Thursday, June 30, 2011

Teachings from Beth Moore!

Wouldn't you know that Beth Moore would go to Lincoln when I didn't live there anymore! But oh well! I did know several of my friends went and I'm sure that they were so blessed. But for those of us who didn't get to go, here are some notes from her teaching that weekend, that I borrowed from here.

Beth Moore's lesson at Living Proof Live in Lincoln came out of a word study on "better." After looking at every instance of the word "better" in Scripture, Beth noticed a pattern that framed her message:

There is a "better" that is "bitter." And there is a "better" that is "better."

If you're like me, you've probably never thought of it that way. I tend to think that better is better is better is better. But Beth pointed out four different ways that better is actually bitter, then contrasted those points with five ways that better is better.

Stay with me. It gets really good.

I'm going to share all four "better is bitter" points today - and then I'm going to come back in a few days and elaborate on point number two. Because point number two? It read my mail.

1. Better is bitter when better is before (Exodus 14:12, Numbers 11:14, Numbers 14:3-4). This mentality creeps in when we decide that our best days are behind us. We think that job was better. Or that man was better. Or that time was better. We can't go forward because we keep looking back over our shoulders. Beth illustrated this point by examining the Israelites in Exodus 14: "it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness" (verse 12). If we're not careful, we stay trapped in the mentality of the past, failing to recognize that God has delivered us to a far better place.

2. Better is bitter when better is someone besides me (Esther 1:19, Galatians 5:25-26). We're going to constantly run into people who are better at whatever it is that we want to be good at, and we're threatened by that. We decide that so-and-so is better at parenting / parallel parking / leading Bible study / cooking / life-in-general, and bitterness takes root. It's like I heard Melanie say one time: we look at the blessings in another person's life and decide that it somehow takes away from what God is going to do in our lives. Beth used Philippians 2:7 to show that we need to empty ourselves of our vain conceit because it is EMPTY GLORY.

(I've got loads more to tell y'all about this point, so stay tuned.)

3. Better is bitter when better is the route I didn't take (Ecclesiastes, 1 Kings 19, Jonah). Some of us are living in constant regret, and our woe is me attitudes are killing us. Beth used the examples of Solomon, Elijah and Jonah to show how those regrets can affect us if we're not mindful to squelch them. Just because there have been disappointments in your life, you are not better off dead (see Jonah 4:8). Beth mentioned that if you really were better off dead, God would have already taken you home!

4. Better is bitter when better is what you should have known (Romans 7:24-8:3, Hebrews 12:18-24, 2 Corinthians 7:10). Sometimes we go one step further with regret (point #3) and move into "I should have known better, but..." or "I DID know better, but...." Beth spent a lot of time on this point, and the bottom line is that WE'VE GOT TO MOVE ON. We can't self-loathe for the rest of our lives. To be in the trap of "I knew better" is a body of death to us. At some point we have to decide if we're going to stand in front of Mt. Sinai or Mt. Zion. If there's a place in your life where you should have known better or did know better, God knows that you regret it. He knows. So let's move on from that thing. Psalm 30:5 says "For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime," but we live like the the opposite is true. We're standing in front of Mt. Sinai when we need to move it on over to Mt. Zion.

Don't you wish you had been there??? I do! But looking forward to Beth's Living Proof Live in September!!!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Things that Make You Stop and Think

Yesterday, I had a bizarre and surreal experience. I went in for my annual mammogram on Tuesday. It had been 2 years since my last, but they always had been fine. As I left, the tech said, "the doctor will look at these this afternoon and if he sees anything that looks suspicious we'll call, if not we'll send a letter."

At 4:50 on Tuesday evening they called. I didn't get the message until later, but they said to call in the morning. So yesterday morning I called and they said that there was a spot on the left side that the doctor wanted to get some more pictures of and an ultrasound. I scheduled the appointment and went in yesterday at 3:00.

Needless to say I didn't sleep very well Tuesday night and yesterday tried not to think about it.

I am great at denial and pretending that I'm fine and that I wasn't thinking about it. But the truth is I was thinking about it even as I pretended I wasn't! Oy! I realized I had been stressed about it because after 3:00 and after I found out everything was fine, I was exhausted! I hadn't done much the entire day, but the let down or the relief of things being ok, I realized I had been very tense.

Thankfully what they thought was a mass from the mammogram did NOT show up on the more detailed pictures and the ultrasound. As my dad said, "Hallelujah!"

But having this scenario come up in front of me, it made me stop and think....

"What will I do?"
"How will I handle treatment?"
"How did mom deal with this as her children were still 'young'?"
"What had she really gone through?"
"Will it kill me like it did mom?"
"How did mom take the news as she sat across the table from the doctor?"

If truth be told, every birthday that I have I get closer to the age she was when she was first diagnosed and eventually 18 months later died. Mom was 43 when it all began for her and 18 months later at 45 she died. I turn 39 in February. I feel it more every year. Not necessarily fear, but just a sense of where she was in her life when it changed so dramatically and forever!

