Stumbling My Way to Joy 5

It was time to start journaling again. During the long God-drought there had been nothing to report. Yet my experience while driving north to do grandmother duty was such that I expected something noteworthy. I began to realize there had been a test, a big test, and somehow I had passed it.

When I arrived, Jonathan was back in the cardiac intensive care unit in Boston, with his mother at his side. His big brother, now 2 1/2, was adjusting to the change of caregivers by demanding his way in all things. With two strong wills engaged, there was often more heat than light in the house.

Shortly after settling in, I was driven, compelled, pushed to pray. The sense of urgency moved me down the hall to a rocking chair in Jonathan’s empty room. A flood of prayer language rose from within me, pouring out like the Niagara. Irresistible, strong, loud, in charge. On and on the river flowed. Son #2 appeared at the door, peeked in and withdrew. Still it came. Now militant, now decisive, my prayer language was declaring things I knew not of.

And then it was over. “What was that about?” Son #2 wanted to know. Truly, I only knew that I had been interceding for some thing or someone and had kept at it until I felt a release. It was Thursday before Easter.

Sunday was the first Easter I was separated from my husband and youngest son at home. Difficult circumstances sometimes require of us things which are not in our original life script. After attending church in Rhode Island I received a phone call from home. “It’s a nice day today. Church was good. Would you like to talk to A_____?” Nothing too exciting here, just the usual family talk. Sure.

“Hi, Mom. The sun is out. There are some flowers blooming in the yard. The cat misses you. I cut the grass yesterday. And oh, yes. I got saved today!”

I screamed. Threw the phone into the air. Walked back and forth in the hall exclaiming and crying while Son #2 picked up the phone to find out what on earth had just happened.

Weeping endures for a night, but joy comes in the morning. Easter morning.
The light of that Easter conquered all my darkness.

I later learned that on that Thursday, the day of intense intercession, the son of my concern was sitting in a car with friends sharing some drugs before class was to start. As one of them said “This is the life,” my son heard a voice say clearly, “This is life? No, this is death!” Puzzled and startled, he looked around to see who had said it. It was real enough to unsettle him as he went in to class.

Sunday morning in church (while I was safely out of state) one of the elders came to the microphone saying he had a word from the Lord. There was a young man there in the congregation who had been resisting God for a long time, but today was his last chance, God said. My son reached inside his jacket to feel his chest because his heart was pounding so strongly he thought everyone could see the jacket tremble. He bounded out of his seat to make his way to the front, responding to the pull of Holy Spirit to surrender his life to the Lord. As he walked into the light, darkness was dispelled.

Morning had come and with it, joy. The lifeline had held.

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Stumbling My Way to Joy 4

Winter’s gloom gave way to April’s fussy indecisiveness. My driving foot, finally free from its prison, was the only noticeably improved thing around the house. Up north, the baby had returned to Intensive Care. Could I come? Please?

Well, yes, but first a regular check-up visit with the gynecologist was on the calendar. “Hmm,” he said following the exam. “There’s something here. We need to schedule a biopsy.” What? What now?

Where was that life line? Oh yes, “weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” But it seemed to me the night was terribly long. Where was that promised morning?

“I’m sorry, doctor, but I simply don’t have time for such minor matters right now. I am leaving for Rhode Island in the morning.” There was a day when such news would have stopped all of life’s activities until taken care of, but the list of problems had become weighty enough to push my potential medical problem to the rear – to coin a phrase.

Leaving father and son behind with hopefully enough food and instructions to hold them, I headed north once again. Sighing. Lamenting. Mile upon mile, I lamented and rehearsed my woes. Son is more distant and surely doing things he should not. Husband’s authoritarian response is creating more stress. Our relationship was one of endurance. The baby is not doing well, no matter how many surgeries. The heavens were adamant. And I had no idea where God was in all this. It had been many long months since I had any sense of His presence, any word of encouragement, any sign of answered prayer. And now I need a biopsy??

Pennsylvania. New Jersey. New York. Connecticut. The miles rolled by. The reality of adult life is not what the Amex commercials depict. No lying on the beach with smiling server of drinks hovering near by. No sail boat just off shore. It is rather just slogging through the crisis du jour, hoping it will all work out in the end.

By the time I crossed the Rhode Island line, I was certain the bottom was up there somewhere. The weight of lost dreams, dark future, and failed promises pressed in from all sides. Having given up on almost everything, I sighed once more, and started to sing a simple song I had learned at church. “I am His, He is mine by the blood of the Lamb. He sought me, and He bought me, He redeemed me with His precious Holy Spirit, I am His, He is mine.” Simple. Truth.

Then I declared out loud, “Well, things may never change. I may never hear from God again. But where else can I go? I cannot turn my back on the Lord!” As I said those words, something happened. Deep inside me there was an almost audible ‘click’ or shift and I knew that things would be different from then on. In my “knower” I felt the life line. No longer in the grasp of tight fingers frantically holding on, it was now wrapped around my being, holding me.

Stumbling My Way to Joy 3

There was a break in the usual winter weather; the snow cover was gone long enough to reveal the leaf litter and fallen tree branches which had been ignored in the fall. If only my husband would do something about it, I inwardly murmured. If only he hadn’t spent so much time hunting in October and November, the leaves would be picked up and the lawn made ready for winter’s snows. His disinterest in the way the yard looked added to my general gloom. “Something has to be done!” I became the nagging wife I had long vowed I would never be. “The yard has to be raked.”

