What’s Ahead?

Here in Kansas over the past ten days we have had some extreme winter weather, as have many of you around the nation.  We knew it was coming thanks to modern weather forecasting.  We were able to prepare as best we could for sub-zero temperatures and even worse wind chills and snow.  What a blessing it is to be able to look ahead and to be ready when the storm hits! 

Some of you know that I have been reading and studying through the book of Numbers.  This book isn’t exactly known for super passages full of encouragement, but I have discovered, with the help of Raymond Brown’s book The Message of Numbers, that there are indeed many blessings and promises in this often-neglected book.

I finished Numbers yesterday.  The last verse was amazing, and I wanted to share it with you today.

“These are the commandments and the ordinances which the Lord commanded to the sons of Israel through Moses in the plains of Moab by the Jordan opposite Jericho.”  (Numbers 36:13)

I believe I know what you’re thinking.  Nothing in that verse reaches out and grabs you, does it? 

But don’t be so quick to assume that this is just another dry verse from a rather dry book.

All throughout the book of Numbers, God had given His people commands to obey in order to survive the trip through the desert – but more importantly, in order to live victorious lives.  Their lives would only be successful if they obeyed God.  It was a lesson they learned over and over as they left Egypt and entered the desert. 

Obedience brought victory and blessing.

Disobedience brought defeat and curses.

Now at the end of this book, after taking care of matters concerning land distribution and inheritances, there stood the nation of Israel on the east side of Canaan. 

They stood in the plains of Moab, and what was ahead?

God had confirmed his commandments “…by the Jordan opposite Jericho.”

God had given them so many victories over their desert wanderings…so many lessons learned…so many providences. 

Then He confirmed all His final commands to His people whom he loved when there, just ahead, were two HUGE difficulties. 

The Jordan River, in flood stage and impassable.

Jericho, a well-fortified city that far outweighed any hope of defeat by a nation that had no real army.

God had given Israel the land upon which they now stood, but up ahead were seemingly impossible situations.

What was the key to victory? 

Obedience.  God’s presence was with them and His power was theirs if they but simply obeyed Him. 

The Jordan River parted.  Jericho fell.  The stories are so fascinating in the book of Joshua.  But the key, always, was for Israel to obey God.

“How could anybody possibly convey this huge contingent of nomadic people across that fast-flowing river, and how could an untrained army capture a well-fortified city like Jericho?  The secret was in total obedience.  Neither barrier was to be overcome by intellectual skills, geographical proficiency, crowd manipulation, army intelligence or military strategy.  Two doctrinal factors prompted their obedience:  God’s presence and God’s power.”  (Raymond Brown)

What is ahead of you today? 

Have you been walking in life, doing the best you can to obey God and live right?

But are you now looking ahead to a forecast that is anything but encouraging?

What huge thing in your life is looming ahead, causing you to lose sleep and to feel fear? 

Whether our issues are national in scope, or personal in nature, each of us has plenty to keep us anxiously glancing at what is ahead on our horizons.

Please know that God’s presence and His power are fully yours if you know Him, and if you are obeying Him step by step, day by day.

God has not brought you to an impassable river to watch you drown.

And He has not brought you to a strongly walled city to watch you die.

You may be standing near…or in…some very tough situations.  But like Israel as they stared at Jordan and Jericho, listen to what God says to you:

“Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous!  Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”  (Joshua 1:9) 

Look in God’s eyes as you listen to Him, not over His shoulder at your Jordan and Jericho that are looming large. 

Be strong in God’s strength and rest in His presence. 

Let God do the fighting and trust Him for the finish!   

Is God Gone?

The heaviness in my soul these past few weeks has been palpable.  As a Christian it’s been very difficult to see Biblical principles pushed aside in our country while rank sin is legislated with the stroke of a powerful pen.  Then if we don’t jump on board with this agenda, we are haters and racists and out of touch.  The changes just in two weeks are almost too much to comprehend. 

As I continue reading through the book of Numbers, I came to chapter 20.  Moses, Aaron, and Eleazar climbed Mount Hor while the children of Israel, full of foreboding, waited down below.  On the mountain, Aaron’s priestly garments were removed and given to his son, Eleazar.  Then Aaron died there on the mountain. 

