when you are watching and waiting

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From my earliest memories, I have loved ladybugs.

I know I am not unique in my affection.

This past year, I have reflected on the ways ladybugs have flown onto my path.

When I was a little girl, we lived in a house on Clifford Drive and I deemed the tallest tree in our yard, the ladybug tree. I remember during the early summer, ladybugs would magically appear all over the leaves, each bearing 2 black spots. Until we moved from the Clifford Drive house, I would watch and wait for green leaves to be dotted with pinpoints of red and black.

*****

For the last ten years, Carl has been faithful monitored to see if he would fall prey to a genetically predisposed cancer. He has had untold needle pokes and biopsies, each one more invasive and numerous than the last. We have been watching and waiting until a year ago in April, the waiting was over and the diagnosis confirmed.

Even when there is a sense of a possibility, it still can feel like a surprise, as the waiting is coupled with lots of prayers from lots of people.

We sat and listened to Carl’s diligently dear doctor begin to discuss options and he encouraged us to keep the news to ourselves for a bit before the world could have opinions and share stories. But now that I typed the last sentence, I am not sure if I was there. There are many parts of last year I don’t remember and I am sure even more for Carl. But nonetheless after the appointment, we decided to tell our kids and I believe, my parents.  Two days later by the grace of God, we headed to the beach for Caleb’s state chess tournament.

For a girl who didn’t grow up close to the ocean but fell in love with a boy with a blue  pickup, who drove her regularly to the ocean, it is our shelter, our sanctuary and often, our church.

We could have driven down for the day of the tournament but we had the thoughts months earlier to stay for two nights. While Caleb was occupied, capturing chess pieces, Carl and I tried to read and make small talk with other chess families.

The tournament ended and the next day, we were tired and subdued. We ate breakfast at the Pig ‘N Pancake and the guys wanted some arcade time. I asked if they would mind if I took my book and read on the promenade. There was no argument. They fear my skills.

The last traces of morning mist had been replaced by golden rays and kites floating against brilliant blue.  As I gazed at the waves on a bench, a woman joined me and told me she and her group were staying an extra day, I should do the same. Oh how I wanted to text the girls and tell them to cancel life and join us for a week:)

I wished the beach lover farewell as she set out to join her party in the sand below. I tilted my head back and felt the sun tighten my cheeks and forehead. I opened my book, read a few pages and then I was joined by another type of friend.

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The sun was so intensely bright and the ladybug sped along my arms, I wasn’t sure any attempt would prove worthy but I reached for my camera phone and snapped away. I took my index finger and placed the ladybug on the stone railing before me. As I glanced down to the sand at my feet and the stone arched rail in front of me, I saw dozens of ladybugs, crawling along the rail and in the sand. I put my book aside and stared at the ladybugs at my feet.

Even on my best days, I control hardly anything. I can’t conjure the results I want or the scenarios, I would choose. Although all my worrying would prove otherwise. My hands are rarely open in acceptance and surrender.

On that Sunday, God reached into the depths of me. Helen, lover of ladybugs. Many people may happen upon this random fact about me, but God has always known. He knew I look for ladybugs. He knew I felt scared for Carl and what was ahead. He knew ladybugs would speak to me, help direct my eyes to where they needed to reside. The ladybugs could be at my feet but my head could be lifted.  He knew everything because He is the maker of ladybugs. He fashioned ladybugs to be brightly colored with dark spots to ward off predators and as a shield. He has made Carl and me and shields us from every predator that ventures to cross our path. The boys eventually joined me and they were able to bear witness to my ladybug inhabitation. I sat on a hard stone bench weary and defeated but we all rose wearing armor, ready to walk.

*****

As Carl said this week, he’s in the middle place. He is a month shy of a year post-surgery. All his test have come back clean. He has another year to go before he is deemed cancer-free. We would never take this reality for granted and even more so because we know so many who have different stories and prognosis.

This past May, it was chess time at the beach again. The weather was lovely, Caleb made more checkmates and we lingered again. We took one last walk on the beach before heading home. As we headed downhill towards our car, laughter mingled with gratitude is the only appropriate response to such a sighting.

