Olive Leaf Ministries » Nancy Douglas is a Christian speaker and author. She is the mother of an Autistic child and breast cancer survivor

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  • Nancy Douglas

    Nancy speaks and writes through the Olive Leaf Ministries where her testimony of discovering God amidst the pain of having an Autistic child and bout with breast cancer touches the hearts of all who hear her speak. Nancy and her husband, Jimmy, have two children and currently reside in Kansas City, Missouri.

    "Thank you so much for your ministry. I continue to receive very positive comments from our ladies. Your tremendously transparent blend of testimony and applicable scriptures are so effective in your teaching." Joyce Cowell, Fayette, MO

Fair Warning

WarningEver wish you’d been warned? A word of caution is valuable. It perks our attention to catch what we might otherwise miss. In nursing school we were trained to watch for signs and symptoms in order to spot and treat problems early. Missing certain cues could lead to death.

When I was in my late 30′s God granted me an invaluable warning. One day out of the blue He said, “When you turn 50 it will be tough.”

An eight-word alert. That was it.

I’d have pursued the issue but it was so far down the line. It wasn’t until I suffered depression that I remembered the warning. Life had been squeezing me through a wringer with one loss after another, my mother, then my father, our daughter’s declining health, loss of a business, and my own breast cancer at a time we were without health insurance.

Oh mercy. Tough. That was putting it lightly.

In my early 50′s this old warning gained meaning and brought comfort. Suddenly I realized that God had known of these events long ago. He knew how they would hurt but allowed them to come my way. He essentially gave them permission to drain me dry.

Why did God allow my suffering? It wasn’t because He didn’t love me. His warning was to soften the blow.

It was here I began to understand one key to peace; realizing I am not a victim of random chaos and my world is in no way falling apart. God gave me a heads up because these adversities would be mine, custom designed to teach me personally.

Jesus warned His disciples too. He told them He would soon have to leave them and that they would undergo their own troubles. “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 (NIV)

Just think for a moment of all the potential tragedies God has kept out of your life. Then compare them to what He has allowed. Why would He choose one ordeal to sift into your life over another? It’s because He’s delicately forming you into an image more like of Him. One tool doesn’t fit everyone. We each need a gadget best suited for us.

Like sandpaper, trials can soften our rough edges if we let them. It smooths bitterness into kindness, anger into love, anxiety into peace, and impulsiveness into self-control. There is no need to feel singled out when it comes to misfortune, we all meet up with it one time or another. The question isn’t why do we encounter problems but how can they help us grow up to be more like Christ.

Take a moment to view your adversity more from God’s perspective. Trials can be terrifying when we are alone, but with Christ we have peace because He has overcome! He is in control and cares only for what is best for you.

Take heart, whatever has come your way He has allowed for a very good reason.

 

Grace: A Salve Over Imperfection

DaniBDOur son came home a week before our daughter’s birthday so we decided to celebrate early. Drew had a hankering for chocolate cake so Jimmy whipped one up. He cooks. I don’t so much. It was my idea to kill two birds with one stone by converting his cake for her birthday.

“How old is she going to be?” my husband asked while digging in the baking area of our cabinets.

“25″ I replied.

“Well look here!”

I turned.

He held out two candles, numbers two and five.

My brows furrowed.

“How can we already have a five if she’s just turning 25? I understand the two but the five would have to be 15 years old. I don’t think I’d keep it that long and I don’t think it would look that good. Plus I don’t recall putting numbers on Drew’s birthday cakes since he was a little boy.”

The candles came out of a zip lock bag and had been burned and while neither of us could explain why we possessed them, it was a relief. They made a birthday cake.

Later I realized she turned 25 last year. Ew, the shame.

Our sweet baby girl either didn’t know the difference or didn’t care that her numbers were wrong. She loved her cake, we all did, but Jimmy and I felt silly we’d forgotten her age. After all we are her parents and should know the age of our children, but parenting is a difficult job even in the best of circumstances, illness and disabilities only muddy waters to the point of disorientation.

