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Archive for November, 2012

From the first moment that I looked through a Blessings Unlimited catalog and laid eyes on this bracelet, I knew it was something I really would enjoy.

In part I knew why, but the rest God didn’t show me until this morning.

You see, several years ago something happened that rocked my world. It caused me to question everything about my relationship with Christ. I struggled greatly through that season, but my relationship with God emerged better than it had been before. Well, except for the fear that plagued my mind continually.

Fear. It is that tool that Satan uses in my life to render me completely ineffective for God. I know that to be true, and yet I allow the father of lies to dupe me just about every time. I know that faith and fear can’t coexist in my heart, but I still struggle. For years I have been on a quest to find a way to overcome that fear.

In May two of my dear friends came to town for Blane’s graduation. We went out to eat and strolled through some stores downtown, just talking and visiting, soaking up each other’s company. It was a relaxing and delightful time that I will forever be grateful for!

My friendship with these two ladies is a story of beauty that God allows from ashes, for our “triangle” friendship came out of a very hard time in two of our lives. I have known one friend for just over 10 years; I will call her “Trustworthy”. The other friend I have only KNOWN OF for a few years, I will call her “Faithful”.

“Trustworthy” has always been the kind of friend that I could share anything with no matter how ugly or beautiful, she would listen and share the Truth of God’s Word with me, but she would not judge me, nor speak of my actions in a negative light to anyone or think any less of me. She truly is genuine, and I am so grateful to have her in my life. She is not just this way with me, but also with her friend “Faithful” (and I am sure the rest of her friends). God allowed “Trustworthy” into my and “Faithful’s lives for a purpose. Both “Faithful” and I had been through “somewhat similar” situations in our lives that shook our lives to the core, and we both confided in our friend “Trustworthy” and she prayed and counseled us. She would tell you that she really didn’t do anything, because she is just humble that way, but her friendship with the both of us and her thoughtful actions and words during that time, helped us in ways we didn’t even know we needed. I think how she helped us most was to love us genuinely, listen and point us to Christ.

Prior to our lunch date, “Faithful” and I had never met. But God in His infinite wisdom had so knitted our hearts together a few years ago through our trials and our gentle friend “Trustworthy”. “Faithful” and I have only talked by phone one time. We have communicated by email mostly, but for a few years prior to that we had only spoken to God about each other, for we only knew a few minor details of each others lives, that our “Trustworthy” had shared, only with our permission. God allowed us to know each other by name and we prayed for one another through this rough season. God has so used my friend “Fatithful” in my life in so many cool ways. Most of them are stories that remind me of how much He loves me to give me a friend named “Faithful” that loves me deeply enough to pray continually for me in those days, although she had never met me.

So, during our luncheon date “Trustworthy” presented us a gift. As she pulled the three packages out of her purse she said something like, “I know that this is sappy, but…” and she presented us each with a matching bracelet. Each one says, “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Thy faithfulness. Lam. 3:22-23 “.

She wanted this to serve as a reminder on our arms to not fear, but to trust God fully no matter what we encountered, for both “Faithful” and I have struggle with fear. Well, I got tears in our eyes, as I am sure “Faithful” did. What a tender gesture, which is not at all surprising coming from “Trustworthy”! She is incredibly thoughtful and kind-hearted, oh, how I long to be more like her as she is like Christ.

I have worn that bracelet so often. When I do I think of my two sisters in Christ that, even though I don’t get to spend physical time with them, I know love me and pray for me regularly. I also think of the faith that God desires to fill my heart and not fear when I wear it.

My fears and times of anxiety related to past events don’t come as often, I have learned to trust in Him more and more, but for a month or so I seemed to have entered a darker place, a place in my life that I have NEVER been before.

Everything in my life is, from the outside looking in, in perfect order. Our marriage is wonderful, my husband is incredibly thoughtful and lovingly faithful to me, our house is organized and clean, our boys are doing great, we are all healthy, yes, we are still recovering from the loss of my dad and an empty nest, but all in all we are doing great, and yet within me there has been this restlessness, discontentment, if you will. It has been so hard to put my finger on what has exactly been happening in my heart.

When I am a bit further out of this season I will write more about it and how God got me through it, but for now, just know that I needed to focus on what Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things”.

So when I saw this bracelet in the catalog, I just knew I needed (okay, wanted) it. I learned with the bracelet that “Trustworthy” had given me how effective a physical reminder around my wrist was to my mind!  

Today in my Bible study time I was reading Lysa TerKeurst’s “Made to Crave” devotional. She said a few things about emotional emptiness that spoke to me. I would like to share with you what she said, how God used it in my life and how it all relates to two simple little bracelets.

