Tough Trust

Yesterday as I ate my lunch, I saw a picture on my computer that started my mind turning toward some issues that make me sad.  As I wrote in my last blog (Listening Carefully), I know better than to let my thoughts stay on certain matters that will pull me down.  I am consciously practicing, more and more, immediately turning my heart to God and affirming to Him…and to me…that I trust Him totally.

As I sat at my table, thinking on these things and praying, these words came to me.  I shared them right away on Facebook.

It was around 1:30, and soon I was to go pick Aaron up at his day group.  He had a seizure early that morning, around 4:30, but felt fine and so was able to go on and spend the day with his friends. 

When we got home, as we talked about many things…because with Aaron there are always many things that he wants to talk about…I mentioned to him that I saw his empty deodorant in his bathroom trash can. 

“Yes!” he said, “I put some on this one but not on this one!”

I turned to see him holding up one arm at a time as he showed me which arm pit had gotten deodorant and which one had not.  😊

I left him in his bathroom to remedy the arm pit situation.  I had just sat at my desk in my bedroom nearby when I heard the awful crash and the sounds of a big seizure. 

I yelled for Gary and ran in the bathroom to see Aaron laying in the tub.  He had fallen backward into the tub, taking with him the shower curtain and rod.  He was entangled in all that, plus in his shirt that he had been removing.  The first thing to do was to hold his head to keep him from continually banging it on the hard tub as he seized.  Gary had run upstairs, grabbing one of Aaron’s small pillows to put under Aaron’s head. 

These sudden and very dangerous seizures are just awful on many levels.  It’s a terrible feeling to hear that crash and then the seizure sounds…to run to him not knowing what you will find…to wonder how hard he hit his head or if there are other injuries.

We had untangled him from the shower curtain and from his twisted shirt that was all around both his arms and hands.  Gary put a sweater over him and then we just had to let him lay there in the tub until he was awake enough to be moved to his bed. 

I went back to my desk, still shaken, and cried.  I cried out of fear, yes, but mostly I cried because it makes me so incredibly sad to see my son go through all these physical hurts. 

But as I sat there, God softly spoke into my hurting heart…and He reminded me of those words that He had given me two hours earlier.  God gave me words I needed before I knew just how much I would soon need them.

Yes, my heart is so tender when I think of Aaron and all the years of his physical suffering.  But God really does take that mama hurt I feel and uses it to show me how to toughly trust in Him.

I have to be tough for Aaron, and really, I can only do that because of my trust in God.  Sometimes that sort of trust doesn’t come naturally.  It would be more natural for me to be mad at God for letting this happen to Aaron, over and over and over. 

But I know my heavenly Father, and I know that He has reasons far beyond what I will ever know on this earth for why He lets Aaron suffer. 

It’s a tough place for me to be and it calls for a tough trust.  If my life was only smooth and simple, no tough trust would be needed.  But then I would not know God as deeply.  I would not experience His peace and comfort.  My faith would stay simple and small. 

A verse also came to my mind as I sat there thinking of all these matters.  I want to leave that verse with you…that simple but profound word from God. 

There it is again…trust.  Even when it’s tough.

ESPECIALLY when it’s tough.

Where Is Your Faith?

Jesus and His disciples had gotten into a boat on the Sea of Galilee.  Jesus told them to go over to the other side of the lake.  As they were sailing along, Jesus fell asleep.  Soon a huge wind arose, and their boat was in real danger of capsizing.  The disciples awakened Jesus and with terror told Him they were perishing.   But Jesus rebuked the winds and the surging waves, and soon there was calmness.

Jesus looked at His disciples and said, “Where is your faith?”

Jesus is still asking us that question today in our storms.

Aaron collapsed with a drop seizure last month after going for two years without one of those dangerous seizures.  Where was my faith?

Our daughter called us from Texas two weeks ago.  She was in the ER with a pulmonary embolism.  Where was my faith?

Old hurts and unresolved issues about a situation from years ago started spilling out as I talked to a sweet friend the other night.  Where is my faith?

A friend with a daughter going into drug rehab.  A friend recently diagnosed with cancer.  Another whose daughter is fighting a recurrence of her cancer.  A job lay-off of one’s husband shortly before he could have retired.  A friend whose son is having sudden and very serious seizures that are escalating.  A friend betrayed and now divorced.  Some are grieving prodigal children.

Where is their faith?

Jesus hung on the cross.  “It is finished,” He cried.  His battered body was lowered, and He was buried.  His disciples were crushed, full of terror far worse than the terror on that boat.  Where was their faith?

