Lemonade or Lemons? - Depends on What You Actually Need...

It’s been almost 3 years since I started this whole author-blog-writer-thing and I’m astounded at the words God has put on my heart to share with you all. Looking through some of my first posts I can see the threads God began weaving in my life through this ministry in so many of the posts. I thought it might be a fun thing to update some of the more popular ones and give my new subscribers an opportunity to read the roots of how this blog started.

Today I’m starting with my very very very first blog ever written. It’s so cool to see how what I learned is still so true for me today (read the original post too if you like!)

2016- It was opening day for Term 2 at Camp Barnabas and I’d been the medical director for this camp for special needs for a hot-second. Intake at the WellHouse for the nurses was in full force and I had just been called over by one of my nurses asking if camp had lemon juice. A camper apparently needed some so therefore the medical center needed some available. We needed... no let me rephrase, a very <thorough> camper mom was telling us that we medically required lemon juice. It was literally a medical necessity. Ummm, okay, that's a new one I thought to myself (#helicoptermom much?).... lemon juice....

Let me give you a bit of background, Camp Barnabas is a Christian camp for children and adults with physical and mental disabilities. As you can imagine the types and kind of campers we serve can run the gamut of medical needs. From MACE procedures, a bazillion medications, G-tubes, bowel programs, and ventilators- I see all sorts of medical equipment and we serve a huge array of medical 'stuff'. So at first, the request for lemon juice was not <totally> weird... sure... absolutely we have lemon juice. I'd check with our cook and see but it'd be no biggie to steal some from the kitchen; and worst case scenario, we'd grab the lemonade available and use that. But then this particular request got strange... mom was informing us that her child couldn't use just any kind of lemon juice, she needed freshly squeezed lemon juice.  Not lemonade, not fake lemon juice... As in, out of a real lemon, freshly squeezed lemon juice. Unsweetened, undiluted- straight up out of the lemon.

Pause.

Gross.

The little-squirters in the back of my mouth (total medical term there...) were working overdrive just thinking about the tart-factor of that swig. I'd definitely had some bizarre requests, especially dietary... but this one was rapidly accelerating (not unlike my saliva volume) up to the top of my "Most unusual medical needs" list. My medical incredulity alarm went off and internally I was thinking this lady is cray-cray.  Never in my medical career (which is not a particularly short or sheltered one I might add) could I think of a time or an instance that I could even fathom the absolute medical necessity of straight-up lemon juice for anything. Let alone making this poor camper suffer through drinking such a nasty thing! I mean, seriously... who does that? I was just about ready to very politely but firmly tell above mother that this was a summer camp, in the middle of nowhere, and the chances of us having fresh lemons was less than nill, when she told us that the reason for the fresh lemon juice had everything to do with the undiluted acid content in the juice, and nothing to do with the taste.

Okay, now I'm a bit more intrigued. Maybe she's not totally 'that mom'...

So long story, short, according to this kiddo's doctor, the fresh lemon juice was a necessity to help break down the medications properly, and for her stomach to digest more easily all her food. Which, as noted before, was fine... I now got it- but still didn't actually fix our immediate issue. I was on board with the why, now to address the how. Because, again, think summer camp in the middle of Nowheresville, Missouri; freshly squeezed lemon juice was not exactly readily accessible. Okay mom, okay... I'll just have to check.

We had lemonade but we really needed lemons. Not fake lemon juice, good old off the tree lemons to squeeze good old lemon juice out of. We need real deal, tart, unsweeted, undiluted, acidic, make-your-salivary-glands-go-crazy lemons.

Has life ever given you lemonade but you really just needed a lemon?

It occurred to me throughout that week, with every med pass that nurse made to her camper, that there must be times when God gives us lemons and He expects and needs us to just deal with the juice. The tart, unsweetened, undiluted lemon juice. He doesn't want us to make lemonade out of it. He doesn't want us to sweeten it up. He doesn't want us to dilute it. He wants us to swig it down and let it do it's work. His work. The acidic, often uncomfortable, make-your-spirit-squirm Spirit work that needs to be done within us.

The properties of acid, especially in this case, work to wear away and break down chemical structures in order to either completely do away with a substance or make it more malleable to change.

Anyone picking up where I'm going with this yet?

