John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
Soooooo… next week is going to look a little different.
No Palm Sunday worship where we will receive our Palm crosses the ladies guild has painstakingly folded the week prior. No Sunday school children marching down church isles waving Palm branches – reinacting Hosanna Sunday. No Extra choir rehearsals for one of the most attended church services of the year. Musicians have been cancelled. Restaurant reservations have been cancelled. No last minute shopping trips to find little white sandals for little girls feet. No coordination of menus among family members for a large Easter dinner gathering. Mom makes the ham. Sister makes the sweet potatoe casserole. Sis in law makes the cheesecake. In an effort to be mindful of food shortage we may even decide to forgo coloring easter eggs.
Indeed. Its going to look and feel very, very different.
As I’ve reflected on this time I realized I have actually walked through a similar journey at this exact time of year. I reference this season so often because it made such an impact on me and my family. It’s where I learned to trust God most and saw his work most clearly. I hope you have times you can look back on to see the same. If you don’t – pay attention. I’m guessing God wants to use this time to teach us a thing or two.
When our son entered the hospital 3 weeks prior to Easter in 2007 we did not plan on spending more than a night. We certainly didn’t plan on admittance to ICU, teams of specialists hovering over him for days on end with way more questions then answers. We didn’t plan on him working with speech, and occupational and physical therapists multiple times a day. We didn’t plan on relying on friends and family to make meals for us each night. We didn’t plan on never receiving a specific diagnosis or zero predictions on when or if he would fully heal. And we certainly didn’t plan on eating Tuna fish for Easter dinner.
By the time we had reached Holy Week or the week proceeding Easter our family had created a new normal. We had a routine down pat. We lived day to day not knowing if this visit would stretch out days, weeks or months. We all needed structure and we had found it. It was critical for our sanity and survival. Tom and I took turns spending the night with Jonah while the other was home with the girls. The parent that had been home would drop the girls at school in the morning, attempt to get either business tasks or ministry tasks done during the day. After school we would pick up the girls as well as a meal someone had left at the school for us and make the 40 minute drive the hospital. Our family would then spend the evening together eating our meal, enjoying the fabulous play area on the children’s floor of the hospital. We would work on the girls homework and gather around our unresponsive sons bed. When it was time to get the girls to bed, the parent that had stayed in the hospital the night prior would take them home and the other parent settled in for their night in the hospital. We way lowered the bar on everything in life except the needs of all of our children. Including Easter dinner.
As Holy week unfolded we began to see signs that we would be able to leave. Despite the lack of diagnosis Jonahs medical team had just flat run out of tests and could do nothing more for us. Holy week was prep week for taking a wheelchair bound, unable to talk or swallow or communicate son home to our family of 5. On Tuesday a feeding tube was surgically inserted into his stomach. We learned how to work a feeding machine that would pump food into his stomach while he slept. We scheduled therapy 6 times a week held in locations not less than 45 minutes away. We borrowed a twin bed from our neighbor to replace the loft bed he would no longer be able to climb into. Tom and I were trained in how to get him in and out of his wheelchair to continue the exercises we hoped would lead to his ability to walk. This was all happening while Tom was prepping to lead our congregation through one of the busiest worship weeks of the church year.
In an effort to keep things semi normal for my girls I reached out to friends to ask if they could put together Easter baskets for them. And they did. They took my list and shopped and created beautiful baskets for Allie and Brooke. My parents had come in to town and my mom volunteered to spend Saturday night at the hospital so Tom and I could both be home on Easter morning. Tom lead worship. Our praise band knocked the music out of the park. We enjoyed the hugs and prayers of our faith community that was so important to us. Then we headed to the hospital for Easter dinner.
I’ll never forget that Easter afternoon. Our family of 5 and my parents huddled around Jonahs bed with styrofoam containers holding our individual orders from the hospital restaurant located in the lobby. We are so grateful that it was actually quite tasty. I picked Tuna. A tuna fish sandwich with a dill pickle on the side for my Easter dinner. There was a feeling of anticipation in the air because it had just been cleared that we would be able to bring Jonah home the next day. We had learned all that they thought we needed and discharge would happen the next day – the day after Easter. The day we celebrated the death and RESURRECTION of our Savior. We didn’t think about the backyard easter egg hunt that wasn’t happening. We didn’t talk about the cheese potatoes we weren’t eating. We weren’t critiquing the clothes people had chosen to wear to Easter Sunday church. We just sat and ate in a peace that can only come from the Holy Spirit. I remember the smell of the room. I remember the warmth and cozy feeling of 4 year old Brooke snuggled on my lap. I hear the sounds of nurses and doctors poking their heads into our room, wishing us well as news spread that we would be leaving the next morning. As my minds eye goes back to that scene I also see the arms of Jesus wrapped around that room. Reminding us of the victory we were celebrating that day. The victory that brought us life and peace and power and hope not only in the future but in that moment we were living. He was holding us all tight. I’m certain if he let go we would have all fallen to pieces. But of course he would never do that and he never will.
Oh friends. This is really, really hard. This looking ahead to another week of the unknown. This saying goodbye to lifetime traditions that mean so much. Let me be the voice, the reminder to you today… what ever…
Next week holds. No matter what you eat for easter dinner. No matter how you celebrate this MOST important event. No matter how the Monday after looks –
His arms are tight. And they are strong. They have fought death and won. Jesus has …
Hold tight to that today.
Loving you where you are. Pointing you forward to where He is.