Saturday, February 25, 2012

Free At Last

Yesterday was a comedy of errors ... well, at least the afternoon and evening turned out to be that way. I suppose it was because we had too many important things to do in a very short time, and somehow when a day like that shows up on the calendar, Murphy's Law kicks in and time actually begins to work against you.

At 3:15 pm, all seven of us, along with the kid's luggage, piled into the van and headed out. We should have enough time to take care of all our business and still easily make it to meet my children's father at 6 pm. But even the best laid plans don't always work out like we anticipate.

Traffic was insane.
The process to turn in 4-H record books was not nearly as speedy as anticipated..
Jon's ex was later than expected to pick up the girls.
We had to turn around and go back home.
Traffic was insane.
Jon's work called ... three times.
We needed gas.
Traffic was insane.

When it first became apparent at 4:30 that we wouldn't be at our meeting spot by 6 pm, I sent Matt a text to alert him of our delay. I called him at 5 pm and gave him an update on our situation, offered to feed the children supper (which he refused), and gave him our expected time of arrival, which was 6:45 pm.

When we pulled into the parking lot to safely deliver the children to their father, the clock in the car read 6:47 pm and I could immediately tell that Matt was peeved. Actually, he was more than peeved. He was angry with me, put out by my delay in his schedule. As I opened the door, he didn't greet me or respond to my pleasantries. In fact, during the entire 2 minute exchange of children, he refused to talk to me or make eye contact, even though I needed to show him a medication that one of the kids needed to take. More than just a cold shoulder, I was being punished with the dreaded iceberg shoulder.

I have to say that this behavior was much more effective when I was married to him. In those years, this sort of response (which was a weekly, and often daily, occurrence) would have made my blood run cold. I feared this punishment. I crave communication and as a people pleaser I have this deep-seated need to know that people are okay with me. As the years of our marriage passed, I learned that there was no way to ever predict when something would set him off. By the end of our marriage, I constantly walked around on egg shells in fear of doing or saying something that would result in my punishment.

After our divorce, I went to counseling. It wasn't easy, but somehow I learned not to walk on egg shells in fear of Matt, to not tremble in his presence, to accept that my behaviors may not please him and yet that didn't mean I was necessarily misbehaving. Yet still that reaction of his would still make my blood run cold. Try as I might, whenever I did or said something that set him off, it still caused me to second guess myself and my own intentions. I desperately wanted to learn to let go of the fear of his reactions, but I never got to the point of being able to fully be in that frame of mind. The closest I came was learning to quickly let go of that initial feeling of fear so that his reaction didn't control me anymore, and learning that lesson was terrifically hard.

So last night, it took me by surprise when I felt absolutely no fear of this rather childish man and his very immature reaction to a situation that was mostly out of my control. It seemed so juvenile and petty, similar to something a moody teen would do to a parent. He looked so pouty standing there with his bottom lip stuck out that I wanted to laugh. Somehow, I held it inside until I was back in the van with Jon ... and then I couldn't hold that laugh inside me any longer.

All the way through dinner and even on the ride back home, I randomly burst out into giggles. I was practically giddy with myself, chuckling not so much at Matt's response but rather with my own personal growth.

No longer am I training myself to push past those first gripping thoughts of "Oh, no! He's upset!"

No longer am I breathing deeply and reminding myself that I didn't misbehave to cause him emotional distress.

No longer am I fearful of what he might say (or not say).

No longer.

Wow! What a feeling! The chains that bound me for so long are gone. I couldn't help but think of the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., words from an old spiritual song that he shared in his famous speech:

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, I'm free at last!

“I sought the LORD, and He answered me; He delivered me from all my fears.” Psalm 34:4

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

King Cakes, Parades and Beads ... Oh, My!

Today is Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras, my first one in the heart of Louisiana's Cajun country. I can honestly say that I've never seen anything quite like this before in my life.

The past month the carnival-type atmosphere has been ever so slowly building to this huge peak of crazed excitement. Newspapers are filled with pictures of grown women decked out in gaudy garments ... feathers and sequins galore. They give themselves titles ... queen, lady-in-waiting, ambassador and the like. They claim to hail from foreign, often mystical, lands and bring with them bizarre gifts. They band together in Krewes, hosting magnificent parties on a scale like none I've ever known before.

