was probably 5 ft by 8 ft, with bunk beds. We showered (down the hall) and climbed into bed. It was so hot! We opened the window, hoping it would cool down. Finally at 3am, miserable and sweaty, I read through the book with information about the hotel. Turns out we had an air conditioner controlled by a little white remote. We cranked it down as far as it would go and finally got to sleep.

The next morning I woke up around 9. I woke Kara up and we got dressed and packed, checked out of the hotel and headed to her new dorm. Dragging suitcases through the subway was quite the adventure, and walking into the St. George Hotel where Kara would be staying was refreshing. It's a great looking place. She got check in and we went up to see her room. It was spacious, with two beds, two desks, a bathroom, 2 closets, a TV, fridge and microwave. We decide to Facetime with Mom so she could take a look at the room.

Then we headed to get some lunch and stock the fridge. After a tasty BBQ lunch we found Trader Joes where we bought some basic things like milk, bread, cereal, PB & J and some other snacks. Then we walked back to the dorm. We were hoping to meet her new roommate, but they still had not arrived. Kara put her food away while I went to use the bathroom. That's when it hit her. As I hugged her, it began to hit me too. I knew I had to leave, but I really didn't want to. She walked me down to the subway station where I would begin my trip to the airport. She started to cry again. My mind was racing. I hugged her again. I told her to text me when she got back to her room. I turned and walked down the stairs to the subway with a sinking feeling in my chest. I sat on the bench waiting for the next train. Should I go back? Should I get my flight changed? What if her roommate doesn't show up? What if there's a problem? I knew that as soon as she met someone, and started getting busy, that she would be fine. I thought back to the time I had been dropped off by my parents when I was her age. Christiansen Academy in Rubio, Venezuela. I spent my senior year of high school there. In a different country.

As I changed trains I received a text from Kara. Her roommate had finally arrived, and she and her parents were really nice. The next time I checked on her, she was at Target with her roommate and her parents. I finally made it to the airport, nearly missing my flight. As I fly home, I have mixed feelings. I'm holding back the tears as I type. I'm so proud of Kara. She's so smart and ambitious. She's brave. She's going to have a great time. Part of me wishes I could stay to experience her joys. Part of me wishes I could be a part of her new adventure. At the same time, I know this is part of the growing up experience. I have to let her go. I have to entrust her to God's leading. I know she's going to have a great time. I know she's going to learn and grow a lot. I can't wait to hear about her great adventures over the next month.

** You can follow Kara's New York Adventure on her blog.

July 06, 2012

Uncertainty


As we continue along this journey, taking one day at a time, we find ourselves facing yet more uncertainty in our future. Just when we think we have things under control - that we have some sense of security - circumstances change, reminding us once again that we are not in control. We have to take our hands off, and let God lead the way.  He always does.

When Garren went into the hospital, he qualified for Social Security Disability Income. Because he qualified for SSI, he automatically qualified for Medicaid. These have been such wonderful programs. Medicaid has been paying for everything that our primary insurance did not cover, including night nursing and therapy.  We recently found out that Garren is no longer eligible for SSI. And since Garren is no longer eligible for SSI, he is not guaranteed Medicaid any longer. We have to wait now for a Medicaid review.

We have received different reports from different people, but it appears that we will not qualify for Medicaid. As of right now, SSI and Medicaid will end on July 31. What does this mean? We will not be able to continue having night nurses and will have to evaluate and possibly cut back on therapy visits.

But God is in control of every aspect of this journey. I was listening to an old song by Big Tent Revival - "Two Sets of Joneses" - and in one line he says "again God provided for bills He'd incurred." We've seen that happen so many times over the last 17 months. Bill after bill, need after need, God has provided. He is faithful, and will not leave us hanging.

Here's our prayer for right now - First, that Garren would start swallowing. That would eliminate the need for nursing altogether! And that God will provide the funding necessary to see to it that Garren continues to receive the care that he needs in order to continue toward a full recovery. Thank you for praying and trusting with us. 

