Well, I obviously think this is a blog worth reading. Grateful for the chance to share about the only One who makes it possible to rejoice through tears!
Sometimes I wrestle with the things I’m being asked to carry. And I have, in my head, cheerfully throttled many a person that has attempted to tell me that God only gives us what we can handle. Because that’s an enormous lie from the pit. I have learned that He gives us exactly what we can’t handle on our own. To draw us closer to Him and reveal our great need for Him. A severe mercy. There’s a great book on it.
Anyways, here is an allegory of God disabusing me of the lie of independence. Again.
We’re walking hand in hand through the terminal, His hand warm and strong in mine. This isn’t the first stop on our journey and it won’t be our last. I’m a little jet lagged at times with the speed of our travels and at other times impatiently, anxiously waiting for Him to let me know it’s time to move. Some stops are in far off, isolated locales full of discomfort and trial and I’m eager to leave, while others are familiar places of comfort and peace where I’d like to rest until He calls me home. Alas, my next stop does not appear to be home.
Have you ever noticed the melting pot of the airport? We pass the down trodden, the high rolling, the anxious, the weary and worst, the poised and perfect that have got it all figured out. But where my Lord walks, there follows a wake of peace. The air doesn’t dare stir in His presence without permission. Brushed by grace and mercy, people stop to stare, drawn by His irresistible love, even if they don’t know why. I smile because I do know why, and grab His hand a little tighter. Confident in only one thing. He is mine and I am His.
We approach the carousel and I let go of His hand to search out my baggage. I see it in the far corner, imagining the maze of complicated belts, speeding carts and rough handling the sad little bag has probably been through. I’ll admit my extensive research on this is solely derived from Toy Story 2. As I watch my bag round the first corner I am trying not to covet the ones next to it. You’ve seen them, the hard shiny sides with fancy luggage tags and wheels that rotate and don’t get stuck on the moving walkways. I glance back at Him to see if He saw me longing for the pretty paisley bag and smiled sheepishly because, of course He did. We’ve talked about that before. He knows I don’t like my bag. He gave it to me though so I’ve tried really hard to not complain about it. Because He’s good. So I know there’s a reason He gave the sad, shabby, not chic, bag to me.
I look back just in time to reach out and grab the handle. Which promptly slips out of my grasp and moves out of reach in front of other travelers. Not only is the bag not attractive, it’s heavy. I have carried it around for years and to be honest, the thought of carrying it around forever makes my heart grow heavy and start to race. I suddenly feel far more tired than I was ten minutes ago and there seems to be less air in the room around me. My eyes are glued on the bag now and I’m preparing for it’s next pass. The darn thing is so heavy. This time, I’m going to roll up my sleeves and use both hands. It rounds the curve and I reach out with both hands, give a good tug, and manage to lift it a whole three inches. It bumps up onto the side, spins, and lands back on the belt, now with the handle facing the wrong direction. Okay, now I’m frustrated.
This bag is too heavy, it’s not what I want and now I’m convinced it’s going to be the death of me. I’ve got Someone waiting for me, I’ve got things I want to do and other places I want to be. I want nothing more at this point than to leave it behind and let it be someone else’s problem. But it’s my bag. He gave it to me. I know it’s mine for a reason and He has a plan for me and that particular bag. So I will suck it up, pull myself up by my bootstraps, and get MY bag! I’m formulating a new plan. Leverage. I’ll need leverage. Perhaps a foot on the carousel and I’ll put my back into it! It comes around again and I’m not sure if it’s my imagination, but it definitely appears to be coming faster. I’m thinking of past failures and future attempts; lugging this bag for the rest of my earthly days, and I almost lose my resolve. But, chin up, with a stiff upper lip (whatever that means) I place a foot on the side of the carousel, grab the handle and with a mighty tug, promptly land on my butt. Without the bag.
And now I’m sitting on the floor of the terminal, which has to be tantamount to licking a door handle, and I want to give up. I want to go home. I want to brush the germs off my backside, wipe the tears from my eyes and retreat. That’s when I realize. Twenty whole minutes and I lost my peace. I tear my gaze from the insufferable bag cheerfully careening around the carousel and see Him waiting behind me. He gives me His hand, counts my tears, and says, “Yes, I gave it to you, but you were never meant to carry it alone.”
With a deep breath, I stop watching for the bag and start watching my God. We approach one last time, He leans over and pulls it off the belt and says, “Now, follow me.” I am back where I’m supposed to be, carrying my cross and walking in the wake of His mercy and grace. Moving on to our next stop, wherever that is.
I can’t do this life, and what He has called me to, by myself. All the planning, all the list making, all the hard work, all the pulling up of bootstraps (seriously, does anyone have bootstraps anymore?) just isn’t enough. Yet I try. Over and over. And He lets me. And waits patiently for me to turn around and ask for help.
