It’s been one of those mornings. You know……..one of THOSE mornings. I went to bed bothered by worrisome issues that I should not go to bed being bothered by……….those worrisome issues. Can’t end that sentence in a preposition. 🙂 I went to my new location in Andrea’s old room that I’ve set up for myself……..a new desk and an alone place to have my quiet time. The new location didn’t seem to help. I felt stifled and ineffective in my time with the Lord this morning. Distracted…….and thinking that I needed to dodge my prayers that were bouncing off the ceiling, going no where. Is Satan unhappy about my desire for a more intimate time with the Lord? Perhaps.
Later, I looked at the weather forecast and the upcoming week of temps above 100 and no rain only increased my weariness. Our scratchy dog with allergies; laundry waiting to be washed or put away; dishes to take care of; even a Supreme Court ruling and an election in Egypt that I don’t agree with were piling up in my mind. Talk about taking on the cares of the world. Come on, Patty. This is really ridiculous!
After my shower, I heard good old Aaron in the hall. “Mom?” I told him that I would be out in a minute. I could tell that I would have very little patience with him today………shame on me. He thumped downstairs to take his pills and thumped back up to see if we could now talk. I again told him to wait……….and when I did open my door, he was in his room and promptly told me to come look at his finger. He held it up for me as I walked in, and there it was………….his index finger, all wrapped up in a bloody band-aid.
My patience was even less now. “Mom, last night I had some loose skin and so I used my knife to cut it off.” Oh Aaron. We’ve heard this story before and I knew what was coming………..and it did. He wanted to know if he should have used his little pocket knife to cut off the skin; why not?; what would I use?; that he couldn’t help it that the knife slipped, etc., and etc. I removed the band-aid and saw the raw wound where he had cut or pulled off his loose skin. I could feel my irritation increasing. I told him to go shower…………his whole body, by the way, not just his finger! I know how he thinks.
Aaron showered and then came to my bathroom, where I further cleaned and medicated and dressed his wound. He could sense my mood and so he scurried on downstairs, deciding to get his own coffee and carry it to his room himself without bothering his moody mom. Soon I heard, “Mom, I spilled some coffee but I’ll clean it up.” Oh goodness, Aaron! Where did you spill coffee? “On the stairs. I’ll clean it up!” No, Aaron…….I’ll get it. All the while, I was muttering under my breath about how this is the last thing I needed and why did he have to carry the coffee up himself when he’s so shaky and of all mornings…………
Then I saw the spill, which looked more like a gushing of coffee. It was splattered on several stairs, but one stair in particular was soaked with coffee. Oh Aaron! Look at this mess! Next I saw coffee on the living room floor, so got the Swiffer and mopped that section. I headed for the soppy stairs, with Aaron saying, “I’ll clean it up, Mom!” But I grabbed towels and began the clean-up, while Aaron then said, “Here, I’ll help.” He proceeded to carry a wad of paper towels from the kitchen into the living room and instead of heading for the stairs where I was, he started wiping off the piano. WHAT??!! Sure enough, some coffee had splattered onto the piano and Aaron was working to clean up the brown spots…………….while he stood on the still-wet floor. I went from unhappy to unhappier, all the while muttering about how my nerves couldn’t take much more and of all mornings and please, Aaron, don’t talk right now………..
I continued my shallow thinking as I realized that I would indeed have a bad hair day, no matter what I did to try to improve the mess on my head. The clothes I chose to wear today didn’t help any, nor did the sandals. No time to change all that now. Of all days for me to have a doctor appointment, I moaned to myself. Little annoyances for the remainder of the morning reminded me of my misery. Aaron and I hurried out the door, stopping at the grocery store on our way to meet his group. I had promised him a Cheddar Pasta Salad to take to his group. Of all mornings to need to leave early, I grumbled.
At the deli counter, as we waited to be served, Aaron began to notice all the dishes. He leaned over and oohed and aahed over the Deviled Egg Potato Salad, The Layered Salad, the Fruit Salad, the German sandwiches, the Spaghetti Salad…………and his joy over simple food began to silence my distasteful attitude. He had moved beyond spilled coffee, bad hair, wounded finger, scratchy dog, and hot temps. He noticed the good things before him. As we walked out with not only his Cheddar Pasta Salad, but also a bottle of flavored water and some Skittles, he chattered happily about anything and everything. If I wasn’t listening, I would have missed his observation that the entrance sidewalk at the Warren Theater is, in his words, “…….twinkle stone. Does it have jewelry in it, Mom?”
