Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Questions Not For Today

 What am I doing?

 The question comes suddenly as I think of a specific situation in my life that I would describe as crazy, scary, and wonderful all with the same breath. It is a situation that like many others has the potential for something indescribably wonderful or painful. 

 And I go back and forth between thinking it will be all wonderful or all painful. 

 So what am I doing? 

 For this new year I chose Surrender as my word. Last year it was Joy. Joy in all circumstances. Joy because God has blessed me richly and far more abundantly than I could have imagined simply because Jesus died for me. This year I want to focus on surrendering my life to God. Surrendering all of my hopes and desires and fears to Him. Surrendering what I thought my life should look like. 

 So surrender has been my theme, and going into this year I knew exactly what I would be surrendering to Him. I wasn't happy about it, but at least it was familiar, like the same chore you hate doing but at least you know what has to be done. 

 But this strange situation I find myself in has taken me by surprise, something I wasn't prepared to deal with, let alone surrender. I don't know how to do this. 

 So I take a walk down a dirt road and hide myself as far away from people as I can. And I pace up and down that dirt road asking God so many questions:

 What if...?
 What happens when...?
 How can I...?
 Should I...?

 But as I am praying and voicing my fears to God, I have this thought: these are not questions for today. Tomorrow, maybe. Definitely for the future. But not today. They are questions and fears I must surrender. Both the "what if it works?" and the "what if it doesn't?" Only God knows the answers, and right now they are not answers He is giving. So right now they are not questions I should be asking. 

 I don't want to live my life in fear. I want to live my life in the present, while sometimes looking back at the faithfulness of God and sometimes looking forward to how God will be faithful in the future. Because sometimes I get so caught up in the questions that can't be answered today that I forget these things:

1. He will hold me fast. 

 I will make mistakes. But I am God's child and no one will be able to snatch me out of my Father's hands. 

"My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of my Father's hand. I and the Father are one."
John 10:27-30, ESV

2. I can't know everything right now.

 I like plans. I like knowing what is going to happen in the end, whether it is the book I am currently reading or my life. But my life is not a book where I can skip pages. So I must take everything one day at a time and not fear the future. 

3. God knows everything right now. 

 When I pray and ask God my hard and painful questions, I like to imagine them floating up into His hands. God is holding my questions, so to speak. I can trust God with my fears and questions. My fears He will dissolve and my questions He will hold until the right time when He will give me the answers. 

 So my fears about my unanswered questions and situation are useless. I must surrender them to Him, because they are not questions for today. And I will wait to see what happens. Even if it just a painful lesson or experience, He is using my strange situation, many fears, and unanswered questions to draw me closer to Him. 

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Passover Musings

There is a mountain that is my life. It twists and turns, goes up and down. Sometimes I reach a flat area and can see the path far ahead of me. Usually I can only see the next rock where my foot must go, each step God telling me to just trust Him.

 As I've been pondering the first Passover these last two weeks, I think the Israelites felt the same way.

 They had just watched God hurl down on Egypt many plagues of gnats, frogs, boils, and darkness. They must have been in awe of what God was doing to their enemies and maybe the deliverance they felt was coming. 

 But Pharaoh still wouldn't let them go. And there was this last terrible plague that they would not necessarily escape from. The eldest son of each house was going to die. Unless. Unless for four days each house brought a spotless male lamb into their house, then killed it, ate it, and painted its blood across their doorways. 

 Why would God kill innocent children? Why was their only hope an innocent lamb?

 They didn't know. They couldn't know. They only had their instructions. So they took the lambs into their homes. Precious, sweet lambs that they fed and cared for and the children carried in their arms. The same lamb their father slaughtered and the children were required to eat. 

 Those children could not see the good in the death of that lamb.

 I cannot see the good in many things in my life- hills that turn into mountains, bends that turn into long detours with no sunshine.

 I feel their pain. I feel the knife of God bringing people into my life who I love to just take them away from me. What good is there in that? What good is there in a slaughtered lamb that was brought into their house as a pet to be killed a few days later?

 But the oldest son did not die. Suddenly the slaughtering of the lamb was necessary and good. Their son, their brother, lived. They understood the reason for their previous pain.

 And unlike those children, unlike the Israelites, I can see God's overarching plan. I can see how the innocent lamb who died in the place of the oldest son was a picture of Jesus who would many years later die an innocent death for our sins. For my sins. 

 I do not know what God is doing with my pain and my life right now. I wonder how it can be good. But I am faithful that He is working for my good. I know that someday in heaven I will see everything as good and necessary. 

