The UNhappy Uncle Aaron

Well, it’s time for another Uncle Aaron update.  This is one that I have not wanted to make.  You can probably tell why from the title.

Before I begin, let me say once again that the reason I write this blog is not to just tell funny or heartwarming Aaron stories.  I began this blog years ago as an effort to educate people about special needs, autism and epilepsy in particular.  Especially the autism part that makes Aaron so very amazing and unique.

But there is another side as well…a side of Aaron that has a hugely difficult if not impossible time adapting to change.  Add to that issue the reality that Aaron is the center of Aaron’s world.  He gauges almost everything in his life on how it will affect him.  He has a heart as big as all outdoors in one moment, but in the next he might be having anxiety or a meltdown over something that isn’t going as he wants.

Our little grandson, Ryker, was born on December 21.  Now Aaron was Uncle Aaron for REAL!  But when we showed Aaron pictures, he backed away as if Ryker might reach out and slap him.  Aaron was nervous and acted like he really didn’t care about our new family member.  We knew then we needed to tread lightly as Aaron adjusted.

But look at Aaron’s smile when he opened this Christmas gift.  We were hopeful.

I flew to meet Ryker a couple weeks after he was born. 

Five days later, Gary and Aaron were flying in for a couple days.  But the morning they were to leave, Aaron had a full-blown meltdown.  The day before had also been rough. 

To top it off, the flight was delayed that morning.  Making the connection in Denver was doubtful.  A very upset Aaron having to wait a long time for an uncertain flight in a strange airport far from home…ummm, I don’t think so. 

Gary and I knew we needed to cancel the trip.  The relief in Gary’s voice was palpable and I totally understood. 

Aaron’s voice over the phone was thick with emotion and tears.  After Gary cancelled the flight, Aaron was filled with guilt over what he had caused.  He also worried about our reactions, and knew he should apologize.  He was pretty pathetic.  Here are Gary’s words in a text:

“He is 180 the other way now.  Walking him back from his sorrow is almost as difficult as getting him out of his anger.  Constant sniffles, watery eyes and suggestions in addition to the ‘I’ll go…I promised Mom and I promised Andrea’ there is ‘Can we get another airplane…can we drive, can we go tomorrow…dad, I’ll go.’  I feel like I just took a long trip!”

Gary continued:  “He has said several times, ‘But I promised Andrea,’ and ‘I need to say I’m sorry.’  So I’ve said that we’ll call her and apologize.  He walks to the phone and pauses, then says he can’t.  It’s too emotional for him, I think.”

Down in Texas, I was full of both anger toward Aaron and sorrow for Gary, whom I knew should be there to meet his first grandchild.  This picture should have included Gary.

It was good to talk to Gary, to Andrea and Kyle, and to have wise input from family and friends.

But most of all, the turmoil I felt was relieved by stepping back in the quietness two mornings later and reading scripture as I held precious Ryker.  I read Psalm 62:  “With You is unfailing love.” 

How can I not love Aaron since God loves me in my stubbornness? 

How can I not extend to Aaron the grace that God has extended to me?  It’s honestly easier to accept God’s grace to me than to give that same grace to Aaron at times like this. 

And like Gary also said:  “I often wonder what God sees when He looks down at me?  When I do not do what He would have me do or I don’t do what I should do, does He look at me like I look at Aaron?”

So, here we are.  I wish I could report that Aaron has turned around and has decided to love and accept Ryker.  But that hasn’t happened yet. 

My second night home, this past Saturday, we had a particularly rough night with Aaron.  There he was, sitting up in his bed, crying with brokenness and saying that he was afraid we would only love Ryker and not him.  Gary and I assuring Aaron of our forever love for him while fighting our exhaustion and frustration. 

Andrea is right when she said the next day that Aaron is just like a little sibling when a new baby comes into the home and the older child expresses jealousy.  Aaron has no filters and makes no attempt to hide his feelings. 

But here’s the thing and it goes back to autism. 

Aaron CAN’T filter or hide what is going on with him right now.  He is literally unable to do that. 

Out it all comes and we are left to deal with it.

Sorry this is so long.  Trust me, I could say a lot more but I’ll hush now and say thank you to each of you who have read this volume.

And a special thank you to those of you who have been praying for Aaron and for us.  Please don’t stop.  We need much wisdom and love.