June 19, 2012

Grandpa Time

One of Garren's biggest fans is my dad. Grandpa has really gone out of the way to give Garren opportunities to do fun things. During the school year Grandpa took Garren every Tuesdays to therapy. They would sing, drive and tell stories all the way there and back.

Recently, Grandpa decided it would be fun to be able to take Garren fishing. So he bought a boat. And now the two of them try to go fishing about once a week.



A couple of weeks ago, Grandpa supplied Garren with a riding lawnmower. Garren has been begging to drive. He wanted a golf cart. So when Garren got the lawnmower, he was excited to be able to get out and do something on his own. I help him get into the seat, and he cuts the grass! Not a bad deal!


Thank you Grandpa for being so awesome!

June 08, 2012

Last Day of School!

I put Kelsey on the bus for the last time this school year. It's the end of a season. The beginning of a new season. Kara and Garren have been finishing up exams this week. Garren aced his math exam on Wednesday. Kara got the highest grade in her class on her precalculus exame - 98%. Through all the stress of last minute studying, math worksheets, late nights and early mornings, we are finally through!

Garren continues to progress. The therapists continue to be encouraged with his progress. His legs and core are getting stronger all the time. I've been taking him to the gym a couple of times a week and we have had fun working out together. Garren is able to walk with a cane and with someone holding on to him. His goals right now are balance and endurance.

The swallowing continues to be his nemesis. We will continue to pray that God will heal his throat, so that things will begin working again soon. The therapist said to give him a couple of months, and then we can revisit the swallow therapy.

I'm looking forward to the change of pace for the summer. With the kids out of school we will be able to spend some good family time together. I'm looking forward to what God has in store for us next.

May 24, 2012

Keep Your Vertical Focus Clear


It's so easy to get focused on ourselves. That's because we tend to focus on what we can see. Look around. What do you see? Trouble. Heartache. Rich people. Poor people. Healthy people and sick people. These things can either cheer us up, or bring us down. We are easily drawn into the tangible, and our emotions are often guided by what we can touch and feel.

But if we live our lives constantly being pushed around by these constantly changing circumstances, trusting our emotions, and allowing ourselves to be lifted up and drawn down, we will become a wreck! It's no wonder there are so many psychological issues in our society! We are too focused on ourselves.

This is why it is so important for us to place our hope in Jesus Christ. He is our Rock and our Salvation. Apart from Him we can do nothing. Without Him we have no hope. He is the one on whom we should be focusing day and night. No matter what circumstance you face, no matter how tired you feel, focus on Jesus. He is the standard, the one unmoving thing in your life in which you can always be secure. He will never leave you nor forsake you. In the midst of the storm, in the valley of the shadow of death, and even in the green pastures by the still waters, Jesus is always there.

Where is your focus? On you and your problems? Take you focus off of yourself, and focus on the only one who never changes. Keep your vertical focus clear, and never take your eyes off of Him.

May 04, 2012

"The Walker"

Garren is continuously finding ways to make us laugh. And we need lots of reasons to laugh! So when I got home from work yesterday, he was dying to show me something that he had come up with. We gathered around the TV and this is what he showed us.

video


May 01, 2012

"I Work Out!"

Garren is doing great since his fall last week. Nothing broken, hardly any bruising. He's one tough kid.

Just before he fell, his PT had told him he could have a 10 minute rest, but only gave him 7 minutes. After Garren fell, he was sitting in his chair, and he looked up and said "I told you I was going to get my 10 minute break!"

I've started taking Garren to the gym with me. He is amazing. He is able to move from his wheelchair onto the workout machines, adjust the weights, and do his own workout. We've had fun going together. I am going today to Race to Walk to learn more about what kind of exercises Garren needs to be doing, so that I can continue to supplement his therapy at the gym.

Yesterday afternoon the PT worked Garren so hard. I haven't seen him sweat like that since football practice 2 years ago! I thought he would be worn out, but he went with me to the gym last night and did another hour of work. I'm so proud of him, and so glad that he loves working out, because that is the best thing for him right now.

April 28, 2012

Gravity Happens

What a week. It all started out normal - school, therapy, work - everything seemed to be going along as usual. On Thursday Garren decided to spice things up!

