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Raising My Cup Anyway

July 30th, 2014

 

I sometimes wonder about that line in Psalm 23.

“You anoint my head with oil…………………my cup overflows.”

What if the overflowing hurts?

What if all that pours out over the edges isn’t pretty?

Sometimes the cup we lift to praise Him isn’t raised in laughter.

And maybe, just maybe, it’s the raising of the cup……………

anyway

in spite of

………that keeps us feasting at His table even when we feel like anything but a treasured guest.

 Maybe what keeps us firmly seated with Him is the ability to see that in the sloshing out of all things good and bad He is still faithful

Not answering every question.

Not providing an easy escape plan.

He is still faithful.

I continue to learn that sometimes my cup overflows with good and beautiful things.

I look to the sunrise with excitement and great anticipation.

I laugh.

I love.

I celebrate.

But sometimes I find myself holding a cup that overflows with other kinds of things.

Things that keep me up at night.

Things that make me question everything and everyone around me.

Things that hurt.

I want to raise my cup to Him no matter what spills out.

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As we stood in line, I whispered a prayer for the employee who would help us with our tickets.

I prayed for me and Tim too, that we would be able to explain our situation without becoming too emotional.

Holding onto our lifetime passes for the past twelve years, we knew that transferring them over into the modern-day, technology-controlled Disney bracelets from our decade-old, flimsy paper tickets may be tricky.

We also knew explaining “why” we still had them may not be easy.

Twelve years ago we saved and planned a special trip to Disney with all five of our kids.

We bought five-day hopper passes and added two water park days to our big vacation.

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But after three days and one water park, Nick didn’t feel well and all the kids were tired; so we decided to save the rest of our time at Disney for another summer.

A month later the phrase “brain tumor” entered our life, and truly nothing in our lives has been the same since that day.

So, we’ve kept the tickets tucked away and other than Olivia, Evan, and I using one day in California about three years ago, we haven’t given them a lot of thought.

But, we decided this was the summer to venture south again and create a special memory for Olivia and one of her dear friends.

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When we placed all the tickets in front of the sweet lady who had the misfortune of getting us as her next customer, I could tell this wasn’t going to be an easy transfer.

Some of our tickets had one day left.

Some had two.

Some were children’s tickets.

Some were adult.

Our attendant was so sweet, though, and even though she was flustered she apologized several times for taking so long, and I finally told her,  “I prayed for you while we were in line.  I knew this might not be easy.”

When someone from the office came to help her, I was taken back by his name tag which I tried to slyly photograph (they are probably still talking about the crazy lady who was taking pictures through the glass window.)

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It didn’t say, “Nick,” but it did say, “Isaac,”

and for me that name is almost as significant as Nick, because I feel such a connection to Abraham and Sarah and what God asked them to do……………

In that moment as I watched him study the computer screen, I remembered a book my friend Topsy gave me not long after Nick passed away entitled,  “When I Lay My Isaac Down,” and I remembered how I had felt such a connection to the author, Carol Kent, as I read each word of her story.

She had been through a very different experience with her son, but she was also asked to give all control to God.

I still remember visualizing myself literally laying Nick on God’s lap when he was sick, and saying, “I trust you with my son.”  This was the hardest prayer I had ever prayed.

It occurred to me in that moment of reflecting on our life journey, that we had decided not to say a lot to the employees about why we had held onto the tickets for that long.  We didn’t want to get emotional before a fun day, but when I saw the employee’s name tag, it just came out.

Without thinking, I said, “Our son was sick so we had to leave Disney early twelve years ago.  He passed away.  I can’t even tell you what it means to see your name on your name tag.'”  Of course, he replied, “I’m so sorry.  Was your son’s name Isaac?”

And then there I was.

Waffling between lying so he wouldn’t think I was crazy, or spilling out the truth.

I hesitated for just a moment.

But if you know me well, you know one thing for sure:

I’m good at spilling out what’s on my heart.