“It’s so easy to park our minds in bad spots. To dwell and rehash and wish things were different. But to think on hard things keeps us in hard spots and only serves to deepen feelings of emotional emptiness…We have the choice to either let those past hurts continue to haunt and damage us or to allow forgiveness to pave the way for the new life and lasting changes we desire. I can’t change the things that have happened to me” or the mistakes I have made in the past, but now I can make the choice to “forgive”.  Not just forgive others that have hurt me, but I have to forgive myself. She also says, “Yes, this (whatever it may be) is a circumstance of my life, but it doesn’t define who I am.”

I, Sheila, have things about myself that I just don’t like and Satan is quick to accuse me and tell me that the mistakes I have made or sins that I have committed make me a horrible person that God could never love or accept, but Lysa said she chooses to think in those moments when Satan accuses her, “’Yes, these mistakes are things I wish I could change, but they don’t define who I am’. Rather than dwelling on wounds that leave us feeling emotionally empty, we can learn to look for whatever is true, noble, right, pure lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy in life. When I park my mind and heart on thoughts that refresh me instead of the ones that depress me, I am filled. “

I needed to be reminded of that today and now I have an even greater story to testify of when I wear this bracelet. I am a mess, but God loves me just the way I am, mistakes and all. I am going to do my best to look at all that has happened in life and what is happening now and truly remind myself regularly that this stuff “does not define me. Only God can define me”, and He says I am beautiful. Each time I look at that bracelet I am reminded of the beauty that can come from the ashes of my life, if I will only offer God my open hand and allow Him to work.

Click on her name, Lysa TerKeurst, to find her website if you are further interested in her story or her books.

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Twenty-four years ago today God brought into our lives a sweet little blonde headed baby boy. The timing was perfect, as it was also Veteran’s Day, back then I didn’t even begin to grasp the weight of this day. Little did I know how well acquainted I would become and how precious it would be to me all these years later. And what a special day it would become to our whole family because of what this day meant to my dad, who passed away June 12, 2012.

I had been diagnosed with gestational diabetes in my 7th month of pregnancy, which meant that I had to say good bye to my favorite two sweet treats, banana splits and chocolate chip cookies. I fussed about it, but truly I didn’t mind going without those things for the health of our unborn child, plus it helped me keep my weight under control. I remember thinking…this is no big deal, going without sweets for a few months. Little did I know that this diagnosis would become a permanent part of my life 18 months after our first child was born, but that is a story for another post.

Back in these days there were not ultrasounds, so we went into this not knowing what the sex of our child would be. In the back of my mind, I felt sure it would be a boy, have no idea why though.

Due to some Preeclampsia symptoms, Dr. Trammell decided to induce me. We showed up early to the hospital, so excited about becoming parents!!

Back in those days I was a fan of soap operas and in my 19 year old mind, I had the day all planned out. I would get my water broke at 8 am, check. Watch some soap operas while I waited for the baby to come, check. Read some books to finish up my mothering skills training, check. I had ordered a mirror for the delivery, so I could watch the baby arrive, check. I also had told my mother to have chocolate chip cookies and a banana split ready so I could eat it as soon as I had that baby. Then we would go home and start our happy little story book life, check.

Well, a few things on my list of the “perfect delivery” did happen. My water was broken about 8:30 am, I told them I wanted a mirror, so they brought one in, and Mom had made the chocolate chip cookies.

I never did turn the TV on. After the doctor broke my water I spent most of the day laboring in the recliner, and made lots of trips to the bathroom, as they were running an IV and the only thing they would let me eat was ice chips…let me just say, I was one hungry Momma that was used to eating every two hours. Lol

Once the labor started I think all of the hours of learning Lamaze breathing went right out the window, right along with all my great “labor day” plans. I began to hyper ventilate due to the pain and not breathing properly, so I spent most of the day in a panicked mode on oxygen, gripping the arms of that recliner like nobody’s business. My labor lasted 12 hours, and to many of you that is not very long, but I was pretty sure that I was going to die!!

I was not really interested in pain medicine. I wanted to experience this awake in real time. And boy did I!!  As it got on toward the end of the day and my labor transitioned into that final stages of labor, things got pretty intense. I was tired and hungry, not to mention a bit disappointed, as things were not going according to “my plan”. As the day wore on, I stopped carrying so much about my dream of how wonderful all this would be and began to just want it to be done. I did finally ask for a bit of Nubain, which helped to take the edge off the pain. My contractions were coming in triples, which got pretty intense, but the breaks in between were a welcomed relief.

I worried in those few hours before he was born about how was I going to know when it was time to push, and I am pretty sure I asked those poor nurses a hundred times. And I am certain that one hundred times they said, “You will know”. It was on the one hundred and first time that I asked, “How am I going to know when to push?” that I followed with, “I GOTTA PUSH!!!”, true story.