Satan was jubilant, thinking he had won.  Jesus was dead!

“Now where is your faith?” he probably hissed to all who followed Jesus.

Not so fast, Satan! 

This happened!!

The tomb was empty on that Sunday morning.  Jesus lives today!  We serve a risen Savior! 

Where is my faith?

My faith, in every circumstance and storm and trial, is in a Savior Who has defeated death!

Jesus is with me in my boat today, very much alive and in control of every wave…every toss…every fear…every hurt.

We serve a RISEN Savior!

Hallelujah!  

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.

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!   

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!

Love For Us

I’m sure that many of you would agree with me when I say that I feel like I’m on a runaway train.  The past month has been unbelievable for the whole world.

COVID-19 has dropped the bottom out of our lives.

Just outside the comfort and safety of my home there lies fear.  Uncertainty.  Danger.

I don’t understand or know what’s really happening behind the scenes.  I know that I need to be wise and to be wary, but I can’t control any of this situation that is swirling around us.

What I can do is pray.  Pray for my family scattered here and there.  Pray for friends.  Pray for our nation and for our world.  Pray for our leaders.

I can read my Bible.  With my mind on overload it seems that I can only absorb a few verses at a time, but that’s all it takes for me to hear God’s voice so strong and reassuring.

If there’s ever been a time for people to assess their relationship with God, it’s now.  I heard a doctor in New York say that this situation is Biblical…epic.  The God of the universe has stopped our world and I do believe it’s time for us to stop and to listen to Him for a change.

I’ve been spending tons of time with Aaron for the past three weeks while being mostly home-bound.  Every day I try to get him out for a walk or a drive, which he totally loves.

A couple days ago we went to nearby Swanson Park, one of our favorite places to walk and to enjoy a splash of nature in the middle of civilization.  Social distancing is not a problem there.  Aaron even obeyed me and didn’t stop to pet every dog he saw like he usually does.

There were flowering trees:

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Impressive thorns:

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Historical plaques that we enjoy reading:

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And our favorite little bridge:

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As we walked, Aaron talked…a lot!  One of his main topics of conversation involved the fact that he was waiting very anxiously for a PC game that Gary had ordered for him Sunday evening.  Aaron had earned and saved enough money to buy The Incredible Hulk PC game!!!

That night as Aaron and I were in the kitchen, he was still (of course!) talking about that greatly anticipated game.

“So, Dad ordered the Incredible Hulk out of love for me?” he quietly asked.

And as so often happens, Aaron’s words stopped me in my tracks.

“Yes, Aaron,” I answered.  “Dad ordered you the game out of love for you.”

I have thought and thought about that exchange…about the deep waters of Aaron’s heart.

And this picture I had just taken that day in Swanson Park came to my mind.

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How God leads our steps!  How He directs the paths of His children!

We live in this world and we’re caught up in what He is doing, but we can know beyond any doubt that He is fully aware of our situations during this frightening time.

 

“It’s from God that the steps of a man have been settled, and He delights over his way.  When he falls, he will not be flattened, for God keeps supporting his hand.  I have been young; yes, I have become old, but I have not seen the righteous forsaken nor his seed asking for bread.”  (Psalm 37:23-25)

 

As the old hymn says, “This world is not my home.  I’m just a-passin’ through.”

God is surely at work in this old world, as He has always been since the beginning of time.  But I know, beyond any doubt, that God is very aware of me and my little family.

He knows our path and He is holding our hands.

Therefore, I can say with great confidence, “Yes, Aaron, our Heavenly Father also ordered this time out of love for us.”

We who know Him are not forsaken!

 

                                    

 

 

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!

What Mountain?

I heard it through the baby monitor a week ago yesterday…the awful sound of Aaron going into a seizure.  It was early, early in the morning – the time that we still call night.  I never do get used to that sound.  My heart still jumps as I am awakened and then hurry into his room.  As seizures go, it was not a long one.  Hard, but not long.  The scene was repeated a few hours later, which is nothing unusual.  Only two seizures, though, which is a blessing, and which is rather unusual.  Most often his clusters of seizures involve three or more.  Yet we have learned over the years that having only one or two seizures means he might have one or two more during the day. 

Gary and I both stayed home from church that Sunday due not only to Aaron’s seizures but also because of a strong snowstorm with howling winds that was blowing outside.  This storm also explained the seizures, as I have definitely linked many of Aaron’s seizures to low fronts moving through our Kansas atmosphere.

