Monday, July 29, 2013

Here I Raise my Ebenezer

Today, as I was sitting in my closet sorting clothes, the events of the past year hit me like a ton of bricks.  So many things have happened, so many things have changed, so many struggles, and so many huge blessings.  Almost like a silent movie, image after image, played in a steady stream, through my minds eye.  I started to tear up at the enormity of it all and I knew I needed to document it, to set it all down in writing,as an ebenezer of God's amazing, divine grace.  An ebenezer is a commemoration of divine assistance according to Miriam Webster's Dictionary.  In the Bible, Samuel had called on Israel to repent of their sins.  Their enemies, the Philestines, heard of this huge gathering Israelites , and decided to use it as an opportunity to attack.  But God showed Himself great and powerful and won the Israelites a great and wondrous victory.  "Then Samuel took a stone, and set it between Mizpeh and Shen, and called the name of it Ebenezer, saying, Hitherto the Lord has helped us."  I Samuel 7:12 This blog is my personal Ebenezer, my banner staked in the ground, saying "By God's grace and God's grace alone, we have overcome."

It all started August of 2012, when we very unexpectedly had to leave our church, a church we were very involved in and loved.  I am not going into the details of the how's and why's on this blog, simply because that is superfluous to the point.  The point is, I was shattered and broken-hearted.  I am not a new Christian; I have seen my fair share of craziness and pain in the church.  After all the church is made up of us crazy, fallible humans.  For some reason, this particular thing, broke my heart as nothing in my previous church experience had.  We tried to get back into church but the more we visited different churches the more heart broken I became.  The church I loved, the church I grew up in and wanted my children to experience, the community of strong, faith filled Believer's, Sunday night and Wednesday night services, Sunday school, and real genuine heart-felt worship, no longer seemed to exist.  Instead we kept coming across what seemed to be a great big production of church; lots of lights, sermons timed down to the minute, worship that was hard to differentiate from a concert, children's church that entertained more than it taught.  I wept many, many tears of heart break and disillusionment.  I was not disillusioned in Christ, but my heart-broke for his bride.
Along with the heart break of losing our church, came the hurt and pain of lost relationships.  We live in a small town and that leaves very little room for healing.  Rumors fly, people speculate and the pain is compounded.

Time stops for no man and soon I was swept up in back to school madness, Holiday preparations, birthday parties, and all the extra planning, shopping, trimmings and trappings that go along with that.  In the midst of it all, I started having some serious health issues.  Because of some of the medications I am on, there was serious concern that it could be my heart.  I was admitted into the hospital over night, had many, many appointments and tests,and was ultimately blessed it was not my heart but another serious condition I had already been diagnosed with, rearing it's ugly head.  Blessedly, a change up in medication resolved most of the symptoms.
 Then it was Christmas.  What a fun, blessed day.  Things seemed to be working themselves out.  I was still heart broken but I had my wonderful family.

Then the bottom fell out again.  On December 27th my husband decided to make breakfast (he loves to cook big breakfast).  He put a pot of oil on the stove and left it on high, forgetting about it for a few minutes.  The pan burst into flames, not little flames but flames hot and high enough they melted parts of our hood above the stove. The fire was rapidly burning out of control, and our fire extinguisher would not work (lesson to be learned here folks:check the pressure in your fire extinguishers regularly.).  I was busily getting the boys out of the house and starting to call 911.  My husband, meanwhile, bravely carried the flaming pan of oil out of our house, so that we didn't lose the house.  It could have been way worse but he he did receive 3rd degree burns on his hand from the radiant heat of the pot.  He is a computer programmer, which of course uses his hands, so he was out of work on disability for six weeks.
We were so blessed his hand healed well, and did not become infected.  He has a nasty scar but of all the things that could have happened we are so blessed that was the extent of the damage (that and the need for a new stove, but I'm not complaining.  I love my new stove;)

