My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Psalm 73:26
Delay comes in many forms. It can be small like scratching the paint on one of your projects and having to reapply. It happens when your ink cartridge runs dry and you’re in the midst of a mountain of paperwork. There’s the tire pressure light causing you to pull over. The doctor’s phone number that provides you with a weird busy signal multiple times when you’re trying to schedule a follow-up appointment.
And this morning, I nearly cried when I was typing up an email to the school. It just got hung up and wouldn’t allow me to close. There was no going forward and no going back so I kept hitting the little x again and again. When technology finally caught up to what I was doing, it appears to have “x’d” out more than I wanted for it cleared out my inbox. Emails that have been sitting there for weeks for a particular reason were gone. They were my reminders… things I’d planned to get to after the busyness of the holidays.
I spent nearly twenty minutes trying to find where they went. Not a hint of them… not even in my trash bin. And that’s when tears threatened. I was just so frustrated. But in contemplation of my high emotional state, I think my angst goes deeper than Outlook. I think it has more to do with the recent delays in my life that far outweigh minor annoyances.
Then she saddled a donkey, and said to her servant, “Drive, and go forward; do not slacken the pace for me unless I tell you.” 2 Kings 4:24
I like to go fast. And forward. And I don’t like it when something slows me down. No, when I have a plan, I expect execution to be swift and efficient. Like the plans I had a couple of months ago, number one being my health.
And I began well. After Labor Day, I lessened my portions and added exercise. I’d drop my kids at school and walk a couple of miles afterward, at least several times a week. And I felt good. Energy was returning, pounds were dropping, and pants were loosening.
However, I’ve somewhat plateaued. Progress has been stalled and it seems I’ve not moved forward for weeks. For it was October 20th when all my plans, especially this health kick, hit a speed bump. Or more aptly, a road block.
And when my husband recently joked, “I’m glad we got you that Fitbit,” my face showed him just what I thought of that remark. Oh, I was mad. He quickly came to my side, though, and told me he didn’t mean to imply I’d been slacking.
But you know, perhaps in some ways I have slacked. For my pace has significantly lessened in more way than one. And certainly, numerous circumstances have been out of my control. More than I can count.
Oh, most assuredly, things have come my way that have slowed me down…
Snow days slow me. I cringe as I type that. Because who doesn’t love a day off? Time off with the kids. Games in the house and cocoa by the tree (at least during this season). But me? I just feel delay. Another day I don’t get to execute my plan, whatever my plan may be.
We had a snow day last Monday followed up by a two-hour delay on Tuesday. And I had to laugh at that because my daughter had just finished treatment for Kawasaki disease. She was returning to school for the first time after weeks away. And the wintry mix? Well, it served to delay her return.
At that, I thought God had a sense of humor…
Two days later, though, when I picked up my son early from school due to severe abdominal pain, I wasn’t really laughing. Because that turned into an overnight stay at the hospital. Appendicitis followed up by surgery this past Friday.
In truth, it felt surreal. We’d just spent so much time in the hospital. It was like that movie Groundhog Day and I woke up to the same thing. Life repeating. A do-over. And in truth, It felt like an attack from the devil himself.
That’s what last week felt like.
“Behold, I will cause bread to rain from heaven for you; the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day…” Exodus 16:4
Yep, here recently, I’ve felt totally delayed. Run right off my course. Most significantly because of what’s taken place with both my children. Sickness that’s led to hospital stays. And when it comes to stuff like this, there’s a couple of schools of thought in the Christian realm…
Is one being stilled or stalled? Tested or tried? Is God the One slowing you, or is it the devil himself preventing you? Which one is it?
Honestly, I’m not discerning enough to know. Because the truth is, I don’t know who is preventing my forward movement. But after much meditation, I realize it doesn’t really matter who or what because both hindrances, if you will, necessitate the same course of action.
Basically, our delays have to do with our daily bread. At least mine do. It all comes down to what I ingest. And in the feeding, it’s what I’m enabled to serve up.
