one day, one story

One day, one story

Testimony. Relatively small word with a huge amount of baggage. Movie sized baggage. I think that all too often that baggage squashes a lot of us and keeps us from sharing our very real, very worthwhile testimonies.  Even I have said it….“Oh, I don’t have a testimony, not like “the cross and the switchblade” or Tim Tebow, or Beth Moore.”  Nothing big like that.

This is where I think Facebook could actually be good for Christians. Forget about having a screenplay-sized testimony….Try telling what God just did in your life in the last 24 hours. Or 24 minutes. Make it short. To the point.

You don’t have to twitter about it, speaking of it as it happens in a play by play. Most times none of us actually recognize a happening as significant until days later anyway. But put it out there.  share.

Don’t be stingy with your testimony. God is alive. You are alive. God is in your life. Therefore, guess what? God JUST did something in your life. Period. If you tell me He didn’t, I’ll tell you you weren’t watching.

So what’s my testimony been recently?

Well last just week,  24 hours changed my life.

Or more accurately 24 hours changed my PERCEPTION of my life.

1 week ago today I was awaiting the results of a thyroid biopsy. I was at work. I was covering the front desk. The one place where you REALLY don’t want to get caught making a personal call.  ahem….

But my cell phone was dead. And that’s the number the nurse had for reaching me. So I dug out the phone number, picked up the front desk phone….and made a personal call.

And got the “bad news” 

Funny really. The cancer had been there for years. I just didn’t know about it. What is it about “knowing” that changes how we see everything? I don’t feel any different. But there is an endless refrain in my head right now (the is the uncensored truth I’m about to share here. Not a piously edited version)

“I have cancer. Holy shit! I have cancer. Does it show? Can I feel it? Is this really happening? I have cancer. Cancer. Cancer…….really? I have cancer. Did you know? Does that person know? Does it change how they feel about me? Holy shit! I have cancer”

I’m not kidding. That paragraph up there, or some variation of it, has been running through my head almost continually for just over a week now. Hopefully it will go away eventually. But for right now it is a constant buzz in the back of my brain.

Why am I blogging about this? Hang on. You’ll see.

So I told my boss. She came up front to sub for me so I could go to my office in the back, make medical appointments and call my husband. Did that. Set the appointment with Dr. Amy Chen for March 24th (which was then a week away). Called Martin. Told him the news. Managed to laugh about it. Told him not to tell anyone yet. Especially don’t put me on the church prayer list.

Then I went back up front and told my boss that we were going to have to wait another week to find out what kind of impact this diagnosis was going to have on me, on the staffing situation at work etc. I also mentioned that I had asked the appointment staff at Dr. Amy Chen’s office to keep me on a “hot list” and call me if anything opened up sooner and I would drive right over.

I managed to tell my mom in a way that made her laugh ( I hope).

This is the point at which I changed my mind about the prayer list thing. I knew there were loads of people who would want to know so they could pray. But notifying all those people by personal email was just too much to contemplate, so….I posted it on facebook. Yes, the support poured in. But that wasn’t the point. I allowed participation in my life and when God moved just a few hours later, I was able to post that too.

Just before the end of the workday I called the appointment scheduler for Dr. Amy Chen’s office back and they said that an appointment had just opened up for 9 a.m. the very next day. I practically shouted “I’LL TAKE IT!”

And then immediately got on facebook again and was able to post the praise that God had worked out the timing and moved my appointment up.

How is that a testimony? It allowed me to demonstrate, in a tangible way that I truly believe God watches over our real lives and makes these types of things happen. And it gets better….

