Sunshine after the Rain

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I married an incredible man two weeks ago. It was one of the happiest days of my life.

In a letter to him on our wedding day, I told him that he was the answer to my deepest prayers and better than my wildest dreams.

I’m still feeling euphoric. I can’t believe that this is my life. I keep thinking I’ll wake up to find it’s all been a dream.

This sense of bliss is unfamiliar to me. For many years, my reality felt more like a nightmare than a dream. I had resigned myself to thinking that life would always be hard, crying myself to sleep was normal, and happiness was for “other people.”

I memorized Psalm 30:5, “Weeping may last for a night, but joy comes in the morning,” though I doubted its application to me. When my morning was coming? Was it coming at all? The night seemed endlessly long and my weary tear-filled eyes could not see even a glimmer of light. For some, their weeping period was brief and contained, yet for others, the night stretched into years. And when the night is measured by decades, it’s hard to believe that morning will ever dawn.

When I found myself in a night that seemed to go on forever, I vacillated between faith & hopelessness, between peace & terror, between light & darkness. The blackness would often envelop me till I could scarcely breathe. Those days were filled with tears and my only release came with intermittent sleep. I would give into self-pity and wish that I had never been born. Job did that – I reasoned that I could too.

Other times I would try to ignore the pain, stuffing my feelings as deep as I could manage, stoically going on with my life. I squelched expectations of anything good happening – that way I couldn’t be disappointed. Those days were fueled only by duty. It was basically resignation, though it vaguely resembled contentment.

Some mornings I would grab my Bible and sit with God as long as I could. I would try to grab hold of Him and cry out, as Jacob did, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” I would journal about my pain, read the Bible, and sit in God’s presence. I would wait until I sensed a word from Him – usually spoken from the Scripture – and that word would carry me through the day.

And lastly, some days I was able to intentionally and deliberately choose to be joyful even when my heart was breaking. Even when life felt empty and hopeless. Even when my time with the Lord left me feeling alone and unchanged. On those days in particular, I forced myself to be thankful even for small things and to set my mind on the truth of what I knew about God rather than my feelings.

It was a constant battle, a continual fight for joy. A battle that I lost as often as I won. But what changed me wasn’t in losing or winning the battle, but rather in simply engaging the fight.

At the time, I didn’t see any of this. At the time all I could see was life disintegrating. At the time, I just wanted the pain to stop. It didn’t occur to me that anything good or noble or worthwhile was happening. But this learning to depend on God, to cry out to him, to find beauty in the everyday, was training my heart to see beyond my circumstances. And that sight continued long after the storm had passed.

Learning to dance in the rain did more for my soul than dancing in the sunshine ever could.Continue Reading

How Can Unfulfilled Longings Be a Blessing?

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I was lonely for years.

I longed to remarry, but I didn’t want to admit it to anyone. Not even to myself.

I didn’t want to pin my hopes on something that might never happen. And if I never remarried, I didn’t want to look like I had wasted my life, hadn’t trusted God, and couldn’t be content. I’d be pitied. And embarrassed. I didn’t want that.

So I buried my feelings.

At times those stuffed feelings would resurface and I would ask God for a husband, journal about it, and pray fervently. Then I would try to forget about my longings, surrender them to God, and convince myself I didn’t want to be married anyway. I told myself, and other people, that it wasn’t important, that I was completely content, that I had come to terms with where I was.

That was a lie.

A lie I wanted to believe because it seemed that everyone who loved God was satisfied with their circumstances. Besides, it seemed better to deny a longing that might never be fulfilled than it was to keep longing. It certainly was less painful.

Others had accepted their unfulfilled longings. Regarding singleness. Or infertility. Or discouraging careers. They said that when they finally gave up on their desires, they gained a sense of stability.

Yet God knew my heart. He knew this longing was not going away. It was pointless for me to deny it.

And then God miraculously, wonderfully, unexpectedly fulfilled my dream. Beyond my wildest imaginings.

In two weeks I will wed a man I love deeply.

God gave me the desire of my heart. It has been amazing. And I will be forever grateful.

And yet in other things – with longings just as real and intense – God has not given me what I was yearning for. He has left me with unmet desires. Desires that may not be fulfilled this side of heaven. Desires that I may live with forever.

Right now I want a body that isn’t severely limited. With post-polio syndrome, I am deteriorating daily, much more rapidly than I am prepared for. Some days I wake up with intense pain, which gives way to a dull ache that drags throughout the day. On those days, my arms are limited to basic tasks like eating and dressing. If I can do them at all.

It’s been excruciating.Continue Reading

Hidden Treasures in Dark Places

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There’s much about God I don’t understand.

