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. 

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

When is the Time to Trust?

A couple mornings ago I felt compelled to open my very old copy of the classic devotional book, Streams in the Desert.  This book was a gift from my home church when I graduated from high school way back in 1973.  But even though my graduation date makes the book old…of which I am all too aware more and more each day…the actual writings of Mrs. Charles Cowman were first published in 1925.  Her writing style may be old school, but the deep truths contained therein are timeless.

I was touched deeply by what I read that morning about faith and trust.  I jotted a few notes, tucked the truths away in my mind, and was soon about my busy day.  Aaron was staying home that day and we had fun plans!

Our plans were to meet some friends at All Star Sports for a morning of games.  My friend Joyce and I had decided to get our two sons together.  It would be the first time that Johannes and Aaron would be with each other for an outing, and we both wondered how it would go.

How it went was great!  I mean, there wasn’t tons of interaction between them, but the ice was broken, and plans were made for more time together.  Sweet Johannes held his hand out and with a prompt from me, Aaron shook his hand without squeezing it too hard, and Joyce and I laughed and were happy.  The boys had a good time and that’s what mattered!

 

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Aaron and I then went to eat some lunch and to drop off donations at Goodwill before heading home.  Soon after we got home, Aaron took a nap.  I had the monitor nearby, listening as I always do when he sleeps.  I really didn’t expect to hear a seizure, so I was surprised when I suddenly heard that unmistakable sound coming across the table where I sat.

It was a hard seizure, lasting close to 3 minutes.  And exactly one hour later, to the minute, he had another one.  It wasn’t as long as the first one but was still 2 minutes long.  Thankfully, he was done then and had no more the rest of the day.

It’s so surprising, even now after all these years, how quickly Aaron can go from being out and about, happy and fine, to having a seizure.  I don’t try to figure them out like I used to do, but I still find myself wondering why.

Even the next day on the way home from his day group, his speech was somewhat slurred, and he was very tired.  He fell asleep on the way home instead of his usual non-stop talking.  Was it the residual effects of yesterday’s seizure, I wondered?  Is his sodium low again?  Will he have another seizure when he gets home and takes a nap?

 

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So, even though this is Aaron’s life and our life, it’s still disconcerting.  Worrying.  Unsettling.

My mind was drawn back to the devotional I read earlier that morning.  I went back to it and was, as I always am, so amazed at how God has for me just what I need when I most need it.

Mrs. Cowman’s words were based on the story of Paul’s shipwreck in Acts 27.  The south wind blew gently as the sailor’s pulled anchor.  Paul had warned them not to take this trip, but they didn’t listen.  And that south wind was such a hopeful sign to them that they were right, and Paul was wrong.

But soon a terrible storm hit.  For days the ship was violently tossed on the waves.  During that horrible storm, with no sun or stars for days…with everything thrown off the ship that could possibly be tossed overboard…verse 20 says that all hope of being saved was abandoned.

But an angel of God stood before Paul to assure him there would be no loss of life.  Paul stood bravely before those battered and terrified seasoned sailors, and confidently said, “So take heart, men, FOR I HAVE FAITH IN GOD!!”

I thought about our life with Aaron…the ups and downs in so many areas…and the fear concerning his seizures.  How that day had been so much fun and so without fear, and then out of the blue came two hard seizures.  It was easy for fear to replace our fun.

My need to trust God is always there, right at the surface, even underneath all the normal and the fun and the hopeful.

But ACTUALLY trusting God is a must when suddenly the normal and the fun and the hopeful is yanked away.

That level of trust is a conscious decision that I must make.

That level of trust isn’t based on circumstances or on feelings but is rooted in God Himself…in Who I know Him to be.

This year for all of us has seen the rug pulled out in so many areas of our lives.  Things were going along pretty well for most of us.  Then…BAM!!

COVID…jobs…riots…anger…fear…disagreement.

I want to leave you with the hope that God is not taken aback or surprised by any of this.  He has a purpose and a plan.

Can you say, with Paul, that you have faith in God?

I want to leave you with a wonderful poem shared by Mrs. Cowman that I read that morning.  I hope it will mean as much to you as it did…and does…to me.

 

When is the time to trust?

                        Is it when all is calm,

                        When waves the victor’s palm,

                        And life is one glad Psalm

                        Of joy and praise?

            Nay!  But the time to trust

                        Is when the waves beat high,

                        When storm clouds fill the sky,

                        And prayer is one long cry,

                                    O help and save!

