going through it...

We call him Bilbo--my nine year old who has just enough Tookishness in him to enjoy a good adventure now and again. He loves to read. Especially fantasy. And I am so thankful that he invites me into his worlds. He's already finished the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy and its prequel, The Hobbit. And so I (finally) picked up Tolkien.

And I'm looking at fantasy as the dwarves looked upon the hobbit when he made his surprise reappearance after having been lost beneath the mountain in the darkness of the goblins and Gollum ... "with quite a new respect" (page 104, in my edition), wondering why it took me so long, how I got to (the age I am) without reading this before now. 

It's amazing how fiction can speak truth so poignantly, how one can feel a connection with a fantastical little furry-footed hobbit. He wasn't looking for an adventure. But there he was in the middle of one. 

"'Do we have to go through?' groaned the hobbit" (151). 

And I've wondered the same thing myself, multiple times recently. Being a seminary wife, a mother of four, a writer--it's an adventure to be sure. Do we have to go through?

And I keep answering myself as any mother of a toddler might, with the words of another classic, Michael Rosen's We're Going on a Bear Hunt: "We can't go over it. We can't go under it. We've got to go through it!" 

Each night as my husband and toddler perform their dramatic interpretation of this boardbook, with each stanza, they give great emphasis to one word: "through." 

The Spirit's been emphasizing that same word to me. "You've got to go THROUGH this."

It started on a night when I would have rather stayed home. But I didn't. I did what I felt I should that night. And Alan was happy for me to go, to fulfill my role at Women for Missions at church. So I went. 

And I wasn't the only one who was glad she had. 

The speaker that night, instead of just updating us on where they were at with missions, went deeper. Soul deep. And she talked about asking the hard questions, showed us Psalm 77 where Asaph does just that, and told us it was okay to ask the hard questions as long as we (like Asaph) responded right to the answers (or the silence, as the case may be). 

I spoke with a friend that night about the going-throughs, thankful she shares this journey with me. As our speaker walked past, my friend paused to put her hand on her arm and tell her simply and sincerely, "Thank you. I'm going home to read that passage again." 

And I decided I would too. 

So the next morning, I opened Psalm 77 and read the whole thing through. 

And the word burned on the page: THROUGH.

"Your way was THROUGH the sea, 
your path THROUGH the great waters..."

and I read carefully the next part because I knew this was for me. 

"Yet your footprints were unseen."

And I think this was key for me. We don't always see His footprints. We don't know where He's leading us, what's ahead, how long it's going to take. 

And it's hard. We "stumble trip! Stumble trip! Stumble trip!" as we go through. 

THROUGH the forest, illustration by Helen Oxenbury, words by Michael Rosen

But "You led Your people."

So we hang on to hope. We learn to believe. We walk by faith. 

Sometimes we too are like that poor little hobbit who "sat down on the cold floor and gave himself up to complete miserableness, for a long while" (Hobbit, 76). "He could not think what to do; nor could he think what had happened" (77).

And I am led to Piper's biographical summary of William Cowper and learn how he would just stare out windows and yet how God used him to create some of the most beautiful hymn texts we have. 

(And all of this is happening over days and weeks. And lots of things are running together, and I may never sort it all out.) 

But "God Moves in a Mysterious Way, His wonders to perform." 

And I think of how God used the Cowper hymn to comfort my heart six years ago when we went to worship the Sunday after having lost our little rosebud, Kali Grace. The cramping and laboring and D&C. It was another one of those things I had to go through"The bud may have a bitter taste, but sweet will be the flower." And I didn't want to go to church that Sunday, didn't want to be around people. But I did. And God introduced me to this precious text that has been such a bedrock for me time and time again. 

And the little hobbit doesn't know why. And often we don't either. "The truth was ..." (Hobbit, 77). And he started laying hold of one little thing at a time. "And that was something... and that was something more..." (77).

And then he found he had no matches for his pipe "and that shattered his hopes completely" (77). And there are such ups and downs and ups and ups and ups and deep dark downs in this life. In truth, life can be a roller coaster. 

And (once again) a song in church ministered grace to me: "Still, My Soul, Be Still." (In case this is a new one for you, James Koerts's gorgeous SATB arrangement with piano and clarinet accompaniment is available to listen to and purchase sheet music here.) 

