What Do You REALLY Want?

What if Jesus came to you and asked, “What do you want me to do for you?”

I was amazed this week to notice that he actually asked two blind men that question. The men heard that Jesus was coming down the road, and so they began shouting, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!”  The crowd got annoyed and told them to be quiet, but they only shouted louder.

Jesus stopped and called them. “What do you want me to do for you?”

He knew they were blind. He knew that when they asked for mercy they had a particular kind of mercy in mind. Did he just want to give them the opportunity to put their need into words? The opportunity to actually ask the One who could truly, completely heal them?

I love how Jesus interacts with us.

I love that he gave them that moment to put need into words. Words spoken out loud in the midst of a crowd. A crowd they couldn’t see but could hear and smell and sense. He wanted them to be specific about their need for His help.

What about me? What if Jesus asked me, “What do you want me to do for you?”

What do I really want? Obviously, I want John back. I want our life back. But, since that isn’t possible, what do I want God to do now? 

I am not sure that I know.

What about you? What is it you really want God to do for you? Jesus makes it clear that God cares. Repeatedly, He tells us to ask God for what we need. “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” (Matt 21:22).

Prayer is a mystery to me. Certainly, I pray. You probably do too. We tell God all kinds of things He already knows and cares about more than we do. So why does He want us to pray?

I realized today that maybe He simply enjoys hearing that we care too. That we are becoming like Him. That we are aware of others’ needs and have compassion. That we agree with Him that, “She needs encouragement. He needs healing. She needs hope. They need awareness of your presence.”

I am excited when I see my kids caring for each other and for others. How much more is the Lord delighted by our willingness to love others so much that we will talk to Him about them?

We become part of His team as we unite our hearts with His. As we pray, the unseen world is filled with earnest words of hope and love and desire for God’s will and presence.

Incense rising. How beautiful!

We are children who run to our Father with the things we are powerless to change.

And, when they said, “Lord, we want our sight,” how did Jesus respond? He first had an emotional response: compassion. COMPASSION!  Just saying the word out loud is comforting. It is one of the sweetest responses of our hearts, and we experience it because we are made in His image. He is compassionate.

Then, he touched their eyes and immediately, they received their sight.  He touched them. He didn’t have to, but He did. Their sight was restored or maybe experienced for the very first time.

Their response to eyes wide open? They followed Him.

In our sin, we are in darkness.  We receive Him as Lord and we see! Then we follow. It is all right there; the gospel played out in the lives of two blind men.

I am not going to gloss over the fact that sometimes we ask for things and He doesn’t respond when we want or how we want. Jesus prayed that He wouldn’t have to go to the cross. God didn’t answer yes to that request. But, Jesus trusted God’s plan and will and purpose for His earth life.

He has set an example we can follow.

I am learning to rest in this: in reality, God’s no is a yes. God does tell us no, but that means He is saying yes to something else that is actually within His will and His plan.

HE is the author of my life, not me. So, I continue to grow in my acceptance of the story He is writing and the story He chose to write in John’s life. And our children’s lives.

It isn’t easy. It wasn’t easy for Jesus either.

But, we pray. We ask. We ask BIG! And we trust that His answer is perfect for us in ways we may not understand for awhile.

“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”

learning to have the faith to ask,

and seeing that His no is a yes,

Maria

Three Years: Our Kids’ Perspectives

Arriving at the three year mark has felt different than the previous two years. It has reminded me of the days when our children were babies, and we had to transition from saying they were “weeks old” to “months old” to “years old.”  Some of you will know what I am talking about.

Someone would ask you how old your baby was, and you’d pause. You’d realize that it sounded silly to say 17 weeks old. It was time to accept reality. Your baby wasn’t a newborn! It was time to transition to months. And then, years.

That is what has been happening in us. It hasn’t been “just a few months” or “just last year” since John died. We’ve made it through three years. We now have begun our fourth year. We aren’t new to this anymore, but we don’t feel “this old.”

As time drew near our family began to talk about how we were feeling. Our children had some very honest insights. Here are excerpts from conversations with three of our children:

“It’s kind of scary to get further from dad’s death. You don’t want to get further from it (because it means the distance between him & us is growing), but at the same time you want to put as much distance between you and his death as you can.” – third daughter

“Three gets clumped with five. It isn’t 1-2 years anymore, now it has been 3-5 years. And 5 is a really long time.” – second daughter

“It is easier but weird. I can’t believe we’ve made it this long without him.” – middle school son

And our oldest daughter wrote this on her blog:

It is the three year anniversary (is there a better word than anniversary – it seems far too celebratory) since my dad died suddenly of an aneurysm while on a run.

Psalm 34:18 The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.

Three years since my life (and my family’s life) screeched, halted, restarted, redefined, redesigned, and resumed.

We are not broken or disabled. We are able to live with our scars. Our bruised hearts don’t show through our eyes and our laughter comes genuinely from our hearts.