God uses His own lemon juice in our lives daily. Yet too often we shy away from the bitterness of the taste and miss the spiritual acid He's using to do His work in us. We avoid taking it, like little children squirming to avoid their brussel sprouts. We spit it out. We try to sweeten it up- "making lemonade out of lemons."

I think there is something to be said for the amazing lemonade that God allows by His grace in our lives. Those sweet times with family, the seasons of tremendous fruit spiritually, the happy days of our lives that we yearn for and reminisce about for years. These are good times. These are those deep, refreshing drinks of iced cold lemonade. They are wonderful and needed.

There are also needs for just plain old generic lemon juice. After all, juice out of a bottle is still juice. It still is acidic, and for many things it can serve the same purpose as the real deal. But it will always be diluted, it will always be pasteurized and ever-so-slightly chemically altered. Self-help books, spiritual books, blogs (uh huh, even this one... but keep reading!), counseling, meditation, etc. You get the idea. These are not bad things. they can be immensely beneficial to us... but dear ones, don't be deceived or lazy. The real work of our souls is GodStuff. It is His spiritual acid, His lemon juice in our lives that refine and make us more into His servants. Bottled stuff will never perfectly match the composition of the real stuff.

For the word of the Lord is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 

Hebrew 4:12 ESV

Sound a bit acidic? Hard to squirm away from that... though we may try! God's Word is the real deal. It will always be undiluted, sometimes hard to swallow, and refining to our souls. Always. So don't avoid it.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have it's full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

James 1:2-4 (emphasis mine)

Trials, tribulations, testing.... all lemons. God allows and sometimes even causes such things- for the good and perfection of His people. We must see the bigger picture, so let those lemons do their thing. Let that juice work it's way around and in and throughout. It's uncomfortable, it tastes bad and can be seemingly so very hard to digest.  But it's cleansing, detoxing and refining to us. He will cleanse, detox, and refine. So let Him.

So the question remains- I imagine we all have a few lemons in our life right now. Take a moment to refect on what they are. Does God want you to let His Spirit do some much needed acid-work? Or perhaps He needs you to make some lemonade? What or where are the lemons in your life right now? Are you struggling to sweeten the situation? Post below and share your lemon juice experiences- I ‘d love to hear about them!

For When You're Stuck

We returned recently from full-time, front-line mission work at Camp Barnabas and though it was an incredible summer I’ve been feeling stuck. Actually run over and then left to dry... in the rain... might be a better description. I’m just spent. Spent and stuck. Stuck and spent. Feeling like there’s nothing else to give and yet too much left over. Spiritually God knocked this summer out of the ballpark- and I got front row seats to His show. He even called me on stage a few times to participate. It was spectacular. People found Christ, dozens upon dozens were baptized, demons were exorcised, and people’s faith grew stronger and mightier. I couldn’t have asked for more. I felt as if I should be walking- no swaggering- out of camp with my head held high, my Bible worn through, my voice singing praises, and my cup overflowing. After all, it was all GodStuff right? And yet I’ve been stuck in this weird, post-victory void; one that both leaves me exhausted and yet feeling guilty that I’m not handling the celebratory victory very well. In fact I’m pretty much sucking at it.

Ugh.

I’ve been in need of some encouragement of late. I desperately needed to hear God tell me it was okay to feel this way, that He understood- even if my feelings are counter-intuitive to the situation- maybe especially because they don’t match the season.

And then I happened upon Elijah. After his epic spiritual victory over Jezebel’s priests in 1 Kings 19, we find him running, alone, hungry, tired, and afraid... spiritually Stuck. So much so he asks God to die right then and there (fortunately I’m not personally <there> but man I can relate!)

God met him right where he was- alone, discouraged, restless and yet exhausted...

“And he lay down and slept under a broom tree. And behold, an angel touched him and said to him, "Arise and eat." And he looked, and behold, there was at his head a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water. And he ate and drank and lay down again. And the angel of the Lord came again a second time and touched him and said, "Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you." And he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God.” 1 Kings‬ ‭19:5-8‬ ‭ESV‬‬

This struggling and depressed prophet, one of the mightiest in the Bible- rested. When Stuck, God sent sustenance. He gave him rest, He let him lie down, He fed him and gave him shade. His angel actually came a second time to revitalize him again.