So, I went right on to say, “No, his name was Nick,” to which they all three looked up kind-of confused, as I continued, “I just feel a connection to Abraham and Isaac from the Bible because of our son.”

The male employee immediately smiled and said, “That’s who I’m named after!”

It was a surreal moment as we all sort-of breathed in God’s presence even in the hustle and bustle of the Disney line.  I’m convinced more and more every day that God is longing to be talked about, shared, and adored even in places as seemingly “non-holy” as a ticket line.

Olivia and Laine sat on the ground behind us patiently waiting for everything to get sorted out, unaware that we are in the middle of a Disney World revival.

After several phone calls with questions and the addition of two other workers to help code everything correctly into the computer and create the right combinations of tickets with each of our names, we finally had four bracelets that each contained two days of adult hopper passes!  And our cost???

$0.00!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

They even gave us fast passes to a ride of our choice as an apology for taking so long!

I couldn’t leave this moment without having Tim take a photograph.  By this time, I think they were fairly comfortable with our picture taking and even took time to pose in spite of the long line behind us!! 🙂

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I have been unable to process so many things about our trip until today.  I’m finally able to look through pictures and think a bit about each of them.

For today, I want to say this to all of you!

First, don’t be afraid of your past even if it’s painful.

God longs to bring new and beautiful moments even from our darkest, must heart-wrenching experiences.

Tim and I faced a lot of painful memories on this trip, but we also had a chance to reflect on some wonderful memories too.

I’ll share about those another time.

Second, don’t be afraid to speak exactly what’s on your heart.  The devil would love to keep our lips sealed when it comes to anything about God’s past, present, or future plans for this world; but I believe more and more every day that there is power in His story.  There is purpose in His plan.  And there is victory all along the way for those who turn to Him.

I felt His favor all over us on this trip.  I believe He knew we needed Him extra-close and extra-involved to make it through what could have been so difficult.

If you are facing a difficult chapter in your life, please know God longs to face it with you.

He longs to pour His love right into your today.

Just like a dad watching their child giggle with joy as he pushes them on a swing, I believe God longs to fill your life with that much happiness even on your toughest days.

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I speak as a grieving mom who has seen God’s faithfulness time and time again as our family has pushed forward in spite of our tears when I say,

He truly is close to the brokenhearted.

Psalm 34:18

Thank you, Lord, for your never-ending love and faithfulness.  Without You, life is meaningless.

Thank you, Disney World, for helping our family feel safe and loved as we reentered your park with very tender and frail hearts.

We did a lot of traveling when I was a little girl.

Trips from Oklahoma to Pennyslvania.

Trips from Pennsylvania to Kentucky.

Trips from Kentucky to Oklahoma.

My sister and I shared the back seat like two small puppies in a cardboard box.

We wrestled for space when we needed alone time-one toe touching the other person’s leg could send either of us into a fit.

I can remember us drawing an imaginary line down the middle of the big leather seat we shared and then daring the other to cross that line in the slightest way.

But when we were sleepy, everything changed.

We crossed that line with no arguing, stretching out in the seat with our legs overlapping and the need for boundaries gone.

We were the best of friends when it came time to rest.

But when we were awake, I’m sure we drove dad crazy kicking the back of his seat.

And I’m sure we asked three hundred questions and made at least that many comments along the way.

“How much longer?”

“Are we there yet?”

“Tell her to quit looking at me!”

“She touched me again!”

It’s funny how much I can remember about our back seat travels to and from my grandparent’s house.

We often traveled through the night, and one thing I’ll never forget is how afraid I was to look up at the dark sky.

If you’ve ever seen a western night sky you know the stars fill the massive darkness with flickering pieces of dust, some brighter and bigger – some smaller and more faint, but no matter which way you look you see millions of lights in every direction.

I remember pushing my little face up against the cold glass of the backseat window, peering out quickly and then just as quickly looking away, afraid I would see more than stars in the blackness above me.

I wasn’t really sure “who” was up there, but I remember being very sure someone was.

Looking back, I had no idea just how my view of the night sky would change over the years.

