Weary

I’m sitting here wondering how to start this post, so I’m just going to start this post by telling you that I’m sitting here wondering how to start this post. 

I’m still sitting here, wondering.

So I’ll just launch into it.  Gary and I had a disagreement on Saturday about Aaron. 

There.  I said it. 

It’s not the first and it won’t be the last.  😊

Aaron may be nearing 34 years of age, but Gary and I are still in the thick of parenting, believe me.  Like all parents, we don’t always see eye to eye on every issue.  And just when Gary and I think we have some situation all figured out, Aaron not only changes the rules, he changes the entire game!!

Not to sound like a whiner but parenting a special needs adult – or child – is challenging even on a good day.  Gary and I both get tired, on many levels.  What may not be a big deal can easily turn into a huge deal when we’re tired.  And trust me, Aaron can wear us totally out.

For instance, Aaron has just finished watching all four of the Jaws movies.  It’s taken him some time to watch all four of those movies.  Aaron’s current movie becomes his obsession, so lately we have heard more about sharks than we ever, ever, EVER wanted to hear.  Shark teeth, shark gills, shark size, shark color, shark location, shark diet, shark movies, and will there be a FIFTH Jaws??!!

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Please tell me no on that last one!

It’s like I told Gary on Saturday during our discussion about our disagreement…there are some days, many days, that by the end of the day, I am SO done.  Just really, completely done. 

Not done with having Aaron live here.  Not done with loving Aaron, by any means.  But just done, as in deep down bone tired. 

And so is Gary.

We talked and came to an agreement, and we still love each other.  We even still LIKE each other! 

But being tired…not just physically tired, but soul tired…isn’t resolved as quickly.  I don’t know about you, but when I get like this I tend to magnify everything.  Small issues become much larger than they really are.  I mentally bounce all over the place, making mountains out of mole hills, even when I know better. 

I sat down on the patio with my cup of coffee, enjoying the birds and the breeze, and I talked to the Lord.  I told Him I was tired, as if He didn’t know that.  And I told Him, as I am prone to do, that I sure would love to hear from Him.

As clear as day, this day that was just starting, this verse went through my mind:  “Be not weary in well doing…”

And I felt a real peace.

I got on my phone to look up the verse because I’m terrible at remembering references.  It’s Galatians 6:9 (one of the verses), and so I continued to scroll down on my phone to look at other translations and notes. 

One of the references was Malachi 1:13.  I hope you’re going to love this as much as I did.  Without going into tons of detail, God was talking to Israel about how they were neglecting to truly worship Him.  They were bringing defiled food and sickly animals for their sacrifices. 

God told Israel, “You also say, ‘My, how tiresome it is!’  And you disdainfully sniff at it,” says the Lord of hosts.” 

Israel was tired of doing the right thing.  They were tired of obeying God.  In fact, they sniffed at God’s instruction to them.  That means that they blew through their nose.  Much like I did on Saturday morning.  You know…that sniff through the nose when you’re frustrated with something. 

Don’t tell me you’ve never done it!

Sniff!!

OK, so I live with Aaron and I do get tired.  But when God says to not weary in well doing, He’s not saying I should never get tired and if I do then I’m sinning.  The “weary” in that verse means “to fail in heart.” 

It’s my heart…my heart issues…I need to guard. 

How do I do that?  By being careful not to offer God a sacrifice unworthy of Who He is.  God wants me to offer sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving and trust.  And I can only do this when I stop and realize that He is sovereign over my life…my whole life…even all the Aaron moments.  And anything else that weighs me down and causes me to sniff disdainfully.

To lay at God’s feet my worries, my anger, my sadness, my regrets…whatever else there may be…and then to replace all those things with praise and thankfulness and trust in Him.

Then I am better equipped to consciously continue in well doing…to do right even when I don’t feel like doing right…to not be weary in well doing. 

It’s a tall order for sure.  But I have a tall God who really will…and does…give me what I need, when I need it. 

There’s a promise at the end of Galatians 6:9:  “…for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.” 

