Me and My Fishermen Three

Yesterday, after a stretch of intensified pain and discomfort, I reached my umpteenth pinnacle of frustration. As my husband was on his way out the door after dinner I lamented through tears, “I don’t think God likes me very much.” Now, I know the foolishness inherent in that statement, but pain and frustration are like drugs–both numbing and truth inducing, drawing to the surface realities we’d rather keep hidden, like infections we don’t want to dig out but would prefer to cover and let fester because somehow in the moment that seems to be the better option.

My husband left and I broke. Before the door shut behind him he had me uncross my arms and before I could defiantly recross them he grabbed my hands and bullet prayed for God to fill me. He then said goodbye, planting a gentle kiss on my forehead. Congested from crying and barely able to taste the remainder of my dinner (consisting of three of the six foods I should safely be able to eat) I choked down my meager plate while scrolling through my phone. Nearly devoid of hope, I was frantically seeking a filling.

Then a funny thing happened.

God got all up in my way.

There I was, trying to read about another doctor, another facility, another potential diagnosis with another possible treatment plan when this popped up on my screen, blocking me from finding my answer:

You will be my witnesses
– Acts 1:8

Exasperated, I sighed…
and then I stopped.

No app I have has ever displayed a pop-up bible verse on my screen.

I should look that verse up.

I may be headstrong and obsessive and occasionally prone to panic, but thank God I know His voice, and by His grace I followed His lead.

Abandoning my search I sought More than me.

Acts 1:6-9 reads: When they had gathered together they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” He answered them, “It is not for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has established by his own authority. But you will receive power when the holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

And just like that,

PEACE.

Each of us is a link in an unbroken chain of brokenness. We all carry emptiness, lack, insufficiency, want. Poor in spirit, mind, body, and emotion we grapple with the weight of not enough and long for the inrushing of More. Heavy, we look to lighten our loads with any temporary feel-good that helps us forget that we don’t really feel good at all. We crave more of less–that light, airy, long ago peace of falling asleep safe at night under the watchful care of strong, protective parents who chase away boogeymen, tuck us in tight, and see us off to sweet-dreams sleep-land in a wooden shoe with Wynken, Blynken and Nod.

But now, privy to the knowledge of good and evil, our innocence lost, we know too much and rest does not come easy. I confess I have tried too many vices, all of which failed me in my pursuit of peace. In an attempt to breathe I choked, and in chasing life I died. It was (and is) in this place that I found (and find) More. More than me.

My way will never be The Way.

“Lord, are you at this time going to restore me?”

“It is not for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has established by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witness….”

My husband returned home to a restored woman. Not in the sense I was hoping for, but in the way God intended me to be: His. Surrendered to Him and His Way I am whole, I have peace, I live alive–to an infinitely greater degree than I could by simply attaining perfect health or a trouble-free life. “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12). I don’t pretend to have all the answers or to understand the mind of God, but I do trust Him and love Him and willingly place myself in His hands. I believe He is lighting my way through the darkest nights, pushing me through the waves of dew, and cradling me in that wooden shoe on the misty sea with those Fishermen Three.

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Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning.
– Psalm 30:5


 

 

 

ThankFULL

This morning I met with the physician assistant at my gastroenterologist’s office to discuss how I’m feeling six weeks after taking another round of antibiotics. (I take one antibiotic every three to four months, but every two to four years I can take a combination of two, which produces significantly better results.) Sadly, the relief I experienced while on the medications did not last. As soon as I stopped taking them my symptoms returned and I was forced to resume my restricted diet. Two years ago I was heartbroken when this silver bullet, magic-med combo failed. This time I was not surprised.

How does one find hope in a hopeless situation?

The PA I saw today poured through my records, racking her brain for a solution. She called my case severe and with great concern tried her best to locate hope on her computer screen. In the end she came up empty and could only bounce me back to the doctor who will see me in eight weeks after I try a powdered drink mix I’ve tried before, which did not help.

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

Is it truly possible to be thankFULL on empty, overflowing in drought, hopeful in hopelessness?

Absolutely.

Where depression once gripped me through hunger and hurt I now stand strong in a victory that is not my own.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:11-13)

This past weekend I celebrated my grandparent’s 75th wedding anniversary with family at a restaurant that served the most enticing entrees and decadent desserts. We gathered together over the finest foods to honor this couple’s love and devotion to each other and to our family for three quarters of a century. As I watched everyone enjoying their meals, I ate nothing, and I missed nothing. Full of love, joy and thanksgiving, I hungered for nothing more.

