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No Fear of Bad News

“I think I might be pregnant,” I told the doctor.  “No, I don’t think you are,” he replied!  I often suffered with stomach problems in Mexico, but this time it got so bad that I finally decided to go see a doctor.  I figured I had parasites again and since the prescribed medicine for that was very strong, I was concerned about taking it if I was indeed pregnant, but doctor convinced me to take the medicine, and I completed the treatment.

Then I found out that I was pregnant!  Oh, the guilt and anguish that flooded my soul.  I had been told that taking the parasite medicine while pregnant resulted in severe birth defects.  Miserably I had the same thoughts over and over:  “My baby is going to be born with serious problems, and IT IS ALL MY FAULT!”

I felt so bad that I told Jacinto not to tell anyone that we were expecting our fourth child.  I didn’t even tell my parents.   For four long months no one knew not even our other children.  I felt so guilty.  I was so scared.  I refused to go to the doctor because I did not want to hear him say that I had caused my child to have severe physical disabilities.  I carried my burden of fear around with me everywhere I went, every minute of every day.

One morning I was reading my devotions and a verse literally jumped off the page and smacked me between the eyes:  “They will have NO FEAR OF BAD NEWS; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord.”  (Psalm 112:7)  That was exactly what I had been doing–fearing bad news and not trusting the Lord!  I knew that God had spoken to me, and I knew what I had to do.

I told Jacinto I was finally ready to go see a doctor, and we made an appointment.  I promised the Lord I would stop fearing and imagining the worst-case scenarios and would trust Him no matter what the doctor said.

So we went to the doctor’s office.  As the doctor examined me, I told him about taking the parasite medicine before realizing I was pregnant.  He questioned me as to the dates I had taken the pills, and then said, “You took the pills at the very beginning of your pregnancy when there was no placenta so the medicine was not passed on to your baby.  There is NOTHING wrong with your baby!!!!”

Sitting right there in the chair in the doctor’s office, I was filled with joy and said, “Thank you, Lord!  Thank you, Lord!” over and over.  The doctor looked at me like I was crazy, but I didn’t care!  I was too busy praising the Lord that He had taken care of my baby and that I had not harmed him after all!

I was sooooo happy, but then I realized I had wasted four months of my life living miserably, scared and agonizing over something that never happened!  I spent four long months fearing bad news instead of trusting in the Lord.

Five months later Josue Lemuel Aguilar entered this world with no health problems whatsoever!  Josh will be 21 this November 25th.  He is our Thanksgiving baby, and we  thank the Lord for His goodness in protecting Joshua’s health in the womb.

The future is always uncertain, and there are so many horrible possibilities.  It is easy to let our imaginations run wild and spend endless hours fretting over possible outcomes.  How much better to make a conscious decision not to fear what we cannot control but to trust the One who is in control of every detail of our lives.

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The Greatest Ibility is FlexIbility

What is flexibility?  According to google dictionary:  “the quality of bending easily without breaking”.  According to Rebecca’s dictionary:  “to stretch like a rubberband but never snap”!  Much easier said than done!

You learn to be flexible on the mission field or you stay miserable and frustrated or give up and go back home!  I make no claim to be an expert on cross cultural living, but I share with you my personal experience.  Besides the spiritual gifts needed for successful ministry, I think the most needed traits are a great sense of humor and flexibility!  Humor helps you be flexible and being flexible helps you see the humor in otherwise frustrating circumstances.

Every Sunday we used to travel back and forth from Hermosillo (a modern Mexican city) to Calle 12 (a small Mexican village).  We would load up all the J’s and several students from the Ebenezer Bible Institute to make the hour trip in our van.  Our van was old and packed with people.  The narrow highway was in poor shape,  and the temperature was often over 100!  All these conditions meant that we had many flat tires.

We joked that every time new students from the Bible institute traveled with us, we had a flat tire as their “welcome to the ministry” gift.  One Sunday we had a record FOUR flat tires in one day!  Talk about a lesson in flexibility!  Might as well laugh and consider it an adventure!

