…and bad, and easy,and hard – because God is to be glorified in everything.
This is what God has been commanding my heart so far in 2017. Celebrate! And there is so much to celebrate.
God is good always. Our salvation is secure. My hope and joy should rest in Him. Life ebbs and flows, but He is constant! He never changes,never leaves. So, there is always reason to celebrate.
“Jesus came not only to give believers life that lasts forever, He intends for us to experience this eternal quality of life right now.” (my BFS notes from this week)
That is not to say He promises an easy life full of only rainbows and sunshine, but that there is always reason to celebrate Him. Joy always comes in the morning.
That is what celebrate has come to mean to me so far this year – worshiping God in joy over specific things, events, or people. I often started a day thanking God for blessings, which resulted in a grateful and humble heart. As I’ve been celebrating things with God in the morning over the last two weeks, I am still grateful, but I am overwhelmed with joy.
Some early celebrations this year:
I celebrate the sunshine.
I celebrate softly falling fat snowflakes.
I celebrate Scooby Doo with littles that can only be watched in TiTi’s bedroom.
I celebrate a family who cries with and delights in one another.
I celebrate a body designed be broken and cut open, and, heal again.
I celebrate recognized competency leading to responsibility (okay I had to talk myself into celebrating that one).
I celebrate that the depths of despair grow empathy and stronger searches for light.
I celebrate a God that knows me, loves me, and wants me.
I celebrate new beginnings.
I celebrate that my identity is rooted in God.
I celebrate that this is not my home.
I celebrate His air that fills my lungs.
And so, with each breath in, I will marvel at His majesty.
And with each exhale, I will celebrate his bountiful blessings.
There are lots of days that can be celebrated and I started looking up some of them highlighted from a world-wide standpoint…International Day of Pancakes, International Hello Day, International Earth Day…there is a day of Families, Peace and even, Monkeys. No, I am not joking. I have celebrated for many years in the World Day of Prayer which is always held on the first Friday of March.I never, never, expected to recognize World AIDS Day, December 1st – yet here I am.
Perhaps some would say my “life” stopped March 8th, 2011…it certainly changed.My husband of 25+ years, the love of my life, my best-friend, was diagnosed with AIDS.He had actually been infected almost a decade earlier due to what I consider an evil, terrorist attack.How he was infected is almost not important (and I could go on and on about that), but due to the protocol at the time he was misdiagnosed…as in not diagnosed at all.Everyone followed protocol for 3 months, tested him again and declared him “uninfected.”Fast forward to 2011.
By the time he was diagnosed he had full blown AIDS.He was months from death (doctors’ words, not mine.) Yes, he had many symptoms over the years, yet always misdiagnosed and he was never tested for two (2) tests…pregnancy and HIV.He didn’t “fit the protocol”.
From the world view there is much to be angry about. There is much to be bitter about.I can’t though. I just can’t.It requires energy I am unwilling to give evil.Please do not misconceive my message as holier than thou.I spent weeks/months on the Mount of Olives.Literally reading over and over Christ’ words.
“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42 NIV)
How could this be our lot…our life.AIDS?Really?
The question going around our minds was “why me?”Why not me?
Really it is or can be an honor.I have been allowed the privilege of knowing what is really important. We don’t wait for when we retire. We run away from reality for long weekends. My children will never take us for granted.I decided that we would celebrate every day.We use cloth napkins (I do laundry anyways) we use wine glasses (okay from the dollar store so I can throw them in the dishwasher) for milk with dinner ~ DAILY.
Job talking to his wife …He told her, “You’re talking like an empty-headed fool. We take the good days from God—why not also the bad days?” Job 2:10 (MSG)
What we have is not as important as how we spend our time.And really who am I to question to the wisdom of the Creator of the universe?
I do not begin to imply that Dan or I am anything near Christ.We seek to serve him and claim him as our Lord and Savior, but I kept running over and over and over and over in my head; Jesus knew what was coming and he accepted it.He didn’t want it. Would have taken any acceptable way out, but kept walking forward, because that was God’s will.
We were less than a year into our diagnosis (because when two become one Genesis 2:23 it becomes ours) and I literally hit the floor with my knees in tears when I read this because THIS is faith for me:
Even though the fig trees are all destroyed, and there is neither blossom left nor fruit; though the olive crops all fail, and the fields lie barren; even if the flocks die in the fields and the cattle barns are empty,yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will be happy in the God of my salvation.The Lord God is my strength; he will give me the speed of a deer and bring me safely over the mountains. Habakkuk 3:17-19 (TLB)
Over and over and over again God spells out His love for me. I have clung to Jeremiah 29:11 long before we found our lives changed by AIDS, because life is not just one thing. My life is a journey and I can choose to trust that, “I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to you a hope and a future.”
