Thursday, December 18, 2014

"Where have you been?"

For everything there is a season,
and a time for every matter under heaven.
                         Ecclesiastes 3.1

There is a time and a season for every matter, and sometimes, quite suddenly, what emerges is not what we expect at all.  There is a time and a reason for every matter, and sometimes God's path takes us to an unfamiliar place.  After five years of writing, Nightly Tea came to a screeching halt on a humid day last spring.  I had to let it go.  My world was spinning a little too fast.

On a bitterly cold afternoon last February, I answered a phone call from our oldest daughter, who was then within a month of giving birth to her third child.  It was a “911 Mom” call.  “I need you.”  Within an hour, I was on the interstate, heading to help.  Little did I realize that I was not just on the road to Cleveland, but to radical changes in my life.

Just a month after I returned home, my husband and I left for a week of hiking, to take a break from a long and literally deep Chicago winter. We knew some changes were already ahead in our lives.  We had placed our house on the market, where it had lingered for two months.  We were about to pull up the realtor’s sign and consider what else to do.  Little did we know what God had placed around the next bend.

Instead of returning from our respite in a week’s time, it was more than a month before I came home for even a few days.  Indeed, in the next four months, I would be home for just three scattered weeks.  At the beginning of May, another one of our daughters, then just 24 weeks pregnant, was confined to bed for the duration of her pregnancy. With her very curious and mobile fifteen-month-old son dashing about, well, it was time to switch into gramma mode once again. I moved into their back bedroom and put on my running shoes, not to exercise, but to keep up with a toddler. 

Running and writing faded into a memory.
We inched our daughter day by day through her pregnancy.   And then, quite suddenly, our house sold.  We sorted through our belongings, packed, gave away and lightened our load (“a time to keep and a time to cast away.” Ecclesiastes 3.6)   We learned every day to ask, “What, God?” What to do.  What path to take.  He led us quite literally one day at a time.  And we felt Him asking us daily, “Are you willing to follow Me one more step?”

He made our way evident, just one step at a time, even in what we did not understand or what made sense to us at the time.  His timing was perfect.  His provision was precise, and we found God using our situation to provide for strangers, people not even on our radar, but on His.

Three men arrived one hot August morning, stacked our possessions in a truck and took them away, first to a storage locker, and then to another house in a city new to us.  In the upheaval, evidence emerged not of chaos, but His design, no reason to fear but to trust God a little bit more.  God is here too.

From the get-go, we prayed that God would make our way clear and unambiguous.   His direction did not always arrive spectacularly like a FedEx box delivered to our porch, but we learned – once again – not to seek answers, but to seek Him, not even to see Him in it yet, but to faithfully follow Him through it.

And while His leading was not always clear and unambiguous, God was.

I lost track in how many different beds I slept in the ensuing months, spare rooms, hotel rooms, engaging the kindness of family and friends.  One night I awoke in the murky darkness of 3.20 am.  As I emerged from a deep sleep, I did not know where I was.  By the anemic green light of a clock, I could discern tall posts at the end of the bed, and for a moment, I thought, “Aahhh, I'm home.”   And then I realized that place we called “home” was no longer ours.  We don’t live there anymore.   That house has been relegated to memory and new owners. 

Almost on a daily basis, I felt like I couldn’t touch bottom.  And I realized, fear just blinds me to the reality of God.  "Trust Me," He reminded me over and over.

God’s plans are not subject to my understanding, nor my control.  I may not know fully His purpose, but there are a multitude of divinely appointed reasons.  There always are.  His design transcends our carefully-laid plans and timing.  There is still purpose to it, even if we never find out why.

And God changes each of us a little bit more.  

I do not know what is yet ahead, but God…  Always, that which God appoints, transforms us forever.  And we learn even more to wait, listen and let God reveal Himself in the story He is writing for us.

More later, my friend.

Nightly Tea is back.

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