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Strength to Care

Lessons from Matthew & Isaac – Our CHARGE Syndrome Journey

A season of suffering…

I don’t consider myself a master gardener by any means. I do, however, enjoy cultivating, planting, weeding (to some extent) and eating fresh vegetables from our small garden. I think my draw to gardening comes from fond memories as a kid when we would plant nearly an acre of vegetables and spend the better part of the summer canning, freezing and preserving all kinds of things for the coming non growing season. We would can tomatoes, make tomato juice, make pickles of all varieties, freeze beans, corn, carrots, peppers, make grape jelly, raspberry and strawberry jam, and package onions and potatoes for long term storage in our basement. I remember it being hard work and I remember a hot and humid kitchen as the water bath canning pot was almost always boiling. Weeding was not only a chore but also a punishment. I was always fascinated by melted paraffin wax that was poured over the top of the jelly jars…we would always sneak a finger in the wax.

tomatoAs I was doing some yard work this past week I came across this lone tomato plant that had planted itself in our lava rock filled landscaping. It even has a couple of tomatoes on it! I looked down into the rocks and found that it was growing in the rocks, above the landscaping fabric. What are the odds that this plant even sprouted…not to mention that it is thriving and even producing fruit? No soil prep, no fertilizer, no special staking, pruning or care. A stark contrast to the coddled plants that were carefully chosen, planted, fertilized, pruned and weeded (okay, so I am a little light on the weeding).

This tomato plant reminded me of all those “20 Life-Hacks that make your life easier” posts you see on Facebook all the time. Or the barrage of infomercials and commercials of things that claim to make our lives so much easier. My pondering is even if these conveniences make our lives “easier” do they necessarily make our lives BETTER?

“I have no idea why one person can be handed a tragic past and become healthy and selfless while another amplifies their pain into the lives of others. Almost without exception the beautiful, selfless people I’ve met are the ones who’ve experienced personal tragedy. They remind me of the trees I occasionally stumble across in the Columbia River Gorge, the ones that got started under boulders and wound slowly around the rock face to find an alternative route to the sun.” Donald Miller: Scary Close

I can relate well to this comment from Donald Miller. We have had to wrap ourselves around many boulders to be able to see the sun along our journey. Our family plan didn’t include all of the twists and turns that it has turned out and continues to be.

“A season of suffering is a small assignment when compared to the reward. Rather than begrudge your problem, explore it. Ponder it. And most of all, use it. Use it to the glory of God.” Max Lucado

I believe that the suffering we have endured has added more meaning to our lives. Suffering has made our lives BETTER. We pray more, we appreciated more, we see the triumphs in even the smallest of things and we have learned that when suffering comes, and our eyes are open to seeing the good in it, blessings are soon to follow. Blessings come in sharing our story with others who are suffering. Being a light and an encouragement in the places we are…this often means in a doctor’s office, a surgery waiting room, a hospital room, even while we are on an outing with our boys. We could share story after story the opportunities that arise when we are out in public…it is hard NOT to notice our family. Yes, there are uncomfortable stares and there is rudeness, but there are also times, like just a few weeks ago, a gal approached me while I was pushing Isaac in his wheelchair. She crouched down, smiled at Isaac and began talking to him. She later shared (with tears in her eyes) that she had lost her son in the past year with complications from Cerebral Palsy. We shared in our suffering, we comforted one another.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. 2 Corinthians 1:3-5

There are several paths one could take when handed a season of suffering. Although we are not perfect, we try to use the assignment to the glory of God.

I recently had a chance to share our story of faith with a group of men at our church. I shared with them that as a family we are missionaries. Our mission field is not a remote village, a region or a specific people group. Our mission field is in our home and the hospitals and medical offices we go to for appointments. Our mission is to share the comforting good news in the places we frequent and be open to sharing our lives, to be an encouragement, even through our suffering.

I recent email from a friend models the thought of using our suffering as an assignment. My friend has had a rough few years as he has worked through some health problems that appears to be related to his thyroid. He is scheduled for a second round of a radiation pill that requires him to be in seclusion for a specific period of time. Here is an excerpt from his email:

“I am currently scheduled to have a second dose of irradiated iodine to calm down my thyroid on Friday, September 23 in the afternoon.  {The first dose was last December.}  Due to radiation, I will have to be away from others for five days.  I plan to spend time in prayer, read scripture, read three fiction books and watch the six Star Wars movies . . . plus lots more.  If you have any prayer requests to pass along to me, I’ll add them to my daily prayer list for this time away.”  Thom

Just as I was finishing writing this blog one of our daughters found yet another tomato plant that is growing and producing fruit in the rocks around our mailbox among the wildflowers that were selected, planted, fertilized with care. Another shining example of finding an alternative path to the sun, even through the hardships. Seek and alternative path to the sun and use your trials or suffering as an assignment. To the Glory of God.

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