Planted For Purpose

I visited a local nursery a few months ago to buy vegetable plants for our garden.  I took Aaron with me, hoping that he would enjoy seeing the various goodies that we were going to plant in our garden.  But Aaron had eyes for one thing only – sunflowers!

“MOM!!” he exclaimed as I stood at the counter to pay, “can I get some sunflowers?” 

I turned to see him with the packet of sunflower seeds already in hand, so I agreed.  He watched carefully as the cashier scanned the small package, all the while talking excitedly to her about how we were going to grow SUNFLOWERS!!

We decided to plant the little seeds between our house and our neighbor’s house, near her raised garden beds.  This way, their children could also enjoy the sunflowers.  Amanda loved the idea, so one afternoon Gary dug the holes…I handed three seeds to Aaron to plant in each hole…and Aaron bent over to place them in the ground.  We covered them up and went about our day.

Aaron wanted those sunflowers to be growing the next day but growing takes time.  Growing takes lots of patience.  One day, though, we saw the tiny shoots emerging from the ground!  Aaron was SO excited!  Over the next weeks we watched each little bitty plant become more and more established.  They grew!

But not into the huge sunflowers that we have had in the past.  These seem to be smaller sunflowers, or maybe they are responding to the harsh heat and the dry weather we have had.

Then one day, Amanda texted me with some exciting news.  We had a bloom!  Later, Aaron and I walked out to the row of sunflowers and sure enough, there was one bloom.

I noticed something that day.  The pretty sunflower that had been the first to bloom was the smallest of the others in that row.  Its flower wasn’t large and impressive like ones you typically see in Kansas fields. 

Yet the happiness that our little blooming sunflower gave all of us was huge!

Sometimes I feel like my life is that of the small sunflower.  Others are living more impressive lives similar to the taller sunflowers that stood on each side of our shorter plant…lives, quite honestly, that I thought I might have.

But God has taken that measly sunflower that bloomed first and has used it to reinforce a lesson I know well in my head but don’t often practice in my heart.

Yesterday God gave me a verse that says it perfectly, as only God can:

        “The Lord has made everything for its own purpose…” (Proverbs 16:4)

God has planted me where I am for a purpose.

And more importantly, God has planted Aaron in my life for a purpose as well. 

If I believe in God’s sovereignty…and I do…then I must also believe that every area of my life is sovereignly planned with purpose by Him.

My idea of great purpose is usually not God’s idea.

Yet God’s idea is always best and right.  Not always easy or even fulfilling on many days…but always best.

I can live a life that shines for God as I care for Aaron, or I can live a stunted life of anger and questions and comparisons to others.

I can see Aaron as a weight that keeps me down, or I can see Aaron as a means of experiencing God’s joy.

I can bloom or I can wither.

And here’s the catch.  Often no one…NO one…sees my bloom.  I feel like my life has no purpose.

But God clearly says that He has made everything for its own purpose.

I am to bloom brightly for Him, not so that my bloom will necessarily be seen and admired by others but so that I will grow in grace and be more like Christ.

So, little sunflower, I am thankful that you were planted where you were.  I’m thankful for yet another lesson that God planted in my heart using the least of these.

May I live a faithful life no matter how small I think it might be.

Impossibilities

We had some very pretty clouds one recent morning that I enjoyed as I looked out my favorite upstairs window.  I sat at my desk having my quiet time as my eyes kept glancing out at the ever-changing sky.  Suddenly there was brightness as the sun began to shine.  I quickly snapped this picture before the moment passed.

One fact that I have observed over my years of sky watching is that when the sun shines on storm clouds, the clouds become more beautiful.  The sun sharpens the contrasts between the clouds and the rest of the sky, and between the clouds and the ground.  The true beauty of those storm clouds is fully shown when the sun shines.

I have just finished studying the book of Ruth.  This familiar story is one that we love to tell.  It’s a favorite for children’s Sunday school classes.  It’s so familiar to us and so easily compressed into a 30 minute lesson that we often don’t stop to really consider what God did with Naomi and Ruth.

