The Middle of the Story

Holy Week…Good Friday…Easter. My body seems to fail me in one way or another around this time.  Two years ago I had a horrible stomach bug and started bleeding while throwing up not long into my pregnancy with Maelee. I was convinced that night that I was losing her.

There was no way that the kind of blood that was shed would possibly mean life was still in me.

It was the beginning of sonograms and labs and tests and more sonograms all to find out that she was indeed alive and well and fine.  I remember thinking over and over and telling the midwives over and over that there was no way that much blood could be okay.  And in that time the Lord reminded me of a Bible song from my childhood…

I’ve got river of life

Flowing out of me,

Makes the lame to walk

And the blind to see;

Opens prison doors,

Sets the captives free,

I’ve got a river of life

Flowing out of me.

 

Spring up, O well

Within my soul,

Spring up, O well

And make me whole.

Spring up, O well,

And give to me

That life abundantly.

That quickly led me to a verse that played an intimate part in naming Maelee Bethany ~

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. – Psalm 46:4

It’s a long story about getting to her name, but the short of it is that Easter two years ago was hard and life still came from the shedding of blood.

This year my body seems to be failing again.  This time the days of Holy Week were filled with an urgent care visit, an MRI on my shoulder, an ortho appointment, a round of steroids, not being able to get out of bed on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, not being able to breathe or walk on Easter followed by another ER visit on Easter Sunday. I have extreme myopathy and myositis from what the doctor believes is a negative, almost toxic reaction, to the steroids.  So while my arm wasn’t working well 2 weeks prior and we discovered a deltoid tear and bursitis, my proximal muscles completely stopped working.  I made it to church Easter Sunday morning, but when I came home things began to get worse. I went to work but then my muscles were spasming so much in my back and chest that I could not catch my breath. I hobbled to the ER  from work.  I started with a muscle relaxer on Sunday night and continued into Monday.  I had extensive labs on Wednesday to find extreme inflammation in my body. My levels were 3.5 times what they should be. Monday I couldn’t walk.

 

My doctor looked me in the eyes on Wednesday and promised I would get better.  This is like the cardinal sin in healthcare.  You never, ever promise that someone is going to get better.  But he did…multiple times.  I wept when he looked in my eyes.  I could barely walk down the hallway, or sit in the chair.  A beautiful, slender 85-year-old woman helped me out the door and down the stairs.  She put her hand on my shoulder, and I wept.  I got in my car and couldn’t stop weeping.  I’ve cried a lot through all of this.

 

This morning in the shower, I broke down again.  The Lord reminded me of the above song.  Makes the lame to walk…sets the captives free…Spring up oh well (gush, gush, gush, gush) and make me whole…  I sang it over my body and my heart and my spirit this morning with the tears mixing in with the shower water.

 

On Good Friday I had a massage.  I sat in the car alone thinking about Jesus…I thought about Him hanging.  I thought about him begging the Lord for another way.  And I thought about Him enduring the pain.  I thought about Him knowing that enduring the pain meant that life was coming.  He had to drink this cup now.

 

I texted two of my closest this morning and told them I wasn’t afraid of dying anymore.  I am sure that I would not feel so confident given my death bed, but the pain has shown me that He is close even here.  And people endure so much more than what I have endured with this…People do this for so much longer…  I would prefer the Second Coming and seeing Him come in all of His glory on a white horse…that I would love. My oldest keeps on saying, “Mommy, it’s not like this in the New Earth.  This stuff won’t happen there.  You won’t be hurting.” She will write a book about Eternity one day I’m certain of it. My second is my prayer warrior.  She prays so much for healing.  She has prayed every day. My left shoulder has begun to hurt the last couple of days, and you could just see her little spirit was crushed when she saw the ice on both shoulders.  But she has just kept praying.

I read an Ann Voskamp quote a couple of days ago:

Faith thanks God in the middle of the story. 

I thought to myself that I wasn’t sure I would be thankful til this was OVER…til I could walk again without dragging my feet or move my hands without breathing deep.  I am not thanking You, Lord, til I can get out of bed in less than 45 minutes. I am not thanking You, Lord, til I can turn my head and bend over. I thought, “Lord, I am not thanking you now.  I don’t have my miracle yet.”  Some people never get their miracle… I will thank you when I know the ending…

 

But I do know the ending.  It may not be what my doctor promised.  It may not be in two weeks.  But my hope is not in the next two weeks…my hope is in the Cross.  It is in the blood and pain of the Cross of Christ and what is coming.  The stone was rolled away.  He was raised from the dead.  He is preparing a New Earth. He is always good.  He is always here.  He always gives and brings life. Eternity is still coming, and it’s here.  And blood shed and pain felt, endured, and known is the Cross that paid for Eternity.

