Friday, July 29, 2011

soul care...

While being in ministry can be wonderfully rewarding, it also poses challenges, too. When it's your life calling, passion, and (not to mention) your JOB to consistently pour into other people and enter their brokenness, it can become extremely easy to forget to take care of your own soul in the meantime.

I just returned home from a week of RUF staff training in Atlanta with Marc. I cannot be any more grateful that my husband works for a ministry like RUF!! What other job out there provides 2 WEEKS a year of pastoral training, accountability/prayer groups, seminars on all topics surrounding their ministry, etc.!? These guys (all the RUF campus ministers nationwide) are an amazing bunch of like-minded guys who do a great job of challenging and encouraging one other and they are continually learning. Sure it's not easy to give up my husband for a week, (because I usually don't go along with him like I did this time...) but I can safely say that when he returns, he's going to be an even better husband, a better father, & a better campus minister than he was before. What other job is there where a husband has friends & peers who are looking out for ME! and the emotional health/stability of my little family?? I am so grateful.

So it's been years since I've tagged along with Marc to training. And I'm so glad I did. There was one training session in particular that stood out to me entitled "Soul Care for the Campus Minister." While I won't go into the details, can I just say it was SO incredible and helpful!? It hinted upon things like:

-the need for rest & recreation
-temptations within ministry (temptation to be a messiah, to think you can "fix" everyone, caring far too much about what people think of you, etc.)
-how those temptations start small and where they can lead us
-the need to take all aspects of our well-being and care for them

Here's what I mean by that last one. I think Christians fall into the mistake of over-emphasizing the fact that we are spiritual beings. Certainly we are. No doubt. And we need pastors and Christian community and prayer and time in God's word to nurture our spiritual nature.

But people in ministry (for whatever reason) tend to de-value the fact that we're also physical beings. We're not only broken spiritually, but guess what? We're broken physically and mentally, too. Most Christians don't have any problem seeing how messed up we are spiritually and continually in need of a Savior, but these same Christians forget to apply their theology to their own bodies and minds as well. We KNOW we need to run for help on spiritual matters, but we shy away from getting help with our emotional/mental/physical problems, many times because "it's-not-that-big-of-a-deal" or we think we can handle it on our own.

One of the things I liked in this seminar was an exhortation for every minister to have EACH of the following:

1. a friend
2. a mentor
3. a pastor
4. a counselor
5. a physician

We don't simply need just a pastor or just a mentor-- we need a TEAM of folks who surround us and serve as helpful resources in our lives. I know I've mentioned this idea of reaching out for all types of help before in earlier posts, but as a pastor's wife, it seems to be a consistent theme I hear as I listen to folks who are under pretty heavy amounts of stress or they're just stuffing their pain deep down and don't know what to do with it. (so it usually leads to outbursts of anger or addictive behavior or a quiet passive aggressive seething...) People just aren't getting HELP! They're fearful. They're not motivated to do anything about their problems. They're believing a lie that life has to continue this way. We just aren't meant to go at life alone. As independent as we'd like to think we all are, it just ain't so.

We need help. And lots of it.

-I need a friend. A peer. Someone who REALLY knows me and can speak into MY life. (because when you're in ministry, it's most often the other way around) This takes time, but I'm thankful God has been gracious to give me a few friends here in Lynchburg.

-I need a mentor. An older woman who has experienced life and has gone ahead of me, and is there to provide me with insight and wisdom from the other side. (in ministry you are the mentor to so many, but who pours into you?) My mentor is my dear "living room friend" as I call her. I've told you about her in previous posts as she walked with me through the darkest hours of Caroline's health saga.

-I need a pastor. Like everyone, my heart grows cold to the Gospel. Doubts and fears creep in and want to take residence there. I need a pastor to remind me of the truth of God's Word and the bigger picture in my suffering. I'd say I'm rather fortunate in this area, since I get to sleep every night with a pastor! :) But I'm also grateful for the pastor of our church, too. He's a pastor in the truest sense of the word because I feel like I could tell him anything and it wouldn't shock him. And then I have confidence he will gently bring me back to see the beauty of Christ.