 

            When is the time to trust?

                        Is it when friends are true?

                        Is it when comforts woo,

                        And in all we say and do

                        We meet but praise?

            Nay!  But the time to trust

                        Is when we stand alone,

                        And summer birds have flown,

                        And every prop is gone,

                                    All else but God.

 

            What is the time to trust?

                        Is it some future day,

                        When you have tried your way,

                        And learned to trust and pray

                                    By bitter woe?

            Nay!  But the time to trust

                        Is in this moment’s need,

                        Poor, broken, bruised reed!

                        Poor, troubled soul, make speed

                                    To trust thy God.

 

            What is the time to trust?

                        Is it when hopes beat high,

                        When sunshine gilds the sky,

                        And joy and ecstasy

                                    Fill all the heart?

            Nay!  But the time to trust

                        Is when our joy is fled,

                        When sorrow bows the head,

                        And all is cold and dead,

                                    All else but God.

 

 

No Wallowing!

I am NOT where I thought I would be this week!

I am NOT where I planned, carefully planned, to be this week!

But I do believe that most of us are in the same boat and could say the same thing.  How many plans have been totally disrupted due to all this virus mess and stay-at-home orders?

Trust me, I know that there are some very heart-breaking situations in people’s lives right now – far worse than anything I’m going through.

So, where was I supposed to be this week?  Texas.  I was to be in Texas this week.

My husband and I were going to the Houston area this week.  Our daughter and her husband, Kyle and Andrea, live there.  And our son, Andrew, who lives near Indianapolis, was to be there as well.  Andrew works for an NHRA drag race team.  They have a big national race in Houston every April.

Gary had bought our tickets.  I had lined up caregivers for Aaron, who doesn’t attend these events with us.  He loves his own version of a vacation, which is to stay in his comfort zone of home and of eating out every night, loving the undivided attention from caregivers…and calling us multiple times every day, just because he always has something to tell us.

On Facebook this week, the memories from this time last year have been popping up on my page.  As if I need any help with memories of our fun time we should be having!

We should be doing this:

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Enjoying time together:

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And watching Andrew work:

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I was talking to my friend, Joyce, about it a couple weeks ago.  I told her it’s sad not to be going on our trip to see our kids.  How it’s OK to acknowledge that sadness, but that I can’t stop and wallow in it.  We laughed as we thought about that and laughed even more when Joyce mentioned being like a pig wallowing in the mud.

In the park where Aaron and I like to walk, Swanson Park, there is still a depressed area in the prairie grass where buffalo wallowed in the 1800’s.  In fact, there is a plaque there for us to read about it.  And it’s simply called a “buffalo wallow.”   I had to inwardly smile as he and I stood there looking at it once again the other day.

Then nearby, a short distance from the trail, is this muddy area.

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As we looked at it, I could imagine buffalo and wild pigs wallowing in the mud there.  I could see them with my mind’s eye rolling and relaxing in the goopy mud, in no hurry to move on.

Much like I am tempted to do as I think with regret about where I thought I would be this week.

Oh, I have reason to wallow.  Our kids live far from us and we see them so seldom.  In fact, for many reasons, we haven’t seen Andrea and Kyle since last July.  Their jobs, Andrew’s travels, Gary still working, the difficulty of finding caregivers for Aaron…all make it very hard for us to up and travel as we would so desire to do.

I could most definitely stop and wallow in my misery.  And with each roll in the mud, I could find plenty of reasons to condone and excuse my wallowing!

But there’s this verse that makes me stop my wallowing and listen to God instead.

“God is my allotted portion and my cup; You take charge of my lot.”  (Psalm 16:5)

Simply put, this means that God takes care of my circumstances.  Things around me may become shaky, but I can be unshaken as I stand firm IN my circumstances.

Why? Because I believe in God’s direction and providence in my life.  I love the note on this verse in my ESV Bible:   We can have “…contentment with the arrangements of one’s life, seeing them as providentially ordered.”

What a difference it makes to know and to trust God!  To know without a doubt that my interrupted plans are because of His plans for me that are far better than I can know or imagine.

Isn’t that what trust is all about anyway?

So, I acknowledge my sadness as I look at what might have been.

Then I move on.  I don’t jump in the mud and relish it.

“I have set the Lord continually before me.  Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.”  (Psalm 16:8)

And I will not wallow!

 

 

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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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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Hanging Off – Or On?

