Inching Forward at Stanford

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Mom is my designated Stanford driver ‚̧

 

Hi Everyone! It’s about time for an update on our journey at Stanford. My biggest blessing so far is that I’m being followed by one of the top research scientists for my particular neurological disorder. If anyone can come up with a solution for my seizures, it will be her!

So far, my new doctor has just been collecting data about the way my brain responds to the environment. She seems to think my condition doesn’t match currently available scientific data, but the good news is we’re still early on in the diagnosis process. As for me, I’m just grateful that I finally made it into the Stanford clinic and that God has placed me in the hands of the literally THE best possible doctor.

As you continue to walk with us, we’d love prayer for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan, as well as strength for our daily challenges. We’re still dealing with the same frequency and severity of seizures as we were earlier in the year, and while Mom, Dad, and Ivan are doing their best as caregivers, we’d all be grateful for some relief. I always joke that they’re the ones who suffer most from my seizures. While I hate having them, I go to sleep right after they finish and usually sleep for a few hours before I try getting out of bed. In contrast, Mom, Dad, and Ivan have to watch me have the seizure, make sure I’m safe in bed afterwards, watch over me while I’m sleeping, and then help me after I get up. Their job is definitely more difficult than mine!

As always, thanks for your prayers, and we’ll let you know as we have more information. ūüôā

 

 

Thank You for Your Prayers!

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Headed to Palo Alto!

Hello, Stanford! It’s surreal that we finally made it. I think these 67 days of waiting may have been the longest 67 days of my life (except for the last 67 days before my wedding, of course! ūüėČ ) On behalf of myself, Ivan, and the rest of my family, I’d like to extend a huge thank you to everyone who’s prayed for us, written, texted, and offered encouragement in other ways throughout this difficult season!

We were very pleased with my initial appointment this past Tuesday, and feel like my new doctor will be a great fit. The treatment process will most likely take a few months, but we’re excited to see how God will use us, and appreciate your prayers during this exciting but also exhausting new phase in our journey. We will keep you updated as things develop. ‚̧

How Much is Enough?

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Once upon a time, Baby Daisy had to learn how much was enough, too!

 

“Even when you get this, you’ll just want the next big thing.” I remember thinking¬†No, this is THE big thing,¬†although thankfully I didn’t contradict Mom aloud. I was around fourteen years old, and wilting through my first cognizant lack of love interests. Being homeschooled did nothing to revive my drooping boyfriend prospects.

I obviously outgrew this perceived life crisis, but Mom’s point stuck with me. There’s always a next “big thing.” When I¬†did¬†get my first boyfriend (yay Ivan!), I suddenly started imagining being engaged…then being married…then finishing grad school… And that was all before the accident. By now y’all know many of the things we’ve wished for afterwards!

God wants us to dream big dreams. He loves it when we ask for things! But how much is enough? I suspect that however much He gives me, or, you, or anyone, there’s always going to be a next “big thing!” No matter how certain we are that what we want is our ONLY big thing, or our LAST big thing, or our [insert other applicable word] big thing, it’s human nature to start wishing for something bigger and better later on. It’s also human nature to start taking our old “big things” for granted. How do we know when we have enough?

I’ve had plenty of time to consider this question while waiting for my first appointment with my new neuro specialist at Stanford. (52 days down, 11 to go!) This holding pattern has reinforced how much I’d love for my seizures to improve…but it has also reminded me how many times I’ve thought they were improving in the past, only to be disappointed later. In the middle of this internal back-and-forth, God brought to mind that early conversation with my mom about letting go of my next “big thing.” Last week Mom and I started remembering how many marvelous gifts God has given us over the past two and a half years, number one being my life. Then my legs. If they had broken a quarter of an inch higher, I still wouldn’t be walking. I might also be missing a foot. Believe it or not, next on our “big things given” list comes my brain! It may seem like a side show right now, but I had a decent chance of waking up with a child’s mental capacity, for all doctors could guess in December 2016. On the family front, God quickly brought Ivan a picture-perfect job in the Bay Area. Poor Mom couldn’t spend unlimited time helping out in SoCal, after all!