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

7 Things People with Food Allergies and Intolerances Want You to Know

 I was five and my sister was two. We were in the car eating snacks. I had a bag of trail mix and I was feeding my sister Cheerios. At some point my sister started coughing and rubbing her face and eyes. From her mirror, my mom could see hives on her face, and knowing my family's history with allergies, quickly pulled into our doctor's office that happened to be nearby. 

 I don't remember that day, but I remember the days after. 

We discovered my sister had an anaphylactic peanut allergy, meaning she could die if she ate peanuts. She was also at the time severely allergic to eggs and dairy. I remember not being able to put my sister in the church nursery because they refused to change the snack they provided. I remember the time she accidentally drank from my cup of milk instead of her cup of rice milk, and we all watched her. I remember people teasing my sister and telling her she should eat peanuts to see what would happen. I remember how sad she was for several years when as a teenager she couldn't go to camp with her friends just because they would insist on eating peanut butter and not making meals safe for her.

 Growing up, my mom has also been lactose intolerant for a long time. In recent years, she has had to limit almost all fat and sugar from her diet for reasons no one understands.

 Almost my whole life I have watched my mom and my sister, and some friends struggle through their food allergies, and this is what they wish you knew:

1. They aren't making it up.

  Many people brush off those who claim they can't eat certain foods, saying they're lying. This is common sense, but if someone says they have a food allergy or intolerance, believe them. If they carry EpiPens, doctors have confirmed the allergy.
  Yes, we have all heard of that random person making up an intolerance to food so they can feel special or important. I recently heard of a woman who made up her child's life threatening allergy. Sadly it happens. But those people are exceptions. What happened to people being assumed innocent until they are proven guilty? Please just assume these people are telling the truth, unless you want to find that out the hard way.

 2. Some people do not understand the meaning of a life threatening allergy, and that makes life difficult for the ones that live with the allergy.

 My sister and parents have been the brunt of rude comments from people who think we are taking my sister's allergy too seriously. We have heard many things from, "You can't live in fear", to "Her allergy can't be that serious." 

 Well, it is that serious. If my sister eats peanuts (including peanut butter or peanut oil) she could die. Though doctors are unsure, it is possible she could also react to the smell of peanuts in the air. 

  And we do not live afraid. We serve a great God who created my sister and gave her this allergy. We trust Him to keep her alive or take her away as He sees fit, as we do with each of our own lives every day.    
 So we do not live in fear; we live with our brains turned on. If a package of cookies says, "May contain traces of peanuts" she does not eat them. That is common sense, not fear. That is looking both ways before crossing the busy intersection.

 But people often still do not seem to grasp the concept that if my sister eats peanuts she could DIE. 

3. They often feel left out because of their food allergy.

  How would you feel if you went to a birthday party as a child and you couldn't eat the cake? My sister did that many times. How would you feel if at a bridal shower you couldn't eat anything but the veggies? My mom and my sister still do that.

 They often can't eat. Can't taste. Can't do what everyone else is doing. They just watch others eat the good food. Or they eat their own snack they brought, sometimes getting awkward stares. You don't realize how important it is to be included at meal time or dessert until you are not. Often, the hard part for them isn't not being able to eat certain foods, but not being able to eat along with everyone else.

4. One of the greatest kindnesses you can do is let a food allergy person read a label. 

  Some food allergies and intolerances are harder to deal with than others, but by just reading labels, they can know if they can eat something or not. So save the packaging and offer to let people read the labels. 

5. Don't be offended if they won't just take your word for it that your food is safe.

  People who have Celiac will get very sick if they eat gluten. People with anaphylactic food allergies could die. They are not going to take a chance and eat the food unless they trust you and your knowledge of their food issues. It is nothing personal. 

6. Just try.

   Food allergies can be tricky. There are things no one thinks about like cross contamination (using the same utensils for different foods, possible contaminating all of the food where before only one food was unsafe). It can be scary to assume the responsibility of cooking for someone with food allergies or intolerances. What if you are wrong? What if you don't fully understand?

 Mostly, people with food issues just want you to try. Listen to their struggles with food. Ask them to teach you how to read labels. Ask them to show you what they do, what they can and can't eat. Learn how to properly use an EpiPen. Cook with them. Ultimately, just love them, especially in trying to understand where they are coming from and making things they can eat. 

7. The greatest kindness you can give someone with a food allergy, intolerance, or dietary issues and preferences is the gift of food they know is safe for them to eat and is also delicious. 

   I once sat next to two college girls at a wedding who had Celiac. There was a special cake for those with a gluten intolerance, and they were so excited they could eat cake with everyone else. It was the same excitement I have seen on my mom and sister's faces when there is food they can eat at an event where they often have to  avoid the snack table. 

 Consider this a challenge: How can you bless someone with a food allergy or a food intolerance today?