Thusrday morning we were scheduled for another swallow study. The last time we did this, several months ago, the results showed little or no progress from the previous study. The therapist wanted to get another look at what was going on inside his throat, so she scheduled another swallow study to help us determine how to go forward. Well, the results were disappointing to say the least. When Garren attempts to swallow, everything goes down to the beginning of the esophagus. But then it just spills back up and over into his airway, causing him to cough it back up. His body just isn't responding to the swallow the way it should. So while his mouth and tongue have gotten stronger, there is still a reflex and a response that are not happening.

We asked "what now?" Our therapist said that it would probably be best to take a break for 3-6 months, continuing with the strengthening exercises at home. Due to the nature of the injury to Garren's brain, this is one of those things that could just start working again. But there is no way to know if or when it will.

Later that afternoon Garren was at his physical therapy appointment. We love working with the team there. They are a great group of people who really want to see Garren walk on his own. Garren was working on his balance, with one of the PT's standing in front of him with a large strechy band wrapped around his waist. Garren began to fall forward, and responded the way he should have by putting his foot out in front to catch himself. But somehow his body twisted off to the side and he fell face first in the floor. He smacked his nose on the floor, busted his lip, and even lost consciousness for a few seconds. It caused quite a scare! They transported him to the emergency room just to make sure everything was ok. No broken nose, no stitches in his lip, and no concussion - so they sent him home.

Other than a fat lip and some bruising under his eyes, Garren is fine!

BTW - this was nobody's fault, and we want to make sure our devoted therapists know that we love you and are very thankful for all you are doing to help Garren. Please don't feel bad about this. As they say - "Gravity Happens!"

April 18, 2012

Impatience


I recently read the book "The Strategy of Satan" by Warren Wiersby. Here are a couple of quotes from that book that struck me:


"Satan seeks to make you impatient with God's will."


"He will try to control your will through pride so that you will think and act independently of the holy will of God."


"Whenever you an I act in direct disobedience to the will of God, we are displaying pride and independence."


"One of the most important lessons the believer must learn is that he cannot be independent of God."


I don't like to wait. I want what I want when I want it, which is usually now! Waiting is hard. Seeking God's will is hard. Waiting on God's will is hard. Sometimes I feel like Abraham, when God told him to pack up his family and "go to the land I will show you." (Genesis 12:1) My experience in following God has been much like that. "Get ready to go. I'm not going to tell you where, just follow Me. Just listen to My voice, I will lead you where I want you to go." This is so against everything within me. I'm the one who prints out a Google Map with step by step directions before I go on a road trip. I like to know exactly where I am going, and exactly how I am going to get there.


But God's plans are always better than my plans (and my plans are pretty good!) I have had to learn to be patient, to be secure in the Lord's promise to lead me, if I will just listen and obey. My prayer is that I will slow down, listen, obey, and follow Him, one step at a time.


So how can I know if I am making the right choices? How can I know if I truly am stepping out in faith and following God, rather than just doing what I think is best? Before you make a big decision, you might try using the following set of questions as a filter:


Test #1:
 "Am I doing this for the glory of God, or just to please myself?"


Test #2: "
Am I rushing ahead or am I willing to wait?"


Test #3: "
Can I defend what I am doing from the Word of God?

"
Test #4: "
As I contemplate this move, do I have peace and joy within?"


Don't allow Satan to use impatience to get you off track. Let the Holy Spirit control you from within. Give it all over to Him, listen, obey, and follow.

April 02, 2012

How's Garren?

How's Garren doing? That's the question. We hear it all the time. It is a constant reminder that there are people all around the world who continue to keep Garren lifted up in prayer. And we are so thankful for that.

As you know, there are two areas that Garren is focusing on right now: walking and swallowing.

