Sunday, August 30, 2009

Overflowing With Hope

Do you have a particular life lesson that God teaches you over and over again? For me, that lesson is definitely patience, and the method He uses is so simple and so agonizing: waiting. It seems I am ALWAYS waiting for something--waiting for a job, waiting for marriage, waiting for a baby. No matter how well I learn the lesson on one occasion, I have to learn it all over again the next time. Today I want to share one story about how I grew through waiting. It's also the next chapter in my love story with Bill; I've been wanting to continue that story for a long time now.

Back in May of 2001, Bill applied for an L-1 Visa through our company. In four to six weeks, we thought, he would transfer from the Vancouver office to my office in Texas. At last, our year of long-distance dating would be over, and we'd live happily ever after!

These pictures were taken on one of my visits to Vancouver, right around the time Bill completed the mountain of paperwork and sent it in.

Having the end in sight made our separation so much easier to bear. Though I tend to be impatient, I can usually tolerate or even enjoy the anticipation as long as I know how long the wait will be. I set my mind on six weeks and joyfully started the countdown.

As you might have guessed, it didn't work out the way I expected....

Excerpts From My Journal
I miss Bill a lot today. I just wish he were here for good. I'm tired of counting down the weeks.

From the mountain to the valley.... Good thing my faith doesn't depend on my emotional state, or I'd be faithless today.... I felt sad and let down, and tears started rolling down my cheeks. I knew I was being ridiculous, but I couldn't help it.... I comforted myself with chocolate, and later Bill's sensitive, compassionate emails were a big comfort. He said he wished he were here to "kiss away my tears." That gave me a few happy tears. I love him so very much. It's hard to be patient for his transfer to come through.

I'm feeling very impatient about the Visa. It's been six weeks and one day, and they said four to six weeks. I still keep thinking that he won't really transfer, that something will go wrong. I can't truly imagine him living down here, or us being married. I want it, but it feels like just a fantasy. I think God is teaching me patience through this experience. Maybe I'm not really ready for Bill to move, and God knows that.

I was hoping to hear about Bill's Visa today, but there was no word. Lord, help me be patient. It's not just that I am anxious for Bill to come, but that a part of me fears he'll never come, that the Visa will be denied. I try not to think that way, but it's been seven weeks!... I have prayed so often for your will in Bill's transfer, and for your timing. Yet I cannot seem to let it go and leave it in your hands. Forgive me, Lord. Help me to trust you.

Bill was saying that it isn't hard for him to wait on the Visa because he's happy with his life the way it is. He said he was anxious to move down, but he is happy there, too. I asked him if he was SURE he wanted to move down here; if he's happy with his life up there, why would he want to change it? I think he was aggravated by that question. He said OF COURSE he's sure. I told him that I was sure, too, but that I also get nervous about the future, that change scares me. Maybe he thought that meant I was getting cold feet....

I hung up with tears in my eyes. So now I'm just waiting, like the story of my life. Always waiting and waiting. I just want to go home and curl up in a ball and cry myself to sleep....

Lord, help me to rest in you. I can't resolve any of these feelings or these fears, but you can. Please work this out according to your will. If I am not meant to be with Bill, let me find this out soon, but give me the strength to bear it. And if we are meant to be together, give me assurance. Help me to have peace.

When the waiting become too difficult to bear, at last I threw up my hands and stopped asking God for what I wanted. Instead, I asked for what he wanted for my life. Though I'd said that many times before, this time I really meant it. I was just too exhausted to keep struggling.

A few days after that turning point, on July 30th, to be exact, God gave me three scriptures:

  • Proverbs 3:5-6: Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.

  • Isaiah 26:3-4: You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord, is the Rock eternal.

  • Romans 15:13: May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
I knew that I had been leaning on my own understanding and that I COULDN'T understand why there was such a delay. These verses reminded me that God could be trusted and that he had a good reason for making us wait. I knew that the answer would come at the right time.

Suddenly, instead of being imprisoned by anxiety and worry and impatience, my heart was overflowing with hope, joy, and peace. I don't think I ever would have come to that place without the months of waiting.

