Sunday, January 31, 2010

Thankful for Things (and for all of you...)

No poetry tonight.  Just tired thankfulness.

When Lydia's knee started hurting, and then swelling, in the Fall (requiring detective work on the part of a great local doctor to weave through blood work, x-rays, and eventually two MRIs and consults with Children's Hospital to find a suspect faint, but odd and somewhat large mass . . . and then a gracious referral to the U and a pediatric, orthopedic surgeon/tumor specialist because he wanted us to be seen by "the best."),  I had all the concern you'd expect as we thought about Lyme disease, arthritis, infections, stress fractures and eventually the thing which was originally thought most unlikely...a potentially, possibly, probably not - but maybe... OH there it is (!) tumor that was scary-enough-to-need-a-rush-to-surgery/biopsy.

Along with the concern, we started to look around to see what the Lord was doing in our life and in Lydia. We remembered especially Grace's big accident and the surgery, and months of rehab and the nerve damage in her right hand which has turned out to be transformational in her life, so that she could not be the beautiful, mature, young woman that she is today without having gone through that big, very hard, stressful, traumatic thing. We've talked about when "big things," or disappointing things, or sad things, scary or surprising things come into our lives–we can trust the promises of God. Here is a good one for starters...

"More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." (Romans 5:3-5) 
Or this one
"Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." (James 1:2-4).

So, in late December, I said to Lydia "Well, congratulations -looks like it is time for your "thing". Let's see what God is doing in your life."  Some of the other kids even joked about wanting their "thing" too.  We ended up thinking of the Madeline books... "Boo-hoo, I want my appendix out, too!" Because along with the hard parts, the "thing" person also gets a lot of Mom and Dad time, attention, love (even eating out at Don Pablos and Dairy Queen on the way home from Dr. appts) - and if you are really lucky...crutches, a cast, or something similarly impressive.  It becomes an important part of the story of your life...and a big step towards becoming the person God has created you to be.  Lydia's comment to all of this was..."Believe me, when it's time for your thing... you won't want it!" but we already see how the Lord is using this in her life as a beautiful and maturing...thing.

Anyway - we are thankful for the good report and for a strange (most-probably, we'll-know-for-sure-on-Tuesday) benign tumor called an angiolipoma. We are thankful to live in a time and place where a golf-ball-sized tumor can be removed from a girl's knee so that she does not limp for the rest of her life.  We are thankful that the weeks or months of rehab we were expecting are not needed at all.  Such mercy.  As thankful as we are for "things" we are somehow just as thankful to put them behind us!

We are thankful for 6 months of anxiety LAST year while Lydia really thought through and dealt with her fear of mortality, which resulted in increased faith–and the amazing amount of peace she has felt through the past month.  I am thankful that she could say "Lord willing . . . " and smile when people reassured her that it would all be OK (even before we really knew it would be OK).  We know that the peace of God is a gift.

We are thankful for doctors who served us faithfully and humbly and with great skill (and with knowing how to talk to an 11-year-old girl).

We are thankful for a faith-filled couple at church who prayed with tears this past Sunday that the tumor would be less attached, easier to remove than expected, and that Lydia's knee would not be damaged in anyway even though we had been warned of that.  All of those good things did indeed happen.

We are thankful for many other people who prayed and that they also told us in person they were praying.  We are thankful for cards, calls and emails telling us they were praying.  Lydia has felt very loved and cared for.  She counted it up on the way to the hospital, and it was over a hundred people who had said they would pray.  Wow!

We are thankful for friends offering to help - including a mom of seven caring for our five middle kids all day (including lunch) so Grace and Lydia (with leg propped up) could watch big-girl movies all by themselves in the living room on Friday.  That same mom also sent delicious fresh-baked bread home for us when Kevin picked them up!  We're thankful that, amazingly enough, we had several other open offers to care for our large number of children if needed.  One even offered to come and spend the night if we needed to stay longer at the hospital.

We are thankful for Lydia's brothers and sisters who greeted her at the door after surgery with homemade cards, and a decorated get-well-soon cake and a clean house and a super clean girls' bedroom that suddenly looked like a charming Bed and Breakfast room.  And giving her the best spots on the couch And cheerfully helping her And entertaining her And volunteering cheerfully to do her chores.

We are thankful for good friends and loving family who call, and write on Facebook and email, and send e-cards and real cards and visit.  Lydia is savoring and saving all of them.

And yes, we are thankful for a sovereign God who reigns over all the days of our lives and we find these words of Jesus to be wonderful news - "Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.  But even the hairs of your head are all numbered.  Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows." (Matt. 10).

May every Thing in our life glorify Him.


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Morning sun on Winter's snow

A good thought penetrated into my sleepy head yesterday morning.

