Monthly Archives: May 2016

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From My Heart to Yours — When All You Want for Mother’s Day is Healing for Your Daughter and You Don’t Get it

I woke up on Sunday, May 8 feeling absolutely pulverized. Since September, we have been trying our darndest to live a semi-normal life while searching for answers to Hannah’s health issues. If you’ve followed along, you know that our college-sophomore daughter got sick just after classes started at Pepperdine University last fall. After three weeks of illness in Southern California with no answers, I had to help Hannah withdraw from classes, come home and begin searching for answers here. To make a long story short, our 20-year-old daughter was diagnosed with a rare, neurological auto-immune disorder (CIDP — Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy) and began regular IVIG treatments. In late November, she began having seizures. We’ve been to countless doctors (including Neurology at Mayo Clinic), had the gamut of tests run, and still there are more questions than answers. Currently, Hannah is seeing a cardiologist, who just hooked her up to a 30-day event monitor (Hannah’s heart will be monitored at all times for 30 days), has scheduled an echo cardiogram and tilt-table test, and has us keeping track of her blood pressure multiple times a day. She also had another EMG test this week after being off of IVIG for the past 3 months (per Mayo Clinic’s suggestion). That test still points to CIDP, so Hannah will begin regular IVIG treatments again next month.

At yet another appointment -- being put on a 30-day heart monitor.

At yet another appointment — being put on a 30-day heart monitor.

Hannah's 6th or 7th EMG (we've lost count). Still points to CIDP.

Hannah’s 6th or 7th EMG (we’ve lost count). Still points to CIDP.

The hardest part about all of this has been not knowing what we’re dealing with. And, It. Has. Been. Hard!

So, Mother’s Day was coming. A few weeks before, Hannah had nearly one week of a reprieve from most of her symptoms. I was hopeful.

Lord, please be finished doing whatever work you’re doing. Please do NOT let the numbness and tingling return. Please give Hannah strength back in her body. Please HEAL OUR DAUGHTER!

I even went so far as to remind the Lord what day was coming.

Lord, you know Mother’s Day is right around the corner. I WILL be content with whatever you have in store, but oh, Abba Father, you know the desire of my heart. All I want is for Hannah to be healed. Would you see fit to give me this gift for Mother’s Day?

Hannah had spent an entire week sleeping, resting, saving up her energy so that she could attend a home school prom (ages 15-20) with her brothers and some friends. That special night out happened to be the night before Mother’s Day. Hannah had a blast. Her numbness and tingling had returned, but she danced and laughed, and danced and laughed. A great time, but the night took everything out of her.

There I was, getting ready for a Mother’s Day breakfast (cooked up by B and sons for Grandma and me) and for church immediately after, when Hannah came into my room.

Mom, Happy Mother’s Day.

*Hugs*

I know we all planned to be together today, but I’m not sure what to do. I just don’t have it in me to get out of bed yet.

All I could say was, I know, Hannah. And I understand. Go back to bed. We’ll spend time together later.

*Sigh*

Mother’s Day breakfast was delicious. There were nine of us around our table, laughing, sharing, talking. And all I could think was…

There should be ten of us.

After breakfast, seven Shultzes entered the doors at Cherry Creek Pres. and filed into a back pew (breakfast had gone late and church was packed by the time we got there). Worship began and I tried to look down the row and thank the Lord for my family — the gift of worshiping together. Almost all eight of us. But, not quite. And all I could think was…

There should be eight of us.

We are in a season of life in which there is a darkness over everything. The Lord comes along side and gives us joy in the midst of the pain. He has rallied some of His people around us. He has given my husband a full-time coaching position. He gave us (in advance) two extra cars for this year, knowing our need and meeting it fully. He has provided monetarily (sometimes many times at the 11th hour). He has given the gift of amazing friends for our sons and a theater program that we are all blessed by. He has given our youngest two a passion for soccer, and allowed us to watch them play with other soccer parents we love. He has given our oldest daughter a good job and an even better man who will become part of our family in July. He has given Hannah rest, and a college scholarship that’s being held for her.

What an absolute gift that B gets to coach full-time.

What an absolute gift that B gets to coach full-time.

