Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Greatest of These

Love God, love people.  Why do we go to church on Sunday mornings?  To worship God.  That is our purpose, the very reason for which we are created.  Love Him first.  Love others second.  How do we love others?  We become like them.  We change ourselves to meet them where they are in hopes of saving even a few.

I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.  1 Corinthians 9:22

I can say from experience that this is much easier to do with an unsaved friend than an unsaved enemy.  Comparatively, it's easy - though at times painfully sacrificial - to become all things for a loved one if the end result might be their salvation.  But how do I become all things to a person who hates and rejects my very presence?  How do I find the desire to even attempt such a thing?  It's much more comfortable to simply pray for that soul and let God do all the work than it is to buck up and take responsibility for that which He's handed me.  Don't hear me wrong - prayer is still vital and only the Spirit can change a heart.  But I am not exempt from the process.  God has given, commanded me a task, and it is imperative I follow through. 

. . . . . . . . . .

Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care...  1 Peter 5:2
We have different gifts, according to the grace given us.  Romans 12:6

The Spirit enables gifts in each believer, and with each gift comes the responsibility to nurture and use it for the glory of God.  Each believer also gains a responsibility of leadership in his or her respective area of gifting.  No gift is unimportant, and when all are functioning to their fullest capacity - from the pastor's sermon to the Sunday school teacher's lesson to the women washing dishes and men setting up tables - the body of Christ moves and lives and breathes in a beautiful and effective manner.  It brings glory to God and draws the lost and broken in to safety and protection.

Love God, love people.

Leaders are not silent.  They are strong and present and vocal when necessary...and always in a positive direction.  For so long I have believed my voice is not important.  And so many times I use my voice to complain or gossip or tear down.  Misuse and defeated silence bring destruction.  I am gifted, therefore I am a leader, therefore my voice is vital to the glory of God and the growth of the Body.

. . . . . . . . . .

Change is hard, but inevitable and necessary.  These thoughts are from this morning's sermon, given by a guest pastor.  Our pastor of fourteen years has been called to shepherd another flock, and our flock here is facing a great deal of uncertainty and emotion.  It would be easy to sit back and wait to see what changes occur, and then make my decisions accordingly.  But that is not the way of Christ nor His desire for the Body.  Instead, we stay active in using our gifts and encouraging others to do the same.  We do the jobs He has called us to do, and allow the Spirit to do His work in and through us.  So often we try to force the Spirit's work for Him, and in doing so we quench His holy fire.  And while we often elevate the pastor's gift of shepherding, and though some gifts are deemed "greater," the truth is that no gift is less important than another.  Each gift is divinely issued and equally necessary to bring glory to God, both individually and corporately.

Love God, love people.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Meet Me In Heaven

Her Christmas letter arrived this week, filled with news I'd already heard, but with a few more details not included in the prayer chain emails.  Since the first email came out I've thought of her often, usually whenever I hear someone say the word "cancer."  And I desire to touch base again...just one more time.

She and her husband opened their home to me almost ten years ago.  I learned to play guitar in their basement (for which they each deserve extra saint points), and watched her play dolls with the older granddaughter while I held the baby.  She let me use her kitchen to cook and bake, and would set a third place at the table so I could be a part of their meals.  I spent many evenings in their living room, simply enjoying their company.

We sat together on a sofa in the church foyer during an evening meeting, each soul present for the other as our beloved church body crumbled to the ground and nearly died.  Years later, when I returned for a visit at a church bonfire, she looked at me and said, "Do you even recognize this church anymore?  We are so much healthier now!"

Only a couple of years ago I sat behind her toward the front of the sanctuary as her church family prayed over her for healing from a cancerous spot on her lung.  After surgery, she received a clean bill of health and made an excellent recovery.

Now she faces Stage 4 colon cancer that has spread everywhere.  Chemo made her too sick, so she has chosen to forego the treatments in order to enjoy the life she has left.  My friend, with her sweet smile and gentle touch, beautiful on the inside and out, bravely staring death in the face.  Such a precious and valuable asset to the body of Christ.

Dying is a part of this life.  Sometimes death is easy to push aside, to not think about.  But when death hovers nearby, it has a way of bringing new perspective to life.  When it becomes personal, something happens inside.  The important things in life suddenly shine a little brighter.