When I met Dr. Chen the next day she was wonderful, professional, reassuring and very likable right off the bat. But it gets better…One of the things I had written on my form when I checked in under the “what do you want to talk to your doctor about today” heading was “U.S. Adult Nationals (figure skating) in 3 weeks”

So we got to the normal end of the appointment, just about the time you expect a doc to shake your hand and leave. We’ve covered all the normal stuff after all, she has other people to see. When what does she do? She sits down, looks at me and says, “So, you’re an ice skater. Did you know I skated when I was a kid?” Then she proceeds to tell me stories from her time as a child skater and eventually we talk about the scheduling of my surgery, how it will impact my work and my skating. It was such a huge relief to be able to talk to a surgeon about recovery and have them already understand about skating. What it entails, how to return to the ice without endangering the surgical site etc.

Once again, I got to put a post up on facebook that demonstrates, by example, that I know God cares about each of us and knew that Dr. Chen was the right surgeon for me, not just because she is skilled, but because of her personal background.  We have a personal God.

These little bits of my life that get lived out in public ARE my testimony. The little things that will eventually add up and make someone who has known me say “why are so okay with this? Can you tell me more?” Whether they ask me, or someone else, the seed is sown.

To me “testimony” doesn’t mean telling people the GOSPEL in its entirety. It means living a life that causes them to one day ask for more information.

Live that life. One piece at a time. One day. One story. One Moment. One shared thought. Where people can see it, so that one day, they will ask for more.

One day.

One story.

One life.

One seed.

 

 

 

and the answer is….

42

Yes that’s right.  I am forty two this year and I am perfectly fine with it.  To celebrate, here are 42 good things about my life.

  1. I don’t really have the answer to the question of life the universe and everything, but am more aware of where to find the answers
  2. I’ve actually really been enjoying my 40’s so far.  Lots of pieces of my life have changed quite drastically in the transition from my 30s to my 40s. and yes, that counts as a “good thing in my life”
  3. The most obvious is Ginny.  Nothing can shake up your routine quite like a child. 
  4. I am grateful to my heavenly father for granting us financial stability even with two layoffs in two years.  Martin’s came first, and mine was just a year later.  But God took care of us even when we had no idea what to do next.
  5. There has been peace even amidst surgeries and my dad’s cancer diagnosis.
  6. I love my grey hairs.  Yes, you read that right.  I see the silvers as free highlights, courtesy of God.  Now I’ve just got to figure out what to do about the change in texture…..
  7. Ice Skating.  After a 25+ year break,  I have gone back to the rink and I am loving it.  I’ve found something that will keep me active and healthy and vibrant for a long time. And yes, I see even this as a blessing from God.
  8. There has been a sense of renewal  in my marriage (in part due to the shakeup of the aforementioned layoffs and Ginny)
  9. I’ve found that I have a real friend next door.  Not just the mom of Ginny’s best friend.  But a real live girl friend. 
  10. You almost have to have been in the skating world to know how unusual this next one is –   I have a Christian woman as my coach.  Previously my coaches were almost all men and across the board they were all completely anti-church.  They all expected their skaters to practice on Sundays.  Not a one of them understood that God was important to me.  But my current coach not only gets it, we can actually talk about God and church topics over lunch.  What a blessing!
  11. Being an adult skater brings up a completely different coach/student dynamic.  And yes, that too is a “good thing”
  12. This year, so far, I have been able to lose 40 pounds
  13. Martin has lost at least 30 pounds (he’s catching up to me…I’m gonna have to work harder!) 
  14. I love my job.  Through the course of my layoff I had a chance to really explore what my real working style is and to look for a work environement that meshes with my style.  I was unable to find that blessing on my own.  God hit me over the head with my current job and I love it.  I have impact on peoples’ lives and across campus in a way that I never could have foreseen. 
  15. I was blessed to be able to return to a campus I love and whose mission I believe in- Emory University
  16. This is a Siesta Scripture Memory Team year.  I love learning my verses. (though I am a bit behind in memorization…)
  17. My job allows me to post my memory cards as artwork in my cubicle.  Thus providing me with an artistic outlet, spiritual assist, open devotional and memory aid all in one!
  18. My home Bible study group has chosen “to Live is Christ” as our study this fall.
  19. My husband is amazing.  He is Mr. Mom during the week and cool technical director for our church on the weekends. He does it all.
  20. My brother is back in college.
  21. My boss understands what makes me tick and we communicate well.  Don’t knock it, usually that takes years to figure out. 
  22. I enjoy my co-workers….
  23. …More importantly, I enjoy the job itself.
  24. I am learning new skills through volunteer work at church.  Maybe I’ll learn how to run the sound board next year….
  25. I am young enough to still be active…..
  26. ….And old enough to know when not to push
  27. I’m not in such a hurry anymore
  28. The highlight of Ginny’s day is when I come home and play horsey with her
  29. …..Which makes playing with Ginny one of the highlights of my day too.
  30. I have actual fans of my blog who push me to write more often.
  31. Life is fun – I accidentally volunteered at the face painting booth last night at ginny’s school Fall festival and rediscovered how much I love painting!
  32. Sitting on the back porch with the neighbors, watching our children run and play together.
  33. Discovering fantastic local restaurants.
  34. Café d’Alsace’s currant and port chicken liver pate.
  35. Three blind mice’s entire menu…
  36. …Especially the sticky toffee pudding
  37. My parents live close enough to sometimes have impromptu evenings together at local cheap Mexican restaurant.  Or just hang out and watch football on a Sunday.
  38. Reconnecting with a friend from grade school (!!!!) through facebook and getting to hug her in person was a real treat.
  39. I met Beth Moore.
  40. My Ginny and Martin have also met Beth Moore.  And she told them that she knows who I am!  How cool is that?  And kinda intimidating to be honest….
  41. I got to stay in the home of a dear friend in Houston that I met through blogging.  And our husbands enjoyed each other and the kids all got along!   And they are foodies!  Missy found an amazing Cajun restaurant out in the boonies that we are going to go back to when we see them again in January.
  42. I really enjoy my neighbors’ kids.  They are active, happy kids that play well with Ginny.  It is such a huge blessing to be right next door to Ginny’s favorite playmates.  And most of the essentials of child rearing…we agree on! 