Before I go, I just HAVE to share one more picture of our precious little grandson.   It’s what a Gramoo does, right?  😊   

Photo Worthy

We just finished the Thanksgiving season with all the family gatherings, delicious food, and lots of photo opportunities.  Now the oranges and golds are being replaced by the reds and greens of Christmas.  More pictures to come, for sure!

Already our social media is brimming with the pictures that others are sharing of their Christmas decorations.  So much beauty and creativity!  I love doing that every year, sharing the warmth and glow of the season.

But the brightness all around us, even if we only see it in a photo, sure can make the other side of life seem even darker than usual.

Other’s picture-perfect moments, if compared to some of ours, seem off-the-chart wonderful…and ours.  Well, the line on our chart is going in the opposite direction.  Way down.

Several years ago, I saw this picture of Mary and Joseph after the birth of baby Jesus.  It’s probably the most accurate portrayal of the nativity that I have ever seen.

The call of God on their lives to be the earthly parents of Jesus came at a huge cost to them.  They knew that their reputations would forever be tarnished.  Gossip and judgmental stares would be their lot. 

But can you imagine the long trip to Bethlehem for the census?  The discomfort, hunger, dirt, and fear? 

Then the baby being born in an animal stable.  We don’t know for sure, but did they have help delivering baby Jesus?  How Mary must have wished for her mother to be beside her! 

Can you imagine how alone they must have felt?  No family that we know of to surround them with love and care.  No beautiful nursery ready for baby Jesus.  No comfort of a soft bed for Mary or Jesus.  No kitchen full of food, or a meal train at the ready.

Joseph and Mary submitted without reservation to God’s call on their lives.  That special call might seem sweet and incredible to us but to them I can pretty safely assume that on most days it was anything but that.

Over this past week, mixed in with all the beautiful pictures of family gatherings, I was receiving other pictures from our dear friends.

 Dan and Wendy have loved and cared for their Elijah (Speedy) for many years.  Speedy has an extremely severe form of Epilepsy.  He was hospitalized yet again during Thanksgiving, for six days.

Lots of tests.

Still, lots of unanswered questions.

Always, always there is so much love from these amazing parents for their Speedy.

But the pain…the grief…is so real. 

Raw…and deep.

Wendy and I talk a lot.  We speak the same language that comes from special needs parenting.  We can be real with each other.

We understand what Dale Davis was saying in his commentary on the book of Luke when he talked about the benediction in Hebrews 13:20-21…about the part that says may God “do in us what pleases Him.”

That part is scary because we don’t know what it is that will please God.

Can we be like Mary, though, and submit to God’s will for our lives?

“May it be done to me according to Your word,” Mary replied as she was called to be the mother of God’s Son.

“Submission is preferable to consolation, for consolation pleases us, but submission pleases God.”  (Thomas Hog, 1692)

Let that sink in.

There are so many times that I would far rather have the photo worthy moments of family and fun and excitement and adventure and beauty to be the posts of my life.

Not the incomplete family photos. 

Not the tiredness…anger…frustrations…comparisons…resentments that often accompany this special-needs life.

How about you?  What is it in your life that you feel isn’t photo worthy? 

What would you gladly trade in for a more beautiful shot?

Somehow, though, I know that God looks down on our broken and He sees the very people and things that bring Him the most glory and the most joy.

He sees way beyond this temporal into a plan for each life that goes far beyond what we will ever know on this old earth.

And that’s what is eternally photo worthy.

The Sudden Dark Clouds

The other morning, I looked out my favorite upstairs window and saw this very pretty sky.  The puffy clouds and the sunshine reminded me of summer.

Not long after, however, I noticed from another room that it seemed darker outside.  I went back to the window and was shocked at what I saw.

Whoa!  In such a short time the scene had totally changed.  We went from bright and happy to dark and foreboding very quickly as a cold front began blowing in.

I have had those sudden dark times in my life. 

That Sunday years ago when our normal day turned into terror as Aaron lay on our kitchen floor, seizing violently.  The blur of a frantic call to the medical clinic…the ambulance…the German children’s hospital.  The stabs of deep fear mixed with the frustration of the language barrier and the culture that was in many ways unfamiliar. 

We went from worshipping God at church that morning to being blind-sided by a situation that we were totally unprepared for.

