Bill’s Update #5: Our Certainty in Uncertain Times

Your world’s not falling apart, it’s falling into place …

“Just Be Held” by Casting Crowns

There’s an incongruity in those words, I thought, the first time I heard them sung. 

For all the ways Bill falling off a 9-foot ledge made our lives seem to be falling apart, is there truth that our lives are falling into place?

Actually, yes.

We’re living in an uncertain world. Except in the real scheme of things, we can ultimately be held by the God of certainty. 

What may seem like uncertain times for us.

Two weeks ago, when I was filling out an application for an apartment in Chicago only two short blocks from where Bill would be doing outpatient therapy, we appeared uncertain in all the ways that seemed important:

We had no employer,

no home address,

no vehicles.

How did that happen?

We got the apartment in spite of what seemed uncertain in the world’s list. We recognize those blessings. 

The good news is Bill is home!

Or home as we know it for right now. 

Since his accident Friday, July 17, until he was discharged Tuesday, September 1, 45 days, we hadn’t seen one another except on FaceTime calls. We got through it because we really had no choice except to get through it. Many of you are in the midst of getting through something, too, and you’re not allowing the worst of circumstances to overwhelm you. 

Finding certainty. 

Bill was discharged two and half weeks earlier than the physical therapists first determined. He had been working through all of the exercises and had reached all of the in-patient goals.

Presently, he’s still paralyzed from the waist down, meaning his brain can’t tell his feet what to do. They’re not communicating,

yet.

So he’s working out of a wheelchair.

His leg muscle strength, from his hours’ long workouts on the elliptical trainer before to what he is endeavoring to do now, allows him to move his lower body. He’s even able to walk with assistance, like with a walker and his leg orthotics. 

We’re trusting for his healing in God’s perfect way and God’s perfect time. We know many of you all over the world are praying, too. How do we even fathom that?

Our apartment view: The orange pony was a souvenir my grandmother Momalee brought me when she visited Portugal in 1980. I took it with me to Lisbon. What joins it now is a sardine–considered a historic Lisbon icon–the Gibsons gave us when we left Lisbon for Chicago.

Gratefully our faith is not in what we see before us.

The Sunday before Bill was discharged, I went back to a verse in II Corinthians chapter 4 that always inspired my faith in seeing past what I can’t see. First, I was reminded for us to live beyond the crushing life experiences that attempt to break us into pieces (4:7-15), only then to absorb the following: 

“… as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (4:18)

That is faith, trusting God in His goodness when everything before us doesn’t seem to be well with our souls. It seems we develop our faith through the mishaps of our days, don’t we, the slips and falls that try to break us apart and overcome us.

What prefaces this promise is another promise: “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.”  (4:16)

This photo is from a trip to Chicago with my high school art students in 2006. Here we were taking the architectural tour, and the only time available was 7:00 A.M. in February! Freezing cold, it was still quite memorable. The students’ enthusiasm energized us.

Faith in the unseen.

While in Searcy three weeks ago, I stayed with Shannon (Fellowship’s Global Missions Director and adopted daughter in Christ), her husband Tim and two precious children.

Tim, a physical therapist, shared how the spinal cord can regenerate cells. So like our bodies, and our souls, and our spirits—each part of the total person—we are created to be renewed day by day.

I now imagine this unseen regeneration in Bill’s spinal cord. Can you imagine your regeneration and those needed in your loved ones?

The passage continues: “ For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond comparison.” (4:17)

We can’t see it, yet, since that place is beyond comparison. Until then we learn to trust the Lord.

That is faith.

Dispelling uncertainty into a future where we can live forward and not look back. Faith is also meant to be combined with our hope in the unseen.

Paul notes in Romans 8: 

“For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” (8:24-25)

That Sunday night after reading through these verses I had a dream. 

Bill and I had walked into a medical clinic, just like we would have before the accident. We walked out with the realization Bill was pregnant. The funny thing is it was no big deal Bill was pregnant. He had an ultrasound, and we watched the moving images of new life being formed.

The next morning, I thought about the dream and its meaning. Bill is birthing forth a new life. New life is growing within him.

For nine months? Who knows? 

God knows. And that’s enough.

Offerings and Overcoming.

With Bill home, we have begun a new routine. 

One is in our vocabulary. For several days, I hesitated to use the word “handicapped.” I didn’t want to peg or label his present condition. Such terminology is easily misunderstood though. Being handicapped is actually an overcoming phrase, like action verbs.