The people’s priest was gone.  Yet God had provided His man, Eleazar, to continue His work.  God’s pledge to stay with His people and to accomplish His plan was being perpetuated. 

God did not forget His promise.  His sovereign purpose for His people would be carried out, even though Aaron had now died.

This simple phrase written by Raymond Brown jumped off the page to me in the early morning as I read this story in Numbers: 

“ONLY AARON HAD LEFT THEM, NOT GOD.”

What an amazingly simple yet profound comfort this truth has been to me during these sad and hard days.  We feel bereft and abandoned, scared of what the future holds for us as believers in this culture, and angry at the sin that we see being promoted by our leaders. 

There were many true followers of Christ in the past administration.  Open Bibles were commonly seen on their desks.  Prayer, hymn singing, and Bible studies were routine in the White House.  Now that is all gone, and our spirits are stirred within us at the open endorsement of sin that we are witnessing every day…some of which we will be paying for with our tax dollars.  Open sin instead of open Bibles.

BUT…God is NOT gone.  God is still accomplishing His perfect plan.  He is with His people, each of us, as we wake up each day and seek to live godly lives in a most ungodly culture. 

Let’s take each day and each moment with that thought in our minds and hearts.  God is not gone!  He is here with His people just like always, in our homes and our work and with His Church. 

God is not gone!  He is with us in our disappointments and our pain, our sickness and our fear, our good news and our bad news.

God continues His work, no matter our circumstances. 

So let’s be encouraged to be about His work…to be strong and courageous…to be voices of love and conviction…to share the gospel…and to be bright lights in this dark world.

Giants, Grasshoppers, and Grapes

I sat in stunned disbelief last Friday evening as the latest news was being broadcast.  As if the whole week wasn’t bad enough, now there were reports of big tech wrapping their tentacles around people whom they deemed unworthy of using their services.  Deleting accounts…removing followers…attempting to destroy a new social network…silencing thousands who didn’t tow the line that they have declared to be the only sanctioned “truth.”

Clearly, the stage is being set for followers of Christ to be “lawfully” declared as enemies of society and enemies of the government. 

Scary times, for sure.  Full of uncertainty and fear.  Pandora’s box seems to have been opened and evil is spewing out unchecked.

And that evil is being celebrated, legislated, and expected to be accepted by all…or else.

Else what?

Therein lies the question.

We’re not sure of the answer, but current events don’t bode well for conservatives and Christians.

I read something last week, though…an old story that gives me and every Christ follower great comfort and hope.

That story is in the Bible book of Numbers, which I am studying.  The children of Israel had been delivered from Egypt by God.  They had seen His protection in their deliverance and the working of so many amazing miracles.  Now He affirmed to them His promise to give them the land He had marked for them.  God told Moses to select 12 men to spy out the land and come back with a report to the people.

The 12 spies did just that.  They returned to the camp carrying a huge cluster of grapes along with other fruit, evidence of God’s promises to be true.  The land WAS flowing with milk and honey.  The land was very fruitful.  What God said was true!

BUT…there was a problem.  There were fortified cities, for one thing.  And giants!  Huge strong men who terrified the spies.

Ten of the spies focused on the giants. 

“We became like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight!” they declared.

But Caleb and Joshua chose to focus on God and on His promises, many of which had already been fulfilled. 

“We should by all means go up and take possession of the land,” they told the people, “for we shall surely overcome it.”

The people listened to the ten spies, though, as they fixated on the giants.  Caleb and Joshua urged them to listen to God…to obey…to not fear…to not rebel against God.

But fear overruled the day and therefore God caused them to wander in the wilderness for forty years instead of taking the land right then that He had promised to give them.

I think Christians today are feeling a bit like grasshoppers as we look around us at those who hate our beliefs and hate our God.

There sure are lots of giants today. 

Tech giants…political giants…media giants – to name a few.

How far will they go in this new administration to enforce their new world system? 

What will that mean for those of us who can’t Biblically agree with that system?

We’re not sure yet, but it’s not looking very rosy.

Everyone I talk to is concerned and burdened and feeling great heaviness after the events of this past week…and even longer, actually.

So, we have a choice to make.  Are we going to look at the giants or at the grapes?

Are we going to feel like grasshoppers? 

Or are we going to remember and claim the fact that all of us who know Christ have all of God’s promises…and God Himself?

