Strong and Courageous

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Discover. Play. Build.

The first week of school started on Monday of this past week.  I loved seeing my students and getting back into the routine of school.  Wednesday afternoon, I began to feel a strange pain in my abdomen.  Doubling over and holding on to my desk at times, I got through the attacks.  As the week went on, these cramps continued to be intense and not at all what I wanted.

My daughters and I attended a Cultural Arts Expo in my town on Saturday morning, but even taking steps seemed to jar my abdomen and bring on more pain.  After dealing with this type of pain again and again, I decided it was time to be checked out by the doctor.  At the Urgent Care on Saturday afternoon, the PA (Physician’s Assistant) pressed on my abdomen which was incredibly tender causing more pain.  She said, “Based on your symptoms, you need a CT scan and we can’t do it here.  You’ll need to go to the ER.”  This was the same PA who told me to go to the ER when I had blurry vision back in March.  I was admitted to the hospital in March when it was discovered that I have diabetes.  Going to the ER on a beautiful Saturday afternoon was not my plan, but I did as I was told.

The ER is an interesting place.  Everyone who arrives, as I soon began to witness, is having a problem.  As a matter of fact, everyone’s problems seemed pretty significant.  I would feel my abdominal pain hit while I waited, would breathe through it and read my Facebook feed when I wasn’t hurting.  My dear family joined me and we all just continued to wait.  As I sat there freezing, I wondered how long it would take to be seen by a doctor.   As I tried to distract myself with Facebook, a Bible verse appeared in FB.  It was Joshua 1:9:  “Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid.”  I kept repeating the verse in my mind.  Whatever the doctor would discover, it would be okay, I thought.  I decided to keep repeating the verse.  The Holy Spirit held me as I held on to the truth of God’s Word.  I determined that my body needed healing.  God would find a way to fix this pain in my abdomen.  I knew he would.

After waiting two hours in the ER, I was placed in a room, assessed by a PA and she ordered a CT scan of my abdomen. As I laid there and waited on the result, I kept Joshua 1:9 at the forefront of my mind.  I told myself, “Be courageous.  God is here.”  Did I cry as I waited?  Yes.  I must admit, when you are lying on a hospital gurney, in a gown that opens in the back, getting poked for blood work and an IV port, your mind tends to get a bit overwhelmed with all that is happening.  My husband and children comforted me with their hugs and words.  I knew they were hungry so I told them to go out and get dinner.   They left and I kept repeating the verse.  I just knew that I was not alone even though no human was in my room.  God’s abiding presence hovered and protected my mind.

The technician wheeled me to the CT scan room which was all white and sterile.  Before long, I was back in my ER room. I started thinking about all that I needed to do.  I wanted to be released from the ER and get home to be a wife and mom.  The groceries needed to be purchased.  The pictures needed developing so that my daughter would have pictures with which to decorate her Writer’s Notebook on Monday.  The laundry was waiting to be folded.  I pictured the dishes needing to be taken out of the dishwasher.  In addition, I had been looking forward to Sunday morning when a special event would happen.  One of our precious campers from our church summer camp was scheduled to be baptized.  Our team of counselors had prayed with her in our cabin after cabin devotions on August 3.  This child decided to follow Jesus and I had the privilege of witnessing this momentous occasion.  I wanted to see her be baptized.  I couldn’t be admitted to the hospital.  I had to go home with a plan to make me better.

As I continued to view my FB feed as I laid there, another Scripture popped into view in FB.  It was Job 5:9:  “He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted.”  I had been repeating Joshua 1:9 and now I had another verse to repeat.  I meditated on the truth that God can do anything.  I prayed and asked Him to help the doctors figure out the problem in my abdomen.  I needed an answer and treatment.  I was so encouraged by the words that God’s doings cannot even be fathomed by me.  “He has this in control”, I thought.  Now, if I had not meditated on these two truths, I would’ve been overwhelmed by my situation there in the ER, but thankfully, God used FB to provide the truths that I needed to see.  Hallelujah!  I began to think of all the scenarios that could play out:  hospital admission, exploratory surgery, intestinal perforation like had happened to a friend of mine.  You know, you can really think of many possible explanations for pain, but ultimately, I decided that whatever the outcome, God knew about it and would help me through it.

Within 30 minutes of the CT scan, the door opened.  I studied the PA’s eyes and her mouth.  This was it.  Would she tell me bad news, really bad news?  Here it came:  “You have the beginnings of diverticulitis.  No perforations or abscesses in your intestines.  Your pain is coming from the inflamation of your intestines with the diverticulitis.  We’ll start you on antibiotics and will release you within the hour.”  Oh, I was so relieved that it was “just” diverticulitis and no other complications.  Hurray!

During the past decade, I have dealt with multiple bouts of diverticulitis.  I wasn’t sure if this episode was diverticulitis or not, but knew that I had lived through some intense cramps.  I know the antibiotics can bring on some unwelcomed symptoms for me, but in the end, the infection clears up.  I was so thankful that I wasn’t admitted to the hospital.  It was a relief to hear that this problem was fixable.  My family returned from dinner thrilled that I’d be coming home with them.  I left there with hope that with God’s help, I would come through this issue.

