Faith like a Wheelchair: 2017 in Review

One of my undergrad professors once remarked, “Some say faith is just a crutch, but the truth is faith is a wheelchair.” I never quite understood that until 2017.

As I scroll through my social media feeds this last day of 2017, everyone is posting their “Best Nine of the Year.” Its the top nine moments that have perhaps been the most memorable, monumental, or painful in the past year. Yesterday, as I scrolled through my own posts attempting to pinpoint which of the nine images stood out most, my mind came to settle on one alone. My grandfather’s wheelchair.

I have shared in a previous post that I have prayed for one word to serve sort of as a theme for the year. This year was surrender. Standing now at the end of the year, looking back, I see just how prominent the thread of surrender was throughout 2017.

I never could have imagined the twists and turns these twelve months would contain. Friendships ending while others beginning. Opportunities to speak and to travel. Finishing the first year of my Master’s program. Celebrating my birthday for what I thought would be the first time alone, but then being surprised with my first surprise party ever. Going to Disney World.  My world coming to a screeching halt as I hear the word “cancer” aimed at my grandfather. Our roof being torn off by Hurricane Irma. Walking with my grandparents through radiation treatments and roof repairs. Becoming a primary caregiver. Questioning where tuition money would come from. Witnessing the Lord’s provision. Being led through a corn maze by a toddler. Painting myself Wicked Witch of the West green for Halloween. Watching in horror as my hometown was ravaged by the Sutherland Springs tragedy.  Then two weeks later being there myself, grateful to be with my own family, but aching for those who could not this Thanksgiving. Dressing up as a Christmas tree. Writing a 20 page paper in under 48 hours. My baby brother getting engaged to the girl of his dreams. Being with all of my family once more for one of the most emotional Christmases, yet the one I have been most fully present for in my entire life.It’s been a crazy year to say the least.

There were many moments where I felt overwhelmed. Countless times every ounce of strength was tested. Endless amounts of tears and weeping. All resulting in exasperated surrender, flinging myself down upon the altar. Down on that wheelchair.

When my grandfather’s journey with cancer began back in August, I was terrified by the thought of him in a wheelchair. I hoped it would only be temporary, but it is still with us. At the beginning it was frustrating for all of us, learning how to navigate it through the hallways of our home, around furniture, and in and out of doors. The increased amount of dependence was a whole new ball game for all of us. There were collisions and crashes. Long nights and long days. Scuffed up doorways. Spilled bowls. But in time, we got it.

We forged new routes, increased speeds, designed new systems, made new routines. Our patience grew. Our love deepened. Grace was amply shown. Laughter helped cut through the tears. Our community showed us love and support and pierced through what could have been pitch black darkness. In time he came steadily more independent, at least around the house.

Then we encountered a new level of dependency. When it came time to go out beyond the house we faced more challenges. How to get the wheelchair out the door and down the steps. How to put the chair into the car, then get it back out. How to get from the car to the door.  We needed even more help.

But again help came.  A ramp was built. Volunteers appeared who could lift and stow the chair. Drivers drove to treatments and back. Yet another system and routine were devised. We became a bit more independent.

When the time came to wean off the chair and onto a walker, then to crutches, and then to crutch, and hopefully entirely unassisted, we are relearning dependence. It always starts off with a bit of frustration. Some aggravation. An occasional trip or two. Maybe one or two things knocked over. It can be a bit painful. Definitely humbling. Far from easy. But as we do so, our relationship has grown. Individually, we each have grown.

The wheelchair has been quite the teacher.

Looking back, now I see where I spiritually have fallen into that wheelchair time and time again. I have attempted to push through closed doors and around tight corners on my own strength. Resulting in scuff marks on my heart and jammed up hands. When I let Him guide me through to new paths, it became easier and my strength began to grow. In time, He spurred me onto the next level, growing me beyond the walls I became accustomed to. It has required more trust, more dependence, more patience, and a whole heapin’ heck of a lot of grace. {I am one hard-headed, stubborn, strong-willed, young lady.}

By no means, do I have this figured out. Unfortunately, more often than not I want to take control of the wheels again and go back to the old pathway and do it on my own. It only ends with me burnt out, angry, and lots of tears. But in those moments where I finally render control, take my hands off the wheels, and let Him push, the load becomes much lighter.

I have no clue what 2018 will hold. Perhaps it will bring more challenges than 2017. Perhaps not. Either way, I know as long as I am not pushing, it is bound to be beautiful.

Happy New Year, Brave Heart and Beloved. May it be filled with adventures, laughter, tears, peace, grace, and love. Most of all, May the Lord God Almighty push you through it all.

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Stay in Your Lane: Lessons in Surrender from Dancing the Salsa to Driving through Storms

A gorgeous summer day. A beautiful, quiet, city park. A soft, green lawn. An impromptu salsa lesson. Same said summer day turned stormy. A crowded highway booming with thunder and pelted with rain. A majestic rainbow. A tricky drive home. A lesson learned.

