Saturday, November 26, 2011

First Pride, Then the Crash

Just when I thought I was doing okay in my relationship with God . . . just when I thought, “Hey, I’ll write a blog about how trustworthy God is so that I can encourage people and tell my story of victory” . . . right about the time I was feeling pretty confident in my fight against the fears that have so often plagued me . . . my proud house of cards came tumbling down, and everything I thought I had learned was put to the test.

I’ve kept it no secret that FEAR is one of my biggest struggles. After going through the traumatic experience of Eli’s early birth, I began to fear all the bad things that could happen. I also began to question the trustworthiness of God. Of course, I never consciously said, “I don’t trust you, God.” But all my fears and all my questions – well, all they spoke for themselves. It took several years for me to work through it all. But when I finally did, God even allowed me the opportunity to share my story with some other women who were very encouraged by it.

I suppose we never fully realize when we’ve gotten over-confident until something happens to test that confidence, to see if it’s still placed in the right person (God or ourselves). My test came the other night when I received a sudden, potentially serious injury in a freak accident. It seems so unreal, and I keep wondering how in the world it happened. As I was getting back into our vehicle with my kids, somehow I turned with just enough umph, and the passenger-side door was closing on me with just enough speed, that I popped my forehead on the corner of the door and busted my head. I instantly fell to the ground, and my kids immediately began to freak out. There was a lot of blood, and many tears and screams from my children. Fortunately my husband was with us, so he drove me to the ER to get checked out.

As I sat in the car on the way to the hospital, I felt so close to losing consciousness. But I knew that if I passed out, my kids would be even more scared than they already were. Plus, that’s just a scary feeling in itself – the feeling that you’re about to lose yourself into the unknown. So I was fighting that feeling with everything in me. I leaned forward as far as I could to put my head between my knees, and I began breathing in long, slow breaths. After about 5 minutes I finally felt that horrible feeling subside, just in time for me to get out of the car and visit the ER. Thankfully, in the end I was okay. The doctor said I had a slight concussion, but I didn’t need stitches. He bandaged me up and sent me home with orders to watch for signs of a worsening concussion.

Two days later, my body was no worse for the wear (although I was still in pain) . . . but my mind and heart were a different story. On the second night as I was trying to relax and go to sleep, I finally cried. I suppose I had been holding back for the kids’ sake, trying to be tough. But suddenly my mind was filled with fear and doubt. Why did God let this happen to me? Sure, it wasn’t so bad – but look how easily and suddenly an accident can happen. Our human bodies seem so fragile sometimes. What if Jeromy hadn’t been there to take care of us? What if it had happened to one of the kids? What if I had been knocked out? I must have done something wrong to deserve this. But what did I do? I guess I just deserve this for what a horrible person I am.

I sounded like a baby Christian – not a seasoned believer who’s been walking confidently with Christ for the past several years. At that moment I had been sorely tempted to fall back into my old habits of beating myself up and wallowing in self-pity. But I knew better. Even if my rantings were all true – even if God really was disciplining me – even if it had been worse – God is still God. And I can trust Him because He’s my heavenly Father, and He loves me. All that time when my confidence had been building, at some point I had shifted from being confident in God to being confident in myself. But this incident put everything back into the right perspective.

Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who finds great delight in his commands. . . . He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord. ~ Psalm 112:1, 7

You, O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness. ~ Psalm 86:15

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Prematurity Awareness Day - Eli's Hope

Today is World Prematurity Awareness Day. Today we focus on the growing problem of premature birth. Around the world, 13 million babies are born prematurely each year. In the United States, 1 in 8 babies is born too soon. Overall, our nation scores a D on its report card, which measures preterm birth rates against the Healthy People 2010 goals. With all the medical advances in Neonatal Intensive Care Units and the like, you might think that most premature babies end up being just fine. But even babies that are born a few weeks early run the risk of having serious, lifelong medical complications. And preterm birth is the #1 cause of death for all babies in the first month of life.

At 30 weeks gestation and weighing only 3 pounds, our son Eli entered the world. He spent 5 weeks in 2 different Neonatal Intensive Care Units. Every moment was a challenge as his tiny body fought to survive. But after just a few days in the NICU, it was apparent that this little guy was a fighter. He got to go home earlier than expected, as the doctors had predicted that he'd have to stay in the hospital until his due date. But even when he went home, he spent another 5 weeks on supplemental oxygen. Six years later, Eli is a strong, healthy little boy with a ton of energy! His life is truly a miracle, which can only be attributed to a mighty and loving God putting His hand on Eli, and working through those wonderful NICU doctors and nurses.

