I am one hour and fifteen minutes removed from doing one of the most ridiculous things I never ever thought would do in my life.  I was an adult leader in a  weekend retreat for a group of 12 teens from our church.  We fasted.  Seriously.  I did not eat for approximately 38 hours.  I could have never done that on my own, but in the presence of the kids and the five other adults, it was ridiculously easy.  I ate a bit at lunch, but haven’t been back to the trough, yet.  The realization that nothing is going to satisfy me, even the best food I can think of…  the enjoyment will quickly fade.  

I’m different today than when I left – mentally and emotionally.  I’m different in one way because my perspective on God has changed.  The first night we were there our Not-Youth-Pastor, Hunter, led us in a lesson, worship music, and prayer.  During the prayer he said, “God, we love you.”  I realized quickly in that moment that I didn’t even feel love for God.  I want to serve God, I want to please him, but I’m not sure how to love Him in the right way.  In the way that a daughter ought to love a father.  That should concern me and it does.  I do not know how to fix it right now.  I am willing to learn.  

That night we split up into girls and boys groups and it started to become real about what we were doing.  So, we’re really going to bed hungry?  We’re just going to read the Bible, talk shop, and pray?  For a day and a half?  I did not know what that looked like.  Who does that?  

Saturday morning was quiet.  I could tell that some of the kids were struggling and becoming restless and I was sort of concerned.  Were they able to get passed the hunger, lack of cellular devices, and awkwardness of this retreat and find the Jesus behind it?  I am so happy to say that, YES!  Yes they were able!  It was a day filled with Biblical lessons, life application, inspiration, motivation, and prayer.  My Toby gave a lesson.  I never thought he was more handsome.  I was proud of him.  It wasn’t just delivering his message, but the preparation that I saw him do in the weeks ahead of the retreat.  He is a good man.

My Shannon and I were led by the Lord to make some pretty powerful “prayer stations.”  There were 12 different themes to each station and the kids were asked to go to them and interact with the station.  For instance, there were candles and matches at the “Light” station.  At that station there was scripture of God creating light, Jesus being the light, and how we are a light to others.  The kids were asked to pray and meditate on the scriptures while they considered how their own lives reflected the light of Jesus.  We also had things like forgiveness, strength, wisdom, and discipline.  This could be something easily used in Sunday school or at any revival.  They were fun to make and the Lord worked through them well.  At the “You” station, the kids read about God being their maker and they had play-dough, a globe, and a model-statue thingy.  This activity was really meaningful to me, for some reason.

We did have a few breaks throughout the day and we tried to make it a light atmosphere, but the thing I think I like the most about these kids and their response to this process was – it was not designed to be fun, entertaining, or for their a-musement.  It was a hard core, Jesus in yo’ face, what are you going to do about it challenge.  It would be us leaders that would finally be the ones to crack Saturday evening.  Okay, it wasn’t all leaders, it was me.  

We had read and discussed Elijah relinquishing his spirit to Elisha.  As one generation of leaders to the next, we wanted to pray over the kids in a special and meaningful way.  We each had drawn two kids that we had been praying for leading up to the event.  Even before I got to my first girl, I was crying.  I just knew it would be a hard prayer.  Relinquishing some of my hopes and dreams over to my Kelsie.  Realizing that my time with my hands is limited and that, I am so thankful that I was able to use them to spend time with her at the flower shop.

I am not getting better.  My symptoms of spasticity, tremor, and pain are very difficult to treat.  The progression of my illness into my upper body has really slowed me down.  I am uncomfortable, now, in any position.  I usually don’t sit for too long because my legs ache and now that my upper body is crappin’ out on me, it’s really put me in quite the pickle.  My neck, shoulders, and arms are just tired.  Just lifting my hands up to lay on the kids, was a struggle for me physically.  

