Lessons from the Weak Side

Recently, Brad told me that every time he speaks with a friend, within moments the question comes up: “How is Brenda?” My short answer: God has been working remarkably in me. Thus, for those of you who need to get about other business today, feel free to carry on. 🙂
For those of you who want the longer answer, please feel free to linger a bit for God has, indeed, been working remarkably in me–both physically and spiritually. Physically, I sleep better, think clearer, and function at a higher lever than I have in four years! I have learned so much about the role of diet and herbal supplements than I could have ever imagined. I have also learned that healing takes time. Time to rest. Time to laugh. And time to wait on God.
True, God does heal instantly. I’ve seen it. I’ve experienced it. Yet at other times, God chooses to heal in a longer, more circuitous route. And upon this journey, I have learned so very many precious lessons.
As a matter of fact, while I spent time reading and meditating on Matthew 8 this morning, I couldn’t get over how many people Jesus instantly healed. My puzzled heart couldn’t help but inquire, “Why, Lord? Why did you heal all of these people immediately–from those who exhibited great faith to those who simply wanted health to get health? Why them, Lord, and not me? Did I do something wrong? Am I doing something wrong?”
And then I wrote this in my Bible: “Speak your truths across my heart, Lord, that I may hold them with conviction.”
In verse 17, Matthew quoted Isaiah the prophet as explanation into Christ’s workings, “He took our illnesses and bore our diseases.” The word here for “illnesses” is the Greek word, astheneia, which means infirmity or weakness.
Weak and infirm. Yep. Sounds a lot like my life.
“So tell me again, Lord…why did you instantly take their infirmities–their weaknesses–and not mine?”
Well, guess who else besides Matthew liked to use this word?
Paul.
The difference is, however, that while Matthew used this word to describe the suffering of those whom Christ healed, Paul used this word to describe himself.
“I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling” (1 Cor. 2:3).
“If I have to boast, I will boast of what pertains to my weakness” (2 Cor. 11:30).
Weak and infirm. But only physically.
“And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, my power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me” (2 Cor. 12:9).
Christ’s power in man’s weakness.
God’s sufficient grace.
I can’t fully list each and every precious lesson today. I can only give you God’s perfect response to the questions of my slightly stinging heart: “Immediate health or deep and abiding lessons–would you trade?”
My answer: no.
“Therefore, I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong”            (2 Corinthians 12:10).

I (Subject) Love (Verb) You (Direct Object)

Exactly six years and two weeks ago, my charming, seventeen-year-old nephew was instantaneously killed by a drunk driver. Jonathan Michael Baugh would have been 24 years old today. This blog is in homage to him.

My nephew, Jon. Isn’t he cute? 🙂

I’ll never forget that evening six years ago: October 17th. Our house phone rang around 10:30 at night. My brother was calling from the midwest. With the time change, I knew immediately something was wrong, but little was I prepared to hear such ragged pain so rawly expressed from his very first syllable.

The police and chaplain had just left, having borne to T and P the horrendous news every parent dreads, yet truly never expects to hear. A drunkard, speeding down the wrong side of a split freeway, had struck Jon head-on, causing his immediate entrance into the Eternal Kingdom. Through the coolness of the phone line, my heart longed to comfort my brother as he struggled to jaggedly articulate his agony. As T continued to give vent to his disconsolation, he uttered a statement that has forever altered the way I have chosen to express myself to the ones I love.

In the course of the conversation, as everyone often finds themselves doing, T relived for me his last few moments with his son. Jon was going out for the evening, and as they stood at the door together, T asked the typical father-like questions: “Where are you going? Who will you be with? When will you be home?” Then he said the usual okay-see-you-later type good-bye, little understanding that it would be his very last earthly good-bye to his son. With grief-stricken tones, T lamented, “I never told my son that I loved him!”

I had never heard the truth of pain given such a voice before, and his words reverberated deep within my heart long after the trip back for Jon’s funeral and memorial, and for ever so long after I had returned.

But what was I going to do with those sentiments? They could not resonate so deeply for no reason. And slowly, over the thoughtful path of several weeks, a plan began to formulate in my heart and mind. I had a choice to make. I determined to make sure the people that I loved know of those feelings I held just for them.