Later this week we will again gather around food to give thanks, and I will, with a full heart, thank God for His mind-blowing mercy and grace. My husband, our children, our home and our story, our family and friends are all mouthwatering morsels of love prepared and served by our Father’s good hands. I am deeply thankful for the lives of those I love, for the relationships we share, and for my beloved God whose immeasurable love changes everything even when nothing changes. His goodness and generosity abound, if only I have eyes to see how full my plate truly is.

It is my hope that this Thursday as we pile our plates high, we will pile our hearts higher. Let’s feast on God’s love and taste His goodness in the company of those around us. Let’s put our differences aside and view one another through Kingdom eyes, seeking to understand rather than to be understood. Love and forgiveness have been dished out so plentifully; how can we not share this bounty? Remember those who are alone or in pain. So many will be tired and heavy from more than just eating too much turkey this year.

We can overflow with a hope that never runs dry.

We must look past what we see and remember there is More.

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There is always More.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)

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More, Please!

This morning I rose before the sun, belly still bloated from last night’s meal. I drank my green tea, mellowed with rice milk, and got my boys ready and off to school. I kissed them goodbye, but not the pain in my gut. As I sit here typing I am eyeing the clock, waiting for time to tell me I can eat two eggs and drink one more cup of tea. Today will be a good day.

Eight years ago my body broke when my digestive system crapped out on me . . . literally. After years of prayers, herbs, tears, diets, cuss-filled rants, and pain-filled, sleepless nights followed by depression induced sleep-filled days, I was finally able to see a specialist. He diagnosed me with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) caused by Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO). It felt good to give this monster a name.

The long and the short of it is I am currently able to (somewhat) tolerate six foods. Some days I can eat only dinner. On good days I get two eggs mid-morning. Evening meals are always the same: steamed chicken or beef with broccoli, and sometimes white rice and carrots. Occasionally I’ll push it and try a different food, only to find the food pushes back—and it’s not worth it.

The problem is this: I have too much hydrogen and methane in my small intestine, which causes significant pain and bloating, food intolerances, and a variety of unpalatable GI issues. Antibiotics and diet help to a degree and for a time, but relapse is likely. Having high methane levels makes this more difficult to treat, and the antibiotic that is most effective for this can only be taken once every few years.

So, I’m hungry.

I’m hungry for so much More than food.

Any soft, warm, freshly baked bread will silence a growling gut, but there is only one Bread that will satisfy a hungry soul.

For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things. (Psalm 107:9)

How do we hope in a world full of hurt? We hope beyond the headlines . . . we look for More than what we see. My hope had been in my faith, for my healing. It is now in and for so much More: My hope is in His faithfulness, my hope is for His glory.

Today, I thank God for my two meals. I thank Him for never leaving me alone in my pain, and for always feeding my deepest hunger.

Not that this kind of thankfulness comes easy—it doesn’t. I must remember God is working all things together for good because He IS good. Without this knowledge I nearsightedly stamp THIS SUCKS on sickness, suffering, injustice, and evil . . . and then give God a piece of my mind. I forget His plans are bigger, His power is greater, and His purposes always prevail.

But GOD.

His hatred for the sin that unleashed hell on earth is so much greater than ours; His compassion for His people—far beyond our comprehension. His mind-blowing love drove Him to take on our pain and punishment, and in return give us More than we could ever hope for or imagine.

Tim Keller wrote:

The Biblical view of things is resurrection—not a future that is just a consolation for the life we never had but a restoration of the life you always wanted. This means that every horrible thing that ever happened will not only be undone and repaired but will in some way make the eventual glory and joy even greater.

He goes on to quote C.S. Lewis:

They say of some temporal suffering, “No future bliss can make up for it,” not knowing that Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory.

Because Jesus flipped the script on the cross I can celebrate even in the midst of suffering. Here in the “now but not yet” I continue to pray for physical healing, and I praise God for sweet, intermittent tastes of freedom and relief. Although I’m not fully free . . . I am. Sickness has no hold on me because my hope is set on More, and while health may elude me for a time, my God never will. In well-being and light He is with me and loving me; in pain and darkness He is here, doing the same.

Thanks to Him alone, I am full on empty and hungry to share the love and goodness He’s given not only to me, but to all who will pull up a chair and feast on His Bread.

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Let’s eat.