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***I have been trying to write this post for the last several months but I haven’t been able to get myself in front of the screen to type until today. Today, I needed to remind myself of God’s faithfulness. I needed to renew my belief that He sees me in my weakness and weariness. Maybe you are feeling overwhelmed, weary, discouraged or lost. Maybe you are waiting and watching for something dreaded or hoped for. It might not be a ladybug, but what can you look for that shouts your name? He sees you and He is willing to use the most seemingly insignificant ways to draw you to His side, the nearest and dearest place to find His comfort.

tables

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system:

  • an organized set of doctrines, ideas, or principles usually intended to explain the arrangement or working of a systematic whole 
  • an organized or established procedure 
  • harmonious arrangement or pattern

There are systems in place which govern our lives.

We may not be aware of how many established systems ground us.

Many are not of our choosing like the traffic system full of

stop lights and rules of the road.

Others we decide how we would like to arrange our

time and space:

make the bed or don’t,

drink coffee or endeavor to  be caffeine-free,

partake in daily breakfast or obey stomach

pangs by mid-morning,

exercise regularly or not.

These daily tasks are part of a routine, a pattern

which makes up a life system helping to

bring order and rhythm to our moments.

On Saturday Carl and I sat across from one another at our table.

He had showered after his Saturday morning basketball game,

Caleb had bid farewell to a sleepover pal and I slept as long as possible

and made the bed 🙂

We sat with cups of coffee and tea.

I tend to need more stuff and scattered before me were

a Bible, a study, a journal,

a few other books and lots of pens.

Carl had the huge book you see pictured above.

theology: the study of religious faith, practice, and experience;
especially :  the study of God and of God’s relation to the world

We have sat at this table hundreds of times.

We have consumed countless meals but regularly

we have come to this

table to spend time in God’s word,

to be anchored in our faith,

to find guidance,

comfort,

to learn lessons

and to seek truth.

When I snapped this picture, Carl was unaware because

he was immersed.

He was recalling and recounting his theology.

He was allowing himself to sit before God and

gather his system of beliefs at eye level.

Because some days hope seems a farther reach

than a week ago.

A week has passed since Carl’s sister Vickie died

so swiftly and without a whisper of warning.

We sat at the table to recover our systems and cling

to our theology.

The system we have surrendered our lives to is belief

in God,

the Creator,

the Sustainer of life

and the glue who tightly adheres all our crumbling bits.

We have learned to keep our hearts and ears open this week

and discovered abiding comfort.

It’s been found in the “crowd sourcing” of Facebook.

We’ve seen it in the way family and friends love us in their

own special blend of thoughtfulness.

The pages of Scriptures where we landed

these past days have encouraged us that one day Christ will

wipe away every tear and there will be

no more death,

no more caskets,

no more sickness

and no more crying.

(One day.)

We heard words declared from a video describe the

sounds of the cries of death in a hospital.

We remembered.

(God knew.)

Last Sunday we exchanged our church seats for ones in a hospital

but this week we resumed our  pew dwelling  and these were the

first words uttered by our pastor:

“This week, you might be facing a scary time.

It could be the day before a memorial service or a graveside service…”

God knew sitting in pews could never protect us from last Sunday.

But He promised to remain no matter where we sat,

be it a table,

a pew

or even a hospital.

So we rose from our pew

and sidled up to the Table filled with the knowledge that

Jesus bore all our sufferings.

We chew and sip at the Table’s edge because He

is acquainted with sorrow and joins us in our aches

and pains.

Each table has become a place where God hears the

splash of tears upon our cheeks and dispatches

His comfort and often it is through others.

We all have systems.

Whatever system you have in place,

I hope it is effective when life quakes.

I am realizing it is very simple,

there is belief and disbelief and each

is a theology.

Whatever your theology,

I pray it brings comfort

and hope in any season.

This week has shown me when

hard events come we still brush our teeth (good thing),

we make our beds,

we make French toast, steal an extra

piece of bacon, pet the dog and

clean up our messes.

Mostly.

We also hug and kiss a little more.

We say I love you and catch ourselves when

we realize our system has been to rush past

each other in a blur so instead

we stop,

capture one another’s eyes

to affirm our affections

and glory in our mutual comfort.

 

spiritual teachers

 

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During our conversation, it became apparent my daughters differ in their preference of

reading the same book repeatedly.

I was reminded of the books I have read daily or year after year.

The stack above is a collection of books that have accompanied

me during the morning hours and remained steadfast through

the ever-changing landscape of life.