I see Oldest Son trying to do all the things, by himself. I see Baby Girl wrestling fear like her mama and her baggage. I see Mini Hubby trying to figure out where he leaves off and prayer starts. I see us all believing the lie of SELF sufficiency. So how do I help remind us that we do not carry our burdens alone? This is my idea. A separate slot for Mom & Dad, Oldest Son, Baby Girl and Mini Hubby. My plan is to read through our prayer requests on occasion so we can turn them into praise.
28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
I take a trip every fall and it seems every year it is slightly different. Oh, the smells are the same, the colors of the leaves don’t change and the destination is always a welcome one. But, it’s the road to get there that is always changing.
These are my thoughts as we sit in the bus. Hubby and I. As passengers pile on and settle into seats I start to people watch, because that’s what I do. People fascinate me. For example, there’s a young woman opposite the aisle of Hubby and she has wasted no time in pulling out her laptop and ear buds and is checking her Apple Watch; no doubt waiting for her next Zoom meeting to start. As she taps her beautifully frivolous, brand name, high heeled shoe, she radiates anxiousness and I notice the carefully manicured nails that almost hide the chewed corners of her fingers. She glances my direction and I smile what I hope is a warm smile and turn away, acutely aware that I’ve been caught staring. Staring at a younger me. Oh, how I remember the dreams of grandeur of the young IT professional. Fresh into a career, enjoying my first financial freedom and all the temporal possessions that come with it. And realizing that it did not offer an ounce of the security and peace I thought it would bring.
While I reminisce about a thinner, more energetic and selfish me, and our bus finally departs the station, Hubby has started up a conversation with a gentleman in front of us. As is typical of any laborer I’ve ever met, he is telling him about one of the office buildings we just passed. How he worked on it years ago, who he was working for and with and where he used to eat lunch. As his work roughened hand grips the seat in front of him and he laughs at his own dad joke I smile. Not because it was funny, but because I love and appreciate things that stay the same.
I’m distracted by a tapping. Because I’m a mother of three, I instantly know the source to be someone under three, whose feet are conveniently located directly behind my backside. Hence the tapping. On my backside. Thankful for padding, I slowly slide down in my seat, turn towards the back of the bus, and peek my head up enough to see pigtails and a tiny face sticky from the lollipop clutched in her chubby right hand. We commence a game of peek-a-boo and mom appears visibly relieved I’m not annoyed by the tapping. She reminds the little with pigtails to keep her feet off the seat and I ask her where she is from. They’re close and new to the area and I inquire as to whether they have found a church home. Because I am a Director of Children’s Ministry and I very much want to tell pigtails about Jesus. Invitation given and my stomach starting to roll from facing backwards I take deep breaths and turn back around to hear the chiming of my cell phone.
I’ve got mail. Emails to be precise. Regarding the newly formed CTX Alliance. Of which I am now co-president. Did I forget to tell you about that? Very exciting stuff. I quickly scan the emails, because, car sickness. There are details on a video that needs to be made and a couple of upcoming meetings. Oops, and a couple of emails I’ll need to respond to for work. Which reminds me to interrupt Hubby’s conversation about his favorite service opportunity, Ruby’s Pantry, and inquire about when we can coordinate a video recording, drivers Ed, our homeschool field trip up north and the kids’ latest lab testing. Now my stomach is upset and my head starts to hurt and Hubby gathers his stuff to get off. We’ll have to coordinate via FaceTime. Here we part ways for a few days as he heads out of town for work.
And here is where I look over and see the younger me and long for the simplicity. Because selfish me is still very much alive and kicking and right now she is sure that the Lord has made a mistake in all He has called her to be. There is a beautiful weight to wife and mother. I feel a rightness and peace in caring for the day to day, practical, educational, emotional and physical needs of my family. But all these other things? Ministry in the church both to children and their families, Mother to children with rare diseases and all the extras that entails, Advocate for the undiagnosed and diagnosed too late…I am not enough. I do not have enough time, enough energy, enough IQ points, enough patience, enough selflessness to be what He has called me to be. He must have made a mistake. Now I’m frantically looking for a way off of this bus. An escape from the weight. But all I see is a road unknown and I’m sure I’m traveling it alone.
Then all at once there is a brightness and a warmth and an inaudible Voice. I am all at once alone, yet the least alone I’ve ever been.
And the Truth of the words rush silent through my head.
1 Peter 2:9-10. But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
I closed my eyes and bowed my head to the overwhelming beauty of Truth and now I can see it. As clearly as if it was right in front of me. How and who He created me to be.