What especially spoke to me this morning was how Naomi found herself in an impossibly difficult and hopeless situation in a foreign land.  She was an Israelite in Moab.  Her husband and two sons had died.  She was left destitute with no means of support.

We all know the story.  Her daughter-in-law, Ruth, stayed with her and together they traveled back to the land of Israel.  Ruth asked permission to go gather grain and by God’s providence she ended up in the field of Boaz.  He was the kinsman-redeemer, unknown to Ruth, and they ended up getting married.  To that union God gave them baby Obed, grandfather of King David and ancestor of Jesus Himself.

OK.  It’s a wrap.  We’ll have a new story next week, children.

But wait!  Stop!

Just think of how the providence of God is all over this story.

When we let God’s light shine on this story then we can see the deep storms surrounding Naomi and Ruth.  Their situation was truly hopeless.

But God’s light also reveals the beauty of those storms because it was in those hopeless moments that God’s plan was so amazingly revealed. 

Do you find yourself in a scary and desperate place? 

Do your walls seem impossible to climb?

Do your clouds look dark and foreboding?

Do you think of your future needs…or your needs today…and wonder how on earth things will work out?

All I know is that God wants to shine.  He wants to show me how He works in the darkness of the storm.

But it’s how HE works that I need to stop and see.

And God doesn’t need my help.

He needs me to trust.

The God of Naomi and Ruth is my God, too.  He has a plan for me that He will accomplish every bit as much as He did for them. 

Hopelessness is the best venue in which we can see God shine. 

And as God shines, that storm will prove to be a place of beauty…the beauty of knowing my heavenly Father better and seeing that His plan in this place is truly full of His providence and purpose. 

Yesterday’s Leading

Aaron doesn’t always like to be awakened from his sleep, either in the morning or after an afternoon nap.  Yet when it’s time to get out of bed, it’s time to get out of bed!  And I am often met with his anger during those times. 

One day not long ago he wanted to take a nap.  I asked him if he would get out of bed when I told him it was time.  He promised that he would.  I know Aaron, so I gave him the mom look as we stood there. 

“Mom!” he asked, “do you trust my promise?”

I was honest with him and told him that sometimes he had a hard time keeping his promises when it came to getting out of bed. 

Aaron’s question is one that I feel God is often asking me.

Sometimes the prayers I prayed in the past and the way that God answered leads to a place that is far from perfect.

If my trust is on my circumstances instead of on my heavenly Father, then I will most certainly begin to doubt His leading.

I know better than to live that way.  I know the verses and I know the principles, but life’s realities sure can cloud that knowledge and turn it quickly into doubt and defeat.

God’s promises are not negated because of my feelings.

But my peace can be destroyed because of my feelings.

The trust I had in His leading yesterday is the same trust I need to have in Him when the path He led me to is not necessarily fun and joyful all the time.

Job felt abandoned by God as he endured horrific testing…testing that took place even as Job lived faithfully for God. 

Job expressed his thoughts very honestly in Job 23.  He said that he went forward, and God was not there.  He went backward and did not perceive God.  God did not seem to reveal Himself to Job on the right or on the left. 

BUT!!!

        “BUT He knows the way I take,” Job said.  (Job 23:10)

Ah!  The important thing for me to know is that GOD knows the way I take.  Job was walking God’s path, treasuring God’s words, keeping God’s ways…and still lived with very hard situations in his life.

God knows my path, too…and yours.  As you follow Him and ask for His guidance, then trust Him to do the best in your life.

Yet sometimes the best is tough.

“I’m living my BEST life!” we hear people say.

But then the pictures are usually beautiful and fun and happy.

Mine don’t always look like that.

“Patty?” God says, “do you trust My promise?”

“Yes,” I answer, “but why did You lead me here and now look at how it’s turned out?”

“Because I love you,” God answers.  “I know what’s best for you.”

“I do believe that, of course,” I reply, “but…

“But DO you trust Me?” God asks again.

And I come full circle once again, forced to make a conscious decision about God…to firmly believe that He performs what is appointed for me, as Job said.

