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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Iris Blessing

Today I want to share a story with you. It's a true story. My purpose in wanting to share this is to emphasize how important it is to remember how God has answered our prayers in the past. 

When we're going though a particularly hard time and we find our path dark, lonely, painful and seemingly unending it's easy to forget how God has answered our prayers- how he has provided for us. Our vision gets cloudy, our memories weak.

That's our humanness. 

But, don't despair, dear one. Long after we have lost hope, forgotten or just plain given up, He remembers. 

He is incapable of forgetting. He is and ever has been faithful! And most importantly- He will NEVER fail us! He has plans for each of us and is faithful to see them to completion. I know it's true because He said so in His word and because I have seen it time and again in my own life. We're in great hands. After all, we don't call Him the Great I AM for nothing.

We humans haven't improved much in the remembering category since biblical times. Take the Israelites for example, they stood on the bank and watched Moses part the Red Sea by God's command.They walked through without even stepping in a mud puddle, saw it with their own eyes and yet, time after time they forgot past answers to their prayers.

Then, there was Sarah. Boy! She must have had some good reminders or a photographic memory! Waiting until she was ninety to have a baby? Honestly, I think I might have said, "Thanks God, but now I'm just too tired."

Oftentimes in the Bible, altars of stone were constructed on spots where God did something momentous. They wanted to remember and needed a reminder- a touchstone.

We have day planners, sticky notes, diaries and memory books. We need to remember daily details. How much more we need to remember God's answers to our prayers. For our own good, so that we can grow closer to Him in the waiting.

In Hawaii, when a surfer dies friends carry stones to the spot and stack them one on top of the other. They want to remember the life lived and the life lost. The piles of stones remind them each time they go by.

We erect headstones and monuments of famous people. Thousands have traveled to Ground Zero to remember those lost on 911.

We need reminders. We need to write down God's answers to our prayers or perserve them in some way so that when we are going through hard times we can look back and remember and hang on a little longer and stronger while we wait on Him. We must remember His faithfulness. 

With those thoughts in mind, here's one of my real life stories of God's amazing faithfulness to me. I call it my-

                                                      Iris Blessing

Sorrow swept over me in a familiar wave that threatened to drown me as I sat kneeling in the dirt. Staring into the gaping hole we had just dug for the iris rhizomes, I thought, that’s how I feel, empty like there’s a hole where my heart should be.

Today was a joyous day for our friends, Cindy and Tom for whom I was babysitting. Moments earlier they had backed out of our driveway excitedly waving good-bye to two-year-old Paige, who stood beside me. I waved back trying hard to share their joy while carefully hiding my pain.

They were on their way to the hospital for the scheduled delivery of their second child, another daughter, already named, Sophie Louise. It seemed to me that they were able to plan out every detail of their lives like clockwork.

Exactly five years after their marriage, their goal of buying a house and saving a nest egg of pre-determined amount reached, they had Paige. Now, two years later, once again following their carefully laid-out plan, they were on the way to the hospital to have their second daughter at a scheduled time. They knew ahead of time. They could make a plan and follow it.

Unlike my life. My life felt uncontrollable, riddled with ups and downs resembling a runaway roller coaster. The only thing I was able to plan were visits to the infertility specialist, followed by the necessary surgeries and tests.

My heart ached as little hands gently took the iris rhizome from mine and daintily pushed it into the waiting hole. A tear slid down my cheek and dripped into the dirt, watering it with my pain. We planted several more in a row when Paige quietly broke through my thoughts. She took my hand.

“Let’s say a prayer for them to grow, Missa Bonna.”  

I had my doubts that they would grow at all in the sandy soil of this semi-tropical climate. They, like me, were transplants here in South Carolina. My mother had dug them out of the rich black soil around her home in the north and sent them with me when we moved, a little piece of home.

I looked into the sweet innocent face looking up at me expectantly and smiled.

“What a nice idea, Paige. Let’s do that,” I said patting her tiny hands in mine. Oh, how I longed for a little one of my own to plant flower bulbs and say prayers over them with.”

Closing our eyes, as Paige prayed out loud, I prayed silently.

Dear God, please give me a sign if I will ever have a baby. If I know, then I can get on with my life, but just not knowing, always hoping, has become unbearable. If I am to have a child someday, please make these irises bloom this year. Amen.