Suffice it to say my “big things received” list could go on indefinitely. Stanford is my current “next big thing,” but I can guarantee there will be more to come. So when I do I hit “enough?” I don’t know. I doubt anyone could ever know. But God knows, and I think He’s given some pretty great pointers for how to live while asking, and while waiting, and while second-guessing. Most obvious would be His directive in Matthew 6:33. “But seek¬†first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.” He wants us to ask Him for Himself and about Himself before we ask for anything else. But what are “all these things” that He promises to add? If you back up a little in Matthew 6, you’ll discover that Jesus is talking about meeting His people’s needs. I don’t know about you, but sometimes it’s pretty hard for me to tell where a need ends and a want begins. I’d call Stanford a need, but God might call it a want, depending on His purpose for my life. God grants all needs. He also grants many wants, but not necessarily all of them. So where does that leave me with my upcoming appointment?

For now, my first job is to ask God to give me more of His Spirit and show me more about Himself. My second job can be to ask for neurological progress, but I need to hold that request in an open hand. Is there a job from Him while I’m waiting for an answer? Daily life goes on, no matter the urgency of my or anyone’s request. Thank goodness God already answered this “what about right now?” question!

He wants me to cling to 1 Timothy 6:6. “Godliness with contentment is great gain.” More healing would be amazing, but my greatest priority should be to keep growing more like Christ…and to keep practicing contentment with the big things He’s already provided. In His eyes, that is better gain than anything else ever could be. That gain also lasts a lot longer than my body. It lasts forever!

 

 

 

 

A Whole New World

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December 2018 – my first time by the water in over two years!

 

“Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done¬†in earth as it is in heaven.”

You’ve probably heard this verse a million times – whether or not you go to church! The Lord’s Prayer popped up in my inbox this morning as part of a pre-Easter devotional, and it fits perfectly with what I want to write about today. Where does your mind go when you hear those words? I’m guessing it goes to the word “Heaven.” Jesus is the speaker, after all, and he came to bridge the gap between earth and Heaven.

But what about the word “earth?”

Jesus’ model prayer doesn’t say “Get me off earth as soon as possible! I’ll do Your will in Heaven!” No. His prayer assumes we’re praying on earth.

I’m glad to be on earth.

Why would I possibly say that? I’ve been showering in the dark for the past five weeks so the bathroom light won’t trigger me. Having a seizure in the shower is…well…”dangerous” to put it nicely. I’ve spent most of the past five weeks with other lights dimmed, too. I spent most of the past evening in bed with a blanket over my head–the lightning from that thunder storm last night was not my friend! If I can’t wait to get to Stanford, I most certainly can’t wait to get to Heaven.

But if I can’t wait for Heaven, then why am I so glad to be on earth?

I’m glad because when God created the world, He said it was “very good.” Sin ruined the world just like it ruined human beings, but humans beings are still beautiful. I believe the world is still beautiful, too. Look at all the traces of God’s beauty that remain! The solar system, the Grand Canyon, even the grassy little dog park down the street – they all wear remnants of their Maker. I think God wants us to value what’s left of the world He wanted for us. The world matters so much to Him that He’s even putting a renewed version in Heaven for us to enjoy! If the world were only an unnecessary planetary mess, God would whisk us away to Heaven the moment we accepted Christ as our savior. But He doesn’t whisk us away. He leaves us here for a while. He wants us here for a while.

If I’m honest, this world can still feel like an unnecessary planetary mess even if it’s not one. From the tragedy in Ethiopia over the weekend, to the conflict over nuclear weapons, to something as trivial as¬†my head-in-blanket moment last night,¬†“broken” doesn’t scratch the surface of all that’s wrong with the big and the small. But God still calls His broken people beautiful, and I think He calls His broken world beautiful, too.

That’s what I want to say today. I¬†love¬†being alive. I love experiencing the world God constructed for his creatures. My body is broken and our world is broken, but I would still¬†miss so much beauty and joy if I simply “scene selected” straight to Heaven. You’d be surprised how charming a sunny day can be, even if you’re just peeking around closed blinds! God wanted us to be physical creatures as well as spiritual beings. Even Jesus Himself had to take human form in order to redeem our souls.

