Tuesday Treasures #6

These last six weeks found us searching for the ‘God is with us’ moments in our lives as we considered the things that Mary, Jesus’ mother, treasured and pondered in her heart. (Luke 2: 19, 51)

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We uncovered and collected several very valuable treasures together. Let’s look at them before we move on to our next Tuesday Treasure.

Week #1 – we shared how we knew that ‘God is with us’

Week #2 – we remembered a time we realized that God had a plan for our lives

Week #3 – we learned that we are not alone and that God surrounds us with special family and friends

Week #4 – we shared our own or our children’s birth stories, seeing how God was involved in these events, too

Week #5 – we recounted a time when God turned a confusing time into a blessing for us

Our week #6 is Easter week, the time when we turn our hearts and minds to the events that led up to the death and resurrection of our Lord, Jesus.

In the first few lines of Mary’s song, also known as the Magnificat, Mary declares “My soul praises the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for He has been mindful of the humble state of His servant.” (Luke 1:46-55)

As Jesus hung on the cross Mary knew that he was the promised Messiah, even though at the time she didn’t understand why this was happening to Him. Author Scot McKnight writes about these events in his book, The Real Mary.

“Three days after Jesus’ death on the cross the followers began to tell a new story: Easter. Mary was there, and Easter transformed Mary’s perception of that awful day when she watched her son’s public, humiliating crucifixion. She saw Him die, and then heard the reports that He was alive again.”

Her son had died but God raised His Son on Easter morning. Jesus went from being Mary’s son to being her Savior. Amazing! The ultimate treasure, to be sure!

Your turn: Have you ever asked the living, resurrected Jesus to be your Savior? Has there ever been a time when you realized that He died on the cross for your sins and that you are forgiven because of what He did there for you? If you have would you please share your story with us.

My turn: I asked Jesus to be my Savior when I was 19 years old. If you would like to read all about it you can find my Jesus birthday story here.

Thanks so much to each of you who stopped by to share this treasure hunt with me. It is my prayer that each of you were blessed by the ‘God is with us’ treasures that you collected. I know I was. I enjoyed getting to read the precious memories you shared here.

Tuesday Treasures #5

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Welcome! If you are new here today, this is Tuesday Treasures #5 in a six week look at what treasures Mary may have hidden in her heart that kept her standing at the foot of the cross while Jesus was dying.

With Palm Sunday just a few days away, I had a few questions to consider as we remember what happened in the last days before Jesus was arrested and crucified.

I wonder if Mary was in the crowd the day that Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey.

Was she standing in the midst of the people as they waved palm branches and spread their cloaks on the road before Him?

Did she listen to them praise God saying “Hosanna! Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Luke 19:28-44; John 12:12-19)

Did she, like everyone else, believe that this would be the time God would fulfill all of the prophesies spoken about  Him?

Did she believe His time had come, the time had come for Him to be revealed, to take over the kingdom and vanquish all of Israel’s enemies, and that all would be made right, just as God had promised?

The angel Gabriel’s words may have come mind as she watched Him enter the city.

“He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give Him the throne of His father, David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever; His kingdom will never end.” (Luke 1:32,33)

No one, not even Mary, knew what was about to happen, that all of those joyful shouts of praise would turn into angry shouts of ‘crucify Him!’ While Mary knew that He was the Messiah, she had no clue that He would soon be killed.

While I have no answers to my questions because Mary is not mentioned in the account of the Triumphal Entry, I can only imagine that she might have been there because she was so involved in His life throughout His whole ministry. So, why wouldn’t she be there then?

Okay! This week’s treasure: Has there been a time when the events of your life didn’t go as you thought they should or would go? And how did God work out your confusion or misunderstanding to then turn it into a blessing for you?

Before I had kids I had no clue how challenging it would be. I just wanted to have children, and I had no thought about what it would take to raise them. But God was faithful and He helped me even when I didn’t know what to do. He has always been there for me, granting me the grace and strength that I needed.

Tuesday Treasures #4

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Birthdays were made for celebrating!

In our family, when one of us celebrates our birthday, we share stories about the day the birthday person was born. There are certain stories I love to tell every year. Like how, on the day Alyssa was born, my mother made Mark a corned beef sandwich to take with him to the hospital. A thoughtful thing for her to do for her son-in-law. But, not so nice for me when Mark decided to eat that smelly sandwich right in the middle of my labor!

Can you imagine the stories that Joseph and Mary would have to tell about Jesus if they had this same tradition on His birthday?