I am sad to know my friend is dying.  But she loves Jesus and awaits the moment He takes her home.  There is a beautiful mystery in the death of a believer.  Where there is sorrow, joy abounds all the more.  Where there are tears, there is also gladness.  Where there is sadness, rejoicing pours forth.  Where there is an end, hope begins.  When death becomes personal and takes the dear saints from my life, my heart hurts and I cheer them on as though cheering runners crossing the finish line.  My soul cries out with all its might as they take their last steps in this world and burst forth into eternity.  And I feel longing in the depths of my own being to be in their shoes, to burst forth into beauty seen by no eye and conceived by no mind.

Praise Jesus for making the way!  In the words of my friend, "Please make sure you will meet me in Heaven."

See you soon, Marcene.  Whether here or there, I will see you soon.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Letter to Me

Writing this post was easy.  Making it public has been hard.  I've been sitting on it for a few weeks now, not quite able to hit "publish" because I know who will read this, and leaving myself this exposed feels too risky.  But stronger than that is my belief that this piece of my story will resound with many people.  I have seen first-hand how many others have been in or are in a place similar to mine; to share my heart gives them a voice they may have not yet found and makes their places feel not quite as lonely.

The idea of writing a letter to my younger self came after a dear friend had the privilege of contributing to a new book called Letters to Me.  I have not yet read the book or any excerpts (if I did, I think I would be intimidated enough by "real" writers to never ever publish this post), so I don't know exactly how those letters will flow.  I do know that my own letter is written to myself at the point in time I may have benefited most from reading it.

To my 17-year old self,

You are about to make a decision that will set the course of your heart and affect you for many years.  I wonder, if you could know the things at 17 that you will know at almost 30, if you would still make that decision.  And I wonder how different my heart and life would look now were it not for this journey you are about to begin.

If I could tell you all the lessons I've learned over the past twelve years, this is what I would want you to know:  dieting is about control, and you like control.  Losing weight feels good, and nothing feels better than jeans that have become too big.  When people compliment you on your weight loss it will boost your confidence, but those compliments also raise the bar of your expectations.  No matter how much weight you lose it will never be enough.  A shrinking waistline is not perceivable by your eyes.  The mirror you look into will always reflect curves too wide, features too ugly, a body too imperfect.  All your diets will eventually come to an end, and none of the results you worked so hard for will stay.  In fact, each time you diet you will gain back more weight than you lost.

A few years from now you will consciously walk into the biggest battle of your life.  You will take on the ultimate diet, and for a time you will succeed.  But you will measure success by the size of your jeans rather than victories won in the spiritual battle for your heart.  It will be a long battle, one that rages on even after you start eating again.  Because really, the issue isn't about food or weight loss or physical beauty. Your perception of those things is so very skewed, and they manifest because they reflect the deeper wounds that have sliced into the innermost places that are known not even by you.

What you seek is acceptance and unfailing love, and you look to the approval of others to make you complete. But even the best of what others can offer is tainted and limited by the flesh. Only One is able to fill you to overflowing, and oh how He loves you!  If only you could know how deeply this love satisfies, that all else pales in comparison...but I don't know how to tell you that to its fullest, because even now I haven't learned how to let Him be all.

I don't know how to tell you to learn the lessons without first experiencing the consequences.  I think maybe it's a road you will have to stumble down, because you can't get the to the end result without making the journey that leads you there.  There are things now that I wish you would have done differently then.  But it's those things you've done that are the building blocks of who you've become.  Right now you wish you could be anyone else.  But that will change.  One day you will be glad to be you.

So, young one, search for God's love and approval above all else.  If you lose sight of that, you will lose who you are.  You will find the friendships you've always longed for, and soon.  There are many friends you will make along each segment of your journey, and they will become very dear to you.  In fact, one day you will realize how many of these special people are in your life and wonder how God ever saw fit to bless you so richly.

Always always ALWAYS pray.  Never stop, even when you reach those months and years that become the darkest and most difficult.  You will make it through, and He will restore and redeem your broken places.  You are valued, loved, and beautiful.  Hold tight, child.  Hold tight to Him.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Case Study: The Long-Term Effects of Kinesio Tape on Hallux Valgus - Week...I Don't Know Anymore

There is a reason I have not pursued a career in research, and I think this post is a clear demonstration as to why.  I started conducting my own little research project somewhere around a year ago, ended it in January, and am just now getting around to writing the follow-up.  If you were reading along before and need a refresher course, you can read the first post here, the second post here, and the third post here.

