What a week! What a life!
I descend the stairs of our home, completely dark still at 5:45 AM except for a nightlight glowing by the front door. I click it off. I can’t bear to turn on the lights ‘til I get to the kitchen. Then, I go from one extreme to the other. Within seconds, my fingers find the panel of switches and the entire A-framed first floor of our log home is bathed in bright lights.
I’m thinking about contrasts as I pour my first mug of Starbucks Verona Roast set the night before to brew at 5:30 AM. It’s my ritual. Dark. Light. Reward.
Dark. Light. Reward.
How we all must live in the contrasts, in a world gone dark with sin—with good gone bad—with health gone sick—with life consumed by death—with love turned mad and sad—with peace turned anxious.
Russia. Iran. Syria. Africa. Israel. ISIS. Ebola. Terrorists. Nuclear weapons. Sometimes I just want to hide myself in a dark bunker underground, but what kind of life would that be?
Then I think closer to home—to the many I love—my family and friends and even professionals I work with and respect greatly.
One fell out of a deer stand a few weeks ago and broke his neck in the north woods. Had to have Flight for Life rescue and transport him to a southeast Wisconsin spinal cord unit. He has a wife and young twin boys.
How life can change in a moment.
When I was 28, one of my best friends dove into shallow water right in front of me. He didn’t come up. I pulled his face out of the water so he wouldn’t drown. Did I damage him for life or was he already damaged? In an instant, had he became a quadriplegic, right in front of me and our group of friends? We followed his ambulance from rural Indiana all the way to Northwestern University Hospital’s spinal cord unit on Chicago’s north side where our greatest fear was confirmed.
A few weeks ago, a good friend found his company was the victim of massive fraud in just a twelve-month period. We’re talking 175 MILLION. He and his wife were set to go into semi-retirement. Numerous others who are our friends have been affected, including our family, and it will probably be months before the dust settles and we know what we’ve dealing with, how much we’ve all lost personally. I’m already thinking the worst because that’s what I do. Not that I’m a pessimist. I’m a planner. I cope by thinking about the worst possible probably scenario and planning how I will cope in the event it happens. The same day the bad business news hit, one of the company man’s wife, a friend of mind, learned her mother was just diagnosed with third stage breast cancer that has spread to her bones. They are coping with great faith.
Get even closer.
Our teenager was a knot of raw nerves last week. First, his best friend was fisted in the temple by another friend and choked until he couldn’t breathe. At his own risk, our son intervened. Parents called parents. We scheduled a three-family meeting for the following day but ended up having to wait ‘til Thursday. Tuesday, Facebook became a nightmare. The violent teen posted a graphic, frightening photo. Our son accused him of faking the supposed stabbing incident of another. The teen became verbally threatening on Facebook to our son. Soon, many teens were drawn into the frightening drama. There was ample reason to be concerned. Three police officers showed at school for the following two days, watching. Our son was kept separate from the other teen. I called the sheriff the day of our parent meeting to see if a report had been filed and, as I had suspected, the teen was lying. But what could have turned out to be the destruction of relationships and possibly physical harm done, turned out to be just what this troubled teen needed. We prayed. We talked. We confronted ‘til we got a confession. And tears flowed. But help is on the way. A torn-up teen is relieved and our very anxious son is at peace, once again.
So you have just a sampling—just a taste—of all that occurred in one week–in the past couple weeks. And if I could list the past 17 years—even the past 55 years of just one life—mine—I wonder how long it might be—of trials and sorrows—and anxious moments—and wondering how we all make it through.
Honestly, I felt sorry for myself last week, and the others I love. Why do so many bad things keep happening to me, to my family, to my friends, to good people in this world?
“It’s just not fair,” I complain aloud!
But God never promised us a rose garden. He promised us THE GARDEN. And we didn’t keep our end of the deal. So what DO I expect? What DO we expect?
I expect one thing.
I expect that God is always with us—knowing, caring, loving, using all for good, somehow—because He promised. And I KNOW God is faithful in keeping ALL His promises. I find peace and comfort and joy in my knowing.