The Explanation
The very next day, we got word as to the status of the work Visa! It wasn't the news I was hoping for, but it was a progress report. His Visa was supposed to have been filed in May, but it actually hadn't been submitted until June, and the INS hadn't registered it in their system until July 11. There had been a two-month delay from when we started the process, and now the INS was estimating 30-90 days from the date of filing.

That meant we could hear from them in as little as a week, or as long as nine more weeks. Based on the way things had gone up to that point, I was inclined to expect the latter.

Amazingly, I was not discouraged by the news, but continued to revel in my newfound peace.
The Answer!
Just two days later, on 8/3/01, I was called into the director's office at work, where I listened to a voicemail from the corporate attorney who had submitted Bill's paperwork: William's L-1 Visa had been approved!

I was so happy that I cried, much to Steve's chagrin. "This is good news, right?" he asked.

"Wonderful news!" I choked out.

The next day, we sprang into action, making all the arrangements. But that's another story.

Monday, August 24, 2009

ETHANNN!! We're Here to Pick You U-up!

It's hard to believe my boy started middle school today! Wasn't it just last week that he headed off to Kindergarten wearing a backpack that was bigger than he was? (At the time, my friend Jenny remarked that he looked ready to climb Mount Everest.)

Well, the start of 7th grade felt a lot different than all the other first days. First, Ethan did not pop eagerly out of bed and bound downstairs. No, I had to call him three times before he even said his first, "Yeah, I'm coming." And then it was 15 more minutes before he came down and went to sleep in the big chair with the ottoman.

I went through the motions of taking his breakfast order even though he never eats a bite on the first day of school--or any other time when he's excited or nervous. Today, however, once he finally woke up enough to request a toaster waffle, he gobbled it down in under a minute just like any other morning. Then he left his plate and chocolate milk glass on the table, like he always does (not that I expected him to magically pick up his plate without being told just because it was the first day of school).

The Drop-Off
There was just a hint of that lost little boy from Kindergarten when I actually dropped him off. He stayed in the car until the last possible moment, when I had to push him out or risk the wrath of the SUV driver behind me.

"Some of the other parents are helping their kids carry in supplies," he noted as he wrestled his band instrument out of the back seat and shouldered his backpack and paper grocery bag of supplies.

"You don't really want me to walk you in on the first day of 7th grade, do you?"

"No. You'll pick me up at 3:40?"


I wanted to watch him to make sure he made it in safely, but the lady in the SUV was getting antsy. (I'm not sure how I knew this; I just sensed it somehow.) Anyway, I pulled through the turnaround and patted myself on the back when I saw that the drop-off line was now literally a half a mile long. What a huge difference five or ten minutes makes!

The Pickup
Allyson and I arrived about 20 minutes early this afternoon, but not early enough to secure a spot in the pickup line. We parked in the parking lot with the car running, and I tried to read my book club book (Shadow of the Wind) while Allyson climbed all over the car and all over me, all the while peppering me with questions about everything under the sun.

At 3:40 on the dot, a flood of adolescents surged out of the doors. We got out of the car and milled around the lot, hoping to spot Ethan somehow. One woman about my age hollered, "Austin! AUSTINNN!" literally about 30 times, and since my back was to her, I allowed myself a smirk. "I bet Austin is hiding in the bathroom," I thought.

I wanted to yell for Ethan myself, but that would have been even more mortifying than helping him carry in his supplies. Allyson, however, had no such compunction. She started bellowing, "Ethan! ETHANNN!" in an astonishingly loud voice--the same one she uses when she "sings" Are We There Yet?, which I wish she had never heard on the Noggin channel.

"When there was no response, she edged closer to the pickup line and screamed, "ETHANNN! We're here to pick you u-up!" She happened to be standing just outside the open window of an old beater, and she yelled right in the ear of the teenage driver. I grabbed Allyson's arm and smiled apologetically, but the girl just smiled and laughed.