“Do you trust my promise?” God repeats.

“I do,” I reply, sometimes through tears, “because I trust YOU.”

Yesterday’s leading is still today’s place for me. 

And that’s because of God…only God.

Remind Me That I Love You

Mornings for Aaron are definitely the time of day that he struggles the most.  It can really be hard for him to get out of his warm bed and face the day.  Not every morning is difficult, but let’s just say that for Aaron the majority of mornings do not have a right side of the bed.  Both sides are wrong!

Aaron realizes this about himself.  Therefore, sometimes he will tell me to give him a morning reminder that will hopefully help him to be cheerful.  The reminders are about something that the day will hold…something that he is looking forward to and so will encourage him to get up happily. 

For instance, he loves going to Meals on Wheels on Thursday mornings but sometimes he knows on Wednesday night that he may be grouchy the next day.

“Mom,” he says, “tomorrow morning if I don’t want to get out of bed just say Buster.’’

Buster is the little dog at one of our homes that Aaron loves to see and to pet.  And Buster loves seeing Aaron. 

Or on Valentine’s Day, when we were going to pick up roses to take to his day group friends, he knew the night before that he might be irritated about getting up.

“Mom,” he told me, “if I start getting mad in the morning just say roses.”

I love Aaron’s plan of action.  I know he truly does want to be nice in the mornings.  Sometimes his plan works, and well, other times it doesn’t.

One recent evening we were watching a favorite show.  Aaron was all comfy and relaxed on the couch, legs covered in his ever-present blanket, and enjoying a yummy snack.  He was the picture of contentment.

Such was not the case hours earlier as we worked to get Aaron out of bed and on his way for the day.  That morning he was the picture of frustration and anger.

As we sat on the couch enjoying our program, Aaron was filled with happiness.  He finally looked over at me.

“I love you, Mom,” he said.

The moment was genuine and so sweet.

“I love you too, Aaron,” I replied. 

Then he seemed to remember our unhappy morning.

“Tell me I said that in the morning when you’re getting me up,” he added.

His words were a stop-me-in-my-tracks moment.

How many times in my life have I been filled with contentment as things are going well?  Then it’s easy to tell God that I love Him.  And I mean it when I say those words to Him. 

But sometimes the bottom falls out. 

Gary and I had been married for five years before Aaron was born.  That positive pregnancy test was SO huge to us!  How thankful we were!  How full of love for God and His sweet blessing in our lives!

Now here we are, 37 years later, in a place we never dreamed we would be with Aaron. 

Seizures.  Autism.  Behaviors. 

Can I still lift my eyes to God and tell Him that I love Him?

Those warm fuzzy ecstatic moments of my first pregnancy are long gone. 

In their place are many moments of worry, sadness, frustration, and bone-wearying exhaustion.

But here’s the thing.  I know God in a deeply personal way. 

And I know that often His ways in my life are filled with heartache and pain so that I will grow to be more like Jesus.

God hasn’t changed one little bit.

But He calls me to change, and His word tells me that this change toward likeness in Christ will involve the hard things. 

Sometimes I have to will myself to remember all the reasons I have told God that I love Him.

And those reasons cannot be based on my circumstances that are happy and fun.

The reasons I love God are based on WHO He is…His character and His attributes.

I cannot base my love for God on how comfortable I am.

So, like Aaron, there are times in my life when I need to look at God and ask Him to remind me that I said I love Him.

Through my tears, fears, anger, hurt…through all the questions I have about God’s reasons and logic in my life…I must not lose my love for God.

Oh God, tomorrow…when things aren’t going too well, and I feel upset…remind me that I said I love You. 

Remind me that You are the same yesterday, today, and forever.

And remind me of how very much You love me, too. 

Secret Things

If there is ever a time that it’s OK to keep secrets from each other, it’s now, at Christmas.  We buy gifts and then try to find the best hiding places around the house so that little…or big…snoops don’t find them.  We rush to grab that delivered box off the porch before our husband or child grabs it first.  It’s fun and exciting and perfectly allowed.

