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.

 

 

 

 

 

What Went Wrong?

Today is National Purple Day for Epilepsy awareness.  We are well aware of Epilepsy in our home because of our son, Aaron.  Aaron is 33 years old and has had uncontrolled seizures since he was in the first grade.  We were a military family living in Germany when Aaron unexpectedly had his first Generalized Grand Mal seizure.

It was a Sunday afternoon when Aaron fell back into my arms, thankfully, and began seizing on our kitchen floor.  I had no idea what was happening.  I remember seeing blood coming from his mouth…later learning that it was because he had bitten his tongue…and I remember yelling for Gary, who rushed into the kitchen and began trying to help Aaron while I called an ambulance.

The ambulance ride to the nearby military clinic…then another ambulance ride to the German Kinder Clinic, which is what we called the children’s hospital…was all a blur.  Aaron spent several days in the hospital, where the German care was good but the language barrier and the differing medical methods and practices were very difficult.  But the thing we did understand was the diagnosis of Epilepsy.

Over the years we’ve tried lots of drugs and other treatments, including hospital stays for video EEGs and surgery to have a VNS implanted, but the diagnosis is the same…Intractable Generalized Seizures.

Intractable – meaning not easily controlled or managed.

Generalized – meaning that the seizures quickly involve the entire brain instead of one small part of the brain.

OK, lesson over.

Because what I really want to do is to share with you the incredible strength and resilience of our Aaron…and of many others I know who struggle with seizures due to Epilepsy or other causes.  And to also share the incredible strength of God that He gives when needed the most.

This past Thursday night, Aaron had a seizure shortly before midnight.  I heard it on the baby monitor that sits on our nightstand beside our bed.  He had another just after 2:20 a.m.  And yet another seizure at 6:45 Friday morning.

He got out of bed not too long after that, heading to the bathroom and turning on the shower right away.  He cleaned up while I stripped his bedding and started the laundry process.  Soon Aaron was in the kitchen, telling me of his bad headache and asking if he could have his coffee.

He spent most of the morning here, as is so usual after these clusters of seizures.

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When he was more awake and feeling better, and after eating a little, he wanted to go with me to pick up a few groceries.  He was happy to come home with ice cream and cashews and sparkling water, and happy to have supervised Mom in buying what she needed to make for his supper request…Lasagna!!

Aaron went right back to bed when we got home, in his for-real bed now since part of his bedding was back on.  And at 3:33 – since Aaron appreciates such precision…he had the hardest of his four seizures.  Yet amazingly enough, within 15 minutes, he was out of bed…though slowly…and was happy for me to finish putting on all of his sheets and blankets.

Aaron always helps me change his sheets, but I certainly didn’t expect him to do that this time.  I told him to sit in his chair, but he didn’t acknowledge me at all as he stood by his bed, ready to help.

This is what I find so amazing about Aaron.  If I had been the one just finished with my fourth seizure, I imagine that the last thing I would want to do would be to help put sheets on my bed.  It was so heartbreaking for me to watch him stand there, part of the time with one hand on his wall and the other on the headboard of his bed, completely out of it.  Then he turned and bent over, just staring at nothing.  He couldn’t talk well at all, but when he saw a wrinkle in his cover, he reached out to correct it as quickly as he could.  I smiled as I saw his autism come out even through his very fuzzy brain.

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He stood there by his bed during the whole bed making process.  He tried so hard to function…to think…to speak…to move.  All of it was such a demonstration of how impacting seizures are on the brain.

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And it was also a commanding demonstration of how tough and brave Aaron is.  How he fights to keep going!  How much he wants his world to be his version of normal, even though it is anything but that.

He only had one piece of lasagna for supper.  That’s because he couldn’t taste food…another sad side effect of seizures.  His hand and mouth tremored, too…yet another side effect.   Then there’s the drooling.  And on the next day, extreme dizziness and needing help to walk because his legs didn’t work right for a while.  Even on Sunday, his sense of taste hadn’t fully returned.

Medicines that help seizures have side effects.  What is what, we don’t always know.  But decrease or stop the meds, and the seizures increase.  It’s a complicated situation.

It’s a reality for far too many people…far too many families.

But I want to answer the question that Aaron asked me on Saturday as he talked about his seizures.  He sometimes verbalizes his thoughts in profound ways, especially when he is thinking about being born to live a life with seizures.

“Mom?” he asked.  “What went wrong with me?”

A heart-piercing question from my son.

