Thursday, December 31, 2009

It's that time of year again...

Yes, a new year is just around the corner...2010.

I was reading back through my blog entry from January 2009...when I wrote about the benefits of goal-setting.  So I dug out my daytimer and found the goals I had written for myself. I wanted to see how many of those goals I had actually implemented and attained.  
That's part of the reason I love written goals so much.  When they are written with specific guidelines, one can use them to assess whether one has achieved them or not.  And why write a goal unless you plan on achieving it???

Over the next couple days, I will be reviewing my goals from last year and refining some unfinished ones. And then I will start creating my new goals for 2010.  Once again, I will refer to a fabulous book by Anne Ortlund, Disciplines of The Beautiful Woman, for insight and practical ideas for ordering my life & home. Josh & I will discuss some ideas as we plan for our home & children.  And most importantly we will be seeking the Lord and allowing Him to direct our plans and shape our motivations for the coming year.  

And we will be referencing these wonderful questions for contemplation by Donald Whitney. We have used these before to help guide discussion as we engage the new year and new goals. You can check it out on his blog, found at our church's new website! (yipee!!! it's still under construction, but is accessible. Check it out!)

Ohhhh, I get so excited to start a new year.  I have been so overwhelmed by the goodness of the Lord in the past 12 months. And in honor of His goodness, I think I'll review some of the highlights of 2009.

-Joshua had the opportunity to be in school at Western Seminary in Portland.  His time has been marked by solid teaching and lifelong mentors.

-We lived with Carey & Tarah until February...making memory after memory.  We were exceedingly blessed by living in their home and getting to spend time with them daily.

-The kids & I returned to Leavenworth and lived with Greg & Candy (Josh's parents) while Josh continued his schooling by commuting between Portland (for the week) and Leavenworth (for the weekend).  My in-laws are incredible...what can I say.

-I started back to work, thankful for a job that was simply "available" and had been kept "on hold for me", even after living out of state for months.  The ministry and influence I get to have there allows my faith to grow and be challenged.

-Grace Covenant Church, our growing church plant, blossomed by God's grace and has been a source of great encouragement, spiritual growth and joy. The Lord has blessed and continued to lead Josh and the elders as they follow (and keep up with) what the Lord is doing!

-Josh finished school in May and moved home permanently to be with us (what a happy day!). 

-Ella Mae turned 4 in June and we marvel at the gifts & abilities the Lord has blessed her with.  Not a day goes by that we aren't overwhelmed and thankful for her little life.  She is full of encouragement, sympathy and always has a song in her heart.

-We have enjoyed living with Greg & Candy, sharing in the joys of spring & summer in Leavenworth. My mind is full of great memories of trips to the farmer's market, adventures in wild remodeling, bears in the front yard and the excitement on my children's faces as they observed deer outside their windows almost every day.  

-In May, we went through the loss of a little child, who we will get to see in heaven someday.  The miscarriage was a sad and painful experience for our entire family and we are so thankful for the prayers of the saints and the tangible help extended to us during that time. 

-Soon after, we were overjoyed at the news of another pregnancy!  The Lord chose to bless our womb again and we wait with anticipation to meet this little girl. (coming in March..)

-Carey & Tarah joined the life in Leavenworth and have been a wonderful addition to our home and our church family.  Blessing others wherever they are, we are priveleged to have them so near.  They are gracious, flexible, servant-hearted, Godly people who are a joy to call "family". Their daughter Niyah was born in July and will soon be running around with her cousins.

-Levi turned 3 in November and is growing to be quite a wonderful young man.  He is full of compassion and care for his sister, a joy for the outdoors and a great desire to work.  We are so thankful that the Lord placed him in our family.

-Josh & I had the swine flu (in the fall) and are so thankful for our swift and safe recovery and the protection for our children and unborn child.  

-Challenges in our pregnancy (namely placenta previa and complete bedrest), have been quite challenging as of late.  But once again, we have been overwhelmed by the care and incredible help we have recieved from our family and friends. They have been the "hands" of the Lord in our life...and we are eternally thankful. 

