This week on Wednesday was another mile marker on our unexpected journey. It's 27 months since Floyd first became ill. It seems like we've been on this journey for ages - and yet it's so vivid that it also feels like it just happened a few days ago. Time is a strange thing.
Floyd has had more chest congestion so we continue to pray for relief for him. Other than his chest there have been no big ups and downs. He's been quietly content. He smiled his biggest smile for me when I showed him some family photos. I shared a few memories that had been on my mind, and he shed a few tears. He was very tender when I prayed for us too.
Along with some two billion plus people around the world - I watched the royal wedding last weekend. I love events like that, and was particularly intrigued since the bride is an American marrying into the royal family. I find it fun to watch all the festivities. My doctor has been actively encouraging me to have fun! I try - not always easy, but it was great fun to watch the wedding with a friend. I even wore a hat to celebrate. :)
As I watched the ceremony when the couple took their vows, it reminded me of the vows that Floyd and I made to each other before the Lord many years ago. They've actually been on my mind a lot recently. We made those commitments - "in sickness and in health, for better or for worse." On the joyous wedding day, all you think about is the good times. But in recent years we've been walking through the "sickness" and the "worse" parts.
Our anniversary is coming around soon. It'll be our 3rd one since Floyd got sick. What we're going through seems somehow more profound on the "special" days. The emotions seem more vivid. I think that's why I've been thinking of our vows.
We all know that there are hard times in life. There's sickness and difficulties. But when something like this "unexpected journey" comes along, I realize how unprepared I am for the tremendous impact into our lives. Everything is turned totally upside down. I am so, so, so aware that I couldn't make it without God's help.
Thankfully, we made those vows before God - and He comes through to help us when we go through the hard parts. That's when His "grace becomes sufficient," when "His power is made perfect in our weakness." That's when He continually holds our hand. He never leaves us for a second. He helps us with each and every thing we face.
Whatever tragedy, whatever hard thing we face - God is with us in the midst of it. He never leaves us. He never gives up. He never says "this is too much." He never takes a vacation because He's tired. He never takes a day off......or even a second off. He never runs away from the pain and sorrow. He's not exhausted when I become weary.
He is faithful, faithful, faithful! He is with us always. He is closer than the air we breathe. He continually holds our hand. He comforts us. He sustains us. He gives wisdom to every decision we have to make. He pours His healing balm into each pain we face. He gives strength when the tiredness is overwhelming. He gives abundant grace to help us endure. He is continually by our side.
"Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful and endures every circumstance." 1 Corinthians 13:7 My love for Floyd has grown through the years. We've endured a lot of things together. And now, in this season, God is helping me endure these current circumstances - and fulfill my commitment to Floyd.
"He answered me, "My grace is always more than enough for you, and my power finds its full expression through your weakness." So I will celebrate my weaknesses, for when I'm weak I sense more deeply the mighty power of Christ living in me. So I'm not defeated by my weakness.....when I feel my weakness.....when I'm surrounded with troubles on every side.....I am made yet stronger. For my weakness becomes a portal to God's power." 2 Corinthians 12:9,10
"The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms." Deuteronomy 33:27
As I walk through this hard season in my life with Floyd, I'm so grateful that I don't have to walk alone. God helps me fulfill those vows made decades ago on our wedding day. The joy of our wedding celebration is undergirded with His wonderful grace when we live out those vows. How awesome He is!
Someone recently sent me a photo that was posted on a friend's blog. I've included the photo as the head of this post. The words with the photo were "growing out of the fallen." It immediately spoke to my heart.
In many ways I could see Floyd like that giant fallen tree. My "gentle giant" was struck down by some rare, unusual infection that we still don't completely understand. Just as it's kind of sad that the giant tree is fallen - so it continues to be heart breaking to see what has happened to Floyd.
And yet - if I stand back and look at it from another perspective, I see good things that God, in His unique way, has brought out of it. There has been the most unusual wave of prayer that has come out of Floyd's illness. It amazes me each day that the prayers continue. Life is busy and many things call out for our time and attention. But many, many are still praying. It's so wonderful, and so profound. I can't help but wonder what God is up to with all this. I know He is moving on people's hearts to pray. I know those prayers aren't wasted. Something is happening that we can't see or understand. One friend recently said "only heaven will reveal all that God has been up to these past couple of years." Like the tree growing out of the fallen tree......God is bringing life and growth through this wave of prayer after Floyd was struck down in illness. How amazing He is!
And I'm not a giant like that tree - but in many ways I too was struck down by the cancer that attacked my body. I faced death, and I "felt" like death for many months. I'm doing well at the moment for which I'm very grateful, but I have no idea what is ahead.
If I stand back and look at my life - I, too, can see growth. God has brought richness of fellowship, intimacy with Him, a deeper walk of faith, an ability to trust Him in new ways, and so much more into my relationship with Him. I have grown! There is definitely life that has come from the fall l experienced. I am so, so grateful for the beauty of fresh life that He has brought through the very low time that I walked through - and continue to walk through.
One of the things I have always loved about God is that He creates new beginnings for us. He is constantly picking up the pieces in our lives, and creating something new, fresh, and beautiful. He didn't stop creating after the 7 days when He created the world. He is the ultimate, continual Creator. He creates every day in wonderful ways in each of our lives.
He brings "beauty out of ashes." He takes what has been destroyed and breathes fresh life into it. He doesn't accept failure or defeat. He doesn't say "sorry, you blew it." He doesn't condemn us or give up on us. He doesn't write us off because we've sinned or disappointed Him one too many times. He doesn't say that we should have done more and then it would have been okay.
No! He restores. He renews. He heals. He forgives. He redeems. He creates a new plan. He recovers what has been lost. He rescues us from disasters we've created. He clears the record of our transgressions. He pardons fully and completely. He mends what has been broken. He rebuilds what has been destroyed. He reconciles in broken relationships. He saves us from ourselves. He never, ever stops working in our lives.
He brings life and growth from the fallen! Wow - don't you just love Him?!
"We do not lose heart......For God said, 'Let light shine out of darkness'.......We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed." 2 Corinthians 4:1,6,8,9
"Provide for those who grieve in Zion - to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor." Isaiah 61:3
"You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives." Genesis 50:20
"I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten." Joel 2:25
"When troubles comes your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy." James 1:2
"I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist. Return to me, for I have redeemed you." Isaiah 44:22
God, our wonderful, wonderful God brings life and growth from the fallen. I take such comfort in that. I don't know what's ahead for us, but I know whatever happens in our lives, God will keep creating good! He will bring beauty for ashes. He is so faithful!