Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Update and Being Thankful for Nothing

After the last post, I've had a few emails asking how things are and what the medical declarations have been, so I thought I would update.

My stepdad is doing great. I don't know the final numbers, but as of Wednesday night before surgery on Thursday, they had pulled off 45 pounds in fluid. The surgery was a wonderful success. When we talked Saturday night, he was home, and he sounded so much better. He wasn't winded, and he was looking forward to be healthy enough to get rid of some of his extra weight.

My family is all healed from the virus and are doing great.

My tests went well. We received the blood tests back, and they were all normal, which means I didn't have a heart attack. The stress test will show if they are concerning issues that would lead to a heart attack, but right now, the thoughts tend to be it was either sore chest muscles or indigestion.

Pretty exciting stuff for one week. Monday was completely boring. Rob went back to work. I was home with the children. We did school, and I did some much needed cleaning. It was so wonderful!!! In fact, I called Rob at work and said, "I love today." When he asked what had happened, I answered, "Nothing, and I like it."

I pray I always have the wisdom to be thankful for nothing...
Friday, February 22, 2008

Words in Real Life

I have avoided posting about my daily adventures the last two weeks because I've really wanted to focus on the issue of women realizing their value. I have chosen to relate the happenings of the last two weeks with the desire to demonstrate how much God values His children.

Thursday, February 7th--Robert goes to bed with a headache. Robert wakes us up coughing and wheezing. I spend the next four nights monitoring his breathing at night and taking proper steps to avoid respiratory distress.

Monday, February 11th--Robert is better. Anna is now sick. Thankfully, her respiratory track isn't as sensitive, but she is still miserable. Sleep continues to elude me.

Thursday, February 14th--The children are better, and we adopt a Beagle/Dachshund mix. Milly loves the children but hates our dog. Lovely.
--My stepdad goes in for tests and is rushed to the hospital with congestive heart failure.

Friday, February 15th--I am now sick. Milly is still hating Fred, and my stepdad is being scheduled for tests because they believe he might have cancer.

Saturday, February 16th--The heater quits. The sunroom roof leaks with the rain, and our printer dies. Plus, Milly still hates Fred, and Wylie is looking at heart surgery.

Sunday, February 17th--I have to call Milly's foster mom because Fred and Milly have engaged in open fighting. Fred is 60 pounds; Milly is 25. This won't work. We discuss training options, and we agree to try for a few more days, but we realize Milly may not be able to live with us.
--Someone comes to our door and asks if we are interested in selling our popup camper, which we had planned to sell so we could buy an RV. I think this is of God. Rob thinks it is bad timing, but he gets her phone number so we can call in three or four weeks.

Monday, February 18th--Wylie (stepdad) is scheduled for surgery on Tuesday and Wednesday because they feel his heart will not sustain all three stints at once. His kidneys are showing signs of distress.
--I have not slept due to the pain I am in from this illness.
--HOWEVER, Milly and Fred spend the day outside, and when the day is over, they are best friends. Thank you, Lord.

Tuesday, February 19th--I am about to walk out the door when the phone rings. They can't do surgery because Wylie's kidneys are too fragile. They have to call in a specialist.
--I spend the day in bed because I'm so sick.
--The heater person finally comes. He determines we need a new heater. It's price tage? $5800.
--The bank tells us our loans for the remodel (which will get rid of the present roof) are on hold. The loan we are applying for is not possible due to technicalities, but they are willing to let us consider other avenues.

Wednesday, February 20th--I find myself in the doctor's office because my ear is infected. During our conversation, I mention chest pains I had a few weeks ago, and my doctor shares the symptoms of a heart attack in women. Bummer. They are the same. I have an EKG, and they try to do blood work, but I am dehydrated and have to have fluids before they can find blood. I am sent home to drink water and return later.
--No news on my stepdad yet.
--Rob has bought another printer, but has not had time to set it up, so my critiques for my writing group are still sitting on my computer.
--I go back to get my blood work, which works with only 5 total pokes.
--I return home to find the "second opinion" heater man leaving. I ask what the conclusion is. The heater is working. In fact, it started working immediately after being turned on. The technician had cycled through 10 times, and the heater worked each time. "Why replace a heater that works?"
--8:00 that night my mom calls. My stepdad is having surgery the next morning. It is of greater danger to wait. I make a kazillion phone calls and try to sleep, but a reaction to my decongestant keeps me awake for most of the night.