            “…God has given us His very great and precious promises…”  (II Peter 1:4)

God is here to help us in our uncertain future.  He hasn’t brought us here just to strand us all alone.  The God of our past is the God of our present, and the God of our unseen future.

“The God Who is meeting our present needs will not deny us His future provision.”  (Raymond Brown)

We have only to look in our own lives to see the fruit of God’s presence with us.  His peace and joy in our hearts is ours as we focus on Him and not on the giants of this crazy, sinful world.

No matter what may be ahead for us, God has promised to be with us every step of the way.  He will give us grace and strength for whatever is in our future.

So even if we feel like little grasshoppers, let us remember that we serve a giant of a God!

Sunrise…Sunset

I love early mornings at my desk in the room facing west on our upper level.  I have taken scores of sky pictures from the windows in this room. 

It is dark on the mornings I sit there with my Bible open.  But always the sun eventually rises, later this time of year. 

Yesterday the view outside those windows matched my heart. 

Heavy. 

The sky laden with clouds.

Aaron had a seizure a couple hours earlier.  His seizures have been more frequent lately and I wonder why.  Will this mean an increase in one of his seizure drugs and then all that goes along with that?

Our son 10 hours away tested positive for COVID this week.  When it went to his chest, I wanted to be near him in the way that only a mother understands.  Then he got the call that he was furloughed from his job. 

And he can’t join us for Thanksgiving.

We plan to travel to our daughter’s for Thanksgiving.  Should we go?  The virus, you know.

Heavy.

Even the partial early Christmas decorating I’ve done this week doesn’t create the needed cheer in my heart.

But I read Psalm 24:1-2:

“The earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains; the world and those who dwell in it.  For He has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers.” 

The sun DID rise, obscured by clouds though it was.

God has an order to this world He created.  He’s promised that to us.

            “While the earth remains,

                        Seedtime and harvest,

                        And cold and heat,

                        And summer and winter,

                        And day and night,

                        Shall not cease.”    (Genesis 8:22)

God also has an order to my life. 

I am not a pawn to random chance or karma, but I am under the steadfast and certain predictability of the God Who created this world, and all that is in it.

I prefer this sunrise:

And this sunset:

But I trust the God Who holds this world together (Colossians 1:17).

Whatever the news, national or personal, I am certain that God is in charge.

I don’t know or even understand His plan.

But I’m not to trust the plan.

I’m to trust the Planner.

So I will…through heavy clouds or blue skies.

Sunrise and sunset will not cease.  And neither will the loving control and care of the God behind it all. 

What A Mess!

Aaron and I were in the middle of watching an episode of The Waltons last night when he pushed the pause button and got up from his chair.  He went to the kitchen and soon returned carrying a huge bag of popcorn.  We’re talking huge in the sense of Sam’s huge.  All I envisioned was Aaron putting his hand into our community bag of popcorn, grabbing a few pieces, and then putting his hand up to and partially into his mouth. 

Germs!!  My mind could see all those little, microscopic germs being transferred into our huge bag of popcorn.  YUCK!

I stopped Aaron in his tracks, told him to pour some popcorn into a bowl, and over his grumbling he went back to the kitchen to do what I had said.  It wasn’t long, though, before I heard this:

“Mom, can you come here?  I need some help.”

Did he ever!  When I walked into the kitchen, there on the floor was a big mess.  Aaron had spilled lots of popcorn on the floor.  Mom to the rescue!  Aaron got the broom, and we were soon able to clean up the mess.

All around me today I see messes.  So much upheaval is in our country and the world today.  People are suffering and worried and angry.  I wish the messes we see were as easy to clean up as Aaron’s popcorn on the floor, but we all know that’s not the case. 

I read and studied Psalm 22 this morning.  I agree with Dale Davis, who says that David is speaking of his own suffering in this Psalm and yet goes “beyond his suffering and into the suffering of Another.”  David’s suffering also spoke of the suffering of Jesus still to come.

Certainly, the suffering of Christ for us is the greatest gift ever given.  Yet it’s also  in David’s earthly anguish that you and I as followers of Christ can find great comfort as we navigate this dangerous world in which we now live.

I, like David, can look behind me in my years of following the Lord and I can see His faithfulness to me.  I have no reason to doubt that He will remain faithful in the days yet ahead.

