A Strong Foundation

09/13/2008

“Calcuttas are everywhere if only we have the eyes to see. Find your Calcutta.”
Mother Teresa

As many of you have heard, I’ve gone “back to school”! For those of you who haven’t heard, it’s true! After forty some years of wanting to be a barber, God has led me to a Cosmetology school here in Castro Valley, California. I’ve just finished my first few weeks of study. I’m as shocked as anyone. There are times during the day when I almost chuckle out loud while I work on the mannequin head perfecting cutting techniques, rolling the hair, perming it, and straightening it. Soon it will be nails, and facials…things I’ve never even much participated in myself. We’re also learning to do make-up, which I know practically nothing about. Oh sure, many years ago I went to a Mary Kay party and learned a bit, but so little that I still have that same make-up in my bathroom drawer today. I know! THROW IT OUT many of you are saying! I’ll probably be saying that after a bit more schooling also.

I’m telling you all of this for a reason, but you probably already knew that. Whatever it is God takes us through in life, it carries lessons and ways to know Him more, and cosmetology school is no exception. God is there, even though it can sometimes be a challenging place to be—not only full of colorful hairstyles, but “colorful” language and lifestyles as well. Most these young people, mostly girls, although there are some young men there also, are just starting out in life. They’re trying to find their way. I feel more like I’m finishing up the way…completing something that I’ve always had the desire to do, and now it’s finally time—time enough to learn it, and time enough to enjoy it also, God willing.

When I’m in school, I see things through very different eyes than I would have in my early twenties…when a chart is placed up for us to see how hair grows out of the scalp, what it’s made of, how many there are on an individual head, I think about God’s design for the body.

And the very hairs on your head are all numbered.
Luke 12:7 (NLT)

When I read through my textbook and it says: “Having a strong foundation in technique and skills will allow you to take calculated risks.” I think of how that relates to our spiritual lives and how important it is to have our strong foundation set in Jesus Christ, because when we do, it allows us the freedom to take “calculated risks.” Why? Because to us they are not risks at all, but exciting adventures that the Lord sends us on as we learn how better to serve Him while also enjoying this life in a way that brings Him pleasure. Don’t we want our children to enjoy life, to know that they are safe and secure in our love and that no matter what they choose to do in life we will love them and be there for them even if some of those risks, those steps, those decisions seem sort of far-fetched? What is life without adventure and a willingness to try new things, to go where we haven’t gone before, to stand on the strong foundation of our Faith and say “Yes” to whatever it is God is calling us to and telling us to do! Life is too short to miss out on all that God has for us here, not only to serve Him but also to enjoy Him and to enjoy life. There’s enough tough stuff we have to go through, we might as well enjoy the good stuff that comes along too! The other night, I was thinking, “Lord, what if I hadn’t done this? What if I had been too scared to step in this direction? I would have missed out on so much!”

I have to be honest with you though, when it seemed I was getting the “call” to go back to school, I didn’t know how I was going to be able to have the strength to be there full time, Tuesday through Saturday, 8:30-5:00. I seriously didn’t…the timing seemed all wrong, and although I was excited about becoming a “barber” at long last, physically I knew I was not 100 percent. The simple reason being, my body is going through all the changes that come to a woman my age…I’ve heard it called the tunnel of fire that leads into the golden years. It’s refining, that’s for sure, and it has not been the best of times. But, now the Lord has provided even in this, making it possible for me to be in school full-time and keep up with those so much younger than I am—to be able to keep up at all is a huge blessing in so many ways. I have to share how the Lord has helped me persevere through this season of life with all of you, and you can take it or leave it, read it or not, believe it or disregard it, but if this helps one person out there who is struggling the way I was, it will be worth it!

