Photos courtesy of Ryan Prouty

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Deeper Still

For the first time in 6 years, I am not planning to leave tomorrow for the MOPS convention. I am still coming to grips with it, trying not to feel bitter about it :o) I wish I could go this time, but God is moving me onto another season of my life.

I was extremely blessed to be able to attend the Deeper Still Conference with almost 20 ladies from our church last weekend though. It was almost as much fun as a MOPS convention! The conference was Friday night and all day Saturday in Orlando. Most people went early on Friday to have fun and relax, but 3 of us went together later (read: after work) to catch up with the group. We got there just as the praise music was finishing up (led by Travis Cottrel) and didn't miss a second of the speaking! I rode with 2 ladies I have known but not really gotten to know well and we had such a GREAT time. My sides were aching from the laughing by the time we arrived.

Kay Arthur spoke that night about resting in our faith. How resisting (or questioning) where God is leading us is like disbelief. If we truly believe God is sovereign and has plans for us that are good, we ought to take each turn our lives hand us with calm reassurance and rest in the faith that God is responsible for the consequences! Wow, did I need that kick in the pants! I love how a familiar verse or story takes on new meaning in the light of a new truth. Kay brought that out when she discussed the story in Matthew of Jesus' first miracle. I know this story, but I had failed to key in on the point. After this miracle, Matthew states, the disciples believed. They had served Jesus as His disciples and yet they didn't really believe He was the Messiah until He performed His first miracle. Pretty dense disciples, don't you think?! I can be so thick-headed too! Can't we all??

That night brought a record amount of sleep for me while away at a girl's weekend! We had six ladies staying in our room and we were in bed, lights out by 12:15! I had a bit of a hard time falling asleep because I was out of my routine and I was certain Isaiah was tapping his toe and wondering why I hadn't showed up for our nightly meeting. (Isaiah, as in the prophet who wrote the book of the Bible where I am currently reading as I read through the Bible in a year, that is.) The next morning, we all managed to get showers and get checked out in time to get to the morning session.

More music, and then Pricilla Schirer spoke. I have heard her twice before, once a the MOPS convention either last year or the year before, and again quite a while ago at a HisWomen conference in Cedar Rapids. I really enjoyed her both times. But, when she opened up her talk, describing the time she lost her son at Disney World for 15 minutes and I started crying, I knew she was going to have a powerful message for me. I was not let down. I think I cried all the way through her message. It was Jesus meeting me there and speaking to me, just what I needed to hear. I was riveted and scribbled notes furiously, certain she was speaking directly to me! I just kept thanking God for being so near to me at that time and speaking such peace and direction to me.

The cliff notes of her talk were this: God is ABLE! No matter what my impossible situation might be, He is able to carry me through it. She used Ephesians 3:20-21 and broke it down word for word to drive home this truth. "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen."

"Now", clearly, the time is now!! He is able! "To do immeasurable more than ALL we ask or imagine..." Okay, here is where she really grabbed my attention. She again drove home Kay's point from the night before that we can trust God to have good, no, even great plans for us that are immeasurably good, and more than all we could ask or imagine. She talked about going "beyond beyond". She gave several illustrations for this to emphasize God's abilities. One of them was of a parent drawing a boundary for their child such as the fence in the back yard that separates their yard from a forest. If you see your child on the other side of the fence, he has gone beyond beyond. Then, if you see him on the other side of the creek, also beyond beyond. BUT, if you get a call from your "neighbor" who lives on the other side of the forest behind your house, your child has really gone BEYOND beyond! God is able to go beyond beyond! Beyond what we can think to ask or even imagine! She shared that the knowledge of that should change the way we pray! She now prays for something, telling God, "Either do that...or something better!!"

I have been so stuck in my prayer life, forgetting that I serve the God who is able! I lose sight of the fact that His perfect love for me should drive out all fear and that I can lay my cares on Him. That He has amazing plans for me and I have no reason to worry about my husband's job or lack thereof because He already has it all worked out. My job is to rest in that FAITH! I either rest in it or I choose to doubt it. I have that choice every day. I choose rest! This other thing is exhausting me!! I am done with it! Won't you join me in resting in our faith?? If you struggle with this as I do, would you reach out to me here and help me stay accountable and I will do the same for you. I would be so honored. Love to you all and to the ladies in Nashville, oh how I wish I were there!! God surely has a beyond beyond plan for me instead!!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Hi Ho, Hi Ho...

