Grace Michaelson

When Tragedy Strikes

May
02

Things have been rough in my home, I’m not going to lie.  Rather than go into details about why they have been so tough, I’d rather talk about the things my precious Lord is teaching me.

The first thing is that there is never anything that you’re immune to.  Just because you’re a Christian or some other reason doesn’t make you safe.  Life is full of vulnerability, and it’s self-evident in the things we struggle with everyday.  Before you say or think the words, “That will never happen to me.” Take a moment to ask the Lord to be the Author and Finisher of your life.  He will decide what can or can’t happen to you.

There is a saying: “Before you criticize a man, walk a mile in his shoes. That way, when you do criticize him, you’ll be a mile away and have his shoes.” ~Steve Martin.

I know that Steve Martin isn’t necessarily a “great” in the eyes of many people, but this quote has stuck to me ever since I read it.  Empathy is so important because, no matter how much we want to believe it is so, we are not omniscient.  There will always be a variable we don’t see or don’t understand that changes the whole dynamic of what someone else is dealing with.  Also, as I said above, anything can happen to you, too.  Before you judge, remember that fact.  Anything can happen in this sinful world.

I also want to say that sometimes things happen because you’re doing everything right.  You’re reading your Bible, your praying, your living by faith, and yet crap still happens.  I would say it’s important to acknowledge that we have a great enemy who doesn’t like it when we do these things.  He wants to leave us compromised, judgmental, and un-useful in our present state to the Lord.  That is why it’s so important to persevere in prayer, reading God’s Word, and faith.  Put on that full armor of God. (Ephesians 6:10) Persevere.  Send the devil to the Lord each time he attacks.  Christ has already won the victory and he promises to us a life of victory, too.

Lastly, I have learned that ultimately it’s not the things that happen to us in this life that make us who we should be.  God may use these things to strengthen His Identity in us, but we aren’t what we experience.  We can separate the things that happen to us, the labels the world puts on us, and the actions of other people, from our true identity.  Our true identity is what Christ went to the cross to preserve.  Child of God, bride of Christ, loved, righteous, precious to God are just a few words that describe what Christ preserved on the cross.  That is who you really are, not your experiences or anything else.  Praise and thanksgiving be given to God.

 

Identity

Mar
25

I did a little cleaning on my site. I decided I have spent too much of my life obsessing over medical stuff – especially when it pertains to me. I took on an identity that was not the identity my God had for me. It consisted of all my post-cancer fears, all my medical labels, times of good interchanges with medical professionals – and bad ones.

Recently I read a book that has nothing to do with medicine, but I took away from it this quote:  “Every person in one way or another needs to exchange a false identity he or she has created for an identity in the risen Christ. Saying we’re a disciple and a [fill in the blank] creates a big problem. At the level of our fundamental identity, we are a disciple only.” Caleb Koltenbach

What this author has discovered, and what I’m discovering is that my identity is in the Lord and what he’s making me into. I am not mentally ill and a Disciple of Christ. I’m not any of my illnesses. I am separate from anything the world would like to label me. My identity is in Christ – His Disciple. That’s the only thing I am.

After beginning to realize this, I find myself asking why I’m hanging on to these false identities. I realized there is a new road to experience that is free from those false identity’s shackles. So I’m trying to mindfully refocus on who Christ made me to be.

I’m not talking about something like multiple personalities. There will always be me, just Kari.  Inside me there is not living Carmon, Karly, or Doug.  I am Kari and my personality will always be that. What I am talking about is identity, not personality.  Identity is what you, the personality, chooses to identity as – through action, culture, and beliefs.

I choose to identify as Christ’s Disciple and weed out any false identity  wanting to displace who that is and is becoming in me.  What’s your identity?

 

Crossroads

Feb
22

Today I want to talk about those moments in your life where life takes you to a fork in the road.  I specifically want to talk about the forks in the road that leave you broken hearted either way you go.  The kind where you beg God for a third option, a less painful option, but realize as your praying for this third option, God is saying, “Not this time.”

So what do we do in this situation?  I think that as we touch on these forks in our roads we also need to talk about God’s presence during these times.  I have known some of these forks before, and the truth is, sometimes I do feel God’s presence more keen, but there are times that I don’t.  It is hardest to make the right choice when your feelings don’t feel God, but I’ve come to believe strongly that these forks in our road are the times God tucks us into His Heart more than any other time.  When we don’t actually feel Him, it is in those times that the shield of faith is oh so important.