I was a somewhat nervous hostess so liked to have all the food preparation done before guests would arrive at my house.  I did not want anyone watching me cook!  haha  One day I made tostadas with guacamole and shredded chicken to serve to a visiting preacher and his wife.  Before they arrived, I already prepared the tostadas and had them served on the table.  Then the preacher called and said, “My wife is asleep.  Would it be all right if we came for supper instead of lunch?!”

Oh no!  I had already served the guacamole with chicken on top of it.  It would turn brown before supper.  So I had to be flexible.  I went out and looked for a hungry Bible institute student and invited him to lunch and served something else for supper.  Might as well laugh and learn NEVER to serve the food before the people actually show up!

One evening we received a phone call from a preacher friend of Jacinto’s.  He told us he was about an hour away from our house and wanted to come by and visit us.  Oh my!  I looked around the living room in dismay.  We had just gotten home from a trip, and our house was a total wreck.   I called all the J’s into the room and put an emergency-everybody-clean-everything plan into action.  With everybody working things got straightened up quickly.  About 15 minutes later the preacher friend called back and said, “Never mind.  We won’t be able to visit you after all!”  Might as well laugh and rejoice that at least now our house was clean!

You have heard it said “There is no I in team.”  I submit to you there is an I in FlexIbility.  Actually there are three I’s but who’s counting?  My point is I and I alone decide if I am going to be flexible.  It’s my choice.  (There’s an I in choIce too.)

I have my plans, my schedule, the list of things I want to get done today, but God often changes my plans, my schedule, and the list of things I actually accomplish.  I can get frustrated.  I can complain.  I can snap.  Or I can decide to trust the Lord.

“Man’s goings are of the Lord; how can a man then understand his own way?”  Proverbs 20:24  I may never understand why my plans are interrupted, but I can choose to be flexible and find the humor in “whatsoever state I am in”.

 

A Good Word

When I was eight years old, I prayed and prayed for God to give me a little sister.  I had two brothers but longed to have another girl to play with.  God answered my prayer in September of 1972, but my little sis only lived nine days before God chose to take her to heaven.  My dreams were crushed.  I do not recall being mad at God, but I became very quiet and held my feelings deep inside.

The words that adults used to try to comfort me only made me feel worse.  The thought that”my loss was heaven’s gain” did not dry my tears.  When some said, “I know just how you feel,” I showed no emotion, but inside I screamed, “No, you don’t!!!”  Even hearing it was God’s will was not comforting to an eight-year-old.  I told an aunt of mine that I wanted to die before anybody else I loved died.  She replied, “That’s selfish,” but she had no idea of the pain I was trying to hide.

So based on my own experience of how hurtful well meant words could be I decided that silence was the best option.  For many years the fear of my words hurting someone going through hard times caused me to stay silent.  Then my husband suffered a massive heart attack at 38 and almost died on the mission field in Mexico.  This was an extremely difficult time for our family, and the silence of some whom I had hoped would care was very hurtful.

I reevaluated my habit of saying nothing.  I realized that yes words can wound, but silence can also be extremely painful.  When someone tries to clumsily comfort with words that perhaps are not healing, at least you know they cared enough to express sympathy.   What to think of those who don’t even bother to try?

Proverbs 12:25 says, “Heaviness in the heart of man maketh it stoop: but a good word maketh it glad.”  Most people have at least some measure of heaviness in their hearts.  Problems can pile up so heavily that it literally feels almost impossible to get out of bed and go through the day.  We hide our feelings with a fake smile and “I’m fine, thanks,” and try to keep on going.

We don’t have to talk someone’s ear off to be a comforter.  We don’t have to have gone through exactly what they are going through to be an encouragement.  We don’t need to have the gift of great eloquence.  The words that have meant the most to me and comforted me the most have been simple:  “I care, and I’m praying for you.”

I thank God for those who have reached out to me in my times of great heaviness and for their good, kind words that lightened my load and brought joy in the midst of great sorrow.  My desire is to be a speaker of “good words” that lighten the burdens of my fellow travelers on life’s rocky road.  Let’s look for opportunities to spread good words to everyone we can, everywhere we can, every opportunity that God gives us!

Raised by the Book

Tomorrow our oldest turns a quarter of a century old!  Seems like yesterday I was being wheeled out of the hospital holding Judy in my arms overwhelmed by a feeling of extreme happiness.  The dreaded unknown of the first labor and delivery was over.  God had given us a healthy baby!  Oh joy!  Oh delight!

