Sledding Into Hope

Hebrew 3 13

Encourage one another daily. Hebrews 3:13
Newly fallen snow beckoned our family to come outside. My husband, Steve, and I answered the call and decided to take our boys, Daniel and Mitchell, out to sled at his parents’ cottage on Lake Petenwell in Wisconsin. Steve, who stated he would be out in a minute, was still visiting with his mom and dad as I headed out with the boys. The cottage has a walkout basement with sliding glass doors that lead to the lake. On each side of the back of the house, there are two small hills that slope down to the grass that touches the back patio. Daniel, age four, began to take his sled to the top of the one hill and slide down gleefully. I was so proud of him! He had never been sledding, and I was impressed with his ability. Mitch, on the other hand, at age three looked like the abdominal snowman! He could not move in his snowsuit. He stood still with his arms and legs straddled. I plopped him down on his sled, and I remember very distinctly thinking, “What a wonderful family day; I am going to push Mitch as hard as I can!”
As soon as I let go of Mitch’s sled, I knew exactly what I had done wrong. I am left-handed, and I had pushed much harder with my left hand than my right hand. Instead of remaining parallel with the lake and the cottage as his brother had so expertly demonstrated, Mitch veered for the lake gaining momentum with each inch. Now, what I did not mention earlier about the landscape is the fact that the back yard declines to an edge. Between the grass and the lake is an eight foot drop with a border of huge rocks and boulders that the lake water laps up against when it melts.
Immediately, I began to race as best as I could which was not very fast because I had on my snowmobile suit and boots. My boys are only 14 ½ months apart, and when Mitch was a baby, Daniel could not say Mitch but could call him, “Meme.” To this day our family members still call him, “Meme.” As I ran to try to catch Mitch, I yelled, “Hang on, Meme! Hang on!” His father, who had witnessed this event from the basement, began sprinting and shouting at me to get Mitch which was physically impossible. Together we watched our baby (three year olds are babies when they are in trouble) fly thirty feet in the air and land on the ice with the sled firmly attached to his bottom.
We rushed to grab a hold of him and examined him for any cuts, bruises, and broken bones. Miraculously, he was fine. Years later at no particular time, I exclaimed to Steve, “It was the padding of the snowsuit that probably protected Mitchie!” He had already realized that the padding had help soften the fall. Regardless of how God protected him, I was so thankful. After checking Mitch over thoroughly, Steve took him inside the cottage. I grabbed the sled. I felt like the worst mom in the world. What I had intended to be a fun family day had ended abruptly because I had made a terrible mistake that could have truly wounded my son. I have had many years to replay this event in my mind, and each time I think about it, one feeling overwhelms me. It is the word, “crummy.” I felt as though I was the crummiest mom in the world, but as I climbed the rocks with the sled on my back and tears streaming down my face, two thoughts gave me a glimmer of hope. The first thought was the fact that God had spared Mitch’s life and had kept him from any harm. The other thought was what Daniel had yelled to Mitch. My husband and I offered no sound advice. His mother, I, had yelled, “Hang on, Meme! Hang on!” That was the worst recommendation! Moms, if you are ever in a situation where your child is sledding down a hill heading for disaster, DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT yell, “HANG ON!” Had I been thinking more clearly, I should have yelled, “Roll off, Meme! Roll off!” Bless his three year old heart; he obeyed his mother and hung on for dear life! His father was too busy trying to tell me to grab him which was unattainable at that point. However, his brother at four years old knew the encouragement Mitch needed to hear. Amidst the shouting of his parents, Dan stood at the top of the hill and yelled at the top of his lungs, “Don’t worry, Meme! Jesus is with you!”
I consider that a paraphrase of Matthew 28:20, “And, surely I am with you always to the very end of the age.” Somehow between his home life, Sunday school, and MOPS, Dan had hidden this message of hope in heart, and he was able to exclaim it to his little brother at the exact moment of need. Those words not only gave Mitchie the encouragement he needed, but Dan’s words gave me hope that even though I make mistakes as a mom, God is still working in the lives of my children. My prayer for Dan and Mitch is that they will always put their hope in God and share that hope with others.