During his six weeks of disability, my husband decided it was time to start looking for a new job.  He was blessed with an awesome job but they were downsizing.  His job was relatively secure but the downsizing had created a very stressful work environment.  
A week after he returned to work, our oldest son awoke in agonizing pain.  I rushed him to the hospital.  He had to have an appendectomy.  The surgery seemed to go well, so they released him the next day.  Unfortunately, we were back in the hospital the next day.  Paul had an incision site infection.  He was placed on antibiotics.  The infection healed but Paul was still in incredible pain.  He was stuck in one position on the sofa for nearly four months.  We went to doctor after doctor, had test after test, and yet no one could tell us why he was in such pain.  Paul's school was incredibly understanding and bent over backwards to work with us.  In the end, we had to homeschool him the last month of school.  He simply could not be there more than twenty minutes before the pain had him immobilized.
While all this was happening, my husband was still job hunting.  He had many, many offers and interviews but none were what he was looking for.  He was still working in a very stressful job and had the added stresses of looking for a job and a son who was in chronic pain.

Everything was closing in on me.  The incident at the church had raised hurts and pains from my past that needed to be dealt with.  The stresses of our marriage were coming to a head, not to mention the everyday stresses of being the mom of five boys, four of whom are on the autistic spectrum, and having an autoimmune disease myself.  I was a mess!  I put myself in therapy.  It was the absolute best decision I have ever made for myself!!  I cannot tell you how much this has revolutionized my life. I. AM. NOT. THE SAME PERSON!! 
I am blessed with a qualified, Christian therapist.  She challenges me, listens to me and prays with me.  

Then God moved!  Well to be honest, I believe He started moving with me going into therapy.  My husband found the perfect job he had been looking for.  He fits there perfectly and is challenged (boredom is one of the things that drives my husband bonkers).  He has found friends there.  I have never seen him this at peace in a job.
Both of our vehicles died within a month of each other.  We were kind of freaked out at how we were going to handle this but God made a way.  We bought two new vehicles, one brand new and the other had only 11,000 miles on it,  in a week!!  I cannot tell you what a blessing it is to have safe, reliable vehicles.  Not only are they reliable, they have all the extra's that I never imagined we would actually have, things like leather seats, seat warmers, remote starters, navigation.........the list goes on and on.  When God gives a gift, it is above and beyond what we could ever imagine.
Suddenly there is so much more peace in our home.  My boys have started maturing in ways that I had honestly started to give up on.  We have been able to go on several mini-vacations this summer.  In the past, this just wasn't an option both financially and because our boys just couldn't handle it.  Autism and change, even fun change, don't mix well.  It is awesome to see my boys growing and maturing.
Paul has finally started healing.  Most days he spends pain free, though he does still have the occasional pain attack.  The doctors never really discovered what caused all the pain and distress.  Many, many people have lifted him up in prayer.  I believe God has heard those prayers and is healing him.  Sometimes healing doesn't happen in our time, quickly and instantly.  Instead God uses the process to develop our character and spiritual walk.  I have seen both develop greatly in Paul through this process.

One last huge change is happening.  We are moving. That's right, the kingdom of Skiff is moving into a new castle.  We have been in this house for five and half years (longer than I have lived any place in my entire life) but it is time to move.  This is a very good thing for us.  I'll have more details concerning this in a later blog.

I finally feel healed enough to start church hunting again.  We have yet to find the place where we fit (our boys special needs makes this a little more difficult).  However, I finally, for the first time in a year, feel ready and EXCITED to find our new church home, our tribe if you will.

This past year has been hard, difficult, heart wrenchingly painful at times but that isn't what stands out the most when I look back.  What I see shining through all of it is God's amazing grace and provision.  This is my Ebenezer, my testimony of God's continuing victory on our behalf.   I'm going to end with the second verse of one of my favorite hymns, Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing by Robert Robinson

Here I raise my Ebenezer;
Hither by Thy help I'm come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed His precious blood.

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