Watching our boys perform gives us great joy!

Watching our boys perform gives us great joy!

Watching our boys play soccer gives us great joy!

Watching our boys play soccer gives us great joy!

Our oldest daughter is getting married!!!!!! :)

Our oldest daughter is getting married!!!!!! 🙂

We recognize all of these things as gifts to us, and honestly, I think the Lord just knows. He knows the pain we feel. He understands the darkness that is pressing in on us. And, He knows how weak and frail we are. He gives. He gives Himself daily. Momently. And we miss it. In our humanity, we need something more. Something tangible. So, He gives more. He gives tangible. But He doesn’t give that exact thing that we want so badly.

So there I was on Mother’s Day morning. I did not feel like worshiping the God who chose not to give me the gift of a healed daughter. There was this part of me — this very ugly part of me — that wanted to run to the front, grab a microphone and shout a warning to all who would listen:

It’s a SHAM! God is NOT with us! He is NOT good! He is NOT faithful! He does NOT love us!

Thank the Lord that ugly part didn’t win out, but I knew I had a choice to make in that moment. I did not feel our Savior’s presence. I did not feel His goodness. I did not feel His faithfulness. I did not feel His love. But, I know Him. And I know His Word. His Word tells me He is with me, He is good, He is faithful, He is love. I had to remind my heart of these things, so as we began to sing, I looked up at the cross and said, You are with me. You are good. You are faithful. You do love me.

And then, right there in the very back row of our church, I did what I did not feel like doing. I worshiped the God who chose not to give me the gift of a healed daughter.

With tears streaming down my face, I raised my arm (I’m a presbyterian, so it was just one arm. Ha! 🙂 )  and praised the God I know.

Are you in a season of darkness? Do you cry out to the Lord only to hear the sound of silence? Are you waiting and watching and wondering? You are not alone!

What I have come to learn in these days of grief is that I cannot follow my heart. I have to lead it! When I do not feel His presence, His goodness, His faithfulness, His love, I have to remind myself of those things. I have to say aloud, You are with me. You are good. You are faithful. You do love me. I must declare those things or I will get lost in this darkness. And, I must…MUST…continue praising the Lord, even when I do not feel like praising Him.

Brothers and sisters, may the Lord give us the courage to do these things. May He bolster us to live these words out:

Though the darkness has not lifted, YET, I will praise you.

I will extol the Lord at all times;
    his praise will always be on my lips.

I will glory in the Lord;
    let the afflicted hear and rejoice.

Glorify the Lord with me;
    let us exalt his name together.

~Psalm 34:1-3

 


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God is Bigger

By Hannah Shultz

20-year-old sister of 6

This life is full of moments, moments that range from extreme joy to the deepest of sorrows, moments that range from perfectly healthy to deathly ill, moments that range from peak strength to valley-low weakness. As we journey our way through these moments, we tend to let our emotions change just as fast as our surroundings do. In the harder moments of life, we tend to let hurt or anger or fear or pain command our actions; we lash out at those we love, we withdraw, we become aimless, we stop listening to God’s calling. Our emotions are volatile and depend on what is going on around us, to us, or to someone close to us.

When I was two I became ill with an unknown sickness. And my family (along with the help of Veggie Tales) taught me that God is bigger than my sickness.

This was just before spending 10 days in the hospital.

This was just before spending 10 days in the hospital.

Here I am (on your right) with my big sister, Laura, and little brother, Aaron. It took doctors two weeks to figure out what was wrong with me and 8 weeks to treat it.

Here I am (on your right) with my big sister, Laura, and little brother, Aaron. It took doctors two weeks to figure out what was wrong with me and 8 weeks to treat it.

Now fast-forward eighteen years and I am sick again with another unknown sickness.

Before getting sick this time around, I was happy.

Before getting sick this time around, I was happy.

I was healthy.

I was healthy.

I was vibrant.

I was vibrant.

In the beginning months of this season of life, I let my emotions, that were dependent on my life’s situation, control me and cripple me. I was angry for the life I had lost, hurt for all I had left behind, fearful of an unknown future, and saddened by what God did to me. I spent countless hours begging God to heal me so that I could get back to my life. I spent countless hours wishing I was back in Malibu, back on track with school and life. I spent countless hours moping about what God had done. All this accomplished for me was a bitter heart and missed opportunities where I was. I felt it was unfair. I felt like I couldn’t accomplish my calling to the medical field. I felt useless, worthless, empty, and alone.