I look around me and I feel the chilling wind of change…change that is not good for believers.  I see how the world’s perception of Christians today has become warped…how we appear by liberal definition to be bigots and racists and haters.  How if we don’t jump on board with radical agendas and unbiblical lifestyles then we are not welcome to live in their world. 

The description that David gives of his persecutors sounds eerily similar to some of our accusers that I see on the news today.  He pictures his haters as bulls who encircle him and open their mouths wide at him; as lions who are tearing and roaring; mad wild dogs who have closed in on him; evildoers who surround him.

Remember the looks on the faces of the rioters when they hurled insults at those who attended White House events this past summer?  We’ve seen and heard that same spewed hatred over and over, aimed at pro-lifers and conservatives and Christians in various settings. 

I never thought I’d see the day when moral values are demeaned and blatant ungodliness is held up as the national standard.

But it is here, and it is now.

What jumped off the page to me this morning as I read Psalm 22 is this:

“But You, O Lord, be not far off; O You, my help, hasten to my assistance.  Deliver my soul from the sword, my only life from the power of the dog.  Save me from the lion’s mouth; FROM THE HORNS OF THE WILD OXEN YOU ANSWER ME.”   (Psalm 22:19-21)

David was already in the middle of great trouble.  The picture is of him being actively mauled.  But in the midst of being attacked, David asserted that God answered Him.

God doesn’t always remove my attackers, in whatever form they come, but He DOES hear me and answer me.

David learned that he may have felt forsaken but in reality, he was not.  God was there in every scary moment. 

And so He is with us and He WILL continue to be with us.  He will surround us while we figure out how to function as the minority in our culture today.  He will answer us from the horns of the wild oxen!

David knew that though he felt forsaken at times, God was there with him.  And God is with us as well. 

“For He has not despised and He has not detested the affliction of the afflicted, nor has He hidden His face from him, but when he cried to Him, He heard.”   (Psalm 22:24)

God knows.  God hears. 

I will praise Him and I will share Him with others. 

I will stand strong for truth.

And some day, in His timing, He will clean up all this mess. 

My Lot in Life

Having Aaron still live at home with us can present challenges in various ways.  One issue that Gary and I face is, at times, trying to have a prolonged conversation with just the two of us.  It’s amazing how often we have the following scenario:

I walk down to Gary’s study and sit in the rocker.  Aaron is safely WAY up on the third floor, in his room, absorbed in a game or a movie.  But somehow, someway, it’s as if the tiniest sound of our voices reaches Aaron’s ears even through his earbuds.  Soon we hear the unmistakable THUMP THUMP THUMP of his heavy footsteps coming down first one set of stairs and then the second set of stairs.  Gary and I look at each other in resignation as Aaron charges into the study.  “MOM!!! (or DAD!!!),” Aaron bellows.  “Did you know that the core of the earth is HOT?!!  Why is the core of the earth hot?  Can we go to the core?  Would you like to go to the core of the earth??”  Aaron doesn’t notice the lack of interest on our faces or hear our sighs.  “No, Aaron,” I (or Gary) reply, “we don’t want to go the core of the earth.”  (Although that thought might be attractive at the moment in order to afford us some privacy!).  “Why not?!!” Aaron asks.  So we tell him that we will talk about this later and we tell him to go back to his room and ponder the core of the earth a bit more and we wait for him to leave before we try to resume our conversation.

I have been known to say, more than once, something to this effect: “You know, it seems to be our lot in life that we can hardly have a private conversation.”  Gary and I laugh as we both agree with this truth in our lives.

However, there are times that referring to my lot in life can take on a more serious tone and one that is defeating.  I may not even verbalize my thoughts.  That thought may be fleeting or if I’m not careful, may take root in my mind. 

My “lot in life” may be an ongoing situation, such as having our adult special needs son still living with us and facing all the challenges that brings. 

My “lot in life” may be a sudden situation that intrudes into my peaceful life.  We all have them.  Health, finances, children situations, jobs…

There is a truth that I must remember when my mind travels to considering my “lot in life.”  That phrase conjures up a roll of the dice…the hand I was given…good or bad luck.

Each of those concepts go totally against my walk with God.  As a follower of Christ my life is not controlled by luck or how my stars are aligned or any such nonsense. 

Here’s how David put it:

“The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; You hold my lot.”   