Everyone eats King cake, a scrumptious cinnamon-roll type dessert which can be filled with an astounding number of puddings, creams, fruits and other such fillings. We ate them in north Louisiana, but not in the same manner as our southern Louisiana brothers and sisters. All I can say is that these people are serious about their King cake.

Sweet Meg wanted to buy us all King cake for Mardi Gras. Her precious little arms flung around me in a giant hug and she said, "GiGi, how can we have Mardi Gras without a King cake?" I didn't bother to tell her that we don't celebrate Mardi Gras. Instead, we took her $15 and headed out to fight the holiday traffic. Meche's Donut King is the local bakery that is the home of Lafayette's best King cake. As we neared the shop, we could see that the business was crowded. Cars crawled in and out of the street to get into the minuscule parking lot which was teeming like a knocked-down anthill with people making a steady stream in and out of the store.

(Forgive me, but I must make a quick side note. Why is it that popular, local places must always have tiny parking areas and be located in the most out of the way places? For business success, I would suggest that one find a small, dark, hole-in-the-wall sort of building with no parking area to speak of and set up shop there!)

Back at Meche's Donut King, the kids and I had no problem finding the section of King cakes. In fact, there was absolutely no missing the gigantic tower of boxes. There must have been 50 varieties. Customers grabbed 3 and 4 boxes at a time, one of this flavor and another of that. They offered helps to each other ..."I've got a Bavarian creme over here!" and "Has anyone seen a blueberry cream cheese? That's my son's favorite and I promised him I'd bring one of those home." As we stood in the middle of that scene in a dazed sort of awe, Joel whispered in a shocked tone, "Look at the way these people are snatching up King cakes ... I guess they take the name Fat Tuesday literally!"

In the chaos, I searched in vain for a sign telling how much King cakes cost. Finally, I had no choice but to get into the long checkout line at the counter and talk to one of the clerks, who were checking out King cakes so fast that it made my head whirl. After several long minutes, I got my chance to ask ... $22 for one small King cake. Meg looked so sad, but we all quickly reassured her that just she couldn't afford the king of King cakes didn't mean that we couldn't find a more affordable option. True to our word, we somehow managed to find a cheaper version of this highly prized dessert. Perhaps it wasn't the king of King Cakes, but we all enjoyed the fact that at the Target bakery we could afford to bring home two different varieties and still have money to spare.

King cake by itself doesn't do a true Mardi Gras celebration justice. Parades are another huge part of the culture, and there has been no shortage of parades during the past week. Most days there are two or three parades, blocking off streets and piling up traffic for hours. Jon and I took the kids to the Queen's parade, which is supposed to be one of the biggest and nicest parades. Floats rolled by, filled with children and adults in elaborate costumes. Beads and cups flung everyone as people yelled, "Throw me something!"

As the kids rushed around madly collecting the loot, Jon leaned over and whispered, "This is a great place to come get cups! It's all free, and now we won't have to go out and buy any!" That's certainly a man's perspective. I wouldn't exactly call plastic Mardi Gras cups the sort of thing I want to store in my kitchen cabinets and pull out for our dinner guests to use.

The kids enjoyed the parade, but as we walked back they all lamented that their necks hurt from the weight of the beads. Joel, the only one who chose not to wear his beads and instead lugged them in a bulging plastic grocery sack, commented, "You get so many beads at these Mardi Gras parades that it practically makes you a hoarder!"

I couldn't help but sort of agree with him, not about the beads so much but about the over-the-top opulence and the excessive grandeur. I can't see how any of this makes my relationship with Christ stronger. In fact, it seems so directly opposed to the things that Christ commands us to do ... give to the needy and help those in need. I imagine that the amount of money spent on meaningless things (float decorations, beads and plastic cups, costumes laden with sequins and feathers) was staggering. This doesn't even include the money spent by families on carnival rides, cotton candy, purple and green and gold t-shirts or hats or wigs. I am quite certain that the amount of money spent in Lafayette alone would have fully funded the adoption of several of the special needs orphans (like these at Reese's Rainbow). That money could have feed the hungry, clothed the poor, purchased Bibles for those without.