Our reaping will take various forms, but a big one is a harvest of peace.  My situation may not change, but God will give peace as I obey Him. 

What’s got you tired today?  Our lists get long, don’t they?  Health…finances…children…jobs…moving…rejection…hurts…church…

But through and in it all, don’t let your heart fail.  Don’t fail to thank God for so many things, and for WHO He is! 

Don’t sniff at your life but sacrifice your life to the One Who loves you so much!

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Just Wait!

One night a couple weeks ago, I was with Aaron as we went through his normal bedtime routine.  I was particularly tired that night, having spent another long day getting me and Gary and the house and Aaron and our caregiver and our dog all ready for the trip back east that Gary and I were taking.  Seeming to feed off of my particular tiredness, Aaron was a particular slow that night.  I had hit the proverbial wall and just wanted nothing more than to lay my head on my pillow and go to sleep.

Speaking of, when Aaron is this kind of slow at night, even laying his head on his pillow is a drawn-out process.  It’s like he’s moving in slow motion as he makes sure his covers are pulled up just right, then pulled down just right, and then situated even further down so that he can ever so slowly sit on the edge of the bed and ease under the covers.  His head was still not quite on the pillow as he scooted his body over, but instead was leaning back on his headboard.  He even rolled his eyes back in his head like he sometimes does as he EVER SO SLOWLY…did I already say that?!…maneuvered his body a little lower under his blankets.  He looked like he was going to pass out right there.  Finally, he was situated with his head actually on the pillow where it belonged and his body totally under the covers.

But now Aaron had to get his arms out from under the covers for our goodnight hug and kiss on the cheek.  This part of the routine is necessary…arms under the covers, then arms out from under the covers…reaching up for me and our hug and a quick peck on his cheek. 

Yet nothing on this tired night was quick.  He was as slow as molasses in the winter, for crying out loud!! 

So I pulled the covers down for him and in doing so, I revealed my impatience to ever-observant Aaron.  He was more awake than I thought as he looked at me.

“Don’t be rushable!!” he reprimanded me sternly. 

I had to smile at his wording as I gave him a hug and a kiss.  Only Aaron could defuse the situation with his unique way of speaking. 

I’ve been thinking a lot about this issue of being “rushable.”  Seeing all the back-to-school pictures going around on FB…all the comments tinged with unbelief at how old a child is or what grade they’re in…and especially hearing the certain sound of mixed emotions regarding a child leaving for his first year of college or a job or marriage…has made me look at the reality of Aaron in a new way.  And yet it’s not really new at all.

Aaron had his first seizure a little over 26 years ago.  He is approaching his 34th birthday.  He is our oldest child and should have been the first to leave the nest for college or job or marriage.  But here he is, still in our home and still dependent on us.  This is through no fault of his own.  Gary and I know that we are on this path not only because of Aaron’s special needs, but even more importantly, because of God’s sovereign will in our lives. 

We know that God could heal Aaron, but for now He has chosen not to do so.  Over the years, I have quit focusing on healing.  I’ve learned it’s far more important to focus on what God has for me on this path, step by step, as I stay in His Word and as I seek to obey Him.  I want to hear from God, to learn, to grow, to be more like Him, and to share Him with others.  And God has used Aaron in SO many ways to point me to those very aspects in this life.

Yet I am not by any means a perfect example of peace in our situation.  I do not walk around with a cherubic smile on my face as I adjust my halo on my head.  Absolutely NOT!!  I get sad, and tired.  I think about our future, and definitely Aaron’s.  I get frustrated.  Sometimes I wish for things that are not in our picture now, and perhaps never will be.  And once in a while, I crack open one of those little doors of my heart and I peek inside, thinking of what Aaron is and what he might have been.  Those doors are hurtful and I know not to dwell there, but I am a mother and at times my eyes take a quick look as they fill with tears.

It’s at those moments that I know I must look at God and trust Him fully.  And I must let Him remind me that there is a very great reason for our paths of suffering…for all of us, for you and for me as we follow Christ.