So here we go…

Many of you might recall I had surgery in January of this year, 2008. Physically my body had been spiraling down for about ten years. It started out slowly, so gradual in fact that I paid little attention to it. I knew it was just a normal change that all women go through in the 40’s and 50’s, so no big deal. I wasn’t the first to go through menopause, I wouldn’t be the last, it was just a season of life that happens. As the changes began to pick up speed, I began to slow down, probably due to the fact that anemia can very much be a part of it—and eventually I had to have a hysterectomy after receiving a couple of units of blood to replenish what my body had lost. Oh, I tried to ignore all this for a long time, but when my blood level dropped to 50 percent, it could no longer be ignored, it had to be rectified. I’m pretty hard-headed, willing to endure through great trials, but this needed more than endurance and prayer, it needed medical attention. I came through surgery great, healed wonderfully, and other than putting on more weight than I would have liked, I had no complaints. It then seemed it was time to get on with life and live it as fully and abundantly as God allows, but that was not to be the case…

The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy.
I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.
John 10:10 (NKJV)

The “thief” was not yet done with me…not that he ever will be here on earth with any of us, but we can’t give up, we have to know that our Father has provided a way to help us deal with whatever fiery arrows the enemy has aimed at us, whatever the difficult tunnel is that we are going through. With Jesus Christ, we can have the more abundant life talked about in John by taking the time for prayer and study, fellowship and service, and being willing to receive any help from God that He brings into our lives. Our Father knows what we need, He knows what we need to do, and He will be our Provider through it all.

The thief has stolen from all of us, he has killed and destroyed us literally and figuratively along the way too. Sometimes he takes a life, sometimes he takes a home, or a job, or our health. Sometimes he takes a friend, or a spouse, or a church. Sometimes he breaks us down physically or emotionally or spiritually…the thief is relentless, he will never give up until he is thrown into the fiery pit by our Lord on that last day. On that day, Satan’s reign will end, and we won’t have to endure his tactics any longer…but until that day, we are here in the battle that rages all around us, surrounded by spiritual warfare that we can’t see but we can surely feel. I have felt it, you have felt it too, and Jesus even felt it in the wilderness for those 40 days…it’s the world we live in and it can hurt, and it can bring us down low.

When I had my surgery in January, I was down low, needing some blood transfusions and a way to stop my life from draining out of me, literally. That problem was taken care of, but what was I to do with what followed that, which was my life being drained out of me emotionally and physically through the imbalances that can occur during this season of life. I wasn’t sure just what to do, so I continued to do what I did know—I prayed, I stayed quiet and rested and focused on God’s provisions through the storms that blew. I figured if it was a time in life to slow down, then slow down I would.

I have been through a huge storm in the loss of our son, and I found God very able to see me through that as long as I paid attention to the grief that filled my heart. I learned new boundaries in life, when to get away, when to be quiet, when to pray and read and fill up with God’s promises for each new day. I learned that God was able to see me through anything, and I was depending on Him to do that very same thing with this season of life, but this challenge was different. This seemed full of lies, full of feelings that couldn’t really be accounted for because even when nothing in my world had changed from one minute to the next, it seemed like my whole world would start falling apart. I could be sitting in the very same chair, watching the very same movie, when suddenly everything would seem bleak and dark. It was like being pulled into a deep pit of gloom and dread. I was learning to tell myself when this came upon me, “These thoughts, these feelings, are all lies…they mean nothing, pay no attention to them, they will pass by in a few minutes…hang on, and pray.”

Oswald Chambers wrote:

“Anything that disturbs rest in Him must be cured at once, and it is not
cured by being ignored, but by coming to Jesus Christ. If we come to Him
and ask Him to produce Christ-consciousness, He will always do it until
we learn to abide in Him…Nothing is so important as to keep right
spiritually.”

I was doing my best to “keep right spiritually,” learning to abide in Jesus, and He was seeing me through the suffering, but not delivering me out of it…as yet. My rest was greatly disturbed, not only during my nights, but during the day also. At night I would wake up almost hourly from a sound sleep, completely filled with dread. This usually came before the overwhelming heat that caused me to throw off the covers, slide open the window and pray, while suffering silently in the dark of the night truly wondering if I was going to slip over the edge into insanity. I’m not exaggerating this. These feelings were horrible! I prayed, and I also prayed for my friend who was also experiencing these feelings. I was holding onto the hand of God, but even still, I was not looking forward to years of this torture. I knew that it could be a very long season until it tapered off.