I'm thankful that as of right now I'm ok! I still wonder if that is going to be something that becomes part of my story, but I guess we'll cross that bridge if we have to and it isn't right now, thank you Jesus!

Monday, June 20, 2011

11 This Past Weekend

Rayin Wynter Ann Stephens

This past weekend, my daughter, Rayin, would have been 11.
It's hard for me to imagine an 11 year old daughter, seeing as I
have 3 boys, only 1 who has been 11.

I'd like to think that we would have gone and gotten
manis and pedis and maybe a coffee too! Went to
the mall and bought a new outfit plus accessories too!

Actually, I have no idea. Sometimes I think of it more than others.
This year was better than some, but of course I still thought of her.

It's funny....I think I'm the only one.
Well maybe funny isn't the right word.
Sad I guess.
Many people don't even know that
I should have a daughter.
It's really not a conversation piece that is brought up much
and definitely a downer to bring up.

I have grown much in these 11 years, but I still have
no answers!
Sometimes I believe that that is the hardest part of
Rayin's death...not knowing why.
But I don't dwell on this
or else I would go crazy!

Instead, I choose to believe and know that
God is good
God is love
He knows more than I do
He loves me
she is in a much better place
and I will see her again one day.

Until then, I want to remember her and
wonder what it would be like to have
an 11 year old daughter,
even if I'm the only one!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

18 Years!

18 years ago this summer, there were two major life changing events that happened to me! I was 19 and so not ready for either event. These life altering events have been thrust into my face this week! I have not enjoyed looking at them head-on, I much rather like to ignore and deny.

But for what ever reason, this year I have been forced to remember the junk of the summer of '92. During the second week of school, my bridge in my mouth broke, again. I have been living with a broken bridge for about 8 years, but because of cost, I haven't fixed it. It was a side tooth and I became very good at hiding it with my tongue or lip. But this August, the 2 front teeth of my bridge broke off. This was different!!! I instantly had a lisp, no lip or tongue could hide this break. Needless to say, I freaked out! Not because I'm that vain, but because anytime something happens with my mouth, I'm transported back to the summer of '92 and the junk that remains there.

The summer between my freshmen and sophomore year in college, I went to a summer camp in Missouri to work as a counselor. Never having worked at summer camp before I was excited and my best friend, Mary, was going too! My mother was very sick though and I almost decided to stay home. But being the kind of mom she was, she told me that she wanted me to have a normal summer and that I should go. As soon as I got to camp I had a discussion with God and I told Him that if Mom died while I was gone, I would NEVER be able to live with myself if I wasn't there when that happened.

The first week was training and the second week was blind camp. Because of the extra needs, not every counselor had campers. Mary had campers and I didn't. During rest period one day, a bunch of workers were down on the lake skiing and having a break. Mary and I were spotting in the boat as others were skiing.

Robert wanted to try to slalom ski. As his knee broke water, he fell and the 75 foot ski rope came flying back at the boat. I remember everything turned into a slo-mo movie and I saw the rope coming towards me, but I couldn't move. The handle of the rope hit me in my mouth. Really unaware of what exactly happened, I turned to look at Mary and knew by the expression on her face that it wasn't good. All I felt was warmth and then began to taste blood. I leaned over the boat and saw 2 teeth fall into the water as well as fish swimming around eating my blood.

To make a long story short, I was taken to the local ER, but they sent me to Jefferson City to a larger hospital where I had surgery to repair my broken pallet. The handle had pushed my top pallet behind and lower than my bottom teeth. So the doctors rebuilt my pallet and stitched up where 3 teeth were missing. Thus began this long road of mouth issues with me!!!

Yesterday, my bridge was cut and for the first time in 18 years, I'm toothless again. I HATE seeing myself like this. I can't begin to describe what comes back into my mind! Because I have no gum and no teeth, my lip sinks in terribly. I have a temporary thing that I wear, but I can't eat with it or sleep with it, so I'm forced to feel and see it again. I thought I was ok with it, but deep down was again just denying and ignoring.

Really I am fine! I know that my accident was God's will. I know it 100%. After my stay in the hospital, my dad came down to Missouri and picked me up and I went home. 2 weeks later my mom died. I was home! God heard me and knew I wouldn't have been able to live with myself had I not been there, and I was! He made sure that I was home when she died. And the injury could have been so much worse. I could have lost an eye, I could have been killed if it had hit my nose, I could have been disfigured in a more visible way. I know all of this and believe it!

But I have to be honest....I'm so sick of my mouth crap! I'm tired of still 18 years later having to deal with it! I want it over! Unfortunately, the only way for this to never be an issue for me again cost around $35,000-$50,000. So, I continue to deal with it! I'm hoping that what we are doing now will last at least 5 years and I'm hoping that I will have it by July, but not holding me breath! It will come in when it's supposed to!

I haven't missed seeing this holey smile. I haven't missed feeling the weirdness in my mouth. But I must remember that this must too be a part of God's will and plan. He did provide funding for this latest part of this long journey, which I'm so thankful for! And I must remember it could be much worse! I must remember that He IS faithful!!!

As far as the 2nd event of that summer, my mom's death, I will address that at a later time.