-I need a counselor. A professional one. Pastors have some training in counseling, but as a pastor's wife myself, I know they don't have enough. A good professional counselor needs to be in everyone's arsenal for those inevitable times in life when we can't begin to know what to do about something, or just need help picking up the pieces & processing through the pain or stress or whatever it is that we're facing. And yep, I've got one of these too.

-I need a physician. As I've shared before, in recent months & years I've struggled with various ailments. Particularly dizziness and headaches. But I've also experienced a much higher amount of depression and irritability lately, too. Here's where having a TEAM is helpful. If I only went to a pastor for my depression, he may help me up to a certain point. But guess what side effects you get when your iron levels are low?? Depression and irritability. (among others, of course) You see, if I didn't have a doctor on my team to check out the physical possibilities for my mood, things would most likely have continued to worsen, and no amount of counseling or Bible study would be able to solve that problem! We are physical creatures who need particular things in our bodies to function. As Christians, I think we need to remember to check out & address our physical brokenness as much as our spiritual. I am so thankful for my doctor discovering my severe anemia last week and I'm hopeful that I will begin to feel better all the way around soon!

God gives us all kinds of people as resources. He uses things like His Word, our friends, professional counselors, and even medication to help us be WHOLE people. It's probably safe to say most of us don't have ALL of those team members in place right now. (And thankfully God sustains us and is with us all the way regardless of how much help we are seeking out or not!) But my hope is that this post might be a helpful starting point to get us thinking about what it looks like to care for our souls and for those in our families.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

an answer...

The past two years have been some of the hardest for me. (Amy) While I watched my daughter and my husband each go through health issues, I have quietly been busy battling my own. As I've mentioned before, it has been an emotional and frustrating journey that has increasingly resulted in limiting much of my day-to-day abilities. In recent months, my symptoms have increased, and I have at times found myself confused, depressed, and in despair. I can't begin to describe how discouraging it has been.

I have called upon the Lord over the past 2 years. My husband recently started praying daily for a complete healing for me. A pastor in our town has been praying for my health every day. My sweet niece texted me the other day to tell me she had just prayed Psalm 6 over me:

Psalm 6

1 LORD, do not rebuke me in your anger
or discipline me in your wrath.
2 Have mercy on me, LORD, for I am faint;
heal me, LORD, for my bones are in agony.
3 My soul is in deep anguish.
How long, LORD, how long?

4 Turn, LORD, and deliver me;
save me because of your unfailing love.
5 Among the dead no one proclaims your name.
Who praises you from the grave?

6 I am worn out from my groaning.

All night long I flood my bed with weeping
and drench my couch with tears.
7 My eyes grow weak with sorrow;
they fail because of all my foes.

8 Away from me, all you who do evil,
for the LORD has heard my weeping.
9 The LORD has heard my cry for mercy;
the LORD accepts my prayer.
10 All my enemies will be overwhelmed with shame and anguish;
they will turn back and suddenly be put to shame.

I have groaned and weeped, and the Lord has heard my cry for mercy. He hears us! He really does answer prayer.

Praise be to God, my doctor called me today with results from some blood work I had the other day, and it showed that I have a severe iron deficiency. (normal is between 45-182 and I am a 10!) Now it's obviously not good that I'm so deficient, but just to have some sort of EXPLANATION as to why I've been struggling chronically with dizziness, headaches, irritability, depression, heart palpitations, & numbness among others is a HUGE answer to prayer in our family. I can't believe I have struggled for so long and been to so many different doctors before finding out something so basic.

So the journey continues... iron supplementation will begin tomorrow and we'll see if it improves my levels in the upcoming months... just wanted to keep you, our friends & family, informed and ask you to thank God with me for this answer to prayer.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

hands of love #20...

I (Amy) have been sooo eager to post this "Hands of Love" entry for quite some time because I've got some of the BEST gluten free recipes to share with you all!!!