However, in the midst of my extreme happiness, I was also overwhelmed by worry!  Now what?  How in this world was I ever going to take care of a newborn baby?  Her life was in my hands, and I felt so inadequate, woefully unprepared and extremely nervous.

I loved children four-years-old and up but had never been a baby person.  Thankfully my mom came to visit, and for two weeks she gave Judy all her baths.  I was too afraid I would drown her!  I made Jacinto carry her whenever we went anywhere.  He was the oldest of eight and quite used to babies.  I was too scared I would drop her.

My mother went back home, and once again I looked at my newborn and thought, “Now what?  Dear God, please don’t let me kill her!”  A missionary friend with four children gave me a booklet called “The first twelve months” which described in detail all the physical changes and normal developments to expect the first year.  Each month I read the next section diligently.

I remember changing Judy’s clothes and hearing her bones pop.  “Am I hurting her?” I fretted.  Referred back to my booklet and was so reassured to read “It is normal for newborns’ bones to making cracking sounds when their limbs move.”  What a relief to know I was not guilty of child abuse!

I consulted that booklet every single month of Judy’s first year.  I was once again overwhelmed by happiness when we celebrated her first birthday.  I thanked God that she had survived one year of my parenting!

Second J was born, and I still consulted my First Twelve Months booklet often though not quite as frequently as with the firstborn.  Third J entered this world, and once again I occasionally consulted my booklet.  Fourth J was born, and I knew where the booklet was on the shelf if I needed it.  Fifth and sixth J’s arrived, and I forgot there even was a booklet!  Seventh J made his appearance, and I thought I should write my own booklet in my spare time!  haha

When a person is born again into God’s family, he usually feels like “Now what?”  A new Christian wants to please the Lord and has a passionate desire to do right.  It is normal to read the Bible daily and try to put into practice all one is learning.

But time goes by and sometimes the early zeal grows cold.  One still reads the Bible just not quite as frequently.  When problems arise, one consults the Word of God.  When life goes smoothly, one knows where the Bible is on the shelf if it is needed.  If a Christian is not careful, he can even forget about God’s love letter and stop reading it entirely.  When a Christian gets too backslidden, he no longer even consults God’s Word, but lives his life according to his own rule book!

May we never become so “expert” at living the Christian life that we forget how we need to consult God’s Word daily!  May we always live our lives by God’s Rule Book!

“O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day.”  Psalm 119:97

Fans in the Stands

Yesterday I went to Joey’s last (sob!) soccer away game in Charleston, South Carolina.  My husband and I happened to sit close to the other school’s cheerleaders and fans.  How very annoying it can be to sit near fans for the other team watching ball games!  When you sigh at a blocked goal, they cheer loudly!  When you grumble about a call from the referee benefitting their team, they clap loudly!  When you hold your breath and hope your son didn’t just break his leg being hit by the goalie, they brag about how aggressive their goalie is!  (true story)

What if I had stood up and yelled at their fans:  “Stop cheering for your team!  Cheer for my team!  We are more deserving than your team!  We play cleaner.  Our players are better looking–especially two of them!  (true story)  My sons are on our team therefore you all should cheer for us!”  They would have all thought I had lost my last marble and kept on cheering loudly for their team!

Why do we as Christians expect those who do not know nor love Christ to cheer us on and be supportive of our actions?  Why are we surprised or hurt when instead of cheering and supporting us, unbelievers actually have the nerve to boo and criticize?  We aren’t on the same team.  We don’t have the same goals.  We don’t have the same definition of what a true winner is.  We don’t even follow the same rulebook.

Let’s not be distracted nor dismayed when the world is not our cheerleader.  What truly matters is if God is pleased and proud of our actions.  On the glad day we reach heaven’s shores, it won’t matter if the world never noticed nor appreciated our accomplishments.  All that will matter is to hear God say, “Well, done, thou good and faithful servant…”  (Matthew 25:21)  May it be so!

The End of Your Rope

“When you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on!”  This advice was repeated over and over empathically from the chapel pulpit when I was a Bible college student years ago.  As a young adult who had not yet faced many problems putting me at the end of my rope, I enthusiastically agreed.  Now after having gone through many trials and heartaches, I think that was some of the WORST advice I ever received in my entire life!