So to Aaron I said simply, and say here as best I can:

            Dear Aaron, nothing went wrong with you at all.  God made you wonderfully, as He tells us in Psalm 139.  You are fearfully and wonderfully made.  You were crafted by God.  I don’t know why you have Epilepsy, but I do know that God loves you and He has allowed this for a reason…one that we don’t understand right now.  But God loves you, and so does Dad and so do I.  We think you’re strong and amazing.  Even on our most frustrating days, and yours, we know that we can trust God because we know Who He is.  He is Sovereign, which means He is in charge and He knows best.  We’re glad you’re our son, and we will always be thankful for our Aaron.

“And we know that ALL things work together for good to them who love God, who are called according to His purpose.”  (Romans 8:28)

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The Cold Snap

We have a little bush in our front flower bed, a perennial that we planted probably 17 years ago.  In fact, I can’t even remember the name of this little bush, so I just call it that – Little Bush.  This hardy bush keeps its leaves on all year long, which is part of its charm.  In the summer the leaves are green with some maroon mixed in, and in the fall and winter the leaves are mostly maroon.  Small berries also grow among the leaves in the fall, so by Christmas it seems to be all decorated for the season.  I really like my Little Bush!

Last year, though, probably starting in March, I noticed that Little Bush didn’t look so healthy.  Its leaves that always stay were falling off, until finally only stark, naked branches were there.

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This was quite unusual, and I was worried.  Was I finally going to lose my long lasting little bush?  Was there something that I could do to save it?

I kept looking at Little Bush, wondering what had happened.  Then one day an article in the newspaper caught my attention.  The headline said something about how certain trees and bushes in Wichita were losing their leaves.  I read the information with interest because of my little bush.  The writer explained that earlier in the winter we had experienced several nights when temperatures had dipped to -10 degrees or lower.  These frigid temperatures had damaged some trees and bushes that normally held their leaves all winter.

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There was my explanation, I thought.  This cold snap had damaged Little Bush.  Then the article went on to assure gardeners not to worry but to be patient…that most trees and bushes would begin to grow again in the warmth of spring because their roots were not damaged by the extreme cold.

So I waited and I observed.  I checked my little bush routinely and sure enough one day I saw tiny new leaves emerging on the empty twigs.

 

As time went on and the days passed, the warm spring sun and the rains did their restorative work.  Little Bush grew…

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And grew…

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Until finally Little Bush was back, as pretty as ever!

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I’ve had some cold snaps in my life, too…times and events that came unexpectedly and with little or no warning.  Everyone has.

Cold snaps hurt.  And they take many various forms.

An illness.  A diagnosis.  Sudden death.  Lingering death.  Rejection.  Accusation.  Betrayal.  Job loss.  Divorce.  A prodigal.  Regret.  Guilt.

I remember my dad’s victory over lung cancer…how relieved and thankful we were when treatments were complete and he was in remission.  But before the five-year mark came the blood work and the testing and the phone call…liver cancer…inoperable…four more years of chemo…hospice…

Cold snap.  Recovery.  Then another cold snap.

But through it all, our family verse brought us each the warmth and the hope that we needed: “God is our refuge and strength; a very present help in trouble.”  (Psalm 46:1)

Sometimes our hard times…our cold snaps…make us feel like David when he said, “My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all day long – “Where is your God?”  (Psalm 42:3)

Where is God in our pain?  Oh, He hasn’t gone anywhere!  He’s a very PRESENT help in our trouble, remember?  He’s right here with us.

Right after David said his tears were his food, he said, “Why are you in despair, oh my soul?  And why have you become disturbed within me?  Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him for the help of His PRESENCE.”  (Psalm 42:5)

My little bush had hope because its roots were secure, and so do we who know and follow Christ.  We have hope in our despair because we know that God is sovereign…He is in control…He has a plan…He is present…and He has a purpose for the cold snaps that rock our world.

“I called on Your name, O Lord, out of the lowest pit.  You have heard my voice.  Do not hide Your ear from my prayer for relief, from my cry for help.  You drew near when I called on You.  You said – “Do not fear!”  (Lamentations 3:55-57)

God is near in our pain…near in our pondering…near in our praise that arises even out of hurt and unanswered questions.

I love these lyrics of Jeremy Camp’s song, He Knows:

 

All the bitter weary ways

Endless striving day by day

You barely have the strength to pray

In the valley low.

And how hard your fight has been

How deep the pain within

Wounds that no one else has seen

Hurts too much to show.

All the doubt you’re standing in between

And all the weight that brings you to your knees.

 

He knows

He knows

Every hurt and every sting

He has walked the suffering.

He knows

He knows

Let your burdens come undone

Lift your eyes up to the one

Who knows

He knows.