Remember the story of Lazarus in John 11?   Lazarus was very sick, so his sisters, Mary and Martha, sent word to Jesus to tell him the news.  Jesus loved this family.  They were dear friends.  When Jesus was told that Lazarus was sick, He stayed two days longer in the place where he was.

Wait…what?! 

When we get news that someone we love is critically ill, we go to them right away.  But Jesus, instead of taking off right away to Bethany to see Lazarus, purposely stayed where He was for two more days.  Then when He did get to the town of Bethany, Martha and Mary both said to Him, “Lord, if You had been here, our brother would not have died.”   

Lazarus had died.  Jesus could have come sooner, but He didn’t and now Lazarus was dead and already buried in a tomb. 

And Jesus didn’t come sooner ON PURPOSE!

We know why Jesus didn’t go sooner and why He allowed Lazarus to die, because Jesus told his followers the reason right after He was told about the illness of His friend.  Jesus said that it was all being done so that the Son of God would be glorified. 

Aaron would say that Jesus wasn’t “rushable.”

Jesus let the situation continue because He knew the end.  Jesus knew that He would raise Lazarus from the dead in order to point to God…to give God glory…to show all those people another picture of the love and greatness of God.

Yes, it was hurtful to those that loved Lazarus.  It was especially hard on Lazarus to die, right?  But their hurt and pain was used by Jesus to point out the glory and the power of God.

How many times are we told in the Bible to wait on the Lord?  Wait for Him to show Himself.  Wait for Him to teach us.  Wait for Him to open a door, or to shut another. 

For me, it’s as if Jesus is repeating Aaron’s words:  “Don’t be rushable, Patty.  Quit striving.  Be still, and know that I am God.” 

I don’t know why Aaron has his special needs.  I don’t know what tomorrow holds, or next week, and certainly not next year.  But I do know that God is God…that He is good…and that He wants Aaron, through us, to bring Him glory.

We do that by trusting Him, by pointing out the wonderful ways He speaks to us through His Word, and by resting each day in His plan for us and for Aaron.

When I try to rush God…to come up with answers why…to explain and understand everything…to have plausible reasons…then I am not letting Him be sovereign in my life and I am not bringing Him glory. 

Don’t be rushable, Mom!!

Got it, Aaron. 

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The Reality

Three years ago, we planted sunflowers around the perimeter of our vegetable garden.  Aaron was SO happy that Gary and I had finally agreed to grow these giant flowers.  Aaron had wanted sunflowers for a long time.  They did not disappoint as they grew and grew and grew that first summer.

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Last year, Gary and Aaron planted some of the seeds that Gary had harvested from our first sunflower crop.  Again, the mammoth flowers grew steadily and gave us much beauty to enjoy.

This year we decided not to plant a vegetable garden.  Time constraints during the planting season, very late winter weather, some traveling, and severe drought caused us to make this decision.

One day, though, we noticed some plants emerging from the soil.  Sure enough, we soon realized that our sunflowers had returned.  We hadn’t planted a single seed this year.  These were volunteer sunflowers that had sprouted from old seed left in the ground from the year before.

Just a few days ago, there in our garden, was a welcome splash of color.  Sure enough, one of those volunteer sunflowers was blooming.  And it wasn’t long before Aaron also saw it.

“MOM!!!” he loudly exclaimed.  “Look at the sunflower!!  Let’s go see it!”

We walked over to the garden and looked at the pretty bloom, all bright and perky and sunny.  And of course, I took a picture.  Isn’t it pretty?

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But if you take a closer look, you’ll see more than one pretty sunflower.  And most definitely, if you take in the whole scene, you will have a new appreciation for how much we appreciate this flower.

Look at the sunflower stalk.  You notice that it’s missing something.  It’s missing leaves…lots of leaves.  The deer that call this area home have helped themselves to our sunflower leaves.  We didn’t really expect any of our sunflowers to bloom this year because of the damage done.

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And look at the background behind and around our struggling sunflowers.  The ground is parched and weedy and really quite ugly.

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So here is the reality of our garden this year.  It looks forsaken and ignored and certainly not a place of beauty.  It’s drab and dreary and dull.

