God's Word

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4 years ago today, I was tucked into the ICU at Heritage Valley Hospital in Beaver, PA with my not-so-stylish hospital gown, grippy hospital socks, my 2nd chest tube, a raw throat from being intubated, and my weary parents. Oh, and the mascara that I apparently asked for. :) With my eyes still closed and being half asleep, I remember the sounds of visitors shuffling in and out of my room, sniffles from tears, gentle touches to my hands and feet, and prayers being said. I had just had lung surgery the day before to adhere my right lung to the lining of my chest wall because the silly thing wouldn't stay inflated. Prior to the Talc Pleurodesis surgery, I had received a chest tube due to a spontaneous pneumothorax and stayed in the cardiopulmonary unit for a little under a week. The hope was to not need the surgery, but God had different plans. 

Recently, I read a post titled "Oxygen" on the She Reads Truth blog and it got me thinking about my time in the hospital. Below is the excerpt that really struck me, written by Raechel Myers and Amanda Bible Williams:

That heavy quilt of circumstance was real and it was stifling, but the gospel was always true, even when the heaviness covered me.

The gospel is not only for the moment Christ calls us to repent and follow Him. It is for every moment before and every moment after.

It is for our times of joy and fervor, and our times of doubt and despair.

It is for the day we stand basking in the bright light of hope, and the day we hide, head in hands, in the dark corners of our fear.

It is for the hour that just passed and the hour to come, the situation we just stepped out of and the one we’re walking into.

We need it every minute. The gospel is our oxygen.

But, here in our temporary home, the gospel can seem intangible and hard to hang on to. So where do we turn when the heavy blanket is closing in, when we’re in the dark, gasping for air?

We turn to God’s Word.
— http://shereadstruth.com/2016/12/29/oxygen/

After my surgery, I was given the task of using a spirometer to measure my lung capacity. First, I would exhale, then with the tube in my mouth, I would inhale the deepest breath I could manage. The goal was to get the ball to 4,000 to show that my lung capacity was back to normal. For several weeks, I couldn't take a deep breath. How strange it was to not be able to do this! I realized I had taken something so "simple" as breathing for granted. I remember the day I finally succeeded and took a full, deep breath. Victory!  Since that painful but refining experience, I've had a lot of time to reflect on how much of a gift it is to breathe deeply, and what the source of my oxygen really is. 

While in the hospital and during my recovery time, God gave me oxygen through a variety of ways: friendly faces in my room (some who had traveled a great distance to see me), my Mom who hardly ever left my side, my Dad who provided comedic relief (even though it hurt to laugh), kind and hard working nurses, cards, flowers, emails and prayers from family, friends & strangers. He gave me oxygen through my youngest sister (who had a newborn at home) driving through a blizzard to rush me to the ER, my other sister washing my hair and doing my make-up in the hospital, a brand new nephew that I could snuggle in between hospital stays, and a cute boy who flew from Massachusetts to PA to help take care of me. God continues to give me oxygen through snuggles with our puppy, a slow Saturday morning, visits to Jamaica, sunsets on the Susquehanna, a meal around the table with family and friends, a smile from a niece or nephew, late night talks at Aiken Acres with my sisters, or a tight hug from my husband.

While these things are all blessings and God-given, they will someday fade away. What gives me great hope and peace is knowing that God's WORD is the ultimate source of oxygen and it will stand firm forever and ever. We are reminded of this in Isaiah 40:3-8:

3-5 Thunder in the desert!
Prepare for God’s arrival!
Make the road straight and smooth,
a highway fit for our God.
Fill in the valleys,
level off the hills,
Smooth out the ruts,
clear out the rocks.
Then God’s bright glory will shine
and everyone will see it.
Yes. Just as God has said.”
6-8 A voice says, “Shout!”
I said, “What shall I shout?”
“These people are nothing but grass,
their love fragile as wildflowers.
The grass withers, the wildflowers fade,
if God so much as puffs on them.
Aren’t these people just so much grass?
True, the grass withers and the wildflowers fade,
but our God’s Word stands firm and forever.
— Isaiah 40:3-8 (MSG)

During the lung saga, it was God's word that gave me thumbs up moments, hope and perseverance. It is God's word that I find myself clinging to during uncertainty, doubt, and the joyful moments, too. The scars on my side are a tangible reminder to inhale God's word and breathe it in deeply. What a gift. May you cling to His word, no matter what circumstances come your way. 