Psalm 139:13-16 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
There can be no doubt that I am exactly where He means me to be. No mistakes, not if He has ordained every one of my days. But who has He called me to be FIRST, in all its complex simplicity? A chosen daughter of the One True King specially equipped to declare His praises to all whom He places before me. How do I continually forget?
My destination once again reached, I step off the bus into Identity. As a wife, mother, special needs parent, home schooler, family advocate, and ministry leader. But first, and most importantly, as a Child of God. By His grace….that I can do.
I seem to spend more time reflecting on eternity when I reflect on the passing of time. And I am more aware of the passing of time when I’m approaching a birthday. In this case, mine.
Most people who know me, know that it bothers me when people detest aging and even more when they detest the aged. I spend enough time with people who celebrate their children’s birthdays by the month to think of more time with loved ones as anything but a good thing. Enough time praying my children into adulthood not to appreciate every wrinkle and every grey hair signaling my own. Enough time trying to glean wisdom from the aged to think of their time as anything but a treasure.
Yet, as much as I appreciate and value the moments here and desire to fulfill the responsibilities set before me (especially those responsibilities related to my family), an enormous part of me longs for my true home. At times I feel like this is contradictory and I sympathize with and understand better what the apostle Paul meant when he said, “To live is Christ, but to die is gain.”
To be here, enjoying the good gifts my Father has given me here, and to take seriously the ministry He has set before me is a beautiful thing and not something to desire ending prematurely. But to die, if that is gain, what can that mean?! If it’s to gain, it has to mean that it is better than anything here. That it would, in no way, be a loss. It would mean there is no need for a “bucket list”, no need to do all the things and see all the things before time “runs out”. Because that would somehow imply that the room our Lord prepared for us in our Father’s house is somehow “less than” what we have here. Wouldn’t it?
So, if I war within myself on the subject of death and eternity, how then does one explain it to an eight year old? Mini Hubby, as usual, has had big things going on in his little, developing mind. He knows that we are promised no more pain and no more suffering. But lately, that has not been enough to stop his fear of death and an unknown/unseen place.
No problem, as a director of Children’s Ministry, I’ve totally got this. Hopefully.
We made a list of what we think heaven would not have if there was no more pain and no more suffering. Not necessarily in order of importance.
- No puke
- No blood
- No hunger
- No thirst
- No bee stings
- No mosquito bites
- No stubbed toes
- No COVID
- No rust
- No hang nails
- No cancer
- No car accidents
- No doctors
- No lawyers
- No prisons
(I’ll admit to not thinking about those last three until we were brainstorming. Fascinating.)
But, simply the absence of pain and suffering was still not enough to relieve his fear. So, I suggested we make a list of what we think it might feel like to be there. This time we did it separately. This is mine:
Rainbows! Sunrises and sunsets that can’t be duplicated by man. The smell of freshly mowed grass, baking bread and salty wind off the ocean and into your face. The breath stealing moment of awe at the power in Niagra Falls or the carving of the Grand Canyon. Your hand in grandpa’s. Warm feet digging into cool sand. Sliding into fresh bedding after a hard day. The smell of grandma’s house. Hot chocolate in the cold. That moment when you exchange the rings, hold the baby and cheer for the victory. Reunions. Happy tears. Oh, Lord! That too brief moment of worship in Spirit and truth. When the world melts away, time ceases to exist, and you’re in full communion with the One who made you. For a few seconds. As close as you’ll be this side of eternity. Breathtaking. All of the best things about this world all at once.
Now, Mini Hubby will do most anything to get out of writing. So, his thoughts could be seen as a reflection of his aversion to a pencil, or, they could be further proof of what I’ve experienced with children time and time again…
Child like faith. With less exposure to this world, they seem far less tethered to it than we are. It just seems to make it all less complicated to them.
He wrote simply:
Jesus. No more I’m sorry’s.
And with that, my eight year old grasped heaven with both his sweet little hands. Because heaven includes our sin washing, heart renewing, saint shepherding Jesus, we will not enter with our sin. Nor will anyone else who has trusted in Him. We will no longer hurt others and they will no longer hurt us. And I just can’t imagine a better feeling combination than the presence of our Savior and the absence of our shame. Especially in the hurting, fallen world we currently inhabit.
So, did I help Mini Hubby with his fear of death and the unknown heaven? I’m not sure. Time will tell. But, I know he sure clarified things for me.
“He has adorned you with the gift of grace and adopted you as His child.He has given you His own Word to educate you for heaven; He has opened your eyes so that now you see. By His grace and your cooperation, your soul will gradually develop into a more perfect resemblance to Him. Finally, your heavenly Father calls you home where you will see the angels and saints clothed with the beauty of Christ Himself, standing around His throne and hearing the word that will admit you into their society: Well done, thou good and faithful slave; . . . enter thou into the joy of thy lord (Matthew 25:21).” D.L. Moody, Heaven
For my birthday I’m fundraising for some of those families that celebrate their children’s birthdays by the month. Join me here:
Maybe it’s because we’ve just experienced the longest stretch of sub zero temperatures in almost a century, or maybe it’s because of all of the Facebook posts of people’s warm climate escapes, but I dreamed of an ocean last night.
