Tag: inspirational

The House That Grace Built

dreamstime_xs_53427223

In a day, our world changed forever.

It was nineteen years ago this month that our son Kevin broke his neck in a fall and sustained a devastating spinal cord injury. It’s one of those anniversaries that are bittersweet. So much is so good in our lives. And yet, the loss is there every day.

I nearly forgot the day this year – a testament, I guess, to the fact that we’ve moved on in many ways. Kevin is still mostly disabled, and yet he still continues to make new gains when we least expect it. We’re still mostly caregivers. And yet, I love and appreciate life more than ever.

It’s strange and wonderful how we need both darkness and light to grow.

The end of last year began a new season for us as a family. A series of events have unfolded in a phenomenon that has, in rapid succession, answered several of my most desperate and long-standing prayers for my children and grandchildren. You know, those “the stone will have to roll away from the tomb” prayers, breathed so often I feared that I might irritate God with their frequency. They were the prayers carried in the night with a heavy heart and many tears before heaven. The ones that spring automatically to mind. You know.

Those prayers.

I prayed them for years without answers.

Then, without warning, a door opened. Then another, and another.

In August of last year, our youngest daughter Grace began a good job locally. Prayer answered.

In November of last year, we received the news that our son Erik and daughter-in-law Rachel were expecting for the first time after being told that would probably never happen. We welcomed our first grandson into the world in May of this year. Prayer answered.

In May of this year, our youngest son Daniel announced his engagement to a wonderful woman named Jenna. Prayer answered.

In June of this year, our eldest granddaughter Rebekah graduated from homeschool and was immediately accepted into the university of her choice. Her parents, our eldest daughter Jennifer and husband Scott, had sacrificed for many years and throughout many trials to educate their daughters. Rebekah is the second-generation to graduate from homeschool in our family. Prayer answered.

Their youngest daughter, Vanessa, will begin her first year of college level work as she finishes her last years in homeschool. Prayer answered.

This August, our son-in-law finally begins to see his long-standing dream of teaching become a reality. Prayer answered.

This summer, Kevin has been able, for the first time, to sit unassisted for nearly an hour at the side of his bed. This, from a man who was never supposed to move again. Ever. This, from a man who was thought – by some in the medical profession – to be better off dead. This, after nearly two decades of disability. Prayer answered.

Aaron and I continue to have the health we need to be caregivers and walk Kevin’s journey with him. Nineteen years ago, we were told it would be impossible for us to care for him at home. We live the impossible every day with him.

Prayer answered.

Living in Graceland.

A friend once told me that her daughter, who liked to come to our place and see Grace, used to call our place “Graceland.” We chuckle at the ironic designation. It seems fitting, though, because we are the house that grace built. This anniversary of Kevin’s accident is our reminder that God is always at work. Prayer is crucial, and He is never irritated that we bring our heartaches and hopes to Him.

If you’re facing impossible odds today, if darkness is all around you, lift up your head. God still answers prayer. He loves you, and He is at work in your life.

You are the house that grace built.

An Idaho Christmas

dreamstime_xs_28040186

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.
-Colossians 3:15

Hello, Christmas…

Another Idaho winter has descended upon us.

In my neck of the woods, that means a little snow and a lot of gray days. But leave the river valley in any direction, and you’ll soon be skating on icy roads and snow. On the weekends it also means the occasional pop of birdshot as a Duck Dynasty wannabe wanders around the river road below us looking for an easy dinner.

It’s unnerving to look out the window and see a gun pointed my way.

Ah.

Christmas in Idaho.

It’s five days after Thanksgiving, and I’m feeling inadequate as my exuberant Facebook friends display their freshly decorated trees and trade Christmas recipes online.  In our log cabin, the only hints that Christmas is coming are a lovely poinsettia from my daughter-law, one Christmas card, and the meager pile of unwrapped presents I’ve bought for the annual family celebration.

My husband has hopefully set the decorations out in his shop in what may be a hint. I have yet to even venture out to take a look at them. I usually love Christmas, but this one has been dampened by the suffering of someone I love.

I worry. I fret. I give in to the  gloom.

Then I remember.

This is why He came.

Let heaven and nature sing!

