Dead of Winter

The dead of winter. It is cold. It is dark. It can make you want to grab a few blankets and a heater and hibernate for a few weeks. When I lived in Missouri, almost any amount of snow was cause for great alarm. I have been in Waverly for nearly 20 years (excuse me, what?), and I know by now that the cold and snow do not phase Iowans. Life goes on, people still go to work and church and sports and shopping and whatever else they feel like doing.

We went to a restaurant for my birthday dinner last week, and even though it was Friday night, I figured it wouldn’t be that busy. It was a bitterly cold evening,and I imagined that most people wouldn’t want to go out. I was wrong! You never would have known it was deathly cold from observing the restaurant that evening.

In the years that my children were little, we didn’t venture out a lot in the dead of winter. Bundling up kids, warming up the car (no convenient attached garage), buckling in car seats all for some meaningless errand or even just for mental health were a giant undertaking. So I avoided it. I also suffered with a lot of depression in those years. It took me longer than I wish it had to realize that it was worth getting out of the four walls of our house, seeing some sunshine, getting Starbucks, and even just letting them nap in the car. My mental health was worth it.

The dead of winter outside is sometimes mirrored by a wintry season of the soul. Often we keep those dark and cold situations to ourselves. We struggle within the confines of our own minds but never step out and bravely share with another soul.

Is it the dead of winter in your heart today? Is it hard to see what’s coming in just a few weeks? I promise that our God has not abandoned you. I use the dead of winter to remember all the amazing summers and beautiful things God has done through winters past. None of them were fun or enjoyable, but they drew me closer to Him and led me to lean hard against Him. He is big enough. He can handle my winter and my hard stuff and all the questions that linger on for years without answer. He may not answer when or how we want Him to answer, but He is working in ways we cannot see. Deep underneath all the layers, He is healing and restoring, and when spring comes, it is going to blow your mind. You can trust Him.

“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”
‭‭1 Peter‬ ‭5:10‬ ‭ESV‬‬
https://bible.com/bible/59/1pe.5.10.ESV

Boxes of Hope

I walked into our storage unit a few weeks ago. The kids needed winter clothes, and I had packed them all away in the hope that we would be listing our house for sale and hopefully bringing those boxes back to a new home when the colder weather rolled around.

I opened the door, and right there was our Christmas tree bag. The feelings from 6 months ago flooded over me. Hope. Excitement. Anticipation. Joy. We had rented this storage unit on the advice of a realtor who said we needed to get the house cleared out so we could list it. I had started on this task months ago. The me from 6 months ago was excited about the possibility of finally moving into town and passing on our project house to someone who wants a project. (Our project is three kids for the foreseeable future.)

I took some winter clothes boxes and put them in the back of my car. As I drove away from the unit, sadness overcame me. I remembered the hope I had when I put these boxes into storage. I had hope that the months to come would hold some big steps for us: preparing the house, selling it, buying another one, and moving from the only house we have lived in for our entire marriage. A verse popped into my mind.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.
‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭13:12‬ ‭ESV‬‬
https://bible.com/bible/59/pro.13.12.ESV

This hope has been deferred for years. I thought we were finally there, finally ready to make this happen. I certainly had no concept of what we would go through this summer with Matt’s sickness, hospitalization, and complications. I never saw it coming. Who would?

The God who knows our days from beginning to end knew. He also knows what the coming days and months and years will hold for us, and I can trust Him. I have already learned and grown so much from this season. I know it isn’t wasted time. It is not in vain that we walk this road and defer the hope of moving out of our house for yet another year.

So I will hang on to Him. I love the imagery of this Psalm, in the shadow of His wings. I have no doubt He can keep me safe just as He always has.

“Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by. I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me.”
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭57:1-2‬ ‭ESV‬‬
https://bible.com/bible/59/psa.57.1-2.ESV

Built on the Rock of Ages

““Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.””
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭7:24-27‬ ‭ESV‬‬

The wise man did not wait until the storm came to build his house. He did the work before the storm so he would be prepared when it arrived. The problem with that is that we never know when the storms of life will come our way. One phone call changes everything. One day brings change we never dreamed was coming. The one who devotes time to hearing and understanding and following the words of God is building a solid spiritual house. He or she is the one that Jesus describes as wise.

My husband, Matt, spent a week in the hospital with sepsis, kidney failure, and severe dehydration. He has been home for almost 8 weeks, and he is still in the process of recovering. He developed blood clots in the hospital, so those are being treated as well as some other issues that have not yet resolved themselves. He is still weaker than usual and low on energy. The raging storm that started when we went to the doctor has died down, but it is still raining heavily as we face different physical, financial, and emotional circumstances. God has provided for us in beautiful ways. I should write a full post about the ways in which living in community has blessed our lives and our family.

Almost a week ago, my dad was admitted to the hospital with COVID pneumonia. My mom was sick at home with COVID. I have been stuck two hours away, substituting phone calls and FaceTime for the personal touch and hugs I want to be giving them. Dad has had a couple of good days, and we are praying he keeps improving. Mom is feeling better today, and we trust that God is healing their bodies. It has been another tough storm. I have noticed that, when that storm begins and when it is raging so loudly, rattling the windows and knocking down tree limbs, it’s too late to put down a foundation. It’s even too late to put on siding or paint or install the door. The work needs to be done. All you can do is stand. The foundation you have built will hold you in place. Words may fail you, you may not know what to pray in that moment, but the foundation is still there, rock solid and not going anywhere.

