Monday, July 2, 2012


I had a birthday!

It was a quiet day.

I was remembered by people who love and know me well. Their gifts reflected how well.

Though I love birthday cake, I put out the word, "No birthday cake this year."

My sweet aunt didn't get the word, and I was thankful that she didn't.

 She surprised me with a cake and it was wonderful!

My birthday afternoon, we took Ethan to the pool. On the way out the door I grabbed a book. A book that I believe divinely fell into my lap 5 years ago: Henri Nouwen's Turn My Mourning Into Dancing. I read it several times a year.

It's a small book. Only about 110 pages. Five chapters. Each one describes a path God leads us on as He takes our mourning and turns it into dancing.

I sat in the car, outside the gate to the pool, while Jim set up Ethan's wheelchair and transferred him into it. The air-conditioning felt really good. I knew Florida's heat and humidity would soon hit me in the face.

While I waited, I opened the book to a "dog-eared" page. It looked like all the other pages. Sentences were highlighted, and words and prayers were written in the margin.

My eyes fell onto the following sentence that was highlighted, underlined, and had a star drawn beside it:

"We see how the events of this year are not just a series of incidents and accidents, happy or unhappy, but the molding hands of God, who wants us to grow and mature."

"Lord. All the events of the last year?" I asked.


"Have You forgotten?"

"Was it all from Your hands?"


Jim said he and Ethan were ready, and we started to walk up the sidewalk to the pool. We walked past the handicapped parking sign, and I remembered how the lifeguards had told us that when the renovations for the pool began, that the plans included digging up the area where we park and closing off the side gate. The lifeguards told us how they remembered Ethan and his chair and the steps in the main entrance, and they told the contractors "no," that they would have to leave the parking area and the gate open for Ethan.

I smiled even though the handicapped-only parking sign always makes me flinch.

Children stared as Ethan was lifted off the deck and into the pool.

I tried to ignore them.

Ethan nodded and smiled at them, and I was astonished once again at the grace he gives.

I wondered where it came from, that grace.

Not from me.

I wanted to teach those cute little ones some manners. I wanted to flick their cute little heads, like my daddy did to me when I was little and talked too much in church.

But Ethan?

He just kept smiling at them, never thinking about flicking anyone.

The entire time I was in the pool, kicking, floating, bragging on Ethan for kicking his legs, I kept hearing Nouwen's "voice."

"We see how the events of this year are not just a series of incidents and accidents, happy or unhappy, but the molding hands of God, who wants us to grow and mature."

In the 12 days since my birthday, I have continued to hear that sentence, and I have wrestled with God over it each time.

My head accepts the every event from the hands of God.

My heart fights it.

I have a tendency to hold on tightly. 

Clinched fists. White knuckles. Gritted teeth. The whole works.

But God in His Grace holds on tighter and, because He holds tighter, I win.

With the peeling away of my fingers, relaxing my grip, and looking to Him, I am learning what it really means to give thanks for every event of the last year, and how God has used them to grow me and mature me in Him.

After all, it has always been the will of God in Christ Jesus.

"For me to give thanks for everything." 1 Thessalonians 5:18

It's easy to give thanks for the good, and there has been an abundance of good this year.

But there's also been an abundance of what I would have called "bad."

This morning, I thought of the conversation between Jesus and the rich young ruler.

The rich young ruler called Jesus a "Good Teacher." Jesus said to him, "Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is God."  Matthew 19:16-17

And I wondered, if God is the One, the Only Good One, then maybe, just maybe, He is the only one that has the right and the ability to define what is good.

And maybe that is why all this has missed me. Because I have been defining good all wrong.

Maybe that is why I have been wrestling.

And maybe that is why I've been missing His joy.

Maybe joy is in letting Him define good, and in me giving thanks for "the all."

It sounds easy on paper.

I've been here before.

Isn't it a daily lesson?

A lesson to be learned over and over again?

The giving thanks for all that is hard.

The giving thanks when the heart hurts.

Today I am asking God for the grace to thank Him for the bread when it tastes and feels like a stone.

I am asking Him for the grace to thank Him when the "fish" stings and bites like a snake.

I am asking God for the grace to see the "pig pen" as a place of beautiful grace, for myself and the people that I love.

Ann Voscamp said in her book, One Thousand Gifts, that God reveals Himself in rear-view mirrors.

As I look back over all the years, I see Him.

When I couldn't see Him then, I can see Him now.

And June 19, 2013, I believe I will see Him again. I believe that I will see Him in every event of another year gone by, and that each moment will truly have been from His hands.

Giving thanks over and over again
 for the blessings of the last year.


1 comment:

  1. Cheri, This is beautiful & precious. I too, have a handicapped child who will depend on me to care for him as long as I am able. I can't tell you how much comfort I find in dwelling on the sovereignty of God, knowing He truly fashions every event in our lives, good or bad, & truly turns it all out wonderfully for our good! Thanks for sharing! Love & prayers, in Jesus, Cynthia