Last year about this time, we went through a scary time when my father suddenly went downhill in his battle with cancer and we thought we were going to lose him. It was a few weeks after Thanksgiving and we were getting ready to perform the play at school. I received a text from my sister-in-law just as I was ready to leave my classroom and found a disturbing message: "I hope you are coming up this weekend. Everyone is pretty upset and having a hard time keeping their composure. You should come as soon as you can."
I stood there in shock. I had prayed it would not reach this point, and up to this point my family had been telling me I did not need to come. How was I going to go out in public and do all that I needed to do? How was I going to handle this? By the grace of God I managed to get through the evening, but fled to my classroom as soon as I could. Mrs. Bish was so kind to come find me, and give me a comforting hug. She was full of encouragement and love, which I needed right at that moment.
Seeing that Joe needed the car to transport children to church and school, I needed to find another way to get up to Vermont. We found that the bus would be the best option so I bought a ticket and early the next morning Joe took me to the station and saw me off. Needless to say I had mixed emotions during that long ride. I prayed, I cried, and I tried writing, but my restless mind could not help but imagine the worst. It was not until I finally received another text from my sister-in-law saying that he suddenly took a turn for the better. He was actually sitting up and attempting to eat something. It was the news I had been craving to hear! A heavy burden fell off my shoulders and I felt like I could begin to relax. I knew I would see my dad again. I still had more time with him, though I did not know what to expect when I saw him. I just knew that God was answering our prayers and He is always good.
As we performed the play this year, I remembered the events of last year and I grew a bit overwhelmed at the fact that God blessed us with another year my father. His love and mercy are so wonderful. There are so many things in life that we do not understand. The verse from Luke 2:19 has been going around in my head lately, "But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.”
So many times I find there are no words to actually speak to express what I am feeling inside. Then there are other times when I find the words that are going through my mind should not be spoken at all and that I should hold my tongue. Some things are better left unsaid. Some things are better kept inside the heart until just the right time. Yet, some things are never spoken, simply because we do not understand the why or reason of an event or circumstance. Like Mary, she was told many things about her infant that she could not grasp just yet. How could this little baby save the entire human population? He was so sweet and innocent, like a little lamb. She could not possibly fathom how those soft, tiny hands would have nails piercing through them, or that someone would want to spit on his precious face. So, she had to keep those things that had been spoken to her by the angel deep inside her heart, where only God could see and hear her anguished inner cries.
I do not know what lies around the corner of my life, or around anyone else's who is close to me. I watch and observe everything around me, taking it all in, storing things away in my memory and in my heart. I love how God allowed Mary to be the mother of His Son. She seemed so down to earth, and had such a child-like faith. She simply accepted, and the things that she did not understand, she kept in her heart for the Lord to answer over time. I want to be like Mary and take Jesus for Who He is. Taking one day at a time; storing the things I know and those that I do not understand inside my heart. Pondering means prayer, and prayer means drawing closer to the Lord. May we be like Mary and draw closer to our Lord in every way that we can.
Note: This blog (and another one I am going to post this week) were two little write ups I did for another blog a few years ago. I thought I would share them with you this week and I pray it may give you something to think about.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
“And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.” Luke 2:6
I read the verse and had to pause for a second as I thought about what it said. “…while they were there, the days were accomplished…” So many times I have seen movies or heard narratives about the two weary travelers arriving in Bethlehem, exhausted and worn out from their long journey. Mary, on the verge of giving birth, sits upon the back of a donkey, grimacing in pain as Joseph desperately knocks on door after door only to be turned away with the words, “We have no more rooms!” With one last final attempt of finding lodging for his laboring wife, Joseph begs an innkeeper for a place to sleep. The innkeeper quietly tells him that they can rest in the stable out back. Joseph gladly accepts and gets his wife settled in. Not too long later, a little baby’s cry pierces the night as baby Jesus takes His first earthly breaths as He makes His bloody and watery entry into this earth.
Taking a look at this verse again, I cannot help but wonder just how long did Mary reside in that stable before actually giving birth to her Son? Assuming hundreds, maybe even thousands of people arrived in Bethlehem around the same time, the tax process would not have been completed overnight with that many people to count. Did Mary and Joseph have to wait in line, day after day, until it was their turn to be counted?