Walking - Garren continues to impress his therapists with his hard work and determination. They love working with him because he loves working hard. A couple of weeks ago, they decided to speed up his walking on the Locomat, the fancy million dollar treadmill at the rehab center. Normally they would have him walk at a speed of about 1.7 km/hr. But they decided to bump it up to 4 km.hr. Garren did great! After 3 days of that, they had him try walking with a walker, unassisted. Until that day he had been able to take about 9 steps with the walker. I watched him take 51 steps with the walker, unassisted. It was slow, but it was awesome!

Swallowing - Back in January/February we had moved to Charlotte Eye Ear Nose and Throat for some specialized swallowing therapy - the McNeil program. We finally got approval from Medicaid, and began therapy every day for several weeks. The lead therapist was not impressed. We got the feeling that she did not enjoy working with children, and she admitted that she did not like filling out the Medicaid paperwork every three weeks. Garren worked with two other therapist there, alternating between the three. After 5 or six weeks, we decided to take Garren back to the speech therapist at CMC-Union that he had been working with before. She has since taken the McNeil certification course, and agreed to start seeing Garren again. She said right away that she could already see improvement. That's always nice to hear.

When I was standing in Garren's room about a week ago, I watched him sleeping. I saw him swallow in his sleep 2 times. Two of his night nurses have said they see him swallow in his sleep sometimes. I asked Garren if he is noticing anything. He said at school the other day, he threw up in his mouth a little bit, and his body swallowed it back down (this may sound gross...but I don't care!) And this morning during his speech therapy, his therapist says she saw him reflexively swallow.

Good news. Garren continues to show signs of progress. It is so nice to have some changes to report. Thank you for all of your prayers. Prayer really does work!

March 20, 2012

In The News

Last summer, Amy Cowman from WCNC Channel 36 News came out and did a story on Garren. Well, she came back last week and did a follow up story. So amazing to look back and see how far he has come! You can watch the news cast here: http://goo.gl/WMQv1


March 13, 2012

Things Garren Says

I've mentioned it before, but it just continues to blow me away. Garren is so positive. He has handled this whole AVM brain injury with such strength and maturity. And sometimes he says the funniest things! Here's some to make you laugh:

A couple of months ago, as we were gathering around the dinner table for a rare but welcome family dinner time together, Garren announced to us: "So, since I haven't been able to eat, I've had a lot of opportunity to watch you all, and I've learned some things about the way you eat. Dad, you eat fast, and you don't talk. Kelsey, you talk, and eat very slow. Kara, you separate all of your food, and you don't let anything touch. And Mom takes little bites."

Because he cannot swallow, Garren has to be fed a special liquid diet. It's called "1.5 Cal." So when we eat, he has a lot of time to sit and watch. The other day Nancy said something about feeling bad when she eats in front of Garren. She said it felt rude. At the time she said it, she was feeding Garren, and Kelsey was in the room. Garren looked up at Kelsey and said, "Kelsey, I'm sorry I'm eating in front of you!"

At school, Garren was supposed to write a short essay about his family. He told his assistant he needed some help. He wasn't sure what to write about. She said "Why don't you write about something going on with your family?" He thought for a minute, then said "Well, I had an AVM, my little sister is getting her tonsils out, my older sister is having headaches, my dad is having a problem with his eye, and my mom, well, she's just stressed!"

The other night Garren and Nancy were getting ready to play a game of Sorry. Nancy said "Go ahead Garren, youth before beauty." Garren looked up and said "Are you not playing?"

About a week ago I was cutting the grass. Garren and Nancy came driving home from one of his daily therapy trips. When he looked up and saw me pushing the lawn mower through the yard, he said to Nancy, "I love my AVM!" What a teenage boy will do to get out of cutting the grass!

I could go on. I'll try to share more of these stories in the future. Here's one more thing Garren said the other day. He and Nancy were talking to one of the nurses. She had had a stroke a couple of years back, and they were swapping brain injury recovery stories. Garren said "I'm glad my bleed happened where it did." Nancy asked him what he meant. He went on to say that he was glad that his personality, sense of humor and cognitive abilities were not affected. Though faced with serious limitations for now, he continues to have an amazingly positive outlook.

Thanks for all your continued prayers!


