Last Tuesday was a momentous day for our family after this summer of ups and downs, doctors appointments and Izzy’s surgery. We left Children’s Hospital Los Angeles with smiles on our faces, kisses being given to sweet little cheeks and glances of relief were swapped over the tops of our two little loves’ heads. We had just heard these words; “Surgery was a complete success, Izzy now has a normal functioning bladder…” and hope soared within my heart.
For those of you who have followed our story since before Izzy was born, this has been an ongoing issue with us for over three years now. Infections have plagued her little body since she has been a baby and this has added a great deal of stress to our lives as we live in a remote village in the Philippines. Dealing with her sickness has brought me to my knees more than any other struggle in my whole life. I have felt helpless and hopeless in the midst of long fever-filled nights and longed and prayed for the day when I could leave a hospital and know this stage had come to a close. This chapter would be over and we could continue on our way, home to the mission field, home to our little house on the hill, home to a little church whose fellowship we greatly miss.
So, as we buckled Izzy and Judah into their car seats and drove away mile after mile from the hospital, we praised, rejoiced and hoped for a brighter future, now that this chapter had come to an end.
That night, our sweet little girl touched the scar all the way across her tummy and prayed; “Thank you Jesus for making me all better, Amen.” We read stories on the bed together and I could not have been happier for her, for me, for all of us. God is good.
Friday morning, just three days after taking her off the antibiotics, she crawled up on to my knee. It was nice to get a little cuddle and then she lingered longer than normal and my heart fluttered with a familiar weakness. I felt her head and it was hot. I could hardly believe it. I ached with her again, and hope, my hope that was wrapped up nicely and tucked away in my heart, unraveled.
Just days before, I had envisioned a whole new life for us. A life free of this problem so I would be able to serve the Lord better, stronger, with more time and more focus. Izzy would be happier and healthy, and really, so would I. We would all be better again and life was going to be different.
Friday afternoon, we had to take her for more tests and I could see it in her eyes that she was as confused and disappointed as I was that day. In the middle of the night she was up late with a fever and as I laid beside her, she whispered, “Mama, do I have to go back to the hospital because I am not all better?” I must have said all the right things she needed to hear because she soon fell back into a peaceful sleep, but I was up, wide awake and searching my heart. My hope and joy had walked out the door and instead of being busy with packing our suitcases to go back to the Philippines, I sat staring at my own baggage that had reappeared right before my eyes.
After this summer of trials and trusting, I was so sure we were going home to a different scenario and a new start. My hope, though, was in the outcome of a surgery, the changes the future would now hold for us, and when they were dashed, my hope broke, too.
There were no Facebook status updates for prayer over the weekend or Instagram photos of more doctors appointments. I don’t know why, but I felt that if I could keep it all on the inside I might not have to face the questions, the reasons, the decisions, for a little while longer.
At church this past Sunday, Danny was preaching and I was to share a little at the end. Of all Sundays, I thought, this is not a good time for me to be doing this. We were both feeling a little shaken with the week’s ups and downs. I think I shared some words up front. I remember more the tears, my shaky voice and a trembling heart. I didn’t feel ready to share that morning; but God used this in my life late Saturday night to help jumpstart my own soul searching. He caused me to stop and look where I really didn’t want to focus, which was into my own heart, my big fears and all the questions swirling in my head.
All summer long I have felt God has been whispering to me, “Philippa, just keep trusting. I am enough.” It isn’t a one-time event, it is a constant journey and just when I think I am “there” He takes me another step further and asks me to trust Him more and seek Him anew. I look back over this summer to the events that have passed since returning from the Philippines; Izzy’s surgery, having to leave the country, being separated as a family, Izzy getting sick again while I was gone, the stress of hoping to get back into America, traveling alone, etc. The main thing I remember as I look back over it all is that God has been so faithful and so personal in my life. I have never felt grace and peace in the tenderest of ways like I have through these past 5 months.
So, as I sat up alone, late Saturday night, why was I so disappointed? Where was my hope? Joy? Strength?
Psalms 43:5 – Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope in God: for I shall yet praise him, [who is] the health of my countenance, and my God.
I realize (in hindsight) that I had put all my hope in those few words spoken by a surgeon in L.A. “Surgery was a complete success.” I was clinging to those words and shut the door on the events of the summer. We had our happy ending.
These past few days I have thought many times about the Apostle Paul, who asks the Lord to deliver him from something that caused him to suffer greatly; it burdened him, tormented him…and also kept him humble before the Lord.
God didn’t take his suffering away like we know He could have done. Our mighty God had shown His power to Paul on many occasions, yet this time He chose to give to Paul something greater; His comfort, His Grace and more knowledge and experience of Himself as Paul daily depended on God to meet his every need.
God’s power and greatness, His goodness and glory are not only shown in the praises of our prayer or in the happy endings of a story. Sometimes for His great glory and purpose He chooses to show forth His power in the quiet and secret moments inside the depths of our heart. He sends forth the powerful gifts of peace, comfort and grace within the hurting heart or weary soul. And these are the words that our great eternal God promises to each hurting child of His in 2 Corinthians 12:9.
9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
God is always enough. No matter our circumstances, no matter where our expectations may have caused us to stumble or our disappointments have tripped us up; God’s grace will be sufficient for our every weakness.
This weekend, my heart’s desires, hopes and dreams got a little bit of a shake up that I wasn’t expecting and yet, again, I realize my hope is only to be placed in the Lord. It is in his Word, alone, that I am to depend and trust. When I place my hope anywhere else (even with good intentions) disappointment will come knocking at my door.
We will do everything we can to try and help our little girl stay healthy. We have more doctors’ appointments tomorrow to seek some advice and maybe get new answers. We will research diet changes and practical steps that we can do to, hopefully, help her little body get stronger. She may not have another infection for months or she may have one again next week. She has had infections while we have been here in the States (our safe place) and she has had infections in the Philippines. Last Tuesday I thought the healing had come and I thanked God with all my heart and soul. This Tuesday, I realize, yet again, that even if the healing doesn’t come in the way I expect, God is still God and He is enough, more than enough, for my every trial. Our God is the same, powerful, loving Heavenly Father that we praised in the car on the way home from the hospital last Tuesday. He hasn’t changed, not even one little bit in this past week, but in His love, He continues to change me, daily.
I thought (maybe naively) that I would be returning to the Philippines after these months as a refreshed, maybe even a more capable missionary! The fact is, as I sit here surrounded by empty suitcases and piles of our lives sitting stacked on the floor, I feel nothing but weak and totally incapable for the task ahead. I know my heart. I am well aware of the doubts that arise, and yet, at the same time, I am soaring with a new hope that this world cannot explain. I need His grace every minute of the day and He promises me, that every moment of the day His presence graces my life. I am so thankful that His power is not just evident in the dramatic happy endings of a story but it is also just as evident when He writes words of hope and joy all the way through the pages of our struggles in life.
So as we prepare to fly back on a plane this weekend and face a jungle of unknowns….yet again. I hear the Lord whispering hope into my quieter and much more silent heart, “Philippa, just keep trusting that I am always enough.”
Psalms 71:14 – But I will hope continually, and will yet praise thee more and more.
With love and thanks for your prayers,