Friday, January 25, 2013

An Undisciplined Life

My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline, and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.   ---Proverbs 3:11-12

Mirriam-Webster defines discipline as "training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character."

James 1:2-4 says, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."

I think James could have said, "whenever you face trials/suffering/discipline of many kinds." 

I've learned another lesson through our dog, Gator.  I call him a "dumb dog" (not in front of the kids), but for a "dumb dog" God sure does use him to teach me a lot.  He's 10 months old and weighs about 50 (maybe more) pounds.  He is solid muscle.  He's hard-headed and stubborn.  He's bad.  He tears up everything in our yard - wooden swing (demolished), Lydia's socks (swallowed WHOLE), kids' toys (broken to bits), trampoline net (torn), blanket to keep him warm at night (shredded), etc... Whenever we try to walk onto the back patio, we can hardly get out the door from him jumping all over us.  And with all the wet weather we've had, he's a muddy mess and makes us all muddy messes.  He barks like mad if we're on the other side of the fence from him and when I walk him he often hurts me because he pulls me all over the place.  I've had whiplash on more than one occasion from a walk-gone-bad and my thighs and legs are often bruised because of his jumping.  He's like the obnoxious, annoying kid that no one wants to play with.  Gator has no friends.  Jonathan and I have wavered back and forth often since we got him on whether or not to give him away, even though we've sunk most of the kids' college money into him already (not really, but it feels like it).  Last week we found someone to take him.  But then we got cold feet.  We knew the kids would be crushed so we decided to wait.  Jonathan talked to a friend who trains dogs and he has agreed to help.  Gator will be gone for a month or more during this time.  Our friend made a comment that has resonated with me, "He wasn't born knowing how to behave.  You have to give him guidelines and discipline so he knows what to do."

Just like humans, dogs need rules.  The only way to teach the rules (to humans or dogs) is through discipline (sometimes trials and suffering).  And not discipline in the sense of punishment, but discipline to help grow and learn.

No one likes discipline - dogs, kids, me.  It's often uncomfortable, it often takes time, it's often not what we want.  But in the case of Gator, I know that discipline will make him calmer, more likable and we will actually want to be around him.  It's not his fault he's a "holy terror" (as the kids refer to him).  It's because he hasn't been trained.  And so I realize that when God is training/disciplining/putting me through trials, it's so I'll follow his rules, gain maturity and hopefully, become more lovable.  It's so I'll be a person that brings him joy.  It's so I'll understand my boundaries and live within them so I won't get hurt or hurt others.  As the Proverb says, he does it because he loves me, wants the best for me and delights in me.

I'm so glad to have such a "dumb dog" in my life!

The one time in his life that Gator sat still and behaved.

Other News
I've been taking my 2nd medicine for over a week now.  Other than being a little groggy, I had about 7 great days in a row with not much dizziness - PRAISE GOD!  But the last 2 days have been really, really rough with headache and a lot of dizziness.  I'm hoping these 2 days are a small bump and I'll get back onto the good days VERY soon.  Reading and computer work (like typing) are still hard on me.  I'm not sure why exactly.  Honestly, if I can get the other aspects of my life back (driving and getting out), I will live with the problems reading and computers cause me!

Beau's surgery last week went GREAT.  Dr. Mickey said his right ear was infected when she put the tube in, even though he'd been taking antibiotics for a week.  She said his nose and throat were gunky and that he was a sick little kid.  The adenoids she removed 4 years ago had grown back.  So, he had tubes put back in both ears and his adenoids and tonsils out.  He did AWESOME.  He hasn't taken anything but Tylenol since surgery (even when he was in the hospital).  He's slept good and hasn't complained at all.  He is the best patient EVER!  I know that in a couple of weeks when his surgery wounds heal he will feel like a much different kid - he'll feel healthy and won't be in pain.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

From Caterpillar to Butterfly

My dearest friend in the world sent me an e-mail this week in response to my frustration that I'm not well yet.  She is a steadfast prayer warrior and forever-encourager.  She knows my daily ups-and-downs and the condition of my heart that goes along with the roller coaster ride.  Her insight is amazing and so instead of writing myself on this post, I'm sharing her thoughts. 

Published with permission from my dear friend, Summer Powell.

There are 4 stages of a butterfly's life cycle:
  1. Egg - The egg is laid on a select leaf.  The egg is somewhat transparent, and, if you look closely, you can actually see the tiny caterpillar growing inside.  In this stage, the caterpillar is well-protected and really has no purpose.