Then we must wrap the gift when prying eyes won’t see what it is.  I used to love stacking our children’s wrapped gifts in their individual piles and having them put their own gifts under the tree.  There was lots of shaking and guessing going on while they worked.  It was so much fun!  I knew the answers to their many questions, but I kept it to myself as I watched them wonder what was in each box. 

Last year, as Gary and I sat by our tree, Aaron joined us.  It wasn’t long before he was on his knees in front of the tree, taking out boxes to see which ones were for him.  He went through that ageless process of trying to guess the content of the gifts that bore his name.  And I went through the same ageless process of telling him that he must wait for the answer.

You know, God has secrets, too.  I just read about that fact this morning.  Deuteronomy 29:29 says, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God…”

There are things that God keeps to Himself, things about my life and about His doings in my life.  I don’t always understand why God orders my life in the ways that He does.  I don’t always know what’s in each box that ends up on the front porch of my life.  

And perhaps more importantly, I don’t often understand the “why” of some of the gifts that God gives.  In fact, there are things that I wouldn’t even classify as a gift in many ways.  A gift should be fun and wanted and needed, right?

I think of Aaron, of what a gift it was when after five years of marriage God allowed me to finally be pregnant.  Of the immense joy I felt as I held my little baby son 37 years ago, feeling like the most blessed woman in the history of the world.  Of watching him grow, smart as a whip and cute as a button.  Then the sudden huge seizure when he was in the first grade, the years of medicines and tests and doctors and still seizures.  The unexplained behaviors that manifested more and more as he got older, that set him apart from his siblings and his peers.  The diagnosis of autism, the challenges of his anger and his very particular way of conducting his life.  The forever care that he needs and the way that this impacts Gary and me now in our older years.  The questions about his future, and ours.

But on the hard days, in the sadness of seizures and the frustrations of autism, I have a choice to make about this gift that God has given me.  I can question it, I can resent it, I can let it make me bitter.

Or I can look beyond the gift into the heart of the Giver and know that He only has my good…and Aaron’s good…in His loving heart.  God has some secrets that only He knows about concerning Aaron and his life, and therefore mine.  I don’t need to know God’s reasons before I exercise trust in Him.  I just need to know Him.  Period.

When I grasp that concept…and so often I don’t…then I can experience some other gifts that God has given me. 

Peace.

Joy.

Contentment.

Those attitudes, those gifts, come and go with me. 

“What IS this, God?” I can imagine me asking Him as I shake the box.

“Go ahead and open it,” He responds.

“But I didn’t ask for this,” I tell Him as I see what’s inside.

“No,” he lovingly says.  “But I know that you need this very thing.”

“Why?!” I ask through my tears.

“Oh,” he answers, “that is a secret for only Me to know right now.  Someday I will let you in on the secret, but not today.”

“But…” I so often begin.

And God answers:

“Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.”  (James 1:17)

Like the old hymn writer said:

And we wonder why the test when we try to do our best, but we’ll understand it better by and by. 

By and by, when the morning comes,

When the saints of God are gathered home,

We’ll tell the story how we’ve overcome

For we’ll understand it better by and by.

A Setback…But God

Seizures have been a part of Aaron’s life…and ours…since he was in the first grade.  He had his first seizure at home on a Sunday afternoon, out of the blue and utterly terrifying.  God was so good to let me be standing right behind Aaron when it happened there in our military apartment in Germany.  I was able to catch him.  If not, he would have fallen onto the hard kitchen floor and received a serious hit to the back of his head.

His seizures have morphed over the years, as seizures do, seeming to eventually bypass all the medicines and treatments that can be provided.  The majority of his seizures occur in clusters during his sleep, most often at night.  These clusters carry their own dangers, one of which is SUDEP – Sudden Death by Epilepsy.  Those words from his epilepsy doctors over the years always send a chill down my spine.

Aaron has occasionally had drop seizures here and there.  A drop seizure happens when Aaron is fully awake.  They hit suddenly, with no warning to us.  Aaron will fall either forward or backward like a downed tree, not able to break his fall. 

