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Confessing Sin

About a year ago, I wrote a very honest post about my anger.  Frustration toward others and toward God.  It was a low time for me.  I struggled against feelings of self-pity and feelings of being wronged.  I choose the word “struggled” on purpose because I was struggling…struggling AGAINST those feelings.  I knew I could not succumb to them.  I could not allow myself to dwell there.  To wallow in that anger.  Anger may be a natural part of the grieving process.  I realize it is an absolutely normal thing for people to feel in our situation.  But the fact that it is normal is not a license to embrace it.  Anger toward my situation- anger toward God says “I want control…my way is better…You, oh God, are doing it the wrong way.”  Anger toward God carries with it undertones of pride.  It reveals our weakness and our spiritual nearsightedness.  So, should we bury the feelings? Hide them?  No.  We should take it to God.  We should cry out to Him, confessing it, pleading for a clean heart, a renewed spirit.  Coddling our anger leads to bitterness and a hardened heart.

That post I wrote a year ago was not about venting my anger.  It was not a post written to reveal a case for how I had been wronged.  I wrote to confess my anger.  I wrote it because I wanted to speak truth about the way we are dealing with and stumbling through this illness.  Can I tell you what I’ve discovered?  Confessing it to you is what brought me out of it.  Confessing it was the end of my months-long battle. The emotion of anger has not since hit me with the same intensity nor the same constancy.  In the book of James, God tells us to confess our sins to one another and to lift one another up in prayer (James 5:16a).   I have realized over this last year that when I confess my sin to another person, it brings that sin to light in all its ugliness.  When I keep a sin to myself, how easily I can explain it, justify it, give it a little spit polish.  I can make it look pretty good in my mind…But when I display that hideous, little creature to the eyes of others,  when I bring him out into the light, his grotesqueness is revealed, and I find myself repulsed. Not only that, but others can bring me before the Lord in my struggle.

Multiple times since then, when I begin to observe a wrongful attitude or a habitual line of thinking that is not pleasing to God, I lay it out in the open before someone I love and trust.  By doing this, I gain accountability and I prevent myself from trying to make sin less heinous than the rebellion it actually is.  Let us keep an honest confession before the Lord, knowing that He is faithful to forgive us, and let us surround ourselves with godly, trustworthy people to whom we can share our struggles and our failures.  How freeing to cast the hidden darkness out into the light and there find both forgiveness through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and overwhelming hope!

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Posted by on June 20, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

A Letter to You, Dear Pearl

This is my reply to the sweet one who left us a message after reading the post Jehovah-Jireh: He is the Provider:

Dear Pearl,

I have not replied yet to the comment you made earlier this month, but I have thought of you.  I have prayed for you.  You, my dear, are not alone.  Drawn-out illness is no easy road.  But I pray we can, in some small way, walk it together.  And even more, I pray that we can walk it faithfully for our Lord.  The following concept has been, I believe, our greatest battle cry through it all, our greatest motivator:  We can show our love for God more clearly in our suffering than in our prosperity.  We can demonstrate more poignantly His faithfulness and our commitment in the midst of struggle than in the midst of harmony.  So let us both resolve in our hearts to love Him, not because He gives us good things, for He does not wish to be a stepping stone for us.  He does not desire that we worship Him in hopes of what we get in return, for that is not love.  Let us love Him for who He is and with reckless abandon.  And may He receive the glory!

Press on, dear friend,

Jon & Adrianne

Here is a video on the topic that has touched us to our core.

 
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Posted by on June 19, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

When our eyes become fixed

We have seen the moment again and again, cast clearly before our eyes in movies, or put to our imaginations in novels.  Or maybe we have experienced it for ourselves.  It always goes something like this:

He is in a crowded room, talking with a group of people, enjoying their company, making comments to draw their laughter….when out of the corner of his eye, he catches a form which snags his full attention.  It is…her!  The room fades away, the conversation becomes inaudible.  Nothing exists.  Nothing but her.  All the world takes on her form alone, and he is lost in it.

