What I’ve learned during Therasuit therapy…

Five things…

1. Anne CAN put forth effort. I’ve seen her grit her teeth and wrinkle her forehead as she strains to move her left arm. Seeing that effort has to be one of the most encouraging aspects of these last three weeks.

2. Anne has a fierce temper. Anne is soooo stubborn and gets angry when she feels unstable – which is most of the time. Today, while she was doing squats, she got especially mad and started to yell something ugly (which she knows she is not allowed to say). The therapist asked her to do 10 squats. Each time she would say the “forbidden” phrase, we would have to start back at 1. She got to 5 – and then she yelled it: “I’ll bite your butt!” So we started over. She got to 2 – and yelled again: “I’ll bite your bu-!” She thought if she left off the ending “t,” it wouldn’t count. But we started over. We got to 3 and Anne started to yell, and then thought better and said, “I’m MAD!” Victory. Anne exhibited reason and self control. Amen and Amen.

3. Anne has many obstacles to overcome. The greatest of which is fear. Anne has the physical ability to walk with the least amount of assistance. But she can’t overcome her feelings of  fear each time she feels the slightest bit off-balance. If Anne walks independently one day, it will come after years of “persevering -never-giving-up-hard-work.”

Which leads me to the fourth thing I’ve learned…

4. I can’t believe I’m writing this, but… I wouldn’t trade Anne’s broken body for her former healthy self – simply because of the character she will develop in overcoming her disabilities. Special needs children have amazingly strong spirits because of the amazingly large obstacles they have to overcome. Anne has put forth an inspiring effort over the last three weeks!

I confess that I’ve spent way too much time focusing on my “seen” circumstances instead of the “unseen” promises in God’s word. I’ve been overwhelmed thinking of how much work it will be for Anne and our family to continue her recovery. But just as I take pleasure in seeing Anne’s effort and perseverance so does God take pleasure in me – even in my weakest efforts. The key is leaning on Him for strength for the moment – and not worrying about where the strength for tomorrow will come from.

So the fifth thing I’ve learned…

5. Living in my own strength leads to exhaustion and burn-out. God has given me circumstances that force me to lean on Him. Even though I hate it, and get so angry… and stubborn…  and I feel like yelling, “I’ll bite your butt!” – I’m thankful that God would care enough for me to give me such an honorable task as to care for a special needs child. And for this, I am grateful :-)

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An unfair exchange

We’re all called to something. Something odious. At least it’s odious for me. Sacrifice. Let me make one thing clear at the beginning. At my core, I despise sacrifice. I try to avoid it at all costs. Who really wants to sacrifice their wants, desires and pleasures? Even for a good cause… Seriously, even if we do “sacrifice” our time for a good cause, at the heart of it… Isn’t it just something we do to make us feel better about ourselves? True Sacrifice – gut wrenching, painful sacrifice is impossible – at least it is for me.

Yet, Jesus demands it. If you study the gospel of Mark, you might notice an event in the 8th chapter that sort of splits Mark’s gospel into two sections. The first section is Jesus showing his disciples and followers that He, indeed, is the long-awaited for Messiah. He heals and teaches and heals, and performs miracles and heals and teaches some more. The crowds are amazed.

At the end of Mark 8, Jesus turns to his disciples and asks them who the crowds say that He is. And after they answer, Jesus says, “Yes, but who do YOU say that I am?” Peter says, “You are the Christ.” And this is a turning point in Mark’s gospel.

It’s a subtle split, but Jesus turns his focus more on training the twelve in that dreaded topic: sacrifice. Check it out…

Mark 8:34 And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”

Mark 8:35-36 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?

Mark 9:35 If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.

Mark 10:43-44 But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.

Mark even illustrates this principle of sacrifice in story form… Remember the rich, young ruler? He wants to follow Jesus, but Jesus asks him to sacrifice the one thing he loves most – his possessions. The man can’t and leaves broken-hearted. His disciples are incredulous. “Who can be saved?” they ask. Jesus gives the good news. “With man this is impossible, but not with God. All things are possible with God” (Mark 10:27).

I cannot muster the ability to sacrifice from within myself.

I have dreams you know… And they aren’t selfish desires – they are good desires, but for now, I can’t pursue them because of the time it requires to care for Anne. I have it easy actually. God has given me an easy choice.