You have to understand what a big step this was for me. It was gigantic! Having grown up a little rough and unsettled, love was a priceless commodity–too priceless to be bandied about to just everyone like so much cheap Halloween candy. No! It was something to be sweetly savored  with only those most intimately connected to me. Yet as I contemplated my life–how God’s love had crossed the threshold of my barricaded heart, healed my tender wounds, and surrounded me daily with insurmountable grace and mercy–I grew to realize that God had invested so much love in me that my heart was overflowing!

I had never had a problem saying, “I love you” to my husband or children or brothers or other close-hearted friends and family members. I remember though, the first challenge I faced in my newfound mission came with a sweet little gal from our church, K. I had  stopped by the church office one day and wound up talking to her for quite a while. As I was leaving, I realized that I wanted to tell her that I loved her, but would I be able to gather up the courage? As I stood there contemplating whether I could make that ultimate choice, I felt myself become more and more determined in my commitment to her. After a I final deep breath, I simply said, “I love you.”

I (Subject) love (Verb) you (Direct Object). (That’s right. I’m a homeschool mom who can parse a sentence!) I, subject: the one who is choosing to take an predetermined action. Love, verb: the action implicitly chosen by the subject. You, direct object: the one who is the recipient of the prescribed action.  At that one moment in time, I knew that if I was going to choose to tell people that I loved them, I needed to wholly communicate to them the truth of my feelings. No shortcuts. No “love you,” or “love ya” would do. I had made a choice, and I was committed to truthfully express my choice, because if I truthfully loved someone, that person deserved to know it.

My son confronted me one day. “Mom! Why do you do that? Why do you always have to say, ‘I love you’ whenever I leave the house?” (My other new resolution was to make sure nobody left my home “un-loved.”) I shared with him the story of his uncle and cousin, and then I told him, “Son. God never tells us how many days we have. Should anything ever happen to you or I today, I want you to know that I have forever made the choice to love you.”

I (subject) love (verb) you (direct object). My whole commitment.

“I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness.” Jeremiah 31:3

For His Unique Purpose

First a quick update: I went to the doctor yesterday and had blood work drawn up. I will see a neurologist on Monday, and am glad about that. I haven’t been seen by a neurologist since my initial onset back in 1999. I am admittedly nervous, but I keep seeking Jesus and His peace. He reminds me that He held me close and dear before my appointment, and will continue holding me close and dear after. The results are not the ultimate answer, He is. And in Him I find my peace. As a matter of fact, the scripture He shared with me this morning states, “The Lord will give strength to His people; the Lord will bless His people with peace” (Psalm 29:11). In one fell swoop, He answers both my physical need and my emotional need. See how good He is?

I also wanted to share with you an email I found this week when I was cleaning out my overcrowded mailbox. It was actually one that I had written to a friend back in April, and I so needed to be reminded of what God has shown me earlier on this journey. I hope it stimulates an understanding in your mind and a faith in your heart.

We have no idea how long this relapse could last. My body could pull out in a couple of weeks or not for a few months. Or, if God intervenes, I could be fine in a moment’s time. ME/CFS is a neuro-immune disease with no known cause and no known cure. The medical name is truly a misnomer as there is simply more to the disease than being tired; but I won’t bog you down with details. Please know how content I am in my God. Psalm 94 says: “If the Lord had not been my help, my soul would soon have dwelt in the abode of silence…when my anxious thoughts multiply within me, Thy consolations delight my soul” (vv. 17 & 19). Many ME/CFS patients slip into depression (and no wonder!), but God is the One who truly does delight my soul.
 
My eternal trust is in the character of the One who loves me and made me for Himself. I trust him inexplicably with my health. There is a part of me that longs very much for immediate healing, but there is another side of me that longs even more for God’s deepest work to be done in me regardless of the path that He takes me on. Psalm 84:11 says that “no good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.” Romans 8:29 defines God’s idea of good as that which conforms me to the image of His Son. Therefore, with my eyes fixed solely on Him, I am willing to accept whatever God defines as His highest, knowing that if there were a better way to conform me to the image of His Son, He would surely choose that way. His love for me is too great to let me labor on this path without it serving a wonderful eternal purpose. As you pray for me, please pray God’s highest for me, for Brad, and for each of our kids.
 
I know that God is molding me and shaping me. I trust that in His years serving under his earthly father Joseph, a carpenter, that He learned in a special way the value of varying tools. Such as, when it’s time to use the sandpaper you can lay the planer or lathe aside. My hope is that ME/CFS is a planer or lathe, and at some point God will lay that aside and use only the sandpaper. Regardless, He knows what He is doing in me and in each member of my family, for this is molding all of us in some way for His unique purposes.