Last month I had one of the worst weekends of my life.
I say that cautiously, knowing that in comparison to what so many have walked through, it was a stroll in the park. In the end, everything turned out fine and none of us are the worse for wear. But in the middle of it, perspective seems far off and struggles in the mirror feel larger than they appear.
Part of the heartbreak was how very different the expectations for that long awaited weekend were from the complete mess of reality that unfolded. You see, the adorable “Save the Date” card had been on the refrigerator for months… and the date was indeed saved! The wedding was going to be out of town, and beautiful, and the perfect combination of time with friends, and time alone with the hubby. The in-laws had been informed months ahead that the grandkids would be dropped off for the weekend, and their “Fun Aunt” was even coming to town to ensure, well, lots of fun! Hubby’s suit to the cleaners, my new dress in the hanging bag, appropriate “alone in a hotel for two nights” sleepwear packed… CHECK! Everything was taken care of and everyone was happy about it.
And then the blasted West Texas spring wind started to blow. I mean REALLY BLOW. In Florida we call those “hurricane force winds.” In West Texas, evidently, we call that Thursday. My youngest started having what he calls “rubby eyes,” then the next day it was a stuffy nose, and on the morning we were packing the car, it was a wheezy cough. I followed all of my “seasonal allergy” protocols and we hit the road. And he coughed. And coughed. And wheezed. And cried. And coughed the whole 5 hours to his grandparents’ house. When we arrived, I sent my husband to the pharmacy to get some vapor rub and I put the little guy in a steamy shower. Everyone went to dinner and I stayed behind to make sure he was going to be okay before we left for that glorious hotel room alone. He wasn’t.
When the family got home we threw him in the car and took him to an Urgent Care for a breathing treatment… And then the nightmare spun out of control. After a couple of breathing treatments, the doctors at the Urgent Care didn’t feel like they could get his O2 levels up enough to send us to the ER in our car SO THEY CALLED AN AMBULANCE. All of a sudden, I found myself riding the the back of an ambulance with my (rather excited) son, instead of sipping wine in a fluffy hotel robe. When we got to the ER they said he looked better but they would keep him for a 6 hour observation.
WE WALKED OUT OF THAT HOSPITAL 2 DAYS LATER.
No wedding. No new dress. No romantic hotel. No fancy food. No friends.
Instead it was a million hours on a hospital cot letting my 6 year old watch The Force Awakens at 2am for the 475th time. It was the same t-shirt and jeans I had put on to travel in because, remember what I had packed? It was trying to navigate pharmacies and doctors 5 hours from home. It was being alone a lot because my husband was with the other kids and my entire support system was far away. In the end, all that mattered was that my son was ok. I am so very thankful for the care we received and would have cozied up to Kylo Ren on that cot for another decade if I needed to to make sure that my baby was well.
In the middle of it, though, everything felt out of my control… and my emotions followed. Out of control.
When we made the quick decision to go to the Urgent Care that night, we didn’t change our little guy out of his PJ’s. We didn’t even grab his shoes. The only thing we threw in the car with us was his beloved blankie that his Belle (my mom) had crocheted for him before he was born. He has never slept a night without it. Even at 6 years old, I still catch him a few times a day holding it close to his face for a bit of a recharge. It is tattered and worn. There is even a hole big enough for him to put over his head so he can wear it like a cape. When he was about one and I saw this blankie dependency growing, I asked Mom to make another one, in a little more portable size, just in case anything ever happened to the original (you know, like it had to go in the wash)! Same pattern, same yarn, same colors, same hands making it… and he would have none of it! He knew a fake, even as a baby.
So, in those first few hours in the hospital when he was scared and struggling, his blankie was there comforting him. And for the days after that, when he was pretending to be a robot hooked up to the machines, and asking me to send his best friend videos of him making the bed go up and down (and up and down, and up and down), it was there too… like it always is, close at hand, by his side.
He had his blankie, I had my Bible.
Just like my son never leaves home without his blankie, I never leave home without my Bible. I know the app on my phone has the same words and is lighter in the suitcase, but I need to feel the weight of that leather bound book. I need to hear pages turning. And though this particular Bible is just a year old, because you may remember last summer The Dog Ate My Bible, it is getting worn in all the good ways, marked, highlighted, falling open to the right places. Just like my son, I feel a little panicked when I can’t get my hands on it, when it is too far out of reach and I need a recharge. I can wear it like a cape too, like armor. In the fog of those sleepless hospital nights and days that surely lasted more than 24 hours, I honestly cannot tell you what verses I read, but it was there, lending me comfort.
Over the last several years, I have cultivated the habit of writing the Word daily. I have always loved to copy beautiful words. The physical act of applying pen to paper helps solidify the spiritual act of applying truth to my heart. Recently I have loved using Lara Casey’s Write the Word journals for this practice, but I write Scripture on notecards, on chalkboards, on mirrors, in the margins of books as well. For me, it is grounding-first thing in the morning most of the time- to look up a Scripture, read it, write it out, re-read it, pray it, and then leave that sacred space with it on my lips.
I know Jesus is more than words on the page. He Himself said in John 5:39-40, “You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” Jesus is life. Jesus is alive. He is dynamic, moving, loving, beckoning. He is a person to have a relationship with, not just read about. And that relationship can be fostered and grown through spiritual disciplines and practices of all kinds… prayer, worship, fasting, service. But the Word of God is foundational. I know Him because I know it. I spend time investing in this, the principle relationship of my life, when I spend time in those pages.
And that discipline, that resolve to dive deeply into the Scripture, that desire to be completely familiar with and transformed by those words… it comes before.
The commitment comes before the ambulance ride, before the diagnosis, before the pink slip, before the marriage is falling apart. The life preserver is much easier to find in the sea of chaos and confusion when you have had it hanging on your boat for years…. when you recognize it for what it is- your life saver. I think of Daniel, when he and the other captives were taken into Babylon. I think of his resolve and I am inspired and convicted by it. Daniel 1:8 says, “But Daniel resolved (purposed in his heart [NKJ]) not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way.” I am sure it was much easier to make that commitment before the rich fare was placed in front of him. His resolve strengthened him in his hunger and temptation.
My resolve to physically open my bible and apply pen to paper daily strengthened me in that hospital room.
It did not change my circumstances. It did not magically transport me to the wedding I was missing or stabilize my son’s breathing sooner. But it was my comfort. It ushered in the familiar presence of Jesus to that cold hospital room. Not only the words but the act of searching for them, the process of writing them. It was my hospital blanket. My Bible.
Where do you go for your comfort? Your phone? Netflix? Amazon? Another person? Pizza? Wine? Everyone of us will need a hospital blanket at some point, when our emotions are frazzled and our brain is foggy… when life throws us a curve ball and we are crushed by disappointment. What will ground you on those days? What will pull you back? What will be the most natural thing to reach for?
We must purpose in our hearts to be women of the Word before. Every day. In the mundane as well as in the crisis. It is not about checking boxes or legalism, it is about resolve and strength and transformation. It is about getting to know Jesus and recognizing His face and His arm around us in the darkest of days. You will find Him in His Word. Touch it, read it, speak it, write it, feast on it, wear it, keep it as close as my son keeps his blankie. It won’t let you down because He won’t let you down. Resolve before. Resolve today.