Happy, healthy and vibrant turned into this.

Happy, healthy and vibrant turned into this.

And this.

And this.

And this.

One night, I was having one of my pity parties. I was on my knees begging for my life back, and I felt strongly that God was with me. I asked Him to show Himself to me, and I felt as though He was saying to me, “If I did that you would be healed, and it is not your time yet.”

This encounter began an amazing new journey for me towards an unwavering faith that God was in control. Sometimes He chooses to calm the waters with a single word, but sometimes He chooses to let the storm rage on. As my faith began to grow, and my trust became stronger and stronger even as we got less news and no answers, I still struggled with my emotions. I didn’t have peace.

Peace, true peace, is the key to our emotional ups and downs. It is a stabilizer. True peace does not mean that our surroundings are calm, but it means that we are calm in spite of our chaotic surroundings. Having peace is much easier said than done. But when it is found, it opens a freedom in our hearts, minds, and souls that is unfathomable. How can we as Christians come to terms with this peace? Simple; by fully believing that God is bigger and that He is here; with us, in us, and for us every single moment of life.

He was with me in this moment.

He was with me in this moment.

And this moment.

And this moment.

And even this moment.

And even this moment.

Parents, teach your kids that peace is not the times when everything is right, calm, and ok. Teach them that peace is Christ in you during the chaotic times, the hard times, the painful times. As Christ said in John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” This peace is one that surpasses understanding and it is one that must be taught. Too many people are losing faith during hard times because they feel as though God is not here for them. But if God’s peace is ruling in our hearts when hard times come, it will not leave, just as He will not leave.

If you are stuck in a season that just won’t seem to end, remember, God is bigger, His plans are bigger, His purposes are bigger, and His love is bigger. We may not be able to know why God has chosen the journey He has for us, but He knows why, and that is enough. This knowledge will strengthen your faith and grow your peace. And this peace will spread to those around you, to your kids, to your parents, to your siblings, to your spouse. It is time to stop letting our volatile emotions control our thoughts and actions. It is time to let peace rule in our hearts. It is time to let peace rule over our emotions. It is time to let God be bigger.

The peace I have found through Christ in me has opened opportunities I would have missed. It has allowed my faith to expand; it has allowed me to grow and to start to understand why God has me where He has me. I am far from knowing everything there is to know, I am far from having a faith that can move mountains, I am far from being a woman after God’s own heart, but each day I grow a little more, know a little more, love a little more, and trust a little more. And that is what life here is about. God is bigger than my sickness I am facing, and because of my trust in this, I am starting to discover peace. And the freedom I feel is incredible.

Take a moment today and declare that God is bigger than whatever you are facing. Say it and believe it and live it and teach it. And you will notice the changes in your heart, in your thoughts, in your actions, and in your life.

Now as Christ said to His disciples in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” Let this soak in today.

Thank you, God, that you are bigger.


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Tips to Try at the Table

By David Baer, Executive Director of FamiliesAlive

In Dolores Curran’s survey work, over 500 counselors, pastors, teachers, therapists, and other professionals who routinely worked with families ranked “table time” as #13 out of a list of 56 possible traits of a healthy family. The #1 trait of a healthy family is that they communicate and listen, but Curran saw table time as such an integral part to this process that she combined both traits into the same chapter of her renowned book, Traits of a Healthy Family. Here are some tips from Christian families to try at your own dinner table, many of them giving you ideas of how to integrate faith into your meal time.