Aaron was fine all day.  He stayed busy, and he also napped some, but there was no more seizure activity.  That night, he and I watched a television program.  Afterwards, we were in the kitchen putting snacks away and getting ready to go upstairs where Aaron’s nighttime routine would continue.  I had my back to Aaron as I readied the coffeepot for the morning.

“I feel like I might have a seizure,” I heard Aaron say.  But he says this fairly often, and rarely does he have a seizure at that time.  I was getting ready to reply when I heard a noise.  I whirled around to see Aaron’s arms in the air and his face distorting in the familiar way it does when a seizure begins.  It was sudden and so unexpected!  Before I could take a couple steps and reach him, he fell backwards onto the tile floor…just like a stiff, falling tree. 

The sound of his head hitting the floor was sickening.  I screamed for Gary, who came running from downstairs.  I was terrified…more terrified than I remember being since his very first awful seizure when he was seven years old.  Our 34 year-old son was my baby at that moment, and I was distraught.  Aaron doesn’t like crying at all, especially my crying, so he would have been very unhappy if he had seen me at that point.

Aaron will often rally rather quickly from these seizures, so we waited to see if that would happen.  Sure enough, before long, his eyes opened.  Soon he was responding to our comments as he became more focused, and not long after that he was talking some and able to sit up.  We watched and waited, thankful to see him return to normal with no apparent damage done other than a knot on the back of his head. 

I had a hard time going to sleep that night.  I kept seeing him fall and then hearing the sound of his head hitting the floor.  Finally, I slept…but fitfully…playing the awful scene over and over all night long.  Aaron slept well and for that I was thankful. 

Not only was this seizure itself of great concern, but what it might signal was also very disturbing to us.  Aaron had a series of falling seizures back in the spring and early summer, sustaining some injuries.  Are those falling seizures returning now?  And if they are, then why?  Oh, the brain is so complex!  If only we could map its intricacies and understand its workings!  But no doctor or researcher has ever been able to uncover all the secrets of what God has created in these most complicated brains of ours. 

Gary and I had relaxed a lot since Aaron’s last falling seizure a few months ago.  But now that familiar fear was filling my heart again.  If left unchecked, I knew fear’s icy fingers would replace the warmth of God’s promises and plans on which He wanted me to focus.

The next morning, I sat as usual at my quiet time desk, asking God as I always do to speak to me the words He wanted me to hear on this day.  I looked down at my current book in the Bible that I was reading, and still am reading.  Zechariah.  Yeah, I know.  What does God have for me in an obscure minor prophet’s writings?  I mean, Philippians or James I could understand, and would look forward to multiple encouragements.  But Zechariah?

Yet one thing I have learned over the years is that God is alive all through His word.  He meets me in my need in every single part of scripture…not just in the more recognizable, pertaining verses but even in the less known.  In this case, the MUCH less known.  But this aspect of discovery in the Bible is so uplifting to me!  It’s like finding a hidden Christmas present under the tree and opening it to discover the most amazing gift ever!

So, on that morning I began reading where I had left off the day before.  The people of Israel were very discouraged as they faced the monumental task of rebuilding the temple in their ravaged homeland.  Obstacles were all around them and they could see no human means to finishing the job.  Dangers threatened their lives.  Nothing was as they hoped it would be.

But…

God spoke.  “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit…” 

The people didn’t have the might.  The people didn’t have the power.  All that God wanted to accomplish would come by Him…by His Spirit. 

And then this verse, this phrase, is what jumped out at me on that morning.

“What are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become a plain…”  (Zechariah 4:7)

Have you ever felt like your worries and your fears and your problems are a mountain…a mountain that you can’t cross?  The concern over Aaron’s dangerous seizures was my large mountain that morning.  Scary.  Foreboding.  Impassable.

But God leaned down to me there at my desk and had me read exactly what He wanted me to read.  It was no accident that these were the verses I was on in my Bible study book.  God’s amazing grace washed over me.  Not by my might…not by my power…but by His Spirit. 

And that’s why I can stand squarely in the shadow of my mountain and say, “What mountain?!” 

God told Jeremiah, “Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh; is anything too difficult for Me?”

Does it mean that Aaron won’t have another falling seizure?  No.  In fact, the next night he did have another one.  I was close enough to break his fall this time, but it was still very scary.  But all that evening I kept thinking, “What mountain?” 

God wants me to see, even in the hard times, that He will give me all the might and strength I need.  He will also take care of Aaron in the way He knows is best.  I have to trust Him for that. 