Being a new Christian in the Bible belt, I had recently heard of “casting out the fleece” when looking for an answer and decided to give it a try. I believed with every fiber of my being that God could do “exceedingly, abundantly above anything I could ever ask or hope for,” as I remembered reading in Ephesians 3:20. But, I also knew that His will was not always ours and that His ways were not our ways. God had a plan for our lives and it was important to let God be God. After all, He knew everything about our past, present and future.    

Months passed and I forgot about that prayer, but God remembered. Bright and early on Easter morning the following spring, my husband, Bill and I hurried out to the car to leave for church. As I turned to get into the car my heart leaped at what was in front of me. There in the forgotten flowerbed stood two gorgeous purple irises fully bloomed. Excitedly, I told my husband about my prayer and how the irises were God’s answer. He smiled what appeared to be a patronizing smile, but I was sure this was a promise. I could tell he wasn’t all that sure.  

Another year and a half rolled by with no baby. But, I was okay with the waiting now, because in my heart I knew that eventually I would have a baby. I just had to wait for God’s perfect timing. My husband’s time in the Navy was over so we moved back up north to Maryland, reluctantly leaving friends behind that had become like family to us.

We both got busy securing jobs. Finally, after being married seven years we were able to purchase our first home. Each night as I went upstairs to bed, I stood and gazed longingly into the spare room, desperately hoping it would be a nursery someday soon.

My doctor in Charleston referred me to an infertility specialist at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore where I continued to have treatments, procedures and the latest and greatest medicines on the market. Months dissolved into years. One year disappeared into the next. Somewhere along the way, about seven years after we first started our infertility work-up, I lost hope and fell into despair. My dream of having a family of my own was slipping away. I no longer remembered God’s promise.

One day while I was dragging myself around a craft fair with a friend, my eyes fell on a lovely watercolor painting. It portrayed a delicate violet sharing a stem with a bud that had not yet bloomed. Psalm 37:4 was written all along the stem and leaves.

Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.

That’s it, I thought! I need to delight myself in the Lord more and then I will surely have a baby! I quickly paid for the picture and took it home. I hung it on our bedroom wall so that it was the first thing my eyes focused on in the morning. I prayed and read my Bible. I worked joyfully at church and witnessed to others more, delighting myself in the Lord.

Two more years passed and a strange thing began to happen. I realized my “delight” was taking on a life of its own. My heart’s desire had become whatever God’s plan was for my life. My own agenda was no longer of importance.

Around this time, our church was planning a medical mission trip to Rwanda, Africa. My husband and I, being a dentist and a nurse, decided after praying about it, that this must be what God had planned for us, so we signed up to go. We attended the planning and informational meetings. There would be a lot to do and short time to get it all accomplished. There were many immunizations needed. In order to get them all before we left they had to be scheduled right away. I scheduled our appointments. I had been feeling a bit under the weather lately. Just to be sure before getting the immunizations, we did a pregnancy test. Surprise of all surprises! It came back positive!

Finally, after fifteen years of marriage; nine years of infertility treatments, thirty thousand dollars, five surgeries, two failed in-vitro fertilization attempts and tests and procedures too numerous to recall, I was actually pregnant!

We would not be going to Rwanda after all. God had another plan. It had been nine long years since I prayed that prayer, prompted by a precious little girl.

My doctor handled my case very cautiously and tried to keep my excitement at bay by warning me that “older” mothers had a higher risk of miscarriage. He had seen my disappointment too many times before. Much to his surprise, except for a bad case of morning sickness, I breezed through those nine months.

We left for the hospital on a Saturday night under a beautiful full moon. Our daughter, Hillary, was born the next evening on Easter Sunday, after twenty-six hours of labor. God had not only kept His promise, but He even told me what day she would be born on! But, there was still more to come.

Five years later after my husband and I celebrated our twentieth anniversary, our son, Will, was born. Once again, I remembered God’s promise to me through the irises. I marveled at how specific He had been in His answer. Two irises bloomed that Easter morning, representing each of my children.

During my darkest times of despair I forgot the promise He gave me, but learned to desire His will for my life. Once I desired His will, then, He gave me the desires of my heart.

My daughter is now twenty-one years old and my son is sixteen. My hubby and I are still in awe of our extraordinary God who is able to do exceedingly, abundantly above all that we could ever ask or hope for! (Ephesians 3:20)To Him we give all the glory. He alone is worthy of all our praise.

*(Names of friends changed.)

© 2011 Bonnie Mae Evans

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

"Lucy, you got some `splainin' to do."

Well... I don't really know how to start, except to just dive right in and say," Wow, I can't believe it's been over a month since my last blog entry!"

What happened to June?