Two thousand years ago, the world was much the same. Except it was a world without hope. This Christmas, we can be ruled by the Christ of peace, the Lord who delivered us from the futility of a life without Him.

In Jesus, Christmas dissolves into Thanks Giving and every day is a celebration. Our hearts are no longer controlled by either minor daily irritations or devastating loss. Until the day we see the magnitude of His victory, we ride out the highs and lows and choose to rejoice.

He rules the earth. Let heaven and nature sing: Joy to the world.

Maybe I should take a look at those decorations.

What’s He Here For?

More erik's pictures 033

In the last two weeks we have looked at the person we call the Holy Spirit. I love talking about God, but I’m especially intrigued with the third person of the Trinity.

The three persons of the Trinity are enigmatic, cloaked in a mantle of mystery slowly pulled back through the ages to reveal the face of God. When we learn about Father God, we incorporate what we know about Him from our experiences with out earthly fathers. His Son, Jesus Christ, is the central figure of the gospels, painting a vivid picture of the Deliverer.

The Spirit, on the other hand, often remains in the background. Though equal in power to the others, He points humanity upward to them instead of drawing attention to Himself.  In a world clamoring “Look at me! Look at me,” He always inspires us to look heavenward.

The fact that He consents to live inside the cracked clay we call home never ceases to amaze me.

How do we wrap our minds around a Being who can be everywhere at once, whose power caused the universe to spring to life, who brought back the Savior Himself from the dead? How do we live with such a Being inside us? It’s a story more radical than anything dreamt up by Hollywood.

God in You, the Hope of Glory

In His person, the Holy Spirit is totally God. In His work and form, He functions as the “breath” of God. As such, He has a vital job to accomplish on earth:

  • He convicts us of sin. John 16:8

Before we can come to Him, we first must realize our need. It is the Spirit’s job to make us understand how we’ve sinned against God and our need of a Deliverer. He’s the one who makes us feel guilty when we’ve done wrong.

  • He frees us. 2 Corinthians 3:17

The Spirit is the One who breaks the chains of sin and walks us into liberty.

  • He sanctifies and sets us apart as His own. 1 Peter 1:2

When we accept our need for God and receive the cleansing sacrifice made by Jesus, the Holy Spirit comes to live in our bodies. His indwelling sets us apart as His own and begins the lifelong process of preparing us for eternity.

  • He transforms us. 2 Corinthians 3:18

When we become His, we are changed by the force of the same creative power that brought the universe into being.

  • He intercedes for us. Romans 8:26

In our weakness, we often don’t even know ourselves how to pray for what we need. The Spirit steps in, bringing us to the throne of God. Romans 8:26 is often used for speaking in tongues, but the Scripture says that this intercession is “too deep for words.” It is the place where our spirit connects with His in a cry for help.

  • He rebukes those who mock Him. Acts 5:9-11

The Spirit upholds the holiness of the Lord. He will not be mocked and must be treated with respect.

  • He empowers us for His work. John 7:37-38; 16:7; 1 Corinthians 2:3-5; Galatians 5:25

We can’t live a holy life on our own. Our best intentions and efforts can’t come close to pleasing God. We fall on our face every time. It’s His power that accomplishes what we can only long for without Him.

  • He directs us and gives us joy in the journey. Matthew 4:1; John 16:13; Luke 10:21; Acts 16:7

It’s not just about getting through this life. Jesus promised us abundance. When His Spirit is free to work within us, He fill us with joy. This is the incomprehensible place of peace Jesus’ disciples encounter through the darkest days of their lives. It rises above trials and smiles at the future.

  • He provides for our every need. Philippians 1:29

He is the great provider. In His care, every need we have will be met.

  • He reveals the future when necessary. Luke 2:26; Acts 1:16

Because He is all-knowing, nothing surprises Him. When it is necessary, He will reveal to His people future events. Usually, though, He counts on us to trust Him for our future.

This exquisite being, who dwelt in eternity in the highest heaven, has consented – even yearned- to live with us in our frail homes of flesh. He longs to be our protector and Lord. Only a mighty God could be powerful enough to be so tender, or strong enough to live with such weakness.

No wonder they call Him the Comforter.

