Grit And Glory

I hopped out of my van as I ran some errands a few days ago.  Well, hopped may be a stretch.  More like I stepped out of my van, in all honesty.

I had noticed this beautiful sky and being as I love taking sky pictures, I paused to snap a quick shot. 

I knew, though, that it probably wouldn’t be the best view because of the surroundings. 

“Nah,” I thought as I looked at the picture on my phone.  “It’s too cluttered with ugliness.”

I almost deleted it then and there but decided to look at it later and decide.

As I thought about that picture, and as I looked at it on my computer, the view reminded me of some things.

Those “not-so-pretty” poles and buildings and store sign are a lot like our lives.  I can say “our” because we all know that every person on the planet has a life that gets cluttered with “stuff.”

We wish our view could be like this picture that I took this week as well.

How gorgeous!  How impressive! 

But life isn’t picture perfect for any of us.  Life is full of grit.

Some of the hardships we handle are private.  We don’t want anyone to know about them, either because of pride or because we don’t want to bother others with our “stuff.”

Other areas of life are there for all to see.  We might try to hide our issues, or not talk about them, or hope that they’re not obvious.  But at times the junk is out there and noticeable and we are humiliated.

Whatever is going on in our lives, though, that messes up the beauty doesn’t need to consume our vision.

It is up to me to choose my focus.

And so it is with our lives.  On what am I focusing?

Better yet, on WHOM am I focusing?

            “For my eyes are toward You, O God, the Lord;

            In You I take refuge…”   (Psalm 141:8)

Oh, may we all learn to shift our eyes from our problems, our pain, our hurts, our struggles…and instead focus toward God, our refuge.

God’s character never changes even as our situations do.  His beauty is still there.

Turn from our grit to His glory.

            “My eyes are continually toward the Lord…”   (Psalm 25:15)

We Need a Little Christmas?

My spirit was heavy yesterday as I went about my getting-ready-for-the-day routine.  Fresh on my mind was the night before.  Most of the day before, actually. 

Aaron.  Anger because we said no to a game.  His hovering presence as he told me not to write his name on our Christmas cards.  Escalation from him and then finally from us. 

Guilt.  Regret.  Failure.

There, in the heaviness, one of my very favorite Christmas songs came on Pandora. 

Haul out

The holly

Put up the tree

Before my spirit

Falls again

Fill up

The stocking

I may be

Rushing things

But

Deck the halls

Again now.

I’ve loved that song since I was a child.  Back then, life was simpler.  Now, putting up a tree does not really keep my spirit from falling.

The day before, Aaron and I found out that one of our dear Meals on Wheels clients had suddenly died.  His dog, Buster, was Aaron’s favorite.  As we sat in the van, talking to the man’s daughter on the phone, Aaron was as shocked as I.  He bent over and put the two dog bones he was going to give Buster back in the box.  The look on his face broke my heart.

But Santa, dear

We’re in a hurry

So climb

Down the chimney

Turn on

The brightest

String of light

I’ve ever seen

Slice up

The fruitcake

It’s time

We hung

Some tinsel

On that

Evergreen bough.

The trappings of Christmas just aren’t cutting it right now. 

Santa…lights…tinsel…definitely not fruitcake!

Not for me…not for my friend just diagnosed with breast cancer…not for our friends just home with their Speedy from yet another hospital stay…

For we need

A little music

Need

A little laughter

Need

A little singing

Ringing through

The rafter

And we need

A little snappy

“Happy ever after”

Need a little

Christmas now.

A little snappy “happy every after” is not what our friends at the funeral home needed to hear from us the other evening as they deeply grieve their son who took his life. 

The next song began playing.

O little town of Bethlehem

How still we see thee lie

Above thy deep and dreamless sleep

The silent stars go by

Yet in they dark streets shineth

The everlasting light

The hopes and fears of all the years

Are met in thee tonight

Oh holy child of Bethlehem

Descend to us we pray

Cast out our sins and enter in

Be born to us today.

Certainly not a peppy, fun song.

But there is the real light that we need!  Our hopes and our fears…our pain and sadness…our disappointments…

All are met in Him! 

Jesus came to be our Savior, not to be the afterthought of all our Christmas decorations and gifts and food.

