right of way: giving God room to move

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.

right of way: giving God room to move

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.


right of way: giving God room to move — 11 Comments

  1. Praying for you Shannon as you navigate these waters with your precious bundles of energy and joy. Those appointments seem to take the whole day out of an already stretched thin school day.

  2. I haven’t commented for a while, but want to say how much I appreciate your blog.

    I was at the dentist’s the other day with my daughter, waiting to find out what her treatment will be, as she is missing half of her adult teeth. They had notices up in the waiting room saying that there will be charges for treatment, and that they will only allow $50 to be outstanding, and I had a sinking feeling, as I had assumed the treatment would be covered by our public health system, and our finances are already tight. But then this thought came, that if we are going to be charged, God already knows about it, and He will take care of it. Beautiful peace. :) It sounds so simple, but it was a light bulb moment for me.

    It seems as though thankfulness is a spiritual discipline. I’ve not thought about it this way before, though am much better than I once was at finding things to be thankful for in the midst of difficulties (a la Pollyanna), but not thanking God for those difficult things themselves. That is another step up.

  3. Oh, yes! Such a good read, as always. Thanks for your faithfulness in sharing your heart, dear friend! I needed to read this today. Xo

  4. This verse really hits home:

    ” 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.”

    It’s almost as if there should be an “in other words” tucked in there. “In other words, don’t quench the Spirit.”

    I love what Patty said about the pace at which you post, and I agree. When you do post, I always know it will be worth my read. Thank you for sharing this and I’m praying for your daughter, your family, and YOU.

    • “In other words” — exactly!

      I am really encouraged by both you and Patty mentioning the pace of the posts. I have felt sooooo behind (even now, I’m typing with my left hand while holding a sleeping baby) :) but I do not want to just post for posting’s sake and add to internet noise. There’s a place for that, I think, like with the 31 days challenge, but that wasn’t even a temptation for me this year. I appreciate your words and prayer so much.

  5. Shannon,
    The irony of me reading this today isn’t describable. Just last night I was wondering about you and when I would get a post in my inbox from Copperlightwood. I was thinking how unencumbered you are to the “blog musts” and how you just post when you do and write from your gifted mind which strings words together to make us all take the long journey to your home in a nanosecond. I have been deleting most blog notices from my inbox due to a need to be in control of my reading time and not let the internet suck me downstream. Since I had that glimmer of “What’s Shannon up to these days?” in my mind yesterday, I opened this and read. Thank you, God. Yes. Yes. Yes. It isn’t thanks with a smile that comes from outside our hearts. It is the thanks that is sacrifice. It is the joy He set before Him … that is how He endured. He suffered and had joy on the horizon as He did. Sacrifice. That’s the heart of this journey sometimes. Maybe it’s the heart all the time. I know that when I’m acutely aware of it, I’m in good waters and good company. I’ll be praying for you today as you work hard to enter his rest; once again redefine normal in your home and let go of the “every week” and live in each day because it has enough trouble of its own. Bless you.

    • That is so awesome…I love how He reminds us to watch for things. I feel like I should have learned this a long time ago, but there’s been some (cough) pretty hard ground to plow. :) Thanks so much for your encouragement and prayer.

  6. I needed this today. The past 10 days have been filled to the brim with things I’m not naturally thankful for. And yet… God.
    Reminds me of a quote I recently heard: Maybe God is allowing this setback as a setup for a comeback.
    Praying for your family and your sweet daughter.