I can’t wait to get to Heaven. I hope we all can say that! But I think embracing our human-ness involves loving our time on earth as well as anticipating our time in Heaven. Let’s stay present in every moment God’s designed for us. His plan for eternity is that our new selves will worship Him on a new earth just as fully as we will worship Him in Heaven.

Earth is beautiful, too.

Stanford: The Saga Continues…

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When you realize you’re only 1/2 way to the weekend…

Wednesdays perplex me.This was especially true when I was working! My first cup of coffee elicited “Yay! It’s already half way to the weekend!”. My last waking moments left me with “Ugh, it’s still only half way to the weekend.”

I am no longer working, but I can say my family and I are experiencing a “Wednesday” end to our February. I’m blessed that I’ve just been authorized for my first appointment at Stanford. That calls for a major yay-YAY! (Yes, I did just finish some coffee.) I’m somewhat less blessed that said appointment is not until April 2nd. Yikes. Just to give a refresher, I was released from the hospital on January 25th, at which time I petitioned my insurance to approve treatment at Stanford’s neurological research clinic.

I’ve got one month of waiting down, and one still to go. February 28th is the “Wednesday” of waiting.

It’s easy to focus on what I did NOT expect going into this trial: a Stanford wait list, way too many “call waitings,” and “out of office” emails, and missing paperwork, courtesy of my own insurance…not to mention keeping even more of our lights off at home, spending several hours in bed after every seizure, and asking Mom and Dad to completely rearrange their lives to supervise me every time Ivan leaves the apartment.

But there are good things I did not expect, either. I’m shocked at how positive, flexible, and God-focused my family continues to be with each new adjustment. I’m shocked at the volume of love and support pouring in from all y’all. I’m shocked at the degree to which God is digging into my own heart during this trial. It’s easy to fantasize about how spiritually healthy you are…until things STOP going your way. (My family has gotten box seats to this probing, and are always ready to jump in with wisdom and redirection when I need it. <3)

Most of all, I’m shocked at the beauty of God’s availability. He never shuts us down with “call waiting,” or “please hold,” or “out of the office”. He certainly doesn’t use a waiting list. While His answer may surprise us, He’s still always listening. Always. As I continue to marvel at the length of our odyssey to Stanford, I also continue to marvel at God’s limitless listening ear.

Waiting for “Better” during “Worse”

The story of my life right now.

Hi everyone! First off, I want to say thank you SO much for all the extra love, prayers, and support you’ve poured out on us during the last 3+ weeks! It continues to amaze and humble me each time God reminds me just how powerfully His love can work through our friends and family.

I’d originally hoped to have recovery progress, or a treatment plan, or a timeline (preferably all three!) to share with this post, but unfortunately those are yet to come. In the meantime I’m grateful for how much “overtime” Ivan and my parents are putting in to take care of medical/insurance logistics and to keep me safe at home. Talk about “laying up treasure in Heaven!”

This morning I revisited a story about Jesus healing a man who was lame. (It’s in John 5 if you want to check it out!) The story begins with Jesus seeing a lame man and asking him ” Would you like to get well?” I’ve always thought this was an odd way to start a conversation with a disabled person. Is there anyone on earth who would really answer “No thanks…I’m really quite happy being [insert debilitating ailment].” But this most recent experience is helping me understand Jesus’ question better.

I’ve always wanted to get better, and I’ve always had a perception of what that would (or at least should) entail. This most recent setback was absolutely 100% not on my list, and I find myself asking “God, when is it going to be enough already? Wasn’t it hard enough with the old seizure lifestyle?” It’s funny how that “old” seizure lifestyle is starting to look pretty great compared to the new one.

My family has been solid enough to remind me that this disappointing downturn looks to be God’s way of pointing me towards new specialists at a new facility…and therefore toward a new chance to get well. God makes no pointless decisions, but I do have to decide how open I am to His way of getting well. His way is certainly not my way right now, and I don’t know what His final version of “well” will be for me. What I do know is that I need to wake up each morning and try to answer Jesus’ question with a “yes,” even if His way of getting well involves yet another trial that I don’t want for myself or my family.

Yes, I do really want to get well. Yes, Jesus already knows what His perfect version of “well” will look like.

And in the meantime, there’s always¬†The Princess Bride

 

Ivan Utomo, Ninja in Residence

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Anna even baked him a ninja birthday cake!