Aaron has a way of repeating what we say but changing just one word or even just one letter, and so making us laugh or pause in thought.   He has a uniquely Aaron way of expressing himself.

That is, after all, the reason I started this blog and the reason I named it He Said What?!

For instance, yesterday we had some rough weather move through our neck of these Kansas woods.  Aaron was concerned, asking about the storms and wondering if he should turn off his computer.

I’ve often shown him the radar and pointed out some storms headed in our direction. I sometimes refer to them as a clump of storms coming our way.

So, as he followed me around the house and fretted over his computer being hit by lightning, he said, “Mom! Is that lump of storms going to hit us?!”

Two words, so similar, yet somehow the difference was enough to make me laugh.

Aaron has become a fan of the television show Chicago Fire.  In December the fall finale had the typical…and very unrealistic…cliffhanger.  Aaron has talked and talked and talked and talked about those canisters in that basement, surrounded by fire, and whether they would blow up or not!!!

I told him that this was a cliffhanger.  Aaron, who is very literal, saw no cliff in that fall finale.  He also saw no one hanging from a cliff in that basement.

I therefore…and not for the first time…explained that a cliffhanger is when the show’s producers leave you hanging on after the last show of the season in order to make you come back and watch the first show of the new season.

Hanging ON.

But here is Aaron’s take:

“MOM!!  I can’t wait till January 8th!!

Then he waits for me to ask why he can’t wait till January 8th.

“Because that’s when Chicago Fire comes back on!!”

Then he waits for me to show excitement.  I am a good actress.

“Remember how they left us hanging OFF??!!”

Then I laugh.  He thinks my laughter is an expression of my excitement over Chicago Fire resuming.

But my laughter is really about the way he changed my original phrase.

Are we hanging ON…or hanging OFF?

His change-up of that one little word has had me pondering over the past few days.

Hanging OFF a cliff is a scary situation, to put it mildly.

Hanging ON, to me, conveys hope.

In life, when I am hanging off a cliff of fear or dread or disappointment…or any number of other scenarios…I must remind myself to hang ON.

I hang ON to God and to the hope that He gives me.

How often our life with Aaron changes!  We can so quickly go from enjoying life:

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To the suddenness of seizures:

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The above picture was right after Aaron’s third seizure on Christmas Eve, just as we were getting ready to play Christmas Bingo as we Skyped with Kyle and Andrea from Houston.

It’s a stretch for Aaron to want to play games.  My first heart reaction was to wonder why.  Why must he have a seizure when he was actually willing to sit with us and play a game?

Sometimes his seizures keep him from participating in something that he really wanted to do.  That makes me sad for him.  Disappointed.

He did arouse enough to play Bingo, but I played his card because he was uncoordinated and shaky…and grouchy, which is typical when he plays Bingo.

Every day…every situation…can be a cliffhanger with Aaron.  Will we have seizures to manage?  Behaviors to handle?

I do feel like I’m sometimes hanging off a cliff, holding on for dear life, afraid of what’s next and afraid of falling…of failing.

But then I must remind myself that I’m not alone.  I know and trust God.

And I hold ON to Him.

I don’t understand everything.

I don’t even like everything.

But I love God, and I know He loves me.

So whatever cliff it is, I do know that I’m not just hanging off.

I reach up and I hang ON to God.

He lifts me up and He rescues me…not from the situation, necessarily…but from the danger of despair and hopelessness that can so easily overwhelm me.

After all, look at what God says about Himself in Psalm 91:15:

 

“He will call upon Me, and I will answer him;

 I will be with him in trouble;

 I will rescue him and honor him.”

 

May I remember, every day and in every cliffhanger, that I don’t need to just hang off.

I can hang ON…to the God Who rescues me.

 

 

Of No Use?

Our neighbors across the street from us had a yard sale a couple weeks ago.  Aaron loves yard sales!  He REALLY loved the fact that there was a yard sale right across the street!  He asked if we could go over and check it out to see if there was something he could buy.  I agreed, knowing that he would end up over there anyway talking to Derek and Gina until I came to the rescue and escorted him home.

Before we left, I remembered that in my wallet was an envelope that held Aaron’s remaining Christmas gift money.  I was always forgetting it was there!  I looked inside and pulled out the cash.  Aaron had $5.00 to spend, and he was happy.

It didn’t take Aaron long to spy exactly what he wanted.  A lava lamp!!  Aaron LOVES lava lamps and has been through several over the years.  He has a glitter lava lamp in his room now, but this was a good old normal lava lamp.   Aaron knew he had found his yard sale prize!

