Hope in the Midst of Heartache

The value of one’s life is not measured by weeks or years.

I wept when I learned that Eden Hope passed away last week. Born at 24 1/2 weeks gestation, she weighed 1 lb.13 oz. Eden steadily gained weight and lived in NICU until she drew her last breath eleven and a half weeks later.

Such a short life span, but the value of one’s life is not measured by weeks or years. Just ask the people whose lives were touched by Eden Hope’s life. I’m one of them.

I physically ached when I imagined being in her mama’s shoes, especially the last time they were together. Did Mama kiss her daughter’s pale rosebud lips? Did she softly caress her infant’s cool face, committing it to memory? Did she breathe in Eden’s scent before the nurse took her away?

I’ve never met Eden’s parents. A friend of mine asked me to pray for that family. The more I prayed and received updates, the more invested I became as though these strangers were my family. I couldn’t get them out of my mind—my heart.

“Eden going home to Jesus” isn’t what I’d prayed for when I heard she’d been scheduled for surgery last week.

I asked for a safe, successful procedure, protection and healing. I prayed that God’s peace and love would surround Eden so she wouldn’t be frightened as she lay (uncomprehending) on that operating table. I prayed that His Spirit would comfort the family while they waited for the outcome. I prayed God would use this agonizing chapter in their lives to draw them closer to Himself and impact people’s lives.

I also prayed, “Thy will be done.” 

But honestly, I didn’t want God’s will if it didn’t line up with mine. I wanted Eden to defy the odds, grow strong, and go home to play with her two sisters. 

Others prayed too for this precious soul who was wonderfully and fearfully made in the image of God. Imagine a band of prayer warriors who never gathered, but rejoiced each time Eden gained another ounce. We grew hopeful with each passing week. For every two steps forward, there was one step backwards. When her health finally took a turn for the worse, we pled for a miracle.

I can’t speak for others, but I wonder if part of me hoped for a life-giving miracle to counterbalance COVID19 and the debilitating bad blood that’s been flowing through our nation’s veins. I needed some good news. I needed some hope.

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life” (Proverbs 13:12 NIV).

My longing wasn’t fulfilled. God’s will, not mine, prevailed.

This morning, tears came when I thought about Eden and how hard she fought to live. But she no longer needs my prayers. I don’t know what her new glorified body looks like, but I know in heaven there is no pain or sorrow. She is healed. She is whole. 

Eden struggled to breathe on earth, but now I picture her inhaling heaven’s pure air and singing at the top of her lungs, “Jesus loves me this I know!”

Yes, Jesus loves her. The same way He loves Eden’s mommy and daddy, her older sisters, you and me. This is lovenot that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:10).

God’s vast and infinite love reminds me to trust His heart when I can’t comprehend His ways. God’s sovereignty assures me that His eternal purposes for Eden’s life were fulfilled. And in the process, He used that small, delicate infant to reveal His love and grace to a hopeless world.

I consider that a miracle. Don’t you?

And a reason to trust God’s heart—even in this heartache.

Photo by: Jennifer Wrede

Thank God, I’m Sick

“Thank God, I’m sick.”

I’m laying in bed with a tissue in one hand and a cup of peppermint tea in the other. The room smells like Eucalyptus oil. I’ve been housebound for two weeks.

Sadly, I’m not alone. Every time my cell phone beeps, someone is asking for prayer concerning their health. Toothache, flu, stroke, high blood pressure, cancer, miscarriage. When I’m tempted to feel sorry for myself, I remember to pray for other people’s health.

Mostly, I’ve been learning to thank God in everything—even when I woke at 2 a.m., hacking till I thought I’d spit up blood. “In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

Oh, I know how to be a pollyanna—an optimistic character. I’ve learned to look for the silver lining. When a tree fell on our fence this spring, I thanked God the tree didn’t fall on our house. When I got sick, I thanked God for medicine, health insurance, and a husband to bring me tea. I thanked God I didn’t have pneumonia. But, if I thank God in every circumstance, shouldn’t I thank Him that I’m sick?

I know God can use all things for my good and His purposes, but thanking Him for being ill sounds ridiculous, right? However, I’m here to say thanking God this past month (even prior to my illness) has made a difference.

When we went to our son’s college commencement ceremony outdoors, it was raining. I had to wear a poncho over my new dress and walk in sandals over a squishy wet lawn. “Thank you, Lord, for the rain.”

Was I thankful? Not really. Did I sound sarcastic? Yep.

Thanking God in everything requires obedience before there are results. The day after commencement was so hot and humid that, given the choice, I was grateful we’d sat in the cool, drizzling rain rather than squinting and fanning ourselves in the sun.

However, what if we don’t see the positive in hindsight, other than, it might have been worse. Well, when the bad germs first hit me and I felt like road kill, I couldn’t see anything positive. My first instinct was to grumble, “No, spare me.” Then I remembered to thank God in everything. I forced myself to say, “Thank you, Lord, I’m in pain. Thank you for this horrific cough.”

Just saying the words, “Thank you,” put my eyes on God. He knows I’m ill. I know He cares. Thanking God for being sick has kept me from grumbling. How do you thank someone and grumble at the same time? And not grumbling keeps me from having a pity party.

Now, if I’d been ill during my son’s graduation, I’d probably be singing a less thankful tune. But, based on my God lessons and quizzes thus far, I can honestly say:

Being thankful doesn’t change the weather. I’m sick whether I thank God or not. And yet, thanking God in everything does make a difference … even in this.

 

Photos: Pixabay

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How Do I Give Up Control?

