Sunday, July 20, 2014

"The Words of Our Testimony"

Every Sunday morning, our pastor begins the service with "What has God been doing in your life this week?" allowing people to share something that is important to them. I've never spoken up in part because I'm never prepared and I'm not really a spur-of-the-moment kind of person.

Well, last Monday, Doug suggested that I consider sharing at church, something that occurred last week. I’ll begin with the events that preceded that, some of which he talked about last Sunday. I’m a writer so what I say today will be very much like a story being told but that’s the way I do things. Today, for almost six minutes, I overcame my incredible fear of speaking to large groups and shared this with our church. I'm thankful for the friend who stood by me as I spoke and I'm convinced that she was holding me up so I didn't collapse on the floor. 

Last December, I embarked on a journey that has changed my life forever. It began with the question of “What is my relationship with God like?” Followed by “How would I like my relationship with God to change?” The past seven months have seen my walk with Jesus change in ways I didn’t even know were possible. I went from thinking my relationship with God was me talking, Him listening but nothing more, nothing deeper, to learning that God is so much more than just One who listens. And I have learned to listen back. 

Like Doug mentioned last week, it has been 15 years since my mum died of congestive heart failure. She was 44 years old. Eight years ago, my mum’s brother had a heart transplant. Their mum died of a heart attack at 56. The genetics don’t really seem to be in my favour. I had some routine lab work done on the 9th of July. I wasn’t worried much until the next day when the doctor called and said I needed to come in and discuss my results. I just thought and hoped that it would be something like my thyroid or a vitamin deficiency. The next day, as I was getting ready for the doctor appointment, I heard a voice in my head say “You will have something to say about this. Believe in me.”  

The doctor said my blood work was normal and fine which could only mean a heart issue. I received the news that I have something called multiple PVCs which means my heart has a lot of extra beats in the normal rhythm. In a person with no heart issues, this wouldn’t be a problem or even exist, but with my family history, I needed to get checked out further. Friday afternoon brought a friend over and we shared a coffee and prayer time on my back deck. That evening I wrote in my journal “I can do all things through Him who gives me strength. And my God will meet all [my] needs according to His glorious riches.” Philippians 4:13 & 19. I was confident that God had it and I didn’t need to fret about it. So far, so good. Later that afternoon I received an encouraging text that said, “He is all that He says He is. Lean on Him, listen to His heartbeat. Believe in Him! He has good plans.”

Early the next morning, was Saturday and as I was doing my devotions, I heard the same voice whisper “You’ll have a story to tell.”  I kept telling myself that I needed to believe I could be healed. I had been having a few really good weeks. God was good to me. Then this heart stuff came. Had I become comfortable in my faith? Comfort would rob me of my dependency on God and in my trials, I would need to turn to Him so He could answer my prayers and receive the glory. 

That night, I believe I suffered from a panic attack. My heart began to pound and race, my blood pressure read numbers higher than Doug’s were, my chest felt tight, I was light headed and even in my 30 degree bedroom, I felt cold. I don’t know how long it lasted but it was close to half an hour. Although my heart was still racing I managed to fall into a restless, fitful sleep. I told Doug the next morning what had occurred and he lovingly encouraged me to tell him sooner if it happened again. 

Last week Sunday while the ladies were praying for me, my chest felt warm and the pounding of my heart calmed down as L prayed over me and I felt a physical relief. Because the scare from the attack was still vivid in my mind, I had a hard time making myself relax on Sunday, my heart was still in overdrive. That afternoon I was constantly checking my blood pressure and finally around 4:00, it had reached a level that was more to what I was used to. Then I heard something in my head tell me “Do not check it any more.”  I was drawn to John 14:27 which in the New Living Translation says,“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” I don’t know how many times I read it over and over. I wanted peace. I needed peace… Something that only He could give.

It was still a pretty rough afternoon for me as I remembered my mom but I received lengthy and uplifting texts from a friend and a dozen yellow roses from Doug’s parents, which were always my mum’s favorites.

Initially, I wasn’t going to visit the cemetery but around 7:30, I had this urge to get out of the house and simply be alone. When I arrived there I cried. Lots. And I prayed, pouring out my heart to my Father. I asked God to heal me completely from my backaches to my headaches and that when I see the cardiologist, he sees nothing wrong. I cried some more. After chatting with a friend by texting, I then received a message that said “Crying breaks down the walls around our heart and that’s when we can become vulnerable enough for the Holy Spirit to start working.” I replied that if that’s the case, then the walls of my heart must just be a pile of dust. I turned to face the headstone, looking towards the sunset which was behind some trees. I looked up, with my eyes closed and the sun got brighter and brighter, blindingly so. It was almost red and my eyes were not even physically able to open. My face got hot. Not that yucky sweaty hot but a dry burning hot. And then I felt a physical peace cover me. I believe with all my heart that the Holy Spirit had come!  Then as the intensity dimmed, I knew that my time there was over. I shared this experience with Doug and even after I got home, I could still feel the heat on my face which lasted for the remainder of the evening.

I cried many tears, surrendered myself to God many times. On Sunday night, Doug and I prayed against anything spiritual in our bedroom that may have caused the attack the previous evening and we slept better that night that we had in weeks. I woke up on Monday morning feeling such peace in my soul.  This stayed with me until Tuesday. But on Wednesday I could feel the exhilaration start to fade and by Thursday night I began to question if I should even share what happened. I was filled with doubt and it was as though I had been depleted of all hope and peace.

