Tag Archives: expectation

How I Found Peace Living in the Not Yet

Sometimes, life leaves your brain full and your mouth empty.A season of life two years ago encompassed one of those times for me. The thing is-these seasons don’t just end with a nice and tidy resolution. They don’t leave us with an instant epiphany of profound theological insight. Rather, we are left with a reminder-:spiritual, physical, emotional- that we are humans wrestling with the realities of living in a place of in-between.

It is not yet Heaven.

The days of December 2013 quickly filled up with preparations for Christmas as well as doctor’s appointments. My eldest son became increasingly ill. A periodic problem with an upset stomach evolved into a daily issue. Watching your child feeling sick packs a punch to the stomach and the heart. The immediate desire is to fix it.

Yet, beginning in October, we sought an answer from many physicians and no one could fix it. How can that happen? We live near Chicago; a mecca of renowned and state-of-the art medical centers. A gold mine of wisdom on the complexities of the human body. Yet, each visit to a different specialist yielded more questions. We just wanted answers.

Emergency room doctors ruled out some things But nothing made him better. Daily, he made the trek to school with virtually nothing in his stomach except a bit of protein shake. Sometimes, he couldn’t gather the stamina to make it to school. My husband and I worried. The school pressured. The bills mounted.
We prayed. Friends prayed. Strangers prayed. But there were no answers.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6 (NIV).

Embracing the peace of Christ in the midst of uncertainty challenged me.

Finally, after many tests and procedures, a diagnosis was reached. Whew!  Finally a name and a course of treatment. Finally, an answer! Medicine would bring healing and resolve the problem. I grabbed hold of the answer and felt a sense of relief; control; no uncertainty. How easy is it to acknowledge the “peace that passes all understanding” when circumstances line up according to our expectations?
But would that peace permeate if the circumstances change? The events of the next day confronted me with that question.

Following dinner, upon preparing to study for finals, he fell to the couch and began to seize. Never having witnessed a seizure, it was the most terrifying moment of my life. The limp look of his body; the lifeless look in his eyes, will remain etched in my mind for a long time. Those five minutes led me to a profound realization as my mind grasped to acknowledge the surreal reality spinning around me: there are many things I can control-but death may not be one of them.

Fortunately, he came out of the seizure, was quickly rushed to the hospital, and the scans came out clear. But, more questions arose...and yet no answers. In my frustration, I hesitated to let go of what I thought to be a resolution. I didn’t want to believe that our lives were once more catapulted into the abyss. How do you embrace the peace that transcends all understanding when God’s movement does not align with Earthly expectation?

As we dealt with the uncertainty in his health, we attempted to proceed with the rhythms of life. That wrenching moment rewound in my mind in the midst of my days. Ambulance sounds caused shivers down my back. Yet, I attempted to let Jesus, not me, guard my heart.

The dark, frigid winter painted an appropriate backdrop to the events and feelings over those next several months. While we continued to hold on to the glimmer of light held out for us through scriptural promises, the realities of living in the “not yet” continued to speak into our lives. How does one live in the truth of new life in the resurrection, yet, face the reality of destruction and death of the things of this world?

My heart and my mind bear the scars of living in a kingdom that is both now and not yet. But I am keenly aware that I am not the only one. In one way or another, all of us feel that paradox. Circumstances may differ. Our expectations and God’s answers may or may not merge. Yet, the testimony and scars of others bear witness to the peace that Christ offers, while living in a kingdom that unfolds toward completion.

It’s the peace that Jesus promised to his disciples, who had given up everything for him. “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 (NLV).

Eventually, the winter season yielded to the brighter, warmer days of spring; not just meteorologically, but symbolically as well. My son’s health improved. I am aware that I am bound to encounter those seasons of restlessness again. They too are promises of Jesus. But He also imparts a peace that “transcends all understanding” as we navigate through them. 

What You Don’t Expect When You’re Expecting….

I am not pregnant!  Let’s get that out of the way first. Having a child at 51 years old is not on my bucket list.

The title of my post comes from my mantra, “That (insert any unexpected child rearing moment of perplexity) wasn’t in the book!”  The book of course is the popular, What to Expect When You’re Expecting.  Like many would- be parents, I bought the book.  I even remember the moment.  In April 1997, having just had my first pregnancy confirmed by the Dr., I excitedly ran to the big box bookstore nearby and purchased my copy.  It was a pinnacle moment as I felt I had entered a long sought after season of life.