I spent Saturday exploring downtown Greenville and catching up with a friend. The day started out gorgeously. The sun shone marvelously and relentlessly on us as we walked from place to place. Occasionally a breeze would gently wisp through cooling us off. It was simply perfect. Our wanderings brought us to a small park in the city center.

Three large buildings made a shady perimeter around a green lawn constructed of Astro-turf, dubbing for an ice skating rink in the winter. Along the right wall a fountain cascaded and the dripping water echoed in sync with small children’s shouts of shrill delight as they played in it. A little oasis amidst the bustle of the city. For us it would serve as a dance floor.

My friend has become quite the salsa dancing extraordinaire in the past few years. It seems to be both a passion and a delight for him. He beams when he speaks of it, and rightfully so, he’s excellent at it. Needless to say, I was definitely interested in learning more about this which brings him such joy. So right there, smack dab in the middle of the park, I received my first salsa lesson.

And, how’d that go? Bless his soul. He was extremely patient as I fumbled through the footwork, tangled the turns, and hampered the holds. Despite my clumsiness, we laughed our way through and had a ball [or at least, I had a ball.] He taught me a few different [extremely basic, again, bless him] forms of salsa. One in particular struck a chord in me.

In the LA Style of salsa you dance in a lane. It is a compilation of eight different steps all done in a single lane or line of activity. Whenever there is a turn, you always come back to your lane. The lead guides with subtle movements of his hand and on specific counts. For the dance to work effectively  or [for the sake of being too technical] the dance to flow fluidly and beautifully, the lady must trust the lead. In this style, the lead will always come back to the lane.

Hold that thought for a moment.

As my friend and I parted ways later that afternoon, we were caught in a boisterous storm. Lightning cracked. Thunder bellowed. And the rain, my goodness. It fell like driving sheets of bullets. The roads were white with rain. I could see no more than five feet in front of me. Quite different from my drive in where the sun was shining, the roads were clear, and the number on my speedometer, may or may not have been higher than the corresponding number on the speed limit signs, this return ride contained a bit more danger. I had to remain in my lane.

Rather than changing lanes and overcoming slower vehicles in front of me, I took security in staying safely behind the car in front of me. The storm kept me from seeing the road before me, but if I could just keep my eyes on the one going before me, I would be safe.

Eventually, I drove beyond the band of the storm. The pelting rain dwindled to droplets. The clouds gave way to sun. I peered into my rear view mirror back at the storm, only to catch a glimpse of something greater. The widest, most vivid, most brilliantly majestic rainbow I have ever seen. Any chance I had I stole a glance back. Again, something stuck with me about that rainbow and the storm.

In the past few years, I have been praying the Lord give me one specific thing that would serve as the theme of our journey together that year. This year I am learning to slow to the pace of surrender. By far, not an easy lesson to learn.

My heart is full of so many desires, longings, questions, dreams, fears, and even doubts. I wonder when things will happen, if they will happen, how they will happen, who will they happen with. My heart becomes battered beneath all the wondering. Here is where I must slow to surrender. Stop long enough to loosen my already feeble grip on the reigns of control, and place them back in the hands of God.

Yesterday’s events taught me more about surrender.

Driving through that storm was quite reminiscent of the season I am in. The road before me often seems clouded and unknowable. I cannot make out where I am going next or what I will be doing in the future, or simply who will be there doing life with me. Therefore, for now, I need stay in my lane. My only certainty is the One who goes before me. Isaiah 30:21 says:

 “Whether you turn to the right or the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.” 

Also in Psalm 139:5 David declares,

“You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.” 

Or in the New Living Translation,

“You go before me, and follow me. You place your hand of blessing upon my head.” 

When I set my gaze upon Him, He will guide me, safely, to where I need to be, when I need to be there, and who I may be there with. When it is time, He will lead me to switch lanes. I do not need to speed up my journey. Here in the limited visibility, I will trust the One who goes before me. I will cling to that covenant rainbow. I will trust my Lead.

More than a seemingly stormy journey, my walk with the Lord is like that dance. Through every turn, after every dip, my perfect Lead will always bring me back to the lane. My responsibility–my joy– is to trust his lead and never break hold. As I heed to his lead, the dance becomes something beautiful and inviting. Something simply delightful.

Surrender is not intended to be easy. It entails a death to self. But in the end, through the rendering of control to the Lead, as the beauty that is the dance unfolds, it is worth it. When I slowly caught on to a particular step as my friend and I danced, he’d smile and exclaim “Eso!” meaning “That’s it” or “You’ve got it.” How much more would it mean to see the beaming grin and hear the jubilant laugh as we give way to our Heavenly Lead, as he declares “Eso!” over the dance of our lives.

Stay in your lane. Trust your Lead. Don’t miss the rainbow.

Brave Heart and Beloved, He who promised is faithful…still.