I know I am leaving out so many specific events.  But it is good to recall and see the hand of the Lord in each circumstance.  May you take some time in these final days of 2009 to look back at the weaving of God's story in your life and the lives of those around you. 

Happy New Year...from our thankful family to yours.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Don't waste your...

In a recent blog post by Justin Taylor, he provided a timely link to John Piper's piece on "Don't Waste Your Cancer".  It was written by Piper back in 2006 during his battle with prostate cancer.  Taylor has offered it to the blogging community as a reflection in light of the new diagnosis and challenges facing Pastor Matt Chandler and his family.

The following outline from that talk could be read a million different ways.  Simply insert the form of suffering or challenge you are going through for the word "cancer".  (i.e. bedrest, disability, handicap, unforseen health problem, etc...)  Although many of the points are medical in nature, the concepts & truths will still ring true.

  1. You will waste your cancer if you do not believe it is designed for you by God.
  2. You will waste your cancer if you believe it is a curse and not a gift.
  3. You will waste your cancer if you seek comfort from your odds rather than from God.
  4. You will waste your cancer if you refuse to think about death.
  5. You will waste your cancer if you think that “beating” cancer means staying alive rather than cherishing Christ.
  6. You will waste your cancer if you spend too much time reading about cancer and not enough time reading about God.
  7. You will waste your cancer if you let it drive you into solitude instead of deepen your relationships with manifest affection.
  8. You will waste your cancer if you grieve as those who have no hope.
  9. You will waste your cancer if you treat sin as casually as before.
  10. You will waste your cancer if you fail to use it as a means of witness to the truth and glory of Christ.
  This post was of great significance for me I would consider the last two days some of the hardest for me emotionally during this time.  I know you hear me say that sufferings are for good and God is sovereign.  That is something I know to be true. 
But some days are harder than others. Especially when I fail to take every thought captive and defeat it with that truth.  There are times when the circumstances of this whole situation can be overwhelming.  My sinful nature battles to sink my heart and overwhelm my mind with pity, depression & distrust in the Lord.

And it is times like these that I continue to "preach to myself" the wonderful truths in the Word that keep me on track.

One of the most gracious things the Lord has done for me during this time on bedrest, is to remind me of the sufferings & challenges in the lives of others.  It keeps my mind focused on the things that are important, eternal & of true value.  And it keeps my heart active in prayer for the many in this world who face challenges far more daunting than my own. It keeps one from slipping into the miry clay of self-pity & selfish orientation.

However, it can be downright depressing to sit and look at the state of the world we live in.  And it would overwhelm our souls, if we did not know the One who is in control and did not have the promise of eternal life with Him.

My heart aches for the Chandler family.  Their young children, his wife, their church family...all are faced with deep pain and suffering that no one should have to bear.  But they do not bear it alone.  Their faith in the midst of trial is already a testimony to the hundreds who are following their story.

I've been reading a short biography on Martin Luther and was shocked to read the severity of medical problems he endured in his life.  One wouldn't know it from his prolific and exceptional writings.  He had a deep love for the Scriptures and a desire to bring the church back to that place as well.  He said that suffering, or as he called it "tribulation", was the "touchstone" to understanding the Scriptures.  Read below as he describes it's importance.

"I want you to know how to study theology in the right way.  I have practiced this method myself...Here you will find three rules.  They are frequently proposed throughout Psalm 119 and run thus: oratio, meditatio, tentatio (prayer, meditation, tribulation)....[These rules] teach you not only to know and understand, but also to experience how right, how true, how sweet, how lovely, how mighty, how comforting God's word is: it is wisdom supreme."

So in days of suffering...cancer, handicaps, temptation, trials, untimely death, unforseen challenges, wayward children, earthquakes, wars...may we be comforted by God's word.

And may we find peace in the knowledge that He is more powerful than any trial, more glorious than any cure and more gracious than we can imagine.  I pray we will not waste these days that are given to us.  They are numbered and by God's grace, they can bring Him glory.