And so, life teaches me that whether I’m stilled or stalled, the best thing I can do is make sure I get the portion that’s allotted to me for healthy living. And I’m not talking about the food I buy at the grocery store.
And I will bring a piece of bread to refresh and sustain you. Genesis 18:5
I’ll tell you what happens when your kids get sick. You sleep with them. Or near them. When Annabelle had a high fever in October, I slept in her bed for two nights. And when she couldn’t lay down due to neck pain and slept in the recliner, I stayed on the love seat. At the hospital, I slept in the bed with her for six nights and when we got home, I stayed near till I knew she was okay.
As for Levi, I stayed in the hospital with him and slept on the not so comfortable couch. When we came home, I stayed on the love seat and he had the couch (his bed being too high). Two nights we did this. And last night, even though he decided he could climb his ladder and return to his own sleeping abode, I stayed on the couch yet again. I wanted to hear him if he called out….
This is what moms do. And in the middle of the night, when our kids need assistance with peeing or turning over or pain medicine, we accommodate. It’s just what we do. And it’s what I’ve done for much of the past couple of months.
I have to tell you, though…
I’m really tired. In keeping up with my kids’ sicknesses and needs, my sleep has been interrupted for close to two months now. And when my sleep gets interrupted, getting up first thing in the morning gets delayed.
Yep, in hitting the snooze button three or four times, quiet time with the Lord gets pushed back. It gets lessened. And the portion of Himself God allots for me, well, I don’t always get it. Not all of it.
Not when my children are sick. Not when I’m so tired I have to sleep in.
Which brings me back to the still or the stall. The test or the trial. I am reminded, through Christmas and my very own decorations, what God prompts me to do. The nativity scene reminds me how I can once more move forward.
And it has to do with being still at the stall.
And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. Luke 2:16
There are so many thoughts as to why Jesus came as He did. Why He was delivered to us in the form of a newborn baby. And more, why He was placed in a manger. And why shepherds were the first visitors. And I’m sure God’s reasoning and purposes go way beyond anything we can fathom.
However, I can’t get away from a particular thought these past few weeks. Maybe the thought is so pressing because my consumption of Jesus has been lessened due to the circumstances out of my control…
My portion of Him less than what it once was. And not nearly what it should be.
See, I just can’t help but think that Jesus was laid in a manger because He’s our food. He is our daily bread. And the word for manger paints the picture for it means not just manger or stall, but also, a crib (for fodder). And could this be the reason the newborn Savior was laid in this type of crib? Not only because God planned for Him to come to us in the most humble of circumstances, but also, because we are the sheep and He is our food.
And the shepherds? How fitting they were the first to feast their eyes upon the Messiah. Because they feed their own flocks. And God fed first the keepers of the fold with the first serving of Jesus. This being the pattern for our own lives…
Because as moms, we each have a fold of our own to tend to and care for. Little ones, and not so little, we feed and nourish and protect. But in order to feed them properly, we first must be fed. Fully.
And so, just like the shepherds, we must hurry to the manger and feast on Him.
Just like at Christmas.
The LORD is my Shepherd [to feed, to guide and to shield me]. I shall not want. Psalm 23:1
Oh, there’s so much I want to share on this subject. All these bread thoughts. How Jesus was born in Bethlehem, which means House of Bread. And in the 6th chapter of John, after feeding the multitude with bread and fish, He called Himself the Bread of Life. He said the forefathers ate manna but He was (and is) the true bread out of heaven who gives life to the world.
Further, and much to the crowds displeasure, He said one must eat His flesh, for His flesh is true (spiritual) food. More, the one who feeds on Him (believes in Him), would live because of Him. That’s what Jesus said.
The baby, born in a stall and laid in a manger – a crib used for fodder – later in life called Himself the Bread of Life.
