I Don’t Hold My Breath

It started last week with some strange pains in my chest.  The pains didn’t seem to be heart related but they were disconcerting regardless.  I talked to my doctor’s nurse, who spoke with my doctor, and I got some advice along with an appointment to see her.

Yesterday, after conversation and an exam, I found myself being ushered to various rooms.  Labs…chest X-Ray…EKG…a CT Angiogram…and all the waiting that is an inevitable part of the whole process.

After my CT scan, I was led to another waiting area.  For a long time, I sat there by myself.  There was a small, tall table beside me.  I hadn’t paid it much attention.  I was looking at the other table across the room and for some reason wondered if the one beside me matched it.  So I leaned forward to look at the table next to me.  Then I saw it…the Bible laying on the little table. 

I felt compelled to pick it up and to open it.  I have opened my Bible often in my life at times like this…times of stress and concern.  I have never been disappointed in what God has to say to me when I look down and start reading. 

I opened the Bible.  I looked down to find myself in the book of Job.

I was a little let down.  I mean, why couldn’t it have been the Psalms?  Not that Job doesn’t have words of God’s encouragement, but the Psalms are stuffed full of really great verses that are meant for these moments of uncertainty such as I was feeling. 

 I started reading chapter 12.  Just look at these verses!  Job was speaking:

“But ask the beasts, and they will teach you;

    the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you;

 or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you;

    and the fish of the sea will declare to you.

 Who among all these does not know

    that the hand of the Lord has done this?

 In his hand is the life of every living thing

    and the breath of all mankind.”

Job looked at his terrible suffering and could still say that the Lord’s hand had done that.  He knew, and said that even animals and nature know, that all of life is in God’s hand.

But I was blown away by that last line.  The breath of all mankind is in God’s hand. 

I had been given breathing instructions in every exam and test that morning.

 Take a deep breath.  Now let it out. 

Take a deep breath and hold it. 

You may breathe normally now.

Hold your breath.

Now breathe.

And as I sat there waiting on test results, wondering if something serious was wrong, God so gently reminded me that He was holding my very breath in HIS hand.

If something was wrong with me, could I say like Job did that God’s hand had done that?  The same hand that held my breath could do with me what He wanted, but whatever it was that He did would be good. 

Did I really believe that?

It turned out that the radiologist that we were waiting on to read the CT results was gone.  I sat there for an hour only to be told to go home and results would come in later. 

It would have been easy to be frustrated by that…to feel like I had just wasted an hour, hungry and tired and with no results.

But I look at it as a sweet gift from God, that time of opening a random Bible and listening to what God had to say to me in that dismal waiting room. 

Right now it seems like I am fine, and I’m thankful for that.

But most of all I’m thankful for God sitting with me in that waiting room.

 Thankful for the very timely reminder that every breath I take is in His hand.

And on the day I take my last breath, I’ll be holding His hand. 

Glamorless Glory

“Mom,” Aaron quietly said as he was getting ready for bed, “my toilet is stopped up.”

Aaron dreaded telling me this.  It was the third time in a few days that he had managed to stop up one of our toilets.

And this third time was NOT a charm, but instead was a huge mess.  I could have gotten Gary to do the dirty clean-up. 

“No,” I thought, “I can do this…yet again.”

I did think a few times that I really should have called Gary.  UGH!!

This was an opportunity for me to practice the patience that God is trying to teach me.  And to…once again…school Aaron on the proper treatment of our toilets. 

Why do these things happen so often at night when I am most tired?!

You know, being a caregiver of any sort can be exhausting.  Being a mom…a homemaker…the one responsible for the needs of whomever is under our care…has its many moments of humbling work.

Special needs or other health issues certainly add to the mix a new level of care.

And a new level of seemingly lowly service. 

Because face it, cleaning stopped-up toilets or throw up or wet bedding is not exactly something to write home about.

Even as Christ followers, we envision that the far-away mission field is more glorious and honoring than the dirty work we often do within the walls of our own home.

Not long after this third toilet episode, as I lay in bed reading, I felt compelled to check the FB page of my favorite author, Dale Davis.

His son had posted this piece.  I hope you will read it slowly and fully.