But let me tell you that Psalm 18:28 is true!

            “The Lord my God illumines my darkness.”

He was there with us in that foreign hospital room, during all the tests, and the diagnosis…and He has not stopped walking with us on this road of special needs.

My prayer list keeps getting longer with names of so many who are hurting and struggling through various sudden changes.

Gary’s cousin, now a much-too-young widower whose precious wife collapsed and was gone.

A friend’s daughter…a young wife and mother…fighting cancer.

A cousin and a friend recently widowed.

Jobs ended.

Marriages over.

Cancer returning.

Listen to what else David says in Psalm 27:1:

            “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?”

God brightens the unknown!

His light shines brightest in the dark.

His character positively glows in our deepest hurts and with our tear-stained cheeks.

And we have no reason to fear because He is fighting for us.  Psalm 27:1 continues:

            “The Lord is the defense of my life; whom shall I dread?”

I love the song, Blessings, by Laura Story.  Read the lyrics:

We pray for blessings, we pray for peace

Comfort for family, protection while we sleep

We pray for healing, for prosperity

We pray for Your mighty hand

To ease our suffering

And all the while, You hear each spoken need

Yet love us way too much to give us lesser things.

‘Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops?

What if Your healing comes through tears?

What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near?

And what if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise?

We pray for wisdom, Your voice to hear

And we cry in anger when we cannot feel You near

We doubt Your goodness, we doubt Your love

As if every promise from Your word is not enough

And all the while, You hear each desperate plea

And long that we’d have faith to believe.

‘Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops?

What if Your healing comes through tears?

And what if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near?

And what if trials of this life

Are Your mercies in disguise?

I saw this beautiful scene a short time later, after the scary dark clouds had gone away, and I was reminded that God is still our light and our salvation.

Don’t fear, dear ones.  God is still there in the clouds, and He WILL illumine your darkness with His sweet presence.

Yesterday’s Leading

Aaron doesn’t always like to be awakened from his sleep, either in the morning or after an afternoon nap.  Yet when it’s time to get out of bed, it’s time to get out of bed!  And I am often met with his anger during those times. 

One day not long ago he wanted to take a nap.  I asked him if he would get out of bed when I told him it was time.  He promised that he would.  I know Aaron, so I gave him the mom look as we stood there. 

“Mom!” he asked, “do you trust my promise?”

I was honest with him and told him that sometimes he had a hard time keeping his promises when it came to getting out of bed. 

Aaron’s question is one that I feel God is often asking me.

Sometimes the prayers I prayed in the past and the way that God answered leads to a place that is far from perfect.

If my trust is on my circumstances instead of on my heavenly Father, then I will most certainly begin to doubt His leading.

I know better than to live that way.  I know the verses and I know the principles, but life’s realities sure can cloud that knowledge and turn it quickly into doubt and defeat.

God’s promises are not negated because of my feelings.

But my peace can be destroyed because of my feelings.

The trust I had in His leading yesterday is the same trust I need to have in Him when the path He led me to is not necessarily fun and joyful all the time.

Job felt abandoned by God as he endured horrific testing…testing that took place even as Job lived faithfully for God. 

Job expressed his thoughts very honestly in Job 23.  He said that he went forward, and God was not there.  He went backward and did not perceive God.  God did not seem to reveal Himself to Job on the right or on the left. 

BUT!!!

        “BUT He knows the way I take,” Job said.  (Job 23:10)

Ah!  The important thing for me to know is that GOD knows the way I take.  Job was walking God’s path, treasuring God’s words, keeping God’s ways…and still lived with very hard situations in his life.

God knows my path, too…and yours.  As you follow Him and ask for His guidance, then trust Him to do the best in your life.

Yet sometimes the best is tough.

“I’m living my BEST life!” we hear people say.

But then the pictures are usually beautiful and fun and happy.

Mine don’t always look like that.

“Patty?” God says, “do you trust My promise?”

“Yes,” I answer, “but why did You lead me here and now look at how it’s turned out?”

“Because I love you,” God answers.  “I know what’s best for you.”

“I do believe that, of course,” I reply, “but…

“But DO you trust Me?” God asks again.

And I come full circle once again, forced to make a conscious decision about God…to firmly believe that He performs what is appointed for me, as Job said.