  1. Pursue your own desires and let someone else care for Anne. OR
  2. Sacrifice and care for Anne.

Like I’m going to choose not to care for my own daughter.

But here’s where the mystery is revealed. Here is the paradox that I could have never uncovered on my own. You know what you find when you sacrifice your own desires and wants and dreams? And I don’t mean the “sacrifices” that make us feel better about ourselves. No, I mean the gut wrenching, I HATE THIS kind of sacrifice. Because that’s how I feel most of the time. I HATE THIS.

You know what I’ve found. Do you know what’s at the bottom of the deep well of sacrifice? What’s waiting when you really let Jesus be the King and surrender to that horrible thing he’s asked you to do – the thing you could never do by yourself? Do you know what’s waiting for you? Satisfaction.

As gut wrenching as the sacrifice is, the satisfaction on the other side is… well, it’s other-worldly. Jesus doesn’t ask us to sacrifice because He wants to make our lives miserable. He does it because He knows that it is the only way to find true, soul-filling satisfaction in this world. He asks us to sacrifice because He loves us.

And Jesus, looking at [the rich young ruler], loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”

And the rich, young ruler couldn’t. And neither can I. Yet, somehow in the letting go and asking for help, Jesus does the impossible and sacrifices through me – and I get to experience that joy that surpasses all understanding. It’s not fair actually. I definitely don’t deserve it. But I’ll take it :-)

Canon’s prayer

Just weeks after the accident, I had a hard conversation with Canon about Anne… “Anne’s brain has been hurt. We don’t know how that will affect Anne. There could be things about her that will be different.” Canon, in honorable big-brother fashion, took all this in, cried a bit and turned brave. All the time Anne was in the hospital, Canon prayed, “God, please help Anne talk and walk and run again.  But we know that none of these things matter compared to this: please let her remember her faith in you.” The first time he prayed this, I inwardly screamed, “NO! Those things DO matter. I want her to talk. I want her to walk.” And if I were honest, I wanted my Anne back more than I wanted her to “remember her faith” in God.

God has changed me. That’s the only explanation for what I’m about to write. Now – my greatest desire is for her to remember her faith in God… For her to know Him intimately, and to tell of His mighty works in her life. For her to know His love that is wider and higher and deeper than her wildest dreams. If from eternity past, God knew that Anne would have to pass through this tragedy and suffer physical and cognitive disability in order to win her heart for Himself – well so be it. We’ll walk this road and rejoice for the eternity we’ll spend made whole in heaven.

Canon doesn’t pray that prayer anymore… but I pray it for him. God let Anne know you…. and she will be healed, forever.

Three voices

I’m reading three books right now… This seems all too common, but it’s new ground for me. I’m not used to having three different authors competing for my attention. It just leads to lots of unorganized thoughts swirling around in my head, but I think the clearest voice right now comes from Nancy Guthrie. Her book, Hearing Jesus Speak into Your Sorrow is excellent.

She lost two infants to the same rare genetic disorder. She knows sorrow. And her questions are the same questions I’ve grappled with. Why doesn’t Jesus heal today like He did when He walked the earth? How do we reconcile His promises of protection and peace in the midst of hurricanes and terrorists (and brain injuries)? Who is responsible for my sorrow… me? Satan? God? Did God just allow the accident to happen – or did He ordain it?

These are hard questions, and she gives satisfying answers. She writes that it is our eternal home that is most important to God. My honest reaction to that reminds me of Kate whining when she has to wait ’til after dinner to get her desert. Seriously, child? Don’t you have any concept of delayed gratification? Well, I guess the apple doesn’t fall too far from… me.

Which leads me to the 2nd book I’m reading… Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts. Her book is all about how to “Live Fully Right Where You Are.” It’s a great book about how thankfulness opens the door to joy, but I’m too busy whining (like Kate) to experience very much gratitude- at least for now…

My third book is a Romanian pastor’s doctoral thesis on suffering, matyrdom and the rewards of heaven… He argues that suffering on earth advances the Kingdom of Heaven – the prime example being Jesus, Himself. If we are called to suffer and/or die for the Kingdom, it is a great Eternal victory! There’s that word again… eternal.

I’ve actually learned alot about eternal perspective from Canon. I think I’ll write about that tomorrow. Good night for now…