“When Mary was not nursing her son, she placed Him in an unused feeding trough (of wood or stone) right next to her…But a feeding trough! Let us never be surprised at the humility of God. The Westminster Shorter Catechism asks (Question 27) Wherein did Christ’s humiliation consist? Its answer begins: ‘Christ’s humiliation consisted in his being born, and that in a low condition…’ Its scriptural proof text for that ‘low condition’ is Luke 2:7. In a feeding trough, needing a mother’s breast and a change of diaper. How very incarnate the incarnation is! And yet what encouragement is here. For if Christ stoops so low, to such a ‘common’ level, does this not sanctify all that seems common and ordinary and unimpressive in the lives of His people? To be quaint and go back a few years–the weaver laboring at his loom, the farmer putting up hay, the mother cleaning her oven, or the teacher tutoring her ‘slower’ student in reading, the accountant preparing tax returns, the pastor reading in his study, the doctor diagnosing a perplexed patient. Jesus’ feeding trough suffuses all the glamorlessness of our callings with a touch of His humble glory.” (Dale Ralph Davis, “Luke 1-13: The Year of the Lord’s Favor”, pp. 46-47)

Tears slid down my cheeks.  For Christ, who stooped so low to be born in a dirty animal cave, and laid in a feeding trough, does sanctify and will honor the grimy and the mundane work that I do…even if I do not see the results of it.

God has always chosen to use the less than exciting places and people and moments in order to draw attention to His glory.

Jesus’ mother, Mary, was a very young teenager in a town that was looked down upon by everyone.  She and Joseph were poor and unknown.  They were no doubt the subject of malicious gossip because of Mary’s pregnancy.  Then Jesus was born in the humblest of places with no great fanfare.  Mary and Joseph had to escape to Egypt in order to survive Herod’s wrath. 

And all through Jesus’ ministry we see Him using the most common people in the simplest of places in order to proclaim His message.

How can I wonder if He is doing the same with and through me? 

I have no doubt that many of you are feeling like me so many times – like I am in a rut of caregiving and for WHAT?

But may we not allow the allure of the world’s values concerning glamor to be ours.

May the touch of God’s humble glory turn our glamorless callings into moments of praise and joy.

And may we be grateful for every stopped-up toilet as we see it through God’s eyes…an opportunity to share in His humility and to give Him glory. 

Draw Near

I have a very simple olive wood nativity set that I put out every year for Christmas.  I bought this set in Israel many years ago.  I love its simplicity and the memories it brings to me of my times spent in Israel.   

This year, as I was decorating, I asked Aaron if he would like to place the nativity scene on top of the cabinet where I always display it.  He agreed, and so I left him to it as I continued putting out other decorations. 

Later, as I walked by, I saw what Aaron had done and I had to smile.  You see, he placed the shepherds, wise men, Mary and Joseph, and the animals in a tight group around baby Jesus in the manger. 

I usually have them spread apart, like this.

My first instinct was to rearrange the pieces in the way I always have them.  But I stopped myself.  First, I didn’t want to hurt Aaron’s feelings – making him think that he had not done the job correctly.

But looking at this little scene, with every person and animal huddled close around baby Jesus, has made my thoughts go to the significance it portrays.

The whole depth of God’s love for us is demonstrated in that humble manger scene.   To think that He planned the way of our salvation through the gift of His only Son is astounding. 

Jesus, God Himself, drew near to us as he was born in a filthy animal stable and placed in a dirty feeding trough.  He endured the difficult life of a human during a very hard time in history.  Israel was ruled by brutal Romans.  Jesus was not welcomed in that world and was eventually crucified.  His death went far beyond politics, though.  He lived and died to make the way for us to know God…to come to God through His sacrifice for us…to bear our sin so that we could be sinless in God’s eyes.

Jesus grieved over Israel’s refusal to believe that He was the Messiah.  His heart broke as He looked over the city of Jerusalem and said that He would have gathered them near as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings. 

And how He wants us to draw near to Him in that same way!

James said, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you…”  (James 4:8)

He has said that if we seek Him, we will find Him.

Draw near to Him for salvation.

Draw near to Him in every upheaval of this life. 