 

Baptism photo courtesy Erik Thorson/ copyright 2013

What’s in YOUR Heart?

 

dreamstime_xs_23970026

And I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them.
And I will take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh.
-Ezekiel 11:19

Our Heart, the Deepest Place

Anyone who’s taken even freshman biology can probably remember what’s in our hearts: mostly blood, muscle, chambers, and valves. But the heart is also a euphemism for the place where our innermost man lives. It’s the seat of our emotions and the chamber of our most secret desires. The Hebrew word for heart in the Old Testament also denotes the deepest place inside us, the room we rarely reveal to others.

It’s the place we rarely unveil even to ourselves.

The things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man.
For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders.
-Matthew 15:18-19

The heart is the real us. That can be frightening if we’re honest enough to take a good look inside. It’s so scary we often craft a careful wall of excuses and religious piety to cover our real motives. We may fool ourselves and others, but there is One from whom we can never hide.

The heart is more deceitful than all else
And is desperately sick;
Who can understand it?
I, the LORD, search the heart.
-Jeremiah 17:9-10

It’s a sobering thing to know God searches my heart. I know what’s in there. I don’t even like me when I look inside. It is beyond me that God, knowing what my heart clutches within its walls, still pursues me to gain that fickle devil for His own. He knows the state of my inner man, and He wants me anyway.

For God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance,
but the LORD looks at the heart.
– 1 Samuel 16:7

Throughout history, God has always reached for the heart of His creation. The Bible tells us:

For God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.
– 1 Samuel 16:7

God wants our whole hearts – dirt, pain, and all. He loves us, not for what we give or do, but for what we are to Him. When we respond to this love and surrender to Him, He goes to work. He alone can cleanse, purify, and restore us.

It’s this work that changes from the inside out. It’s not about reforming ourselves. That will never happen. It it were about doing everything right, none of us could stand.

Even God’s beloved King David committed two terrible sins: adultery and murder. Although he was severely disciplined for his actions, God later called him a man after His own heart.

How could that be?

With All Your Heart

David was flawed, to be sure. But he ran after God with all that within him. When he fell, he cried out for forgiveness. He sought to be reconciled to God. He surrendered his life to his King.

Jesus told humanity:

YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD GOD WITH ALL YOUR
HEART,
AND WITH ALL YOUR
SOUL,
AND WITH ALL YOUR
MIND.
This is the great and foremost commandment.
-Matthew 22:37-38

This is the great commandment. If we love Him with all that is within us, He will do the rest.

Although David couldn’t trust his own heart, he could entrust it to a faithful Father. David came to understand this one thing: It’s about what’s in our hearts.

It’s about what’s in His.

Salmon Valley Celebration

hdr_00023_1

Be hospitable to one another without complaint. – 1 Peter 4:9

Our destination was the town of Salmon, in southern Idaho. We started from our home in northern Idaho. We drove west for several hours up the Clearwater River and over the winding Lolo Pass.

That put us in Montana.

Then we drove several more hours south along the craggy Bitterroot Mountains. At the top of Lost Trail Pass, several inches of snow greeted us. Down the other side of the valley, we followed a meandering river through lovely groves of golden trees and hills scarred by some recent fire.

That put us back in Idaho.

Such are the rigors of travel in the Inland Northwest. People in our neck of the woods are used to traveling long distances between towns. Much of Idaho is still wild, forged of mountains and valleys largely unscathed by the insult of a four-lane highway. Or anything resembling a highway.

The drive, though slow, was glorious. My long-suffering son Daniel offered to drive me to the town of Salmon to speak to the ladies of the Salmon Valley Baptist Church and their guests on October 11. Dan and I took the opportunity to talk and enjoy the panoramic views of the Lochsa River country.

For caregivers, even a drive is a gift.

In Salmon, I had the chance to reconnect with Ron and Connie Seibert, the couple who led my husband and me to the Lord nearly forty years ago. As pastor of the Southern Baptist church we attended, Ron baptized both of us in the faith. Ron and Connie discipled us through those first crucial years of walking with God. Connie and I recently found each other online and discovered our common love of writing.