At this time I was so worn out from all that went on and the hyperventilating, that I just wanted this to be over. And so the pushing began, after 30 minutes and the doctor using forceps to move things along, out came this sweet, tiny baby.

I recall breathing this huge sigh of relief once the delivery was done, partly due to the fact that, as Bill Cosby quoted Carol Burnett when describing how childbirth feels, “it’s like taking your bottom lip and pulling it over your head”, and also due to the fact that our world had just changed. We had a baby, and he was all ours and in a few days they were going to let us take him home.

I also breathed that sigh of relief because we got to find out that on this eleventh day of November, God had given us a boy. I wasn’t shocked, I kinda remember shaking my head as Freddo said, “It’s a boy”, thinking, “Yep, that kinda what I thought it would be”. They placed him in my arms and all the pain of stretching my bottom lip over my head, slipped right from my mind. And until this day I have never been able to bring up what that pain felt like, even though I have had another child since then. It is something miraculous God did for me, seeing his perfect little head, nose, ears, mouth, fingers, and his toes (yes I unwrapped all those blankets) I couldn’t recall one single bit of the pain I had been in all day.

The smile on Freddo’s face when he looked at that baby boy was something that I will never forget. He was so proud to carry that little bitty bundle of joy to the nursery to be checked out and weighed.

Our Nathaniel Evan Bias weighed 7 lbs. 7 oz. and was 21 inches long. And be sure that as soon as they finished up with me and Freddo took Nath to the nursery, my first words to my mom were, “Can I have some of those chocolate chip cookies?”.  I remember sitting up in that hospital bed and enjoying every morsel of those cookies, as though it had been years since I had one.

I didn’t sleep much the next couple of days, I just wanted to hold this little guy and talk to him, study him. And I wasn’t alone in my desires, Freddo, his folks and mine were all there, along with my dad’s parents, taking in every sweet moment that we could.

Still to this day I recall Freddo and me totally changing from these self-centered teenagers, to these child-focused adults. Nathan was born the opening weekend of deer season. Freddo had plans to go hunting the next morning, but in honesty, Nathan so changed his world that he hasn’t been deer hunting ever again. I remember him telling me about his drive home that night after he left the hospital. It was a Friday night and our normal routine, even while I was nine months pregnant was to hang out on “the loop” every Friday night. Freddo told me the next day that as he left the hospital, he considered going down to the loop for a bit, but a song by Lee Greenwood came on the radio, “God Bless the USA”. These lyrics…

“If tomorrow all the things were gone,
I’d worked for all my life.
And I had to start again,
with just my children and my wife.”

…came across the radio and he decided that things had changed, he had a son now and he would go on home, get some sleep and be back at the hospital the next day instead of going out and drinking with his buddies. Nathaniel, you have not been a perfect child. You were not born to perfect parents. We have made many mistakes, but one choice we made in our life that we will NEVER regret is having you! We are so proud of you, son, and thank God for allowing us to have you.  Happy Birthday my precious gift of God!

Oh, I must share one story about this sweet, ornery little guy! In the picture below you will see why we still to this day (24 years later) do not have toilet paper on the roll at our home. It is in memory of all the toilet paper Nathan unwound in the first year of his life. Yes, that pile on the floor that you see is toilet paper, and so went every roll, until we finally wised up and just started putting it on the counter. It saved so many moments of frustration. And in this way and so many others, this boy, now man has changed our world.

And one other sweet one, just for fun!

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Gary B. Whitehead, my dad, went on to be with the Lord on June 12, 2012 at 11:35 am. We celebrated his life on June 16th  at 10:30 am. The dates and times are forever etched into my mind. His death affected me much differently than I imagined it would.

I wanted him to be out of pain, as the past several years had been so hard on him. His mind constantly lied to him, because of his Lewy Body Dementia (LBD). And yet, when that moment came to truly let him slip completely into God’s Hands (figuratively), I wanted more than anything to selfishly say NO!! I even whispered in his ear, “I really don’t want you to go like I said before. I am really going to miss you” just before he died.

I found an audio Freddo recorded of Dad while he was talking to one of his friends on the phone back in March of this year. At first I didn’t remember when it had been recorded, but as the call went on everything came back to me.  His pain, his anxiety, his sorrow, his fear, his loneliness, his strength, his faith, how hard it was every time I had to walk in the door wondering what I would find and how incredibly difficult it was to walk away, not knowing what might happen while I was gone…and my eyes leaked a bit as I pondered all of it.

