What an absolute GLORIOUS day I had today.  I got up at 4:30am to drive up to Summerland for a doctor's appointment, more specifically a Hydrogen Peroxide treatment.   I don't recall the last time I got up that early to go anywhere.. let alone being dressed by 5am!  Let me tell you one thing.. the day doesn't start right when you are out driving, before breakfast, and Starbucks isn't even open yet!  I had to learn to drive without coffee .    

I had preplanned a bit of the trip by putting some sermons from John Piper on CD to listen to while I drove.   Specifically, sermons on suffering. I figure I have a thing or two (or 20) to learn on the topic.   Much like in the movie, The Matrix, where the people think they are really living in the real world but aren't, I think I'm starting to realize that the way I think about life isn't actually the way I'm supposed to think about my life.  Somehow over time I've gained the habit of separating my memories into different sections:    good times in our lives and the unfortunate happenings in life.   They don't share the same book, they are separate entities.   But, I am realizing that they really should be combined into one and life should be looked at as an entire piece, a map of my journey from adolescence up to today.  It's a journey of intense character building, with good times even during the bad.   And, I think that is what I've been fighting against for so long -- I DIDN'T ask for any of these traumatic events in my past (and present), so I don't deserve them (which is what I was telling myself).   Instead of focusing on the blessings, all the stressful and heart-wrenching experiences seem to become the chapters that I create in my book.  "Oh, 1998?  Yes, that was the year of my lung surgery".   "2007?  Julianna was born amidst the boys being in the hospital with e.coli".   I said I can see that I need to change my perspective, but it's going to take some work.  It's amazing how habits can creep up on us and become a part of who we are without us even realizing it!  As I said, I have a LOT of work to do (on my character).

I am also beginning to see how important it is to view the sufferings we go through as a gift.  (I say "beginning" because part of me screams for a life of no pain, with children not constantly ending up in the hospital, and just having a period of time with no crazy experiences).  I constantly battle with that desire for an easy life.  But we all know that we are supposed to "die to self".  It's great in theory, but how does one work it out?   Becoming great in character (let's say like Mother Theresa or Billy Graham) is romantic in concept, but in reality? It's tough!  The working of it, the steps involved are painful and not really palatable.  It requires dying to self.  Oh, that's not something that comes natural to me.  ANOTHER thing to work on!   I've got to stop looking for the end of this "character building road" and start realizing that this road does go all the way to MY end, and the only place where it does end is in heaven.  I'm talking to myself here:  So "suck it up buttercup" and stop complaining about the bad stuff, and get with the program.  Love the Lord, and trust that He knows what plans are good for me. (Jer 29:11-13).  While I was in my own personal euphoria driving through the mountains, one song came on from Decyfer Down which expresses this dying to self, which I thought was rather interesting timing, backing on Piper's messages.  We need to die to self and let Christ live through us completely, so when people look at us, they don't see us -- they see Him.

It's entitled Walking Dead and goes like this (and you'll have to excuse me, I'm a rocker at heart .. so this music won't appeal to everyone):

Pull the trigger now, end me,
Mark me for the kill,
Like I marked your hands your feet,
I spilled all your blood, flowing deeper,
To suffocate the sin, till I'm drowning you again

I am so alive, since you took my life
I'm walking dead now, only you remain
I take the life you gave, I walk from the grave
I'm walking dead now, I am not afraid!

Stabbing deeper now, spill me,
My body left for dead,
Like I pierced your side until it bled,
Now the blood flows freely,
It fills me till I see, that there's nothing left of me

I am so alive, since you took my life
I'm walking dead now, only you remain
I take the life you gave, I walk from the grave
I'm walking dead now...

However, I had a little glimmer of grace today -- a gift just for me.  Let me explain.  Normally, driving 3 hours by myself would be fine, but that's all it would be -- just a chore that needed to be completed.  However, today it was a completely different experience.  Having gone through all that I have physically and emotionally lately, it really makes me see the value in the little things -- being able to go for a walk, even driving!  As I drove on this beautiful sunny day, the trees seemed greener, the sky bluer, the eagles greater in number, the waterfalls more crisp -- everything seemed more alive.  I realized at that moment that through my suffering I have been given the gift to see the gifts that God has given me.  Something as simple as a drive to the interior was a gift from God to me.  It was a time of refreshing and joy.  I haven't felt that "high" in a long time.. exhilaration, peace and fulfillment were some of the feelings I was experiencing.  I don't think I would have seen all the beauty around me as I drove if my life was free of suffering.   Suffering gives you a different pair of glasses.  It's just up to us whether we want to wear them and adjust our sight to our new world, or step on them and complain about how we can no longer see what we want to see.

After my appointment it was time to return home and by this time it was in the afternoon.  It was sunny and hot and frankly after looking at the lake, I wasn't sure at that moment why I didn't live in Summerland!   These guys get snow in the winter AND beautiful summers.  Hmmm.....  time for  a move?   Anyway, I just had to stop on the Coquihalla and take this picture for Kirk:

On the way up, I listed to John Piper on Cd and was encouraged to change my view of suffering and to focus on my blessings.   I figured I had done well at "school" that day, so it was time for recess.   I'm sure there is a hidden testosterone side of me .. because one of my favorite things to do is drive.  I always said as a kid growing up .. "if I could guarantee that I wouldn't get killed, I'd want to be a race car driver for my job".    So, picture a beautiful Okanagan Valley, with temps in the high 20s .. sunroof open , all windows down.  Oh good!  Now we hit the 110km part of the highway .. crank the music (Decyfer Down) and sing into the wind at the top of your lungs .. life just doesn't get any better than this (well, except that I'm partially deaf now and what used to be my hair is now a ball of matted organic matter on top of my head -- literally!).   Actually, I had to end up using cruise control to keep myself in check.. it's just WAY to easy (and fun) to go faster than what you are supposed to go.  That, believe it or not, was a gift from God to me.. all of those things combined for me created a little piece of heaven on earth.   It's just what I needed.   I feel as though joy was restored to my soul.    Yes, I still struggle with many things in my life right now, but today was a holiday -- a "vacation from my problems" (as in the movie "What about Bob").   God knew I needed an emotional holiday, a recharging, and today was the perfect day.   Hmm.. wondering if my female friends out there would be able to relate to loud music, hot summer wind and driving fast through mountain roads.. I know.. let's just say it's like a day at the spa (I've never been to one, but I hear that people like it?)!  That's somewhat how I feel.  I feel rejuvenated and alive!

It's late, and I'd better get to bed. Tomorrow we are going to celebrate Julianna's 3rd birthday, because I'll be in Poland on her actual birthday (18th).   What a blessing all my children are.