No car with warmed seats to take Mary to the hospital. She rode on a donkey for 70 miles, taking several days to get from Nazareth to Bethlehem, all while nine months pregnant.

No cozy birthing suite ready for her when they arrived. A stable was chosen for them.

No comfy little incubator warmed to just the right temperature for the baby. Mary laid Jesus in a manger, a feeding trough filled with straw.

No blue layette set to dress Him in. He was wrapped in swaddling cloths.

No delivery room phone to contact family and friends about His birth. A ‘few’ angels announced His birth in a rather spectacular fashion. Then the shepherds helped spread the word, too.

No family and friends nearby to come see the baby. Angels sent those shepherds to the stable for a visit.

At the end of this birth story of Jesus’ we find that “Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” How could this be? In the midst of all of these discomforts and difficulties she found things to treasure and think about. It was a beautiful moment for her. All that she had endured was rewarded with the arrival of her child.

She knew this was the promised Messiah that lay in the manger. Angels and shepherds confirmed what she already knew to be true. It was Emmanuel, God is with us! What a treasure!

Your treasure: What birth stories do you have to tell? Whether it’s your child’s birth story or your own, were there any special events surrounding it? What treasures can you find in them to keep safe in your heart?

My treasure: Corned beef sandwiches aside, Alyssa’s birth was a joy and an answer to prayer for me. I was able to experience all parts of a normal birth with her that I missed when John Mark was born. I held her immediately after she was born; she wasn’t taken from me and we weren’t separated; I could nurse her right from the start of her life; I held her whenever I wanted to. These memories are precious treasures to me.

Tuesday Treasures #3

The“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” Proverbs 17:17 (NIV)

When Mary learned that she would become pregnant with the Messiah she left home to spend time with her relative, Elizabeth. She was not left alone to raise Jesus once He was born. She and her husband, Joseph, parented Him together.  And, when Mary stood at the foot of the cross watching her son die, her sister and several friends were at her side.

These are several examples of the people involved in Mary’s life. She was not alone as she fulfilled this God-given role as mother of the Messiah. The Lord made sure that she had family and friends in her life to help her.

Today’s treasure: Has God placed someone special in your life? Is there someone who has stood beside you, helping you in both the good times and the bad? Do you have someone that speaks truth into your life? A special friend who understands you and what you are going through?

My treasure: I don’t know where I would be without my husband, Mark. Marriage, parenthood and ministry have thrown a few tough challenges our way, and, with the Lord’s help, we’ve faced them together. I am so thankful for a loving and supportive husband to share my life with!

Tuesday Treasures #2

TheOnce again I was blessed by the comments you left last week. Thanks for sharing your ‘God is with us’ moments.

During this season of Lent we are considering the treasures that Mary held on to that enabled her to stand at the foot of the cross. Last week we considered what her first treasure might be. You can read about it here.

After Gabriel’s initial greeting in Luke 1:28, Mary quickly learned that God had a plan that involved her. A plan that would not only change the course of her life but the lives of all people. She would be the mother of the long awaited Messiah. Salvation was to come to the world through her. What a plan to be a part of!

This, I believe, could be her second treasure. God had a plan for her life.

And, what was her response when she heard that she would be involved in this plan?

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” (Luke 1:38)

She said yes! No “let me think about it and I’ll get back to You, God.” No negotiating. No excuses. Just a yes, I am the Lord’s servant.

Mary willingly said yes to God.

Our turn now. Treasure #2 will be to remember a time when you realized that God was up to something in your life, that He had a plan that involved you. Maybe you were supposed to call someone and encourage them, or to speak to a stranger and tell them about Jesus.  Or maybe you’ve sensed His call on your life and that He wants you to bring Jesus into your family, your neighborhood, your church. How have you said yes to Him like Mary?

If you would like to share your treasure with us please leave it in a message in the comment section.

My Treasure #2:

John Mark’s disabilities took us by surprise the day he was born. While we knew that he would need immediate medical attention we had no clue what extent his care would require. His condition has changed many times in the last 30 years. Therefore, saying yes to God has been an almost daily thing. Caregiving is a challenge that requires a continual yes to caring for another’s needs.

John Mark’s disability is a part of God’s will for his life. Caring for John Mark is a part of God’s will for mine.

I choose to follow God in this area of my life, to say yes and accept my place in following God’s will for both of us. I, too, am the Lord’s servant. Just like Mary.

Tuesday Treasures #1

Welcome to our first Tuesday Treasures!