Living without our son Phil is like a canon being shot into our life. It explodes, it disrupts everything, it changes everything, and it has to be prayed through and persevered through and endured for many a long night and years. But here’s the thing, it’s an obvious wound! Of course we grieve, why would we not? We miss someone we dearly love! It makes sense, there’s no mystery in why the misery is felt—the mystery would be if there was no misery in the loss. Yes, God heals our broken hearts, but there are many moments of intense agony to be prayed through along the way. I knew that was normal, it was a season of grief…but these latest feelings of doom and gloom seemed very abnormal.

With menopausal symptoms that start out slowly and increase through the years, it’s more like something my brother was describing this morning. It’s like shooting a 22 rifle at an elephant. The elephant will barely feel the first shot, or the second, or the 12th, or the whatever…it will take a long, long time to bring an elephant down with a 22—and probably as violent as it may sound, a shot in the eye that goes into the elephant’s brain may be what will eventually drop an elephant. Perhaps as believers in Jesus Christ, we are like that elephant, and sometimes Satan sends a cannonball into our camp and disrupts everything and it’s obvious what has happened—but there are other times when he will just start shooting a 22 at us. It will take years and years but eventually it will take its toll on us. It might have been so gradual, we’ll not realize how low we’ve gotten, how badly we’ve been pummeled. Or maybe we will, but we’re not sure what to do about it, and maybe we’ve grown so used to the chains Satan’s been slowly wrapping us in, we just learn to endure them.

That’s sort of where I found myself this last year…in that gradual piling on of “chains” over the last ten years that comes to women my age. It had me on a path of living with an edginess that I didn’t even fully realize because it was becoming more of a normal state for me of late. I never felt 100 percent, and I was probably pretty happy to be at 50 to 75 percent, thinking it was pretty good, especially when it was compared to the lower moments that came that fell far below that. Just a regular day was challenging enough, sometimes just carrying on normal conversations while having an episode was a test—wondering if I was really going to die of a heart attack right then and there while someone was talking. And then in the midst of all of this, God seemed to be saying, “Sign up for school. It’s time to fulfill that lifelong dream of becoming a ‘barber.’”

What??
Now??
Are You sure Lord?!!

When the “call” came to start school, I couldn’t help but think back on the time when Phil had just relapsed with Leukemia and it seemed God was telling me to apply for the receptionist job at our church. The timing seemed all wrong, but I knew one of two things—either God was going to take Phil Home and I would need something to do, or God was going to heal Phil and I would need something to do. I didn’t know which it would be, but when God did take Phil Home, our church office was the perfect place to be through that time. God knew best, so I knew that God knew best about school too, I just didn’t know how “we” were going to pull it off. I went ahead and signed up, and planned on leaving the “energy” and “sanity” situation with God. He had not failed me yet…I just had to wait and see how He was going to work this one out…and now I’m here to tell you, He has! Once again, God has shown me that He is a God of miracles, and He can be trusted, always! On His strong foundation we are free to take calculated risks, just like my school book says about hair design! How cool is that!

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.
Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil.
This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones.
Proverbs 3:5-8 (NIV)

Health to your body!!
Nourishment to your bones!!
That’s exactly what I needed!

Here’s how God brought it about:

About a week and a half before I was due to start school, I was talking with my daughter-in-law, Cami, and she was telling me about a high energy fruit drink that she is a new distributor for. Being that I am not one to “buy into these things,” I would normally say, “Oh, that’s nice, I hope it goes well for you, etc…” BUT! I was looking square in the face of full-time school and needing something, anything, to give me some energy, so I told her I wanted to try it. I quickly ordered some, and when it came, I tried some right away. I wondered if this would be God’s answer to my prayers! In no time at all, I was able to sleep again, and the feelings of losing my mind were gone. The “edge” seemed softer, so much so that I had to ask my husband, Jim, just how much of a witch had I been? I was afraid that maybe I had said some things, or done some things that I hadn’t even realized I was doing because I had felt so bad. He was very kind in his answer and said that I had done a good job of controlling myself, even when I wasn’t feeling well. Thank you Jim!

