Tuesday, August 16, 2016

My Desire, Yours, or Ours, Lord?

I have an example of a time that Christ challenged me to serve Him before I received answers to my prayers. I hesitate to tell the story because I remember my faltering attempts to try what God asked of me and a whole bunch of times I refused, forgot or failed to live up to what I assumed was "God's Plan."

In March of 1993 my comfortable but hectic life as wife, mom, and teacher was dealt a shattering blow. My 4 year old daughter, Brittany, was diagnosed with an aggressive form of childhood leukemia. I heard the words her doctors spoke but couldn't comprehend what they truly meant. I felt both numb and panicked simultaneously.

I prayed, pleaded, and prayed some more during the first few days; fully believing that God would take this whole situation away and we could go on about the business of living.

One night during the first week in the hospital, I was hiding out in the bathroom of Brittany's room, praying (crying, pleading, begging, kicking, stamping my feet) so my tantrum wouldn't wake my sleeping daughter. I asked a question that I didn't realize I would get an answer to. After all, it was just me demanding answers of a God who should have already been answering!

"God?! Why us? Why me?" I had asked God several times and had failed to hear the answer amid all of the noise of the situation we were living. "Why me?" I whimpered and cried. That room in the early hours of the morning must have been quiet enough or God spoke in a still, but little bit louder, voice to reach through the din of the tantrum of His child because when I stopped talking, I heard His voice.

"Why not you?" His voice nearly echoed in the small room; at least in my heart it did! Why other people but not you?" In other words, "Did you think you were living in a rose garden? Have you looked around this place, Shari? Do you see all of the other people who could ask me that same question?"

That stopped my sobs cold.

I was stunned but I couldn't argue with His reasoning. And surprisingly, I didn't feel condemned. I went back to bed on the little fold-out chair/bed that I was becoming accustomed to and fell right to sleep. The only thing I can remember is a feeling of being on the edge of understanding something bigger than my earthly problems. I could almost see what God was showing me but not quite in my very dim way of understanding.

The next night, I was awakened late in the night. God suggested that I get up and go read my Bible in the waiting room next door. Since I was no longer sleepy, I got up, pulled on some clothes and took my Bible into the empty waiting room.

As I read, the door opened and a couple, looking stunned and emotional, walked in. I felt called to ask them why they were there and they seemed relieved to have an ear. We quietly visited for a while as they recounted the late night trip to the hospital with their little girl. A re-broken leg had led a doctor to run more tests. The long drive from the small town they lived in must have been exhausting since they had just heard the word "leukemia" and were trying to wrap their minds around it. I can't say that it felt like I did anything but let them see that they could still expect to breath, walk, and probably live after hearing that word in conjunction with the health of their precious child.

I'm not going to tell you that after that night I "got it" and lived seamlessly through the next two and a half years. I "got it" as much as my limited understanding would let me, but it was enough. God led and I did my best to follow Him through days and months. Sometimes I felt I was almost walking alongside Him as He taught me lessons through this inescapable situation. He showed me people who needed a kind word, hug, or smile.

I soon understood that people would let me talk about my faith because of who I was in this situation. Not a hero but,
a poor mom of a sick little daughter that we can't stop from talking because look what she is/was going through so just let her finish and listen politely even if you wouldn't normally let someone talk so freely about God without throwing out our disdain for people who weakly follow something they can't see and so talk about God and faith to other people who might not want to hear because... just look what that poor woman is going through!
I know. It's a little sneaky but God put me in the place where I could be "that mom" through what He allowed us to walk through.

During the next few years, God led me through some dark and scary times. I tried to learn as I went but failed as often as I felt I had succeeded. It took me years to stop regretting those failures. Sometimes I still think of the hours of worry, frustration, anger, despair, and doubt that I experienced in my down times. I think of them, but I only feel condemnation from myself; not God.

God allowed me to witness many miracles firsthand and my treasure chest of stories of God's blessings grew. (If you ever want to see my inventory of that treasure chest, just ask!) I told about God's faithfulness and power every chance I got.

One evening, I found myself looking at a darkened stained glass window. It was dark outside and I was having a hard time making out the details of the picture represented by the pieces of broken glass that had been carefully arranged to form a beautiful picture. As happens to me many times, God used an object, this time a window, to show me a part of His plan and an answer to my question many months back.

"Do you remember what this window looks like when the morning sun shines through it?"
"Yes, God, it's beautiful."
"The same thing happens to your broken pieces when you let me arrange them. Then, I can shine my light through the shattered window of your life for others to see. It's my light that turns a shattered mess into a beautiful picture that others can observe. No matter how unworthy you feel, they can see me through you, if you choose to walk with me."

Monday, January 4, 2016

A Special Meeting Over a Calendar

This is the calendar that hangs in my kitchen. The wall has had this particular series of calendars hanging on it for many years. They are my favorite because of the artistic rendition of places and culture in Sweden created by Erkers Marie Persson.

In June 2015, my sister, Kris, and I finally were able to cross "Visit Sweden" off our lists with a wonderful trip which included meeting cousins we didn't know we had two years earlier.

Meeting Swedish cousins was wonderful all in itself but a special *S* appeared while we were telling them of our plans for the next week of our trip. We told them we planned on a few days in Mora, Dalarna and hoped to experience some of the traditional cultural aspects of their country. Marianne and her husband, Bobo, told us they had a summer home near Mora and were actually planning to be there the next two weeks! They asked if they could show us around.

Really? Out of all the places we could have visited in Sweden or that they could have a home and they are the same place? *S* for sure!

A few days later, we were on our way North from Stockholm to meet Marianne and Bobo in Leksand, Dalarna. When we arrived, Marianne had the program already planned for our us! We were off!

Bobo grew up in Mora, so he and Marianne knew exactly where and when to take us around the area! We visited the church and grounds in Leksand, then got back in our cars and headed North. Our first stop was the village of Tällberg on the shores of Lake Siljan. We stopped at a group of small red buildings and left our cars to explore it. Some of the buildings were set up to show how life was lived many years ago. (In Wichita, we have Cow Town, with buildings set to look like life 150 years ago. People can walk through them to experience the past.)

Across the square was a small, two story building that had the work of a folk artist displayed. I started up the stairs with Marianne. She stopped me about half way and pointed at a calendar on the wall. She said, "This is the calendar I have in my house." I was surprised and told her it also hung in my house. How fun!

We reached the second floor and I was immediately drawn to a display of figurines that caught my attention. They were of St. Lucia. They seemed so familiar and I had soon chosen two to take back to the U.S. with me. Marianne and Bobo had been in a conversation with the woman at a desk in the corner. They were speaking Swedish so I was only able to understand bits of their conversation.
When I walked over to them, they switched to English and I listened as the woman told them of her busy day with a new shipment.

I saw the same calendar on her desk that had hung in the stairway. I pointed to it and said, "I have this calendar hanging in my kitchen in Kansas!" She looked surprised but said, "No, you don't have this calendar." Then I saw that it was a 2016 calendar. All of a sudden, I understood the conversation I had been listening to! The 2016 calendars had just arrived and she was getting ready to mail them out to stores and customers around the world! This woman was the artist!

*S* Marianne and Bobo had just so happened to take us to a tiny shop in a little village in Sweden which just happened to be the shop of the artist of the calendar I love to hang in my kitchen in America! I hadn't told them about my calendars and they had no way of knowing.
I told the woman that I always order her calendars and had one hanging in my Kansas kitchen back at home. I was so excited and I think she was excited to have me tell her just that!

Needless to say, I have a signed calendar hanging in my home for 2016 and when I look at it, I feel loved by God.

That's the purpose of *S*erendipity.