Monday, January 31, 2011

Ever feel like a failure?

I do. a lot.
Recently, I succumbed to self pity as I allowed my focus to shift toward my many failures. Parenting, marriage, friendships, evangelism, keeping home--all contexts where I am painfully aware of my inadequacies.

Yet, with the help of God's Spirit, I picked up something good for my soul and began to read, allowing it to sink in and shift my focus.

The following are quotes from "The Gospel Primer".

The section I read from was entitled "Liberation from self love". "Self love? I thought we were talking about self pity," you might be thinking. Well, self pity is really just an inverted form of self love and so these thoughts were indeed most helpful.

One of the leading causes of my natural tendency to self love is fear--I fear that if I do not love myself there would be no one to love me quite so well as I do.

...the gospel assures me that the love of God is infinitely superior to any love that I could ever give to myself. 'Greater love has no one than this.'

His astonishing love for me renders self absorption moot and frees me up to move on to causes and interests far greater than myself.

Preaching the gospel to myself everday reminds me of God's astounding love for me and also of His infinite worthiness to be loved by me above all else.

John 15: 13
Greater love has no one than this that one lay down his life for his friends.

Romans 8:32
He who did not spare His own Son but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?

II Corinthians 5:14,15
For the love of Christ controls us having concluded this that one died for all, therefore all died and He died for all, that they who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.

Philippians 3:7,8
But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things in the heavens and things on the earth.

An addition to this post, a poem from John Piper:

With mercy make me free

O Jesus, take my bent away
For thinking much of me,
And kill my pride, and from this day
With mercy make me free.

O Jesus, grant the gift to see
The treasure that you are,
And as the night eclipses me,
O be my Morning Star.

And now if I should serve, or lead,
Or give, or mercy show,
O Jesus, let my love be freed,
And like a river flow.

O Jesus, be the treasure of
My heart and all I do,
And may the river of my love
Alone make much of you.

— John Piper"Using Our Gifts in Proportion to Our Faith, Part 2"(Minneapolis, Minn.: Desiring God Ministries, Nov. 7, 2004)

Monday, January 24, 2011

Why He Answers Prayers

Last week, Judah saw his opthamologist at Hopkins, Dr. Jampel, who has always done his exams on Judah in the OR which, of course, requires anesthesia. However, at the visit before this more recent one, Dr. Jampel said that he acquired a new tool that he thought Judah would tolerate him using in the office. So, we scheduled an office visit rather than what we have done for the last 6 years, an EUA (evaluation under anesthesia).

Judah did indeed tolerate the new "tonometer" which didn't require any numbing drops! He still had a gun shaped object tapping on his eyeball, but hey, no numbing drops! So, I guess that worked for Judah. Whatever. I was happy and so was Judah not to have to endure anesthesia.

Checking for infection in Judah's eyes is always a part of Dr. Jampel's exam because Judah had a type of glaucoma surgery in the 2nd year of his life that is prone to infection. After Dr. Jampel determined that all looked good, and Judah's eyes were "quiet and stable", he communicated that the kind of surgery Judah had as a toddler doesn't typically work for the SWS kids, so much so that Dr. Jampel doesn't even do it! Dr. Jampel further remarked that the doctor who did Judah's surgery must have had the "Midas touch".

I have a bit of a different opinion about this.

You see, from the day Judah was born and we learned of his Sturge Weber and all that this syndrome entails for many children, we have been praying along with many, many others to a God who listens to and answers our prayers. He doesn't always answer according to our will, but He always answers according to our good.

Because I trust in Jesus who shed His blood for all my sin, I can now gain an audience with the Creator God anytime over anything, and He will listen to my prayer! Had Jesus not come and taken the punishment of God that I deserved for my sins, I would pray to a God who would not and could not listen to my prayers. Maybe I would still pray to make myself feel better, but my prayers would be in vain.

I'm grateful that my prayers and the prayers of others on Judah's behalf are not in vain. They are directed to the One who created Judah, who sustains Judah and who will answer our prayers on Judah's behalf with mercy.

Judah has baffled his doctors on more than one occasion, but we are not baffled. We know the One who established the natural order of things and who can also supersede that order should He choose. We want to humbly receive all the answers God gives us to our prayers on Judah's behalf even when they are "No; I'm not going to sustain or heal in the ways you are asking," trusting that He who did not spare His only Son but gave Him up for us will graciously give us all that we really need! (Romans 8:32)

*For 2 excellent posts on prayer, visit The Blazing Center here:
and here

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

On Neumann Pond

Sunday and Monday, we took some time to enjoy the blessing of our cold, winter weather by playing around on some friends' frozen pond. We met up with a plethora of other families to enjoy this winter treat.

