Focusing on Heaven While Still Here on Earth
As you may have noticed, if you come to my site often, I have dramatically reduced my number of postings in the past 5 months. And, even though I can point out a variety of ways my life has been busied as of late, the main reason my posts have not been as frequent is because of a very painful condition I have been struggling to live with and heal from since early this summer.
Around July I knew something was amiss when my right shoulder was not working properly. Daytime activities left me in great pain, but there was so much work to be done around the farm...so I put it aside and kept up with the gardening and milking as usual. But sleep deprivation was also taking its toll as I fought each night for even a few hours of uninterrupted rest between my painful tossings and turnings. I know some of you reading this are probably saying to yourself, as my husband and friends did, “You should really have your shoulder looked at.” To which I replied for the longest time, “And all I am going to be told to do, is stop doing what I am doing and rest, which I don't have time for right now.”
Well, the pain and God's gentle but constant prompting finally got the best of my willful spirit in late September. I was diagnosed with tendonitis, impingement, and some muscle detachment, which I have to think was probably first aggravated with a certain confrontation I had last summer in trying to get a harness on a steer, who in turn took me for a bit of a swing. (Again that willful spirit in me showing itself through my actions.) Well, as you may have guessed, my diagnosis led me into regular therapy while I finished up the gardens and put my cow up for sale.
Oh, how I would love to say that my pain is already getting better, and some days are better than others, but realistically the healing process will probably take at least a year to be fully complete. The worst of all of this is that my desire to cook, the thing I love the most, has been overpowered by the pain I face with each kitchen task. Yes, I have my food processor, mixer, and lots of other gadgets that help me with the heavier jobs involved with food preparation. My kids and husband have also been tremendously helpful with so many things around the house, while also being compassionate towards my less capable condition. And, with the gardens all put away in the freezer and the cow, sold the time to start healing is upon me.
But, there has been a struggle of another kind I have been facing during all of these physical issues, and one which God has been showing me I need to come to terms with. I guess I had never realized how much of my self-worth has been wrapped up in what I am able to physically produce until now when I am in a state where producing anything by physical means goes against my recovery directive. I have had some really down days theses past few months, of course nothing close to what I used to struggle with when I battled with severe depression. But yet, getting through some days with a good attitude has been difficult. I don't write these things so that you, my readers, will feel sorry for me. Instead I am writing out all of these things because I want to be real about how life can take twists and turns, and yet how God can use all of the places we find ourselves for good.
In my “resting time” as I have now come to refer to it as, I have been doing a lot of reading. One of the books I chanced upon in my church's library was a book originally published in 1869 titled Stepping Heavenward, by Elizabeth Prentiss. This book has been a treasure to read through because as a Christian woman I have secretly dealt with many of the sinful shortcomings the woman in this book wrote about. But, most of all this book has spoken to my need to rest in my Savior and to trust Him in all that comes and goes in my life...the big and the small. Here is just a small quote from the main character, Katy, as she is admitting the same to her sister-in-law.
“What grieves me is that I am constantly forgetting to recognize God's hand in the little every-day trials of life, and instead of receiving them as from Him, find fault with the instruments by which He sends them...to receive every tiresome visitor as send expressly and directly to weary me by the Master Himself; to meet every negligence on the part of the servants as His choice for me at the moment; to be satisfied and patient when [my husband] gets particularly absorbed in his books, because my Father sees that little discipline suitable for me at the time; all this I have not fully learned.”
Additionally, I have still been working my way through the book of Matthew while all of these things in my life have been going on. And in doing so, the past few chapters I have read have spoken to me along a similar line as the book I quoted above. In Matthew 23, Jesus has quite a few choice words for the scribes and Pharisees. He calls these “religious” men out on some of their most despicable worldly practices which fly in the face of the Lord God they declare to serve. Then in an about-face, in Matthew 24 Jesus speaks about the end of this world and His eternal reign that is coming. Finally, in Matthew 25 Jesus tells His disciples through the “Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins” not to be like the scribes and Pharisees, but to instead be prepared, watch, and be ready...but not in a manner that the “religious” men of their day were telling them they should be prepared. Instead Jesus tells them they need to see life just like Katy in the above quote was trying to see life.
“...for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me...Assuredly I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to Me.” Matthew 25: 35-36, 40
It seems that the Lord has taken my pain and used it to help me realize that all my running around and being concerned with the more worldly “doing” things of life has taken my mind off of His greater purposes. Does that mean the things of the world should just be thrown aside though, so my life can be wholly devoted to more heavenly pursuits? No, but it does mean that this next year while I take the time to heal, I must view my trials, interruptions, and periods of unwanted rest as God's classroom for learning to see His handiwork around me – one that will prepare me more for my eternal home with Him.
Many years ago I thought it was such a revelation that I did see those interruptions and menial tasks, that come with the job of being a mom and housewife, as opportunities to worship Him in the every day. In learning to grasp this new wisdom, I used to put post-it notes around my house with the acronym “TIW”, meaning “This Is Worship”. Slowly I learned to see all these things as worship. But now God has a new lesson that is once again challenging me in how He views my productivity...one that calls me to be still, and yet still be obedient in my “resting”. One, I know He will afford me the opportunity to still serve and be useful, but in a way that may look even more useless in this productivity-based world we live in.
I want to leave you with one final quote from the book I referenced above. A young woman, who the main character Katy has been disciplining, speaks to Katy about what God has been teaching her as she was growing in Christ as well as healing from a debilitating condition:
“Let us look at the bright side of life, and believe that God means us to be always ascending, always getting hearer to Himself, always learning something new about Him, always loving Him better and better. To be sure, our souls are sick, and of themselves can't keep 'ever on the wing,' but I have had some delightful thoughts as of late...such a conception of the seeming ills of life; to think of Him as our Physician, the ills all remedies, the deprivations only a wholesome regimen, the losses all gains...how patiently and persistently He tries now this remedy, now that, and how infallibly He cures the souls that submit to His remedies, I love Him so!”
Oh, to see the hand of God and all that He calls me to do, and to trust in His loving care for Him to do for me...that is the real goal of living here on earth while preparing for eternal life in heaven. Each day we have the ability to grow one step closer to a Christ-like character and I am thankful God has not given up on me, no matter how difficult my willful spirit makes the road for both of us. Yes, winter has set in on my activities but there still is growth working out itself (deep inside me) for the time when spring will choose to call forth new buds.