I’m normally very excited to go to work and get to “play.”  It is a burden now.  Dana is tired.  I pray for miraculous healing.  I am hopeful that my neurologist will help me.  I get in to see her the 28th.  I can hang on for 23 more days, right?  After that, Toby and I will assess the situation and see if the shop does need to be sold.  It makes me cry.  It might be what the Lord is asking me to do though.  Maybe I have to get rid of the shop to get somewhere else.  I’m just not sure.

Perhaps the most challenging part of the entire weekend was signing an agreement with all the other attendants – a contract, a call, a commission to serve God wholly and completely.  I am good with that.  We were asked to commit to Bible study, devotional time, scripture memorization, and to seek the Lord first everyday.  I am good with that also.  The part that didn’t feel so good was committing to use my suffering for the growth of the Kingdom.  From the outside, it’s like, “Yes!  I will do anything for the Lord!”  But, when you are IN the suffering, you want nothing more than to get out.  

I have been trying to recondition my mind to understand that this illness and the problems it creates can help me and are actually a good thing.  I’ve been trying to accept that healing may never come.  I’ve been living and waiting as though I would feel better someday and as I realize that it may not happen,  I grieve for the dreams and experiences I haven’t had.  I am sad to be limited by this stupid body.  At the same time, I know I can offer the world a completely different perspective on things because of the uniqueness of my walk.  I might help someone.  And, if I can, but instead I choose to sit and feel sorry for myself…  that is not the legacy I want to leave.

The difficulty in signing the agreement, for me, was a few words.  Bryon presented the lesson and gave us a beautiful message on a friend he had lost years ago.  The friend died, full of life and love for the Lord, and his character not only impacted his immediate circle of friends, but generations of family’s now.  The friend, Bryon illustrated, lost all of his lifeblood in one moment.  The rest of us who struggle, serve, and work for the Lord may not lose our blood in one foul swoop, but one drop at a time.  

One drop at a time.  

Can I be okay with that?  For me, to be OK with it would mean that I could face my pain and illness with strength, with a good attitude, and joy.  As it is, I don’t have that mentality about it.  I don’t trust that it will all be OK.  I’m seeing these little droplets of blood everyday and I’m freaking out and well, freaking out isn’t really helping anyways.  But, dang it!  I just wish I had the ability to carry this cross for the Lord with a happy heart.  I want to change in that way.  I want to pursue His will for my life because I know that is the place that I will be used most.  If his will for my life is for me to weaken in body slowly, yet ever so surely, how can I accept that for really reals? 

I am interested to see the ripple effect that continues in me, the other leaders and in the kids.  The retreat is like a big rock getting plunked right in the middle of a quiet pond.  We’ve only just dropped the rock.  The first wave of reaction is in the works and I’m thankful.  I’m tired.  Our prayer as leaders was that this experience might cause a chain reaction that didn’t just end with the teens leading church today, but continues to envelop the kids in their homes, with their family’s, friends, peers and the generations that follow them.

I am thankful that I got to shut the whole world off and focus on God.  That is a rare opportunity.  Happy to be home with my monsters and as I type in my chair, watching all four of them cuddled up on the couch, I have tears.  If this is the only way that I could have them, I would do it all over again.  That makes me glad. 


Hasta la vista viente trece!

As the end of the year approaches, I am in a place I have rarely been the entire year.  In my home.  Totally alone.  I don’t know how the good Lord did it, but I am in ‘peace on earth’ heaven.  I do love you, Toby, but…  you and the kids should leave more often!  I got so much accomplished.

Our old home school dresser was completely full of supplies.  That has been re-org’ed and re-purposed to it’s original intent for the Trippster.  (Toby, thank you for giving me a baby boy.  I love him.)  We moved him out of our room, moved our office into the dining room, and the boy into the old office.  There were all of those little boxes of clutter to sort through.  The ones you make when you just stuff a bunch of crap in because you’re tired of really cleaning.  I have a lot of those.  Tripp’s room is clean, clothes are folded and put away.  My room:  I’d say 75% better than it was.  Laundry that will never die is multiplying like rabbits on my bed.  But, I did get a pretty good chunk of it under control.  So, then I get to the girl’s room.  Oh mis estrellas!  (That’s “Oh my stars!” in Spanish for those of you not as cool or bilingual as Shannon and me.)

