Category: times of testing

just different (for David James)

angelIf things had gone differently,
in about 2 weeks,
we’d be holding you.

If things had gone differently,
your brother would not be thumping away in my womb right now.

If things had gone differently,
I would not know the depth nor the sanctity of a mother grieving her unborn child.

If things had gone differently,
I would not be able to identify with the others, so many others who have lost this way.

If things had gone differently,
we would not be smiling and dreaming and preparing for Jack.

– There is no reconciling this. I miss you every day, and yet, if you were here,
he would not be.

I love you both.
I wish things could be different,
yet I can accept and even rejoice in how they are.

I find peace in believing that you watch over us,
that you have grown strong in Heaven,
that you know we love you and we wanted you,
that you maybe even had a hand in sending  your brother to us.

After a summer of solace and renewal,
this month brings you back to the forefront of my mind.
You’d have been almost here,
and you will never be here.
But you are with us,
always with us.

It’s always raining

I remember the day he sang at this church. The call came in the middle of the night, literally. The opportunity was so refreshing. The financial blessing was so needed. We were on the starting edge of the biggest drought and hardest challenge of our lives, even though we were fighting it off and maybe even denying it a little.

I was looking for a different song he’s sang today and came across this one. I had to giggle. This isn’t the same guy, and I am not the same either. November 2011 might as well have been a decade ago instead of two short years for all the ways our lives have changed – and all the ways we have changed.

But the message holds. The rain is coming.

I’d like to hear Rod sing it now, with his long hair and wearing his flip-flops, strumming his guitar, on the beach or the porch. Part of our change has been letting go of religion in all its hidden forms, in the legalism, the formality, the appearances, the parts that build walls instead of shine lights.

Part of our change is a realization that even though we have dry seasons, it never actually stops raining..

Jesus said this:

This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you. – Matthew 5: 43-48, The Message

I’m grateful for those who gave us water when our season was dry. I am grateful we have some water to share this year. I’m grateful for the lesson learned that we should always be watching and waiting for a bouty of blessings to come to us.

no shadow of turning

Today, I proclaimed a new season for us.

I have no idea, really, what the new season will be. We’ve been praying for it for awhile, shortly after our current one started and rather quickly, pun intended, went south. I often harken back to some wise words from one of our precious Moms and More meetings, a prayer that says,

Lord, help me to learn what I need to learn from this season so I can move on to a new one.

Which, quite honestly, I sometimes prayed by quoting the fictional and lovable Theo Huxtable:

Oh Dad, I’ve learned my lesson! I’ve learned it whatever it is!

Through these last months, God has shown me on numerous occasions exactly how Not Ready or Not Knowing What I Need To Know that I actually was. I didn’t get this, even after several months of desperate praying and crying out, until some time in January. When I normally make a “prayer goal” for the year, it’s something succinct, like “Wisdom” or “Simplicity.” This year, I couldn’t give a simple term to it. It was:

God, I want to be steady. I want to be a person who is not driven by her emotions. I want to trust You and Your plan before the phone calls, after the phone calls, when the phone calls deliver bad news, and when the phone calls never come. I want peace that pervades circumstances and faith that runs to my roots.

{Sometimes, I overdo it, I suppose}

But seriously…that is what I felt God calling me to strive for. And so I have been. I have been intentionally trying to swallow my negative comments, ignore the knots in my stomach, and turn away from things and even people that feed my anxiety. When I’m waiting on news, or when something else has gone array, I try to call on scripture, or pray, or ask friends to pray with or for me. Because I don’t want emotions to run my life.

With God, there is no shadow of turning. He stays the same.

He is the same whether our season is one of feast or famine, provision or benevolence, giving or receiving.

He is the same whether we have health insurance or (thank You, Jesus), good health.

He is the same whether the dream job is all it was cracked up to be or if it withers and painfully dies in a matter of months.

He is the same in South Carolina as He is in South Chicago Heights.

He is the same regardless of who is surrounding us, ignoring us, supporting us, or lying to us.

He is the same whether we are overseeing a really great press conference or being misquoted by the press.

He is the same when the paycheck comes as He is when it does not.

He is the same when we feel like dancing on a mountaintop as He is when we want to stay in bed, forever.

He is the same in our bondage as He is in our freedom, the same in our drought as He is in the rain.

He is the same in our children’s needs, our parent’s needs, our family and friend’s needs. Thank God He cares about it all!

He is the same in the quiet moments of doubt as He is in the jubilant moments of victory.