(For any of you who've been "missing" us with the recent slow down in blogging, I've still been dealing with more of my headache/vertigo stuff. Yuck. To make it worse, it's triggered immediately by looking at the computer screen! It's been quite frustrating, isolating, & at times I'm tempted to despair, but I've started undergoing some treatment that I'm hoping may give me some relief. So perhaps the blogging can pick up again?? We'll see... but get ready to cook because these are some of the BEST yet!!)

Made for you, my sweet family AND my blog freinds, with hands of love...

And here's the BEST gluten free recipe (hands down) to date.... (drum roll please!)

Gluten free "fried" fish! When you're gluten free, you don't get fried ANYTHING anymore, so THIS is the "fried" crunch you're craving! And you'll never believe what's coating the fish--- potato chips!! Plus it's not even fried-- it's actually baked! And it's soooo easy to do... even if your family isn't gluten free, make this as a healthier alternative to fried foods for your family. Your kids will gobble it up.

Here's the recipe:

1 pound of cod, flounder, tilapia or sole fillets (you could also use chicken for this and make chicken "tenders")
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups finely crushed gluten free potato chips (we love the Kettle brand Sea Salt chips in the health food aisle)
1 teaspoon onion powder
3/4 teaspoon table salt
3/4 teaspoon paprika

1. Preheat oven to 450. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil for easy cleanup. Coat the foil generously with cooking spray; set aside.
2. Cut the fish into 1 inch strips. Using a fork, beat the egg in a shallow dish until foamy.
3. Combine the potato chips, onion powder, salt, and paprika on a plate. Dip each fish stick into the beaten egg, then the potato chips. Arrange the fish on the prepared baking sheet.
4. Bake 10-20 minutes, or until the coating is crisp and the fish is cooked through. (baking times may vary due to the thickness of the fish) Serve the fish immediately with your favorite tartar sauce or cocktail sauce. (or ketchup!)

Overnight french toast. (using gluten free Udi's sandwich bread) Sooooo yummy...

Roasted chicken, peas, gluten free mac & cheese, & simmered cabbage. Okay, I was never a fan of cabbage, but this is seriously my favorite new veggie if it's done this way. Trust me. Even your husband will eat it.

Gluten free croutons!!!! Yay!!! You can have croutons on your salad again!!! Make up a batch of these and keep a stash in your freezer.

4 slices of gluten free bread (we use Udi's sandwich bread- by far the best we've found!)
olive oil cooking spray
garlic powder
italian herb seasoning

1. Preheat oven to 325. Line a 9 x 13 in. rimmed baking sheet with foil.
2. Trim the crusts from the bread and cut the slices into 1/2 inch cubes. Spray the cubes with olive oil cooking spray. Dust with garlic powder and/or Italian seasoning to taste. Place the cubes on the baking sheet.
3. Toast 5 to 10 minutes, until the croutons are lightly browned. Store tightly covered in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks and in the freezer for up to 3 months.

(just a side note-- don't let these sit out before serving or they lose their crunch! They're great right out of the freezer.)

Gluten free marinara pasta with mozzarella cheese on top. And to sneak in an extra veggie, I added 1/2 cup of sweet potato puree that I had in the freezer to the sauce. Nobody noticed. Nobody complained. Mom was quite proud.

A delicious steak, pinto beans, and salad. Anyone looking for a yummy pinto bean recipe? Here's one my friend (who's an amazing cook) shared with me:


2 Tbsp. oil
1 cup onion, chopped
4 cloves of garlic
2 jalapenos, seeded and chopped
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
dash of paprika
1/4 c. cilantro, chopped
6 c. chicken broth (often time I add 1 qt. plus 2 cups of water since broth is sold in a quart container)
1 lb. pinto beans (I prefer Goya)

Soak beans overnight or boil for 2 minutes and let sit for 1 hour. Drain and rinse. Sauté onion in oil for 5 min. over medium heat. Add garlic, remaining spices, and cilantro. Sauté 1 min. Add pintos and chicken broth. Bring to a simmer. Cook for about 1 1/2 hours partially covered until beans are almost tender. Add more broth or water if liquid falls below beans. Remove 1 cup of beans and coarsely mash. Return to the pot and simmer for another 15-20 minutes until thickened. Leftover beans will keep for 5 days in the refrigerator. Also freezes great.