Now let’s go to another scene.  The Holy Spirit brought this next scene to my mind as I was talking to my Lord about my struggle with being so greatly affected by my circumstances.  I tend to bring home hurtful words and events and ache over them for hours.  I tend to worry that someone is angry or annoyed by me.  I tend to feel heavy despair when Jon suffers most.   I give in to feeling overwhelmed when the tasks and responsibilities mount too high.  And I was fervently sharing this struggle with my Lord, asking Him to help me keep my eyes on Him…when a beautiful, profound image splashed across my mind.

He is pushed out of the city limits, a crowd rushing behind him.  Men and women gather, rage and fury storming in their eyes.  A young woman spits in his face.  The crowd closes in on him. He is trapped within a circle of taunting violence.  An elderly man in priest’s garb picks up a piece of stone that has loosened itself from the wall close by and hurls it at the man.  A couple of his friends watch from behind a part of the wall, tears streaming down their faces in grief.  Someone throws another stone, splitting a gash at his temple.  Blood streams down his face.  Curses are flung at him and a host of rocks….when out of the corner of his eye, he catches a form which snags his full attention.  It is…Him!  Jesus Christ, the Lord!  The crowd fades, the curses become inaudible.  The pain and the blood seem far away.  Nothing exists.  Nothing but him.  A brief smile crosses his blood-stained lips before he shouts boldly, “I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!”  His last words were to ask that God forgive them, for his own hurt must have seemed minuscule as the gaping heavens allowed him to stare into eternity.

May we be like Stephen!  May our eyes be so fixed upon our Great and Awe-inspiring God, who loves us and sacrificed greatly for us, that we do not feel so deeply the wrongs done to us by others…that we do not feel so deeply the frustrations of this life!  May every word, every decision, every thought of ours be made while our eyes are fixed on HIM!  Oh, Precious God, let it be!

 
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Posted by on June 18, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

A video from Jon to you

We are 3 years and 8 months into this sickness.  Yesterday, Jon wanted to make a video to tell you how he is doing.  I was behind the camera, with time to reflect on what God has done through these years of difficulty.  I was spellbound by my strong, brave husband and my great and wonderful God.

 
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Posted by on February 1, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Holding on Without Holding Back

Jon

Remember when we built a fort in our living room and made that Friday night into a sleepover?

You were all for the idea, helping me hang the sheets from our dining room chairs.

Remember how we had that crazy idea (ok, I admit, it was my idea) to go to that tiny BBQ restaurant, but we each had to wear or carry 5 things that the other person picked out for us, regardless of what the person picked?  With every turn, we got crueler and crueler, and the items got more and more ridiculous.  We were laughing so hard, dreading the idea of walking in looking so absurd, gleefully basking in the thought of watching the other walk in looking so ridiculous.

You had to walk in with that 7-foot bamboo pole, a framed 8×10 wedding picture of me, and an assortment of mismatched clothing. I don’t remember what I had to wear, as my thoughts were fully taken by the spectacle you were making.  That poor waitress couldn’t decide whether to call the police or a psychiatrist when you walked through the door with your Rafiki pole!

Remember how we would go to your soccer games Saturdays?  With a blanket and our puppy. And I would get up a little earlier and fix my hair and my makeup, so that you would be proud of me- proud that I was yours, proud to hear me cheering your name.

You were a work horse out there.  You and your brother had the same brain on that field.  His kick would somehow find you.  Your foot would find the ball.  The ball would find the goal.  And I would cheer. Because you scored.  Because you were mine.  Because this was happiness.

Remember how we would wait till the last minute to get up then rush around, trying to get ready for work?  We would just pour a bowl of cereal for the road because there was no time to eat.  We would share while you drove us in.

You would loudly threaten me through your laughter as I carelessly shoved Frosted Flakes toward your face.  “Adrianne!  Be careful! You’re going to spill it! Adrianne! …You got milk on my pants!!”

Remember the time we were going to the church thanksgiving dinner, and I made two pumpkin pies?  Remember how you tried to get one out and accidentally folded it over like a taco?

You were so upset, so I tried hard not to laugh at your cuteness. We dumped both pies in a pudding dish, covered it with whipped cream, and took it to the dinner anyway.  No one ate it.

j&a 5-8873Oh, my sweet life, my heart swells with such sweet memories while it aches for your healing.
And I see the tears in your eyes when we talk about the past.
I see how you long for your health, and the freedom that comes with it.
And I hope you know
that you and I will hold on to hope, my dear one.
We will hold on to the precious memories of those first two years.
We will never stop praying for your healing.
Never stop trying new treatments.
Never stop working toward recovery.
We will keep fighting to bring your health back.
But…
This alone is not enough for us, is it?.
We will not sit by and wait weepily, wondering when God will do something.
Because we both know
that He is already doing something.
There is more for us than just desperately holding on.
So…
In the middle of this struggle….

