I absolutely LOVE surprises – always have! Perhaps it’s the adrenaline rush. Maybe it’s the thrill of plotting so someone can feel extra special & be celebrated. Orrrr it’s just the plain sneakiness I love! I’m talking good surprises, people – not the creepy spider falling on your face in the middle of the night, the unexpected freaky in-law visits, or evil baby horror film type of surprises. Don’t go there.
I think God loves to surprise His kids! He’s sneaky like that. He shows up both with big & little surprises. In my life, His surprises are like little hugs, reminding his daughter “Hey, Surprise! Did you think I had forgotten about what you’re going through? Nope! I’m right here & you are loved!’
Not too long ago my family & I were handed what I often refer to as lemons. In full disclosure, I felt like the lemons were thrown at us with fire power equaling that of a machine gun. But for purposes of being true to the metaphor, we’ll say handed. Since mid-February we’ve seen a lot of lemons:
*My husband lost his job (and the perks of a company car & insurance).
*I applied for a job that I thought I would totally get but didn’t. Devastated. And humbled. 🙂
* I suffered a back injury at work, spent the next five weeks in a neck & back brace, and am still in physical therapy. I couldn’t walk down the stairs to do laundry, drive or tie my own shoes for more than a few weeks.
* I was visited by half a dozen paramedics, received a nice ride in an ambulance (that cost more than a plane ticket to Africa) & a trip to the ER because I fainted on my kitchen floor, going in & out of consciousness for about 30-40 minutes, being in a hypothermic state with my blood pressure dipping into the low 40s. The jury is still out on this mystery illness.
*Our oldest son has aspergers and had just a few meltdowns both at home & school. Love getting those calls from the school! *not*
*Our basement flooded, garage door broke, we have a sweet little doggie that likes to pee on visitors, and we have ANOTHER sweet doggie who insists on using our youngest son’s bedroom as a potty place. These potty issues seemed to increase on days that were already difficult.
Before you start giving me your sympathy vote…
God has been working, plotting, being sneaky in the midst of lemon grenades to create the most beautiful, delicious pitcher of refreshing lemonade for us to enjoy and offer to our friends & family.
His ultimate surprise was His faithfulness! But along the difficult road, He left some small surprises (hugs):
I have a lemonade list in my prayer journal that I started as soon as my husband lost his job. With a history of depression, the only way for me to avoid the pit is to remain thankful. This lemonade list serves as my ‘forget not all His benefits’ list. But I had no idea how long this list would become.
A few items on the Lemonade List:
*At least 5 different times we came home to find groceries at our doorstep. And not just groceries y’all – the healthy kind, with grass-fed beef & chicken & lots of veggies. One person even gave us homemade laundry soap and thought to buy food for our dogs!
*I don’t know, maybe we look poor, but restaurants seemed to suddenly enjoy giving us free food & discounts!
*April was Autism Awareness ‘Light It Up’ Blue Month. We were surprised with gifts of a dozen ‘blue’ yogurts for Andy. A friend showed up at our door with an envelope for him – thick & full of encouraging words as well as six different gift cards to Applebees, movie theater & Barnes & Noble… some of our favorite hangouts!
*Neighbors and co-workers gave us cookies, homemade meals, free lunches & helped us however they could.
*People have given towards our mission to Swaziland like never before – we are nearly paid in full! Amazing!
*I even won TWO different contests for movie tickets within 10 minutes of each other!
Can you say, ‘SURPRISE!!!!’?
See, the Lemonade List ended up being 37 items long! Not only was my faith in humanity restored, but God continually reminded us of His faithfulness & concern for the little things.
I remember praying over & over, “God if You’re allowing all these trials into our lives, you MUST have a greater purpose. Please don’t let me miss it. Show me YOU in the hard times & let us be an example of your faithfulness to those around us (not whiners who pout when something goes wrong).”
Now I don’t have specifics of how God uses our trials to encourage others, but I trust that He did because He really did (and really does) remain faithful to us. Also I learned a lot about perseverance in spite of circumstances, about remaining thankful, praising Him in the midnight hour, and seeing Him show up every single time.
There’s also been times in my life where the surprises were SO good that it took a long time for the fruition of them, and it felt like God went on a Mars vacation. Perhaps you are in that place, feeling like God is nowhere to be found and couldn’t care less. Hear me: Your answer, your surprise of His faithfulness is on the way, so go ahead and praise Him for it! He has a purpose for everything.
Be encouraged by Jesus’ answer to those wondering why the man was blind from birth. Was it he who sinned?Or his parents? Jesus replied, “This happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”
God’s purpose in freeing the Israelites from bondage was not simply to get them out of the Egypt and into Canaan as quickly as possible. His purpose was to reconcile them to Him and to enter into a vital relationship with them. The long way through the wilderness was necessary so that the Israelites might know & trust Him; which is pertinent to our relationship with Him too. There are seasons we simply need to pray through, instead of trying to get out of.
As I was reminded today, we often get so anxious to get out of difficult, painful, or challenging situations that we fail to grow through them. Allow God to cultivate His character within you, and there’s never more of an opportunity to develop character & patience than when you’re being pummeled by life’s lemons.