“Do you trust my promise?” God repeats.

“I do,” I reply, sometimes through tears, “because I trust YOU.”

Yesterday’s leading is still today’s place for me. 

And that’s because of God…only God.

Remind Me That I Love You

Mornings for Aaron are definitely the time of day that he struggles the most.  It can really be hard for him to get out of his warm bed and face the day.  Not every morning is difficult, but let’s just say that for Aaron the majority of mornings do not have a right side of the bed.  Both sides are wrong!

Aaron realizes this about himself.  Therefore, sometimes he will tell me to give him a morning reminder that will hopefully help him to be cheerful.  The reminders are about something that the day will hold…something that he is looking forward to and so will encourage him to get up happily. 

For instance, he loves going to Meals on Wheels on Thursday mornings but sometimes he knows on Wednesday night that he may be grouchy the next day.

“Mom,” he says, “tomorrow morning if I don’t want to get out of bed just say Buster.’’

Buster is the little dog at one of our homes that Aaron loves to see and to pet.  And Buster loves seeing Aaron. 

Or on Valentine’s Day, when we were going to pick up roses to take to his day group friends, he knew the night before that he might be irritated about getting up.

“Mom,” he told me, “if I start getting mad in the morning just say roses.”

I love Aaron’s plan of action.  I know he truly does want to be nice in the mornings.  Sometimes his plan works, and well, other times it doesn’t.

One recent evening we were watching a favorite show.  Aaron was all comfy and relaxed on the couch, legs covered in his ever-present blanket, and enjoying a yummy snack.  He was the picture of contentment.

Such was not the case hours earlier as we worked to get Aaron out of bed and on his way for the day.  That morning he was the picture of frustration and anger.

As we sat on the couch enjoying our program, Aaron was filled with happiness.  He finally looked over at me.

“I love you, Mom,” he said.

The moment was genuine and so sweet.

“I love you too, Aaron,” I replied. 

Then he seemed to remember our unhappy morning.

“Tell me I said that in the morning when you’re getting me up,” he added.

His words were a stop-me-in-my-tracks moment.

How many times in my life have I been filled with contentment as things are going well?  Then it’s easy to tell God that I love Him.  And I mean it when I say those words to Him. 

But sometimes the bottom falls out. 

Gary and I had been married for five years before Aaron was born.  That positive pregnancy test was SO huge to us!  How thankful we were!  How full of love for God and His sweet blessing in our lives!

Now here we are, 37 years later, in a place we never dreamed we would be with Aaron. 

Seizures.  Autism.  Behaviors. 

Can I still lift my eyes to God and tell Him that I love Him?

Those warm fuzzy ecstatic moments of my first pregnancy are long gone. 

In their place are many moments of worry, sadness, frustration, and bone-wearying exhaustion.

But here’s the thing.  I know God in a deeply personal way. 

And I know that often His ways in my life are filled with heartache and pain so that I will grow to be more like Jesus.

God hasn’t changed one little bit.

But He calls me to change, and His word tells me that this change toward likeness in Christ will involve the hard things. 

Sometimes I have to will myself to remember all the reasons I have told God that I love Him.

And those reasons cannot be based on my circumstances that are happy and fun.

The reasons I love God are based on WHO He is…His character and His attributes.

I cannot base my love for God on how comfortable I am.

So, like Aaron, there are times in my life when I need to look at God and ask Him to remind me that I said I love Him.

Through my tears, fears, anger, hurt…through all the questions I have about God’s reasons and logic in my life…I must not lose my love for God.

Oh God, tomorrow…when things aren’t going too well, and I feel upset…remind me that I said I love You. 

Remind me that You are the same yesterday, today, and forever.

And remind me of how very much You love me, too. 

Humbled and Hungry

Recently, Aaron and Gary had both been feeling puny.  In fact, they had each been tested for COVID.  Thankfully, both were negative. 

When a family member is sick, I slip into full-on caregiver mode – which means I usually hit the kitchen and start cooking.  I did this last Monday, making a huge pot of potato soup.  It was way more than the three of us needed but that’s the way I roll.

We sat down to eat that evening, where Aaron declared that he didn’t like potato soup and that he would not eat. 

“That’s fine,” I said.  “Suit yourself.”