I woke up on Friday morning determined to turn those negative feelings around again. I had two hours with God before anyone else had woken up and I had read a chapter in David Chotka’s book that speaks on the “words of our testimony”.  It tells of the need to commit to talk about Jesus when the opportunity arises, how God’s grace was experienced and the reality of Jesus. That was the exact confirmation that I needed. And so here I am now. Sharing with you what God has done in MY life this week.

I’m not sure what the next step is or where God will take me. But, in the words of my mum, God is and all is well. 

First Teeth!

Sarah's bottom two teeth have been loose for a while now and on Friday I could see that they were hardly attached. I knew they had to come out and I didn't want them to get swallowed because I felt Sarah shouldn't just have them disappear. I thought trying to explain that they were in her tummy would be more traumatic than taking them out myself. Well, she cried, in fact fought it terribly, but I won this one! She recovered quickly and when asked how she felt, she replied with "Happy!" I had told her that when they came out I'd take her to the store for a treat. When I asked her if she wanted to go out, she only asked for chocolate chips. Since she has no concept of the "tooth fairy" or money, this was an easy exchange - teeth for chocolate chips!

Sunday's Song: Overcome

Seated above, enthroned in the Father's love
Destined to die, poured out for all mankind
God's only Son, perfect and spotless one
He never sinned but suffered as if He did

All authority
Every victory is Yours
All authority
Every victory is Yours

Savior, worthy of honor and glory
Worthy of all our praise, You overcame
Jesus, awesome in power forever
Awesome and great is Your name, You overcame

Power in hand speaking the Father's plan
You're sending us out, light in this broken land

We will overcome by the blood of the Lamb
And the word of our testimony, everyone overcome

Thursday, July 10, 2014

July 13, 2014

On Sunday, it will be fifteen years since my life was forever altered. After suffering for such a long time with a sick heart, God called my Mum to her final home in Heaven. At one point I wondered how I would ever survive without her since she was such a vital part of my life. By the grace of God though, I have survived and survived well. Babies have been born, miscarriages occurred, funerals have been attended to, my kids are successful in school and my marriage is still strong.

I wish I could though, just for one day go back in time and retain more of what she was like. I would write about her life, her childhood, her stories. I would record her voice so I could hear say words of encouragement and tell me she loves me. I would take more pictures of the two of us and more with my siblings together. When someone passes away, there are no more photographs. You only have those that you've taken and can hang on to those precious memories. My mum was always behind the lens of the camera so there are actually very few photos of her. One fall day, we booked a photographer and had our family pictures done. My dad had requested an individual picture of my mom and the photographer managed to capture every ounce of beauty that my mum possessed.

She was beautiful inside and out. She took great care in how she looked and was always well made up. Even at the end. She loved her family passionately and took great care of us. Family was very important to her and time together was spent at the lake, skiing in the mountains and one final family trip to Florida in 1994. She always enjoyed a good cup of tea and was willing to drink it with just about anyone who would sit with her.

When I write about my mum, I feel like I write the same things over and over. I want people to know how much I love her and how much she is missed. Even after fifteen years, the dull ache is still in my heart as I remember the woman who was such a critical part of who I am today.

March 23, 1955 - July 13, 1999
In loving memory of Shirley Van Neck
My Mum

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Tuesday's Tidbits

It's been a while since I last blogged so I thought I'd give a quick recap of what's been going on here!

  • Last Sunday night, we held a grade nine grad party for Joshua (and me) as we successfully completed our nine years of homeschooling together. We invited his grandparents as well as the youth group (and their families) from Calahoo. It was a great evening with lots of laughter, a blessing on Joshua by our pastor and prayers by his grandpas and friends. What a huge blessing that was on us.
  • Joshua is into his second week of summer school. He's taking CALM and gym... I think it's a good transition into the upcoming high school year. He's learning to get up on time and taking responsibility for what needs to be done.
  • Andrea has been working as a dayhome provider's assistant. She's putting in between 10 and 15 hours a week which is keeping her a little busy but still allowing her to spend a lot of time at home.
  • Arianna is just enjoying summer like a 10 year old should. She takes long walks with me, almost every day and loves being outside. 
  • Sarah is doing well. She loves playing with "P'ayobil" (Playmobil) and it's been fun to watch her imagination spark with her hours of play. She enjoys being outside but the conditions have to be right in order for her to not be overwhelmed. She doesn't like the wind and too much noise drives her inside. 
  • Doug is doing good. He is busy with work and supporting his friendships. He has a desire to build these male relationships and I love seeing his heart at work. The depression days come and go and I again realized that even just the wrong presentation of how I speak can be hard on him. Every day presents itself new and until he's in it, we can't really predict how it will go. It means continually trusting God in this part of his life and leaving it in His hands.
  • Me? I'm doing quite well. I have been digging deep into the Word and am feeling God's presence near me. He has become so real to me and the past seven months have been life changing. I've made peace with a few things that have been lingering on my heart and the peace that I'm experiencing now is amazing. God is working in my life as well as the lives of those around me and it's exciting to see His power! 
  • I love summer. I put up with long cold winters and I genuinely enjoy the hot summer days. I like walking, being outside and enjoying the sun! The forecasted 30* at the end of this week bring a smile to my face and I am looking forward to it.
Happy Tuesday everyone! Enjoy your day!


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