I think Douglas Adams got it right.  42 turns out to be a very good number.

blessed beyond my wildest dreams

(this is a re-post with follow-up.  i’ve got stewardship on the brain, so this post was a natural to include in this series.)

A couple of years ago, just before Thanksgiving, Beth Moore ( of Living Proof Ministries) asked a very interesting question on her blog.  I answered it in a way that surprised me.  So when Brian asked me to write something for the stewardship campaign I felt a nudge to let you in on my answer.

Beth asked-

What are you grateful for that you NEVER thought you would

be grateful for?

Well.   That one got me thinking.  The usual stuff is easy – health, home, family, Jesus.  All the pat answers.  Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with being grateful for those things.  But what, in my life, that would normally be viewed as a negative could I turn on it’s head and view as something to be grateful for?

If Beth had asked this question in years past, my answer would have been my infertility that led us to adopt Ginny.  Never in a thousand lifetimes would I trade.  Ginny has been a huge blessing.  I can never thank God enough.

But when Beth asked this question it was 2009…..Alright.  The thing I never thought I’d be thankful for in 2009  was that my husband lost his job in August.  August 4th as a matter of fact.  On my mother’s birthday.

I was so sour about it at first.  He was my Bible study partner on the way to and from work for 5 years.  We loved our commute together. So I was seriously bummed when that ended.  I said all the right things.  “God will take care of us.”  “It will be okay”  and I meant them.  But deep inside, even while I knew God would take care of us, I was resentful.  And to be honest, I kinda of imagined that God taking care of us would mean us scraping by on ramen noodles and finding ways to cut corners on everything.

I envisioned a life of constant restriction.  Nothing extra to enable us to help others. No joy.  Just getting by.

Apparently that is not what God had in mind.