Ivan is a ninja. He enters and exits my parents’ condo undetected. Mom once checked out behind him at Costco without spotting him. He’s pushed, pulled, lifted, dragged, and (insert any other word for “toted”) me in and out of various locations without attracting so much as a startled glance.

Ivan revealed his ninja nature quite some time ago – Thanksgiving 2017, in fact. Some of you would remember the initial seizure saga reached a crisis around that time. None of you would remember that Ivan picked up an apple pie and brought it (and me) to my parents’ house for dinner that Thanksgiving. Apparently dinner went well, but our five minute drive back from my parents’ condo to our apartment complex did not. Most of that night is fuzzy (I was fading in and out of awareness between seizures), but I have one very high-definition snapshot of Ivan pinning me to a concrete wall with his left hand to keep me from falling. He was holding that pie high above his head with his right. Somehow (I have no idea how) he got me down a flight of stairs, across the complex driveway, through a hallway, and into our apartment…in between my full-body seizures. He never dropped the pie.

It’s January 2019, and Ivan is still a ninja. When asked if he wanted me to include his feats of stealth in my last post, he opted for silence. “Maybe later…” he conceded.

Well, it’s later.

If y’all remember, we hit the road to Itzhak Perlman after I’d had five seizures and taken a rescue drug. “Hitting the road” entailed Ivan wrangling me, my wheelchair, our sandwich-bag supper, a latte, and a Frappuccino into our tiny blue Yaris. Nothing was spilled, nothing (including me) was dropped, and no cars were harmed in the making of that production. Once installed, I sat for most of the drive with my eyes closed to avoid more light triggers. This required some expert driving on Ivan’s part so I wouldn’t get motion sick from the starts, stops, and bumps that come with a Bay Area rush hour. Upon arriving in downtown San Francisco, Ivan prowled for the unicorn parking spot that was wheelchair friendly, near the concert hall, and unlikely to attract unsavory attention – a tall order given SF’s parking reputation. Somehow¬†he snagged a handicap spot that was curbside to the front doors at Davies’ Symphony Hall.

But this ninja’s mission was far from over. Ivan¬†stood next to my wheelchair for almost two hours just waiting for the doors to open. He haggled with ushers to prove that we¬†had¬†indeed purchased ADA seats, that¬†no¬†I couldn’t abandon the wheelchair and navigate a staircase in the dark, and that ¬†yes¬†I would most likely need direct access to leave the hall during the performance (my brain is still easily overstimulated by noise). Ivan is possibly the most non-confrontational person I have ever met, but somehow he got exactly what he wanted from a potpourri of ushers in a potpourri of moods. He even talked one into clearing out a ladies’ room since I was too unsteady to go wandering through a crowded, tile-floored bathroom on my own.

The ultimate ninja test was yet to come, however. As the usher deposited us near Mr. Perlman’s green room, both Ivan and I spotted a giant problem. Stairs. The green room was up a flight of stairs. Unfortunately this particular usher felt his civic duty was complete, and so he retreated back from whence he came…without any parting words of staircase wisdom. Silently, Ivan leaned me up against a wall with his left hand, raised my wheel chair high above his head with his right, vanished, and was back again before I had time to process. I couldn’t place its source at that time, but I suddenly had a strong sense of deja vu.¬†Where has he done this before??¬† It was the pie. Ivan did it during the pie incident. Unfortunately for Ivan’s sweet tooth, this time involved a wheelchair instead of baked goods. Mr. Perlman must’ve been a decent recompense for the absence of pie, however, since Ivan whisked me up the offending staircase and into my wheelchair in record time. It has since occurred to me that whisking someone who wobbles is scientifically impossible. Nevertheless, Ivan whisked.

Ivan, Mom, Dad, Anna – all four work overtime to keep me up and running every week. All four say they rely on the grace of God. All four are also fastidiously low-profile, and none better than the resident ninja. But sometimes, ladies and gentlemen…sometimes even ninjas get spotted. ūüėČ

Ivan: I’ve read and watched all of Naruto.

Perlman-Perfect Monday

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Picture of a Lifetime!

Yes, this is Itzhak Perlman. This is also me and Ivan. This photo is less than twenty-four hours old.

