Topsy-Turvy Times

I got a phone call last Thursday afternoon, soon after I had gotten home from running errands.  I saw that it was from Barb’s cell phone.  Barb, who works at Aaron’s day group, often lets Aaron use her cell phone to call me.  Or Aaron often uses her cell phone even without permission so that he can call me and tell me something about his day, and then insist that Barb and I need to talk…and we laugh every time about that as we talk for a minute and make Aaron very happy.  So I was sure that this call was just another call from Aaron as I answered the phone.

But it wasn’t Aaron.  On the other end of the line was a staff from Paradigm who was using Barb’s phone to call and tell me that Aaron had fallen during a seizure.  Aaron was standing when he suddenly fell, seizing, and had hit the cement floor.  She said they were sure he would need stitches in his chin.  She was right.

I left for Paradigm as quickly as I could, thankful that our old Great Dane was beyond caring about the groceries left around the kitchen within his easy reach.  I walked in and found Aaron surrounded by Barb and the nurse, sitting in a chair with paper towels being held on his chin.  He was alert, ready to tell me all about his injury and ask if we were going to the doctor.

Which we did.  We went to the hospital nearest our house, out in the country, where the ER wait is next to nothing and the care is good.  The girl at check-in put an ID bracelet on Aaron’s arm…his arm on which he wears his watch, way up high.  There is plenty of room on that arm for both bracelet and watch, but Aaron doesn’t think so.  Immediately when we sat down in the waiting room, Aaron had me take off his watch.  I knew that here, as is true everywhere, Aaron’s way of doing things would be the way that things would be done, if he had any say in it at all.

He would sure enough need stitches, we were told.  No surprise there.  Aaron was taking it all in stride.  He doesn’t panic, thankfully, but he has questions during times like this, wanting to know about the process and the procedure…would he feel it…how many stitches would he need…and could he go home after this was all done.

When things were quieter, as we waited for the doctor and Aaron leaned his head back on the pillow, I looked at him and felt so sorry for all he goes through.  I couldn’t linger long there, though, in those thoughts because I knew I would cry and I knew that my crying would greatly bother Aaron.  He doesn’t have the emotional feelings about life that you and I have.  This is to his benefit, really.  But I do have those emotions, especially as his mother.  Looking at his split chin and his scuffed, swollen cheek just brought home to me the fact that life is hard for Aaron.

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Aaron doesn’t enjoy the pain he experienced.  He doesn’t like his seizures.  But Aaron also doesn’t complain about it or seem to feel at all sorry for himself.  That’s what I mean about the fact that he doesn’t display the emotional feelings about his life that others might do. He’s mostly concerned about the facts.  Will stitches hurt?  How many stitches will I have?  Can I go home afterwards?  What’s for supper?  When can I wear my watch again?

Not – why do I have to be the one with seizures?  Why can’t I drive like others do?  Why do I need so much help all the time?  Why is life unfair to me?

I’m SO thankful that Aaron doesn’t express those feelings…that they don’t even seem to be on his radar.  Once in a long while he’ll say something telling, though, like the time he asked me what went wrong with him.  Or is God mad at him and gave him seizures.  But those thoughts are verbalized very seldom.  Aaron is mostly about the here and now, and about living life in the routines that matter so much to him.  Predictability and sameness in his days are far more important to him than weightier matters such as the fairness of his life.

Gary and I are left with those weightier matters that are heavy on our hearts.  And I was feeling it as I watched Aaron flinch several times as he endured the stitches.  He told his Aunt Sandra about it that night as they talked on the phone.

“That doctor put on the numbing medicine and then he put on the stitches!” Aaron told her.   Somehow he can always make me smile.

But by the end of the evening, as I told my friend Sarah, I just wanted to crawl off in a corner and have a good cry.  That wasn’t to be, though.  As soon as Aaron got in bed later that night, within five seconds after I left his room, he had another seizure.  They happen so quickly!  Thankfully he was laying down in bed for this one, safe from falls.  I was in bed myself as soon as I could after that, very tired…too tired to take time to cry.