A few years ago, he began having more and more of these drop seizures.  He sustained significant injuries.  Cuts, scrapes, bruising, stitches, a fractured tooth that had to be pulled, and very hard hits to his head. 

Finally, on March 9, 2019, Aaron had a drop seizure on our stairs.  He had walked up a couple steps, then fell backward, and hit his head on a metal file cabinet handle.  He ended up with 8 staples in his head.  It was awful!

When we got home from the emergency room and checked our mail, there was a letter from our insurance company approving Aaron for the new pharmaceutical CBD oil, Epidiolex.  We had experimented with over-the-counter oils from good sources but had no success.  His Epileptologist couldn’t provide any guidance for those OTC oils, legally.  As soon as the FDA approved Epidiolex, Dr. Lee put in our request for approval.  Now here it was, on the same day that Aaron had fallen…a visual and sad example of why we really wanted to try this new drug. 

Dr. Lee was able to oversee Epidiolex since it was FDA approved and obtained through a prescription.  Over the next few months, we adjusted Aaron’s dose and tweaked another medicine and waited to, hopefully, see positive results. 

And we did!  Aaron’s drop seizures totally stopped!  We were elated, and soon began to relax.  Our fear over those horrible and dangerous seizures slowly went away.

Until this past Thursday. 

Aaron and I delivered for Meals on Wheels in the morning.  We enjoyed lunch at a cute Mexican restaurant.  Then home, where Aaron took a nap…and had a seizure while he slept.  This is nothing uncommon.

Later, as I was getting supper on the table, Gary had just come into the kitchen.  He was standing right beside Aaron when suddenly Aaron lurched and went into a seizure.  But instead of Aaron falling into the table and a chair, and landing on the floor, Gary was able to catch him.  This was truly from God, that Gary was there beside Aaron instead of across the room.  We were so thankful!

We got Aaron safely on the floor.  Such disappointment filled us both! 

Almost two years since a drop seizure, and now this. 

We hurt so for Aaron.

And I felt that familiar fear.  It had come back. 

But I also felt something else.  I felt God’s peace pushing back on the fear.  I forced myself to focus on God…His love and His plan for Aaron, and for us.  That knowledge was the best push-back on the fear that threatened to fill me.

I also thought about Mary’s response to the angel when she learned of the very hard path that God had chosen for her…the path of unwed pregnancy in a time when she was no doubt shunned and gossiped about and disbelieved.

Mary said, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.”  (Luke 1:38)

Total submission.

Like the writer of Hebrews said, “Now the God of peace…equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us THAT WHICH IS PLEASING IN HIS SIGHT, through Jesus Christ, to Whom be the glory forever and ever, Amen.”  (Hebrews 13:20-21)

God has been working on me this past year about being willing to pray in submission…being willing to say, “God, whatever it takes…”

Just two days before this latest drop seizure, I had been reading about Mary and then this benediction in Hebrews. 

I don’t know what it is…what it will take…for me to please God. 

But I do know that I need to be willing to let God do in me…and in Aaron…that which is pleasing in HIS sight, even when it may not be pleasing in mine.

Even when it hurts, deeply.

“Submission is preferable to consolation, for consolation pleases us but submission pleases God.”  (Thomas Hog, 1692)

Who is it that I most want to please? 

It’s tough when my submission involves my child.  I love Aaron.  I love all our children. 

But a huge area of my close walk with God, which I truly desire, is to be able to submit “whatever it takes” concerning my children as well.

I humanly want the consolations of God…the closeness and assurance that I feel when He blesses me, and them, with wonderful things.

But true submission to God comes only when I am willing to relinquish all the warm fuzzies for the stark hardship that often comes when the deepest lessons…and blessings…are allowed to occur.

Allowed to occur because I am submitted to God. 

God won’t bully me into submission.  Submission happens when I open my hands and release my desires to Him, trusting Him to do what He knows is best.

Even drop seizures, if they do start again, are somehow being allowed by God in Aaron’s life and in ours. 

