Frustration or Opportunity

Four years ago, our nephew Tyrone, his wife Pauline and their four children came to Oregon to spend part of his sabbatical introducing their children to a place they learned to love during the two-and-a-half years he worked with David as our assistant pastor.

We wanted everything to be perfect and restful for their visit, so we worked to get our RV ready for them to use at the coast so they could spend time showing their children why Oregon is such a wonderful place. That’s when our problems started. The hot water heater went out so it had to be fixed. The place we’d reserved near the town of Bandon-By-The-Sea ended up being too small for our thirty-three foot RV.

Since our fixes didn’t work, we just turned off the water heater completely. We borrowed a truck and moved the RV into a spot at Bastendorf State Park, about twenty miles north of our original spot, next to a site where Michael and Jeannie Stubblefield, some mutual friends, were camped. Once the huge thing was in place, a water leak sprouted and the carpet became soaked. Michael got the leak stopped by simply turning off all water to the RV. We ended up feeling like the whole event was a major disaster since nothing had gone according to plan nor had anything been easy.

However20140512_153532, nothing happens by accident or without a higher reason. After a frustrating morning of fighting the water leak, Michael and Ty decided to take a break and walk on Bastendorf Beach. While walking, they noticed some heads bobbing in the water a long way out. As they walked, they realized it was a man pushing a boogie board that held two small children and they seemed to be in trouble. Michael grabbed his phone and called 9-1-1. The operator kept asking him questions and he finally said, “Listen, I have to run and get wet,” and he threw the phone to Ty and headed into the water. A woman on the beach also heard the cries for help and also headed into the ocean. She managed to grab the boogie board and pull the two young boys to safety. Michael reached the man just as he collapsed. He asked “Are Danny and David alright?” and when he heard they were, he passed out. He threw up all over Michael as he held him up and dragged him out of the water. The man was still unconscious when the ambulance arrived.

It appears that the man—known only as Paul—was jumping waves with his sons when he slipped off the edge of a drop-off on the ocean bottom and could no longer touch the ground. He had been paddling for twenty-five minutes, trying to keep his boys afloat. By the time the woman rescued the boys, he was too exhausted to get out of the water alone. If Michael hadn’t been there, he would have drowned.

As we put the events together, we can see that it wasn’t an accident that the reserved spot by Bandon fell through, nor was it just by chance that the water leak caused such frustration. It was all orchestrated so Ty and Michael would be walking down Bastendorf Beach just at that precise moment to save Paul’s life.
As I read this story on my Facebook memories section today, I was reminded that’s the way it is with events that often frustrate us. We see them as intrusions, plan interrupters, or just plain sources of pain. If we look around, however, often they are sent as opportunities to grow, to help or to teach.

Just as that event gave Ty and Michael and their families a firsthand story of how problems with the RV caused a life to be saved, it can encouraged us to realize that the trying events in our lives serve a purpose and are part of a greater plan. We need to stop complaining, open our eyes and see the opportunities that come our way.

Who knows what lives may be changed or what stories may happen that will affect generations to come because things don’t go as we plan them. Only God knows.

Hope

David and I had a long talk yesterday about how I feel like I’m living someone else’s life. I read a book from the library about a woman who had a car accident and injured her head. She woke up and had forgotten the last three years of her life. In those years she had lost weight, got her crooked teeth fixed, become a high executive in her company and married a gorgeous man and lived in a huge, magazine-looking house. She was the complete opposite of anything she remembered. The book is about how she tries to fit in and then fights to be herself in the foreign place where she finds herself. I read it, fascinated because I related so much with the woman in the story. It is like I woke up in a totally different life than my own. I am fighting to be myself. Instead of a leader and outgoing person, I am living life as a wallflower. Instead of being energetic and running from project to project, I sit on the sidelines and watch other people living the life that I have always known.

Michelle, Ian and Justin, my brother’s older children, remember my mother as a fun, exciting grandmother. Kristen, the youngest, remembers her as a complaining, inarticulate woman, a grandma who had a stroke that completely changed her personality. I don’t like it that Jashton has experienced who I am and Tobiah has had glimpses, but Corban will only know me as the person living the life I now have—someone who sits, someone who needs to be helped out of chairs, someone slow and who sometimes uses a wheelchair because she isn’t strong enough to go long distances on her own. Instead of energetic grandma, I am tired grandma.

In Psalm 137 the psalmist ask God how the people of Israel can sing praises to God when they are in a foreign land. I ask God, how do I sing Your praises in this foreign land—not just foreign land of New York but in this foreign life? The psalmist concludes that they must remember and not forget Jerusalem. I must remember and not forget God who is the same no matter what life I lead. He is the unchangeable source of life. He is still the God of mercy, grace and love. I have joined the groaning choir, the one the writer of Romans speaks of in Romans 8:18-25.

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy
to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the
anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the
sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly,
but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself
also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of
the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation
groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not
only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit,
even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our
adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. 24 For in hope we have been
saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he
already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance
we wait eagerly for it.”

Not only am I called to remember, but I am called to hope. The best is yet to come. The more I lose here, the more I long for that glorious day when I shall be all that God created me to be.

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Daffodils are a sign of hope for me. Winter is gone, spring has come.

I remember speaking to a fellow student at the University of Illinois who was specializing in special education. She worked with multiple handicapped people. In fact she was dating a man in a wheel chair, paralyzed from the neck down. She commented that we think we are “normal” here, but when we get to heaven we will realize how limited our normal was compared to what God actually created us to be. Sin and the curse weigh down on our physical bodies in ways we don’t even understand. In heaven, it will be as if we are all finally set free from our limited “wheelchair” bodies that we called healthy, energetic and full of life.

Maybe God lets us go through growing limitations just so we will more eagerly await our real life with Him. I can always sing about God’s great love for me and my hope in Him.