Father God, you are good. You are holy and righteous, gracious and merciful. You are the one we trust, our source of hope, our steady rock. When the world around us feels uncertain and unsteady, help us see that our foundation is firm and will not fail. When anxiety rises and fear threatens us, your light is there to cast out such darkness. You hear our cries and bring comfort. Our peace is in you and you alone. You are our strong tower, our refuge. Your Spirit within us is ever present, drawing us near to you – help us to listen to your voice. We love you and praise You through it all. In the name of Jesus, Amen. (Cara Elliott, Decatur, Alabama)
Job 1; 1 Samuel 21 and 23; Psalm 142; Mark 14:27-31 and 66-72; Mark 16:9-20
“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life the Lord has promised to those who love him.” Jude 1:12 (NIV)
“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may always be revealed in our mortal body.” 2 Corinthians 4:8-11 (NIV)
“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:3-5 (NIV)
Quarantine has not been kind to us. Isolation has been even more unkind. If quarantine was Cady Heron, then isolation is Regina George. If quarantine was Shannon Doherty’s Heather, then isolation is Kim Walker’s Heather. Quarantine and isolation have been MEAN to our family. And yes, I recognize that referencing Mean Girls and Heathers in a devotional probably defeats the purpose of this whole project, and it certainly supports my statements back in The Starting Line: I’m the least qualified person I know to write this and I’m also the most sinful sinner I know. But I love Jesus and I’m writing from the heart, so there’s that. Anyway, we’ve not have a good time during all this. And if you want a Biblical reference on this, if quarantine was Delilah holding a pair of shears, then isolation is Jezebel. Yuck. Also, if we’re being honest, I can really relate to Job right now.
At the beginning of quarantine in March, Flynn’s first grade teacher entrusted us to keep two of his class’s tadpoles. They died within weeks in my care. It was horrible. Then our Betta, Swimmy Dimmy, died about a week after we buried the tadpoles under the pear tree in our front flower bed. I made Blake conduct funerals for each of them to give the kids closure. He asked why I couldn’t do it and I reminded him that he’s the only ordained person in our house, having received an online certificate of divinity to conduct a wedding for some friends a few years back. So out he went on three different mornings in his pajamas, rolling his eyes, but he conducted those funerals for those tadpoles and that fish with all the love in his heart and compassion for our heartbroken kids.
After Swimmy Dimmy died, Flynn got a new Betta that he named Spot, and that Astin named Glitter Sprinkles Sparkles (or GSS). Spot/GSS was a great fish. Swimmy Dimmy died from some long suffering ailment that he had. I was constantly trying to help the guy out and spent hours fussing and fretting over him. Even though we only had Spot/GSS for a few months, I really liked him because he built bubble nests (Google it, it’s something cool that happy Bettas do) and I didn’t have to fuss or fret over him every day. Each morning I would tap on his aquarium and he would swim happily (I think) over to see me and we’d look at each other for a bit and then go on our merry ways. I’ve actually missed Spot/GSS since I’ve been upstairs in quarantine (he’s downstairs). I almost cried this morning when Blake showed me a picture and said he thought something was wrong with Spot/GSS. Immediately I knew, but I needed to see for myself. So I put on my N95 and ventured into the wild, wild west (or the downstairs, which you’ve already read is managed by Blake). I verified with my own eyes that Spot/GSS would need a funeral under the pear tree in our front flower bed.
2020, you stink.
Other things that have happened in quarantine/isolation: On day one, our downstairs air conditioning unit broke. This was back when I was the downstairs parent and the upstairs was the wild, wild west. At some point, one of the toilets in a bathroom downstairs broke as well, but I only found out after Blake went to Lowe’s at 6 am yesterday morning (on his first day of quarantine freedom) and came home with the part (Note: Flynn and I are STILL in isolation). On Friday last week our hot water heater broke. A few days prior to that, Blake showed me what he thought was a bug bite on his leg (from a distance and while he was wearing an N95), but when it spread, I told him to call the doctor. Turns out, it was shingles. Yep.
2020, quarantine, and isolation, you have been so mean. And I’m being kind with my words! We’re not even talking yet about the part where six people in our family got Coronavirus.
Today on our bike ride it rained. I had been watching the weather and thought that I had identified a window in which the weather would cooperate and we could ride. I hurried Flynn out the door and we made it around the corner to Pop’s house. As soon as our crew turned off his street, the bottom fell out of the sky and it started to pour. I looked up at the clouds and there was no relief in sight, so we decided to part ways and try again later.
As Flynn and I rode home, it rained harder and harder. Add to that, the normally quiet street we were on suddenly became busy with large trucks, coming and going from a nearby utility work site. Flynn just learned to ride without training wheels and he likes to swerve and get too close to the large open gutters and ride through every puddle, which sometimes involves him getting a bit too close to oncoming cars than this weary mama can handle. But he just kept riding in the rain. He pushed on and we made it home.