We huddled in the shade of the only available tree while Allyson and the clueless mother shrieked a chorus of "Austin! Ethan! Austin! Ethan!" Meanwhile, I could feel sweat running down behind my sticky knees as the minutes ticked past.

At last, I spotted Ethan and his friend Tin. Ethan was glaring at us. "Ethan! We're here to pick you up," Allyson shouted once more for good measure.

"I KNOW! I heard you five minutes ago."

"Then why didn't you come over here?" I demanded.

"We had to fight our way through the crowd."

"Well, get in the car and we'll go for ice cream," I urged. We always go for ice cream on the first day of school.

The Recap
During the 15 minutes it took to get out of the lot and down the street, I learned that:
  • Ethan's math teacher is really mean--starting tomorrow.
  • The athletics coaches are very, very mean.
  • The school is HUGE!
  • The lunch line took 20 minutes, but it didn't matter because they get A WHOLE HOUR for lunch!
  • Ethan couldn't get down the halls because all his friends from intermediate school kept stopping him every few feet.
It wasn't until bedtime, when he was applying his usual stall tactics, that I learned the big adventure of the day: Ethan had written his locker combination inside his binder, but then he locked the binder in the locker. Mrs. Morgan sent him to the office, where a man had all the information about all the kids in a computer, and only one minute later he was back at his locker, his combination scribbled on a little orange slip of paper. Next, he had to race upstairs to Mrs. Lady's class--whom he described as a nice lady (named Lady!) with a thick southern drawl. He made it to her room with just moments to spare!

The Ice Cream
So we finally arrived at Woolley's around 4:15. Surprisingly the line was much shorter than in other years, so we had to make a snap decision regarding the dizzying array of topping choices.

Here are Ethan and Tin, in deep concentration:

Well, they were actually contemplating the marked resemblance between the fresh frozen custard spurting out of the freezer and...

...What do YOU think it looks like?

Anyway, Ethan ended up ordering a chocolate frozen custard with Oreos and a cherry on top. I was shocked that he didn't order his usual gummy bears; is middle school already maturing him?

I agonized over my... I mean Allyson's frozen custard. "Chocolate!" she asserted.

"She'll have a small chocolate with..." I couldn't think because Allyson was tugging my leg and yelling "Sprinkles! Sprinkles! I want sprinkles!"

"A small chocolate with peanut butter sauce and sprinkles," I said at last.

I'm pretty sure she liked it. What do you think?

Can you see the sprinkle booger in her left nostril?

I liked it, too. But I only ate a couple bites. Or maybe it was 10.

All in all, it was a very nice first day of school, aside from the fact that, just as I was returning at 7:00 from the parents' meeting for athletics, Ethan greeted me with a frantic, "I need running shoes not my basketball shoes and I need two spirals and a composition book!"

My unbelievably considerate husband rushed him to Academy and Office Depot, and he would have been asleep by 9:00 had he not been regaling me with stories of forgotten locker combinations and other first day stories. I think he needs to start his own blog.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

You're Gonna Be GORGEOUS!

Okay, so this is going to be my last Esther post. Tonight was my last Bible study session, and I'm just bursting to share the truth that Beth Moore shared in her video. Man, I'm going to miss this class....

One of the first themes we studied in Esther was: "It's tough being a woman in a world where beauty is a treatment." Esther was a remarkably beautiful woman, and yet it was deemed necessary to give her a full year of beauty treatments to prepare for her night with the king. Obviously, the Persians placed supreme importance on physical beauty.

This is certainly just as true now as it was in Esther's day. We are surrounded by ads for beauty creams and exercise regimens and diet pills. We are inundated with pictures of young and beautiful women with perfectly enhanced bodies--either through surgery or through Photoshop. It's hard not to get caught up in the obsession, hard not to compare ourselves and find ourselves lacking.

The truth is, no matter how beautiful we can make ourselves, our beauty inevitably fades. We can try to hold onto it, but in our realm, time diminishes beauty.

A Time For Everything
Praise the Lord, it's not that way with God! In God's realm, where we will spend forever, time perfects beauty. In his realm, beauty is not a treatment; it's our destiny.

