My emotions have been all over the map for many months, and with good reason. My mother died a few months ago, my sister is on a difficult cancer journey. I’m twelve hours away from her, and seventeen hours away from my grieving daddy. I also let go of some ministries I dearly loved. And, now we’re in the process of selling our house and buying another. So, there are many mornings I get up feeling crazy!
What’s kept me from totally unraveling is falling on my face and having a talk with my heavenly Father. That conversation goes like this:
- I’m overwhelmed. God says. “I’m here.”
- I’m sad. God says, “I’m here.”
- I’m anxious over a big decision. God says, “I’m here.”
- I’m scared. God says, “I’m here.”
- I don’t understand. God says, “I’m here.”
- I’m exhausted. God says, “I’m here.”
The Lord God, the great I AM – He meets me where I am.
My sister’s house is adorned with scripture plaques. Almost every wall is decorated with something spiritual. I love being surrounded by such beauty! My favorite plaque has these words:
In the stillness, He is there.
These words are taken from I Kings 19 when Elijah is fleeing from Queen Jezebel who is ready to take him out. He is running scared. He is exhausted physically and emotionally. God miraculously fed him on the journey and gave him rest. With his replenished soul and body, he travelled 40 days and 40 nights to meet with his God on Mt Horeb, the same place God manifested his glory to Moses. After spending the night in a cave, God commanded him to present himself on the mountain for the Lord was going to pass by. God sent a powerful wind, an earthquake, and a fire, but He was not in those manifestations of nature. God came to him in quietness. “And the word of the Lord came to him…a gentle whisper.” F.B. Myer says of this encounter: There the forces of Nature spoke to Elijah’s varying moods. In the fire, the earthquake, and the tempest he heard the voices of his own soul. ….Then the accents of the “still small voice” fell upon his ear, calming quieting, soothing.
F.B. Myer also says that God does not judge us by our moods. I say, “Hallelujah! Thank you, Jesus!” I can pour out my soul to Him sharing every emotion imaginable and in His still, soothing voice He says, “I am here.” The great I AM is with me. That is enough. I am helped. I am calmed.
There have been times in my life when I have said the words, ” I can’t handle this any more.” Those times have been few, and when I said them it was with fear and trembling. I hated to hear myself say them, but I did. Those times are forever etched in my memory. I can remember the place, the time of year, and what precipitated those moments that brought me to my knees in despair before God. They are as clear as a bell. During those times I felt as if I was drowning and couldn’t find my way out. There have been only three times that those words have come out of my mouth. One time was just a few weeks ago. I was on a trip to Texas where I was combining seeing my sister with a trip on to my parents. This trip to see my sister was such a special one for me. In just a few weeks she would face having a serious 10 hour surgery to remove cancer in her body. What she has already been through and what she had ahead of her in just a short while is excrutiatingly painful for her and for us who love her so. Our sister time visit was delightful. The day before I was to fly to see my parents we phoned our dad to check on him and Mother. There was sadness in his voice as he shared that Mother had stopped eating. She was in her 8th year of Alzheimers. We knew the day would come when this would happen, but we were not ready for it.
Daddy has kept Mother at home all these years and taken good care of her. She was now bedridden. A ten day trip eventually turned into twenty-four. Hospice was coming every two days and each time they came they sensed that that was probably the last time they would have the privilege of caring for her. Because Mother stopped eating and drinking we believed she would be leaving us within the week. However, our days are numbered and only God knows the day we will draw our last breath. Mother lingered two weeks. Those were some of the most emotionally difficult days of my life. It took a physical and emotional toll on me. After returning home, I realized I was totally depleted in every area of my life. I was an emotional wreck and a physical wreck because I hadn’t slept well in weeks. A friend texted to check on me and asked how I was doing. My reply was pretty much, “I’m a mess.” I couldn’t visualize coming out of this. Her words to me were, ” You will be fine, Kristi. God will take care of you.” She also said, “Please rest and make “selfish” decisions so you can heal.” I said, “Thank you. I needed to hear those words.