If stress could be condensed into little gold droplets we’d be bazillionaires. Jimmy has taken several months off work to help me take care of our daughter, my hot flashes have advanced a notch up to rapid-fire, and all of Dani’s doctors have earned a spot on my smart phone’s “favorites” list. Dani is on home isolation until we can build up her immune system so the only way Jimmy and I can get out is by alternating who goes out and who stays home with her. This has been going for many months and as hard as I can be on myself, even I understand how we lost track of her age. I’m truly proud we remembered her day at all.

Do your realize how much God understands our fragile state, mine, yours, everyone’s? We are fallen creatures living in a fallen world, not at all the way God created us to be. He created perfection. Sin changed everything and because of it, there isn’t one square inch of us that’s free of a fault-line. Humanity has rendered us extraordinarily brittle. It’s a miracle anyone survives a day.

Perfection? It isn’t obtainable.

But then there’s grace, God’s irrevocable love lavished squarely on each of His children every day.  Like a salve it covers our short comings, making us ever-so precious in His eyes. To God our twenty-five was as good as a twenty-six. We meant well, did our best, are tired as all get out, and He understands. I believe He honors our efforts even when we’re flat wrong because that’s how grace works.

Are you tired? If so, bless your sweet heart. I am too. Sometimes it’s hard to place one foot in front of the other. I’m still prone to wobble with worry and become irritated when things won’t work right, but then I remember this is a fallen world and things will never be perfect. I am a creation of God but not by original design. We were created to live in sinless communion with Him, not apart in pain and suffering. That’s why life can be so abrasive, this isn’t our home. We were not built to be comfortable with violence, disease, abuse, neglect, and death. If those things hurt, they should. They’ll never line up comfortably.

So what do we do? Praise God for His grace and the hope of heaven set before us! Our daughter cries when we tell her she will be able to talk in heaven. Jimmy and I relish the idea of talking with her and learning more about who she is, but we have to wait. It will not happen down here on earth. It will unfold in eternity. I can wait. You can too. We must. Till then let’s anchor our hearts on the hope of Christ’s return.

“Come!” say the Spirit and the Bride. 

Whoever hears, echo, “Come!” 

Is anyone thirsty? Come! 

All who will, come and drink, Drink freely of the Water of Life!” 

Revelation 22:17 (MSG)

 

July 14, 2014 - 10:24 pm

Cheryl Barker - Nancy, so touching to hear that Dani cries when you tell her she’ll be able to talk in heaven. How she (and you) must long for that day when her disabilities will fall away. And how I long for the day when I will no longer stumble and sin. Love the things you say about God’s grace and how much He loves us even though we’re not perfect. So very thankful for His understanding and grace. Thanks for these precious reminders.

May God continue to strengthen you and yours. Keeping you in prayer!

Meditating on My Shepherd

ShepherdLife has been busy lately with one very ill child for the last 8 months. I’ve wanted to blog or at least say hello but my heart just wasn’t in to it. When Dani is sick I don’t care about much of anything. I sit in the hospital with her with the TV off or on and muted, books closed, and mind focused solely on her. I pray a lot but she’s been so ill for so long that during this last stint in the hospital I even had trouble praying.

Jimmy is in between jobs and will not take another assignment until her health improves. I’ve been homebound with her for so many months that now each day he nearly pushes me out the door saying, “Go, do whatever you want, shop, get coffee and read your book. Relax and enjoy time to yourself.”

I am thankful for my newfound freedom. Today I went to Bible study… it had been so long and oh did I need it. I hit rock bottom a couple of weeks ago. I was down right mad at God for not healing Dani. Watching her suffer had become more than I could take. I had only one thing to say to Him. I said, “Lord, don’t leave me but leave me alone! I am so mad at you I don’t know what to do.”

I’ve calmed down since then, God didn’t leave me and I didn’t leave Him but I need to resume quality time with Him.

