The post today is going to be a little strange and full disclosure, more than a little lengthy. It’s going to mix parts of the present with the recent past and even merge parts from years ago when we met Joni and Ken Tada at family retreat. My clumsy attempts to summarize the events of the last few days by recounting the present and pointing to the past will be intermingled with the voice of one of the most godly, courageous women I have ever encountered. All of this back and forth confirms for me and I hope for you too that no event ever happens in isolation. The activity of God cannot be confined by time and not a moment of your life escapes His attention.
To give a little context, I am sitting on our couch bandaged tightly across my entire abdomen so the air in my right lung will not escape through the hole left by the chest tubes that recently took up residence there. For some unknown reason, this part of my body decided to take a vacation and interrupt the one we had planned to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. It’s been a rough weekend to say the least. Complication after complication has reared its challenging head but God has met every one with the supernatural resolve to fight for me and show Himself mighty. I found it to be “so God” that He revealed Himself to me with the following thought right before I visited the doctor and this situation began to unfold:
“Trials rip away the façade of self-sufficiency and make way for God’s miracles. I praise Him for His constant attention and affection toward me.” — posted on FB in the a.m. Aug 30
The staff at the hospital was kind enough to let me call Britt and tell her what was going on before they doped me up for the procedure. Her little heart was breaking (she’s 20 but it’s still a “little heart” to this Momma) and I so badly wanted to make it better for her. But I couldn’t. It was time to find out if I would believe God for her comfort. I totally trusted Him for me, no matter the outcome, but I didn’t know if I had the tenacity to trust Him for her and for Brett. The next few days presented that question over and over again. Each time, I said aloud, “I trust you Lord” and I repeated the verse from Psalm 28 I had started memorizing two days before . . .
“The LORD is my strength, my shield from every danger. I trust in him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy.” Psalm 28:7 NLT (written on an index card the a.m. of Aug 29)
Each time He was true to His Word. I love how He is always preparing us to face the next trial. Always revealing Himself to be the One we can turn to and reminding us that everything has a purpose.
I was nervous about the medication I was getting because I knew that I would soon lose the ability to monitor what was spewing from my mouth. I never know what might come flowing out if I leave this tongue unattended and I didn’t want to be bossy or say something unfiltered. The E.R. Crew listened patiently as the drugs started having their relaxing effect and I explained that “I needed them to ignore anything I might say under the influence because if I ever got to talk Jesus with them in the future, I didn’t want this to be what they remembered.” Luckily, the jibberish I spoke wasn’t anything that threatened my sanctification! I did quote a contorted version of Proverbs 21:9 to the three men hard at work preparing to help me begin breathing again: Better to live on the corner of a roof than to have a nagging wife. Hmmm . . . . . is this really the last bit of wisdom my brain wants to impart.
So I had gotten to talk to my Girl and, as the surgeons prepared to sedate me further and insert the tube that was supposed to reinflate my lung, I remember looking over at Brett and seeing such a mix of love and concern on his face. I wrote later in my journal, “If her voice was the last thing I heard and his face the last thing I saw on planet earth, what a sweet send off it would have been. Lord, thank you for being Love to me through them.” My God really is the Giver of all good gifts. I don’t think I had any doubts left about that, but if I did watching my parents, my husband, and my sweet night shift friend do faithful vigil at my bedside certainly dispelled them. He is today and has always been the unchanging God James describes.
My condition was very serious and the measures to correct it would not fall under my personal definition of the word pleasant. The tube they originally inserted between my ribs was very large and they had to pry my bones apart to secure it. As a result, it was painful all the time. I was relieved when the surgeon said it could be removed and I looked forward to having that pain gone. But when they took it out the diameter of the tube left a gaping hole and my lung began to spurt air and collapsed again. There was no time to administer any kind of pain medicine so I received stitches and had a large needle for aspiration inserted without any numbing medication. Youch! To keep my mind from the events transpiring around in me I recited Psalm 15 which God had planted firmly in my memory the previous week over and over again. I said the final line with particular gusto as the assisting nurses held my hands tightly . . .
“He who does these things will not be shaken.” Psalm 15:5b (put in my memory folder Aug 20)
The following day one of the nurses asked me “What was that Psalm you were saying yesterday?” and I got to speak a good Word about the LOVE of my Jesus and He who IS FAITHFUL. He always has a good work set aside for us to do and HE always gives us the equipping and strength to carry it out. He never ceases to be active in our midst.
And while all of this is going on my Sweet Girl in Florida is declaring that “she believes God to restore the health of her Momma” for all the heavenlies to hear and is praying big, ambitious prayers on my behalf. The circumstances may have looked bad from the outside, but Sister, does it get any better than that? Well, the answer is yes because we are loved by the God of More. . . . Much More. And blessedly, He allows us glimpses of the “More of Him.”