Even just the first 4 months after the layoff was filled with blessings.  First, to hear my man say that he wanted to continue his tithe through the end of 2009 AS IF HE STILL HAD HIS JOB.  Wow. I don’t know how to be grateful enough to God for sending me Martin.  When I think of the background we both come from.  The sin, the darkness of our respective pasts……..and now to see Martin, how much he really does love God,  and know that he is the real spiritual head of our home.  That in itself is a blessing.

We grew in our relationship.  Our relationship had gotten lazy.  We depended on that commute to keep us connected.  We had to learn all over again to find (or MAKE) time for each other.

Martin got to spend lots of time with our baby girl, which was very good for them both. 

Four members of our family extended family were sick and needed lots of time and care in the Fall of 2009.  If Martin had still had a job they likely would have had to let him go because of all the family emergencies we went through.  We never had to face that though.

God sent a job opportunity to Martin that he never would have been able to take on if he had been tied to the old routines.  It changed our whole dynamic.

So spiritual growth, learning, new patterns, time with family……But what about money?  How did we get by?  did God provide?

*sigh*

Finances. 

The big bug-bear.  The nightmare of all who are “downsized” in this economy.   God had sent us a clear message that we were not to worry.    There were two (not one, but TWO) out of the blue, un-asked for, financial gifts to our family that, are you ready for this? enabled us to continue our tithe all the way to the end of 2010 as if Martin still had his old job !  When the checks came, the first thing on Martin’s heart and mind was the tithe.  Wow.  After all I have been through in my life and put others through, to finally be married to a real Christian MAN OF GOD is just blessing me right down to the tips of my boots. So there you go.  In 2009 I was thankful that my husband lost his job.

Well since we were so ultra faithful in 2009 and trusted God for his good provision, did we receive a huge blessing in 2010?  Absolutely!  I got laid off in October of 2010. 

No, I’m not being sarcastic.  We got a chance to trust God to provide again.  I’ll be honest, we did look at that money already set aside for the tithe for 2010….shook our heads and said “Nope.  That money already belongs to God.”

But it was sitting there, tempting us.  So we decided to go ahead and instead of writing a check out once a month, we just moved it all to the charity account.  That helped a lot.  With a combination of blind faith, deliberate actions and lots of heart to heart discussion my little family got through a couple of years that look rough on the ledger books.  But in my heart, these have been three very good years. 

We have become much more focused on relationships.  with God, each other, family and friends.  Life is not about presents, or activities anymore.  We’ve had a spiritual attitude adjustment. 

Now, if you ask me about my life, I will generally say “I am blessed beyond my wildest dreams.”

ginny’s second birthday party

Hey folks.  Long time, no blog.  I know I know.

I’m gonna try to get back in the groove of posting more soon.

But until then, here is a slide show of SOME of the 1000 photos that Doug Mulford took at Ginny’s Second Birthday Party.

the party was at The Little Gym in Snellville.  I had always sworn I was NEVER going to pay to have a party at some venue outside my home for a childrens party.  yeh, I know never say never….

At the beginning of the summer we enrolled Ginny in a weekly class at the Little Gym and she loved it so much that we decided “oh what the heck, let’s have her party here too” and boy are we ever glad we did!

First of all two year olds have WAY too much energy to have a party at our house.  Our home can barely contain Ginny in an energetic mood, never mind 10 or 15 guest kids.  oi!  The Little Gym staff was amazing.  They did everything we paid for and then some.  When we arrived they made a point of asking what Ginny’s favorite games are.  Hide-n-seek? Peek-a-boo? Tag? So that they could tailor the group activities to HER tastes!  Maybe other places do this too, but I am naive enough that I was impressed.

Anyway, her favorite thing in the whole world to do these days is (in her own words) Bouncy! Bouncy! Bouncy!  so they extended the time the kids get to play on the bounce…thingy.

I will post an update on her words and current doings soon, but for now I’ll just say that Ginny is 34 inches tall, weighs 26 pounds and has the sweetest personality in the world.  I am daily amazed at this wonderful, complicated, cheerful, creative, energetic little girl that God has blessed us with.  “Thank you” doesn’t even begin to convey the feelings I have for Ginny’s birthparents, Mel & Steve.