I discovered that 14 years ago when I had my elevator accident, almost losing my arm or worse my life, like Bill could have. I had to look at visible scars and forms of disabilities in my right arm and hand. It was then I redefined “handicapped” for me. But for others? I suppose it’s a personal thing. 

For Bill—his attitude has been so healthy and strong. His faith has only deepened. He reminds me of the verse in Romans 8:17: “No, in all these things we are more than conquerers through him who loved us.”

… as is Bill in his deepening life, as so many others I know, and those I’ve yet to meet.

God means for us to be ever-evolving, ever curious and ever learning, evermore kind and heartier to others, and ever-patient in this Covid-time when restlessness must be stilled. 

Alarms. We all have them.

I set off the smoke alarm in the apartment the other morning frying eggs. For some minutes as it shrieked and beckoned for help, I wondered if the Chicago Fire Department would show up and hatchet down the door. Gratefully, I got it dismantled—the sensitive thing it is. Except no one throughout that high-rise even noticed.

I was reminded of the real alarms in our lives, those life-altering experiences—the loved one lost through tragedy, the accident, the car crash, the medical report, those things we’ve witnessed.

Why does it take a crisis for us to cling to God koala-style?

So you don’t think I’m plagiarizing–

My title for this update—Our Certainty in Uncertain Times—is borrowed from our pastor Doug Grimes’ sermon “Certainty in Uncertainty.” He speaks to Bill’s and my situation, using verses in Luke 9:57-62 meant for us all in serving in the kingdom of God. 

When Doug shares in Luke 9:62—where we are to put our hand to the plow and not look back—he reminds Bill and me where we are now—our hand to the plow, not looking back thinking “what if?” We are going forward in a life of hope and faith in which we don’t see the end, we simply trust.

My dear friend from high school, Janet, gifted us with a box of goodies while in Lisbon. (It only took three months to get there!) She sent five sets of the “Dear God” books that I used when teaching children on Sunday evenings. They all felt so special having their rainbow set of books with their names in them.

How your encouragement lifts us, inspires us:

The day after Bill was discharged, we decided to take a trial journey to Target. It is only 1 1/2 short blocks away. No big deal, right? What we hadn’t considered was one of the wheels on the wheelchair messing up. 

On the way back, at the last street crossing, the wheelchair got stuck. I dropped my Target bags on the corner to help push Bill across a rut in the road. He then was able to glide down the sidewalk toward our apartment building. I grabbed the bags only to run into a young woman, maybe 30. 

“You look like you your hands are full. May I help?”

In that moment, this lovely tall blond in white served as one of God’s angels with her offering. Her kindness to me, a stranger, has played back through my head often, making me tear-up each time. In my learning a new routine, I received God’s love and care before us.

I didn’t accept her help, but I received her gesture. And it resonates as a gift from God, as though He were saying it to me directly, “You look like your hands are full. May I help?”

For each of you, that’s what your messages, calls, cards, concern and prayers continue to do—shed strengthening streams of light into our days to warm us. I pray we can reciprocate one day if even to remind you just when you think no one sees what you’re going through, pay attention to the heart shaped mud puddles and hash tag clouds. 

Renew yourself:

  1. Listen to Doug’s podcast “Certainty in Uncertainty.” 

2)   Play Casting Crowns’ song “Just Be Held” often. (Lyrics follow.) Absorb it. Receive it. (Thank you to the person I didn’t even know, but he shared this song for Bill and me on a Facebook message. You’ll never know how those messages feed us.) 

3)   Read II Corinthians 4 and Romans 8. Find yourself not so alone in your faith and hope walk. You can’t see the end for a reason.

If you would like to see a tad about what Bill and I were doing in Lisbon, here’s a video with panoramic scenes of Lisbon and one family in whom we love as they became family to us. Beau, one of the pastors of the church where we served, his wife, Valerie, and their three children are presently in the United States on furlough and visiting churches. As they share their ministry, they teach others in the congregations they visit the many ways those of us who aren’t full-time ministers can help, too. They also show the school where I was teaching art and Bill was helping however needed. 

Something I’m learning:

To learn to be tender if even with age is to renew life, bequeath life, with a mastery.

To learn to push past the pain of today, even past tomorrow’s struggles, for a future worth keeping. It’s the sowing and reaping concept, the pruning so we’ll bear more fruit and thrive. It’s determining to live from painful to passion and breathing in a certainty of being in God’s will—no distractions or regrets. Plowing forward with a little skip in our step.