RonandConnie
Ron and Connie Seibert

The ladies of the Salmon Valley Baptist Church were warm and welcoming; their hospitality rich; their hearts open. I was blessed to be there and reluctant to leave them so soon. God encouraged me to just “give them Jesus” as I prepared for the trip. I can tell you I received Jesus back with much love from my Southern Baptist sisters.

Thanks to all of you who prayed for the trip. Special thanks to Aaron and Grace for holding down the fort at home while I was gone. Thanks, Dan, for your generous heart!

Photos courtesy Dan Thorson

What They Didn’t Tell Us

dreamstime_xs_10475704

Until our nineteen-year-old son broke his neck in a fall in the summer of 1997, we knew little about spinal cord injuries. His break was very high, and the chance of his survival was bleak. Since he was injured during a trip to Canada and we live in the United States, it was a difficult journey to join him at the hospital. When we were able to get to his bedside, we found him totally paralyzed from the neck down and attached to life support.

Grim-faced doctors told us the many challenges Kevin faced:

  • He would never breathe or move again below his neck or possibly his shoulders.
  • He would need round-the-clock care.
  • He would certainly suffer from a host of complications such as pneumonia, blood clots, and urinary tract infections.
  • He could never live at home again. He couldn’t even return to the United States because no airline would accept him in his condition, no doctor would sign to receive him, no medical team would accompany him on the flight, and the cost to fly him home would be prohibitive.
  • He could not stay in Canada.

For our son, and for us, the situation seemed hopeless. One doctor was angry when we resisted a push for euthanasia.

What most of the doctors didn’t tell us was that their predictions weren’t written in stone. Yes, Kevin did suffer from pneumonia in the beginning weeks. Urinary tract infections have been a continuing challenge for Kevin. And yes, he needs round-the-clock care.

But none of the rest of it happened.

People, churches, and organizations in Canada soon learned of his injuries and rallied to his cause. Within a week, Kevin was flown back to the United States in a chartered Lear jet, accompanied by a volunteer medical team – the entire cost paid by donations.

He was received into a hospital close to home and later released to a rehabilitation hospital.

As his body came out of spinal shock, he began to regain function and feeling, stunning the doctors and therapists. This healing would continue for several years.

What no one told us was that one day Kevin would breathe again on his own, walk with help, and return home to rebuild his life. Although he remains mostly disabled, he has movement and feeling in most of his body. He only uses the ventilator at night to sleep.

In the years since his injury, he has built a computer 3-D graphics studio with his brother and founded a popular Christian music website. He lives each day with faith and trust and without complaint.

No one told us that caring for him would bring us such joy. No one explained how much his life would enrich us, or how much we would learn about courage in the process. Certainly these years have been hard. But when I see Kevin laughing and chasing his nieces around in his wheelchair, or taking his dog for a walk, or working with press agents and music companies and complicated animation software, I am reminded of all the beauty they never told me to expect.

They never told us to have hope.

When the Path Gets Rocky

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-image-owie-image4334461

We all stumble in many ways. – James 3:2

It was another hot August day. I was working outside and feeling increasingly irritated in the oppression of the afternoon heat. A hint of smoke from some distant wildfire loitered menacingly in the breeze. Alarmed, I paused to scan the sky for the dreaded pillar that signaled another threat to our home – a yearly occurrence. I saw none. But the brown hills looked the way I felt: tinder dry; brittle; apt to erupt in spontaneous combustion.

The project I was working on with my husband hit a snag. Instantly, we were at odds. It seemed to be happening a lot lately. I stormed away from the argument and grabbed the car keys, using the excuse of needing to pick up the mail as an opportunity to cool off. I cranked the car air conditioner up along with some of my favorite Christian music and headed to the post office.

There was only one letter in the box. The envelope was addressed to “The Wonderful Kevin Thorson and Family.” A pang of guilt shot through me. Kevin was fine, but the “Family” wasn’t feeling too wonderful that day.

My drive did cool me off, but I had to face the fact that I couldn’t blame my attitude on external factors. Why was I stumbling so often lately? What was I missing?

This moment happened several years ago, and now I can identify some of the factors leading up to my meltdown. Some are changeable; some aren’t. But I’m convinced it is less about external factors and more about internal pressures that afflict us all.