 

So here {for now}, I will endure this.  And I will continue to see the glimpses of Eternity here…the people bringing meals, sitting at my feet and praying, weeping with me, the Dr who looks in my eyes and promises, the husband that does all the things I can’t do, the mom and dad that sacrifice their days for me, my beautiful girls that comfort and love and believe…

 

May He be seen and known and felt and believed in the midst of my pain and suffering. May this be all for Him and for His glory.  There are still tears here, still pain, still massive weakness.  But there is also Him.  And He is good.

And life will most definitely still come from this pain. 

Life On Earth

She died.  I got a text this morning from a friend (life-long friend) that lost a co-worker and friend to an aggressive brain cancer.  Tears welled up in my eyes as I texted her back.  So much loss here.  This precious life just affected my life, my view of my God, my eternity.  And I have never met her.  But I prayed for her and her circle, and I won’t stop.  Because other lives, other’s eternity is being affected here.  She deeply affected the life of one of my closest friends, and I know that there is an opportunity for an entire school of teachers and kids to see eternity because of this one life. Just this weekend I helped a family of a precious little one who is the same age as one of my girlies with legacy building. Aggressive cancer came into his life a few short months ago, and his body had lost the battle against it.  As I sat with the mom creating lasting legacy items for her and her family, she said over and over, “He is perfect. He is perfect.”  He is.  That is eternity…that is the Kingdom coming.  That was a holy moment for me.

This [here] is not it.  There is more. A lot more.  The summer of 2004 was a life-changing summer for me.  The reality of eternity began to blossom in my heart.  I was a nanny for a family with seven kiddos who ministered to families through family camp at Pine Cove. I mostly spent my time with the youngest four. Their mom ministered to me all summer.  She has no idea the impact she had on my life, but I hope she is reading along to know that it was life-changing. 🙂 One day she asked me to do an activity with the kids about eternity.  We took a toilet paper roll out to the back yard, and we unrolled it all the way.  Then we ripped off one square, and it represented our entire life.  One square.  The rest represented eternity.  This is a blip, y’all.  This life.  And we are literally only getting glimpses of what is to come.

Another thing that she taught that summer and said to me was a quote that led to the title of my very first blog.  She said, “Life on earth is not about life on earth.”  My first blog was entitled Ashley’s Life On Earth.  These moments (all of them…hard and beautiful) are intended to give us glimpses to eternity ~ it’s really, really not about us.  Eternity is here, but not completely.

God led me to my current church the fall of 2005.  One of the most profound things that I have gained in my 12 years at this church is the reality of the Kingdom coming and it’s also here now (in part).  My pastor illustrates this intersection between life here and eternity. He often uses his arms to show this kind of tie between the two…

I am so grateful for his illustration and constant reminder that Heaven is not his far off place to hope for. My pastor often reminds us that eternity lives in us, and that we are carriers of the Kingdom come.

Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done… Matthew 6:10

I began praying the Lord’s prayer daily about a decade ago.  Andrew Murray has written many books, but With Christ In The School of Prayer has been the most life-changing as it taught me how to pray through the Lord’s Prayer.  We pray it every day on the way to school.  May we know and understand that the Kingdom is coming to us…He is coming again.  But He is also here.  We can see Him and eternity through each other.  We can be a part of showing someone else a glimpse of eternity.  Yes! How beautiful is that.  Every moment is an opportunity for someone to know that this is NOT IT.

Your love is better than life… Psalm 63:3

This scripture is easy when we are talking about life in relation to death and the hard, unwanted pieces of this life.  But if you are like me, there is much of this life that you love and you never want it to end…romance, mountaintop views, babies learning to walk, kids learning to read, and on and on.  We love so much of this life here.  We love it sometimes more than we love Him.  And we forget that there is more.  There is more coming.  This is not the way it ought to be.  The things that are wrong in this world, where the Kingdom and Him feel so very distant, those moments are there saying, “This is NOT IT…”  More is coming.  More beauty. All things made right.  ALL THINGS the way they ought to be.

We are Kingdom-bearers.  We are where He dwells to bring His Kingdom here.  We bring Eternity here. He has put eternity in the hearts of men.  We CANNOT FATHOM what God is doing from beginning to end. (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

We cannot fathom it, y’all. But we are a part of it. He chose us to reveal it. We get the most incredible tastes of eternity in some of the holiest, happiest, hardest moments of life.  And they are nothing compared to what we will experience.

When you choose to be here ~ really here ~ especially here with Christ in you, you have so many opportunities to see and to show the glimpses of eternity and really know that the more that is to come is indeed so good and so real.  So when all my friend’s friends and co-workers come together this afternoon to talk about how to move forward…when they hold hands and grieve…when they serve one another because of the hard day….when they encourage each other with words and Scripture and hugs…they will see eternity.  Where the Holy Spirit is moving, He is displaying eternity.  Be here, really here {for now}.

Because this life on earth has Eternity written all over it.