Wednesday, August 10, 2011
I run across sweet folks all the time that tell me they check our blog and we don’t ever write on it anymore. Many reasons why the blog is empty these days. I guess the main one is life is full.
As I type this I am on a plane leaving one speaking engagement and headed to the next. What an odd-fellow I sometimes feel as I use my American Express Business card, meet people in unfamiliar circles and travel across the country sharing God’s story of Troy’s life and my re-birth. A little funny at times because after my couple of days of being the gal about town, I go back to making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, scrubbing toilets and doing some Barbie’s hair for the umpteenth time.
Life is unpredictable. We have moved back to San Antonio and it’s GOOD to be a Texan again. Though it was with many tears that we looked at the Florida panhandle in our rearview mirrors. I loved our humble town, the sweet friends we made there and the awe-inspiring beauty of white sand beaches and azure water.
My life compass, though, seems to always point me back to Texas.
We’ve only been back a few weeks but they have been busy ones. Not only was our family’s early separation (Jim returned to TX for work 6 weeks before the kids and I) driving our quick-turn move after the kids finished school in FL but we had a wedding to attend.
And not just any old wedding, I might add. But another wedding birthed straight from the depths of suffering into the radiant light of the Master’s plan.
We have written blogs about Brad and Sarah Sullivan. Our earthly friendship with sweet Sarah was short. But Brad and Chloe have remained a constant on our family’s prayer request. The Lord, in His infinite mercies, brought Jenifer Wims not only into Brad’s life but into ours as well. Jenny and Brad married on Memorial Day in San Antonio and we were rejoicing for them both. Jenny lost her first husband to cancer just months before Brad lost Sarah. Jenny and her two children, like me and mine, were the ones left behind, missing a devoted husband and father.
As I watched them standing under the shady oak trees by the meandering river profess their love and commitment to one another, my heart stirred. My heart wept. In joy. In thankfulness. In rememberance. Just three years ago, that was Jim and I.
Life comes full circle.
……And life’s fullness is just now letting me finish this blog I started at the beginning of the summer! It’s August now and almost time for the kids to return to school. I can’t bring myself to say it feels any closer to fall, though, since the gauge in my car continually says it’s over 100 degrees. Ah, the Texas heat and this year’s drought. It feels like a curse from Heaven but I hear it’s just El Nina.
Again another way God will delight us with Heaven; perfect weather all the time. I bought the girls a book this summer about Heaven. Someone in our house always seems to be bringing the topic of Heaven up. We have had many animated conversations discussing the wonder of it. Are there spiral staircases? Are animals there? Will we all wear white robes?
One thing I often wonder about is this; can the saints up there ever get a glimpse of down here? Most of the time I would guess no. Even with their now-eternal perspective, I just can’t imagine what delight would come from viewing what a painful mess this earthly painting must look like. Yet, there are days that I just can’t imagine them NOT getting to see. Greyson walking into a church camp this summer where he knew no one and walking out a week later chosen by the staff as Camper of the Week. He displayed discipleship, leadership, love, courage… All the things Troy had worked diligently to grow from planted seeds those first 6 years of Greyson’s life with his Dad. Boston and Greyson blessedly choosing to be baptized this summer, Jim’s arms holding them as he immersed them in the waters and Troy’s mom and dad there in the first pew. Days like those. Holes in the floor of Heaven? There are moments I sure hope there are.
This morning I finished a book I began back in Florida. “One Thousand Gifts” is the title. A mom of 6 kids, a farmer’s wife, a woman seeking the face of God in the everyday mundane was challenged to write down one thousand things she was thankful for. In the process, her perspective was changed and real joy was found. The crosses she carried were different than mine. Early sexual abuse and death of a little sister among them, but she reminds me to offer thanks, even when it’s hard.
Psalm 50:23 “He who sacrifices thank offerings honors me, and he prepares the way so that I may show him the salvation of God”.
I don’t think the Lord would call it a sacrifice it He knew, at times, it wasn’t going to be easy to be thankful. The author, Ann Voskamp, writes: “The act of sacrificing thank offerings to God- even the bread and cup of cost, for cancer and crucifixion- this prepares the way for God to show us His fullest salvation from bitter, angry, resentful lives and from all the sin that estranges us to Him”.
Not salvation from hell. We have that the moment we enter into real relationship with Christ. But salvation from partaking of the bitter cup that sits on the table of suffering before us. Salvation from letting that daily drink replace our daily manna and turn us into empty, angry shells of who we were. It’s easier to do that, the giving in to the unforgiving hurt, than it is to work out the scarring knots of a broken and bruised heart so you can still have the capacity to wholly live and love again.