It was such a beautiful morning, with piercing blue sky and the type of icy snow that looks like glitter in the sunlight. Inside we were trying to eat breakfast without being blinded by the brightness, no one really wanting to close the shades. We ended up shading our eyes with our hands over our eggs and toast, peeking through our fingers to see each other, while enjoying the warmth of the sun through the south windows. After breakfast, 8-year-old Essie and I rested our foreheads against the freezing cold windows to feel the red glow of the sun even through our closed eyes, laughing about how the hot sun could get through that sub-zero air outside. Out of all that, I ended up with these words while alone with the laundry...

     Morning sun on Winter's snow,
          so bright it hurts the eyes ~
               hinting of Glory so radiant we need new eyes to see.

After the fact, I thought about C.S. Lewis' Voyage of the Dawn Treader, where Prince Caspian and crew are nearing The Very End of the World, strengthened by the sweet water of the sea in the utter East.

"And one by one everybody on board drank. And for a long time they were all silent. They felt almost too well and strong to bear it: and presently they began to notice another result. As I have said before, there had been too much light...the sun too large (but not too hot), the sea too bright, the air too shining. Now the light grew no less – if anything, it increased – but they could bear it. They could look straight up at the sun without blinking. They could see more light than they had ever seen before. And the deck and the sail and their own faces and bodies became brighter and brighter and every rope shone. And next morning when the sun rose, now five or six times its old size, they stared hard into it...Every day and every hour the light became more brilliant and still they could bear it. No one ate or slept and no one wanted to, but they drew buckets of dazzling water from the sea, stronger than wine and somehow wetter, more liquid, than ordinary water... And one or two of the sailors who had been oldish men when the voyage began now grew younger every day. "

So today, another bright morning, I find myself wondering which verses C.S. Lewis had absorbed to write a story which so fills us with longing for the new heaven and the new earth. Thinking to find a few verses this morning with trite and easy application, a quick concordance search of the words glory, light, bright, shining, eyes, and resurrection produced literally thousands of verses to review. That should keep me busy in my spare moments for some time to come.


"Lord, open my eyes that I may behold wondrous things out of your law!" (Psalm 119:18)

Friday, January 22, 2010

Treasure from the Junk Drawer?

My mind is not well ordered.

It is crammed full of things of various quality–some useful, some broken, some forgotten, some well-loved, some sentimental, a lot of true junk . . . and occasionally when searching through the things that are in there while pondering over the Word and the story that God is weaving into my life–I'll find a piece of treasure.

Yesterday, I found some treasure when I least expected it.

In the middle of my morning I suddenly decided to take a walk down my long country driveway to the dirt road.  As I was walking I began by thinking about my shoes and whether I should go back for boots.   No, just walk on the snow-packed drive and it would be fine.  Then I was wondering why it had been so long since I had gone for a walk.  My thoughts shifted to being thankful for such a quiet place to walk...and it is really quiet in the middle of winter with snow covering everything.  Really quiet.  I started thinking about seasons, and how long winter is here.  I thought about people, friends and loved ones in dark seasons.  So many people I know are in the middle of hard seasons, many of them close to my heart and in my prayers.  And then I started thinking about the story of our lives and the Holy Spirit speaking to us through the seasons of our lives, and what I had just read in Acts about the outpouring of the Spirit in those days and wondering if I was paying any attention at the Holy Spirit alive and working in me?  I thought about a recent observation of a missionary friend living in a hard part of the world, about a man there who is living a more undistracted life, steeped in Genesis 1-3, and really noticing how God declares his glory in creation and this man's ability to speak the truth of the Word in new and helpful ways from what he observes in nature.  And I wondered again if I was really paying attention.  I was out on the dirt road by now and looking up in amazement at the winter trees against the January sky.  All the color seemed to have disappeared from the world, and all life with it.  Suddenly things were too quiet, but I couldn't move.  I just stood there looking up at the bare branches of those huge oaks that make a beautiful canopy of green life against the blue sky of summer.  It was hard to believe that those same dead trees could ever awaken again.  My prayer was that I would be open to hearing God speak in my distracted life as I looked up at the bare branches again - and I tried to think of a way to capture the moment in words, but I couldn't get the hope into my description of the bleak scene.  And hope for dark seasons was welling up in me.  Suddenly words formed into poetry, which is strange because I don't write poetry.  But that's what popped out.  Treasure for me.

January trees.

Bare limbs stark against white sky,
     white world.
Gnarled skin and bony fingers
     conceal life hidden deep within.

A frozen, brittle, aching sway when wind comes.

Silent giants.  Patient. Waiting.
     Asking not...Why this cold, dark season?
But standing, arms held high and wide... hopeful.
     Reaching, reaching, reaching toward Spring.

“Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, to whom belong wisdom and might. He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding; he reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with him” Daniel 2:20-22
Treasure from the Junk Drawer
copyright © Sara Shull
•All text and poetry by Sara
•Art illustrations by Sara
•Photos by Sara or the Shull kids
~~~~All rights reserved~~~~

Bible verses:
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version (ESV)