I DON’T UNDERSTAND…

“You call me out upon the waters

The great unknown

My feet may fail

And there I find you in the mystery”

–Hillsong “Oceans”

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“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

Malignant Melanoma.

We helplessly watched as cancer swarmed in on our father’s organs and took his last breath of life, dying in the battle against this disease. Our family saw the terror of treatments that seemed worse than the cancer that overtook him. We were in shock from watching. Why does this disease even exist? Why does it shamelessly attack grandmas, fathers, aunts and…children?

I didn’t understand.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37)

“In oceans deep

My faith wears thin”

–Hillsong “Oceans”

 

One month later, still reeling from the loss of our father, we lost my grandfather to dementia and lung disease.

I found myself in the depths.

“And I will call upon your name

And keep my eyes above the waves”

–Hillsong “Oceans”

 

That year I sunk deeper and deeper. I would be overcome in sorrow; brought to tears lying sleepless in bed every night, sitting at my desk at work, in line at the grocery store… Then, (it didn’t seem possible,) but things went from worse to worse.

The big “D” began visiting my house and he brought his other “D friend”.

These deaths, now divorce and depression—all in the same year; all as a faithful, praying, seeking Christian.

“Time heals all wounds…”

Really?! I wanted to just barf at the well-meaning people saying this to me.

It wasn’t fair. This wasn’t what I signed up for when I gave my heart to the Lord.

I didn’t understand.

But, I loved the Lord. I clung to him with everything I had. The Hope I had in Him, and His power to get me through, and to bring light into dark places, kept me holding on.

 “Your grace abounds in deepest waters”

–Hillsong “Oceans”

 

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart,

And lean not on your own understanding.

In all your ways submit to Him,

And He will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3: 5-6)

So, if I loved the Lord, and trusted in His grace to get me through the deepest of my despair, didn’t He also deserve my understanding?

“You’ve never failed and you won’t start now.

So I will call upon your name

And keep my eyes above the waves”

–Hillsong “Oceans”

 

A couple of years into the depths of this dark time, my Pastor, Jason Daye was preaching on the story of Elijah. (1 Kings Chapters 17-18)  What struck me most in the story of this great prophet of God were the three years of drought that the Lord sent on the land he was in. He endured such fear, such total need, desperation and reliance on the Lord for every single second, of every single minute, of every single day, of every exhausting week for three long years.  Three years of threats against him. Three years of having nothing, being stuck out in the cracked, parched desert and the only thing he had left, for all of his trusting in the Lord, was his life. He survived solely on the Word of the Lord.

“Your sovereign hand will be my guide

My feet may fail and fear surrounds me…”

–Hillsong “Oceans”

 

God was so near to him for every one of those seconds, providing for him by day and by night.

Those days and nights when I was feeling so lost and emptied, I fixed my eyes on Jesus.

The truth is, in looking back, even as I endured the storms and felt like I was drowning in the engulfing waves–this raw, pure need of feeling so broken and so desperate is when I have, like never before, felt so unfathomably and intimately close to God.

He was my anchor.

As I approached my own three year mark, I felt a foundation beneath my feet. I more often found myself “on shore” and was less and less frequently taken over by the waves. I was blessed with friendships that helped me along, blessed with help from all around me. Blessed to see how God provided for each day and each night.

Maybe there was something to this whole “time healing all wounds” thing.

Three years gone by–I am changed.

I appreciate more. I breathe deeper. I laugh more. I enjoy the sunsets, flowers, and “little things” a lot more. At a different place now, I trust God more.

Just beyond those three years, I took on an additional job and was learning a totally different profession, I was struggling in this new place.  Even after all that I had been through; I still recognized my deep need for God in the ordinary stuff of life.

I distinctly remembered praying to Him for Help.

Then she showed up; the “new hire.” A chance convergence of life paths at this job–Was she my help?

As we navigated the job together, we bonded like we women can do when thrust together in the trenches of life. We shared our stories.

If, as Shakespeare says, “Life is but a stage…,” then I believe that friendships are the musical underscore of this life; two distinctly different instruments, coming together on the stage and creating harmony, melody and rhythms. Creating music that makes us smile and dance, moves us to tears and fills us with laughter. What a joyful tune a new friendship is! And this hand-delivered, divinely unique relationship has become such a spirit-filled one.

Pammy and me

We no longer work together in the trenches of that job, but we’ve kept our friendship flourishing across miles, through life events and all around this stage of life.

Trusting like Elijah.

Then it happened to her:

Her father was diagnosed with cancer, and then died unexpectedly.

One month later, her grandfather passed away.

Then her marriage crumbled and now divorce continually slaps its waves at her face as I watch her sinking into a deepening depression.

All in the same year; all as a faithful, praying, seeking Christian.