 

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Lessons From the Carrot Patch

Gary and I were doing lots of outdoor work one autumn weekend, partly because it was our neighborhood clean-up time and partly because the coming winter was urging us to ready our gardens before the cold weather hit. On Saturday I had been clipping and yanking out the dead growth in the flower beds. There was plenty to do and the piles were filling up our big outdoor trash can quickly. I had decided that if I had time I should visit the vegetable garden to see what I could pull up there. It was certainly time to be done with it, tidy it up for winter, and begin dreaming of a hopefully better vegetable season next year.

 
For several days I had been thinking about what I would try to clean up over the weekend and it hit me that I hadn’t even checked the status of our carrot patch. I had walked by our dying garden several times lately and had seen the sparse, stunted growth of the carrot plants. They were very unimpressive and hardly merited a second thought from me. The familiar lacy growth did remind me of the time several years ago that we first planted carrots. I was so excited about pulling up carrots that I became very impatient and was checking every few days to see if any had grown underground. One evening Gary, the kids, and I were outside when I stepped once again in the garden to bend over and do a little digging in the carrots. I gasped when I saw a large, orange protrusion in the dirt. A huge carrot!! I scooped back more dirt, reached down to pull it out, and discovered a very large and very fake plastic carrot. And out in the yard was some very loud laughing from my very amused family! They got me!

 
I grabbed my garden bucket from the garage, stepped over our little used-to-be electric wire fence into the garden, and walked over to the small carrot patch. We had planted quite a few carrots this year but many of them had died in the brutal heat and the awful drought of that past summer. I wasn’t at all hopeful that these measly few plants would produce anything of significance. They were hardly worth the effort, I assumed. Plus I remembered the beautiful, lush potato patch from earlier in the summer and how its yield was laughable and disappointing. Surely I could expect no more from this puny little row of struggling carrots.

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I bent over and gave a pull – and was surprised to see a pretty orange carrot slip out of the dirt. Well! After several more pulls and several more carrots, I was greatly encouraged. Certainly these were not state-fair-worthy carrots, but they were far better than what I had expected to find. Gary helped finish out the row with a pitchfork and we ended up with a healthy little pile of carrots. Despite their small size and their dirty exteriors, they were a delight to us – an unexpected gift at the end of our difficult growing season. And guess what I had just bought the day before when I shopped for groceries? Yes – a bag of carrots! O ye of little faith, I thought.

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I must admit that I am so often attracted to what is outwardly appealing, like the lush growth of our potatoes that fooled us into believing we had a bumper crop of delicious spuds. In reality they were only showy to the eye but had no substance and no real growth. It can be so tempting to participate in the ministries that are evident to all but to neglect the ones that are considered menial or boring. Or to not give much time or attention to people who are marginal to us – who maybe even annoy us. Can we lend a helping hand; make a phone call; fix a meal; send a card; clean a toilet? Sometimes God takes away the up-front, public ministries to put us in a place where we struggle; where our efforts seem puny and small, unnoticed and unimportant. Everyone gathers around the public persona but the unimpressive one is rarely given a second thought. Who wants to be a little dirty carrot when we could be a big, beautiful tomato that everyone looks at with pleasure?

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But God knows the work that is being done away from the public eye, the glory that is being given to Him through the efforts of those that He is using to quietly further His kingdom work. Paul talked to the Corinthians about this in I Corinthians 1:26-29: “For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God.”

 
All ministry with pure motives is valuable to God, but if our lives are changed for whatever reason and we find ourselves feeling like our work is sparse and we struggle with insignificance, may we be faithful to grow and serve where God has placed us. Remember that the work God is doing underground will one day shine for His glory and praise.

 

 

Things Done Well

I’m sitting here in the few moments I have before I wake Aaron up for the day, listening to my Dino Piano Pandora radio station.  The song?  “For I know, whate’er befall me, Jesus doeth all things well.”  Old language, yes, but beautiful in its reality for all of us who know Jesus.  He DOES do all things well, whether it’s in His beautiful creation all around us…or our new day that stretches before us. 

None of us knows what a day will hold.  But we do know that God holds us and holds this day close to His heart.  He ordains and directs every minute.  It’s up to me to claim this reality, no matter how large or how small are my moments in this day. 

Aaron provides both of those kinds of moments for me…large and small.  I never know when I open his door to wake him up just what our day will entail.  Happy Aaron?  Angry Aaron?  Sad Aaron?  Giving Aaron? 

It’s always a balancing act, based largely on Aaron’s attitude but really, even more so on mine.  It’s sometimes tough, really tough, to be patient and kind when Aaron is anything BUT that!  I often blow it.  But God is faithful and patient with me, and to Aaron, and for that I am very thankful.

Aaron asked on Sunday if he could take flowers to his favorite Paradigm staff and second mom, Barb.  So on Monday he fought off the early morning grouchies as I reminded him of his flower plan.  And later, after I checked the wait time, I threw in a haircut to boot.  Now I had a very happy Aaron!

