Ok, back to the paved road.
In watching the squirrels plan for the cold months, there is a part of me that marvels at how cool it would be to predict with such accuracy when the hard times were coming. It would be so nice, I think, to have some type of schedule to rely on for when sickness comes, when a financially slim time bears its claws to grasp at what has been so hard earned or when the enemy comes to seek and destroy all to which you are holding the tightest. Or better yet, to be able to store up high spirits in the expectation that the winter of depression will soon darkly loom uninvited around the corner. Oh, to be able to plan or to know would give us some sense of control, maybe an ability to better cope or altogether prevent the oncoming hardship. Yes, that would be nice...but so would breakfast in bed every morning with a massage.
Recently, I survived a "winter" in my life that tested all that I knew. It lasted about a year and a half. It was a period where I lost much of what I valued except for my husband, children and a few close friends (and for this I am grateful). I lost family relationships that I assumed would last a lifetime. In speaking a necessary truth, I risked and lost so much. I struggled whether the truth was even worth this much. I wrestled with how I was going to live without these loved ones since any attempt at reconciliation was rebuffed and I was told that it would logically never be possible. It was like they had all died and no one was crying but me. No funeral, no closure. I fought with false accusations of being insane, a liar and unstable. This, of course, attacked the core of who I knew I was.
My reserves to handle more were low, but the winter storms kept coming in the form of my precious church breaking down injuring and losing scores of relationships with precious people that I loved.
My reserves became even lower only to bear the blow of the loss of a twin pregnancy. Along with the loss of two wanted lives, I also had to face the reality of my childbearing years being over for good.
The grief and loss were unbearable to me. I was looking over a cliff with a bottom I couldn't even see. It felt I had lost too much. I can not tell you the number of times I wept to the Lord asking for some relief, some sign, some answer....just something to show me that He cared, that He was even listening.
"I cry out to God without holding back. Oh, that God would listen to me!" (Psalm 77:1).
I seemed to need to know whether these hardships were discipline or pruning. Through no fault of their own, my friends seem to disappoint and hurt me more......not because they had changed or had done anything wrong, but because I needed them in a way I had no business requesting nor dared to even ask...and they could not provide the healing/relief that I was so desperately seeking.
The depth of aloneness I felt was frightening and disheartening.
Psalms 27:9 -- Hide not thy face far from me; put not thy servant away in anger: thou hast been my help; leave me not, neither forsake me, O God of my salvation.
When God seemed to return my prayers with silence, I became spiritually despondent, angry and rebellious. Literally and metaphorically, red traffic lights meant nothing to me. Construction cones were dares. My attitude was destructive at best but I felt that if God didn't care....why should I? So, I didn't. My belief in God's existence never waned, but my belief that He actually loved me did.
Why was God so silent? I needed him.....I ached to hear something, to feel something. This winter of mine was getting so cold and so long. I told Steve I wanted to stop going to church. I wanted to quit. How could I worship a God who would not speak to me, who would not even answer me? Couldn't He see I was hurting so badly?
(Psalm 77:7-9)."Has the Lord rejected me forever? Will he never again show me favor? Is his unfailing love gone forever? Have his promises permanently failed? Has God forgotten to be kind? Has he slammed the door on his compassion?"
If I had only known He was waiting. Waiting for me to unwind. Waiting for me to find Him at the end of who I was. Like a toddler going down an intimidating tunnel slide for the first time only to meet the strong hands of their protector. I did not know this. Had you told me.....I would not have believed you. In my mind, no one was waiting for me.
I did come to the end. I unwound. I gave up. I died. And the rebuilding began. My winter slowly turned into the full bloom of spring that I began to believe would never happen. And my precious Lord began to speak of life and hope.
I would like to say that reconciliation has taken place in my family to bring us all back lovingly together and that our relationship is stronger than it was before. Not even close. But the Lord was faithful in revealing evidence through past correspondence vindicating me of the false accusations. The tattered pages were painful to re-read after many years, but served as a strong message that things are probably the best the way they are. What I initially experienced as being forgotten, discarded and thrown to the curb was actually the Lord's hand in protecting our family. Although I will always be open to reconciliation, I will not beat my head against a wall for it. I love my family dearly and I am at total peace with how things are now. The Lord was listening when I thought He wasn't..
My church family that disintegrated so painfully is still, and always will be, a disbanded church. But as a result, our family has found a home church that is healthy and led by a pastor that is a strong leader of a strong staff. For our current church situation, in retrospect, I would go through our old church disintegrating again in a heartbeat. I now see the old church's passing away as a true gift. The messages spoken from the pulpit of Potter's Hand Bible Church have been huge in the thawing out of my long winter. The Lord was listening when I thought He wasn't.
And as for the grief of my miscarriage and realization of never having children again, I am healed. I have nine beautiful children and many tears were shed over possibly not ever having anymore biological children......a necessary loss for any woman that has thoroughly enjoyed her childbearing years. But the gift of new life has been born out of the healing of this grief. As a result of the miscarriage, my husband and I embarked on our first adoption journey of adopting two brothers from Ethiopia. We are beyond excited and can't wait to add them to our family at the beginning of next year. During the adoption process of these Ethiopian jewels, I unexpectedly found out I was pregnant at the ripe age of 43. I am currently 22 weeks pregnant and expecting around the time our boys are due to come home. What a glorious homecoming this will be!! The Lord was listening when I thought He wasn't.
I am soaring now. I am not naive and will enjoy it knowing it will not last forever. This is where I want to be like the squirrels I see during the fall gathering nuts. Is there any way to gather the feeling of well being I feel now and save it for a rainy day......for another long, hard winter? Is there a way to store this and have it ease the pangs of another spiritual famine? If I could, these are the acorns I'd want to store:
That even through my winter, God still proved that He loved me dearly.....just not on my time schedule and not the way I thought He would.
"Praise God, who did not ignore my prayer and did not withdraw his unfailing love from me" (Psalm 66:20).
That without the grief and suffering, I would not have gained all that I have from my trials. I would not be as strong.
More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance (Romans 5:3)
That what seems to be an injury or a crisis is most likely something entirely different in God's eyes.....something amazing.
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.(Romans 8: 28)
That even when I feel alone, it doesn't mean I am alone. I will try to remember this next time.
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)
That it's not all about me.
Even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28)
What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. (James 2: 14-17)
So I have rambled on telling you about nuts and habits of worthless furry animals not to tell you of my sob story, but to encourage those of you who are in your own personal winters. Do not to give up. You are not alone and your situation may not be what you think or what it appears. I also hope it is pre-encouragement for those of you who are in your "summers" to remember when your winter hits....because it will. Enjoy your summers, it is a true blessing! There are definite seasons to this life that are unavoidable and necessary. So store your nuts wisely...and hang on for the ride. God promises that in the end, it is all worth it.
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
2a time to be born, and a time to die;a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; 3a time to kill, and a time to heal;a time to break down, and a time to build up; 4a time to weep, and a time to laugh;a time to mourn, and a time to dance; 5 gather stones together;a time to embrace, and a time toa time to cast away stones, and a time to refrain from embracing; 6a time to seek, and a time to lose;a time to keep, and a time to cast away; 7a time to tear, and a time to sew;a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; 8a time to love, and a time to hate;a time for war, and a time for peace. (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8)