Cancer.  COVID.  Divorce.  Prodigals.  Danger.  Tornadoes.  Finances.  Termination.  Caregiving.  Death.

Just add your situation to the list and then purposely draw near to Jesus.

Satan wants to distract us and defeat us by making us look at the impossible and the hopeless.

But Jesus wants us to know Him and to see that with God all things are possible.  With Him, we have hope both here and now, and for eternity.

And to be able to say with the Psalmist, “But as for me, the nearness of God is my good.”  (Psalm 73:28)

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.

Humbled and Hungry

Recently, Aaron and Gary had both been feeling puny.  In fact, they had each been tested for COVID.  Thankfully, both were negative. 

When a family member is sick, I slip into full-on caregiver mode – which means I usually hit the kitchen and start cooking.  I did this last Monday, making a huge pot of potato soup.  It was way more than the three of us needed but that’s the way I roll.

We sat down to eat that evening, where Aaron declared that he didn’t like potato soup and that he would not eat. 

“That’s fine,” I said.  “Suit yourself.”

Gary and I proceeded to eat.  Finally, realizing that I was not offering another option to him, Aaron begrudgingly agreed to try a small amount.  Three bowls later, he left our table full and happy.

“I liked the potato soup, Mom,” he told me later.  I just smiled and thanked him, not telling him that I knew he would because he had eaten it before and loved it.

Sometimes Aaron needs to see that I am not going to give in to what he wants.  I will allow him to get hungry in order for him to learn that the food I have made is good and that he needs to eat what is offered. 

How amazing it was that the passage I read in Deuteronomy 8 happened right after this object lesson!

Moses was reminding the Israelites about the reasons God had told them to obey Him and to remember all the ways He had led them. 

And then in verse three:

            “He humbled you, and let you be hungry…”

God let them be hungry.

Why?

So that He could feed them with the manna that He provided.  There was nothing they could do in the desert to feed themselves.  He gave them what they needed, and in their hunger…a hunger he allowed…He showed them a great truth.

“…that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord.” 

I didn’t enjoy seeing Aaron hungry.  It would have been easy for me to rush in and offer him something I knew he liked just so he would eat.  But if I did, then he would have missed an important lesson:  You eat what Mom has provided.

I can look at my life and see that there are many times when I don’t understand the way that God has led or the events that He has allowed. 

I ask why.  At the time, a decision seemed to be wise and right, but it led to situations that were hard.  Sometimes those ongoing situations are the very ones that roll around in my brain in the dark night hours.

But I have learned to push those circumstances aside and to look at God Who loves me without fail.  And I know…I KNOW…that the hard times – the times I am humbled and hungry…are by His design and His allowance.

God isn’t being mean when He allows me to experience hunger.  He knows that in my hunger I will be more aware of His provision, and I will learn that I do indeed live and eat and prosper only through His food that He provides.

His words to me are manna and life and strength.

And I will come to Him one day, hopefully, full of His Words that I have eaten, and I will thank Him for the hunger that brought me to the place of being satisfied with His goodness.

“How sweet are Your words to my taste!  Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth!”  (Psalm 119:103)

A Cloud of Fear

It was shortly after 6:00 this morning when I walked into the room where I have my quiet time with the Lord.  As I always do, I looked out the window at my usual view…a view I have grown to love. 

And there, right above our Pin Oak tree that has been in hundreds of my sky pictures, was a lone dark cloud. 

It was so odd and unexpected.  Most of the sky was clear except for a few clouds here and there. 

I looked on my weather app and even the radar was clear. 

But there was no denying that just outside my window sat a large dark cloud.

It wasn’t long before I heard rumbles of thunder.  By now the cloud had moved, and the rising sun was reflecting out of it.  I could see a shaft of rain in the distance. 

All of it was truly beautiful.

I have said it many times before, but it bears repeating.  The most beautiful sky pictures usually involve storm clouds. 

Storms can be frightening.

But storms can also be beautiful, and storms can bring much needed nourishment to our land.

In fact, we need storms for life and growth.

None of us have far to look today in order to see a storm cloud.   Not a literal storm cloud.  However, just turn on the news or read the headlines, and there you see it…a cloud of fear.  Many clouds of fear, actually, all around our world.