Knee deep in calm, blue waters the ebb and flow gave little relief from the glaring sun. At that depth, the water was more like bath water. It was a new to me beach though and I’d spent a considerable amount of time trying to decide if there were any dangers below the surface. Behind me, there were a group of children using drift wood to examine a washed up jelly fish and I was keeping an eye out for any of it’s more fortunate mates. I had no idea where along this coast we were. Could it be shark season here? There were many people, far less cautious than I, that had entered these waters at the same time as I had and were now enjoying their relief from the heat, dipping below the surface and swimming in cooler water further out.
But there I stood, searching for unknown dangers, studying the water and what lay below the surface and looking longingly at the playful couples splashing in the distance. Distracted by all of the noise behind me, I glanced back to see a boardwalk full of people and a beach packed with blankets, umbrellas and countless families. There was volleyball playing, sand castle making, sun bathing and shell hunting. Shops crammed full of souvenirs destined for the landfill were teeming with customers in tiny bikinis and giant jewelry. The smell of fried food from several food booths mixed with the salt in the air and my own sun screen. Every time I looked longingly back out across the ocean, uncomfortable in the heat, my attention was drawn back to the commotion on the shore. So I stood in the in between. Not quite in, and not quite out.
That’s when I heard it. You’ve probably heard it before too. The “Oceans” song. If I closed my eyes I could hear it more clearly…
“You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep my faith will stand”
And there I stood, worried that venturing further, my feet would fail. Certain that my faith would. But drawn none the less. So I stood still and sang along.
“I will call upon Your Name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine”
That’s when it happened. Looking down, I watched as the water pulled back as if Someone had pulled out a giant plug somewhere out in the great unknown. Suddenly, all people and their accompanying sound disappeared with the water and I was left with a foreboding empty silence. The sand beneath my feet had been drawn along with the water and I watched the ground hollow beneath me. My heart raced as my gaze lengthened to the sea bed in front of me. A myriad of things revealed in the stripping of the sea. Some beautiful, some ugly. I stood exposed, alone, in the quiet open. Waiting. And then I heard it. A roar of rushing water. Louder than anything I’d ever heard. I looked up in time to be enveloped by the wall of returning sea. The wave that slammed me into the Rock of Ages.
“Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You’ve never failed and You won’t start now”
And there was incredible fear. Floundering, there was no place for my feet. No up or down, no left or right. No air in my lungs. No solid ground. No foothold.
“Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior”
I vaguely remembered hearing and singing along to the song. If only I’d known what it might look like when I’d asked to be taken deeper! Would I have sung along? Would I have asked for faith without borders?
“I will call upon Your Name
Keep my eyes above the waves
My soul will rest in Your embrace
I am Yours and You are mine”
Then there was a letting go. Not a giving up, but a giving in. I once again closed my eyes and heard You call. But this time, I called back.
Wherever You call me, Lord.
Then I woke up. To the quiet peace around me and in me. Grateful to keep my eyes above the waves, I was reminded of my favorite Charles Spurgeon quote:
“I have learned to kiss the wave that throws me against the Rock of Ages.”
I don’t know that I’ve learned to “kiss” the wave of special needs children. I still pray earnestly for healing. But I’ve certainly learned to be grateful for it, and what it has accomplished. I am far less distracted by the people and the commotion on the shore. Lord knows it has never been more ridiculous and frivolous than it is now. The things of the world still appeal, but don’t pull like they used to. I’ve seen them fade in comparison to the eternal. I am no longer terrified of the unknown. I’ve seen what lies beneath the surface and experienced the grace hidden there. I am no longer standing in the in between and there are others that are “all in” beside me. Now we collectively beckon to those stuck in the in between. We help each other on the long days when the persevering is hard and celebrate all the victories in between. On the hard days I’m content to wade in the deep waters surrounded by these brothers and sisters and on good days… I’m walking upon the water with my Savior and there is no earthly joy that can compare.
Who needs a warm weather destination anyway? This morning, I just spent a little longer snuggled into blankets and basking in the warmth of God’s promises. I will, however, still need a coat today.
