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.

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.

See My Hurt?

Aaron recently had a tooth that was hurting him so much that he asked me to hurry and call our dentist so he could look at it.  For Aaron to want to go to the dentist showed me that he was truly in pain.  Our dentist referred Aaron to our endodontist, who confirmed what the dentist thought…that Aaron’s tooth was probably cracked way down in the root, infected, and would need to be pulled. 

Aaron was fascinated to look at the x-ray that the endodontist showed him.  You could see all the dark areas of infection very clearly.  Dr. Turner explained to Aaron that this was why his tooth hurt so much. 

Our next appointment was with an oral surgeon, the same one who had removed Aaron’s back molar near this infected tooth.  That molar had fractured during a drop seizure when Aaron’s face had hit a cement floor.

At first Aaron was pensive and tired:

Then he became silly as we waited for the doctor (look at his watch! 😊):

Dr. Cole finally arrived and examined Aaron’s hurting tooth.  He put up the x-rays that were taken in his office a few minutes earlier.

Aaron’s eyes darted to the x-rays.  He studied them for a few seconds.

“Can you see my hurt?” he asked.

Dr. Cole was a little confused.  He said that he couldn’t exactly see the crack but that they knew it was there.

“But can you see my hurt?” Aaron asked again.

I knew what Aaron meant.  He wondered if Dr. Cole could see the dark area of infection that was visible on his other x-rays.  These looked different and Aaron was concerned that Dr. Cole couldn’t see his hurt. 

I explained to the doctor what Aaron meant and then he understood. 

But Aaron’s way of asking about his tooth…his hurt…was SO Aaron and so touching, somehow.

I’ve thought a lot about seeing hurt, not only as it relates to Aaron but to others all around us as well. 

One day last week when I picked him up at his day group, he had just had a seizure before I got there.  He was laying on a booth seat when he had the seizure and so he fell off the seat, onto the floor.  I went in and there he lay on the cement floor.  One of the very kind supervisors actually got on the floor with Aaron as we tried to wake him up.  It took awhile before Aaron was awake enough to get off the floor, but it took some doing to get out of that tight area.  Later that night, Aaron showed us a couple scuffed places on his back.  Thankfully that was the only evidence we saw of his seizure…that, and his bitten tongue.

That was a hurt I could see.  Him lying on the floor, having a difficult time communicating when he woke up, and then the areas on his back that hurt, were all visible to us.

But how many times does Aaron, or any of us, have hurts which others can’t see?

For me, I hurt when Aaron has seizures.  I hurt when he talks about wanting a girlfriend or wanting to get married. 

Or when his meds make him very sleepy, and I wish he wasn’t so drugged:

Yet those hurts are ones I don’t want Aaron to see and so I hide them as best I can from him, and even from others.

How about you?  Do you have hurts you hide from the world, or even from those closest to you?

I think we all do.  I know I do. 

Why do we hide our hurts?  Maybe we don’t want others to feel sorry for us.  Maybe we feel we must be strong in front of everyone.  Maybe we’re embarrassed.  Maybe we can’t bear to share the pain and hurt we feel so we try to bury it.

But there is One Who sees every hurt we carry…Who understands every pain we feel…Who is wanting us to turn to Him and let Him take and carry our burdens. 

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.”  (Matthew 11:28)

Here is another way to say it:

“Come to Me, all who are beaten down and burdened down, and I will give you rest.”  (Matthew 11:28)

 I think of the old hymn, Tell It To Jesus:

Are you weary, are you heavy hearted?

Tell it to Jesus, tell it to Jesus.

Are you grieving over joys departed?

Tell it to Jesus alone.

Tell it to Jesus, tell it to Jesus,

He is a Friend that’s well known.

You’ve no other such a friend or brother,

Tell it to Jesus alone.

Do the tears flow down your cheeks unbidden?

Tell it to Jesus, tell it to Jesus.