Gary and I proceeded to eat.  Finally, realizing that I was not offering another option to him, Aaron begrudgingly agreed to try a small amount.  Three bowls later, he left our table full and happy.

“I liked the potato soup, Mom,” he told me later.  I just smiled and thanked him, not telling him that I knew he would because he had eaten it before and loved it.

Sometimes Aaron needs to see that I am not going to give in to what he wants.  I will allow him to get hungry in order for him to learn that the food I have made is good and that he needs to eat what is offered. 

How amazing it was that the passage I read in Deuteronomy 8 happened right after this object lesson!

Moses was reminding the Israelites about the reasons God had told them to obey Him and to remember all the ways He had led them. 

And then in verse three:

            “He humbled you, and let you be hungry…”

God let them be hungry.

Why?

So that He could feed them with the manna that He provided.  There was nothing they could do in the desert to feed themselves.  He gave them what they needed, and in their hunger…a hunger he allowed…He showed them a great truth.

“…that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord.” 

I didn’t enjoy seeing Aaron hungry.  It would have been easy for me to rush in and offer him something I knew he liked just so he would eat.  But if I did, then he would have missed an important lesson:  You eat what Mom has provided.

I can look at my life and see that there are many times when I don’t understand the way that God has led or the events that He has allowed. 

I ask why.  At the time, a decision seemed to be wise and right, but it led to situations that were hard.  Sometimes those ongoing situations are the very ones that roll around in my brain in the dark night hours.

But I have learned to push those circumstances aside and to look at God Who loves me without fail.  And I know…I KNOW…that the hard times – the times I am humbled and hungry…are by His design and His allowance.

God isn’t being mean when He allows me to experience hunger.  He knows that in my hunger I will be more aware of His provision, and I will learn that I do indeed live and eat and prosper only through His food that He provides.

His words to me are manna and life and strength.

And I will come to Him one day, hopefully, full of His Words that I have eaten, and I will thank Him for the hunger that brought me to the place of being satisfied with His goodness.

“How sweet are Your words to my taste!  Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth!”  (Psalm 119:103)

A Setback…But God

Seizures have been a part of Aaron’s life…and ours…since he was in the first grade.  He had his first seizure at home on a Sunday afternoon, out of the blue and utterly terrifying.  God was so good to let me be standing right behind Aaron when it happened there in our military apartment in Germany.  I was able to catch him.  If not, he would have fallen onto the hard kitchen floor and received a serious hit to the back of his head.

His seizures have morphed over the years, as seizures do, seeming to eventually bypass all the medicines and treatments that can be provided.  The majority of his seizures occur in clusters during his sleep, most often at night.  These clusters carry their own dangers, one of which is SUDEP – Sudden Death by Epilepsy.  Those words from his epilepsy doctors over the years always send a chill down my spine.

Aaron has occasionally had drop seizures here and there.  A drop seizure happens when Aaron is fully awake.  They hit suddenly, with no warning to us.  Aaron will fall either forward or backward like a downed tree, not able to break his fall. 

A few years ago, he began having more and more of these drop seizures.  He sustained significant injuries.  Cuts, scrapes, bruising, stitches, a fractured tooth that had to be pulled, and very hard hits to his head. 

Finally, on March 9, 2019, Aaron had a drop seizure on our stairs.  He had walked up a couple steps, then fell backward, and hit his head on a metal file cabinet handle.  He ended up with 8 staples in his head.  It was awful!

When we got home from the emergency room and checked our mail, there was a letter from our insurance company approving Aaron for the new pharmaceutical CBD oil, Epidiolex.  We had experimented with over-the-counter oils from good sources but had no success.  His Epileptologist couldn’t provide any guidance for those OTC oils, legally.  As soon as the FDA approved Epidiolex, Dr. Lee put in our request for approval.  Now here it was, on the same day that Aaron had fallen…a visual and sad example of why we really wanted to try this new drug. 

Dr. Lee was able to oversee Epidiolex since it was FDA approved and obtained through a prescription.  Over the next few months, we adjusted Aaron’s dose and tweaked another medicine and waited to, hopefully, see positive results. 

And we did!  Aaron’s drop seizures totally stopped!  We were elated, and soon began to relax.  Our fear over those horrible and dangerous seizures slowly went away.

Until this past Thursday. 

