have you ever had a very pleasant surprise? i mean it. stop and think about your life. i have, for sure, had a few times in my life where i have been very joyfully surprised. and before i share, i want to make sure and be clear to you that i LOVE surprises! i love being a part of them, i love receiving them...i just love them! my hubby and i were blessed to be a part of a surprise proposal once. we got to help set up the site, shop for the ring...and i was so giddy, you would have thought i was getting engaged all over again. but, i don't even have to know the people involved, i still get super excited. in fact, recently a dear friend of mine was planning a birthday surprise for her friend, (who i don't really know that well) and i still got so super excited about it. i wanted to invite myself to the shin-dig and just sit back in the corner and watch it all unfold. but, the surprise was in las vegas, so that would have been a bit much. but, really, friend... i...just...loooove...surprises!!
i often tell people that when my sweet ryan proposed to me, i was so surprised....really, outright shocked is a better word...that i 'bout peed my pants. honest. and he did it at the Christian camp we were working at together, in front of about 300 people...so, clearly, that would have been fairly embarrassing. the thing is, he had spent the entire summer saying "oh, you are still too young...you really need to finish college before we get married...i need to save up for a nice ring....we still have plenty of time...blah, blah, blah" and me, at the wise ol' age of 21 was in love...and also in complete disagreement...and would say something like, "dude, we've been dating for like three years....i'm a year behind in college because i transferred and followed you out to the middle of nowhere to go to college (go tech!) otherwise i would be graduating this year....go spend $60 bucks at james avery and get me a gold band, i don't care at all...let's just do this thing" (loosely translated :) this loving banter went back and forth quite a bit over that summer. but then, on august 1st of the year 2000, in the middle of a skit that we had done a hundred times that summer, my whole life changed. and i had NO idea. you could tell i was unprepared, because the camp photographer captured the "moment" in a single shot - ryan kneeling and smiling, me gasping with my hands over my mouth in complete and utter shock, (speechless for the first time...like, ever) and wearing a lovely rainbow-colored moo moo. yup, you read that right. a moo moo. it's every girl's dream to get engaged in a moo moo. it was from the skit box, and it was funny looking, so i wore it for the skit. and it is forever embedded in our history, thanks to that photo. (ps. my darling camp director who i love like a dad gave me that moo moo as a wedding present, "here..." he said, " something special for the wedding night." ha. such a joker that one.) but, on that day, in that skit - everything changed. and it didn't go as planned - at least, not by my plan. we knew that skit backwards and forwards. in fact, we could do that skit in our sleep. i knew my lines. he knew his lines. and trust me, friend, "will you marry me?" was not one of the lines before that day. but, i was SO happy that it was part of the skit on this go 'round. so. very. surprised. and SO. very. happy!! best. surprise. ever.
fast forward almost ten years and my man got me again. i was hitting a milestone birthday that, to be honest, i wasn't that excited about, i guess you could say. but, really, most everyone dreads it a bit, i think. turning the big 3-0. ugh, could i really be thirty!?! or, as i called it, "twenty-ten" (i was twenty-eight and then twenty-nine and so, i thought "twenty-ten" sounded a bit younger that the guttural sound of "thuurty") and just to make matters more "fun" with hitting this milestone, i was about eight months pregnant at the time. lovely. let's document this all we can, shall we? and friend, i am not exaggerating when i say that i know how to put on the baby weight. let me be clear - i am not one of those girls who says the gain a lot and then you see them pregnant and can hardly tell at all. nope, not me. i gained at least 60 lovely pounds with each of my three pregnancies, and being that this was my third, i had that down pat. so...here i was, on staff at our wonderful church and thinking that this day, my birthday, was just like any other sunday. i knew my folks were coming to meet us for a special lunch, but that was about it. or not. :) little did i know that when i walked into the youth area that i would get hit in the face with a joyful "surprise!!" from like a hundred people. maybe more, i don't know for sure. what i do know is that this time, being so far along in my pregnancy, i for real 'bout peed my pants. and i mean, for real, this time. but, potty talk aside...i was sooo shocked. i think i was speechless for like the second time in my whole life. (those who know me well, are laughing because they know this is not an exaggeration!) sooo much planning...sooo many smiling faces staring at me...soooo much fun. such a wonderful surprise. (such a wonderful husband!) although...for the record, i hope to relive this at maybe my 35th birthday or something, and enjoy it a smidge more since i won't be a waddling cow. vain? yes, but only sometimes. :)