Have you sins that to men’s eyes are hidden?

Tell it to Jesus alone.

Do you fear the gathering clouds of sorrow?

Tell it to Jesus, tell it to Jesus.

Are you anxious what shall be tomorrow?

Tell it to Jesus alone.

Are you troubled at the thought of dying?

Tell it to Jesus, tell it to Jesus.

For Christ’s coming kingdom are you sighing?

Tell it to Jesus alone.

If we can’t share our hurt and burden with anyone else, we can still share it with Jesus.  But sharing our hurts with those we trust, those who will pray for and with us, is also a huge help in relieving our pain. 

There is way too much hurt today in this crazy world…way too many beaten and burdened down people.  I pray that I will look at everyone around me and wonder if they are saying, “Do you see my hurt?”

And even if I can’t see it, that I will be kind and loving to everyone, knowing that they may be carrying a huge hurt that I know nothing about.

May I see and love through the eyes of Jesus. 

And may I let that same Jesus carry my unseen hurts. 

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)

The Fruit of Forgetfulness

Aaron and I walked into our Dillon’s store one day this week.  He had happily agreed to my idea of getting him a Cheddar Pasta Salad for supper.  As we walked in the door, he quickly took off in the opposite direction from me. 

“Aaron,” I said to his back as he briskly walked away, “you need to come and find me when you’re done!”

I quickly got the salad.  No Aaron.

As I walked to the meat section, looking up each aisle…no Aaron.

I bought some meat.  No Aaron.

I looked up each aisle that I passed again.  No Aaron.

Finally, I went back to my original location. 

“MOM!!”

There he was, amid the flowers on one side and the boxed bakery treats on the other.  He had seen me.  He took off toward me in a run, holding two jars of peanuts, his face covered in a huge smile of relief.

“MOM!” he repeated.

“Don’t run, Aaron,” I admonished. 

But afraid of losing me again, he ran anyway.

“I thought you had left me!” he dramatically stated as he dumped his jars of peanuts in the cart. 

“I would never leave you,” I replied.  “You’re the one who left me.”

“But I thought you had gone, so I told a lady who works here to page you,” he excitedly answered.

“Oh, Aaron!  Did you really?!” I asked.

“YES!!” he said.  “I told her I couldn’t find my mom and I thought you had left and would she page you.”

I was actually pretty impressed that he had thought about paging me.  He saw the employee in self-checkout that he had spoken to.

“Is this your mom?” she asked.

“YES!!” Aaron told her.  “She didn’t leave me!”

We laughed…and there I stood, feeling like the mom who routinely abandons her son, being eyed by the customers who would never do such a thing.  😊

As I scanned the groceries, and kept reminding Aaron to calm down, I was also reminding him of all our past history.

“Aaron, have I ever, ever left you anywhere?” I asked him.

He said no, but…

“No, Aaron, just remember that I have never left you and I would never leave you,” I continued.

This past January I chose a word for the year.  I’ve never done that before but this year I felt impressed to choose the word “Remember” for my word of the year.

I’m reading and studying through the book of Deuteronomy.  Moses was preparing the children of Israel to enter the Promised Land.  It was a land of “milk and honey,” full of good ground and many resources.

But it was also full of danger from inhabitants who hated the God of Israel and who fully intended to kill all the Israelites. 

So, there were the weary travelers who had just spent 40 years wandering through the desert, and God wanted them to conquer this land.

“Really, God?” they questioned.  “And just how are we supposed to do THAT?!”

And Moses said, “REMEMBER!!”

“…you shall not be afraid of them; you shall well REMEMBER what the Lord your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt.”  (Deut. 7:18)

How easy it is for us to forget God when we are surrounded by the stresses and bad news in our lives! 

Or we don’t really forget God, but we forget all the many ways that He has shown Himself faithful to us over the years.

Sometimes we simply forget WHO God is. 

And when we do that, we focus on our situations and not on God.