There is something special about being seven that makes my kids believe in magical things. Each one at that age has sprung a last minute Santa list on us that has included the impossible. Mixed in with Oldest son’s requests for a myriad of Pokemon and pasta was a request for his baby sister not to cry. Baby Girl, in the throws of her only girl-like obsession, handed over a one item list on Christmas Eve for Pixie Dust. This year, Mini Hubby asked for a turtle, knowing full well that mom does not allow any critters in the house that don’t have fur. There must be something about being seven that makes one willing to ask for the impossible.
The funny thing is, even though none of my seven year olds got what they wanted, they all loved everything they ended up getting. Watching Mini Hubby open his Lego gifts and spend an entire day putting together several Super Mario courses with a joy only surpassed by his focus made me think about the many things I’ve asked for, and not received. And how good it has been.
I don’t know about you, but somewhere along the way my Heavenly Father not only took my entire list of requests but also much of what I’d thanked Him for, and gave me something drastically different. I handled it with far less resilience than my seven year old children. I had this beautiful picture in my head and heart in which we were a successful, healthy, family of six. You know, comfortable home, sizeable savings account, honor roll students, good life insurance, new cars, weekend sports tournaments, warm destination vacations, promotions, the occasional cold and basically, nothing we couldn’t handle. On our own.
There was the problem, wasn’t it? My Father only gives good gifts. And a good gift does not include one that leaves me unaware of my daily, moment by moment need for Him. So, He mercifully gave me what I needed. Only, at the time, it didn’t feel like mercy. Children with a genetic disorder and the financial devastation that comes with a medical crisis felt more like crushing disappointment and pain than grace. Less like a gift and more like punishment.
A good gift includes something that makes me more into the image of my good Savior and less into the image of what the world defines as good.
So, sitting and watching my family open Christmas gifts this year I was overwhelmed with the good gifts I’ve been given. Some days, I still don’t want them, but by His grace, most days I am at least grateful for them. Grateful for the way Hubby and I are learning to plan for the future, but live in the grace for today. Grateful for the need to wake every day and surrender my family to the One who loves them more than I do. Grateful that He has not only used every one of our hard gifts to show us how loving and faithful and kind He is, but also to show us how everything else we’ve desired in this world pales in comparison to Him.
Today I’m thinking about you all. I’m thinking about how so many of you have gotten hard gifts this year. I’m praying that someday soon you will be able to stop grieving the gift you wanted, but didn’t get. I’m praying that you will be able to see, although dimly, how the gift you have is being used (If you are Christ’s) for your ultimate good and God’s glory. I’m praying for your perseverance in the hard things, but I’m also praying that you will find joy in the gift you didn’t ask for. Though 2020, for many, has been much more like walking on Legos than getting the coveted pet turtle, I’m praying 2021 will find everyone picking up all the sharp pieces and discovering what our Lord intends us to make with them with the same intense focus and joy as a seven year old that believes in the impossible.
If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!
I’ve always loved to read, though the content has changed significantly over the years. One of my favorite authors is C.S. Lewis and though I return to his books often, I’ve recently found a new love of biographies and auto biographies. My favorites happen to be of some wonderful old saints like George Mueller, Amy Carmichael, and Charles Spurgeon. I read through the lives of these incredible brothers and sisters in Christ and they both encourage and convict me with their faithful perseverance and joyful service to our Lord. If you don’t know them, for the sake of this blog, you need only know that the size and scope of their ministries was only surpassed by their great faith and reliance on their God. Which resulted in great Kingdom impact.
And it never fails when I close the book for the night.
I want to serve like them. I want to minister to orphans. Great multitudes of them (or maybe more realistically, foster children).
To save exploited children and show them the love of their Father.
I want to tell of the Good News to the masses. The underprivileged, forgotten, broken, hurting, starving masses.
I want to do big things in response to the big Love I’ve received.
Don’t misunderstand. I also think that sometimes the big acts of service are the small ones too. I find great joy in loving chatting, giggling, exasperating teenage girls in my youth group, wiping snotty button noses in my Sunday school class, sorting dusty, dirty cast-offs for a rummage sale and even scrubbing toilets and windows in the house of my Lord.
But as I read these biographies I found myself wondering if these beloved saints ever wrestled with where they were called to serve? It seems to me that they didn’t. And it makes me wonder if this is my own peculiar stubbornness.
I sometimes look at our situation with special needs children as an obstacle to service. How am I to do all of the things I want to do when there is a constant stream of paperwork, medical bills and appointments.
If only I didn’t have one fire after another, Lord, the things I could do!!
Then I went to an amazing conference with Hunter’s Hope. An organization that serves families affected by Leukodysytrophy. It was while sitting in on a prayer meeting, fever raging from a kidney infection, that the Lord began to work on my heart.