Except for…this.  This beautiful, unexpected flower.

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What’s your reality today?  Oh, I’m not referring to your yard or garden.  What’s the reality in your life today?

Here’s a picture of mine.

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Many of you will know exactly what we are dealing with today.  After a welcome break of two and a half weeks seizure free, the low front that came in last night also ushered in seizures for Aaron.  I wasn’t really surprised, yet seizures are always concerning and sad.  And the loud thump very early this morning as Aaron fell out of bed during a seizure was most unwelcome, especially for poor Aaron.  Thankfully, he was uninjured, all wrapped up in his multiple covers like a cocoon.

Wet carpet, wet bedding, wet clothes…really, the least of my worries.  Another seizure a short while ago, and watching closely while Aaron is up and about, are my main concerns.  I can also change my schedule today, but I cannot change this reality that is a continual part of our lives.

That’s why reading the short devotional for today in the old Streams in The Desert was powerful and moving to me.  Listen to what George Matheson says about waiting for hope:

“Thou hast made waiting beautiful; Thou hast made patience divine.  Thou hast taught us that the Father’s will may be received just because it IS His will.  Thou hast revealed to us that a soul may see nothing but sorrow in the cup and yet may refuse to let it go, convinced that the eye of the Father sees further than its own.”

The eye of God sees further than my eye sees.  I see my surroundings in life, often ugly and stressful, but beyond what I see is what GOD sees…what God allows.

I have hope.  You, if you know and follow Christ, have hope.  Aaron may not be healed on earth.  But I have the hope of heaven, where he will be healed and where all will be perfect.

And I have here-and-now hope in God, which brings me peace…joy…strength.  We who follow Christ all have this wonderful hope, despite our heartaches and our deep valleys.

Look at what else Aaron and I found in our little sunflower patch.

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Future blooms, waiting to pop open and brighten up our dull garden even more.

Know that God is a God of hope.  Know that He will work out your problems for some good, unseen as it is now in your life.  Know that He has reasons beyond what you may ever know on this earth for the dark days you are facing.  Know that He will never leave you or forsake you.

“Strive to be one of those – so few – who walk the earth with ever-present consciousness – all mornings, middays, star-times – that the unknown which men call Heaven is “close behind the visible scene of things.”  (Streams in The Desert)

“For I hope in You, O Lord.  You will answer, O Lord my God.”  (Ps. 38:15)

 

 

 

 

Unknown Ground

I wrote last Thursday about my mostly happy, musical day with Aaron.                    Singing We Go

But there was also the issue of his wet bed, which I thought was due to him drinking too much water before bed.  Pretty sure I was wrong.

Aaron’s new seizure pattern and the hard end to our mostly happy day certainly pointed to that reality.

I was cleaning the kitchen after we ate a late supper.  Aaron walked through the kitchen and then I heard a noise.  I looked over and saw him face-planted on the kitchen table.  What on earth?  I thought he had stumbled and fallen on the table.

“Aaron,” I asked as I headed toward him.  “Are you OK?”

That’s when I saw him falling over and I knew that he was seizing.  I yelled for Gary as I ran to Aaron, catching him somewhat as he hit the chair and then went down on the floor.  Gary helped break the fall, too, and then got a pillow for Aaron’s head as the seizure continued for awhile and then eased.

I knew, as I watched him, that Aaron must have had a seizure during the night…a seizure I didn’t hear.  This is his new pattern.  A low front with storms came through during the night.  Every seizure in the past 2+ months have come during low fronts, with one seizure at night and then one or more seizures the next day while he’s up and about, out of nowhere.

All this academic stuff, though, did nothing for my racing heart and the feeling that I had been punched in the gut.  Just looking at Aaron as he lay on the floor was heart-breaking, to say the least, and was a very unwelcome confirmation to us of this new chapter in his seizure journey.

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“What are we going to do?” I asked rhetorically to Gary as we stood in the kitchen.

“I don’t know,” he answered, wearily.  “This is unknown ground to us.”