I met with some other widows at Focus on the Family this summer. Face to face. Heart to heart. There is so much pain etched across the faces of these beautiful women. It’s so familiar to me. We talked about thankfulness. Not FOR what had happened in our lives, but IN it all. To find something in each day to be thankful for, with the hopes that through that act of recognition, we could see God is still good. We could remember that He knows loss too. God watched His Son suffer, so that our struggles and pain in this life would only be a short walk into a journey of eternal peace . And just maybe, too, that our life here can be full even after it’s emptied out.
Romans 8:32 “He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all – how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?”
A challenge that even on days such as these, that 31 brave Navy Seals would lose their lives at the hands of evil, that their loved ones receive that familiar knock on the door…. That my new friend, Kelley (a Navy Seal widow herself just over a year ago) would now have to carry her friends and sit by more gravesides. On days where there is nothing we can come up with to be thankful for, we can always be thankful for Christ’s Cross.
I reminded the ladies, and myself, that feeling like God is absent and feeling like there is no hope are just that –feelings - and feelings can lie. I can remember those many days of lying on the floor of my closet, with my heart broken and my cries to Him seeming to fall of deaf ears. I am thankful for the perspective now. The way I can look back and know that outside of my closet walls, Jesus was there working in my house, providing others to parent my kids, healing and paving the way for joy to enter into our lives again. Down the road, upstream from those long and weary days and now, into my daily “new normal” life. I am not a patient thing when it comes to waiting. And it takes years to gain perspective.
One of my favorite things I read in this book of “One Thousand Things” was what she wrote about this very subject. She writes “In time, years, dust settles. In memory, ages, God emerges. Then when we look back, we see God’s back. Wasn’t that too His way with Moses?”
Exodus 33:22-23 “When My glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with My hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove My hand and you will see My back.”
Ann writes on, “Is that it? When it gets dark, it’s only because God has tucked me in a cleft of the rock and covered me, protected, with His hand? In the pitch, I feel like I’m falling, sense the bridge giving way, God long absent. In the dark, the bridge and my world shakes, cracking dreams. But maybe this is true in reality: It is in the dark that God is passing by. The bridge and our lives shake not because God has abandoned, but the exact opposite: God is passing by. God is in the tremors. Dark is the holiest ground, the glory passing by. In the blackest, god is closest, at work, forging His perfect and right will. Though it is black and we can’t see and our world seems to be free-falling and we feel utterly alone, Christ IS most present to us, I-beam supporting in earthquake. Then He will remove His hand. Then we will look. Then we look back and see His back. God reveals Himself in rearview mirrors. And I’ve an inkling that there are times we need to drive a long, long distance before we can look back and see God’s back in the rearview mirror.”
I wish I would have written that but I sure am glad I, at least, read it. I know there are so many who are waiting; waiting for healing, waiting for an answer, waiting for the loneliness to end and the pain to subside. Waiting to see God’s back.
This is such an everyday choice. The choosing to see in the dark that God is still love and that above all the gloomy rain clouds, the sun is still shining above it all. The Son is still shining above it all. And just maybe the Son lets a little sun shine through the holes in the floor of Heaven and Troy sees his children, by God’s mercy, thriving and living and laughing and loving and being little lights at church camp and coming up out of the baptismal in Jim’s arms and trying to trust Him no matter what. Lord, please help me to trust You, no matter what.
Words from Laura Story’s “Blessings”:
We pray for blessings, we pray for peace . Comfort for family, protection while we sleep . We pray for healing, for prosperity. We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering. All the while, You hear each spoken need . Yet love us way too much to give us lesser things . Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops? What if Your healing comes through tears ? What if a thousand sleepless nights Are what it takes to know You’re near? What if trials of this life Are Your mercies in disguise? We pray for wisdom, Your voice to hear . We cry in anger when we cannot feel You near . We doubt Your goodness, we doubt Your love . As if every promise from Your Word is not enough . And all the while You hear each desperate plea . And long that we'd have faith to believe . Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops . What if Your healing comes through tears? What if a thousand sleepless nights Are what it takes to know You’re near? And what if trials of this life Are Your mercies in disguise ? When friends betray us, when darkness seems to win . We know the pain reminds this heart
That this is not, this is not our home . It's not our home . Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops . What if Your healing comes through tears? And what if a thousand sleepless nights Are what it takes to know You’re near? What if my greatest disappointments Or the achings of this life Is the revealing of a greater thirst This world can’t satisfy? And what if trials of this life The rain, the storms, the hardest nights Are Your mercies in disguise?
Posted by Jim Ravella