We’re on the highway, driving out of town to a standard six-month checkup. We’ve passed the glittering fall days that are all steel and gold with leaves scattering the sidewalks; now we’re onto the bare days, with smudged white skies and naked trees. They are empty, waiting. Most of the grass is bleached straw, but the grass around the new streetlights is still fresh and green, like the oregano that grows up against our house. It clings to warmth and stays steadfast long after the mint and plantain are withered to nothing.
We’ve done this trip many times – we’re almost into three years of these vision appointments. But this time our daughter can read, and yet out of one eye she cannot see that the capital Y on the screen in front of her is a Y and not an O. The letter changes to an S, and she says it’s an O. The doctor changes the sizes and arrangement of the letters, and the mood of this casual, standard appointment shifts to something weightier.
Remember what I’ve been telling you, Love, He says.
What He’s been telling me is to thank Him in all things, even the hard things. Especially the hard things, those things that are a result of the Fall and not of Him at all. And He is teaching me that when I thank Him for those things, it isn’t as though I’m saying, “Yes, this is so good, I’m glad (fill in the blank) has happened,” as we would thank Him for, say, a windfall of cash or some unexpected victory.
It is a different kind of thankfulness. It feels like sacrifice.
When we thank Him for the hard things, we’re saying, I trust You. I know You’re bigger than this, and as I trust and thank You in this, I am moving out of Your way and creating a wide path for You to move in power in this situation and use it for our great good.
We are, in essence, giving God the right of way, and giving the enemy the middle finger.
The doctor changes to the letter to a P and asks her what she sees. “O,” she says.
She’s a good reader and she knows her letters, but she can’t see these. For the first time, he recommends therapy – twice a week, an hour long each time.
I know it’s not a big deal. Weekly appointments are not supposed to be a big deal. But it is a blow to a schedule already overwhelmed, and I am overwhelmed, and I don’t know how we’re going to do this. I’ve been praying for breakthrough, not burden.
It’s not cancer, it’s not famine, it’s not anyone attacking our village. It’s just a new diagnosis and something else to add to the appointment book twice a week, and we are grateful that therapy is an option. I know it’s a first world problem. But we are first world people and I want my daughter to see. Thank you, God.
I ask the doctor if the appointments could be only once a week. If we could do more at home. If there’s any way we could avoid two appointments a week, anything to lighten this.
No, he says. Without therapy twice a week, he doesn’t think they can help her.
“I know this will be a challenge with your other responsibilities.” He knows we have six other kids, he knows some of them have special needs. And I am not going to cry in this chair, looking at this doctor and holding this baby and watching this daughter put her glasses back on. Thank you, God.
He explains that insurance doesn’t always cover the appointments, and that she needs them for six to nine months. He tells me what they cost if we need to pay out of pocket – almost the same as our mortgage payment. Thank you, God.
I’ve never understood how praise could be a sacrifice, but I’m feeling it now.
The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me;
to one who orders his way rightly
I will show the salvation of God!
– Psalm 50:23
He says that if she can’t do therapy, the other option is surgery – which sometimes helps, and sometimes makes things worse. He doesn’t know that we’ve already had two surgeries in the last six months and another scheduled for the beginning of next year. And I am not going to cry in this office, holding this prescription and picking up my jacket and patting this baby. Thank you, God.
Vince is waiting in the parking lot with the Stagecoach and the rest of the kids. I give him the rundown and he suggests we get coffee. He is good at keeping things in perspective, and there are few adversities that caffeine and sugar can’t help. But, I don’t know, I kind of just want to go home and rave incoherently while tearing my schedule book into confetti.
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit.
– 1 Thessalonians 5:16-19
Notice the order? He tells us to not quench the Spirit right after he tells us to give thanks in everything. If not giving thanks smothers what the Spirit would do in our life, giving thanks makes room for Him to light a fire under our sacrifice and sanctify our situation.
We cling to warmth, trusting Him to keep us steadfast when we are tempted to wither. He blows the chaff away, like so many leaves in the fall.
God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.
– Psalm 46:5
We are coasting into downtown Wasilla when Vin broaches the subject of coffee again. “If I can get over into the far right lane, we should stop at Kaladis.”
I looked at the traffic and assumed a somber Victorian accent. “We will leave it in the Lord’s hands.”
The little red car moved out of the way, and our Stagecoach merged into the lane.
“Thus saith the Lord,” he said, “Thou shalt have espresso.”
I nodded. “It is the Lord’s will.”
Thank you, God.