And as quickly as Gary said those words, God spoke to me.  I don’t say that lightly.  But I know that it was God speaking His words of hope to me…to us…as surely as I know Gary’s voice.

“It may be unknown ground,” God said.  “But I have told you that I know the path that you take.”

Such comfort washed over me at that moment!  I mean, I still felt the physical effects in my stomach from the fear of seeing Aaron fall.  I felt weak and teary-eyed and worried.  But really, the “peace that passes understanding” kept rolling over me as I thought of those words: “I know the path that you take.”

This is hope.  This is true, biblical, God-focused hope that the world does not offer or understand.  Haven’t we seen that recently in the spate of suicides of very successful people?

There are two kinds of hope.  When I relate them to our situation with Aaron, I see that we have the first kind of hope quite often.  Gary and I hope that Aaron will improve.  We hope that he’ll be safe.  We hope that something we try will help his seizures to decrease.  We hope that we can find caregivers for Aaron, especially during our daughter’s wedding in Texas.

This kind of hope is a feeling, not based on any certainty, but just…well…a hope.  We hope for the best, but aren’t sure if it will happen.

But there’s another hope, one that comes from knowing God personally through our relationship with Jesus.  This is the hope that Paul, for instance, talks about in Romans 5.

This hope is one directed toward God’s promise, and CERTAIN of it’s realization.

This hope is IN God…in His character…in His Word…in His promises to me…in WHO He is!!

And this hope is why I was instantly filled with God’s peace as Gary and I talked about our new and unknown ground upon which we are walking.

This certain trust born from my relationship with my known Savior is what this world needs, and doesn’t have.  Nothing in this world can manufacture this kind of purpose and peace and comfort.

Nothing!

No amount of fame or money or success or promotion or self esteem or anything else that we strive for can bring us this certain hope.

Only a personal relationship with God will result in such hope.

Our problems may not go away, but that desire is not on what I am to place my hope.  Hoping in a desired outcome is normal, but does not bring me any lasting assurance at all.  I’ve learned that much in my life.

My only assurance is in knowing that God is sovereign.  He is in charge of my life.  He loves me.  He knows what’s best for me…for Gary…and for Aaron.

Sometimes His best is hard, but it’s always best.

So God’s best…God Himself…is my only hope.  And it’s enough, because God is enough.

Edward Mote says it perfectly in the old hymn, The Solid Rock:

 

My hope is built on nothing less

Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;

I dare not trust the sweetest frame 

But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

 

When darkness veils His lovely face,

I rest on His unchanging grace;

In every high and stormy gale

My anchor holds within the veil.

          

On Christ the solid rock I stand;

All other ground is sinking sand,

All other ground is sinking sand.

 

To end our evening, as I stood in Aaron’s room and looked out his window, God seemed to smile at me as He gave me this little touch of beauty from heaven.

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God knows the path we take.  All is well.

 

 

 

The Plan

Today is a super special day!  You see, it’s my anniversary…OUR anniversary!  The day that Gary and I said “I Do!!”  It was 39 years ago that I wore the beautiful dress that my mother had made, every stitch lovingly sewn by her hand.  39 years ago that I walked down that aisle of the brand new Johnston Chapel Baptist Church, the first bride to do so in our new sanctuary.  39 years ago that I joined my hand with Gary’s and we embarked on our new life together. 

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Doesn’t it sound perfectly romantic?  And it was!!  It was because we planned it that way.  Every bride plans her wedding day to be exactly as she wants it to be.  We’re watching our daughter, Andrea, plan her wedding to Kyle now.  It’s fun to see their special day taking shape. 

No bride and groom plans for things to go awry on their special day.  Sometimes things don’t go as planned on the big day, but the plan is for all to be as perfect as possible.  Perfect plans, planned with perfection…the dress, the tuxes, the flowers, the attendants, the food, the music…each checked off the list as the plans take shape. 

The PLAN!!

Fast forward 39 years, to this morning.