Aaron and I delivered for Meals on Wheels in the morning.  We enjoyed lunch at a cute Mexican restaurant.  Then home, where Aaron took a nap…and had a seizure while he slept.  This is nothing uncommon.

Later, as I was getting supper on the table, Gary had just come into the kitchen.  He was standing right beside Aaron when suddenly Aaron lurched and went into a seizure.  But instead of Aaron falling into the table and a chair, and landing on the floor, Gary was able to catch him.  This was truly from God, that Gary was there beside Aaron instead of across the room.  We were so thankful!

We got Aaron safely on the floor.  Such disappointment filled us both! 

Almost two years since a drop seizure, and now this. 

We hurt so for Aaron.

And I felt that familiar fear.  It had come back. 

But I also felt something else.  I felt God’s peace pushing back on the fear.  I forced myself to focus on God…His love and His plan for Aaron, and for us.  That knowledge was the best push-back on the fear that threatened to fill me.

I also thought about Mary’s response to the angel when she learned of the very hard path that God had chosen for her…the path of unwed pregnancy in a time when she was no doubt shunned and gossiped about and disbelieved.

Mary said, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.”  (Luke 1:38)

Total submission.

Like the writer of Hebrews said, “Now the God of peace…equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us THAT WHICH IS PLEASING IN HIS SIGHT, through Jesus Christ, to Whom be the glory forever and ever, Amen.”  (Hebrews 13:20-21)

God has been working on me this past year about being willing to pray in submission…being willing to say, “God, whatever it takes…”

Just two days before this latest drop seizure, I had been reading about Mary and then this benediction in Hebrews. 

I don’t know what it is…what it will take…for me to please God. 

But I do know that I need to be willing to let God do in me…and in Aaron…that which is pleasing in HIS sight, even when it may not be pleasing in mine.

Even when it hurts, deeply.

“Submission is preferable to consolation, for consolation pleases us but submission pleases God.”  (Thomas Hog, 1692)

Who is it that I most want to please? 

It’s tough when my submission involves my child.  I love Aaron.  I love all our children. 

But a huge area of my close walk with God, which I truly desire, is to be able to submit “whatever it takes” concerning my children as well.

I humanly want the consolations of God…the closeness and assurance that I feel when He blesses me, and them, with wonderful things.

But true submission to God comes only when I am willing to relinquish all the warm fuzzies for the stark hardship that often comes when the deepest lessons…and blessings…are allowed to occur.

Allowed to occur because I am submitted to God. 

God won’t bully me into submission.  Submission happens when I open my hands and release my desires to Him, trusting Him to do what He knows is best.

Even drop seizures, if they do start again, are somehow being allowed by God in Aaron’s life and in ours. 

The sky just before Aaron’s seizure that evening was so beautiful.  I have only to look up and know that God is there for us. 

The heavens declare the glory of God…and I want to do the same, as well.

Barren

It happened to me again two nights ago.  I was sinking into sleep when I think, honestly, that I snorted and woke myself up.  😊

But then I couldn’t get back to sleep.  Instead, I lay there thinking of a picture I had seen just before bed.  Happy news for someone else created in me a longing for some things I don’t have. 

These are the moments that Satan loves.  He uses the tender areas of my heart’s desires to create in me an unsettled feeling.  The dark of the night is his perfect setting to speak words of doubt and unhappiness into my head. 

I’m a captive audience at that point.  The choice is mine. 

Whose voice will I listen to? 

So, I prayed and I thought of scripture.  I eventually went to sleep.  But I awoke the next morning feeling the weight of my burdens still lingering on my shoulders.

This morning I continued in a new study I just began yesterday in the book of Luke.  Right away we meet the priest, Zacharias, and his wife Elizabeth.  They were both righteous in the sight of God and walked in blameless obedience to God. 

They were old.

They were faithful to God.

And Elizabeth was barren.

In their culture, having children was everything. 

They had nothing, in a sense.

I think of Elizabeth beyond the stories we always hear and the ending that we know well.

I think of her hearing with sadness of the pregnancy of yet another friend.  Of probably faking joy when deep inside she is grieving over what she doesn’t have.  Of perhaps not feeling included in the years of family gatherings, celebrations, large happy holidays…

Of laying awake at night, bombarded with these realities, alone and with a broken heart.

