Kara’s Collection: Battling What If and If Only

from an article originally posted May 9, 2014…

The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.
— Numbers 6:26

We are in the final days of the school year. It is our great privilege to attend performances, speeches, special moments for our children. Behind closed doors it’s a mad scramble to find the appropriate attire. Children are attending most events in capri pants that were once long pants at the beginning of the school year. We are delighting in their music, their friends, and their hearts that long to share their accomplishments. I am desperately in the audience beaming upon the faces of my children. My heart is screaming, I’m here, do you see me, I’m here, and I love you.

We get to hear the songs that have been practiced, hear from teachers, and delight in a school year that is coming to a close. Ella giggles with her girlfriends, and I see pride in her face over the compliments.

I try my best to lavish love on this one, this one who has a mama desperate to be in the audience. Her mama is in the DRC, loving her little brother, but longing to be united as an entire family. So I take extra pictures and promise to send them to her mama. I hug her daddy; he looks weary. I cannot fix it. My hard story sits next to his hard story, and we are both tired and dependent on grace to meet us. It will, but it doesn’t mean we aren’t tired. We are walking, always walking the next step, fighting for faithfulness in our moments, desperate for grace.

There are these glimpses, these moments that lighten our hearts and remind us of goodness. My littlest posing as only my littlest knows how for the lens. She is accustomed to being an audience member, the constant cheerleader for the bigger ones.

This face, this tasty face. Smothered with kisses, squished with hugs; she knows the joy that can be found waiting for the performance.

We head into school to watch our second born teach her class to make guacamole. With every ingredient added, she looks over at Jason and me for approval. We smile and give her encouragement with our presence. Jason even steps in to help with the smashing of the green goodness. Again, my smile, my camera, my heart is smiling with the heart of I’m here sweet middle daughter. I’m here and I love you. You count the smiles, you measure the moments, you know our presence. Today we have showed up to delight in you.

Next week, I will be heading into Lake’s class. I will enter the room with a heart of love to delight in my little man. Each moment feels like a gift.

Last week, I visited my friend that has had surgery. She was struggling through the footing of not being able. My heart hurt for her, I know that stumbling. I left and cried jealous tears. Ugly, jealous tears of wanting to heal from my cancer like she will heal from her knee surgery. Wanting the lesson of grace that comes when we are shown our weakness in the midst of pain. Wanting to be torn from my own ability, but I was jealous, because I want the lesson; but then I want strength to be handed back to me.

My friend will heal from her surgery, she will remember what Jesus taught her in brokenness. I’m jealous of the strength she will be returned to after she heals. And in that moment—in that ugly moment—I repent, and see how ugly jealousy is. It’s hateful. I get to receive my story as she gets to receive hers. We both get to see the breathtaking grace that meets us. As friends, we get to remind each other of Jesus. We get to learn the hard graces of needy beside one another. And we get the privilege of walking through hard together. Some days the receiving of my story is just painful. The sin of jealousy lurks in corners I never expected.

You see, I love to be at a bedside. I love to be present in hard. As others have reminded me of goodness, I want to cheer on the hurting as well. Jealousy would rob me of that joy. Jealousy would steal moments of meeting another in brokenness. Jealousy is a robber, a liar, a fake. It says: You want that story, not your own. You want her grace, not yours. The story that has been given to you is a mistake. And they are lies—utter lies.

As I was going to sleep last night, I started to pray through the joy that had filled the day. I was naming the graces and giving thanks for the moments embraced and feeling so very full. Unbelievably full. Children, girlfriends, husband, music, snuggles in the pew—all of it endlessly fulfilling. As I was praying, it suddenly dawned on me: I don’t ask for more. I have not been praying for more of these days, these moments, these joys. I have been afraid to ask. What if, what if, what if, what if, what if I really, really ask and the answer is no? What if the loving answer is no? Would I crumble? Would I be kept in the despair of the no? Would I be able to swallow the pill of No Kara, you cannot remain? So I haven’t been asking, simply too afraid of the answer. But last night I asked. Head resting on my pillow, full from the day that was full of life, I asked to be present for more of it. More performances, more snuggles, more inappropriate joking, more time delighting over my children, more joy next to treasured girlfriends, more breakfasts next to my guy, more moments. More time naming grace, looking for Emmanuel, God with us, in my hard, naming him in the joys, embracing faith in each breath.

Then I’m plagued with the if onlys that devour me. If only I didn’t have this battle. If only, if only, if only I would be given more time...

I am praying my hope would be restored. I’m praying my heart would pray for what my heart desires. I’m praying if the loving no comes, that my foundation would remain firm. I’m praying in every answer I would be willing to receive the story, shout the grace from every corner, and know, know, know that goodness will meet us all. I am praying that the what if and if only that can spin on a loop in my brain would be quieted.

I do want more time but more than all of that, I want Jesus. More than my wants, I want what I know is mine to receive. It is not easy to receive the hard story when all you want is to live in the simple mundane of today. But I trust Jesus, I trust him. He sometimes must pry my fingers loose one finger at a time, but He is good in His opening of my hands. He is good even if I struggle to choke out the words: HARD IS NOT THE ABSENCE OF HIS GOODNESS.

Some have only learned to trust the smile of His face, but they must also learn to trust the blows of His fist. God brings us to that! No, you say, I can never come to that. But surely you can! Did not one of old say, Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him (Job 13:15)? This is precisely what we mean.

God’s children undergo a variety of experiences. Today your heart is a place of sacrifice, tomorrow a battlefield. In turn, your soul is a temple and a threshing floor. But whatever your ups and downs, you will never be removed from your ordained and appointed place. By the grace of God, you are where you are and where you shall be. You will never be effectually removed from the Lord. Infinite love holds you. Since you trusted in the Lord there have been times when you felt that you did not receive the expected support and comfort. And yet it came. Will you now leave Him and look elsewhere? God Forbid! At the very worst, our gospel is better than the world at its best. I would rather drink the dregs of Christ’s wine vat, when the berries are sour, than swallow the sweetest wine of the vintage of unbelief. Believe the gospel, whether or not it yields immediate comfort.

We would sooner be God’s dogs than the devil’s darlings.
— Charles Haddon Spurgeon