Let's as of the last post I had been taping my toes for 7 wks.  I believe I continued taping for only another one or two weeks, because it was about that time I noticed my big toes feeling sore, especially on the right.  That toe started to look swollen and slightly red, so I decided to stop taping altogether.  I also realized that my big toenails were no longer growing; in fact, the last time I'd trimmed them was three months prior, but all the other toenails were growing on schedule.  

My toe pain finally simmered down, but then in April the right one flared up again.  It got super red and puffy and had every sign of infection.  So I ignored it.  It was originating from the nail bed, which was odd since I had no skin breakdown or lacerations to the area.  After about two weeks of that, the infection finally cleared up, and I started to lose my toenail.  I've never lost a nail before, and my toe had suffered no trauma or ingrown anything.  The nail just simply died and started to grow out.  There was some new nail trying to grow, but it wasn't moving very quickly.  By probably July-ish the dead nail was halfway grown out, and I accidentally snagged it on something and ripped off what was left.  Ouchie.  But that healed up and now - nearly November - I have about 3/4 of a toenail and it seems to still be filling in.  I'm relieved for that, because I thought I'd  never have a normal looking nail again.  Not that I'm vain about the appearance of my feet, but the once a year (or two) I decide to French tip my toenails, it's kind of nice to have something to tip.

My theory on the toenail weirdness is that the pull of the tape over the top of the nail affected its ability to grow out normally, which somehow messed with the nail bed and caused it to stop growing altogether.

As far as the measurements go, I re-measured again this summer, and my valgus angles were back to where they were before I started taping.  Therefore, my conclusion is this:  Kinesio tape will help improve the angle of hallux valgus, but not as a long-term solution.  I have heard from two people that the tape offered relief from pain they were having from hallux valgus, so I believe it is also an appropriate method for managing symptoms and pain related to this condition.  But I would advise caution with constant and repetitive taping over time based on what happened to my toenail.

This brings me to the official end of my case study.  (Whew.  That's a relief!)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Seasons of Change

Typically the view from the windows at work isn't all that exciting.  But when fall shows up, I will boast of one of the best views in town.  The trees outside these windows turn the most brilliant shades of red, yellow, and orange.  With a backdrop of gloomy gray skies and green pines, the colors nearly glow.  This morning, however, gale-force winds showed up and the trees are steadily losing their magnificent color-blankets.  The bare branches poking out from the tops tease about the fast-approaching winter, and I mourn the passing of an all-too-brief fall season.

I watch the leaves fly and am reminded at how quickly - and regularly - life changes.  And this reminder parallels words from my Bible study:  The life of a Christian is never about sameness.  It's always about change.*  Change will happen, and it's necessary.  Without it my relationship with the One who loves me will not deepen.

Oh, how I balk at change.  I do not like for my consistency and order to be jumbled and shifted.  I do not like to face the unknown, and I certainly do not like to lose that which I hold dear because losing hurts.  I fear change because I fear pain.

Recently I traveled back to my second home in South Dakota, and with each familiar sight and street and face I felt the subtle stab of homesickness.  Each time I've gone back I've asked myself, "What have you done?  Look at what you gave up!"  I left dear friends and happy places and a town that feels more like home than anywhere else.  I want that home back.

But I have good things where I am now.  I have a job I love, and that is something I appreciate and grip tightly.  I have friends here who have become very dear, and slowly this new place is becoming home.  More than anything else, I have a new freedom.  I look back and I miss dearly what I used to have.  But when I see path God has led me on this past year and I notice how much He's grown me, I recognize some of the chains that used to hold me captive because of where I used to be.  He brought me away from what I had, and as a result I am no longer held captive by these chains, and the freedom is sweet.

I have meditated on these things lately, and as I watch the autumn-chilled winds wipe the beauty from the trees, I feel a mix of sadness, yet surrender, in knowing that the winds of life will blow again.  Sooner or later the beauty I experience now will be removed to make room for the next season, and through His miracle of life, God will grow me in ways that I cannot imagine.  Maybe it will be painful, or maybe not.  Either way, it will be good.  And while I may look back and miss what I have now, He is faithful to fill to overflowing the blessings of those who are faithful to Him.