Now I want to talk about the decision.  Which way to go?  Prayer in the situation is fundamentally important.  It is through contact with God that we begin to see which road, no matter how painful it might be, is the right one to take.  If we abandon prayer and seek to make these crossroad decisions with logic or with emotion, we will invariably make the wrong choice.

Looking back at my many crossroads, I see a few things that have become extremely clear to me.  One we’ve already talked about:  God never leaves us.  Another is the wisdom God hands out freely to those who ask for it.  The final one is that God does not push you in any one direction.  You have to make the choice and take the first step yourself.  God did not make us to be robots.  He has given us free choice.  While one way is the right way and one way is the wrong way, God will not make you decide the correct one.  He always gives us a choice.

On the same subject, though, is another fundamental truth.  After and while you make your choice, no matter if it’s good or bad, our God does not leave.  Sure, if we make the bad choice it will be extremely painful in the end.  The glorious truth is that he holds us when we make the right choice and he puts limits around the consequences if we make the wrong choice.  One of those limits is that He does not abandon us.

There’s no such thing as “God won’t give you more than you can handle.”  He does do that in this crossroad scenario.  However, this is the real truth right here:  God can handle anything.  Truth:  “God won’t give you more than He can handle.” So, my Dear Sister and my Dear Brother, lean on our great God and take a step into your road.  God is there.

Smart Phones & Children

Feb
20

Lately my feed on Facebook has been bombarded by articles stating that children should not be allowed “Smart” phones.  While I agree that some of the concerns mentioned in these articles are possibly true, today I’m going to spell out why I allow my children to have Smart Phones.

I actually was probably the first parent in Middle School to start having my children carry Apple Smart Phones.  I am very comfortable with my decision and, in fact, will upgrade my children’s phones usually when I upgrade.  (i.e. They get my old phone.)

My biggest concern regarding the articles I’ve read about not allowing your child a smart phone is that they completely and utterly ignore parent involvement.  If my child had the same privilege on his or her phone, then, of course, it would be a very bad thing.  However, the fact that you might just possibly be a good parent makes it less dangerous.  Here is why:

  1.  My children do not have free access to their Smart Phones.  This is because, as their parents, I have chosen to say to them, “I pay for this, therefore you use it my way.”  Instead of banning kids completely from smart phones because you don’t actually want to parent them is ridiculous.
  2. At least on the Apple Phones, and I’m assuming the other phones have this, too, there are settings and safe checks to keep your child from getting his or herself into danger with their smart phone.  For instance, when my children want to download something to their phone, their phone automatically requests me to approve or deny their request.  Over the years, I will ease up on the control I have over their phones, because eventually I want them choosing these right choices themselves and not relying completely on me for their moral convictions.
  3. There’s this wonderful app on Apple Phones called “Find my iPhone.”  When activated, I am allowed to track my children’s movements when they are not with me.  I can also “ding” their phone if they are refusing to call me or pick up their phone when I need to get ahold of them.  Many, many times this has saved me from worrying about my children because I know 1.) They will always bring their phone with them in this day and age,  2.)because I act like a parent and require them to let me know where they are going, I know when they’re not where they are supposed to be when I track their phone, and 3.)I am not afraid of embarrassing my child in front of all their friends by dinging their phone (a very loud an obnoxious ding that the whole world can here) if they’re not responding.
  4. What about porn, and the like, you say?  Again, being the parent you’re supposed to be covers this option, as well.  Yes, the “easier” rode of parenting means I just forbid my child from anything that would be potentially dangerous to them.  However, if we do that, we might as well just place them in a box, hammer it shut, and don’t let them out until they turn 18.  What does that kind of protection do?  It causes the child not to learn from any mistakes they make while they are under your control and can train them in the way they should go.  Immature adults is what you get from it.  People who have no idea how to make responsible choices, have no idea how to combat the temptations of the “real world”, and lastly, children who will rush out and do everything you told them not to do because they have no moral compass of their own and no idea what is right and what is wrong.  Does this mean I give them access to porn, and evil that they can’t handle?  Of course not.  All smart phones have apps that allow you to block porn and evil.  However, the truth is, whether you give them a “smart” phone or a “dumb” phone, if your child wants to get a hold of these things, they will.  All “dumb” phones are equipped with internet access now.  There really is no such thing, as a “dumb” phone as we understand it.  So be a parent and teach your child what’s right and what’s wrong so that they will make choices that make you proud.
  5. I want to emphasize what my husband and I have done to safe guard our children from predators.  In a day and age where human trafficking is all over the news, it is hugely important that we keep our kids safe from these types of predators.  So, the rules of our house are simple:  1.) You don’t go anywhere you haven’t told us your going, 2.) You are home before city curfew for minors, 3.) Michael and I don’t go to sleep until all our children are home and safe, 4.) We have a secret password that we tell anyone we send to pick up our children.  Over and over again I remind my children not to go anywhere with a stranger unless they have my password.  5.)Finally, we’re not afraid to embarrass our children.  Again, we track their phone, if they’re not where they’re supposed to be their phone gets “beeped” until they respond.  No normal child will leave their house without their phone.  Once we had one of our children turn off the tracking feature.  He was grounded from all his activities for a very long time.  I sense a theme in this post, do you?  Be a parent.
  6. As far as social interference that a “Smart Phone” may bring:  My children have time limits on when they can and cannot use their phone.  Not at the dinner table.  Not during family time.  Not after bed time.  These are simple rules that teach your child that it’s more important to give their family and friends face time, rather than spend their whole lives in the virtual world.  Another thing: my children don’t get on Social Media without “friending” or “following” me so that I have access to their feed.  I also have wonderful people in my children’s lives who I know will “tell on” them if they block me from viewing something.  It does “take a village” to protect your child in social media.
  7. I’m not afraid to ask for my children’s phones and look through their texts if I feel they’re not being wise with who they text.  I don’t think this needs more explanation– except that this rule applies whether you give your child a “smart phone” or a “dumb phone”.
  8. Final thing:  Take the phone away if it becomes a problem.  We have no qualms from removing temptation from our children until they show they can be responsible.  The line goes like this:  “You can have a smart phone until I feel it’s unsafe or unwise for you to have one.”  If you’re the parent you should be, then your children will realize that you mean business.

