The Answer

Six days ago I was in an ambulance with Olivia being transported to Cook Children’s. A flawed clonidine patch that she had been wearing released too much medicine at once and caused enough chaos to land us in the hospital for a few days. Normally, I would text or call family and friends to let them know, but this time I didn’t. I don’t think my mind wanted to come to terms with another hospital visit so soon after the 6-week one we endured a few months ago.

The ride from Abilene to Fort Worth was a long one, and I spent most of it reading articles about Hurricane Harvey, which was about to make landfall. One story highlighted 10 babies that were transferred from a NICU in Corpus Christi. Cook Children’s Teddy Bear Transport–using planes and ambulances like the one carrying Olivia and me–brought the infants to Fort Worth before the storm hit the Texas coast.

I looked at my own child laid out on a stretcher, and I hurt for the parents of those 10 little ones–families experiencing a storm within a storm.

As the week progressed and the flood waters rose, I teared up at the sight of the elderly wading in water waist deep, of a little girl on a ventilator waiting for rescue, and children seeking refuge on roofs.

In times like that there are more questions than answers:

Should they stay or flee? And if they leave, where will they go?

When will the rain stop and the waters recede?

As of late, my life has been filled with questions too:

Should I call the doctor … again … or wait and see?

Is it time for the medicine I know will put her to sleep, or can we ride this one out?

How much more can I stand to watch her suffer?

They don’t stop there but come tumbling through my mind faster than I can think.

Am I doing enough? … Should I quit my job? … Am I asking too much of the people I love?

So many questions. So few answers. Especially for me … that girl. The one who always wants to know. Why the sky is blue. What the future holds.

We are alive and safe and dry in a home that is secure, and I really shouldn’t struggle so. Yet, I have. This week has just been hard.

It’s the crying that feels endless and that helpless feeling and the sleepless nights.

But really it’s all those questions I don’t have answers for.

There among unanswered questions, hidden at times beneath the rubble of stress and sorrow, a decision remains:

Will I be be swept away by the tide of all I don’t know–caught in a torrent of things I can’t understand? OR, can I choose to settle my heart on the One who is the Answer to every question, the peace in any storm?

Jesus is the Answer when there are no answers.

He is hope where hope doesn’t exist–an anchor that holds, though the winds may rage.

It doesn’t matter that nothing makes sense. He is truth.

My helplessness is not a problem for Him. He is God.

The fact that Jesus is the Answer is enough.

He is enough–this God whose perfect love casts out fear. Who chose to leave heaven, joining our suffering so that all could be made right.

As a mother, I am so fallible. So imperfect. Yet, as much as it hurts me to watch Olivia suffer, I would never leave her alone in that pain.

Am I better than my Father? No. I’m certain it rips at His heart, but still he stays with us in the places where suffering runs deep. He would never leave us alone in that pain.

And unlike me, our God has answers. Real ones. Life altering, soul strengthening answers. He IS the Answer, and He sees a middle filled with peace and joy and an end that is good.

So, I will reframe my questions and look to Jesus as the Answer. It’s less about whether I stay or flee than where I place my trust. Because what I do–while important–is driven (or derailed) by the how. And the question of when is nothing compared to that of who. All of the whats, whens, and whys pale in the face of who Jesus is and how I respond to Him.

Because Jesus is the only Answer that matters.

“Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.”–Romans 7:25a (NLT)

Where words fail

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*It isn’t often that I write directly to a single person, but mom this is for you. I’m letting the  rest of the world read too, because I think that you and I share the belief that pain is somehow easier to bear in the moment that you realize it has served some kind of purpose. Even the worst kind of heartache begins to heal a little when our story becomes a rope for someone else to hold onto. So, this is for anyone who has suffered a loss. I suppose that means it’s for all of us.

It’s been a month since he died, and the days and the hours are full of empty space–bursting at the seams with all of the words I haven’t found to say.

You and I just hung up the phone, but my ears are ringing in the silence. If Tommy were here, he’d have cracked a joke by now. But he’s not, and I don’t even know how to begin to fill the void.

My words feel paltry against such loss. So I say the most honest thing I can manage …

I love you.

I love you, and my heart is like that sweater that began to unravel after I pulled the loose thread you had told me to leave alone. You’ve never claimed to be a seamstress, but you found a way to sew it all back together. I’d give anything if I could do the same for you now.

279 miles separate us, and each stretch of highway hurts more than it ever did before. I ache to bridge the canyon with a hug or the squeeze of a hand–anything to let you know that I’m there, even when I’m not.

My attempts at comfort seem trifling against such distance. So I offer the most truthful thing I know …

“It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you.”–Dueteronomy 31:8

Thank God that though my words fail, His never will. When all human sympathy and consolation–however heartfelt–seem to fly with the wind, Jesus speaks the Words that don’t return empty.

His Word will not fail.

His love will not end.

No number of mile markers could separate you from the perfect love that knows no distance. He is closer than your breath.

Even when it seems as if the last thread of hope has been pulled loose, our God remains faithful–stitching broken hearts and weaving a story of redemption into every loss, like only He can.

Kept in You
by Holly Chapman

*For you, mom

Let us hold to our hope
Our God can be trusted
Wait patiently, unwavering
Let us be brave
Strong and courageous

Strength made perfect in this weakness
Grace intended for this moment

Father, You are the arms that hold me when
This world is more than I can face alone
Abba, Your love sustains me even then
Kept for eternity am I in you

When tears fall down my face like rain
Yours are mixed with mine
I know You feel my pain
And when the ground is sinking sand
Softly, You remind
My life is in Your hands

Your joy is real
Your peace is overwhelming
Your strength is now
In You I overcome

“Where words fail, music speaks.”–Hans Christian Andersen