During the next nine months, the book became a constant companion of advice and knowledge concerning my changing body and, well, what to expect.  Admittedly, there were parts of the book that touched on areas of pregnancy that no one wants to really encounter:  the signs of a failing pregnancy/fetal distress.  But, I didn’t focus on those parts because that vision didn’t fit with my expectations and the visuals portrayed in T.V shows and photographs.  For me, I held a picture of giving birth to this God created human being on whom my husband and I would love.  The three of us would adapt to life together.  Giggles, snuggles, walks, celebrations of milestones would mark our new journey.
The picture I held of our life together remained similar to the information in the book. The sleepless nights were hard (I shudder to think how I functioned at work on a few hours of sleep), the feeding schedule (every two hours for six months), and the pumping were an awakening for me.
However, throughout the years, more and more situations surfaced that result in my re-evaluating just what was it that I was expecting?
Sickness (requiring a trip to the E.R or 24  hour drugstore for medicine)?  Sibling arguments (that make the WWE look lame)?  Didn’t see that coming.  Pulling a cap covering the toilet screw from my 2 year old daughter’s mouth while getting ready to go to church and preach?  Writing a sermon in bytes while alternately cleaning up after my son who had a stomach bug? The harsh reality that it is not uncommon to lose a pregnancy (I had two ectopics)?
Fast forward to the recent moments: realizing I ran out of bread in the morning and choosing between running to the store or counting change for hot lunch,  getting a child who isn’t a morning person out the door without missing the bus, the diagnosis of disorders/medical maladies that I never knew existed, some I wish didn’t (mood disorders, epilepsy), some you would never believe either).  What about the run of the mill fever, stomach bug or sore throat-those were NOT IN THE BOOK!
The realization, of course, is that if parents were given a complete vision of the future, a drastically reduced population would probably result.  Truthfully, the response would be, “there’s no way I can do this!”
But, that is exactly what God, the Creator of our children, wants. For our sake and  that of our children, the call to parenthood begins with a glimpse of what we can expect. Parenting involves humility; realizing that we don’t know all the answers. We need discernment, strength, and wisdom from the One who Created them (and us).  We function as God’s image bearers and vessels as we walk alongside our brothers and sisters-sometimes staggering. laughing, crying, conversation, praying, supporting, advocating…..
In the midst, we experience God in a way that we never “expected”-it’s beyond our expectations.
God has always called His people to tasks that seemed overwhelming-Moses, Noah, Abraham, Mary, Joseph-just to name a few. Yet, they obeyed (some reluctantly) with just a little information given to them.  They had no idea what was in store but trusted in the God that called them.
I will continue my mantra, “THAT WASN’T IN THE BOOK,” as it reminds me, often humorously, that I’m not in this parenting thing alone.  Come to think of it, that goes for life in general.
I wonder what surprise awaits me tomorrow?

As My Child Enters His Senior Year, I'm Finding Peace in the Midst of Unmet Expectations

Four years ago, I wrote a post about the struggle I experienced as I acknowledged that my oldest child was about to enter high school. http://stephaniejthompson.com/2012/07/13/as-my-child-grows-i-am-learning-to-surrender-control/  Disappointment surfaced as I began to realize that all of the dreams I had for him before he graduated from high school may not come to fruition… at least not in the tangible ways I had envisioned.  The Grand Canyon, Williamsburg, Gettysburg, Niagara Falls, Mt. Rushmore, mission trips, and experiencing other countries all held spots on my dream destination list for him. How could he have reached this milestone already?
The “Ifs” quickly pressed on me: “If we would have had more money”, “if we hadn’t faced health issues”, “If……..”  I felt like time was trekking forward and I was grieving the loss of expectations. My expectations.  And while I wish some of those items on the list could have been checked off, I am aware that God’s hand at work in his life far exceeds any of my expectations.     
 Today, he entered his last year of high school.   And you know what?  I was not the mess that I thought I would become on this day. In fact, I embraced it.  And I prayed God’s blessings on it. This summer, he had a ton of fun. Amusement parks, movies, lazy hot days drinking cold beverages, family gatherings, a life-changing, church youth group event all grabbed a spot in his life.  And throughout those weeks, I noticed something: he’s ready for a new season-in life.

Gone are the days of finding joy in a trek to the park, splashing in the sprinkler, a ride in the wagon(he wouldn’t fit in it anyway). It’s as it should be. Scripture bears witness to Jesus’s life as a boy: And Jesus matured, growing up in both body and spirit, blessed by both God and people” (Luke 2:52 MSG).

Present are days of spontaneous, thought provoking discussions, seeing his maturity unfold in various moments of life, watching his identity as a follower of Christ affect his choices and questions about the future, and experiencing new journeys together.

Seasons of life are ordained by God. 

It’s been said of those early days of child rearing that the days are long and the years are short. I don’t know if he would agree with that quote but, as a parent, it rings oh so true. In those “short” years, I have seen God’s hand at work in answers to my hopes and prayers for him.  Sometimes, those answers came through “big” moments such as his decision to be baptized, receiving awards for musical skills or grades.  Often, my blessings came through the witness of his resilience and hope through challenging moments, words of wisdom or clarity, the revelation of character strengths which unfold in ordinary moments of life.  All of which point to the big picture that is being weaved; of which these past 18 years are just a small part.

I find comfort in knowing that many parents have traveled this journey before me.  I’m not referring just to the sisterhood of moms that I know, but sisters of long ago that had to let go of their kids and let God navigate their lives.  Sisters like Hannah (mother of Samuel), Elizabeth (mother of John the Baptist), Mary and Eunice (mother of Timothy).  Each of them came to a spot when they had to acknowledge that their children ultimately belonged to their God.

 I’ve realized that this year is just as significant as any other year of his life with us. Yes, it is his Senior year and there will be unique milestones to mark. But, God will continue to be at work just like in previous years. He will “mature, grow up in both body and Spirit, and be blessed by both God and people.”
And, like Mary, I will “treasure these things in my heart (Luke 2:52).”