And though we know the end of the story, that God gave her a child, she did not know that this blessing would be in her future.

“…there are those who are true servants of the Lord and yet some trial, some disappointment, that may be life-long, hangs over their lives.  ‘Righteous before God’ yet ‘they had no child’.  A very huge fact and a very deep sadness are pressed together.”   (Dale Ralph Davis)

Do you have a barren place?  An unfulfilled desire that eats away at you in the dark stillness of the night?

I do.

We all do.

What ARE we to do?

We are to live faithfully, in daily obedience to God.

We are to “Commit our way to the Lord…”  (Psalm 37:5)  That means to roll our burdens on the Lord’s strong shoulders.  Literally, that’s what it means.

“…God does His most impressive works in a context of impossibility.”  (Davis)

No BUTS…unless we say, “BUT God!!”

Will God give me what I want? 

I have no idea.

The real question should be:  Will I allow God to put HIS wants into my heart?

Will I want to walk with God so closely that His desires become my focus?

“God tends to begin His finest works in the face of human hopelessness and human weakness.”  (Davis)

Walking faithfully with God doesn’t mean we’ll never have our barren places.

But may we, in the barren, bear the fruit that only God can produce in us, to His glory.

Broken Lights

Aaron followed me into the dining room the other day.  I wasn’t paying attention to him behind me as I worked on our Christmas village. 

“Mom, look!” Aaron said.

I turned to see him staring intently at our little tree that is full of my Grandma Holly’s handmade ornaments, made with love so many years ago.  This was a pre-lit tree, but as so often happens, those bulbs had long since burned out.  I had replaced them with another strand of lights but left the unlit lights on the tree – hidden, so I thought, by the new lights. 

“This light bulb doesn’t work!” Aaron exclaimed.  And as his eyes roamed over the tree branches, he pointed out other broken small bulbs. 

“Here’s another one!” he said.  “And here…and here…and here,” he continued as he pointed to each one.

Aaron had gotten close enough to see the broken, while standing farther away, I could only see the soft lights of that new strand that worked.

I am studying through the book of Numbers.  Now that book doesn’t exactly stir excitement in one’s blood, but I have learned that in Bible books we usually consider to be dull there are amazing truths from God…golden nuggets that shine brightly!

The setting of Numbers is the wilderness of Sinai where Israel wandered for 40 years on their way to the promised land.  They should have gotten to the promised land much sooner than 40 years, but because of their sin God made them travel for 40 long years. 

They were a broken nation full of broken families.  Broken by sin…by their willful turning from God.

But look at the VERY first verse:

“Then the Lord spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai in the tent of meeting…”

God did NOT give up!  God spoke to His people through Moses.  Again and again, God reached down to those stubborn people and spoke.

“Now when Moses went into the tent of meeting to speak with Him, he heard the voice speaking to him from above the mercy seat that was on the ark of the testimony, from between the two cherubim, so He spoke to him.”   (Numbers 7:89) 

“Moses had so much to talk to God about and, as the long journey progressed, each new day brought its fresh load of pastoral concerns, unreasonable complaints, arrogant accusations.  Yet, desperate as he was to talk about his problems, Moses was overwhelmed with a priority greater than speaking.  The Tent of Meeting became the place of attentive listening.  Moses heard the voice…And He spoke with him.”   (Raymond Brown, The Message of Numbers)

The place where God spoke was the mercy seat, the place of forgiveness of sin.  Sin blocks our communication with God, but at the place of forgiveness we are once again receptive to the voice of God.

Oh, how broken we are today! 

A broken nation…broken families…broken people.

No election, no Supreme Court, no political party can ever fix this mess we are in at this point in history.

Sin, national and personal, has blocked our ability to hear God speak.

But at this time of year, this Christmas season, we see hope for each of us.

Hope came in the form of a baby…God’s only Son…given to this old dark world to be the Light of the world!

“And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.”  (John 1:14)

The word “dwelt” means to pitch a tent.  God sent Jesus to live among the people…to pitch His tent much as the tent in the wilderness. 

This is how much God loves us and how much He wants to fix our broken.  We meet Him at the place of forgiveness where we confess our sin and trust His Son to be our Savior. 

Like Aaron, when we look closely we see all the brokenness of this world.  We see lights that don’t work.

