Monday, January 30, 2012

Completely Humbled

I'm looking out over our backyard.  Guess what I see.  Trees...houses...dead plants (that's just a reality of winter, folks).  Maybe it would be better to say: guess what I don't see.  Deer poop!!  Did I slave away for the majority of the day and get it all done?  Nope.  Did I make my super eager to help 4-year-old go out there and do his magic with the rake?  Nope again.  Do I have a deer poop genie that came and took it all away for me?  Well...kinda...

As I was running around the house this morning trying to get things straightened up a bit, I caught Micah just staring out the window.  He was interested in something, so I thought I'd take a look.  I saw an orange extension cord and it was then I noticed the whirring of a small motor.  What I saw next freaked me out...a tall man with a ball cap and bandana over his face picking up deer turds.  I jumped back so he wouldn't see me, then I peeked out the window from behind the blinds to see first of all...what the heck he was doing...and also...who the heck is this?  My first thought was, "Oh, man. Our neighbor finally got sick of all the poop in our yard and decided to come pick it up himself."  And then it hit me...

Last night after our deer poop project we went to small group.  We jokingly told them we knew of a service project that would really help out some fellow church goers and then we invited them over for game night....and an afternoon of picking up poop.  It was totally a joke, but it didn't go unnoticed....

Our small group leader, who just happened to have the day off today, was outside in my backyard with his shop-vac on his back sucking up my deer poop.  My first reaction was complete embarrassment.  Oh, my gosh!  I can do that!  You don't need to help us!  We'll be fine!  I called Gregg to ask him if he knew anything about it and ask him what I should do.  His response was pretty deep and profound...tell him thank you.  Well, I can't just let him spend his day off like that.... Tell him thank you.  Yes, I'll tell him thank you.

Holy cow...have you ever received such an unsolicited gift...a gift of service...that you were neither expecting and certainly didn't deserve?  It is incredibly humbling.  We have definitely been on the receiving end of service...meals when we had a baby, help from various people when Gregg is out of town, last year when Eric died our small group came over and cleaned our whole house.  We were certainly humbled by these grateful we can't even express...but there was a need there first...we were going through something and needed people to step up at those times (and they did and again we are ever so grateful).  But this was so unexpected and....different.  It made me think of how our Heavenly Father gave me an incredible gift that I am completely and utterly undeserving of.  I was (am, really) a sinner...I was completely lost and He gave me the gift of Christ so that when I stand before Him one day, I will be seen as blameless... He has given me an eternity with Him.  Why?  Because He loves me.  There is no way I can ever repay Him...nothing I can do to make Him take back His gift...I can only love Him back and live my life in a way that says, "Thank you."  Thank you for our church family who gives and serves so selflessly.  Thank you for little reminders in our busy lives of what you've done for us.  Thank you...I am completely humbled.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

And The Saga Continues....

So there I was finally taking down my Christmas lights...yes, Christmas lights.  I know Christmas was a month ago, but I was waiting for a 50+ degree day to do it.  Oh, yeah...we've had like ten of those since Christmas.  Fine...I'm lazy.  Anyway, back to the situation at hand.  So I was taking down the Christmas lights on this unseasonably warm January day in beautiful SoDak.  Will was playing ever so quietly and contently in the yard next to quietly that I hardly even noticed him.  And then I look over.  And I freak out.  He's mowing the lawn with his bubble-blowing mower (that I don't think ever blew bubbles while we've owned it) and as he's doing so he's kicking up a TON of deer poop!  Aaaahhhhhh!!  The deer poop!  And that's when I realize the yard is 100 times worse than last year.  There was seriously not one square foot that didn't have at least one deer turd on it.  So the Christmas lights will have to wait one more day...I guess I can't put the poop off until spring...

I've posted about our deer poop problem before, but this is getting to the point of ridiculous!  I look around at our neighbors and none of them have the same problem...and I never see them out picking up poop.  What is it with our yard?!?!?  I see them out there at night...snoozing the night away.  They don't startle when we drive up...they don't budge...they don't even care.  They just look at you with their...deer...eyes and say, "I'm gonna poop in your yard.  As soon as you shut your garage door..."  Grrrrrr!

So this is how we spent our Sunday afternoon.  No naps for us here at the Schmidt house...just a leisurely afternoon of picking up deer feces.  Lovely.  Have I ever told you how much I love having an engineer for a husband?  My approach to picking up poop...put on some gloves and pick it up.  Works okay with big chunks, but the pellets are nightmares.  So then I try the shovel...better, but still...  He comes right out with a rake...duh!  Yeah, that's what I was gonna do, but I, uh...  Common sense often escapes me.  I'm convinced his ability to see the obvious is one of the reasons God gave him to me.  He's so smart. :)

But out of every difficult situation... A bonus for the afternoon - Will helped!  My super frustrating deer poop problem actually turned into a positive lesson on work ethic for our four-year-old.  As I'm working harder than I've worked in a long time (all the while plotting against these deer because they've not only messed up my Sunday afternoon, I have blisters from the rake), I can hear Gregg talking to Will about the yard work and how it is hard, but it has to be done.  Will just kept on raking, and raking, and raking.  I'm convinced this is another reason God gave Gregg to me... He didn't complain about the problem...he just dealt with it and along the way taught our son to do likewise. 

