July 23, 2016

A House of Blessing

I posted on Facebook the other day that we were selling our house, and that our cleaning for the last time was bittersweet (as were all the other things we experienced at the end).

We set out to make our house a place of rest for those who needed one. We had family in multiple times. D-man's immediate family stayed with us (taking up all 4 bedrooms) when his grandmother died. His parents stayed with us every time they came to visit. His aunt lived with us when she left her daughter's house because they had a falling out. My family came to visit and helped us furnish and decorate the house.

A woman from Alabama who we met in Brasil posted on Facebook a few years ago that her husband had been diagnosed with melanoma. They chose MD Anderson as his place of treatment, and they live in Fort Smith, Arkansas. Immediately I messaged her to invite them into our home. Even though our old house is far from the Medical Center (the area of the city where MD Anderson is located), they wouldn't have to be in a hotel room with just each other and no one else to talk to in a totally stressful time. We got into a routine of eating Andy's special food (steak, mushrooms, broccoli, and rice) the night before his PET scan and gorging on pizza the day of. We have become unlikely friends through the experience. Amelia's response to my Facebook post was that she and Andy wouldn't have gotten through the first 4 years of his cancer treatment without us. I know that it sounds a little dramatic, but so often we don't realize the effect we have on others by opening ourselves up to them.

We were just doing what we felt God wanted us to do (and what brought us joy!), and have come out with so much blessing. My heart has been full for days, realizing that He gave us exactly what we wanted. God is so faithful. He tells us to rejoice in Him, and He will give us the desires of our hearts. Our heart has been hospitality, and He has granted blessings from that.

July 22, 2016

Pizza on the floor

As many know, we've been in the process of selling our house. Our closing is tomorrow, and we will walk away from the table ready to pick up and move when we get jobs.

One of our neighbors told us about a former neighbor who had a "last supper" in their house with all their neighbors. They had pizza and ate on the floor, because there was no furniture. We followed Kristin's suggestion and invited whoever could come over for a last supper with pizza (good, local pizza) and BYOB. We stood around the kitchen and ate, as there were no chairs. We ate off paper plates. We drank out of beer bottles and SOLO cups. The only fancy things we had were good paper napkins and homemade salad dressing. Kristin's daughter Morgan brought a trash bag and toilet paper (just in case) over. The trash went to Kristin's house, as today was trash day and all the trash was gone by the time we got home. Katie even brought rice krispie treats with a plastic knife!

Over the last few weeks and driving into the neighborhood tonight, I have been realizing how surrounded we have been with blessings. Amazing neighbors, who will invite you over at the drop of a hat (okay, so any excuse for a party!) and when you're throwing a party will offer anything they have to help you pull it off. We have neighbors who don't care about your house, and don't even care about what you can offer. They care about their neighbors. We didn't have to be Martha, worrying about many things. We were Mary tonight, enjoying the company of people we love. We are blessed and thankful.

May 27, 2016

Bareness and friends

We are in the process of selling our house. I came to the realization today that selling one's house is what it's like to put yourself out there to people you don't even know. People tell you that you need to clean. People tell you that your house smells funny. People tell you that they don't like the power lines in the backyard, so they're not buying. It feels like people tell you that they don't like you. It's hard to separate that from your house. You've put yourself into the house, made it yours. And now people are judging you.

People come to look at your house, so you want to present the best version of your house. And it turns out that you want to present the best version of yourself. Of course I haven't thought about it that way because this is the first time I've (we've) sold a house. Mom said that people do it every day, but that doesn't make it any less stressful to put yourself out there.

As cheesy as the comparison is, selling a house is like life. Putting yourself out there is hard. It risks criticism. It risks rudeness. It risks others not liking you. And don't we all want to be liked? At the end of the day, the human answer is "YES." So much yes. The Christian answer is absolutely not, if it means obedience. Do we mean that all the time? It's hard to obey 100% of the time. But if we trust God's plan, we will find it easier to say yes to His plan, to take in the hard criticism. From Him or from anyone else.