(Psalm 16:5)

My life’s circumstances are not controlled by chance but are designed by God for me.

God is providentially ordering my life. 

And He is doing the same for yours if you are His child and are following Him.

Therefore, I can…I SHOULD…be content with God’s design of my life.  Even the very hard parts that bring tears and fears.

One more thing.  My “lot in life” is not your “lot in life.”  And your “lot in life” is not my “lot in life.”

When I go to comparing my life to yours then I will inevitably be either discouraged or boastful…and both of those attitudes are terribly wrong.

Again, David said it well:

“I have set the Lord always before me; because He is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.”  (Psalm 16:8)

God is to be my point of reference.  He is the answer to all my questions.

God is the One Who has given me my “lot in life.”

THUMP, THUMP, THUMP

Remember When?

Last summer, Aaron had a dentist appointment…and in his usual fashion, he plotted and planned where we could hopefully eat afterwards.

“Mom?” he asked.  “Tomorrow after my dentist appointment, can we eat at Jimmy’s Eggs?”

Yes, he calls Jimmy’s Egg – Jimmy’s Eggs.  I mean, who just eats one egg, right?!

The next day found us sitting at Jimmy’s Eggs enjoying a delicious lunch/breakfast.  And yes, Aaron did happily eat every bite of all this food!

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There was, though, another big reason why Aaron loved Jimmy’s Eggs.  Well, it was actually a very little reason that was quite big to Aaron.

Can you see it?

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An ant!

Aaron wasn’t alarmed at all by having an ant join us for lunch.  In fact, Aaron put a little piece of carrot from his salad on the table so the ant wouldn’t feel left out about not being allowed to order lunch.  Next, he added a piece of bacon.

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The server was embarrassed by the ant, but I told her not to worry.  Aaron loved having the ant company, and it made me happy to watch him trying to care for the little guy.

We haven’t been back to Jimmy’s Egg(s) since then.  It just hasn’t been on our dining list, but not because of the ant.

One day not long ago, when the closure of restaurants during this virus was hitting home with Aaron, he thought about Jimmy’s Egg(s).

“Mom?” he asked, “remember Jimmy’s Eggs and how we used to eat there before the virus?”

He said it so wistfully that it made me sad.  Like now he measures time as Before Virus (BV) and After Virus (AV).

All of us, though, are having similar thoughts.

Remember when?

Remember when I had a job…was planning that trip I had to cancel…was going to march in graduation…could be with my mother in her nursing home or hospital…was having a huge Easter celebration…could go to church…didn’t fear for my family’s life?

I certainly don’t understand everything that’s going on around us and why certain decisions are being made, but here we are.

What I CAN do is pray, a lot, for God’s wisdom and protection for all involved in this mess.  That’s basically the whole world, and for our nation in particular.

When I zoom down to my own life, or the lives of so many that I love, I do find myself at times remembering when…and if I’m not careful, fear and sadness can rule my thoughts.

That’s why yesterday morning, when I read these verses, I was so tremendously encouraged.

“But as for me, I trust in You, Oh Lord.  I say, ‘You are my God.’   My times are in Your hand.”  (Psalm 31:14-15a)

The word “times” here doesn’t just mean that my lifespan is in God’s hands.  David also meant “…all the kaleidoscope of circumstances that meet him left and right.  Calvin rightly draws attention to the plural form – ‘times’, and says that David uses it to ‘mark the variety of casualties by which the life of man is usually harassed.’  (Dale Ralph Davis, In the Presence of My Enemies)

Beside verses in my Bible, I often write a date and sometimes a note to remind me of when and how God especially spoke to me through that verse.  I call them my memorial stones.

Beside those two verses above, I had written “Nov., 1994.” I was going through a stressful time concerning a possible health issue and the death of my Grandma.  We lived in Leavenworth, Gary was deployed for training in the military, I had three little ones, Aaron’s special needs were getting more difficult, and I was far from home and family.  But God reached down in that chaos and stress, and He told me very sweetly and clearly that those times…MY times…were in His loving hand.

Now here I was yesterday, with COVID-19 and all its issues swirling around us and those we love, and I was remembering when…

Remembering when God spoke to me all those years ago in another stress.

Remembering when God filled me with peace.

Remembering when God proved His promise to be my God, then, and is doing the same now.