Edit-6211We will lift our voices to our Creator and bless His name.
We will thank Him for working in us, for conforming us to be more like Jesus
We will love the mess out of one another…
To have a love that is built on far more than just roses and evenings out and kisses and picnics,
So it will be like fire-tempered steel.
We will pour out our lives for Him now.
We will not wait to serve Him when life is “normal” again.
We will fight to live for Him without boundaries.
Limited in mobility, in energy, in ability, in strength
Limitless in loving, giving, reaching, praying.
We will not hold back, my love.
Thank you for taking me with you as you are being transformed into a powerful man of God.
You amaze me.

 
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Posted by on January 31, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Marriage is temporary, but it yells about the eternal

1505293_10151877638675683_862083515_nWe had been married for a handful of months,  Life was pure ecstasy
Being married to Jonathan Matthews Bradley exceeded all my expectations of happiness.
Truly. I could not believe how happy we were.
And here we were heading to a marriage conference.
You will remember that Jon was seeking his Master’s degree in Marriage and Family Counseling,
and the two of us had long before agreed that we would wholeheartedly nurture our marriage.
We would always seek to grow together.  Always.
So we walked into the church building with few problems but with humble, teachable hearts.
What an enriching experience that conference was!
We sat with a veteran couple during the luncheon.
In their marriage, they had faced loss of family members together,
and the lady had gone through cancer with her husband at her side.
We did not know our relationship with the couple would continue for years.
We did not know that they would rise up beside us when Jon’s illness came.

The conference was full of testimonies, helpful insight and thought-provoking discussion questions.
We met couples who were still in love after decades together.
We met couples who were struggling-things were not working- but they came to battle for their marriage.
What a blessing it was!

During this conference, there were, of course, door prizes.  I love to win stuff.  Don’t we all?
So you can imagine my excitement when our names were called…that is….
until I saw what we had won.
It was a book.
I like books.  I even love some books.
I’m an English major, after all.
But this book…
The title was, This Momentary Marriage.
I didn’t like it at all.
Yeah, the alliteration was nice, but this momentary marriage?
The last thing I wanted to read about was how short-lived my new happiness with my husband was.
I knew there wouldn’t be marriage in heaven.  I accepted Jesus’ words as absolute truth.
But that didn’t mean I wanted to read a whole book about the ending of this beautiful connection with Jon.
About how temporary it all was.
I accepted the book like I accepted that pair of jeans my mom got me from Goodwill 2 sizes too big.
Smile. Thank you! Gritting teeth. Shifting eyes Raising eyebrows.

We put the book on the shelf with our collection of marriage books.
It remained unread until…
Jon was very sick.
I watched Ian and Larissa’s story.
It was a precious story of a beautiful marriage.
Larissa mentioned the book.
You know, the book?
This Momentary Marriage.
There it was.
So, I went to the bookshelf and picked it up.
And started reading.
So good.
I haven’t finished it yet, but it is on my list of things to do in 2015.
it focuses on how our marriage was designed to be a picture of Christ and the Church.
Right now, I just want to put a few quotations here from the book.
A few parts that have powerfully touched me and molded me.

“Here is the amazing, unbelievable thing-a profound mystery, as Paul says, ‘A man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh….and I am saying that if refers to Christ and the church‘ (Eph. 5:31-32).  Marriage refers to Christ and the church-every marriage, no matter how pendulum-like because of our sin; every marriage, even if the couple doesn’t care a bit about Jesus….God designed marriage to be a picture. That makes me ask myself, how clear and well-focused is the portrait of Jesus that our marriage is displaying?
I love using my tiny digital camera.  But the larger and more complex a subject, the more nearly impossible it is to represent it well and completely.  No single photograph an show someone how magnificent the Grand Canyon is.  It’s true that my shortcomings as a photographer do nothing to change the majesty of that natural wonder. Still, some snapshots do give a better idea than others of the grandeur.  I want to take that clearer kind of picture of the Grand Canyon.  And that’s the kind of image of Jesus I want our marriage to portray.” (Preface by Noel Piper, p. 11).