Beginning tomorrow with Ash Wednesday, there will be much sacrifice for the 40 days of Lent and while I understand the importance of learning to fast (from food or entertainment or other pleasures) for a period of time in order to seek a deeper relationship with God. Certainly, I do not doubt the sincerity of those who give up something for Lent. I am sure it can be a meaningful part of preparing one's heart for the glory of Easter Sunday. And yet I struggle to find the meaning in the extravagant celebrations before the season of sacrifice.

On the way home last night, I felt sort of sick at my stomach, wondering how something that was probably in the beginning intended for spiritual good turned into something so lacking in the things of Christ. I'm still not sure how I feel about it all, but this is where I live and so I expect that I'll be learning to live with the feverish celebration of Mardi Gras for quite some time. I can't help but recall the words of King Solomon in Proverbs 21:3 ... "to do what is right and just is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice."

But last night God spoke in His ever quiet voice ... "Paige, remember that I am a Master at taking something and creating it new again, for beads can be redeemed and turned into something far better." My children and I will be collecting Mardi Gras beads for charity, giving back something meaningless that was thrown away in hopes that it can be turned jewels that we can thrown down before my Savior's feet.

...fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying:

“You are worthy, O Lord,
To receive glory and honor and power;
For You created all things,
And by Your will they exist and were created.”
(Revelation 4:10-11)

Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” (Revelation 21:5)

Friday, February 17, 2012

The Unstoppable

I can't say that I ever wanted to be here. I wasn't exactly opposed to coming, but I couldn't find a reason to come. Of course, I never really asked God what He thought about it. I just sort of assumed He felt the same way I did ... going would be more of a hassle than a blessing.

Writing it down in black and white this way makes it glaringly negative. At the time, I just saw it as the way I felt. Even so, it was a negative attitude then and now I can see that.

I had my reasons, at least I thought of them as reasons. Truly, it was just a pile of excuses.

It cost too much money and I'd have to figure out a way to wiggle it into our already tight budget. There really isn't much room to wiggle there as it is!

Who would homeschool the five children?

What if Jon would have to be on a business trip during that time?

I don't sleep well away from home and so "camping" in a room with other ladies didn't sound like much of a restorative retreat to me. To me, retreat means I'll come home refreshed, not with bags under my eyes!

On and on and on the list of "reasons" grew. I never asked God what He thought about those reasons. I just assumed that all of my reasons were His reasons too.

Have you ever noticed that when God wants something to be it just sort of happens? It's like trying to stop a train steaming straight ahead and full speed. Nothing gets in His way. God is unstoppable. No one can control Him. We might as well not even try.

I tried hard not to come to this retreat. I ignored the announcements at church. When my husband mentioned it, I quickly told him that I wasn't going. When my pastor's wife encouraged me to come, I spouted off one of my many compelling reasons. I wouldn't even consider the idea.

Obviously, God felt differently. I am here now. One by one by one all of my reasons fell by the wayside. A friend paid for me to come and ensured I'd have a room to myself in order to truly rest. My husband promised to take off work and homeschool the five children.

Suddenly, without even trying, I was signed up to go. I wondered how it happened until I remembered that God is unstoppable and try as I might I could not stop what He had ordained. I resigned myself to going on the retreat with about as much enthusiasm as a 3 year old marching off to naptime.

The week of the retreat Satan tried hard to worm his way into the plans. I guess he forgot that part about God being unstoppable. My attitude was less than stellar. Hormones raging in me ... I felt like staying in bed instead of packing my bags. Joel had a nasty spider bite and I took him to the doctor who told me that he must be watched carefully because it was already infected and if it got worse he would have to be treated with IV antibiotics. Surely Jon couldn't monitor the health of Joel as well as I could ... I mean, don't you think God would rather me stay home and tend to my children? Jon reassured me that he had it all under control and I should just go on as planned.

Now I am here ... in the woods, alone with God. And God was right. I needed this retreat. Why am I surprised about this? Not only is God unstoppable, He also knows Every little thing. Not one minute detail escapes Him.

Later on, I hope to share something of what I've learned. But for now, it has been enough for me to remember that my plans are not God's plans. And when God has a plan for me (which He says He has good plans for me in Jeremiah 29:11), I cannot do anything to stop Him ... no matter how hard I might try.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Finding Beauty

Every morning I do the same routine, following the same little rituals in order to feel ready to start the day. Except for on mornings when I need a bit more self-confidence. One those mornings I tend to add an extra step ... I talk to myself.