O morning stars together

Proclaim thy holy birth

And praises sing to God the King

And peace to men on earth

O hear thy sacred angels

As faith holds wide the door

Then darkness wakes, the glory breaks

As Christmas comes once more.

Jesus was born to be the answer to all of life’s hurts…hurts that can’t be ignored even at this special time of year. 

No amount of fevered activity can relieve our sorrows.

We can’t manufacture a festive answer that truly lasts.  What are we left with when the lights are taken down…the food is eaten…the gifts are opened?

We’re left either with a hollow void waiting to be filled again with our feeble attempts at happiness.

Or we’re left with Jesus.

HE is the light of the world.  He wants to be your Savior. 

Jesus has the answers that truly last amid life’s struggles.

Thank God for His unspeakable gift, the only gift we really need. 

The Sudden Dark Clouds

The other morning, I looked out my favorite upstairs window and saw this very pretty sky.  The puffy clouds and the sunshine reminded me of summer.

Not long after, however, I noticed from another room that it seemed darker outside.  I went back to the window and was shocked at what I saw.

Whoa!  In such a short time the scene had totally changed.  We went from bright and happy to dark and foreboding very quickly as a cold front began blowing in.

I have had those sudden dark times in my life. 

That Sunday years ago when our normal day turned into terror as Aaron lay on our kitchen floor, seizing violently.  The blur of a frantic call to the medical clinic…the ambulance…the German children’s hospital.  The stabs of deep fear mixed with the frustration of the language barrier and the culture that was in many ways unfamiliar. 

We went from worshipping God at church that morning to being blind-sided by a situation that we were totally unprepared for.

But let me tell you that Psalm 18:28 is true!

            “The Lord my God illumines my darkness.”

He was there with us in that foreign hospital room, during all the tests, and the diagnosis…and He has not stopped walking with us on this road of special needs.

My prayer list keeps getting longer with names of so many who are hurting and struggling through various sudden changes.

Gary’s cousin, now a much-too-young widower whose precious wife collapsed and was gone.

A friend’s daughter…a young wife and mother…fighting cancer.

A cousin and a friend recently widowed.

Jobs ended.

Marriages over.

Cancer returning.

Listen to what else David says in Psalm 27:1:

            “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?”

God brightens the unknown!

His light shines brightest in the dark.

His character positively glows in our deepest hurts and with our tear-stained cheeks.

And we have no reason to fear because He is fighting for us.  Psalm 27:1 continues:

            “The Lord is the defense of my life; whom shall I dread?”

I love the song, Blessings, by Laura Story.  Read the lyrics:

We pray for blessings, we pray for peace

Comfort for family, protection while we sleep

We pray for healing, for prosperity

We pray for Your mighty hand

To ease our suffering

And all the while, You hear each spoken need

Yet love us way too much to give us lesser things.

‘Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops?

What if Your healing comes through tears?

What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near?

And what if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise?

We pray for wisdom, Your voice to hear

And we cry in anger when we cannot feel You near

We doubt Your goodness, we doubt Your love

As if every promise from Your word is not enough

And all the while, You hear each desperate plea

And long that we’d have faith to believe.

‘Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops?

What if Your healing comes through tears?

And what if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near?

And what if trials of this life

Are Your mercies in disguise?

I saw this beautiful scene a short time later, after the scary dark clouds had gone away, and I was reminded that God is still our light and our salvation.

Don’t fear, dear ones.  God is still there in the clouds, and He WILL illumine your darkness with His sweet presence.

To Tim and Alicia

Tim, our hearts are across the country with you and the family today as you celebrate Alicia’s life.  We are with you…with Bryson, Brayden, and Willow Grace…as you honor your amazing wife and mother.

I wish I had all the answers for you and the children about why God took Alicia so suddenly and so soon.  Of course, I don’t.  No one on this earth does. 

Only God.

I wish I could take away your pain and deep grief.  Of course, I can’t.

Only God.

What I do know is that God is with you.  I know you know that, too.  You may not always feel it right now, but you know it.

I thought of you this week as I read Genesis 46, about Jacob traveling down to Egypt to see the son whom he thought was long ago dead.