I had no idea this view that once frightened me would one day inspire me.

Now I look up and stare.

I look up hoping to see more than just stars.

I want Him who created the darkness and the light to make Himself known to me in whatever way He chooses.

My fear of the night sky has transformed into a love for the One who made it.

As I sat in a one-room school house last week during a writing seminar I attended, the back seat in the row of desks caught my eye.

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I couldn’t help but wonder what kind of students chose to sit here.

I wondered what kind of kid would want to be the furthest away from the teacher.

Was it the bad kid? The ornery one who liked playing pranks?

Was it the kid that didn’t want to be there?  The one who hated school and only came because his parents made him?

In movies, the back seat seems to be reserved for these kinds of kids.

But today as I look at that back seat and see the sun hitting it so sweetly, I wonder if maybe the back seat held a nervous child.

A child a lot like me.

A student who wanted to learn but didn’t want to be noticed by the teacher.

A student who feared eye contact with the one in charge.

A student who only came to learn not to interact with the one up front.

I was that student for a long, long time.

Slipping into situations and trying to go unnoticed.

Like the little girl in the back seat of our car bouncing along on dusty Oklahoma roads afraid to look at the sky, I was the student afraid to look at my teacher.

Then things happened I couldn’t control.

Life yanked me out of the back seat and plopped me right down up front.

Words like “wife, motherhood, SIDS, and cancer” became part of my life story and suddenly I was in the front seat in so many different ways.

Many times I found myself holding the steering wheel with a grasp that was painful, leaving my knuckles white and my fingers cramping.

Looking up at the night sky became a regular event for me as I cried out to Him who held the stars in space, begging Him to somehow hold my heart together.

Needing the teacher to notice me was suddenly a priority.

I had to be in the front seat.

There was no other option in order for me to survive.

Sometimes life grabs us by the collar and drags us right up front whether we like or not.

There’s no hiding in the front row, no “getting by” with doing as little as possible.

We are forced to pay attention to every detail and learn quickly while in this position.

It’s not always easy.

But just as life can catapult us to a front seat view, it can also say,

“Go to the back row, please.  Keep moving til you reach the last desk.”

Sometimes others need the front row seat, and we must give them ours.

That’s not always easy either.

This week I’ve been home while Tim and Olivia have been on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic, and I’ve felt a bit like a back seat learner all over again.

I’ve looked at photographs from their trip every night.

I’ve seen the smiles, almost heard the laughter, and I’ve felt so far away.

In many ways, I’ve wanted to be right there.

To be honest, I’ve been a little envious.

I’ve wanted to love on the people they’ve met.

I’ve wanted to bond more deeply with people from our church.

As if my arms aren’t long enough, I’ve reached out with my heart and only been able to touch my computer screen.

I’ve realized this week as I’ve been pulled from the front seat and placed in the back that sometimes this is exactly where I need to be.

Off the radar…..

Out of the loop…..

Observing more than participating…….

Because there are lessons I still need to learn from the back seat even though I’ve learned to enjoy the somewhat scary ride of life with a front seat view.

This week I’ve needed to learn that Olivia can leave the country without me and be okay.

This week I’ve needed to be reminded that my husband is an awesome father and friend to so many people.

This week I’ve needed to remember how important it is for me to take time to be still and rest. 

This week I’ve needed to learn that watching others serve God is a beautiful thing, and I don’t have to be the one taking the pictures or posing in them.

Where are you today?

The front seat or the back?

No matter where you find yourself sitting, know this:

You can learn from anywhere.

Just be sure you’re not choosing the back seat out of fear or the front seat out of pride.

Either choice is dangerous and holds you back from being exactly who God wants you to be.

Allow God to put you in the front seat when He needs you there, but trust Him even when you have to press your face against the cold glass to catch a glimpse of His presence in this world.

Be willing to move up or slip back.

A back seat view isn’t easy, but sometimes it’s very important.

I’m embracing my back seat view today and loving what I see.

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