If I have to depend on my own frail ability to tie a knot and hang on, I might as well give up yesterday.  I was never very good at tying knots and even worse at upper arm strength to hang on to things!  I couldn’t even cross the monkey bars as a kid without falling off.  No, if I depended on my own strength, I would have failed and fallen long ago.

If I depend on my own strength, I am going to let myself down and the letting down is going to be painful!  I am going to be discouraged.  I am going to run out of energy to finish the race.  No matter how hard I try, eventually I am going to fail.  So what should I do when I found myself once again at the end of my rope?

Instead of depending on my ability to hang on through difficult trials, I can drop to my knees and beg God to hold me!  God’s strength never fails.  God’s power is endless.  He will carry me through the heartaches I am facing.  He will hold me up when my strength fails.

Maybe you are also going through trials and heartaches so painful that you feel you can’t make it through one more day.  Stop worrying if you are going to be able to keep going, and start depending on God’s never ending strength.

“I will love thee, O Lord, my strength.”  Psalm 18:1

“The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust…”  Psalm 18:2

“It is God that girdeth me with strength, and maketh my way perfect.”  Psalm 18:3

“For thou hast girded me with strength unto the battle….”Psalm 18:39

“But be not thou far from me, O Lord: O my strength, haste thee to help me.”  Psalm 22:19

 

 

The J’s List of Things to Cry For

When the J’s were young and I was a young mother (or as my brother so helpfully put it “You’re not a young mother.  You’re the mother of young children!”  Thanks bro.  You can always count on brothers to be there for you.  But I digress….) I told the J’s there were only certain things they should cry about.

  1. When you are physically hurt and the blood is dripping, you can cry.
  2. When you are sorry about your sins, you can cry.
  3. When you care about other people’s problems, you can cry.

That was it–a very short list of things to cry for.  Don’t bother to cry in the store just cause you want something, ’cause you ain’t getting it!  Don’t even bother to beg for something, ’cause if you do, you ain’t getting it.  Jimmy, “How will you know that we want something if we can’t tell you?”  Mom, “Oh I already know you want something.  You always want something.  Don’t worry.  If I decide to get you a treat, I’ll let you know!”

Don’t bother to cry just cause you fell down unless the blood is dripping.  Just get back up and keep a going!  (Okay, before you award me with the worst mother of the year award there was some sarcasm involved in the blood dripping part.)  In life you are gonna fall down, just get back up and keep a going!

Don’t bother to cry just cause you lose playing some game.  The J’s rarely if ever got through a complete game of monopoly without some irritation (naming no names Joshua Aguilar) or “accidental” flipping of the board (naming no names Joshua Aguilar), but as far as I know no J ever cried about losing.  You’re gonna lose some in life.  For adults there is no Little League worried about your tender feelings.  There ain’t no participation trophy.  Get over it and do better next time.

Don’t bother to cry just cause you want something we can’t afford.  Pray for God to supply, work for it or learn to be content without it!  Temporary things aren’t gonna make you permanently happy anyway.

Don’t bother to cry just cause some kid picked on you.  When the J’s would complain to me about how some other kid mistreated them, I would ask, “And how did you react?”  I can’t control every single cruel word and mistreatment my children receive from other kids, but I can encourage the J’s to respond correctly.

One time in the fourth grade one of the J’s came home and told me that some kid in his class had called him “Mexican trash”.  Of course, I was not happy that my child had been hurt by those words.  However, I took the opportunity to assure my child that he was not trash–certainly not in God’s eyes who had made him “fearfully and wonderfully”.  Certainly not in my eyes who loved him as my most prized treasure.   I told him it was far more important what God thinks of you and what your parents think of you than some kid in your class.

The child who called him Mexican trash did wrong, but this was my opportunity to show my child how not to let cruel words bother him and how to respond correctly when mistreated.  If the situation had continued and escalated, I would have gone to the parents or teacher, but if I could teach my child to move past it on his own and stand strong, that lesson would serve him the rest of his life.

Paul said, “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.”  (Philippians 4:11)  If Paul had to learn contentment, and he did, I can learn contentment and teach my children to be content too!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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