Thursday, September 25, 2014

Celebrating the Power of Prayer

By Linda Grupp Boutin

2 Corinthians 12:9 And he said to me, My grace is sufficient for you: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest on me.

Recently I sat on the examining table in my doctor's office when she said, "You are amazing." I did not know how to reply, but kept listening. She explained the comment to me and her words reminded me that it has nothing really to do with me, but everything to do with the miracle the Lord works in my life every day. I should not be able to eat or digest much of anything at all, but yet somehow God makes it all work. His designs are so intricate that we don't acknowledge the daily miracles happening in our bodies as we breathe, eat, live...we tend to forget until something breaks down. Then we beg Him to make it work right again.This post shares why I take joy in my infirmities because they draw me so much closer to My Creator.

So easy to take so many things for granted, but this summer has been a reminder to me of how very lucky I am. If you wonder why, I must say that I have been upheld by prayer for my whole life. Even when I struggled in my faith, abandoned belief and tried to ignore the Lord in my life, family and loved ones have prayed for me. Many times I have received the benefit of prayer asking for healing for the "terminal" disease I was diagnosed with in my early 20s. My Dad and many others in my family prayed daily for me to survive. And I know that these prayers have made a huge difference in my life.

But back to this summer, the reminders came with the stark reality of two 5-day hospitalizations and a series of tests confirming that the doctors have no explanation whatsoever how anything works in my digestion. All the tests, x-rays and imaging procedures confirm the original diagnosis--chronic idiopathic intestinal pseudo-obstruction. What does it mean? That my digestion can work backwards, too fast forwards, and freeze up altogether; a mighty painful process for me. It is in this weakness that the Lord and my faith in Him has been made strong.

Intestines are not designed to stop and go into paralysis ever. They are supposed to work smoothly propelling what we eat through the mouth, taking the elevator of the esophagus down to the stomach for digestion, through the small intestine where the nutrients we need to live are picked up by the bloodstream, then through the large intestine for water, electrolytes and minerals to be reabsorbed. It is an intricate process that when it works is easy to take for granted. This summer's particular challenge resided in my esophagus.

We are only reminded of all this when something goes wrong in the process. And things went pretty wrong for me in the summer of 1979 when I was just 24. That December my weight dropped from 145 to 86 pounds. I found myself in ICU fighting for my very life. My digestion had become paralyzed the previous June and despite trying to eat, I became severely malnourished with a huge belly full of undigested food. The San Diego doctors, stumped by my disease, sent me to UCLA for help. My stomach doctor had learned about an experimental program being used there that she hoped might help me. Prayers already being answered!

The UCLA cure was tough to live with, daily dependence for 12 hours on of a  machine feeding me directly into my bloodstream. If I ate food, I landed in the hospital. So my daily prayer became "Lord, please, just let me eat, please..."

No positive answer came for 7 long years, just keep praying and waiting and praying and waiting. The Lord molded me demonstrating where my priorities should be. A couple of years into the battle, two special new friends led me back to the Lord. I started attending church again and was baptized by immersion. I continued to pray and started studying taekwondo side by side with my husband. I learned that exercise not only helped me feel better, it also created artificial movement in my intestines that helped food move through more easily. And all that time, prayers continued to be sent aloft by my loved ones and church family and me. My walk with the Lord became stronger. But His plan still had a long way to unfold.

"Most gladly...glorify in my infirmities..." That is a really tough one and hard to accept. Yet today my friend, Coleene VanTilburg
Coleene and myself at AWF
sent me an Instant Message stating that I was in such a good mood last night at the Aspiring Writers' Forum (AWF). I replied that I was simply happy, joyous! I have learned so much through all these years of struggle. Maybe most importantly is to grab the moment and make the most of it. Working with other writers, I find my purpose and try to encourage them to Celebrate Their Voices. Speak boldly about the things that you have learned. Be generous with others and encourage each other through the good times and the tough times.

And never forget the power of prayer! My husband reminded me this very morning that prayer is so important and His answer can be "Yes" or "No" and sometimes "Wait." And it is in the waiting that I have found my purpose, my joy, and my love of the Lord!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Celebrating All Those Little Things

By Linda Grupp Boutin

Last week I had to go to the dentist again. Something I have taken for granted since I was 8 years old. It all goes back to the day I first met the power of the Santa Ana winds; also known as the "devil winds." I was a novice Californian, having only left the very different weather of Indiana a few short months before. I ran the half block up the hill from Rinaldi Street School to our brand new ranch home. Each front yard dropped down a terrace from the street level. The snapping of the US flag flying above our school meant nothing as I headed home for lunch with Mom and my sister, Pam.

I kept pushing my skirt down as the wind tried to flip it up over my head. By the time I reached the top of our terrace, the 7 stairs that led down into our yard looked like nothing. But anyone who has experienced these winds know that the occasional gust may be over 60 m.p.h. I saw my sister's smiling face watching for me from the family room window, headed down the stairs and found myself flat at the bottom. Before I could stand back up, Mom and Pam were by my side helping me. I didn't realize I was bleeding. As they checked me over for injuries, pretty soon I learned that the devil winds had just destroyed my brand-new, 2 front teeth.

Lunch and returning to school that day were out of the question. After settling me down on my bed to rest, Mom went to work calling all the neighbors for recommendations for a dentist. I will always be thankful for Mrs. Gates telling Mom about Dr, Sherman. He made room in that afternoon's schedule and he reassured me that he could fix those broken teeth before I ever left his office that day! What a savior of my dignity and hero in my eyes. And good to his word, I left the office with my broken teeth covered in temporary caps measured just to fit me. I would not have to return to school with a broken smile, my biggest concern.

And mostly ever since Dr. Sherman fixed my smile, I never even give those capped front teeth a second thought. Until I awoke from a medical procedure and found one of those two caps floating around in my mouth. So easy to forget how important this small cosmetic fix is until it falls out of place! Over half a century after that day, Dr. Sherman's smiles and reassurances tumbled back into my memory.

A different hero came to my rescue this time in the form of my tall, dark and handsome husband who stopped in a local pharmacy and brought me some temporary dental glue to adhere my unbroken cap back into place. I still had to consult with my current dentist for a more permanent fix after the Labor Day holiday passed, but that tube of glue made such a difference for several days. And once she replaced the wobbly temporary fix with permanent dental glue, I quickly forgot about the caps all over again. Took for granted my ability to bite into whatever I was eating several times per day. And all this reminded me how easily we humans take for granted so many things, important things that make a difference in our lives, things that we should think a bit longer and more appreciatively about. You know, grateful for our blessings, counting our blessings, being grateful for our blessings.

So now I want to ask you, are you grateful for all the many blessings you have in your life?
Do you tell the important people in your life how much you appreciate them? Have you given thought to thanking God for the provision provided to you each and every day, your very breath, the wonders of the world surrounding you, for sending His Son, Jesus, to save you and me on the cross? Oh yeah, we humans also forget about all the Lord does for us in this life. So wherever you are in your life, whether good times or challenging times, remember that you have so very many blessings in your life that it would be hard for you even to think of them all. So take a moment and celebrate all the little things that make your life worthwhile! Allowing gratitude to take hold in your life will help you weather every storm and make the most of every day!