I had to pause in my heart and smile. As we drove to meet his group, I told him that I was sorry about my attitude that morning. He didn’t say a word, but I know he filed that apology in his mind. I needed to say it and he needed to hear it from his grouchy mother this morning. Later, at Sassy Nails, I sat across from a stranger – another mom – while our toes dried. We talked and she shared how her sister had died of cancer, and how through it all she had blessings to be thankful for. This woman, this mom, this sister, had no idea about how much I needed to hear those words. How easy it is to let the slight troubles of my life ruin my disposition and take my mind off the Lord!
So I have counted my blessings for the rest of the day:
1. The spilled coffee matches the carpet, especially in the dim light.
2. A coffee smell on the stairs beats a dog smell any day.
3. The living room needed to be mopped anyway.
4. My new pink toes hopefully took the doctor’s eyes away from my bad hair.
5. I do have hair.
6. It may be 107 degrees outside, but we have working AC inside.
7. It may be 107 degrees outside, but I don’t have to be outside working.
8. It may be 107 degrees outside, but we have water for our thirsty garden.
9. Our neighbors have to move for various hard reasons, and the man taking pics of their house this morning wasn’t taking pics of our house.
10. I have a faithful God; loving husband and children; and Aaron to remind me of what’s important.
And I have forgiveness – God’s forgiveness – and even Aaron’s forgiveness……..unspoken but there none the less.
Today on the radio I heard David Jeremiah talking about those times that we come to God with such heavy hearts that we don’t really even know what to say, and so we just ask Him to speak to us in a special way. I guess hearing him say that has caused me to think today about one of the most meaningful times that I did just that.
In May of 2000, my dad was diagnosed with lung cancer. He went through months of grueling chemotherapy and radiation, and was doing very well. After four years we were all resting easier about his condition, praising God for His healing hand on Dad.
I’ll never forget the day in early November of 2004 when our phone rang. It was my mom and dad calling me from West Virginia. Some routine blood work that had been done a few weeks earlier had shown that some of his levels weren’t quite right. On the phone that day, he and mom broke the news to me that a liver scan had shown that Dad had liver cancer. It was inoperable, but chemo was once again an option. However, we knew that this was very serious and possibly terminal.
None of our family was expecting this news. We were all devastated, of course, and so sad on many levels. The next morning after receiving this awful news, I sat at the table with my coffee and my Bible. I was trying to find the motivation to work on a Bible study I was doing, but my heart wasn’t in that. Finally, I just called out to God and said, “Oh God, You know that I am so sad and so hurt over Dad. Please, Lord, I need to hear from You right now. Please speak to me.”
I opened my Bible randomly. I had nothing marked, nothing stuck in the pages of my Bible that would have caused it to open where it did. I looked down to where I had opened it and saw Psalm 46. This was a special Psalm to my extended family. Verse one says, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” Beside that verse I had written, “‘Dad, cancer: 2000.” Then verse 10 is my mother’s verse: “Be still and know that I am God.” I had her name written beside that verse.
It was a very special time of worship for me that morning. I said, “Oh, thank you Lord, for reminding me of Who You were to all of us during Dad’s cancer in 2000 and of Who You still are today!” And so I added the date of 2004 to that verse as a reminder of this wonderful word once again from God.
It was a Friday morning and I knew that back in West Virginia, Dad was at the Men’s Prayer Breakfast that he always attended. That meant that Mom would be alone, and so she and I could really talk. I called her and for a few minutes we talked and cried together. Then I said, “Mom, God did the most amazing thing this morning. I asked Him to speak to me and so I opened my Bible……………” But Mom interrupted me before I could say anything else.
She said, “Wait! Don’t tell me! Was it Psalm 46?”
And I replied, “Well, yes, but how did you know that?”
And she said, “Yesterday when we got home from the doctor, your dad went back into the bedroom and stayed there a long time. When he came out I asked what he was doing, and he told me that he was reading Psalm 46.”
Oh wow! God was reaching down to us, so many miles apart, and showing us that He was there…….that He was aware of our need and of our hurt……..that He hadn’t forgotten us…………..that He truly was a PRESENT help in our trouble.
God gave us four more wonderful years with Dad. We would often say to each other, “Remember Psalm 46!”
What a faithful and awesome God we serve!
I’ve been observing the large pine tree way out back for some time now. Months, really. I look at it out of the kitchen window when I’m at the sink; stare at it while I’m watering flowers out back; glance at it when I pass an upstairs window. Now I know that my first inclinations were true. Our huge pine tree does indeed have Pine Wilt. At first there were only a few brown needles that started presenting themselves among the pretty evergreen. Pines sometimes do that and so there was no reason to overreact. It’s just that our history here has taught us that this might spell trouble. In the 12 years that we’ve lived at this house, we’ve cut close to 40 pine trees because of Pine Wilt. Some were small trees that were crowded into our back tree line and haven’t been missed. Others, like this current pine, are huge and beautiful and leave a hole when they are gone.