It is only speculation on my part, as with any of these stories that people have written about the birth, seeing that we only know a small part through what the Bible explains to us. Maybe God wanted Mary to learn something while she waited for her little one to arrive. She was already a humble girl, having meekly taken on the task of carrying God’s Son in her womb. She never questioned the angel’s words in any way, only to politely ask “How shall this be seeing I know not a man?” After the angel kindly answered her, Mary’s humble reply clearly said, “I am surrendered to do whatever God wants. My life is His.”
Whether it was that night, a day later, or even a week later when baby Jesus was born, God’s timing was perfect in the arrival of His Son. Everything worked out exactly to God’s plan, and through it all, God taught the chosen mother of His precious Son, that He was in control, and even though the circumstances and place may not have been her first choice, she could trust Him through it all. If she could learn that lesson before the birth, then she would be able to put all the unknowns of the future of this precious Baby at the feet of Jesus’s Father, and trust Him to see her through all the trials that lay ahead which would lead to Jesus’s ultimate reason for even entering the world….the cross.
I do not know where to begin with all that has happened this week. God has moved in an amazing way and I am full of stories today. I could barely get to sleep last night because my mind was all abuzz with what happened last night at the play, as well as what God did for me, and others close to me this week. He answered prayers, brought about a miracle to Joe's family, three new lives entered the world this week (at least that I know of), and brought about a spiritual birth to my family. I guess I should just start at the beginning and let my fingers do all the work. :)
Let me start by saying that I wrote the play, "The Community" two years ago. About fifty six years ago, Joe's mother had a baby that she had to put up for adoption. It was a little boy, and she told me recently it was one of the hardest things she ever had to do. They would not let her say one last goodbye to him; told her that it would not be good for her to see him, and she was forced to leave, never knowing what was to become of him. I cannot imagine the feelings she must have had and how that must have been at the back of her mind her entire life. What kind of family was he living with? Were they taking care of him? Was he getting all the love and nurturing he needed? She never felt it was for her to try and contact him. She left that choice to her other five children, or him if he chose to do so. She told Joe and Mickey about him when they were around twenty years old, and Joe said the first person he told was a young lady with the last name of Waldron.
So, time moves forward to 2014. The week of the play. Monday's mail arrived and in the box was a letter from someone Gwen did not know. She opened it and found an unbelievable letter. It was from her son. He had been looking for her for a little while and had finally got her name through some Simmons in Indiana, who had kept up with the family ancestry. They directed him to Gwen Walford Simmons in Wallingford, Connecticut, and gave him her address. He wrote the letter not knowing what to expect. He explained that he had an adopted sister who had tried to find her birth family and had not had a good experience with that. He was hoping for better results with his birth family.
I believe it was the same day that Joe's sister, who (amazingly enough) lived only three miles from this new-found brother, took a ride by his house and ended up talking to him briefly. They arranged a meeting the next night and three of the siblings went to his house and spent quite a few hours there. From what I hear it was like he had always been a part of the family. They found he is married, has two daughters, and one is even married and has two children of her own. Overnight Gwen discovered she was a grandmother to two other girls, as well as a great grandmother. Yet, just the fact that she discovered he had lived a wonderful life, was well loved and cared for, was enough that a load lifted off her shoulders and she became free from guilt, from concern, and the unknown. She is going to meet him next week and I pray that her visit with Shawn Waldron (If you read two paragraphs back you will notice his last name is the same last name as the first person Joe told about him.) will be a blessing and bring about healing and restoration to the family. Her long lost son is found. :)
The reason why I mention all this is because that is the very theme of the play I wrote. A long lost son is found as an answer to prayer. When I told people this story over the week, it was like God was already using the message of the play - it is not just coincidence that all this happened the very same week. Another soul was found (by Jesus) this week. My little Benny has been asking questions about getting saved and it was clearly bothering him that he was not. Thursday morning his teacher took him down to talk to Pastor Bish. Pastor had him sit down on the couch in his temporary office and asked him questions to see if he truly understood why he needed to be saved, even telling a story to illustrate his need. Ben clearly understood the Gospel and bowed his head, and gave his heart over to Jesus. Pastor said Ben even cried as he did, showing a soft, repentant heart. Ben came upstairs, as we were finishing up our music practice with the little students, and whispered in my ear, "I got saved!" I was so excited to hear that! He seemed to be floating on air that day and seemed to be at such peace. He spent his recess sharing with others how to get saved, and I love his willingness to be an example.
