Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Praying for Guidance

I find myself in an unusual situation these days. I majored in Psychology in college and yet here I am about to step 100 percent into a new role that I've never fully taken on before. . . I'm about to step into the role of youth pastor. I worked with teens in Sicily, but they were already established, I was stepping into a group of teens who already had made a commitment to Christ for the most part.

Sunday we were sitting in church and as they flashed the sign up announcing our first teen gathering, I suddenly was overwhelmed with fear. How am I going to do this? I don't know the first thing about starting a youth group? Have I gone insane? What if I can't do this, or I'm not good with the teens? This is a good possibility since one of them is my own daughter and we don't always get along at times. What if the new teens come in and hate me and I can't get anywhere with them? My mind was racing a million miles a minute and then something happened. I realize - it's not about me, it's about listening to God and being given a burden for the teens not just in our church but in our city and the state of Washington.

I spent most of my life in the Midwest and there were generally an abundance of Christian radio stations, churches on almost every corner or so it seemed. I realize now, I am spoiled for Christ. I never really understood that they don't have all of the radio stations in other parts of the U.S. that we had in Kansas and Oklahoma. So I am here and I know that for God to move, we need to find ways to bring Air1 and Wayfm as well as KLove here to Washington - more specifically the Seattle area! I've seen Air1 and Wayfm come into Wichita and people who are normally never receptive to God begin listening to these radio stations and as I began to see the ways that God was needed here so desperately, I also realized I had a burden. I find myself in the position of groaning when I pray because my heart is heavy for the people here. I know they are in need - you see the evidence everywhere - adult stores, casinos are everywhere and the radio has every type of music imaginable except it has two poorly antenna stations that come in mostly with static here.

As I sat listening to our pastor give the sermon God laid on his heart, I knew it was going to be okay. God was in control of this idea and as I went forward to the altar to pray that God would take control of our youth group and it would be him, not me who worked and moved, I also confessed that without Him none of these things are going to be possible. Do I think our teen group is going to start growing? Yes I do, I sense it and I have from the moment we stepped into the church - God has plans for Everett 1st Church of the Nazarene and it is not to go bad on the vine, die and wither away. Chris and I have said it several times to each other - we know that God has something in store for this area, we are just going along for the ride.

I ask that you please lift the Washington area up in prayer. . . please pray with me as the teen group begins to work on growing and coming to know God. Pray that God will use us to help the teens and to help this area. Please pray with me that God will open the doors so that we can bring in new radio stations to begin speaking and working in the hearts of those who are in need of a touch from God.

I hope you all have a wonderful week and had a relaxing and uneventful Memorial Day.

Love in Christ,
Maureen

Monday, May 30, 2011

We remember:

Being a Army Reservist's wife is a bit different from active duty. I get to have my husband with me more often than those who are married to an active duty spouse. We are very fortunate in that aspect. However, it also comes with it's drawbacks.

When Chris deploys, it doesn't take long before I realize how it's the little things that make having Chris at home so much easier. The little things like having him crawl into bed beside me and keep me warm when it's freezing cold outside, or just knowing that he is there seems to help me have the strength to go through each day. When he's gone, I find I slowly shut down and struggle to do even the daily things. Laundry isn't as fun, because the kids don't really appreciate that I do it for them - they just take for granted that it will happen. Cooking stinks, because who likes listening to children gripe that they don't like what you fixed for supper. Deployment usually means that I spend more money on oil changes and car repairs that Chris would take care if he were home. And it never seems to fail that things always break down in the house after he's deployed so I'm left trying to figure out how to replace an air conditioner or a rip out plaster and lathing so I can re insulate the house and bring our utility bills down.
Then there is the news - everyone but me watches the news. So usually people who mean well call when soldiers from our area are killed. However, I have to give them props, once I talked with them they seemed to get it quickly. When I know you'll know.

There are a lot of soldiers who miss out on a lot of things with their children. They miss the first steps, first teeth, first words. Chris has missed a little bit of something with each girl - Sarah it was from 4 months until he returned from Korea; Elizabeth - he missed her 2nd year and 3rd birthday; and with Beka he left weeks before her 2nd birthday and when he came home she was just a few months shy of her 3rd birthday. He missed her hair growing out so she looked like a little girl - Beka learning to do a lot of new things. And he hated that he had to miss these things with Sarah, Lizzie, and Beka - but he also knew he needed to go with his men. Being a soldier means you want to be with your family but you are also compelled to go and take care of your men. It's a double edged sword.