An hour and a half went by and we filled our garbage can...thank goodness Monday is garbage day.  I felt pretty good about our accomplishments for the afternoon...then I realized...we've only done a third of the yard.  Schmidts 1 - deer 105.  I felt defeated.  Now I've always been one to say, "I don't mind if people hunt, I just couldn't shoot an animal myself."  But it was at that moment, after all our hard work and still so much left to do, that I thought, "Bambi, if you and I met in the forest...let's just say it wouldn't be pretty."  Until next time...

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Speaking of Perspective...

I hate my floors...hate!  I know it's a strong word, but every time I mop, no matter how hard I scrub the dirt just sits in those little divots (do you see 'em?)...oooh, it really makes me steam.  I curse the stupid mop...I curse the maker of the tile...I curse the person who chose this tile...Really?  Light tile, light grout (that's actually not so light any more)...who puts this stuff in their house?  Every time I mop I vow to go floor shopping the next day because there is no way I'm mopping this floor again!  I can't live with these conditions...seriously!!!  And man, don't get me started on the purple carpet.  That's right, it's purple.  Purple.  Did I mention I hate my floors?

So today, being a week out from the last mopping experience - I try to stretch it as long as I can because it just gets my heart rate up too high and that's not good for anyone - anyway, today this wasn't even a thought in my mind as I rushed out the door with Micah on my way to pick Will up from school.  I was trying to get going a few minutes early so I could make a Starbuck's run beforehand...not my normal practice, but I had a little money in my pocket (also not normal) and it sounded good.  So off we went.  Oh, wait...not before checking the mail first. envelope from Compassion International with the words "Message from your Sponsor Child" on the outside.  Fun!  I like getting their little notes and drawings.  So even though I was in a bit of a hurry I opened the letter.

I admit...I'm guilty of rifling through the papers and tossing aside all the printed form letters that sometimes come with those notes.  All the "thank you for your sponsorship," "it really means a lot to them" know, that sort of thing.  So I went about my normal practice of getting to the "good stuff"...the note from my child.  Nothing.  Huh.  So I looked back through the form letters.  One of them was a letter from the pastor of the church where one of our children (Eugenia) attends.  That was my message.

So I read it and halfway through the letter, I became terribly convicted. In the letter her pastor talked about the living conditions in the Nicaraguan city where they live.  He talked about how many people lived in cardboard, plastic, or tin houses.  Many have dirt floors.  Often times families only have enough money to buy food for that day.  I can't even imagine what that would be like.  I have to plan ahead and make sure I use all the food in my fridge before it spoils.  We are never lacking for food...we often abuse the abundance by going out too often and over-eating.  And the floors...I complain about having a floor that traps dirt when a lot of their floors are made of dirt.  Holy cow.  How do I so easily forget about the blessings the Lord has bestowed upon me?

Now the point of the letter wasn't to make me feel guilty about our living conditions.  The point was to give us a better understanding of where Eugenia lives...what her life is like on a day to day we can feel more of a connection to makes her more real.  It did exactly that.  I am guilty of not thinking of her and praying for her as often as I should.  I send off my money once a year...once a year so I don't forget to do it monthly...and I don't remember to pray for her consistently.  I don't remember that there's a little girl in Central America thankful for me.  Who maybe even prays for me when she is more than likely faced with things on a day to day basis that I can't even imagine happening in my lifetime.  Did I mention I hate my floors?

This evening I am thankful.  I am thankful I have a Father in Heaven who ever so lovingly and subtly takes my mind from the material things of this world and refocuses them on the things that matter...the people that matter.  Material things are nice...and there's nothing wrong with them...until they start to become your priority.  Is it my priority to get new floors or make sure God's Word is preached to the nations?  Is it my priority to have a nice car or respond to God's call to take care of orphans and widows?  Is it my priority to have my boys dressed super cutely and perfectly or make sure a child over in Swaziland has a pair of shoes he can wear?  Thank you, Lord for redirecting my thoughts today.  Thank you for Eugenia...and when I mop my floors, I'll think of you and pray for you.

For more info on sponsoring a child through Compassion... 

Thursday, January 19, 2012

A Little Perspective

Do you ever wonder about the timing of certain events in your life?  Do you ever think...why this...why now?  I've thought that often, and you better believe that when Eric got sick we asked that question a lot.  Why now, Lord?  Why something so big?  Why now?!?!  Sometimes even though I know in my head that God's timing is perfect, my heart doesn't always want to believe it.  Sometimes our finite, human minds can't wrap around what He has planned. 