Thank you, Neumanns, for being among the most generous, fun, loving friends we know! We love you.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Gospel Centered Moments

My 2nd born (by two minutes), Tucker, has been having a flare of his reflux the past two weeks. He's been treated with Prevacid for more than a year now, and that has worked well to keep the reflux under control. However, soon after Christmas, he began complaining of pain in his throat again. It flared quickly as it will, and we have now increased his dose of medicine and prayerfully may need to add another medication to get it under better control.

It's been difficult to watch my son in pain. He becomes anxious about eating because he knows it'll cause pain. When he does eat, he's only able to eat little bits of food at a time. As a momma, it's hard to watch. Something in every mom just wants to be able to, at bare minimum, feed her babies.

Together, Lawrence and I pray for wisdom, talk about how to best care for our son and seek to both encourage him and lead him through this trial. One "plan of attack" that my husband recently encouraged me to take with Tucker was two fold:
  • provide a lot of reassuring touches. Draw near to Tucker physically, hugging, patting his back, rubbing his back which he loves, etc.
  • teach Tucker and remind him often that while he is indeed suffering, he is not suffering to the full extent that he deserves.

I know some may say, "What kind of parents are you? How is that supposed to encourage your son?"

Here's how. Tucker and all of us were created by a Holy Creator God who requires and expects perfect holiness from His creation. We obviously do not live up to that expectation. In fact, we fall short, woefully short of perfection everyday, some of us (me) many, many times a day. The Bible calls that sin. My beautiful children are sinners. I am a sinner. I have not met the demands of God's law. For this, we all deserve God's wrath to be poured out on us. We all deserve to pay the penalty for our sin.

But, God, who is rich in mercy and love toward His creation, sent a Savior, His Son, Jesus who came to earth in human form yet fully God. He lived a perfect life and died an unjust death on our behalf to pay with His own blood a ransom for our sins. HE took the punishment that we deserved so that we could know God's mercy, so that we could experience just forgiveness from God and have eternal fellowship with Him here on earth and one day in Heaven.

So, in light of these truths, we know that while Tucker is suffering with his reflux, he is not suffering as much as he deserves. We know and we tell our children the truth that any suffering we experience here on earth is pale in comparison to the suffering of the punishment of hell that we deserve for our sins. This may sound too deep or ethereal, but it is true hope and peace for those who are willing to embrace it.

We pray daily that our children will embrace these truths. God is providing an opportunity for Tucker to know of His mercy through suffering. It's painful to watch Tucker endure the pains of reflux, but as parents we are grateful for the opportunity it affords for us to point him to the truth: that he is being mercifully treated better than he deserves.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Close your eyes and imagine

Tonight, as I brushed the kids teeth, I noticed Tucker was waiting to be brushed with his eyes closed.
When I asked why he was standing there with his eyes closed, he responded, "I'm imagining that I'm at Grandma's. I love Grandma's; I miss her."

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Around the breakfast table

A topic of discussion in our home rather frequently is the nutritional value or lack thereof in certain foods or long lists of ingredients passed off as food.

In our home, we are trying to avoid some specific, common ingredients for the sake of our health, especially for my boys who have always had allergies, excema and asthma.

This morning, Judah implored me to buy the grape jelly from Aldi's rather than the "small jar" I usually buy. (That would be the Polaner brand which contains no high fructose corn syrup). I explained to him why I choose what I choose for them to which Tucker replied, "Many things that are not good for us taste really good."

I nodded my head. What could I say? It's true.
After a moment to think, I tried to encourage them that after eating real food for a length of time, our tastes begin to change and we'll start to prefer "real food" over foods that are composed of many chemicals. Sounds good, doesn't it?

Tucker's apt reply, "But we like the taste of chemicals."

And so, the battle continues. :)

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Three dates all in one day

Yesterday, I had the privilege of taking my three kiddos out on momma/kid dates, or they might say they took me out on a date. ;)
Either way, I had such an enjoyable time spending one on one time with each of my children.

Judah and I went out first to Pizza Hut where he redeemed one of his book it coupons for a personal pan pizza. I sought to commend Judah for the ways I see him growing in maturity, taking initiative each morning to get himself dressed and his bed made without having to be told. Many mornings he also completes his morning chores with no reminding.