Psalm 116: The snares of death encompassed me; the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me; I suffered distress and anguish. Then I called on the name of the Lord: “O Lord, I pray, deliver my soul!” Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; our God is merciful. The Lord preserves the simple; when I was brought low, he saved me.

Death is hard and unfair and awful in every sense. There were days (and probably will be days) where the grief felt too much for me to carry. And The Lord did as he promised.

He came near in ways I don’t have the vernacular to explain. He filled my heart with peace and gave me the ability to find a new identity in him. He preserved me and saved me from the depths of despair.

John 16: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy

Since March 8, 2012, I have been in a time of mourning. With that mourning comes anger, bitterness, confusion, doubt, and moments of forgetting or distracting myself from the reality of my pained heart. And, simultaneously, the fun, terrifying, beautiful, confusing, most wonderful adventure of being 18, 19, now 20 and in college.

Life is not linear or comfortable and death (and grieving) is never convenient.

Lamentations 3:21-25 But this I call to mind,and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,“therefore I will hope in him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for him,to the soul who seeks him.

I am not screaming in anger and confusion and hurt anymore. Instead, I feel sorrow. Screaming cripples and is all consuming. Sorrow comes and goes and can accompany the good and beautiful in life (and I have plenty of that as well).

I’m learning, slowly, to accept the bitter and the sweet and no longer fight against the reality of hurt. I don’t understand and I never will. And there will be days of confusion and anger, but I know I will survive.

Psalm 68:4-6 Sing to God, sing praises to his name; lift up a song to him who rides through the deserts; his name is the Lord; exult before him! Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation. God settles the solitary in a home; he leads out the prisoners to prosperity, but the rebellious dwell in a parched land.

And I know I have an awesome dad who wouldn’t want me to scream and fight and argue with God for the rest of my life. So, that’s where I’m at today. And I know that I don’t have to fear tomorrow.

Psalm 34:1-5 I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the humble hear and be glad. Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together! I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant,and their faces shall never be ashamed.

~~~~~~~

Looking to the Lord together,

Maria & family

When Anxiety Tugs

One day last week, we held hands and they prayed for me.  My youngest and my oldest and me. A triangle of three. Her hands were delicate, his were strong.  They have needed me for years.  Last week it was my turn.

I simply needed them to pray for me.

Because parts of last week were hard. Sleep, which is usually sound, was interrupted. Anxiety nipped at me night and day, and it wasn’t only me. One of my kids had unusual anxiety. One had a terrible nightmare. I didn’t like any of it, and all of it made my anxiety rise. I could attribute it to the fact that this Sunday is the third anniversary of John’s death, but I am not sure if it is related.

All I know is what I have learned over the years. We have an enemy of our souls, and sometimes he presses in. He doesn’t play fair. He accuses God. He belittles us. He pushes us toward hopelessness and despair. He is a bully and a liar.

And, he really, really likes to get us isolated and alone. The lamb separated from the flock. If we are ashamed to tell others that we are feeling anxious and overwhelmed and at the edge of ourselves, then our emotions and mind can spiral.

I have learned this the hard way during my adult years, even in the years before John died. There were times when I kept my struggles to myself out of pride and shame and confusion. Patiently, the Lord taught me that I wasn’t meant to do life alone. My struggles were to be shared not only with Him, but also with a few trusted Christians who would come alongside me and pray and support me.

In God’s family we have many people to care for us and us for them. We aren’t meant to do life alone. 

“For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Matthew 18:20

It feels risky at first to be transparent. Satan discourages it by intimidating us with the many reasons why we shouldn’t be honest with a trusted friend who will pray. Don’t listen to him.

My best advice in three words: Ask for prayer.

That is what I did as we sat in the car. I needed prayer, and I knew I needed to be honest about it. When I asked if they would pray for me and gave a short explanation of why, they simply nodded, held out their hands and we bowed our heads. As my daughter prayed she said the thing I needed to hear, “…I know that whether we are weak or strong, You, Lord, are everything we need..”  It was the truth key that unlocked my cell.

I felt peace rush in like a river released.

Many days in the past three years I have been stronger than I ever knew I could be. Stronger that I ever knew I would have to be.  The Lord has consistently given me strength.

But last week, I felt weak. And I felt scary and vulnerable.  My mind went to places that it simply doesn’t have to go now or ever. A battle was going on.

God used my daughter’s prayer to remind me that it is okay to admit I am weak. It is okay because my Heavenly Father is strong no matter how I am feeling. He knows we are weak and He loves us. When I am feeling weak, I can just rest in the truth that He is always strong and welcomes my burdens.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

So, if you are struggling with your inner world, my prayer for you is that you will find one or two Christians who will listen to you and pray for you. Don’t wrestle alone and don’t keep secrets.  With honesty about our struggles, the walls come down between us and the Lord is in our midst. No pretension. We all need a Savior, and He is truly mighty to save in our today and in our forever.

His strength>my weakness,

Maria

 “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10