As you can see, I do not believe it’s the “smart phone” industry that is dangerous.  The danger lies in permissive and unwise parents who are unwilling to put up protective boundaries for their children.  In every part of our parenting, whether it’s phones or computers, or just whether your child is going to wear designer clothes on your dime, it’s your responsibility to keep your child safe.  Sure, the easy way is to ban them from everything that may hurt them, but that doesn’t teach anything.  It makes you a bad parent.

“Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it.” Proverbs 22:6

New Years, Healthy Choices or Resolutions

Dec
30

Last year I wrote a “feel good” piece that ended up being published in Argus Leader.  My point of that article was the insanity brought on by creating resolutions that you know you’re going to break.  I implored you to take a look at your beautiful page called 2016 and come up with truths to put on it that are healthy and strong, instead of weak resolutions that you’ll want to scribble away or tear off your year after you fail.  How did you do?

Already my Facebook feed is filling up with posts about people getting excited about their new year, the plans they have, and the resolutions they are making.  I’m just as tempted as the rest of you.  Last night I was having a particularly discouraging night, so I poured out in my journal a bucket list of things I would love to see change in the new year.  The thing is, I know better than to turn those wishes into resolutions because I know how disappointing it is to put my heart and soul into a resolution only to fail to make it come into being.

We can’t force changes into our lives, they have to happen naturally.  Even if you don’t believe in God like I do, you have to believe in the practicality of the fact that your life is impacted by the people who surround you.  If they don’t choose to change with you, then you’re life isn’t going to change easily.  That leaves an interesting dynamic and choice right there.  Do I choose contentment in the life I have now, or do I let change happen by moving on from relationships that keep me stagnate?  Either choice may be a right one for you.

Resolutions simply don’t allow for healthy choices, in fact, they stunt your ability to make these natural choices.  Resolutions cause sharp disappointments which bring choices up abruptly and stunt the ability for life to move forward.  An “I can’t” attitude can move in, and instead of freedom to make good choices, you can be beset by fear that you will only make a bad choice again.  After all the resolution was a bad choice, right?  Why should you even allow the possibility of that disappointment in the first place?

I’m writing about broken resolutions and their ability to stunt choices before it can make any real changes in your life.  I don’t know how you believe, or who you live and work with, but I know you can think about it and avoid those resolutions.  Let change happen naturally.  Have a wonderfully Happy New Year.

Who Owns the Bad Stuff?

Sep
14

As I was writing in my journal last night, I began to realize that what I was writing was the beginning of a good blogpost.  It is, in fact, a truth that people struggle with all. the. time.  Who takes ownership when bad things happen to good people?  Some of us take ownership ourselves.  Some of us try to make God own it.  Some of us force the ownership on other people.  Sometimes the ownership does belong to ourselves or other people.  Like if a person steals from you, then ownership belongs to the person who took from you. If you’re late too work too many times and you get yourself fired, then the ownership belongs to you.  What I’m talking about here, though, is about bad things that happen because we live in a world that is broken because Adam & Eve chose to break it when they ate the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden.  Bad things that no one can own–like a natural disaster, a death of a desperately wanted baby, or; like in my case, the injury of an innocent baby that left a child scarred for life.