The sky just before Aaron’s seizure that evening was so beautiful.  I have only to look up and know that God is there for us. 

The heavens declare the glory of God…and I want to do the same, as well.

This Gift Has My Name on It!

Gary and I were sitting beside our decorated tree one night before Christmas.  We were not alone for long, as is so often the case.  Aaron soon joined us.  He was, of course, drawn to the presents under the tree.  His observant eyes had seen his name on a gift!

“Look!!” he exclaimed, “this gift has my name on it!” 

His childish delight made us smile.

His childish delight is, in fact, a gift to us.

Yet there are other aspects of who Aaron is that we would not describe as a gift.  Maybe more as a burden?  An annoyance? 

We know that God gave us Aaron, and he is indeed the whole package.  It’s just that some of the contents of that package are not what we would have hand-picked. 

Am I being too blunt here?

This reality of God’s gifts to me carries over into every area of my life.  Gary and I had been married for five years before we had a baby…Aaron.  We prayed for a baby.  God gave us Aaron.

Do I really trust God in this answer to our prayers?

So many times in my life I have prayed over some matter…some decision…some issue.  But sometimes God’s answers are not what I would have chosen.

Oh, they may seem wonderful at the time but later the gift might turn sour. 

What happened?

How easy it is, then, to play the guessing game.

Maybe if we had moved there instead of here.

Maybe if we had joined that church instead of this church.

Maybe if we had raised our children in this way instead of that way.

Maybe…maybe…maybe.

Yet if I am walking with God in obedience, and I am praying for direction, I must trust that the way He leads is best and for a reason.

Good reasons, always.

But not always easy.

I must reach out and take God’s gifts to me with trust.

The children of Israel knew that God led them miraculously out of Egypt.  No one could doubt that.  But then it wasn’t long before they disobeyed God.  Even the manna God provided to them became a source of discontentment and complaint. 

Soon the Israelites were comparing their present lot with the life they used to have in Egypt, creating more unhappiness and grumbling.

I do that, too.  I pray…I take God’s gift of an answer…and then when things get hard, I fight the tendency to complain and to compare.

If only I had what they have…lived where they live…got to go where they go…blah, blah, blah.

Such a trap!

This morning, I read the answer to this dilemma in my life:

“Let all who seek You rejoice and be glad in You; and let those who love Your salvation say continually, ‘Let God by magnified.’  (Psalm 70:4)

I must keep my eyes on God in every area of my life. 

My gladness and contentment is in God alone, not in the events of my life – good or not so good.

So, when I reach out and take God’s gifts to me, may I not focus on the gift so much but instead may my eyes stay on the Giver of the gifts. 

That’s easy to do when the gift is fun and happy.

But I must understand that some gifts are not fun and happy.  Some are hard and sad. 

Yet on each gift, I see the tag.

To:  Patty

From:  God

Thank you, God, that every gift from You is good and perfect.  You didn’t say they were easy and fun. 

Help me to trust You.

“Look!  This gift has my name on it!!”

What I Know

Based on my title, I should just stop right now. That’s because what I DON’T know would fill a large book.  What I DO know…quite the opposite.

Unless what I DO know is based on a big book about our big God. Now THAT would fill a big book indeed…actually, it already has.

Something this pandemic has shown me clearly is that there is a lot…a LOT…that I don’t know.  I have an opinion about a lot of issues, but I don’t truly KNOW with certainty about most of those things.

The theories and conspiracies surrounding the world’s situation are running rampant on social media. It’s so easy to get caught up in the swirl of it all.  Is this article true? Let me research it! But is the research that I am reading correct?  Maybe. Maybe not.

I simply, really…all too often…don’t know for sure.

This uncertainty and this holding on to our beliefs leads to so much confusion and so much angst. Right there are two traits that God does not want us to have.

Yesterday I was continuing my slow reading through Psalm 33. I was interrupted by a pretty light out my window, so of course you know what I did. I grabbed my phone, ran outside, and snapped a quick picture of our sunrise. I love how God delights me with the beauty that He creates all around us, especially in the sky.

