Abnormal Perfections

“Do you ever miss being normal?”

If I’m incredibly honest, I’ve wondered that same question when people with particular disabilities wander into my life. Whatever their ‘normal’ is, it appears to be the epitome of uncomfortable, so my ever-curious brain forms the question. Though I don’t voice the question; the underlying implied “truth” speaks volumes.

Obviously, my normal is better than yours. You poor thing.

Recently, a young individual was explaining to me their experience with a disabled friend. In complete innocence, they included the fact that this friend’s ‘sister is normal, though.’ I chuckled… and then I choked back tears. Without invitation, my mind started ranting over how easily we unintentionally allow our hearts to declare a person less than

Less than what? Normal? Less than us? Subhuman? 

Oh, may I be more careful with my words. May I remember that for every innocent phrase uttered with implied intention rather than loving purpose there is someone’s heart which will pay for my carelessness. 

“Normal” is just a phrase to many people, including me. But for many, it’s a slap in the face and a reminder that their surrounding culture has stopped remembering they have dreams, emotions, aspirations, joys and sorrows. 

Our concept of pitied abnormality is often times God’s concept of honorable perfection. 

Changing Prayer

Prayer is what has kept me alive.

It had nothing to do with the IVs of drugs, the precision of a surgeon’s scalpel or the optimism often present in my precious mother. Though all those were God-given things, they didn’t keep me alive. Prayer did.

I have countless memories of moments where praying helped my seizure-filled brain clear enough to see Jesus. I have memories of nurses tellling me my private hospital room felt different, all the while holding stacks upon stacks of emails boasting one thing in common: Prayer.

Let me be clear.. it wasn’t the action of prayer — the liturgical “Dear Jesus ___________, amen” as it were, that kept my heart beating and my brain cognitively stable. It was the understanding that prayer connected my situation to the One True Holy God. When my body screamed in pain, prayer interceded for my life, my heart and my Spirit in ways I’ll never begin to comprehend.

Currently, I’m enrolled in a Principles of Prayer class at Grace College. Within this class, it is our goal to understand the power and privilege of prayer in a Christian’s life; of which I am one. You can’t really put a grade on that study. Within this course I’m astounded at what things I have forgotten (ignored?) about prayer since my body found a base-line of health.

I won’t lie– it’s probably one of the most embarassing things about my life thus far.

As I was praying for a friend this evening, I was reminded of how precious prayer was to my young heart while I laid in a hospital bed. What changed? Why is prayer seen as more of a duty than a joyful, intimate, scandalous moment with my Lord and Savior?

I came to the conclusion that only one thing has changed. I’ve forgotten to ask and expect big things to occur in and because of my prayer life. I’ve started to treat prayer as a dutiful expectation rather than a response of adoration… Therefore, I expect less of God.

Pondering that this evening, I heard God whisper one, simple yet powerful thing to my heart:

I’m still big enough to be The Ultimately Supreme God. Act like it when you pray.

Smiling at the Heartache

It’s been a while since I’ve seen their young little faces. It’s been even longer since the boys in the picture called out for me or ran to me for a hug. Seeing their faces on a random picture on the internet was not planned. But it threatened to do damage to my aching heart.

I had shared the responsibility for them several years back. They most likely barely remember me as the woman who’s heart they held when they were younger. I, on the other hand, remember their quirks, their voices, their giggles and their cries. The desire to go back to my life with them hit me like a Mack truck yesterday. To anyone else, it was just a picture. To me, it was a memory of a part of my heart I’d most likely never see again. 

The desire to make the needed calls to get back into their lives surprised me. I miss “my boys”, but it wasn’t God’s plan for me to be in their lives forever. When God allowed the chapter as their caretaker to close, it was a very needed change. They needed their real mother- I wanted them to have their real mother. But trying to remind my heart of that as I looked at the smiling picture yesterday took an act of God.

All day yesterday, the picture seemed stamped in my brain. Their smiles seemed to audibly come with their giggles. I started praying things I haven’t prayed in over four years. I met my Jesus in the Throne room asking questions I didn’t know I still had. Most of them illogical and emotional. Jesus held me in His lap and answered them anyway.

 At one point, I seemed to hear the Savior whisper to my heart, “Child, who do you think I am? Who are you to think you are the only one that can love these boys well? You call Me your God, you tell Me you’ll ‘surrender all’ and yet, you attempt to hide one of the biggest aches of your heart from Me. Am I your God- your Comforter and Provider – or am I merely an idol to worship or pay homage to when it’s convenient?

You love these boys. I love them more. I took you away from them for many reasons, but I have never left them. You know you need to learn to surrender these little men to Me. Stop acting as if I won’t protect and love them until you do.

I climbed off the lap of my Savior knowing full well why the ache for my little men was still so fresh and real. It was not a curse I needed healed and released from. It was a dogmatic reminder to pray with a zeal for these boys until I see the face of my Savior. Oh, may that heartache never leave.

Sacrificial Praise

The term “Sacrifice of praise” always confused me as a kid. Everyone made it sound like a beautiful and heartwarming characteristic of being a Christian. Songs about it are upbeat so obviously it’s something that makes me happy.

I’m sorry, but I beg to differ.

Yes, as a Follower of Christ bringing a sacrifice of praise to the Lord is a portion of our faith journey. It grows us and it makes us more like Christ so it’s worth every second of our time. But it’s not always a heartwarming, joyful, charismatic act of worship.

Somedays, it’s more sacrifice than it is praise.

Recently, I went through a heartwrenching, heartbreaking crisis of faith like I had never experienced before. Questions about my faith were viciously thrown my way and the answers I gave seemed to come up wanting. My heart wasn’t unwavering in the faith anymore. I had to ask questions very few believers in Jesus Christ want to ask.

Here’s the thing: I’m on the worship team at my Church.

I wrestled night and day with the fact that the last thing I wanted to do was praise God in the midst of my intellectually spiritual war. I wrestled even deeper with wondering if I was equipped to lead my precious Church Family into the Throne Room. I prayed for release from the responsibility and didn’t get it. I wept bitter tears praying that my attitude would change God’s mind, but it was to no avail.

That Sunday came and my heart trembled as I picked up the microphone. I silently screamed at the heavens, JESUS! Why? Why do you want me here?! I love you, but the last thing my heart wants to do is praise You; especially as a part of the leadership this morning. Please. Get me off this stage.

  Instead of going along with my proposed escape plan (epileptic seizure, anyone? Stroke? Heart attack? Imminent death?!), I felt Yahweh grab my heart and firmly ask me:

Do you still believe I am the Ultimate Authority and the King of kings? Praise me anyway, Baby Girl. Make these songs your prayer. Make these songs your sacrifice of praise. It will hurt you, but it will heal you. Lead this Body with your eyes on me.

My sacrifice of praise came with a choked voice and a broken resolve, but I had before my eyes a King that deserved my sacrifice. He is King and He is real. That was enough to praise Him for. He never changed.

My head was raised higher as the songs became less of a sacrifice and more of an offering.