Let me tell you Caleb’s story:

Caleb is now 16 years old.  He is well-adjusted, smart as a whip, and dreams big dream.  He doesn’t let anything stop him.  He believes he can do anything anyone else can do.  He has a Totally Involved Left Sided Obstetrical Brachial Plexus Injury.  What that means is that he has paralysis in his left arm and part of the left side of his face (Horner’s Syndrome), and it happened during his birth (Obstetrical verses Traumatic).

I remember his birth as clearly as it was yesterday:

There came a moment when the doctor said, “Uh-oh, we have a problem!”

Michael remembers looking down at Caleb and seeing that his head and neck were out, his cord was rapped around his neck, and that the cord was white because it was pinched off and not giving Caleb the life-giving fluid he needed to get through the rest of his birth.

The nurse called, “Code Pink!”, and the room filled with more people than I could even count.

Some were up on the gurney with me, some were holding my legs.  The doctor had three minutes to get my son out before he passed away.  Nurses were pushing on my belly.  I was screaming in pain, even though I had an epidural.  My husband was bending over me trying to calm me down.

I kept screaming, “God please help Caleb.  Don’t let my Caleb die!”

Then the two and a half minutes were done.  He was out.  No sound came from my baby.  His first Apgar scores were so low.  Then came a soft cry and I knew he was alive.  The neonatal doctor came over to my bed and leaned over with Caleb in his arms.

“I have to take him, but here he is.  There is something wrong with his face and arms.  Otherwise, we think he’ll make it,” He said, then he was gone.

I turned to Michael and said, “Go!  Go with him.”

I was left wondering what had happened, shivering from loss of blood, and my body broken.  Later I found out that I would need extensive surgery to repair my pelvic floor.  So who owns this tragedy?  I could blame the doctor, and yet my son is alive because of her quick thinking.  The truth is I spent a long while after Caleb’s birth blaming God.  How could He allow such a bad thing happen to an innocent baby?  I slowly came around to the truth that God was not to blame.  The truth is that He was instrumental in delivering my son from his death, or even brain damage due to oxygen starvation, or Cerebral Palsy, or many other possibilities that could have come out of a birth like that.  God, when allowing bad things to happen to His servants, always puts boundaries around those bad things.

Then I turned my attention to myself.  I blamed my body.  It became apparent that I had never dilated to a full 10.  Doctor’s could never explain why, saying only that I must have had a “man-like” pelvis.  So I told myself that I had injured Caleb.  I told myself I somehow controlled my womb and my pelvis and it was my fault.  Do you see how silly I was?  I had no control over this situation.  Only last month I finally found out the exact truth of why Caleb was injured.  Through the advancement of the last 16 years, we have a new CT method that shows a clearer picture.  They were able to see my pelvis and womb and found that I have both a tilt and a heart shape uterus, making it impossible for me to ever be able to dilate to 10.  The truth is, that if Joshua my oldest, had been only a few ounces bigger, he too would have been injured or possibly would have died at birth.  God, instead of doing something bad to our family, did many good things.  He has allowed our children to be alive and only allowed the worst to be a disabled arm that doesn’t even stop Caleb from doing anything he wants to do.

I would love to be able to assign blame for every bad thing that happens to me.  It feels like closure.  It feels then like it has purpose.  The truth is, though, as I have worked through the realization that there is no ownership to be given to anyone in the case of Caleb’s injury, I have also come to realize that there is no less purpose in bad situations that happen to people where ownership can’t be established.  Things that happen to us find their purpose when we allow God to do His thing in us.  That’s when the tragedies of our lives start to become purposeful and have true meaning–when God makes them into something for His glory and honor.

The Bible says that our world is broken and waiting for the renewal of creation.  Romans 8:18-22 says, “Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.”  Someday God will fix His creation and there will be no more of this brokenness and sorry.  We can look forward to that day.  Until that day, we can find solace in knowing that we can trust God to give purpose to the things that don’t seem to make sense or that no one can own.  Bad things just happen to good people sometimes.  That’s just the world we live in.  That’s why we look to the future.

Revelations 21:3-4, “I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be His people. God Himself will be with them.  He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”