Give Thanks

1 Thessalonians 5 18
Give thanks in all circumstances. 1 Thessalonians 5:18

“Has Mitchell had a high fever lately?” The pediatrician asked me while putting the stethoscope to Mitchell’s heart. As he asked me this, I began to wonder and worry why he was asking me such a peculiar question.
On a Friday, I had taken Mitch to his three year old check up. No illness had prompted me to take him. He just needed his three year old shots. As the doctor was checking out his heart, he asked me that unusual question. I told him that Mitch had not had a fever recently. However, the very competent doctor stated that he was hearing some damage to the heart that was generally caused by rheumatic fever, a fever that is usually very high for many days. Filled with emotion, I heard a personal attack which was, “Your child has heart damage due to the fact that he has had a very high fever, and you are an incompetent mom.” Defensively, I mentioned to the doctor that I was a stay-at-home mom, and Mitch was with me most of the time. Also, I told him I was a conscientious mother who would know if her son had an extremely high fever for many days. In spite of my protests, the doctor replied that he was hearing an unhealthy noise from Mitchell’s heart that required an echocardiogram on Monday. Immediately, he called in the prescription for the echocardiogram first thing Monday morning.
Concerned, I drove my car home. The first person I called was my husband. Together, we were so glad that the pediatrician cared enough about Mitch to make his heart a top priority. However, we were worried. Mitch already had an issue with his heart. When he was fifteen months old, this same doctor accurately diagnosed that Mitch had a heart murmur caused by a heart valve. Due this aortic bicuspid valve, Mitch now had to see the cardiologist regularly with the possibility of a future surgery to replace the valve. The rest of the weekend was spent informing our family and friends about the new heart concern. Prayers and encouraging words were given by our loved ones. Arrangements for our four year old son Daniel were made. The weekend dragged on.
Early Monday morning, we woke Mitch up and took him to the hospital. After checking in, the staff had us carry Mitch to the room where the machine was set up. Clad is just a diaper, Mitch watched in amazement as the technician put gel and wires and tape all over his body to hook it up to the echocardiogram. Quickly, she began the test because it was so cold in the room. Many minutes passed by before she asked my husband and me, “Why is Mitch here today?” We told her that his pediatrician had heard an unhealthy noise usually associated with rheumatic fever. At that time, the doctor walked in, and together they quietly talked to each other.
After several long minutes, he turned toward me and said, “I know what I heard on Friday, but that noise is NOT present in Mitchell’s heart now, and there is NO damage.” Mitch still had the valve issue, but the heart was working perfectly! We all rejoiced that morning for the miracle! Gratefulness filled our hearts!
I have no doubt that on Friday Mitch’s pediatrician heard an unhealthy rhythm coming from his heart. He is a wonderful doctor who truly cares about his patients. Only God knows why on Friday the doctor heard the noise, and by Monday it was gone. This emotional experience caused me to give thanks for our health and to be grateful for the family and friends who lift me up during extremely difficult circumstances.

Father God, help me to remember there is ALWAYS something to be thankful for. Amen.

Making Excuses

Luke 14 17 18
And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, “Come, for everything is now ready.” But they all alike began to make excuses. Luke 14:17-18

Several years ago our Sunday school class decided to gather together one Saturday night each month to play games, eat, and socialize. It seemed there just wasn’t enough time during class to really become acquainted. As my husband, Steve and I were leaving the first get-together, I offered to have it at our home the next month. The date had been selected, and I geared up for having a large gathering at our home. Due to another church event scheduled for the same day, most of our friends in the class would not be attending. However, five other couples signed up. The group decided to keep the date the same, and we were looking forward to hosting a smaller group. We had no idea how small it would be! I spent the week before planning and preparing for a group of twelve adults. By the time Saturday arrived, two couples had already called to cancel due to sickness in their families. No problem! There were still three couples who not only signed up but also offered to bring either an appetizer or dessert. To prepare for the company, we washed the windows and dusted and vacuumed. I made an appetizer and dessert. Excitedly, we worked together as a team. The guests were to arrive by 6:30 p.m. At 6:37 p.m. one husband called to let us know that his parents had surprised his wife with a birthday party that night and wouldn’t be coming. By 7:00 p.m. I knew the other couples were not coming so I pulled out the taco dip I made and served us some. Discouraged, we ate by fire in the fireplace. At the same time, both Steve and I thought our experience that night reminded us of the parable of the banquet in which the man invites so many people, but they have many excuses for not attending his party. Although I was very disappointed in the way the night turned out, this frustration had cause me to contemplate the numerous times God had invited me to spend time with Him, and I had declined because I was too busy, I forgot, or I accepted another invitation instead. It was during this time of melancholy that I began to feel genuine remorse for the times that I not accepted the Father’s invitations for fellowship.
Father, thank you that you desire to spend time with me. Help me accept your gracious invitations. Amen.

A Heart of Repentance

Isaiah 1 18 Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. Isaiah 1:18
“Hey, mom, look!” Dan, my six year old, shouted as he ran over to me. I had been pulling weeds in my flower garden that afternoon. As my eyes focused, I saw Dan had his left palm faced up with a sliver in it.
“Okay, I will take care of it in a minute,” I said. A minute went by as well as many days. Both Dan and I forgot about the splinter until he again pointed it out to me. This time the skin surrounding the sliver was swollen and infected. Quickly and carefully, I removed the sliver with tweezers and applied some antiseptic to the infected wound. The next time I checked Dan’s hand, it had healed completely. My sin is like the sliver. Not always an obvious gaping wound, it starts out as something tiny in my life such as a jealous or envious thought. I push it aside and forget about it as I had forgotten Dan’s splinter. However, unaddressed sin does not go away. It swells into other parts of my life infecting my whole being. Like tweezers and antiseptic to a sliver in the palm of a hand so is repentance to sin in the heart. Confession cleanses and heals me.
Thank you, gracious Lord, that through confession and repentance we can become cleaned and healed. Help me to remember to ask for forgiveness as soon as I recognize a sin in my life. Amen.

Growing Pains

Romans 5 3 4
“Suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” Romans 5:3-4
“Mom, my legs hurt; I can’t walk!” Daniel, my three-year-old, complained as he woke up one morning. This was the fourth day in a row that he had complained of such pains in his legs and feet. After making a mental note of all the changes Dan was going through-pains in his legs, nonstop hunger, excessive tiredness, and a jump in clothing size-I realized that Daniel had real growing pains. After about a week, he went back to his normal eating and sleeping habits, wore bigger clothes, and seemed to improve in coordination and speed. Without that time of intense growth, he would not be where he is today.
Sometimes God uses that same principle of growth in me when it comes to my spiritual growth. Painful situations draw me closer to God, whereas easy situations might not yield the same result. As I look back at the difficult times in my life, I see how God utilized each moment, not only to move me closer to Him, but also to mold me into a person more like Jesus. Growing pains help us grow.