“Throw in some art supplies,” I tell myself as I pack for a trip to California to visit family.
At a recent Dare to be Still retreat, guest Monica Bauer of Because Jesus Bible Journaling, taught a special art worship workshop. Though I’ve never seen myself as having any artistic ability whatsoever, I was captivated by her encouragement of simple beginnings and decided to bravely include at least coloring as a periodic avenue of expression in my dialogues with God.
So as I prepared to head south, I included a worship coloring book and some colored pencils. My first stop was Placerville in northern California to visit my son and his family.
While I was enjoying playing with my granddaughters one afternoon, I received a call from my brother-in law that changed everything. My sister had been rushed to the ER in Chico, suffering from pneumonia and struggling to breathe.
The next day I made the two hour journey to Chico, spent the night at their home, then woke the next day to a sky lit with beautiful, but ominous colors. We soon learned the source - - fire from the nearby town of Paradise, burning to the ground.
This wonderful, small community where my parents had once lived was engulfed in flames and heading for near total destruction.
As the lovely town of Paradise faced a terrible trial by fire that day just up the road, I sat in the hospital with my sister who was enduring her trial of a different kind.
This precious sister, who introduced me to Jesus when we were teenagers, has overcome health challenges since she was three years old and attacked by the wicked polio virus. It left her with challenges in navigating life that thankfully most of us have never imagined.
Now post-polio syndrome is stealing her strength, limiting her ability to move, and causing pain in joints and muscles throughout her body. And on top of all this, pneumonia.
As Annie napped in her hospital bed, attached to her surroundings with machines and tubes, I pulled out my coloring book and searched for words and pictures to give me focus and, hopefully, insight to a reason for her suffering. And I found this:
“Blessed are those who endure when they are tested, when they pass the test,
they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him.”
And I began to color and write - - to open my heart to this mystery of pain and suffering my sister and best friend has known all her life, hoping one day this side of heaven I can gain a measure of her faith and wisdom about how to live a life of Beautiful Endurance in the face of hardship.
Oh how it hurts to see her suffer. I sat silently beside her for three hours - - praying, praising God for my sister, and her impact on the world through decades of teaching young children.
Just beginning to wake up, Annie lifted her weakened arm, stretched out her hand, and I take it and hold on, knowing I am touching the skin of one who is blessed because she has endured when she was tested.
And one day - - hopefully a long time from now - - she will receive the crown of life God has promised to this one who loves Him so.
Pull up a chair and sit still
Are you also one who has endured when tested? I hope you will share your story with others, making every day of your pain and suffering count by teaching those of us who are sitting close enough to hear your whisper and learn from you.
Perhaps you have been blessed, like me, to sit near one of these Gems of Endurance. Let’s stay close enough to listen.