I love that. I desperately needed to have permission to rest and be a bit overwhelmed at the past battles. God knows me... as He knew Elijah... as He knows you.

What a relief! What a thought! What grace!

Sometimes I have a tendency to struggle against my Stuck. I look around and I think I’m doing it wrong- and that pulls me down even further. And yet, there is grace even within the quagmire of being spiritually Stuck- whether it be metaphorical or physical- God allows His servants rest, rejuvenation, and revitalization.

So, dear one, if you’re feeling Stuck, take heart and know you’re not alone. Jeremiah encourages us, even in the Stuck, “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” ‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭40:28-31‬

Why I'm Not Afraid to Say "Retarded"

This particular article has been one in the making in my head for about 6 months now. It's been close to my heart to write but I didn't know when the appropriate time to post it would be. It would seem that I can't keep my thoughts silent any longer. I want to add a different perspective to the "R-word" debate- one I haven't seen or read yet. I'm quite sure there will be many people who immediately disagree with me, but I would ask you to just read on and see where I'm coming from. Yesterday was the national #spreadthewordtoendtheword campaign; and while I don't necessarily disagree with this sentiment, I do have some thoughts on how very sad it is that this absolutely innocuous word-"retardation"- has been vilified in a completely unfair way.

The words "retardation, retard, retardant" do not bother me one little bit. I'm not offended by them, I'm not hurt by them, and hearing them in conversation doesn't cause me to run to the other side of the room.

Meet my retarded daughter, Anna. She was born with Trisomy 21, Down syndrome. And yes, she is retarded in many, many ways.

Let me give you some background. I became familiar with the special needs community and started working with them back in 1998 while employed at a summer camp for disabled kids. I worked at this camp for 3 full summers. I met my husband, who was also working as a counselor there. Largely due to my interaction with this community, I got a BS in Psychology and eventually degrees in nursing as well. The earliest years of our marriage Gabe and I worked as program directors for a group home- we physically lived on-site with our clients. We were with them 24-7 for 3 years. Later, by God's awesome plan, we had our very own special needs baby, Anna, who came into our family just 14 months ago. Around the same time, I became the medical director for the same camp that started it all. Crazy full-circle stuff right? Our entire family spends 3 months of each year living, playing with, serving, and loving on all sorts of people with special needs.

I know this community. I love and adore this community.

And, still, the word "retarded" doesn't bother me.

Why you ask? Because there is power in words, but there is MORE power in understanding what those words MEAN. "Retarded" doesn't bother me because "retarded" is simply and only a measure of time. It is an objective measurement to describe the growth of something. Merriam-Webster defines the word "retarded" (adjective) as slow or limited in intellectual or emotional development :  characterized by mental retardation. Moreover, the word "retard" which is really what all this flashpoint offense is over, simply means to slow up especially by preventing or hindering advance or accomplishment, synonyms include brake, decelerate, slow, slackenhalt, stophandicap, hinder, hobble, hold back, hold up, impede, inhibit, obstruct, set back, tie uparrest, check, constrain, curb, rein, restrain.

I am a nurse by primary vocation. I have a secondary degree in Biomedical Sciences. Over the course of many science classes during these degrees, the word "retard" or "retardation" comes up often. In fact, the word in used not rarely in many other avenues and situations as well- all of which involve the slowing or slowness of something. What the word is NOT is a diatribe on intelligence, personality, worth, or importance. "Retard" is a transitive verb that has been used for over 500 years as a descriptor of growth or advancement (or lack thereof). It's meaning has nothing to do with good or bad, so at what point did slowness (i.e. retardation) become such a bad thing? Why does our society immediately equate being slow as having a negative connotation? I don't get it. This poor word has been hijacked and it's meaning completely changed!

Fire retardant slows or stops a fire- a good thing.

Chemotherapy retards and hinders cancerous cells from growing- a good thing.

Antibiotics retard and impede bacteria's ability from spreading in the body- a good thing.

Retardation can be (and IS) and very. good. thing.

So what is the deal with avoiding this word like the plague? Yes, I absolutely acknowledge that it has been and is being used a a flaming arrow of insult at people. I'm not arguing that the word is not slang for really mean insinuations. I understand that the heart of the usage can be very hurtful. But only if we let it be hurtful! I have had several people use this word towards Anna (one of which was very much trying to hurl an offense in our direction).

