Sometimes, there are seasons when I wonder if God is even listening to a word I say. Not that I could blame him if he tuned me out, because sometimes, even I wish I could turn myself off. Once, even my ever-patient husband, upon hearing all the thoughts that had been running through my mind in a very short period of time, proclaimed, "It must be exhausting being you." I completely agree!
But then there are also times when God has something to say to me, and he repeats it again and again until there is absolutely no doubt that he's trying to get something through to me.
I tend to go at things on my own. Part of this is my personality, but part of it is also having moved thousands away from home as an eighteen-year old and virtually just having to sort of figure things out on my own since. Obviously, I had some help along the way, but there was no "calling home for help" back in the days of phone cards and before apps made international calls free and easy.
This year has been a toughie so far. And although I had mentioned a thing or two here and there to friends, posted an occasional event on social media, it hadn't occurred to me to voice the on-going flood of junk that has relentlessly rushed through our lives.
Last week, it all came to a head when my husband, thinking he had prepared me sufficiently by casually mentioning his recent episodes of nearly blacking out via text message, sent me a photo of himself ... on a bed ... hooked up to medical equipment. He was, unbeknownst to me, at the urgent care, and definitely not at work where I had thought him to be!
Maybe it's because I've just barely been maintaining a semblance of sanity, but I just sat at my desk and burst out crying when I got that picture. And out of desperation, I emailed a handful of friends (some my age, who could "lament" the challenges of this stage of life with me, and some who are ahead in their life journeys, who could tell me that there is hope). I briefly explained some of what had been going on (which I won't go into any detail here) and continued with this:
"And wouldn't you know it, the word I picked for this year was "GIFT"?!
So I've been looking. Looking in each day for the gifts.
Near the beginning of the year, I read a fictional story about a [man of God] who prayed, 'Lord, I hate buttermilk. I hate lard. I ain't too crazy about plain flour. But after you mix 'em all up and bake 'em in a hot oven, I just love the biscuits. Help us to realize that when life gets hard, when things come up that we don't like, whenever we don't understand what You are doing, that we need to wait and see what You're making. After all the mixing and baking, it'll probably be something even better than biscuits.'
My battle cry over the past few months has been, 'This WILL be better than biscuits!'
But today, I'm just plain weary. Weary and worried, and I'm here to ask you to please lift me/us up before the throne of God, that we would have the courage to continue to look for the gifts."
And because my friends are faithful in their friendships and in their willingness to pray when I feel like I have no more to say, the responses began pouring in immediately. Promises to pray, words of encouragement, Scripture reminders of God's faithfulness.
This past weekend, I had more energy than I have had in months. We were able accomplish quite a bit of work that needed to be done around our yard (still so much to do, but we made a noticeable dent!). And this morning, I woke up earlier than normal (okay, let's face it, GOD woke me up), and immediately, the words came out of my mouth, "Honey? Can we pray together?"
And the first words out of my faithful husband's mouth were: "Thank you for another day to live life on this earth with my family." He went on to ask God for continued opportunities to serve him and glorify him, that our family would shine the light of Jesus. I mean...
Then, during my morning quiet time, I cracked open the little book that our mentor mom at my MOMS table this year had gifted each of us at our last meeting. And I read this:
The thing is, I am terrible at praying for our own circumstances. It's so easy to pray for other people's needs. It's hard to put my own needs into words. So I often just gloss over them quickly in the midst of my other prayers with the hopes that, since God already knows what I need, he'll "get it."
Today, I've been reminded that praying about my own needs is not only NOT selfish, it's an act of faith and courage in itself. If I truly believe that prayer is a GIFT, then I need to accept it wholeheartedly for myself, too, with complete confidence that he WILL listen. And I don't have to tough it out on my own, making it harder for myself in the process.
"If the God you believe in as an idea doesn’t start showing up in what happens to you in your own life, you have as much cause for concern as if the God you don’t believe in as an idea does start showing up. It is absolutely crucial, therefore, to keep in constant touch with what is going on in your own life’s story and to pay close attention to what is going on in the stories of others’ lives. If God is present anywhere, it is in those stories that God is present. If God is not present in those stories, then they are scarcely worth telling." ~ Frederick Buechner