Here it is, the post I have been avoiding for some reason. I am sorry to leave so many of you in the dark about my work, but there just always seems to be something more interesting to blog about! Also, I usually plug in my camera to see what we have been up to lately and work my posts from that starting point. Thankfully, there are no pictures of me in action at work to share with you! But, it makes this post a bit boring, I think!

Anyway, I started working full time about one month ago. How I came to this job is just a great example of God's leading. I had been feeling like returning to work part time when all the kids were heading off to school this fall. I felt like I wasn't using the talents God gave me, sitting at home in front of my computer or running around town all day. It wasn't a strong urge, but a persistent nagging. I also felt like I was forgetting more than I ever learned when people would ask me medical questions (which always happens when they discover what I do!) and I had to think hard to retrieve information stored in my brain unused for over a year! So, I didn't really do much with this feeling. I tried to just take it slow and make sure I was in a position to allow God to work or not work. I had a NP recruiter call me. I spiffed up my resume and sent it to him. He knew of no openings near me. Okay God, I will wait.

JoDee (my sister) was spending lots of time on the computer looking for jobs including looking at openings in Sarasota county (where we live). She noticed an NP opening with the Department of Health. She called me to tell me about it and to tell me the posting closed the next day, so if I wanted to apply I better get on it. That was on a Tuesday. I did have time that afternoon to sit down with her and find the posting and apply. Now, this is a job floating between the different DOH sites, working in Peds, Family Planning, and Adult Health. I have absolutely NO experience in most of these areas. My very specialized Cardiology experience seemed pretty ridiculous on the application! I received a phone call on that Friday asking to set up an interview and I went the next Monday for that interview. The interview went very well. I felt like I was received warmly and my experience was not ridiculed! I was told it would be at least 2 weeks before any decisions would be made. That was perfect, it was just the end of July and I really didn't want to start working until the kids were starting school.

So, you can imagine my surprise when they called me just 4 days later to offer me a job. It was made clear to me that they were not even done interviewing for the position for which I applied, and I was not being hired for that position, but for a different one. I was needed right away, when could I start?? That was a Friday. The same Friday Paul resigned at Agape. I got the phone call just a couple hours after he resigned and was unaware that he had said anything at work. It took a few days to push the paperwork through, so I went in on the next Tuesday (just one week after applying for a job) for fingerprinting and drug testing. My first day at work was the next Tuesday, which was also Paul's last day at Agape. Apparently there is lots of red tape when you work for the state...I got a quick refresher course on my hiring process at the U! I had forgotten.

When they offered me this other position, they made it clear that if I took it, it would help me land the full time (with benefits) position that I had applied for. I was asked to work "as needed" at each of the facilities in Sarasota, Venice, and North Port. I would float to where ever the need was. I was hourly, so I could set my hours and was still able to take off for the wedding we went to in California, so that was a big blessing. I was offered the full time position with benefits and that position officially started on September 4th. I am primarily working in Adult Health with some family planning (seeing patients who need birth control or have STDs) and occasional pediatrics. This has been a HUGE step out of my comfort zone! I have struggled to learn a new system. I have come home several times with a hand frozen in writer's cramp because all their charting is paper charting! Only lab results are available on line...and I have no idea how to retrieve them! I am working hard to remember where the bathroom is at each of the facilities and to learn the names of all the nurses and health support staff at three facilities! In addition, things are done a little differently and the medications available at the three pharmacies are slightly different too. So, just when I think I have learned what drug is available, in what strength, no, that is at another facility than I find myself standing currently!

In spite of the struggles, I have seen God clearly steer me into this position when I wasn't even sure if I wanted a job! It all happened so fast, as only He can orchestrate! I have also had wonderful opportunities to talk about my Saviour with my patients. I always wait for them to open the door, but when it gets cracked, I BUST through it!! I had a sweet young girl come in tormented with guilt and had the chance to discuss God's great grace and mercy we sinners are afforded through Jesus, the perfect sacrifice. She left my office renewed. I have had 2 depressed patients who I have been able to put back in touch with their churches and their pastors for counseling and care. Both were amazed that I didn't just write them a prescription and shoo them out of the office. They thanked me profusely and totally made my day. What a privilege I have been given. I do not take it lightly!

