Does God Like Me?

“Mom?” Aaron asked last night as he was going through his ever-important bedtime routine.  I was ready for yet another question about what the SS means on the side of the Poseidon…or what kind of vision do the aliens on Pacific Rim have…or what is the quick freeze on The Day After Tomorrow movie?  So I just absently responded with my all-too-often reply.

“Hmmm?” I absently answered as he stood beside me in the bathroom, watching me put something away. 

“Do I have seizures because God doesn’t like me?” he continued.

And I stopped…stopped dead in my tracks at this very unexpected question. 

I looked up from what I was doing, into his very serious face. 

“I just wondered if I have seizures because God doesn’t like me,” he continued. 

Wow!

This is like a question Job would ask, and I wanted to give the right answer without being too shallow or too deep.

I told Aaron that God loves him very much, and that sometimes He allows things to happen.  I wanted to go into full theology mode, but I knew that I could easily lose Aaron, so I assured him again of God’s love and that when we have those questions we need to remember what we know about God…that He IS love, even when we don’t understand what He allows.

Aaron went on to bed soon after, but his question lingered in my mind into this morning.  What brought that question into his mind?  What had he been thinking about? 

Gary and I talked last night at supper, just the two of us, about how on some days we feel like it’s Christmas…and on other days, not so much.  What brings on that “Christmas spirit” we sometimes work so hard to achieve?  At times, we don’t set out to create that feeling, but when it’s missing we wonder what we missed.  Are we tired?  Worried?  Overwhelmed?  Broke?  Or broken?

I walked into Aaron’s room this morning, carrying his fresh coffee and finding him soundly asleep.  I spoke to him but he didn’t stir.  Coming back a little later, I pulled back his covers as he grunted…and I was not happy with what I saw.

A wet bed!  A totally soaked bed!

And last night he and I had changed his sheets!  I was happy to mark that off my Christmas To-Do list. 

“Are you kidding me?” I exclaimed. 

“What?” Aaron sleepily asked.

“You wet your bed!” I impatiently answered.  I was pretty certain it wasn’t a seizure, so I added, “No more water before bed!”

And off I huffed, mumbling my frustration.  Of all days!  I was feeling pretty good last night about finishing the gift wrapping and most of the grocery shopping, and saving Friday for house cleaning and the beginning of my cooking. 

Plans set.  The “Christmas spirit” picking up!

And now this…this time consuming, unexpected, yucky mess!

As I showered and got myself ready, Aaron’s question of the night before came back to my mind.  I was reminded of how much I wanted to impress God’s love upon him.  How could I do that if I was grouchy with him?  And again, how could I answer his searching question in a way that would impact him?

As I thought about it, God gently nudged my heart.  “It’s Christmas, Patty,” He seemed to say.  “What better time to explain my love than at Christmas?”

All of a sudden, wet bedding and a busy day ahead didn’t matter so much.  The Christmas music playing in my bedroom took on a clearer meaning.  I decided to talk to Aaron on our way to his day group.

He promptly turned on the Christmas CD that was in the player as soon as I turned on the van.  “Number 12,” he flatly said.  Aaron always follows the numbers of songs very closely.  “This CD has 14 songs,” he further explained.  “It’s on number 12 now.”

I smiled.  He seems to think that I want to know this information as much as he does.  But this morning, I was glad to know that I had only three songs to go before I could talk to Aaron once again about his last night’s question.

Number 14 song completely ended, and the CD went to number 1 again before Aaron removed it.  You do NOT remove the CD when the number 14 is still showing.  It must have moved on to the next song, just so you know.

I grabbed the moment.  “Aaron, do you remember asking me last night if God doesn’t like you because He lets you have seizures?” I asked. 

“Yeah,” he answered as he placed the CD in its case.

“Well, this is the perfect time of year to remember how much God loves you.  He sent Jesus down to earth to be born as a baby because He loves you and me that much.  You know that’s what Christmas is all about,” I said.

“Yeah,” he repeated. 

“So you don’t have to wonder if God loves you or not because you have seizures.  We don’t understand all that, but we do know that He loves you a bunch!  Jesus’ birth shows you that every day!” I continued.

