A year ago today was one of the happiest days of my life as I witnessed the birth of my daughter. At the time, I had no clue how much my life was going to change. Becoming a father has already provided some of the highest and lowest times of my life, but if given the chance to do it all over again, I would gladly choose to do so!
I can still remember each moment, as if it was happening right before my eyes. I can still sense the mood in the room changing as my little girl was rushed to the NICU. As days turned into weeks and weeks into months, watching people arrive at the hospital, give birth and then go home with their newborns was very hard to watch and when we had to leave the hospital without our little angel, it was even harder. No parent should ever have to leave the hospital without their child. There was such a feeling of distance between us; add to that our fear, anxiousness, nervousness and you had an emotional hot mess. It was so hard to be thankful when all I was doing was worrying. People would ask how we were doing and we would say fine, but all that really meant was we were freaked out, insecure, neurotic and emotional. It was only when I began to rely on God solely that I began to rise above my circumstances despite them. I would claim Philippians 4:19, “My God will supply all my needs” because being anxious accomplishes nothing; instead we are to be in prayer about everything.
When we bring our needs before the Lord, the God of comfort and the God who provides, He will give us peace that transcends all understanding and He will make a way where there is no way. Living with extreme pain this last year, due to a vehicle accident that broke my back, I have been a prisoner of pain. Finally though, God has brought the surgeon into my path that will bring God the glory in healing me. I will finally be able to hold my little girl again without pain coursing through my body. Walking through these seasons full of bittersweet blessings, sometimes my human nature caused me to try and think my way out of my problems, instead of relying on God solely, as I did one year ago when He healed my sweet daughter. God is with us always, but when we constantly dwell on our problems; our peace can elude us as we replay our circumstances over and over again in our minds. I can still remember as new parents, wanting to hold and nurture Sydney; instead we were subjecting her to spinal taps and other painful tests. Having her in the NICU was not part of the dream I had envisioned, but I still trusted God. There were days we had no tears left to cry, but as long as I stayed focused on God who is mighty to save, I kept it together, but when I didn’t, my sadness turned into panic, anxiety, and fear.
The longer we were in the NICU, the more I picked up on subtle things I had not previously noticed. Obviously, one of the first things we could tell was the sex of other people’s babies based on if the parent’s bracelets were pink or blue. Also, if they had multiple ID bracelets, it meant they had twins or triplets. As each day passed, my bracelet became so worn you could barely read Sydney’s name or birthday. One of the saddest things I saw during our time there was a mother who had two bracelets one day and the next day I saw her, she only had one. I later found out that one of her babies had passed away during the night. No matter how worn my bracelet got or how beat down I felt, I remember never wanting to take my bracelet off.
I can remember how weak I would feel going back and forth to the hospital and it reminded me of the story in Matthew 14:30 when Peter got out of the boat to walk on water. As long as he kept his eyes on Jesus, he was able to walk on water, but as soon as he took his eyes off of Jesus and began to look around, he began to sink. The same is true with the problems we face; if we stay focused on God, He will sustain us, but when we look to our own ways, we are sure to sink. Joel Osteen wrote, “In the natural realm we exchange money for the things we want and need, but in the spiritual realm, faith is what we exchange.” You see, our faith pleases God and it opens doors that no man can, especially when we are walking through the storm of the century. When we obey the word of God and believe His promises are true, we strengthen our faith and as it grows, God is able to do things in and through us we never could imagine. Looking back over this last year, one thing is abundantly clear: God loves us and He wants the best for us, even if that means we have to walk through painful seasons. As long as we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and trust His plan, it doesn’t matter what the world tries to throw at us. I encourage you to stop looking to the world for answers and start looking to the Great I Am, the One who made the heavens and the earth. In Him you will find peace and you will know rest as He comforts you in His outstretched arms. He will never give us more than we can handle and He will give us just enough strength, mercy and grace to make it through each new day.