The season of this Lewy Body Dementia disease that God allowed in my dad’s life was where my faith in God was tested…maybe developed is a better word, or perhaps it was both…

Everybody has a “faith developer”, so to speak, in their life. A storm that shakes all that can be shaken to help us to realize what cannot be shaken.  There are many ways to respond to them, not all are healthy.

I asked God over and over not to waste Dad’s disease. I wanted Dad’s trial, which was also our trial, to bring about whatever it was that God desired most in my life. I didn’t want this pain, that was Divinely allowed, to be wasted.

Although within that process that meant I would need to follow Him, trust Him and obey Him with an open hand, through the laughs, the frustration, the fear and the tears.  Looking back I can see God’s Hand all through this journey to joy.

His celebration was such a blessed time. As I look back I am amazed at how God covered us through those days. It was so easy because of God for us to be strong and receive all that came to honor Dad that Friday night, to collect all the pictures, to write his eulogy, to bury him then go back to the church to celebrate his life and worship our Lord. We were blessed to have a couple of family members that were thoughtful enough to snap some shots of his military burial, which is still yet a huge blessing to us.

Last night and today have been more difficult days within this journey; partly due to finding that recording, but also since today they set Dad’s tombstone today. Veteran’s Day was always held in high esteem by Dad, in his honor Mom has pushed to have his tombstone set before November 11th. By God’s grace they were able to get it set today.

I went by today after they were gone. For many days after Dad’s celebration I went and sat beside his grave, read my Bible and prayed. I knew he wasn’t there, but it was the last place I had known his body to be. Somehow going there, sitting, reading, and talking to God there brought me peace. Then it became hard to go there…not really sure why, as I have done my best not to think of why I avoid it. But today, yes today, I forced myself to go, knowing full well that it would bring a fresh reality that I truly cared less to entertain.

A reality set in today that I wished weren’t true. In my mind I knew that my dad’s casket and his physical body were below that dirt, but without his name on a stone above it, somehow I was able to avoid the final feeling that arrived at my heart today. The memories of him are my lifeline most days, having an audio of his laugh and videos of him praying, they keep me smiling despite the longing in my heart to have him back. I have gone back over all that happened in the last 7 years and despite that love that we had and the laughs, I truly would never be so selfish as to want him to come back. He is in heaven now, his every fear, pain and ailment has been alleviated by his sovereign Lord, and that brings me so much peace. He is whole for the first time ever in his life, he is with His Father. Now He has met my only sibling that my parents lost during Mom’s second and last pregnancy. It sure leaves me with a wonderful smile and joy in my heart to think of all Dad is experiencing now…how could I ever want to bring him back?


I decided to attach a link to Dad’s Eulogy for those of you that would like to see it. All you have to do is click on the following links. The eulogy is divided into a Part 1 and Part 2.

 

 

 

 

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When I awoke, my mind already rushing with thoughts of yesterday…last night…the election…what if…what if…what if God gives us, America, just what we deserve. There really isn’t any way to know what America as a whole deserves…not in God’s economy, and yet, I know we don’t deserve anything but death and hell. But He is a good God that longs for our hearts to be turned to Him, so He allows things in our life that pushes us to seek Him.

God gives always great and wonderful gifts, even in the seemingly small and insignificant things. It just takes stopping…searching…trusting. I continue to try…

Late last night as he our college boy texts me, wondering what Grandpa Whitehead would have to say about all that is America now, I remind him that perhaps now, yes now, Grandpa knows so much more than us. “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.” 1 Corinthians 13:12  I say, Grandpa sees God’s face and he doesn’t fear or wonder anymore, he trusts fully! He is in the very presence of the One that we long to trust so deeply.

We can’t begin to know what God has in store for our tomorrows, but we can know Him and I hope you do.

Truly I know I can trust Him. He has proved Himself over and over. Why is it so easy to get lost in fear, when I know Him?? Why do I not thank Him in all things, even today, when things maybe don’t go the way I thought perhaps they should. Yes, why now do I fear?  My sister in Christ, Ann Voskamp said on her blog recently, Authentic thanks is always for all things, because our God is a God kneading all things into a bread that sustains.”

I desire intensely “authentic” faith and thanksgiving. The kind that doesn’t falter, even when things look to be going so wrong in our nation. I know that it is God “who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings; He gives wisdom to wise men and knowledge to men of understanding.” Daniel 2:21

I yearn that I would allow God to sustain me. The kind of sustaining that completely satisfies my every craving. The only way to do that is to look to Him every time, not to food, people, stuff, money, or anything else that distracts me from Him.

Oh, that the prayer of my heart would become, “Lord, sustain and satisfy me in a way that only You can do”.

I long to trust with an open hand that “God is kneading all things into a bread that sustains”, and so today I make a choice to do so, choosing faith and not fear, thanking Him in ALL THINGS, reaching for Him alone!!

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