Sometimes the Bible just doesn’t make sense to me. God’s ways are mysterious, which can be frustrating to a perfectionist who prefers straightforward answers, clear direction, nothing ambiguous. Life is easier that way.

However, in God’s mysterious way, the most incomprehensible and unsettling passages often contain the deepest truths. Like John 11. When I recently heard a pastor preach on the raising of Lazarus, I remembered how that very passage, irritating and infuriating as it was at the time, had transformed me years ago.

John 11:1-6 reads:

“Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill.  So the sisters sent to him, saying, ‘Lord, he whom you love is ill.’  But when Jesus heard it he said, ‘This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.’ Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.”

The passage made sense until verse 6. It seemed to me that if Jesus loved Mary, Martha and Lazarus, He would have gone when they needed Him. He would have rescued them. He would never have let Lazarus die.

I felt for Mary, Martha and Lazarus. When Jesus didn’t come, they must have felt devastated. They must have thought that their close relationship with Jesus would have meant something to Him. They must have assumed that He would come when they told Him that Lazarus lay dying.

He healed complete strangers; why wouldn’t He heal His friends?

But Jesus didn’t heal him. Jesus didn’t even show up.

I knew how His friends must have felt.

I was in the darkest period of my life and God had let me down. Though I had pleaded with God to deliver me, my circumstances were getting more twisted and painful each day. I had faithfully served Him and now that my life had fallen apart, God didn’t even seem to care.

It seemed that other people, young believers and even unbelievers, had their prayers answered more quickly than I did. Maybe God was using my life as some type of cosmic example, to bring about some greater good, even if it wasn’t good for me. I was trying to reconcile that in my mind.

At the same time, I understood that God had bigger purposes than my life alone. Lazarus’ illness was for the glory of God and His glory comes before all things. The raising of Lazarus brought God tremendous glory – it was the most loving thing to a world that desperately needed to understand who Jesus was. I knew that raising Lazarus was definitive proof that Jesus was no ordinary man. He indeed was the son of God.

But my question remained – how was Lazarus’ death loving to Lazarus and his family? The Bible says that it was. The Bible says that is precisely why Jesus didn’t go immediately. Because He loved THEM. Not just because He loved the world.

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How in the World Do I Savor Life?

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I drive by the gym and it’s teeming with people. Cars are spilling out of the parking lot into the street as I slow down to squeeze through the narrow lane.

It was quiet here a month ago. But at the start of the new year, everyone is anxious to get into shape. To change their ways. To start fresh.

I’m no different. I am desperate for change. Maybe not as much externally as on the inside, where I feel weary and hurried all too often. As I mentioned in my last post, I want to savor this year. To savor each moment. To savor my time with God.

This word SAVOR has echoed through my mind for weeks as I figure out how to live it.  It’s been popping up everywhere. My sister’s teabag had “savor” on the tag. My fiancé’s ‘word of the day’ was savor. My younger daughter keeps asking me if I am savoring life. She read my post and sees my need to embrace life.

I’m working on savoring. This one word is changing me. More than I expected.

Last week, my daughter sprained her ankle and I took her to physical therapy. While I brought work to do as I waited, I decided instead to talk to her and the physical therapist, which was incredibly fun. Though it was a small choice, it showed me how often I miss those moments. In my desire to get more things done, I often don’t savor the present.

According to the ‘word of the day’ screensaver, SAVOR can be defined as:  “to taste (good food or drink) and enjoy it completely.” Or to “enjoy or appreciate (something pleasant) completely, especially by dwelling on it.”

To savor something is to taste it. To enjoy it completely. To dwell on it.

I need to do all of those things.

To savor something, I must taste it first. I must experience it. I must be totally present to what’s in front of me.

Admittedly, I don’t do that well.  I often multitask, so when I’m on the phone I might be glancing at email or opening my mail. When I’m waiting in the doctor’s office, I bring books and papers to read. When I’m watching a movie, I’m working on other things. I’m rarely idle.

Therein lies the problem.

For years I have made productivity almost a god, trying to cram as much as I can into every minute till there are none to spare.  Sometimes it’s hard to breathe. It’s hard to enjoy the simple things in life because they aren’t “productive.” When productivity is the goal, those precious moments become almost a waste of time.

To savor also means to enjoy something completely.

Savoring involves delight. Pleasure. Relishing. There is no hint of duty in savoring.

My life tends to be much more focused on duty than on savoring. My schedule revolves around “ought to do” more than “want to do.” Duty looms large in the choices I make.

Of course, duty is important. But when life is all about duty, there is little room for delight. When a good day is defined by getting everything done on my to-do list, I leave little room for the important things – things that can’t be jotted down and crossed off a list.

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