This is just being a reservist's wife. My cousin, Dacia has it tougher - her husband has faced many deployments to Iraq and they are currently living in Korea. They move a lot. And the Army isn't always the best about keeping their word, so just because they promise one thing doesn't mean it will happen. Being in the Army means a lot of goodbyes and it isn't a life for every person. Not every spouse understand and that's why there are often divorces. It is tough to move every few years, have to re-establish yourself in a new place and find new stores, doctors, etc. . .

So today please be sure you thank a soldier or sailor for their service. The sacrifices they make are greater than most people know or understand.

Thank you so much for all you do. We will remember your sacrifice and what your family lives w/o on a daily basis.

Love in Christ,
Maureen

Friday, May 27, 2011

Adjustments and Autism Spectrum Disorder

Changes are always tough for children. But in this aspect, Elizabeth definitely shows signs of an Autism Spectrum Disorder - change for her is tough and if she isn't feeling well? Well then usually all bets are off.





I should have known when she had a full fledged meltdown last night. It wasn't even over something big, like someone picking on her. It was over a sucker. Yes, it seems small, but one of the children in the play area near our apartment took a sucker from her, even though she had a sucker in her mouth and that was it, a full on meltdown. She was standing in the playground area just wailing, at 9 years old? Yes, this is a perfect example of how when a child who has Autism or an Autism Spectrum Disorder gets overwhelmed or overstimulated, it can easily fall apart.





Thankfully, we live in an area where most of the kids are very nice and I've talked to them about Elizabeth so two little girls who play with her did exactly what I asked and came to get me. They also explained that someone had taken one of her three suckers. Yes, you read it right. She had three suckers but because a child took one of them away from her, she had a full on meltdown.





So I brought her inside, got her semi-calmed down and had her go ahead and take a shower. After a while, she finally went to sleep, but not until after 10 p.m. and not without holding a trash can with her while she sipped on some Sprite.


I used that as an opportunity to fill out the assessment paperwork that we'd gotten from her school. She hasn't been re-evaluated since her first assessment in 2005, so it's time. I had to write a good deal on the back to explain which behaviors, or lackthereof concerned me. So I was feeling a bit deflated last night, but this morning. Well this morning I'm worried.

This morning Elizabeth who is usually a pretty happy girl, woke up in a bad mood. She wants her Leapster back from Beka, she doesn't want to go to school, she hates her sneakers and they don't fit. Today nothing is going right for her and she's just in a bad mood. Thankfully, it is easy to put in a simple phone call to her school. So I did that, I needed to do that anyway since I had to change my cell phone number, but I called Mrs. Galloway her teacher who spends the majority of the day with her and let her know what was coming. I don't think I've had to do that in quite some time.

I hope you all have a good and uneventful Memorial Day weekend. Please keep praying for those families who have lost loved ones due to the tornadoes that are making their way through the Midwest these past few weeks. There are many who have lost children, spouses, family and more.

Love in Christ,
Maureen

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Listening to Others

Today as I was reading my Bible, I got to Proverbs 19:20 "Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise."

Wow! Food for thought. I know I struggle to listen to what other people have to say, especially as I get older. While I know I don't have all of the answers and I don't mind asking for help, I also know that sometimes I hate what I hear. It doesn't mean the advice or words of wisdom aren't good, it usually means that I am being stubborn and don't like what I hear. However, I also know that usually when I give myself time to sit back and think about it, that usually the words of wisdom or good advice have time to sink in, even if it hurts sometimes to acknowledge they are true.

I know that at times even when I know God is right that I still struggle to obey. God never promised that listening to him and allowing him to lead us would be easy. He just said, His way is the narrow road that leads to Heaven. Especially in today's world where the advice of the world is "if it feels good, it must be right." Or everyone is entitled to their opinion, everyone deserves this or deserves that?" It must be very tough for God to compete with that sometimes- although he doesn't have to compete at all - because He is God and in the end no matter what the majority of the world says to you. God's voice should always be the only we should really give any attention at all. I know it's very difficult, I struggle to hear him above the dim as well.