  1. Caterpillar/Larva - Once it has hatched from the egg, the primary purpose of the caterpillar is to eat and grow.  The first thing it eats is the leaf where it was laid.  Knowing this, the mother carefully selects the leaf that the caterpillar needs to eat.  Caterpillars can grow 100 times their size during this stage.  Because of the rapid growth, their skin cannot grow with them.  It actually splits and breaks off.  They shed several layers of outgrown skin during this stage.  

  1. Chrysalis - Occurs when full growth has occurred and they are ready for the next level.  During this stage, they wrap themselves up in a cocoon (often made of silk) or pull themselves away.  It may look like nothing is going on but big changes are happening on the inside.  While appearing to be doing nothing, they are changed literally from the inside out. They enter in short and stubby with no wings and emerge with new tissues, limbs, organs and a new purpose.  All the components of a butterfly are already there in the caterpillar, but this time of isolation is necessary to allow them to develop and emerge.

  1. Adult butterfly - Wings are initially soft and folded from the cramped space in the cocoon.  Within hours, they have spread their wings and learned to fly.  The main goal of this stage is reproduction.  By laying more eggs, the life cycle can begin again.

So, the parallels are pretty obvious, but here are my thoughts:
  1. I see the egg as an immature Christian.  You are kind of just a shell with a growing being inside; really no purpose, or at least, unsure of your purpose.  It's no accident where you land for your period of growth.  God carefully selects the “leaf” where you will emerge for your growth phase, knowing what you will be able to digest and what will help you grow to your greatest potential.  

  1. The purpose is to eat and grow.  You are to devour as much of the Word--the bread of life--and to learn as much as possible to facilitate growth.  The period of growth is not comfortable or easy (remember the splitting, shedding skin?).  You may have to outgrow some things or people during this stage.  It is just to get you to your full potential.  
**I feel like this is where you have been since October 2011.  You've been learning, listening, and experiencing growth, howbeit uncomfortable.  Your leaf was Meniere's in Monroe.  For whatever reason, that is what God determined was best for your growth, to bring out the beautiful butterfly inside.**

  1. The cocoon is a period of separation (maybe where you are now?). It reminds me of II Corinthians 6:17 "Come out from among them and be ye separate."  You've done the studying.  The growth has happened.  Now wrap yourself inside of His word and His wings and rest.  Allow yourself to be changed from the inside out. Romans 12:2 " ye transformed by the renewing of your mind..."  All the elements of what you are to be are in place.  This time of rest and solitude is necessary, though, to allow them to fully develop and emerge.  Isaiah 40:31 "But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint."

  1. The mature butterfly’s main goal is reproduction.  In our case, it is sharing the love of Jesus, spreading the good news.  Your skills and abilities of teaching and leading will be utilized to their greatest potential during this phase.  An adult butterfly can travel much farther, and have an exponentially greater sphere of influence than a caterpillar.  You will be able to have a greater impact and plant more seeds than ever before.  When the seed is planted, then the life cycle can begin again with other developing butterflies.
Nicole's note:  How can I add to this beautiful description?  I am so incredibly blessed to have a friend so inspired by God with these thoughts.  Thank you Summer! 

Other News
I feel guilty that I lamented on and on and on last week about life in the Gregory home.  What I failed to mention or recognize are all of the wonderful friends and prayer partners that I have.  I continue to be blessed with friends and supporters who do kind and wonderful things for our family and I am sincerely grateful.  Thank you for the outpouring of love and offers this week (and all of the other times).

I talked to my main doctor at the Mayo Clinic on Friday after he and my neurologist there had consulted.  He said that CSD has really only been treated the last 10 years so anything they try and do with me is still fairly experimental.  Not in the sense they don't know what they're doing, there's just not enough data to know definitively what will work for everyone.  He said my headaches are a greater issue than they first believed and so we now have a plan to get those under control.  Headaches/migraine can actually cause dizziness so I may be dealing with a 2-fold issue.  I started an additional medication this week.  I will introduce it into my system slowly over the next few weeks.  It's like the Zoloft in that it may take a while to work, for the side-effects to die down and for us to figure out which dosage is best.  And we will also be working with this new med and the Zoloft to find the right balance between the two.  So, at the 3 month mark we're still working to get it right.  I am a little bummed but I try and take it one day at a time.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Gregory Family Update

I can't believe I haven't written in so long.  Here's an update on life in the Gregory home. 