I have determined in the last couple of weeks that my life is lacking because I'm not putting myself out there to other people, and that I'm totally going to try to do just that. It's scary, but aside from the house, it's been fantastic. I've met an internet knitting friend who was totally cool with my introvertedness, and I've called friends to talk that I haven't talked to in a YEAR. (This friend was in my WEDDING 7 years ago). Point? I don't reach out to my friends enough. If I reached out to my friends twice as often as I did now, I would be half as stressed. After I finish this post? I'll write an email to a friend that I've emailed in the last year but it's time to catch up. (We were trainees together in 2006 and she came to visit me in Brasil -- we took a crazy awesome vacation while I was there.)

Next? Who are friends on my street? I'll call my neighbor who just had a baby (her pics are in my texts) to find out when I can come visit. I'll text my friend Susanna who I've been friends with for almost 20 years. I'll call my friend Corrie who I talked to last week but she's pregnant so I have to find out how she's feeling. I'll call my sister who has my only blood niece (10 months!). I'll email my friend Julie who doesn't have kiddos. I'll call Miranda who lives in Germany and has 5 kiddos. I'll call Allison who has 4 kiddos and is always good for a talk, except when her kiddos are sick. I love the ladies that God has put into my life thus far, and I'm willing for new ones. I told Corrie not 3 days ago that my profession as a pharmacist is the means to an end of connecting to people. Those connections are hard and people are hard too. I want to genuinely connect to people, and it doesn't always have to be connected to anything else. I have no idea what my original post was about but came to the realization that it's about PEOPLE.

May 26, 2016

Reaching out

Of course, as I am figuring out through reaching out to friends and family in my grief, I don't reach out nearly enough. I use the excuse that I'm an introvert, but in reality, being an introvert and introspective traps feelings inside without being able to deal with them.

I talked to a dear friend, my mom, and my mother-in-law yesterday and sobbed. I talked to my sister-in-law (a dear friend) today and sobbed. It probably has to do somewhat with the grief I am feeling for the Lewis family as they grieve over baby Ava, but there is more.

I grieve because I know the Lewises walked into a situation they knew there was no happy ending to (except for Ava being in the presence of Jesus). I grieve because I'm homesick -- I'm tired of being away from family. I'm grieving somewhat because I don't often encounter actual suffering -- just self-entitled bitching. Sorry for that, but it's where I am.

I have told several people over the last few days: The suffering of the world hurts me. And by that, I mean the real suffering. I have a sensitive BS meter and the ones who are "lifestyle suffering" people meet callousness. The real ones meet tears. Include the wife whose husband had a massive heart attack the other day at 55, with no warning. Include my friends who have had to bury their not even 6 month old daughter. Include the time I cried all the way home from work when one of my favorite patients had to go on dialysis. I don't like to admit it, but I am sensitive to suffering. I just hurt when the world doesn't turn out the way God intended. And I just don't know how to deal with it.

I would love to know how to make a living out of helping other people through their suffering. Retail pharmacy these days is not that way. I know the Lord has a plan, and I'm trusting that while I bide my time in my current job.

May 24, 2016

These days, I find myself crying more than usual. There's some deep grief going on, but there's no one specific thing that I can point to as the cause. There's so much cause for grief right now. The passing of a not even 6-month-old child. Leaving our house. Leaving Houston. Being so far away from family and friends. Being in a job that is hopeless. Feeling like I'm not good enough (extending to my job, house, marriage, relationships).

The grief is deep today. Let me sink into it and acknowledge it. Let me feel heartache, and let that heartache make me reach to the One who can assuage that ache. Let me be real. Let me remember that the turbulence of life, much like the current of a river upon stones, wears away our sharp edges over time.