Just having a job around here is a privilege not to be taken lightly. We (Sarasota county) have some of the highest unemployment in the country. I am very careful not to complain about my job! I also do not want to complain against God's amazing provision for our family at just the right time. I know He has an amazing plan for our family. I am striving to live by faith that He will bring it about in His perfect timing. In the meantime, Paul is continuing his training in counseling and looking at all his options, asking God to open and close doors in His wisdom. The answer keeps coming back, "Wait." So, wait we continue to do. In the meantime, Paul has taken over my former duties (I tell him every day he is a great wife!) with the kids, laundry, cleaning, cooking, planning, etc. What a blessing for me. I could not do it all! I get to come home to a warm meal, and then enjoy my kids until bedtime.

In order to get "us" time, we have started running together after the kids go to bed. I absolutely LOVE this time of day! I wish we had started this lots sooner! We walk a bit at first to warm up and can chat, then we can pick up conversation as we cool down too. We run through our development where we live and there are several ponds we run by. A couple nights ago, we heard a loud splash (definitely the sound of a big gator) in the pond we were walking by. Just then, I looked down and saw a frog on the sidewalk which hopped onto my leg as it went by. Of course it startled me and I tried to kick it off while shouting "Its on my leg!!!" I also inadvertently grabbed Paul's arm. His immediate reaction was to gasp and then run. He only got a couple steps when we burst out laughing at both of our reactions!! I told him how reassuring it was to know he would run away if a gator was attacking my leg so that at least one of us would be around to watch the kids grow up! We laughed the rest of the way home and ran down the middle of the street when we got to the ponds that were too near the sidewalk! What precious times together that we have been missing out on for years! Pray that our old bodies will stand up to the strain!

That is the scoop around here. I have several other blogs to post, but simply don't have the time yet. I will try to catch you up on what we are doing when we are not working or running very soon! Know that we love each of you and are praying for you!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Too funny not to share

I am a terrible mom at writing down the cute things my kids say. I am always saying, I should write that down after they crack Paul and I up...but I never follow through. This one I managed to scribble down in the van on the way home from church since Paul had his notebook with him that he takes notes on during the sermon:

Holden: "Mom, how many brothers did you have?"
Me: "None. I didn't have any brothers."
Alayna: "But Dad's your brother!"
Me: "No, he is my husband."
Alayna: "And you're his LIFE."
Me: "Exactly!!"

Monday, September 7, 2009

Special thanks for a life saver

This is my sister JoDee. Yes, she is on a ladder in the middle of her dining room and yes, she is installing a light fixture. Yes, she is amazingly talented (you should see her roof-top acrobatics routine...there is rumor of an X games roof sliding event in the future based on her mad skill!), and not only capable of installing light fixtures and ceiling fans, but also a life saver to me while Paul was away for 2 weeks.
She moved in with us so that she could take the kids to school and pick them up for me while I was working. She chose a new area of our home each day, that needed organizing or cleaning and had my home clean, the kids' homework done, and supper on the table when I got home. She is truly amazing in the way she gave of herself to help out our family! I would NOT have survived the 2 weeks if I had to organize their care before and after school, try to get to work on time or try to work it out with my (new) employer, keep the house clean and organized, fix meals, lunches, check on homework, make sure laundry got done...I am exhausted just thinking of it! She did all this with such a cheerful, giving heart. She is still looking for full time work and will be subbing some and hoping that will pick up. Pray for her please!

Paul got home on Saturday afternoon, so we planned to take the kids to Busch Gardens for the day since it is just 15 minutes from the airport. We took 2 of the kids with us while Holden and Riley opted to go to a baseball game with some friends from church. We had time to do some things we hadn't taken the time to do before and that Alayna has been wanting to do for a long time. That was seeing all the animals. I don't know how many of you know this, but Busch Gardens is like a theme park and zoo all in one! Here we went in to feed the birds. They landed on us and made lots of noise. This one liked JoDee and Alayna was trying to coax it onto her hand:

She finally got one lured onto her hand from mine.

