April McGowan

Let it Snow!

snowAs I sit watching tiny flakes of snow drift to the ground outside my window, I find I’m in a contemplative mood. Today is the last day of 2012. And what a year it was. I find I remember many joys, all coming at the end of trials. There were difficult times dealing with fatigue and exhaustion, soreness and illness. But, there were also the clear times when the Lord supplied my need and gave me joy despite my circumstances. If you know me personally, you’ll know my heart is preconditioned to be a pessimist. I don’t mean to be, and I’ve struggled against it, but there it is nonetheless. God made me a trouble-shooter (where you look ahead and see the possible negative outcome of just about everything and do your best to make sure it doesn’t go that way). Which is why I’m rather amazed at my ponderings.

Although there are many unknowns in my life right now, of which I’ve been sorely tempted to worry over—today I’m content. Dare I say hopeful? (GASP!) I can say with confidence that no matter what comes my way, the Lord will provide.

My prayer for you this New Year is that you’ll find yourself looking forward, not back. That you’ll grow in faith with the Lord. That, if you are suffering today, you’ll be able to see past your circumstances to the One who provides true joy despite difficulties sifting down around you.

May your blessings be many, and may He keep you tightly in His mighty grasp.

Happy New Year!

1 Peter 1:3-9  Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (full text here).

 

 

Read More

Peace of Mind

An email from a relative reminded me today that life is fragile. After watching his wife lay gravely ill in the hospital for the past week, its tenuous nature is more apparent than ever. He’s openly sharing struggles and triumphs. And their appreciation for prayer is apparent. In the midst of their trials, which are tremendous, he’s finding things to rejoice about.

Oftentimes, though, it’s just the opposite. In talking with some whom I know are hurting, there seems a pervasive attitude that if they admit they have difficulties, this would cast some sort of shadow on God. They feel pressured to put on a happy face, not be sad, not grieve. I, myself, have been told this. Try as I may, it’s been hard for me to understand. But I think I’m finally glimpsing where it’s coming from.

We live in a sales orientated society. What can that product do for me? Watch out—if it doesn’t do what I expect, then I won’t buy it again.

I openly admit that my prayers haven’t always been answered. God is not a magic genie. He’s not my God because I can manipulate Him by saying certain words (seriously, do you want to worship a God you can manipulate?). I can pray, and if it’s not in God’s greater plan, whatever the reason, I won’t have my prayers answered the way I want. Does that mean God doesn’t love me? That I shouldn’t tell people about it, because then, when we’re sharing about God, they might not buy it?

Well, there’s the problem. God is not for sale. The relationship He offers through belief in Christ is free. In fact, Christianity is the only free religion. Free of guilt, free of doubt, freedom of forgiveness—you don’t have to work for it and you can’t pay for it. Grace is given to all who ask.

My God is mighty. Jesus came to save the sinner, the frail and the poor, the weak and the sick. He did not come to save us out of our circumstances, but in the midst of them. And in those trials, thanks be to Him, we can have great peace.

Mark 2:17 On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Full text here

Philippians 4: 4-7 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Full text here)

Read More

These Eyes

Comparisons happen in our minds all day long. How much more caffeine is in that 24 oz latte than the 16 oz? Is that spider bigger than the one I saw yesterday, or is that one of its many babies? If I use that super extensive homeschool curricula, will I churn out a gifted student poised to take on the world? (Can you tell we’re getting ready for our first year of homeschooling through high school?).

Comparisons are natural—it’s something our brain does without thinking about it. And that’s where the danger lies. Our eyes. I might see a house that is larger than my own and think about all that extra space I could use and become discontent. Or, see that super in-shape person on TV and be tempted to feel badly about my body. In our subconscious state, comparisons can turn to coveting before we can blink.

When I first entered this flare-up of CVID last year, I had well meaning people say, “It could always be worse.” Or, “You could be as sick as this other person, be grateful you’re not them.” I realized right then, that’s not a good scenario. Because in comparing myself to others, ill or well, rich or poor, gifted or normal, I’m going to be tempted to do one of two things: I’ll either gloat and feel self-righteous, or I’ll wallow and start to feel sorry for myself. Both are sinful.

