Abiding in the Trial

God calls us to abide.

Jesus says, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, netiher can you, unless you abide in me.” John 15: 4.

Abide. It’s a verb, which implies action or doing. Only when I hear Jesus telling me to abide, I don’t sense him asking me to DO. I sense him asking me to BE.

He’s asking me to BE in him.

BE close to him.

BE in prayer with him.

BE in his word.

BE his chosen daughter.

But in the trial, Lord? Do you call me to abide even in the trial?

“Yes, in the trial”, he responds. He tells me my trials produce fruit when I abide in him. Oh, I do want my trials to produce fruit.

A few weeks back I had a kidney transplant. The surgery had been a long time coming. Almost 18 years ago, I was diagnosed with an ultra rare disease call aHUS. You can read more about that here: Where Was God in All of This–Part I

The disease wreaked havov on my kidneys but not enough to cause complete failure. I lived with anywhere between 10 and 25% kidney function for all of that time. Finally it came time for a fresh start, a kidney transplant.

Surgery went well and I was incredibly overcome by the blessing of the donor and the family. I was in awe of their selflessness in the time of sorrow. I was in awe of the Father orchestrating the whole process. And, I was in awe of the human body and the surgeons the Lord created to perform such a surgery.

surgery

But, then the trial came. And the thought came, will this trial produce fruit or bitterness?

After coming home from the hospital, I woke up the next morning with incredible pain. I knew something wasn’t right. At first I just cried. But, then I began crying out to God with my pain and begging Him to take it. “Please God, take this pain away!”

The pain intensified. I went to the emergency room. The pain grew worse. My begging words to God grew more frequent. But, the pain remained.

In the midst of this pain, I found a peace in abiding in God. He wasn’t taking the pain. But, this time in this trial, I trusted. I knew the Lord could take the pain. But, I have chosen to accept His sovereignty. So, I knew without a doubt, He had a purpose for not taking the pain.

Although, I didn’t stop asking Him to take the pain, I added to my prayer, “Please show me what I need to know about this pain. Help me to have your wisdom and understanding, even for a moment.”

I could abide. Doubled over in pain, for the first time in my life, I could abide. I could remain in Him. I could continue to trust through the tears. I could continue to believe in His plan. I could have faith in His love for me and my family.

abby's hand
Translated: God keeps my mom safe

God did take the pain. But, not before He revealed to me the truths about which I write: that He is good, He is never surprised, and He will never leave me.

Dear One, I know it hurts. You may be experiencing emotional, physical, or spiritual pain. Or maybe you are experiencing all three. I get it. How do you abide in the Lord, when it seems that He isn’t answering your prayer? How do you abide? You walk with Him and remain with Him through the triumphs and the pain. You seek His heart for you. You remember His faithfulness in the past. Don’t worry if it’s not automatic. One day, you may just find yourself in the midst of a trial, and realize you are abiding, you are believing, and you are accepting His plan for your life as the best plan available.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1: 2-4 

Spiritual Blessings Come Wrapped in Trials

This is an edited journal entry from my Caring Bridge site written one week after my kidney transplant was cancelled. (Originally written 1/24/15)

A portion of today’s Jesus Calling reads, “If you have the world’s peace–everything going your way–you don’t seek My unfathomable Peace. Thank Me when things do not go your way, because spiritual blessings come wrapped in trials. Adverse circumstances are normal in a fallen world. Expect them each day. Rejoice in the face of hardship, for I have overcome the world.

My kindergarten classroom sat quiet as all the students had left school already. Putting the last few things away on a shelf while my girls played with blocks and puzzles, my phone rang.

kids-bookshelf

The doctor began talking right away, as I sat stunned. It was surreal, hearing the doctor say the words. I had to repeat back to him what I heard him say just to be sure it was really happening. I asked him if he was positive and he repeated again that surgery was cancelled.

My kidney transplant surgery, which was to happen in 6 days, was cancelled.

Cancelled. The tears came and wouldn’t stop. Shaking, dizzy and unsure of what to do, I sank down into one of the tiny child-sized chairs.

The doctor continued on to explain that the melanoma I had removed on my foot a couple of months prior had been deeper than he originally thought. Standard protocol with cancer, is that the patient must be cancer free for 2 years before preceding with a transplant and being put on immune suppressing medications.

waves-crashing

Mikayla and Abby ran to me, asking over and over, “Mom, what is it? What’s wrong?”

“The surgery is cancelled. I won’t be receiving a new kidney.”

“What? What do you mean, Mom? Why? You need that kidney.” Their questions were followed by loud sobbing.

Initially, I was certain, the girls were disappointed in the change of plans because they wouldn’t be staying with Grandma for a while now. When 7 year old Abby managed to choke out the words, “But mom, you are always so tired. This was going to help you,” I know I wasn’t giving them enough credit…they got it.

