Category Archives: theology

Disneyland Experiences

***I’ve intended to blog about this for years. If I ever write a book, you can bet some items I am about to touch on will play a significant part of my story. ***

When I was a little girl I had a reoccurring dream. Actually, I had a few. One involved camping in pueblos with my family when a buffalo stampede headed in our direction. Even though I could never get packed up and in the car on time, no one was ever injured or killed because I woke myself up before the buffalo arrived.

But I digress. This particular reoccurring dream was really more of a reoccurring motif. The specific details always varied, but the setting and outcome were completely consistent. In one fashion or another I was about to go to Disneyland. Tickets in hand, or perhaps in line purchasing tickets. It always ended the same. I woke up right before entering the park. Perhaps I woke up because I had to use the bathroom, or maybe my alarm went off.

But every. single. time.

I woke up. No Disneyland.

I’m in no way superstitious, except for maybe with sports. (Don’t call it a perfect game. It’s x number up, x number down until it’s 27 up, 27 down. Then feel free to call it what it is, perfect.)

I don’t think my dreams carry prophetic power. Expect for maybe that one time I dreamed an airplane was falling out of the sky, toward me, because it’s engines fell off. While the dream was intense and extremely scary, it didn’t strike me as unsual because it was only a few days after 9/11. But then this happened the day after my birthday that year : “The plane’s two engines also separated from the aircraft before it hit the ground.” (I DON’T think my dreams are prophetic. This was just a terrifying coincidence.)

Anyway – back to my Disneyland dreams.  The fact that I almost got to Disneyland but never got through the gates, that gut check of disappointment has stayed with me. When it comes to real life, I’ve had some major disappointments hit me pretty hard. A few of them, if I’m honest, rung up in my mind as “Disneyland experiences” when I was in the middle of them.

What I mean by that is as I was walking forward into a hopeful experience, something settled into my gut and my mind as “I don’t think this is really going to happen. I think this is surreal. I think this is a Disneyland experience.” and then sure enough, whatever it was fell through and didn’t happen.

A few of my more memorable Disneyland experiences are as follows:

*The time I expected to be in concert choir in 12th grade. It was something I worked for since 7th grade and I was hopeful, but something rang a little sour in my mind. It was something I wanted so bad, I thought it would not really happen. Sadly – my audition was not my best and I didn’t make it.

*I applied to Moody Bible Institute (twice).  Both times, my grades, my life experiences, my ability to write and communicate – all pointed to me be accepted no questions asked. And yet, in my mind, I had a hard time actually picturing myself in Chicago, going to college. Shocking everyone – except maybe me? – I was not accepted (twice).

*Going to China to teach English. I was on a team in college that was headed to China to teach English. We prepared all year. I was skeptical that little Debra would actually get to travel to over an ocean to China. When we had our printed tickets in had, I started to give into the idea that it was really happening. Then five days before we were to leave, the trip was cancelled (thanks SARS).

Don’t get me wrong – I’ve been wrong. I’ve had the “Disneyland experience” gut feeling and the expected experience came to pass. I didn’t really believe I was going to Wheaton for graduate school until we were in the car driving there. I’m thankful to have been wrong. (Although, I was partly right – Mark Noll, the professor I wanted to learn from the most and the reason I applied to Wheaton, left Wheaton after 27 years. He took a position at Notre Dame. This took placy during the one year between my acceptance and attendance when I deferred so I could pay off my car before school. No Mark Noll. “Disneyland Experience” strikes again.)

And as odd as it may sound to say, I’m thankful I was right sometimes too.

Maybe this is why some think I’m pessimistic. I considered myself a realist. I don’t want to get my emotions involved on the front end of things too early. If something seems to good to be true, it often is. It’s ok that these “Disneyland experiences” fell through.

Some of my biggest disappointments are paramount in shaping me into the person I am today. If I went to Moody, I missed out on Edmonton & NABC/Taylor. And come on, who doesn’t want to have a school in their past that had two names, was so small it’s now closed, and played sports in the city league. 😉  I kid! I wouldn’t trade the friendships and growth as an intellectual Christian for the world. I LOVED my time in the True North. And as a bonus, I attended school in Chicago later anyway.

Honestly, because I know things can go terrible wrong, not as hoped and dreamed, but still be ok – if not better – in the long run, it helps me continue to have a concrete trust that God is good. That God loves me. That God loves my family. That his plans are better than I could imagine. Better than I can dream.

My son’s memory verse right now for church is Psalms 18:30. God’s way is perfect. All the Lord’s promises prove true.

Even if that means my ticket to Disneyland just got sucked up into a tornado. Who knows, it could. I do live in Tornado Alley after all.