But when we allow Jesus to forgive and to redeem, we step back and see that He is indeed the light of the world.

THIS is the message of Christmas! 

Jesus is our only hope today. 

He alone can fix our broken mess.  Please come to know Him today and listen to His voice in the place of forgiveness. 

The Cold Snap

We have a little bush in our front flower bed, a perennial that we planted probably 17 years ago.  In fact, I can’t even remember the name of this little bush, so I just call it that – Little Bush.  This hardy bush keeps its leaves on all year long, which is part of its charm.  In the summer the leaves are green with some maroon mixed in, and in the fall and winter the leaves are mostly maroon.  Small berries also grow among the leaves in the fall, so by Christmas it seems to be all decorated for the season.  I really like my Little Bush!

Last year, though, probably starting in March, I noticed that Little Bush didn’t look so healthy.  Its leaves that always stay were falling off, until finally only stark, naked branches were there.

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This was quite unusual, and I was worried.  Was I finally going to lose my long lasting little bush?  Was there something that I could do to save it?

I kept looking at Little Bush, wondering what had happened.  Then one day an article in the newspaper caught my attention.  The headline said something about how certain trees and bushes in Wichita were losing their leaves.  I read the information with interest because of my little bush.  The writer explained that earlier in the winter we had experienced several nights when temperatures had dipped to -10 degrees or lower.  These frigid temperatures had damaged some trees and bushes that normally held their leaves all winter.

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There was my explanation, I thought.  This cold snap had damaged Little Bush.  Then the article went on to assure gardeners not to worry but to be patient…that most trees and bushes would begin to grow again in the warmth of spring because their roots were not damaged by the extreme cold.

So I waited and I observed.  I checked my little bush routinely and sure enough one day I saw tiny new leaves emerging on the empty twigs.

 

As time went on and the days passed, the warm spring sun and the rains did their restorative work.  Little Bush grew…

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And grew…

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Until finally Little Bush was back, as pretty as ever!

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I’ve had some cold snaps in my life, too…times and events that came unexpectedly and with little or no warning.  Everyone has.

Cold snaps hurt.  And they take many various forms.

An illness.  A diagnosis.  Sudden death.  Lingering death.  Rejection.  Accusation.  Betrayal.  Job loss.  Divorce.  A prodigal.  Regret.  Guilt.

I remember my dad’s victory over lung cancer…how relieved and thankful we were when treatments were complete and he was in remission.  But before the five-year mark came the blood work and the testing and the phone call…liver cancer…inoperable…four more years of chemo…hospice…

Cold snap.  Recovery.  Then another cold snap.

But through it all, our family verse brought us each the warmth and the hope that we needed: “God is our refuge and strength; a very present help in trouble.”  (Psalm 46:1)

Sometimes our hard times…our cold snaps…make us feel like David when he said, “My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all day long – “Where is your God?”  (Psalm 42:3)

Where is God in our pain?  Oh, He hasn’t gone anywhere!  He’s a very PRESENT help in our trouble, remember?  He’s right here with us.

Right after David said his tears were his food, he said, “Why are you in despair, oh my soul?  And why have you become disturbed within me?  Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him for the help of His PRESENCE.”  (Psalm 42:5)

My little bush had hope because its roots were secure, and so do we who know and follow Christ.  We have hope in our despair because we know that God is sovereign…He is in control…He has a plan…He is present…and He has a purpose for the cold snaps that rock our world.

“I called on Your name, O Lord, out of the lowest pit.  You have heard my voice.  Do not hide Your ear from my prayer for relief, from my cry for help.  You drew near when I called on You.  You said – “Do not fear!”  (Lamentations 3:55-57)

God is near in our pain…near in our pondering…near in our praise that arises even out of hurt and unanswered questions.

I love these lyrics of Jeremy Camp’s song, He Knows:

 

All the bitter weary ways

Endless striving day by day

You barely have the strength to pray

In the valley low.

And how hard your fight has been

How deep the pain within

Wounds that no one else has seen

Hurts too much to show.

All the doubt you’re standing in between

And all the weight that brings you to your knees.

 

He knows

He knows

Every hurt and every sting

He has walked the suffering.

He knows

He knows

Let your burdens come undone

Lift your eyes up to the one

Who knows

He knows.

 

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