The adventure that officially started in a hospital room in Kansas on the night of August 29th, 2008 continues.  I can’t wait to see what comes next!

Happy 2nd Birthday to my lovely

Virginia Altie Aspen Gerard Russell

birthday wishes for everyday lives

I was just writing a note of encouragement to a friend who is going through a rough time and having a birthday tomorrow. (why do those two things always coincide?)

At first I didn’t know what to say.  But after a while the words just flowed and what I sent her ended up feeling so right that I knew it had to be a blog post.   Someone else out there might need to read this simple story.

So here is an edited version of it –

Dearest Friend,

Your birthday is tomorrow.  You are turning forty-something and I’m praying for you to have a marvelous day.

No I’m not being sarcastic.

Why should you have a good day?

  • Your pets love you.
  • I love you.
  • Your family loves you.
  • You will be going to an amazing Beth Moore event in less than two weeks.
  • You just read a wonderful book reminding you that your TRUE SECURITY is in GOD ALONE. Not man, not money, not marriage, not youth, not even loving friends.
  • And GOD LOVES YOU in a very real, and personal way.

Don’t know about you, but I’ve tended to have trouble with the concept that God loves me personally.  I always sort of thought he tolerated me, IF I was being good.  The wholly incredible truth that I am personally of value to God Most High has always been difficult for me to grasp.

Well recently I was singing to Ginny a very simple little kids song

“God loves me,
God loves me,
in my Bible book it says that
God loves me”
(Romans 8:39)

And, like a lot of little kids songs, you are just supposed to repeat the same chorus over and over and overandoverandoverandover …… till the child falls asleep….or you do!

Well being an adult I decided to try to amuse myself by thinking of other words that could fit in that song.  Just to keep myself awake while Ginny drifted off into lala land.

That simple idea turned out to be SUCH a blessing.  Somehow these truths had never sunk in when I read them as scriptures, but turning them into simple statements of how God feels about ME….it made all the difference in the world!

God SEES me
He knows my every moment.  There is no point in time when I am hidden from God
(Psalm 139: 1-3 and Gen. 16:13)

God KNOWS me
He knows my every motive….and loves me anyway!
(Psalm 139:14)

God WANTS me
This one blows me away.  God wants to spend time with me!  I am his beloved.  And you are too.
(Deuteronomy 7:6)

God HEARS me
There is not some cosmic message machine taking dictation and God will get to me eventually, God HEARS my every word, thought, laugh, wail and groan.
(Jeremiah 33:3, Isaiah 65:24 & Psalm 116: 1 & 2)

God MADE me
and not just my physical body.  God made my life and yours.  And though I have made errors in judgment, NONE OF WHAT GOD PLANNED WAS A MISTAKE.  God doesn’t have a “plan B” this IS plan A. and it is the good and perfect will of God that you be strengthened and drawn closer to HIM through this season of your life
(Jeremiah 29:11)

As I lay there making up stanza after stanza for Ginny, I was being ministered to.  Tears welled up as my sweet, loving heavenly father soothed my soul while I sang my Ginny to sleep.

Have a wonderful day in the presence of your Heavenly Father, who loves you…..as do I,

Deirdre

valentines day just came early

ah spring!

Young love!

the adrenaline rush!

the anxiety!

the rainy day trip to the bookstore…..what?

what does a rainy day trip to the bookstore have to do with love?

Well what would you say if I told you my wonderful man got up at 7:00 a.m. this morning, on his day off, dressed our toddler girl up, complete with bow I might add, and drove an hour and a half across town, in the rain to stand in line to go to a book signing.  A book signing of an author who means a lot to us both, but really more to me.  Mostly ’cause I’m the slightly hysterical female here.

Does that sound like love to you?

it does to me.