But today, how do we do this? How does one feed on Jesus? I ask myself this…
And life teaches me, I feed on Him by feasting on His Word. For He is the Word become flesh. I devour His word, letting it fill me, so I can in turn feed others. It’s just as we read in Ezekiel, “eat what you find (in this book); eat this scroll, then go, speak…” We eat His word and inevitably, it comes back out. Regurgitated. Like a mama bird feeding her babies…
So I opened my mouth, and He caused me to eat that scroll. And He said to me, “Son of man, feed your belly, and fill your stomach with this scroll that I give you.” So I ate, and it was in my mouth like honey in sweetness. Ezekiel 3:2-3
Yes, the shepherds were the first to eat. They hurried to His side and were served a heaping helping of Jesus. Then, they went and told. This becomes my pattern.
But you know, life happens. All too often, my way to Jesus is hindered. Like recently. A still or a stall, a test or a temptation, I cannot say. All I know is I’ve not spent enough time at His stall. At the crib of Jesus. And it’s shown the past day or so.
Because I’ve been trying to care for my flock on an empty stomach. I’ve been trying to serve up what I don’t have in me. And today’s the day I know I can’t go another step until I still at the stall of Jesus.
This is where I hurry on the cusp of Christmas…
“But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah, for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of My people Israel,” Matthew 2:6
Why the shepherds? Perhaps because they feed the sheep. But also, maybe there was an awareness about them. A consciousness of God’s creation due to an unhurried gait, keeping the pace of the sheep they cared for. One born of quiet and stillness…
Yes, surely there was an awareness of the needs of those around them. And so, once again, the shepherds are my pattern. They and Jesus. For not only was He the Bread of Life but also, He was the Good Shepherd.
He is the Good Shepherd.
And what I know about Him is He lays down His life for the flock. He gives Himself totally for His people. He serves up Himself so that we can feed on Him, God’s own sacrificial lamb.
And when I hurry to the manger, and feast on the Word become flesh, I find I am filled by Him once more. My allotted portion. He is the Living Bread I need.
Every, single day.
And only in the feeding am I able to feed those entrusted to my care. At least properly. Because in the end, you serve up what you’re full of.
Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup. Psalm 16:5
The Good Shepherd appeared to Peter after His resurrection. Know what He said? “Feed my lambs. Take care of my sheep. Feed my sheep.” Because Peter had a big job to fill. He was to shepherd the flock.
But you know what? I have a big job, too, for I have a flock of my own. Jason and Levi and Annabelle. And I just have to be honest. The past month, I’ve not served them as well as I could have. Oh, I have a good excuse. Circumstances out of my control.
But the fact is I have slacked a bit here and there. Mostly, I’ve slackened my pace in getting to Him. That’s reality.
Despite ER visits and hospital stays and sleep interruptions, there has been some time. But, I opted for other things. A small bag of chips here and there led to a full (big) bag last night. And feeling completely depleted leaves one desirous of mindless TV at night to unwind. At least that’s what happens with me.
Thus, I’ve been feeding on junk food and junk TV which leads to late nights and late mornings. And when I hit the ground running first thing, I am left me with precious little to offer my flock.
It’s a viscous cycle that leads to further depletion.
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. Psalm 23:1-2
In closing, I teared up tonight with Jason. I told him how I was feeling. Tired and weary. Empty with nothing left to give.
And the result of that is I feed my flock what I have. Yes, my little ones feed on my tears and impatience and gruff demeanor when it shows. Because I am their shepherd… they feed on what I serve.
They feed on me.
Thus, I must be filled. No matter how hard life gets. Because reality is, things will always come my way. Hindrances and delays. And it doesn’t matter if it’s a still or a stall, a test or a trial.
It matters naught if the pause was designed by God or if its a fiery dart from the devil himself…
Simply, when life gets tough, the tough get going. And fortunately, we tough ones know where to go. Yes, I know where I need to go.
God bids me to the crib that contains the Bread of Life. And I understand it’s all about portion control. Healthy living is in making sure I get my daily allotment. Because Jesus is my fodder. He is the grain that makes me whole.
Thus, I still at the stall.
And in feeding on Him, I am able to feed my people.
“The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I have hope in Him.” Lamentations 3:24