Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Grace to Give Thanks for the "Unknowables"


I didn’t know how I was going to get through this day. 

I had a roughed out plan, but looming large over me was not knowing the “unknowables”. Will I be able to handle the interruptions with grace, find joy in the required interactions, bring peace when I feel I’m lacking? I thought of my friend Susan and wondered if I should call her to pray with me. The phone rang and Susan’s name filled the screen display. I smiled, encouraged that God would speak to my friend to call me. 

Of course she first asked about me and I gave a vague, non-detailed answer, “not really ok.” I deflected attention and asked how she was. Her inflection fell a bit, “Not really ok, well, fine physically, but the rest is troubled. My uncle died this morning.” Immediately the focus shifted from “HOW can I get through this day?” to, “God, You are with me in these moments in which I must use your strength to comfort and encourage another.” 

Fortunately, I was already dressed and ready for the day and was able to be with her on site here at New Hope within minutes of the phone call. We talked briefly, she shared a little about him and I prayed for her. I’m thankful for our faithful God who gives us, broken and wounded vessels, the words and wisdom to strengthen others in their sorrow--even when our weakness seems overbearing and immovable. 

As we finished she stated that she needed to see Uncle Keith, her supervisor, to tell him about the death and her need to travel to the burial. I wanted to visit with LauraBeth, his wife, so we set out together for their home. On the path we were joined by Betty, another staff member who was also making her way to the McFarland home. Three people representing different areas of the ministry in which the McFarland’s lives intersect, arriving at their front door before 8:30 am. 

No wondering about whether or not they’d be awake, up and around--they have five children from the ages of one to twelve. No surprise that there was plenty of noise flowing out of the screened windows as we approached and lots of activity throughout the house, even spilling out onto the veranda. Still, it was early and obvious that not all the basic preparations for the day had been completed. I noticed that LauraBeth quickly moved to a back room and donned herself with the acceptable clothing for visitors. I felt a bit uncomfortable calling on someone so early; for my Ugandan friends, it was just life--what we do. Life’s struggles mean that we live and move among our friends at all hours of the day and night--no need for fitting within acceptable social parameters for when to call on someone. Life is lived and death is processed 24/7.

As Susan pulled LauraBeth and Keith aside to deliver the news, I interacted with the McFarland’s visiting cousins who’d come from Florida for a 3-week visit. And I couldn’t help myself when Noah, one of the young children in the home, misidentified the placement of the stomach---right then and there we had anatomy class and everyone was enlightened. Ah, molding young minds to know where sit the liver, pancreas, stomach and intestines--such bliss, and all before 9 a.m.!

As the cousins excused themselves to go tutor at the primary school, the children ran outside through all available doors, and I felt I was in the middle of a live “Family Circle” cartoon--you know the one with the criss-crossing paths of dotted-lines of the kids movements ALL OVER the cartoon picture? 

Then, suddenly I was drawn back to the room when Keith called Betty and I into their circle with Susan for prayer. Here I was gathered close and holding hands with believers, calling on the Living, Holy, Loving Father, the One who never sleeps. The privilege of the interaction was not lost on me. Me, so weary just an hour ago and now being built up by words speaking the truth--even though the catalyst for their utterance was grief.

It was a still, peaceful, connecting time with the Father of all comfort. And I was grateful for the powerful ways God fills us with what we need to live and move and have our being in Him.

And as quickly as we’d come, Susan returned to work, Keith took one of the kids with him to where he was going, Betty left and LauraBeth graciously invited me to sit and talk awhile. I wish I could be so gentle and welcoming when numerous people descend on my abode! 

As if she had time to shoot the breeze, she did. We talked of homeschool, visitors, house activities, recent events and we prayed together. I am thankful to live where we live, among the people we live among. Challenges? Yes! But, the sufficient means in relationships given by God to thrive. Grateful and humbled at the Goodness of God in His people. 

As we spoke “Amen,” her young daughter arrived to reiterate the happenings at the playground. Once we surmised that one of her brothers sustained a wound (large or small we weren’t sure), and that he’d cried (but wasn’t crying now), and that they needed mama and a bandaid (and the bactine, which she reached up on her tip toes to grab from the desk), we realized the rest of our day was upon us.

We walked together until the paths diverged and spoke our blessings over each of our days as we parted.

I wanted to keep an attitude of thankfulness alive in me and so I remembered with gratefulness how full my morning had already been. I spoke to the Lord in prayer as I walked home, overwhelmed with His ability to turn the tide of a seemingly sorrowful day into one of strength and contentment.

Once home again, LauraBeth texted to say that it was a good thing she went to tend to the wound as there was also a big, hairy, stinging caterpillar in her toddler’s hair! A few texts later she marveled that all of this had happened before 10 a.m. And in one final text came the revelation that “ALL” EXCLUDED BRUSHING HER TEETH! 

Yup, some days are like that. The “unknowables” you pondered at 5:30 a.m. disclose themselves as a lack of ability to get the basics done due to unexpected, early interruptions in the daily schedule. 

And thank God for it, because without such interruptions we’d all have moved into the day without the richness of relational interaction that fostered encouragement for us all.

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