My family had a little surprise party for me in July to celebrate my 60th birthday. The fact that they were able to surprise me surprised me too! I usually can figure this stuff out and I had no idea when I walked into my house that it had been filled with rose gold streamers, stars, banners, and balloons. Faces of my sweet family greeted me as four of the six grands smiled victoriously and shouted, "Surprise!" Then, another surprise when the missing two grands were at the door!
It was a fun day that turned into a few extra days of summer-memory-making at Papa and Mimis. As it always does, our time together came to its end, and one-by-one families began to disperse back to their southern homes. The counters began to reveal their empty spaces; the number of shoes by the door returned to the less-likely-to-trip-over quantity. The whirr of the washer and buzz of dryer ceased from hourly activity. Papa and Mimi's home became quiet again. We sure do love having the visits, but my body welcomed the rest.
I decided I'd leave what decorations survived the thrashings of the wind (and grandchildren) hanging. Due to schedules, the party was the on July 16th but my birthday was a few weeks away. "Why not enjoy theses embellishments until I actually turn 60?" I'd reply when Pat tried to take them down. Every glance reminded me that I was "sixty and fabulous." I'd smile and laugh every time I was smacked in the face by the one streamer that hung in front of the door.
As the days passed, so did the quality of decorations on the porch. They began to look a bit defeated. One-by-one we began to take them down. Not all of them. We totally ignored the balloons. They remained tied to string and pinned to the beams. Then, one morning, while sitting in my favorite porch chair enjoying my Jesus & Coffee time, I happened to look up. The balloons that once hung full of air and stretched to capacity had deflated to a quarter of what they once were.
How did I fail to notice how much they had shrunk? I thought to myself. Immediately, I heard the whisper of response,You forgot to look up. As this little conversation was taking place in my head, I was opening my Bible to the place I'd left off in my reading plan: Acts chapter 22. I began to read as Paul retells the story of his conversion from his life as a Pharisee to a follower of Jesus. My heart did a flip as I read Paul's account of the details of how God sent Ananias to him to pray for the restoration of his sight. Ananias "came to me and stood beside me and said to me, ‘Brother Saul, regain your sight!’ And at that very moment I looked up and saw him" (Acts 22:13, NET). Wait. What?
"At that very moment I looked up and saw him." The footnote from the New English Translation assigned to verse 13 says, "the assumption of the command is that the effort to look up will be worth it (through the regaining of sight)." After several difficult days of pain, inflammation and fatigue I was well aware I wasn't looking up. My focus had been on me: what was happening within me or what I was missing out on around me. I have had to adjust to conditions in this season that I don't like. But, the time had come for a holy refocus; a repositioning of my lens. The Lord was doing a little attitude repair to the girl who'd been feeling a bit deflated and defeated by these current conditions.
In that moment I needed to be reminded the effort to look up will indeed be worth it, even when your circumstances are screaming at you for their attention. Let's be clear, I don't mean the chin-up-look-on-the-bright-side type of looking up. I'm talking the fight-your-feelings-and-look-up-and-find-where-God-is type. Intentional lookup.
When Worst-case Wendy began to share her detailed narrative within my thoughts – look up, Kolleen. When Envious Ellen begins to invade my heart – look up, Kolleen. When Negative Nelly begins to pour out her cyniscim – look up, Kolleen. When Pessimistic Penny arrives on the scene offering her discourse – look up, Kolleen.
A few days later, my friend Wanda sent me a text asking if I had been "looking up to see the beauty of the clouds lately," It was one more reminder to me that God does indeed care about my focus is. Follow me, Kolleen. Eyes fixed on me, Kolleen. Trust the process, Kolleen. That's been his request for me from the moment I stepped on the path of this journey – trust the process. Impatient Irma lets me know loud-and-clear that this is unacceptable! Trust the process! Nonsense! Rush through the process!!
Haven't we become a people inclined to rush rather than restrain; push rather than pause.
I am amazed by some of my friends who walk a difficult road with such grace, beauty and patience! I know it is because they have learned how to keep their eyes fixed on Jesus – they know exactly where to look. They've become accustomed to running to the secret place of the Lord their God (Psalm 91). They teach us how to follow the example of the psalmist who wrote, "I look up toward the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, the Creator of heaven and earth" (Psalm 121:1-2, NET).
Perhaps you are also feeling a bit deflated and defeated in your own current conditions. You've hit a rough season, too. I don't know where the struggle is as you walk this journey, but Jesus does. I do know that my heart became lighter and my thinking better when I refused to listen to Hopeless Helen. When I began to change my focus, my body began to respond in such a positive way, it was true: looking up had been worth the effort.
Those who speak life and truth over you and remind you that circumstance does not define you are to be treasured. When we walk through it and allow God to do a refining work in us we will come out purified at the end. That's what I want. What about you? Are you able to trust the process and look up? It will be worth your effort if you can.
"For you, O God, tested us; you purified us like refined silver" (Psalm 66:10, NET).
Thanks for listening,