This sabbatical has not been much like what I expected it to be. I anticipated long days on my own while Dennis is at the lab at University of Illinois, reading, studying, knitting and enjoying life in the country. Yes, there have been days like that, at least, a few of them. But for the most part, it has not been the smooth path I thought it would be.
First, my dad, who had Alzheimer's for 15-20 years, went into a rather rapid decline and passed away at the end of July. While we knew he was weakening, we did not fully expect we would lose him so quickly. The details of caring for him and my Mom while Dad was in the hospital and then transferred to hospice care during that last week fell mostly to me and as many of you know, was exhausting. Then there was the funeral and we hosted the family at Mom and Dad's house where we are living. It was great to have all of us home together for several days, including all of my siblings and nieces and nephews as well as some of their children, and meant so much to my mom. But again, it was not what I expected to be doing in early August. And now, caring for Mom and helping her to figure out what her life looks like after losing her husband of 72 years has really dominated my days since the funeral.
But God. I just keep coming back to that phrase. God knew we needed to be living here while all of this happened. He knew it would be important to Mom to have us close by, and for us to have been working on things in the house to make it possible for all of us to be together. He knew what was going to happen to Dad and that we would need to be here to manage the details of his hospital stay and help Mom deal with it all.
More than that, God knew I needed to be stretched to accept His plans as greater than my own. I have struggled with frustration and even resentment as my schedule is 'interrupted' to have to meet the needs of others. And while I knew that was the wrong way to think about these events, my mind just kept replaying that message. I have prayed that God would make me more adaptable to His agenda and to help me erase that message. This morning, I think I got an answer.
One of the books I use in my quiet times regularly is Valley of Vision, A collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions. This morning I read this in the prayer, The Divine Will:
"I can plead nothing in myself
in regard of any worthiness and grace,
in regard of thy providence and promises,
but only thy good pleasure.
If thy mercy make me poor and vile, blessed be thou!
Prayers arising from my needs are preparations for future mercies;
Help me to honour thee by believing before I feel, for great is the sin if I make feeling a cause of faith."
Here's what I am taking from this: God's providence, or sovereignty, is far wiser than my plans or expectations. My prayers asking for help to deal with this unexpected life are 'preparations for future mercies' - I think that means He is shaping me in ways that He will be able to use me to accomplish His purposes, both now and in the future. Further, I need to believe that His ways and plans are better than my own, rather than looking to my feelings to satisfy me. It puts this time in Illinois in perspective - God's perspective rather than my own. My times truly are in His hands, even though I still sometimes struggle against that.
All of us deal with interruptions in our schedule. Whether it is kids, parents, our own physical weakness or the illness of another, I have seen many of you at ECC deal so graciously and mercifully with the needs of others while seemingly giving up your own desires. Thank you for your examples of perseverance and patience that I need so much. God is doing a work in me just like He promises to do. I pray I can live up to the examples of my brothers and sisters as I serve Him and others.