It’s amazing how Pine Wilt occurs. It’s a disease that’s caused by a small nematode laid by a beetle. This nematode buries itself into the trunk and limbs of the pine tree and begins to eat away at the heart of the wood. No one can see the nematode so there is no way to observe it doing its dirty work inside the tree. A few brown needles begin to appear but sometimes even then we’re not fully sure of the danger within. Some trees continue to live and seemingly thrive despite a few brown patches. However, one day we notice a distinct difference in the tree as the brown begins to overtake the branches rapidly. By the time this occurs, the end has already come and the tree needs to be cut. Actually, when the nematode is deposited inside the tree it spells the end of the tree because there is no way to be rid of this destroyer. The outward evidence only demonstrates the death that has been inside the tree for many months.
I know that in my walk with the Lord for these many years there are nematodes of various sorts that are deposited in my soul if I am not careful. How easy it is to let down my guard during the busy days of this life; during the stresses of living in this world; during the peaceful, carefree days. I may feel that I have a handle on spiritual issues and don’t need to spend so much time with the Lord in prayer and Bible study. Stress can create all sorts of dangers that eat away at my inner being. Worry, fear of the unknown, bitterness towards those who have hurt me, anger at others or at God for my lot in life – the list goes on and on. Even such disagreeable but unseen “smaller” nematodes can eat away at my effectiveness and joy. How often do I envy someone else’s house, figure, or bank account? How many hours do I spend worrying about my children instead of praying? We all have issues that can eat away at our core and make us brittle, unhappy believers. And sooner or later those inner eaters of our joy will start showing outwardly. The brown and ugly attitudes will overtake the pretty green of growing in grace. Our lack of joy and peace and other fruits of the Spirit will be evident to all. Through God’s grace it’s not too late for any of us to say along with David in Psalm 139:23 – “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any wicked way in me; and lead me in the everlasting way.” I don’t want to turn brown and useless. I want to, with God’s grace and strength, let His hand rid me of the inner destroyers of my life and testimony. I want to be evergreen and full of life for His glory!
Gary and I appreciate how our neighborhood association has a designated clean-up weekend twice a year. The association rents a huge dumpster and puts it in a field that’s just around our circle from us. It’s the perfect time for us to unload any large unwanted items that are allowed in the dumpster. Our big goal, though, is to cut and trim many of our branches, bushes, and trees that have gotten out-of-hand or have died. This last clean-up time a couple weekends ago was no exception. The weather was perfect in every way for Gary and I to head outside and begin our chopping and sawing. It wasn’t long before the piles were growing all over our couple acres. It was time for the dying cherry tree to go, as well as an old long-dead spruce. Our huge Crepe Myrtles needed to be cut down low, and the violet bush badly needed some work. Off came the bottom branches of our evergreen that we lovingly call our Gumdrop Tree as we try to save it for one more year of Christmas lights. And there were many, many other branches and limbs and parts of trees that needed to be sawed down and disposed of.
We used to use Andrew’s old truck for these days but now that he’s off to college we pile the mounds into Gary’s truck. What a blessing to have this means of hauling all that mess down to the dumpster! We drag and lift and load over and over again. It’s amazing how many loads we haul away! The truck is filled as full as it can be with each trip, that’s for sure. Gary has it down to a fine art of how to load the truck and it works very well. We pile it high, and then Gary uses a rope to tie it down before he drives off around the circle to unload. I either ride down with him to help unload, or I stay back at the house to do other things until he returns. One thing I’ve never done is to run along behind him, yelling for him to stop so that I can take some of the load off and carry it myself; or telling him that I need to rearrange the load; or offering to ride on top of the load to help hold it down. No, that would be silly! The truck is able to carry the load perfectly and the rope holds it secure. I have every confidence in the ability of Gary’s truck to do the job and do it well.
As we loaded Gary’s truck, I was reminded of what I had read in Isaiah 46 recently. God began that chapter by talking about how the Babylonians would load their false gods onto donkeys when they were being attacked. However, soon both the donkeys and the false gods were taken into captivity. Neither was able to help the other. Then in verses 3 and 4 God reminded Israel: “…….you have been borne by me from birth and have been carried from the womb; Even to your old age I shall be the same, and even to your graying years I shall bear you! I have done it, and I shall carry you! And I shall bear you and I shall deliver you!” What an amazing promise that is true for believers today as well! It’s true for me and for you! God will be the same for our entire lives, from birth til death. He desires to bear me and to deliver me! He wants to carry my loads and bear my burdens! Just as I could trust Gary’s truck to carry the weight and the amount of our limbs and branches, so I can trust God to carry all the weight and the amount of my troubles and my burdens.