How could she be so sure I would be fine? Those are pretty bold words. First, she has experienced loss and pain in her own life and second, she knows her God. She has studied the Word of God. She knows His character and therefore, her faith is in Him. He promises He will never forsake us or leave us. He promises that He will hold us with His righteous right hand. He promises to take care of those who trust in Him. You know what else? She knows me. She knows where my faith and trust and security lie. It’ s in the living God. She knows too, the trials I’ve encountered and that God has always given me the strength and grace to get back up and keep going. She reminded me of what I already knew but needed to be reminded of. Yes, I was going to be fine because of the Who in my life. It’s so easy to get caught up on the what, the how, the why instead of the Who. That’s where I must focus. I needed to get my eyes on the God who loves me so and just happens to also be crazy about me! And, yes, He sometimes says, Come Away My Beloved and take special time to care for yourself. I also took my friend’s advice and began doing those other things of self care that were also needed in order for the healing to begin. Again, God has shown His faithfulness.
The walls in our bedroom were freshly painted and the color was perfect. Now it was time for the really fun part: painting the baseboards and crown molding. I really hadn’t put a lot of thought in to the type of sheen of the paint we’d be using for the trim. I just took the old can of paint we’d used many years before and told the man I wanted the same color and type of paint from that can. I realized we were using different brands of paint, but didn’t really think that would matter. So, he mixed it up. We began painting. My husband graciously did the crown molding and I did the baseboards. After it dried I realized it was really shiny and I wasn’t too happy about it having such a glossy look on the crown molding.
I found myself feeling very guilty about my discontent and dissatisfaction and felt I was being way too picky. I knew I needed to pray about it, asking God to forgive me for my ungrateful attitude and to help me change it. I thought I’d also verbalize a prayer of thanksgiving which was truly an act of my will. My prayer was: “Thank you God, for that shiny trim.” Then my husband came in and said, “What do you think of the paint job?” Desiring to be honest in our communication, I said, “The trim is a little too shiny for my liking, but it is okay.” He blessed me by replying, “Go buy some more paint. I think it’s too shiny, too.” I was elated! I believe my husband’s understanding and willingness to re-paint what he’d already done was somehow connected to the choice I’d earlier made to be grateful and choose to find contentment in the semi-gloss that really wasn’t too “semi”. I’m also very grateful for a husband whose desire was to please me even if it cost him extra time, energy, and money. And, he did it all with joy!
All situations may not always work out quite as positively as this did, but this was an opportunity to practice being thankful for something I wasn’t happy about. I pray that this kind of thankfulness would become easier for me. I need to grow in realizing that what brought discontent was something of temporal value, not eternal.
Photo courtesy of www.flickr.com/photos/panduadnyana/12168475944
On Sunday nights my husband and I host a home Bible study. We are using a very effective method of study called “Discovery Bible Study”. It is one of the most simple yet powerful study methods I’ve ever seen. We use 5-15 verses of scripture, read them in two different translations, close our Bibles, mention everything we can remember from the passage, and then look at the scriptures again. A DBS is built around 3 questions: What does this passage teach us about God? Then, about man? Then, what is there in this passage to obey? The last and most important thing we share is our personal application statement that is called the “I Will” statement.
Sunday night, May 18th, we were studying Acts 27:27-44. This story is about Paul and 276 others being on a ship that was caught in a great storm. They had to abandon the ship and get to shore by swimming or grabbing onto a plank or other type of broken piece of the ship. All made it to shore safely. I really wasn’t in much of a frame of mind that night to be in Bible study. I was in a deep storm of my own and would have preferred to have just been alone. I’m sure I didn’t enter into much of the discussion. I was in a place of deep emotional sadness. My sister, whom I love dearly, who is also like a best friend, and at times has mothered me, even though she’s younger than me, is battling cancer. I’d just received word that the present chemo wasn’t working so she’d have to begin a stronger chemo. Then, after three more months, she’d have to have to endure a very serious 10 hour surgery to remove the cancer that’s in two different places. I was overwhelmed with despair and in the pit of anxiousness
I knew what my “I will” statement “should” be, but I was struggling to verbalize it. Just as Paul and the other passengers had to let go, jump out of the ship and do what they could to get to land, I knew I too, had to let go of my despair that night and grab on to Jesus in my storm. So, my statement: “I will grab on to Jesus and hold on in this storm. My sister is doing all she can to weather this storm, which is much harder than mine, so and I must do the same.”
I read a quote recently that said “circumstances test our faith.” My faith has been tested many times before, but this is a new journey and my faith is being tested again. I’ve had many more days of weakness and tears since those moments in May, but I know what to do when those storm clouds start rolling in. I hold onto Jesus. I know He always holds onto me and that He’s holding onto my precious sister.