This quote jumped out at me this week and planted itself firmly in my heart:

            “FEAR IS THE FRUIT OF FORGETFULNESS.”  (Raymond Brown)

Over and over, Moses told Israel to remember all the works of God and all the ways He had led them.  And the only fear they were to have?

“You shall fear only the Lord your God; and you shall worship Him…”  (Deut. 6:13)

This fear means to have reverential trust in God. 

There is plenty to fear today in our personal lives; in the lives of our families; in our nation and in our world.

I don’t know about you, but I have had – even just this week – several opportunities to practice fearing (trusting) God instead of fearing my circumstances.

You see, trust and a lack of fear does not involve understanding my circumstances.

Trust and a lack of fear involves knowing and understanding God.

There is so much I don’t understand today.

But I DO know and understand this:

“Know therefore that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God Who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments.”  (Deut. 7:9)

I affirmed to Aaron that I would never leave him.

And may I never forget that God affirms to me the same.

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.

Damaged

During our trip to the Houston area last month, we noticed that the palm trees looked different.  One normally expects palm trees to resemble these:

But instead, this is what we saw.

I stood there staring as I snapped this picture.  The trees looked both silly and sad.

“Bless your hearts,” I wanted to say.  I am from the south, you know.

Andrea explained what had happened.  The prolonged deep freeze this past February had taken quite a toll on the palm trees.  Many were irreparably damaged…dead.

I have read a little about the palm trees and found out that one way you can tell if a palm is dead is to scratch a section of bark off the tree.  If there is green underneath, then the palm is alive.

These sad looking palms we saw were, despite their damage, alive.  We could tell by the growth on top, odd as they might have looked.

This past Sunday at church we were privileged to listen to a live interview between our pastor and a prominent businessman from our city.  Britt Fulmer discussed his cancer journey.  Unless God works a miracle, there is nothing humanly possible that can be done for him.  Again, barring a miracle, heaven might soon be a reality for Britt.

Yet I walked away from that service full of hope and praise.  That is because Britt was full of hope and praise.  He conveyed, through his rather frail voice, the strength OF God because of his total trust IN God.  There was no anger, no regret, and definitely no fear as he confidently gave testimony of his total trust in God’s plan for him in this trial.  In fact, Britt has grown during his hard bout with cancer.

I think of so many I know who are battered from life’s prolonged adversities.  One can look at them and see the damage in various ways in their lives.  It reminds me of those palm trees.

But you know what?  Those palm trees are still standing, despite showing the stress of the freeze they endured. 

And they’re growing!  If we scraped off a section of their bark, we would see green underneath.  

Life is there!

Roots run deep!

James talked to believers about trials.

“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials; knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.  And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”  (James 1: 2-4)

That word “consider” means to make a judgment.  We have a choice to make when we encounter various…multi-colored…trials in this life.  Are we going to allow God to work in our lives the endurance that He desires?  That endurance is the act of abiding under the difficulties. 

Will we abide under the prolonged pain in our lives, whatever it may be?  Because if we choose to do that…to abide under the suffering…we are really abiding under the shadow of the Almighty Who has our best interests and His glory in mind. 

To abide means to endure without yielding. 

So, to endure means to abide…and abide means to endure.

It means I stay put in the place God has put me, even if He has put me under suffering. 

I don’t yield to unbelief.  I don’t give in to giving up on God. 

Instead, I allow endurance under the hardships to produce in me a maturity and growth that is evident to everyone around me.  But I can’t produce that growth myself.  Only God can grow me in that way as I abide in Him, fully trusting His plan for me.

Suffering hurts, no doubt about it.  Long-term suffering takes a toll. 

But what will others see in me beyond the damage? 

Will they see growth, even if I feel like it’s just a little bit? 

Is there green under my bark? 

Oh God, grow us in our prolonged sufferings so that You will be honored and others will be amazed at what You have done!