For some, 2012 was a great year, while for others it was a year full of pain and heartache. While most years we live, we can barely remember, others stand out as either being amazing or horrific. This is the sad reality we face because we live in a fallen and broken world, so we must make the best use of the time we have because we don’t even know what will happen tomorrow. The things of this world are temporary, here one second and gone the next. The life we live is part of an amazing story, so we must never let go of our faith, hope and dreams. Looking back over our lives, we will regret the things we didn’t do more than the things we did do. Life is a journey and it is also an endurance race, one in which we are called to finish well.
My journey has taken me many places and allowed me to do some amazing things, but this last year has left me with some very deep scars that will take time to heal. It is impossible to weigh the good times against the bad times to determine how to rate the year, but that is what I find myself doing. Two of my greatest dreams were realized by becoming a father and pastor in the same year, but even these blessings were bittersweet. Reading I Samuel 9 when Saul set out looking for lost donkeys he came across Samuel a prophet of God who just one day earlier heard from God that Saul would be the leader of Israel. I began to examine my journey wondering when in my quest I would come across my Samuel and have my breakthrough so I could reach my full potential.
Before being hit by a speeding truck while riding my road bike, I was an endurance athlete both running and cycling, so I know firsthand that the last part of any race is the toughest- both physically and mentally. Unable to compete anymore, I still view life this way, so I know I have to be getting close to the finish line because every step I take is harder than the previous one. They call this “hitting the wall” and it is literally like you can’t go any further because there is a wall in front of you and only your training and mental toughness will carry you around/over it and across the finish line. The last marathon I ran I can remember reading the back of someone’s shirt that read, “If found lying on the ground, please drag across finish line.” I found that very amusing and as I passed this person, they read the back of my shirt which read, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” I can remember them yelling, “thank you; I needed that encouragement.” Our daily life is a race and some of us are lost and need help to get back on course while others need help finding the path to salvation. To make a difference, we ourselves must be different!
Regardless if 2012 was your worst year, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.” Isaiah 43:18. Letting go of the past can be one of the hardest things to do. We cling to our past mistakes and let them define who we are, but in Christ we are a new creation. God chooses not to remember our past mistakes, so why should we? He will give beauty for ashes, joy instead of mourning; praise instead of heaviness. A New Year is upon us and I pray it is one full of blessings!
Years ago, a seed was planted in my life that grew into a call to ministry. I knew at an early age that God was calling me to help reach and save that which was lost and hurting. Seeds are supposed to grow into things with the proper environmental factors and when God was the center of my life I grew strong into a tree full of foliage that bore much fruit. Unfortunately, the story does not end there because over time God played a smaller and smaller role in my life until He was non-existent and this once beautiful tree was stripped down to nothing more than a sad Charlie Brown Christmas tree. When I arrived there, you would think the light bulb would have gone off, but I still chose to do my own thing and deny the call God had placed on my life. God literally had to cut me down to nothing more than a stump for me to see what He was calling me to. I had to lose everything and be humbled to the point where God was all I had to realize He was all I needed. In Daniel chapter 4 we read how King Nebuchadnezzar became so prideful that he said,”Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?” As the words were still on his lips, he was stripped of everything he had and he lost all of his power and this was what happened to me. I had become so prideful in myself and thought that my success was my own doing. Being cut down was extremely humbling but even as a stump like in Daniel 4, God encircled me with an iron and bronze ring to protect me as he restored me to a better state than I was previously in. This is where my metamorphosis began and this is where my care and compassion was birthed. In my brokenness, God gave me such a heart for people who were suffering. Not one tear I shed was wasted and not one moment of anguish failed to serve a higher purpose in His eternal plan.
An article in Readers Digest says that roots of trees share nutrients with each other. If one tree gets water and sunlight, and another gets none, the tree with nutrients shares with ones that desperately need it. Among the petitions Jesus made to His Father in His high priestly prayer was this one. He prayed that we would be one, and love one another and show it by the way we care for each other. In this way, unbelievers would take notice and believe in Him. Life has a way of sucking the life out of us and without other healthy trees to aid; many trees would simply wither away. I thank God for the mighty trees in my life and I pray that one day I too will be a tree that other trees can count on to provide help in their seasons of drought.