March 05, 2012

Chapters


Bittersweet. Sad. Hard to believe. Change is never easy. Like a book, life is a series of chapters. There are new beginnings. There are unexpected endings. There are twists and turns along the way that may not make sense until you reach the end of the book. While these changes can be exciting for those who have an adventurous spirit, they can also be stressful for those who feel the need to be in control all the time. If we truly believe that God is the author, then we can rest in the assurance that He has a plan.

Today we closed a chapter. We are closing the doors to our Southbrook Monroe campus. It's been an amazing ride. Four years ago we began this journey, and today it has ended. For now. We don't know what the future holds, but for now we will begin a new chapter, looking forward to something new and different.

God takes us on these journeys. We travel down the path He has ordained for us. He uses us for His glory along the way. If we faithfully follow Him, we learn to trust Him more and more. As we draw closer to Him, we tend to respond more quickly to His plans. And when His plans change (at least they appear to change from our perspective) we can make the changes we need to make in order to continue following Him, to stay close to Him, to obey His will.

There are many stops along the way. Are you paying attention? God has something for you to do. No step is wasted. No stop is in vain. Every hurdle matters. We tend to get discouraged when things don't go according to our own plans. But we shouldn't be concerned with our own plans. We should be concerned only with God's plan. His plans are always better than our plans.

I'm thankful for the opportunity to have played a part in this chapter called Southbrook Monroe. I was disappointed when I found out we would have to close. I understand the reasoning. As a church we cannot afford to sustain that part of the ministry right now. Everyone is making cutbacks because of finances. There are very few people today who have not been affected in some way by the economic state of our country, of our world. It makes sense on paper. What doesn't make sense is thinking about the ministry that has happened, and still is happening. Lives are being touched, changed forever. People are meeting Jesus face to face for the first time. Many are experiencing what the love of Jesus is all about, first hand. Why would God not want to sustain that kind of impact?

And I have to stop, and remember that God is the author. He began this chapter, He can end this chapter. He began the book, and He surely knows how the book will end. Can I trust Him with that? Can you? God's plans are always better than our plans.

I look forward to the next chapter. I look ahead with anticipation. Like a kid waiting in line to get on that new ride at the amusement park for the first time, I cannot wait to see what God has planned.

February 29, 2012

Still Going

No major breakthroughs, but I know many of you are praying and waiting for an update. Garren continues to progress, little by little.

Swallow therapy is slow and grueling. He hasn't actually been able to start the McNeil program. We are told that you actually have to be able to swallow in order to benefit from McNeil. The therapists have been working intensely and intentionally with him to help strengthen his tongue and mouth muscles. Hopefully, eventually, he will be able to start swallowing.

The physical therapists are amazed every time they see Garren. He continues to get stronger and steadier. He has a couple of crutches that he uses to walk. He can pretty much stand up on his own. He needs someone to help him balance. I helped him walk from our house to the stop sign at the end of our road, and back again. That was a total of about 700 feet. It took about 45 minutes. It was quite a workout, but he did it.

We have another month left of approved overnight nursing. Then we resubmit and pray for that to continue after the end of March. Once Garren can swallow consistently on his own, we will no longer need nursing - we cannot wait for that day!

Thanks for your continued prayers. Garren continues to joke around and make us laugh. We have so much to be thankful for.

February 13, 2012

Ridin' Solo

I haven't talked a lot about school so here's a quick update. Garren is doing great in school. Last semester he passed all his classes with no trouble. His teachers have all been great at helping him make sure he gets everything he needs. Nancy and Kara have spent countless hours helping Garren with homework. This semester is going great. Of course, just like any 15 year old boy, Garren would rather not go to school. But he is doing great with it.

Garren has had an assistant following him around at school. She has been meeting us at the car in the morning, walking everywhere with Garren, sitting with him in class, and then escorting him back to the car for pick up. Garren brought it to our attention that this was a little bit annoying. He didn't feel like he had any freedom. He felt confined and held back. So Nancy talked to the school, and starting today we are trying something new. I dropped Garren off by himself. He went to class all on his own - no help. He will meet three different assistants today, each in a different class. And when we pick him up, he is going to come to the car unassisted! Garren has always been pretty independent. I hope this new arrangement makes him feel more independent again.