We continued talking a bit as we neared his day group.  He was content with that answer.  And I noticed in my own heart a return of that mysterious “Christmas spirit.”  It had nothing to do with this:

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Or this:

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But definitely had everything to do with this!

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My Christmas verse this year, so appropriate for me and for Aaron this morning, is one we all know: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him would not perish but would have everlasting life.”  John 3:16

I need to run!  I have a load of bedding to put in the dryer.

Merry Christmas to all!

 

 

 

 

When The Unexpected Becomes Reality

I was at my neighbor’s house last Thursday morning as her movers were loading all of her belongings that she was moving to her new assisted living home.  I had run back over to our house to get Aaron and deliver him to meet his day group.  That’s when I got the text from Gary…..as I got Aaron off his computer, let Jackson out to do his business, and quickly checked to see if Aaron had taken his pills.  Gary’s text said, “I’m OK.  Small plane crashed on our building.”

What?!  I looked at the picture he sent, but the seriousness of the situation didn’t hit home with me even then.  I had no idea of how tragic and awful it really was.  But later, as we got Nora moved into her apartment, our other neighbor hooked up her television and turned on the local channel.  There was live coverage for the rest of the day……and I was so thankful that Gary had taken the time to text earlier to let me, Andrea, and Andrew know that he was safe. 

Four people were killed, we found out as the day wore on……the pilot, and three people inside a simulator where the plane had crashed.  I couldn’t imagine the fear I would have experienced if I had not known that Gary was safe from the beginning.  My heart goes out to the families of those who died.  Who would ever imagine that you would go to work one day in Wichita and have your building hit by a plane?   Who would ever imagine getting that horrible visit from a chaplain bearing that terrible news?  And I knew it could easily have been me that received that news…..me that was left without a husband…..my kids left without their dad.

We don’t know, do we, what a day will hold.  A couple days before the plane crash, I was nearly involved in a serious car accident…..but it didn’t happen.  Gary could have been killed on Thursday in the FlightSafety building……but it didn’t happen.  What if it HAD happened, though?

 Like it happened with Mary…..a mom I know who is in her early 30’s.  Less than two weeks ago, she was leaving a movie theater with her four young children, one a two month old, and she had a major stroke. 

Like it happened with our good friends, David and Jennifer, the day after the plane crash.  David’s dad was scheduled to come home after routine pacemaker surgery, but instead that morning he suddenly died……without warning…..totally unexpected.

Like it happened that same day with other good friends whose daughter-in-law and two grandchildren were involved in a serious front end collision on their way to spend the weekend with a friend.  They survived, thank the Lord. 

What do we do when the unthinkable DOES happen?  What do we do when the unexpected becomes our reality?

When we feel like we’ve been hit in the gut and we can’t breathe, the only thing to do is fall back into the arms of God.  How do we do THAT?  By making a conscious decision to trust Him, and to remember Who He is and what He has promised us.  Alec Motyer says, “When the trial comes that prompts the unbelieving ‘Why?’ we must rather drill our minds to hear the call for faith, to recall the Lord’s promises, and cast ourselves utterly onto the reliable rock of His Word.

A couple days after the plane crash, a friend called me.  She was so thankful that Gary wasn’t killed or injured.  She made the comment that we all often hear…..”God is so good.”  And I have to ask myself…..if Gary had been killed or badly injured, could I still say, “God is so good?”  I pray that I could and that I would still declare the goodness of God no matter my personal outcomes, for God’s goodness doesn’t change because He might allow me to go through some tough times.  Paul told Timothy that God remains faithful, and I hope that through my pain and grief I would be able to say and believe the same.

This is why it’s so important to learn who God is now……to know his attributes BEFORE the traumas hit.  Our Wichita first responders had just participated in a mock plane crash drill a month before the plane hit FlightSafety.  This drill helped them be better prepared for the real thing.  Likewise, I know that I need to daily trust God in the many events of my life and to learn His character, so when the really hard times come I am better prepared to draw on what I have already learned about God.

“How blessed are all who take refuge in Him,” David said in the Psalms.

Not spared…..but blessed and held.

