Thursday, August 7, 2014

Safest Place in Susa

It's actually weird to be writing on my blog. I wondered if I ever would write again. Seemed like a thing of the past that God used at one time. I started this blog so my out-of-town mom could see pictures of the kids. Never dreaming anybody else would ever read it. Then I started to write about suffering through a chronic illness. People started reading because everybody is suffering through a chronic illness of some sort of another... whether spiritual or physical. People began connecting with suffering and the hope found in the Word of God. It was God's Word that gave people comfort and spoke to their hearts. I praise Him for that.
I don't know why I still bare my soul for all the world to read. It's vulnerable and ugly at times but it may help someone somewhere??

Lately, I have just craved anonymity. I have wanted to run away. Life hasn't been a pretty picture. The last thing I wanted was a lens into my life for all to see. My mom and my dad are both dying of cancer. It is a nightmare. It is my daily reality. Yet, God is sustaining me.
We are all in the process of "dying"...this isn't our home.

This has been the hardest season of my life. A season of loss that just keeps going. It has felt desolate.
And, LISTEN GIRLS, I can say WITH AUTHORITY just the right time... God delivered me out of paralyzing depression and anxiety. I have never dealt with anxiety and panic attacks in all my 37 years. When people would talk about it, it was really foreign to me. I had battled post-partum depression before but this was different.  I was sinking in the darkest darkness imaginable. I would wake up in an anxiety attack. I told Tim... "this is happening TO me". I can't stop it. I was GRIEVING. After experiencing this type of grief, I NEVER want to grieve the Holy Spirit.

As staunchly against mind-altering drugs as I am (because I have seen way too many lives ruined by them), I would have done just about anything to make the anxiety in my soul stop. I could barely function. I cried BUCKETS of tears. I just wanted to be alone. I seemed lost. I couldn't feel any emotion except grief (that may have been the scariest part). I felt dead.
My prince, Tim, took me to an elder at our Church who counseled and prayed for me (us). Since that moment, I am telling you the TRUTH... the panic, anxiety, and depression stopped.
If you are battling anxiety and depression... step 1 is GO TO YOUR ELDERS and have them pray over you. If you haven't done that and chose meds instead, you were out of order Biblically.  Back up to step 1.

"Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord."
James 5:14

I was emotionally sick. I believe with all my heart that I casted my anxiety on the Lord. Like literally, He took it  and carried it instead of me.
That makes me want to cry.
Jesus Christ's love for us is amazing.

I was still post-partum with baby number 6 when I was hit with all this bad news. It took me under. I was helpless. I was drowning. YET, God in His mercy and compassion... reached out His hand and took hold of me and He will do the same for you. It is the light of HIS FACE you need in the darkness.

"It was not by their sword that they won the land, nor did their arm bring them victory; it was your right hand, your arm, and the light of your face
for you loved them."
Ps 44:3

Here is what I am learning. This life can be sad. Like super duper sad.
I can't stop death but Jesus OVERCAME it.
I met a single mom at the playground whose husband left her with their new baby.
I hugged her and we cried together and I told her I was so sorry.
I know what it is like to watch things die and not be able to stop it. Whether it is someone you love or your marriage.
I think we each get to a point in our walk with the Lord where things start being stripped away. Most of us know the verse about the Lord restoring what the locusts have taken, right? Have you read that lately?
"The LORD says, “I will give you back what you lost
to the swarming locusts, the hopping locusts,
the stripping locusts, and the cutting locusts. 
It was I who sent this great destroying army against you."
Joel 2:25

What I have somehow missed over all these years is that it was the Lord Who sent the locusts.
That is a hard truth to swallow. Why would He send this horrible swarming, hopping, STRIPPING, and cutting army of nasty bugs into our lives?
I don't know. 
But He does and He knows that when He strips and cuts things out of our lives, it is order to RESTORE, REPAIR, REBUILD, REINFORCE. Those irritating hopping and stripping critters take things but God leaves a larger hole for what He will give back. We just can't see it at the time.

"The trees will again be filled with fruit;
fig trees and grapevines will be loaded down once more.
 Rejoice, you people of Jerusalem!
Rejoice in the LORD your God!
For the rain he sends demonstrates his faithfulness.
Once more the autumn rains will come,
as well as the rains of spring.
 The threshing floors will again be piled high with grain,
and the presses will overflow with new wine and olive oil."

Look at those BEAUTIFUL verbs!!!!

Ahhhhhhh. I look forward to that by faith. 
I have been meditating on this verse...
"I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”
Lam 3:24

It's my self-talk verse. I say it over and over....
"You are my portion, Lord... The strength of my heart... therefore I will wait for YOU."