Last week we had one of the therapists looking at Garren's manual wheelchair. Garren has really gotten good at pushing himself around. He prefers the manual chair over the power chair now. That is great! The therapist wanted to make some adjustments to the manual chair, to make it easier for Garren to use. But there's a problem. The chair isn't designed for someone as 'advanced' as Garren. When I heard this I said "What? We paid all that money for a chair that isn't what Garren needs?" Come to find out, when they customized the chair for Garren, they had no idea he would progress as quickly as he has. He has already outgrown the chair! Another reminder that Garren is progressing quickly and miraculously. They are going to make a couple of adjustments to try and make the chair last a little longer for Garren.


February 08, 2012

One Year Check-Up

We took Garren to see his neurosurgeon yesterday. Dr. Dyer and his team were waiting for Garren in the ER last year when he was taken to CMC Main. He is the one who did the surgeries.

First the P.A. came in and talked to us for a little while. He asked questions about how Garren was progressing. After a few minutes I said "Have you ever seen anything like this before? In person or case studies?" He looked down, looked at Garren, shook his head, and said "Honestly I didn't think there was any way Garren would survive. Cases like this don't usually leave the hospital." Then he used a word I don't recall having heard a doctor use: "It was a miracle." He said "Without getting too spiritual, the Good Lord had His hand on this one." Of course I quickly replied "You can get spiritual, that's ok. We know that God is taking care of Garren."

A few minutes later Dr. Dyer came in. He too asked questions about Garren's progress. We talked for a few minutes. Then he said something encouraging. "Having seen the progress Garren has made in the last year, I'm confident that he will continue to recover. Maybe another year or even two years. He's going to keep getting better."

As long as this road has been, and as much as we'd like to get to the end of this chapter of our lives, it's encouraging to have positive feedback from doctors who a year ago had little hope. We thank God for His hand of healing. We continue to trust His timing.

February 05, 2012

Rock Climbing, That's Right!


Yesterday was Garren's official one year anniversary. When we asked him what he wanted to do to celebrate, true to Garren's amazing drive and attitude, he said he wanted to try to rock climb at Inner Peaks indoor gym. So, of course, we took him. What a triumph to show how far he's come this year.

Through it all we are so thankful for you. You have helped in so many ways. Foremost, we thank you for your prayers. We thank you for your love, your kind and encouraging comments, visits, money to help with medical expenses, food, gas cards, house cleaning, vehicle help, playdates for Kelsey, rides for Kara, cards, posters, bracelets, t-shirts, 5k, golf tournament, skate night, food events and other fundraisers. The list goes on and on. Words cannot express our appreciation. Thank you for standing with us and we ask that you continue through the long haul.

We thank the Lord and praise Him for where Garren is right now in his recovery and we continue to fervently ask Him to restore Garren's swallow and balance.

God is good and in control. 

- Nancy 



February 03, 2012

One Year Down

Garren's AVM rupture actually happened on February 4th. But it was a Friday. The 4th is tomorrow, but today being Friday it's easy to reflect back. I remember sitting at the Monroe Campus waiting for Nancy to finish up with the Closet. She was helping some ladies pick out some clothes. That's when I got the call. We had planned to go to Duke's Grill for lunch that day. Well today we went. It was odd sitting there thinking that we were supposed to have eaten there one year ago today.

So much has happened. So many of you have journeyed faithfully with us through so much. I've met so many awesome people, heard so many inspiring stories, and have learned so much about myself. God has not wasted this year. We've all grown in different ways than we ever expected.

Recovery from brain injury is a long, slow process. They say it can take up to 3 years to make a full recovery. That's a reality that is starting to sink in more and more. We had all hoped for a miraculous 6 month recovery, then 8 months, then 1 year...but God's plans are always better than our plans. One year ago Garren lay lifeless in a hospital bed. The ventilator was responsible for keeping him breathing. Tubes and needles, beeping machines, and a tv monitor with all of his vital signs were constant reminders that things had gone terribly wrong. That was a year ago.