But as I stand here today facing the start of a lifelong journey with rheumatoid arthritis, I have an overwhelming sense of peace with His timing...actually it's more of an amazement with His timing.  I've thought a lot about why I got this diagnosis when I did...I'm so young...I have two active little boys...this doesn't seem right.  I've also prayed about this a lot, and God again proved Himself faithful.  He answered my prayers in such a way that I've been able to experience God's sovereignty in a whole other way.

I recently did Beth Moore's Revelation study (which, by the way is wonderful!!).  One of the whole points of the study was to daily ask God to give you a personal revelation, whether it be through a passage of scripture, a song, a sermon...whatever...a revelation giving you a little better glimpse of who He is.  She talked about the time when Jesus was sleeping in the stern of the boat during a raging storm.  The disciples, afraid woke Jesus and begged Him to save them.  He got up, rebuked the wind and waves and they obeyed Him.  The scripture says the disciples were terrified and asked each other, "Who is this?"  Who is this?  These men knew Him.  They were with Him all the time.  They knew John the Baptist's testimony about Him.  James and John were Jesus' cousins.  Yet they ask, "Who is this?"   

Do you ever have those moments?  When you're plugging along in life, you've been a Christian for X number of years, you know who He is, and then He stops you in your tracks and you have to ask, "Who is this?"  I've only had a few in my life, but they are humbling when they happen.  Looking back I realized that many of my "why now" questions that I asked when I found out about my RA were pretty selfish.  Why now, Lord?  Why are you giving this to me now?  After wrestling with these questions for a while, the thought came to my mind, "What if it had been two years ago?"  Hmmmm...let me think.

Two years ago, we hadn't yet heard about Eric's cancer.  Watching a family go through the death of a loved one at such a young age really puts things in perspective.  It makes something like RA look like the common cold.  Two years ago RA would have been shaking news.  Two years ago?  Would I have glorified God in this two years ago or would I be stuck in a state of self pity?

Two years ago.  I was working in a retail pharmacy.  A 10-hour, stand on your feet all day because if you sit down it's bad customer service job.  I think about the pain it causes me to stand any length of time now and how there is no way I'd survive one shift in a retail pharmacy.  I think about how God provided the job at the hospital where I can sit for the majority of my time.  Is His timing not amazing?

Let's push this back a little further...three years.  Our little Micah Moo wouldn't be in the picture yet.  The drug I'm taking for my RA is a pregnancy category X...that means it causes birth defects and many women taking this medication have miscarriages.  Now you can stop taking your meds if you want to get pregnant, but Micah was a...ummm...surprise.  We weren't planning for him...we may never had met him if this came on three years ago.

When I think about the timing of the events of the past year I can't help but be amazed and think, "Who is this?"  Who is this that knows us so well that He times events in our life perfectly so we can get a little more insight into who He is?  Who is this that works out the details so in the end He is glorified?  Who is this?  He is the God of the universe and Lord of my life...I find rest in Him.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Learning Through Trials

I love making sugar cookies...especially decorating sugar cookies.  More to the point, I love making and decorating sugar cookies with my boys.  I love to run (jog really), and scrapbook, and take walks with my boys.  I love to hike and run after my little men - unless they're in trouble and running away from me...that's a different story!  So when my future as a jogging, scrapbooking, sugar cookie-making momma became jeopardized and uncertain, I almost reverted back to my anxiety-stricken ways that were oh, so familiar to me as a non-believer.

I guess I should start at the beginning.  A few months ago (after all the soul searching I talked about in the previous post), I finally told God I was ready for Him to do whatever He had planned for my life.  Not that I thought He'd wait on me, but it was more of a final submission on my part.  Finally really ready to give everything over no matter WHAT that meant.  This was actually a pretty scary thing on my part given the events of the past year with the death of Gregg's brother.  Was I really ready for something like that?

Kinda crazy, but within a month of me asking for His will to be fulfilled in my life I got some life-altering news.  For a few weeks I had been having pain in my feet...both feet that was worse in the morning, but lasted all day.  Pain to the point it was affecting my daily activities and I decided it was time to get it checked out.  Now I'm a bit of a hypochondriac, but rarely do I ever get my "what if's" checked out...but this was different.  I went to the doctor telling him that I thought I have rheumatoid arthritis (RA).  He did a physical - normal.  He took xrays - normal.  He took blood tests - all normal...except one.  My anti-CCP was positive...a highly specific test for RA.  To be completely honest, I was expecting everything to come back normal and I'd go on feeling like this for a while with no answers and eventually it would just go away.  I wasn't expecting my suspicions to be true.