Do you allow others to lead you? Or do you stubbornly hang on to what you think you want to do? Do you listen when God tries to lead you or do you fight him each step of the way? How do you think that is helping you in your life or is it causing you a lot of heartache?

Father,
Thank you that you are such a patient and loving God. Thank you that even when we mess up, you still love us - even when we are stubborn and willful. Thank you for your wonderful Love Letter in the Bible and the many blessings you shower on us. Please be with those who are struggling with pain, sorrow, and grief right now. Be with the families who are still in shock after the devastating tornadoes in the Midwest. I know you are holding Cole and Ryan Hamill right now, and I ask that you send the Great Comforter to the Hamill family. Be with the rescue workers as they still search through rubble and debris over the next weeks and months.
In Your Precious Name,
Amen

Have an uneventful week for the rest of the week and God Be with you all.

Love in Christ,
Maureen

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Trials

In light of the recent tornadoes that have swept through Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas and Missouri, I thought about writing about trials and tribulations.

I could write platitudes, I could share my own angst story, and yet somehow, when your three year old son is missing or you've face a year filled with loss and heartache - it won't matter.
So instead of platitudes I just wanted to share this. . . I am praying for you.

I know sometimes it seems like life is never going to be okay again and you wonder if you'll ever be able to breathe? You will, even if it takes longer than you'd like, it will be okay. I know it feels like nothing good ever happens to you and it may never happen again, but it will. I've been there - in the pit - feeling as if you are slowly drowning. Does it mean that you cry out to God? Please do! He wants to hear what you have to say - even if they are words of anger and frustration at all of the crummy things that have happened to you in your life. Please cry out and although it may not feel like it right away - he is there and yes, he absolutely cares.

I am praying for you and I have friends online who are lifting you up in prayers. You are not alone and we care. God cares, and He feels your hurt. Even though you feel alone - you are not alone.

Love in Christ,
Maureen

Monday, May 23, 2011

Quiet Time

I have a confession . . . I am not always as good about spending quiet time with God as I should be. Sometimes it's because life gets in the way and other times it is because I find that I simply forget. And yet I am not happy about this. . . not one bit. It bothers me that I know I love God and I know he loves me, and yet I find myself not always giving him my best.

Since moving here, I have discovered that this is slowly changing. One of the things I've done is I have allotted a set time for Sarah to spend reading the Bible each morning as she prepares to homeschool. Beka can play quietly in her room or I go in my room, but somehow in doing this small act, it has become simpler to read my Bible and spend time in prayer.

I also find that when I encourage our girls to memorize Bible verses that it tends to keep me more accountable. This week we are memorizing Psalm 18:1 & 2 "I love you, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer, my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold." It seems pretty simple, but I also find that when I require that the TV stay off it helps me focus more on what is important. That is huge for me. I really, really love to watch movies and television, but more importantly, I want to serve and love God as I should. I find that in requiring a quiet time without television for the girls, that I really also end up requiring quiet time for myself as well and it lets me spend some quality time with God.

How do you take steps to ensure you are able to spend time with God? Where do you rank your personal walk with Jesus in the grand scheme of things? Do you make him a priority or do you too find yourself falling into the trap of focusing on other things over focusing on God?

I hope you all have a good week.

Love in Christ,
Maureen

Friday, May 20, 2011

Fear - Good or Bad?

I was reading my Twitter list today and I saw something that inspired this blog entry. Max Lucado wrote on his Twitter: "Fear may fill our world, but it doesn't have to fill our hearts." As I read that it I sat there and it got me thinking? Is fear really healthy or is it a bad thing? What kinds of fear become a hindrance and what kinds of fear are good?

We all have times where we are afraid. Our bodies are created to help us during times of fear. It's called our sympathetic nervous system and it is what controls fight or flight. And being afraid of some things is healthy. For example: Being afraid when walking in dark places that are uncertain or look sketchy - it heightens your senses and makes you more aware of what is going on - this can mean the difference between being someone a predator picks to attack or being a person they realize they shouldn't mess with and keep going. Being afraid of food poisoning - is a healthy fear to have - after all if any of you know someone who has gotten food poisoning - you know it is something you don't want to experience - EVER!!! And yet, fear can sometimes be debilitating.

