Caravan Sonnet: From Hope Valley Devotionals (Three)

2/15/17

From Hope Valley Devotionals (Three)

Listening to Elizabeth's journal entry in this precious episode at the end of season one, I am immediately struck by the wisdom that she is sharing. So many times in our lives we are tempted to move or run away to a new place if our circumstances are not exactly how we envisioned them more than resolving that we will stick through the storms of life and plant and bloom where the Lord calls us to be, looking for the happiness that can await us.

Several years ago my life changed radically due to severe health issues. I went from being a very independent, social, and active young woman who enjoyed working in a job that I loved as a high school teacher, having a busy social life filled with people I lovingly referred to as "my tribe", enjoying a volunteer schedule in my community to becoming primarily bedridden in my parents home (in a different state). It was incredibly difficult and at the beginning there wasn't a day that didn't go by that was spent more in tears than in laughter. I deeply struggled with scripture talking about contentment as I was unsure how this new life that I found myself in could be anything but sorrowful, stressful, and full of grief. I wept deeply and longed for the days where my life would return to "normal". 

I was assured by many people, including my main medical doctor at the time, that this was a brief season in life and I would soon be back to my previous life. Unfortunately the days spread into weeks and months as my health continued to decline and my life became about survival and finding answers. I longed to be in a different place- physically in my body and emotionally longing for the life that I had before.

When several correct diagnosis' finally came, my life took a different turn as the past four years have been about fighting for my health. In many ways there are such minor improvements in my health that looking in from the outside no one would notice much and yet what has changed is finding joy and grace despite this very difficult situation. I have found the truth of Elizabeth's words that there is a beauty in resolving to stay (emotionally or physically) as long as the Lord calls you to a specific place and in recognizing that life holds a mixture of sadness, wonderment, hope and joy.

My heart goes out to each of you who may long for a different place to call your home. I weep with you, because my heart well understands where you are at. Truly, I do. For those of you who are struggling deeply with this area, I wish that I could sit down with you for coffee or tea and just listen to your story and give you a gentle hug of encouragement. I can't imagine the hard roads that some of you are walking. 

My mama has done this with me often... sat down, held my hand, and given me the space to cry and process the longing of wanting to be in a different place or season. Years ago my mom shared with me about a difficult season in her own life when I was a child. Specifically she shared how difficult it was to live in one house and neighborhood that I spent the first nine years of my life in. I was shocked to learn this because I had never suspected this at any point in my life. My mom was always so joyful in that living arrangement and as far as I had ever known she had not survived, but thrived in that space.

One afternoon when I was weeping about my circumstances, my mom tenderly explained all of the things that made that living arrangement a difficult place to live. She explained difficult circumstances with neighbors, inconsiderate situations that happened, the difficulty in the design of the home being extremely small for a growing (and tall!) family of five, her dreams of a garden that she did not have the finances or space for, the lack of supportive friends as they lived farther away, the difficulty of having one car, and the lack of a neighborhood community that both of my parents longed for. There were no financial resources to change things in the home or move and as she continued to talk she listed many other things. 

For the first time my mom expressed how difficult it was for her as a young wife and mom especially since they had moved from an idyllic situation with a beautiful big farmhouse that she adored with lots of space, a huge garden, quiet surroundings that allowed her babies to sleep easily, the beautiful layout of the spacious house that allowed a family to comfortable grow, and the easy access and location to their church and to their friends, even without a second car. 

My mouth literally dropped open as she talked because I was stunned that the life that she had before my childhood home was her dream house and situation, not the one that I had grown up in. I immediately asked her what her secret was to being so joyful in the situation that she was in as I had never once ever suspected that my mom was anything less than completely content in her life. 

Her reply was simple and yet profound as she said, "Jesus. Simply Jesus. I turned my eyes off the circumstances that I couldn't change and loathed and onto the One who loves me more than life. I resolved to find the joy there in that situation, no matter what the circumstances were to the contrary." And then she continued and gently said, "Rebecca, if you can't find contentment and happiness where you currently find yourself, you will never find it in a different set of circumstances."