Wednesday I became an auntie again, to a little (well, quite big) 10 lb baby boy. Congrats to my brother Nate and his wife. I cannot wait to meet little Nathaniel and give him a big cuddle. Pastor Bish's daughter had her first little baby on Friday, and another friend of ours had a baby girl on Wednesday also. New births are wonderful, whether physical or spiritual. Praise God for His works of grace and mercy.
Last but not least, I need to talk about the play. God had laid on my heart that I should fast and pray for the event, so I decided Thursday was the best day. That was the day Ben got saved, and it was also the day that one of the students from the play did not come in because she was sick. The same day her brother got sick at school. He had some major lines in the play and we did not know who would take his place if he could not come. I just put my trust in the Lord. I kept saying, "God has a perfect plan for this play." From the very beginning I had said that if God wanted to use the play then He was going to work out every detail. From start to finish. I hung onto that belief. It was completely in his hands. It turned out to be just a 24 hour virus and they were both okay that night. All students showed up. The play had a few little mishaps (one very cute little girl thought the song had started and belted out the first word by herself. She realized her mistake quite quickly and covered her mouth in surprise. So cute!) and some mics kept fading in and out, as well as some missing props, but all in all it turned out to be a huge blessing. So many people came up to me after and told me a story about how it could be used to help someone they knew who was struggling with a similar issue, or how it encouraged them personally. The students did an amazing job with all their lines, and the Gospel came out loud and clear. I am very relieved it is over, but still trying to process all the events of last few days. Someone asked me if I was going to write another play. My answer was, "You need to give me time. It is like having a baby. You should not ask if you are going to have another baby right after a birth. Give me time, let me work on this one so I can make it into a something others can use, and then I will see what God has planned for me."
Thank you, Lord for answering my prayers! You are so good to me! To You be all the glory!
We had barely been home fifteen minutes when the phone rang. It was our neighbor from out back, an older gentleman who has come to church with us a quite a few times. He did not sound like his usual cheery self when I answered so immediately I knew something was not right. He told me he was stuck on his deck, not fallen, but due to his Parkinson's disease he was sitting on the doorstep, stuck in the doorway and his legs would not move. I called my two teen boys upstairs and sent them out to help our neighbor into the house. It took the two of them to lift him up and carry him into the house, and then drag him down the hallway to his room. His legs refused to move so he could not help them in any way to get him up. It was completely up to their strength. I am glad they are so strong, and it did my heart good to see how concerned they were for him. They were so willing and eager to help him into the house. It was a pretty cold evening and it would not have done him any good to stay halfway in the door way letting all their warm air escape their house.
The next day Joe called him to make sure he was okay and though he had not gone out to make his usual Saturday morning visits to friends, he was able to move around again. I sent over a nice hot supper for him, in hopes that it would help strengthen and refresh his energy. His need for help was obvious, and I am glad we were around to assist him during his time of need.
I got to thinking about my neighbor today and realized that I am not that much different than him. True, I am not battling Parkinson's disease, and my legs work perfectly well, but when it comes to needing Someone's help, I am in the same boat as he is. I am looking at the week ahead of me, knowing that we have five more days until the big play program, and I am feeling like I am stuck in the doorway, unable to move. I know God has a purpose and a plan. He has everything under His control, but I feel like I am hanging onto God's lifeline. There have been times when the panic came flooding in, and I began to question everything I was even doing. Mrs. Nill has been a wonderful encouragement to me, reminding me that every year we go through tough times during play practice, wondering if the children will be ready; wondering if we will have everything we need for the big night, yet God has always come through. He has provided extra costumes when we were sure we were short one. He has shown us different ways of doing things that will work better, and helped us adjust lines and speaking parts. I am praying that all the children will be healthy and ready for their lines with God's help. I am praying that it will be a blessing and that all the ones coming to see it will be encouraged. There are so many little things I am praying about, but God keeps reminding me that since I put it into His hands from the very beginning, then He is going to work out every single detail. One of the songs in the play is called, "Better Than My Best." The young teacher, called by God to go into the Community to teach and spread the Gospel, sings these words, "Open doors You want me to go through; I know Your plan, Lord, is better than my best." I am going to hang onto the very words that God gave me for that song and trust Him. I am going to believe that His plan for me is better than my best laid out plans. He is my lifeline and He is my strength. Amen.