I want this mountain to be what I allow God to use to strengthen my faith…deepen my walk with Him…and confirm my trust in His sovereign plan for me, for Gary, and for our Aaron. 

Instead of seeing a mountain, I want to see God over and above it all.  To know that He’s in control.  To be still and know that He is God. 

Oh, I’ll still be upset with the seizures if they keep coming.  But instead of being out of control, I want to remember the One Who is IN control. 

What mountain?

Indeed! 

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My Father’s Grip

I grew up in the little town of Princeton, West Virginia.  My Dad worked for the railroad there; first the Virginian, and then Norfolk and Western.  The railroads were a central part of life there in those West Virginia mountains.  It was coal country, and trains were vital for the coal industry.

The sounds of those trains, heard at all hours of the day and night from our home not too awfully far from where Dad worked, were an ever-present part of my childhood.  Even now, the sound of a train will take me back to those early days. 

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Dad worked his way up the “ranks” and eventually became a train dispatcher.  I don’t know how long it was before he one day told us of his promotion to Chief Train Dispatcher.  I didn’t understand much about his job, but I was always proud that he was a CHIEF Train Dispatcher.  He had a very responsible job, working long hours and often on weekends, or getting calls at all hours of the night to go in if there was a dreaded derailment. 

Dad at railroad, 1975

Sometimes Dad would let one of us kids go to work with him on a Saturday, especially if he was only working a half day.  I just loved those Saturdays when it was my turn to go to work with him!  I remember entering the old wooden train depot building, where we would walk up a long set of wooden stairs to his second-floor office.  This old building smelled of wood; tobacco in various forms; pencil erasers; and trains, of course.

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There were crisp sounds of radio static as the men talked to the engineers on the trains; telephones ringing; the staccato ping of old typewriters; and the roar of huge trains when they would pass below us. 

Dad at railroad, early days

Dad would give me some paper and a pencil, and I would pretend to be working just as he was.  I loved watching the lights come and go on the huge control panel behind his desk, showing the progress of various trains that were running all over southern West Virginia. And always, sooner or later, Dad would take me down the hall to the Coke machine and the snack machine.  He would buy me a Coke and a pack of Nabs, and I was in heaven!

What made the biggest impression on me, though, was when Dad would go down those long stairs and outside to the train track, taking me with him.  Sometimes he would attach a paper message to a pole there beside the track, and then we would wait.  Soon I would hear it…the unmistakable sound of a train in the distance, coming ever closer to us. 

The clickity-clack of the wheels, and the train whistle blowing, blowing, blowing in the distance, told me that soon the train would be bellowing past us…right in front of where we were standing!  And suddenly, there it was!  Huge and black and so very loud and terrifying, too. 

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Yet I wasn’t afraid, even though I was so close to such power and danger.  You know why?  Because my dad held my little hand in his big hand.  He held gently yet firmly.  I trusted him totally.  I knew that where we were standing was safe, and though the train was very loud and scary, my dad knew just where we needed to be to stay safe and secure. 

Soon a splash of red passed by.  The caboose!  The conductor stood outside the caboose.  He grabbed the paper message off the pole, waved at us while we waved back, and the train disappeared up the tracks.  All was well.

In the Bible we read about the man named Joshua, whom God told to lead His people of Israel across the Jordan River into the promised land.  It was a daunting, scary proposition.  But as God gave His orders to Joshua, this is what He said: “Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you.  I will never fail you or forsake you.”  (Joshua 1:5) 

Guess what the words “fail” and “forsake” mean?  They mean “to relax the grip.”  And that’s not all.  In verse 7, God told Joshua to be strong, which means to “reach out and grab hold.”

Do you see the beautiful picture that God is giving us?  This God of Joshua is our God today, for those of us who know Him!  And He’s telling us to reach out and grab hold of Him as He extends His hand to us.  Then let Him do the holding, because He promises not to relax His grip on us!

There are some very scary times for all of us in this life.  Sometimes some big, dark, loud problems happen to us.  God wants us to be strong, like Joshua…reach out to Him and let Him hold our hand beside all the issues that scare us and hurt us and threaten us on so many levels. 

I didn’t understand much about trains at that young age, but I knew they were dangerous.  Yet even more than that, I knew from experience that my Dad was wise and loving and would take good care of me.  He knew just how close for us to stand, and with my hand in his, I knew I was totally safe.

Our Heavenly Father has never said we won’t have problems.  In fact, He has told us that we WILL face hard times…times that will hopefully draw us to Him and to His strong hands.  He won’t let go of us.  He won’t abandon us.  He will keep us safe in our very hard times, even when we don’t like those times or understand their purpose. 

