Yield. Caution. Detour. Wrong Way. Stop.

This season is different from all the others and we are hauling burdens at the end of 2019 we have not previously carried. A couple days ago, I read this from one of my favorite authors, and it sure made me think and reassess:

“In all my prayers, whether I get the answers I want or not, I can count on this one fact: God can make use of whatever happens. Nothing is irredeemable.

‘Teach me, O God, so to use all the circumstances of my life today that they may bring forth in me the fruits of holiness rather than the fruits of sin,’ prayed the British author John Baillie:
Let me use disappointment as material for patience.
Let me use success as material for thankfulness.
Let me use trouble as material for perseverance.
Let me use danger as material for courage.
Let me use reproach as material for long suffering.
Let me use praise as material for humility.
Let me use pleasures as material for temperance.
Let me use pain as material for endurance.

“By selfish nature I tend to pray for successes, happy outcomes, and relief from difficulties. And I must say, with gratitude, I have experienced my share of the good things life offers. But in the Beatitudes Jesus calls ‘blessed’ those who experience the very opposite: poverty, mourning, hunger, persecution. How would my faith survive, and my prayers change, if life took a dramatic turn for the worse—if I came down with a degenerative disease, or lost my home, or landed in prison because of my beliefs? Could I fill in the blanks of John Baillie’s prayers with details of my own newly lapsed state? Would I humbly allow the Spirit to accomplish God’s purposes in me even through such unwelcome agents?” – Phillip Yancey

We had never traveled this road that we now find ourselves on: cancer progression compounded by life-altering job loss adding in a little way-over-the-hill foster parenting…

However. We have had other seasons that looked just as terrifying, with a different set of hurdles. Circumstances may change, but we have faced rock slides and potholes and road closures all throughout our life. It is life. Sometimes because of our own choices and actions, we caused the roadblocks; sometimes, we were just the traveling victims of happenstance.

However squared. How we choose to respond, how we use these circumstances to learn and grow to produce the fruits of holiness – that is what is most important. God will take care of us through it all. He will carry us when we are overwhelmed. Our responsibility is to humbly continue on and reflect Him on the road we travel.

I am grateful for insight that hits home.

I am grateful for reclining recliners on chemo day.

I am grateful for a treatment room that was right next to the bathroom for Sam.

I am grateful for a can of ginger ale.

I am grateful that even though it drives me crazy, my husband’s brain continues to spin with vision and ideas about what to do next to stay busy instead of giving in to the boredom and inner panic of no job.

I am grateful for a nurse’s deeply personal story of her own road less traveled and her wisdom that what may seem like a mountain to others, is just her life. It is her normal and she knows no other way than to climb.

I am grateful for heated blankets that are in abundance at the cancer center.

I am grateful for the simple blessing of foster son’s beautiful pictures of my piano he took and his willingness to text me when he needs something.

I am grateful for the melancholy feelings of sadness every Christmas without my mom, my youngest daughter, and her children, mixed with eager anticipation for a happy Christmas weekend with my Dad, my brother and family, my sister, and my oldest daughter and her beautiful family.

Christmases are different now – as we grow older, life and living brings tough emotions and baggage, quite often on bumpy roads.

But the one thing that will never change? Our recognition and celebration that Jesus lived among us and even now, offers us hope, comfort, companionship, and respite when our burdens are too heavy to carry alone and the road isn’t so smooth.

I am very grateful for that tonight.

Piano keys, apologies, and big smiles.

Our foster son surprised us on a snowy Sunday afternoon. The Chiefs game was comfortable, putting it to the Broncos and making for happy cheers in front of the fireplace. I was warm and cozy under a throw, loving the afternoon with Sam and football. But foster son had other things on his mind and he wandered into the living room.

A few minutes later, he wandered back into the fireplace room. “Someone told me you played the piano. I’m gonna teach myself how to play ‘Apologize.’ I pulled up the sheet.”

Say what?

For the next hour or so, foster son and I went back and forth. He sat at the piano, I showed him the four main chords that make up the bulk of the One Republic hit song, added the left hand bass, kept an eye on the game, went back in to show him the progression again, sat back on the couch with Sam to check in on Mahomes and Kelce, got called back in to the piano to correct chords, and it was pretty much one of my favorite afternoons.

Sam grinned big and enjoyed watching the two of us talk music while he stayed warm under a blanket.

These past three weeks have been a great beginning for all of us. It is nice to have a young man in the house – he adds a new dimension to life. Daily, he surprises us with his thoughtfulness, like taking care of cleaning the fireplace without being asked, or helping Sam shovel the driveway, spending his Saturday afternoon working alongside us without complaint, and without fail, saying “thank you,” for meals, for a movie night, for a cup of coffee on his way out the door, for help with his laundry that he does all on his own, for some freedom to go to a friend’s house to play video games. The big challenges we thought we were going to face have really been typical teenager kinds of things and hardly anything about which to complain – leaving food in his bedroom and dirty clothes on the floor, a return of junk food in our just cleaned out alternative cancer lifestyle pantry, or his extra long showers that seem to never end.

After a month of devotions and messages on contentment through serving others, we were looking for an “easy” way to get back to giving back, being the hands and feet of Jesus. Our lives have been turned upside down these past two and a half years after cancer diagnosis and our focus had become mostly selfish. Our upside down has become normal, however, and with some added work-related stressor surprises, it really wasn’t the best timing to receive a phone call about fostering.

But God has a way of working when we least expect, and it was very evident to us that He was speaking loud and clear, offering us a way to serve Him by helping a young man who needed a home.

I am grateful to be in a relationship where we are both in sync with the whisper push of the Holy Spirit.

I am grateful for a new distraction that takes our minds off stress and problems and refocuses us to create a safe and happy home for another.

I am grateful for smiles in the midst of upside down pain and heartache.

I am grateful for an extra coat hanging on the hook and a pantry with a shelf of kid snacks.

I am grateful for an added blessing this Christmas.