Thursday, February 21st--I am at the hospital at 6:45 am. Wylie is not being prepped.
At 7:30 we are told Wylie has been placed on the "work in" schedule. We do not know why.
At 10:30 we find out Wylie's doctor has the flu, but he has asked his partner to do the surgery. Because we are now working with the partner's schedule and the hospital's schedule, we do not know when Wylie will go in.
At noon, they wheel Wylie back.
At 2:00 we are notified surgery is done. All three stints were placed securely. There were no complications. He will be monitored on Friday as they flush the dye from his kidneys and keep an eye on them. If everything goes according to expectations, Wylie will be home Saturday.
I get home late. My ear is throbbing, and I am exhausted.

Friday, February 22nd--I am up early and try to have quiet time, but all I can think about is my stress test. I am not afraid of heart issues. I am, however, afraid of the test. My mind is filled with memories of the last stress test, being yelled at by the doctor, and being griped at by the nurse because my legs cramped and I was unable to reach their desired heart rate. I fight anxiety attacks.
--10:00 I am at the doctor's office.
--11:00 I walk out of the doctor's office and head home to work on my book chapter so I can turn it in for critique by my group.

That gives you the list of events of the week. What it does not include are the random emails people sent asking about my stepdad, asking how I am feeling, telling me prayers are being prayed. I cannot list the emails/phone calls that simply came in the form of, "Jerri, I appreciate you." I most certainly cannot convey their impact. There were comments made by peopel who had no idea what all was going on. In fact, only three people knew my doctor has concerns about the possibility that I've had a heart attack (BTW, test results should be in by Wednesday). Yet, people I do not even mentally hold as close friends randomly emailed or dropped a note to let me know I bless them in some way. I've received beautiful verses and scriptures, words that are precisely what the Lord has put in my heart. No one could have known about those. Instead, they simply responded to the promptings of the Spirit. I don't know if they realized the Lord was speaking to them or not. I only know they obeyed, and with each word, I was given peace.

In all of the last two weeks, I will tell you honestly that I have been exhausted. I am still very tired. However, emotionally and mentally, I have not felt fear. I have not felt panic. I only had one moment that really made me a bit lop-sided, for lack of a better word. I think part of that is having walked this road with my biological dad. I think part of it was choosing to focus on God's faithfulness. I KNOW a huge part of the ease with which our family walked through this was the prayer, the words, and the actions of the people God used to encourage and support us.

In my last post, I talked about the power our words have to heal. I share with you the events of the last two weeks because I want to convey the powerful use of words in my life and the lives of my family. The words spoken to us and the words prayed over us protected us and kept our hearts safe.

For those who used your words to heal and protect us, our deepest gratitude is yours. May the spoils of our victories be poured upon you and your families, and may your faith be increased to speak even more boldly so that the power of God is released in even greater ways.

God bless you.
Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Power of a Beautiful Word

Yesterday my mind was still pondering my post late Sunday night, wondering what kind of repercussions to expect. The concern for women and the wounds they carry due to the stripping of their true value was still in the forefront of my thoughts. When I opened my Bible to Proverbs, I read the following:

Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.--Proverbs 12:18

I thought about the wounds I've had as a woman, finding my value, loving who I am as a package, and the healing that has been done is not because of surgery or some physical makeover. It was not instantaneous because of an act either done by or upon me. In fact, the source of hurt and the source of healing were the same thing: words.

Reckless words wounded me and perverted my view of myself. Kind words, words of vision, words of love healed that perception, and the words were not just verses I memorized. Many of the words were of from human lips. Many were from my husband, but a lot were from other women.