And we can say, with total confidence, “The Lord is for me, I will not fear.”  (Psalm 118:6)  

   

 

 

The Plans I Have For You

I think most of the nation has had a milder than usual winter.  Here in Kansas, we really haven’t had a winter to speak of.  Trees were budding, bushes were bearing leaves, and perennials were poking out of the ground in February!

I shouldn’t have been surprised…..but I was surprised……to walk past my front flower bed one day in February and look down to see that my Salvia had made an appearance.  There were fresh little green leaves sticking up through the ground, unaware that the month was only February.  Salvia don’t look at calendars.  They only respond to the warmth of the sun and the mildness of the nights.

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Something occurs deep underground, in their roots, that awakens them and urges them to respond.  It’s God’s miracle of growth, not tied to the month of the year but to the environment around them.  And even though that environment can at times be harsh still at this time of year……at any time of year, really……their roots stir under the right conditions and so they grow.

I was tempted on that February day to lean over and clear off all the dead leaves that looked like a hindrance to the Salvia’s growth.  But I left the leaves for insulation against the cold nights, and the snow that I knew could still come.

I’ve watched the progress of my Salvia over the past few weeks.  The picture from this morning shows how much growth has occurred.  The dead leaves, old mulch, and other clutter hasn’t prohibited my Salvia’s growth at all.  The perennial nature of this flower is alive and well as those new leaves push through all the mess around them.  It just faithfully grows and grows, quietly but strongly flourishing.

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This morning in my quiet time with the Lord I read some verses that are very familiar to many of us.  They are words spoken by God to the nation of Israel, recorded by the prophet Jeremiah.

“For I know the plans that I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for calamity, to give you a future and a hope.  Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.”   Jeremiah 29:11-13

These are verses of such encouragement and hope for all believers, not just for the nation of Israel during the time of Jeremiah.  But do you know where Israel was when God spoke these words to them?  They were being held captive in Babylon.  They were not in their home country, living freely, but were held as captive slaves in a harsh land far from all they knew and loved.

In the ten verses preceding these verses above, God had given some instructions to His chosen people through a letter written by Jeremiah and delivered to the exiles in Babylon.  God told the people to settle in to their new life in Babylon.  He told them to build houses and live in them; to plant gardens and eat their produce; to take wives and bear children; to increase and not decrease; and even to seek the welfare of their new city, praying to the Lord on its behalf.

You know how long God told them to be faithful in their captivity?  Seventy years.  SEVENTY years.

So when God then said that He knew the plans that He had for them……plans to give them a future and a hope……He also knew that this promise wasn’t coming to pass tomorrow.  He laid it out there for them.   He told them to live as He commanded and to be obedient to Him, even in their dire situation, for seventy long years.

God’s promise was given to them in the middle of less than ideal circumstances.   It wasn’t to be fulfilled immediately.  But while they waited, God wanted them to live their lives fully and faithfully to Him.

In fact, many of those Israelites would never see the promise come to pass.  They would die in Babylon.  Yet God still commanded them to be obedient and live the way He wanted.

How about us?  How does God want us to live every day?

He wants us to follow the example that He continually sets out there in His Word for us to see.  He wants us to be faithful to Him, to obey Him, and to grow no matter what is going on in our lives.

We may be going through awful times so full of grief and stress that we wonder how we can get out of bed every day.  God knows.  He understands.  He loves us.  He provides what we need.  He promises us a future and a hope.

But relief may not come today.  It may not come tomorrow.  Or the next day, or the next.  But like He told His people in Babylon, He says to you and to me today.  “Call upon Me.  Pray to Me, and I will listen.  For you will seek Me and you will find Me when you search for me with all your heart.”

It’s simple, really, but so difficult to do sometimes when our surroundings are bitter and hard and scary.  Call upon Him.  Pray.  Seek Him with all your heart.

Read His Word with an open heart to hear what He has to say to you.  Ask Him to lead your steps.  Obey what you know He tells you to do in His Word.

God will speak to you.  He will lead you to Himself.

And in the middle of your pain and your stress, you will grow.  Just like my Salvia in the middle of deadness all around it and the coldness of some nights…..still pushing through and growing, as God intended.

God loves you.  He truly does have a future and a hope for you as you follow Him, but not always…..in fact, seldom……without the suffering and sadness of this life.

But what a beautiful work He is doing in you and in me as we faithfully respond to His love and to His word in our lives!

So grow!  Grow where God has put you!

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