Thursday, August 29, 2013

An Answer for Today

“Those who look to Him for help will be radiant with joy; no shadow of shame will darken their faces.  I cried out to the Lord in my suffering, and he heard me.  He set me free from all my fears.” 
-Psalm 34:5-6

Yesterday was one of those hard days.  A day when the grief comes rushing back, making the loss and pain palpable once again.  Almost as raw and fresh as it was during the initial tragedy.  We call these times “grief bursts.”  They can surprise you and unravel your heart-earned balance… because “after you have suffered a little while” (1 Peter 5:10), a “new normal,” a new rhythm does develop.  Time may not heal all, but the pain is neither as cutting nor as pervasive as new joy and new experiences are birthed, shared, and nurtured. 

I cried out to the Lord yesterday… both literally (and tears don’t come easily to me anymore) and in the puzzlement suffering forms.  The new companion of questioning that can take up residence after a crisis.  It doesn’t always show itself but somewhere deep down, in the back of the mind, it resides and waits and then pounces… sending a normal day spiraling into a trying one where all that has been learned and gained in the midst of the trial and subsequent restoration is thrown into question. 

My questions yesterday were some familiar ones… but can you relate to how, on certain days, they just seem insurmountable, when you lived among them just fine the day before? 
“If our days are numbered and our times are in God’s hands, then does God allow or even orchestrate sin and brokenness such as a medical error (in our son Warren’s case) or a drunk driver or a drowning to usher in His will?”     “How do I reconcile God’s sovereignty and plans for our lives in a world that is tainted by sin resulting from the Fall of man?”      “Or does God allow sin and its fall-out because it results from his desire to be in relationship with Adam and Eve and to give them the choice to obey or sin, and then He comes in afterwards to work all together for His good?  Using for good what Satan intended for evil?” 

I imagine many of you ask similar questions or have your own questions that at times bring you closer to God and at other times seem to haunt you and drive that wedge.  For my doubts, I plan to finally pull out my copy of Randy Alcorn’s If God is Good, trusting he lends compelling insights.  But first, someone encouraged me to simply ask God for an answer… something to bring some peace, some calm.  Because this has been provided before, I know it can come again.  I needed an answer from my living and active God who can show Himself to me in different ways on different days, all stemming from His unchanging nature and presence.

And today the answer came, as it often does… in a still, small voice… through an inner impression that could only originate from God’s Spirit.

“Mary Elizabeth, set your mind on things above.”

The answer did not necessarily include an additional focus on my original questions and doubt, nor did it directly answer each question in the way my finite mind works… Rather the answer came with a nudge, with a shift.  Shifting my heart and setting my mind on things above.  The hope of a true, lasting, untainted, eternal home in heaven.  Where a place has been prepared for us.  A desire to focus on godly traits and actions such as love, grace, service, the fruit of the Spirit… Things that are not seen but are unseen; attitudes and actions that make an eternal investment.

His grace is sufficient.  He gives us nourishing, daily bread.  Today, this answer was enough.  But the greater lesson is that God desires us to come back tomorrow for more.  For the manna only He can provide as we pray for the ability to set our hearts and minds on what is true, on what only can come from above.  As the opening verse states, the Lord is the One capable of transforming suffering into radiance.

In closing, I want to share a poignant and moving “answer” from my friends, Katherine and Jay Wolf (as many of you know, I LOVE their blog and ministry, Hope Heals):
“We see humanity with different eyes when we recognize that we may be asked, like Christ, to sacrifice things we hold dear so that someone else, perhaps someone we will never know, might find the hope that they need.  Are we willing to lay down on altars or hospital beds, enduring all manner of loss, so that something truly lost might be found, so that someone might be beloved?  This is our calling—to play our role in divine appointments, to be vessels overflowing with hope.”

Additional thoughts and “answers” to come…

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.”
-Colossians 3:1-3

Maddie (Meade's mom) reading to Daniel during a recent visit.
The boys looking at one of their faithful prayer warrior's picture via email ("Uncle George").

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Better than Nothing

I receive encouraging feedback from readers like you telling me you find our honesty and vulnerability refreshing.  That somehow, even by being honest with the pain and the muck, you come away with hope.  And we cannot tell you how much this blesses us… to have this confirmation that God IS making all things new, not despite, but in the very midst of the pain.  Thank you for being a safe place.

So here is today’s honest truth.  It is still hard.  I haven’t posted in awhile, because I was waiting to have a "happy" post in which I planned to share the joy of this new season we are in with John and Daniel both in school part time.  And that post may come, because this new routine certainly carries beauty... but that just isn’t what has been on my heart since school started last Tuesday.  Yes there is beauty, but I also continue to feel the weight of the ashes.

It is still hard… having a son in heaven and grappling with his time cut short on earth… Or was that his ordained number of days?   How does God’s sovereignty and goodness work in all of this?  Was He somehow protecting Warren when he was killed due to a medical error?  How do I pray for protection for my living children with my innocence stripped?  Additionally, it is still hard having a child with special needs, all of us working so hard for what still falls very short of what most deem a “normal, fulfilling, self-actualizing life.”  How do we trust for John’s earthly healing, believing we are told, commanded even, in the Bible to ask for this, while witnessing those around us who have yet to receive their healing?  These questions and struggles can swirl.

Sunday morning, we missed church since we have all been fighting a cold.  Meade led us in a discussion about prayer and reviewed the simple acronym “ACTS,” telling our boys about this helpful guide to use in our prayer time.  You may have utilized it yourself:
A = adoration of the Lord
C = confession of sins and shortcomings
T = thanksgiving
S = supplication (our needs and prayer requests)

Naturally, we started with “A” and Meade quickly stated his specific adoration: “God is mighty.”  Now it was Mommy’s turn.  The “Sunday School” answers popped into my head: God’s trustworthiness, sovereignty, protection, etc.  Yet in that moment, I simply couldn’t state those things with a pure heart. despite knowing deep down they are accurate.  I wanted to be honest with where I was in that moment, so I examined my heart to find something I could confidently share. I couldn’t let my family down.  And God didn’t let me down. 

God is eternal.

That is the adoration I shared, the adoration He pronounced deep in my soul.  I adore God because He is eternal.  And on Sunday, that truth was enough.

Because He is eternal, my life is eternal as well.  I will be reunited with my son, Warren.  John’s body will be healed and whole.  Wrongs will be righted.  What is lost will be restored.  Pain will be no more.  And in all this, I will see Jesus face to face, and I will be made like Him.

It can still be hard.  But the greater reality, the litmus test, is that I still yearn for my children to grow up knowing and believing in God.  I desire to teach them these things.  And I want them to know what I have found to be true in the midst of the pain.  That when it comes to prayer— to communing with our Heavenly Father— I’m grateful that something is better than nothing.  It is about the relationship… relating with our Creator in the realities we face, in the honest condition of our hearts.  Because God understands the intimacies and intricacies of our pain, and He promises we will “see His very goodness in the land of the living” (Psalm 27:13).

“…how much greater is the glory of that which lasts!
…And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”
-2 Corinthians 3:11, 18