Sunday, February 27, 2011

A Door of Hope

As I was working on my Bible study homework this morning, I came across this drawing that Mercy Doyle made for me when I was visiting them a few weeks ago. At the time, it struck me that of all the things she could have drawn for me, she would draw this on the page. A rectangle. It reminded me of a door or an opening of some kind, but I didn't have much time to reflect on it...I was actually working on getting ready to catch my flight home. So I stashed it in my workbook so it wouldn't get wrinkled.

But just now, I pulled it out, and I saw something profound. As I looked at it once again, I felt like God was showing me that it was indeed a Doorway. A doorway to Him. And I recalled a scripture in Hosea 2 that has meant everything to me.

The LORD’s Mercy on Israel

14 "Therefore, behold, I will allure her,
and bring her into the wilderness,
and speak tenderly to her.

15 And there I will give her back her vineyards
and make the Valley of Trouble a door of hope."

Immediately I was thrust back into a time of great personal turmoil and emotional agony. As I walked through many days of pain, this scripture was a light into my dark soul and salve to my bruised heart. It literally began to heal the broken places and bring me back to a full and abundant life.

And of all the things Mercy could have drawn for me, I'm not sure she could have drawn anything more personally relevant and profound for me. I'm not even sure I can put it into words.

It's a reminder for me of where God has brought me from -- a terribly dark oppressive place -- into a vineyard brimming with abundant fruit and life. He has truly changed my "valley of trouble" into a Door of Hope that I've gladly walked through.

And as I've fasted and prayed for Mercy and the Doyles, I have once again been "allured" by God and He has indeed spoken so very tenderly to me. This moment in time of putting Mercy's drawing together with what God has done in and for me, and what He wants to continue doing in me is priceless. It's big. It's eternal.

In fact, so many things had to happen for this moment to divinely occur. Because I've been sick, I stayed home from church with my little guy, who has also been sick. Because I was missing out on church, I grabbed my Bible study workbook to get into God's word. Because I worked on my study, my spirit was awakened to some amazing insights and revelations. Because I was so moved, I began to pray and really passionately speak with God. And when I was done, I saw the drawing...and it all clicked.

My family should have arrived home from church already. I had just talked to my husband before I had this divine encounter. But they haven't made it yet. Could it be that God arranged for them to mosey on home the long way so He could speak to me? I believe it with all of my heart. Because our God is amazing like that.

And the fact that the subcaption of this portion of scripture bears Mercy's very name is even more amazing. My continued prayer is that God would continue to speak tenderly to Mercy. That he would take her hand and walk her out of that valley of trouble and through His door of hope.

And I believe He has already begun to do so...

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Choosing Gratitude Tonight

For the last several weeks my spirit has been in a bit of turmoil. Dear, wonderful, amazing friends of ours (and many) were suddenly faced with some frightening news about their 5-year-old daughter. Their daughter is only a few weeks younger than my second-born. As news of some of the loss of physical ability came trickling in, I was truly saddened for the family and all that it would mean for them going forward. I could not help but look at my own wily, stubborn, highly-active little girl and think, "what if that happened to us?"

In that moment all the crazy day-to-day stuff that we moms go through paled significantly. I'm talking about the blankies in the toilet, poop on the rug, "she slapped me, mom" kind of stuff that we mothers face day in and day out. After awhile, it can really wear you down. Pretty soon all of it balls up and becomes this really big sigh that we collectively breathe out at the end of the day (or if you're like me, all throughout the day -- counting to 50 in my locked bathroom while I gain some sort of composure.) Believe me, some days are beyond "beyond." I had one recently that broke me down.

But most's just little petty stuff. It just really is....and especially in the light of the awful enormity of true crisis.

I had the amazing opportunity to be able to fly over and visit our friends and lend a helping hand one weekend recently. Besides their 5-year-old, they have an 9-year-old daughter and a 6-month old son. So, as you can imagine, they already have a lot going on. Throw in the unexpected wrench of suddenly needing to assist their 5-year-old, Mercy, to do everything from getting dressed, to going to the bathroom, to getting her food, you can imagine how much there is to get done in a day.

I had the joy of being able to help assist sweet Mercy while I was there and as as I helped walk her through these things it was like a projector in my mind played back scenes of my frustration with my own children.

As Mercy stood so patiently with her little hands on my shoulders for support and I helped put her pants on, I flashed back to being impatient with my own 5-year-old for putting on her pants on backwards when we were in a hurry. I should have just laughed and helped her fix it.

As I helped Mercy get situated on her little indoor trampoline for some much-enjoyed, enthusiastic bouncing time (one of the few ways she can get exercise these days), I thought about all the times I yelled at my own children for running around the house playing tag. I should have joined in and been It.

As I made breakfast with older sister, Selah, we talked about life and school and everything. She asked me tell story after story. She said her favorite thing about people coming to stay with them to help was hanging out in the mornings and talking. I thought about the times I've told my 8-year-old that now was "not a good time to talk." I should have made it a good time.

I guess all along what I've needed the most was a healthy dose of perspective. Now I can look back and see that mine was pretty narrow and focused. On me. On my life. On my problems.

But the reality is....they really aren't problems. Not really. Annoyances? Yes. A real life crisis?  Absolutely not.

As per usual, I was doing my Beth Moore study (this time it's on Esther) and she said something that was so in line with what God has been doing in my heart (isn't He so good like that?) She wrote,
"If we distance ourselves long enough from real needs, we replace them with those that aren't. Pretense becomes the new real and suddenly a delay in the delivery of our new couch becomes a terrible upset. We are wise to force ourselves to keep differentiating between simple inconvenience and authentic tribulations. The more detached and self-absorbed we become, the more we mistake annoyances for agonies."
There is a line that has been playing over and over in my head for the last month. One of my good friends wrote a blog about her response to our mutual friends' whirlwind and she started it by these words,
"Choosing Thankfulness Tonight..."

Over the days and weeks, it's morphed into my own personal mantra, "I'm choosing gratitude tonight."

It's a statement I am declaring for and to myself when my perspective starts to constrict and narrow. I think about Mercy and her brave smile and happy heart and I see how far my character has yet to grow.

And as I was staggering around this evening changing the sheets on our bed (after being ill, isn't it amazing having clean non-sick sheets?) so I could snuggle back in them after a nice hot shower (also amazing after being ill), I was thinking about the choice of gratitude. Why do I have to choose? Couldn't God have just made us with a "cheerful button" that He could push at will...or even better keep pushed all the time? Why is it so important for me to "choose" gratitude over complaint or frustration?

I immediately thought of my own children. How happy does it make me as a mom to see one of my children make a right choice, not because I'm giving them the "mom eye", or because they don't want to get in trouble, but because it's right and they know it? Nothing could make my momma heart prouder.

And I think it's the same with God. How it must make His heart happy when we make the choice to swipe the clutter of all of our own troubles off the desk of our heart and replace it with hands lifted in thankfulness. Not because He askes us to, or because He forces us to, but because we know that it's the right thing to do.

So, I'm choosing gratitude tonight -- as I look around at my category F7 of a house. When mom is sick, let's just say that the family does the best it can. And sometimes the "best" doesn't involve picking up papers off the floor, sweeping up a day's worth of meals from under the table, or putting toys away.

But I have a house. I have 4 beautiful, energetic children who all came in to snuggle me in my bed of sickness today. I have a husband who bravely manned the fort full of children with pent-up energy, including a rascally 5-year-old and a baby on the brink of the Terrible Twos who is in full-on destruction mode. I have it good.

I know that.

I'm choosing gratitude tonight....