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Positive Thinking, it’s not what you Think

I’ve been thinking about this post for about 2-3 weeks now and with tomorrow being 4 weeks since my surgery, I thought I should probably write it.

Where do I begin?

I guess I will briefly mention that heart surgery is my fourth major surgery since 2002. The first three (gall bladder removal and 2 c-sections) were not the best experiences (UNDERSTATEMENT!) and I’ve been dreading heart surgery ever since. Not the actual surgery – but the recovery.

I tend to over think, over analyze, over plan, worry, get anxious, and spend all together too much time anticipating negative things.

Because of this, Philippians is one of my favorite books of the Bible. Why? Because generally speaking it’s all about Joy.

Paul is writing from chains and he can’t “shut up” about being thankful and full of joy. He is excited about all of the things God is doing in spite of (or rather because of) Paul’s difficult circumstances.

The book as a whole is the antithesis of my negative normal.

Looking at specifics, Philippians has many powerful verses that remind me God is good and he commands me to rejoice. He commands me to not be anxious. He commands me that “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable” I should think on such things (Phil 4: 8).

When I was in college, I wrote the following, in large print, on paper:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6 & 7

And then I stuck it on the ceiling over my bed. It was a very helpful reminder and many nights I stared up at it, repeating the words in my head, letting the peace of God calm my anxious heart.

I’m not bragging here. I’m telling you I have a REALLY hard time being positive and joyful. And I’m constantly challenged by God’s best for me, as spelled out in Philippians. He doesn’t give any exemptions or qualifiers. He just says “rejoice”!

What I don’t mean

At the same time, this joy, not being anxious, often also seen as “positive attitude” or “positive thinking” is NOT in the same as when people say things like “I’m sending you positive thoughts (or vibes or whatever)”.  There is not positive energy that exists in the universe as some type of currency we can pass around to each other.

This “rejoice” God commands is also NOT some type of guarantee that things will go well, here on earth. It’s not a magic formula. Think positive and you will have a wonderful life. Paul, writer of Philippians, is an example of that as he was probably killed for the faith. (See more here)

So what does all this mean in relation to heart surgery?

I am extremely grateful for the timing of how everything went. I’m thankful for the support network surrounding me. I’m thankful for the circumstances and the results.

I don’t specifically think I automatically am having a good recovery because I’m more joyful. At the same time I also don’t discount that perhaps God commands us to rejoice because he knows he built our bodies to respond better (scientifically speaking) when we are positive.

God loves us more than anyone can even wrap their mind around. He loves me more than my parents love me. He loves me more than my boys, or than JJ, love me. His commandments are an out flowing of that love. Because he is the definition of love and everything that is good, because he is all powerful and all knowing, because he wants the absolute best for me – he commands me in ways that are sometimes very confusing and backwards looking to me. Yet, I trust that he is who he says he is.

He wants the best for me. And in Philippians, he commands me to rejoice in all things and in all circumstances.

In summary – Positive thinking is not what you think. It’s not because I want things to go well. It’s not because things are going well. It’s because He loves me and he commands me to rejoice. And – in opposition to my negative normal – it is Christ in me, from which the Joy overflows.

To His Glory, forever. Amen.

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Figuring it out

We are still trying to figure out this one pain med, trying to find the balance between enough to help but not burn up my stomach lining. That’s probably why I’m awake right now – had to take the new adjusted dose. It’s been 12 and a half hours since the last and I just couldn’t push another hour trying to get the med back on a 6am/6pm timeframe.

So while I sit here waiting for the new dose to kick in (and hopefully go back to sleep), I was thinking,

God is so good. This recovery has highs and lows, but God is consistently, unchanging and Good. I like consistency. I don’t like change. I’m glad I can trust him.

Some examples of good he keeps sprinkling into this last few weeks:

*Z has been unexpectedly sweet and generally understanding that I’m fragile. His normal is “I squish you!” And then he jumps on me. Yesterday his play time consisted of playing “Dr” and setting a pillow and towel on my feet to keep the germs away.

*E has been sleeping through the night more than ever. Not always, but there is a vast improvement. He often does 10 hours. This started while I was at the hospital and it’s one of my recent prayer requests.

*My long legs and surprisingly stronger than expected abs have allowed me to conquer standing up out of chairs, beds, and couches much better and quicker than I thought it would be. This gives me a little independence and it also allows my husband to sleep though the night when I have to pee. 😝

Kinda small things when looked at by themselves out of context. Kinda huge things all put together in context.

God is good.

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April by the Numbers

Last month I commented that we were not going to keep the same pace – as we are running out of things to sell (true – we sold nothing this month).

