How the Heart of a Marriage Survives a Near Fatal Heart Surgery

In the following guest post by Debbie Latour, you will hear how a married couple faced a dangerous heart surgery and came out stronger in love, life, and faith.

When you’re divorced, middle aged, and are given the gift of happily-ever-after with a second marriage, your optimism for the future is renewed. The birds sing again, the stars twinkle brighter, and the dark cloud of a failed marriage gives way to a clear, bright sky.
As we age, certain aches and pains are expected. However, you do not anticipate that less than a month in to a new marriage, you’d hear that your husband has an aneurysmal ascending aorta. His cardiologist sent us home with the recommendation that its growth be monitored and checked in a year.
For the next year, I watched this incredible gift from God, knowing he had a ticking time bomb in his chest, praying that this was not the day it ruptured and my happily-ever-after came to a screeching halt. I lived that year in absolute fear.

Read moreHow the Heart of a Marriage Survives a Near Fatal Heart Surgery

How Teenagers Bring Out the Worst in Their Parents

I typically write posts focused on marriage, but this post is going to veer more into the area of parenting. Specifically, parenting teenagers, and more specifically, how teenagers bring out the worst in their parents.

As a former youth pastor, I have a special place in my heart for parents of teens. And, as the father of two grown children, I still have the twitches that can only come from teens or Turretts.

Read moreHow Teenagers Bring Out the Worst in Their Parents

Fearing Forward – The New Year

Some face a new year with much anticipation. Others face a new year with some fear and dread. As you look back over the last twelve months, maybe your life took some hits. Maybe your marriage is still reeling from things you could never have foreseen.

The following guest post by Connie Law Plummer will help you prepare for a new year with new uncertainties.

Generally, I am not in a hurry to put Christmas away.  To me the season passes so quickly that I savor the days after Christmas and enjoy reflecting. Gods love, His care, my blessings, my family, the year that is winding down; all of these fill my heart as I look at the lights on our tree   And usually, I am excited at the prospect of the new year and what it brings. But if I am honest, this year I am feeling something different, something akin to fear.

At what other time of year are we so aware of the passing of time than while we count down to midnight on December 31st?  This year I am keenly aware of all I did not know this time last year.  Though I knew we were adding a new grand baby to our family ranks, I did not know she would require specialists and surgery and emotional strain for all of us, in addition to the joy she brought.   I did not know that I would hurriedly pack a suitcase and make a middle of the night drive to stay with another grandchild in a town two hours away, while his sister was rushed to a major pediatric medical center in another city for emergency surgery.  I did not know that I would pretty much desert my husband for a while to help out at the hospital with the newborn while her mother tended her other daughter, the recipient of that surgery.

As I looked at the Christmas lights at the close of last year, I had no way of knowing that four close family members would step out of this life and into the next so unexpectedly and tragically.  Each death unrelated to the other, and three coming in rapid succession.   I didn’t know that a great deal of my year would be spent loving the people around me who were grieving so deeply.  I didn’t know.

And so, I look at the lights this year, and feel hesitant about stepping forward into next year, like my hesitancy is going to keep time from advancing.  If this year was so costly, how can I dive into another year and risk more pain? So I examine my choices.  Hide out, refuse to take down the tree, and refuse to acknowledge the New Year?   Will that stop anything?  Will that cure my fear?

After sorting through all of these thoughts, here is where I land.

  • When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. (Psalm 56:3)
  • Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)
  • For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)

So here we go………Happy New Year!

Connie Law Plummer

Genesis 27 – Fear and Striving

Some people are afraid of not achieving what they desire. They picture success as getting the right job, having the right house, raising the right kids, and taking the right vacations. They are driven by the fear of missing out on what they want.
Others are afraid of losing what they’ve already achieved. They pour their time and energy into improving and protecting their house. They hover over their kids, desperately trying to keep their grades up, their company right and their mistakes low. They give up family time for work, out of fear of looming cutbacks. These people are hyper-vigilant and hyper fatigued because they are driven by the fear of loss.
Both types of people operate out of fear, and that’s what they’re left with…fear.
In Genesis chapter 27, Isaac fearfully scrambles for something God has already revealed was his, and Esau fearfully scrambles for something God has already revealed was not his. (Gen. 25:23)
We are so fearful we’re going to miss something, and we work so hard to ensure we don’t miss anything. Scripture tells us this is wasted effort apart from God. (Prov. 16:33) (Prov. 20:24) (James 4:1-3) (James 4:13-15)
In his song “Prince of Peace,” the late Rich Mullins eloquently described our fear and striving with these words: “I’d rather fight you for something I don’t really want than take what you give that I need.”
How would your life change if, instead of scrambling to get what you think you want, you instead sought the peace and presence of the God you already have? How would your life change if, instead of trying to protect yourself from loss, you counted it all loss for the sake of something greater? (Philippians 3:7-8.)
Bret Legg is the Teaching and Counseling Pastor at Warren Baptist Church in Augusta, GA.