Peter said in I Peter 5:7: “Casting all your cares upon Him, because He cares for you.” This carries the idea of throwing my cares upon God. Just as I threw those branches and limbs on the truck, so I can throw my cares upon God. And just as silly as it would be for me to chase Gary around the circle and try to carry the limbs myself, so it’s silly for me to throw my cares upon God but then try to take them back. Yet that’s exactly what I’m doing every time I pray but still worry and stew over my problems. Why is it so hard to just leave my burdens on the God Who WANTS to bear them for me? Why do I think that by losing sleep, or talking and talking about my issues, or continuing to try to solve my problems myself, or reading the next self-help book – that I can in any way accomplish any more than the donkeys and the false gods did in Isaiah’s time? Oh God, may I throw my worries and hurts and fears and pain upon You, fully upon You, and allow You to bear them and to carry me and deliver me!
Just like Gary’s good old truck!
Aaron is now 27 years old. I know that he is a man, a grown man, and that fact is very hard to imagine. 28 years ago Gary and I were anxiously awaiting the birth of our first child. I had made all the yellow gingham nursery curtains, bumper pads, changing table covers, and decorated with yellow, fluffy duck decorations. Everything was as I wanted it. And even though I went into labor 3 weeks early and Gary had just changed out of his flight suit when he rushed me to the hospital, we were really ready – for the most part – or so we thought. What new parents can ever be really ready for the responsibility that awaits them? And what new parents can ever comprehend the depth of love that washes over you when you first hold that little part of both of you? Aaron was so little and perfect and beautiful. And my radar screen was still showing sunny weather with not a storm in sight.
When Aaron had his first seizure and was diagnosed with Epilepsy, and then years later was diagnosed with Autism, we were completely unprepared. We never, ever expected such a thing to happen to us. To someone else, yes. Someone we would read about in a magazine, or hear about from a friend, or receive a prayer request for at church. The reality of this event in our lives with our Aaron was just so unexpected and unwelcome. And as I said earlier, when I got home from the hospital after his Epilepsy diagnosis, I cried my heart out with tears for Aaron, for us, and with pleas to God for His grace and strength.
I had a choice to make and I chose to focus on what I KNOW. And what I know is that God is sovereign. God is in control and none of these events surprised Him or confused Him. God loves me and God loves Gary, and God certainly loves Aaron. I cannot and will not ever try to explain the ways of God. There is no unfairness with God, I do know that. So instead of wasting time and energy trying to explain the why of our situation, my choice was to trust the Who in our lives. And that would be God. I know from my walk with Him for all these years and from reading His Word, Who He is. I know that His sovereign plan is best even when He doesn’t choose to reveal it all to me. I trust Him and I love Him and I have found Him always faithful. Those things I know.
While in Leavenworth, God gave me Psalm 18:29: “For by You I can run upon a troop; And by my God I can leap over a wall.” I just love this verse! It’s my theme verse in so many ways. Oh, the walls that I’ve run into in our life with Aaron! I’ve shared many of them in the past few posts. So many times I’ve run into walls, beat my head against walls, beat my fists on the walls, tried to climb walls with my own strength – but by my God, I can LEAP over the walls. What a promise, fulfilled in so many different ways in so many different situations. So I also know that with God, I’m a wall leaper!
But there are also some things I feel, and feel deeply. These feelings come from within my mother heart. I think of my heart as having various doors that open when needed. Doors of love, of wisdom, of encouragement, of laughter, and on and on. But there is a door that I rarely open because it is too painful. That is the door of my regrets and wishes for Aaron. I do not live in regret or in unfulfilled wishes for Aaron, but occasionally those thoughts slip in or that reality hits me in my heart. Once after Aaron started going to the job skills school, he came home one day and said, “Mom, I’ve noticed something. All the kids at that school have problems. What are my problems?” I struggled not to cry as I tried to talk to him about Epilepsy and Autism. He was satisfied and seemingly unconcerned, but I knew he was pondering these issues very personally now. And it broke my heart. I remember when Andrew got his license and later came home with his used truck. We had purposely not made this a big deal because Aaron was often jealous of Andrew’s life. But Aaron looked outside and saw the truck, so he asked if that was Andrew’s. I said yes and Aaron said, “I wish I could drive.” Little glimpses like that into his heart made that door of my heart start coming open. There are times for tears, but not time to wonder about what could have been or might have been. Living in defeat is not God’s plan for me or for Aaron.
And there are so many reasons to be thankful. Gary led Aaron to the Lord when he was 6 years old. Aaron has that understanding. He can walk, and run, and see, and talk (can he ever!). Things could be so much worse. He can read and understand, and even though he can be sooooooo irritating sometimes, he also makes us laugh – a lot!
In closing I want to post a piece that has always spoken deeply to me and I hope it will to you, as well.