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. ūüėČ  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. ūüėĚ

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 Рdeath 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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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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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‚Äôs heart ‚Äď Bulgarian Child Inc., Evangelical Baptist Church, Kazanlak, Bulgaria, and the Hope Pregnancy Center in Canton.”

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Lisa

L-R Michelle, Sophie, Lisa, Debra, Paula at our friend Jenni's wedding

wow… It’s been an incredible couple of years. ¬†I am so thankful to have met Lisa two years ago.

Lisa had an infectious smile. ¬†Seriously, think “Stereotypical, gorgeous Texas Woman” and that was Lisa. She could line dance. She could wear the fanciest high heals with confidence. She could walk into any room and instantly have new friends. She would do anything for her friends. Need an encouraging text? Have a bad day and want to have a shoulder to cry on? Want a nice note in the mail via snail mail out of the blue? one word: Lisa.

On our first small group meeting, she shared about her recent health issues, how she had a very rare tumor and surgery to take it out cost her part of her lung.  It sounded serious, but we all prayed with her and thanked the Lord that so far, she was able to move forward, increasingly with distance in time from the illness.

We celebrated together a year ago when she had a clean scan. No tumor!

We laughed together until we cried at her parents house for our small group retreat last spring. I don’t even remember what we were laughing at, but it was marvelous.

Also last spring, she sat a boy (my now husband) down for a conversation about “his view on relationships” drawing out info to pass along to me. (I had no idea she did this until after!) ¬†After my hubby & I started dating, I learned that she had numerous conversations with him, including a “Don’t you break her heart! Don’t you String her along!” conversation.

We cheered her along, prayed for her, as she traveled to Bulgaria in the summer to train and equip christians as well as to work with orphans.

She encouraged and uplifted me as we worked together to be wise and make good financial decisions.

We prayed profusely as word that the tumor was back and she needed surgery again. When the September surgery didn’t go as well as hoped, we prayed, we laughed, we visited, we believed that God’s plan is unknown to us and it is better than we could imagine.

We cried when the tumor was back again 2 weeks ago and the outlook was not good.

We knew the end was coming quick. We know that God loves Lisa more than any of us.

And today we celebrate.

With tears in our eyes, but a song in our heart, we know that Lisa is with our Heavenly Father.

She is no longer in pain. She is no longer sick. She is no longer fighting. No longer struggling with the things of this world.  She is with the One who loves her.  Peace and Comfort. Warmth and Light. And a place where she can once again, use her beautiful voice to praise the One paid her debts and will one day raise her life up from the dead.

Finally I ask, do you know the One? Did you know that he paid your debt (just like he paid Lisa’s & mine?). And he promises to raise your life up from the dead. Both litterally in the future (we’ll all die) BUT also Now.

Live life abundantly, because that is why he came. Lisa lived life to the fullest because of Christ. I hope my life Count’s for Christ as the example that Lisa set did. ¬†I hope that one day, it will be known that I lived Life Abundantly, because of Christ.

John 10:10b I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

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Please Pray for Lisa

A dear friend of mine is in desperate need of prayer. She has been fighting hard against a very aggressive tumor.  With surgery 2 years ago, it came back this summer.  We almost lost her on the operating table in September.

The Doctors fought hard for her, extending a surgery several hours longer than planned – getting a softball size tumor out, re-sectioning a portion of her aorta, it was a VERY difficult surgery.

Since that time, Lisa’s been living and fighting hard. She was to be part of my wedding, but due to a sudden emergency wasn’t able to make it. She’s been re-learning to walk and do everyday things.

Today we got word that the tumor is back, and I am a bit numb having to type such words, it will take a miraculous healing from the Lord.

Please join me in praying for Lisa.

Dear Jesus,

Healer of broken-bodies and hurting-hearts. Please comfort Lisa & her family during this time. Please free her from pain.

Lord we beg that you chose to show your miraculous healing power and cleanse this disease from Lisa’s body so that we might enjoy more time with her. ¬†She is your beautiful daughter, full of life and encouragement, full of smiles and wise words. A person of strength.

Lord, ultimately we know your will is best, and to your will we submit.  We praise you in all things. We know that as much as I or anyone loves Lisa РYou love her more.

I thank you Heavenly Father, for how you reign in all things.  And I thank you for how your glory is displayed in the life of Lisa and her family.

Amen.

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When Parallel Lines Collide…

…with a hurricane, there must be some kind of resolve.

What do I mean? I think that I mean I see the world in lines. Intersecting lines of intellectual thought, theology, emotion, creativity, spirituality, philosophy, scientific calculation, and mathematical exactness to name just a few.  These lines run in many directions, until they swirl around in a seemly abstract jumble Рgiving the appearance of both mysterious chaos and understandable structure at the same time.

From this – I like to see the connections and draw more lines between the lines that already exist. Integration. That’s how it is for me with the music of Switchfoot. The lines that I draw between, through and around the songs, the parallel (and sometimes perpendicular) lines of my life, the planet I tread on, and that which I cannot see – though hope for.

Let me go back about 9 years:

I first heard “Dare You to Move” in college – off of a friend’s mixed cd, playing in his truck. Nice. I liked it. I thought they were from Canada, because up until this time, none of my US friends had told me about this band full of surfers. Through the school year, the song played, and the debate raged, which is better, the chorus or the bridge (everyone knows it’s the chorus after the bridge).

And so my introduction to Switchfoot was complete. ¬†I picked up “Learning to Breath” and I was on my way. ¬†Many an evening was spent studying to the cd, or taking a study break to practice my simple beginner’s beat – drumming to the title track.