'It doesn't happen all at once,' said the Skin Horse. 'You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand.”
Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit

I'd like to say that the grief is ebbing and that joy is beginning to flow, but that's simply not the case right now. I am in the midst of a dark night, with only the light of the Holy Spirit to light my way. I'm not seeing that light shining very brightly right now. I know it's there because I know it's there, but the knowing doesn't bring much comfort.

Let me sink into the grief and into the dark night and the reality of brokenness. Let me acknowledge it as fact without judgement or anger. While that in itself is neither something to stay in nor a means to an end, it is the only way to be made whole in Christ and comforted by the Holy Spirit. 

May 21, 2016

Life and Stewardship

In my last post I talked about baby Ava, who was born with only a brain stem. She passed away on Thursday, and I've been processing. I cannot imagine how her parents are grieving, for I am grieving only for her story (the good and the bad), and tears are copious. Josh and Allison and their 6 other children had to bury Ava today, and I can't imagine how that felt, even though she has a new life now.

Allison posted a conversation between herself and Josh on Facebook today that re-hashed why they did foster care training months ago. Why did they do foster training when they were going to adopt? Josh's answer gave fantastic perspective -- foster training is to prepare parents to love a child as their own and eventually give them back to the one who gave them life, if possible. They gave Ava back to the One who gave her life.

I am in tears as I write, and I am thankful for reminders from Scripture:
  • "The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord."  Job 1:21b
  • "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change."  James 1:17
 We are but stewards of the gifts the Lord gives us, only to have to give them back one day. Mostly, it's things, but sometimes, it's a human. Are you married? It's your spouse. Are you a parent? It's your kids. And your spouse, if you have one. Are you single? It's your heart friends. Are you human? It's your neighbor. I can surely say that makes me think differently about my relationships, and reminds me that everything in this life is fleeting except God. Only He is forever.

April 11, 2016

Psalm 139

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.

1 O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
    you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
    and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
    behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before,
    and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
    it is high; I cannot attain it.
Where shall I go from your Spirit?
    Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
    If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
If I take the wings of the morning
    and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
10 even there your hand shall lead me,
    and your right hand shall hold me.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
    and the light about me be night,”
12 even the darkness is not dark to you;
    the night is bright as the day,
    for darkness is as light with you.
13 For you formed my inward parts;
    you knitted me together in my mother's womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
    my soul knows it very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
    intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
    the days that were formed for me,
    when as yet there was none of them.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
18 If I would count them, they are more than the sand.
    I awake, and I am still with you.
19 Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God!
    O men of blood, depart from me!
20 They speak against you with malicious intent;
    your enemies take your name in vain.
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord?
    And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?
22 I hate them with complete hatred;
    I count them my enemies.
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart!
    Try me and know my thoughts!
24 And see if there be any grievous way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting!

Verses 13-16 are very touching to me right now, as I am following the story of two parents I attended college with. They have adopted twins, one of whom (Sam) is a normal, healthy baby, and one of whom (Ava) was basically born with out a brain (she has a condition called hydranencephaly). God knew this little girl. He knew what she would go through. He has used her short life (she will die soon and be buried by her parents and 6 siblings) to remind people that He has known us from before we were born. We are all fearfully and wonderfully made, even if we are broken. God knows our inmost being, and He knows our days.

I have been so encouraged by the Lewises' story, simply because it has reminded me that no matter how broken I am, He has formed every one of my days. He has known me from before even my mother knew me. While I weep for the Lewis family, I am encouraged for me, and everyone else who forgets this on a regular basis. Probably all of us.

Here is a link to their story (including a video): Ava Lewis

April 10, 2016

A short prayer

Lord, open my heart to let you in.
Open my hands, that I may release all things into Your care.
Open my eyes, that I may see things as You see them.
Open my arms, that I may give love to those in need.

Lord, strengthen my heart, that I may use all of it.
Strengthen my hands, that I may do Your work.
Strengthen my eyes, that I may see others where they are.
Strengthen my arms, that I may help to bear others' burdens.