The next morning I sat at my quiet time desk, early, wondering what God would show me from His word.  He didn’t disappoint me.  He never does.  I’m reading through II Samuel – again – using a devotional commentary written by Dale Ralph Davis.  In chapter 7, God was explaining to David why he would not be the one to build Him a temple.  And this phrase, read so many times before, jumped out at me as I read it…and then read what Davis had to say.

God was speaking: “In all the places where I have travelled around with all the sons of Israel…”

God lived in a tent among His people as they wandered in the wilderness.  As Davis says, “Do you see what God is saying about Himself?  He is the God Who travels with His people in all their topsy-turvy, here-and-there journeys and wanderings.”

The God of the universe travelled with His people while they spent years in the wilderness…years spent there because of their sin and disobedience.  Davis continued: “That is only a pale glimpse of the condescension of the covenant God, the God Who will not enjoy rest until He gives His people rest , the God Who stoops down to share the hardships of His people, the God Who is not ashamed to say He has been ‘travelling around in a tent’ with them.  See how close He is to you!”

On my tired, sad morning as I hurt for Aaron once again, I was overwhelmed with joy for what God had shown me.  God never lets me down, especially when I need Him the most!  I don’t deserve His kindness to me but I sure did thank Him for His hand on my shoulder that moment…His arm around me and His promise to be with me so fresh in my life as I sat at my desk.

His presence doesn’t necessarily take away all pain or grief.  But He sure does pour comfort over me.  And the certainty that He has a purpose for all that goes on with Aaron fills me with peace.

It’s not a peace based on my feelings.  It’s a peace based on my God.

I felt that same peace as we realized over the weekend that Aaron had probably damaged a back molar during his fall.  I took him to our dentist yesterday, who confirmed that the tooth was broken beyond repair.  Off we went to an oral surgeon, who thankfully was able to extract the tooth right away.  And there I sat once again, watching Aaron sit in another exam room for yet another procedure.  I listened to his questions that he asked the dental staff and that he asked me.  I watched his eyes focus an all the items in the room, processing each one in the way that he always does.  I hurt for his fear that he expressed.

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But I also thought of my travelling God, and how He was right there with us in that room.  I was thankful for that, SO much!  Thankful, too, for the sweet nurse who told me about her young son with seizures, and how we talked about prayer and our faithful God.

When all was done, Aaron was done…ready to lead the way out the door.  Ready for his large chocolate milkshake from Sonic – with NO straw!  Ready for his mashed potatoes and a few deviled eggs for supper.  Very ready to show Dad his tooth and the roots, placed in the little pink tooth box that he can carry around and proudly show to everyone.

Ready to take a walk, in his pajamas, with Gary and Jackson.

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Ready to bring me his treasure that he had found, and that Gary had explained to him.

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Ready to touch my heart with his lopsided, numb grin as he showed me the dandelion seeds.

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Ready to be used by God once again to show me so much, in ways he doesn’t even know.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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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My Father’s Grip

I grew up in the little town of Princeton, West Virginia.  My Dad worked for the railroad there; first the Virginian, and then Norfolk and Western.  The railroads were a central part of life there in those West Virginia mountains.  It was coal country, and trains were vital for the coal industry.

The sounds of those trains, heard at all hours of the day and night from our home not too awfully far from where Dad worked, were an ever-present part of my childhood.  Even now, the sound of a train will take me back to those early days. 

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Dad worked his way up the “ranks” and eventually became a train dispatcher.  I don’t know how long it was before he one day told us of his promotion to Chief Train Dispatcher.  I didn’t understand much about his job, but I was always proud that he was a CHIEF Train Dispatcher.  He had a very responsible job, working long hours and often on weekends, or getting calls at all hours of the night to go in if there was a dreaded derailment. 

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Sometimes Dad would let one of us kids go to work with him on a Saturday, especially if he was only working a half day.  I just loved those Saturdays when it was my turn to go to work with him!  I remember entering the old wooden train depot building, where we would walk up a long set of wooden stairs to his second-floor office.  This old building smelled of wood; tobacco in various forms; pencil erasers; and trains, of course.

