Three big church-y words have been swirling in my head; Redemption, Covenant and Build an Altar. Told you they were big and church-y. Let’s take a breath.
I am NO bible scholar. Nor am I a word scholar. However, I love God and I love words so this is my take on the big and church-y terms. As I see it, Redemption is a big rescue. According to my understanding, Covenant is a rock-solid promise. And Build an Altar is what THE main characters in THE oldest, MOST epic bible stories would do to show appreciation to God. And they did it over and over.
These words are swirling in my head for a reason and I’ve got to get it out.
Sunday afternoon, I was melting in the heavy August heat in the bleachers watching my boy. Joseph is trying out for a club lacrosse team. Let’s “build an altar” right there. And by that I mean, let me stop to acknowledge something really good and say ‘Thank you God.’
There are dozens of 9-year-old boys out here, weighted down by pads bigger than they are, their helmets bobbing across the turf. And I’ve got my eye on #95. I’m doing the best I can to not let the tears fall but come on.
We have to build the altar here because Joseph is bulldozing kids, sprinting, giving it his all to earn a spot on this lacrosse team. And we prepped this kid before going out. A handwritten note of encouragement from Luci. A pep talk from Lauren. Hugs from Bean. A last-minute gear adjustment from John. Lots of kisses from Mommy and a big squeeze from Daddy.
Were you with us last year?
Because August of last year, Joseph was getting handwritten notes, pep talks, lots of hugs and kisses from us all for a very different battle. “You’ve got this, Joseph!” had a very different meaning behind it last year. That kid would be going into The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia for a spinal tap, blood work and MRI to determine if he had Pediatric MS or a sneaky kind of cancer in his spinal cord.
That right there, friends, is what I call redemption. Joseph has a big rescue story in his life and he’s only 9. While I will never understand why we got his miracle; I do know I will never be able to say “thank you God” enough.
Will Joseph make the team? I don’t know. Honestly, I don’t care. I have witnessed God in Joseph’s life. I have witnessed God showing Joseph is covenant to him; God’s concrete vow to faithfully love and protect and answer him. Right now, this keyboard is my altar.
There’s more… always.
I was watching Lily get her ‘pack-cack’ ready for Kindergarten when it dawned on me. Lily, with her round eyes and non-stop chatter and soft brown hair, is an exquisite picture of another one of God’s overwhelming rescues in my life. Valentine’s Day weekend of 2003, I woke up to a doctor telling me the surgery had gone ok but there was a lot of internal damage from the hemorrhaging and that she was sorry but “I would never have children again.” You’ve heard that part before. BUT, did you know, do you realize that ten years later…
Lily Amaris Smithberger was born on February 15, 2013.
That’s ten years, to the very weekend, that my 5th child was born. Why hadn’t this hit me sooner? Maybe God needed me to be a little slow on appreciating that detail. Just slow enough so that at the right time, in God’s time, He could use our precious girl to remind me, encourage me, push me to remember God is real. God is good. God is on my side.
Ten years passed between that doctor’s harsh sentence and God’s gift.
That’s more than 3,650 days. And in that time there were even more miscarriages, the birth of three healthy babies and the loss of our niece. Ten long years.
What do some of your redemption stories look like? Have you been a little slow, like me, to tie the details together?
Look for them. They are a treasure worth discovering and holding onto. Those gifts of a promise kept, of a love bigger than you could ever dream are worth seeking, finding and relishing. Finding those gifts NOW is key for moving me forward. Understanding God sees me overwhelms me. It gives me something no medicine, no exercise, no person, no wine can provide. God’s commitment to ME gives me hope.
And I need it right now. My pain is mean, attacking for no reason and for every reason. I was letting the pain bring me down. But then, my therapist reminded me, “a doctor also told you you’d never have any more babies.” ohhhhh… Isn’t she good?
More than one doctor has told me I will have this pain for the rest of my life. But doctors have been wrong before. And I believe God put the spotlight on these beautiful redemption gifts in my life to highlight His covenant with me.
God’s promise is bigger than a doctor’s diagnosis.
•this is where my Southern friends say “Amen”•
God’s commitment is stronger than any heartbreak.
God’s vow to stick beside you is thicker than your deepest fears.
Finding the redemption stories in your life, seeing the covenant God is trying to offer you, then building an altar; that’s the faith journey. That faith, put into practice turns into hope.
My eyes are open.
And I can’t wait to see what happens next.