Just like a faithful friend, they encourage, remind and provide

a foundation of strength to keep standing.

There are several more I could place on the honorable mention

list, some might even be your favorites but besides

my Bibles, these have been my truest guides.

(A tiny sliver of me feels so vulnerable sharing these
books. Perhaps because they are a window to this delicate
and fierce walk of faith.)

Daily Light: A common thread of scriptures for the morning and the evening.
One of two devotional I have given the most to loved ones.

Jesus Calling: This is my number two gift devotional. I started reading
this devotional a long time before it became so popular. I loved that it
always seemed to express what I needed to read.
(If you are curious to know my #3 gift, it would be Blessing for the Evening.
It would make my stack, but I don’t own it. Isn’t that wild?) 🙂

Let Go: This might be a strange choice, how a slim book of letters
written by a 17th century French Archbishop would find its way
into my hands but I am thankful it did. This book is tough and
tender. It has this beautiful sunset on the cover but don’t be fooled.
Sometimes we need our teachers to be gentle, sometimes we
need a little shaking. It’s all about surrender.

My Utmost For His Highest: I started reading this devotional
in high school. A friend raved about it so I eventually bought
a copy of the original version and I couldn’t understand it.
Later in college, they came out with a contemporary version
and it was much more to my comprehension. This probably
explains why my friend went on to become an emergency
room doctor and I did not. I do read the original from time to
time and understand it more, it only takes me two readings now 😉
Timeless wisdom.

Seeking God’s Face: This one makes me sigh. For years,
I have wanted to follow a lectionary or a listing of daily scriptures
to read based on the church calendar. No matter which one
I would choose, I was confused. I never knew if I was
reading in the correct place. It drove my perfectionist heart
crazy. Enter this wonderful book made for non-emergency
room doctors tee hee. Here’s a picture.

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See the box? For the next 12 years (heh) I will know my place!
That’s a very good thing.

31 Days of Praise/Prayer: There are times in life when words are distant,
prayer seems futile and difficult. I alternated between these two volumes as
they taught me how to prayer through the scriptures and to keep clinging
to His promises.

How To Study The Bible For Yourself: The pages of this book are yellowed
by age. There is so much wisdom in this small book. I return to it time
and again to be reminded of the many ways to study the Word of God.

Venite: I have written about this book several times. It is now out of print
but used copies can be found. I was raised in church and over my 50 years,
have been apart of so many church traditions and experiences.I am so
grateful for this fact. I also know that I love tradition.
The pastor of the church we now attend always says we are a storied
people steeped in the story of God. I adore this and it is the very reason
I reached back to grasp the old ways. This prayer
book helped me rediscover parts of my church upbringing I had abandoned.
I found it at a time when I was very much in a wilderness and physically
stopping to pray throughout my day and night changed my life.
It changed my heart and drenched me with peace and hope.
I know it sounds trite or cliché but truly I felt my soul fly home
when I began to pray the hours.
There is something so sacred about uttering words that have been
said by countless seekers over centuries.

I wrote Robert Benson who
compiled this book to thank him and to share how
unaware my soul was missing
something until I started praying the hours.
(His letter response is a very cherished possession.)
I wish I always stopped my busyness to pray throughout
the day but when I remember
to pause, I am remade breath by breath.

Whispers of Hope: I bought this book in 2005 at a Beth Moore
conference in Spokane, Washington. I am so happy that she has
updated and recently re-released it.
(Although for those of us with large handwriting, I wish
they had kept the book the same size…oh well.)
Each day is a scripture reading,some thoughts from Beth
and spaces to write out prayers.
I can fan through the pages and see the multitude of prayers
required during that time frame. Some answered and
some remain. I wonder if all of them had been answered would
I still have the need to pray. As I let my eyes roam over those
needs still not resolved, I can’t ignore the reality of seeing His hand.
I know that He has drawn me closer to Himself.
I have changed in the midst of each hardship.
It is more than hindsight allowing me to see more clearly.
It is the prayers of 2005 and the God who was more than equal to
those cries, He is the same God who walked me through
the aching years that would follow.
He knew when I poured my ink prayers onto paper
that more hardship would come and He would remain.
He still remains.

What books bring you comfort?

This post is apart of the 31 days…yet again series
about books. You can find the entire series here.