DUDES! 2017 is not AT ALL what I had planned.
First THIS happened.
And then THIS happened.
And NOW THIS HAPPENED:
We’ve spent 6 weeks trying to find a more suitable home for our beloved Penny. Penny is my little all-day shadow, and perhaps I was slow to admit it was due to her anxiety. We consulted 2 different Vets, tried Prozac (which did buy us a good year), and attempted all sorts of tricks and games with litter boxes. But in the end, Penny loves humans over cats. This house is an equal balance of both, and therefore a bad balance for Penny.
Penny is now trying her hand at being a companion cat not with a lovely gentleman from our church. I pass her new home 4x/day, and usually manage to dissolve into tears on only 2 commutes. So…not bad?
Luckily this week, a dear friend recommended I try this:
This book is a fictional tale about the life of John the Baptist, and people, I LOVE me some John the Baptist. What could be cooler than Jesus having a cousin, and ALSO getting baptized by his cousin? But I digress. “The Prisoner in the Third Cell” is about a pretty scary topic: Why doesn’t God heal everyone? Why, after an entire life of 100% devotion, did God allow John to be beheaded? When John asked Jesus for a hint, he didn’t get one. Exactly.
God said only one thing (paraphrasing): Will you love/follow/trust me John, even if I don’t meet your expectations?
Wow. Now that’s convicting, isn’t it?
Because trust me, if there is anything I do well, it’s get mad at God. Not my proudest admission, but truthful nonetheless. If God didn’t meet John’s expectations, and John stayed faithful, I assume this was meant to be an example to all of mankind. THANKS JOHN. Making us all look bad...(as IF I could pray in the desert for 30 years eating locusts…come ON J.B.!)
OK, so I’m not into wearing rags, desert heat and bugs, but God, what if I pray REALLY hard about the mess-o-2017?
LIKE…what if I pray REALLY, REALLY hard?
No Lori. That’s not how this works. (Kelly calls these “2-ways prays”. She just figured out that when you get deep into prayer, God talks back to you. Sometimes prayers are a quick “1-way”, but the good ones are the prayers that go in both directions.)
When I came home from my 1 bajillionth eye appointment and told Greg, “I’m tired. My eyes are tired. I don’t know how much more of this I can take, but going blind scares me more than my tired,” and he replied,
“It’s not about whether or not you go blind.” ….WELL. You can imagine my reply:
HELL YES it’s about whether or not I go blind!!!! Is there anything else on earth that’s more important?! IT IS ALL THERE IS. (I actually said that. Ugh. I can see John the Baptist shaking his head at me from heaven.)
But every single time I tried to pray for my eyes, no words would come out. My fear was ruling my every breath.
When I looked for God and his wisdom, at the church, during sermons, inside songs, while in prayer…I heard only one thing:
“God is in control. Let him lead. GET BEHIND HIM.”
Pretty amazing all the cool places this meme works. It’s my uni-meme for 2017.
OK. Let God lead. I tried meditating on this. Praying. God in front, me marching behind in those desert sandals you see in Jesus-movies. Envisioning Jesus on a motorcycle and me in the sidecar (I’m not even joking…I used this one to get to sleep at night). Then I envisioned myself in an arm wrestling match with God, and of course, I lost.
OH, Come ‘on God, give me a hint. Can I keep my eyesight?
“I GOT THIS LORI. I’m sovereign in your life or I am not. There is no halfway.”
Kind of reminds me of a cat that just wouldn’t give up the alpha-fight. Huh. Maybe Penny and I had something in common outside of uncontrollable anxiety.
So I reached out to a dear old pal who had lost everything to an illness and asked him how he kept going, despite losing control over his health and possibly his future. What I got in response was quite sobering, and luckily put my fear in-check:
“While I hope you keep your vision, it was never about your eyes. It’s about you and God and whether you can turn inward, and turn over your will to Him. The answer is inside of you, not outside.”
Those were some words to digest. Literally and figuratively, so I turned to my happy place: my kitchen. I can fix nearly anything, literally and figuratively, while cooking. Funny how much my physical and spiritual world are swirling together these days.
I’m fixing such complicated dishes, I have to shop with Amazon open on my phone, just to get the ingredients I need. In my kitchen, I can breath. I can think. I am comforted.
And somewhere along this path (probably in my 2nd hour of rolling gnocchi, which is the most mind-numbing task EVER), my heart and my mind agreed: God has a plan, and it’s not about my eyes. If I could stay FOCUSED (pun intended) on GOD, and GOD ALONE, those eyes would become 2nd fiddle in my day.
Thanks to the wonderful Kara Tippetts, I was reminded to stay focused on today’s allotment of grace while attempting this wild feat. Would I be so brave as to allow God to pry open my hands and take a hold of my dreams? Could I embrace this hard, and my loss of control over my future?
OK. Today’s grace. Each day. LOOK FOR IT. Paella. Science Fairs. Chicken Gnocchi Soup. A gold medal at the flute competition. Sausage with leeks and mushrooms in a tortellini soup. Girls piling into my minivan with ridiculous stories of kids making deals for candy (a certain boy may have worn a tutu to school this week in trade for a candy bar). Dried Apricot and roasted hazelnut chicken salad. Late night Limoncellos with my dear friend Ana Paula. Sweet potato and chorizo bites. Lots and LOTS of complaining about schoolwork (this becomes grace when you fear you’ll lose it).
Every day, day after day, there has been grace. There has been enough, and some days there has been grace overflowing to the point I even had some to share.
Along for the ride have been 2 questions rolling around in my head:
(1) EVEN IF, is my story with God still good?
(2) EVEN IF, will I love God if he doesn’t meet my expectations (i.e. answer my prayers)?
For all the “no’s” 2017 has brought, these 2 questions, thus far, have gotten the yes. Not solid yes’s. Not easy yes’s. Not a thumbs-up which has me jumping for joy…but I’m trying. I’m not John the Baptist desert praying in lieu of a family or a life…but if I’m awake, chances are you’ll find my mind and heart singularly on this trying.
So in this focusing on daily grace, I went to my hometown last weekend to say goodbye to Matt’s house. Matt, my “Even If” of 2016. “Even if” he survives the surgery. Even if he survives the lengthy physical rehab. Even if he gets home, and dies unexpectedly.
As I drove away and looked back at the bright “SOLD” sign, and on some of my favorite high school memories, there was Matt’s sunbeam, reminding me to “follow the Son”.
FOLLOW the Son: THIS is the wisdom I seek right now, along with patience while I await whatever comes next.* Even if it’s not what I expect. Even if it’s not a chapter I wrote.
Godspeed my friends. As always, Godspeed.
*To clarify confusion from last week re: glaucoma and my eye condition: Glaucoma is a highly treatable illness which if treated diligently, will NOT cause blindness. Many well-meaning friends have contacted me to tell about family members whom have had successful glaucoma surgeries. I have prior optic nerve damage along with a 3 decade sequelae, PLUS unstable glaucoma. I don’t fear glaucoma as much as this scale finally tipping. But I’m glad everyone’s 80 year old grandmothers are alive and well with glaucoma, and sighted. It truly is a miracle of modern medicine of which I hope to benefit in the very near future.