Thursday, October 29, 2009

From Paper Rain Clouds to Glorious Rainbows

I know there are some of you thinking: “Give that woman a concordance! Enough with the 23rd Psalm.” To that, I promise that not only will goodness and mercy follow, but so will other topics and scriptures. But I will explain a bit why this overused, well-loved passage of comfort is so special to me.

In January of 2004 I found myself in a hospital room. The paper rain cloud the nurses had taped to the door announced that the patient inside was badly in need of a rainbow. The circumstances that brought me there were not planned, thus I had nothing packed for my stay at the IV and Catheter Grand Hotel. (Note: I'd give it 2 stars and wouldn't recommend the room service.)

What I wanted the most was my Bible. I’m not sure it would have been much help because I had been crying so much that my eyes were almost swollen shut. I looked like Rocky Balboa in a hospital gown.

Brad had gone to check on the kids and visiting hours were over. I was alone . . . except for the presence of my Heavenly Father. I found myself talking with God. My journalism classes taught me to start with what, why, how, where, when. I had my mental pad and pencil ready as I asked, "What are you trying to teach me? Why did this happen? How will I ever be whole again? Where are you through this sadness? When will the pain stop?" But I really wasn’t prepared for any of these answers and He knew it.

I began to recite the 23rd Psalm. It was the very first complete chapter of the Bible that I memorized as a child, but over the years it had lost its meaning. It was just something poetic slapped on the back of funeral programs. But that day, every word seemed whispered in my ear by the One who brings perfect peace.

I got to the “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me.” A fresh reserve of tears showered down my cheeks. Then I got to “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.” I paused and just let my spirit drink in those words. It was a truth so small that I had completely missed its significance. The 23rd Psalm doesn’t end in the valley of death . . . it ends with goodness and mercy shall follow!

I created a gutter of Kleenex to catch the downpour, while trying to get a few more answers from God since He seemed to be speaking in a way I could hear. “What are they, Lord, what are 'goodness and mercy' and when will they come??!!!" At that moment I felt all my fear, confusion, anxiety, pain, and heartbreak lift. It was replaced with a perfect peace and joy. It's a feeling that to this day I have no words to describe. That was my first glimpse of goodness and mercy to come.

The coming hours and weeks my valley got deeper and darker, but the peace and joy never left. And in the months and years that have followed, I have experienced goodness and mercy in abundance.

For those of you enduring valleys right now, I wish I could tell you what goodness and mercy are, but they will be different depending on your valley. But I’ve found them in rainbows and sunsets displayed in amazing grandeur at unbelievable moments. I've found them in the prayers and support from family and friends. I’ve found them in a baby bird’s head peeking out of a nest, in an ultrasound proclaiming a healthy heartbeat, in a baby’s first cry. I’ve found them in a sick body restored to health and in a dying loved one meeting her Savior. I’ve found them at a wedding where both the bride and groom wore veils of gray hair. I’ve found them in a orphan’s smile when he is told he has been chosen and meets his mama for the first time. I've found them kneeling in prayer with my sweet children thanking God for His faithfulness.

In the coming weeks, I’ll share a bit more about my valleys--to some of you they may seem deep . . . to others they will seem like merely potholes compared to your own. My hope is that this blog will not just be about my story, but include yours as well. Please feel free to share of your journey in the comments section. There's nothing I enjoy more than celebrating God’s goodness and mercy because not only has it followed . . . my cup overflows.

Gratefully His,

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Please Pass the Laptop

It has probably been 30 years since I’ve had a "Sunday dinner", but I can still smell the buttered rolls and hear the clinking of ice cubes filling the glasses. For many of my childhood Sundays, the doxology at our Baptist church was followed by a grand buffet at my grandparents’ home. (The dishes in the above pic are actually the ones we always ate off of.) Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

When they passed away, so did this sweet tradition. I had always planned to revive it when I got married, but unfortunately I haven’t figured out how to get my family to church on time AND prepare a four course meal ready to be served as we arrive home.

So instead, I’m going to be serving “Sunday dinner” each week on my blog. The main course will be a Scripture to meditate on and the dessert will be a sweet song that complements it. Some of the meals will be familiar comfort foods and some Sundays I’ll try a new recipe--but my prayer is that it would nourish you for the coming week. (Cause chances are I’ll be serving PB & J sandwiches Monday through Saturday.)

