Monday, May 5, 2014

Stones of Turquoise

It's been over two years.
Two Septembers past since I sat on that broken, green, lounge chair beside a dirty indoor hotel pool. It was then that God whispered something miraculous into my tired ears.

We were away, without the kids, for a weekend at the beach.

It felt like moving mountains to get away for those two days.
The first week of school had just started, our littlest had another ear infection, our oldest was in the beginnings of a brand-new highly restrictive diet as we tried to discern which foods her body was rejecting. I had to prepare and precook every meal in advance.
It would have been easier to stay home.

But, I had to go.
I knew how much it meant to my husband.
I had come to pour some much needed, and long overdue, time into my marriage.
I left our home and three small children with a deeply wounded heart. My spirit was broken and I needed mending.
I was hoping to hear from the Lord.
I was desperate to spend to some "quiet" time with God as I waited for my husband to finish his business class.

And so I sat there. 

In the fog of a loud, muggy, indoor pool; surrounded by families swimming and couples sipping wine in the hot tub. 
Talking and laughing and splashing everywhere.
Only one empty seat, so I plopped down and opened my journal to spill myself onto the page.

Words that had added up for weeks came out harshly,
scratched out sloppily across the lined paper.

It had been half of a year since my surgery, the one that was supposed to fix everything, and I still was dealing with frequent and nauseating pelvic and abdominal pain. Physical and emotional discouragement had become my best friends. I was tired of hoping for healing and ready to resolve that this is just how my body was going to feel for the rest of my life.

At the age of 32 years old, it felt time to surrender.
But God had other plans.
Doesn't He always?
And that afternoon,
He revealed a glimpse of what was to come to my broken body. 
A glimpse that has changed my perspective for always.

I kept etching out my frustration at my paper with that drying-up blue ink. I scratched out my deep pain. One hour in and my fingers began to tire. Amazingly, the noise all around me suddenly began to fade as I silently poured my heart out to the Lord. Then finally, with one big exhale, my soul relaxed. It felt so good to unload. And exhausting. I was too weary to expect to hear any type of response.
My heart desperately called out to God, asking Him to unravel a confused soul and calm a bruised and broken spirit.
"I have nothing left to offer you", I wrote.
I picked up my daily devotional and opened to the day's reading.

"Oh afflicted one, storm-battered and not comforted, I will build you with stones of turquoise, your foundations with sapphires. "
Isaiah 54:11
I had to reread it twice.
Three times.
A simple page,
with words that seemed to shout a knowing into my soul. 
The writer understood.
The words of a missionary from the early 1900's leapt off the page as she related God's precious letters to her own heartache.
Living in a self-described "barren wilderness", L. B. Cowman's struggle led to her discovery of a spiritual fountain
that became her sustaining grace.

Her short sentences jumbled together, describing in just a few short paragraphs the path of my heart over these past six months of healing. This beautiful woman, who left the foreign mission field to nurse a husband for over six years as he lay dying, understood what it means to suffer.

Streams in the Desert ("September 1", L.B. Cowman)

"The stones in the wall said, "We have come from mountains far away - from the sides of rugged cliffs. Fire and water have worked one us for ages but have only produced crevices. Yet human hands like yours have made us into homes where children of your immortal race are born, suffer, rejoice, find rest and shelter, and learn the lessons that our Maker and yours is teaching. But to come to the point of being used for this purpose, we have endured much. Dynamite has torn at our very heart, and pickaxes have broken and split us into pieces. Often as we lay disfigured and broken in the quarry, everything seemed to be without design or meaning. But gradually we were cut into blocks, and some of us were chiseled with sharper instruments until we had a fine edge. Now we are complete, are in our proper places, and are of service.
You however, are still in your quarry. You are not complete, and because of that, as once was the case with us, there is much you do not understand. But you are destined for a higher building, and someday you will be placed in it by angelic hands, becoming a living stone in a heavenly temple."

I quickly dug through my carry-on luggage, looking frantically for my book that holds the sacred Scriptures.

Does Isaiah really say that?

I'd never seen this before. 
Carnelian is the word used in the New American Bible.

"Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed, says the Lord, who has compassion on you. Oh afflicted one, storm-battered and not comforted, I will build you with stones of turquoise, your foundations with sapphires. I will make your battlements of rubies, your gates of sparkling jewels, and all your walls of precious stones. All your sons will be taught by the Lord, and grew will be your children's peace.
In righteousness you will be established."
Isaiah 54: 10-14a

My heart was suddenly in my throat.
I looked around at the strangers gathered around this hotel pool, pulling my sunglasses closer to my face, unable to hide the tears welling in the corner of my eyes.

"This is your story. This is what I am doing to you, Jodi." 
I felt the Holy Spirit whisper to me.
"This is the "why" of your suffering and the beauty that is promised to come from it. I am chiseling you into something unimaginable to you know as as each painful day passes.
Your stones are being turned into turquoise."

What started out last fall as a longing to hear from God and an unquenchable need for answers,
has become a beautiful journey of discovery.
A journey that has led me yet again to hear the voice of my Savior. Its path has ended at the foot of His Cross. This desire to understand suffering has kept me up late so many nights, reading the stories of past believers well past dark.  
It has tuned my heart into noticing the wounds of others.
My struggle has gifted me a compassion for others' suffering that I would have other wised been too self-consumed to miss.
Dare I ask, my sister, what about you?
Are you working hard to hide the struggle and numb the pain? 
Step into His light. 
Jesus sees what you are facing and wants to hold you tight. 

Only He can turn your brokenness into eternal blessing.