*Quoted from Breaking Free by Beth Moore.

Saturday, September 22, 2012


Forgiveness and grace and reconciliation and love your neighbor and pearls before swine...the words spoken into my mind and heart this week, life-themes swirling around me lately like dancing wisps, sometimes pushing me through the day, other times taunting me.  I try to live them out, only to have my efforts rejected.  So time after time I watch circumstances settle back into the same rut, back into the same place and position and order they came from.  And it seems as though I'm the only one who notices.

I remember watching a friend in a similar place not that long ago.  She sought counsel, and I remember the words spoken to her:  If you start praying, things will get worse before they get better.  And it was true.  It was true for her, and it seems to be true for me.  I pray for souls and hearts, for Godly leadership and for change.  And I see nothing happening.  Except that I know something is happening because it's feeling worse.  So I trust that the forces in the spiritual realm are moving, just beyond the sight of my earthly eyes, and I cling to hope that their movement will spill over into the physical and finally change will happen.

This battle is not against flesh and blood.  I try to wield my sword, but the lines of black and white have muddled together into gray, and I no longer know where to stand and fight.  I'm tired of fighting.  The gray is thick enough that I cannot see if others stand with me...or if I stand alone.  I want to be done and walk away, back into the safety of black and white and easy and comfortable.  But I can still see enough past the gray to know that walking away means I lose.  And the prospect of losing what I have is enough to keep me from backing down.

Perseverance must finish its work, and I must let it or I have gained nothing.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Grace That Is Greater (2)

This grace journey feels like the theme of my life lately.  I'm learning things, big and small, and it's reshaping the way I love others.  I am starting to see how giving grace is much like living a story.  When I invest in the life of another, each offering and act of grace becomes a step I take hand-in-hand with that other person, a step that draws our hearts closer to the heart of Jesus.  It is the journey of loving someone straight into the arms of Jesus.

It is fairly easy to bestow grace on those who love me in return.  It's more challenging when my offers go unreceived and when I am repayed with further offense.  More than once I have found myself wanting to give up, save my energies for another who is more pleasant and who just might recognize my sacrifice.

But then I watch someone else push through the difficulties and continue to extend this grace, and I am encouraged to push on and continue to do what I know Jesus does for me over and over and over again. After all, how many times has He shown me grace only to have me reject or refuse or not even recognize it? Those are the times I need His grace the most, and so I continue to extend it even when it's hard, because that's when that person needs it the most.

Grace sounds like a gentle, flowing, beautiful creature who forgives readily and loves easily.  When looking at the big picture, that's how she might appear.  But when grace becomes personal, she looks less graceful.  Up close, grace becomes sacrifice, death to self, risk, being inconvenienced, getting hurt.  Sometimes it's easier to turn my back and wait for the opportunity to pass.  But when I do that, haven't I just deprived the recipient of her opportunity to experience the very grace of Jesus?  To Jesus, giving His grace was sometimes thankless, unpopular, painful, bloody...and His ultimate gift of grace resulted in death.  It is this very grace that welcomes me into His arms and allows me to spend all of eternity with Him.  When I extend this grace to others, I should not expect it to be easy or pretty all of the time.  But because it is a tiny reflection of His greater grace poured out, it is what I will commit to persevering in, with hope and faith that each small step of grace will guide another soul directly to Him.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Heart of Worship

For just a few moments during our worship set this morning I heard the most beautiful sound.  The first song started with just a single voice and the piano leading, and the sound of the congregation singing as one reached all the way to the stage where I was standing.

There's no one like You, none like You.

I wonder if that's what God hears every Sunday.  I usually hear only the sounds of the music we play from the stage.  People standing in the crowd hear only the music and the sound of the few voices surrounding them.  But God hears it all.  And I wonder if He strips away all the extra noise and listens to simply the voices.  Different voices singing different parts, raising as a single beautiful worship offering to the One who brought them together.

I like to sneak a glimpse of the people while they worship.  It's a beautiful blend, our congregation.  There are the tall and the short, the old and the young.  Sometimes a stray child dances in the aisle, and that never fails to make me smile.  A row of college students sits on the front row, worshiping openly, and I remember my own college days when worship came so freely.  Raised hands are scattered throughout, some close eyes and others pour out their hearts as the tears fall freely.  Together, each heart lays on the alter of worship a piece of the sacrifice that God receives as a whole.