The Raging Waves

I remember so clearly the first time I saw the ocean.  There I was, a little West Virginia mountain girl, on our family’s first beach vacation trip.  We had driven from southern West Virginia down to South Carolina’s Myrtle Beach, where we stayed for one week.  I don’t recall how old I was.  I do know that I ran down to the sandy beach and was just awestruck by what I saw and heard.  The ocean went on forever!  And the noise of the waves was both intimidating and amazing.

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I felt small in front of such unending power!  And I definitely felt small when later, either on that trip or another family vacation to the beach, an undertow pulled me out into the water.  I was terrified and helpless!  And ever so thankful when my brother-in-law swam out to me and pulled me to shore!

I’ve never forgotten the power of that ocean.  That experience gave me a healthy respect for deep water and the danger that it can carry.

I recently wrote about Israel’s deliverance by God from Egypt, and how God brought them to the brink of the Dead Sea.  How terrified and angry they were as they stood there, helplessly, in front of this impossible situation!  And God had LED them to it!  Of course, we know that God also led them THROUGH it.

This morning I read in Joshua 3 about the children of Israel finally reaching the promised land of Israel.  And sure enough, there in front of them lay another watery obstacle…..the Jordan River.  And the Jordan wasn’t just any old small, crossable river at this time of year.  Instead, God brought them to the Jordan during it’s annual flood stage.  The river was a huge, raging torrent – very wide and full of masses of swirling vegetation underneath the impossible current.

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We, once again, know the story.  God gave instructions to Joshua and to the people about crossing the scary waters of the Jordan River.  “By this you shall know that the living God is among you,” Joshua told the frightened people.  “God WILL deliver the enemies from before you!”

So God instructed the Ark of the Covenant to go first, and for the people to follow.  God going first.  As soon as the priest’s feet hit the Jordan’s torrent, the waters parted and all the people crossed over on dry ground.

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We sometimes wonder why God leads us the way He does.  Why not just lead Israel around to the promised land on the “dry way?”  Why does God seem to want to do things the hard way?

Well, if we never experienced the terrifying power of the waves in our lives, we would also never experience the redeeming power of our God.  We all at times feel like the Psalmist in Psalm 93:

“The floods have risen up, O Lord.  The floods have roared like thunder; the floods have lifted their pounding waves.  BUT mightier than the violent raging of the seas, mightier than the breakers on the shore – the Lord above is mightier than these!”

As a child of God, you can know that God has a purpose for everything in your life…even the awful junk that seems so unfair and hurtful and wrong.  Sometimes He allows some things to happen that we don’t understand…things that even make us question where He is, or why He let it happen.

We must cling to the fact that God is sovereign, even when we’re hurting and angry and doubting.

Look at Psalm 92:1-2:

“It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to the Most High.  It is good to proclaim your unfailing love in the morning, your faithfulness in the evening.”

So we wake up in the morning, thanking God for loving us.  And at the end of the day, no matter what rivers and oceans we encounter, we can say that God is faithful.  He is faithful to lead us, to keep us, and to eventually deliver us.  He is faithful when we don’t feel it, see it, or understand it.  We KNOW He is, and we at times have to cling to what we know even if it’s not what we feel.

Remember that God went first into the water and told Israel to follow.  And likewise, God goes first before us into the turmoil that we face, leading our way and wanting us to trust and follow Him.

God is mightier than any raging waves of life that threaten to pull us under.  Never doubt that for a minute!

Never doubt HIM for a minute!

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The Unknown Path

Aaron woke up yesterday morning in a bad mood.  He was obstinate, and so I was trying hard to just leave him alone.  I know that he often comes around to “the good side” if I give him some space and some time.  He banged his fist on his desk, making me jump even though I wasn’t in the same room with him.  Still I kept quiet.  But when he came downstairs later as I waited on him to leave for his day group, he was carrying a bag full of his Star Wars DVD’s.  He told me that he was going to give them to a friend because he didn’t want them anymore…..and I told him that he was NOT giving them to his friend.  He then slammed the bag on the kitchen table….and I lost my composure.  Big time lost my composure.