This is the air I breathe
This is the air I breathe
Your holy presence living in me

This is my daily bread
This is my daily bread
Your very word spoken to me

I’m desperate for you
I’m lost without you
— Breathe by Michael W. Smith

HOPE

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For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.
-Jeremiah 29:11

While at lunch with our cousins this week, Lisa challenged Scott and I to think of a word for 2017. The word that has been on my heart all year is Hope. 

Involved in 2016 has been change, uncertainty, adventure, joy, new friends, sadness and hurt on behalf of close friends losing loved ones, our first home investment, renovations, sanding...lots and lots of sanding, yummy food from Yellow Bird Cafe, grad school, learning patience, witnessing the birth of my niece on my Birthday, celebrating my youngest sister's pregnancy, trying to build a business network in a new place, frustration, a nasty election process, laughter, prayer, a new church family, puppy parenthood, wondering, waiting...and HOPE through it all. 

Directly after lunch with our cousins, Scott and I did some shopping in Beaver for Christmas sale items. Let's be honest...the best time to shop for Christmas decor is AFTER Christmas. Anyway, Scott came across an ornament that we couldn't resist. It was the only "Hope" ornament dangling on the tree. We will hang it in our home all year as a reminder to seek 'strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow' from our God who loves us, blesses us, cares for us, and wants the best for us. 

May peace, joy, love and hope be with you in the New Year! 
 

Thank you, Aunt Janet

Recently, I received a sweet email from my Aunt. It moved me to write again, and I thought I'd share it with you...hope you don't mind, Aunt Janet!

Marti, You are so special! You yourself are a gift to many I am sure. Many times as I go to Facebook I find inspiration in whatever you have posted, and I am always so convinced of the many ways your wonderful husband completes you. I am also glad that you found each other and decided to be committed to one another for life. As a loving couple, you will inspire many. Marti, you have special gifts for capturing inspirational photos and for expressing yourself in writing. You yourself are a gift.
Following a Bible Study today at my home, I was drawn to sit quietly to meditate and pray. This I did. Then I felt drawn to look at Facebook which I don’t regularly do. Appearing first was a memory of mine with two clasped hands. I had no idea why this pic appeared first and no idea who the clasped hands belonged to, but I kept looking and eventually discovered this was attached to your blog which I proceeded to read. I was so blessed by your writing. After spending more time with your written thoughts, I was compelled to let you know your writing, your photos, and yourself are such a gift of love to the world. We all need to keep hearing from you.

Love from one of your admiring fans,
Aunt Janet



The tears fell as I read her email. I desperately needed some affirmation in regards to my work and life in general, and didn't want to receive it by posting on social media, hoping for many "likes." I'm tired of that. I really am. I knew I needed affirmation from the Lord, and He used my Aunt to speak to me.
I'm at the point where I want to do more (in addition to my current services) with my photos and stories. What does that mean? I'm not entirely sure, but God is definitely telling me that it's time to do more and pursue some new projects.

I was moved by her email because she felt led to tell me. God's timing is pretty neat. I'm not exactly sure why I stopped, other than the fact that my thoughts got all jammed up due to how full life was.

Somewhere in between my lung collapsing, an extended hospital stay, Scott coming back into my life, getting engaged & married, then moving to Harrisburg (all in a year and a half!), I stopped putting my thoughts to paper/screen, when that was most likely the best time to be writing!

So, here I am, back at it. Feel free to follow along as I reminisce, blab about nothing at all, dig deep, tell stories of married life, or simply share photos that mean the most to me. Her email breathed some life back into the photographer and writer in me, and for that, I am grateful.

Thank you, Aunt Janet, for encouraging me to write again.
Love,
A niece who admires and loves you very much.