Jacob was settled in Israel, content there, and old.

Israel was the land God had promised to him and his descendants.

But now Jacob was faced with the inevitable…traveling down to Egypt to see Joseph. 

Egypt. 

Egypt was the enemy.  Egypt was a place of fear…unfamiliarity…full of danger and totally distasteful to Jacob.

But God told Jacob, “I am God, the God of your father; do not be afraid to go down to Egypt…”

And God continued, “I will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also surely bring you up again…”

Tim, as the dust settles, and your life continues…but without Alicia…I pray that you and the children will know that God has gone down with you to this Egypt.

“Where can I go from Your Spirit?  Or where can I flee from Your presence?

If I ascend to heaven, You are there.  If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.

If I take the wings of the dawn, If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,

Even there Your hand will lead me, and Your right hand will lay hold of me.

If I say, surely the darkness will overwhelm me, and the light around me will be night,

Even the darkness is not dark to You, and the night is as bright as the day.

Darkness and light are alike to You.”   (Psalm 139: 7-12)

Tim, God is with you and the children in this Egypt.  And just like He promised Jacob, He will bring you up again. 

God will heal your hurt.

God will comfort your deepest sorrow.

God will walk with you each step of this very hard road.

God understands the question, “Why?!” 

Alicia, last week Tim messaged me and said that more than once you said you would love to have met me. 

Let me tell you, that I have always wished for that as well…and never more so than now after reading the multitude of posts about how many lives you touched.

Tim said you were the kindest lady he had ever known and that he was blessed to have been loved by you.

I have seen this week that this is the lifelong impact you have had on many lives as a wife, mother, sister, friend, and a brand new RN. 

And especially as a follower of Christ, your kindness and love will live on in the hearts and lives of so many people. 

Death has not…and will not…dull your testimony.

In fact, I do believe that God will use this as the means to show us all how very important it is to know Jesus personally…to shine brightly for Him…and to always be ready to meet Him.

Speaking of meeting, you and I WILL meet one day…of that I am very certain.  I look forward to that day in heaven when I do finally get to give you a big hug and to thank you for the impact you have had on my life even from afar.

Tim, Bryson, Brayden, and Willow Grace – you are covered in our prayers.

May you, as time goes on, be able to say with Jacob, “God answered me in the day of my distress and has been with me wherever I have gone.” 

We love you.

I Can’t Wait!

Waiting patiently for anything is not a strong suit of Aaron’s.  Whether he is waiting for me to get off the phone or waiting on a huge surprise, it doesn’t matter.  Patient waiting is a foreign concept to him.

This is why we often don’t tell Aaron of an upcoming event until shortly before it actually occurs.  Too bad he knows when his birthday is because he is in planning mode for months before the big day. 

Earlier this year, a big dinosaur exhibit was coming to town.  Gary and I decided to take Aaron and to make it a surprise, more for our sake than anything.  The big day came…tickets were bought…plans were in place…and finally I told Aaron that we were taking him on a surprise adventure. 

It wasn’t THAT long before we were leaving that I broke the exciting news to him, but oh my goodness!  I quickly realized that I should have waited until we were in the van and on our way before uttering a word about our surprise trip.

Aaron can hover better than any hummingbird or helicopter.  He hovered outside my door as I got ready.  He knocked and knocked on the door, asking if it was time to go yet.  He lingered outside the bathroom door as I dried my hair.  He stood right beside me as I brushed my teeth, asking questions and wanting me to answer even with a mouthful of toothpaste. 

“Aaron!!” I finally said, “quit being so impatient!!  Leave me alone and let me get ready.”

I enjoyed a few moments of blissful quiet…until he once again knocked loudly on my door.

“But MOM!!”  he exclaimed, “I don’t have anything to DO while I’m being impatient!!”

Let me say, I am so much like Aaron when God has me wait for something, especially something that I have prayed about for a long time.

Look at Isaac and Rebekah.  Isaac married Rebekah when he was 40 years old.  No children came, however, because Rebekah was barren.  In Genesis 25 we read that Isaac prayed on behalf of Rebekah and she conceived.

But guess how long it was before that happened?

20 years!