A lot of women believe men are to blame for the devaluing of women. Men contributed. However, if I am honest, I must say the greater damage was done to me not by men but by women. It wasn't men who whispered about my size when I changed clothes in the locker room. It wasn't men who made snide remarks about my not wearing designer clothes. It wasn't men who turned up their noses and whispered comments just loud enough to be heard that criticized my hair, jewelry, or fingernails. No, all of that came from women.

Last fall I attended my high school reunion. It was wonderful, except for one thing that has stuck in my mind, and honestly, I hope the Lord never lets me forget it. As with all classes, we had the adolescent issues. Some students were known for bigger problems than others, and some had a harder time in our 20s than others. One particular classmate had struggled but had turned her life around in incredible ways. When I hugged her and told her how excited I am for her, I was sincere. She likes her life, and she likes herself, and that is exciting.

The second night of the reunion a group of us got together for dinner, and that particular classmate wasn't there. She needed to be home with her children. Several others met for dinner, though, and we had a lovely time. As we were leaving, a few of us ladies headed to the restroom because that is what we do, and one of our other classmates asked if I had seen "A" the night before. I said I had. She asked if I had looked at her very closely. Uh, well, I noticed she was still beautiful. "Did you notice her boobs?" What?! "Her boobs. Did you notice her boobs?" I can honestly say I didn't. "Well, they aren't as big as they used to be. I think she had a boob job." I was stunned. Twenty years later, and we are still being that catty? I wanted to puke.

I looked at the person in front of me and said, "No, I didn't notice that. I noticed I am now the only one overweight here at the reunion, and since I have brought it up, you won't have to whisper about it in the bathroom. You can talk about it openly," and I left the bathroom feeling like I needed to go home and take a shower.

Bathroom Gossip has gone to church as long as I have known her. She was the Christian who did nothing when everyone else was doing anything. She prided herself on being good and being a Christian, and despite knowing how "A" had changed her life and was having a positive impact on others' lives, all she could think about was whether "A" had had breast reduction?

No, ladies, we cannot blame men for all the damage done to women.

While I hope you are disgusted at Bathroom Gossip's comment, I hope you see the bigger picture. At that moment, she held the power to pierce a heart or to heal a heart. At any given moment, we have the same power.

Satan has done a great job of creating an atmosphere of competition through building on our insecurities. The weapons of catty remarks, disapproving looks, and cold shoulders have worked. The devestation is obvious.

We are women, and we have the power to take back what has been stolen. We have the power to restore value and heal hearts. And we don't have to organize some national women's group to do it. We don't need political clout. We don't need a TV. We don't need some platform. We need the wisdom to speak words that heal.

You have great power. You have power to pierce a person's heart. You also have power to bring down the enemy and take that which he has stolen when you choose to release the power of a beautiful word.
Sunday, February 17, 2008

Naked and Unashamed

Jan posted about the Lifetime show How to Look Good Naked. If you are a woman and you haven't seen it, I suggest you take 30 minutes of your time and check it out. It isn't what the title implies...or maybe it really is.

When I first heard the title, I thought it would be another shallow show dealing with human narcissism. However, for reasons I will explain later, I watched it anyway. To my surprise, it wasn't shallow, and it reveals the prison of narcissism.

In 3o minutes, Carson Kressley takes a woman on a journey of self-loathing and fear of being seen to the revelation that her beauty is not a size or a number but rather embracing her value as a person.

Jan and I have been emailing about this today, and she suggested I blog about the deeper issues we discussed. At first, I was hesitant but ultimately, I think it is a topic that is too important to hide behind or from.

Candidly, I watched the show because I saw glimpses of the photo shoots. Before you decide what you think about that, let me explain. As a photographer, I asked the Lord for wisdom concerning my niche and specialty. His reply thrilled me, honored me, and jarred me. He said, "Your niche is prophetic photography. You will use your camera to show people how I see them." Obviously, this is not something to take lightly, so my question then became how this looks in real life.

One of the thoughts that came to mind is photography that celebrates women. Not nudes, but pictures like they take on How to Look Beautiful Naked. Classy. Beautiful. Affirming. As I told Jan, this is not something I have pursued because I feared the backlash. Jan said she would not do pictures like that for the same reason.