Lord, strengthen me from the inside out, yet keep me open.

Strong
Approachable
Real
Loving

JMF 4/10/16

February 17, 2016

Small, small world

Nope. I'm not talking about the Disney ride or the most annoying song in the whole wide world. At least once a month, my world gets smaller. Let me tell you how. I currently live in a Houston suburb.

  • One of my patients grew up in my hometown. She's my parents' age, but still.
  • A classmate that I graduated pharmacy school with landed in Houston. With the same company as me. With the same boss as me.
  • When I got here, I found out that the woman who was my boss's assistant worked with me as a technician when I lived in Birmingham, right after I got out of school.
  • A pharmacist in my district is from a "small town" outside of Macon (Warner Robins) and came to Texas because her husband is from here. That's me (not WR but Carrollton), and my mom happens to live in Macon. And that's why I'm in Houston.
  • A girl came in to the pharmacy (in Houston) who had an initial system address about 15 minutes from my hometown (you know I have to ask!). My dad delivered one of her babies.
  • A girl I went to high school with has in-laws in another Houston suburb.
  • A guy I went to college with has parents who know the couple who comes to see us every few months for the husband's cancer check-ups at MD Anderson.
  • A girl I went to college with moved back home to Houston and lives here with her husband and kiddos.
  • A girl I went to college with moved here at some point with her husband and kiddos and I didn't even know until she friended me on Facebook recently. We went to a Christmas concert at her church in December and I didn't even know. Had I known, I would have told her.
  • I went to college the same place as my brother-in-law. We didn't know each other until I was going to Brasil on a mission trip and we needed someone to teach us worship songs in Portuguese.
  • I wasn't supposed to go to Brasil on my first mission trip. We were going to Venezuela and the military overthrew Hugo Chavez. We had to go to Brasil instead and I met hubs on that first trip. (The rest of that story is long, but the small-worldness is acknowledged by many friends!)
 We've been here 7 years (together -- he's been here 20), and I continually marvel at the way God makes connections. One of my good friends is from a small town in GA and lives in Houston by way of California. Who would think, right?

I am convinced that God puts those things together, so that the small things are that in which we find commonality. Hubby and I? We met because of a "fluke" in world events. Are all of these things flukes? I have to think no. I am thankful for all the "chance" meetings I have had and the friendships that have been cultivated as a result.

February 10, 2016

Ashes to Ashes

"By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; from dust you are and to dust you will return."  Genesis 3:19

I never went to an Ash Wednesday service growing up (mom informed me we didn't have services), so after 37 & 1/2 years on this earth, I went to one tonight. Ash Wednesday is the beginning of the Lenten season in the Christian Church, and it comes the day after Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday). Mardi Gras (or Carnival) is, of course, the church's acceptance of the timing of a pagan ritual to dovetail it into a Christian tradition. As a Christian, that doesn't make Ash Wednesday any less special to me, because Ash Wednesday means that Easter Sunday is 40 days (without Sundays) away.

While Carnival is a time for feasting and celebration (sometimes excessively so), Ash Wednesday is a time for facing our own mortality. As a Christian, that is NOT the end of the story. I am mortal. I am sinful. But Jesus, son of Mary and Joseph, came to blot out my sinfulness and mortality. Blotting out my sinfulness means that I can stand before Him in the final days. Blotting out my mortality means that I will live forever.

In addition to those things, Jesus came to earth, died, and rose again to give the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is who enables me to make choices that are glorifying and pleasing to God. The Kingdom of Heaven came near when Jesus became a baby, and the Holy Spirit came when He died. It is the Holy Spirit who helps us to make choices that keep the Kingdom of Heaven here until such time as we are reunited with God. In this life, He gives us breath and new life.

We are born, and then we die. Yet Christ allows us a way to be born again, so that we may never die. While the weight of my own sin is upon me, the reality of Christ's death and resurrection are a balm to my soul.