Fear becomes bad when you allow it to paralyze you to the point where you lash out at others instead of facing your fears. It becomes bad, when it means you don't leave your home and live life. While not everyone feels the need to move to different places it doesn't mean you can't visit new places and try new things. When you allow fear to paralyze you to the point that it drives who you are, then fear becomes a bad thing.

As a teen our youth pastor, Tom McNanny (sorry if I misspelled it) gave a sermon about moving out of your comfort zone and how it is important for us to move out of our comfort zones in order for us to grow spiritually. That doesn't mean you have to move away from your family, but it could be something as simple as finding a new church, because the Lord lays it on your heart that it is time to move in a new direction. It can be something as simple as going out and meeting new people and making new friends and letting God use you as a means to plant seeds for Him to harvest later. These all seem like small things, but they can make some people incredibly uncomfortable. I have a friend who has been hurt repeatedly and it has come to the point where she refuses to move out of her comfort zone and is slowly becoming paralyzed by fear and anxiety. This is not God's plan for her - I know this and on some level I know she does too, and yet it has come to the point where it became necessary to part ways.

I don't always like change, I have certain things a certain way and I like to keep them as they are. But moving and leaving everything behind means you have to sometimes let go of those things you love to keep and jump into the life God is daring you to lead. I am not a youth pastor - I have a heart for teen girls - I know how tough it is to be a teenager and a girl. But there is a need and I feel the Lord calling me to take in some of the teens under my wing and hopefully with time and God's strength, we will slowly see our youth group being to grow. All I can do is let God use me as He sees fit and hopefully that will see more teens come.

Fear becomes bad, when we don't grow and when we refuse to let God call us out of our comfort zone and keep him in a box. Can we still grow spiritually? Of course, we can, but how much will it hinder us if we don't allow him to shake up our lives and embrace some changes - no matter how scary? And how far will it limit what He has planned for us, if we balk at what He is calling us to?

Abba,
Thank you for spiritual leaders who are willing to put themselves out there. Thank you that even when we fight it, you still encourage us to move outside of our comfort zones. Help us Lord, to die to self and to embrace the challenges you give to us and send our way. Help us to remember that You are the one in control and not ourselves. In these things we pray, Amen.

Have a good weekend.
Love in Christ,
Maureen Koeppel

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Laundry and Pet Peeves!!!

This is Beka, very unhappy, and covered in charcoal because she decided to take some pills she had no business getting into. This is however, not the point of this specific blog entry.

I am a fairly normal and sane woman. I am pretty laid back and easy going, except for a few things. I cannot stand rude and disrespectful children and it really, really, REALLY bugs me when people just touch my stuff. I don't even like it when Lizzie tries to help me by "cleaning" my room. Maybe it's because as a kid my sister used to help herself to my things. . . or maybe it's that my mom used to promise to wait for me when I had to go to the bathroom at the store and a few minutes later (I go potty fast because of this one by the way) I'd be frantically searching through the grocery store for her?! It's possible that it's the second reason, but most likely it's the first explanation that means for me, I really, really don't like it when people touch my stuff. So of course, it makes sense that I would move into an apartment complex where I have to share a washer and dryer with six units.

So while I like our apartment complex, I love the view and I love that I can step out onto my porch and see the girls playing in the sun and having a good. I do not however, love that the people in my apartment complex are inconsiderate. For example: our apartment manager can't put a lock on the gate so the kids will be safe, because the residents will cut the lock off since it inconveniences them to keep the kids safe - so they can fish. Or the fact that they just park wherever including my spot because they want to - to the point that I didn't even realize that my spot was number 1 - and not number 3. I almost got in trouble with our apartment manager for that one. But possibly the one that made me insane the most is that people in our unit touch my laundry. They just take the stuff out and put it on top of the dryer. At least there are locks on the door - so not everyone can get into the laundry room. And it's not like they take the stuff out of the dryer and fold it, nope - they just pile it on top of the machine and sometimes it falls onto the ground. So excuse, me but there is at least a little thing called courtesy and respect. So tonight I found myself needing the dryer and the people who had it occupied, didn't come back to retrieve it for several hours. No, I didn't decide to just pile it on top of the machine - tempting though it was at the time. . . instead I folded it and put it nicely stacked for them. Why? Because maybe I'm nuts but I hope that in setting a good example (including using my turn signal even though most of my fellow Washingtonians don't do this) that I will begin to show them what it means to think of others first and show a little courtesy and thoughtfulness. It might be insane, but it also just might work.