I tell myself how lovely my hair looks or how my eyeshadow brings out the blue in my eyes. I comment on my sweet smelling perfume or my perfectly coordinating jewelry. It doesn't seem to matter that I'm the one doling out the compliments. I somehow respond internally to these words of affirmation and feel infinitely more beautiful.

This extra ritual works so well that I have often wondered why I don't do it every morning. What I've come to believe is that I am afraid it will stop working and then I will be lacking confidence when I need it most.

I cannot remember a morning when I've woken up feeling beautiful. In fact, I cannot say that I recall very many times in which I felt like I was pretty. I know that there are so many women who struggle with body image as well, but my body image has always been especially low.

As a relatively young girl of 9 or 10, I remember looking into the mirror and thinking that if someone saw a photo of just my eyes that they might think I was actually a beautiful girl. I also thought that if you then showed my entire face, that same person might not believe that such an unattractive girl could have such pretty blue eyes. As if to only pound in that idea, in high school there was a competition to find the girl with the most beautiful eyes. My classmates elected me to be one of the representatives of our class, and a photo was take of just my eyes and placed on a bulletin board along with all of the other girls in the competition. I quickly realized that I was perhaps the most unpopular girl in the contest and yet I came in 2nd place in the competition. I remember thinking afterwards that no one would have voted for my eye photo if they had realized that the rest of the face belonged to me.

Now I look at that sort of self-talk and see how crazy it is that I was incredibly vain about my eyes while being overly critical of the rest of my facial features. It was as if I couldn't find reassurance about my beauty even when I was given small successes and chances to feel attractive. Self-doubt and self-critism were dominate over my ability to accept who I was and feel confident of my own self-worth.

As a young woman, I was diagnosed with PCOS. It's an incurable, hormonal syndrome that affects many body systems. It wrecks a body and robs a woman of the very things that make her feminine as it slowly chips away at the self-esteem. Thinning scalp hair; unwanted body hair on the face, arms and back; weight gain; inability to lose weight despite diet and exercise; infertility; acne, skin tags, dark patches of skin on face ... the list goes on and on.

Over the past two decades, I've struggled to accept who I am as a woman, shedding floods of tears and weeping agonizing prayers to God asking Him to take it away. In the process, I take two or three steps forward only to take those same two or three steps back. It's the dance of my life as I battle my own body image and learn to love myself for who God created me to be.

We are six weeks into 2012, and I've been on an emotional roller coaster for most of that time. I'll be celebrating my 40th birthday in September and I'm struggling with that particular milestone. On top of that, I'm dealing with recovering from the severe anxiety and panic attacks of 2011. Somewhere in all of that, I began to battle with self-esteem and body image again. It's the same old song sung to the same old tune, just a different verse.

Two nights ago I was up at 3 am, praying as silent tears rolled down my cheeks. I typed words, begging God again to help me lay the burden of PCOS down before His throne, to find beauty in who I was not because of me but because of Him. As the rain fell outside and the clock on the wall ticked the night away, I wrote the words that follow:

Father God, I want to feel fully woman, to be able to lose weight, to not be ashamed or self conscious of my appearance. I want to have a body that works normally in honor of your temple, instead of feeling like my body is run down and junky. I want to live a healthy life so that I am honoring where you reside ... in me!

Yet I am ashamed of the way I look.
I am ashamed of my thinning hair.
I am ashamed of the hair on my body in places where it should not be.

Father, help me.

There is the silence of the quiet night house, I heard God’s response to me: I was born in a barn, among the animal stalls. A manger is not clean nor is it beautiful ... and yet, Paige, what more beautiful place could there have been? Do not forget. I bring beauty to all places, and I bring beauty to all people who trust in Me. Beauty is defined in Me.

Peace ... peace from the inner struggle, peace from the doubt, peace from the fear, peace for the night.

I still don't wake up feeling beautiful, but today I'm not so consumed with my own perceived lack of beauty. And I'm learning again to embrace the words of Psalm 45:11 ...
The King is enthralled by your beauty; honor Him, for He is your Lord.

For My Valentine

The picture was sweet ... an elderly couple holding hands and beaming at each other. The newspaper article said that they had been married for 71 years. Imagine that. Seven decades of love. Some might shake their heads and ponder that sort of commitment. Not me.