I am not new to stormy weather, but I can say my foundation has never been quite as strong as it was this time. All the glory for that goes to God. I can read and pray and give and serve, but it is God who gives the growth.

Do you want to build a strong foundation that can withstand the greatest of storms? Do you want to be built on the Rock who holds eternity in His hands? Read the Bible. Pray, pray for yourself and pray for others. Give, give up things that are weighing you down. Give of yourself. Serve others and serve the church. Serve and give your time, sacrificing things you would otherwise do to invest in the eternity of someone else.

If you are in a storm and you need something to hold on to right now, please message me. I would love to pray with you. Maybe you are reading this and keeping the storm inside. Please find others to hold you up in prayer.

It may be bright and sunny in your corner of the world. If so, keep building on your foundation. Find someone who needs a helping hand, and serve in their time of need. I can tell you that it means so much to them. A lot of love comes in a homemade lasagna or a pot of chili given to a sick or hurting family.

This is my favorite quote. I have shared it before, but it fits so I am happy to share it again.

When the Storm Rolls In Part 2

This is a continuation of my post from last week.

I took the kids home on Saturday night, got them into bed with plans to drop them off with Grandma Cyndi the next morning in time for Matt’s dad Vern and I to get to the ICU at 11:00 AM. I talked to my mom for a bit, and settled in for a restless night of sleep.

On Sunday morning, I called the ICU to get an update on Matt’s condition. The nurse said he was stable, which was good news but it didn’t sound like he had improved much. We were pretty nervous heading to the hospital. I don’t remember a lot about walking into his room that day, just that he was pretty drowsy and out of it.

It was a really hard day. Matt’s condition did not improve, but it didn’t get worse, either. It was really hard to watch him stuck in a bed, too weak to even adjust his position. They brought liquids, but he didn’t take anything. By mid-afternoon, he was going to try to take a nap and told us that we could leave. So we got ready go, and as soon as Matt put his CPAP on, he projectile vomited everywhere. It was horrible. I couldn’t leave after that, so we waited as the nurses cleaned it all up. They had the best attitudes, they teased him as they wiped every inch of the ICU room.

Finally, we had to leave for the night. I picked up the kids and took them home. Once I finally got them into bed, I had a chance to cry. This was such a hard day, but two things happened to encourage me before I went to bed. I called our pastor and his wife and they prayed for me and Matt. Then I was messaging my good friend, and one of her friends texted me asking about Matt. Her husband is a doctor, and they helped me understand a few things as well as have a few questions to ask the next day. I felt much better after those two interactions.

On Monday morning, I dropped the kids off with my friend Steph. They love her and her house is so much fun, I knew they would have the best time. She hugged me and prayed for us, and I headed to the ICU again. I was a bit nervous to have another day like Sunday, so I blasted some worship songs that declared strength and victory, and I was ready to go.

Pastors Jonathan and Dan met me there, and we walked up together. Only two visitors were allowed in the room at a time, so I headed back to see if his parents were still in there. As I stepped into the room, I was shocked to see Matt’s face. The change from Sunday night was remarkable. His color was better, he looked more alert and was sitting up a bit instead of laying down. My heart leapt in my chest as I grabbed his hand. “You look so much better!” I said. I told him the pastors were coming in, and I stepped back out to eat my lunch.

After Pastors Dan and Jonathan left, Matt’s mom and I stayed the afternoon with him. I had to pick up the kids around dinner time, but it was much easier to leave on Monday than it had been just 24 hours before. I believe God healed Matt’s infection, and I was ecstatic.

My friend Steph gave us a meal as well as another friend from church, plus another wonderful friend gave us a gift card to help out. I was overflowing with gratefulness for all the blessings and care we received.

I will finish the hospital portion of the story in one more post, hopefully tomorrow.

Strength in Waiting

This is my view on a regular basis during the summer season. Last year, I ended up taking over most of the mowing duties since I was home and the kids were old enough to play outside while I mow.

I would prefer not to mow, but I try to use the time to listen to podcasts or pray. Last week as I rode across the bumpy lawn, I was praying about our future, our desire to move to a new home, and the challenges we face in getting there. I was (maybe) trying to rush God because the market is good for selling.

Then God said, “Do you think I care about the housing market situation?”

And I sheepishly answered, “No.”

I was looking through human lenses, and God reminded me that He works outside of time and the constraints we assume will be challenging for our situation.

Are you looking for a house in a market where they get snatched up before they are listed? Are you frustrated in your relationship with someone who stubbornly refuses to change? Are you devastated that your arms remain empty even as you pray and beg God for a child?

When I feel like I’ve been waiting far too long, I remember Joseph who spent two years in prison without knowing how God was working and if he would ever be released. The Israelites wandering in the wilderness for decades waiting for the last generation to die out so they could enter the Promised Land (our pastor illustrates this so well a few weeks ago). David waiting years to be crowned king.

Waiting is never an accident in God’s plans. My path from full-time ministry to years of volunteer ministry doesn’t make sense to me. But all along the way, I have seen His hand working. I have felt the peace that I am doing what He wants me to do. I have seen the necessity of certain seasons even as I simultaneously begged for them to end.

God knows your situation, too. He loves you and He loves to work things so beautifully that we have no doubt He made it happen. This is one of my favorite songs right now. Don’t waste the wait. Seek Him.

“But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”
‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭40:31‬ ‭ESV‬‬

https://www.bible.com/59/isa.40.31.esv