I am all over the place and I completely acknowledge that.What I believe and KNOW to be true in my heart is that God loves me.He loves Dan.He loves our children and even knows and loves our grandchildren….He sees the big picture ~ as in eternity.To Him?This is a means to an end.My job as wife to Dan and mom to his three children is to live out His love in the humanity He sent to earth.My life will NOT be defined by a disease. I choose to trust that He will bring me safely over the mountains and it is here I will live the rest of my days.
The words in the Red Cross letter blurred as my eyes filled with tears and I quite literally fell to the ground….”It is highly likely that you are infected with the Human Immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV)”. This was the first step of a journey that has changed me and my family in so many ways. Once the additional testing and confirmations were completed it was determined that not only did I have the virus, the virus had become invasive and in fact had progressed to AIDS. Without immediate aggressive treatment my prognosis was less than 1 year to live and if I did respond well to treatment it was impossible to determine how much damage had been done to my organs.
Trust me on this one, I spent many hours arguing with God and arrogantly proclaiming that He had made a huge mistake. Between the side effects of the medication and the debilitating nature of the disease it was a struggle to just get out of bed in the morning. During this early stage of diagnosis and treatment only one thought continuously remained at the forefront of my brain…..WHY ME?
It’s amazing how at a time like this you instantly become aware of what’s really important and what’s not. The kind of car I drove, the square footage of our home, and the amount of money in my 401k….all became insignificant as I began to soak in the things that were important. Suddenly a smile and warm hug became as valuable as coins of gold….a supporting phone call from a friend, time with my wife and children all began to take on new and profound importance as God began revealing simple truths to me. Even in the midst of chaos and even while medication side effects daily eroded my quality of life and even as I struggled with a God whom I felt had abandoned me I gradually felt change overcoming me…..He had not moved – He remained in control – He was still drawing me closer! Gradually that thought in my head began to change…
Who was I to question God….who was I to think I was above anything…who was I to (so many things could go here).
What’s interesting is that even as I was drawing closer to God than I had ever been before, I was also discovering the lack of compassion for people living with HIV/Aids from within the Christian Community – particularly churches. I guess the assumption was that if I had Aids then it must be as the result of sin in my life. Funny, I don’t remember Jesus asking prostitutes why they did it….he just met them where they were at with love and a new plan for their life. Even if I had acquired this disease through sin in my life, why should that change the response of the church? I have been able to share my experiences and speak at several groups and churches but I must be honest and say that the response of the Christian Community to HIV/Aids is still an area that I continue to struggle greatly with. (I have come to a new understanding of Mahatma Gandhi’s comment; “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians.”)
Here are a couple of observations from my journey:
When someone is distressed (illness, divorce…) it doesn’t matter what you say near as much as the knowledge that you cared enough to call!
Don’t say “let me know if I can do anything”…..just do it.
Sometimes we don’t need answers….we just need you to listen.
True friends tell us when we’re wrong…yes, even when we are sick.
I am not sick because of God’s judgment on my life – just as you are not healthy because of your superior walk with God.
Celebrating your victories/events/occasions will not make me sicker – do not hide opportunities for me to celebrate victories in your life.
Most of all hold my hand, put your arm around me and walk this journey with me….through the ugly and dark as well as the laughter and joy!
Sometimes things happen simply because evil is present in our world – a long term result of the original sin nature of man.
I would be very hard pressed to proclaim that AIDS has improved my life….however; I can say that battling this disease has changed my life in ways other than the obvious. My conversations, arguments, discussions and time spent with my God have become more honest and real than ever before. Kelly and I truly treasure moments together – we sneak off for weekends instead of waiting for the right time. We cherish moments with the family like dinners. (We use wine glasses for milk and cloth instead of paper napkins) We create moments instead of waiting for them. I have also become quicker to hug, more willing to say I love you, more cognizant of beauty in the small things, more empathetic to those in needs and less judgmental as to how someone got into a situation. So am I perfect? Yeah right – that would be NO WAY…but I am closer to God and my family now. Have I learned everything God is trying to teach me through this? Again….NO, as I realize my shortcomings almost daily.
I do realize and proclaim that God remains in control, that he hasn’t moved, that he does love me and he does have a plan for my life…..so…….. WHY NOT ME?
Job 23:13-14 – “But He is unchangeable, and who can turn Him back? What He desires, that He does. For He will complete what He appoints for me, and many such things are in His mind.”