A haircut and beard trim improved his looks, and then picking out some flowers at Dillon’s improved his Monday attitude.  A cup of coffee from Quik Trip finished it off perfectly!

Of course, he wanted me to go in with him to Paradigm and watch him give Barb the flowers.  When we walked into her office, we found her on the phone so Aaron had to wait – which is something he rarely does well.  But there stood Ashley, his friend…or I should say, his “sometimes” friend.  They sure can go around at times, getting very angry with each other, but look at what they did that morning.

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A HUG!!  So sweet!  And so unexpected that even Barb, though on the phone, reacted as I did.  “Awwww!” we both expressed. 

And then when Barb was off the phone, the happy flower giving took place, with more “Awwwws,” and smiles, and hugs.  I drove away with a peaceful heart.

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I picked him up that afternoon, still happy and with tales of all the French fries he ate for lunch.  At least that’s the story he told me.  I never quite know if his food exploits are all true, because sometimes he loves to give away money as much as he loves to give away flowers.  He knows that giving away money is not allowed, so he’s become adept at telling me what he knows I want to hear instead of telling me what he really did with his money.  In other words, he has become a gifted liar at times, sad to say.

So I balanced my skepticism of his story with relief at seeing him so happy, not wanting to discourage him or accuse him, yet still driving home the point that I do hope he really DID eat French fries.  But he was already off on his next topic, reminded by his food story that the next day was doctor appointment day…and doctor appointment day means eating out day.  Doctor visits take a major back seat to the real purpose…for Aaron…of doctor days.  They are restaurant decision days!!

Aaron had a difficult time getting out of bed the next morning for his doctor appointment.  It didn’t matter that I had well prepared him the night before concerning the time we would need to leave.  He finally was able to push back the covers, take a shower (possibly! I never know for sure!), drink his coffee, and climb in the van.

I could tell that Aaron was very, very tired.  On many days, he seems to be over-drugged.  Sluggish…slurred speech…very heavy eyelids…wobbly in walking.  This doctor day was such a day for Aaron, but I was actually glad.  Now the doctor could hopefully see what I have told him…that I think Aaron’s weight loss is impacting his medicine dosage.   

Again, more of what we must balance with Aaron.  Seizure control balanced with his ability to function as normally as possible.  Medicine’s benefits balanced with sometimes detrimental side effects.

Aaron is on a new seizure drug since his hospital stay in May for his video EEG.  His seizures are much better on this new drug.  We increased the dosage after one month, but then a few weeks ago we had to decrease the dose back again after he became too slow and sleepy.  Yet still, Aaron continues to have many days and moments of still acting like he is too drugged.

Aaron was still droopy and tired when we arrived at the doctor’s office.  Even seeing some of the staff dressed for Halloween didn’t inspire much of a response. 

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This look at Aaron shows how he really felt that morning.

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The weight loss combined with the tiredness did concern the doctor.  He is used to listening to Aaron talk about Independence Day movies or Captain James T. Kirk or Darth Nihilus, but there was none of that on this visit.  We will be slowly decreasing one of Aaron’s main seizure drugs to see if that will help.  Another decision to make…another issue to balance.

And Aaron had most definitely made his restaurant decision!  No amount of sluggishness could dampen his usual eating-out enthusiasm.  His choice?  Denny’s!! 

He was at first cold from the weather and slow in his reactions…

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But that soon changed as he drank some coffee, ate his favorite side salad with no croutons, finished off his French fries after methodically dunking each one into his honey mustard sauce, and then successfully tackled his stack of chicken strips.  If we ate out like that every day he just might gain back some of that lost weight!

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Watching Aaron for just those two days reminded me again that we have many sides to our complicated son.  In less than 48 hours we saw highs and we saw lows.  We saw progress and we saw some steps backward.  We smiled and we frowned.  We felt relief and we felt our hearts grow a little heavier with nagging worries. 

I remember once when Aaron wasn’t feeling well.  He asked me if he had a seizure during the night, so I told him that he had a small one. 

“That’s probably what’s with me today,” he replied.

Aaron’s epilepsy and autism are certainly with him every day.  And in extension, these issues are with Gary and I every day.  But remember the song I was listening to earlier?  “For I know, whate’er befall me, Jesus doeth all things well.” 

Sometimes the things He “doeth” aren’t what I would do, but I’m not in charge.  God is!  I know He loves Aaron, and loves Gary, and loves me.  All that God does, He does well.  I may not see it as well now, or feel it, or like it, but in my heart and my head I do know that all…ALL…He does and allows, is well and good. 

And THAT truth is really what I want to stay with me today, and every day!

 

 

 

 

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 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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