"My flesh and my heart fail;
But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.."
Ps 73:26

I have always wondered what it means when it says "day of evil" in Eph 6.
"Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand."
Eph 6:13

I am not sure but I know that in each of our lives there will be a temptation to crumble under trial. I remember talking to my mentor/pastor once and saying, "I am so proud of you for persevering. You have overcome so much." He said, "Steph, I don't know if I have persevered but I look around and see all the fallen soldiers laying on the ground and somehow I am still STANDING??? It's all God's grace."  That's all I want is to stand my ground and after that to stand and then after that to KEEP STANDING. And, at the end of my life, to look back and say it was ALL GOD'S GRACE.

Sometimes God seems cruel and unfair. That place (to me) seems to be the biggest temptation to turn our backs on Him. Bottom line is that God allows us to be TORN TO PIECES. :( 
But, BUT!!!!, BUT!!!, it is in order to Heal Us!
Think of it like a surgeon. A surgeon who HAS to injure us in order to cut into our lives into order to save us and give us MORE LIFE.
Surgery is painful. There is a wound. But the wound heals and then there is LIFE.
God injures us in order to bandage our wounds. He restores us so we may live in His presence. He makes us whole. 
But we can't see what is happening. Like when I take my little ones for immunizations (yes, immunizations, please don't judge me or email me). They look at me with big tears in their eyes wondering WHY??? WHY ARE YOU HURTING ME??? 
There are some things we can't understand. My new-young-dad-friend with a brain tumor said he walked outside and was talking with the Lord when God spoke clearly to His heart and said, "You can't even understand how your cell phone works but you think you can understand how I work?". 
A humble and yielded heart is what we need. A heart that trusts when we don't understand what is happening. 
This is where I am:
Torn to pieces... waiting to be Healed.
Injured... waiting to be bandaged.
Oh, that I might PRESS ON to know Him.
“Come, let us return to the LORD.
He has torn us to pieces;
now he will heal us.
He has injured us;
now he will bandage our wounds.
 In just a short time he will restore us,
so that we may live in his presence.
 Oh, that we might know the LORD!
Let us press on to know him."
Hosea 6

But, what I am figuring out is that a lot of soldiers fall in this leg of the journey and don't press on to know Him. Also what I am figuring out is that when He removes something from our lives, He leaves a larger hole to fill with good things. I don't know what those things could possibly be. Maybe so WE CAN LIVE IN HIS PRESENCE. Maybe peace. Maybe ministry. Maybe joy. Maybe a child. But, we wait... declaring He is enough. He is the strength of our heart and that He can keep us STANDING. 

In God's sovereignty, our whole family just started reading the book of Esther every morning.
It is ministering to me so much.
I named this blog, "The Safest Place in Susa" because that is what it calls where the story of Esther is unfolding. Meanwhile, there is an orphan who had a difficult life and is chosen to be queen and has to risk her life to save her people. The threat of death is all around her. That doesn't sound like "the safest place in Susa" to me. 
But when I read that, I thought I want to run away from all my problems and go to "the safest place in Susa". Or wait, maybe I am already IN "the safest place in Susa". Maybe you are too.

"Here is what happened during the time Xerxes ruled over the whole Persian kingdom.  He was ruling from his royal throne in the safest place in Susa."
Esther 1

It struck me that in the middle of hardship, death threats, an orphan was invited into the safest place in Susa. God was with her. Her life wasn't easy. She had to fight battles most would never know anything about. Most of those battles took place behind the scenes while she was alone. She gained wisdom and courage there.
I am sure she gained faith. She learned how to pray.
 Her enemy thought he had made the perfect move and ended up hanging on his own gallows.
And all of this happened in "the safest place in Susa".
So, as I look around at my life that seems to be unraveling with death threats everywhere... I cant help but wonder if God has led ME into "the safest place in Susa". I think He has. It isn't care-free here but it is SAFE. 
Life can be so harsh. Crushing. 
But, God truly does give grace for the trial. Color-coded.
Red  Trial= Red Grace.
Blue Trial= Blue Grace.

"So be truly glad. 
There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while.  
These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. 
So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world."
1 Peter

I hate death. There is only ONE Who has conquered it. There is only One Who has prepared a place for me to live with my parents for all eternity. 
Even though I have never seen Him, I love Him and even though I don't see Him now I believe in Him.
God is giving me grace as I go. I praise Him for that.

Meanwhile in "the safest place in Susa", the children are growing up!! Sniff, sniff.

 Mom and Reece having a joint birthday party.
His half of the cake was baseball, hers was pretty pastel flowers.