Just be Held

by Casting Crowns

Hold it all together

Everybody needs you strong

But life hits you out of nowhere

And barely leaves you holding on

And when you’re tired of fighting

Chained by your control

There’s freedom in surrender

Lay it down and let it go

So when you’re on your knees and answers seem so far away

You’re not alone, stop holding on and just be held

Your world’s not falling apart, it’s falling into place

I’m on the throne, stop holding on and just be held

Just be held, just be held

If your eyes are on the storm

You’ll wonder if I love you still

But if your eyes are on the cross

You’ll know I always have and I always will

And not a tear is wasted

In time, you’ll understand

I’m painting beauty with the ashes

Your life is in My hands

So when you’re on your knees and answers seem so far away

You’re not alone, stop holding on and just be held

Your world’s not falling apart, it’s falling into place

I’m on the throne, stop holding on and just be held

Just be held, just be held

Lift your hands, lift your eyes

In the storm is where you’ll find Me

And where you are, I’ll hold your heart

I’ll hold your heart

Come to Me, find your rest

In the arms of the God who won’t let go

So when you’re on your knees and answers seem so far away

You’re not alone, stop holding on and just be held

Your world’s not falling apart, it’s falling into place

I’m on the throne, stop holding on and just be held

(Stop holding on and just be held)

Just be held, just be held

Just be held, just be held

Einstein soaking up the warmth of God’s love. So should we.

17 thoughts on “Bill’s Update #5: Our Certainty in Uncertain Times

  1. Greetings Ann.
    Thank you for the update. Again, words are inadequate. Maybe that’s why Job’s friends just sat by him speechless for about a week.
    There’s a beautiful scripture in Nehemiah 8:10b (the whole chapter is beautiful) that reads: the joy of the Lord is your strength. Those words are a spiritual law, just as gravity is a natural law. Joy is a fruit if the spirit and it is also an act of faith when we go through trials. Proverbs 17:22 says that a merry heart is like medicine, but sadness dries the bones. White blood cells are the bodies’ soldiers for healing. They are produced in the bone marrow. So I figure that the more joy, the more healing. So let’s be very joyous in the Lord.
    My prayers are with Bill and with you. Stay strong in the Lord.
    And please continue to keep posting updates.
    Be blessed in His mighty Name.

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  2. Dear Ann, thanks for that very inspiring update. I continue to pray for you and Bill, knowing that nothing will prevent you two from accomplishing the work that God prepared for you to do long ago.

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  3. Thank you for this update. It’s encouraging to read! The song “Just Be Held” is one of our very favorites! And I love the thought of clinging to God “koala-style!”

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  4. Over the years I have become less and less enamored of Christianity mostly because I have experienced it through the words and actions of too many who have used the Bible as a way to denigrate those who were considered “less than” and had to be cared for by a kind of charity that kept people in their place (poor, women, gay, black etc). My observation is that it is somehow a way of assuaging the guilt of unearned white privilege. My rearing in a Christian home simplified faith as “do unto others as they would have them do unto you,” The way your use your faith to live in hope and optimism reminds me of what Christ would want for humanity and from humans. Thank you for the use of scripture to encourage us that faith in humanity can be alive through the tenets of Christianity. It does my heart good that you have your faith to get you through this unexpected turn of events. You are inspiring.

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    • Pam, You always challenge my thoughts and motives. I hurt deeply in knowing how Christ has been misrepresented by our human manipulations to make it fit a chosen lifestyle with country club privileges. Yet, not all can be labeled, for there are so many sincere lovers of the Lord. He is so much more than who we try to be, the reason we need him so. Interestingly this morning when thinking about your words, I wanted to know there is a larger segment of sincere believers. I ran across an article in Christianity Today “In This Fraught Racial Moment, We Need a Refresher on Human Depravity” by Tish Harrison Warren. She writes, “The failure of white Christians on the Left and the Right to grapple with the sin of racism is rooted in our broader failure to understand the profundity and complexity of human depravity. We fail to acknowledge our depth of sin, so we fail to see the dizzying heights of grace.” It starts in our hearts, in our recognizing something is askew and we can’t ignore it anymore. Then for our hearts and minds to become more compassionate educated in how to make those changes in how we can understand what we’ve never experienced. Thank you, Pam, for your encouragement. You inspire me.
      https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2020/september-web-only/racism-discrimination-george-floyd-sin-depravity.html?utm_medium=ctsocial

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  5. Hi sweetie – just getting caught up on your update and I agree with Leah!
    You are the inspiration to US!!
    Your faithful spirit must be so uplifting to Bill.
    I continue to pray that every day your tribulations are
    greater than your trials.
    “If I could give you one thing it would be to let you see yourself through my eyes. Then you’d see how amazing you really are”
    Love you dear friend ❤️

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