I'll keep you posted on how it works out.

Have a good weekend.
Love in Christ,
Maureen

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

What's Love Got to Do with It?


Sarah was writing the other day and she opted to write about love. And it got me thinking about love, what does it mean really? How does what God says about love compare with the world's view of love and what it means to them?


We all know the story of the book and film, Love Story. Many of us are familiar with the line "Being in love means never saying your sorry (loosely quoted)." Movies have a lot to say about love. They have entire genre's that focus on that subject alone - love/romance/romantic comedy, romantic drama. In fact, some of my favorite movies are romantic comedies, like Music and Lyrics, The Holiday, You've Got Mail, and Yours, Mine, & Ours (the Lucille Ball and Henry Fonda version - not the new one). In these movies we see a lot of things, sometimes there is deceit involved in romance movies - for example How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days - two people who are each lying to each other and we as an audience are along for the ride. And yet, in the end they seem to magically work it out with forgiveness. One person says they are sorry. Hmmmm. . . interesting how that contradicts Love Story isn't it.


So what is love really? According to The Merriam-Webster Dictionary love is "strong affection; warm attachment; a beloved person; unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for others" and it can also mean to "cherish, to feel a passion, devotion or tenderness for; caress; and to take pleasure in." But how do these definitions compare or contrast with the Bible and what God says love really is? Let's look to 1 Corinthians 13:4 - 8 or the Love Chapter: " Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no records of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails." Interesting. . . two definition in the dictionary and one in scripture. In some ways they compare - both define love as self-less, they speak of love taking delight in good things that happen to those we love. But 1 Corinthians goes on, "it rejoices in truth, always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres? Love never fails." Interestingly, enough the movies sometimes show these qualities, sometimes they show other sides of selfish love.


Riding in Cars with Boys - a movie about a mother who is selfish. She puts herself over her son on a regular basis. As you watch this movie, you see it on a regular basis, but you also realize that her life changes drastically because she chose to have her son and she even realizes that she is not a perfect mom. We see examples of forgiveness in The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. We watch as a daughter struggles to understand and eventually forgive her mother. A woman who tried to make life good for her kids, but in truth never really recovered from the death of her first love and who suffered through her own abusive relationship with her parents.


We also see examples of how people confuse lust for love, and sex for intimacy. Look at About Last Night - a movie about a couple trying to make a relationship from a one night stand. Another good example of how lust can be confused for love is also Billy - the saxophone player in St. Elmo's Fire. Billy chooses to marry the young woman he conceived a child with because he wants to be with his son, however, we also see that he would rather still be in college, when life was good and easy than accept the responsibilities that come with being a parent. Continually in television and movies we see examples of lust/love and it's consequences. We even see examples of them in the Bible. The story of David's daughter Tamar who is raped by her brother who lusts for her. Sadly, during that time in the Bible we know that women who were raped were considered unclean and many men didn't want to marry a woman who had been "defiled".


Throughout time, movies, music and literature, we see characters struggling with life, love, and other mysteries and interestingly enough we see in the Bible to perfect example of true love. Love that comes with no strings attached - it is a free gift. We see Christ's examples of what love really is every time he heals the sick, snuggles a child, talks to the people as he tries to share with them the message that the ultimate sacrifice is on it's way. It is in those moments when he tells the man who was lowered through the roof to go and sin no more or when he told the men who wished to stone the adulterous woman - "He who is without sin, he may cast the first stone." These are the moments where we see that Christ's love for us is unconditional and a gift. He loved us, not because we earned it, but because he just loved us for who we are and what he knows lies ahead for us. Even the men with leprosy see Christ's love not just in his healing, but in his compassion towards them in a time when those with leprosy were (and still are considered) outcasts in society.