Oh, Lord, how will we get through this? This was not the plan. You had worked out all the details to get us to this point.

green-field-germany_18737_990x742

Though others had stepped forward to be donors, my brother-in-law, Dave, had the same blood type and was a healthy, perfect kidney donor for me. He was prepared and excited to make this sacrifice.

Almost immediately, the Lord brought to mind the best example I have of MY plans suddenly changing and HIS better plan taking over. Once again, I shared this story with my girls as they stopped sobbing and looked me in the eye.

It was about 10 years ago. Jeff and I had completed our home study for adoption and I was desperate to be a mom. A birth mom saw our ad, called me, and set up a time to meet. We met her for dinner and learned she was about 8 months pregnant. The meeting went well, so well in fact, that she called me a couple days later and said she had chosen us to raise her baby.

I could think of nothing other than this baby that would be ours! I was overcome with joy! She would be in contact with our adoption attorney and we would just wait. Well, 2 weeks went by and there was no contact. I called her to make sure she was okay and she told me that she had changed her mind, we would not be raising her baby.

Just like that, that plan was ripped out from under our feet. All the details, planning, excitement, hoping…gone.

The same surreal feeling flooded my heart. I was devastated, heart broken. I thought, “How long will I have to wait, Lord? And, will I EVER get to be a mom?”

About 2 weeks later, we received a call from a social worker about a baby that would be born in about 2 weeks. A week after the phone call, we met the birth family. One week later, Mikayla was born! She was ours and we were in love! We couldn’t take our eyes off her. The heartbreak from the previous month was completely erased, forgotten. God’s better, sovereign plan took over.

I don’t know how or when we’ll have that moment of clarity with our current situation, but I know it’s coming. Because God’s word assures me, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5.

I did not know how God would get us through that time or how He would bring clarity but of His power, I was more certain than ever. There were so many humans involved with my transplant…some who know Him and many that do not. The Lord exerted His will over the entire situation and put me in my place…my rightful place, resting in His shadow, waiting on Him to move next. 

Jeremiah 32:17 ‘Ah, Lord God! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. There is nothing too hard for You.

 

A Welcome Interruption

Over the years, I have acquired two titles that make me a leader over others: teacher and mom. Both of those titles carry with them the idea that the leader may know more than the ones they are leading. Somewhere along the lines, I began living like I needed to have it all figured out. My growth was stunted and I actually became stuck. Not truly open to new learning or stretching, I plugged along, feeling discouraged.

From the outside, I appeared to be interested in strengthening my faith. I would attend church, read Christian books, listen to sermons, pray, and attend Bible studies. Some teaching would resonate in my heart but it did not evoke action on my part. I remained like a new believer in my faith. “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.” 1 Corinthian 13:11. The only problem was, I wasn’t “putting the ways of childhood behind me”.

Pride was the ugly enemy causing my fall. Truly ugly. Pride is an embarrassing quality to confess. Pride kept me from confessing my pride. Who wants to admit to “having an excessively high opinion of oneself or one’s importance”. The truth was that I was surrounded by God’s truth, yet I was still walking in my own strength and taking my own path. Pride.

But, God interrupted that cycle. The door-closed-w-little-boyinterruption came when exactly one week before my scheduled kidney transplant, the doctor called to cancel the surgery. As Christians, we often hear and use the phrase, “God closed the door.” This disruption came as a slammed door. My whole life had been centered around having that surgery. The testing process took about a year and literally required close to 100 appointments. In my mind, everything was lining up and the kidney transplant was the next step for me. My kidneys were slowly declining, I had a kidney donor all lined up, and the doctor said it was time to take the next step and have a transplant. But, then the interruption. It came in the form of melanoma on my foot and the resulting phone call, “you must be cancer free for 2 years and then we can resume testing for a kidney transplant.”

The Lord gained my attention and ultimately took my focus off myself by a mighty work of His Sovereignty. Suddenly, I witnessed His power first hand. Prior to this experience, I had many testimonies about God working in my life, but none as powerful as the time when He stamped His Sovereignty on my heart. The chains of pride were crushed and I stood in awe of my Creator. There was brief shock and sorrow, followed by excitement and wonder.

A metallic chain with an explosed link.

What would He do next? One thing I knew, I wasn’t going to be plugging along, stuck in my childlike ways. No, the powerful God of the Universe shook my life up and created a hunger in me. I yearned for more of Him. Small and dependent is where I stood next to the Almighty. I was like the believers Peter wrote about, “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation.” I Peter 2:2.

My hope and prayer is this blog might reach another person on this path with me. Finally my heart is opening up and God is creating security in me to be able to face where I am really at in my walk with Him. I have been a believer for 18 years but am just recently becoming soft enough to truly hear from Him and follow Him. Is that where you are? Or, is that what you desire? Maybe we can encourage each other. “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:24-25.