The “appetizer” served with yesterday’s post is called “The Valley Song” by Jars of Clay. The lyrics are so perfect for my blog--“I will sing of your mercy that leads me through valleys of sorrow to rivers of joy.” There are many beautiful 23rd Psalm inspired songs, but I love the way this one doesn’t sound sad but surrendered. (And about 3/4ths of the way through there’s a long pause like the singer just needs a minute to ponder this truth and proceeds with “Yea.” Love it!)

The first Scripture served is (surprise, surprise):

The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.
Psalm 23:1

David from the get go paints the portrait of our Great God as the Sovereign Shepherd. (Now keep in mind the views expressed here are from a sleep-deprived mom who owns a Bible--not some wise biblical scholar with formal theological training.) The next words, “I shall not want” establish that if you remember only ONE thing about our Shepherd is that we will never lack for anything we need. Kind of like verses 2 through 6 should end with “see verse 1.” David is giving thanks from the very beginning for God’s love and provision.

Remember that the first occupation David had listed on his resume was shepherd. He understood the job description as giving guidance, protection and provision to his sheep. And as God’s sheep we need to trust that He will guide, protect, and provide according to His way and in His time. (Ouch, it’s that last part that gets this impatient mama sheep every time.)

And so here I am, setting the table for my blog, wanting to give thanks for God’s love and provision . . . no matter what, I’m going to “see verse 1” in every situation.

Okay, for dessert (now I’m getting hungry here, sorry folks), this week’s song is “Gratitude” by Nichole Nordeman. (I first heard this at Ava’s ballet recital--this song illustrated through dance was truly one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.) I love how these lyrics not only give thanks for God’s provision, but express gratitude regardless of how God provides. I’ve attached a video someone made for the song (you will need to pause the playlist at the bottom of the blog to not hear both at the same time). I hope it speaks to you as it does to me.

Last, my favorite memory of Sunday dinner was sitting around the table with hands woven together saying grace. My dear paternal grandfather would often get very emotional, tears would fall as he would give thanks, his trembling hands covered in age spots would squeeze my little hand at the “Amen.” So since you’ve graciously joined us for dinner, please join hands (via computer keyboard) and say grace with me. Happy Lord’s Day!

Gratefully His,

Saturday, October 24, 2009

It's a Blog!

Yep. This is the official birth announcement of my blog.

I resisted starting one for many reasons. First, I’m technologically challenged--my calls to computer customer service numbers have been known to cause the rep to laugh, cry, or resign. (I’m not joking.) Second, I have a dozen journals that begin on January 1 and stop on January 6, so I have this fear of starting something I can’t keep up with. (I hate to advertise my lack of discipline publicly and really don’t need something else to feel guilty about.) Third, it seems everyone and their pet has a blog so who am I to think I’d have anything new to share.

But the reasons to write one are starting to outweigh the reasons not to. Primarily, we’re in the last trimester of our “paper pregnancy” (adoption) and I’m just realizing that I’m about to deliver a nine year old without an epidural. We could really use the prayer support right now and this is the easiest way to keep friends updated on what’s going on. And I’ve met so many through online blogs who have offered such support, advice, and encouragement. If I only “introduce” readers to friends and resources related to faith, adoption, grief, parenting . . . then it is worth the effort.

Last, God has been so faithful through valleys much deeper and darker than the one we are walking right now. Although my blog probably won’t look fancy (see above regarding computer skills) and I may go days without a new post (see pile of blank journals), I want to document every answered prayer, every mountain moved, and every miracle celebrated as a testimony of His goodness and mercy. Thanks for going on this journey with us.

Gratefully His,

P.S. The photo above was taken when we were living in Guatemala this past June. We had our precious cargo in the back seat of a rental car (without seat belts or air conditioning) on bumpy roads trying to find a house we had rented in Antigua. Brad and I were trying to look calm in spite of the fact that we were lost in a foreign country and the sun was going down quickly. But the kiddos in the back were having a great time--completely trusting that the people in the front seat would take care of them. A great metaphor for life--if we just surrender to the One driving, we should never be afraid when the road gets bumpy, the surroundings are foreign, or we are traveling through darkness.