Which love story is your favorite? What do you think love means? Do you agree with 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 or do you prefer Hollywood's glamorized version of love? What would you like to see change about your definition of love?


I hope you all have a good week.

Love in Christ,

Maureen

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Helping Those In Need

In February 1996, my brother, grandmother and sister were in a terrible accident. In fact, our grandmother died as a result of the accident. We spent months living at the hospital. Mom would sleep in the waiting room on couches when possible while Matt remained in the ICU fighting for his life because he had sustained a brain injury and was in a drug induced coma. From the end of February until May that he finally returned home in May, it was a back and forth driving, roller coaster of emotion ride. The hardest part in all of this aside, from the emotional turmoil and waiting in the Lord? Mom and I were unable to work - I was finally able to go back for to a part time status until I found something more permanent, but still it was tough. The thing that really helped us the most was though when our church family helped us out. They pooled together money as did our former church where Grandma Taylor had still attended. They brought us money, gave us snack food poundings and all of those things helped us a great deal. It made it easier for Mom and myself to know that we were able to do what needed to be done, including sitting at the hospital and Mom fighting to make sure that Matt was given the care he needed - especially since he didn't have health insurance. . .

I am not sure how we would have made it during that time if not for our family at Canadian Hills and Yukon First Church of the Nazarene (where Grandma Taylor had attended for a long time and we'd attended until we moved in 1989). I am telling you this because today there are two beautiful twin girls, Leila and Laila who are in need of liver transplants. While their insurance covers the cost of the transplants, it doesn't cover the cost of gas too and from Kansas City, the hotel they may have to stay in if the Ronald McDonald house is full and it doesn't cover the cost of food which is very expensive. I am asking you as brother and sisters in Christ to please reach out to this family and show that the Body of Christ does in fact care. These are parents who had previously not attended church and yet after making friends with my friend, Beth, they began attended Westside Church of the Nazarene. I am asking and begging you to please keep them in your hearts and to help this family with the money they need to help them keep their home. They are looking at a 6 week minimum stay in Kansas City and that means their dad will be unable to work for quite a while.

You can help them by visiting their page : http://cota.donorpages.com/PatientOnlineDonation/COTAforLeilaandLaila

The goal is to raise $40,000 but I think it would be wonderful if we could see people in churches in the Kansas City area would open their homes and hearts to these beautiful little girls and their parents. This is an amazing opportunity to show them what God meant when he talked about helping the orphans, widows and sick. Remember when the Disciples of Christ first began their churches they often went out and helped those in need. They shared the blessing God had given them. And while not all of you who read this are in the position to help Leila and Laila, there are countless numbers of us who can do something. . . the question is, what are you willing to do to help this family see Jesus in us?

I hope you all have a good week.
Love in Christ,
Maureen Koeppel









Monday, May 16, 2011

Jesus Freaks?




I am reading a new book. The Hiding Place - it's about Corrie ten Boom an amazing woman of faith who is very candid about the fact that she too struggled to see the Nazi's as men/women who needed God's grace. It's an amazing book, and yet Corrie is open about the fact that her mother, father, and sister Betsy are quick to pray for the Nazi soldiers eventually invade Holland. Her family was placed in prison and later a concentration camp for hiding Jews during Hollands occupation by German forces. While I am not finished yet with the book, I did find myself wondering and thinking. Would I be willing to do this for Christ? Would I hide people or speak out boldly for Christ even in the face of possible death, torture and imprisonment.



If you enjoy reading and you are familiar with an organization called Voice of the Martyrs, when you join them in praying and subscribe to their monthly newsletter, they send you a free copy of the book Jesus Freaks by D. C. Talk. It is a history those who have loved and given their lives for Christ. Some spent decades in jail/prison for speaking openly about Christ. Some were killed for their faith.



What are you willing to do for God? If a soldier held a gun to your head and told you to deny Christ or he would shoot you - would you cave and deny Christ or would you stand firm and only proclaim him as your Lord and Savior. There is a part of me that longs to believe I would stand firm, but I also know that I hate the idea of leaving my children without a mother. It would be a very tough decision. I would definitely need an extra measure of God's strength to face death.