Later, when we found a dry time between storms, we rode again. Flynn said to me out of the blue, “I really like riding after the rain because it’s cool and there’s still sprinkles in the air and you can ride through some really big puddles.”
Sometimes you have to ride in the rain. That’s true in life as well. I feel like we have been riding in the rain for a long time in our house.
Job is obviously a story of a man who rode in the rain. When thinking of this analogy, I can only imagine Job on a too small bicycle trying to outrun a violent hurricane and getting nowhere but soaked.
Saul chased David and tried to kill him for over a decade. Can you imagine someone making your life a living nightmare for ten years? That’s basically what Saul did to David. And this was on top of David losing his sons and experiencing grief and sadness and fear. Saul just added insult to injury at a constant, non-stop pace.
I promise to keep any future running references to a minimum after yesterday’s post, but I need to make one more. Whenever people ask me to give them advice when they start running long distances, I always tell them: Do one of your long runs in the rain. Don’t run if it’s lightning but if you can include a few good downpours on a long run, you’ll be just fine in your first marathon. I’ll never forget the look that Blake gave me when I was training him for his first marathon and I told him to get up because we were going to run 16 miles in the rain that morning. He looked out the window and looked at me funny. Yep, we’re running in the rain, buddy.
But why run in the rain? If you run in the rain while you are training, you won’t have anything to fear on race day. When first time marathoners are going through their list of worst case scenarios for race day, it usually looks like this: rain, chaffing, injury. You can prevent chaffing with creams and moisture barriers. You can probably ward off injury with proper training. But you can’t control the weather. You can only prepare for it. If a first time marathoner runs at least one long run in the rain, it’s done. They can’t fear that any more. They know what it feels like and how to push through it. It’s not fun, but there’s no unknown about rain and long runs anymore.
To be honest with you, God has already prepared you for that rainy run. Jesus ran it for you. He’s already prepared your heart. You just have to realize it. You have to trust God to get you through the rain.
I want to repeat one of the Bible verses I picked here: “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may always be revealed in our mortal body.” 2 Corinthians 4:8-11 (NIV)
My six-year old recognized that riding bikes in the rain was no big deal, and that it could even be awesome. He enjoyed that ride home in the downpour. When we went back out later, all he talked about were the blessings that came after the rain.
You are riding in the rain right now, my friend. It might just be sprinkling, or it could be a tropical downpour. But I promise you, the sun is coming. And the Son is already in your heart. God is with you and you are loved, so very, very loved, even if you have to ride in the rain for a while.
Tips from a weary mama:
My sweet friend Andrea Sharp, who contributed one of the prayers in the Father’s Day post, texted me at the beginning of our rainstorm. She told me that when she’s going through a hard time, she picks something very specific to pray about for another friend or family, and that focusing on praying for others gets her through the hard times. She was right. (She usually is. She gives pretty amazing advice and I’m lucky to call her a friend.) That very day, I prayed over a situation that she told me about and it helped me see my own rainstorm from the satellite view, not the “underneath the big gray cloud” view. If you are having a bad day, try praying for a specific blessing over someone else and you will experience compassion clear the clouds in your heart.
Other than right now, when was a time that you were having a hard time and nothing seemed to be going your way? How did you overcome? Do you know anyone that has overcome a great struggle? What are some things they did to triumph over adversity? Is there someone you can pray for right now to ease their struggles?
Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for saving us when we certainly didn’t deserve it. Thank you for your many blessings in the midst of this storm. Help us remember that we are your children and that you’ve got this. Help us remember that You knew this was coming and You will see us through this. Remind us that you will never leave us no matter what the devil throws our way. Remind us that we are all going to be okay if we know you. Help us trust an unknown future to an all knowing God. God, help us be the light in the darkness. The good in the midst of the bad. The kindness in the midst of hatred. The listener in a world of voices. We thank you, Lord. We love you, Lord. And we trust you, Lord. In your sweet name we pray! Amen. (Shellie Suber, Birmingham, Alabama)
I intentionally left out the story about how we acquired Spot/GSS. If you promise to give me grace, I’ll tell you. Santa Claus (I know, I know) brought Swimmy Dimmy to Flynn a few Christmases ago. He sent the fish with an Elf-on-the-Shelf (I know you are cringing at me right now) named Speed. When Swimmy Dimmy died, Speed came back (in April) to surprise Flynn with Spot/GSS. Did you know that there is a Betta pond at the North Pole? Yep. That’s where the elves fish for the Bettas that little boys wish for. But I heard through the grapevine that “Speed” actually just braved Petco during the quarantine, wearing a mask, running in approximately five minutes to closing time. That’s just a rumor though.