"More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." Romans 5:1-5

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas day...

Merry Christmas to all! 
May you have a wonderful day of joyous celebration for the birth of our Messiah...

In our house, my kid's exclaimed this morning...Merry Christmas!
And Happy Birthday Jesus!

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them,
“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another,
“Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.”
And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

Luke 2:1-21

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Prayers of an excellent wife...

A last minute Christmas gift idea for the married women in your life (wife, mom, sister, friend...).  Prayers of an Excellent Wife by Andrew Case looks like a wonderful read.  I know this is on my list! Check out the reviews and see what you think. Although I have not read it comes highly recommended and appears to be Biblically saturated & theologically sound. Sounds good to me!

I have been challenged as of late to deepen my prayer life. (Long hours of silence & solitude can do that to you!)  And I have been most convicted on my desire to be in specific, regular and intentional prayer for my husband.  A good friend of mine has been praying for her husband daily for over 15 years.  Her dedication to prayer is reflected in her marriage, her children and the state of her home. 

Although one does not need a book to tell you how to pray, there is wisdom in having something like the aforementioned book to get you started and keep you on track. I hope to find this wonderful resource in my stocking this week. (hint, hint, hint Joshua!)

Merry Christmas! it might be a little too late to order this one for this year. But it would still make a great gift!  How 'bout a gift certificate for it?  Or an I.O.U.?  Maybe a birthday? :o)

Friday, December 18, 2009

Encouragement for child-rearing...

In my days of mandatory"bed-resting", I am getting the opportunity to read some very encouraging and challenging things.  Listening to sermons online, reading blogs and daily getting washed in the Word are all wonderful blessings of this time of challenge. (My husband has even helped design a "syllabus" for me to stay on task...I love the way he leads!) I realize these things would be much more challenging had I not been required to sit and be still! (Maybe that's what I am supposed to be learning..hmmm.) :o)

I pray the habits, knowledge & truth I can hide in my heart during these days will be encouragement and strength to my soul.  So that when my life's pace resumes to "high-speed-mommy-of-2-toddlers-and-a-newborn", I will have a deeper well to draw from.

In some recent reading, I found this article by John Piper. It is a short exhortation and quick read...and well worth it.

In the early days of child-rearing, there are times when one may feel that they are requiring their small children to obey only out of duty.  Yes, we aim to reach the heart-motive of our child, but at the age of 2, that is sometimes harder to discern.

This article was very encouraging, insightful and downright helpful. It provided some encouragment for this young mommy to stay the course in teaching, training and disciplining my small children. Some days, one feels that the reminding and training and teaching (and did I say reminding?) may be in vain. But no, we are to be faithful to teach and admonish our children, so that when they are old, they will "rise up and call her blessed...". (Proverbs 31: 28) and their hearts will be turned to Christ.

The truths we can place in their hearts now, by means of instruction & discipline, will reside there and be a "well-stocked pantry" for us to reach into when they are older. Phrases they have heard, prayers they have repeated, hymns they have sung...will all be resources for their little brains as they grow in their knowledge & understanding.

So it is not a waste to read the Bible to them...even if it seems "over their heads". It is not unhelpful for them to sit in church and worship with us...even if they cannot understand the sermon & it's theological depth.  It is not asking too much for them to memorize scripture...even if they don't grasp the concept of grace found in the passage.
These habits are in fact, beneficial. The children come to expect them and they grow into the fiber of their everyday lives...thus proving to these young hearts that these things are important...significant...worthwhile.

So as a young mom, I will continue on...requiring of my children obedience, discipline & order. Not because I desire to raise up legalism in the heart of my children, but rather, because I desire to cultivate in them the foundation of manners, respect, service and restraint that will do them good and be combined with grace as they grow in their understanding of Christ, the Cross & our imperative charge to reach the lost.

Blessings to you, my fellow young good friends. May you be encouraged today to stay the course and pray fervently for the hearts of your young children. May He be glorified in their little lives.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

***Announcement: It's a...

The McPherson family...Josh, Sharon, EllaMae & Levi...are pleased to announce that they are all looking forward to the arrival of another little...

