What Mountain?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What mountain?

Indeed! 

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Remember When?

Aaron loves looking at a particular picture of me and Gary, taken back in the day.  WAYYYY back in the day, to be clear.  This picture was taken at Gary’s Army Flight School Banquet upon his graduation.

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Aaron has always said that he thought this photo was of our wedding, so I am often correcting him about that as I repeat over and over that this was taken four years after we were married.  Aaron doesn’t sweat the details, though, and he continues to tell us…and others…that here are Mom and Dad at their wedding.

But there is another detail that Aaron loves to share the MOST as he either talks about this picture or gets to show it to people who come to see us in our home.

“In her wedding picture,” Aaron begins (and I know exactly what is coming!), “Mom used to be skinny!!”

Emphasis on “USED to be skinny.”

As in I was…in the past…not the present…in the FAR distant past…skinny.

Aaron will randomly tell this bit of news to anyone who has ears, including people who barely know me.  He will share it within the context of any conversation, out of the blue, ignoring people’s curious looks and my rolling eyes in my red face.

Yes, Aaron, I USED to be skinny.  Those WERE the good old days.

I’m able to laugh as I tell this story, even as I constantly try to keep Aaron FROM telling it in order to hopefully teach him some manners or some tact.  Yet Aaron’s focus on the past…on MY past…has also taught me an important truth.

The prophet, Haggai, helped with this as well.  I’ll explain.

Haggai was the first prophet that was heard in Israel after the Babylonian exile.  The Israelites had returned to Jerusalem and Haggai encouraged them to finish building the temple.  Fifteen years had passed since any work had been done on the temple.  God promised to be with them as the people agreed to once again build God’s house.

Yet later, as they stood at the site of the temple, God knew that the people were very discouraged.  He also knew why they were so down in their spirits.  So, God spoke to the leaders and to the people through Haggai.

Haggai 2:3 – “Who of you is left who saw this house in its former glory?  How does it look to you now?  Does it not seem to you like nothing?”

God, through His prophet, just cut to the chase.  He hit the nail on the head as He revealed openly what He knew they were thinking.  And what they were thinking was that compared to years ago, this beginning of a new temple looked dismal and ugly.  In fact, the Israelites…especially the older ones who remembered the former glory of the old temple…knew that the new temple they would build would in no way compare to the beauty of the past temple.

Who could help but be discouraged as they stood there remembering the glory that used to be, but would not fully be again?

But God didn’t just leave it there.  He continued to speak, telling the leaders to be strong, and ended by saying:

Haggai 2:4-5 – “Be strong, all you people of the land – declares the Lord – and work, for I am with you, declares the Lord almighty.  This is what I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt, and my Spirit remains among you.  Do not fear!”

I’ll tell you that there are times and there are ways in which I am much like these Israelite Jews as they looked at their current circumstances and compared them to what used to be.  And for me it goes WAY beyond remembering my skinny days!

Ten years ago, God set Gary and I on a path of great hurt and loss.  The details are not what matter.  What matters is that God was surely with us each step of the way.  He did indeed tell us to keep working for Him in very difficult circumstances, just as He did to Israel.  He told us to be strong even when we were tired on every level.

What kept us going?  The two promises that God gave to Israel were ours as well.  God said, “I am with you…and my Spirit remains among you.”  I can promise you that God kept His promises to us.  His strength, His peace, His Spirit, was always present and enabling in our lives.  His Word was powerful!

I love what John Mackay says about God being with us: “This is what distinguishes the advice of the world, ‘Be strong.  I know you’ve got it in you,’ from the counsel of Scripture which recognizes that we have NOT got it in us, but that God’s presence with us will make all the difference.”

Circumstances can get very ugly sometimes, but I am not to focus on what’s around me.  I am to focus on God and on the fact that He is with me.  He will not fail me.  He will not desert me to my enemies or to my runaway thoughts.

God also gave Israel a simple three-word command.

“Do not fear,” God said.

Again, John Mackay: “The Lord’s faithfulness in the past and the present is the basis for future encouragement.  It is not the appearance of the building, but the presence of his enabling Spirit that will make the crucial difference.”

Not the appearance of the building.  Not my surroundings, but rather the God Who surrounds me with His protection in every way I need.

So, what’s your “Remember When?”

Remember when:  You were loved.  You weren’t alone.  You were important to that group.  You were included.

Remember when:  You had a job you loved.  You had the money you needed.  You made a difference.

Remember when:  You had your health.  You had your spouse.  You had your children close.

Remember when:  You sang.  You taught.  You were a part.  You mattered.

Remember when:  You had your parents.  You had a family.  You laughed.  You talked.

The list is endless, isn’t it?  Life changes.  Sometimes suddenly…other times, slowly.  But change is inevitable for all of us.

What doesn’t ever change is God.  His presence is with His children, steady and stable, always constant.  He’s the same yesterday, today, and forever.

When the past tries to capture my attention, I know I must look to today…to what God has for me today…to Who He is today…and to His promises that are true…TODAY!

And I can declare from experience that out of our deepest pain of yesterday will come our most beautiful usefulness TODAY!

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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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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 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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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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