Because of our own personal experiences, we are creating a nonprofit organization called Eli's Hope. And we are on a mission to share Christ's love with the families of NICU babies. We strive to provide hope in the midst of sorrow, and peace in the midst of chaos. The first contact we’ll have with a NICU family will be through their receipt of a gift bag that our volunteers have lovingly and prayerfully put together. We also plan to organize various interactive events for the parents at the hospital, so that we can minister to them on a more personal level. In addition, we hope to be able to provide some baby items and/or clothing to some disadvantaged families. And on occasion, if the unthinkable happens, we will have a special gift bag that is lovingly prepared to help the family cope with such a great loss.

Having a child in the NICU is never an experience that anyone is prepared for. Eli's Hope is here to help make the rough places smooth for NICU families, only by the grace of God. We appreciate your prayers as we begin the lengthy process of incorporating Eli’s Hope as a 501(c)3 organization. We hope to begin officially serving NICU families some time after the first of the year. In the meantime, we’re doing our part to raise awareness and build connections with people in our local hospitals.

To find out more about prematurity and how you can help, visit

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Snapshot of a Lunch Mom

I walk into the school at 11:30 every day, hoping and praying that the kids in my lunch class are having a good day. I go to the milk room (there is no cafeteria in the school) and gather the 10 chocolate milks, 2 white milks, and 5 sack lunches that my class of 20 1st and 2nd graders needs. Then it’s off to Room 107 to relieve the teacher so that she can have a few moments of peace to enjoy her own lunch. The bell rings to signify the beginning of lunchtime, and I make my way through the crowd of children who are already lined up at the sink to wash their hands.

And so it begins…

Yay! Mrs. Guthrie! [Sometimes I get a few hugs.]
I have peanut butter in my lunch today.
Me too!
Okay boys, if you’ve washed your hands you may go to Room 103. [My room has been designated a peanut-free zone.]
Is today nacho day?
No, that’s tomorrow.
Hey Mrs. Guthrie, guess what?
Remember that jar of candy in the corner of the room and we all had to guess how much was inside? Well I won! I get to keep all 54 pieces!
That’s great, wow! Oh, I see that _____ is absent today. Is there anybody else missing? [I’m mentally subtracting from the classroom total so that I know how many heads to count when we come back in from recess.]
No, everybody else is here.
Mrs. Guthrie, my finger is bleeding!
Okay, hold on. Let me get a band-aid.
What happened to him?
Oh man, is he bleeding?
Guys, it’s just a little scratch, he’s fine. Here ya go, buddy.
Mrs. Guthrie, I can’t find my lunch. I looked and looked. I think _____ stole it.
No he didn’t. You have one of the sack lunches, just go ahead and start eating that and we’ll look for the one you brought from home.
Mrs. Guthrie, can I go to the bathroom?
Yes, please get the pass.
Can I go to the bathroom too?
No, only one boy at a time, remember?
Mrs. Guthrie, will you open this for me?
Hey Mrs. Guthrie, guess what? I got 140 pieces of candy when I went trick-or-treating last night!
_____ sit down while you’re eating.
Are we going outside for recess today?
Mrs. _____ said that if we don’t be good up in here, then we have to lose a class stamp.
Mrs. Guthrie, I don’t like anything in my lunch. Can I go to the milk room to see if they have some fruit?
I’m done already, can I clean up?
_____, I said sit down while you’re eating.
Can we bring the soccer ball outside today?
Mrs. Guthrie, _____ keeps touching my food.
I am not!
Keep you hands in your own space please.

After 20 minutes of this constant interaction, it’s time to clean up and line up to go outside for recess. If I can get them lined up, quiet for walking through the halls, and outside to play in 5 minutes, they’ll have 15 minutes to play. The school runs a tight schedule!

Outside, the boy who thought someone else stole his lunch is pouting. When a bigger kid bumps into him, he bursts into tears and comes to find me. But I spend the majority of the time outside in peace, watching the kids to make sure they’re playing safely. Then, as the bell rings to line up and go back inside…

Mrs. Guthrie, I need a puff from my inhaler – my chest hurts.
Mrs. Guthrie, _____ and _____ are jumping off the bench!
Mrs. Guthrie, I’m afraid of _____. He’s trying to get me!
Ow! Hey, don’t push!
_____, tie your shoe before we start walking. _____, turn around and pay attention so you’ll know when the line starts moving. Is everyone here now? [I start counting heads before we go back inside.]

Even just walking back inside the building can be chaotic. The 45 minutes that I’m with the kids is literally a constant barrage of tattling, hugging, arguing, eating, playing, and goofing off. By the end of it, I can tell that my body temperature has risen (and maybe my blood pressure too!).

Some days are harder than others, of course. But honestly, I wouldn’t trade this job for anything right now. God has put me in these kids’ lives for a brief moment each day to love on them, teach them, help them, and have fun with them. After a particularly difficult day, that is what I need to remember.

Perhaps we should all remember to look at our jobs (and lives) that way. God has put each of us in a precise place, around specific people, for a particular purpose. Let’s do our best to keep that perspective, and ask God to help us see everything and everyone around us through His eyes.

"As I have loved you, so must you love one another." -- John 13:34