Did we skip it this year?

It's not that I haven't thought of you dear friends out there. I have thought of you daily with the desire to sit down and write. Unfortunately, two things kept me from doing it. They were time and words. It seems like when I had the time, I didn't have the words or when I had the words I couldn't find the time. Fortunately, I made alot of mental notes. But, unfortunately, I forgot where I put them!

No, all jokes aside, I sincerely have missed writing to you and hopefully you have missed reading. In the past month I had the opportunity to share in some wonderful experiences with family and friends. For that I am truly grateful. I will probably share some of these with you at a later date.

I've also been busy with my nursing career which pays and my writing career which so far, does not. But, that doesn't matter. I consider it a great privilege to write and share our Father's message of love and hope. It is my joy.

I hope you are enjoying your summer and the activites that come along with it. Hopefully, you will have some time to relax, reflect, and reconnect with family and friends, but most importantly to realign yourself with the goals you've set for your life and God's divine purpose and plan for your life.

What I mean by this is, do you see your life heading in a direction where your plans and God's plans will ultimately merge and follow the same course?

The best way to tell if that is happening is to look back briefly and examine your spiritual growth. If you have not totally and completely given your life to Christ, do you feel yourself being drawn more to Him. Do you see little "coincidences" that put you in a place with other Christians or times when you are uncomfortable with certain areas of your life that you have previously enjoyed? Are you tired of that empty feeling? That nagging feeling of unrest and free-floating anxiety, where it's nothing terrible really, but you just feel uneasy, maybe unfulfilled.
Sorta like, "Is this all there is?" as Peggy Lee portrayed in her song so many years ago.

On the other hand, if you already know Jesus as your Savior and are assured that HE and ONLY HE holds your ticket to Heaven, take a moment to look back on your life since your committment to Him. Do you see growth in your knowledge of Him, in your attitudes, in your focus? Sure there are valleys and mountaintops. But, do you see a steady, leaning on and learning from the Lord?

 I was saved in 1978, I immediately felt relief of an almost physical kind of weight being lifted off my shoulders. It is a very stressful thing to live without the peace of God and assurance of salvation in your heart. I had lived with so much anxiety and stress and fear. It was a tremendous relief to lay it all down at the feet of Jesus!
Dear, precious friend, we were not meant to carry such a burden. It will wear you down.

I remember as a child going to church one Sunday and hearing the preacher say that even in your last breath you could utter the words, "Lord, be merciful unto me a sinner," and you would be saved from hell. Well, I thought that was the key I had been looking for. I could live however I wanted to as long I  remembered those words and had the time to blurt them out. I would be home free! I rehearsed saying them as fast as I could, you know, just in case of emergency.

The question remained; would I be faster than an oncoming car, or a speeding bullet, or a riptide or a bite of hotdog lodged in my windpipe or even the grim reaper in the middle of the night?

As you can see, the memorization of those words did not bring me lasting relief. I still felt anxious and fearful and yes, unhappy. I had part of the idea, but I didn't have the key component. I didn't have freedom in belonging to God, of knowing Him intimately as my Father and Jesus as my Savior.

It was a long time coming. I was 24 years old before I would make the decision to accept Christ. But here I am, a few decades later, oooh, does that ever sound old!
Just forget I said the decade thing. The important thing is- if I could go back to anyone of those younger unsaved years or stay here saved and wrinkled, no contest-hands down, I would pick anyone of the past 32 years.

Now, I'm not saying they've all been a piece of cake. That is most definitely not the case! Some of these years have been excruciating and painful. What I am saying is that, no matter where I've had to walk since being saved, I've never had to walk alone.
When I've had those very difficult times, I see them as times when God was refining me. Just like the verse in Zecariah 13:9 where the gold was being put in the fire to burn off the impurities.

 I will bring them through the fire... I will refine them as silver is refined. And test them as gold is tested. They will call on my name. And I will answer them. I will say they are my people. And they will say The Lord is my God.

Praise God, He sees me as worthy of being refined, polished up a little for His glory! I am worth it! He calls me His!

So today I will leave you with these words from my favorite movie, Moonstruck. The scene where the priest says, "Reflect on your life, Loretta."
Look back. Look where you've been. Look where you're going. Is the course of your life yielding in the direction and paths that Christ has for you.
A message from another preacher many years later drew it all together with this prayer which I continue to pray today.

Dear Lord,
Help me to be at the place where your divine purpose and my human will meet and prosper daily. Amen.

(c) 2011 Bonnie Mae Evans