The Realization

Having vanquished the Wicked Witch, Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion return to the Wizard to receive what they have longed for.

Emboldened by their victory, they proudly present the Witch’s broom stick to the Wizard and anticipate their reward. But instead of rewarding them, the Wizard tells them to, “Come back tomorrow.”

Shocked, heart broken, and incensed, they press the Wizard to keep his promise, but they quickly realize he’s not going to. Then Toto pulls back a curtain, to reveal the Wizard is just a man. Discouragement sets in. They have traveled so far and worked so hard. It is not the ending they had expected. It is not the ending they wanted.

Then the Wizard points out to Dorothy and her traveling companions that they already have what they’re seeking. Without realizing it, they have always had these things.

  • The Scarecrow believed he needed a brain, but all along the way he was thinking through situations and coming up with plans to help them succeed. So the Wizard gives him something to symbolize the brain he already has…a diploma.
  • The Tin Man believed he needed a heart, but all along he was was feeling all kinds of emotions…empathy, joy, fear, loyalty, and everything in between. So the Wizard gives him a token of appreciation and a reminder that the measure of a heart is not how much you love, but how much you are loved.
  • The Cowardly Lion believed he needed courage, but all along the way he acted in courageous ways…even though he was afraid. So the Wizard gives him a medal marking his acts of courage and reminding him that courage is not the absence of fear, but the act of facing of your fear.

Finally, it comes down to Dorothy. She has put all her hopes in the Wizard and his ability to show her the road out of Oz and return her home. But in the end, she realizes he can’t do that.

Then, just as she is about to lose all hope of getting home, Glenda the Good Witch of the East arrives and explains that Dorothy has always had the ability to get out of Oz and go home. How? The ruby slippers. They had been on her feet the whole time, but she was so busy with the journey she hadn’t paid attention to what she had. In an act of faith, she clicks her heels together three times and repeats, ”There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home.” And the strange world of Oz begins to fade.

There will come a time when you feel you have fought and conquered that which was most frightening to you. You will think to yourself, “Surely, when I bring this victory to my counselor, my support group, or my trusted friend, they will bring closure to this ordeal and I can put it behind me.”

Many look to their guide to give them the final piece of the puzzle, so they can step back and see the completed picture then quickly put all the pieces back in the box. But even the most skilled of counselors cannot give you the absolute closure you desire. They are just a person…not a wizard. What they can do is help you realize that despite your circumstances, you have had the brains, the heart, and the courage to make the journey all along.

This may feel anti-climactic and leave you let-down and despondent at first. But a sense of power will show up. You’ll be reminded that what you need is already within you and it will take you wherever you need to go. Is it hope? Is it motivation? Is it God? Whatever it is, you will begin to trust yourself more, and the strange world you have been traveling through will begin to fade.

Facing the Witch

Dorothy and her companions reluctantly leave the safety of the Emerald City to do the unthinkable…face the Wicked Witch of the West. They try to be confident, but are far from it. They travel through a dark and ominous woods, weak in the knees and constantly looking over their shoulders for a much feared attack.

The attack comes as fearsome images begin to darken the sky and swarm around Dorothy and her friends. Dorothy is caught in the clutches of flying monkeys that carry her away to the witch’s castle. There she finds herself alone with the one she has feared and tried to avoid since the beginning her journey…the Wicked Witch of the West.

She fearfully stands face-to-face with the witch. Dorothy wants her freedom and the witch wants what is left of Dorothy’s power and independence…her ruby slippers. Knowing there can only be one winner, the witch threatens Dorothy’s life then leaves her alone to sink into the depths of fear and desperation.

But her friends are loyal and loving, and they will not abandon her. Covering rough terrain and difficult circumstances, they march into the heart of Dorothy’s darkness and break down the door that holds her captive.

Reunited, Dorothy and her friends make a break for it. They try one escape route and then another, but they can’t escape the witch. Cornered by the witch, this innocent little girl unexpectedly discovers the power to destroy the witch. In an attempt to save the scarecrow from flames, Dorothy throws a bucket of water. The liquid redemption drenches the witch, melting her into a puddle of goo on the grimy castle floor.

