My sagging mum was in desperate need of new ground. It isn’t a gigantic one, just a toddler, crammed into an eight-inch pot. By the time I stopped at the roadside nursery last fall (fully masked and social distancing) it was late in the season. When I surveyed the garden plants, this little guy was the last one—and looked neglected and forgotten in a space behind brilliant pansies and hardy flowering perennials. But, a few days after taking it home and putting it in a spot to catch the afternoon sun, it opened with lovely salmon blooms. I nursed it all winter, bringing it inside to adorn our kitchen table and compete with a cluster of small poinsettias sitting near the window.
On the next to last day of February, I knew it was time. This drooping mum couldn’t survive much longer inside. It needed new soil to spread its roots. It needed fresh air and sunshine. The day was what I call “soupy” (my own meteorological term): foggy dark with a heavy mist that can’t yet be classified as rain. Twenty-two days before the advent of spring, I thrust the shovel in the soil—still soggy from our heavy (and quite unusual) Valentine’s week snowfall.
That mum was tugging at my heart because I knew if I didn’t put it in the ground soon, it would continue shriveling in a quick descent toward root rot. I’d rushed out so quickly to get it in the ground before the soupy day turned to a down pour, that I forgot to grab my gardening gloves. No matter. I decided to plunge my fingers in the wet dirt. It actually felt good to get them back in the soil. It’s been a long winter.
The earth split open easily under the shovel’s thrust, and soon I had a deeper hole than this little guy actually needed. I worked a bit of dirt back into the hole before placing the mum in its new home. I could almost feel the roots stretching to get into fresh ground, where they could be established to grow in new territory. While I worked, I prayed.
I prayed for the new season that’s coming—full of hope for new works, new growth, new evidences of God’s grace. Winter has been long, but even in the bitter days, it’s been good. God has been bringing to fruition the verse He planted in my heart throughout 2020.
Do you remember when I shared with you the passage God placed on my heart for last year? At the end of 2019, as I typically do at the close of the year, I shared with you the Scripture passage for my spiritual focus for the new year. (You can click here to read that post). Every day of 2020, at the top of my journal page, I wrote my Scripture for the year:
“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” (1 Peter 5:10)
At the time, I was hopeful that the words “a little while” meant that God was about to bring to a close the long season of physical suffering that my husband has endured. Although it was 2017 when the doctors found the culprit for the paralysis that’s left him crippled and in continual pain (from lesions on his spinal cord as a result of a rare neurological disease), there were two years before that, spent hunting for the source of his illness.
So, 2020 really represented five long years of medical care and a strange illness journey. By the end of 2019, we were weary and felt defeated. But, when the Lord placed the 1 Peter passage on my heart, I was so excited to read the words: “After you have suffered a little while . . .” (emphasis mine) because I was hopeful his suffering was about to end with a miraculous healing, or at least a cessation of pain.
And let me just insert here, for those of you faithful readers who’ve followed this blog for years, and interceded for us all along the way, LeRoy isn’t on any pain medication at all. He takes prescription meds for his condition, but no pain killers or narcotics. Sometimes, I think people might suspect that he continues to have “phantom pain” related to an addiction to pain killers, but that’s not the kind of pain he endures.
When we first arrived home from his almost-three-week hospital stay, in 2017, the neurology team loaded him down with high-powered meds to deal with the amount of pain his condition causes. But, within a year, he decided that the pain killers weren’t actually “killing the pain” but were merely putting him in a zombie-like state to endure the pain. And he chose to live in an alert state rather than be a zombie, and he knew the dangers of dependency on these type of drugs, so he tapered off of all pain killers.
We’ve tried pain injections, creams, patches, and various medicinal supplements, but all of those only brought temporary relief. And after awhile, the relief they originally brought just wore off, and strangely, some of the “remedies” seemed to torture him by increasing the sensation of pain. He finally decided to just work at living with the pain.
But, the advent of 2020 brought hope of a new year, a new season, and perhaps a healing work in my husband’s frail body. The “little while” of 1 Peter 5, was what I was hoping for, but in the early months of 2020, after being thrust into horrific and completely unexpected events, it became evident that the “little while” of suffering might only end with our exit from this fallen world of suffering.
There were days we didn’t think we would survive 2020. I’m sure many of you may feel the same way for various reasons. I’ve walked with many hurting women this year who have been painfully impacted by Covid, loss, deaths, and deep heartache. It has been a year of suffering for people across the globe.
The “little while” that I thought implied suffering’s ending, almost seemed to mock me. Suffering didn’t end, it actually intensified and increased the further we went into the year. God began plowing up my heart, making deep furrows, and opening new ground.
God was doing the work He promised in the suffering—the four beautiful promises of 1 Peter 5: restoring, confirming, strengthening, and establishing. But, it has been a deeply painful process, and He certainly isn’t finished. My roots were dangerously close to root rot and God was graciously pulling me apart to place me in new ground, a new season, for new growth. 2020 has been the hardest year of my life, without question, but also, it has been the year that the Lord has stayed closest by my side. His presence has been palpable. Comforting. Strengthening. And restorative.
That is one promise I’ve experienced through this entire medical journey: He will not abandon us. He’s given that promise to you as well. You can find it woven all throughout Scripture, but here’s just a couple of places you can check out: Deuteronomy 31:6 and Hebrews 13:5.
This year, God dug a deep hole for my roots to spread and be nourished by new soil. He’s establishing us in a new season of life, and restoring our hope that He will be glorified in our “golden years” as we’ve always asked Him to do. It will look much different than what we thought, but we are trusting Him for a work that will produce fruit that will glorify Him.
By the time this post goes live, we will be in Dallas, LeRoy will be getting prepped for a long confinement in the MRI tube, as the machine takes a slow glide to photograph sections of his spinal cord to look for any new lesions and to view the scar tissue that remains from the old ones.
That will be followed by appointments with specialists and extensive lab work. And I expect to watch my husband do as he always does—greet the medical personnel with a smile, asking how they are, watching for ways to minister to them through the process or the appointment. He never fails to spread the fragrance of Christ wherever he goes. And I’m the one privileged to wheel him through long corridors (it’s too far for him to attempt to navigate with his walking sticks). I don’t say that lightly. I know I’m privileged to watch this man of God suffer, and in his suffering, bear the light of the gospel message he once preached so passionately. He is still preaching, it’s just in a different form now.
And when we return home from our long medical journey, I look forward to seeing how my little mum is doing planted in its new ground. And it will be a reminder to me of the soupy day I placed it there with the prayers I lifted for this new season.
Have I shared with you my Scripture passage for 2021? I don’t believe I have, so here it is, dear readers:
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed (1 Peter 4:12—13).
I’ve been surprised by this strange turn our lives has taken, but no more. I’ve settled into the season of acceptance and even rejoicing. Not that I rejoice every day—not at all, because most days are excruciatingly hard. But, the rejoicing is coming more and more frequently. And spring is on the way!
As always, we are extremely grateful for your faithful intercession for us.