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There were crisp sounds of radio static as the men talked to the engineers on the trains; telephones ringing; the staccato ping of old typewriters; and the roar of huge trains when they would pass below us. 

Dad at railroad, early days

Dad would give me some paper and a pencil, and I would pretend to be working just as he was.  I loved watching the lights come and go on the huge control panel behind his desk, showing the progress of various trains that were running all over southern West Virginia. And always, sooner or later, Dad would take me down the hall to the Coke machine and the snack machine.  He would buy me a Coke and a pack of Nabs, and I was in heaven!

What made the biggest impression on me, though, was when Dad would go down those long stairs and outside to the train track, taking me with him.  Sometimes he would attach a paper message to a pole there beside the track, and then we would wait.  Soon I would hear it…the unmistakable sound of a train in the distance, coming ever closer to us. 

The clickity-clack of the wheels, and the train whistle blowing, blowing, blowing in the distance, told me that soon the train would be bellowing past us…right in front of where we were standing!  And suddenly, there it was!  Huge and black and so very loud and terrifying, too. 

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Yet I wasn’t afraid, even though I was so close to such power and danger.  You know why?  Because my dad held my little hand in his big hand.  He held gently yet firmly.  I trusted him totally.  I knew that where we were standing was safe, and though the train was very loud and scary, my dad knew just where we needed to be to stay safe and secure. 

Soon a splash of red passed by.  The caboose!  The conductor stood outside the caboose.  He grabbed the paper message off the pole, waved at us while we waved back, and the train disappeared up the tracks.  All was well.

In the Bible we read about the man named Joshua, whom God told to lead His people of Israel across the Jordan River into the promised land.  It was a daunting, scary proposition.  But as God gave His orders to Joshua, this is what He said: “Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you.  I will never fail you or forsake you.”  (Joshua 1:5) 

Guess what the words “fail” and “forsake” mean?  They mean “to relax the grip.”  And that’s not all.  In verse 7, God told Joshua to be strong, which means to “reach out and grab hold.”

Do you see the beautiful picture that God is giving us?  This God of Joshua is our God today, for those of us who know Him!  And He’s telling us to reach out and grab hold of Him as He extends His hand to us.  Then let Him do the holding, because He promises not to relax His grip on us!

There are some very scary times for all of us in this life.  Sometimes some big, dark, loud problems happen to us.  God wants us to be strong, like Joshua…reach out to Him and let Him hold our hand beside all the issues that scare us and hurt us and threaten us on so many levels. 

I didn’t understand much about trains at that young age, but I knew they were dangerous.  Yet even more than that, I knew from experience that my Dad was wise and loving and would take good care of me.  He knew just how close for us to stand, and with my hand in his, I knew I was totally safe.

Our Heavenly Father has never said we won’t have problems.  In fact, He has told us that we WILL face hard times…times that will hopefully draw us to Him and to His strong hands.  He won’t let go of us.  He won’t abandon us.  He will keep us safe in our very hard times, even when we don’t like those times or understand their purpose. 

And we can say, with total confidence, “The Lord is for me, I will not fear.”  (Psalm 118:6)  

   

 

 

From Bliss to Brokenness

On Monday, November 6, of last year…..yes, 2017 is – as of today – LAST year!!  Anyway, on that day last year our washing machine loudly died.  I mean, the noises coming from the bathroom/laundry room were downright scary.  I remember that date because two days later, November 8, was Aaron’s birthday.  Gary and I met at Lowe’s after he got off work on Tuesday night, where we found our dream machine, got it ordered, and were told that delivery would be on Thursday.

Thursday was the day we were having two of Aaron’s favorite friends over for a birthday supper, so I knew I would be home most of the day as I got things ready.  It was also the day that Aaron woke up in a very wet bed, so it became the day of a huge mound of wet bedding piled near our dead washing machine, waiting on our brand new dream machine.  And friends coming for dinner. 