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
Psalm 139:23-24 (NIV)

I am still having the physical symptoms associated with menopause, but they are so greatly diminished that I am truly amazed. I went from feeling 80 years old, to 51 years young, and I have the energy I need to get through each day at school, and then some. I can still play with my grandkids on those evenings when I’m feeling the need for some huggin’ ‘and kissin’ on them! Those are precious times that I didn’t want to give up!

This is not a sales pitch for the drink; this is a sales pitch for how great our God is each day! How He provides! How His timing is perfect, and how He truly does bring us through whatever He brings us to, as I’ve heard said. And how once again, there are many lessons to be learned in our fiery trials, and I’d like to share a few that I’ve discovered in this latest season of my life. I heard a great Bible teacher explain that when a battle is over, if we don’t carry away some of the plunder, then we’ve left something behind. She used this verse out of 2 Chronicles:

So Jehoshaphat and his men went to carry off their plunder, and they found
among them a great amount of equipment and clothing and also articles of
value—more than they could take away. There was so much plunder that
it took three days to collect it. 2 Chronicles 20:25 (NIV)

Here’s some off the plunder that I’ve collected from this latest battle:

Sometimes even when our circumstances are fine, and our walk with God includes a confidence in the salvation we have been given through Jesus Christ, our bodies can still have a mind of their own. I don’t have a lot of knowledge about how our bodies work, but sometimes I believe we need to replenish what has gone missing physically, so we don’t drown emotionally. If we don’t obtain that missing ingredient, it’s sort of like trying to make a cake from scratch without everything that’s needed for the recipe. When we reach for the flour, and there isn’t any, the cake won’t turn out right. Our bodies need certain ingredients to keep functioning as God designed. We can’t go without water for very long, and we can’t go without the vitamins and minerals, etc…that keep everything working as it should. Just one ingredient can mean life or death sometimes. One day I was visiting a friend in the hospital at UCSF. I had been there a couple of hours and she seemed fine. We said our good-byes and I was probably still in the parking garage when she coded, simply because her potassium had dropped to a level that the heart can’t function on. The doctors and nurses were able to shock her heart back into beating mode, and correct her potassium level, so she is still with us today, thank you Jesus.

Prayer is vital also, it keeps us focused on our Hope, and brings peace and comfort into our days, but there are times when praying our way through physical symptoms isn’t the entire answer. That’s not to say that God can’t and won’t hear us in our praying, and it’s not that He can’t heal us miraculously on the spot, because He certainly can and has, but sometimes He brings His healing touch in other ways. It seems I have seen God do exactly that in what He has provided for me in this time of my life. He used Cami to supply me with the nourishment my body needed to rise out of bed each morning and serve my Lord each day wherever He might send me! I praise Him for that! And thank Him from the bottom of my heart!

In God’s Word, we are shown how sometimes the Lord sends someone to help us in our healing. In the story of Naaman, he was told to go and dip in the Jordan River seven times to heal his leprosy through a messenger sent from Elisha. At first Naaman refused to do as he was told. He became angry and stalked away saying, “I thought he (Elisha) would surely come out to meet me!” He said, “‘I expected him to wave his hand over the leprosy and call on the name of the Lord his God and heal me! Aren’t the Abana River and Pharpar River of Damascus better than all the rivers of Israel put together? Why shouldn’t I wash in them and be healed?’ So Naaman turned and went away in a rage. But his officers tried to reason with him and said, ‘Sir, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, wouldn’t you have done it? So you should certainly obey him when he says simply to go and wash and be cured!’ So Naaman went down to the Jordan River and dipped himself seven times, as the man of God had instructed him. And his flesh became as healthy as a young child’s, and he was healed!” (2 Kings)