Our teacher went over the spiritual discipline of meditating on God’s word. We do this by,

  • Reading it slow and deliberate
  • Letting it sink in
  • Considering how it applies to our life
  • Pondering it
  • Mulling it over and over
  • Making special note of its richness – don’t you love that word – richness!

She used the example, “The Lord is my Shepherd”

  • What does “The” mean in this passage? — It points to the one and only God, our Lord.
  • What does the word “Lord” say to you? — Not mere human but Lord and King, our sovereign Savior who is above all.
  • What does “is” say? — The Lord is mine. Not was, will be, or might be but He is.
  • What about “my”? — God is personal. He is mine, now and always.
  • What does a “Shepherd” do? — He guides, protects, feeds, rescues, nurtures, loves, cares for, and defends His sheep.

I have spent the day meditating on these five words. They reminded me that my Shepherd is Dani’s Shepherd too. He cares, loves, defends, nurtures, and protects our little lamb. He knows she is sick and is working to make her well. I can trust in my Shepherd for He is good.

I can’t tell you how this feeds my soul. I nearly drained my pen dry taking notes today. It was so refreshing and I look forward to meditating on another verse tomorrow and the next day and the next.

Are you going through a trial that has you drained? Perhaps like me you are even a little mad at God. If so, He understands. Acknowledge it and move forward. Begin talking to Him again and perk your ears to hear what He has to say to you. Meditate on His word and apply it to your life. There is no greater love than that of your Shepherd. He is watching over you with an intense everlasting love.

I pray you feel the presence of the Lord this day.

Blessings!

 

 

June 17, 2014 - 7:42 pm

elaine @ peace for the journey - This kind of scripture meditation has really helped me to think about the potency of scripture. It has also brought great peace to my soul, this breathing in and out of God’s Word.

Praying for you, friend.

peace~elaine

June 17, 2014 - 9:43 am

Cheryl Barker - So thankful for how the Lord has encouraged and refreshed you through His word, Nancy. And also thankful that Jimmy is able to provide you with some periods of respite. You all are in my prayers!

The Best for the Least

Acts“In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. 2 So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. 3 Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them.” Acts 6:1-3

The Christian church was new and comprised of two kinds of Jews, Hellenistic (Greek, not blood born) and Hebraic (blood born). Somehow, if you could imagine, the Greek Jewish widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. They weren’t not invited to the occasional feast but neglected daily nutrition. When the original Christ-taught twelve heard about this they gathered all the disciples to choose seven men to serve these women.

Notice who was choosen, seven men full of the Spirit and wisdom. Men of good reputation brimming with the Spirit of God – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. They weren’t on good behavior to get the job but were men of good reputation. Their lives had shown an untarnished walk with God over time, qualifying as worthy to give the greatest care, the kind that would please Christ.

Men of honor were assigned to the widows, the best of the best. It wasn’t considered overkill either. The high-ups didn’t question handing these saints over to this duty, it was deliberate. The widows had nothing to give and could only take, but they were worth it. Why? Because God cares about everyone, big, small, known, unknown. He loved the widows so much He entrusted them in the care of the most trustworthy of men.

It helps me to remember this as I care for our special needs daughter. She’s 25 years old and I’m, well, no spring chicken. I get tired now more than ever before but God wants the best for her. She is of great value! When I walk with Him I allow His Spirit to fill me to the brim. That is when I am strengthened and she is best cared for.

Have you ever felt overqualified for a task God’s called you to do? I remember once having a job as a nurse in a facility for special needs children where our daughter attended. I had no office, no phone, and very little nursing duties. Most of my time was filled with checking children’s backpacks for notes from parents, since most of the children could not speak, and preparing their lunches. I grumbled one day to my husband that I did everything but nursing there and his response wasn’t what I expected. He said, “You should be willing to do anything at work. As long as it is not illegal or immoral you should be willing to scrub toilets if they ask and be grateful you have a job.”

He was right. His words sobered me up and taught me a lesson I’ll never forget. In fact I practice this philosophy still today caring for our daughter. It is good to remember I am not above giving her my best. Though I would love to do lots of things in life, I’m not called to do them. I’m called to serve her.

