April McGowan

Unexpected Surprises

The other morning I heard my husband going in and out the front door. Which was odd, as the clock said 5AM, and he wasn’t supposed to be up yet. I went to see if what I suspected might have happened HAD happened. Yep, it was snowing. We don’t get snow very often in the valley we live in—I think we’re at 150 ft above sea level, so it’s an event when we do get it. In fact, the town kind of shuts down if we get over an inch.

I smiled as I watched him take a photo of the snow swirling down past the orange tinted streetlight. The sound-dampening effects of the snow magnified the stillness wrapping around the neighborhood at that hour. There is no other word than peaceful to describe it. I waved at him, glad to be warm and cozy inside, and raced back to bed.

At that point, I have to admit, I was a bit tempted to wake up the kids. They rarely get to play in the snow. But, I knew if I did, there’d be no going back to sleep. I needed rest to recuperate from illness, and they had been up way too late the night before. I betted on the cold to keep the snow on the ground until they woke up, and then cuddled back down under the covers glad to keep the secret for a couple more hours.

As I began to fall back asleep, something dawned on me. I knew that in few hours my children would be bundled into snow clothes, outside making snowmen and having snowball fights. But I also knew it was in everyone’s best interest that they NOT know what was coming so we’d all get some much needed rest.

How many times have I wished God would let me know what was coming, begged for a Post-It note, a tiny memo? That’s when it settled on me. Like my children unknowingly slumbering in bed, it’s probably for the best I don’t know what’s coming. If it’s positive news, then I’d be so focused on that, I’d miss the good happening around me now. And if it’s bad news, then I’d be so consumed with what was coming, I’d lose the joy I had in my life, living every day in dread.

That message replayed itself in my head this week when we discovered that my husband’s work contract is ending almost two months earlier than it was supposed to. Apparently there was a miscommunication between his contracting company and us—their goof. So, now, he has two weeks to get another contract, instead of 2 months. But I have to remember, while we might be surprised, God isn’t. God knew what was going to happen, and we fully trust He has a plan for our future. Knowing that the Lord of all creation holds us in His hands brings me great comfort.

Psalm 37: 23-24 The LORD makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him;  though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the LORD upholds him with his hand.

Psalm 139: 1-6 You have searched me, LORD, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, LORD, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. (Read full passage HERE)

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A New Normal

I started off writing this blog about seven weeks ago. I’d had a cold, was getting over it, and felt discouraged because it didn’t seem like I could keep up with life. There are so many people out there promoting their writing better than I do, turning out more stuff, and some how keeping their lives in ship shape order. I shared my insights with a friend who reminded me that my family lived at a different level than maybe other people’s families do. I didn’t understand what she meant.

She reminded me that in the past few years, we’ve gone through a lot with all our different health ailments. She took me down a long list of things we’ve survived and it took me aback. It seems, over the course of time, we’d adjusted to these things, moved the bar, so to speak. I hadn’t thought of that. She suggested I might be putting too much pressure on myself (who me??) and I should rather appreciate how God has helped us adjust to this new normal in our life, and cut myself some slack in the expectations department.

I’d thought about that phrase before. A new normal. Our normal has changed. We’ve gone from a carefree, grab a meal out here and there, spur of the moment family, to one that has to consider ever aspect of food, preparation, time and energy. We have to take a lot into consideration when planning an outing, or making a commitment. I think, even though it’s been a very hard adjustment period, we are better for it. I think. On days when I’m exhausted and just want to get takeout, I don’t feel that way so much–but we all have our moments.

So, where was I? Oh yeah…planning this blog. SO, while I’m thinking about our new normal, and health issues, I get pneumonia. Again. Weeks have gone by, and now that I’m getting my energy back, I realize I never posted my blog I’d begun so many weeks ago. Maybe I needed a refresher course? Okay, so here’s what I learned this time:

My family has learned to pick up the slack when mom is down and out. They know how to really dig in and take care of things. We’ve been here, done that, and are good to go with the flow. I don’t dig my heels in and complain when struck silly with illness, as once I did. Rather, I look and think and wonder what God might have in store for me this time. I used to rail and whine with each bout of illness that came our way, now I’m like, “huh…well, okay. We know how to do this.” I now feel fairly (notice I said fairly) comfortable telling people, “No, I can’t do that.” Because I know the limits on my energy. I don’t fear.

I liken it to fire drills. Or emergency preparedness. If you do something often enough, then you get kind of used to it. Am I comfortable being ill? Not hardly. But, I know that God will provide for our needs. He’s shown us again and again and again. When I go down, I’m not alone. He’s here, providing comfort in the sense of His being, through others, through family.

Some of my favorite passages are in Romans. One that get’s used an awful lot, found on stationary, door knockers, you name it,  is Romans 8:28 And we know in all things that God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Is that an easy platitude to give someone going through a hard time? No. I think it’s often taken out of context. First, it’s a promise to those who belong to God, His children adopted by God through our great Savior, Jesus. Second, it’s a promise that no matter what we face, if we are submissive to Him, He can take all the trials of this life and work them out to further His plans, for our good. It’s a verse I hold dear. But, put in context, it’s ever so much more powerful:

26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.  28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[i] have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

Paul goes on to say, if God is for us, who can be against us? Who indeed.  If we belong to Him, then NOTHING can separate us from the Love of God that is in Christ Jesus.  If you haven’t read this passage of Romans completely in a while, or maybe never–please do. It’s so much more than a platitude for those hurting. There is beautiful power in the Word of God.  Here’s the link Romans 8.


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