In the Bible there is the story of the man born blind who was given a covering of mud over his eyes by Jesus, and then told to, “Go and wash in the pool of Siloam” to regain his sight. Sometimes there are instructions we have to follow. The woman who had been bleeding for twelve years touched the fringe of her Savior’s robe, “for she thought, ‘If I can just touch his robe, I will be healed.’ Jesus turned around and said to her, ‘Daughter, be encouraged! Your faith has made you well.’ And the woman was healed at that moment.” Sometimes there are things we need to do to be made well. Even Jesus told the paralyzed man lying on a mat, “’Stand up, take your mat, and go on home, because you are healed.’ And the man jumped up and went home!” What if the man had refused to stand up…would he have remained crippled? The most important thing we can do in this life to stay emotionally, physically and spiritually healthy is to listen when our God speaks and follow His guidance with a trust that He knows what He is doing, even if it doesn’t make perfect sense to us!

“So why do you call me ‘Lord,’ when you won’t obey me?
I will show you what it’s like when someone comes to me,
listens to my teaching, and then obeys me. It is like a person
who builds a house on a strong foundation laid upon the
underlying rock. When the floodwaters rise and break against
the house, it stands firm because it is well built.”
Luke 6:46-48 (NLT)

With grieving the loss of our son, I knew that what I was feeling was emotional, of course it was. I needed lots of rest, lots of quiet and lots of time in God’s presence to find His healing touch. There was nothing physically out of balance then. I remember thinking and probably saying, “If Phil was here, everything would be fine.” I had a good marriage, a nice home, a good life, a healthy body, and a wonderful family both at church and at home. The reason I was miserable was because I was in mourning—that was all. But to feel horrible when everything is really fine, something is messed up there. Something needs to be figured out. There might be other steps that need to be taken. I knew in my condition that anti-depressants were available, and I knew that my hormones were probably way off kilter and I could get a prescription for something there, but these remedies had side-affects associated with them, so I was choosing not to go that route. But, when a natural remedy was made available, I figured I had nothing to lose there and perhaps some energy to gain—I gained so much more than that! I feel like I have my life back again. I am now able to be out there where God has placed me in a more focused and healthy way.

Definitely, there are times when prescription medications are needed for all sorts of diseases and illnesses we deal with in this fallen world, but this was not one of those times for me. What I seemed to have been lacking was a depletion of natural elements my body desperately needed—to have gone on living without those vitamins and minerals would be like trying to run a car on water instead of gasoline. I had run out of fuel, and now God has provided something to fill up my tank again. I expect to feel better and better as time goes by as my body is being repaired through these new nutrients it has been so in need of.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all
your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.
Mark 12:30 (NIV)

God wants us to feel the best we can. When we do, we can be more receptive to all that the Lord might want to do in and through us each day. The devil wants us to live in a fog of confusion, feeling bogged down, tired, far from God, and less able to serve. If we are physically depleted, then this world and the darkness it contains will beat us up and bring us down even faster. It’s important to listen to the Great Physician so we can remain clear-headed. Even Jesus had to listen and to refuel—we hear about how He got alone to pray, and we also hear about how He ate, and how He walked from place to place, etc…He was at full strength emotionally, physically and spiritually, of course.

After he had sent them away, he went by himself up into the hills to pray.
Matthew 14:23 (NCV)

Each morning, before I start a day at school, I now have the energy to rise extra early and spend time alone praying. It is vital to my day, maybe more than ever before. Why? Because more than ever before, I am in the world, but not wanting to be of the world. I enter into a place that, as I said, can be very “colorful.” Perhaps it is my “Calcutta.” I spend the day with a much younger generation than I am accustomed to, and they are dealing with and living through things that I didn’t have to at their age. Many of these young people come from homes where things are tougher than what I lived in growing up. They are just starting out in life, trying to figure out who they are and how they fit in with those around them, and it can be a battle. I, on the other hand, know where I belong, and Who I belong to. God has brought me to a place in my life where I know what His strong foundation feels like and I don’t want to stray from it…most of these young people are still looking for that foundation. Perhaps that’s why I’m there…not only to learn how to cut and style hair, although I’m enjoying that very much, but to learn how to relate to this new generation that needs to know how great and wonderful the Lord is.