My ears heard only the sound, which was perfect.  God hears the sound, yes, but He also hears the heart.  Each heart.  What a new dimension that must add, the voice and the heart together, a sound heard only in the heavenlies.  What I heard was beautiful and fragrant.  How much more it must have been in that holy Place, the very dwelling of Yahweh where seraphs cover their faces and angels bow down...and where God's children approach to crawl into the lap of their Father.

Friday, August 17, 2012

A Holy Experience

Last weekend a few friends came over at my request to help me pray over my house.  It's something I've wanted to do since I moved in but haven't actually accomplished.  Now I'm getting two roommates, strangers mostly, and suddenly I felt a new urgency to bathe my property in prayer before they get here.

I am very blessed to have friends so full of the Spirit.  I suspect that to them, praying over a house is a common and natural occurrence.  To me, it was brand new.  I felt very cared for and humbled that these friends would pray such authoritative and heartfelt prayers over this small piece of my life.  I was deeply encouraged as they petitioned the Father for spiritual protection, for blessings and favor, for freedom from supernatural chains, and for the heart-condition of two girls they've never met.  I watched my sweet friend anoint each door and window with oil, and I felt as though I was treading on holy ground.  We walked the perimeter of my property in single-file, and I smiled to myself as I imagined my neighbors watching us pray aloud and march around.

Whether they know it or not, these friends are my teachers, my mentors whose wisdom and life lessons shine light on my own spiritual journey.  I feel strengthened and encouraged after having been with them, and also challenged because their light reveals my deficiencies.  And so I am driven to my knees in prayer, asking for those same Spirit-qualities to be grown in my own life.  Isn't this a glimpse into the heart of God's Church, to encourage and sharpen and love one another?  I feel great joy in knowing that I have found an alive and active part of the Body to join for this season of my life.  I am truly blessed beyond measure, and I don't want that blessing to be lost on me.  I want to soak it up and let God shape and grow me so that He can use me to be these same things to someone else.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

How Uganda Warms My Heart


Dear Miss Elizabeth

Hi the best in my heart.
How are you but I hope you are fine.
How is our mother tell her that peace is missing you.
And she is not getting any message from you.
How is my brother with his wife?
I am missing all of you.
The best in my heart.
Thank you for your prayer.
I am very happy because God has answered your prayer prayers.
I passed from p.6 to p.7    God has made it for me.
You and me we are the same person.
You are the one in my heart from God.
I thank God for that.
God is performing miracles in our village
God has made allmost the pupil people in our village to get are getting saved.
I Love God and I trust in him
In him all things are imposible.
Love him Like I do.
Tell my brother and his wife that the Lord our God needs them.
Tell my mother that the Lord our God needs her.
My parents sent greettings to you.
That they still need their prayers.
The Lord needs you and me.
The aim of this Letter is to appreciate the Christmas gift and may the good Lord bless you abundantly
The budget is as follows.
The cloth at     30,000
The shoes at      5,000
The soda at       3000
The photo at      2000
The sweets at      300

~Peace, age 14
  Uganda, Africa

Friday, August 10, 2012

Grace That Is Greater

I'm in a season of learning, a gentle guiding of the Spirit that feels much like a close friend making me aware of important moments as we walk side by side.  Most recently my lessons have come in the form of grace.  I have prayed to understand grace, for God to break me open to know and grasp and feel the depth of His grace to the point it knocks me on my knees.  It's like a wildflower that has lined the path of this journey of life, always having been there, sometimes talked about, but always so present that I have become immune to it.  Now my Guide has paused me for a moment just long enough to point out this flower, to encourage me to examine it more closely, and as I begin to pay attention I notice the captivating beauty and intricacy that has been there all along.

I have prayed to understand, and I had hoped to be suddenly bathed in understanding.  But God doesn't always answer prayer in a way that matches my immediate-gratification lifestyle.  These lessons of growth, they take time.  Years.  A lifetime.  Bit by bit He pulls back the curtain, showing me only a glimpse at a time until the day comes when He will remove the veil completely.

With this glimpse, He puts me to work.  I want to grasp in the deepest places of my heart what the life and death and resurrection of Christ means to me and for me.  In order for me to understand what He has given to me, I must first give it to others.  And how much richer and sweeter it is to do the work and take ownership in the process.

