Romans 5:6

When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Food Allergies Make Me Jealous

Our world changed more than we were able to really comprehend when we discovered that Ada has food allergies. Until then, Joseph and I both were aware of the severity of food allergies to a degree. He’s an educator and I had been working in student ministry in some capacity for eleven years. Epi pens, and dietary restrictions, etcetera were common for us to deal with.

But then it became our everyday life. It became something that we had to think about all of the time.
We’ve become defensive about food allergies because we have to be.  “Oh, she’s lactose intolerant?” “She doesn’t like peanut butter?”  If only it were that simple.
Simply put, food allergies mean that an ingredient is read by the body as a toxin. With every exposure we are unsure how severe her reaction will be.  Hives or anaphylaxis.  Itching or inability to breathe.
Food allergies make me jealous of others who can go to any restaurant without fear. Our list of restaurants has dwindled to two places in our area that are safe and/or that Ada enjoys.
Food allergies make me jealous of those who can enjoy birthday parties. Trying to explain to a toddler that common party food and snacks will harm her is difficult. Baking our own “safe” treats isn’t always helpful.  Who doesn’t want to eat the same type of treats that their friends are enjoying?
Food allergies make me jealous of those who don’t have to read labels on everything. We have discovered that some frozen French fries are sprayed with lactose, some meat products are prepared in a facility with common allergens and that even items marked “dairy free” on the label actually aren’t.
Food allergies make me jealous of those who don’t have to think about whether or not church child care workers or baby sitters understand the severity of allergen exposure. Thankfully we have had awesome caregivers for Ada; and my mom and step-father have been gracious to care for Ada and Ellen in order for Joseph and me to go out on dates.  But it’s difficult to leave the house and not think about all of the “what ifs.”
We have to think through what residue may be left of shopping carts and playground equipment. We are constantly asked, “Well, just tell me what she can have. Do you have a list?”  It’s not that simple.  We have to think about how close we are to a hospital when we go to most family gatherings, church events, and when we travel.
Food allergies make me jealous of a lot of things, but most of all, food allergies make me jealous for Heaven.
In Heaven there will be no pain (Revelation 21:4). In Heaven everything is perfect. There’s nothing there that can cause harm.
We deal with food allergies day in and day out. And while I realize that many others endure other difficult circumstances regarding the health of their child, I’m just a mama who is like any other parent: I want to know my child is safe.  Aren’t you glad that we serve a God who loves our kids even far more than we do?! He knows best how to care for them. He knows best how to calm us. And He uses it all to make us look more like His Son.
Tomorrow Ada has another blood test (Rast test, for those who want to know the technical term).  We will know within 5-7 days what her allergy test results are. This will let us know where she is on the “scale” that tells how allergic she is to milk, the three separate components of milk, and peanuts.
I believe that the Lord is able to heal her from food allergies. And I have begged Him to do so. Joseph and I would love your prayers. Ada has told me repeatedly that she is going to be brave tomorrow.  But the reality is that it’s a lot for a 2 year old to understand. Thank you in advance for all of you who are praying with us and for us in this journey. If the Lord is glorified through it in any way, it’s worth it. And prayerfully soon Ada will believe that to be so in her heart, too.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

To My Brother’s Bride-To-Be

He and I have been close from the very beginning.  We have depended on each other through difficult circumstances, laughed our way through countless seasons and have encouraged one another to achieve our goals.  We have sought one another’s advice pertaining to vocational ministry work and have been the other’s sounding board for new ideas.

He gets me.  He’s been one of my best support systems, one of my loudest cheerleaders and best friends.  He’s made me laugh when circumstances made me want to cry.  He’s held my hand through tough stuff and let me cry on his shoulder. 

He’s been the best brother anyone could hope for.

But it’s the end of an era for me.  He’ll no longer call me first to get advice about something.  He will not ask my opinion first regarding ministering to a girl in the youth group.  And I won’t be his second favorite female (second to mom, of course).

You have taken on these roles.  He will esteem your opinion as most valuable, as he should.  He will seek your input on every situation, especially ministry.  You are now his favorite person on earth.  And that’s how it should be!

Stephanie, sixty-seven days ago you were introduced to the family.  But even before then, as I listened to Christopher speak of you, I knew you’d be the one he chose to become his wife.  In just sixty-seven days you have encouraged my family and me as we have made the transition from one child to two.  You have chosen to use your free time to help with family matters revolving around our grandmother’s failing health.  And you have assisted in cleaning and reorganizing with mom as she works hard to care for our grandmother.

You have revealed, yet again, how faithful the Lord is in answering our prayers.

Stephanie, you have been prayed for… for a long time!  As his older sister, I have witnessed him get hurt, but I don’t have to worry about that with you.  I have seen you both keep one another’s interest in mind.  I have watched you care for one another.  I have seen the sweet sparkle in both of your eyes when the other enters a room.

You have become his greatest encourager, his best friend, and his support system.  I have prayed intentionally that the Lord would bring you to him quickly.  I asked that his future wife would support his call to ministry and would be willing to help in any capacity possible.  I have prayed that his bride would appreciate his humor and love him even more for it.  I have prayed that he would marry someone who meshed well into our family, and would support our close relationships with one another.

