Staying Afloat When Life is NOT Fine

Thursday, July 12 chickenpox attacked 2 of my kids, and all of our plans were suddenly changed.  The week my almost 12-year-old son eagerly anticipates all year long (even more than Christmas) and works and saves up for was being snatched away from him in the blink of an eye and all he could do was go into shock.  Flying to Minnesota and going to camp with his best friend who he only sees that week was not going to happen.  Chickenpox had shattered his heart.  And consequently mine.

Not only that, but my other three kids who would be staying behind in the south while my oldest son and I were to fly away were very much looking forward to enjoying “Grandmommy Camp” for the week.  The future of sweets and getting spoiled just disappeared for them.  The special “Sewing Day Camp” an aunt had planned for my oldest daughter that week…that would have to be cancelled as well.

And, on top of that, we had to miss my nephew’s birthday party.  Chickenpox isn’t the best gift.

There’s more, but I think you get the picture.  Life was NOT fine.  I was being tested.  My son was being tested.  My son’s friend was being tested.  My son’s friend’s mom (who is also my friend) was being tested.  My other three kids were being tested.  Grandmommy was being tested.  My nephew was being tested.  Who wasn’t being tested by this miserable chickenpox?!

I feel I am being a bit dramatic which seems to be my tendency.  But, I’m trying to make a point…we did not want chickenpox in our home.  Definitely not right now.  Of all the times for it to hit, why now???

Our week-long trip was for a good cause.  We were investing in friendships.  My son and his friend would be growing in their knowledge of God at camp. I would be helping my mostly bedridden friend for the week while her son and mine made life-long memories at camp once again.  In addition, I was planning to visit one of my best friends who also lives in Minnesota.  And did I mention we’ve spent over a thousand dollars for this now unattainable excursion that we quite possibly might not get refunded?

What is God doing???  I want to trust Him…but this???  How can this possibly be good…for anyone involved???

My faith was (is) being tested.  Will I believe God is good when He takes?  Will I point my child to believe God is good when He takes?  Will I take the cards dealt to me each day by a loving hand and play them?  I want different cards.  I hated these new cards.  Please give me back the cards I had just yesterday.  Please!!!

It’s one thing for me to be tested, but to watch my son being tested was (is) very hard.  I knew how important this week was to him.  My heart was breaking for him.  What if he turned away from God because of this?

I begged God to help my son trust Him.  I begged for myself as well.  “God, please help me trust You.  Please help me trust You.  Please help me trust You.”  I prayed that every day this week…because every day this week I felt the pull to question and demand to know why this had all happened.

And yet…

The timing of this test has been impeccable.  In one sense, I was perfectly prepared.  My pastor is preaching through the book of James in the Bible.  In addition, I’ve recently been listening to a sermon podcast from another church in Atlanta that also happens to be going through James.  Both churches preached on the same Sunday on the exact same passage…James 4:13-17, “Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.” But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.”

The day before the bad news, I had listened to this sermon podcast from the church I don’t attend.  The day after the bad news, I listened to it again.  This was an open book test.  God had even showed me which page the answer was on.

Was I boasting?  Was I arrogant?  Did I think I could just declare that my son and I will go to Minnesota?  Did I think I was God?  Did I forget that I am merely a vapor?

Perhaps.

Would I submit to His sovereignty over my life?  Would I accept from His hand only three prior wonderful summer trips to Minnesota but not this summer void of our highlight week?

I knew the answer to the test.  God is God and I am not.  I must choose to trust Him.  And, I must encourage my son to do the same.

To stay afloat and not self-destruct when life is NOT fine, you must absolutely trust God.  Trust, trust, trust.  You accept that you are not God.  You bow the knee to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords and trust His Word.

Despite knowing what to do, I was still wrestling with actually trusting…it was not a one-time choice this week.  I had to choose again and again to trust as the questions and confusion and pain resurfaced over and over throughout the week.