I had a plan for this morning.  I was going to sleep in on this Saturday morning.  My normal wake-up time is 5:30. That’s a.m.  So on a Saturday, I love having no alarm go off.  I love waking up when I wake up, which is never real late but any time past 5:30…A.M.!!…is late for me. 

Part of my careful plan is to even set the coffee-maker alarm for one hour later than normal.  Ahhhh…luxury!!

Therefore, you can understand my irritation when our old Great Dane stood up this morning in our bedroom where he sleeps, and halfway shook himself, and woke me up.  I knew…I just KNEW…what I was going to find.  Jackson doesn’t get up off his mattress on the floor very easily now because he is so old and stiff, but the one time that he will get off his bed is when he either has to go potty, or he already HAS gone potty.

This morning it was the latter.

And it wasn’t even 6:00 yet…which means it was five something…too close to my normal wake-up time for this Saturday morning when I had so carefully planned to sleep late!!

And yeah, there was poop involved, on the floor and on his bed.

I did finally go back to bed after the clean-up, but it just wasn’t the same.

Happy Anniversary day!

Dear Gary had given me flowers yesterday evening, and this morning they were joined by the sweetest card.  Then later, coffee cups in hand, we walked down to our little Mulberry tree with Jackson sniffing all around, and we picked mulberries.  It’s so us, this simple kind of thing.  It’s the simple life that we love in the place that we are.  I was planning breakfast on the patio with the birds and me and Gary, then making his favorite cheesecake, and on I went with my planning.

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Then the back door opened.  Gary and I saw Aaron coming across the yard.  He was early to get up, as well.  We both looked at each other, knowing what we each were thinking.  Aaron joining us wasn’t really in our plan for this morning quite yet.

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Aaron wondered what we were doing.  He was unimpressed with the fact that we were picking mulberries.  He wanted us to be back in the house, where we could see that he had his coffee and where we could listen to him talk.  But we continued picking our mulberries while Aaron walked back to the house, a little in a huff because his morning wasn’t beginning as planned, either.

Soon I did fix our breakfast, where Gary and I were once again joined by Aaron.  He was still a bit huffy and on edge, but bacon helped.  I thought it was quite ironic that he was wearing a shirt that said, “No Bad Days.”  HA!!

I wish it could be that simple, but with Aaron it’s just not.  A day not going as he so carefully plans can set him on the wrong path for sure, and Gary and I are dragged along as well.  But breakfast, and joining me as I watered the flowers, and going with Gary to the hardware store, did a world of good for Aaron…and for us…and so our day has been going along just fine.

Not perfect, though, as we would like to plan for our anniversary to be.  But it’s us, with Aaron, and it’s really what it’s supposed to be.

39 years ago, in that pretty church with all our plans coming together, I would never ever have dreamed of having our 33 year old special needs son still living with us.  It’s not that we don’t love Aaron.  It’s just that having ANY child with special needs, and all that this life entails, would never have been in our master plan. 

But our life, with Aaron, WAS in God’s master plan for us…because He is the Master of our lives.  We’re not.  It really is that simple.

Yet not that easy, on many days and in many ways.  We have questioned and struggled and been angered plenty of times over these years.  And still, God reminds us that our plans are not always His plans.  He tells us that He knows the path that we take, because it’s the path that He put us on.  It may be a path with suffering and pain, with questions and even anger, but it’s always with God beside us and under us and all around us. 

I’m thankful that God also forgives us, because we don’t do this very well on some days.

I looked at my cup of tea this morning as we ate breakfast on the patio, Aaron included.  My tea was in a wonderful mug that our friend, Terri, helped Aaron make for me while we were out of town last week.  He wasn’t sure that he would like painting, as he calls it…and he still isn’t sure that he liked painting.  But he is very proud of that mug.  He even opened the running dishwasher the other night when friends were over so that he could show them his mug that he made for Mom. 

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I will treasure that mug.  I will treasure our Aaron, even on the trying days, with God’s strength.

And I will treasure the careful plan that God has made for our life, including the trying days, with God’s strength. 

Our life began with a plan, and our life will end with a plan. 

