It is February in the Pacific Northwest, which undoubtably means, it is consistently dreary, drizzly, and grey. One day rolls into the next with monotonous regularity. The flat winter light outside matches the mood of the inhabitants inside our Cruise-a-home. Frequently feeling claustrophobic, I struggle. Some grey days, it is just plain hard deciding to continue trudging through the daily school, chore, and work routine. I have also figured out, as I recall years past, February has a reputation of being an emotionally difficult month to walk through. Five of the past seven February’s have been beyond heart breaking, the Valley of the Shadow of Death itself each and every time. To make it through each difficult day, I cling to my faith as my life line.
I am a get-her-done, get-down-and-dirty, don’t-put-off-till-tomorrow, carpe diem, kind of girl with “I can do this!” determination. As much as I desire our dream to materialize instantly, Ryan and I recognize this as a season of training for our family. Through tenacious bite sized chunks, the monotonous daily struggles is preparing us for our sailing adventure. Putting the breaks on the fight or flight adrenalin rush of progress, slow and steady will make us stronger to endure the doldrums.
I am also a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom of four ages 11, 9, 7 and 4. Exhausted and weary, I repeatedly whisper “I can do this” like the Little Engine That Could. Achieving our first anniversary of moving out of our house, the novelty of this adventure has flattened with the Northwest’s overcast winter sky.
The other day, as a break between diagramming sentences and math drills, I walked to the laundry mat to tackle my weekly laundry chore. My kids had an exhausting weekend and were tired. I was tired. A good nap would do us all a world of good. Squirming and fidgeting, my children fought me tooth and nail. “We’re not tired!” they protested, their eyes clearly droopy as they continued to pester each other’s nerves. I told them to go to their bunks, close their eyes, and listen to Adventures in Odyssey, willing them to succumb to rest. Interesting, I thought, how often do I fidget and fight and just can’t be still, when I feel God tell my squirmy soul, to just be still and rest.
As I mentioned before, it has dawned on me that February has consistently been a more tragic and depressing month than others. Though I do not enjoy recalling the specifics of hard struggles or painful memories, remembering it was after such difficulties, that has ultimately lead us to where we are today. With each pass through the Valley, He is still the Ebenezer I cling to. 1 Samuel 7:12, “Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the LORD helped us.” I suppose my blog has become my Ebenezer stone where I recall our journey and remember the very real reality of God’s faithfulness to provide and protect us, and to see His presence was with us in the past, and will continue to be with us in the present and future.
I just read this in the Message translation and it jumped off the page. I’ve never heard nor thought of the Sermon on the Mount like this before.
“When Jesus saw his ministry drawing huge crowds, he climbed a hillside. Those who were apprenticed to him, the committed, climbed with him. Arriving at a quiet place, he sat down and taught his companions. This is what he said:
‘You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.
You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.
You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are – no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.
You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.
You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.
You’re blessed when you get your inside world – your mind and heart – put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.
You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family…'” Mathew 5:1-9
At church, our pastor is going through the book of James, verse by verse. (Anyone can listen to his encouraging messages at http://www.nview.org.) In his sermon, he read a poem from John Greenleaf Whittier that completely touched my heart. As if God himself whispered to my soul…
“When things go wrong as they sometimes will,
When the road you’re trudging seems all up hill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high
and you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest if you must, but don’t you quit.
Life is strange with its twists and turns
As every one of us sometimes learns
And many a failure comes about
When he might have won had he stuck it out;
Don’t give up though the pace seems slow –
You may succeed with another blow.
Success is failure turned inside out –
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell just how close you are,
It may be near when it seems so far;
So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit –
It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit.
For all the sad words of tongue or pen
The saddest are these: “It might have been!”
~ John Greenleaf Whittier (1807 – 1892)
Thankfully, February will not last forever. Though we may currently be walking through another valley, I recognize my faith in my Shepherd is growing for I am not fearing the future as much as I used to.
“Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial,
because when he has stood the test,
he will receive the crown of life
that God has promised
to those who love him.” James 1:12
I love Him.