In all of this cleaning and renewing and restoring…  I felt so blessed.  Drawers overflow.  Closets are stuffed.  I have a beautiful home with everything I need and more.  The cupboards are brimming, the fridge is due for an after holiday overhaul.  I have so much to be thankful for.

Hypocrisy has been on my mind lately.  Sometimes, I think, I forget to slow down and realize how good I have it.  I focus on the negative and the bad and I completely miss whatever good and beauty is here right now.  I worry that my weak faith and uncertainty in times of difficulty will hinder my witness.  How can, one day, I be so thankful and have so much clarity, and the next, be so…  Dana! My response to trials and disappointing circumstances must change or I will not be able to grow closer to the Lord and joy will forever be out of my reach.  I don’t want to live that life.

As I end this chapter of 2013, I pray….

for continued spiritual maturity.

for continued Godly wisdom.

for a desire to have Biblical knowledge and scripture memorization.

for overflowing of the Holy Spirit.

I am thankful…

for the lessons I have learned.  The discipline that seemed so harsh, yet, I can now say kept me from even more severe consequences.

for the Lord’s crazy guidance on a route that I would have never picked.  Ever.

for closed doors and new opportunities.

for the awareness of the importance of having a routine schedule of Bible study, Church, fellowship, devotional, and prayer time.  These, sometimes monotonous, boring, and not-fun activities, build our relationship with God, with our church family, and with our own families.  Not only that, but I am convinced that it is these regularly scheduled programs that keep us grounded and going during trials and storms.  God is the only thing that does not change in a world with constant change.  I did not understand what it meant for God to be the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, as much I can honestly say I understand it now.

Which leads me to this.  The best moments of 2013.

*At a ladies Bible study one night, we separated into groups.  I was at a table with my closest friends at the event, but something told me to switch.  No offense, ladies.  I ended up getting switched once more and I had actually stood up and volunteered to go with this other group of women.  All women I know, but not “know”, ya know?  So…  here we are and it is somewhat awkward.  One of the women in group who totally intimidates me was telling us about her struggles.  I was thinking, “OK…  if we have all this bad stuff happen and we shouldn’t be sad, then…  why do we come to church to praise a God who is OK with the bad stuff?”  So, out loud I say, “Why are you here?”  She looked surprised.  She didn’t understand what I meant.  So, I asked again, the hard questions started coming out.  She got tears and she said that no matter how bad the rest of the world is, there is peace in coming to a house of the Lord and finding fellowship, encouragement, and the consistency of an unchanging God.  I still don’t know that I fully understand the depth of this concept…  but, I KNOW there is something to it.

*Twice I got mail at the high school youth group.  Kelsie and Sadie, I love you.

*Going to McCall to work on my book.

*I fought with my Shannon a few times this year.  One time in particular, she got me so ticked off, I screamed, “No!  I don’t trust God and I expect him to screw me!” and I took off in my car.  We seriously fight like sisters.  I don’t know anyone who can make me laugh and make me frustrated all at once like Shanny Lou.  She is more than a friend and I think that makes the difficult times in our relationship sting that much more.  Only because there is so much love, can there be so much pain.  I love you, sister.  Thanks for keeping me faithful even when I don’t feel like it.

*Bryon meeting me at the altar.

*My sister, D’Ann, being home a whole year.

*When I was told way after everyone knew, that we were now the only flower shop in town.

*When the doctor told me and D’Ann that mom’s cancer wasn’t on her liver at all, but totally removable.

*Disneyland.  First time at 33 thanks to my mother-in-law!

*The experience of Japan *WITH* my Toby.

*The call that I had a doctor’s appointment.

Taking stock of 2013 and realizing how blessed I am brings me humility and gratitude.