The chairs were arranged in a circle with Kleenex boxes strategically placed about the small room, as couples made their way in from breakfast. In varying stages of grief, these beautifully brave parents and caregivers shared their deepest, most authentic, genuine, hurts, fears and even heart breaking anger. Then, they collectively placed their burdens in the hands of their Lord, asked for the strength and wisdom to glorify Him throughout the conference, and closed in praise and gratitude for the fellowship and provision given to make the conference possible.
Then, since I was feeling so ill, instead of making connections and asking questions I was forced to just listen and observe. (I tend to do a “doer”, so trust me when I say this was frustrating and decidedly disappointing. NOT what I’d planned.)
What I SAW was HOPE. I saw these same hurting, grieving, struggling servants shining light into what I’ve experienced to be some of the darkest of circumstances.
Because there were many in attendance who were trying to navigate the terminal illnesses and deaths of their young children… without Christ.
I saw these unbelieving families look upon these other, broken parents and wonder at their peace. At their ability to find joy. Wonder at their belief that their God was still good. And it made me wonder…
Did those parents of the prayer meeting realize how well they served their Lord? In and through the pain and daily struggle for peace. It was then I thought of those who God had used to serve me.
A pastor, who having come to Christ at the grave side of his infant daughter and a friend with a daughter with MD would be the only ones I could hear and believe when, in my own grief, I could not believe or hear God. And I suspect these precious families will one day, if they haven’t already, be given the opportunity to serve in a similar way. To be able to say, with confidence, to the similarly afflicted,”He’s still good. And He still loves you.”.
Then, I saw these same hurting parents present all of the amazing ways God has used and purposed their great suffering to ease the hurts and suffering of future Leukodysytrophy families. Dozens of organizations founded, books written, laws enacted, lobbyists created and activists activated to go out and comfort with the comfort they themselves have received.
And then I think, have I truly been willing to serve where He has placed me? In the relentless paperwork, medications, therapies, insurance battles, waiting rooms and fear filled future. EVERY morning when I surrender these children anew, have I surrendered willingly myself to serve where He obviously wants me. And am I doing it as cheerfully and joyfully as I would serving the next project at church?
And the answer is humbling.
These last couple of weeks especially I’ve wanted to serve pretty much anywhere but where He has me.
I still want to serve in ways that are more appealing to me. Would still honestly much prefer serving widows and orphans, the homeless and persecuted. Would even cheerfully welcome the opportunity of a great inheritance to pour into God’s kingdom if you twisted my arm.
I’m far more comfortable serving from a place of my own abundance, than a place of my own great need.
Perhaps I do NOT yet have the willing, servant heart I thought I did.
We live out in rural Wisconsin. It’s kind of easy for me to get caught up in some of the negatives of Midwest living.
Think subzero, hurts to breathe, snot freezes in your nose kind of winters and two week long summers.
But I’m getting better at learning to stop and appreciate the things I overlook in my hypothermia. Like the fact that our view of the night sky is unobstructed and undiluted. Unobstructed because we’re in the middle of fields and undiluted because we’re a fifteen minute drive from a gallon of milk and subsequently any “city” lights.
We’re currently experiencing our two weeks of incredibly gorgeous summer in which we have defrosted enough to turn the air conditioning on and break out the bug spray for our state bird, (the only one that survives the winter) the mosquito. We often stay up and outside as late as possible to enjoy every moment of it.
So yesterday I got to look at that beautiful night sky, not from behind iced and snow blown windows, but from the patio, reeking of “Deep Woods”.
It was magnificent.
How often do I pass a cursory glance over that expanse and only see those scattered few, bright, blessings shining down?
I sat listening to children bouncing on a trampoline, squealing with mock outrage over an overzealous sibling with a hose full of teeth chattering well water. I sat laughing, as our newly acquired (officially egg laying) chickens squawked over the commotion and ran crazy poultry circles around their coop.
And content, I gazed up. Focused in. To those bright, obvious, stars and then past them. As I panned across that sky, a thousand more came to my attention. These blessings aren’t as bright. They seem to get lost in the vastness in which they’ve been scattered, but the sheer volume of them is breathtaking.
Lord! How I overlook your blessings!
Oh, I see those that are closest at hand, that shine the brightest from here. I see the obvious food on the table, clean water from taps and roof over our heads. I see the ones that are measured biggest from my current vantage point.
But what about the others?
The ones that from here, under the heavens, appear so much smaller and less significant.
The gift of less. Is that a star, or a meteor? I can’t quite tell from here…
The gift of trial. Perhaps it’s a passing plane or satellite? Maybe if I squint…
The gift of the broken AC, water heater and car. The disability denial. The breast lump. The endless special forms that come with special needs. Certainly if I had a better vantage point, I’d see them more clearly?
And I think, someday I will. Someday I’ll look down on them from above and I can’t help but think those stars that wink so small from here, will flare brightest in light of eternity. Those blessings so much harder to distinguish living in the world will be clearest in their proximity to the Light of The World.