We’re all dealing with those clouds, but many are also dealing with clouds that are even closer.  Personal clouds of fear are right outside your windows.  Situations exist that are beyond your ability to dictate and manage.

Yet in those fearful clouds, those scary circumstances, there is the beauty of knowing that if you are walking with God then He is in charge.  He will only allow what is best for each of His children, even if part of that plan contains fear or pain.

Never forget this:

            “Out of my distress I called upon the Lord;

            The Lord answered me and set me free.

            The Lord is on my side;

            I will not fear.

            What can man do to me?”  (Psalm 118:5-6)

And finally:

            “The Lord is God, and He has made His light to shine upon us…”

            (Psalm 118:27a)

The Lord is God.

Be sure you know God, personally, through Jesus. 

Then take comfort in knowing that the Lord is on the side of His people who know Him.

And we have nothing to fear, now or in the end. 

Tough Trust

Yesterday as I ate my lunch, I saw a picture on my computer that started my mind turning toward some issues that make me sad.  As I wrote in my last blog (Listening Carefully), I know better than to let my thoughts stay on certain matters that will pull me down.  I am consciously practicing, more and more, immediately turning my heart to God and affirming to Him…and to me…that I trust Him totally.

As I sat at my table, thinking on these things and praying, these words came to me.  I shared them right away on Facebook.

It was around 1:30, and soon I was to go pick Aaron up at his day group.  He had a seizure early that morning, around 4:30, but felt fine and so was able to go on and spend the day with his friends. 

When we got home, as we talked about many things…because with Aaron there are always many things that he wants to talk about…I mentioned to him that I saw his empty deodorant in his bathroom trash can. 

“Yes!” he said, “I put some on this one but not on this one!”

I turned to see him holding up one arm at a time as he showed me which arm pit had gotten deodorant and which one had not.  😊

I left him in his bathroom to remedy the arm pit situation.  I had just sat at my desk in my bedroom nearby when I heard the awful crash and the sounds of a big seizure. 

I yelled for Gary and ran in the bathroom to see Aaron laying in the tub.  He had fallen backward into the tub, taking with him the shower curtain and rod.  He was entangled in all that, plus in his shirt that he had been removing.  The first thing to do was to hold his head to keep him from continually banging it on the hard tub as he seized.  Gary had run upstairs, grabbing one of Aaron’s small pillows to put under Aaron’s head. 

These sudden and very dangerous seizures are just awful on many levels.  It’s a terrible feeling to hear that crash and then the seizure sounds…to run to him not knowing what you will find…to wonder how hard he hit his head or if there are other injuries.

We had untangled him from the shower curtain and from his twisted shirt that was all around both his arms and hands.  Gary put a sweater over him and then we just had to let him lay there in the tub until he was awake enough to be moved to his bed. 

I went back to my desk, still shaken, and cried.  I cried out of fear, yes, but mostly I cried because it makes me so incredibly sad to see my son go through all these physical hurts. 

But as I sat there, God softly spoke into my hurting heart…and He reminded me of those words that He had given me two hours earlier.  God gave me words I needed before I knew just how much I would soon need them.

Yes, my heart is so tender when I think of Aaron and all the years of his physical suffering.  But God really does take that mama hurt I feel and uses it to show me how to toughly trust in Him.

I have to be tough for Aaron, and really, I can only do that because of my trust in God.  Sometimes that sort of trust doesn’t come naturally.  It would be more natural for me to be mad at God for letting this happen to Aaron, over and over and over. 

But I know my heavenly Father, and I know that He has reasons far beyond what I will ever know on this earth for why He lets Aaron suffer. 

It’s a tough place for me to be and it calls for a tough trust.  If my life was only smooth and simple, no tough trust would be needed.  But then I would not know God as deeply.  I would not experience His peace and comfort.  My faith would stay simple and small. 

A verse also came to my mind as I sat there thinking of all these matters.  I want to leave that verse with you…that simple but profound word from God. 

There it is again…trust.  Even when it’s tough.

ESPECIALLY when it’s tough.

Listen Carefully

I was on our patio the other morning, enjoying the cool air and stillness before I had to start another busy day.  It’s nice to see and to hear squirrels rustling through the branches of nearby trees, or to hear the sweet chirps of our many cardinals, or the whir of a hummingbird’s wings.