Ecclesiastes 3 tells us there is a time for everything: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance. Following this list of the many activities and seasons in a lifetime is the profound statement that God "has made everything beautiful in its time." (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

Beauty, then, is something that grows and forms over time. It's the big picture that results from all that weeping and laughing, mourning and dancing. Somehow, God uses all the circumstances in our life for our good (Romans 8:28). In the lifelong process of becoming Christ's princess bride, we develop a beauty that is not skin deep, but "Spirit-deep" (to quote this week's study).

The Epiphany
Like Beth, I have looked at an old woman and said, "She must have been beautiful in her day." No, no! She is going to be beautiful. And so are you.

I wish you could hear Beth's inflection, but all I can do is repeat her words, which she repeated three times for emphasis: "Oh, you are gonna be GORGEOUS!"

As I heard those words, tears were streaming, and I was sobbing audibly. I was filled with both longing and joy, and I felt it as a literal pain in my chest--the kind of pain you feel when you witness something indescribably beautiful and pure.

How does God DO that? How does He find a way to speak exactly what I need to hear, at precisely the right moment? Just this week, even today, I was looking in the mirror and seeing the lines around my eyes and mouth, and scowling at the cellulite on my butt that wasn't there a few months ago. Even though I try so hard to strive for inner beauty, I can't help feeling sorrow and frustration at the inexorable battering of time on my body.

But what does that matter, when I compare it to the beauty God is creating in my heart? What does it matter, when one day I will stand before His throne in my royal robes and cast my crown at His feet?

Do You Feel It?

So tell me, does your destiny of eternal beauty thrill you as much as it thrills me? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Please Continue to Pray For Aidan's Family

Remember when I asked you to pray for Aidan and then had to let you know that he had passed away? I've never met his family, only knew of them through my friend Michelle. Well, I feel like I know Aidan's mother now, and my heart goes out to her.

She left this comment on my post about his death:
Hi, I'm Aidan's Mom, Regina (Regi). I can't thank you enough for praying for my son. I [was believing for] a full recovery, and now that he is gone, my faith is shaken. I actually sat down at my computer and googled, "Is there really a heaven? I hope there is because my Aidan would be there truly believed that he would make it" and this blog popped up. Can you believe that!? I am actually turning to Google for answers! Aidan died one month ago today, and I miss him so much and can't believe I have to live my entire life without him. Please keep praying for me and my family. My heart is broken, I've never felt such pain, and I am lost without him. I keep praying for a sign that he is in heaven and can hear me when I talk to him. It wouldn't make me miss him less, but it would give me some peace knowing that he is happy and will always be with me. Love, Regi

So please pray for Regi and her family. Please pray that God will comfort Regi and give her an unmistakable sign of his love for her. Pray that she will sense that Jesus is right there with her, weeping with her and giving her hope that she will indeed be with him in heaven.

If God gives you a word of comfort for Regi, please post a comment on this entry--or if you are reading this through email, send me a reply and I will post it for you.

Thank you.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Please, Just One More Chapter?

Has your preteen boy ever begged you to stay up later to read one more chapter? If you haven't had that pleasure, I can assure you that it makes your heart swell with pride and wonder. With Ethan, it's an exceedingly rare occasion. In fact, he probably hasn't been that into a book since Captain Underpants and the Perilous Plot of Professor Poopypants, and that was when he was nine or ten.

The other night, I found out there is an even better feeling: when your preteen begs you to read another chapter of the Bible. I used to read the Bible to him when he was a preschooler, and we both enjoyed the pictures and simple stories. Once he started school, though, our schedule always seemed too hectic, and he got to that awkward age when he was too old for the toddler Bible, but too young to understand any of the unabridged translations. In recent months, I've wanted to read the Bible with him again, but I never seem to find the time to get to Lifeway to search out just the right translation for a 12-year-old.

If you think I've been talking a lot about my Esther Bible study on the blog, you should hear me at home! Several times, I asked Ethan if he remembered the story of Esther, but you'd think he'd never even been to Sunday school or watched a Veggie Tales video for the blank stare he gave me. I told him we should read it together, and he said, "Nnnnn."