The Question of the Night

By Brian & Becky Shultz

On any given night, when the whole family is able to get together for dinner in the Shultz home, Daddy asks a question at the end of the meal that has to be answered by each family member. When they’re ready, each person raises their hand and is called on one at a time by Dad. To practice the art of communicating and listening, the person speaking must try to make eye contact with all around the table and project their voice so that all can hear. Those listening must make eye contact with the speaker the whole time in order to show their interest. Sometimes Dad’s questions are spiritual in nature: “Which of Jesus’ miracles do you think was the coolest and why?” Or, “What was the scariest/saddest/funniest, etc. moment in the Bible?” Some questions are of memories from the past: “What is your favorite vacation memory?” Some are on the subject of fantasy, or are related to something that the kids are studying, or that Dad has heard or seen during the day: “What would you do if you found $20 lying in the school parking lot?” And, some are just to find out more about each other’s days: “What was the best and worst moment of your day?” Our good friends, the Sikkemas, sometimes like to ask the following question around their family dinner table: “Where did you see Jesus today?”

As we walk through our days (many times separately), it is always good to come together in the evening at the dinner table and be reminded of why we are here and living this life of following Jesus. Did we see the love of Jesus in our own lives or in the selfless acts of a sibling? Did we see His love being displayed through the kind acts of another? Did we hear Him in the encouraging words of a total stranger? The answers we give are helpful reminders for us and our children to remember what this life should be about. We were extremely surprised recently, when dinner was over, and our 2-year-old Jacob stopped us all from leaving the table by asking us, “Qwesyun night, Daddy?”

Appreciation Nights

By Rick & Nancy Feria

highfive

One thing we have done around the Feria family table is to share something we appreciate about a family member. It can be something they did for us, or a character trait that we see in them. Sometimes we say something about each person; sometimes we say something to the person on our right, etc. Another idea is to flood one person with appreciations – say on their birthday.

The Paper Game

By Tom & Marjy Larson

papergame

This is a game to be done at the end of the meal for those families with children old enough to write. Everyone starts with an 8.5 x 11 piece of paper and a pencil. Each person writes a sentence – the more creative the better. They pass it to the person on their right. That person has to draw a picture to illustrate the sentence. Then he or she folds the paper down to cover up the sentence but not the drawing and passes it to the next person. That person has to write a sentence to illustrate the drawing. Then he or she folds down the paper to hide the drawing and passes it on to the next person. Each time you get a new paper, you should only see a sentence or drawing. Then, when the papers have made the full circuit, each person reads their original paper, showing everyone else as they read. It is great fun, even for adults!

Childhood Stories

By Becky Shultz

storiesWhy my kids have a fascination with childhood stories, I’m not sure. Fortunately, we are blessed with being able to regularly share meals with the kids’ grandparents and great grandmother. When this happens, the kids are sure to ask for a childhood story, not just about their grandparents, but about Mommy and Daddy when they were little, too. These somehow always end up teaching a valuable life-lesson.

Verse of the Week

By Brian Shultz

John_1The Scriptures tell us to hide God’s word in our hearts, so that we won’t sin against Him. So last year, we took a few weeks and started our dinners with scripture memory. It was easy – I just brought my laptop to the table with some zoomed-in views of some pre-selected verses that I thought were critical for the kids to know. We practiced a verse each night for a week. Then we moved to the next one. It was amazing to see how God would connect some of the scriptures we were learning to the events of our daily lives, and it has been our prayer that God will continue to use these truths in our kids’ lives down the road.

The Doxology

By Brian and Becky Shultz

doxologyMany years ago, we had dinner at the home of the DeBruler family, where we started our meal by singing the Doxology:

“Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Praise Him all creatures here below. Alleluia-Alleluia!

Praise Him above ye heavenly hosts. Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Alleluia-Alleluia-Alleluia-Alleluia…Alleluia!”

Ever since then, in lieu of always opening our meal with prayer, we sometimes stand and hold hands and sing the doxology – sometimes the traditional tune and sometimes the contemporary version. Praising the Lord together in song is a great way to begin a meal, especially for those families who enjoy singing.

Focus on Substance more than Manners

By Mike & Jennifer Tinaglia

Our family’s dinner table conversation varies greatly from how I grew up, when the children were to “be seen and not heard,” with a heavy emphasis on manners and etiquette. Dinner conversations at our house typically focus on the events in everyone’s day… sometimes turning to events in the news and even the occasional trivia question. Every once in a while, Jenny and I will throw a curveball and pose a hypothetical question such as the “What do you want to be when you grow up, and why?” question. The kids’ constantly evolving answers are always fascinating as they mature.