But soon, way up in the top of our huge oak tree, came the loud squawking of a Blue Jay. 

His voice soon overtook all the others.  I had to make myself listen carefully in order to hear the quieter, more pleasant birds that were still there but were being drowned out by the shrill voice of that Blue Jay. 

What a picture of my life lately!  Satan knows exactly when to yell in my ear, reminding me more of what I don’t have than what I do have.  He knows when I am vulnerable…when I am more susceptible to letting him drown out God’s voice.

It’s easy to cave and listen only to his discouraging yells…to let him make me question God’s past leading in our lives.

“Are you sure it was God’s will for you to move here?”

“Too bad you can’t re-do some of your parenting.”

“Look at what they have that you don’t have.”

“Well, that hasn’t turned out like you thought it would.”

I’ve had to make myself stop hearing that very loud voice and instead focus on God’s quieter voice, just like Elijah did.  Elijah, in I Kings 19, was just coming off the high of tremendous victory.  He ended up physically and emotionally drained…vulnerable to Satan’s attacks of discouragement and depression. 

He ended up in a cave, where God told him to stand on a nearby mountain.  “And behold, the Lord was passing by!”

First there was a strong wind, but the Lord was not in the wind. 

Then an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.

A fire was next, but still the Lord was not in the fire.

Finally, there was the sound of a gentle blowing…a low whisper. 

And God spoke to Elijah in that soft whisper of a faint breeze. 

Over the past couple weeks, I have had to make myself NOT listen to the loud voices of doubt and questioning.  I have had to discipline my thoughts to remember the past leading of God.

I was trusting God in the past, and He led me…He led us…to where we are.  Why doubt Him now?

Did I trust Him then?  Then how can I doubt Him now?

It’s a conscious choice I must make.  Do I let the loud voice of doubt crowd out the small yet firm voice of God?

At the end of the day, may I choose to listen carefully to the right voice in my heart and not the loudest.

         “My sheep hear My voice…”

My Times, Your Hand

One evening last week, I looked outside and saw a beautiful red glow on the horizon.  However, my view was hindered by trees.  Knowing there was more to this scene than I could see from my vantage point, I quietly snuck out of the house…so I could drive alone without Aaron…and headed west to see what I would find. 

It was hard to keep my eyes on the road as I drove past trees and power poles.  The sky was so beautiful that I wanted to only gaze on it.  Finally, a few miles away, I found the spot I sought.  Flat…open…unimpeded by trees or poles – there it was.  The perfect view.

Oh my!!  What a stunning sunset it was!

I’ve looked at this picture a lot and done some thinking about the path of life upon which God has placed me.  How much do I trust God’s decisions about me and my life?

I don’t know about you, but I tend to feel more trust in God during the harder and often unexpected situations of life…those times when I’m suddenly the recipient of bad news and I’m thrown into God’s arms. 

But it’s the daily disappointments…that drip, drip, drip of stress…that can really bog me down.  The dailiness of life’s burdens can hinder my view of God’s path and His purposes for me much as the trees hampered by full view of this gorgeous sunset.

Saturday morning, for instance, Aaron stood by Gary’s desk chair. 

“Dad?” he said, “my mouth is broken.”

I smiled from the other room at Aaron’s phrasing – and I know that Gary was secretly doing the same.

Aaron thought he had burned his mouth, but in looking at it we both knew that these were not burns.  He had a rash.  The next day, Mother’s Day, I took Aaron to Med Express to have it checked.  It was quite painful, and he was having trouble eating.

Gary offered to take Aaron, bless him, but I wanted to do it since I always take Aaron to his doctor visits.  So, here I was, on Mother’s Day…at the doctor with Aaron.  It was a bit of a downer, honestly…not the way that I envisioned my Mother’s Day. 

See what I mean?  A small example of a small thing that can play upon my heart to bring discouragement, self-pity, and then lead to multiple other thoughts of how this and this and this did not turn out the way I wanted…

And my path’s view of God’s goodness is lost in the jumble of negative thoughts and emotions.

God gave me what I needed this morning, as He always does!