"It's a fabulous story!" I coaxed.

"Yeah," he said, unconvinced.

About a week ago, around bedtime, I grabbed my New International Version and walked into his room. "Turn off the TV, please. We're going to read a chapter out of Esther," I announced. He rolled his eyes and let out a huge sigh. Suddenly, I received some divine inspiration. "I'll scratch your back," I bargained.

He shrugged and turned off Mythbusters. I settled next to him on his futon chair, my left hand holding the Bible and my right hand lazily scratching his mildly sunburned back. I read a few verses at a time, stopping to explain and asking questions to be sure he was comprehending. (It was fun explaining virgins and concubines.)

We stopped after King Xerxes banished Queen Vashti and agreed to hold the beauty pageant to find a new wife. When I casually asked if he'd like to read another chapter or two the next night, he answered just as casually, "Sure, I guess."

For the next couple of nights, I read two chapters at a time, and it was so fun watching the story unfold through Ethan's eyes--especially since he's now old enough to appreciate irony and suspense. He had no idea what was going to happen, so the plot twists were even more riveting. I'd planned to string him along and read him the story bit by bit, but I knew he'd be leaving for Indiana with his cousins on Friday, so I had to accelerate the schedule.

On Thursday night, I had to work till midnight on a project that was due the next day. I was so ready to sink into bed, but I realized we hadn't read our chapter yet. Ethan was still up, playing a game on the computer, and I decided I could live without another 20 minutes of sleep.

I reminded Ethan about Haman's plans to hang Mordecai on the gallows he'd built next to his home, and then we read about King Xerxes' bout of insomnia. When Ethan learned how the king had been reminded of Mordecai's unrewarded heroism, a slow smile lit up his face. He saw it coming, and he loved it!

We laughed out loud together when Haman had to lead Mordecai through the city on the king's horse and in the king's robes as he proclaimed, "This is what is done for the man the king delights to honor!" (Esther 6:11)

I finished the chapter and told Ethan we'd have to find some time the next day to finish the story as he'd be leaving the next evening.

"Please, can you just read one more chapter?" he wheedled, and now the smile lit up my face.

"Well, maybe one more," I agreed, feigning reluctance.

We read about Esther's second banquet with Xerxes and Haman, and Ethan positively beamed when I called out, in my most melodramatic voice, "The adversary and enemy is this vile Haman!" (Esther 7:6)

At the end of chapter 7, I said, "Want to finish the whole thing? It's only another page and a half." Ethan agreed eagerly. We read about the king's edict authorizing the Jews to kill, destroy, and annihilate attackers of any nationality. Then we read about the 800 men they killed in Susa, and the 75,000 they killed throughout the provinces of Persia.

After we finished the story, although it was about 12:30 by now, I stood in Ethan's doorway for another 10 or 15 minutes while we discussed all the amazing plot turns. We talked about whether Haman had deserved mercy, and after we'd compared him to Hitler, we decided that he hadn't.

I asked Ethan if he'd noticed any clues to God's providence despite the fact that His name was never mentioned in the entire story. Then--as I so often do--I started to answer my own question. But Ethan--as he so often does--interrupted. "You can tell that God helped them win the battle. They'd probably never even held a sword, but they killed 75,000 men!"

"Yesss!" I agreed, and in my mind, my right hand punched the ceiling in triumph.

Then we talked about how God doesn't always answer our prayers immediately, and how we have to step out in faith and trust that He will answer at the perfect moment--though that moment might seem tardy to us.

Ethan surprised me with an unusual analogy. "It's like there's a robber in your house, and he wants to kill you. You're hiding in the closet while he's searching the house. Just when he gets to your room, and you're shaking in fear, the phone rings, and he leaves the room."

"Yes, I guess it is kind of like that," I said.