I expect that if I hold on and keep walking in faith, though my body aches and my knees quake, God WILL bring me, and all of us, through whatever trial we encounter here in this world, not yet restored to perfection, yet one day coming.
If we hold to Him and follow His ways as told to us clearly in His Book—His Holy Word—we will not just COME THROUGH OUR TRIALS—we will COME THROUGH better—stronger—with more capacity to love and receive love. We will find our hearts and souls expanded by faith, hope, and love rather than shrunk by fear, anxiety, and doubt.
None of us knows what today holds. But many of us know Who holds today.
The God of all our yesterdays, of our today, of all our tomorrows—He is faithful to bring us through, bigger and better. And He doesn’t leave us without joy, even in the midst of our greatest fears and sorrows. There is always joy. Always. If we look. If we seek. If we keep our eyes open and our hearts soft to the possibility. God always gives us moments of respite from the ache if we’ll come away with Him to the quiet.
I went away on Saturday for just two hours. I grabbed my husband and my camera on one of the most beautiful autumn days here in Wisconsin and we drove down our country road a few miles to hike through an old golf course converted to a bird sanctuary with reestablished prairies and ponds. We talked some. We listened more. We listened to the quiet and my heart and soul became quiet. I focused on all the beauty around us.
None of this grandeur need be here. It’s all a gift. The trees turning, blazing color. The symphony of late season crickets in the grasses. The birds of prey floating on the breeze, hunting for a meal. The rustle of drying leaves. The expanse of land and water. The contrast of colors. Colors. Eyes to see the colors! Ears to hear the crickets! Legs to walk the paths! A husband to hold my hand!
And the hush of my breathe when I saw the miracle of metamorphosis, right there in front of us—right there perched on a purple aster, drinking in peace with wings folding and unfolding gracefully, either unaware or unconcerned with our presence. I held my breath with each click of my camera. My husband stood absolutely still. My heart beat so wildly I was sure my hands would shake—and they did. But I have a motion stabilizer on my lens that gives me grace. I got closer and closer. And that metamorphic miracle stood still and let me capture wonder to share, right here, for the sake of spreading joy.
I thought about that motion stabilizer on my lens and the grace it gave. I thought about what an anxious sort I am and how I have hated that about myself all these years.
Then I thought about stabilizers. How God stabilizes me with His love directly—His word is a soul salve and a heart calmer. How God stabilizes me with a patient, loving husband who accepts and even loves my range of emotion. How God has gifted me with an abundance of friends who know me well—all my strengths and weaknesses—and who love me enough to support me in my weakest moments.
I have seen and still see all the metamorphic miracles God has worked in me and through me, helping to stabilize others, even though I’m still an anxious sort who just prays a lot and who has a lot of faith.
Why doesn’t He heal me, I’ve wondered? He’s God. He could. But He doesn’t. Why?
Maybe it’s for my own greater good—and the good of others.
Maybe, if I weren’t such an anxious sort, I wouldn’t pray and lean and seek and find the greatest treasure to be found in life—an intimate relationship with our Creator, our God.
Maybe, if I weren’t such an anxious sort, I wouldn’t be able to understand and empathize with and help other anxious sorts. And I’ve found no greater joy than when another anxious, hurting soul finds solace knowing another cares and understands. And in knowing another cares and understands, it’s easier to believe in a God who does the same.
What joy there is in knowing Jesus! Not just knowing He existed—but that He exists—and that He’s coming again—and in knowing the love of Jesus today—in seeking and finding His love notes to us scattered everywhere throughout everyday . . .
Like a monarch on an aster . . .
And a hand that just turned 60 this week, his fingers intertwined with mine, still, as we walk the paths of the sanctuary and we sometimes stumble upon our paths of life in this broken world. We walk together, supporting each other as needed.
I am joyful and thankful—maybe even sometimes for my anxious sort of personality—because God can and does work through me—and you—just as we are now, not just as we will be—one day.