I stumbled across this old blog and thought, wow! I haven’t changed. I still like to be in control. When will I ever learn…….

Even In This

My teenage son is going on a weekend trip. He waits till the last minute to pack his duffel bag. I follow him out the front door with my mental checklist.

“Did you pack extra socks? You want to keep your feet warm.”

“One pair should be enough.”

“Did you pack sunscreen?”

“Someone else should have some.”

“Do you have a flashlight?”

No answer.

I’d say my voice is going in his one ear and out the other, but there’s an ear bud inserted into his right ear.

Dad’s voice, “Leave him alone. He’ll be fine.”

“What if he forgets something he needs?”

“Then he’ll remember it next time.”

They drive away, leaving an exasperated mother. “I wonder if he packed a tooth brush.”

My daughter says I’d make a great administrative assistant. Even when I leave home, I type out detailed instructions.

“Water the plants on these days. Don’t…

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Want Some Gum?

April Fool’s Day 2018 fell on Easter Sunday so it didn’t seem appropriate to trick folks like I have in the past. However, I found this blog post from a few years ago that occurred near both those days. I’m no longer a volunteer jail chaplain, but the memory of Harry “the juicy fruit guy” still inspires me.

Even In This

crossOn April 1st, April Fool’s Day, a fellow jail chaplain passed away. Harry was 92 years old, but he was no fool.

The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’”  (Psalm 14:1)

I attended Harry’s memorial service this past weekend. I went, not to weep, but to celebrate a life that belonged to Jesus. To honor a man whose earthly fruit glorified God.

Folks called Harry the “juicy fruit man” because he always …and I mean always…carried sticks of gum. That’s how I met him one night, many moons ago, while I waited to go into jail.

Smiling, he offered me a stick of gum. The yellow wrapper said Juicy Fruit, but it was Harry’s “Gospel Gum.” Whether it was a jail guard or a stranger sitting in the lobby, Harry used gum to break the ice, to part…

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When We’re Stuck in the Dark

I’m not afraid of the dark except when it covers my soul and I lose sight of hope. Common sense says: “Life’s not so bad. Count your blessings. This too shall pass.” But when the night lingers and you can’t force the sun to shine, what do you do? Pop a pill, chug some wine, pull the bedspread over your head?

Maybe . . . but people gotta keep living even when they feel like the walking dead.

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Last summer, God’s Word which normally fills me up . . . suddenly fell on deaf ears. Unable to hear the Spirit of God, I became spiritually mute. Words eluded me—even on paper. Unable to hear The Word or articulate my thoughts, I sank into the dark night of my soul. Yep, disappeared like invisible ink.

I doubt anyone noticed. After all, it’s safer to hide when we’re depressed—physically or spiritually—instead of asking for help or prayer. Why invite someone to judge us or tell us to “snap out of it” when there’s already enough self-condemnation smothering our mind?

At the time I didn’t feel any emotion. Oh, I could laugh. Chat with a friend. Text platitudes to the dark souls around me. A person had to step close and gaze into the window of my soul to notice the flame flickered and dimmed. They had to listen—if only to notice my silence. And who has time to listen to someone else when we’re tuned into a multitude of other frequencies—especially Self.

Besides, I didn’t know how to explain the pathos. Could I blame my dark night on the summer heat? Unmet expectations? Unconfessed sin? Perhaps like Scrooge, I could attribute my heaviness “to a bit of undigested beef.” Who knows what triggered the night. But when you’ve tasted sweet fellowship with the Lord, it’s despairing to cry to God and hear nothing . . . .

      My mentor, Loretta, once said, “When God appears silent, it feels as though He’s left the stage and is standing in the wings.” Only, we know it’s not true. Feelings and hormones have a way of distorting reality—even for Christ followers.

The longer my soul stayed in the dark, the less I prayed. I got bored at playing church. Tired of doing the right thing. But like the apostle Peter told Jesus, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6: 68,69)

So I went through the motions, and waited for night to pass while I held onto these truths:

  • “Nothing can separate us from the love of God.” (Romans 8:35-39)
  • “Christ will never leave or forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)
  • “Don’t grow weary in doing good.” (Galatians 6:9)

One day, I said, “Enough.” I turned on praise music and fastened my mind to the lyrics. I stopped staring inward and gazed outward to the Creator, Elohim, who knows us inside out. I raised weak arms to the great Shepherd, Jehovah-Rohi, who cares for His beloved and longs for us to experience abundant life. I raised my voice to Jehovah-Rophe, who heals the soul and makes it new.

As my body swayed to the rhythm of Casting Crown’s song, “Who Am I,” a pinhole of light blasted into my dark soul. The longer I sang to the Light of the World, the more brilliant His light shone within me until . . . my dark night mourning turned into dancing.  And it was good!

Who Can Fill the Hole?

Wrote this two years ago and I still believe it’s true.

Even In This

Hot tears rolled down my cheeks during intermission.

“Do you want to leave the play?” my nineteen-year-old son asked.

“No, I’m going to see how this ends. Surely, there’s some value.”

People may not agree with me, but there was nothing redeemable about the musical, “The Book of Mormon.” I found it crude and offensive on multiple levels.

I’m not Mormon, and I rarely attend a play that I haven’t reviewed before hand. However, my son persuaded me while we were in London.

“It won a Tony Award. It’s been running for a long time.” My son later apologized for also going into this performance blind!

Really? This represents America’s best?

However, nothing is wasted.

I tend to live in a Christian cocoon.  Rubbing elbows with our post-modern culture is always an eye-opener.

What I found offensive—swearing and overt sexual language—entertained the audience. They lapped up the Jr…

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