Is God calling you to do something “smaller” than you had planned? How does it make you feel? If it bugs you chances are you’re lacking a measure of God’s Spirit and wisdom. I can say this because I’ve been there. Sometimes my call flat rubs me the wrong way. I’ve learned, however, that when it does it’s a sure sign I’ve drifted from the heart of God.

“And being found in appearance as a man, He (Christ) humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” Philippians 2:8

May 5, 2014 - 11:07 pm

Cheryl Barker - Nancy, you’ve given such great insight to this passage — things I’d never thought of before. And the personal example you’re living out in your own life is a powerful and touching present-day picture of this passage, too. I admire your dedication and faithfulness to your call — to your precious Dani. Hugs to you, my friend.

Courage to do Good

Gal6-9

You wouldn’t believe how dusty this blog was after two months neglect. I can’t give what I don’t have and I’ve been short on words for a good twelve months. Our daughter has been ill on and off, sometimes severe, for a couple years and nothing drains me more than her suffering.

Our recent battle was with MRSA, a deadly flesh-eating bacteria. It landed her in the hospital in October and has attacked three more times since. A severe allergic reaction to an antibiotic further complicated her recovery, leaving me without words to pray let alone blog.

Whenever I find myself wordless, rest assured God is not. That’s when the Holy Spirit intercedes, translating any pain or frustration to our heavenly Father. On several occasions God pointed me to Galatians 6:9, reminding me not to grow tired of doing that which is good. So I’d hold this verse up against my life and ask myself,

  1. What is noble and right in my life? It’s the invisible act of caring for our Autistic daughter. God has given her to us and He loves her abundantly. This means she and her care are top priority.
  2. Why am I weary? Because she is sick so often and so much. I had hoped for more in life. I want to be crisis-free. I’m tired of fighting for that which I cannot obtain.
  3. Where is my heart’s focus? On the here and now, her illness, and our confinement.
  4. How can I gain strength? By setting my sites on “the appointed season” ahead, heaven’s future beyond this fallen world.

I feel better when I think of heaven, beyond the here and now. Dani does too. She smiles and sometimes cries when we tell her she’ll be able to talk when she gets to heaven. What a wonderful day that will be. No death, pain, illness, disability, or loss. Heaven will be a state of perpetual good, nothing bad, nothing alarming. God will be our light, no darkness anywhere, any time. All will be safe and secure.

Until then scripture instructs us to choose courage. Courage to do good. For me it’s the quiet behind the scenes job of caring for a special needs adult daughter. For you it may be holding a single-parent family together, being a godly example to co-workers, or encouraging others through cards, calls, meals, or visits. It may be praying for a wayward child, being a friend to the lonely, or an ear that listens with love and not judgement. Whatever you do, if it’s of noble quality, it will require a measure of tenacious courage.

Are you tired of doing something good? If so, where is your heart’s focus? If it is to witness the results this side of heaven you will eventually grow tired and become stressed. Our job is not to determine outcomes and put them on display, but rather to be the “good” element of influence along the way.

May courage to do good be yours today!

April 28, 2014 - 9:11 am

Nancy - I know you are tired too dear friend. Sometimes we gain strength just by hearing that another is weak as well:) Keep moving ahead. We all need you!

April 28, 2014 - 9:00 am

elaine @ peace for the journey - Thank you for these words this morning, Nancy. They are just the encouragement I need to begin my week. Yes, I am tired, but I will press on in faith. Thoughts of heaven calm my spirit as well.

peace~elaine

April 27, 2014 - 11:42 pm

Cheryl Barker - So touching to hear how Dani smiles and cries when thinking of what heaven will be like. God bless and strengthen you all, my friend, as you set your sight on heaven.

April 27, 2014 - 7:42 pm

Kay - Your words are always so encouraging. I am blessed to call you friend. Thank you.

April 27, 2014 - 4:24 pm

Annette - Great word Nancy!