Here's Garren today. He can stand with the help of his crutches all by himself for about a minute or so. He did this for the first time this week!


We continue to believe that God is going to restore Garren. And we continue to pray for that daily. We have many more lessons to learn, and even in the midst of helping Garren recover, God is giving us opportunities to lean on Him even more.

1 year down.

Thank you for your prayers and your encouragement.

February 02, 2012

Still Waiting

It's been almost two weeks since we were hoping to have been approved by Medicaid so that Garren can start this new swallow therapy. We've had to cancel 7 sessions so far, all because of paperwork. We're told it's not a matter of if, but when, the paperwork will come through.

I know it's all in God's timing, but the waiting never gets any easier.

Hopefully we'll have good news soon.

February 01, 2012

Day 363

In just three days we remember the day we started this journey. It'll be 1 year on Saturday, February 4th. So much has happened, God has faithfully supplied our needs. We have seen the great power that the Lord used. One of the verses that really latched onto our hearts a year ago was Exodus 14:14. "The Lord will fight for you, you have only to be silent." When Garren was laying lifeless in the hospital, that was all we could do...be silent.

As we approach the anniversary of it all, I am once again faced with this verse. In fact, I have had to lean into verse 13 as well: "And Moses said to the people, 'fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.'"

As I reflected on these verse, I went back and began reading the entire chapter. It's the account of Moses finally leading the Israelites out of Egypt:


  • Exodus 14:1-4 - The Israelites are led by God into the wilderness. They are being freed from slavery, but God leads them right into a trap! He tells them exactly where to go, and then He says "I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and he will pursue them." God orchestrated a failed escape! Why? "And I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, and the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord."


  • Exodus 14:5-9 - Pharaoh sends his army to recapture the Israelites. They trap the people between themselves and the Red sea. There is no way out, no escape. It's a hopeless situation.


  • Exodus 14:10-14 - As certain disaster closes in, Moses reassures the people "Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord." Do you believe that God is in absolute control? Do you believe that He orchestrates the events in your life? I do. But I have to admit there are times when I look around, and all seems lost. There is no escape, there is no way out. I have to imagine the Israelites looking at Moses and saying "Fear not? Stand Firm? You be still and stand firm! We're about to die!"


  • Exodus 14:15-18 - Then God tells Moses to do the most impossible, irrational, ridiculous thing. First He says to Moses "Why are you crying to me?" My response would've been, "Why am I crying to you? Are you serious? Do you not see what's happening here? You led us into a trap!" Then he tells Moses "Lift up your staff, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, that the people of Israel may go through on dry ground." Now we read that, and many of us know what happens next. We know that Moses parts the Red Sea when he lifts his staff. But Moses had never seen or heard of anything like this before! It was absurd! They were backed into a corner, there was no way of escape, and God tells Moses, almost as if it was the only obvious thing to do, to lift his hand and stretch out his staff and part the Red Sea!

Are you backed into a corner? Does it look hopeless from every angle? Is there no way out? Are you crying out to God? What is the ridiculous, impossible, absurd thing that God is calling you to do? If you were Moses, would you have had the guts to stand before the people of Israel and actually lift your hands and stretch out your staff? It was absurd! Parting a sea is impossible! That just doesn't happen!

I am convinced that many times we remain trapped and defeated by our own version of the Egyptian army, because we are afraid to do what we know God is telling us to do. We're afraid of what people will think, or what they will say. We are too busy analyzing the situation, strategizing, looking for a way out, when all the time God holds the way out. If only we would obey Him.

But if we will listen, and obey, our Lord will fight for us, we have only to be still.

January 29, 2012

Delays

Garren was scheduled to begin his new swallow therapy - the McNeil Program - last Tuesday. We got a call that same day informing us that they are still waiting to hear from Medicaid. Until they get approval from Medicaid they will not start the therapy. So the next start date is this Tuesday. Please pray with us that Medicaid approves this new therapy.