So this is the point when I must begin moving forward and backward in time. The things that transpired in between the moment above and my being released continued to show the glory of God. I was blessed by my Sisters in the Faith rolling in one after another with blessing after blessing. Funny that I had just written about our need for the Body and resting in the garage. God knows that simply knowing something very rarely results in it becoming a part of who I am and I praise Him that He will go to any length to make certain that I have fully embraced the Truth He has uncovered.
Here’s the flash back: This link is to the full blog post the excerpt below, written by Joni Eareckson Tada, was taken from. I had read it on August 29th and prayed to be that kind of an encouragement to my man.
Ken opened wide the front door so I could wheel out to the van. For a long moment I sat squarely in the door frame, staring and taking it all in: the shade tree dappling our brick path, blossoms bobbing on the crepe myrtle, and patches of sunlight on dewy grass. It was the freshest of mornings. Oh God, I breathed, If only I could feel as fresh.
After more than four decades of quadriplegia, I’m tired. Please don’t think I’m a veteran or a professional when it comes to living in a wheelchair. I’m not an expert. MY BONES ARE WEARY AND THIN FROM BATTLING EVERYTHING FROM PRESSURE SORES AND PNEUMONIA (I added the capitalization for emphasis there because it so screamed my man’s name to me)—to stage III cancer. My question these days is never “Why God?” It’s most often “How?”
How do I keep on going? How do I care about others when I’m consumed with my own physical challenges? How can I be kind and civil when pain wracks me? How can I find the strength to face this day?That morning, Ken had the answer.
“Why aren’t you out by the van?” he asked when he came from the kitchen with my lunch bag. Staring at the splendorous morning beyond the door, I answered him with a deep sigh. “Wait here,” he said, “I know exactly what you need.”
Soon he was back with a yellow post-it note. With a thick Sharpie, he had simply penned on it the letter ‘C.’
I gave him an odd look. “It stands for Courage,” he said, “The courage of Christ. I can see it in your eyes, Joni, and you can do this. I know you can!” With that, he pressed the post-it on my shirt, right above my heart.
There is more and I urge you to follow the link and read the observations Joni shares, but this is the point in the blog where I stopped and prayed through tear filled eyes, asking God to please give me the heart vision to notice when Brett is having a “deep sigh day” and the wisdom to know how to lift him up. I told Brett about Joni’s words and how they had made me think of his daily struggles and I hope I encouraged his heart with words of admiration for all he perseveres through.
The flash forward piece of the puzzle brings us to yesterday when I was released and allowed to come home with severe limitations. Brett had watched all that had happened from an unfamiliar vantage point. See, he is very used to being the one in the bed but the other side of the rail is territory he’s not visited too often. It was hard on him. It took courage to push through and do all that he needed to do. But my Nehemiah Man, the guard posted on my wall, persevered yet again. Oh, he loved me ferociously through it all. And while I’m familiar with the feeling of being helpless but never hopeless on the “other side of the rail” I wondered what it looked like through his eyes.
I didn’t need to wonder for long because as I settled into the recliner I will be calling home for the next few weeks my man wheeled toward me with his glasses on his head and tears at the corner of his eyes. Unbeknownst to me, he had read the blog I had chatted with him about–the one that made me think of him and the courage of Christ that he displays every day–and on his knee was a purple post-it note with the letter “C” written in black Sharpie marker. (Since Brett has no finger function this was a very intentional labor of love on his part.)
With me sobbing and tears in his own eyes, he pressed his finger down on the post-it note until it stuck to his hand and held it out to me. I pressed it on my chest and I felt the total love of the redeemed man sitting in front of me.
Oh yes, Beloved, my God is a God of More. More than I can possibly conceive or imagine. My God is faithful and trustworthy. Not a single moment of my life escapes His attention or His affection. He is the Giver of all good gifts and will never let His children settle for less than the More He has set aside for them.
The same is true for you. Do not believe for a moment He has abandoned you in the trial Sweet One. Your God would not take you there or allow the challenge if He did not have More for you on the other side. You hang on with faith. You pray big, ambitious prayers and you wait expectantly for your God to bless you. Listen to Him when He tells you not be afraid and consider Joshua 1:9 to be your personal post-it note straight from the heart of the Holy One. Press it on your chest Girlfriend, count on Him to do what He says He will do, and be confident that the God of More is with you.
“Be strong and courageous.
Do not be afraid;
do not be discouraged,
for the Lord your God
will be with you wherever you go.”