This I have learned:  Grace is hard.  When I am wronged or inconvenienced, affected by the actions of someone else, lose or miss out from the decision of another, that is when grace isn't so beautiful and flowing. Rather, that is when grace rolls up her sleeves, takes a deep breath, and plunges straight into the muck that is sin.  She loves when love is not received.  She gives when all is taken, and then gives some more.  She is patient when the same mistake is made yet again.  She expects imperfection and embraces in spite of it.  She sacrifices self for the hope that one more will enter the Kingdom.

This also I have learned:  I expect to receive grace always, but do not readily offer it unconditionally.  I hold my interests close, finding it convenient to give grace only when I have a place in which she fits.  But that is not the way of grace, because that is not the way of Jesus.  The way of Jesus is to give, and to love to the point of death.

I want my life to revolve around grace.  It is hard and it is exhausting.  It means my schedule and plans will fall apart, because grace has her own agenda, and it has nothing to do with how I desire to spend my time.  At times it hurts, and other times it fills me with unspeakable joy.  It is a journey, one faltering grace-step at a time.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

When Good Intentions Meet Grace

If good intentions counted for anything, right now my lawn would be mowed and trimmed, my checkbook balanced, my checklist completed, and I would be in the middle of doing my Bible study.  As it is, I just failed the first installment of the answer to last night's prayer for God to change my heart.

Failed rather miserably, I might add.

My new puppy (yes, my prayer for a changed heart involved my puppy) has been having some digestive problems, resulting in unpredictable middle-of-the-night cleanups.  Yesterday I started switching her over to a new food to see if that will help things.  She seems to really like the new stuff and has eaten a TON of it.  No messes last night.  No messes today at noon when I came home to let her out.  I was feeling pretty good about things.  Finally a possible solution to keep me hopeful.

Then I came home from work tonight and found she had pooped in her kennel.  Not once.  Not twice.  THREE times.  Three piles of smelly slop, stepped in, flattened under blankets, and squished out the sides onto the carpet.  She's a 52-pound Mastiff puppy; these are not small piles.

I know she couldn't help it.  She really is crate trained.  She knew she shouldn't have done it, but with a weak tummy, there probably wasn't much she could do to stop it.

I got mad.  Frustrated.  I had plans for my free evening.  I needed to mow, especially since I currently own the record for tallest grass in my neighborhood.  I had a whole list of other things I hoped to get through.  I wanted to work on some training things with the dog.  I wanted to relax.  I wanted to work on my Bible study and catch up on my week-behind homework.

I did not want to maneuver and carry a poop-covered giant heavy puppy from her kennel to the yard.  I did not want to wash another load of puppy laundry that was just washed two days ago.  I did not want to wipe smelly poop from the cracks and crevices of the wire kennel and carpet.  I did not want to flavor my thoughts with four-letter naughty words.  I did not want to hose down the kennel tray and the puppy.  I did not want to make a scene for my neighbors to watch.  I did not want to leave my puppy chained outside for the entire evening.

But I did all of that.  And yes, my puppy is still chained outside because I can't quite handle dealing with her inside yet.  I still need to put her kennel back together.  And's bedtime.

An evening lost.  A lesson failed.  A God who offers me grace and wants to forgive my anger-sins as soon as I will ask...but I haven't been able to ask.  I don't deserve it.  I want to turn to my Bible study or play a few worship songs on the piano, but I can't bring myself to come before Him, especially if He is going to forgive me so easily.  If He isn't going to tell me how naughty I was and chastise me for it, then I'd better sit in it for a while until I'm ready to move forward.

This is how I approach His grace sometimes.  I know it's wrong and that's not how He wants it to be.  To say it shows my faults and failures.  But sometimes I need to say it so I can work through it.  And really, exposing our hearts to one another, no matter how ugly or petty or painful the truths, is a huge key to true deep fellowship with one another.

Anyway, my mind is starting to settle after getting all this out of the way.  I have a kennel to reconstruct and a puppy to bring inside.  Then maybe I'll still have some time for my Bible study.