This is one of the hardest posts I’ve ever written. Writing involves staring at my right hand and not at the picture above, you see.

You might remember my post last May about our pilgrimage to hear Mr. Perlman in concert Рthe consummation of 15 years of my trying to find a performance that was 1) in my area and 2) not too expensive. Our trip last spring verged on medically disastrous, but we did it nonetheless. Seeing him onstage was probably my finest post-accident moment.

That blog post on Itzhak Perlman found its way to…Itzhak Perlman. Hence the photo last night.

Mr. Perlman was in the Bay Area again last night for a concert experience called¬†In the Fiddler’s House. The program celebrated music from several Jewish traditions, performed by the legend himself with a cohort of traditional instrumentalists and singers. Some email conflab with “the powers that be” established that if I could successfully attend the concert, I could also successfully meet my violin idol afterwards.

[Side note: If concert-going were still attainable – which it supposedly is not! – the program’s rich cultural offering would have tempted me to attend, even sans incentive. We embarked on a musical tour from centuries-old eastern European wedding music to more current Shabbat and/or Hasidic melodies. Apologies to all who are familiar with this music and might be laughing at my botched description! ;)]

Every journey has its beginning, so I will now rewind to yesterday morning at 10am. Ivan and I had “perfectly” engineered my activities so I wouldn’t¬†¬†get triggered before we hit the road at 3:45pm. Driving on the freeway is enough of a seizure death trap as it is. Apparently Murphy’s Law did not get that memo, because one of our apartment lights flickered a bit before noon and sent me into a decently bad seizure cycle. One rescue drug later found me dozing in bed while Mom played babysitter/nurse. Those pills knock me out for at least a couple of hours, and often irritate my brain for the rest of the day. We were past the point of no return as far as Mr. Perlman was concerned, however, so Ivan still rolled me out to the car and the car still rolled out into the rain at 3:45 as planned.

Somehow we made it into San Francisco without further incident. I may or may not have been blindfolded to cut out all light triggers, but a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do. I also may or may not have consumed a cappuccino at lunch and then a latte on the road, but who’s counting espresso shots? A girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do. Caffeine staves off the TBI symptoms that are inevitable after seizures and/or a rescue drug. We pulled in front of Davies Concert Hall excessively early, but we desperately needed that curbside handicap space. A girl’s gotta do…you get the picture. Ivan rolled me into the lobby and I tried to doze with my eyes covered and my noise-canceling earbuds in place until the doors opened at 7pm.

The open doors revealed a contingency we had not counted on: our ADA spots (read wheelchair space next to caregiver seat) had been double-booked. My internal moan turned into an internal smirk since…guess who got installed in a box in the orchestra section instead? Ladies and gentlemen, I’d assumed that any exclusive seating area was not in the cards for me…ever…much less a box! Not a bad trade.

Labeling last night as “concert of a lifetime” is no overstatement. At one point, some (read “mostly all”) those in the main floor seating area got swept up by a medley of traditional wedding music and started dancing in the aisles. I kept my eyes shut for most of the concert because of possible light triggers, but Ivan says that people rushed down from the upstairs seating areas to join them. Apparently it took a few non-wedding songs to convince everyone to sit back down/go back up.

My brain survived til the end of the concert only by God’s grace. I did have some seizures, but they weren’t nearly as bad as those from the morning…most likely since the rescue drug was still in my system a little bit. It didn’t hurt that the klezmer program was shorter than a traditional symphony concert, and much quieter. Add some noice-reducing earbuds, covered eyes, lobby naps and…well folks, we¬†made it!!!

I suddenly realized I had nothing intelligent to say when I was about thirty-six inches from reaching Mr. Perlman backstage. Thankfully he’s played thousands of concerts and met who-knows-how-many admirers throughout 60 years as a concert violinist. He knows my violin professor from my late high school and early college years, which was a useful icebreaker, and I gave a brief recap of who I was and what had happened to me. Parking wheel chairs as close as possible added a dash of comic relief, then – snap! – the (no-flash) photo you see above. I’m currently counting how many different walls on which I could hang said picture.