There you have it! So which one will YOUR hands of love try??
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the teacher and the student...

Wow, these days I am just itching to go to school! I can't WAIT until this fall when I'm gonna start preschool 2 mornings a week with my best friend, Leah. Yesterday I told Mommy, "Mommy, that school bus is gonna come and pick us up and you and Sue Sue [aka Leah's mom] can stay back and me and Leah will get on the bus!" I will be sadly disappointed when I realize the preschool "school bus" is strangely similar to our family's car...

Recently Daddy showed me how I could set up my own "classroom."

You better believe I RAN with THAT! (those of you who know me know that I certainly enjoy taking charge... eh hem...)

Mommy & Daddy also taught me what it's like to see like Papa does. (Papa, I said I didn't like it one bit!) I liked it better when Daddy wore the blindfold and I could help lead him around.

Time for class to begin, students!
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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Thursday, July 7, 2011

safari park...

Ahhh... Stay-cation 2011 is going great! Today we all took the kids and drove over to the Natural Bridge Safari Park.

You know the kind, where the animals walk up to eat out of your car?!...

Like this guy...

And unfortunately, THIS was the scene most of the time in OUR car when the big animals got close...

(even Daddy looks a little nervous himself...)

Camels...(and also proof that I was there! Do ya see me?)

A quick break from crying to snap a picture

Now THIS was one aggressive animal! And we were all screaming & shrieking in unison!

We were all laughing hysterically! It was a moment we''ll never forget!

Well, most of us were laughing anyway...

This guy was so cool & surprisingly agreeable to feed.

By the end of it, I had my head stuck out the window & things didn't seem so bad anymore! Back to Staycation! More later!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

stay-cation 2011...

Maybe we were crazy when we volunteered to host our family's annual vacation & have 17 people live & sleep in our house for the week!!... we'll see. With that many people, 2 showers in our house just wasn't going to cut it. We had had future plans to add a 3rd shower to our downstairs half bath, and we were thinking waaaaay future plans....until the plan of "Stay-cation 2011" became the chosen location. (stay tuned this week to see all the fun...) :)

We are SOOOO proud of Daddy & his handyman skills! He completed EVERYTHING in this project: demo, plumbing, framing/construction, electricity, carpentry, painting, etc. He's amazing. Here's the before:

Our 1/2 bath before.

And here's the after! Way to go, Daddy!

So now the shower is complete and the house is clean-- just waiting for the people for Stay-cation 2011 to begin!

And while we're showing you our house, wanna see another cool thing some friends and I made recently? (I cannot take any credit for being crafty, but this is is a COOL one and we all decided to try one!)

A wreath made out of book pages! So cool, huh?

Here's how you make it. Cost me less than $5 (I got the book for 25 cents at a yard sale) and it looks pretty good above my piano downstairs, don't ya think?

Whew! It's been alot of work getting the house ready for 17 people, but I think it's finally that time! Don't call me this week... I'll call you... :) I'm on STAY-cation!
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Friday, July 1, 2011

reactions at the sprayground...

(Letter from the editor:
Dear blog friends, we apologize for any inconveniences we may have caused in slowing down the blog posts. Over the past several weeks I (Amy) have experienced a return of my headaches/dizziness/vertigo and even looking at the computer screen for just a few minutes triggers a headache right now. I don't think I need to begin to explain how discouraging and frustrating this is, but I'm hanging in there and trying not to despair... Thanks for understanding!)

Last week I went with some friends to a place called Splash Valley in Roanoke. It's a perfect little-sized water park for me at just the right price. It does have a couple of the big slides for the big kids, but plenty of fun for me, too!


ha ha!

I love my friends, Julie & Lucy!