But it didn't stick.

Happy 1st birthday! #caketasting

Because my daughter IS retarded in so many ways. She is slow in her physical development. She is slow to meet milestones verbally and cognitively. She is slow! And I adore that about her!

As a mom, I cherish the extra time it is taking her to learn to sit and crawl and pull up (which she still has no interest in) and walk (something that's not even on her radar yet!) I revel in knowing that I am blessed with just that extra bit of time in each season with her, knowing that her retardation gives me just that many more moments with her. Her retardation has retarded my life as well. What a blessing!

As a frantic, first-world American I desire my life in general to be more retarded. I wish the pace would slacken, my eating would be hindered, my activities held up, my parenting patience elongated, my career path slowed. I imagine many of us have these same thoughts. We want retardation! Do you see what I'm getting at here? How many times do you see people celebrating (or longing for?!) the ability to take life more slowly? To "stop and smell the roses"? To watch the clouds sweep by or the rain patter on the grass? We long for the dizzying effects of our crazy life to slow down, to retard don't we?

As a Christian I wish I were more retarded in my patience, in my speaking, in my anger. We are instructed to be this way dear ones! James 1:19 (NLT) "Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry." Have you ever prayed for retardation in these areas?

That this poor word has been associated negatively with these precious populations blows my mind. It is an objective measurement of time and ability and yet somehow has come to mean something entirely different. When did this innocent word become such a way to degrade intelligence? I mean seriously? Talk about inventing a new definition! Since when does "retard" (which is a verb not a noun...) mean 'not smart'?  Why can something slow not also be gentle and kind, witty and valuable? How did "retarded" become synonymous with 'less worthy' or 'not good enough'?

Retardation is measurable, it is objective, it carries no emotion, it carries no weight of worth.

Anna's growth is slow, Anna's cognitive milestones take more time than normal to reach. (Which by the way, what is normal anyway? That's a discussion for another day...) There is no sentiment or emotion placed on her condition, it is what it is as I love to say. BUT her retardation has zero to do with her intelligence, her kindness, her gentleness, her happiness, her ability to touch people's lives, her worth as a human being. So why on earth would I ever be offended or hurt when she's called retarded? She IS retarded! She's ALSO joyful, happy, silly, smart, gentle, patient, a blessing, valuable, and worthy! None of this is mutually exclusive.

When people are unwise enough to think they're informing me of my child's (or any of my friend's) condition- I go out of my way to tell them they have no idea how correct they are. This special needs population are slowed, praise the Lord and to His glory they are so retarded! And they are better than me in almost everything that's important in life because of it.

Oh, to be more retarded like they are! These amazing human beings that see the world in a way we unretarded people never will because we're too busy being busy. They, who experience life and God in ways we never will or could because we are so very handicapped by our own actual disabilities (pride, selfishness, envy, power, greed, self-doubt, etc.) If there is anything at all that I've come to learn about the retarded population over the years is that they are by far better humans than I can ever hope to be. Their retardation, their slowness and arrested development, has freed them to see and pursue and learn and interact with life in much more meaningful ways. And I do long to be more like them in these ways!

So yes, you who use the R-word, yes. You've hit the nail on the head! My daughter, my friends, are indeed retarded. And that quality within them is perhaps one of the most cherished things about them in my humble opinion. "Retard" does not offend me, even if you mean it for ill, because

  • You're using it incorrectly (it takes the sting out when they're basically saying {with as much venom as they can muster} "So, you have a delayed kid." Not quite as powerful right?)
  • The word carries nothing but a scientific, innocuous definition for me... one that is actually completely correct. I don't get offended when people hurl "You're so blond!" at me... Saying "Anna is retarded." has the same impact.
  • Shoot! Even the slang definition (which is almost exclusively how it is used nowadays), stupid or foolish, is not true to of this population. Anna and my friends with special needs are neither stupid nor foolish! So again, insult hurled- it's not true, therefore it doesn't stick.
  • Plus, as a bonus, I celebrate retardation! I love it, I want more of it in my life and in the lives of those around me!