In Luke 13:31, the Pharisees reminded Jesus that Herod wanted to kill Him.  Jesus responded to them that He would continue the journey that God had for Him, and that when the time was right then He would perish. 

In other words, Jesus was declaring the truth of Psalm 31:15.  My times are in Your hand!  Jesus was standing in the unfailing sovereignty of God.

When David in Psalm 31 speaks of times, “…he doesn’t mean merely his life-span but all the kaleidoscope of circumstances that meet him left and right.”  (Dale Davis)

Oh, those multi-colored burdens that pile on day after day!  The unresolved issues and concerns that grow larger on a special day like Mother’s Day can cloud my view of God’s path for me. 

Last night, very uncharacteristically, Aaron suddenly said, “Mom, I’m glad you cared for me and took me to the doctor.”

I was pretty much stopped in my tracks by that!  And so overwhelmed with thankfulness that our “downer” doctor visit prompted in Aaron such a response.

Oh God, may I too look at You and be thankful for your care of me in the rough spots of life.  May I look fully at the path you have me upon and see the beauty amid the stresses.  May I not miss the opportunity to give You thanks for being for me all that I need, and not just giving me all that I want.

For it is in my need that I most fully see Your beauty on the road of life.

What Does It Profit?

I have a story to share.  It’s a true story that has impacted my husband and I greatly over the past few years.  I trust it will do the same for you.

Years ago, we met a woman who should have been a part of my husband’s life for all of his life but was not – through no fault of either of them.  That all changed a couple years ago.  I will call her Mary. 

Mary had lived a difficult life before we ever knew her.  Many of her problems were due to her own bad decisions, we came to learn.  But in recent years, Mary came to know Christ personally.  As her faith grew, her life changed.  The consequences of her past decisions could not be erased but her life took on new meaning, new purpose, and was full of new peace.

Our lives became more personally entwined with Mary’s due to the death of a dad and later the death of his wife.  What was to have been Mary’s from the estate was wrongfully taken away.  Mary, now suffering from metastatic breast cancer and still trying to work to make ends meet, was devastated.

Gary and I, though, did what we could to encourage Mary from a distance.  However, we watched with grateful amazement as she turned to the One Who really loved her the most and from Whom she gained the greatest strength. 

Her conversations with us centered on that relationship with God that was growing in her life through her extreme difficulties, her hurt, and her declining health.  Mary turned her back on being bitter and instead turned her heart to God’s forgiveness of her, and thus her forgiveness of those who had done so much wrong in her life.  She had counted on some earthly financial help to come her way but when it did not, she learned the value of counting on God instead…and from that experience, she grew so much.

On what was to be her last holiday season on earth, Mary sent us this message.  I will simply let you read her exact words:

“I’m at the cancer clinic right now getting my blood drawn and waiting to see my oncologist for my usual follow up. On the way here this morning I passed the mall and stores with their crowded parking lots full of Black Friday shoppers. It really caused me to think about what’s most important in this life. It’s God, our Salvation, family and friends. Even if I never ever had another present under the Christmas tree, it wouldn’t matter. Because I’ve already been so richly blessed, and you all are a part of that blessing!  I have so much to be grateful for.”

We commented to her about how thankful we were to have been given the opportunity to know her better over the previous months.  Our relationship probably would not have happened had it not been for the wrong that was done.  But we were sorry for her advancing cancer and for her hardships.  Again, Mary’s words:

“That’s one of the many good things that’s come out of a bad situation. My cancer journey has brought me into a much closer and deeper walk with God, which I am grateful for.

It’s strengthened my faith, and brought about peace, joy, and a sense of assurance, much stronger than I had before. It’s had a positive impact on all areas of my life. It’s truly amazing how our God moves and works His will in our lives.”

What a beautiful example she was of how God makes beauty from ashes!  Her testimony continued to shine with us until her death seven months later. 

Another person recently died, too…a person who was largely responsible for the wrong done in Mary’s life.  He had everything of earthly value that anyone could want, some not rightfully his, but when I think of him, I think of what Jesus said:

“What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his own soul?”

A real-life lesson from two people who made choices, one choosing the narrow path and one the wide. 

Two lives…two choices…two eternities.

Which one are you, my friend?