Making life lemonade

Life can be so HARD! I’ve had whole years of my life when each day was filled with the kinds of challenges that make me tempted to ask Jesus to come back NOW, whether it’s in His plan or not. During these times, I was willing to beg if necessary. Pride was out the window, and begging was very much on the table.

Mother’s Day marked two years since the turning point of one such time in my life, and this week we get to celebrate the victory parade. See, on January 28, 2014, I had an intensive back surgery which was supposed to take 3-6 hours. However, 14 hours later, I was finally wheeled into recovery after what I’m told were a couple of close calls. I can neither confirm nor deny this, as I was drugged quite efficiently. The palor on my husband’s face was some indication though.

After this surgery, a downright difficult rehab dragged on. I mostly laid in a hospital bed which was set up in my living room, dealing with a multitude of physical symptoms that seemed as if they would bury me. I cried out to God on a nearly minute by minute basis during those first three months, and at least hourly for the next two.

When I was finally blessed with enough endurance to sustain a drive to the corner pharmacy, I was wiped out when I got home. I pleaded, “Oh God, I’m not ready for this life stuff. Make it go away for a little longer, please.” God is so good though. He told me no when two days later my husband needed me to drive him to the ER for a septic infection in his knee.

All the way to the hospital, I remember repeating in my head, “I can only do this through your strength. Jesus sustain me. Your Grace is sufficient for me.” Over and over, this was the refrain in my mind. “I know you never give us more than we can bear, Lord. Thank you for that!”

My dear husband’s first-time stay in the hospital  lengthened into what would become 8 days, and I sat up in a chair near his bed more in this period of time than I had sat in my whole 4 1/2 months of recovery. The begging began in earnest, “Please, Daddy, please. No more. Please protect us, and make it stop.”

As I brought him home from the hospital, I felt a hope begin to grow that we could at long last, move forward and be stronger, healthier people. Afterall, my husband was in this position because he had worn himself out taking care of me, our home, our kids and doing his job. He deserved a break, and so did I, right? Recovery had been painful and scary, leaving scars that still hurt today. Yes, we all needed a break, and surely God could see that. He sees everything. Yes, God knew, and my confidence in His willingness to spare us more stress and health issues was rock solid. Nothing could shake it, or so I thought.

As I was sitting in a lab with Brad, waiting to get his follow-up blood work done, I received a call from my best friend, who so lovingly cared for our boys during much of my recovery. It was not news about the break for which I had been hoping, but we certainly got a break…or at least, our oldest son did.

An extemely active child, he is always getting into major and minor scrapes, like breaking his arm, getting stitches in his chin, a few concussions…did I mention he was born blue and has always had severe asthma and allergies? Yeah, keeping him healthy is no more of a picnic than it is for me. So it was no surprise when my friend told me he had broken his arm…again…literally while I was taking care of a medical issue for his Dad, and desperately trying to hold my own body together.

Then I hear in my head, “Be brave and courageous, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

He was with me when I nearly died during my surgeries. He was there when Caleb was born not breathing and took four hours to stabilize. He was there with endurance and energy when I had to drive my husband to the hospital and sit with him for that long week. He was there now. Yes, God knew.

Just as God the Son knew that Peter, who asked to walk on water like Jesus was doing, would fall and nearly drown in the waves. Jesus knew Peter would take his eyes off the source of his strength, and stumble. That’s  why He was right there with a hand out to help him up when Peter called for Him.

It felt as though I was drowning too, but that’s when I realized I was throwing up prayers, but the eyes of my heart were focused on the problems, not The Solution. I was asking Jesus for help, but not putting my hand out expectantly to grasp the one who could provide it.

As this truth washed over me, I felt real strength and peace coursing through me. I started thanking God for the way He helped us endure these trials, instead of begging Him to make them stop. I smiled to think of how we would someday look back on this as a period of growth. I know it’s cliché, but I was taking the sour lemons Satan threw at my family and I, and letting God make some lemonade of our life.

So when Nate contracted strep throat later that week, I had my eyes on Jesus, so we soared right over that. When Caleb fell three times in the 10 days after getting casted, and had to have surgery, we had our eyes on Jesus. So, we ran that marathon, and we did not grow weary. As we spent the better part of two months driving Brad to work and wound care appointments, we walked, but did not faint. God was faithful, and with our eyes on Jesus, we could see it.

You see, God also knew that this truth of His blessing in our lives, even in tough times, would help someone else see Him, draw near to Him, and feel how very loved they are by Him. He was asking us to “take up [our] cross and follow Him.”

The question we had to answer was, would we choose it? Would we keep our eyes on Jesus, or shrivel under the pressure of difficulty. Would we let the lemons go to waste, or open our lives up for God to sweeten us and make us useful?

Could we possibly take up that heavy, splintery, humiliating cross, and drag it up a hill while many in our lives watched from the sidelines? Could we really handle all of this with Christ-like Grace?

No, probably not. Otherwise, Jesus could have stayed in Heaven. We knew we could try though, and learn something along the way. We could be open to the positive, and be willing to love sacrificially. Or…or, we could throw up the floodgates and simply be pipelines of God’s love to each other, and those around us. Choices, choices.

I’m not going to say we did any of these things well, but we tried well. We got through it. We learned from it. We were better, stronger, wiser and more compassionate for it.

It was like standing up on a stage and getting lemons thrown at us from all sides. We were bruised, and our cuts burned from the acidic quality of our circumstances. Then Jesus came on stage…the minute we asked him. He picked up the lemons, and showed us how to use them for refreshment, energy and relief.

He can do that, you know. He can take any situation and, show us how to squeeze the goodness from it, using it for our good and His Glory. If we would just ask.

And not to go all Pollyanna on you, but I’m so glad we did.

 

 

 

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