but, i must tell you...that after this last year, after literally hundreds of doctor visits and phone calls and unsure diagnosis after unsure diagnosis...i am being flat out honest here when i say that i was feeling like i was due for a good surprise. and, friend...i got one. (thank you, God!) now, my medical knowledge is quite limited (understatement of the century) so i will keep this as free of medical jargon as i can and still make an impact. i had emailed my current endocrinologist (two had come and gone before her) because i needed a refill of the steroid that i had been taking for the past year. awful stuff, those steroids. as if my body wasn't dealing with enough junk this past year with all the spinal fluid leaks and terrible side effects from that alone, but i also had been on a wicked amount of steroids, thanks to poor medical advice. (don't get me started on this weight gain, for real. ugh.) and unfortunately, that stuff is pretty hard core, so i couldn't just say "oh, that doctor really messed up, so i won't take that drug anymore!" nope, instead i got to say "oh, that doctor really messed up, so now i get to spend the next year of my life trying to very carefully taper down my dosage, so i don't go into crisis and end up in the ER!" (which i did, three times by the way, along the way) so, needless to say, this day...this wonderful and glorious day after i had blood work done was a big day. you see, this entire time, the doctors weren't sure if my adrenal glands would ever rebound from this high dose of steroids that first doc put me on. they hoped it would. i prayed it would. but, for the last year, we just weren't sure. and so, on this day, when she called me back in regards to my refill request, i was given a glorious surprise. her exact words to me were "i'm looking at your blood work results right here and your levels look great! you don't need to refill that prescription at all, your adrenal glands are working just fine on their own!" (insert looong pause) WHAT!?! bladder control in tact, i finally answered, "are you sure!?!" she assured me that blood work doesn't lie and that i should be fine. wow. fine? me?? i haven't been "fine" in so very long, i hardly remember what that looks like. but here i was, given the best and most joyful surprise i've had in a loooong time, and i was overwhelmed with gratitude, and also...in complete and utter shock. when i hung up the phone and looked at ryan, my sweet man who has loved me since i was 18, he knew the look in my eyes. it was the look of joyful surprise. something i hadn't felt in a long while after getting off the phone with a doctor, that's for sure. and he smiled, too. it was a great moment. but even he didn't know just how good the news was. i think his exact response when i actually explained it to him was "what? no more steroids at all?!? no way!" i hear ya, babe, almost seems too good to be true. but it was true. and it was good.
ya know what friend? God has held on very tightly to me this past year. i have wriggled around in His hand, stomped my feet in anger all around the Hand, drenched it with tears, and flat out wanted to jump out a time or two. but His grip has not wavered. not once. and i couldn't be more thankful. because now that i seem to be on "this" side of things...and things are, for the first time in a year, really starting to "look up" for me...i don't hardly know what to do with myself. since i received this news, this wonderful and joyful surprise, i have had many moments where i have sat around and wondered "is this for real!?!" am i really entering into a time of healing and restoration? could it be true? fear has flashed by a time or two, but i'm getting better (thank you, God!) at flat out ignoring that stupid thing. fear kills faith, friend. kills it dead.
and, let me tell you...faith is for real, friend. i mean...i have always had faith, kinda like i have always had thick hair. but, over this last year i feel as though God taken this "faith" and asked me to sit my hiney down in the beauty shop chair, close my eyes and say "do whatever you want to God, i trust you." ladies, i know you especially get this analogy because i know that you, like me, have sat many times in those little black chairs and been pumped up, and up, and up as you list off exactly what you have in mind. "not as blonde this time, maybe a little more bangs, and let's not go quite as short this time, ok?" some of us have actually brought a picture from a magazine (not a hair magazine, because those people look flat out ridiculous) and showed exactly what we've had in mind. this is what i want you to do with my 'do, alright? that was me too, trust me. but, over this last year, i've had no choice. God has taken my scrawny neck and plopped me into that chair and told me that i better just close my eyes and trust that He wants to make me beautiful.