From Mommy: I (Amy) could just end the blog post there, but I don't think it'd be right to leave it there and not share the entire story of the day. Yes, my daughter had lots of fun, but thankfully she was oblivious to what was happening around us. Here's what I mean... normally when we're out and about in our small town, we go the same places. Everybody's sortof learned who we are and they're not surprised when they see my big-personality-but-bald-headed child. But it's days like going to this waterpark that remind me what it's going to be like living with alopecia.

Here's how the day started. As soon as we got out of the car, one of the boys that came with our group & didn't know us (probably 8 or 9) pointed at my sweet daughter and said, "Is IT a boy or a girl?" IT? Did he just call my kid "IT?" I think the kids were more offended than me and they shouted, "That's Caroline!" He kept staring and then said the meanest thing I've heard about my daughter to date, which I won't repeat but let's just say the words "alien head" were included. I was shocked and didn't know what to say or do, and he was obviously emotionally troubled. One of the girls turned to me and said, "That was insulting!" I could feel my Mama Bear claws wanting to come out, but thankfully I kept my mouth shut in the moment. Since my daughter didn't hear it, I decided to just absorb that on her behalf and let it be.

But as we entered the park, my friend and I saw people's reactions to the alopecia. Stares galore. And not even polite stares. (I mean, if you're gonna stare, at least put a smile on your face!) People's reactions were getting to me, and it climaxed when I saw another mom staring and then literally "shooed" her kid away from us as if we carried something contagious!! At that point, I couldn't help but cry a few tears behind my sunglasses, thinking of the years ahead of us with alopecia. I need some thicker skin. Fast. It's either get angry or grieve. I think it's probably healthier to grieve.

It sure would've been alot easier on me to just cover Caroline's head up and put a hat on her. But I know there are more important lessons for everyone to be learned. It's more important that my daughter knows there is no shame in not having any hair. She isn't accepted only if something's covering up her head. It's more important that people have to deal with their own hearts when they see someone who doesn't look "usual." It's more important for me to learn how to not care about people's reactions.

But it's still hard.

Another woman came up to me saying, "Can she have this bracelet? I want to give it to her because I have cancer, too." I looked down at a beautiful silver bracelet with a cancer ribbon charm attached to it. Before I could utter a word, she said, "She does have cancer, right?" I was grateful to actually get the chance to explain that she actually has alopecia. But of course the woman still gave her the bracelet happily anyways.

I'm sure people aren't even aware of their reactions and how it comes across. And I think we all think just NOT talking about the elephant in the room is the best tactic. But I disagree. I've had friends asked what I consider to be the best reaction, or what I would prefer, and here was one example of a GOOD reaction:

At the waterpark, a young boy (probably 10 years old?) swam over to me and said, "Excuse me, ma'am, but is that your daughter?"
"Yes she is."
SO politely and genuinely concerned he said, "I was just wondering why she doesn't have hair. Is she in chemo?"
(I know that's what everyone's wondering, but THANK YOU for just coming up and ASKING ME!!) "No, she isn't. She has something called alopecia. Have you ever heard of that?" I said.
"I think so. Is that where your hair just falls out?"
"Yes. She had a full head of brown hair, and when she was about 2 years old, it started falling out. So she is healthy- she just doesn't have hair."
I saw his brain processing that for a moment in silence.
"Will it ever grow back?"
"Well, it could grow back at some point, but because she lost all of it so young, it probably won't ever all come back in. So we can do everything the same, just without hair!"
"Oh, okay. Well I was just wondering if it was alopecia or chemo."
"You know what? I really appreciate you coming and talking to me about it. You asked alot of good questions. Thank you for asking me."

Way to go, kid! So mature and so polite.

And there are countless stories of others who love my precious daughter each day. But I'm of the persuasion that we don't need to dart our eyes away or ignore where people are, but genuinely show interest and walk beside them. It's so fascinating the reactions you get from folks. Walk around a city with a bald kid for one day and you'll see what I mean. God, give me grace to continue to accept and embrace this [life that You have called me to. And give my daughter grace and maturity beyond her years...
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