As an example: One day at school I was exiting out the back door, having a conversation with a young Mormon boy who has a seat next to mine. We were talking about Heaven, and then he turned and went off to catch his bus. A young woman was walking ahead of me about 15 feet or so, towards her car. She must have been listening to us because she turned around and with a smile on her face she asked, “Are you going to Heaven?” I said, “Yes, I am. Are you?” She said, “No.” I was a bit surprised because I guess I thought she was asking because she was a believer also, but that was not the case. My reply to her was, “Then where are you going? You don’t want to go to Hell, it’s a terrible place.” She said, mostly under her breath, “I guess it depends on who you ask.” We continued to walk to our cars, and at the last minute I looked up at her as she was loading some things into her car, and I said, “I have a son in Heaven. I need to see him again.” She was a bit taken aback and simply said, “Oh…” Then I told her, “If you ever want to talk about it, I’m here.” And, that was it. We got in our cars and headed home.

I don’t have much in common with these young people, but slowly I am getting to know them and they are getting to know me. It’s not all easy, but it is fun! I know being in this school is exactly where God wants me right now. He is giving me great joy in the work and in the relationships He is building, and He’s giving me all the energy I need to be there through times of prayer, and the proper balance in my physical body.

But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.
Luke 5:16 (NIV)

My brother Steve was telling me a bit about math this morning in relation to this verse and Jesus praying. He said that “of” is used in math meaning multiplication. For example: 2 of 2 is four. If Jesus prayed “often,” then it could be read as, x 10. He was our example of a Prayer Warrior. Jesus knew how important it was that He connected with His Father in this harsh world we live in. He knew the people that surrounded Him each day needed to be loved fully and unconditionally, and the only way to do that is to see them through the Father’s eyes. That He did.

Steve went on to say:
Practice my process, the Lord says:
Persistence
Patience and
Prayer are the most powerful practical prescriptions known.
And the bottom line is, get to know the Main Man.

As I shared with Steve about how I had been struggling physically and emotionally, he said, “Our flesh and blood are intertwined with our heart, soul and mind, and they will suffer. The loss of identity does not occur, but the mind can be played with.”

The Holy Spirit lives within us when we believe, and the devil cannot dwell in us with our Lord, but he can mess with everything else and when he does, it can cause states of depression, a loss of hope and energy and any number of things. Because my body now finds the “flour” on the shelf that it needs when it goes looking for it, my mind feels more protected from the attacks. The anxiety/dread is lessened and I am able to remain focused and calm, even when I still break out in a full sweat. I know the season of menopause is still here, but God has brought it under His control instead of Satan seemingly running away with it and with my mind!

This fruit drink was not designed for menopause; it was designed for athletes, for Olympians, to give them that added energy in competition. But then again, mud was not designed to cure blindness, a river was not designed to cure leprosy, the fringe of a robe is not the prescription normally given for hemorrhaging…so God can and will use whatever He desires. If we want to be an Olympian for God, to run this race with patient endurance, we have to use the Lord's arsenal of weapons, not only in prayer, but whatever God’s makes available when we face the warfare of our enemy, Satan. Like those competing on the balance beam in the Olympics, when the mind gets off, when our balance gets off, we are more apt to fall off.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses,
let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles,
and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Hebrews 12:1 (NIV)

I share these things with you for one reason only, to glorify the Lord through them. We’re all in this race together, as believers, many people are watching. Those I am in school with right now may be watching me. It helps us all to feel good, to have a clear head, to get a good night’s rest and to be at peace in our day so that we will not be hindered by our flesh and/or our emotions when the Spirit of the Lord is wanting to work through us to let others know of His great love for them.

Let us get onto the altar, with all we have and are, and lie there and persist in prayer until we receive the provision…Christ does not require us to make brick without straw. To whom He gives the commission He also gives the admonition and the promise. If the commission is heartily accepted, if the promise is believed, if the admonition to wait upon the Lord until our strength is renewed be complied with, we shall receive the provision. Charles G. Finney

My strength has been renewed, and I pray you will find the same as you wait upon the Lord in prayer. When we find our “Calcutta,” we need all the help we can get to serve our Lord there!

Until we meet again,

Diane