But you know what the best part is, my blogging friends? He signed my sheet music for the violin solo from¬†Schindler’s List.¬†The same sheet music Mom bought me when I was 12 years old. The same sheet music I practiced for my very first solo with a grownup orchestra. Now¬†that‘s a keeper for a lifetime.

 

 

To Date or Not To Date?

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Our social media debut was obviously candid…

I’d like to close out our blogging year on a romantic note! ‚̧ As you may (or probably may not) know, Ivan and I got married on December 30th, 2015. I spent our first anniversary in the hospital, and Ivan spent our first anniversary moving us into a handicap-friendly apartment. We saw each other for less than an hour that day. ¬†Anniversary #2 was another bust since I was still recovering from yet another hospital stay. This year finds us 0 for 2 on romantic December 30th’s, but it’s looking like anniversary #3 might actually be a go!

In honor of this (hopefully) momentous occasion, I will grace y’all with the story of when Ivan asked me out for the first time and I said no.

It was a dark and stormy night…well, I think it¬†was raining…maybe.

November 2013 was halfway through my second semester at CBU, and halfway through Ivan’s seventh. I’d “liked” him for most of the previous semester – as did a surprising number of other girls in the choir and orchestra where he and I both played. Since he never seemed to notice me playing violin in his line of vision every single concert, I decided he must not be the one for me. I mean, there were¬†other cute, godly guys out there, right? Right??? Moving on maturely must not have been too appealing since I distinctly remember telling Mom two things that summer: 1) I would¬†never¬†date Ivan Utomo and 2) I would¬†never find a boyfriend¬†among the available selection at CBU. Bitter, much?

Anyway, skipping ahead to the afore-mentioned November 2013. Ivan¬†had finally spotted me sitting across the piano…unbeknownst to me. I was preparing to solo with the orchestra at the fall concert, and I remember getting a couple of super nice texts saying how good I sounded in rehearsals. How Ivan had my number I did not know. I also did not bother to find out since I was¬†so¬†over my Ivan “thing.”

What I didn’t count on was him inviting me to go with him to the school play. I had invited a group of friends over for a game night a couple of weeks before (Mom had made me put him on the Facebook invite), and this play seemed like his super awkward way of trying to pay me back. I told him several times that he really didn’t have to, that hanging out was no big deal and I was glad if he’d had a good time, etc. He still bought the tickets. Now he was making me feel really awkward about the whole affair, and I remember one extraordinarily unfortunate episode where I tried to pay him for my ticket right before a choir rehearsal. Mercifully I didn’t realize that we’d attracted the attention of the entire choir, who proceeded to make bets about who would win and whether or not going to a play meant we were “together.”

Those who bet on Ivan won. I didn’t pay for my ticket.

The play fell on the day after my orchestra concert. I hadn’t devoted much time to thinking about it since I was focused on preparing for my performance…oh, and because I was¬†so¬†not going down that “liking Ivan” road again. Ivan (and God!) had other plans. Somehow he found me backstage a few minutes before the performance and invited me to dinner before the play the next day.

I said no.

The school dining center was too expensive. I didn’t have a meal plan. It was fine, thanks, I’d just catch him at the theatre. He blinked sheepishly before wandering off.

My only excuse for this heartless and/or extremely naive behavior is that I was trying to get “in the zone,” and he had just played some serious interference. Preparing for a major solo performance is a lot like preparing for a major sporting event. You need those last few minutes to focus, run through important parts of the music in your head, try to get into “character” for the mood of the piece. Walking up on someone just before they step on stage is NOT helping them out in any way. Hence my rebuttal. I was already in character, not allured by the idea of spending student worker wages to eat with a guy I was trying desperately not to be interested in again, and completely unaware that he had just upped our “friendly-get-together” status to “dinner-and-a-show” date status.

All of the above occurred to me after I finished my solo. I returned to play in the orchestra for the latter half of the concert, so I had a Beethoven symphony’s worth of time to wallow in remorse. What should I do??? I’d definitely hurt his feelings, and probably embarrassed him, too. No poor guy wants to be told “no” within earshot of people who would most certainly embellish his unfortunate moment in the retelling. But what should I¬†do?? I decided apologizing was the torturous but probably called-for end to our encounter. I then prayed that God would show me some way to patch things up without tracking him down the same night (not a very selfless prayer, I admit).