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God’s plan!  The best plan!!

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The Broad Place

Anniversary:  the yearly remembrance of an event or occurrence.

We typically associate the word “anniversary” with weddings, don’t we?  Which, by the way, Gary and I will celebrate such a remembrance this Saturday.  39 years!!!  I wonder how this is possible…and then I look in the mirror and realize that yes, indeed, this is true.

But there are other anniversary dates as well.  Many are full of happiness, yet sadly, many are just the opposite.  In my Bible, I often make a note beside certain verses that were especially meaningful to me during good times and during not so good times.  I jot down the date and make a short entry about what was occurring when that particular verse, or verses, impacted my life.  I call these my memorial stones, taken from the way that Israel would memorialize important national events by building a stone memorial.  Israel would thus remember what God had done for them there, just as I can remember what God has done for me through significant sections of Scripture during significant times in my life.

I came upon a memorial stone this morning as I was reading II Samuel 22:18-19.

“He delivered me from my strong enemy, from those who hated me, for they were too strong for me.  They confronted me in the day of my calamity, but the Lord was my support.”

I looked at the brief notation I had made, and memories came flooding over me.  The year was 2008 and the month was May, ten years ago.  It’s hard to believe it’s been that long since Gary and I were blindsided by the events that took place.  I really can’t say more about it, but I knew that God’s hand was in it as a direct answer to prayer even though there was much wrong involved.  Our lives have been forever changed…forever scarred…yet forever touched by the hand of God.

You see, after verse 19 comes verse 20:

“He also brought me forth into a broad place; He rescued me, because He delighted in me.”

So now, ten years later, I can truly say that God has brought us to a broad place.  But what does that mean?

Well, places of hardship and distress in the Bible are usually referred to as narrow places.  They are places of being closed in, confined, and full of danger.  But broad places are places of peace and security, where you can stretch and grow and see all around.

I can look back on the past ten years and see the progression in our lives from the narrow to the broad.  I can also attest to the fact that God was very present with us through the awful narrow passages, and He is also very present with us in the broad place.  We need Him in both.

You see, coming from the narrow to the broad doesn’t mean that we have achieved perfection.  Wrong done still carries a huge impact in our lives.  But God’s presence also carries an impact even larger than hurt and pain carries.

Time is ever so slow when we travel from the narrow to the broad place.  There are many, many dangers.  It’s easy to doubt God…to quit serving Him…to blame Him…to resent others…to gossip…

But the painful journey is also the perfect time to hear God speak to us through His Word.  It’s a time for us to take one verse at a time and ponder it, apply it, and let God use those verses to heal us.  It’s a time to learn to look to God and not to anyone else or anything else.  The most disastrous events in our lives cannot hold a candle to the amazing grace and love of God that He delights in showing us, if we but let Him.

David, King of Israel, wrote these verses in II Samuel 22.  He certainly saw his share of turmoil and rejection and danger and sin.  Yet he also wrote this, in II Samuel 15:26:

“But if He (God) should say thus, ‘I have no delight in you,’ behold, here I am, LET HIM DO TO ME AS SEEMS GOOD TO HIM.”

Do you see what David was saying…what he was doing?  David had a grip on God’s sovereignty, as Dale Davis says.  Part of the journey from narrow to broad is being able to understand this:  that we must be satisfied with letting God do to me what seems good to Him.

I did NOT say being satisfied with letting God do to me what seems good to ME.

Sometimes the cancer is not cured.  Sometimes the prodigal does not come home.  Sometimes the lay-off still happens.  Sometimes the grave is where we visit the one we love.  Sometimes restoration is not granted, as happened to us.

Yet regardless of all the “sometimes,” we can say that EVERY time, God knows what is best for my life.

So I hang onto Him, in total trust, and know that my good is of utmost importance to Him.  My good may come at great cost, but it is also of great value for all of eternity.

I’m stretching in the broad place today, thank God!

And so can you.

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What Is

It happened to me again several weeks ago.  An innocent conversation…a random comment…and I found myself having to corral my thoughts into line with some principles that God has hammered home to me over and over again for years. 