Maybe I can still redeem part of this lesson.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Greatest of These is Love

I finished reading a book tonight.  I haven't done that in a long while.  Usually when I read, I pick out the Christian make-yourself-a-better-person-and-grow-in-God type books.  Or Ted Dekker.  And when I finish those books, I always find myself just a little bit changed.  Only a little bit, but I've observed that it's those little bits that add up to a changed heart and a new person.

This time I read a different book, a learn-by-example autobiography.  It's called Kisses from Katie, and it stirred my heart and challenged me in an encouraging way.  Actually, here.  Watch about it for yourself:

Amazing, right?  She's like a modern-day Mother Theresa.  As I read her book, I almost felt like I was looking inside the window to her house and watching her live her daily life.  Her heart is bigger and wiser beyond her years, doing and learning and growing in ways most of us will never know.

I've been so very inspired by her story.  I read about what she's done, all for the Name of Christ, and I want to be like her.  I want to live every moment of my day in ways that exude Jesus and fulfill my purpose on this earth.

I have no plans to move to Uganda and pursue the same life she is living (though I suspect my 15 year old sponsored Ugandan child would absolutely love it if I did).  We admire and praise those who give their lives to spreading the news of Jesus in third-world countries, but only some are called to such a life.

The rest of us...we are called to spread the news of Jesus in our country.  The poverty-stricken people of Uganda are no less saved and broken than the wealth-stricken people of America.  At the end of life, we all die, whether rich or poor or educated or not.  And we all go to one of two place:  heaven or hell.  God loves and grieves for the lost down my comfortable street just as much as He does the disease-ridden malnourished lost souls in Africa.

All that to say that for now I plan to continue in the work He has set before me right now.  The little bit of change Katie's book has left me with is this:  I must love.  That is my true calling in life, no matter where I am or what I do.  I must love harder and deeper and longer and with every fiber of my heart and soul.  I must sacrifice because I love.  I must give and hug and laugh with and cry with until every ounce of me is exhausted and can go on no longer...and then I must love some more.  I must do this, because this is what Christ has done for me.  It is what He asks - commands - me to do.  Love isn't a feeling or an emotion.  Love is an action.  It's a response to God's love for me.  I am to love others, even to the point of death, because that is how Christ loved.

I am still trying to figure out what this looks like in my Midwestern comfort.  But then I try to figure less and do more, because the more I stop to think about it, the more I use my thinking as an excuse to not do what I was called to do because I then start to believe that I need to have it all figured out before I can be successful.  That is a lie.  Thinking gets in the way of my purpose.  My purpose is to love.  Because I am loved.

Love is hard.  It's risky.  It hurts.  It's messy and exhausting.  It demands time and energy and effort and relentless pursuit.  It means less of me and more of someone who may never even notice.  It draws me nearer to the heart of my Creator.  It bridges gaps and binds together.  It inspires and moves and gives hope.  It changes lives for eternity.  I want to be a part of that.

. . . . . . . . . .
Follow Katie's daily adventures at her blog:

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Case Study: The Long-Term Effects of Kinesio Tape on Hallux Valgus - Week 7

My apologies for slacking on my foot updates.  I've been keeping to my taping schedule, but haven't managed to remember to take regular measurements.  Christmas happened, and then I had Holiday Brain and didn't get my act together until this past week.  (I am still suffering from Holiday Hips and Holiday Thighs and Holiday Butt.)

I also have no new pictures.  (If you'd like to see pictures, feel free to read the first two posts.  Click here and here.)

Anyway, here's a review followed by the most recent measurements.


Starting Measurements (11/21/11)

L MTP:  35 degrees valgus
R MTP: 30 degrees valgus

Measurements after Taping

L MTP:  15 degrees valgus
R MTP:  20 degrees valgus

Measurements with tape on (12/7/11)

L MTP 21 degrees
R MTP 18 degrees

Measurements with tape off

L MTP 25 degrees
R MTP 22 degrees

After I'd had the tape off for a full 24 hours, I re-measured.  Then I measured one more time with new tape on.

Measurements after 24 hours

L MTP 28 degrees
R MTP 28 degrees

Measurements with new tape applied

L MTP 24 degrees valgus
R MTP 20 degrees valgus

Measurements with tape on (1/12/12)

L MTP 28 degrees valgus

R MTP 27 degrees valgus

Measurements with tape off

L MTP 29 degrees valgus

R MTP 25 degrees valgus  (???)