Yesterday you said “Yes” to becoming Mrs. Christopher Cunningham, and I couldn’t be more thrilled!  You are the answer to so many prayers.

Though it’s the end of an era for me, it means you and my precious brother are getting to begin a wonderful era in your own lives.

Marriage is such a wonderful gift.  Joseph and I are honored to walk along side of you and cheer you both on.

Welcome to the family, Stephanie!  You are so loved. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Learning to Listen

From an early age we begin learning the importance of listening.  Toddlers often struggle with understanding the necessity of listening to parents as they seek to guide them in each area of life.  Adolescents quickly gain perspective concerning the value of listening to their teachers in order to learn and retain vital information needed to graduate from high school.  Young adults, usually full of vigor -- believing that they truly can accomplish anything after college, must learn how to listen to authority in the workplace in order to become successful.

In every season of our lives, listening is critical to our progress.
The same is especially true in our spiritual lives.
There is something unique about the journey of each believer in Christ, but there is also a common thread that isn’t unique to us as individuals at all.  Our stories of being redeemed differ.  Some came to faith at an early age, and others experienced Christ’s love, grace and power for the first time well into their adult life.  Regardless of when we experienced salvation, there is an undeniable commonality: we need to spend more time listening.

This lesson has been one I have been striving to become more studious in since we welcomed Ada into our family.
Like the Israelites, I have a terrible habit of forgetting what the Lord has previously accomplished on my behalf when faced with a new difficulty.

Not long after I had returned to work from being on maternity leave with Ada, it all really started to sink in.  This journey had brought Joseph and me to a beautiful place of desperation. We had walked the difficult road of infertility and miscarriage, and we had been ushered into a new position of desperation needing the Lord to speak to us.  We were seeking Him for answers concerning the future of our family.  We were learning to trust Him despite not quite understanding all of the reasons He chose to entrust us with our story.
We needed to listen.

In the first few days after having Ada home with us, I distinctly remember a moment when the Lord spoke so sweetly to me through something I said to Ada.  As she was fussing, like newborns often do, I held her, patted her, and whispered in her ear, “Shh. Shh. Shh. I’ve got you.”

That was the moment.
The Lord was speaking the same message to me.  We were desperate for sleep, and often still are, but the Lord was reminding me that He was in it all.  We were simply trying to learn what it meant to be new parents, and all the while the Lord was reminding us that He was near, just as He had been throughout our entire journey.

 Walking through infertility.
“Shh. Shh. Shh. I’ve got you.”

Experiencing miscarriage.
“Shh. Shh. Shh. I’ve got you.”

Learning how to juggle being a new parent.
“Shh. Shh. Shh. I’ve got you.”

Leaving my child in the care of a trusted friend when I returned to work.
“Shh. Shh. Shh. I’ve got you.”

In just a matter of weeks, Joseph and I will be welcoming Ellen into our family. The season we are in now differs from when we were preparing to welcome Ada.  Caring for a toddler while simply attempting to get everything taken care of is much different than preparing to welcome the first child. Through everything, the Lord continues to remind me of His promise to be near to us.

Dealing with Ada’s severe milk allergy.
“Shh. Shh. Shh. I’ve got you.”

Paying for all of the doctor bills.
“Shh. Shh. Shh. I’ve got you.”

Managing responsibilities at work and home.
“Shh. Shh. Shh. I’ve got you.”

Failing health of family members.
“Shh. Shh. Shh. I’ve got you.”

Do you see what I mean?  I was so attentive to listen to all the Lord was speaking to Joseph and me when we were in that place of desperation concerning our family.  And here we are.  Blessed to be experiencing a second healthy pregnancy and I forget so easily where He has brought us.

He is constantly speaking.  Are we listening?
He has never failed us.  Ever.
Often our stress is self-inflicted as we seek to figure things out for ourselves.
Listen to Him.  Whatever you are facing, He is there.

Financial trouble?
“Shh. Shh. Shh. I’ve got you.”

Family turmoil?
“Shh. Shh. Shh. I’ve got you.”

Broken friendship or relationship?
“Shh. Shh. Shh. I’ve got you.”

Unfulfilling career?
“Shh. Shh. Shh. I’ve got you.”

Medical problems?
“Shh. Shh. Shh. I’ve got you.”

Unsure of your next steps?
“Shh. Shh. Shh. I’ve got you.”

The list of woes we face could go on and on.  Rather than focusing all of our attention on all of the things we need to be taken care of, why don’t we put our trust in the One Who holds it all together (Colossians 1:17)?  The Lord is working on your behalf.  He is speaking to you regarding every situation and circumstance you find yourself in.  Listen.  Let us become a people marked by the manner in which we listen to the Lord rather than be known for complaining to Him about all He has entrusted us to handle.  Every hardship is an opportunity to grow in trust and to believe in He is all He says He is for us.

He who has ears to hear, let him hear. – Matthew 11:15
“Shh. Shh. Shh. I’ve got you.”