When Jon asked me to be his bride, I told him what he already knew. I wouldn't settle for less than a lifetime of love. And then I surprised him by saying that I expected him to live to be 101 years and 2 days old, just so we could celebrate our 60th anniversary. Jon laughed. I think he thought I was joking, but I wasn't. In fact, I remind him of my expectations often.

My marriage is young yet, just 13 1/2 months old. I suppose to some who have been married for decades it seems like such an incredibly short time. We still get comments about how the honeymoon must not have ended yet. I always respond with a smile and say that I hope it never does!

And yet ... there's this lingering fear that it might. After all, don't all marriages go through bad times, seasons where the love isn't as strong and the romance has faded and the honeymoon is obviously over? Jon expressed this thought to our pastor during lunch this past Sunday, and we were both surprised by his reply. He basically said that he didn't buy that idea that love in a marriage fades. He said that he had been married nearly 30 years and that he could honestly say that his marriage hasn't gone through periods like that. He admitted that romance looked differently now than it did in the beginning and that their love had matured as the years had passed. He also commented that the Bible gives us the tools to keeping the love alive in our marriages, such as not letting the sun go down on our anger.

Maturing love ... I like that. Furthermore, I want that in my marriage. I want a love that grows deeper and stronger, instead of one that wilts and fades like the dozen roses given to a valentine.

Our love may not be a mature love now, but I am committed to growing in that love for a lifetime.

Audrey Assad - Ought To Be (Lyric Slideshow) from emimusic on

Monday, February 13, 2012

Lost in Translation

This past week my friend asked me to help her translate the Bible verse God is Love into sign language. That sounds incredibly easy ... just three small words. Yet, there is a problem, and a rather significant problem at that.

In ASL (American Sign Language) there are no "be" verbs. For example, instead of signing "I am going to the store," you would sign "I going to store." In most situations, this method works out fine and the intended meaning can be easily understood.

Somehow though, God love didn't quite fulfill the message shared in that simple Bible verse. And Love God gave a totally different meaning to the scripture, even if it was no less important. My friend discussed the possibility of using the word equal in place of is, but we questioned if the phrase God equal love fully convey the message of the scripture? It was debatable, but in the end it was the best we came up with for signing that verse.

Fortunately, for my friend and I, this isn't an extremely serious communication problem. We are both hearing people teaching a class full of hearing pupils. Our sign language class is part of a homeschool co-op and is being taught to 3rd-6th graders who want to know more about how to sign. These children can hear us say the words God is love and understand the meaning. The meaning of our words won't be lost in translation.

When we translate words, we put them in another language, or if possibly restating in the same language using different words so that the message is better explained. Either way, the point of translation is to find another way of getting the meaning across to the listener or reader. If I want to translate my words into Spanish or French or German or sign language, I might have to settle for words that just closely mean what I'm saying. There will be nuances of subtle differences. And for the most part, I'm okay with that.

Still, for the past few days, I've been pondering about this idea of translation. Obviously the act of translating words from one language into another isn't an exact science and meaning can get changed or lost as a result. How does translating work when the stakes are higher? What if the group of children weren't hearing kids just learning a few signs but rather it was a group of deaf children in a Sunday School class? I would want to make sure that my translation of God is love was as accurate as possible so that I was conveying the full meaning with them.

I wondered how missionaries manage to explain God to someone who speaks a different language, especially to those in populations and people groups who have never heard of Christ and there is no Bible in their native tongue. How can you begin to explain God and who He is to those people?

Which brings me to another thing I've thought about many times, and that is the translation of the many versions of the English Bible? My Bible certainly isn't in its original Greek and Hebrew. Am I losing ideas or understandings about God which I cannot get from reading my Bible because of the process of translation?

The Bible is a different sort of book. It was written over the span of thousands of years. Many men from a wide variety of backgrounds helped to author the book, though in actuality the book has but one author ... God Himself. The Bible is part historical, part prophecy, part poetry and part law. Most importantly, the Bible was divinely-inspired by God and its words are like none other for they are living words.