YEARS!!

Can you imagine the disappointment, over and over and over?

The sadness?

The comparing themselves to others who had HOW many children during the time that they waited…and waited…and waited on God to keep His promise.

As Dale Davis points out in God’s Rascal, The Jacob Narrative, Isaac’s non-chosen brother Ishmael had 12 sons.  What’s up with that?!

But Isaac didn’t just idly or impatiently wait.  We’re told that he prayed on behalf of his wife. 

The Hebrew term used there means that Isaac didn’t just pray FOR his wife.  It indicated that he prayed in front of her…in her presence.

I found Isaac’s action in prayer to not only be very encouraging but also very precious.  He led Rebekah and he joined her in her pain…in their pain…as they waited for God’s answer.

Sometimes things seem so hopeless.  We don’t see answers coming.  It’s so easy to lose heart, especially when we have prayed and prayed and prayed.

I love this verse.

Right now, Aaron is laying on our couch downstairs.  He had three seizures this morning.  He is almost 38 years old and has had seizures since he was 7 years old.

I look at him as he ages, and I see the effect of all these years of seizures…of the toll they have taken on his body and on his mental abilities. 

But I know that as much as I love Aaron, God loves him even more.  And God loves me. 

He loves us and He has a reason that I will probably never know on this earth for all that Aaron has suffered.

So, I cry out to God.

And I know that God’s inclination is to lean down and hear my cry. 

Isn’t that a precious picture?

He joins me in my pain and in my waiting.

Am I always patient as I wait on God?

No!

But unlike Aaron, there IS something I can do while I’m being impatient and that is to pray.

And to praise, as David continues in Psalm 40.  Sing a new song of praise, which will be a testimony to others.

After all, “How blessed is the man (or woman) who has made the Lord his trust.”  (Psalm 40:4)

Gotta run.  Aaron is awake now and is planning our evening already.  😊 

Under the Quilt

I heard Aaron’s first seizure at 12:38 this morning.  The second was at 2:37.  As I often say, Aaron would appreciate that I am using the precise time. 

Not long after 4:00 I heard him rustling.  It wasn’t a seizure.  I listened and knew that he was out of bed.  He went to the bathroom and then back to his room.  I heard his door close. 

I got up and went to his room, fairly sure of what I would find.  He had changed his pajamas and was getting ready to climb back into bed.

His sheets were wet.  Bed wetting seizures are common to Aaron. 

I had him sit in his desk chair as I changed his sheets.  He watched my every move, as he is not only bent on using precision with his time keeping but is also particular about his bedding being just right. 

I was thankful for waterproof mattress pads, and that we keep an extra one on hand.  Thankful for extra sheets and blankets, and for our washing machine and dryer.

There sat Aaron.  He was flicking his fingers together as he so often does now, more and more.  There was some dried blood on the corner of his mouth where he had bitten his tongue during his first seizure. 

He kept telling me that his head hurt.  He wondered if he would have to go to his day group. 

It always breaks my heart to see him like this.  Broke my heart, too, as I asked him if he would have slept on wet sheets if I hadn’t come in there.  He said yes because he didn’t want to wake us up. 

I told him he never ever had to sleep on wet sheets.

I was finally done with his bed.  It’s a stretch for Aaron to lay down under different covers than his usual ones.

“I want my Mario blanket,” he said as he looked at his bed all covered in a blanket not his own.

“But it’s wet,” I told him.  “Here, I’ll get you another blanket to use.”

I walked out into the hall and opened the linen cabinet.  I saw the quilt that we have had for many years and knew that the weight of it would be a comfort to Aaron.

As I carried it to his room and arranged it on his bed, I was thinking about the sweet memories of this quilt.  It was a wedding gift to me and Gary, made 44 years ago by the dear ladies at Needham’s Grove Baptist Church in Needham’s Grove, North Carolina.  My brother pastored there. The women in the church had gotten to know me while I was in Bible college not far away and would often visit on weekends.  

Finally, I was finished with Aaron’s bed.  He surveyed it as he stood up from his chair.  I smiled as he immediately pulled out some wrinkles in the quilt before he walked around to get back in bed.  He snuggled under the covers, and I pulled them up around his face, a soft smile of contentment visible on his lips. 