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This moment was the perfect accompaniment to Psalm 33:6:

“By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath of His mouth all their host.”

All around me today I am reminded of how much I don’t know.

But all around me today I am also reminded of how much I DO know.

The difference in the two depends on where I choose to place my focus.

My desire, more and more during this unsettling time in our world, is to place my eyes on God and on what I know about Him. Just as I know that the sun will rise in the morning, there are some other things I can surely know as well.

I know that God is working in this world right now, today.

“The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; He frustrates the plans of the peoples.”  (Psalm 33:10)

“God doesn’t keep Himself marooned in creation; He messes in politics. He gets into the dirty stuff of history. This is partly what makes the God of the Bible so unnerving – you simply can’t box Him up in one arena of His world.  He simply ‘takes over’ everywhere.”  (Dale Ralph Davis)

I know that God’s plan will stand forever.

“God’s plan will stand forever, the design of His heart to generation after generation.”  (Psalm 33:11)

I know that God loves the world and gave us His Son to save us from our sin and provide the way to heaven.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave us His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”  (John 3:16)

I know that when I lack wisdom, God has told me to simply ask and He will give me the wisdom I need.

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, Who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.”  (James 1:5)

This includes the wisdom to live correctly and to live in His will during COVID-19.  Wisdom to make God-honoring decisions. Wisdom to trust God even when I can’t trust anything else that I see or hear.

May I hold on to God tighter than I hold on to my beliefs about non-essential issues.

May I trust God to reveal truth to me, and not let me make decisions that are Biblically incorrect.

May I react with a bent knee rather than a balled-up fist.

May I not waste this moment in history, but may I use every part of it for the glory of God.

Trust and Trouble

As of today, March 27, Aaron has been home and not going to his day group for two weeks.

Two.  Weeks.

But who’s counting?!

What a strange world we are living in right now!  So many lives on hold.  So many lives lost.

How can we even make sense of all this?  We can’t, really.

But as believers, we can trust.  We can trust that somehow God is allowing this time on earth and that there is a reason far beyond our understanding.

I was enjoying a beautiful morning sky one day last week.  The puffy clouds were so pretty.

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I was going about my morning.  Soon I glanced outside again and noticed some thickening of the clouds.

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Darker clouds were moving in quickly.  What a change from just a short time earlier!

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I was surprised at how suddenly the sky changed.

The deep gray clouds soon choked out any sign of the blue sky behind them.

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A spring storm was certainly brewing!

When the storm clouds were starting to form, I snapped this picture.  Can you see what’s out there, in the clouds?

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A small rainbow!

A sign of God and of His promises to us!

It was timely that last week I was slowly reading and studying through Psalm 26.  In verse 15, David said:

“My eyes are continually before the Lord, for He will pluck my feet out of the net.”

David was full of confidence in God and in God’s ability to take care of him, and to protect him.

Yet in the following verses, hear some of David’s comments:

           I am lonely and afflicted.

          The troubles of my heart are enlarged.

          Bring me out of my difficulties.

          Look on my affliction and my trouble.

         Look upon my enemies, for they are many and they hate me.

David went quickly from trust to trouble, as Dale Ralph Davis says.

“Sometimes in the middle of that nexus of trust and trouble, the trouble will intensify and multiply.  We don’t like to talk this way, at least not in church, but sometimes when we trust (v. 15) and pray (v. 16) things get much worse (v. 17).”   (In The Presence of My Enemies)

But why is that?  Is God being mean?

We know He’s not, if we truly KNOW Him!

God is working a great work, both in our world and in my own heart.  And sometimes His work and His ways are best taught…and best seen…in the most difficult of situations.

We see Him better then because we are forced to trust Him more.

When things are totally out of my hands, I realize that I must place them into His hands.

At the end of the day, God will still be in control.  His plan will still…and always…be behind every headline and every press conference.

Let’s remember that God is writing this story and has ordained these times.

We had best be sure that we know Him as our Savior, and then trust Him to take care of us in all these troubles.

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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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