Husband waved me off, heading upstairs for a nap instead. “Well, (I called after him, a slight attitude coming through here) I am going outside. Somebody needs to do it!” He replied, “Instead of that, just make me some cookies.”
Indeed. Cookies. There is work to be done and he wants me to make cookies? Harrumph. I put on my coat, grabbed a rake and went out to the yard.

The side yard was never officially graded and smoothed when the house was built. Rock outcroppings, large trees, and shrubbery thickets created an uneven landscape which gave it a charm surpassing the neatly manicured terrain of development housing. Charming it was, yes, but requiring manual, not machine labor to maintain. I raked, and fumed, and murmured some more when my foot went into a hidden-by-the-leaves depression as I took a step. Sharp pain followed the crack I heard. Oh. No.

Somehow managing to hobble back into the house, I started up the stairs on my hands and knees. “Umm, honey dear, we have a problem.”

A trip to the ER took care of my broken foot, his nap, my yard raking and any cookies I could have made. I looked forward to six weeks of plaster cast on my driving foot.

Meanwhile, the Rhode Island baby was in and out of the hospital. My helping trips were over for the duration. “As soon as I get out of the cast, I will be there.” Husband and son left for a college-visit trip, leaving me alone to do the stairs on my rump. Totally helpless to anyone now, the grip on my life line had become one of desperation. Joy comes in the morning. But what morning is that, Lord?

Stumbling My Way to Joy 2

Beautiful September, a time of harvest and transition. I was called to Rhode Island to await the newest family arrival, our second son’s second son. The two year old at home would need a grandmother’s care. Leaving the family tension behind me, I drove north. The newborn Jonathan, with his dark eyes and shock of hair was a precious bundle as is any new babe. The morning after coming home from the hospital his mother came to me to say that he had not wanted to nurse all night long. Was this normal? How did my five sons act at first? Did they ever not want to nurse? “Never!” I replied. They were always ready, willing and able. We were both puzzled.

As the day wore on, and he continued to refuse any intake, I became alarmed. This was certainly not a good thing, and he would soon be dehydrated. I have never wanted to be a meddling, interfering mother-in-law, but finally had to speak up. “You need to do something. Take him to your pediatrician to see what he says.”

The doctor’s word to her was less than comforting. “If he won’t nurse, then give him water in a bottle.” What? This mother knew that would never work. No baby worthy of the name will choose water from a rubber nipple over a mother’s breast. I fussed, trying to keep my concerns pushed out of sight. Evening came; Son #2 arrived home from work. “It would be a good idea to take him back to the hospital and see what they say, don’t you think?” My fretting level had pushed through the do-not-meddle mandate.

That September evening darkness encroached further into our lives as we began to hear words of possible heart malfunction, or malformation in our little one. Hospitalization. Heart catheterization. Surgery. All on this little seven pound darling? On his 9th day the first of his eventual five surgeries and 6 catheterizations was done. What had looked like a perfectly formed baby boy on the outside hid a scramble of wiring and disorder on the interior.

Attempts to correct the situation continued for months. Jonathan was in the hospital more than at home. Week after week. Procedure after procedure. His other grandmother and I took turns doing two week shifts to care for the two year old while the mother was at baby’s bedside.

The two year old was upset at missing his mother; the family at home was upset with my absence. Tension swirled around as a tornado searching where to touch land. The lifeline was still there and I was hanging on to it fiercely.

Stumbling my Way to Joy 1

It was a September day when I was sitting on the edge of a bank which rises 6 feet above the road. I had “run away from home” across the yard to grieve and lament my inner distress. It had been an ongoing problem with that one son of mine. Now a rebellious teenager, he had for years been covered with a cloud of darkness which seemed to shroud him from the time he had been crushed under the weight of the car before he was two. No matter how his father and I tried to model all things good and right, the boy always was drawn to the opposite of darkness and evil. Tension in our home became the normal state of affairs.

Now there were evidences I could no longer deny that he was involved with an unsavory crowd, going down the drug road, deliberately choosing anything in opposition to our beliefs and standards. Father’s temper was short and I feared the explosions, the World War III that might erupt to the destruction of one and all.

It’s not like I had been ignoring the situation. For years I had prayed for some kind of Godly intervention. I had fasted. Anointed his room, his pillow, his doorway. Even attempted some weak-kneed deliverance, to no avail. Nothing worked. The heavens were silent.

On the bank that day I sat completely enveloped in hopelessness. There were no answers, and the future looked bleak, wintery.  Groans and sighs were my bitter food. I had had such hopes for my children, my family. But when hope is gone, there is nothing left to hang on to. All is blackness and despair.

Finally, standing up to return to the house, I waved the Bible I had carried out with me, declaring through tears, “There has to be an answer here somewhere! There has to be.” It was then I heard within, “Page 639.” What? This was my mother-in-law’s Bible, the old King James version, and I had no idea what was on page 639. Was my head playing tricks? Was I in my frustration making this up?

Opening to that page, I read “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” That word stood out on the page, shouting loudly, hang on, girl. Hang on. There is hope after all. That word was a promise, a sure and certain promise, and I grabbed onto it like a drowning man in the ocean clutching a rope. That word was a life line for the next “dark and stormy” six months. The waves rose higher, but the life line held.