It’s not an easy thing to do, to walk through this life and keep my eyes on God’s plan and off of what is happening in other people’s lives—to be objective. But, it’s something worth striving for. God’s got a different road for everyone to travel. It does Him a disservice if I’m always wishing I was someone else.

If you’ve been walking (reading) alongside me this past 18 months, you’ll know I’ve been awfully sick. The good news this week is that I’ve been administering immunoglobulin replacement therapy for 6 months now, and I’m about 60% better than I was last year at this time. That is HUGE. I’m so grateful to God for treatment for my illness.

If you’re suffering and are waiting for healing, please know that God hears your prayers—and He’s got a plan for you. It might involve miraculous healing. It might involve being healed through modern medicine (for which I’m very grateful, because I’d be long dead from any number of things by now). But, whatever happens, whatever the path, He’s on it with you. He promises that to His children. Keep your eyes on Him.

Deuteronomy 31:6 Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Hebrews 13:5 Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?”

Would you do me a favor? If you like what I’ve written, please share it with someone else 🙂 And I’d love to hear your comments and thoughts!

Read More

Quitting Time

A sharp horn sounded behind Mary as she headed up the steps to her duplex in the hot May sunshine. She turned towards the older model Buick, unable to see who was driving the car, but gave a friendly wave. As a rule, she waved to anyone. Fairly certain the father of her grandchildren belonged to a gang, she wanted to stay on good terms with everyone in the neighborhood.

Tossing her keys on the antique stand near the door, she entered the kitchen and opened the freezer. Inside, she found a frozen glass mug that she filled with ice and edged with a lemon slice. She stepped through the back door and retrieved a large jar of sun tea off the back stoop. It’d been brewing since 4AM, when she’d left for her job at the Dollar Mart—just about ten hours of steeping. The heat from the glass burned the tips of her fingers as she carried the jar back to the counter. As the liquid poured in over the crackling ice cubs, cooling the concoction, a sense of peace filled her. Mary’d been looking forward to this all day. She held the golden-brown drink near her nose and let the earthy scent of tea, sunshine and citrus draw her mind to easier times.

After flipping the switch on the oscillating fan sitting on the Formica counter top, she pulled up a chair at the kitchen table, directly in its path. Giving the crumbs from her hasty breakfast a sweep off the table, she drew the pile of mail toward her. She saw several envelopes addressed to Tina with ‘final notice’ highlighted in red letters. Mary clucked her tongue. What would ever become of that girl? She’d raised her better than this.

Sure that the tea had chilled long enough, she sipped it, letting the strong brew energize her from the inside out. It was just as good as she hoped it would be. She clucked her tongue again and sighed.

She couldn’t say that about much in her life these days.

Glancing at the clock, she saw her grandsons would be home any time now. Really, Jimmy was supposed to pick them up from school and take them home with him for a few hours, helping them with their schoolwork and spending ‘quality time’ with his sons. The social worker’s idea was a good one—and if Jimmy had been a good man, it would have worked. Knowing him as Mary did, he’d last about an hour with the boys and he’d be dragging them home to her instead. She’d be the one helping them with homework, fixing them dinner, giving them baths. Then Tina would saunter in and give them kisses goodnight, declaring once again how the day got away from her. Got away from her while she was having drinks at the bar near her work, most likely.

Best laid plans. That phrase had tumbled through Mary’s mind more than once in the past six years. Her daughter had shown up pregnant on her doorstep, and Jimmy made one false promise after another. As soon as he got a good job, they’d get married and he’d bring her and the baby home. Now there were two babies, and they weren’t babies anymore. How could Tina be so blind to mix her life up with that lazy, no-good man?

Mary shot a look at the ceiling. “Just like her mother, then, isn’t she, Lord?” As if Tina had written down Mary’s life story, her own life followed her mother’s map of failure—almost item for item. Except Mary only had Tina, and she certainly didn’t have any family to rely on in the early days. There wasn’t any escaping for Mary after work.

Even now—it was as if her day never ended.

