Saturday, July 22, 2017

The Nature of Trials

I really enjoy the memory app on Facebook. You know--the one that shows you what you posted on that day in previous years. It brings a smile to my face to look back on memories, some of which I may have forgotten. Sometimes it's a sweet picture of the kids, sometimes it's a funny memory of something said or done, sometimes it's a word of encouragement from a dear friend, and sometimes it's a reminder of the Lord's amazing faithfulness. It's good to remember our history. It reminds us of mistakes made, lessons learned, and victories won. It reminds us that seasons come and seasons go. It reminds us of what is truly important in life and often brings fresh perspective.

Recently some of the memories showing up on my Facebook have been bittersweet. There was a picture recently of Benjamin as a newborn in the NICU, hooked up to oxygen as I touched his tiny hand.

There was also a post about me passing long hours in his hospital room following open heart surgery and my longing to hold my baby in my arms again and bring him back home.

On the day the heart surgery memory came up, I was in need of some fresh perspective. Summer's are difficult for Benjamin. Though he has been able to attend an Extended School Year (ESY) program through the school system, it is only for half a day, and it does not last the duration of the vacation time. He doesn't do well with the change in routine from the school year. He gets bored and frustrated at home, leading to extra whining and sometimes more aggressive behaviors. Many days are just plain hard, and I can feel my frustration mounting. However, when I was reminded of the difficulties of my son's first shaky months, my perspective began to shift, and I was filled with gratitude for my beautiful, miracle boy, and the privilege it is to have him with me. In that moment I dropped whatever I was doing, found my son, and just loved on him for awhile.

In the midst of these memories, I've been considering the nature of trials. No person is immune from seasons of hardship, some great and some small. Ultimately, though, that's what they are--seasons. It's hard to keep this in mind when we're in the middle of the turmoil. It's hard to see anything beyond our own present pain. It's fresh, it's raw, and it's real. It often feels all-consuming. In the latter half of Psalm 30:5 we read, "Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning," (NKJV).

When Benjamin was fighting for his life as a newborn in the NICU and shortly after when his little body was fighting to recover from open heart surgery, it was difficult for me to see anything beyond the hardship and pain. I didn't have the awareness of what the future would hold. I didn't know that in eight years time my overwhelming trial would be a memory on my Facebook feed, reminding me to pause and give some extra cuddles to my healthy, growing son. I couldn't see the beautiful chaos of my life today with three happy, loud, energetic, and beautiful children I am privileged to call my own. 

However, there was one thing I did have even on the darkest of days--HOPE. I had hope because Jesus is King. I had hope because Jesus is Savior and Healer. I had hope because Jesus is the eternal Lover of my soul. I had hope knowing that He is always with me, and I never have to walk anything alone. I had hope because my God is good, even when my trials would try to scream otherwise. I had hope knowing that whatever the length of season, my trials are ultimately temporary because I am of the company of those redeemed by the precious blood of Jesus with the promise that one day, "...God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away," (Revelation 21:5).

It is true that trials come and trials go. Seasons shift and change, often completely out of our control. This present season will also one day become a distant memory. The future will undoubtedly hold both joy and pain. In every season, though, whether full of difficulty or delight, I want to maintain the proper perspective. In every season, I want to live with the constant reality of my deep need for Jesus. This whole life is temporary, but God is eternal. And because Jesus lives, I can have hope at all times!

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Downright Delight!

As a mother, one of my greatest joys comes from seeing the delight in the faces of my children when they experience something new and enjoyable. This has been especially true with Benjamin. He may not be able to verbalize his happiness and excitement, but he clearly communicates these emotions through facial expression, body language, and sound. Whatever emotion he feels, he expresses fully with nothing held back.

We recently took a vacation up north to visit my husband's family. It was a long, 12 hour drive that we opted to make during the night while our children slept. All three of them did remarkably well with the changes in schedule, location, and normal diet during the week we were away. The entire visit was an enjoyable one, but the definite highlight came on our last full day when we drove to a nearby lake with Shawn's dad and grandparents. His dad owns a small motor boat, and our kids were about to enjoy their very first voyage on the water!

We took Benjamin for the first ride while the younger two played on the beach playground with their great grandparents. From the moment the wind hit his face, he was hooked!

He grinned ear to ear the whole time, watching the beautiful scenery speed by as the boat cut through the water. He made his happy sounds and bobbed up and down with delight. He smiled at me and at his daddy as if to say, "This is amazing! Why haven't we done this before!" As we witnessed the thrill on his face, we were wondering the same thing.


After Benjamin finished his ride it was time to take the other two out. Meanwhile, Benjamin kept his great grandparents hopping as he happily wandered around the park and picnic area. Joelle and Josiah weren't quite as enthusiastic as their big brother. Joelle is my cautious child, so she was already nervous to begin with. I got a smile out of her when we first sat down in the boat, but once the loud engine started, she placed her fingers firmly in her ears and kept her head down for most of the ride. Oh well...

Josiah wasn't sure what to think either. He wasn't a fan of the bulky life jacket, and he didn't much appreciate being held in my lap when we would rather be moving. He had been immensely enjoying his swing ride on the playground prior, and he was getting pretty sleepy. In other year or so we will probably get a more enthusiastic response from him.

Before calling it a day later on, we decided to take Benjamin out for one more joy ride. And by joy ride, I mean JOY ride! The water had gotten a bit choppier as the wind picked up, and we got splashed a time or two. He wasn't sure what to think of the cold spray, so his grandpa pulled him onto his lap where the wind shield offered a bit more protection. (I didn't fair so well in the back seat...) The choppy water made for a bumpier ride, and Benjamin thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it! They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and the pictures I captured during that last ride say it all. I honestly can't remember that last time I witnessed this level of pure excitement and joy in my sweet son!

As I said at the beginning, witnessing delight in my child's face is one of my greatest joys. This simple boat ride created a cherished memory for our family that we will enjoy for years to come. Thanks for letting me share our little outing with you today, and I hope I made you smile!