So, in conclusion (if you've made it this far) though I get the sentiment behind the whole #spreadthewordtoendtheword movement, I feel moreso like we simply need to take the word back- to reclaim it's original meaning. Back in 2000 when I directed the group home, the 'proper' wording had moved from mental/physical "retardation" (which had been in use for years at that point) to mental/physical "handicapped"- nowadays even "handicapped" has started to denote a negative connotation and I see the movement towards mental/physical "disabled" or "special needs" being more 'appropriate'. How long will it be before those are blacklisted as well? 5 years? 10 years? Will those who adore these populations (that society just loves to stamp labels on) continue to give away ground in the name of incorrectly syntaxed words- just so not to be offensive? How about we go to war with "stupid" or "idiot" instead? At least those words are spoken maliciously hurtful in a subjective, unmeasurable, and purposeful way. Yet, I fear that even having such a movement as the one this last Wednesday has given more power and credence to an otherwise purely under-educated group of bullies who obviously failed English 101. Why not correct their incorrect meaning and use it as an educational moment to celebrate retardation instead? Knowledge is power and education will always be key in integrating these amazing people better into the folds of society- all us 'normal' people could certainly learn a thing or two from them being around more.

I do not say "retarded" around people much, simply because there is no reason to use it. I know Anna is retarded, I know many of my friends are. It's not something that needs discussion. And because society has overtaken the meaning, I don't use it often because I don't want to inadvertently hurt anyone's feelings. This article, in fact, is not meant to necessarily change anyone's mind about using the word (or not using it), this is simply a different take on the debate. But those of you who read this, know that when I do use ''retarded" it is in celebration, in respect, in honor, and in awe of such a gift they possess that I do not.

 

I don't hope to reverse the trend into eventual dictionarial (is that even a word?) oblivion that this word will probably eventually find itself; I think the movement is too far gone for that. It's just too bad that we are losing an innocent, objective, and useful word to describe many, many things all around us. I fear this whole concept is dying a slow and unneeded societal death.

 Anna is slow, she is delayed, her development is held back... she is very much retarded. God made her exactly right, exactly according to His plan. She. is. perfect!

I will never, ever be afraid or offended of Anna being retarded.

Words Not Required

Did you know that in first-world countries, studies have shown that the abortion rates for pre-natally-diagnosed Down syndrome babies runs anywhere from 50-90%? These babies are killed just because of the diagnosis! (More on that here.) It’s an astonishing number.

It’s a devastating number.

The most recent data collected in 2015 estimated that at best, the population of Ds have been decreased by 30% due to abortion- the number would be higher if the actual numbers for abortion due to a Ds diagnosis were absolutely known.

Wow.

But this blog isn’t going to be about death. I want it to be about life.

October is Down syndrome awareness month and I’ve dedicated my Monday blog posts to all things Ds or Trisomy 21 as it's officially called. This particular population of people have always held a special place in my heart having worked with them extensively through Camp Barnabas and as a special program director through Arc of the Ozarks back in my early 20s. But it took on a new meaning for me when we welcomed our daughter, Anna, into our family this last January. She was a surprise baby with Downs and our life couldn’t be fuller with her around. She is a special angel I believe God sent directly to our little family.

But not all of these angels are so lucky. Many do not make it to delivery; and for as alarming as the numbers above are… the numbers for aborted babies with Ds in other countries is even more so.

But this post is about life- so let me tell you a story about life.

My in-laws are currently in South Korea teaching ESL and Heidi called us the other day to relate a heart-wrenching occurrence that happened to her. In Korea, though not officially a one-child society, they take great pains to produce what is considered the perfect child. According to Heidi, everyone gets extensive pre-natal testing performed and the abortion rate for ANY kind of abnormality is near 100%. It’s not a religious or moral thing there, it’s not considered murder, it’s simply cultural way of life for them. From what I understand, the government doesn’t officially sanction abortion, it just simply turns a blind eye to the hundreds of thousands of abortions the hospitals and doctors perform each year. No questions asked. Heidi explained there is a huge education gap and experience gap within this culture with all kinds of disabilities, Down syndrome none the least. You simply don’t see anyone with it. They are kept hidden, locked up, and the general public is somewhat fearful of them. Those who do slip through the ‘cracks’ of the testing are shunned. There is an assumption that this population is in pain, they suffer, are unhappy, and unable to contribute to society.