            ***girl*** grow our precious family.

Now the name search begins...for us this is a very important part of their little lives.  As my husband puts it, "we want their names to serve as a sort of 'anchor' in the midst of life...".  

As many of you know, Ella Mae was lavished upon in the name department.  Her given name is Audra Mae Isabella McPherson.

Audra means: overcomer of many difficulties...
Mae means: gift of God...
Isabella (or Ella) means: beautiful...

While her nickname, Ella Mae means: beautiful gift of God...

...very fitting, I might add.

Levi means: harmony ("At that time the LORD set apart the tribe of Levi to carry the ark of the covenant of the LORD, to stand before the LORD to minister and to pronounce blessings in his name, as they still do today.  That is why the Levites have no share or inheritance among their brothers; the LORD is their inheritance..." Deuteronomy 10:8&9)

Gregory means: vigilant & watchful (and is in honor of his Grandpa Gregory McPherson)

He will be reminded, everytime he hears his name, of his spiritual heritage and the legacy of his grandpa.

And so the search has started...with prayer and we hope to find a name to fit this lady and the circumstances that have defined her life thusfar, that she may bring glory to God and honor to His name.

Thanks for the prayers for her little life.  Please continue to pray that she stays in her small "womb-home" until the proper time.  We would like it if she remained inside until she is at least 36 weeks along (February 8th or so). For this would be best for her lungs & development. 

Trusting and rejoicing,
(for the McPherson family)

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope." 
Romans 15:13

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Some "life" reading...

I was checking out Justin Taylor's blog this morning, in my bedrest state...and came upon this very insightful and contemplative article. Written by a pro-choice writer for the NY Magazine, it speaks of the upcoming generations view of abortion and the debate & challenges of the pro-choice argument. I would encourage you to read it in it's entirety.

The abortion debate/discussion has always been close to my heart. I have a great desire to work or volunteer at our local clinic (First Choice) here in Wenatchee when my circumstances allow.
Having gone through a prenatal diagnosis that many would consider a "good reason" to consider abortion, I feel I have some personal interest in the lives of women that face the same "dilemma".

When Josh & I found out about Ella's diagnosis of Spina Bifida...we were 20 weeks pregnant. During some initial tests, they also thought she might have some "chromosomal anomalies" that could potentially be fatal either before birth or shortly after.

In our shocked state, we were referred to Seattle to help us gain information and plan for her matter what. Or so we thought.

Our first appointment, we were told, was to be with a genetic counselor. Having never been through this, we had no idea what this appointment meant. We were ready to get information about Ella's diagnoses and then move on, in preparation for what we knew was going to be a challenging birth-day.

We were not prepared for the discussion that followed. The very nice woman, the genetic counselor, was there to tell us our risks for future pregnancies and more importantly, to tell us that we still had the option to end the pregnancy. I think it was phrased as the "compassionate thing to do".

Since all of Ella's diagnoses were unsure (Spina Bifida was the only one they knew for sure) and could not be confirmed until some chromosome tests were resulted, she said we had a narrow window to make our decision. Abortions in Washington at that time could not be done past 23 weeks, and at this point we were 21 weeks along. Thats 5 months into a pregnancy...the baby weighs about a pound and has every human body system working. The baby gets hiccups, can suck it's thumb, kicks like crazy and looks very much like a little version of mom & dad.

After she had approached the subject of abortion for the fifth time, we told her our discussion there was through. Unless she had something of greater importance to discuss with us, we had no more need of her "information".

Shaken and sad at the tenacity of her suggestions, we left the office and headed home with nothing but heavy hearts and a sadness for others who had sat through a similar experience in this woman's office.

We thought about single women, young, with little support...facing the daunting task of having a child with "severe disabilities", being told that abortion would be the "merciful thing to do". I am thankful for a supportive family, the trust I have in our sovereign God and the peace & blessing I had about the coming of this child.

