Tuesday, July 31, 2012

to the one who's missing out

I said good-bye to my husband and son as they headed out to a birthday party. One that I was planning on going to, but ended up waving good-bye from the driveway while wiping my tears instead.

Since my health adventure began, my husband has been the designated (and delighted) parent to accompany our son to friends’ birthday parties because although I have been blessed with tremendous healing, the amount of energy required to pack up {my special diet} food “to go” almost always far surpasses my limited stamina supply. But this was the first time in the past two years when I felt up to the task!

As a bonus, it was at a local kids’ museum that our son loves, and there was going to be designated free play time to wander and explore, so it was a double win: Not only would we get to celebrate with a sweet classmate, we’d get to have a little family fun, too! Even simple outings are a rare occasion for our family (again, just because my food prep is so daunting), so the fact that I felt up to it was a huge deal, and we were all really looking forward to the special afternoon.

I started the day feeling fine, and started to pack up the “to go” bag around lunchtime. And about ¾ of the way through, I started to run out of steam. My husband arrived home around that time and began to help out, as always. And so I willingly passed the baton so that I could sit, catch my breath, and hope for a second wind. A quick one!

As departure time came close at hand, reality started to set in. And I didn’t like it. We started to explain to our son that I might not be able to join them. (The “might” part still holding out hope for some stamina to kick in.) He was gently pleading with me to go, sweetly explaining that it wouldn't be as loud as some of the other party venues, that it's okay if I just sit the whole time, etc. He just wanted me to be there . . . . and so did I.

I seriously contemplated going and just being a bump on a log per se. I know that would have been okay. But I started to realize that simply the going and the being would be too draining for me with how I was feeling. Which is hard to reconcile when I’ve HAD that stamina recently – so recently I could reach out and touch it. And hard to know how to explain all that to our son.

As he and my husband grabbed the birthday gift off the kitchen counter and settled into the car, I followed them out to say good-bye. And with his window down, my son again tenderly expressed how deeply he wanted me to be a part of the experience. I told him that I whole-heartedly shared in his disappointment, and waved good-bye while wiping tears as they drove off.

~ ~ ~

That wasn’t the first time I’ve felt like I was watching life from the sidelines. A bystander uninvolved, disconnected from life’s current. And as I was crafting this post in my head, I was struggling to know what truth to share with you that would help calm your aching heart. Because I know many of you have been there. You know how painful it is to not be able to DO, and that it’s an altogether deeper level of pain to not even be able to BE, especially with the ones you love most. So I wanted to encourage you to draw your eyes toward Jesus in the middle of the missing out, but I was struggling to find the one thing to share with you, a truth that you could hang onto.

And then, I saw this.

A masterpiece of beauty that God had painted outside my window after evening rain.

After sharing it with our Facebook community, I sent it to Lily. And as she took in the beauty of His canvas in the sky, she asked me:

“What do you hear Him saying as you gaze?”

I knew immediately that the timing of her question was orchestrated by God because just earlier that day, I’d read a post that challenged me toward that very thinking. Holly Gerth was sharing that she’s such a word person {as am I}, and that she tends to think that messages always need words {as do I}, but that she's wanting to hear God’s messages in His beauty around her:

“I’ve realized it’s not so much about what I’m seeing but about what it’s saying . . .”

After Lily posed the question, I started to think out loud with her. I said that come to think of it, the timing was God's . . . (Isn't it always?) . . . He had blessed me with a delightfully-encouraging moment just a little while prior, and so it was as if those colors amidst the dark shadows – those colors that broke through – were God reminding me that all is not dark.It was as if He were saying:
I am here.
I am in it.
And here's a gulp of refreshment to remind you.

And just to make sure I received His Hand-delivered care package for my soul, the Lord gave the same message to Lily for me. When she initially asked what I heard Him saying as I gazed, she also pondered what He might be saying to me. And before I started to think aloud with her, she sensed that He was wanting to tell me:

I am HERE.
I am PRESENT – with YOU.

And that He was wrapping Himself around me with those beautiful colors of accepting, comforting warmth.

Once again, tears streamed down my cheeks. But this time, they were tears of worship, not of loss.

And so, my friend, this is the comfort He offers you in those moments when you feel like life has left you behind:

He offers you Himself.

Every day, God surrounds you and I with stunning reminders that He is with us. Wordless gentleness to calm your aching soul.

Lift your head, my friend, and look for His vibrant colors of comfort in the dark shadows of the storm.
Tune your ears to listen for His still, small voice amidst the thunder that shakes your foundation.
Be still.
And know that He is God.

"For those who fear him lack nothing."
(Ps. 34:9)

Martin Luther once said,
“God writes the Gospel not in the Bible alone, but also on trees, and in the flowers and clouds and stars.”

Our Father is perpetually expressing the reality of His nearness to you, my friend. He pours out His beauty to draw your soul even closer to Him, to remind you that He is near.

Look around you.
What do you hear Him saying as you gaze? . . .

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~ ~ ~

Thursday, July 12, 2012

for when you have nothing left to give

In my dream the other night, we were deliberating in a room on the second floor. Behind us was a window that showed the small group of people in the back yard outside. He had spontaneously decided to throw a small party. I think it was for our son, but all the guests were adults, so who knows. All I know is that we were the hosts and we were not out there with the guests – we were inside. Because I was feeling absolutely sapped. I felt completely drained mentally, physically, and emotionally. I had absolutely nothing left.

He and I continued to wrestle through finding a viable solution for tackling this dilemma. That troubleshooting dynamic one we’re well acquainted with, one that life has long woven into the fabric of our marriage. We were both clearly feeling the pressure of needing to be out there with our guests. And the guests were clearly awkward. I could see them looking around wondering where we were, exchanging scattered whispers about what to do.

Finally, I decided fine, I’ll go out. But unfortunately, he didn’t stay by my side to compensate for my lack of life. So I just stood there, stiff as stiff can be. I don’t even know who was around me. I was so sapped I couldn’t even look anyone in the eye.
My body had merely shown up.

After doing that for a matter of minutes, I decided it was pointless to be out there, and did an about face to return inside. After I did, the rest of the guests followed. Again, they were wanting to be sensitive to me, but didn’t know what that looked like. And so they were waiting for my cue, my initiation to engage and enter into my own social circle. In the meantime, they all opted to keep a comfortable distance.

As for me? I sat on a chair with my back completely to them. I sat there in desperate nothingness. Surrounded by friends yet completely alone. Until a close friend came over and sat down in front of me, her face toward mine. I hadn’t seen her in the crowd. It was as if she had come out of nowhere. Her disposition was as comfortable as always, unintimidated by my socially-offensive posture, as well as my nothingness. She hadn’t overanalyzed whether I needed space, or assurance, or what precise configuration of both.
She simply came.

Without her even saying a word, my body instinctively inhaled deep breaths simply with the relief of her presence. And I could feel those deep breaths initiating the early stages of physical restoration.
Her presence was offering my soul a calm that was giving my body strength.

~ ~ ~

There was so much reality to this dream: My feelings of isolation. My intense wrestling with feeling like I'm living life with my back turned to my friends because the demands of survival have left my margins so small I can barely discern them. And that nothingness. Oh, how I’ve been there.

But there’s something more powerful than the realistic picture of my life. In this dream, I also see a striking picture of the Lord in my friend’s response. Because unintimidated by all our offensiveness, He breaks through the uncertain crowd to come to us. He meets us in all our nothingness. He turns His face toward ours. And He comes simply to give:

To give encouragement for our burdened minds,
companionship for our lonely hearts,
and strength for our weary bodies.

And His presence draws our mind, body, and soul
to inhale renewing breaths of Life.

So the next time you find yourself feeling so weary that you don’t even have the strength to look life in the eye, know that God sees your need, and He is there. I know you don’t always see Him in the crowd – that large crowd of hurt and circumstance. But He’s there, my friend. And He WILL break through the pain to meet you where you are.

And by the way, if you ever find yourself wondering how to reach out to that friend in need, might I encourage you to not wait for them to initiate? When people are walking through a crisis in life, survival can become so all consuming that they oftentimes won’t have the strength or even time to express a need. And the enemy takes advantage of that – he wants to use your feelings of helplessness to keep you a safe distance from them.
Safe for your comfort zone and pride.

So pray for sensitivity, yes, but don’t over-analyze.

Be the one who comes.

Would you help spread this dose of encouragement by clicking here to share this post on Facebook? There are so many who could use this reminder.

Image above courtesy of Tammy J. Linking up with Ann Voskamp's The Practice of Suffering Series 
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