Measurements after 24 hours

L MTP 28 degrees valgus

R MTP 23 degrees valgus (!!!)

Measurements with new tape applied

L MTP 26 degrees valgus

R MTP 22 degrees valgus

A few observations regarding these most recent measurements:

*The numbers aren't continuing in a steady and consistent decline.

*My left toe isn't changing at all, and in fact, seems to be getting a little worse.
*My right toe...I don't know what it's doing.  Those are some weird numbers.  It showed less valgus after the tape was removed.

My left toe seems to be plateauing.  It had the greatest changes right off the bat, whereas my right toe didn't do much.  Now the right one is suddenly showing all kinds of improvements.  I'm measuring the same way each time to be consistent, but I will admit that I have a hard time palpating my metatarsals and lining up the goni accordingly.

Still, there have been changes.  My left toe continues to show a 7 degree decrease (with the tape off), which was the same as five weeks ago.  My right toe is now also showing a 7 degree decrease, but five weeks ago showed only a 2 degree decrease, so it continues to change.

I'm not sure how long I will continue taping my feet.  Next week will mark two months, but I haven't started any running yet and I want to see how the tape and running together affect my feet.  So I'll keep going for at least a few more weeks.  Maybe I'll shoot for the three or four month mark.  We'll see how I'm feeling when I get to the end of three months.  :)

In other news, I'm now officially a Certified Kinesio Taping Practitioner (CKTP)!  I've taken and passed the test and have everything but the official certificate in hand.  Hoping that will come soon.  In the meantime, I continue to tape my patients on a daily basis, probably at least half of them.  We have a few regulars that ask for the tape at each treatment.  If I had to guess, I'd say 8 out of 10 patients feel immediate relief after being taped.  Some of those who don't have had trouble keeping it on, either because their clothes rub it off or they just take it off after they leave the clinic.  And a scant few keep it on but don't notice any difference.

I know I have a few PT classmates following these updates.  Here are some of the diagnoses I've taped:  LBP, DeQuervain's, lateral epidonylitis, shoulder instability, HAs, upper trap tightness, scoliosis, PFP, MCL strain, peroneal tendinitis, arthritis, muscle strain/pain, bruising, and swelling/edema (to name a few).  I recruited a friend at church this morning to be a guinea pig for me, and I'm super excited because I'm going to try taping her for her breathing and pregnancy.  Love trying new stuff!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

God, please help me make good decisions today.

It's been a frequent prayer this week, because I'm back on the path to seeking weight loss and exercise.  A year ago, this path seemed easy to walk.  Now I'm returning and finding it broken and overgrown (words that also seem to describe me lately).  I don't understand why it's so much harder to make good choices now.  All I know is, despite my prayers, I can't seem to succeed.

This frustrates me greatly.  And as I look at it, I can see that this path shares ground with other journeys.  My quest to make new friends in a new place feels to be repeatedly failing.  My list of projects overwhelms me at times, so I cope by doing nothing.  My attempts at growing my faith are feeble at best and take me nowhere.  Spiritual disciplines I desire remain nothing more than desires for my lack of action.

Each of these "failures" weighs me down, and the lies creep in and take root.  (Maybe this is the source of the overgrown weeds that blocks my path.)  Each of these seem so very different from one another, yet it is the root of my sense of failure that ties them all together.  I can't help but think maybe if I could figure out the root, I could get all of the areas licked.

I think the root is my source of identity.  I desire value from appearance, size, friends, accomplishments, even my spirituality.  My sense of value isn't coming from the true Source.

But I hate that because it's cliche.  Every problem can be spiritualized and thus solved with a simple spiritual answer. Take care of it.  Move on.

So why isn't it that easy?  When I say to God, I need you to be my Source and Sustainer, why doesn't that solve all my problems?  When I ask for strength to make good choices for today, why do I continue to lose ground on my diet?  What is wrong with me that I can't get it figured out?

It's a daily battle.  I'm supposed to fail when I do it on my own.  My failures drive me to God.

Yes, but again, cliche.  I want something that works, something solid and tangible.  No more of this vapory-mist of ideas and concepts that slip through my fingers.

I know what the right answers are supposed to be.  I know what moving forward is supposed to look like.  Yet somehow, I remain stuck, watching the solutions swirl about me in a hazy dance.  And I can't help but return to wondering what is wrong with me.


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