On Monday morning as I was really struggling once again with trusting God, I had time to listen to a sermon yet didn’t want to.  I was hurting…and confused.  Nevertheless, I thankfully shoved myself towards God rather than shutoff communication between the two of us.  I came across this message from a church here in Atlanta and was greatly encouraged as I changed sheets on four bunkbeds and listened through tears to Trust God’s Heart.

In the message, several things Tim Simpson said stood out to me:

“We can trust God’s heart even when we cannot trace His hand.”

“Rest in the fact that you don’t know it all and celebrate the fact that you don’t have to know it all.”

“What areas in your life are you playing God?”

A little later that day at lunch, my son started really struggling again as camp was about to officially start with us over a thousand miles away.  In God’s sovereignty that day, the MacArthur Daily Bible that we strive to read at breakfast, lunch, and dinner had Psalm 84:11-12 as the scheduled reading for our lunchtime portion.  The words were a balm to both our hurting, confused souls:

“No good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly.  O LORD of hosts, blessed is the man (woman, child) who trusts in You!”

Camp was not good this year for my son. It had been good three years ago when they started this tradition.

Why wasn’t it good this year?  I’m not sure we’ll ever know.  But, I do know with confidence based on God’s Word that camp was not good for us this time.  It simply was not good.  It hurts.  Very much so.  But as this verse says, I have to trust God.  He knows.

God has been giving additional comfort as well, but I hope these two specific examples help you understand the power God has to comfort.  However, had I turned from listening to the sermon or turned from reading the Bible, I would not have been comforted.  When our hearts are breaking, for whatever reason, we have to force ourselves to run to the very One who could have prevented the heartache.  I don’t think that comes naturally.  It’s a conscious choice.  To stay afloat when life is NOT fine we not only have to trust God but we also have to run to Him.

Next, we have to “make lemonade out of lemons.”  Truth be told, I hate that saying.  My husband has said these well-known words to me countless times when I want to grumble, grumble, grumble about whatever.  Lemonade making is such an effort.  Nevertheless, lemonade was greatly needed or we were going to drown in our tears while holding our lemons.

The cancelation of best friend camp and Grandmommy camp along with the restriction of staying at home due to chickenpox gave us the perfect opportunity for “Movie Camp!” First, you have to understand one thing…I never, ever, ever let my kids watch movies.  Ok, so they got to watch Frozen (did any child miss that movie?!).  But, other than that exception, there have been very few times in my almost 12 years as a mom that you would ever hear me say, “Let’s watch a movie!”  So, this was a BIG deal to host Movie Camp in our home for an entire week.  The kids were definitely on board with the revised plan.  Still sad but very supportive.  The Little Rascals, Cheaper by the Dozen, and even the very old Pete’s Dragon (reliving my childhood!) have provided us with many much-needed laughs.

To guard against self-pity and to be a blessing to others while going through trials, my pastor has urged our congregation in the past to serve others when we are hurting.  So, what did we do? We mailed 41 pieces of mail to camp to my son’s friend in great hopes that he would win the “mail call” camp contest and be encouraged as he now had to show up at camp friendless.  Each day the camper that receives the most mail at “mail call” goes up in front of the whole group to smell something gross and try to guess what it is. Apparently, lots of fun for the younger crowd! My son and his friend have never won but think it would be really cool if they did.  So, I figured this would be a special way to help my son and his friend be together at camp in spirit and make a life-long memory…and it gave us something to look forward to and think about during the week. And, his friend did win one day! Here he is smelling old sausage links. Yum.

To recap…staying afloat and not self-destructing when life is NOT fine requires…

  • Trusting God
  • Making lemonade out of lemons
  • Shoving yourself towards God
  • Serving others

Sometimes life is hard.  But life is a vapor.  A painful vapor at times. But, God can help us through that vapor…even when our hearts are breaking.  Don’t give up.  You CAN make it!

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