Finding no alternative to the apology, I hunted for Ivan after the concert – and hoped he’d already gone home. As providence would have it, he had¬†not gone home. Now it was my turn to look sheepish, but at least I had the presence of mind to steer us out of reach of prying eyes and ears before I began. “Umm…” I had never noticed that intricate gold pattern on the carpet before. ‘”Umm…I just wanted to say it was really nice of you to invite me to dinner.” The pattern was¬†really¬†fascinating. “Well, umm, I guess you’ve probably got other stuff to do before the show tomorrow, too, but…I guess I could meet you at the dining center if you’re still up for it.” This was the unfortunate moment where my eyes had to part ways with the pattern. Now it was his turn to say “No,” but he didn’t.

He smiled and said “Yes.”

That one “Yes” was just the beginning..

Altars

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So we’ve heard about the Little Drummer Boy, but…

 

Good morning, everyone! It’s been a little bit since I’ve written, but between Christmas excitement and getting over all that brain testing, blogging hasn’t exactly felt like a strong point.

That’s what I want to write about today: how do strong points (or not so strong ones!) relate to our “God with us” meditations this Christmas season? Taking human form is God’s inconceivable offering¬†to us.¬†God gives Himself to light our darkness and lead us out of the mess we’ve created. Usually we associate the word “offering” with something we give to God, and not the other way around.¬†Why should the living God willingly humble Himself to make His own offering?¬†Because He loves us.¬†

So what happens for¬†Him¬†at Christmas? We celebrate God loving us, and I can’t think of a better truth to celebrate. What I do wonder is how best to celebrate it, though. In the Old Testament (the part of the Bible that covers Israel’s relationship with God before His incarnation), altars were essential to all parts of worship. Placing a sacrifice on His altar demonstrated everything: thanksgiving, repentance, and even freewill gifts. An authentic sacrifice was always the best a worshiper could give.

As I think about Christ sacrificing Himself for me, I realize I have several sacrifices that belong on my altar to His love. I don’t need to earn my salvation thanks to the totality of His redemption, but I think Christmas is a meaningful time for offerings nonetheless. Over the past two years, there are so many outcomes I’ve begged God for. Some have come true, and some haven’t, but they all belong on my altar.

Thanksgiving: walking, talking, taking care of myself, watching God care for my family as they cared for me, maintaining relationships with family and friends (often online!)…These are just a few of the items on my list. How often did I say “thank you” but then take the gift for granted later?

Repentance: This is a category I’d ¬†prefer to leave off the World Wide Web entirely, but a “catch all” area I could grow in is humility. An extra dose of humility might cut down the times I give myself too many extra pats on the back, or those times I catch myself feeling like I deserve better than I get.

Requests: I’d love to go out again, to be strong enough to meet with people again, to not close my eyes and “listen” to movies instead of watch them, to be 100% confident I’ll make it to my parents’ condo down the road in spite of whatever headlights lurk outside our garage. God knows how loudly I cried out for my left hand last year when it still had a fighting chance. But He deserves my best on His altar, not a whiny Santa Claus list. My best is “I have so very many things I want, but if they’re not on¬†Your¬†list for me, I know You are still good.”

And now we get to the nitty -gritty part. The freewill offering. Can I sacrifice my favorite strength (writing!), and say “Thank you, God, but it still belongs to You. My left hand belonged to you, my music belonged to you, and this does too. Sometimes You give, and sometimes You take away. Blessed be your name.”¬†Can I do that?¬†I wish I was shouting YES at my laptop screen, but I’m not. And that writing/music offering is not all. Can I sacrifice my “dearest” request and say “Here’s my brain, God. If You had healed it completely, all my other requests would be fixed by now. But thank you for giving me back more skills than I should have. You’ve given me back so much! And You’ve taken away so much. But blessed be Your name no matter what.”

So there’s my Christmas altar for you, in all its glory – or lack thereof! I wish I could say all my offerings were already neatly arranged with some candlelight and tinsel and soft carols playing in the background. If I’m honest I’ll say I’m sooo not there yet. The freewill part is especially killer! But I’m trying.

What will be on your Christmas altar this year?