So how can we keep on our feet when our path is strewn with unavoidable pitfalls? How do we respond when we find ourselves face down in the dirt? As my daily scrapes and bumps have revealed to me, there are some vital strategies for staying sane:

*Don’t ignore the warning signs. When I’m feeling irritable, it might be lack of sleep, illness, or just the fact I’m letting things get to me. When the red flags pop up, it’s time for a little openness and brokenness with God.

*Make Bible reading as important as eating that next meal. Don’t lean on past knowledge or a set of principles to guide us through the minefield. It’s like using an outdated map to find a new city. God’s Word is active, living, and a well-worn Scripture can jump out at the precise moment it’s needed to save the day. We have to allow God to speak to us if we’re going to avoid the pits.

*Keep alert. Our enemy, Satan, is constantly on the prowl. Don’t get complacent.

*Know our limits. And don’t stray beyond them.

*Think beyond the event to its source. What causes us to lose our cool? Why do we react to certain pressures and how can we defuse those situations?

*Pray actively and constantly. It doesn’t take a “quiet time” to talk to God. Stay on the line with Him all day long. Pray on the fly, in the car, in the bathroom if you must. Be honest and be sure to listen.

*Remember we are just dust encasing a soul. We’re going to fail. We need to forgive ourselves and learn from our mistakes.

Yes, we’re going to fall along the way on our journey. We can, however, learn from our mistakes. God knows we’re prone to failure, but He does’t want us to fail. He wants to give us light for our path and bring us safely to the destination He has planned for us.

In fact, He’s just waiting for us on the path, if we choose to let Him lead the way.

 

Fall Celebration

october11handout

 I’m honored to be invited to speak at the Salmon Valley Baptist church on October 11, at 6:00 p.m. The occasion is a women’s ministry meeting and fall celebration. I also get to catch up with the lady responsible for leading me to the Lord nearly four decades ago. Connie Seibert and her husband, Pastor Ron Seibert were instrumental in discipling my family in the early years of our walk with Christ. Connie is now a fellow author.

It will be a pleasure to see them again. We have lots to share!

If you live in the Salmon Valley area, I’d love to meet you. Otherwise, your prayers are much appreciated for this evening as I share my heart with these lovely ladies.

The Yoke in My Head

1175033_10202069412840840_1167838109_n

Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me,
for I am gentle and humble in heart,
and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS.
For my yoke is easy and My burden is light.
-Matthew 11:29-30

The sun was a fiery ball in the bay sky. A splendid dinner of  barbecued steaks, prawns, and all the good things that go with such a meal sat contentedly in our  stomachs as we gathered on the deck. A friendly wager rested on the exact moment the sun would slip behind the ocean’s vast horizon.

We were enjoying the last hours of an awesome family vacation, our first since our son was injured sixteen years ago. It was a gift from a cherished cousin and her husband, and one that was more needed than I could ever truly express.

My cousin couldn’t know just how raw my soul was.

I have long struggled with Jesus’ words in Matthew 11:29-30. I always understood He was speaking of allowing Him to carry our burdens for us. I just never could reconcile that with the reality of my life. We raised five children, with all its attending joys and cares. I educated all five of them at home, a daunting task at any time, but especially so after our son was injured.

After his spinal cord injury in 1997, we were told caring for him at home would be “impossible.” I had to add “accomplishing the impossible” to my to-do list for each day.

Then circumstances required I return to school and become a licensed practical nurse. In my spare time, after I’ve done the impossible for the day.

Now I am an author, with its attending responsibilities.

Most of these things I have made peace with and even found joy in their midst. Then, lately, a crisis in my extended family descended upon us. The pressure has been nearly unbearable for me. It has been a crushing yoke, permeating my thought life and consuming my days.

The vacation came just in time. At the beach, I was not available to solve a single problem. It wasn’t that trouble wasn’t happening; I simply could not solve anything until I returned home.

The freedom in my brain was exhilarating. In this rarefied air I made a startling discovery:

The yoke Jesus wants me to give up is the one in my head.

He never told us life wouldn’t be hard. In fact, He promised us a life of trial as His disciples. But that wasn’t the yoke He was talking about. He wants to relieve the burdens my soul is carrying.