“How often the truth of this text has proven a bastion and bulwark for God’s servants.  Ulrich Zwingli, a reformer in Zurich, was visiting his people, trying to console sick and dying.  The plague had some to Zurich in August 1519.  By autumn Zwingli himself had succumbed to the disease.  Confined to bed and staring death in the face, Zwingli prayed:  ‘Do as you will, for I lack nothing.  I am your vessel to be restored or destroyed.’ Different words, to be sure, but actually just a paraphrase of ‘My times are in your hand.’  One can rest there even in the plague.”  (Dale Ralph Davis)

We can rest in God’s hands and in His times for us individually…for our families…for our friends…for our nation…for our world.

Now, beside these verses, I have added a new memorial note: “ COVID-19, April, 2020.”

May God’s promises and His faithfulness be what I remember when I’m “remembering when!”

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What Do I See?

Aaron and I were coming out of the grocery store recently.  Suddenly he veered sharply to his left, leaned over, and proudly held up his prize find.  A penny!  He was so happy to have snatched this treasure!  He proudly held it up for me to see before stashing it safely in his pant’s pocket.

This is so routine with Aaron.  Everywhere we go, he spies items on the ground that most people don’t even see.  Or if seen, most of us wouldn’t think they are worth our time or attention. But not Aaron!

We’ve had to teach him over the years that some things he sees are not treasures and are not even safe.  Things like cigarette butts…yuck!  Or random hair bands, bobby pins, or combs.

Last week, he and I walked out onto our driveway after a rain.  Before I knew it, there he was, leaning over to look at what had caught his eye this time.

“MOM!!  LOOK!!” he exclaimed.  “It’s a worm!!”

 

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A worm.  Aaron just had to look closer at this worm and touch it.  Again, to me it was just another worm, if I even did see it.  But not to Aaron.  To Aaron, this worm was a find worth investigating…worth stopping for…worth his notice.

This is such a strange and difficult time we are in right now.  There is so much to absorb…to hear…to try to understand about this virus and about its dangers.  We are besieged with so many changes and challenges.

What do we see when we look around us?

Fear?

Hardship?

Loss?

Stress?

Certainly, most of us can say yes, to one degree or another, to all the above.

But there’s something else we really must keep sight of.  David said it perfectly in Psalm 26:3:   “For Your lovingkindness is before my eyes…”

When my eyes dart here and there in such unusual times as we have right now, may I see…above all else…the lovingkindness of God.

Another version says:  “Indeed, Your covenant love stands right before my eyes…”

God’s love for us is right before our eyes, every day and every moment of this scary and trying time.

Sometimes I just don’t see it, though.  I don’t see God’s love because I’m too focused on looking way ahead at what is yet to come, usually with trepidation instead of trust.

This verse continues this way:  “Indeed, Your covenant love stands right before my eyes…and I have walked along in Your faithfulness.”

It’s not MY faithfulness that is being talked about here.  It’s GOD’S faithfulness to me that matters!

We say God is love.  We know God is love.  But sometimes when life is overwhelming, we don’t see His love through eyes of faith.

We don’t understand why we’re being besieged by COVID-19.  Why is God allowing this to happen?

We can’t say for sure, but what we do know for sure is that God loves all of us, and He wants each of us to know Him and to walk along in His faithfulness.

Sometimes I just need to stop, like Aaron so often does, and bend over before God as I look at His love.

When I observe His love and think of His deep love, I know peace that passes understanding.

Peace even in the middle of panic all around.

Then I can stand up again, sure of God’s love right before my eyes, and take off walking again.

Walking in God’s promised faithfulness through the uncertainty.

God’s love for each of us is worth our time and worth our notice.   God makes THE biggest and best difference to me when I’m stressed.

It’s great to stop at some point each day right now, and just ponder the treasure I see right before me.

Thank you, God, that Your covenant love stands right before my eyes!

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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Tired of This

Recently, Aaron had his Epilepsy doctor visit.  After his appointment we had to walk over to the building next door for Aaron to have some blood drawn.  His liver function needs to be checked routinely due to one of his newer seizure drugs.  Aaron wasn’t thrilled about that because he really wanted to hurry up at the doctor and then go to Pizza Hut like we had planned.  Eating lunch out, after all, is the real reason Aaron was with me that day.  At least that’s the real reason according to Aaron.  Going to the lab was just another annoying delay in reaching his true objective.  The Pizza Hut Buffet…oh, and Wal-Mart after that.  We mustn’t forget the all-important Wal-Mart visit!