Many women who consider abortion do not have such stability in place in their lives. They have no hope in Christ. Many are unmarried and all alone. Some are just kids themselves...15 or 16 year old high schoolers. Some have been through rape or abusive relationships. Some are mentally disabled; others are homeless. Some are in school full-time, single moms with 3 other children and an "unplanned" pregnancy. The situations are tricky, complex, and usually quite sad.

But the decision to end a little life is even more sad and the long-term effects even more devastating.

As I lay here and type...the computer is perched on my growing belly. The little one inside of me is kicking, causing my computer to rock back & forth, as if to say, "I'm here mom"...and "I'll see you soon".

So if you haven't thought of this topic lately, I would encourage you to do so.

Pray for our legislators and those who work to protect the life of unborn children.
Pray for our pregnancy resource clinics (like Wenatchee's First Choice) and the wonderful people that work there and deal with the real faces of women facing the decision of abortion.
And pray for the women who are dealing with this even now...the decision, the ramifications, the struggle, the pressures, and for some...the long-term sadness that they ended the life of their child.

If there is a tangible way for you to be involved in this...writing about your experience, talking with others, giving money to our local clinic or helping a young mother in need...I pray you will.

Everyday, I get to see my daughter. Remember, this beautiful little girl...full of life, personality and the one who wouldn't be here, had I done the "compassionate thing to do" for her.

I cannot imagine my life without hers.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

A little life...

Well, I am writing this entry from a place I hadn't planned on being this evening...
but then again, when does one plan on being in the hospital?

Yes, I am sitting in my room on the Labor & Delivery unit...officially on bedrest.

This morning, I was experiencing some more symptoms of this saga we are in called complete "placenta previa". I was diagnosed at 19 weeks and was immediately put on "decreased activity" and had to stop working at my job at the hospital. But for the last 6 weeks, we have been overjoyed because I have not had any complications or symptoms.

We were encouraged thinking that maybe this thing would right itself...
...but no.

Our doctor was here this evening and wants me to stay the night for monitoring. Oh, and I am officially on complete bedrest.

Complete bedrest...what does that really mean?

Definition: in the morning I may get up and go the bathroom...maybe take a shower, then back to bed/couch to lie down...maybe sit up for lunch...then lay down for nap...up to bathroom....lay down...etc.

Hmmmm...did I miss the part that said take care of my 2 toddlers, do laundry, vacuum, go to Christmas parties, make dinner, go to the grocery store, team with my husband to run our home???

The length of time for this new "schedule" is yet to be determined, but we are pretty sure it will be for the duration of the pregnancy.

I am only 26 weeks.

And the other kicker is that I cannot be at home to be on bedrest...I have to stay in Wenatchee. Placenta previa is so unpredictable & potentially life-threatening to me and babe, that I cannot even be as far away as Leavenworth.

The consequences of these new restrictions are fairly hard to comprehend at the moment. But I could not be more thankful for an unshakable peace that has been on me since we arrived here this afternoon.

The Lord is constant & unwavering as He supplies all our needs. I am so thankful that the life of our little one is in His hands...not mine.

The baby is moving, kicking...a whir of activity. Heartbeat pounding along at 150 healthy beats/minute. A little life...growing & developing...a miracle only designed by a brilliant Creator.

And so I am overwhelmed by the things I have to be thankful for this evening...
-thankful for that little beating heart I hear on the monitor...
-thankful that my husband is home from Europe...
-thankful that I am surrounded by loving friends & family...
-thankful for Uncle & Auntie and Grandma & Grandpa...for their competent and loving care of our 2 children during this time...
-thankful that this little one was not born today...for we might have only held him for a moment, before he went to be with Jesus...
-thankful for the prayers of many saints...for they are not in vain, but an encouragement to my heart and a petition to our Heavenly Father...

I pray that a thankful & trusting heart will be mine during this season we are now in...for there is no other way I desire to be as our Lord leads the way.

I will be updating as I can...for now, I will be following doctor's orders, being on bedrest & letting the Lord continue to create this little life inside me.

With joy,