Lots happened after that.  Aaron got in the van, was quiet for awhile, and then he began to tell me that he loved Dad more than me…..that Dad was nicer than me…..that he wasn’t going to watch television with me that night…..and on and on.  I was still angry and not soft toward Aaron at all.  And soon he was crying, which is a sure sign of total frustration on Aaron’s part.

My heart was sad and broken.  I was mad at myself, and mad at Aaron, but also I was hurt for him and just so tired.  I knew that there was more to my anger than Aaron’s belligerent behavior.  Sure, I do get tired of dealing with Aaron’s inability to sometimes control his emotions and his actions.   But there are times that I also struggle with controlling my own emotions and actions.

Without getting too specific, I was already bothered by some thoughts I was having that had nothing to do with Aaron at that moment.  I was having a little pity party of my own.  It was one of those times when I was already looking at Gary’s and my life with Aaron, and giving in to the reality of some things that can really get me down.

Sometimes Gary and I would just like to pick up and go.  Many of our former responsibilities are gone.  But with Aaron, we always need to find caregivers, which is extremely hard to do.  It’s also expensive.  So at a time when couples our age are empty nesters, retiring, enjoying life…..Gary and I are stuck.  I feel terrible saying that, but it’s the truth.  I usually don’t get mired in those thoughts.  I often look at Gary and say, “We have no problems.  God has been so good to us.”  And Gary is careful to thank the Lord for our many blessings when we pray.

But yesterday morning, I was not feeling so blessed.  And therein is much of the problem I was facing.  I let my feelings dictate my response to Aaron, and it was not pretty.  It was not helpful or kind to Aaron.  And I was not pleasing God, for sure.

I know better than to compare myself to others.  But I also know better than to stay in that frame of mind, or to heap guilt upon myself and live in defeat after I blow it.  God forgave me, and Aaron did, too.  I pulled over in a Quik Trip parking lot near Aaron’s day group so that he and I could talk.  It was difficult.  Aaron was crying and I was very frustrated at myself and at him.  Finally, though, we sifted through our hurt feelings.  I told Aaron that I was sorry for the way I acted.  We went to Paradigm, where Aaron walked around talking to some of the staff and some of his friends, but eventually leaving with me.

And as we drove toward home……..in the middle of Aaron talking about Protocol Droids and Darth Nihilus and star maps and HK47 and Revin and Malak and endless other outer space things that are only important to him……he said, “Do you know it’s hard for me to say I’m sorry?”

Wow!!  That was amazing!

I smiled, patted his leg, and assured him that I understood.   We later went to Chili’s for lunch, where we blew our straw wrappers on each other like we always do and where Aaron asked the blessing – “Lord, thank you for this food and please help me to be good today.”  And THAT was a blessing!

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Yes, my day was totally rearranged and very different from what I had planned, which was to be a nice rainy day at home to get some extra things done and not have anywhere extra to go.  But God had rearranged my attitude along with my day, and that is always the best help ever.

God wasn’t through with me yet, though.  This morning I read this verse in Psalm 77:19.  The Psalmist was recalling what God had done for Israel when they left Egypt.

“Your road led through the sea; Your pathway through the mighty waters – a pathway no one knew was there!”

Israel wasn’t happy when they got to the Red Sea.  God rescued them from slavery in Egypt and they were thrilled…..until they saw where God brought them.  The path led to an impossible situation.  The Red Sea!  Now what?!

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But God had a path planned for them…..a path no one knew was there.  But God knew!!  He showed Israel His power as He rescued them there.  He taught them lessons they would never have learned had their path remained easy and secure.

God led them through the impossibility on the path He knew was there.  So God has put each of us who follow Him on a certain path in life.  We don’t always get the green pastures or the still waters of Psalm 23.  In fact, all of us are going to come upon a Red Sea in our lives…..an impossible situation that will end up showing us the possibilities that God has in store for us.

His power is made perfect in our weakness, He has told us, and in His power we take one step at a time…..step by step…..on the pathway that we never knew was there.  But He knew it was there!

He may lead us TO a Red Sea, but He has promised to also lead us THROUGH the Red Sea.  I may not even see the other side of my Red Sea on this side of heaven, but I do know that God will shepherd me through each day on this particular path.

I love the old hymn, He Leadeth Me.