Mary filled her mug with ice once again, and then with tea. This time, she grabbed a couple cookies from the package on the counter and sat down to enjoy the silence of her home for a few more minutes. Soon enough those boys would tumble through the door, and the house would fill with the sounds of laughing and arguing. She glanced at the wall covered with signed handprints and other artwork the boys had made her in school.

Pride nudged her as she remembered them giving those gifts to her on Mother’s day and holidays. They’d stopped making such things for their mother a long time ago. They knew who took care of them, who fed them, who could be counted on.

A sudden sadness washed over her. It wasn’t right, not any of it. Tina should be the one they came home to. Tina should be the one rocking them to sleep when they were scared, or reading them bedtime stories.

The newspaper on the table caught her attention. Mary flipped it open and began scanning the apartment section. There was a small two-bedroom four blocks away. She glanced around and took in the books, the papers, the toys strewn from one end of her house to the other. It’d take a whole lot of packing to move Tina and the boys from her place—and Tina wouldn’t want to help. Four blocks?

Mary flipped through the paper again, scanning, her mind forming a solid plan. It was time for change around here. Something had to. There it was, ten blocks away, a furnished one-bedroom. They could stay here, she’d leave. She picked up the phone and called. It was still available. A large Victorian, cut up into manageable units. She’d seen the place—it was in a quiet neighborhood on a dead end. Ten blocks. Perfect. She called back and made the arrangements. She needed boxes. The boys would help her pack. Tina could have her own room, and she and Jimmy could finally get married. Or not. Maybe when Tina forced his hand she’d see him for what he was and tell him to go for good.

The front door screen opened with a screech. Mary fixed a smile on her face to greet the boys, but instead of the boys, Tina came around the corner.

“I’m home early tonight. You happy?” Tina headed towards the table, a sour grimace on her face.

Mary took a deep breath to steady herself. “Before you sit down, grab a glass of tea. I’ve got some news for you.”

Copyright by April McGowan 2012

Read More

What a Fool Believes

Have you ever noticed how much people like to give advice? The other day my son had the hiccups—all day. We had tons of errands, and every time someone heard him hiccup, they’d offer him a sure-fire way to get rid of them. Wouldn’t you know it, every bit of advice was different from the next. These sage words came from a receptionist, a nurse, a doctor, the grocery store clerk, his sister and myself.

Hold your breath. Stand on your head. Drink a glass of water from the other side (okay…what? All that gets you is a wet front!). Hold your nose. Rub your tummy. Take long, controlled, deep breaths. Oh, this one is from my sister and passed on by me—eat a spoonful of sugar (he chose not to, sorry Chelli). He was assured each of these was a proven cure.

Guess what? I know. Yours works and I should have called you first. Sorry. Anyway, none of these worked! They naturally went away some time in the night, and he awoke to a hiccup free day.

Have you ever been given erroneous advice? When I was first so ill, I was given a truckload of advice by the well-meaning and by the meddling (don’t worry, you weren’t the meddling type, I don’t even see them anymore). Most people want to help. And most people have things that really have helped them, and they’re sure it’s going to help you, too. I get that. I’m a researcher, I tried everything I could think of on my own, and a bunch of other stuff that didn’t help a bit. But sometimes…you have to wait.

I waited a long time for the right treatment to come along and make me feel better (42 years). It wasn’t a quick fix, and it’s not sure-fire, but it’s working for me. It’s not a fun thing to infuse immunoglobulin subcutaneously (or for my IvIG friends, intravenously). I’m happy to say, that after 25 weeks of treatment, I’m finally starting to feel better. It’s an amazing thing, feeling good. If you already feel good, then revel in it, roll in it and keep it close. I’ve talked about my little windows of feeling better. The last week or so I’ve had several consecutive hours of feeling better. Not an entire day of it, but huge happy chunks. Enough to know I’m improving.

Waiting is hard. We’re a proactive people. We like action and immediate solutions. Easy answers are best. Patience is NOT a virtue associated with our lives. But a lot of the time, we just have to hang in there, hold on and pray. And pray some more.

Have you ever been given erroneous advice? Did you take it? What happened?

Psalm 27:14 Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. (Full text here.)

Read More
%d bloggers like this: