It’s been a very up and down kind of week. This trip we are taking right now came to a head, and Travis and I have had to face some hard conversations, really dig deep to get through some tough times. He even said to me this week, “I think this is honestly one of the hardest times we have ever gone through in our marriage”. I respect that. I’m so very thankful for a man who loves me deeply, who won’t stop fighting, who doesn’t walk away when the hard gets hard. If there is one thing we have learned to do in the last 19 plus years, it’s to never give up. We pursue each other recklessly, we fight for the bond that holds us together, we face the ugly and pathetic and mean and fearful together and in the end, we embrace and remember why we love each other so much. Life is just like that more often than most people care to admit. Marriage, and all relationships for that matter, take work. Hard work. Committed work. Patient work. But at the end of the day, because of that desire to love and be loved, to serve the one God placed beside me on this life journey, we get through the difficult and find the place of grace with each other.
The profound has shown up in my week and there are several lessons and bits of wisdom I don’t ever want to lose. Here goes, my random ramblings.
* From the Jesus Calling by Sarah Young (if you don’t have this book, go buy it or download it on your phone or reader) ~ Go gently through this day, keeping your eyes on Me. I will open up the way before you, as you take steps of trust along your path. Sometimes the way before you appears to be blocked. If you focus on the obstacle or search for a way around it, you will probably go off course. Instead, focus on me, the Shepherd who is leading you along your life-journey. Before you know it, the “obstacle” will be behind you and you will hardly know how you passed through it. I love this visual and my mind pictures being on a curvy, mountain road where one side is straight up and the other side is straight down. I see a big rock right in the middle of the road, encompassing all the asphalt with no way around it. I think we all tend to focus so much on the problem staring us down that we miss the opportunity to let God’s creativity be the power that gets us from point A, what seems immovable and impossible, to point B, the next portion of the journey. I imagine myself looking back in the days to come and taking a huge sigh of relief and saying “good grief was that hard but God was merciful and saw us through”. Because at the end of the day, it’s not the tools in my bag or the strength of my arms and legs to try to crawl around or chisel though the obstacle that will get me past it. It’s believing God is who He says He is, He can do what His word promises He can do, He loves us more than we can fathom and sent His own Son to die for us, He desires goodness for our lives. It’s trust and faith. Oh believe me, it’s hard to throw out those tools I carry so I can figure out my own destiny, so I can work my way through every obstacle I face. I’m stubborn like that. I am the one whose motto from the day I was a chunky, big bellied, obstinate as they come toddler has been “I do it myself!”. So to trust that the Almighty God can move me from point A to point B without my help is a lesson I will have to learn over and over again. Thankfully I am getting there quicker the older I get. I’m softening. Life experience and seeing God show up and do amazing things tend to do that.
* Listen is a verb. It is an action. Listening takes training and character and respect for the person talking. I haven’t always been a good listener. I readily admit there are times (far too many times) when I am selfish and full of pride and absolutely know my words are far more important than the words being spoken to me. I have had to work very hard to be a good listener. Because by nature, there are an awful lot of things I simply don’t care about. And no one can make me care. I either care or I don’t care. There is no in between. This issue is pretty black and white for me. I’m not a good faker either so if I don’t care about what someone is saying to me, I’m not very good at hiding my I don’t care face. It’s true. Sigh….And it’s hard to admit that level of pride. But remember I’m a work in progress and I’m getting better at this listening – and caring – thing. I’m softening in this area only because the Lord has gently forced me to soften and taught me to care and listen. And that investing in other’s lives and feelings and thoughts is amazing. That I am so blessed by others when I take the time to listen. But one thing that really stands out to me in this whole listening business is this. There are few people in my life who listen well. And I have come to appreciate them oh so very much. I want to be patient and sensitive and caring like they are. They have it down. They know how to zip their lip and just listen. Cause I do a lot of talking. Especially when I am struggling and need to get it all out or as I like to say, verbally vomit all my thoughts and feelings. I’m so transparent and I don’t internalize things much. Oh I try to put up a wall and pretend things are great and fabulous and care free. But those who know me well know it’s an act. My sweet husband definitely sees through this one. It’s a protective mechanism I try to wear so I don’t have to face the hurt, the ugly in myself, the disappointment from others. So this listening gig is one I am working very hard on these days. Because I really do care about people. I’m actually a very passionate person. I really desire to invest in people’s lives. And I really, really appreciate those beautiful souls who know how to listen to me so well. You know who you are. I love ya.
* Palliative care sucks. I said I am honest a long time ago. And blunt. So there you have it. Disease is hard. Especially when it doesn’t have a name but it moves and invades and is sneaky. Thursday found us in Omaha. We met with the most amazing doctor ever and his wonderful team. They are a blessing. If anyone knows how to listen, it’s these people. They are so kind and compassionate and calm. You can see it in their eyes, all over their faces. And as Travis and I poured our hearts out – OK, I poured my heart out – and the tears flowed and my heart was heavy, they just listened. And they gave the best advice. They challenged us to think about details I don’t want to think about. They told us to plan ahead, to made decisions now so in the midst of stress, in the times of failing health, we will already be able to move forward because we planned ahead. But let me just say, talking about the death of a son who sat between us, swinging his legs forward and backward, forward and backward, as he bounced up and down in his chair was hard. Because we all die. We all have failing bodies. And Ryan may outlive me. Who knows. I don’t know what God has planned. But Thursday we were told to plan for an unknown future. Where’s that detailed list of what to do next, like a recipe. Ryan’s body is giving us signs that it wants to keep weakening. That it wants to fail. That it is being ravaged and is getting tired. But then we have those precious, hold onto as tight as possible and never miss a thing moments when he bounces in his chair, squeals and spits and laughs, when he seems so alive. So Ryan-normal. And what a validating moment we had when finally, after all these years, a doctor finally said what I’ve needed to hear so I know I’m not crazy, that I’m not making all this up. He looked me in the eye and said “if you know your son has a degenerative disease, then he does. Parents know these things”. He sees it too. Even without a name. Even after two rounds of genetic testing and still no answer. There is a gigantic rift in my brain that says don’t worry or think about what might and will probably come with a rivaling opponent that says prepare now so you don’t get caught in the storm without the necessary preparations already made and in place. It’s tough. I admit that. It’s very hard. And I can get very angry and tearful over all this medical junk. But I can’t ignore what is in front of me. That would be irresponsible on my part as a parent. I’d rather only deal with the little boy who was pulling Kleenex out of the box during our meeting and throwing them over his shoulder then looking to see where they landed as he giggled in delight at his antics. But that sweet little boy who lives such a joy filled life also houses a monster who wants so badly to defeat him. And that monster has to be faced too. So we relish the good and keep our hearts in a place of thankfulness for such a thing called palliative care that loves us and our little boy and promises to walk thought this tough season with us.
* This touched my heart. It’s from Proverbs 31 Ministries which is an amazing ministry to women. Simply beautiful. It’s from Priscilla Shirer. “This is God’s way: Putting extraordinary tasks on the plates of ordinary people so that ordinary people can see what an extraordinary God can do through them.” How cool is that word picture. I love it. I’m amazed and in awe of some pretty ordinary people who have crossed my path. They have stories of resilience, of faith, of heartache, of healing. And it challenges me to trust that my story will also be extraordinary. Not because of me. I certainly don’t crave or desire attention for my life. I’m simply living the life God has called me to so He can do whatever it is He desires to do through me. We never know whose life we will touch when we allow God to do what He wants through us. I’m simply along for the ride. This statement challenges me. It calls me to prayer. To pray that the dreams Travis and I have for our future, for the future of Ellisbrook, will be a story of God’s extraordinary work. All I see right now is that big obstacle on the asphalt. But our dream is God given. It’s not ours to claim. And someday we are trusting our dream, what we firmly believe God is calling us to, will come to fruition. And that it will be extraordinary. And life changing to those we get to serve. Because we are simply ordinary people who serve an extraordinary God.
* I think, no, I know, it’s easy to compare our own lives to those around us. With modern technology as it is today, it is far too easy to spy on people’s lives. To see and experience and know lots of details about others without getting too close. And with that knowledge of what others are facing comes the ability to quickly judge. We are all guilty of this one whether we choose to acknowledge it or not. Even this week I caught myself telling Travis this person has it so easy and that person never gets a break. But what I fail to remember is that each of us has a journey all our own. Every one of us will face good, we will face hardship, we will go through the fight of our lives, we will be blessed beyond measure. But one person’s battle may be nothing to someone else who has faced pain beyond words. And another person’s bounty may be excessive and extreme to someone else. God puts us all on different paths, gives us all unique dreams, blesses us all with varying degrees of health and wealth and ministry all our own. So let’s not judge each other. Let’s not let jealousy and envy and critical thought processes and condescending looks find us. We all have a unique life book with our own stamp on it. I desire to make my mark in whatever way God calls me to. And I pray each of us finds that peace on our own, personal journey to learn what it is we need to learn, to do what we are called to do, to enjoy the moments, to give when we are blessed with more than we need, to come along side and embrace those who need a loving touch, to pray at all times and to give glory to the One who gave us our own story. Because in spite of the muck, the dreary, the hard and the stress, life is good. God is amazing. And there is always, always, always blessing when we choose to focus on it. Perspective is everything and in choosing to focus on all that is well and happy and abundantly good, we get to live a life that overflows with God’s peace, with joy beyond understanding. He’s a loving Father for sure.
Jeremiah 29:11 ~ For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.