(By the way, Allyson made her own bizarre Esther analogy this week. She's been learning about Esther in her Sunday school class for the past couple of weeks, and she's brought home brightly colored pictures of Esther and a little paper crown decked with tiny paper jewels. We saw a picture of Beyonce Knowles on a billboard the other day, and Allyson cried out, "Oh, she's pretty. She looks like Queen Esther." I couldn't contain my laughter, and then I couldn't think up a good excuse for why I was laughing.)

When we'd finished our discussion, Ethan said, "So this Esther story is really in the Bible?"

"Yes," I said. "There are lots of interesting stories in the Bible, especially in the Old Testament."

"They should make a movie out of it," he said.

"They have," I said. "We'll have to watch it. In fact, I think we own the Veggie Tales version. Don't you remember?"

"No, but I remember Daniel in the Lion's Den."

We both started singing, "Oh no, what we gonna do? The king loves Daniel more than me and you!"

We agreed that I'd read him that story when he gets back from Indiana. And then I fell into bed, my lips curved into a smile as I drifted off to sleep.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Who Squashed the Squash?

I had no idea a 10 x 6 garden could inspire so much mystery. Here's the latest chapter....

Last night, Ethan excitedly reported that the squash plant looked like it was dying. He said it was just sort of flat on the ground. It had been a couple of days since I'd admired and fussed over the garden, but last I'd looked, the squash was luxuriant and sassy--easily the most beautiful plant in the garden. It had three gorgeous yellow blossoms that were about six inches across if you were lucky enough to catch them open. So I figured the squash must be just a bit wilted--a bit of water and it should perk right up.

This is what I found, however:

Allyson voiced my thoughts perfectly: "Hey! Why did Lola squash the squash?"

Bill jumped to her defense. "Lola didn't do that. She can't get in the garden."

"Yes she can," I argued. "I've seen her."

"So you think Lola jumped the fence, trampled the squash to a pulp, and left the rest of the garden untouched?"

"I think... I think you never know what that dog is going to do."

So much for my beautiful, fruitless squash plant.

But Guess What We Had With Dinner?
On a lighter note, I'm thrilled to report that we made a salad out of our very own backyard last week! We harvested some leaf lettuce and one little red beefsteak tomato on Friday. I'd been watching the tomatoes closely, and I kept thinking they felt just a bit firm.

On Friday, I was very frustrated to find that a bird had gouged out a little piece with its beak. I guess the birds are better at figuring out when a tomato is ripe than I am.

I cut off about a third of the tomato and diced the rest of it. I counted out four little green leaves for each salad bowl and doled out the tomatoes to everyone but Ethan, who wouldn't touch a tomato with gloves on.

I rolled my eyes when I saw Ethan's pursed lips at his first bite of salad. "It's bitter!" he exclaimed. After her first bite, Allyson said, "Ooh! It's yucky." I figured she was just imitating her older brother.

"But the salad came from our very own garden!" I protested. I pasted on a theatrical grin and enthusiastically took a bite. Suddenly, my lips formed a sharp grimace. "It's bitter!" I said.

To our credit, we all added a bit more salad dressing and then ate our six bites of salad. It wasn't so bad, just different than what we expected. As for the tomato, I found it tolerable. I've never been a raw tomato eater, but this was my first time to eat a tomato straight off the vine. (All of my excitement these past three months has been more about the idea of growing tomatoes than actually eating them.) Still, I think I might learn to like them in time--if the birds don't get them all--just as I've learned to like watermelon, cantaloupe, grapes, apples, and bananas over the last several years.

Bill thought the lettuce and the tomato were delicious, and that's high praise since his usual dinnertime feedback is, "It's not bad" or "I don't mind it."

Now we just need to wait for the one carrot, hidden in the shade of the marigolds and sporting a four-inch tuft of thin green stalks. Then there are Ethan's banana peppers, which are flowering profusely and look pretty promising. Oh, and the green beans are growing like crazy, though they're still a bit small to eat. Hopefully we've had our quota of mysterious vandals.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Hillary is Safe!

Thank you to everyone who prayed and sent messages of support.

One of Hillary's friends found her and called Emily. Emily talked to Hillary on the phone, and Hillary wanted to come back home. Emily just picked her up.