“Marriage is more than your love for each other…In your love you see only the heaven of your own happiness, but in marriage you are placed at a post of responsibility towards the world and mankind.  Your love is your own private possession, but marriage is more than  something personal-it is a status, and office” (Introduction by John Piper, p. 15).

“So love comes from you, but marriage from above, from God.  As high as God is above man, so high are the sanctity, the rights, and the promise of love.  It is not your love that sustains the marriage, but from now on, the marriage that sustains your love (Quotation by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, p. 18).

j&a 5-8864My love for Jonathan Matthews Bradley continues to flourish and grow.  When I think of how much I love him and the suffering he has had to face, tears well in my eyes.  But our marriage is an even bigger ordeal than our love.  For our marriage is to be a display of the relationship between our Lord Jesus and His people.  May our marriage point boldly and brightly to the great love and commitment that Christ and His people share.

 
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Posted by on January 19, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Jehovah-Jireh: He is the Provider

Edits-5308-2God continues to remind us that we are here- wading in the stale waters of this illness- completely on purpose.  Our last update presented some big decisions, and oh, how God revealed His careful hand in our lives!
We put our house on the market, knowing that we could not afford to stay in Winston Salem if it did not sell quickly.  I needed to let my employer know within the month if I would be returning.  Jon’s mother, who had been caring for Jon while I was at work, needed to take a job.  So, even if our home sold, we did not have a caretaker for Jon.  These elements were larger than my problem-solving skills.  We started planning to move back in with my parents for a time.  We spent much of the summer there with them in Virginia.  We had already started moving some of our clothes into drawers in my old bedroom.  I was working hard to come to terms with the move but found myself struggling immensely.  The support that we had received from the school where I worked had been such a sustaining force for us.  Jon had worked with me there up until he became ill.  He was known and loved by the staff and faculty there.  As I began looking for a job in Virginia, I was continually reminded that Jon would just be a name at my new workplace.  A name.  A story.  Nothing more.  My parents and the church there would be an encouragement, but I still found myself fighting to accept the change. With my brother in tow, I checked out a local coffee shop for a position and inquired at the local high school.  Maybe I could start out as a substitute teacher or fulfill my dream to be a barista.

Then God began to work out all the problems that had seemed too large to solve.  Within 3 weeks of putting our home on the market, we received a strong offer, which we accepted.   Soon after, I received a message from a dear childhood friend who lives in Winston.  She had been praying about our situation and offered to stay with Jon a few days each week.  With this offer, I put up a message on Facebook to see if there were others interested in helping. By the end of the week, there were 6 people who had volunteered to help throughout each month.  My employer worked to accommodate us in several ways.  We could not have stayed in Winston without the support and accommodation that we received from them.  Our real estate agent helped us to find a cute, little home with a lovely view.  We were able to cut our mortgage in half.  Around this time, a judge was able to see Jon and determined within ten minutes that Jon was sufficiently disabled to receive Social Security.  This was a blessing to us.  The amount covers Jon’s insurance and medical expenses each month.  I admit that this has been a hit to my pride.  We do not want to have any dependence on the government.  I have spoken with several mentors on this, each one reminding me that Jon’s situation is the reason the government has these programs in place.  I suppose this is for a different post, but we look forward to the day when this is no longer necessary- when we can give and contribute in the ways that others have done for us.

God brought all these things together for us, and we have been able to stay in Winston.  I am still teaching in the school where Jon and I worked together those first two years of our marriage.  Our cute, little house that was pink through and through is now a lovely grey with red and yellow accents throughout-a safe haven for us. We have been taught much this year about undying trust in God, humility, and the importance of community within the body of Christ.  He has drawn us to Him in many ways that never could have been if we had only lived our normal, happy, little lives.  He has us here on purpose…for a purpose, and He continues to provide for us and sustain us.

Like the children of Israel in the hot, long trek through the wilderness.
They had to make the journey
BUT
Their shoes never wore out.
Their bellies were filled with manna.
Their feet were always guided by the Cloud and the Fire
The Lord never left them.

 
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Posted by on January 2, 2015 in Uncategorized