Monday, April 17, 2017

When Providence Serves Up More Than You Can Chew {The Wren and the Peanut}

Since the Friday before Valentine's Day, my hips have joined the joint pain party with bursitis. A pair of injections helped one hip some but the other not at all. Imaging confirmed that nothing more serious is going on, which is good, but for now we're in waiting mode. Rest and ice are my best friends, and it's painful to stand, walk, or drive very long. Some days are so much better I feel encouraged that maybe I've turned a corner. Then I wake up the next day or stand too long fixing breakfast and getting ready and that progress is gone again. We don't even clearly know what caused this since there were no traumas to the area, but the working theory is that autoimmune disease is making my connective tissue very easily irritated and slow to heal.

(Oh, and I probably failed to mention that I dislocated the right side of my jaw. Biting down on a piece of chocolate. Yes, really. Thankfully, that has improved a great deal with a soft diet and significant adjustments to my bite splint that's normally only for sleep.)

As with my other joint problems, at this point the situation is "not serious, just painful." Even knowing that, the slower pace and increased limitations have triggered a fair amount of anxiety, especially since the other challenges in our extended family and with my previous problem joints continue. The Lord keeps stripping away my healthy coping mechanisms--yarncraft, piano, walking--so here I am writing to you. (Sorry about that.)

One morning when I was hurting and feeling discouraged, a little Carolina wren came to visit our back porch. I so enjoy these little birds, especially when they sing, but they are not regular guests at our feeders. That makes them the more precious when they come.

This one on this day settled down to work on something down on the concrete between the door and the feeder. He certainly seemed busy, but what was he foraging for there on the concrete? They don't eat leaves. Were there tiny bugs in the leaves?

Then I saw it: a peanut! When the woodpeckers visit the feeder, they pull beakfuls of seed out of the ports until they get the peanuts they like best. The smaller birds are intimidated by that woodpecker but quick to come and forage among his discards once he leaves. Somehow, this peanut escaped the notice of both the woodpecker and all the scavengers, and the wren won out.

Little bird, big peanut. I trained my camera on him and watched to see how my wren friend would manage this. Would he give up and eat the smaller, easier seeds instead? No, not at all.

With painstaking patience, the wee bird arched back his head like a rearing horse, swung his body forward to spear the legume with his sharp beak, and proceeded to pound it on the concrete until a small piece broke off. Then he would eat that tiny morsel and spear the rest again.

Like a mason breaking apart a rock with hand tools, the wren chipped away at his prize, his persistence slowly paying off. Fascinated, I watched for 5 minutes, until a blue jay swooped in and spooked the smaller bird into abandoning its breakfast.

His diligence in this too-large task reminded me of the old joke about eating an elephant (though who would want to?):
How do you eat an elephant?
One bite at a time.

Crumbles, right now it often feels like the Lord in His providence has served us an elephant, or that we're wrens trying to eat a plate of peanuts. The challenges seem too big and too many, and new ones keep piling on without the removal of any of the old. It's overwhelming when I look at the pile. So very many things beyond our strength. So very many things to entrust to the Lord.

And now we have taken on another challenge, and it's a big one. Lord willing, we are moving out of Wits' End at the end of this month and into a home nearer my parents. The long-term goal is worth the short-term cost, and we believe the Lord has led us to this step. Still, it's a pretty daunting challenge for the little bird writing to you, and we are very grateful for those the Lord leads to pray for us in this transition.

Remembering this petite bird helps me press on, and I pray it does you also. The Lord doesn't call me to eat the plate of peanuts all at once. I ask, "What one small thing does He want me to do right now?" Then I seek His grace to do that one next thing (preferably without hurting myself), act in obedient faith and the strength He gives, and thank Him for the grace.

What next? How?
Grace, Lord!
Trust and obey.
Thank You, Lord.

And repeat.

Always, always, in this process I am learning to preach the gospel truth and promises of God to my heart when I feel anxious and overwhelmed about our challenges.
"We must do what we cannot do with what we do not have, but He will do through us what He can do with what He does have."
"Courage, dear heart!"

Feelings lie, but God's Word doesn't:

"Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand" (Isaiah 41:10). 
"And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work" (2 Cor. 9:8).
"Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words" (Romans 8:26). 
"It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed" (Deut. 31:8). 
"Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength" (Isaiah 40:28-29).
"But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me" (2 Cor. 12:9).

May you find encouragement here to press on in your own challenges, dear Crumble. The Lord will not fail to give you grace for the portion He assigns to you. May He keep us mindful and diligent to preach the gospel to ourselves and our sisters and brothers in Christ. May He grant us grace today to glorify His name by accomplishing the work He gives us to do and has prepared for us beforehand (John 17:4, Eph. 2:10).

Courage, dear hearts! If walking with the Lord (or crawling or being carried...) these 30 years has taught me anything it is that He is much bigger, kinder, stronger, and wiser than we want to need to discover that He is. The Lord is good. His steadfast love and faithfulness endure forever.

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