He is the same in every decision, be it how to budget our money, where to school our kids, or with whom to share our confidence.

He is the same tonight as He as was last April, when we found out we were moving here and thought we knew why…as He was since September, when the picture starting blurring… as He is tonight, when maybe, just maybe, it is sharpening again, into something more amazing than we could have imagined.

He is the same, the same, THE SAME…even when nothing is familiar, or comfortable, or feels right. HE is the same, when no one else can offer peace or comfort or can even be trusted. He STAYS the same, as everything else turns and shifts and dies or revives.

There is no shadow of turning with my God.

~

We are on the brink of new circumstances. I’m not purposely trying to be coy, but they are not mine to share just yet. I will say though, that just like another April 12 miracle6 years ago! – this ‘new season’ is not really about what is going to happen. It is, instead, about what has happened. In as much as God does not change, He has, in fact, changed me. Changed Rod. Changed our family. He has shifted focus away from extraneous, away from image, away from pride. He has bound us together through love and necessity. He has reminded us Who created us, why He created us, and what we are to do. He has given us a clear directive that simply says, “Follow Me,” and given us the boldness to follow…even when we are walking in the middle of a storm and look like perfect idiots. He has made us a little more like who we are supposed to be in Him. So, whatever new or phone calls come in this next week, we will follow Him… not a man, a plan, or a dream of our own making. It is God Who has provided for our every need – from the big to the tiny – during this most difficult season in our lives. There is no reason to doubt He will continue to do the same by whatever means He chooses.

~

All I have needed, Thy hand has provided.
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me.

the weight of the wait

For about a week, we had been waiting for a specific piece of mail.

Waiting has been a theme ’round these parts for quite some time. It’s almost as natural to me as breathing at this point. One day last week, I arrived to pick up Rod, but he wasn’t ready yet, and I waited. Not for long, but without irritation, I waited. And I thought about how much I have gotten used to waiting.

I think I have learned – finally – that there are some things I cannot control. Those things include the length of my husband’s phone calls and his preference for chemically-enhanced peanut butter, the amount of hunger my children will claim to have in between school and dinner, when exactly I get to visit Chicago again, whether I will ever get off the library’s waiting list for The Hunger Games, my wiry gray hairs and inability to spell “maintenance” and “thorough” without spellcheck, the timing of our Grand Purpose For Moving To Myrtle Beach, and the U.S. postal service.

But all this waiting, while it has settled into my bones, it has also made me weary. Sometimes I have a moment of…exhale, I guess…and suddenly, I can feel the weight of the wait. Some of the things we’ve waited on are inevitably superficial. But some of them, like this piece of mail, mean a lot, a lot, a lot to our family. They are the things that keep us from going back to sleep when we’ve awaken at 2am, the things that give us knots in our stomachs, the things that make us cry a little more than we should at something we see on fictional TV, take every FB post we read personally, and laugh nervously to fill awkward silences.

This day, this time, the thing we were waiting for came. Rod walked outside to get the mail, and he prayed. I stayed in the kitchen and sang a few lines of a hymn to my daughters (“to God be the glory, great things He hath done…”). He came back in and tried to fake me out, But I knew.

It came.

And you know what? It brought three friends. A fourfold blessing!

Edit: When I first wrote this, on Monday night, I thought that was the end of that story. It wasn’t. Let me be a little more transparent by saying when I took the largest one of that fourfold to deposit in the bank, in the account we’ve had for almost a year, I was informed there would be a 7 day hold on it. My response as a big, tall woman-of-faith? I cried. Like, ugly cried, right there in the drive-thru. And when I drove away, I started crying, “I want to go home,” which makes absolutely no sense because I am home and the banks in Chicago suck, too. By the time I called my mom, did a portion of the grocery shopping I had planned, picked up Rod for a meeting we had, and devoured a chicken-biscuit-and-sweet-tea (skipping breakfast and caffeine might have been part of the reason for my hysteria), my perspective had shifted back to its somewhat-proper balance. But wow… God really, really, really wants to make sure I’ve learned not to get ahead of myself!

For the most part, though, I am learning to wait more serenely. I’m learning that being made to wait is likely God testing my faith rather than an attack from my enemy. I’m learning that growth is often the goal, not some lofty, shiny result. I’m learning to expect God to answer my prayers and provide for my family. And I’m hoping that my faith will become more like a child’s in all this, because: see?

Hopeful, rested, weightless waiting is a beautiful thing.