But back to my story- Heidi had met up with one of her students one day who was confessing that she and her husband had bad news. They were pregnant and had just received the results that their baby would have Trisomy 21. They were devastated and had made preparations for the abortion in a few weeks. She spoke with high hopes for the next child, that maybe that one would be better. Heidi had a decision. What to do? Knowing that the education gag is immense, she did all she could think to do. Explaining that she has a niece with Down syndrome, she whipped out her phone, and opened Facebook (because, you know, who wouldn’t have the presence of mind to do that during such a heavy conversation?!?)

Heidi showed this lady pictures of Anna. Picture after picture after picture. Pictures of her smiling, laughing, being held, being loved, being celebrated. This woman saw, for the first time in her life, a child with Down syndrome being included, loved on, taken care of, and cherished. By everyone. Picture after picture with literally hundreds of people. (Anna has no shortage of fans and pictures all over the internet...) No one seemed scared of her, no one looked uncomfortable, no one shunned her. Young and old people, men and women, other disabled friends, people in all walks of life were pictured celebrating her existence. She saw pictures of Anna happy, content, interactive, healthy, and most certainly (even at her young age) giving just as much love back as she receives.

What Heidi perhaps could not bridge in educational facts and figures, Anna did by just being Anna. No words required.

The lady broke into tears midway through and kept repeating, “She just looks so happy. She is healthy! Everyone loves her.” And slowly her realization of the precious life inside began to take shape.

Heidi left the conversation, not having tried to talk her out of ending the baby’s life, or re-educating a dulled cultural vision. She simply told her she’d be praying for wisdom for them. She simply did what she could to show what a life with Ds can be- that these precious souls are worthy of life and are worthy of living. No words required.

It is no surprise that my heart aches for those babies whose lives are taken from them for a diagnosis that is not well-understood or accepted. In America, in Korea… anywhere. God’s heart aches as well. It must bleed endlessly for the little lives He’s takes back to be with Him in heaven too soon. But He is at work as well.

God doesn’t need words, He doesn’t need us to have all the answers. He just needs us to be open to let Him do His work through us.

Maybe through Facebook. Maybe through blogs. Maybe through pictures.

Words not required. Anna sure doesn’t use them yet! He’ll get it done still.

And by the way, the couple came back a few weeks later and told Heidi that they changed their mind. They’re keeping the baby.

 

 

Thank you for taking the time to read my heart today. Please comment below with thoughts and ruminations of how this story of life affected you today- and stay tuned for part 4 (the last in the series <sad face>) coming to a blog near you!

Letter to Anna Leigh: My New Niece — heidijoan

 

Anna Leigh. Sweet Anna Leigh. You have no idea how much your blessing of an existence in our family is. It makes total sense you were placed where you were. And we have a very special spot that is fit just for you. You came from a family that has devoted a part of their […]

via Letter to Anna Leigh: My New Niece — heidijoan

When you've got lemonade but you really just need a lemon

It was opening day for Term 2 at Camp Barnabas. Intake at the WellHouse for the nurses was in full force and I had just been called over by one of my nurses asking if camp had lemon juice. A camper apparently needed some so therefore the medical center needed some available. We needed... no let me rephrase, a very thorough camper mom was telling us that we medically required lemon juice. It was literally a medical necessity. Ummm, okay, that's a new one I thought to myself.... lemon juice.... Let me give you a bit of background, Camp Barnabas is a Christian camp for children and adults with physical and mental disabilities. As you can imagine the types and kind of campers we serve can run the gamut of medical needs. From MACE procedures, a bazillion medications, G-tubes, bowel programs, and ventilators- I see all sorts of medical equipment and we serve a huge array of medical 'stuff'. So at first, the request for lemon juice was not <totally> weird... sure... absolutely we have lemon juice. I'd check with our cook and see but it'd be no biggie to steal some from the kitchen; and worst case scenario, we'd grab the lemonade available and use that. But then this particular request got strange... mom was informing us that her child couldn't use just any kind of lemon juice, she needed freshly squeezed lemon juice.  Not lemonade, not fake lemon juice... As in, out of a real lemon, freshly squeezed lemon juice. Unsweetened, undiluted- straight up out of the lemon.

Pause.

Gross.