But some of them He shows me here. When His telescoping Spirit reveals small glimpses of what it must be like to gaze down on the twinkling blanket of blessings He’s laid over me.
Remember that lump of last month? That sure didn’t shine brightly as my biggest blessing when first I glimpsed it.
Then they told me it was precancerous. That these lesions are only found via mammography because they spread outward, instead of up, without forming a palpable lump. That I was two years from my first mammogram and if I hadn’t had that cyst that prompted the imaging, which found the lesion…..
And that cyst? It disappeared a few days after the partial mastectomy that removed all trace of the lesion with clean margins and no further treatment.
Some blessings sure shine brighter than others…. depending on my vantage point.
This road we’re on sure has a lot of stones in it. The narrow path can be hard to navigate. Trying not to fall to the left or the right is tough when this road less traveled never seems to stay straight. Instead, we’re full steam ahead on a journey that has more twists and turns than the county fair roller coaster. I heard someone say once that if you’re bored as a Christian, you’re not doing it right. If there is any Truth to that, I have to believe we’re really rocking this following Jesus thing.
But the really cool thing I’m finding about maturity is that my reflexes have greatly improved. Usually, at a new bump or bend at break neck speed, I start with crying out. Right away I know to approach the One Whose stamp of approval has been placed on this detour. I occasionally start with the “Why me”, followed by (a little bit whiney), “What is it about me that requires THIS much correction?” Or maybe “What am I NOT learning?” and sometimes, “How long, Lord?”. This is a much quicker stop than it used to be. Because, well, reflexes. Muscle memory? Practice?
Next, I move on to remembering. Because when I’m nervous or scared or just plain tired, I know that I fail to practice some basic safety measures like looking in the rearview mirrors. Looking at where I’ve been reminds me of how I’ve gotten through, and Who is always traveling WITH me. Over every rough patch, through every close call, I can find strength in remembering that those situations seemed precarious at the time too, so surely there is hope yet for this one.
Then I slow down and remember to check those side mirrors and watch my blind spots. Because, in remembering, I’m reminded that this is when the enemy delights in trying to destroy. Destroy my peace, destroy my calm and destroy my deep breathing exercises. A bit of defensive driving here is absolutely crucial. I grab hold of that manual, that map, that Word of God and speak Truth to myself where lies threaten to sneak up on me.
This last couple of weeks I had some difficulty navigating. We hit a few bumps. The A/C went out in my van. Which isn’t such a big deal unless you have a kiddo that doesn’t regulate their body temperature well. Then, there’s the water heater that suddenly quits. And in the midst of a cold shower, another bump. Or rather, a lump.
In my breast.
And if any of you have experienced this kind of bump in your road, you may know the kind of road I traveled this week. It took a twist at the ultrasound, after the mammogram, when the radiologist ordered the core needle biopsy. Though I’d been in regular prayer over all our bumps lately, I will admit that the big medical words like radial scar and inter ductal carcinoma had me doing more of what would be considered, praying continuously.
I prayed continuously as they prepped for biopsy. I prayed continuously when that room looked more like a crime scene than an exam room. I prayed continuously that I would not lose my lunch, that I would remain conscious, and that they would finish soon. And as it was all over, I prayed for wisdom for the staff that would interpret the results.
Curled up with a couple of ice packs that evening I was still praying. My busy mind in direct contrast to the stillness of my living room, I made a familiar stop at “Why me”. Because I was feeling a bit…. afflicted.
Why us? Why finances? Why always medical problems? Why SO HARD? Why can’t we have “those” problems instead? You know, the ones those other people have? How much longer, Lord? And this whole pity party collided with gratitude for a Father that tolerates the questions of His struggling children.
So I finished my devotional. I finished my daily reading and I prayed for the ability to hand it all over to Him. For a peace that surpasses circumstances. Because I knew He could provide it, I turned off all the lights and crawled into bed.
When Psalm 41 flashed insistent through my head.
I don’t know Psalm 41. Is that in the first book, or the second? I’ll look tomorrow.
I tossed, turned, fluffed and got back up to take some more Motrin. Then tried again.
Lord, I know You already know those biopsy results and You’re already ahead of our every need. Please help me remember that and rest in You.
1, 2 & 3…
That seemed rather specific so I picked up my phone and looked it up quickly on Blue Letter Bible.
Giggling and crying, because that’s how I roll when the Creator of the universe lowers Himself to not only hear my prayer, but whispers comfort in illuminated text. I shut my phone off and went to bed. And slept.
The air conditioning is still broken, the water heater still needs to be replaced and biopsy confirmed what’s called a radial scar. Benign, it should require no treatment, but will at least need to be removed.