So I prayed as I made apple pie….Aaron’s birthday “cake” of choice.  I asked God to please let the dream machine come sooner than the possible delivery time given to us, which was between 12:00 and 4:00, and usually means it might be there by 6:00 – with friends coming for supper and with Aaron very picky about his bedding and covers being JUST right.  It was shortly after 11:00 when I asked God for this kindness…not really near the expected delivery time.  But don’t you know, that within two minutes my phone rang and it was the delivery guys asking if it would be ok to come early!

I almost said, “Amen!!  You come right on over!”  I didn’t because I wanted my dream machine delivered and was afraid I would scare them away, but I did share with them God’s sweet provision and answer to prayer as they installed my dream machine.  One man smiled as he worked and the other said, “God is still on His throne!”  I did say “Amen!” to that!

I’ve loved that new washing machine.  The tub is so large that I have to stand on my tiptoes to reach the bottom of it, but does it ever hold big loads, like bedding!  And often I think back to that sweet answer to prayer on my very busy day….how God provided the dream machine in the first place, and then gave it to me early when I asked.  I love those “simple” and kind answers to prayer.

So fast forward to December 22, the Friday before Christmas, when Aaron woke up in an even wetter bed than the one of the month before.  Seizure?  I didn’t hear one.  More likely just too much drinking water before bed.  Regardless, everything needed washing on the VERY busy day of cleaning and cooking before the kids came in and our Christmas began.  Oh well, nothing to do but DO what needed doing…and I had my wonderful new dream machine, remember?

I was thankful for that extra large tub as I loaded Aaron’s wonderful waterproof mattress pad and sheets into it, and then went about my other work for the day.  But when I went back to check on that first load, I found it to be dripping wet.  “Oh dear,” I thought.  “What could be causing that?”  I had washed heavy loads before with no problem.  I set the load on a rinse and spin cycle, but still had the same dismal results when I checked it later.  Setting it again, I watched closely and found that water wasn’t entering the tub, and the tub wasn’t spinning.  Nothing in the manual helped and nothing I did worked, so I was stuck with all of Aaron’s bedding in another huge pile, and very wet bedding in my dream machine. 

Gary worked and worked on that machine when he came home, to no avail.  I did manage to get the very wet items dried in our dryer, but still had piles of laundry at the end of the day.  Gary called Lowe’s and a repairman was scheduled, but not until Wednesday…which this year was our Christmas Eve. 

Bless his heart, Gary insisted on taking all the laundry to the laundromat on Saturday morning.  Aaron helped him carry the bags out to his truck, and before too long Gary was back with lots of wet laundry to be dried. 

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And when the repairman came on Wednesday, he found the problem but told us he wouldn’t be able to come back with the needed part until January 2nd. 

So we have lots and lots of laundry sorted and piled on now empty beds since all the kids have come and gone after Christmas.  Of course, that means extra bedding and extra towels waiting to be washed in my dream machine that has turned into a little of a nightmare, honestly. 

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I went from happily sharing this evident answer to prayer to scratching my head at the failure of it.  Not the failure of God, mind you, but the failure surrounding this provision…my dream machine!

But through this really simple annoyance, God has spoken to my heart.  How many times He has clearly answered my prayers, only to also lead me to…at times…a hard place where I must trust Him.  It’s so easy to praise Him for clear answers, but sometimes difficult to trust His sovereignty when the answers aren’t a bed of roses. 

Today’s answers to prayers don’t guarantee a carefree tomorrow. 

But always…ALWAYS…God DOES answer.  His answer may contain trials, but He also ALWAYS has a reason for those trials.

Gary and I were married over five years before Aaron was born.  I wondered if I would ever have a baby.  That positive pregnancy test was one of the happiest days of my life!  We thanked God over and over!!

So fast forward to now, 33 years later.  When I held baby Aaron, I never dreamed of seizures and autism and behaviors and our son still with us at his age.  And like my broken dream machine, our dreams for Aaron have certainly taken a different turn.  Aaron isn’t broken.  He is just the way that God designed him to be.  But my dreams were broken.  Our amazing answer to prayer has also carried with it a huge element of grief and testing.