It wasn’t even 30 minutes later that I heard another seizure.  As I stood beside his bed, I looked at that special quilt again.  Each stitch was sewn by hand…hands of women who loved the Lord and loved to give. 

All those years ago, I had no idea what our life would hold.  We were dreamy-eyed newlyweds with our whole life before us. 

And now, under the quilt that we used to lay under, lay our special Aaron.  Never would I have imagined that we would still be caring for our 37-year-old son…that the quilt that covered us now covered Aaron.

I don’t know or understand the reason for any of it. 

But I do know my heavenly Father.

And I do know that He has stitched every little piece of my life and of Gary’s life and of Aaron’s life. 

God has stitched it in order to create a beautiful work.

Not an easy work.  And not the one I would have chosen if He had let me. 

But do I trust Him?

And if I do, at what point do I stop trusting?

I either fully trust God, or I don’t.

That means, that even through tears and disappointments and frustrations and exhaustion, I trust the God Who has promised to direct my steps.

Who has promised that “underneath are His everlasting arms.”

I am never lower than His arms that are always under me to hold me up.

And neither are you, my friend, if you know and trust this God Who loves you so much.

Who gave His own Son, Jesus, to die for you.

And Who is meticulously stitching the fabric of your life…of my life…of Aaron’s…into a work of art.

I want to rest under that quilt, handmade by God.

Impossibilities

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

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

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

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

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

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

But wait!  Stop!

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

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

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

Do you find yourself in a scary and desperate place? 

Do your walls seem impossible to climb?

Do your clouds look dark and foreboding?

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

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

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

And God doesn’t need my help.

He needs me to trust.

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

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

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

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. 

When I Don’t Understand

Years ago, in 2008, God put Gary and I on a very difficult life path.  I say that God put us on that path because Gary and I fully know and trust that God does direct our steps when we are living in obedience to Him.

The situation was very hard for us.  We were still in the phase of hurt and grief some weeks later when we went out of town for a few days.  There in our hotel room, as Gary was studying for his upcoming Sunday School class, I opened my Bible and found myself looking at Isaiah 40. 

I began reading.  Soon I was pulled into what Isaiah was sharing about almighty God, the God that I know and love.  I continued into chapter 41, feeling God’s Word wash over my wounded and tired heart. 

Did God give answers to our situation in these verses?

No.

But what God did do was to draw my eyes to Him…to Who He is…and off what was clamoring for my focus all around me.

It was very easy during those days…and still is, honestly…to look at the clutter of hurtful events and let that be where my eyes stayed. 

But Isaiah’s words pulled my eyes away from that clutter and shifted me instead to God Himself.

I am so burdened right now about the horrible things happening right now in Ukraine.  We all are. 

Why, God, are you allowing this to happen?

Where are You?!

I have been reading and pondering again through these Isaiah chapters.  I have no answers for the situation that God is somehow allowing in Ukraine. 

But I do know that God is the One Who measured out earth’s waters in the hollow of His hand.  He spread out and adjusted the heavens with His fingers, weighed out the mountains, sits above the circle of the earth, and sees earth’s inhabitants as grasshoppers. 

God created the stars, leads them forth by number, calls them all by name, and because of His might and power not one of them is missing.

“So why, Jacob,” God asks, “do you say your way is hidden from God and the justice you are due escapes My notice?”

This God of Jacob is our God today!  He is one and the same, never changing in His love for each of us.  

But I believe that many of us want to ask Him the same about Ukraine. 

God, do You care?  Is the horror in Ukraine hidden from You?  Where is the justice?

Alec Motyer says:  “…our inability to discern does not mean that no discernment is at work; our inability to see point or purpose does not mean there is no point or purpose.  The more we exalt the greatness of our God, the more we learn to appreciate our smallness, weakness, incapacity.  We need to learn not to fret and fume; we need to accept our limitations of knowledge, wisdom, and foresight.  Or, as Isaiah tells us, we need to practice waiting for the Lord.  Waiting is looking.”

And as we wait on the Lord…as we look to almighty God…we pray for all those who are suffering so much right now. 

            “Have you not known?  Have you not heard?

