Unspeakable

The phone call came as I drove through town, shuffling kids to various appointments and running errands.  I struggled to focus as the words, punctuated by the quiet sobs and broken sentences of my mother-in-law, assaulted my ears and broke my heart.

It was a moment that made me long for Heaven.

How do I make sense of the news that one of the most loving, Christian men I have ever known lies in a hospital bed unable to move?  That his body is broken and he is in need of healing that can only come from God?  That his wife and girls who absolutely adore him now face weeks and months without his smile at the dinner table?  Why did God allow this?  To him, of all people?

Then the days unfold.  Updates trickle in, texts from my sweet friend giving me the privilege of knowing how to pray for her, the realization that in the midst of the unspeakable tragedy God is working, unshakable.  I remember the days before Jay had Ashley, how he was so impressed with Sam’s Lasagna and my homemade stuffing that he ate it cold, right out of the fridge…announcing that I had “outdone myself.”  The days before he was a daddy and he would come over, revving up my toddlers and ensuring bedtime would be far, far away and my kids loving every minute of their time with “Uncle Jay.”  How he stood for Jesus in every operating room, refusing to cave and lower his standards and getting the “preacher boy” award at the end of Residency.  Jay loves Jesus unashamedly, showers his family with that love, and  is now being given a new voice, a new platform, and new way to shine the light of Christ in this dark and desperate world.

Yes, we serve and unshakable God.   Because of this, the suffering my friends endure begins to make sense.  When a hospital room becomes a mission field, when the name of Jesus is lifted and spoken and prayer warriors are mobilized from all over the country and husbands are challenged to love better and daddies are moved to be more intentional because this man, from his hospital bed and in constant pain, continues to love well it makes sense.  That he can be faithful and allow God to use him in this, the darkest season of life is why he has been chosen to suffer.  The truck did not see Jay in the fog, but God did and my goodness, how He protected his life.  His body is broken, yes, but the Holy Spirit in him is alive and well and fully at work.

It has been a week today.  Today I cannot seem to stop the flow of tears as I wish with all of my heart I lived close enough to be hands and feet for Ashley, and the rest of Jay’s family.  But God has me here, on my knees, begging for healing and praising Him for what He has done so far this week.  And as I pray and trust I know that I am one of hundreds if not thousands who are doing the same.  God is an incredible mobilizer of His army and we are rising up together, carefully lowering our friend through the roof and placing him at the feet of Jesus, his savior and healer.

If you will join us in praying for Jay, go to caringbridge.org/visit/jayrapley.

For I, the LORD your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.”  Isaiah 41:13

A Better Word

I don’t know about you, but 2016 nearly did me in.  As much as I wanted to write a perky “Happy New Year” post I just couldn’t.  I just didn’t.  In fact, as the old year died and the new was born I was tempted to tell 2016, “Don’t let the door hit ya’ on the way out.”

It was one of the most difficult years I have ever endured for several reasons, none of which I need to go into here because I know you have had your share of hard as well. Whether my hard looks like your hard doesn’t matter.  Hard is hard.

2016 was hard.

In the weeks leading up to the end of the year, I prayed for the Lord to give me a word for 2017.  This is my fourth year to do so.  The same word kept surfacing in scripture, in song, and in conversation.  So much so that it was pretty easy to single out what the Lord was showing me.  It was a good word, one that made me think that maybe 2017 wouldn’t suck as much as 2016.  So I opened up my Bible to write the word inside the front cover, just below last year’s word.

I had forgotten last year’s word.  In fact, in the fog that had overtaken my brain, I had come to believe that last year’s word was the word given to me in 2015.  Worth.  As in, it will be worth it.  Jesus is worth it.  God is worthy of whatever I have to give in order to follow Him.  It was a good word, but it was not 2016’s word.

Imagine my shock when I opened my Bible and there, written in black ink in my own hand, was the word that I had forgotten…HARD.

A lump leapt into my throat and I wiped away tears.  God had known.  He had seen what was coming and had tried to let me know that He was not surprised or shaken by the difficulties that would plague our year.  But I forgot.  I stumbled and doubted and failed to walk in confident belief in who He is and what He said He will do.  Yet here, in front of me, was His gentle reminder…

“It will be hard, but I am here.  It will be hard, but not forever.  It will be hard, but I have seen this coming and nothing is beyond my control or outside the reach of my sovereignty.”

How I wished I had remembered that word throughout the year.  Then again, maybe He intended for me to forget so that the impact of the word He gave me this year would be more deeply felt. Because, let me tell you, seeing this year’s word written just below the HARD word of one of the most difficult years of my life was balm to my weary soul.

You are probably wondering what this year’s word is.

It is Hope.

HOPE.

And hope?  It colors everything I see now.  It changes the way I see hard (because the turning of the year didn’t make it magically go away) and causes me to look at my circumstances through a much different filter.  Hope.  It gives strength when I am weary and drives me into the arms of my Father, giving me a hunger for Truth and a longing for revelation.  It pulls me up out of the pit and allows me to believe in a happy ending, in a story whose hero is on his way to bring resolution.

Hope changes everything.  In God’s mercy He has promised a turnaround and, though He has not guaranteed the hard will end He gives me Hope as an anchor, firm and secure.  So I’m holding on and determined to thank Him for what He has done, what He is doing, and what He will do!  I’m praying I won’t be blissfully relieved when 2017 draws to a close, but maybe I’ll be a little misty eyed and sentimental.

Yes, that would be a nice change!

Did you ask God for a word this year?  If so, I’d love to hear what He revealed to you.  I am always amazed at how He honors our requests when we seek Him and lean in to hear His voice.

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