We are all inexpressibly thankful. If God lays it on your heart, please pray for Hillary's parents--Emily and Chris--and her stepfather Paul. They need wisdom and a lot of love to figure out the best way to handle the situation.

Now, let's rejoice!

Please Pray for My Niece, Who Ran Away

My 12-year-old niece, Hillary, apparently ran away during the night last night, possibly on bicycle. The police and her parents are looking for her now.

Please pray for her safety wherever she is now, and that God would bring her to someone's attention. Also pray that God would reach out to her now and let her realize she needs him and he loves her.

Monday, August 3, 2009

You Should Just Fire Yourself

I wanted to post this entry last night, but I was too tired. Ironically, I lay awake for HOURS last night, thinking about the Beth Moore video I watched last night plus a thousand other things, mostly trivial. Needless to say, I'm beyond exhausted after working all day, but I'm not taking any chances. I'm going to post my entry so I won't lose another night's sleep.

I've been cramming to catch up my missed Bible studies from vacation. Last night I watched the video for last week, and there was something that really spoke to me. Maybe you'll relate also....

When Queen Esther risked her life to approach her husband, Xerxes, he spared her life and told her to make her request--up to "half the kingdom." Her request was that he and his second-in-command, Haman, attend a banquet with her that day. (Esther 5:1-4)

At that banquet, Xerxes again offered Esther "up to half the kingdom." But she just asked him and Haman to attend another banquet the next day. (Esther 5:5-7)

If we had been there, we probably would have wondered, "What on earth are you waiting for, Esther? Just tell him already!" The Bible doesn't tell us why she hesitated. Did she have an attack of nerves? Did she feel sick from too much wine on an empty stomach--after all that fasting? Or did she feel something telling her, "Not yet, Esther. Just wait."?

That night, Esther surely must have tossed and turned on her bed, and she wasn't thinking of trivial things. She must have wondered how she'd make it through yet another dinner across the table from Haman, the evil, murderous enemy of her people. She must have wondered what she could possibly say to Xerxes to get him to reverse the edict for the annihilation of the Jews.

If she was like most women, she was probably feeling responsible for all the men in her life: King Xerxes, Uncle Mordecai, and the detestable Haman. She might have wondered how on earth she was going to take care of all these problems.

The thing is, she really wasn't responsible for everyone. That wasn't her job. All she had to do was obey God, one step at a time. She didn't have to understand why. She didn't have to know the whole plan. She didn't have to figure it out. Though she couldn't see it, God was at work right then, taking care of every detail according to his perfect plan.

The Reversal of Fortunes
It turns out that Esther wasn't the only person who couldn't sleep that night. Xerxes was up because, as the Hebrew translation explains it, "The Lord took sleep from the king that night." To pass the time, Xerxes had the chronicles of his reign read to him, and he learned that he had neglected to honor Mordecai for foiling an assassination plot against him.

So it was that when Haman came in to arrange Mordecai's demise on the gallows he'd just had built for him, King Xerxes asked him, "What should be done for the man the king delights to honor?"

Haman, thinking there could be no one else the king would delight to honor more than himself, gave very elaborate suggestions: The man should be arrayed in a robe that the king had worn, and should be led through the city on a horse the king had ridden, and a noble should proclaim, "This is what is done for the man the king delights to honor." (Esther 5:6-9).

Now, get this! This is the most delicious irony I've ever read anywhere: The king said, "Go at once. Get the robe and the horse and do just as you have suggested for Mordecai the Jew...."

Don't you wish we could have seen Haman's face as he led his archenemy through the city and proclaimed that the king delighted to honor him? Beth told us maybe God has a "video" of all events in history, and when we get to heaven we can watch the events unfold. I hope she's right.

So Fire Yourself!
I really took this lesson to heart. It is so like me to be crippled with anxiety, feeling responsible for everything and everyone in my little world. Guess what? It's not my job! God has it all under control, and if I just obey him one step at a time, he has the most delightful reversals of fortune planned for me.

How about you? Are you butting in where you have no business? If so, I'll pass on some advice from Beth: "Fire yourself!"


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