And with that, the war is over. Dorothy is stunned that something as simple and pure as water could bring the witch’s reign of terror to an end.

With the witch’s broom stick in hand, Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion head back to the Emerald City to see the Wizard and finally claim what they’ve longed for. Dorothy will finally take the road out of Oz.

As a survivor, it can feel like a punch in the gut to have come so far and gotten so much better only to find out you still must face the witch. Your witch may be the insult of unfairness and injustice. Your witch may be the failure of others to protect you. Your witch may be the abuser(s) who have seemingly escaped justice and consequences. Your witch is whatever is large, looming, and seemingly unredeemable about your abuse.

Some survivors resist and even refuse the idea they must face their witch, deciding they would rather stay where they are…out of the woods but never really home. Others reluctantly accept it and start down the road to a final show down.

The road to your witch is a dark and frightening path. It can cause your heart and mind to race with dreadful possibilities. That’s why it’s good to travel this road with others you trust. Never underestimate the power and importance of traveling with others. You need their strength and encouragement when the “flying monkeys” threaten to swarm you and sweep you away.

But in the end, if you want to be free, you and you alone must face your witch. And make no mistake, there will be a winner and a loser. Either your witch will own your life or you will.

So what is the bucket of water that will bring an end to your witch’s fearful reign over your life?

It is the water of forgiveness. I know the mere mention of forgiveness may repel you in disgust, but hear me out. I am not talking about a quick and easy forgiveness that cheapens the offense and the damage done to you. I am talking about a hard fought forgiveness that comes at the end of a long hard journey. I am talking about a forgiveness that is undeserved by the offender, but freeing to the offended. I am talking about a forgiveness that covers the offense and frees you from waiting for a restitution that may never come and will never be enough. When you finally apply the water of forgiveness to the evil that has ruled you for so long, you will finally be free from your witch. (I’ll write more about forgiveness in a future post.)

When you walk away from this final showdown, you will still carry mementoes of your experiences. Instead of a broom stick, there will be memories, triggers, and feelings from the past. But like the broom stick Dorothy carried back to the Emerald City, your mementoes will no longer have power over you.

At that point, you are ready for home.

If I Only Had the Courage

Before Dorothy, the Scarecrow, and the Tin Man can reach the Emerald City, they must pass through a dark, dense forest. Thick overgrowth shuts out the sunlight, and they begin to imagine the dangers lurking in the shadows. “Lions and Tigers and Bears…Oh my!” Their hearts race, their fears increases, and their steps quicken. They just want to get out of this place.

It’s here they come face to face with one of their biggest fears…a lion! Dorothy runs for cover as the would-be-thinker and the would-be-feeler scatter in panic.

But when the lion pursues her precious dog, Toto, something snaps inside of Dorothy. She can no longer watch from the side lines as this lion terrorizes what is precious to her. Dorothy steps up, faces the lion, and slaps him in the face.

At that moment, the lion crumbles. His fearsome exterior falls away and he becomes more pitiful than powerful. In that moment, the weak becomes powerful and the powerful becomes weak.

When Dorothy learns of the lion’s need, she compassionately invites him to travel with them to see if the Wizard might give him the courage he lacks. The lion accepts, and they set off arm-in-arm for the Emerald City…in search of a brain, a heart, some courage, and a way back home.

You have made the decision to walk toward a better way of life. You have realized that both your thinking and your feelings have been affected by what you have been through. You feel like you’ve been making progress.

But then things get darker and more fearful, Maybe it’s an increase in flashbacks, an increase in nightmares, or an increase in relationship difficulties. Whatever it is, your fear, anxiety, and dread begin to grow until you come face to face with your lion.

Your lion is the thing you did not want to face. It could be the memory you did not want to remember, the idea you did not want to consider, or the feeling you didn’t want to feel. Like a lion jumping out of the forrest, it sends you running for cover.

But this lion will eventually push you to realize…

  • “I’ve come this far and faced so much already. I can’t throw it away now.”
  • “If I run away, where will I go? I can’t go back to where I used to be. Too much has transpired.”
  • “I’m tired of this lion, and others like it, bullying me and the people I love.”

Something will go off inside of you and you’ll do what you didn’t think you could do. You’ll confront the lion, and it will give way. Your lion may not yield as quickly as Dorothy’s lion, but it will eventually lose its bluster and become more weak and pitiful than you imagined. In that moment, the powerful will become weak and the weak will become powerful. This act of courage is an important turning point on the road out of Oz.