When asked how I might become a better momma, he said that he'd like to see me where a certain dress more often. I found that rather odd but endearing. Hey, I can do that! I was bracing myself for something a bit more convicting, like not speaking so harshly to them as often as I do.

Date #2: Tucker and I went to Barnes & Noble where I ordered a strawberry cream for him to try. He was reluctant to order anything because he's been having a hard time with his reflux lately, and he was especially nervous about experiencing pain while away from home. But, this was a date, and I really wanted him to try this drink because I knew he would enjoy it. He did! Later that evening, Tucker was telling Lawrence about how he had a few sips of mommy's drink only to later confess to Lawrence the truth that he actually drank a lot of it. :) Guess he liked it.

Unfortunately, after reading two Berenstain Bears books (what is it with those books that my boys love them so?), Tucker started feeling the pangs of reflux in his throat and asked to be taken home. While my date with him was cut a little shorter than I had hoped it would be, I nevertheless had a most enjoyable time with my sweet 2nd born!

Last but most certainly NOT least, my girlie and I went to BJ's. Yes, BJ's. Do you know how inexpensive their snack bar items are? Bella chose a soft pretzel and blue slurpie. Though my girlie likes to do almost everything I do and mimics me in many things, I couldn't get her to enjoy eating her pretzel with mustard which is how I like it. :)

My generous girlie allowed me to share her pretzel with her which I gulped down with much too much diet pepsi. The multi-tasker that I am, I ran through the store to pick up some groceries I needed and since I only had one child with me, I took the opportunity to do a little "window shopping". As we strolled down one aisle, I spotted a white vanity with a pink cloth seat to go with it. No sooner had I thought, "Bella would probably love this" that she said, "Mom, can I have that?" I told her that it was called a vanity to which she replied, "Yes, it's a princess vanity."

My little girl loves to look at herself in the mirror, loves to look pretty and loves to have others comment on how she looks pretty. I'm hopeful this is simply a stage or a reflection that the girl has a great self image in place but one that will hopefully be tempered a bit with some humility down the road.

While we were at BJ's, a man noticed Bella and commented that she was adorable. Bella asked why the man said that about her. My response was to tell Bella that God blessed her with a beautiful face. I trust that one day she will indeed know and bow to the Giver of all good gifts!

What a blessing to have these special times with my three buddies.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Goals for 2011

I thought it might serve me in the long run to post some of my goals for this next year. Something written in black and white for all to see and for myself to be reminded.

Taking some cues from this helpful guide:, I will share a few of the "stars" I'm shootin' for this year.

Personal Growth:
  • continue canning/freezing/preserving fresh produce as it makes its way to me. I tried my hand at salsa and tomato soup this summer. It was A LOT OF WORK! But, I decided after my 2nd bowl of tomato soup that I think it's worth it. I just can't go back to condensed tomato soup.
  • Read "Food Matters"; Watch "King Corn" and other documentaries that will encourage conscientious, healthful eating habits in our home
Physical Health:
  • continue regimen at the Y and if my back allows me, begin training in May for a fall racing schedule.
  • Move away from refined sugars. I'm not eliminating sugar. We just like it too much and I'm too serious about many other things. So, we're eating sugar here...I'm just going to begin purchasing Sucanat and using Agave Nectar, Honey as substitutes for good ol' white sugar.
  • Eat less cheese. Might sound funny, but we eat A LOT of cheese. Cheese and chocolate. ;) We could get by fine with a little less. My hubby has high cholesterol and my son has reflux/excema/asthma. I want to see if cutting back on our dairy intake may help all of us.
  • Eliminate/Avoid all foods/drink with artificial colors/flavors in it. Again, this is mostly a push for my son who suffers from excema, but I think it'll be good for all of us.
Marriage & Family Life:
  • Be nice to my hubby. Some days it's really as simple as that. I just need someone (my mom would suffice) to stop me in my tracks at times and say, "Briana, be nice!" I speak too frankly, abruptly to him. It's really disrespect and I want to grow in this area!
  • I also want to make more of an effort to have treats around the house that my hubby enjoys like peanut butter cookies.
  • Show honor to my extended family (mom/dad/siblings) by acknowledging their birthdays and anniversaries.
Money Matters:
  • I'm putting myself on a "spending freeze" of sorts, challenging myself not to buy anything that isn't absolutely necessary. Defining what's necessary is going to be the challenge.
What are some of your aspirations for 2011?