Abba,


Help us all to find the strength from you to stand firm for you. Teach us to become truly devoted to you and to have a servants heart. Help us to be able to answer your call with "Speak Lord, your servant is listening." Just as others have had to choose to love Christ or turn away, I pray Lord that you would make each of us strong enough to stand up for you.


Amen


Love in Christ,


Maureen

Friday, May 13, 2011

Residential Aliens?

When I was a sophomore in college, we had a great professor for one of our Bible classes. These classes were mandatory for all students who attended Southern Nazarene and truthfully, they were good classes and I enjoyed them. Dr. Hahn on occasion spoke in chapel even, and while we had a lot of awesome Bible professors, I am writing about him because of this one particular chapel service. He spoke on 1 Peter 2: 11- 25 in which Peter writes about being aliens and strangers in the world. He called us "residential aliens". I remember this particular chapel because it really stuck with me, it reminded me that just because we are in the world, we are not to be of the world. At that time it was very important to remember that in my life. There are many around me making choices that I knew were not in God's divine plan for us, things the world advocated, but not Christ.

We see a perfect example of how Godly men are the ones who choose instead of following others to stand out amongst the crowd in Daniel. The story of Daniel and the lion's den as well as the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are perfect examples of men who choose to obey God instead of what the world around them said. Even if it meant death for them.

I subscribe to Voice of the Martyrs and they offer the book Jesus Freak by D. C. Talk when you join them. In this book are examples of people from past and present who are standing firm on God's promise to see them through the persecution or who have given their lives for Christ. As I read these stories, and then take a look around at what the world peddles I see a stark contrast.

God gives us pretty clear instructions in how he desires we live - sexually pure, do not drink to drunkenness, treat your body as a temple of the Holy Spirit - to name a few. And yet living in today's world, we see a sharp difference in how people without Christ live their lives. Hollywood is a huge advocate for choosing to live your life your way. Frank Sinatra is famous for a song, "I Did It My Way." All around us we are told we "deserve" to be happy, we "deserve" this or that. And I can't help but ask myself, if God really gave me what I deserve, how much would that stink? The truth is none of us deserve God's love, grace, and mercy - it is a gift and there is nothing we can do to earn it. It is given to us knowing that we are unrighteous and unworthy and yet He never gives up on us? Wow, that's mind boggling if you look at it from the worlds viewpoint.

Satan and the world would have us believe that because something feels good or everyone else is doing it that makes it okay. . . you want to have sex before your married? Everyone else is choosing to do that so it must be okay. You want to be rude and disrespectful to the adults in your life, well all my friends are rude and disrespectful so it must be okay. And yet we read time and time again in God's word how he asks us to be different from the world. When people slap you - turn the other cheek. Forgive others as you want God to forgive you. Treat people the way you want to be treated. Be meek, merciful, humble, grieve those who are lost to God, produce good fruit. That is the short list of things that Christ wants us to do for others - he told disciples that people would know they were his by the fruit they produced. Steven Curtis Chapman wrote a song about it on his album, "For the Sake of the Call." The song encourages us to show the world we are his by the branches on the vine, when you show yourselves to be following me (paraphrased, I lost the lyrics sheet).

What kind of fruit do you produce? Do you control your tongue? Or do you speak when you are angry and try to apologize later? Do you offer people a meal or to help the widows and orphans? Or do you hoard your money and save it for yourself? Are you willing to do the simple things like stop and help change a flat tire or do you keep on driving expecting someone else to help the person stranded at the side of the road? Who are you in the eyes of the world? Do they see Jesus when they see you?

Father,
Thank you for these times when you speak to our hearts and open our minds to what you have to say to us. Thank you for loving us, even when you don't deserve your love. Please keep working in our lives and producing the fruit so that we are good vines and trees and not dead to you. Please Lord, take our lives and make us a blessing to you and others. Help us to see others as you see them and bless us with a heart of compassion.
Amen

Have a good weekend. :D
Love in Christ,
Maureen

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Birthdays and Insanity

Those who know me, know this is my youngest daughter Rebekah. She turned four years old on Saturday and we loved helping her celebrate. There is a lot to celebrate, we waited a long time for her to come into our lives. Just as we spent four years praying for and over Sarah and that God would allow her to join our family on a permanent basis we also prayed that God would send a sibling for Elizabeth. We had no idea when Chris and I decided to start trying for a sibling for Elizabeth that what would follow would be a four year journey in repeated negative test results and a lot of tears and grief.