The little-squirters in the back of my mouth (total medical term there...) were working overdrive just thinking about the tart-factor of that swig. I'd definitely had some bizarre requests, especially dietary... but this one was rapidly accelerating (not unlike my saliva volume) up to the top of my "Most unusual medical needs"list. My medical incredulity alarm went off and internally I was thinking this lady is craaa-zay.  Never in my medical career could I think of a time or an instance that I could even fathom the absolute medical necessity of straight-up lemon juice for anything. Let alone making this poor camper suffer through drinking such a nasty thing! I mean, seriously... who does that? I was just about ready to very politely but firmly tell above mother that this was a summer camp, in the middle of nowhere, and the chances of us having fresh lemons was less than nill, when she told us that the reason for the fresh lemon juice had everything to do with the undiluted acid content in the juice, and nothing to do with the taste.

Okay, now I'm a bit more intrigued. Maybe she's not totally 'that mom'...

So long story, short, according to this kiddo's doctor, the fresh lemon juice was a necessity to help break down the medications properly, and for her stomach to digest more easily all her food. Which, as noted before, was fine... I now got it- but still didn't actually fix our immediate issue. I was on board with the why, now to address the how. Because, again, think summer camp in the middle of Nowheresville, Missouri; freshly squeezed lemon juice was not exactly readily accessible. Okay mom, okay... I'll just have to check.

We had lemonade but we really needed lemons. Not fake lemon juice, good old off the tree lemons to squeeze good old lemon juice out of. We need real deal, tart, unsweeted, undiluted, acidic, make-your-salivary-glands-go-crazy lemons.

Have you ever just needed a lemon?

It occurred to me throughout that week, with every med pass that nurse made to her camper, that there must be times when God gives us lemons and He expects and needs us to just deal with the juice. The tart, unsweetened, undiluted lemon juice. He doesn't want us to make lemonade out of it. He doesn't want us to sweeten it up. He doesn't want us to dilute it. He wants us to swig it down and let it do it's work. His work. The acidic, often uncomfortable, make-your-spirit-squirm Spirit work that needs to be done within us.

The properties of acid, especially in this case, work to wear away and break down chemical structures in order to either completely do away with a substance or make it more malleable to change.

Anyone picking up where I'm going with this yet?

God uses His own lemon juice in our lives daily. Yet too often we shy away from the bitterness of the taste and miss the spiritual acid He's using to do His work in us. We avoid taking it, like little children squirming to avoid their brussel sprouts. We spit it out. We try to sweeten it up- "making lemonade out of lemons."

I think there is something to be said for the amazing lemonade that God allows by His grace in our lives. Those sweet times with family, the seasons of tremendous fruit spiritually, the happy days of our lives that we yearn for and reminisce about for years. These are good times. These are those deep, refreshing drinks of iced cold lemonade. They are wonderful and needed.

There are also needs for just plain old generic lemon juice. After all, juice out of a bottle is still juice. It still is acidic, and for many things it can serve the same purpose as the real deal. But it will always be diluted, it will always be pasteurized and ever-so-slightly chemically altered. Self-help books, spiritual books, blogs (uh huh, even this one... but keep reading!), counseling, meditation, etc. You get the idea. These are not bad things. they can be immensely beneficial to us... but dear ones, don't be deceived or lazy. The real work of our souls is GodStuff. It is His spiritual acid, His lemon juice in our lives that refine and make us more into His servants. Bottled stuff will never perfectly match the composition of the real stuff.

For the word of the Lord is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 

Hebrew 4:12 ESV

Sound a bit acidic? Hard to squirm away from that... though we may try! God's Word is the real deal. It will always be undiluted, sometimes hard to swallow, and refining to our souls. Always. So don't avoid it.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have it's full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

James 1:2-4 (emphasis mine)

Trials, tribulations, testing.... all lemons. God allows and sometimes even causes such things- for the good and perfection of His people. We must see the bigger picture, so let those lemons do their thing. Let that juice work it's way around and in and throughout. It's uncomfortable, it tastes bad and can be seemingly so very hard to digest.  But it's cleansing, detoxing and refining to us. He will cleanse, detox, and refine. So let Him.

Dear one- what or where are the lemons in your life right now? Are you struggling to sweeten the situation? Post below and share your lemon juice experiences and stay tuned for some of my personal lemons right now!

 

In case you are wondering, we found lemons. I went down, somewhat sheepishly, to ask our cook if she happened to have any (knowing full well that she didn't.) Turns out she had ordered an entire case by accident that week.