I was so glad I had been in that service, that I had sung that song, that the words were fresh in my heart and my mind... because later that week, the six year anniversary of when I delivered Kali hit me like a wave of "unexpected sorrow." And I sang the first stanza of this hymn over and over. 

"Still, my soul, be still, 
And do not fear
Though winds of change may rage tomorrow.
God is at your side.
No longer dread the [waves] of unexpected sorrow.

"GOD, You are my God!
And I will trust in You and not be shaken.
LORD of peace, renew
A steadfast spirit within me
To rest in You alone, 
To rest in You alone."

That night--the anniversary of loss, that night of "unexpected sorrow"--Alan called on his way home from work. "How are you?"
And all I had to say was, "Today was harder than I expected."
And he knew. "Is there anything I can do?" he asked.
I spoke quietly, "Could you pick up Chinese?" 
And God used my husband's understanding and compassion to minister grace. He used the great "General Tso" to help me fight through the struggle going on inside me. 

That same day, I started taking some mega-doses of vitamin D, prescribed by my doctor. And I think (looking back now on this past week) I think it's actually started to make a difference too. 

And "somehow he was comforted" (Hobbit, 77). 

Sometimes we're not even really sure what all is coming together or how God is working. Remember, His footsteps are invisible (Psalm 77). But we start to believe He is working. We start to see the sun sparkle on the shards, reflecting the truth that God is there, at my side. The sun is still shining, and His mercies are new every morning. 

I kept singing. Till I could sing "God, You are my God!" with my whole heart. 

And I kept reading. 

"'Go back?' he thought. 'No good at all!' Go sideways? Impossible! Go forward? Only thing to do! On we go!' So up he got, and trotted along with his little sword held in front / of him and one hand feeling the wall, and his heart all of a patter and a pitter" (77-78). 

On we go!

And I'm not just reading The Hobbit; I'm also (providentially) reading Not By Chance: Learning To Trust A Sovereign God, by Layton Talbert. "God's timing is perfect" (76). And he's teaching me to "cultivate contentment" and "wait on Him" (78, 79). And I keep going back to Psalm 77. And I just keep marveling as God brings so many things together, and I (just happen to) stumble across just what I need, to connect with just the right person, to hear just the right words of hope and truth. 

And then I read another chapter of The Hobbit. And he's asking the question again. And I know I'll ask the question again too. 

"'Do we really have to go through?' groaned the hobbit.
'Yes, you do!' said the wizard, 'if you want to get to the other side. You must either go through or give up your quest. And I am not going to allow you to back out now, Mr. Baggins'" (151). 

And I smile because just yesterday we were sitting at the dining room table in our pastor's home and the conversation wasn't so dissimilar. And he, though not a wizard, still wise, told us, "Yes, you do!"

And we have to. And we will. 

God is leading us. We know that. 

So we're going to do our best to not keep asking the question. 

We'll keep reading We're Going on a Bear Hunt, maybe nightly, for even though each reading promises "we're not going on a bear hunt again" we always go on it again. 

And I'll keep reading Psalm 77. And Not By Chance. And The Hobbit. 

Along the way, I'm learning that part of going through whatever God gives me with a still spirit is being thankful. 

So I choose to be thankful. I'm thankful for our pastor and his wife, for that WFM missionary speaker, for Asaph, for Psalm 77. 

And I'm thankful for our awesome God. Once more, I read Psalm 77, just now, and I have to smile. The truth has been there all along: "Your way, O God, is holy. What god is great like our God?" And I know the answer. There is none like You. And I am so thankful that "God, You are MY God!"

I'm thankful for each of the pieces of literature and the authors who have put their souls and creative musings onto paper for the sake of posterity. And I'm thankful for my posterity ... my sweet children, each of whom is a precious gift from God. 

And I'm SO thankful for my husband, for his commitment to this adventure we're on together, for his enthusiastic readings of We're Going on a Bear Hunt with its very appropriate illustrations of a father and four kids, for his patience and sweet shepherding of me ... and for bringing me General Tso when I need it ... and who just walked in with flowers, which is a really good reason to say, "Happy Valentines!" ... and go on from here. 

Keep going through...

With grace and peace and so much love,


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