Thank you for sharing your treasured memories, relationships and possessions with us last week. It was an honor to learn about what holds real value in your lives.

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“Lord, I don’t know how I can handle this. Please give me a Bible verse to hold on to.”

I whispered this prayer in the back seat of our van as we headed out of the city. John Mark sat in the front seat as Mark drove us home from Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Just an hour earlier we were told that JM would need surgery to correct a heart aneurysm. We were in shock.

So, I prayed. No sooner had I sent that request then a car passed in front of us. The car’s license plate read GODWTHUS.  God with us. Amazed at what I had just seen, I took that as an answer to my prayer. He was with us!

John 19:25 tells us “Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother…” along with several others who knew Him. Mary stood watching her son suffer on the cross, bleeding, dying.

What kept her there? How could she stand watching her son suffer like that? What was she holding onto that kept her upright?

This is the spot where our treasure hunt begins for us these next six weeks. Like Mary, how are we able to stand when difficulties come our way? What keeps us standing when God allows us to go through circumstances that we may think we can’t handle?

I can only imagine that Mary was able to stand there because she had a few treasures stored up in her heart that helped give her a perspective on what was happening.

This brings us to the first treasure I believe she pondered. They were the very first words spoken to her by the angel Gabriel. “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

Mary knew she was highly favored because God told her she was, and He said He was with her and she believed Him. He knew her! He knew all about her. He was there with her and would continue to be, even when she was standing at the foot of the cross.

How do you know that God is with you? Has He ever told you so? Maybe the angel Gabriel didn’t come into your kitchen while you were making sandwiches one afternoon and deliver that message to you but has something happened that let you know that this is true for you, just as it was true for Mary?

So, our first treasure to uncover is this: Has there been a time in your life when you knew that God was with you? Did an event happen to you that reinforced this fact? Is there a special Bible verse that is precious to you and reminds you of something God made real to you during a challenging time in your life?

My first treasure is a Bible verse that I read over and over again during that difficult time of JM’s surgery and recovery. I turned to this verse when I needed to be reminded that God was with us.

“The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Deuteronomy 31:8 (NIV)

(By the way, if you want to read more about JM’s heart surgery you can read more about it here and here.)

I look forward to hearing about your first treasure!

Tuesday Treasures

TheIf anyone asks what I’m giving up for Lent I’m gonna tell them that I will be looking for things to keep instead.

Jesus’ mother, Mary, developed a habit of hiding treasures in her heart and reflecting on them. This has inspired me to take time to ‘collect’ some treasures of my own and think about their meaning, just like Mary did. Maybe you would like to join me!

Tuesday Treasures is a six week treasure hunt based on Luke 2: 19 & 51 where we will take a look at the things Mary kept close to her heart. Then we will have a chance to uncover our own treasures by looking for those ‘God is with us’ moments in our own lives.

Each Tuesday, beginning March 4 and ending with Easter week, we will uncover a ‘God is with us’ moment to hold on to. When we hold onto these treasures we have less space for the things that clutter our hearts.  Plus, at the end of our time together we will have collected six treasures to keep as our very own!

Please come back next Tuesday when we will uncover Mary’s first treasure. In the meantime, I would love to hear from you! If you would like to leave an answer to the following question you can do so in the comment section.

What is one treasure or item that is yours that you make sure you will never lose?

I will go first! I have a beautiful white gold watch that I treasure. It holds a lot of value to me because my father gave it to my mother when they were first married.

I can’t wait to read your answers!

Connie

 

my Jesus birthday

It all started with a question my father had never asked me before. His question changed the course of my life that first night of January, 1976.

I was a confused and immature 19 year old college student lying in a hospital bed. I had come home from school a few weeks earlier to see our family doctor about a lump I could feel and see on the left side of my neck. Before I knew it a date was set for an operation to remove the tumor.

As my parents were about to leave me at the hospital the night before the surgery I was feeling afraid and anxious. The procedure would be a risky one, with the possibility of leaving the left side of my face paralyzed. I was scared and so were my parents.

This motivated my father to ask me “Connie, would you like to pray and ask God to help you tomorrow?”

That doesn’t sound like an odd request coming from a father who sent his daughter through 13 years of parochial school. But, praying together as a family at home was something we never did, except for saying grace at our meals.

I agreed and as he prayed I was overcome with an incredible sense of my unworthiness. I thought “Why would God want to help me when I have been doing so many bad things?” My father didn’t know the things I was doing at college, but I realized that God did.