And this guy picked Gabe out of the crowd. He perched on his head and posed for several pictures before G noticed something warm running down his head and the bird flew off...nice, very nice! We got the (very small amount) of bird potty rinsed off and went on our way!
The iguana laying on the rocks just above Alayna's head blended in with his surroundings just a bit too well...I am sure that he is there though! For some reason, this was the attraction Alayna wanted to hit first. Since we usually hit all the big roller coasters first thing before the lines get long and Alayna can't ride any of them, we decided this would be her day! She was thrilled!
And this gorgeous, huge Clydesdale gave Alayna a kiss just as the picture was snapped. She was thrilled that she got to pet him and talk to him and get her picture taken with him! This was just another one of our happening up at just the right time for some excitement. It happened all day. We happened by the lions just as they were getting fed. I didn't get any pictures because Alayna was on my shoulders so she could see. It was so fun to watch. The male simply caught the meat that was thrown to him in his mouth and swallowed it whole. The 2 females both would stick their paws up to catch it and then savor it more slowly. It was so funny!

We also happened to be at the hippo attraction at feeding time! Look at that giant mouth! This hippo is about 35 years old (actually quite young I think), and weighed 2,500 pounds! She was give an entire head of leaf lettuce (whole), quartered cantaloupe and honeydew melons (with the rind), giant carrots and squash. All whole!
The most fun thing about the hippo viewing area is that it is under the water level and you can see them swimming around. This hippo in the picture with Alayna is the baby, she is 3 years old.
Alayna and Gabriel pose with all the fish. There were about 10,000 fish in the pond.
It was a fun way to wind down our 2 weeks together and spend quality time together. JoDee, I truly can't thank you enough for taking charge of my house and kids and leaving me the brainpower to take care of my work issues! You are a constant source of blessing to me and my family and we certainly don't deserve such loving, kind, loyal, neat freak, should be professional organizer treatment! But thank you for pouring it out on us anyway, in spite of ourselves! We love you big bunches.

Colorado Springs part one:

Paul has returned from Colorado Springs! We are so happy to have him back home! His time at John Regier's counseling training went very well as dragging up painful personal issues can go anyway. He had a small snag when a couple from our general area were there for counseling and refused to allow him to observe. He had the morning off the second week, so now he has to return to Colorado Springs an extra time to make up for the lost experience. God has a plan in that as well.

While he was away, he stayed with old CRPD buddy and also fellow members of our Iowa church, Dave and Sandi McDill. They were extremely generous with their home and even supplied Paul with a vehicle during his stay. They took excellent care of him and even took him sight seeing. As you can see, they visited the Garden of the gods.
Colin (Dave and Sandi's youngest) poses here with Paul under part of this big rock.
The beautiful view. This was something Paul especially enjoyed after the past year of flatness here in Florida!

Paul and the mountains.
Colin took this picture of Dave and Paul!

Now that's a big rock!

Another day, the boys visited the Air Force Academy. They were impressed by the fighter jets and the beautiful chapel. Here they were washing the jets.

The inside of the chapel at the Air Force Academy.

Paul and Colin outside the chapel.

We will miss him again when he has to go back, but I am so grateful that he was so well taken care of. We can so clearly see God's hand guiding us down this course. We still don't know where it leads for sure, but we will continue to obey his prompting for Paul to obtain this training. We are continuing under the assumption that Paul will be working in conjunction with our church and that our support will taken care of by the One who is able. Because we are not! It is clear to us that Paul is to finish this training at the very least. We attempt to wait patiently on His next direction. Please pray for us during this time that we will enjoy the journey and not be wishing it away, in a hurry to get to what is next.

Friday, September 4, 2009

A Perfect God

I am amazed at God's love and tender care of me lately. I have been reading through the Bible in a year by reading a section of the Old Testament, New Testament, a Psalm, and a Proverb daily. I have a nifty Bible that organizes the readings with date headers, so I just have to go to the date and read what is there. I am amazed each time the day's reading applies to my life in that moment. I shouldn't be amazed any more. I should trust that God has orchestrated each and every second of my life and is using it for His glory. But...I have trouble continuing to trust. I take my eyes off my all powerful Savior and place them on my problems and end up afraid, mad, bitter, and hopeless.

As our summer of change events unfolded, I was comforted multiple times by a psalm or proverb, or passage from Romans as I could identify with Paul's (the apostle that is) persecution that mirrored my Paul's persecution that he endured this past year. I am so grateful for the tender hug from God that I received as I curled up at the end of the day with my Bible to try to connect with God and get some answers about what we were going through.