            The Lord is the everlasting God,

            The creator of the ends of the earth.

            He does not faint or grow weary;

            His understanding is unsearchable.

            He gives power to the faint,

            And to him who has no might he increases strength.

            Even youths shall faint and be weary,

            And young men shall fall exhausted;

            But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;

            They shall mount up with wings like eagles;

            They shall run and not be weary;

            They shall walk and not faint.”   (Isaiah 40:28-31)

All I know to do is to push away the clutter of my own thoughts…keep my eyes focused on almighty God…and pray for the precious people of Ukraine to be able to do the same.

Choosing to See

I was sitting on our couch near our Christmas tree a few days before our kids were going to arrive when I suddenly saw that one strand of the lights had gone out. 

“Oh bother!” I thought as I got up to look closer.  “How does that even happen?”

I decided to just let it go.  It was so close to Christmas and the last thing I wanted to do was remove that string of lights and try to place a new one amid all the other decorations. 

Yet every time I walked into the living room, where the tree prominently stood, this is what I saw.

I saw the missing lights.  I saw the dark space. 

This is what I wanted to see. 

But no, my eyes were inevitably drawn to the area where the lights were missing.  Every.  Time.

Things with Aaron have been a little tough lately.  Actually, a lot tough.

Aaron has shown more than his average share of anger.  He can put a whole new spin on the concept of being angry. 

Many of his seizure meds list anger and other behaviors as possible side effects.  One of those med dosages was recently increased.  So, there’s that.

Then there is his autism, with or without the interference of his medicines.  His structured life was becoming more unstructured as the holidays loomed on his horizon. 

And years of seizures have done untold damage to his brain and to his ability to function in our world.

Gary and I know all this but living with his outbursts of anger is at times more than difficult.  His shattered supper plate full of lasagna, or the hole in his wall, are just two examples that can attest to the stress we have been under.

This morning, as I am slowly finishing my study of the book of Deuteronomy, I was reading Moses’ blessing to the tribe of Joseph in chapter 33.  God promised, through Moses, to give the people of Joseph “choice things…best things.”  The Hebrew word here means things of highest quality.

Then in verse 16, God said, “…and the favor of Him who dwelt in the bush.”

Remember Moses and the burning bush in Exodus 3?  God spoke to Moses in the bush that was burning…the bush that had attracted the attention of Moses as he shepherded his father-in-law’s sheep in the desert wilderness. 

There was God, burning bright in that bush, and telling Moses that this was holy ground.  Telling Moses that He had seen the affliction of Israel, and of His plan to use Moses to rescue the people out of Egypt.

But what impressed me about all of this was the fact that Moses was in a wilderness place, a place of severe hardship, when God spoke to him out of the bright burning bush. 

Moses had been banished from all he knew in Egypt.  He was running for his life when he ended up in the desolate wilderness.  Now he was a lowly shepherd of sheep that weren’t even his.

How easy it would have been for Moses to look at all the darkness in his life…to have his eyes drawn away from God’s glory in the burning bush to focus once again on his dismal circumstances. 

But God, despite the early reluctance of Moses, promised to go with and before and all around Moses.  He urged Moses to look at His glory, the glory that shone in the burning bush, and not at his dark and scary surroundings. 

It’s tough to live with and care for a child with special needs of any kind.  To live with Aaron, a very verbal adult, when he is angry is exhausting at times.  It’s not something I like to display or talk a lot about, but this part of Aaron is a very real part of our lives. 

I think many of us have those areas of our lives that we want to keep more or less hidden.  I’m very thankful for family and friends that I can confide in…those that I know pray for us.  There are ways that I know I need to be more open.  Maybe that will give others the courage to do the same.

Life is just hard right now on so many levels for all of us.  Satan really wants to discourage and defeat us in whatever way he can. 

But I want to look at this life we live and see God’s glory, His hand, His light over every bit of it.  I don’t want to focus on that dark part. 

I want to live under the knowledge that as God’s child, I am living in “the favor of Him who dwelt in the bush.”

THAT God of Moses is also MY God.

I can focus on His promises to me, and even in the darker times I can make the choice to see His light…the light that shines brighter than my dark.