Speaking of Medicaid and prayer, our overnight nursing is scheduled to end on January 31. We've submitted all the paperwork for an extension, so Lord willing we will hear from Medicaid on that very soon. Otherwise we're going to be pulling some all-nighters.

We continue to pray and wait.

January 18, 2012

Car Exchange

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that Nancy had been in an accident with the van. Everyone's fine - just wanted to update you on the situation.

The accident happened on a Wednesday evening. It would be Friday before we could get a copy of the police report, and several more days before the insurance company would even take a look at the damage on the van. From everything we can tell, the other driver was at fault, so we were at the mercy of their insurance agent. Finally, on Wednesday (a week later), a tow truck showed up to take the van to a body shop.

Meanwhile, my good friend David (who helped us with this van) was working behind the scenes on a replacement van. The next thing I know he's talking to me about when I can come pick up the new van! What? Another van that quickly? I can't go into all the details, but I can tell you that no matter what happens, God's hand is in it. Was it frustrating to have to deal with not having a wheelchair van for a couple of weeks? Yes! Garren especially did not enjoy taking his manual chair to school. But God provided another van, and we are back in business.

Thanks for your continued prayers. Garren is continuing to progress, and get stronger every day. The physical therapists who are working with Garren said Monday that once Garren's sense of balance kicks in, he'll be walking in no time.

Next week Garren starts his McNeil program, a 3 week, 5 day a week intensive swallow therapy.

Today we have another evaluation from the home nursing company so that can request another month of overnight nursing from Medicaid. His current overnight nursing ends an the end of January.


January 05, 2012

Endure vs. Enjoy


We've settled into somewhat of a routine. We have night nursing (approved through the end of this month) from 11pm until 7am. Since I'm the early riser in our house, I go to bed around 10 so I can be up early enough to have my quiet time in the morning before anyone else gets up. I walk Kelsey to the bus stop at 6:30, then take over when the nurse leaves at 7. Nancy stays up until 11pm when the nurse gets there. She helps Kelsey get up and ready for school, then lays down for another hour or so. It's working.

There are so many things we'd change right now if we could. That's the case for all of us, I'm sure. We all have those things in our lives that could be "better." We'd all love to make little (or big) adjustments and get our lives back to the way we had planned. But that's just not the way it works.

We're tired. So are you I'm sure. Pressing on is wearisome. Finishing a race is hard. It starts out great - you're fresh, you're excited to run well, to finish strong. But at some point you begin to question why you're even out there. I can think of a lot of things I'd rather be doing, like sleeping in on Saturdays...

But we must press on. We do what we have to do to get through. We endure as best we can.

Andrew Murray, in his book "Humility," wrote about the apostle Paul. Paul said "Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my weaknesses, that the strength of Christ may rest upon me. Wherefore I take pleasure in weakness: for when I am weak then am I strong" (2 Cor. 12:9-10).

Murray writes: "Instead of simply enduring it, [Paul] most gladly gloried in it; instead of asking for deliverance, he took pleasure in it."

This is a humbling thought. When I am faced with difficult circumstances, I don't really feel like rejoicing. I don't really want to be happy or joyful about it. I want to get through it, be done with it, and move on. But true joy, true happiness, is not found in quickly finishing the trial! I must, as Paul, learn to be content in every circumstance and situation. But it's more than just being content, I must rejoice, glory in the circumstance in which God has placed me! I must become less so that He can become more. I must accept my weakness, for when I am weak, then am I strong.

Yesterday afternoon I dropped a car off at the shop for repairs. Yesterday evening Nancy called to inform me that she had been in an accident with the van. We are thankful that no one was hurt. It wasn't anything too serious, although the van is out of commission until it can be repaired. We sat in my office last night and looked at each other and said "It's just one thing after another!" And it is. We are not in control. God is. We just have to learn to enjoy, rather than endure, the trials and circumstances He is leading us through.

"Jesus, help us to rejoice, to take pleasure in these trials. As much as I want to be through it, help me to trust You and Your timing in all of this. We continue to pray for Garren to be able to swallow. Help us to be strong in Your strength as we learn to enjoy, rather than endure. Amen."