He leadeth me!  O blessed thought!  O words with heavenly comfort fraught!  Whate’er I do, where’er I be, still ‘tis God’s hand that leadeth me.

Sometimes mid scenes of deepest gloom, sometimes where Eden’s bowers bloom.  By waters still, o’er troubled sea, still ‘tis His hand that leadeth me.

He leadeth me, He leadeth me, by His Own hand He leadeth me;

His faithful follower I would be, for by His hand He leadeth me. 

 

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These Words

Last night I was helping Aaron turn down his covers as he got ready for bed.  Sometimes there is a moment that is especially poignant with Aaron.  A moment that hits me in a profound way…..in a way that causes me to remember where we were and what we were doing when the moment occurred.  The night before, Aaron….for whatever reason…..was very groggy and dizzy, with slurred speech and unsteady legs.  He was still trying to talk, but with great effort.

Last night, though, Aaron was his usual chipper self.   We were going through his bedtime routine as he talked and talked and talked.  He brushed his teeth, swished his mouthwash, helped me set up our diffuser – which means he poured in the water, checked the name of the oil, and took a little tentative sniff – watched as I turned on the baby monitor we use to listen for seizures, made sure I picked out his clothes for the next day and that they were on the back of his desk chair, put his back scratcher and hand towel on the seat of his chair, blinds lowered, desk clock turned around so the light doesn’t bother him, glasses put just where they belong, wrist watch put right beside his glasses, shoes in front of the closet, stuffed animals precisely in place in his bed, covers pulled up, and animal print blanket put on top of the bed exactly right and with no wrinkles.  It’s a process…..done precisely….or we must re-do the process until precision is reached.

It was when we were standing beside his bed, me on one side and Aaron on the other….pulling up his covers…..that Aaron said this:

“Mom, guess what Shauna is getting?”

Shauna is one of his friends at his day group, Paradigm.

“I don’t know,” I replied.  “What is Shauna getting?”

“She’s getting a NEW wheelchair!” Aaron answered.

Aaron had no idea of the impact of his simple answer to my question, and of the many thoughts that cascaded through my mind in a split second.  He just kept talking.

“I told her she should get a PINK one!!” he exclaimed, and then laughed at the thought of a pink wheelchair.

We smoothed his animal print blanket then.  He was finished with pink wheelchairs and had moved on to his bedtime log book…..his notebook in which he writes down the exact time he gets in bed and the exact time the next morning that he gets out of bed.

10:22.

That’s the time he wrote.

So was it 10:22 when Aaron spoke of Shauna’s wheelchair?  Or 10:21?  That fact would be important to Aaron.

But all I knew, after our goodnight hug and after I had turned out his light, is that my 33 year old son was happy about his friend’s new wheelchair.  That was nice of him.  But…..

Aaron wasn’t talking about his friend’s new car.  Or new job.  Or new house.

He was talking with pleasure about her new wheelchair……because his friends have special needs, like he does…..and a new wheelchair is indeed a big deal.

But as Aaron’s mother, this comment from him somehow yanked open that little door in my heart that I try to keep closed.  I try to keep it closed because I don’t want to hurt for him or for his friends.  I want to see his life as a wonderful thing, and it truly is!

But the reality of his life…..and the lives of his day group friends…..is far different from your typical 33 year old young man. Most young men Aaron’s age would be talking about new cars.  Aaron was talking about new wheelchairs.

I’m so happy that he was happy for Shauna.  But my momma heart got a deeper little crack in it last night.

I haven’t been writing lately.  I’ve just been very burdened about lots of issues.  Life goes in cycles like that, you know.  As a Christ follower, I know to be careful during those down seasons.  It’s very easy to be consumed with the here and now, and with all my own worries…..not to mention the serious concerns for some in my family and some of my friends…..and even our great country.

So I’ve asked God to do what I have often in the past asked Him to do, and that is to give me some extra special assurance from His Word.  And God did just that a few days ago.  He gave me a sweet message from His Word, ABOUT His Word.

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It’s from Isaiah 8.  Israel was facing dark times, and so God told them lots of truths about how they were to behave, how they were to act, Whom they were to obey and to fear, and even warned them about seeking answers from mediums and fortune tellers.