Yet I know…I KNOW…that God is in control.  With His blessing of Aaron in our lives has also come some brokenness.   Our life is on a far different path than we had ever envisioned.  But on that path has also come tremendous cause for trust in God…which teaches us patience…waiting…and then peace.  God’s sweet peace amid the piles of pain and mess that sometimes surround our days.    

I shouldn’t be focusing on the ANSWER to my prayers, but on the God behind that answer. 

And in that focus…in God alone…I can rest and I can trust. 

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  Be still, and know that I am God.”  (Psalm 46:1,10)

What better way to start the New Year than this!

 

 

 

The Raging Waves

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Look at Psalm 92:1-2:

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

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

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

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

Never doubt HIM for a minute!

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Fast Forward

Sometimes one thing leads to another, and that one leads to another, and then another leads to another, and it can just be amazing to go back and look at the picture created.  This is what I’m seeing today.  I hope I can connect all the “things and anothers” as I try to show you the beautiful picture created by God.

It started yesterday evening when Aaron went with me to Dillon’s.  When we left the store and were getting into the van, the handle of my crossbody purse somehow knocked off my earring as I moved it over my head.  I found the back of the earring as it poked my skin.  Yep, it had gone down my shirt somehow.  But nowhere in sight was my earring.  I hurriedly searched for it, and so did Aaron, but we couldn’t find it.  I told him not to worry, because things like this can worry him, and off we drove to pick up some pizza for supper.

Still no earring appeared as we got out of the van at home, and I searched around some more for it.  “Oh well,” I told Aaron.  “It’ll show up when we least expect it…..or when I clean the van, sometime in the far off future.” 

We sat down to eat and Aaron asked the blessing.  His before-meal prayers, 99% of the time, contain two statements.  What he says varies depending on the day and the current events of our life, but very rarely does he say more than two things.  This prayer was no exception. 

“Dear Lord,” Aaron began.  “Thank you for the pizza.  And please help us find Mom’s earring.” 

I told Aaron it was wonderful to pray about the lost earring, and assured him that God loves to hear those requests.  And don’t you know that a short time later Gary went out to the van to conduct his own search, and he found my earring!  You should have seen Aaron’s face when I showed him that I was now wearing TWO earrings!  And then when I told him that God had answered his prayer!  Aaron’s face lit up like the sun.  It was priceless!

So the lost earring led to Aaron praying, which led to God answering in a sweet way, which led to……I trust……Aaron seeing how wonderful it is to pray about everything.

It was a good thing for Gary and I to see, as well. 

Then came today, which in comparison to what some others are enduring was really nothing.  But in the moment it was, for Aaron and for me, pretty awful.

I want to preserve Aaron’s dignity in this.  I needed to take him down to the air base to have a urine test repeated this morning.  I told him to use the bathroom when he got out of bed, and then by the time he drank his coffee and we got to the lab, he would need to go again.  I rehearsed the procedure with him as we drove to the base.  All was well.

That was short lived.  As Aaron got out of the van at the clinic, I saw that he was doing what I call “The Potty Walk.”  I was concerned, but he assured me that he could wait until he was in the lab bathroom, cup in hand. 

We walked up to the lab window, where the lone lab worker was a little harried.  I heard a door close and looked around to see that Aaron had already entered the bathroom…..NO cup in hand.  I told the harried lab worker to hold on as I scurried to the bathroom and opened the door…..to find Aaron preparing to go. 

“NO, Aaron,” I tried to whisper as I closed the door.  “Please, can you just wait until I get the cup??!!”

I rushed outside, went up to the window again, where the lone lab woman was realizing my dilemma and was trying her best to get Aaron’s info sticker onto his cup…..the cup he still wasn’t holding!  She slapped it on, and I quickly zoomed into the bathroom……to the most awful sight.

Let’s just say it appeared that the plumbing had sprung a huge leak, but the toilet and sink plumbing were fine.  Aaron’s, however, was not fine.

We got the sample somehow, but it’s probably not the best.  I wasn’t the best, either.  Such a mess!  I didn’t know what to do but to try to clean it up, mostly in an effort not to embarrass Aaron by having to tell the poor harried lab woman, in front of others, what had happened.  I had Aaron standing in the corner of the bathroom and kept telling him not to talk, because he talks so loudly that I knew everyone outside would hear.  Like they didn’t already guess what was going on in that bathroom!  “How many paper towels do they need in there?” everybody must have been wondering as they heard the automatic dispenser churn out towel after towel.