I watch her tears flow freely at lunch, at the movies, at the grocery store and spilling across the stages of her life.

She doesn’t understand.

She can’t see above the waves right now.

I hug her. I tell her she’s not alone.

I refrain from telling her that “time will heal all her wounds.”

Instead, I tell her that I don’t understand either.

But, I do know One who understands.

He is our ever-present Help, the Anchor in our storm, the Living Water to quench our thirst and the firm Foundation of this whole stage we play out our lives on.

And I secretly watch her with a twinge of envy because I can see how close the Lord is to her right now. The Hands of God are cradling her. He holds her tears in His hands and draws her into an embrace like the sea around the shores.

“Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders.”

–Hillsong “Oceans”

 

Whether you are in a drought-scorched desert, a raging tempest, or if you may be cresting a mountaintop, May your trust in the Lord go beyond all the borders of our own understanding.

WEEDS, BOUNTY and THE KILLER OF GREEN

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WEEDS, BOUNTY and THE KILLER OF GREEN

It was/is harvest time (depending on where you are in the world!) and this photo is the actual bounty taken from my gardening. What you see is the evidence of the extreme care, the hard work, the diligent planting, seeding, weeding, watering and toiling over that I did this year for my new garden.

It’s all relative, isn’t it?

I was overjoyed over my harvest! I can usually kill anything green just by looking at it! So, it was with trepidation that I even bought seeds, planted them and thought anything besides death would happen.

But the tools of God (sunlight, earth, rains and His power) brought forth fruits (OKAY—vegetables!) from those seeds planted!

I learned so much for next year…

What I didn’t take a picture of is the bounty that I extracted and swore to never ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever again replant– THE MINT.

For all you gardeners:  laugh all you want, nod knowingly as you read on– and for those who told me—go ahead and say it, “I TOLD YOU TO NEVER PLANT MINT!!”

I learned this the hard way. Three chiropractic visits later, I can sit upright in a chair and write to you about it.

“The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.” (Matthew 13:24)

First, for you who are intending on planting a garden—DON’T PLANT MINT (or oregano for that matter!) THEY ACT LIKE WEEDS!

After I harvested my beautiful vegetables, (took about 10 minutes), it was time to deal with the maddening mint (took the rest of the day.)

All plants, save the oregano, were overtaken by the mint. Four seemingly healthy other plants, that had been it’s good neighbors, had perished. Don’t get me wrong, I planned for this (remember—I am the killer of green,) but I couldn’t kill this green mint to save the neighborhood! As I began the removal process, I was nearly overtaken by it myself.

I tugged at stems, just to be pulled down deeper–(Think of the movie Poltergeist, when the tree comes through the window for the boy.) That insidious mint would surface for a bit, then dive down into the garden box, twist around the roots of a good plant, choke it out, root it’s self and then resurface. Like a pool of swimming piranha: up and down, around and through, over and under, until all in its wake is destruction of all other living things (again, except the oregano that held fast.)

As I was battling this beast, I had all but forgotten of the sweet victory of my other bounty.

What started out as a lovely little herb was winning the battle over my joy for the harvest.

And isn’t that how sneaky sin can be in our lives?

It starts out with an innocent thought that can quickly turn into a joy stealing, all encompassing, relationship destroying action.

After I (hopefully!) successfully removed all the mint’s massive amounts of leaves, roots, off shoots and appendages, I turned to the oregano.

I have to hand it to the oregano. Even as it witnessed the devastation of its garden box neighbors and was surrounded in the waves and torrents of mint, it held its ground.

“The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one and the enemy who sows them is the devil…The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil.” (Matthew 13:38,41)

The weird thing— it was the oregano that nearly did me in.

We battle against an enemy that came to kill, steal and destroy. (John 10:10)

Something that we could’ve handled at our full strength, can drop us to our knees and take us out when we aren’t on guard…

After dealing with the multitudes of mint, I should have known the oregano would be challenging.

I began tugging. I mean, there really wasn’t much left in the box for it to hold on to, so it should just lift right on out of that box.

I stood on the side of the garden box, both feet anchored as I put all I had into it. I hung suspended above the earth, holding to nothing but oregano. I groaned and grunted (it works for tennis players, so maybe it would help give me some gusto!)…it wouldn’t budge. I flexed and pushed, got down and tried at all angles.

I nearly gave up. Would it really be that bad to allow the oregano to hang out?

But, hadn’t I had those same thoughts about the mint?

I had to admit I needed help. I turned to the garden tools.

As dusk approached, I shoveled, chopped and dug up that oregano and piled it atop the carcass coffin of mint. I gave my apologies and condolences and went inside to cook up my bounty…and to call the chiropractor.

 “And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

For whatever the weed is in your life, there is Help.