…the least of these…

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Dude.

This week has been absolutely amazing.  We are surely not on the other side, just yet…  but being in the midst of this storm we call ‘life’ and getting to see those glimpses of God’s hand at work – it’s enough to bring you joy, hope, peace, humility, and grace all at once.  I am not there entirely, but there have been moments.

I have made a conscious choice to allow my struggles and pain, disappointments and failures, hopes and dreams, quite public.  I’ve been extremely vulnerable.  I have doubted this transparency.  I’ve wondered how many people view my posts, status updates, and blogs as mere cries for attention, pity parties, and desperation.  I have lived in those places for a lot of my life and I know I’m susceptible to take up residency there.  It is a tender place in my heart and shameful to me.  My friend Bryon delivered a sermon several months ago and  he is the one who was able to verbalize for me, how depression, worry, and fear can be places of permanent housing rather than momentary thoughts or experiences.  It was a vivid illustration in my mind.  Convicting.

It was the same sermon that he eluded to some struggles that he himself had been enduring.  When Bryon speaks, you should prolly listen.  He started out telling us that he didn’t see himself as a doctor, a pastor, or one with all the answers, but one just like us with problems, disappointments, and issues.  I was on the edge of my seat.  I thought he was going to share a specific, tangible, authentically personal experience with us and…  he didn’t.  I felt cheated!  I wanted to hear this amazing life changing testimony, but Bryon took the message in a different direction.  It has intrigued me that I remember being curious about why he didn’t reveal details about his personal stuff.  Instead…  he talked about Ivan.

Anyone in Weiser knows wheelchair Ivan.  I’m not exactly sure of his condition but it is a physical and mental handicap.  Ivan was active in the community despite his disability and honestly, he was so active at times that people got annoyed with him!  His “help” was not always helpful.  Bless his heart.

Bryon would go and, at times, push Ivan from the care center to our church.  It is far.  It was hot.  Ivan is not small.  Bryon knew that he wasn’t bringing him so much to worship or to see his friends or to give witness.  He brought him because Ivan asked him to.  He brought Ivan so he could sleep in a different environment!  Every Sunday that Ivan requested and every Sunday that he could, Bryon would sacrifice to wheel him to church.  And then, one day, Ivan wasn’t at the care center.  Bryon missed his brother.

It’s seeing someone like Bryon, so beat up, bruised, and defeated by the politics of the world get up in front of a group of his peers on Sunday – not to validate his own woes, but to declare how great the Lord is in giving him the friendship of Ivan- that makes you consider what is valuable.  In hindsight, I love that it means more to me now, that Bryon was able to stand up and praise God, regardless of his own circumstances.  His faith, his story, his purpose does not change.  Bryon is who he is in Christ before anything else.

This week, because I am the polar opposite of Bryon and cannot keep my mouth shut, I chose to express my pain.  In doing that, I have been blessed to have the most intimate, amazing, fulfilling conversations with some of the most remarkable people on two legs.  I am blown away.

***One young girl, age 20, lost her mother this week in a tragic accident.  I had the courage to talk to her a few times.  I asked pretty direct questions the softest way I could.  She told me that she knows God is with her mom and that is what is bringing her this amazing peace and sound mind during this time.  It is striking, you guys.  She is articulate, thoughtful, angelic.  She said if God didn’t exist, there is no way she could have survived this loss.

***One older woman, who I knew had health struggles even when I was young, talked to me about her chronic health condition (I didn’t mention any of mine to prompt her) and how she had endured this structural skull problem, that was later complicated by multiple brain and skeletal surgeries.  She showed me her shoulders just under her shirt collar – the structure of her clavicle and irregular muscle tone were obvious.  Holding up her head is literally an all day painful task.  People look at her and think she is capable and well because it is a hidden condition.  Dealing the cards she was dealt with a smile is too much sometimes.  Pain is a way of life.  She offered a beautiful story and when her husband scooped her up from the shop to take her on another errand, I asked him how he had held up seeing her like this.  I thought of my Toby.  Her husband’s eyes softened, he patted her back and gave his wife all the credit.  Agape.

***I talked to a woman I admire deeply today, for the first time ever, about her daughter that she lost several years ago.  I’ve wanted to comfort her a long time ago, but never knew what to say.  Today, I just asked.  Her other daughter was with her.  They both reflected fondly over their daughter, sister, and friend.  It was beautiful to hear them talk about those very difficult days followed by the regular challenges of life that don’t care how much you’re hurting.  It was beautiful because they were there smiling and sharing with me and my mom and it was so real and special.  If they can make it through such horrific tragedy, then maybe I can make it through my stuff, too.

I know that I do tend to have a dark side and that at times, it may seem my glass is always half empty.  I have whined and complained a lot in the last few years.  Yeah, I’m not promising crap!  I know I have some venting in me, yet! But,  I am so tired of living in the land of the miserable and I am ready to live in the place of healing, hope, joy, and grace. It is a process.  Please continue to be patient with me.  I’m trying. Pray.  I pray that I may end my days with joy.

In the moments that I have revealed my weakness, the Lord has made me so strong in all of you.  The encouragement, messages, phone calls, texts, visits.  They are natural and meaningful between you and me and I am so thankful.   I am so thankful.

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