I kept these thoughts to myself when he finished his prayer. We hugged and they left for home. As I looked around my room I saw a cross on the wall across from my bed. I focused on that cross and said a prayer of my own to the Lord. I asked Him to forgive me for all of the wrong things I had been doing. I gave Him my life and told Him that He could do whatever He wanted with it. And, of course, I asked Him to take care of me during my surgery.

This prayer that I now know to be the ‘sinner’s prayer’ was totally motivated by the conviction of the Holy Spirit in my heart. I had never heard of this prayer before. It was God working in me to bring me to salvation. My heavenly Father was reaching out to me through my earthly father.

When I said yes to my father’s prayer I was given the chance to answer a question of even greater importance that God Himself was asking me. “Would I give my life to Him and trust Jesus as my Savior?”

Saying yes to both my earthly father and Heavenly Father changed the course of my life that night. I am eternally blessed to have had the opportunity to answer both of their questions.

Finally, an update!

We have been home for a week now and it has been two weeks since John Mark’s surgery. So much has happened yet I can’t believe time has passed so quickly. 

We are thankful that there have been no problems with his heart. He will see his surgeon on Thursday for a post-op visit and to have his stitches removed.

However, John Mark has continued to experience anxiety, confusion and sleeplessness. Our doctors assure us that this is to be expected after all that his body has been through. He was on the bypass machine for over four hours and under anesthesia for more than eight. All of that in addition to the surgery itself has been a lot for his body and mind to handle. He has made some improvement these past few days and we are encouraged to see more of our John Mark shining through.

We have been blessed in so many ways these past two weeks.We are grateful for your prayers, the cards sent, meals cooked, visits, phone calls, pets cared for, mail picked up, and for the words of encouragement left here, on our CaringBridge guestbook and on Facebook. Each of you have reached out to John Mark and to our family to let us know that you love us and care about what is happening. Please know that each thing you have done has made a difference to us. Really. No question about it.

We give all praise to our amazing God. He alone has upheld us and given us the strength to care for John Mark’s needs. When He promised that He would be with us He meant it. We have needed Him close by and He has followed through on what He said He would do. We have every reason to believe that He will continue to honor His promises in the future.

God is with us

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John Mark, who is 28 years old, was born with a genetic birth defect, called DiGeorge Syndrome also known as 22q, His medical condition includes Spina Bifida, hydrocephalus with a VP shunt, congenital heart defect, an ileostomy and an ostomy bag, neurogenic bladder, and autistic tendencies. These terms are unfamiliar to many, but to him, they are just a part of who he is.His whole life has been filled with a variety of surgeries, doctors visits and medical procedures. He has had over 30 surgeries on almost every area of his body.

He is now scheduled to have open heart surgery to correct an aortic root dilation on Monday, August 13, 2012. This condition was discovered during a recent routine cardiology check up.

John Mark sees a variety of specialists that oversee the different areas of his medical condition. When he was five months old JM had successful open heart surgery to correct two holes in his heart. After being followed for the first few years of his life by a cardiologist we stopped going because all was healed and was working properly.

That was over 20 years ago.

What has happened these past few weeks has been a miracle, a realization that God is fully involved in John Mark’s life. I believe that He gave me the idea that JM needed to see a cardiologist for a check up. Our primary doctor referred us to a specialist, who, during our visit discovered that JM has an aortic root dilation. This was a complete surprise to all of us and totally unexpected.

John Mark then had further testing at Northwestern Memorial Hospital by their team of congenital heart specialists. It is at their recommendation that JM have this surgery to correct the problem. If this part of his heart was left unrepaired it could eventually rupture and it would be fatal.

So, you see how the Lord knew that JM’s heart had this problem, He had me get JM the help he needed, and that now this surgery will help save his life. God is good! He is with us to save us! I praise Him for being involved in our lives.

Will you please pray with us as we prepare for this surgery?

Please pray for John Mark. He has many anxieties over this operation and we want him to be as comfortable as possible in these weeks ahead. Also, please pray that his healing process would be free from complications, and that he would return to full strength safely. His recovery could be a long one…at least 6 weeks.

Please pray for the doctors and medical staff that will be taking care of him. Surgery will be done at Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago on Monday, August 13, where JM will receive the excellent care that is appropriate to his medical and developmental condition.

Please pray for Mark and me, our daughter, Alyssa, and our families as we prepare ourselves to be there for John Mark during this very important time in his life.

Thank you!