Thursday, March 15, 2012

Scratch and Dent

Our family loves scratch and dent items. We are all about finding an item that we need at a reduced price because somewhere it has a flaw. Our motto is never pay full price. Sometimes we get an item that is "flawless" but it was on sale and as often as possible we have a coupon to go with it. I would say that 90% of the time we look for scratch and dent items to save money but sometimes we look for those items because we know that they will be used in a way that will result in some form of damage. For example, we have 3 doors that open toward our fridge/freezer in our kitchen. When it was time to replace that appliance we knew that it would sustain many bumps from all the doors being swung in it's direction. It was the perfect place for a scratch and dent. When we have people over and they swing the door too hard and hit the fridge they always apologize profusely. If our fridge was "perfect" and we had paid full price for it, I know myself well enough to say that I would cringe every time that happened. Instead I can just reply "it's not big deal".

I have several reasons for starting this post the way I did. First I have to admit that this has been something I have had to learn. I love to save money and for me half the fun is finding a good deal. With that said I struggle with things not being "perfect". My happy place includes the pages out of Better Homes and Gardens. I love when everything is picture perfect. I love crisp details, vibrant colors, and yes to me everything should have it's own place. If you have known me long enough you know that if your children receive a gift from me it will include it's own storage container. Yes I am a little OCD. I do not like chaos and I do not like messes. Don't get me wrong there is a time and place for messy but I only enjoy it in a controlled environment. That means that you make a mess, have fun and then clean it up. I love fresh cut lawns, clean streets, flowers blooming...I think you get my point. I can not wait till we see heaven in all it's glory, everything just as it should be. Heaven will defiantly be my ultimate happy place.

Now that I have tattled on myself and told you just how perfect I think life should be it's time to face reality. Life is messy. My life is messy. No matter how hard I try I can not be perfect. My husband uses the good towels (we actually don't have those anymore; maybe I have learned a little). The throw pillows are never put back on the bed unless we have company. I always have clean laundry on the couches...unless we have company; then it's on the bed in our room. Our paper piles are always overtaking my counter or kitchen table. I have a teenager and I just don't have the fight in me to make her keep her room the way I like it. Our boy is all boy. He is actually a lot like his mom and is my only other neat freak in the house. God bless him.

In reality I am just not able to keep things perfect the way I wish I could. Perfect means that life is not happening that memories are not being made and that lives are not interacting. Perfect means that we would not need each other, that we would not need a savior. So why is "perfect" so tempting. Why do I spend my time striving to attain something I will never attain this side of heaven?

I really felt like I needed to share my struggle with perfection so that I could share what God is teaching me through this journey of chronic illness.

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Psalms 34:18. A week ago I was asking God why are you crushing my spirit? I understand the need for trials but my spirit is crushed. What good is coming from this. Over the next several days God would reveal that he was not crushing my spirit but that I was broken hearted and that I was guarding my heart from everything including him. His intentions are to be near to me but sometimes we become so crushed by our enemy that we run from everything including the arms of the one who can comfort us.

I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. Acts 20:24. One of the hardest things I have dealt with during this season of illness is not feeling like God can use me. God gave James and I a heart for couples and families when we were at John Brown. We experienced a difficult transition when we left Colorado and moved to Arkansas so that James could attend college. We ended up having a wreck that cost us our only vehicle and caused injuries that would make it difficult for me to work. I would be the only source of income at that time. When we arrived at JBU the campus was pretty vacant so we ended up unloading our Ryder truck by ourselves. We then had to return the truck that had been damaged in the wreck to Tulsa. We started our new life 16 hours away from home with no money, injured, no vehicle and we had to use his first student loan check to pay for the damage to the Ryder truck. It was at the time that God showed us how difficult it feels to be alone. We vowed to him that we would do everything possible for others to not feel the way we did. Over the next 5 years we would meet every truck that pulled into married student housing with as many people as we could round up and several boxes of pizza. No one would go to sleep that night with out beds set up and the washer and dryer hooked up. This ministry would eventually lead us to where we are today and where we have been for almost 10 years. We would learn that we could endure anything if we just focused on the needs of others. If we took care of them then God would take care of us.

We learned that serving people means getting your hands and feet dirty, it is taking action and investing in them. For 19 years this is what has driven us, it is our passion to help others and that they would not feel alone. When I became sick almost 18 months ago we thought it would be short lived. We fought through the initial bad days and thanked God for the good ones. Eventually the bad days out weighed the good days and the good days were hard to spot. Something that we thought would be a sprint has turned out to be a marathon. We started loosing the ability to keep up with everything and by the time we realized that something was serious we were buried in this chronic illness, doctors appointments, physical pain, memory loss, financial hardship and for me depression. By this time I can barley keep up with taking care of myself let alone my family and then those God called us to minister to. I felt like so much had been taken away and now I can't even see a purpose in this because we are not effective in ministry. How are we going to take care of others? How am I supposed to share the Gospel when I can't remember why I grounded my teenager. I spent almost a year not being able to read because of the pain in my eyes and head and because of the blurred vision. What I did read I did not retain and again my short term memory kept me from remembering new names and faces. I was more and more aware of my brokenness as days went by. As we found some answers and we started treatment I began to gain some of my confidence back but that would soon dwindle again. Eventually I found myself not only broken but crushed as well.

I started 2 new studies at the church this semester. One study has been too overwhelming and too difficult to keep up with. I still have a difficult time retaining information. The other study was not as "deep" as my Beth Moore study and we easier for me to keep up with. We are one week from finishing the study and God has used it encourage me, teach me and equip me for the next step of ministry. I still do not know what that looks like but he has given me a glimpse through the ladies in this study. He is teaching me that instead of hiding my broken vessel until I can get it all patched up I need to let it be seen by others. This is not easy. It means being vulnerable and humble. It means showing those around me that I am more than scratch and dent that I am duck tape and super glue. He is teaching me to bravely share things that I would rather keep to myself. To allow others to pray for me and to encourage me. I would rather be the encourager but I am learning that sometimes God asks us to learn the things we are not good at. If I am good at encouraging others but not at receiving and others are good at receiving and not encouraging then we need each other. We need to offer a safe place for each other to learn. That is what God has given me through this study. He has given me a safe place to learn how to let others encourage me while at the same time giving them opportunities to learn how to respond to those needs. Either way we need each other so that we can become more like HIM. I know that there is still so much more for me to learn. I never thought that I had arrived before this I just didn't understand how God could use me in this state of brokenness.

My heart is still chasing after him. I just run a little slower than I use to. He knows the frailty of my body but he also knows the condition of my heart. My prayer is that I will find a way to focus on my heart and let God focus on the rest. If my mind is not clear but my heart does not waiver then I know that my God will not lead me astray.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6

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