But I have it on good authority that we are being protected and preserved and we will be delivered in our times of trouble. Not to mention being sustained and restored. I’m feeling far more peace about the road we’re on.
I pulled into our local big box store’s parking lot and being a creature of habit, pulled into our usual spot. Also as usual, the begging for junk food and toys started hardly before I’d put my beloved minivan in park. This time though, I was distracted by “the smell”. If you were ever a teenager with no money, you know the one. That hot, greasy, mechanical smell that indicates (far more reliably than those lights on the dashboard) something expensive is wrong underneath the hood. If you’re like me, and you smell it while driving, you hope that it’s the guy in front of you. But if it’s still there when you’ve parked, you know you’re in trouble.
I was in trouble.
I sent a quick text to Hubby to break the news. Then, an SOS to Auntie Mamie in case I wasn’t able to go pick up Oldest Son. Whom we had just dropped off at tennis practice. And in that three minute timespan my other two darling offspring decided this was an opportune time to fight over spilled water. It’s almost as if they can smell my nerves fray as strongly as “the smell” coming from the van. I hustle them out of the van, past the Expect More, Pay Less sign, and into the air conditioned entry so they can argue over who is going to clean the germ infested handle of the cart. Really, have they no sense of self preservation at all?!
Considering our property taxes are due the end of the month, Hubby has a bad tooth and no more dental for the year, the dog needs a trip to the vet, and my van has “the smell”, I am now seriously counting on this store to live up to it’s pay less promise. Herding (now wet) cats through the store and trying to remember my grocery list, I’m also texting with Hubby and Auntie Mamie about the van. In light of the impending cost of repairs, I’m mentally crossing off batteries for the Xbox controller as I make plans for Auntie Mamie to follow me home and promise Hubby I will do no further driving. He’ll stop on his way home for parts and we will have to postpone our fishing trip with grandpa.
I’m distracted by the fact that no matter how I rearrange my plan, there is just not enough time, or money, in this day. But still I’m trying to squeeze a few more minutes and a few more dollars for what they’re worth as I squeeze more into my cart. And almost walk, distracted, by a sister. As we talk, I’m reminded of meals I’m getting ingredients to make. And the sweet lady that needs them. I share the request for prayer for that family and possible needs they may have in the future. In those five minutes of conversation, God purposefully drew my gaze from me. And toward Him. Away from my texts, away from my shopping list, away from my undone chores at home, my schedule Tetris, and away from my bank account.
How easy it is to fill my cart, fill my life, with anything but Him! And isn’t that exactly what the enemy would have me do? Fill my every moment, my every thought with something else?
If time is money, where am I spending my time? What am I spending it on?
Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
What am I buying with my time?
I look into my cart and I realize I’m too often buying busy. I’m buying distraction. I’m buying into probably the biggest lie of our age. I don’t need more time. I need less “stuff” to fill it.
This road we’re on the last couple of years has taught us so much. When you walk through the fire, God has this way of burning off a lot of the excess. Out of necessity mostly, we’ve purged not only a lot of “stuff” as far as possessions, but a lot of “stuff” that took up our time. The result being we have less “stuff” to take care of, to spend time on. And, we’ve been trying to be very purposeful in stewarding our time as well. Limiting kids’ activities, electronic time for all of us, and saying “no” more often to things so we can invest our time wisely. (The learning to say “no”, even to good things, to say “yes” to better things, always reminds me of Jesus leaving the multitude to pray.) Turns out though, that this learning and adjusting is apparently a continuous process? Sigh.
Finally in the check out lane I pry Mini Hubby’s hands from the totally fascinating toy he has to have but would forget about by the time we got home and get an email from another box store telling me the things I need to get because I “deserve them”. This is when I may have asked Baby Girl to go put back the box of Peanut M&M’s I may have impulsively grabbed to make me feel better about “the smell” on the way home. (You know, because I deserved chocolate.)
I’m much less frazzled on my way home with Auntie Mamie tailing us to make sure we get there and the post tennis, smelly, teenage boy in her vehicle, not mine. The kids get to work unloading groceries and unorganizing my pantry while I talk with a friend about her latest trial and make plans to have coffee and talk in person. I take a break to video tape Mini Hubby’s latest Imaginext superhero adventure so he can watch it when he’s done and then promise to listen to Oldest Son’s latest favorite song after he’s done showering. Lunch and a nap for Mini Hubby leaves me with a little Minecraft time with Baby Girl before spending some time in prayer.
My van is still in need of repair, Hubby’s tooth still hurts, the dog hasn’t gone to the vet, we still have to cancel fishing plans, my chores aren’t done, but somehow I feel like I’ve made the right investments for the day?
Trying not to buy into “busy”. Jesus, help me!