Then I mentioned that we were really pumped because on the self-employed front, a large job that we’ve been waiting for closed. But we also had taxes coming.

Then our washer broke and we got a new one.

SO – how did it all play out for the numbers? Really well, actually. I’m totally stoked to report this month. So first the numbers, and then a little commentary.

The Numbers

Extra income: $0

Extra items we had to squeeze into the family budget:

A Washer – $467 (three cheers for Scratch & Dent stores!)

An MRI – $612 (Yeah for FSA/Insurance? Thankfully, the entire amount was not out-of-pocket. Still – this is a hefty unexpected amount.)

Had we not had a large job finish – we would have had to reach back to the emergency fund for these two items. Instead, we were able to cash flow them right into this month’s budget.

Extra Debt paid: (drum roll….) $6,338 (boom! that’s right. HVAC – Buh-bye!)

Total Debt paid in April: $6,818*

Since 1/1/2012 – Total Debt Paid off: $17, 459*

(If you’ve been following along at home, I had to update some of the old numbers. Did my math wrong in January, which threw everything else off)

Basically, April Rocked!

The Commentary
I must point credit where due. Yes, we work hard sticking to a budget, not spending, and forcing ourselves to send extra dollars to debt. BUT ultimately, it’s all due to the Grace of God. He is our provider. This is most obviously seen in the jobs that come in for my hubby (like the big one that allowed this month’s payoff). It’s seen a little more subtly in the fact that I even have a job (lest I forget that last year, I was unemployed for 9 months).

The overriding reason that we are even doing this debt goal in the first place is to be better stewards of our money. To be able to, eventually, give more away. Throughout this entire debt free process, we continue to tithe faithfully, as well as stay committed to a few individuals we’ve promised to support.

Believe you me, it’s always tempting to just skip tithing and throw it at debt. “I can pay you back God – when I am out of debt like you want me to be” (in the past as a single person, I’m embarrassed to admit I would occasionally fall into this false thinking).

Thankfully, this time around, we are doing this through the lens of truth, giving back to our Provider first and foremost, before the other dollars are dispersed in the budget, before the overflow going to debt.

*For the purpose of Baby step 2 we are not factoring in our home mortgage

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A prolonged Saturday?

Sometimes, it feels like we are living in the “Saturday.”

There was Friday (it was bitter, but good) and there was Sunday (we Know Christ is Risen) – but what do we do with right now?

He Lives. The Victory is won. But there is still pain; there is still sorrow in the World.

It feels like we know Friday happened, we know he promised to rise in three days. We know He fulfiled that promise and in fact did rise on that First Easter Morning. Now we are living in the “in-between” – in the light of his Promise to return again. A Saturday of sorts?

Waiting, with hope, for Sunday? He is coming back.

I don’t point out our current Saturday situation simply to reflect on the downtrodden and weary issues of the day. I say it  with a sense of wonder and hope; a sense of anticipation and excitement.

Easter reminds me how glorious it must have been to first discover the grave was empty.  And if the grave could not contain him – death has no power. In this Saturday, what do we have to fear?

With an empty grave and death losing its sting – I can’t help but hold a transfixed eye on the Savior who is Perfect Love.

There are no more powerful credentials he could present that that of keeping the first promise to rise.   One Marvelous day, we will once again see with our eyes, the Risen Lord.  His word is good. His promises hold strong.

It was Friday. It may be Saturday, but we Know – Sunday’s a Comin’.

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Filed under already & not yet, christ, death, hope, theology

Joyful Weeping

Lisa’s memorial service was today. It was both very joyful & hopeful while also being sad.

I don’t think it’s sunk in yet for me. That there will be no more memories made with Lisa here on earth. It might not sink in that she is gone and just not moved geographically until it’s a few years out, when all of my friends and I grow older and my idea of Lisa is frozen in time.

The service was wonderful. Point blank asking what Lisa would ask of each of us. “What are you going to choose? In this moment of sadness, are you going to turn to God? Or are you going to turn from God?”

She was never shy about calling people out. Pointing out truth. In moments of sorrow, our hope is in turning to God.

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Filed under already & not yet, christ, hope, theology

Lisa’s Memorial

If anyone is interested, the memorial for Lisa will be:
Saturday, April 16 at 2 pm
Highland Baptist Church
8202 Boedeker
Dallas, TX 75225

“In lieu of flowers, financial gifts can be sent to Highland Baptist Church. Monies will be distributed to ministries that were dear to Lisa’s heart – Bulgarian Child Inc., Evangelical Baptist Church, Kazanlak, Bulgaria, and the Hope Pregnancy Center in Canton.”

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