They actually call what happened to us, secondary infertility. At first, it was just disappointing - the negative test after negative test. But as time dragged on and it looked more and more like we would never gain custody of Sarah and we would never get pregnant again - the more it took a toll on both of us. I even had a friend who found getting pregnant easy at the drop of a hat and while I would have loved to be pregnant I never begrudged her the fact that she could get pregnant when I was struggling so much to have just one more child. I suspect that being on birth control after having Elizabeth for about a year messed with my hormones too much. So after yet another heartbreak in May 2005 we decided we weren't trying anymore. Of course, we didn't do anything to stop getting pregnant, but we weren't actively trying either.

As God would have it, July 2, 2005 Sarah came for her summer visit and she hasn't left since. I had been praying and I told God I couldn't take another year of watching her get into the car with her mom and not know if she was happy, healthy, safe or even being taken care of like she should. It was too heartbreaking - things began to steam roll and in September 2006 we received the most beautiful set of papers in the world - WE GOT CUSTODY of SARAH!!! They were the most wonderful papers in the world. We'd prayed and waited so long for her to come and live with us.

In the meantime, I had hit 300 pounds and had high blood pressure and so I began researching my options and decided to have gastric bypass. April 15, 2006, after jumping through all of the medical and psychological hoops I was wheeled into surgery and thus began my journey of eating with a smaller stomach. And one of the things you aren't supposed to do is get pregnant for at least one year. It gives your body time to heal and recover - because they literally reroute your intestines and create a new stomach for you - there is connective tissue in there that helps hold everything into place. So I opted for the Nuvaring as birth control. And I met with my primary doctor to discuss options to ensure I wouldn't get pregnant. Here's the thing - I know my body, I know it's rhythms and how it's supposed to feel. After putting in the Nuvaring for a week I realized it was not a good option for me and took it out. What they don't tell you is that if you do this, it will jump start ovulation. . . I suspect I hadn't ovulated on a regular basis for a while, because after I got back into a rhythm without the birth control I felt the difference immediately. That happened in June and August 28th I took a pregnancy test and TAH DAH!!!!! I was pregnant!

You know how you read those stories or watch an interview and a person speaks about weeping for joy? I began weeping for joy when I realized that it was unmistakably a positive. If the lines had gotten any bolder they would have jumped off of the test and hit me and it turned in seconds. My next step was to call my OB/GYN who I had made an appointment with previously to discuss fertility options, but now I had to talk to her about the fact that I had gotten pregnant four months post-op from gastric bypass. Thankfully, God sent us an excellent Obstetrician - Dr. Briet was a good doctor. She kept a close eye on my weight and Beka's weight and made sure she was growing and she kept in contact with my gastric bypass surgeon all along the way. The only thing we had problems with were contractions - they began at 30 weeks and I ended up on bed rest and had to give up driving.

On April 30, 2007 I went into my doctor's appointment and my blood pressure was very high 150/120 - that is actually stroke level. The girls didn't have school that day so they came with us to the doctor's appointment and she asked me to head to the hospital so I could be monitored. She was very calm and nonchalant about it - to help the girls remain calm. So on the way I made the phone calls I needed to make, created a list of things for Chris to pick up from the hospital to put in my bag and then tried to relax. I am so glad my friend Jaymi and I both got to enjoy our last pregnancy together - so when I called her and told her they were sending me for observation - she told me to plan on being induced - because that's what they'd done for her and she had struggled with the same problem too. They started inducing me at five that evening and by 9:02 p.m. we welcomed Rebekah Beryl Koeppel into our family! She was the most beautiful sight I had ever seen that evening. While I know that life won't always be smooth and that she'll become a teenager someday I also know I wouldn't trade her for a million dollars or all the tea in China - she is our little miracle.

I hope you all have a good week. May God Bless you and keep you.


Love in Christ,
Maureen