Will loves to decorate cookies with me...
Now I know what you're probably saying..."You said you had exciting things going on!"  Yes, yes. I know...let me finish!  Believe me, "excitement" wasn't the first emotion that came over me.  It was fear.  Having a medical background, my mind skipped over all the joint-related symptoms and went straight to the more serious...the potentially life-threatening complications of this disease...pericarditis, pulmonary fibrosis, vasculitis.  I almost lost it when Gregg brushed it off as no big deal.  "You don't understand!!!  It's not normal arthritis!!!"

Fear continued to grip me as weeks went by and I realized I'm going to be limited by this disease.  My hands and wrists were starting to hurt.  Making gift tags for Christmas presents, frosting and decorating sugar cookies, learning to sew...these activities became difficult as I often lacked the dexterity and strength needed to do them.  I'm only 31!!!  What is it going to be like when I'm 45?  It was scary how quickly things seemed to be progressing and I extrapolated this to mean I had an aggressive form of the disease.  I couldn't run anymore...I couldn't even go on walks with my boys.  Holding Micah for extended periods of time became can altogether forget about holding Will.  I was downing ibuprofen like candy just to get through my day.  Lord, why is this happening!?!?!?

...and Micah likes to eat them!
Oh. Wait. I asked for this, didn't I?  Am I saying God gave this to me as a punishment?  No.  Am I saying this was part of His will or plan for my life?  Absolutely.  The timing is a little peculiar, don't you think?  You can argue semantics about whether God causes or allows things like this to happen...I don't know the answer to that.  I don't know if it matters.  I do know that God gives (or allows) things like this to His people to deepen dependency on Him.  Take Job of the Old Testament or Paul in the New.  Paul asked three times for the thorn in his flesh to be taken away.  God's answer?  “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor 12:9)  Wow.  God has this covered.  He has my best interest in mind, whether it's obvious or not from my immediate circumstances.  

So this is why it's exciting...God is working through this.  He knows exactly what I need when I need it.  His will is perfect.  Paul's response to God's decision not to take his weakness away is the attitude I pray for as I navigate through this new and unfamiliar part of my life.  He says, "Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me."  That sounds good...I'll take that.

The rare occasion when I got to limp along with my boys...Happiness!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Awakening

Geez!  Was it seriously the end of May when I last blogged?  Well, the hiatus was intentional, but the length certainly was not.  I guess that's what happens with two very busy little boys!  The purpose of the break in blogging?  It certainly wasn't for lack of things to write about...little boys also give you lots of bloggin' material!  It was a little more spiritual than that...a little deeper. When Eric was sick and then when he died, I used blogging as a way to get my feelings out and "confess" to everyone the awfulness that was inside of me.  That experience brought on a lot of anger, selfishness, fear, and...well, just name any nasty emotion and I probably felt it and blogged about it.  I was attempting to use blogging as a tool to (again) "confess."  After all, the Bible tells us to confess our sins to each other.  James 5:16 says: "Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed."

But as I looked over my past blogs, I was really convicted.  I'll tell you a few reasons I think that my use of the blog was not what God had in mind when He gave us James 5:16, and hence the reason for the hiatus.  First of all, there's humility involved when you confess your sins to someone.  I'm sitting here behind a computer screen spilling my heart.  I can't see you and you can't see me...there's no humility...only false humility at best.  I know I'm not the first to point this out, but all this technology has really made us lose touch with each other on a personal level.  We may be reaching the masses (well, not my blog, but many others), but a lot of the times we can't even carry on a real conversation when face to face.  Secondly, I was sometimes using this form of "confession" instead of going to God on my knees.  While I was getting it out, I was missing some of the point.  There is purpose in laying everything at the feet of Jesus.  It's an expression of dependency, of humility...and I was missing out on that.  Lastly, there was a lot of "confessing" going on, but I don't think true and complete repentance was there...maybe the most telling sign that my attempt at being transparent was not working.  God has taught Gregg and I A LOT over this past year or so, and it hasn't come easily...for either of us.  We've had to do some deep soul searching, constantly going to God in prayer and to His Word for guidance.  And God is so gracious to us...1 John 1:9 says: "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness."  It wasn't until I finally went to Him and only Him to confess these things and repent of them that I feel He has allowed me to work through and release many of these sinful attitudes and behaviors that were taking over.  Thank God for His mercy and grace that He freely gives to those who ask for it!

"Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper,
but the one who confesses 
and renounces them finds mercy."  
~Proverbs 28:13

So this was my awakening...kind of like the fog clearing after a really dark and dreary day where you can't see anything and everything is unfamiliar and uncertain.  Why then did I decide to come back to blogging?  Well, God is doing some pretty exciting (and a little scary) things in my life that I really feel I need to share.  For the sake of not boring you all to death with a ridiculously long post (which I've been known to do from time to time), I'll leave all that for future entries. :)