She said it simply, "Some people view that as porn." I agree with the objection to having one's picture plastered on the side of a building for all to see. However, neither Jan nor I are talking about publishing these pictures for others to see. Pictures such as these are intimate pictures that are to affirm a woman, and if she desires, for her to share with her husband. Hopefully, she would feel the comfort and freedom to do that. The sad truth is some women wouldn't, and that is the bigger issue.

This was our discussion that led to my final email and Jan's response, and I post them here for you.

To me, it has to do with the purpose and the heart behind it. If you do it for your husband, who cares. If anyone is watching us [Rob and me] in bed, it would be porn, but they don’t, so it is natural and beautiful and godly.

I think we have forgotten a simple verse.

Adam and Eve were naked, and they were unashamed.

I know too many women who think once they get to a certain size or have bigger boobs or smaller hips, they will be sexy, attractive, fun, GOOD. How horrible. I think what works with How to Look Good Naked is the overall picture. Carson deals with the lie. He addresses the lie of overestimating a woman’s size. He addresses the lie that runway models are the ones people find attractive. He tears down the lie and builds the truth. The truth that a person’s value is in being a person, not in being a size.

I think the danger with simply doing those pictures, which is why I have not pursued that form of photography, is if the lie isn’t addressed, the woman simply comes out feeling that she has performed well or worn makeup well or the photographer hid her well. The key isn’t the picture.
It’s like I told Anna about being on stage. I said, “You are not joyful because you sing. You sing because you’re joyful.” These women are not beautiful and should not feel good about themselves because they look good in a picture. They look good in the picture because they embrace their own beauty.

Do pictures have the power to create or encourage the change in mindset for that, or is a more encompassing process necessary? God does amazing things through pictures, so I don’t know. All it takes is the revelation of Truth about oneself, whether that is through pictures, therapy, nature, or a sermon.

At least that is where my thoughts are right now.
Jan's response:

Preach it. I think this is a good blog post… I’d love to read it.

Too many women feel like they have to be perfect to be beautiful. But if you look at
women like Uma Thurman, they are beautiful in their uniqueness not because they
look like everyone else. You know?

And forget the competition with every other woman. I hate that. We are all beautiful!

As a child of the Creator of the Universe, the King over all the Earth, you have the right to embrace the beautiful person God made you to be and to rejoice in it. You have a right to be naked and unashamed.

Can you picture that?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A Little Mongrel Dog--Brave and Courageous

When I was in high school, we read this story by Faulkner. I didn't care for Faulkner. I got lost in his imagery and one-sentence chapters. However, I found myself drawn into this book. My mother was a UKC (United Kennel Club) judge. My father had been a hunter. My family raised Walker Coonhounds. Magnificent creatures. My heart still skips and my breath still catches when I see one. I understood the art of hunting. I understood the boy in Faulkner's short story.

When I reached the quote below, I sobbed. Perhaps it was because I have seen the fierce competition born of fear and pride that erupts between two animals. I have felt the helplessness of watching competitions that were not intended but could not be stopped. Perhaps it was the memory of animals lost to injury and old age.

More likely, it is because I understood the heart of the dog--not belonging, being too small and insignificant for anyone to recognize my impact, having my bravery called noise.

This morning as I asked the Lord about a new name for my blog, He brought this quote to mind. As I read it, again I cried for all those who understand the heart of the dog. To you I say, Be courageous. People may call it noise, but it doesn't make you less brave.

"...And a little mongrel dog showed him that, by possessing one thing
other, he would possess them both (humility and pride); and a little dog,
nameless and mongrel and many-fathered, grown yet weighing less than six pounds,
who couldn't be dangerous because there was nothing anywhere much smaller, not
fierce because that would have been called just noise, not humble because it was
already too near the ground to genuflect, and not proud because it would not
have been close enough for anyone to discern what was casting that shadow, and
which didn't even know it was not going to heaven since they had already decided
it had no immortal soul, so that all it could be was brave even though they
would probably call that too just noise."

--"The Bear", William Faulkner

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"It's not the wind in our hair that makes us free. It's the movement of the Spirit, the growth of our invisible side." --Amber Haines

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