I want to be honest about what happened, but I also don’t want to alienate family or friends.  I don’t want anyone to think they can’t share their life with me.  So here goes.

This person was talking to me about his upcoming retirement, and then the plans that he and his wife had.  Later, as Gary and I drove away, I shared with Gary how I had that twinge of longing as our friend talked.  And how I knew better than to dwell on it and to therefore give Satan that opportunity he always looks for, the opportunity to push that door fully open that I have allowed to crack open, even just a little bit. 

You see, our life with Aaron is a life far different from typical couples our age.  Gary and I are not fully free to do many of the things that our peers are able to do.  And that’s OK…truly OK.  But sometimes the comparisons come, and if I am not careful then I can wallow in misery, and therefore open myself to sin and defeat.

The very next day…literally…after this conversation, I was at my desk as usual in the early morning.  I opened my Bible and my study book to the section of I Samuel that I was reading and was soon amazed at how God spoke to me in those quiet moments.

I read about Saul’s son, Jonathan, and his deep friendship with David.  Saul was the king of Israel, but because of his sin and disobedience, God had told him that his reign would end with him.  His family would not inherit the kingship.  This meant that Jonathan would never be the king.  But who would be the next king?  David…Jonathan’s dear friend.

Jonathan knew this.  He knew that he would never be king.  In fact, in I Samuel 18, Jonathan gave his robe, along with his armor and his sword, his bow and his belt, to his friend David.  This act was a symbol of the fact that Jonathan was surrendering any right he had to the throne…surrendering it to David.  And not only that, but Jonathan continued to be an even better soldier and leader than his father, the king.  Jonathan certainly behaved in a godly, kingly fashion, even though he knew he would never assume the throne. 

As Dale Davis says in his book, I Samuel: Looking on the Heart: “For Jonathan, then, the kingdom was not his to seize, not his to rule, but his to serve.”

And then this, which impacted me so greatly: “Maybe a tragic life isn’t tragic if it’s lived in fidelity to what Christ asks of us in the circumstances he gives us.”

Did you catch that?  Living in loyalty to Christ IN the circumstances He gives us! 

That’s what Jonathan did.  He lived royally even though he would never in reality BE a royal.  He lived in covenant relationship to God, faithfully, IN his circumstances.

This is exactly what I am supposed to do, every day.  I thought that morning of I Timothy 6:6, of what Paul told Timothy.  Paul said that “godliness with contentment is great gain.”  The note in my study Bible says that this is “an inner satisfaction with the situation that God has ordained for him.”

But how on earth is that possible, day after day…that inner satisfaction with situations in life that are so often very UNsatisfactory?!

This satisfaction is only possible when I realize that it doesn’t come from ME.  I can’t manufacture this deep peace.  Only God can do that in my heart as I surrender all my rights to Him and then obey Him by trusting Him. 

It’s realizing that God Himself loves me, and He is the One that has given me what I have in this life, hard as some of it may be.

My circumstances are not the hand I have been dealt.  My circumstances are not bad luck…or good luck.  They are not the luck of the draw.  Nor are my circumstances due to karma, or any other such nonsense that we sometimes are inclined to believe. 

God chose me and He saved me, and as His child I know that each occurrence in my life…every situation…is entirely under His authority and in His plan for me.  I know He loves me and I know that I can trust Him, totally, to do what’s best for me and what will cause me to give Him glory.  What a waste if I don’t!!

So when the pain comes to my heart and my life…when I’m inclined to settle in the negative thoughts and desires and questions that pop up so unexpectedly…I have the responsibility to do one thing right away.  That one thing is to talk to my Father and let His loving arms surround me with His peace.  And then obey, like Jonathan did.  Just live in obedience, step by step, and know that God will honor that obedience in my life.

He may not honor my obedience by taking away my situations, but that’s not why I am to obey. 

So the bottom line in all of this is just this: 

May my circumstances not dictate my response, but may my response be dictated by God’s character.

What is…is…because God is the One in charge.

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And He is a very, very good God.