do you believe that? that He really wants what is best for you. i always kinda doubted it. in fact, i still struggle with it. i mean, c'mon, He knows me. He knows every judgmental thought, hateful word, prideful dream, and selfish motive i've had - and that's all just in the last twenty minutes. does He really want what's best for me? or is He really just waiting...wanting to give me what i deserve? i heard it said once that when a group of Christians were complaining about their "tough" lives and how entitled they felt...how they deserved to be healthy, wealthy and wise...that some kid piped in and said "ya know what? what we all deserve is death. that's it. we all sin so much that every single one of us deserves an eternity in the pits of hell...that's what you and i deserve, ok? so, anything that is better than that, i say we should be thankful for." well said, kid, well said.
and oh friend, He wants so much more for us than we can imagine. how do i know? He tells us so. and He shows us so.
in matthew 14 when He had just performed a miracle of feeding probably 20,000 people (yes, we know the story as "feeding the 5,000" but that was just the men, that didn't even count the women and kids and their full bellies. i'm all about giving him credit for the full 20K) and what did the disciples do? they collected the "extras" and filled 12 baskets full. seriously? yep. they started out in desperate need, and ended up with leftovers. Jesus made sure everyone had what they wanted....not needed, but wanted...and then He allowed for an abundance more. isn't that just like Him?
in luke 15 when the prodigal son comes to his senses after gallivanting around being a disgrace...he returns home to his father (representing God in this parable) and is welcomed with open arms. his father had been waiting anxiously and watching for him. and he is given his father's ring and his robe. this signified him regaining his inheritance and rightful status in the family again. and, on top of all that...his father throws him a party. a big, huge feast in his honor. now, c'mon, that wasn't necessary, was it? the father could have just put his arm around his long lost son and walked back home, for a nice goat meal. it still would have been a good story. but, no - once again, that is God showing His abundant love for us. He breaks out the fattened calf and invites the whole neighborhood. He wants to go overboard for you and for me. and i am personally quite sure that He'd out-do any ridiculous "sweet sixteen" nonsense you see on tv, too, for the record.
and then there was the wedding. who doesn't love a good wedding celebration? i know i sure do. and in john, chapter 2, we find Jesus enjoying himself at a grand wedding feast. picture the gorgeous decorations. hear the joyful music playing. i bet it was a blast! but, then the unthinkable happened; the host ran out of wine. for us, it is different nowadays. this was bigger than just the closing early of an open bar. this would have caused humiliation for the family and haunted the newly married couple for years in the social circles of Jesus' day. so, Jesus performed the first of His miracles. He had the servants bring him six huge jugs and then He proceeded to turn about 150 gallons of water into wine. talk about abundance. (and no, i'm not referring to drinking in abundance, thank you very much, the Bible is pretty clear on that! see eph. 5:18..and nice try, though) and then, in true humility, Jesus didn't even take credit for it. but others sure noticed. His disciples saw this miracle up close. they saw the care Jesus had for the host's reputation. they saw that He provided more than enough for everyone. and (i love this part!) He didn't scrimp on the quality of the wine, either. in fact, in true Jesus form, He provided them with the best wine of the entire evening. ya know, friend, He always provides the best, whether we acknowledge it or not.
i could go on and on, friend. and sometimes, i feel i need to. i am writing this just as much for me as i am for you. sometimes, it is hard to just sit back and enjoy the "surprise" we receive, isn't it? we doubt we deserve it. we are convinced it won't last long. we fear what "bad" must be coming since we seem to be happy now. we look at others and wish our surprise was as big as theirs. we can't just sit and be still and enjoy His favor, His love, His blessings. i say "we" - but i mean me. maybe not you, but for sure me.
i am trying to do just that. i am waking up every day and not taking any more steroids. (can i get an amen!?!) i praise Him for that. as the saying goes, " i do not know what the future holds, but i know Who holds the future." oh friend, i encourage you to do the same. eat up the bread and fish. have your fill. enjoy that comfort of your Father's robe. have fun at the feast in your honor. and by all means, have a drink of the best in life. He does desire good for you. and He does desire good for me. it is no "surprise" that He came to earth for you. and He came that we may have an abundant life...not just trudge through. (john 10:10) has this last year been ridiculously tough? um....ya. i'm not sugarcoating that one at all! life is tough - mine and yours. Jesus promised us that. (john 16:33) but, He loves you. so, enjoy it. you are worth it, friend. and you know what...so am i.
psalm 118:24 "this is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it."