Living words ... For the word of God is alive and active. Hebrews 4:12

Living words that reveal God to us ... He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures. Luke 24:45

Living words that imparts the truths of God to us and makes us wiser, teaches us how to live, ... All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17

Living words that do not change with time and last forever ... The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever. Isaiah 40:8

Living words that change our hearts of stone ... Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. James 1:21

Living words that heal our hurts ... This is my comfort in my affliction, for Your word has given me life. Psalm 119:50

Living words that encourage us to keep the faith ... Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4

Living words that remind us that we have a future in Christ ... They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed. But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy." 1 Peter 2:7-10

When I think about all of those truths, I truly believe that the words of the Bible cannot get lost, no matter how many languages into which it might be translated. However just for the sake of argument, I will ask that looming question ... What if? What if the meaning of the Bible was not accurately portrayed and something was lost over the past 2000 years?

Even then, we are without excuse for knowing God.

From the creation of the world His invisible attributes, that is, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what He has made. As a result, people are without excuse. Romans 1:20

Everything declares the majesty and glory of God. That's why God can never be lost in translation, as long as we are willing to just listen to His still, small voice.

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. Revelation 3:22

Friday, February 3, 2012

A Year and a Day

They sailed away, for a year and a day,
To the land where the Bong-tree grows ...

~Edward Lear, from his poem The Owl and the Pussycat

It's been a year and a day. Exactly 366 days have come and gone since my husband Jon underwent open heart surgery and had a mechanical mitral valve put into his heart. The story of how he came to need a second open heart surgery just 18 months after the first one and of how he came to receive a rather miraculous healing that brought him back from the brink of death two times is one we've told over and over in the past year that I wonder if it will ever cease to amaze me.

So many times during that long period of medical mayhem I thought we had come to the end. I would anticipate healing and health, which was my hope on the morning of February 2nd as we waited for Jon's surgery to begin. I anticipated that within a short period of time he would be feeling better. I had no idea that sickness would continue to last through the spring. Jon was so sick that there were many days when I feared we were coming to an end, the final earthly ending. There were nights of endless tears, days of endless prayers, moments when I felt as if my very body were being ripped apart with the pain of losing this man who had become my other half. I grasped for shreds of hope as I pleaded heart and soul for a happy ending to our story.

One particular conversation with Jon's doctor stuck out in my head, and I clung tightly to his words, hoping they were prophetic, yet fearing they would never come to pass.

"This healing will be slow, but I believe that in the fall Jon will be like a new man ... full of health and energy. And by this time next year this will all be just a bad memory."

In the fall ... healing.
In a year ... a bad memory.

I repeated them to myself like a mantra on the worst days:

In the fall ... healing.
In a year ... a bad memory.

I pondered them quietly on Jon's better days:

In the fall ... healing.
In a year ... a bad memory.

As it turns out, Jon's doctor was mostly right. In the fall, we noticed that Jon was practically a new man. He was gaining weight and feeling energetic. His coloring was good. It came to pass that in the fall there was healing.

And now we've come to the second marker for a year has passed. But this is where Jon's doctor was wrong. There is nothing left to this story but a memory, only it's not a bad memory as was suggested. Rather the memory of those dark days are bittersweet. I certainly don't want to go back and relive that time. I'm glad that they have come to an ending, and a happy ending at that. But the memories of how God blessed us, worked through others to love us, showed Himself near to us, and bonded us together in a way I never dreamed possible ... well, all I can say is that the memories of those days are so very precious to my heart that I would never wish that we had not gone through that time.

Last night as I realized we were at this unusual anniversary, the thought came to me that this is the place where the Bong-tree grows ... a place of contentment, of peace. The journey on the unknown sea has ended, at least for now, and there is this island moment of rest and reprieve. Because of the journey I cherish these days, for Jon and I are together.

"Hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
They danced by the light of the moon, the moon, the moon.
They danced by the light of the moon."

~Edward Lear, from the poem The Owl and the Pussycat

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Tea Tree Oil Miracle

The first time I saw it I nearly fainted. It was larger than a dime and stuck up at least half of an inch off of his big toe. This was one monster-sized wart.

As I gazed at my preteen boy's foot, I had to wonder exactly how long this ugly, black plantar wart had been there, and why he never thought to show it to me. I also had a sickening feeling that no amount of wart remover was going to make this thing go away.