And then in verse 20, God said to Israel:  “To the teaching!  And to the testimony!”

That’s it?

Yes, that’s it!

That’s EVERYTHING!

Where do I need to go when I’m overwhelmed with burdens…..with darkness…..with struggles…..?

Where do I go when the reality of Aaron’s life makes my heart sad?

To a book?  To a person?  To an activity?  To food?  To entertainment?

NO!

To the teaching!  To the testimony!

In other words, to God’s Word.  Staying in my Bible.  Reading it with purpose, asking God to open His Word to me and give me direction….this is where I need to go.

Dale Ralph Davis, in his book Stump Kingdom, says it so well:

“Only the light of the written word will carry us through the darkness of our times.  This holds true whether the ‘times’ are dark historical times, dark personal times, or even the end of our present time.”

Davis then told about Robert Bruce, an old minister in the Kirk of Edinburgh, who on the day he died asked his daughter to set his finger on the last two verses of Romans 8:  “I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

“These words – that is always the Christian’s slogan.  Only in the teaching and the testimony is there light and help and anchorage.  The Christian is the man or woman who wades through the affairs of life always saying: ‘Set my finger on these words.’”

Wades through the affairs of life……the unexplainable, the sad, the hard, the heavy.

I must wade through it all with my finger on God’s Word.  No other substitute will give me the peace and the comfort that I will find as I read what God says to me in His Word.

I can’t tell you why Aaron has special needs.  I won’t say it doesn’t hurt, sometimes more than others.

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But let me tell you about God.  Let me tell you about His love.  Let me tell you that He is sovereign.  Let me tell you what He has written.

“To the teaching!  And to the testimony!”

 

 

 

 

Tucked Away Promises

I woke up yesterday morning to the faint sound of thunder, so I went first thing to my favorite window and saw this:

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What a beautiful sight any time of day, but to me a special morning blessing!  It only got better a short time later when I went outside and saw a faint second rainbow in the sky.

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Before long, the lightning got brighter and the thunder was louder.  Then came the rain.

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And after the rain, our rainbows reappeared.

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The same scenario repeated itself as soon more rain fell.

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I was up and down, inside and outside, and enjoying the rain with Gary as we watched from inside the garage.  Some of the lightning was close and scary.  Some of the thunder was loud and unsettling.  But we were safe.  And we were thankful for the rain, which brings growth and nourishment to our yard and gardens.

I was especially touched as I read once again the verses from Psalms that I had just read the day before:

“But as for me, I will sing about Your power.  Each morning I will sing with joy about Your unfailing love.  For You have been my refuge, a place of safety when I am in distress.”  Psalm 59:16

The rainbow that I first saw reminded me of the fact that it’s vital for me to have a grasp of God’s promises before the storms hit.  It’s so important for me to have that knowledge of what God has to say to me, found in the Bible, tucked into my brain and my heart.

I need to be reading His Word, remembering His promises, and learning WHO God is…..and doing this every day.  Days add up to weeks, then months, then years.  Looking into His Word, listening to God, talking to Him……just like looking up every morning and seeing a beautiful rainbow that catches my eye and grabs my attention.  That’s what I need to be doing with God’s Word.

Then one day…..BAM!!!  The storm hits, in whatever form that takes, and even though the beauty of the rainbow may be hidden by clouds, I can still trust that it’s there.  I can still trust that God is there, with His promises that are highlighted in my Bible and hidden in my heart.  I don’t need to be afraid, distressing and exhausting though my situation may be.  That’s because I’ve gotten to know God intimately over those days and weeks and months and years.

Not it’s time to put into practice what I’ve put away.  It’s not the power of positive thinking.  It’s the power of God’s promises…..of God Himself!!  He will give me comfort and safety in the storms.  He will be my place of safety in my distress.

And I could also sing this old wonderful hymn this morning in church:

          Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest,

          Sun, moon, and stars in their courses above.

          Join with all nature in manifold witness,

          To Thy great faithfulness, mercy, and love.

          Great is Thy faithfulness!

          Great is Thy faithfulness!

          Morning by morning new mercies I see.

          All I have needed, Thy hand hath provided.

          Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me.