I thought I already knew this. In principle I understood He wanted me to give Him my life and my problems. And I have always tried to trust God.  What I didn’t realize was how much I worry-think about things all day long. I have been yoked to my thought life, mentally pulling a heavy cart of burdens. It was only when I was unstrapped from them that I realized how much life they stole from me.

We returned after our vacation to new and intimidating challenges here at home. But I am determined to live at the beach. I left that heavy, old yoke in the foaming tide at sunset. I am actively learning to stop whenever I catch myself falling back into old thought patterns of worry and analyzing and trying to sort out the complexities assaulting us. I still have to work, but I don’t have to turn over my soul to it.

If you want to reach me, I will be here.

But my heart is at the beach.

To Kill the Longing

silouetteofAaronandKev

We inched down the winding mountain pass toward the ocean, smothered in a thick fog. After ten hours on the road through a fierce thunderstorm, our nerves were frayed. We rounded a curve and our headlights caught a raccoon in the middle of our lane.

The light dissolved his eyes into a watery green glow. He reared up in hapless defiance and raised his little paws as if to fend us off.

My husband swerved, barely missing.

So far, it was the most positive thing that had happened on the trip.

It was our first real family vacation in sixteen years. A generous cousin offered us the use of their beachfront rental for a week on the Oregon coast. Knowing a trip of that length would test our ability to travel with Kevin’s extensive medical needs, we planned as carefully as we could.

Then the week before the trip, The Resistance began. Aaron’s mother had a medical emergency and was ordered by her doctor to go immediately into an assisted living center. The family was inundated with a myriad details to get her moved within a few days.

The day before we left, we were still taking care of her issues while trying to pack. That night, there was a thunderstorm, taking out the power for two hours. Since Kevin sleeps on a ventilator at night, we had to switch his equipment over to emergency power and watch to make sure he was okay.

We left the next day after a few hours of sleep. Immediately out of the driveway, our nearly new van flashed a warning light. We spent an hour in town getting it checked out.

Back on the road again, we watched an ominous storm gather around us. It descended in earnest over the Columbia Gorge. A gale slammed us sidelong and threatened to blow us off the road. Lightning hit so close we actually had to try to keep from touching anything metal inside the van. Thunder boomed above our heads.

We hit Portland during rush hour. “Margie,” our little GPS guide, taunted us by commanding us to crisscross between lanes of heavy traffic. We turned her off and found our own way.

We finally made it to the coastal highway, only to be hit with a heavy rain. As we inched down the winding mountain pass, we were wrapped in a heavy fog.

We arrived at our lovely beach house shaken but unhurt. Our son and daughter-in-law arrived a few hours later, telling much the same story.

“It felt like something out of ‘This Present Darkness,’ ” my daughter-in-law mentioned.

Bingo.

All the time I thought it was just me. The warfare was so intense, it was insane. It didn’t make sense.

My first thought was, “It’s not like it was a Billy Graham Crusade. Why should the devil care that we’re going on vacation?”

Before the week was over, however, I realized why the battle to get there was so fierce. It was a truly blessed time. We played together and prayed together. God spoke to us in the Christian music, the fellowship, the laughter, and the peace. We stood on the beach and listened to the sea. We watched the sun set the water on fire every evening and gloried in the blaze as it sank into the horizon.

I got to see my beloved extended family again. We swapped family stories and laughed and cried until it hurt so good.

In Brazil they use the phrase “Matar saudades.” It literally means, “to kill the longing.” For sixteen years, we have lived in the valley of the shadow. Life has been hard. Many of the simple joys have gone by the wayside as we struggled to make it through each day. For the most part, we’ve adjusted to our new normal and submitted to the discipline it takes to keep Kevin healthy.

We’ve learned to accept hardship as our path. We didn’t expect to encounter something so extravagant, so rich, so abundant. To be blessed with such generosity. To be alive just for the fun of it. To kick sand in the face of loss.

Now I know why it was such a struggle to get here. This was more than a vacation. We came to kill the longing.

 

Photo courtesy Grace Thorson 

 

Recently I had the honor of being featured in an interview with author Aaron Gansky. Check out the interview at http://aarongansky.com/author-spotlight-pamela-thorson/.

Follow Me