Looking Up and Leaning In

I love snow, the way it covers the earth— gently drifting or blowing strong…covering the ground in pure newness. Yet, as it sits on the ground for a bit it begins to look dingy, muddled and now part of the dirt of the earth instead of those tiny flakes of brilliant heaven.  I begin to take this thing that brought me so much joy and wish it away. I allow it to become tainted when it no longer looks the way I hope it would, when it no longer serves the purpose of beauty I want it to…my joy for the snow becomes a  fickle one, such is the imperfection in my humanity. Soon I am dreaming of sun pounding heat, the taste of water melon and the cool relief of toes dipped in the edge of my in-laws pond in August on a Sunday, I am transported elsewhere to a fake reality escaping the bitter, dirty cold.

I’m learning that I have allowed my joy to become fickle in this most recent season of life. I have walked through a polar vortex without a proper parka. The cold air hit me in the face and it stung, turned my cheeks beet red and froze the tips of my fingers. My joy became frozen in the tundra and stagnant.  But for a moment, then God revealed to me his plans to thaw my heart and heal my pain, strategies to put his perfect salve on my raw, tender wounds.

The 5.5 inch scar that brought me two babies  and filled me to the brim spilling over in joy was opened again by an 8 inch incision that placed a lump in my throat and ripped a piece of peace straight out of my spirit. In the process rushing memories of excruciating pain— running on a soccer field over a decade,  the many doctors’ offices, two surgeries, missed school days,  heart ache, and uncovering something womanly at an age I really wasn’t ready to be more than a child. This time a baseball sized foreign body- a dermoid cyst had rooted itself inside and caused intense pain as I tried to heal my body from carrying our second child. The cure is surgery and so the cyst announced itself  and surgery scheduled all in the same week. I called my mom and dad and they immediately responded so gently “you’re our daughter of course we will come.” Dad drove me to surgery so Ben could care for our littles and I was eerily in November in 8th grade again and then again in Junior year mirroring the past as we drove to the hospital early in the morning.

I remember waking up post op in tears questioning if my hopes to be a mom of more than two were gone when the surgeons had to take more tissue than we all had planned for…but as I was lost and beginning to succumb to this pit of unhappiness, physical pain and emotional torment, Jesus was there. He sat next to me, he wept with me, he held me. I never felt alone and I never felt scared.  He sent friends of mine to visit me, feed me and my family. He waited patiently on me. I heard his voice in worship songs, in dreams as I rested my weary body. He gently led me out of the hospital to the beginning of a difficult but desperately needed healing process for my body, my mind and my spirit. He never let me fall into that pit I had peered over.  Graciously, calling me back to the Father, pushing me back to the daughter of joy I am designed to be; he grabbed my heart harder than he has in all the days we have walked together on this narrow road. He will never let go.

When you begin to recognize that you have lost your joy you are finally surfacing for air to the reality that something is not as it should be. The level of my joy is meant to be measured by the level to which I know I am loved by a Father who eternally loves, has counted every hair on my head, who knew me before I was formed in my mother’s womb. I am wanted, longed for and vital to the Kingdom, but when I lose my joy I don’t function in the way that I am created to. This call to joy is not meant to be a circumstantial one— we are not promised ease, we are not promised perfection, but joy… we have a cup of suffering and a cup of joy we carry as we walk this narrow road and we daily get to choose which of those we spill onto others.

I would be insincere if I told you I have figured this out in my own journey. I feel a little twinge in my throat as I get dressed in the morning and see my tangible scars, and then I walk to the breakfast table and see two sets of sparkling, gorgeous eyes that were promised difficult if at all possible to be. I am reminded that my miracles are sitting, breathing beings before me. I am blessed beyond measure by a Papa who knew my deepest, gut ethereal desires. He has allowed my heart to sing over and over again “I’m surrounded by you” in a battle that has attempted to steal my joy time and time again. I have looked up to the Father and found that this brief season of discomfort and walking out new humility is vital to my being. God has walked me through his fire of refinement, burning off the things that shouldn’t have been.  I have leaned hard into the promises of what God said he will do, leaned harder into marriage with my sweet Ben, and leaned down to my miracles Liam and Aspen.  I am hopeful of what the future holds.

In church during a prayer ministry time I was given a word and God asked me “Where is my brave girl?” I’m here and walking forward, humbled and a little tired but full of new light, knocked down but choosing to stand tall with a fire in my belly and a song in my heart. Rise up, the war is won, seek out your joy and don’t ever believe the lie that it is fleeting; it is merely a prayer away. The hard work is worth your time.  Look in the eyes of the Father and see His love, be reminded of the eternal joy you are intended to carry.

Emma Shetterley
Flip 180 Pastor
NCWC

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