At the end of the day, I can see God’s hand all over my life.

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Lessons From the New Sprouts

 

Yesterday was a beautiful first day of spring.   The bright sunshine belied the fact that we may get some snow this weekend.  Ah yes, spring is a fickle time of year for sure!  By this time of year, everyone is ready for the cold, gray days of winter to give way to the bright colors of spring.  We are ready to listen to the happy chirping of birds and to enjoy the fresh smell of spring that is somehow in the air.  Snow is not something that we look forward to when everything in us is longing for warmth and for open windows and walks in the great outdoors.
 
I’ve become used to looking outside and seeing our brown flower beds.  They are full of faded mulch and the ugly stubs of once pretty flowers.  I didn’t get the dwarf crepe myrtles trimmed back last fall, so those tall dead limbs stick up as a constant reminder that they have had no visible life for several months.  Crunchy dried leaves are piled among the straggly remnants of last year’s growth.  Almost everything is dusty and crunchy, a drab brown and gray palette that does nothing for the senses.  It’s a scenery that is a reminder of what has been……….of what once was………. but now of uselessness and decay and death. 

 

Yet as I drove to an appointment, I saw what looked like the beginnings of buds on some trees.  I saw some pale yellow daffodils blooming beside some one’s house.  Later, at home, I went out with our Great Dane and while he explored the yard, I decided to do a little exploring of my own in one of the flower beds.  I bent over and looked closely.  Then I gently moved aside some of the dry and faded mulch.  And there, under the all the dullness of the mulch and the dirt, I found the tender green shoots of our garden phlox poking through the soil.  Behind me, as I searched some more, I found the young sprouts of our tiger lilies coming out.  Jackson and I walked to the front yard, and there as I did some more gentle digging I found the fresh green of my salvia showing among the dead growth of last summer.  In the corner of that flower bed, without any digging needed, was the unmistakable soft and fuzzy newness of my lamb’s ear.  From a distance, the scenery was still dull and lifeless.  But when I took the time to look, I could see the beginnings of new life.  I could see the hope of a beautiful spring starting to emerge from the seemingly lifeless ground. 
My journey on this earth is full of ups and downs………..the seasons of life shift and change as time goes on.  There are seasons of growth, seasons of calmness, seasons of joy……….and then there are those seasons when I feel a chill in the air, seasons of storms when the sun is hidden, and seasons when I feel that around me I only see the fading of what was.  The drabness of my current sad situation threatens to overtake my vision.  Looking out the window of my life only reveals a dusty mess.  We all have these seasons of life.  Sometimes the seasons change suddenly.  In a flash, we go from happiness to despair.  At other times the shifting is more subtle.  Days and months flow by, and we begin to slowly realize that life has altered and there seems to be no way to get things around us back to the growing, thriving standard that we once knew. 
 
I know that in the dreary days of winter, my perennials in the flower beds around our house are safe underground.  They are alive, though not seen, and they are being fed by the moisture that comes.  Even the cold, harsh snow will give them the sustenance they need in order to survive.  So it is in my life…….in your life…….as we follow Christ.  The seasons where we only see gloom and coldness are really the times that we have an opportunity to rest under the care of our heavenly Father.  Let Him nourish us with His Word, with how He speaks to us in the listless times through the Holy Spirit, and how He uses friends to encourage and lift us up.  The reasons for our dark times don’t even always need to be understood or explained.  Many times, God just wants us to be still and to let Him work as we lay buried in Him.

Then one day without even digging, we will see the sweet evidence of growth.  New shoots will be emerging from the gloom of our lives…………shoots of hope, of joy, of peace………the fruit of many lessons learned.  Isaiah may have been talking about the millennial kingdom in Isaiah 61:11, but I believe we can claim these verses for our lives as well:  “For as the earth brings forth its sprouts, and as a garden causes the things sown in it to spring up, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations.” 
 
Just as sure as I know that my garden phlox and salvia and lamb’s ear will return, so I know that God will cause His righteousness to prevail and His praise to spring up in my heart once again.  No matter what stress and change and disappointment we face, we can know for certain that God has a season of growth ahead for us………a season of beauty……….a beautiful spring up ahead.