The next morning found us going down to the air base for yet another lab visit for Aaron.  This time we were preparing for Aaron’s 2-year physical, so labs had to be done ahead of time for that.  No matter that we were getting some sleet and snow – we needed to get this done.  Aaron had resigned himself to no lunch out that day but instead I would take him to his day group on my way home.  However, our van engine light came on, so I had to go back over to our side of town…run to our shop to ask about the light…and by then, I just decided to keep Aaron at home.  Happy Aaron!  A tiny bit frustrated Mom.  And an even happier Aaron when he heard the words “Taco Bell” come out of my mouth.

On the following afternoon, the air base called to tell me that they had messed up on one of Aaron’s tests.  We would need to come back and have more blood drawn.  UGH!!!  Fasting blood work, which would mean getting there in the morning.  But the next morning I had to take Gary to his foot surgeon appointment.  Gary, who still wasn’t driving due to his surgery.

I’m just scratching the surface of my life right now.  And honestly, I’m not complaining.  I’m just reporting.  (Thank you, Alice Zwemke, for giving us that wonderful statement so many years ago!!).  😊

There we were on that cold Friday morning, back at the air base lab.  Aaron was dreary and slow, tired in several ways.  He pulled up his shirt sleeve without being told because he knows the routine so well, looked at his new watch perched halfway to his elbow the way he must always wear it, and slowly stretched as he waited for the tourniquet and needle.

 

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“I’m tired of this,” he muttered in his resigned monotone voice.

There went my heart.  I wanted to scoop him up in a motherly hug, but it wasn’t the time or place for that.  Besides, motherly hugs rarely have a time and place in Aaron’s autistic world.

But I had another reaction as well.  The depleted side of my spirit nearly kicked in.  My thought was this:

“YOU’RE tired??!  I’M the one who’s tired!!”

Yep.  Those truly are the words that swarmed around in my head.

Tiredness has been closely following on my heels lately.  Not just physical tiredness, although that is certainly present, but a soul weariness that has crept into my spirit.

All of us reach that point at some point.

“I’m so tired of ________.”

Then all of us can fill in that blank…or several blanks, right?

With Aaron, being his mother AND his caregiver, I am pulled this way and that.

Seizures.  Autism.  Medicines.  Side effects of medicines.  Weight loss.  Low sodium.  Needs to eat more.  Needs to drink less.  New medicines.  New side effects.  Blood work.  Behaviors.   Routines.  Disrupted routines.   Needing caregivers.

Sometimes I’m just so tied up in all of it.

And tied down to all of it.

Discouragement can sneak in unexpectedly.  A comment.  A picture.  A thought.  I can let it get to me in ways I know I shouldn’t.

Discouragement can roar in like a Kansas tornado.  A seizure.  A behavior.  A disappointment.

What I do at that point with my discouragement is key to my frame of mind from that point forward.

I can nurture a heavy spirit, or I can let the Holy Spirit do His sweet work in my heart.  I can’t change my situation, really, but I sure can work to change my attitude.

I do this through thinking more about my blessings than my burdens.  No matter what, I do have so many blessings and it does my tired heart good to think about those instead of wishing for what isn’t.

Another thing that helps me is to go to my Bible, especially the Psalms.  For instance, just read and hear the wonderful instruction and hope in these verses.

When I thought, “My foot slips,” Your steadfast love, O Lord, held me up.  When the cares of my heart are many, Your consolations cheer my soul.             

(Psalm 94:18-19)

It’s not a shallow pep talk.  It’s listening to God Himself and trusting that He knows where I am and what I face…and He cares!

Then sometimes there are extra nuggets of love from Aaron himself – rare as nuggets of gold – that warm my soul and remind me of the value of this life that God has given me.

Not long ago, after some seizures and while we watched a show, Aaron looked over at me and surprisingly said:

“Mom, I’m glad you’re caring for me.”

He rubbed his hands together happily as he saw the smile on my face.

“I’m glad I’m caring for you, too, Aaron,” I replied.

And very, very glad that God is taking care of us both!