And poor Aaron.  His shorts were very obviously wet, and we had to walk out past people in the lab waiting room and in other areas as we left the clinic.  I waited for a few minutes after leaving the bathroom to see if the lab worker needed anything else from us, while Aaron hid behind the bathroom door.  Finally, we just left.  I felt like it was a walk of shame for dear Aaron.  And I was a mess of emotions…..very sorry for Aaron, and embarrassed, and just weak from all of it. 

The plan had been to take Aaron to Paradigm for his day, but instead we just drove home.  I really wanted to cry.  I stole glances at Aaron.  He was very serious, and very sorry, and very quiet.  That made me want to cry even more.

He turned on his music, of course.  It was the Zac Brown Band.  As we drove along the highway, song #4 and song #5 came on, Aaron checking the back of the CD box to confirm the title of each song as he always does.  Then came song #6, which is more of a rock song, and one I don’t like.  I was in NO mood for that today, so I used the button on the steering wheel to quickly go to song #7.  Aaron didn’t seem to notice, which was good.

Oh, but never underestimate Aaron.  It wasn’t long before he realized that song #5 had played, and now song #7 was playing.  What happened to song #6?

“Mom, did you go past song #6?” he asked.  I confessed.  He asked why, and I told him, and he was fine with that. 

As we kept heading toward home, I thought of how nice it would be if we could fast forward through parts of our life.  I would certainly have fast forwarded through this bad morning!

When we got home, Aaron showered and changed clothes.  Then he went with me to Aldi and to Dillon’s, even though I kind of wanted some time alone.  But once there, Aaron and I enjoyed the shopping, especially looking for what we needed for the lasagna he wanted for supper.  He helped bag the groceries and carry them.  He carried the heavy bag of dog food I got when we stopped at the vet, and he talked to Misha about Spiderman and about Star Trek, which always cheers Aaron up.  None of that would have happened if I hadn’t taken Aaron with me. 

Then at Dillon’s, Aaron saw one of the workers that we know as we checked out.  She stopped to talk to us before we left.  Her life is hard, always full of trouble, it seems……and today was certainly no exception as she shared some things with me.  As she talked, Aaron just stood there listening quietly to every word.  As we left, I told her that I would pray for her.

“Does she have a heartache?” Aaron asked me as we walked out the door. 

I was so surprised at his question, but more at his insight and the empathy he showed as we talked together about her. 

And then later, the best part.  We sat down to a lunch of leftover pizza, and again Aaron prayed as we held hands.

“Dear Lord, thank you for the pizza.  And help B have a good heart.”

Wow.  Just wow.

Aaron usually prays for Aaron, and on a good day he might pray about my earring.  But to pray for this friend that we really don’t deeply know……now that was touching and dear and so impacting.

That would never have happened if Aaron had not been with me…..and he would not have been with me if not for the awful lab experience earlier. 

If I had been allowed to fast forward through our terrible morning in order to preserve us from that bad time, then we would not have had this amazing and very good time.  This sweet time of Aaron genuinely listening to another person share her pain, and then genuinely caring enough to genuinely ask God to help her have a good heart.

So you see, one thing does lead to another which leads to another which leads to yet another.  Did Aaron’s answered prayer last night encourage him to pray for our friend today?  I think it did.  Then his bathroom accident allowed him to be with me to offer help today, and especially to be with me to listen to a hurting friend who needs his prayers. 

We all have those times in life when we want to skip song #6 and go right on to song #7……when we want to fast forward through the pain we’re facing and be done with it, moving on to other better things. 

But with God, His one thing that leads to another thing that leads to the other thing is what’s best for us.  It’s a good thing that He doesn’t allow us to fast forward, as hard and as terrible as some of the things are that we face.  He works all of it out for good if we let Him. 

Help all of us have a good heart, Lord. 

And help us not push the fast forward button.