I am waiting on God to help me.  The medicine has left me a bit sick to my stomach, but I am grateful that I am on the road to recovery.  This morning, I got to witness the baptism.  To God be the Glory for the great things that He has done!  I also now have two Bible verses that gave me hope and courage during a very difficult time.  I will continue to pray for God to provide His strength for me, to help me in my weakness and to prepare me for things that I cannot even fathom.  God has given me time to practice relying on His strength.  He told me to “Be strong and courageous.”  With His help, I obeyed.  Even through the tears and uncertainty, I trusted in His mighty power and in the mighty name of Jesus.

Refuel

I volunteered to be a camp counselor again this year at our church camp for Grades 2 – 5 in early August.  Our church rents a campground in South Carolina each year with rustic cabins, a pool with diving boards where kids swim, a barn where kids ride horses and see barnyard animals, a lake where kids go tubing, a cafeteria where healthful choices are served and a gym/multipurpose room.  The serene forests with deep green pine trees surround you as you walk with your cabin mates to the planned activities.  You start each day with breakfast in the cafeteria.  Next, the campers head to a Morning Worship time with a kid friendly message from our fabulous children’s pastors, then have team games, pool time, lunch, arts/crafts, horses/barn, lake/tubing and Snack Shack/Movie Time.  They have Dinner, Evening Worship and Message , Team Game Time, Dance Party then head back to cabins for devotions and bed time.

Three other ladies and I from church volunteered to be camp counselors to 4th graders.  Our own daughters were in our cabin.  Bunking in a cabin is a unique experience for kids, especially as I helped some of them manage their clean clothes/dirty clothes and keep a somewhat tidy living space.  At this camp, you also bring your own sheets, blankets, washcloths and towels.  There is a wooden railing outside of the cabin so the kids would hang their wet pool or shower towels out to dry there along with their dripping swim suits.  Thankfully, the cabins are air conditioned and have bathrooms in them (not a bathhouse in a building away from the cabin), but you will find a variety of insects ranging from spiders to centipedes.  It is, after all, a camp in the woods.  There was one child in our cabin who became extremely homesick, but managed to cry then talk to mom on the phone, then overcame her concerns.  Others were terrified over the insects.  Living for a few days away from home is a new adventure for some kids and can be a bit of sensory overload.

One morning during camp, I was having a Quiet Time where I prayed, read my Bible and meditated on God’s Word.  I turned to John Chapter 4 and before long was reading about Jesus who came to a well.  He began to have a conversation with a woman who was drawing water from the well.  He told her in verses 13 and 14, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never thirst.  But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”  After reading it, I immediately envisioned a summary of these two verses on a poster which I would later share with our kiddos during devotions.  Our camp theme was “Refuel” and all I could do was imagine the following words on the poster as an Acrostic.  REFUEL was posted on the left side of the poster with the following words:

R – Receive Jesus

E – Experience a

F – Fountain of living water springing

U – Up into

E – Everlasting

L – Life

I shared the Scriptures from John Chapter 4 and the REFUEL Poster with our 23 fourth graders and on another night, shared the topic of trusting God.  It was after the devotion on trusting God, that I had an amazing experience. At the conclusion of the devotion, the girls left the den and headed to their rooms except one girl who sat down beside of me.  She said, “I don’t really know how to ask Jesus into my heart.  Could you help me?”  I felt an immediate peace and the presence of the Holy Spirit.  I told her that it was the Holy Spirit who had caused her to be interested in receiving Jesus as her Savior and that she would be able to do this by having Faith in Jesus as she prayed.  I asked some of the nearby counselors to pray with us.  As I led her in prayer, she repeated the words of the prayer supported by the voices of the counselors who also repeated the prayer.  When our prayer was over, she talked about wanting to be baptized in water.  We have Baptismal services at my church a few times a year so I told her to have her mother arrange a time for her to be baptized.  Her face glowed with excitement to know that she had just taken a big step of Faith in her life.  I felt like dancing and leaping for joy.  A new Believer in Jesus had just entered the Kingdom of God!

I have received various honors in my life, but there is no greater honor than to lead a child to Jesus.  My heart has overflowed ever since this experience. My meditation on the Word of God regarding Jesus becoming a fountain of living water springing up in me had become a reality.  Through the presentation of the Word of God through songs and the amazing messages from our children’s pastors, the campers’ hearts were prepared.  Once they came back to the cabin, there was such a sweet presence of God among us.  I am thankful that the little girl obeyed the calling of the Lord and opened her heart to receiving him.  She had not only listened and opened her heart, but she also realized that she needed the saving grace that only Jesus can give.  His sacrifice on the cross, His death, burial and resurrection show the world that He has All Power.  He forgives our sins, makes us clean in our hearts and becomes the fountain of living water that will spring up every day of our lives.

If you are reading my blog and have never asked Jesus to forgive you of your sins, you could pray a prayer similar to the one that I prayed with my friend:  “Dear Jesus, thank you for loving me.  Please forgive me of my sins.  I ask that you come and live in my heart.  I accept you by Faith and want to live for you.  Help me each day to look to you for my help.  In Jesus’ Name I pray.  Amen.”

When we are open to receiving Jesus, it is then that we can experience the fountain of living water that will spring up into everlasting life!  I pray that you would receive Jesus and allow Him to flow through you and out of you for His glory.

It was my great honor to serve alongside of amazing men and women at our camp.  In the woods, in the lake, in the pool, in the services, in the barn, in the cafeteria, in the cabin – these were the places where God used all of us for His glory.