Did I mention that he did all this and sent me updates while I was stuck at work?  Things like.  “Ginny fed, dressed and adorable. leaving house now” and “arrived in parking lot. all is well”  and “in line. 30 women. one other man”

and then came the text that said that not only had he met the author, she was very gracious and sweet….even though Ginny cried almost through the whole thing.  Oh, and he says that when he mentioned my blog name she stopped in her tracks….and said she knew who I was.  um…….Wow. Can that feeling be gift wrapped?

As far as I’m concerned I need to bring HIM flowers for Valentines.  First he bought me my dream fridge a couple of years ago for Valentines, and he always hand delivers flowers to my work.  I thought it couldn’t get any better, but today. …the love he showed me in entering into this enthusiasm so completely with me…..Lord you are too good to me.

Oh….did I mention that he PROUDLY wore a pink feather boa through the whole thing?  it’s a Siesta thang.

Proud Papa and Ginny in line

the line was a little too long for Ginny. She melted down right when they reached Beth

papa trying everything to calm Ginny down. singing, animal crackers....anything!

...sign the book to my wife, she's got a blog "screamofcontinuousness"...

"well I certainly do know who your wife is"

and then, as they said goodbye, Martin did something that he may never be forgiven (by other Siestas) for doing…

he. squished. Beth Moore's. hair.

fortunately it seems to have recovered immediately.

perhaps everything will be alright after all.

I promise that tomorrow I will go back to being a normal 40 year old with a toddler and a superlatively wonderful husband.  I’ll stop sounding like such a freakish fan-girl over Beth Moore.  I AM a fan, but I’m not a freak…..  But that’s tomorrow.  Right now I’m gonna go start reading the book that he went to so much trouble to get signed for me.

and count myself as one blessed woman.

thank you Beth, for being so sweet and gracious to a tired, flustered daddy and child.  You made my day…oh heck, you made my month.

and thank you Martin. for being so wonderful in the first place.

still grinning from ear to ear

I know I should be posting a recap of this past weekend.  Which was the culmination of a years worth of Scripture Memory Team work with encouragement from the Living Proof Ministries staff.

So here’s the short version –

I met Beth Moore.  I always thought that I would hug her, but she hugged me instead.  Does that make any sense?  It was as if she has always wanted to meet me instead of  the other way around.  Wow what a gift of hospitality God has granted her.

I stayed with a wonderful friend that (till last week) I had only known through blogging.  And our husbands are now best friends too.  Which is kinda freaking us both out.  As in “have we started the end of the world as we know it?”

The event was fantastic.  I got to meet Travis again.  I think it is going to be a once a year “date” for us.  I met him for the first time last year in January.

Last year

this year. (wow, my hair grew a lot in one year!)

We had an eventful time getting home to Atlanta.  Nothing like getting your child all set up and timed right to fall asleep on a 5 p.m. flight and then having the gate agents tell you “the flight has been delayed, please come back in two hours to check and see IF we are going to re-schedule”  IF ???? IF????

I met Beth Moore.  She knew me by my blog name.  She KNEW my blog name!  Give me a couple of years to get over that one okay?  I am STILL reeling from that.  Grinning from ear to ear actually.

Missy found the most amazing Cajun food any of us have ever eaten.  And that is saying quite a lot, ’cause my hubby loves cajun food.

But best of all, God granted me a temporary boost in memory.  Instead of saying the 14 verses that I was sure I would be able to. I recited ALL TWENTY FOUR.  Okay Missy did say I got one word wrong, but ya’ll that was not Me.  I didn’t cram, or try hard or anything.  I just let it go and God came rushing in.

And it was a rush.  It was even better than meeting Beth.  and Amanda.  and Travis.  In a way.

The reason you aren’t getting a real, insightful, spirit-filled re-cap is that I am just too tired.  All three of us came home with colds and/or ear infections.  So I am just plain pooped.

but hey, I got to meet Beth Moore.  Or have I mentioned that already?

Have a great week.