And so I went on with life, time went by, and I spent my hours studying and jamming to Switchfoot. Through the course of the year (after I was thoroughly hooked) the rest of the world started hearing about them because of the soundtrack of a little movie called “A Walk to Remember”. ¬†I also went to the Edmonton Switchfoot concert for about 2 bucks, the definition of College: good music on a budget.

At the end of my college career, I participated in a trip (long story – supposed to be teaching English in China – ended up painting in Philadelphia). ¬†While I was slapping blue paint on Nursery walls, singing my heart out to “Playing for Keeps,” thinking about how This is for real. Life is all in.

We went on a field trip day to NY City. ¬†6 hours. One huge place. My main memory, Virgin Records store, Second floor of 4. The brand new Switchfoot Album “The Beautiful Letdown” which I purchased and then convinced 4 of my other 5 team mates to also buy.

As the trip ended, I head back to E-town for two final weeks with friends before I ripped my heart out, returned home from the frozen tundra and grieved the end of my childhood, and the death of college friendships that can not be kept up from afar.

You may recall the song “Meant to Live” the break out single. I remember track 2 “This is your Life” – from the opening sounds. Hearing, and ¬†closing my eyes take me back 6 years to sitting in front of a computer, playing Roller Coaster Tycoon, waiting for my friends to come home from work.

This is your Life, Are you who you want to be?

This is your life, is it everything you dreamed that it would be

when the world was younger, and you had everything to loose.

That’s it. The question. The abyss of future starkly in front of me. This song, and this cd became the definition of the notes I was living. It paralleled the world I was walking in.

Over the years, I’ve chalked it up to the fact that Jon Foreman (lead singer, frontman and song writer of Switchfoot) is a couple of years older than me. So naturally, he writes a song, it gets on an album, and by the time the album comes out, it’s a couple of years later. The song breaks into my world at approximately the same age and life stage that Jon was living when he probably wrote it.

On that note, I went home.

I spent three years working for a construction company. Digging back in time, listening to old school Switchfoot.

Albums like “the Legend of Chin” and “New Way to be Human” got me by with their punk rock youthful spirit, a good dosing of fun and an occasional song with more sobering questions and pleads. ¬†Particularly off of New Way to be Human — Let that Be Enough. ¬†When I was feeling like life was NOT what I thought it would be – I would drive, run errands for work, listen and cry along to this song. ¬†At the age of 22, a college grad, slightly having lost my way in regards to career, missing my friends, and wondering “is this it,” I was signing

I wish I had what I need
To be on my own
‘Cause I feel so defeated
And I’m feeling alone

And it all seems so helpless
And I have no plans
I’m a plane in the sunset
With nowhere to land

And all I see
It could never make me happy And all my sand castles
Spend their time collapsing …

…It’s my birthday tomorrow
No one here could now
I was born this Thursday
22 years ago

And I feel stuck
Watching history repeating
Yeah, who am I?
Just a kid who knows he’s needy

Let me know that You hear me
Let me know Your touch
Let me know that You love me
Let that be enough

Beyond those sad and sometimes, simply dark, times – Switchfoot followed up with “Nothing is Sound” – in my discouraged world, occasionally sick and worn out — The rocking album, though not one of their best, was dark and with a touch of anger. ¬†Yes there was a little hope – but in my world, most of the “Sunshine” emphasized the “Shadow” Not the other way around. ¬†All I saw was shadow. And in my world “Happy” was most definitely a “Yuppy World.” Happiness seemed shallow, empty, and unattainable.

I didn’t stay completely stuck in the mud. I went back to school. Grad school at that. Though in many respects, my attitude and outlook was equally as torn down. My “Lonely Nation” of just me – was going to classes, starting to soak up some life, but it wasn’t how I wanted it to be.

With a new degree in hand, but no job, and a harsh break up of sorts freshly added to my resume, the end of Grad school looked to be similar to undergrad. Not what I wanted – because I wasn’t what I wanted. How had I bought the lies? ¬†After all this time – I had the truth for so long… Again, not the highlight of the Switchfoot repertoire, Oh Gravity! but it brought some new tunes, and new ways for me to scream my lungs out to something I knew I believed in.

When success is equated with excess
The ambition for excess wrecks us…

…I want out of this machine
It doesn’t feel like freedom

This ain’t my American dream
I want to live and die for bigger things
I’m tired of fighting for just me
This ain’t my American dream

Here I am – about 9 years since the words and melodies, the disonent, minor chordes of grity guitar started weaving its lullubies in and out of the themes of my life.

Today is my 29th Birthday.

Am I out of the dark forest completely – no probably not. I still struggle with things like “being tired of fighting for just me” – I see a bigger world, bigger things, I want to be a part, I want to jump in head first. But the song I’m singing has changed for brighter tones. Not without discord – not entirely. But with a bit more hope. With that I leave you my current Switchfoot anthem

Hello Hurricane – Your love is a song:

I hear you breathing in
another day begins

the stars are falling out
my dreams are fading now, fading out

I’ve been keeping my eyes wide open
I’ve been keeping my eyes wide open

your love is a symphony
all around me
running through me

your love is a melody
underneath me
running to me

your love is a song

the dawn is fire bright
against the city lights

the clouds are glowing now
the moon is blacking out

I’ve been keeping my mind wide open
I’ve been keeping my mind wide open

your love is a song

with my eyes wide open
I’ve got my eyes wide open
I’ve been keeping my hopes unbroken

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