My mom is my hero. She resolved to make her home where she was at and grew and flourished there. She worked at memorizing scripture to encourage her heart, spent hours in prayer, played inspirational music, and most of all learned to laugh at the things that would have made her cry (Proverbs 31:25). She and my dad consistently modeled a life-style of reaching out to their neighbors, embracing the community that God had put them in with love and practicality, and grew to understand and know the hearts of those whom they shared the street and neighborhood with. Over the years they embraced an elderly widow whose children lived far away, gathering her lonely heart into our family so much so that I believed she was a second grandmother. It took days upon days and years, but my mom intentionally and lovingly got to know each of our neighbors and the broken and the weary that surrounded us, opening our home to be a refuge for those who were hurting, and showed us by her actions how to open our hearts to everyone that crossed our paths. 

Throughout my life I have seen my mom consistently model this same trust and surrender to the Lord. Several decades after the little house season, I now again marvel at watching my mom resolve to find joy and contentment in her situation and surroundings. For the past four years she has tirelessly sacrificed any of her desires and dreams to help me get better. She retired early from a job that she loved, has cooked hundreds of meals, taken me to every doctors appointment (even the ones across the country and in Canada), has sat in countless uncomfortable hospital chairs, wiped away my tears, held my hair back as I have been sick time and time again, and has whispered constant hope and truth to me every single day. She has delighted in serving behind the scenes and has never once complained. 
For the past two years we have lived 20 hours away from my parents home and with my grandmother in her tiny home so that I could receive treatments in my fight for my health. My parents have sacrificed deeply, giving up their home for this time period, moving away from their community and their other children, sleeping on an air mattress in the living room, and everyday I see her ask nothing for herself, but instead has joyfully served her family. My mom has given up the ease of living in her own home and space and has never complained once. My mom has sacrificed in small and big ways and I have once again marveled at the way that there has never had a cross word or a word of complaint about our current situation. Her love and focus on the Lord and not our circumstances has changed me in the best way possible. She continues to live out the principle from the small house long ago... a life found in the joy of the One that she loves the most. 

Dear friends, no matter what circumstances you find yourself in- maybe like myself you are struggling with physical limitations or maybe like my mom you are a mama who longs for a different place or maybe you are someone dreaming and longing for a spouse, a child, a new job, a new home, a broken relationship healed, or countless other things, find courage. 

C.S. Lewis once said, "Courage, dear heart" and my heart longs for you to fight for for this. Fight for the bravery to find joy and resolve in where the Lord has placed you. Fight the temptation to be drawn into a life of comparison of what the highlight reel of others on social media looks like and pray for the wisdom to find why the Lord has called you to where He has. Spend the time that you would spend wishing for a different set of circumstances crying out to the Lord for wisdom on why He has placed you where He has and find the joy in His presence alone. Focus on Him. Focus on who He is and surround yourself with His love and His faithfulness. Memorize and meditate on scripture. Build your house- physically and emotionally and plant gardens as you find joy in the One who loves you more than life. 

And on the days you want to curl up in a ball and cry and weep from despair know that He will carry you (Psalm 68:19). The Lord is with you sweet friend. You are not alone. You are not forgotten. May you be blessed by the Lord as you embark on this courageous act of resolving to stay, as Elizabeth did, emotionally and physically. I am cheering you on and praying for you. 

"Those who cry while they plant will joyfully sing while they harvest."
-Psalm 126:5-

"Build homes, plan to stay. Plant gardens, and eat the food they produce."
-Jeremiah 29:5-
*Please note that the quotes used in these weekly devotionals are the sole intellectual property of Hallmark Channel, WCTH, & Crown Media, LLC. These on-line posts are in no way supported, endorsed or affiliated with WCTH, Hallmark Channel, or Crown Media. They are simply encouragement inspired by Janette Oke and this precious show.*

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