This has been a difficult time.
Most of the trials that came barreling through our door recently are not things I can even talk about. My husband and I are okay, maritally and spiritually (Praise the Lord), but our trials were just not of that nature at this time. Instead, they constituted catch my breath, feel the sorrow down in my toes, I-can’t-imagine-how-I’m-supposed-to-get-out-of-bed-tomorrow hardships.
Somewhere over the rainbow way up high…
There was some good stress too, like writing, self-publishing, and promoting two new books. But it was still stressful, especially trying not to ditch all of my responsibilities and family to get it done. Tears were also shed in that difficult and lengthy process.
There’s a land that I’ve heard of, once in a lullaby…
So I said, “Slow down! Lord, You need to just give us a break now! We’re not scheduling anything with anyone for a while, or doing anything but sleeping in, and going to parks, and cleaning my house, and cleaning my SOUL.”
My bottle of tears doubled in this last year, I can tell you that.
Somewhere over the rainbow skies are blue. And the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true…
But, right in the midst of my “well-deserved time of trial-free living,” we lost my husband’s beautiful little sister.
And, as the tears flowed, and as we raced to California to be there and weep with his family, I gasped at God, “How can you do this? How can you take away someone else we love? How can you devastate our family like this? How can you cause more pain?”
Someday I’ll wish upon a star and wake up where the clouds are far behind me…
When my youngest daughter threw up just days before Victoria’s Memorial service – we all came down with stomach flu later – and as I pulled dirty sheets off of my mother-in-law’s bed with quaking hands, I couldn’t hold back my tearful anger. “You call Yourself a God of peace?” I shouted in my head. “Where is it? You say You give it when we ask! You say you give peace and rest and comfort. You are keeping it from me!”
Where troubles melt like lemon drops…
My anger startled me. Like a waving pompom in the hand of a hyperactive cheerleader, anger is always a glaring sign to me to stop and pay attention. It is not easily ignored. It means something is wrong.
Evaluating myself, however, I could not find the cause. I was still pursuing and seeking God’s face. I was spending my normal amount of time in prayer and Bible reading. I was trying to be obedient to what He wanted me to do in the midst of these trials. I was asking Him to keep His promises. Right?
Away above the chimney tops, that’s where you’ll find me…
It wasn’t until I sang the words of Elizabeth Prentiss’ hymn, along with the hundred and fifty people who came to my dear little sister-in-law’s memorial service, that I realized my idol.
Once earthly joy I craved, sought peace and rest;
Now thee alone I seek, give what is best.
This all my prayer shall be: More love, O Christ, to thee;
More love to thee, more love to thee!
Had Ms. Prentiss written these words to me? Somehow, in the midst of seeking the Lord, falling on my face before him as I lay beaten from heartache and testing this year, I had stopped grabbing His feet for security, and was manhandling the gifts behind His throne instead.
Somewhere over the rainbow bluebirds fly. Birds fly over the rainbow. Why then, oh, why can’t I?
God does give peace and rest. But I was seeking and idolizing and worshiping those gifts. Not Christ.
I was ready to tell the Sovereign Lord of the universe that He had taken enough people, planned enough grief, and allowed enough pain for this year. That I was going to fight against Him to make sure the entire extended Conte family got a break. That I would fight for this peace that was my right as a human being.
In my head somewhere, I had a land beyond the rainbow waiting for my family and me. My mother-in-law who had suffered enough, my own parents, myself, my kids, and my spouse. That there was a Rainbow Land where clouds stayed away. We used to have a “great life” before, and we would achieve it again – by golly! Nothing was going to stop us from tapping our sparkly red shoes together and attaining it. And God? Why weren’t you delivering on that Rainbow Land about now?
If happy little bluebirds fly beyond the rainbow why, oh, why can’t I?
In “More Love to Thee,” I realized that the striving was not for peace. That was an earthly joy. It wasn’t of God. The striving was for Him alone. To love Him more. To know Him more.
This is life!
There isn’t a Rainbow Land. Not for me any more. Some of these trials are here to stay. We will never have Victoria back, and maybe not the other people I’ve lost spiritually and emotionally this year. This is life.
And, for some people, Life means a new death a week from starvation.
For some people, Life means Ebola or MERS.
For some people, Life means imprisonment for having a Bible.
For some people, Life means rejection, by everyone in their family, because they are a Christian.
For some people, high-stress never ends.
Do they sit there going, “Going to be mad at God for right now, and going to do nothing but fight for my right to have a peaceful life. Waiting for my Rainbow Land. Until I get it, I’m going to be angry”? Do they lie down and grow a layer of spiritual dust? Does it mean they live without ever experiencing joy?
I think that peace is a brain thing now, not a circumstance thing.
I think God can give peace even if you live in dusty Kansas and never see a rainbow. That it can be something born of a truly sweet relationship with His Person, regardless of the twister blowing around you.
But I’m going to take this a step further. I’m not going to seek Him, ultimately hoping for peace in the process. I’m not going to seek Him and expect that He’s going to give me even a month free from pain. I’m not going to seek Him expecting He’ll go, *ding ding ding* “RJ is the winner of a free six-week trip to Rainbow Land! One golden ticket coming your way!”
I’m not going to worry about tomorrow, and what troubles it might bring. I’m going to expect Life. I’m going to expect Kansas. I’m going to muster up some real bravery, and tell God I actually don’t need a break, or a rest, or peace from pain – because I have Him. *gulp* And He’s enough. Even when He feels far away or hard to reach. Even when I still get angry and have little screaming fits in my head. I refuse to bow down in front of a present He may not actually want to give me right now. Why would I worship a gift-wrapped box that might not even have my name on the tag?
In Christ alone, my hope is found. He is my light, my strength, my song.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28
Feel free to save this meme off to your desktop, as it’s copyright free. I created it to show our support for our dusty “Kansas lives” that are complete in Christ!