When Reece was born, I was so clueless. I did NOTHING "right". Nothing organic. Nothing safe. I just did what people told me. No fresh homemade baby food.
So was Tim. We didn't know how to hold him. I didn't know what to do when he cried. Tim and I were thrown into parenting with nothing to hang on to.
When Reece was born, he looked hispanic. Hahahaha.
He had dark hair, dark eyes and it through me off guard.
I didn't feel like I knew for sure he was MY BABY. Lol.
But I prayed that God would help me bond with him and I immediately bonded with my new hispanic baby.
I loved him. I didn't know how to take care of him but he was ours.
Our first explosion of love.
 He has always been an easy child. I remember when he was a toddler and a kid grabbed his paci out of his mouth. The kid's mom immediately gave it back and Reece took it back out and handed it back to the kid. He is just a "good guy". He really is. He is wired like Tim. He keeps me in check when I forget everything. He helps me get organized. He loves children. I tell him his super-power is with young kids. He will have the opportunity to lead younger kids to Christ. He is an AWESOME role model. He just has to keep following Jesus.
Tonight he asked me if he could rock Rhett to sleep.
He is my friend now. He loves to secretly turn on the seat warmer in the van just to watch me boil like a frog until I realize why my rump is roasting.
He is tall and muscular. He reminds me of my high school crush.
Someone I bet 99.9% of you have never heard of
Mark Grace...

I had his poster up in my room. He isn't as cute as Tim but he was a total hunk back in the day! 

Reece is mature. He is kind-hearted. He is a lot like my dad...
Slow to anger and abounding in love.
His pictures look almost identical to my dad's pictures.

"What a pleasure to have children who are wise."
Prov 23:24

Part of me thinks Reece got our best parenting and the other part thinks he got the worst. We have done so many things wrong with him. Yet, he is so strong and healthy. We give God all the glory for his work in Reece's life.
He and his brothers are the best of friends. 
I can't wait to watch him play football.

We are starting another year of homeschool. I am marching forward with fear and trembling believing God is going to teach ALL my children.

"I will teach all your children,
and they will enjoy great peace."
Is 54:13

I love every second I get with them. I missed them so much this summer when they were at camp. 
Rhett is getting bigger and STRONGER.
He has 2 teeth and he loves to use them on my collar bone.
Crew is a delight.
He is scared of everything. 
He comes in my room in the morning on beautiful sunny days.
The sky is blue and he says, "I'm not afraid of storms".
The next night a horrible storm came and Tim and I heard his feet FLYING down the hall screaming at the top of his lungs.
It made me think of me. I am not afraid of storms when the sky is blue either.
We are memorizing this verse...
"Whenever I am afraid,
I will trust in You."
Ps 56:3
We are learning that together.
He comes in my room at night and says, "there are monsters in my bed". I say, "mine too, buddy, but God is bigger than those monsters".

Hope is awesome.
Lake fills our house with worship and laughter.
Bible man Bubba wants to do another sermon but I haven't had time to video him.
Tim is my prince. I got the "better" and he got the "worse" when we said our vows. 
He leads me to Jesus.
He is going to be performing a wedding soon for one of our beloved babysitters. I couldn't be more proud.
He is a godly man and I am thankful God has given me a man after God's own heart. Godly men need praying wives. They need courage more than ever to follow God. They need a cheerleader. They need forgiveness when they trip up.

Go kiss your husband and make him breakfast tomorrow.
Ask God for a godly one if you don't have one.
Break up with your yucky boyfriend if you have one.
Serve God and let Him write your love story.
He is faithful.

That's about all I know. It feels good to write. 
Please pray for my parents. 
I can't hear my dad say, "I love you, darlin" enough.
I love you too, dad. So much. I am asking for healing. Peter's shadow healed people. God does the unexpected.
Thank you for being the best dad in the world. Thank you for writing me emails everyday when I was at Bible College in Austria. Thank you for loving my children. Thank you for being compassionate, slow to anger, full of kindness, and abounding in love. Now let's go kick some cancer butt.

We are in a dark stretch of the path.
But that is where you see miracles and the glory of God.

"Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”
John 11:40

Be Blessed~


Cara Hicks said...

I want to give you a big hug! You are such an amazing woman in Christ! We are praying for miracles and singing praises as you stand in the battle!

Carrie said...

Thank you as always! So strange bc yesterday I was thinking I would love to hear the Lord's words through Stephanie and today there you were!!

Erica said...

Steph, thank you for sharing your heart - openly and honestly. Yes, it does help. As a young woman, I read your blog. I still read it. I am now married to my prince and have a 6 month old son - what joy they both are. Great earthly treasures. Your faith has increased mine. Your love for Jesus has increased mine. Though we live in opposite sides of the country, you have ministered to me. You have mentored me. I am grateful for you and your beloveds. So sister, I pray WITH you for healing. In your own heart and in your parents. Our God is mighty and sovereign. He can do the impossible. HE IS ABLE and I believe. God bless you abundantly Steph.

Anonymous said...

oh steph ~ sending so much love ~ and i hope you never, ever stop writing on this blog ~ it's an immeasurable blessing!

heidi said...

I was thinking of heart heavy as I read your posts of late...burdened for you. I will be praying more specifically now. Sending huge sister hugs to a sweet friend that only my daughter and husband have gotten to meet...hopefully one day I will, too. <3

The Burns said...

Love you! This is awesome and so relatable!