Sure enough ... a week of OTC treatments had only yielded blistered healthy skin while the wart seemed to loom bigger than ever. I was resigned to the fact that this wart was going to have to be frozen off. When I mentioned something about scheduling an appointment to Joel, he promptly began to freak out in a feverish fit of anxiety. This is the boy who doesn't like to have his hair cut or his back scratched. Truly, he was anxious enough about me applying wart remover twice a day. How on earth would I ever get him to sit still while some doctor poked at the wart and then attempted to remove it with liquid nitrogen.

That's when Jon said, "Darling, have you tried the tea tree oil? Maybe it cures warts too ..."

Honestly, I hadn't even thought to try it, but now that Jon mentioned it I figured it couldn't hurt. After all, it had gotten rid of a nasty case of head lice when nothing else seemed to work and it had made a toe nail fungus disappear. Besides, just the thought of having to hold down my thrashing son while some doctor tried to grab hold of his foot was making me sweat. So as I put a drop of tea tree oil on the wart and covered it with a bandaid, I told my son that this was our last resort before we saw a doctor and breathed a prayer that somehow the tea tree oil would work its magic once again.

The next morning the wart didn't look nearly as menacing to me. I figured it was just my wishful hopes but applied more tea tree oil to the wart and prayed again for some sort of miraculous wart healing.

That very night, Jon looked at the wart and said, "Wow! That thing is definitely smaller." I felt more hopeful, but not ready to believe that it would really work. Yet, 2 days later that there was no doubt that the tea tree oil was doing something to that wart.

Until 6 or 7 years ago, I had never even heard of tea tree oil. I really didn't know much about it other than it was some sort of natural remedy. I figured I really didn't have any need for it.

Last winter, Jon and I were married and I moved my children into his home. Three days later after the mover's dropped off my furniture and belongings, Jon's daughter Maddie was sent home from school with head lice. It was her third time that school year. Jon had already spent a small fortune on head lice shampoo, but we hit the pharmacy and bought the strongest stuff we could find. With unpacked boxes piled up around me, I began the painfully slow process of picking nits from her head and washing every stitch of bedding.

Five kids, five heads, five sets of sheets and pillows, untold numbers of stuffed animals ... the battle of the lice seemed rather overwhelming to say the least. We never found a single louse or nit on any other head. And yet, for weeks on end we continued to find nits in Maddie's hair. We got prescriptions from the pediatrician and used every brand of lice shampoo available. We slathered her head in olive oil in a vain attempt to smother the lice. Nothing worked.

Nothing, that is, until a friend suggested we use tea tree oil. Miraculously, within 3 days, we were lice-free, nit-free. After the lice had been gone for a full month, I breathed a prayer of thanks to God and put the tea tree oil up in the medicine box, hoping never to use it again, but relieved to know it was there if we ever had a child come home with head lice again.

Several months later, Jon had an accident in which his toe nail was horrifically ripped off his toe. It was a toenail that had been infected with a fungus that nothing had been able to cure for many years. As the toe nail began to regrow, Jon decided to apply tea tree oil to it. Religiously each morning he applied a drop of tea tree oil to the nail. Lo and behold, the once discolored nail grew back in healthy and strong. Again we were amazed at the wonders of the healing powers of tea tree oil.

The painless shrinking of Joel's wart into oblivion was the third time tea tree oil had surprised us by doing what nothing else seemed to be capable of doing, especially expensive medications and ointments and cremes. I wondered what else tea tree oil might be able to do, and the list I found was quite impressive.

Tea tree oil is a natural essential oil that is antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal. It is an effective first aid treatments for skin infections, cuts, scrapes, burns, insect bites and even fading skin spots. You can use it to effectively treat nail fungus, ringworm, athlete's foot, dandruff, acne, lice, mites, and scabies. Tea tree oil soothes and disinfects, yet it is also capable of penetrating into the lower skin layers. It is an expectorant,s o it can be used to treat infections of the respiratory tract. Tea tree oil should never be ingested, but even so it is a powerful, all-natural treatment. (You can find out more about tea tree oil by visiting this website: )

Tea tree oil is amazing on its own, but even more so when compared with more modern OTC or even prescription treatments which don't heal as effectively and often have other unwanted side effects. However, in all honestly, this really shouldn't be all that surprising because tea tree oil was created by an amazing God.

Now that I've discovered tea tree oil, my medicine box is growing much, much smaller. Perhaps yours will too ...