We looked at the sticker and guess what?  It was priced at $5.00!  Could it be any more perfect?  We crossed the street with the “new to Aaron” lava lamp, carried it up to his room, placed it on his already crowded nightstand, plugged it in, and went about our day.

Aaron was waiting, though, for the level gunk in the lamp to begin bubbling.  As he went about the remainder of the day and evening, he kept glancing at his lit lava lamp.  There was no motion, however.  The gunk was still.

“Mom!” Aaron finally said.  “Do you think I bought something that is of no use?!”

I turned my head away so I could smile at his phrasing.  He’s just so funny sometimes…so precise.

“No, not at all,” I responded.  “The lamp just takes some time to heat up the goo inside.”

Gary got home and Aaron happily showed him his new lava lamp…his still not-moving lava lamp.  Supper came and went, as did evening chores and Wheel of Fortune and watching our DVD show just before bed.

As Aaron got into his bed, he sighed with exasperation as he looked at his boring lit but not bubbling lava lamp.

“I think I bought something that is of no use!” he sadly repeated as he pulled his covers up.  I was beginning to wonder myself if the lamp would work even as I told Aaron that it just needed more time.

No one was happier than me to walk in Aaron’s room the next morning, his coffee in hand, and see the lava lamp bubbling in all its globby glory!!  YAY!!!  Yay for Aaron…yay for me…and a special yay for Derek and Gina, whom I was afraid would have certainly heard all about the lava lamp that was of no use!!

Aaron was happy, happy!  And every day since then, when he returns from his day group, he plugs in the lava lamp, totally enjoying the goopy bubbles in all their various shapes and sizes!

Last night, Aaron went to bed talking about how he was going out to eat lunch the next day with a group from Paradigm – his day group.  There is nothing Aaron loves any more than eating out.  So, this morning I wasn’t too surprised to hear him stirring early.  How early?  Aaron keeps a logbook like this:

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This morning’s time was:

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He had so much to look forward to today!  He was ready to get this show on the road!  He supervised me as I poured his coffee and carried it to his room, then told me he would shower and dress.  I went back to my quiet time desk, but it wasn’t quiet for long.

Aaron was soon standing behind my chair, his shower completed and his impatience growing.

“Mom,” he ordered.  “Take your shower and put your make-up on so it will become 9:00!”

I soon realized that Aaron’s hurried mood wasn’t going to improve until he saw me making some headway concerning my shower and make-up.  But I also realized that Aaron’s eyes were very droopy, and his mood was changing even further from excitement to not feeling so well.  He told me his head hurt, his stomach hurt, and that he felt like he was having a dream.  We’ve learned that this often means a seizure is coming.  Aaron was ready to go back to bed, and sure enough I soon heard on the baby monitor the unmistakable sound of a seizure.

I never like Aaron’s seizures, of course, but I especially detest them when they keep him from doing something that he’s looking forward to so much.  No eating lunch out today for Aaron, I thought.  Bless his heart!

And my heart?  My mama heart takes a beating every time I watch Aaron going through this hard part of his life.  He handles all this much better than I do, thankfully.  But as I looked down at Aaron when I checked on him later, look what was in the background.

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The lava lamp.  Aaron’s lava lamp, that he worried was of no use, was performing perfectly there beside Aaron in his bed.

And it hit me.  How easy it would be for me to wonder about all the why’s of Aaron’s seizures and autism…to even feel like it was all sadness and of no use.  But never, never have I felt such hopeless thoughts.  Even in the changed path of Aaron’s life…changed from what we thought our firstborn son’s life would be…there is the sure hope that only God can give.

You see, knowing and following Christ gives to me and to Gary and to Aaron the same hope that God gave to Jeremiah to share with the Jewish nation centuries ago.

“I know the plans I have for you,” declared the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”  (Jeremiah 29:11)

I can claim that promise for us and for Aaron today because we know that God!  We know that He has told us in Romans 8:28 that “ALL things work together for good to those that love God, who are the called according to His purpose.”

God doesn’t plan to hurt us!  He plans to work for our good in order to conform us to Christ!  We have a hope in Him and a future beyond anything we can imagine!

So you see, all the tough times and the sadness and the unanswered questions we may have do NOT mean that this life is of no use.  Absolutely not!!  This life is working perfectly, just how God intended, and in that knowledge – in God Himself – I can trust, and I can rest.

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