We had a good Christmas.  We tried to scale back on gifts so that we could focus on the gift of Jesus.  I can't say that we completely succeeded but I feel confident that we reminded our children enough that hopefully some of the message sunk in.  Beau did pray often during the week of Christmas, "it's not about the gifts but it's about you Jesus."  Even though he talked about gifts A LOT the message did get through as much as possible for a 6 year old. 

I wish I could give a great health report.  The truth is, I haven't written in several weeks because I have been feeling really bad.  It started Christmas Eve and most days since haven't been especially great.  I've had some good days and good times during days but overall I am still dizzy much of the time.  The nights have gotten worse and the days have actually been a little worse too.  I finally found a way that I think describes how I go through the day... the next time you are doing something (brushing your teeth, eating a meal, cooking, shopping, playing with your kids, reading a book, working), stop what you're doing and spin (either standing or if you're in a chair that spins) about 10 times fast and then immediately resume what you were doing.  That's pretty much how I feel all day, every day - sometimes it's as though I've just spun around once or twice and it's a dull dizziness; other times it's like I've spun around 20 times and it's crazy dizziness.  When you do it, it wears off after a few seconds.  With me that feeling lingers in my brain always.  Hopefully that can give everyone a better idea of what I fight all day, every day just to function.  Try it just as you're climbing in to bed to sleep.  At night the spinning usually lasts about an hour before I can fall asleep.  I'm not writing all this so you'll feel sorry for me.  I just want to try and let you experience my world and understand when I say I'm dizzy all the time. 

In addition to the dizzies not going away, my headaches have been much more frequent.  My primary contact at Mayo, Dr. Staab, is conferring with my neurologist at Mayo this week.  He feels we need a plan to address the headaches.  Please pray with me that we will find an answer soon.  I have been on Zoloft and have been doing my therapy for 12 weeks.  To be where I am this far in is extremely frustrating for me and it's obviously taking it's toll on my family.  I feel so bad for Jonathan - he's pulled in 100 directions between work, errands, groceries, kids' activities and all the other little things that come up.  And my mom continues to do way more than her fair-share for us.  She is always willing and says it's a blessing, but she's a human with physical needs for rest too!  I totally understand now why the elderly will drive until they are completely blind and senile.  Losing your independence and relying on others for so much is tough.  The real blessing is I have become a savvy and pro at on-line shopping.  People are shocked when I tell them I do everything but groceries on-line: toothpaste, toilet paper, cleaning supplies, soap, dog food, kids' clothes... imagine a life without stepping foot in Wal-Mart.  That's my life and for that blessing I AM extremely grateful!

The kids are going through some health issues too.  Beau has been in/out of doctor's offices for the past 5 months with chronic ear infections.  They hurt so bad he sobs and throws up from the pain.  It is crushing to see him suffer.  He is having tubes re-inserted in his ears next week along with a tonsillectomy.  This will put him out of school and "down" for 2 weeks.  It will be well worth it but I feel sorry the little guy has to go through such a painful surgery.  Lydia had her tonsils out 3 years ago so at least we know what to expect and we know the much-improved-health post-surgery is all worth it.

Lydia has had some on-going issues and we were recently referred to a doctor at LSU-Shreveport.  In his 30+ years of practice he hasn't seen this.  He said he's "puzzled" (his word) by Lydia's symptoms.  So we have several tests and visits to Shreveport scheduled.  Again, another stressor on Jonathan to take time off work to transport us all back and forth.  Lydia's condition isn't life-threatening or painful but it could cause serious problems down the road if we don't find out what's going on.

So, that's life with the Gregory's - 3 out of 4 dealing with health issues and the 4th bearing the brunt of all of it.  I am struggling with the spiritual aspect in all of this.  I know God has a plan for us, I know God loves us.  But I honestly don't wake up every day with a zip in my step and a song in my heart.  I try and I pray fervently to keep the right perspective.  I feel at peace that God doesn't expect me to whistle and smile my way through life.  He knows this is tough.  I picture myself in a violent storm where the rain is coming straight down and the wind is all around me.  The sky is black and I can barely take a step forward because my boots are buried in the muck.  It takes all of my energy to walk just a few steps and by the end of those days I am physically, mentally and spiritually exhausted.  But yesterday I visualized me flowing through a meadow in the bright sunshine.  I was barefoot and floated along.  That's not today's reality but I cling to the hope that it will be soon.

I know that so many of you continue to pray for us daily and it is overwhelming to know we are thought of so often.  Please know that I still realize our problems are nothing compared to so many others.  I know God is good and God loves us.  But on those muddy, rainy days it just takes a little more energy and effort to remember that.