Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Learning to Smile at the Future


January 1, 2011

As I woke that morning, I could see the light shining in through the window. I wanted to shut it out, but I slowly pulled myself out of bed. Nine months pregnant, exhausted, miserable, I woke up saddened that the dear baby we were expecting had not arrived.  I again beat back the dark clouds of worry and concerns of adding a baby to our home. Already feeling so inadequate to keep up our home and care for our 2 other children, I was certain it was going to be harder than ever to do it all.

I was not smiling at the future that bright New Year’s Day.

Later that day, I talked with my mom about when she would come to help with the new baby. With the baby’s arrival so uncertain, it was hard to make plans. Plus she had a doctor’s appointment that we were working around. I remember her talking about having the “place” on her skin removed. She wouldn’t call it cancer for fear of worrying me. It was benign she said. I laughed softly as I got off the phone at her sweet protectiveness in not wanting to speak the dreaded word. I was certain there was nothing to worry about.

 January 1, 2012.

I could see as I woke up that morning that I’d had it all wrong that last New Year’s Day of 2011.

Andrew, my sweet baby, finally arrived almost 2 weeks later. My strength and energy returned as soon as he was born, despite the nightly feedings and early mornings with our other 2 children. I held the sweetest, easiest baby of them all, I had even began contemplating another one before we left the hospital. (Anna-Kate was added to our family this last July 2012.) The transition to three children was seamless and I no longer felt overwhelmed at the task the Lord had given me.  My concerns had been unwarranted and I found myself wishing I could have talked to myself New Year’s Day a year ago. I had been so wrong.

Only that was not the only thing I had been wrong about. The doctor’s appointment for my mom that we had planned her trip around was the first clue that there was something wrong with her lungs. When her oxygen levels weren’t high enough it led to test after test, questions and more questions. Within a few short months we found ourselves at the Mayo Clinic in Florida where they gave my mom at most 1-2 years to live unless she had a lung transplant. After a long month of rigorous testing, she was finally placed on the lung transplant list. But even the best doctors don’t know the future. The day she was placed on the lung transplant list, she was also put in the hospital for observation because she had caught a virus and her oxygen levels were dropping. Only 10 days later, her lungs could hold out no more and she stepped into eternity with her family at her side. That New Year’s Day marked 3 months since her passing.

I’d had it all wrong that New Year’s Day of 2011…. And yet with each fresh New Year's Day I find myself smiling at the future like the confident woman of Proverbs 31 unlike ever before.

I have pondered this. Had I not been wrong about my expectations for that coming year? How could I trust  that the year before me would not bring more of the same?

And I cannot know what this year holds but the Lord has allowed me to see…

Smiling at the future had nothing to do with what might or might not happen. It had everything to do with the Lord and His sovereign hand holding the year before me.
The lessons of that difficult year lifted me up and given me a clear view, not of the future, but of his character which is certain, sure and without fail. I remember these 3 things specifically:

That He is good.

 I don’t say this lightly because I have had to fight for this one. You can only hear “Your mom was too sweet, too young, too good, too fill-in-the blank for this to happen to her.” Before you start wondering yourself “How could this happen?” My painful whys have not always been like the sinless questions of Job, but much more akin to a child demanding her own way. He has been more than patient with me in my questions. He brought me to see that none of us are too good for anything. The Fall and the curse it brought is still present and all of us, as sinners, are still under its effects. The pain, suffering and difficulty of this world is more an indictment on who we are as sinners than on who God who is. I was reminded, in all of my wonderings, of the gospel: that my good God sent Jesus to rescue us from the curse. Though we won’t see the ultimate fulfillment of that until eternity, when we walk through the pain and struggles of this life, we can be certain of his goodness... His goodness displayed most perfectly in the cross of Christ. While I don’t know what this next year holds, I do know that God is good and nothing happens beyond his sovereign will.

That He loves me.

No, really, he loves me. Not only is he good, but he pours out his goodness on me in his love. While that does not mean I will be shielded from the pain of this life, it does mean that none of it comes from his wrath and his only motive towards me is love. I can be assured that all things will work together for my good and his glory. Looking ahead to this year, I see the love of God on my life as a guarantee of his care and concern for me.

That He is enough.

 I remember long ago singing the song “More than Enough.” It was more than 10 years ago that I was sitting on the beach, newly married, surrounded by sweet adoring teenagers with the words of that song pouring from our lips. In that moment, life seemed perfect. Honestly, I wondered to myself if I would still be able to sing that song when life got hard. A few weeks ago I was in the car and that song came on. I fought back tears as I knew that the Lord had proven himself true and faithful in my time of great need. He had been more than enough for me through this dark time. It has not been an easy road but I can confidently though tearfully proclaim that he has been more than enough for every ache and need of my heart.

So this year as I look at this future that I cannot see, I smile because I have a sure view of my God: He is good. He loves me. He is enough. That I can see clearly. And because of it, I can smile at the time to come.

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