Just this week, I finished up Job. How appropriate. After all the feeling sorry for myself via Hee Haw lyrics, it was a struggle to maintain a rosy outlook on our time in Florida. We have asked ourselves, (and God), "Was this what we came to Florida for? Why did we have to come all the way here and give up everything we had for THIS??" WOW, Job puts it all in perspective doesn't he?? I have suffered SO LITTLE compared to him and yet I despair just as strongly and pour out my complaints to God in bitterness and even anger. I am so thankful for His grace.

Two days ago, I started Ecclesiastes. I have read this book several times before and my main take home point that I gleaned from The Wise Solomon was this: "Everything is meaningless." So, as I opened my reading for that day and saw I was to begin this book, I was like, "What in the world?? This is the last book I need to be reading now!!" But, I was amazed at the encouragement I found here . Indulge me in sharing it with you for my own benefit! Ecc 3:11 "Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God's work from beginning to end." And Ecc 4:9,12 "Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken."

As I read this words, I thought of Paul and I, as we stood together in agreement to fight the wrong that was happening at Agape. How Harvey Johnson stood at Paul's back when he was attacked and how Paul returned the favor. How you (our supporters) became the third in our triple braided cord and how we cannot be easily broken. Praise the Lord! Some of you have heard Paul's reasons for leaving Agape, but most of you have not. Paul was explaining a bit in a recent e-mail and I have pasted it here in his words:

"When I entered law enforcement in 1993 I needed a job, that's it. From there I excelled, because my father taught me how to work, but then Empty came knocking on my heart and I jumped when we were called to missions. Little did I know that God had me go to Agape to fight. To fight injustice to the staff, to supporters and a few missionaries. I had not planned on it being short term, but God made it clear that in order for change to occur I would need to leave. I had made the leadership aware of the problems at hand, but they did not listen until I walked out the door.

As of today, the Board of Directors [at Agape] has asked the Executive Director to take a sabbatical for 8 months. They are listening to the staff for the first time in years, and change is occurring. I was brought to Agape, by God, for this purpose: To begin the change and healing process. Now that he has used me for this, I must await what he has for me next, and serve by counseling those who need it."

We don't know what God has planned for Paul next. We cannot see the whole scope of God's work from beginning to end. Ecc 6:18-20 "Even so, I have noticed one thing, at least, that is good. It is good for people to eat, drink, and enjoy their work under the sun during the short life God has given them, and to accept their lot in life. And it is a good thing to receive wealth from God and the good health to enjoy it. To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life--this is indeed a gift from God. God keeps such people so busy enjoying life that they take no time to brood over the past." Wise advice, Solomon.

How are we doing heeding it? Some days are better than others. Paul is definitely doing it better than I am. I am still angry at times; bitterness still seeps in and overwhelms me. In my pride (a recurring problem of mine), I look at the sacrifices we made to come here and I feel so unappreciated, taken for granted and used. I would love to tell you that we are at perfect peace, we are handling this transition with grace and mercy...but that wouldn't be very transparent. And I have pledged to do away with the Travis that presents a "put together" image out there for the world to see, too afraid to admit that I have faults, worried about the rejection that would surely accompany anyone who got to know the real me. No, I need you to know the real me and pray for the real me who is hurting, angry and bitter at times. It has been so hard to watch what this has done to my husband. How he has been wounded so deeply and his heart has been damaged by sinful expectations and behavior. I would rather it be me. It would be easier to take. So, my prayer is that I would lift up my imperfect, broken and scarred heart to a perfect God. That I would be amazed and be changed. Natalie Grant's song has really spoken to me lately:

Never let 'em see you when you're breaking
Never let 'em see you when you fall
That's how we live and that's how we try
Tell the world you've got it all together
Never let them see what's underneath
Cover it up with a crooked smile
But it only lasts for a little while

There's no such thing as perfect people
There's no such thing as a perfect life
So come as you are, broken and scarred
Lift up your heart and be amazed
And be changed by a perfect God

Suddenly it's like a weight is lifted
When you hear the words that you are loved
He knows where you are and where you've been
And you never have to go there again

Who lived and died to give new life
To heal our imperfections
So look up and see love. Let grace be enough

By a perfect God

Be changed by a perfect God
Be changed