Thursday, September 12, 2013

4 Years!

“I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will consider all your works
and meditate on all your mighty deeds.”
-Psalm 77:11-12

This week we celebrate 4 YEARS of seizure freedom for sweet John (and for our family)!  We are overjoyed!  I know I have said this before… but when you go from desperately counting minutes between seizures and holding on to hours and days, counting YEARS is nothing short of a miracle!

Over the past 4.5 years of John’s life, we have learned to celebrate the big and little milestones.  Birthdays, church dedication, last day in the hospital in April 2009, seizure-freedom anniversaries, medication-freedom anniversaries, encouraging test results, first egg at Waffle House, etc.  Our boy was not supposed to live, much less be as healthy as he is.  He has his challenges but, truly, he is thriving and couldn’t radiate more joy. 

What we have gained through the trials and triumphs is the great import of recalling the works of the Lord.  Pausing to celebrate both the weighty and also the seemingly insignificant events.  These markers of our lives.  These causes for gratitude.  

And gratitude is always significant, pointing us to Jesus and carrying us forward a step further than we once felt capable.  In my mini-paraphrase of the inspiration found in Ann Voskamp’s book One Thousand Gifts, gratitude leads to the miracles of joy, peace, and healing.  By celebrating life’s small and big miracles with a grateful heart, we are given an increased vision to perceive even more of the Lord and His very incarnation woven into so many aspects of our days.

A friend’s grandmother recently wrote the following in an email as she reflected upon her own chronic tragedy involving one of her children in her early years: “I learned rapidly that misery is a choice.  Joy, on the other hand, is a gift already lying within me...always mine to any moment of my day.”  Oh, the great wisdom of years spent walking with the Lord!

In the Old Testament, God’s followers set up ebenezers (often a pile of rocks) to commemorate God’s work in a particular place or in a particular way.  In doing this, they gave glory to God and created tangible evidence to help them recall God’s provision.

Do you have ebenezers or journals or moments you can look back to, that help you remember what God has done in your life?  I know I need to look at mine more frequently, because gratitude, joy, and remembrance of God’s faithfulness ARE each a decision.  And when we allow room to see our blessings, they do begin to take over even the darkest places.

Here are a few of our ebenezers and memories:

The picture our friends signed at John's one year seizure-freedom party!

A framed ebenezer dear friends gave us on John's first seizure-freedom anniversary.

A mini Prosecco toast to celebrate John's PERFECT MRI and EEG in Boston on October 20, 2010.
Last year's celebration... a cookie cake is always a must!
And a future ebenezer from the cake we served at John's luncheon following his church baby dedication in August, 2009.  This cake traveled from our freezer in Virginia to our freezer in Georgia.... and I know it will be the best cake we will ever taste when the time comes to celebrate!

“Nehemiah said, ‘Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.’”
-Nehemiah 8:10

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Additional Answers…

The following quote is from my friend Trish Ryan’s blog (check out her books as well!):

“God grows new things in soil I was sure was dead. The muddy, torn up ground of my life gets a new foundation, and then new walls and a roof and even some tiny starter shrubs in a garden. And it’s not that I don’t miss the old or wish some things had gone very, very differently. It’s that life is bigger than we think it is.”

I just love this quote, don’t you?  Trish beautifully captures this notion I have been struggling with… wishing certain things had gone very differently (I think those things are the result of either this fallen world or due to our intentional transgressions) but also believing in a good God who is sovereign and has a plan for each one of our lives.  That’s where the “life is bigger than we think it is” comes in. 

This concept begins to take shape and to go beyond the clich├ęs (such as, “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.”  Never liked that quote…) as we experience this new foundation God pours, as we see a new structure develop, as we witness fresh growth, yes “starter shrubs” even.  Signs of life.

I refuse to give God credit for the muck and tragedies, for our wayward ways, for the brokenness we’ve inherited from humanity choosing its own course.  Can God use the pain?  Certainly.  Does He necessarily cause it all?  I think not.  As I wrote after Warren died, which was shared at his funeral, we do not “make peace” with occurrences such as death (whether it is a death due to a medical error or simply death after a long, well-lived life)…. Why? Because death was never part of God’s original plan.  Rather, it was a break in His intended order.

Instead of despair, I find hope in refusing to make peace with sin, with both glaring and subtle breaks in God’s intended order.  When it comes to pain and grappling with loss, we don’t buck up and piously pretend we are happy with our lot.  But rather we give our pain to the Lord, accept His balm, and begin to realize life in Him is bigger than we thought.  And that is something we can begin to be happy about.  Somehow healing commences, and we are given new footing and the ability to move forward.

To me, this encapsulates the claim Scripture makes that Christ is making all things new.  If He is making things new, the implication is that something is broken and needs remaking…. needs fixing.  Isn’t life like that?  I know my life, my circumstances, my attitude, and my faith need the new, God-life breathed into them deeply and thoroughly.

I do not have all the answers nor will I on this side of heaven.  But I choose restoration over pretenses.  God’s plan of hope over blaming His sovereignty for the mess around us.     

Bring on the starter shrubs!