We Will Praise Him In This Storm
Lilly is able to smile because although she knows she holds a special place in this universe, she is not the center of it.
October 3, 2019
There’s an unmistakeable sound that crutches make when being picked up or used while crossing the floor. The constant clang, creak, and thump follows Lilly now everywhere she goes. She says the sound is obnoxious.
Lilly’s friend Josh severely broke his leg playing football during this year’s Friday night homecoming game. The day before, Lilly injured her knee during a Skyview volleyball tournament. The two of them were once successful tennis partners their freshman year of high school and took third place in the state competition. Now as seniors following individual surgeries, they both hobble slowly with the use of metal sticks while their legs recover and heal.
Josh and Lilly were recently inducted into the high school National Honor Society and following the ceremony, I overheard Josh’s mom extend a compliment to Lilly. She said, “Every time I see you, you always seem to be smiling.“ This mom knows the emotional and physical pain of an injured son as do I with our daughter and was impressed that Lilly could still smile despite her limits and loss.
It’s true that Lilly smiles alot and is by nature a genuinely positive person, but the constant need for crutches overwhelmed her three nights ago when she lay restless in bed unable to sleep. Chronic thoughts circulating through her head and a tangled sheet on the bed was enough to break down her usually strong emotional back bone. Frustrated and fatigued, Lilly yanked the sheet off the bed and threw it as a clump on the ground. She turned to get off the bed and instinctively started to walk when the dreaded memory returned regarding the need to use the cumbersome crutches which lay near her feet on the floor.
Grief comes in waves like the ocean tide. Some waves gently roll into shore while others crash with an accumulative force just before reaching land. Grief on this night was hitting Lilly hard. Pent up anger caused her to punch the bed with her fists. Her left leg muscles were atrophying from lack of use and her underarms were constantly sore from the rub of the crutches against her skin. This was the year Lilly had relished being part of the dream team, as Coach Sitz called it. She ached to contribute on the court, to offer her strength and skills as a player rather than sit on the sidelines as a crippled spectator.The greatest loss, she had confessed earlier to me, was not being able to determine her full potential as a senior athlete. She had labored to return to full capacity after a previous knee injury, and she had a point to prove, mostly to herself, about what she could accomplish as a come back competitor. Having that dream dashed along with the long term physical restrictions was a brutal blow that sometimes left her heart in deep despair.
Lilly hobbled upstairs hoping a change of location could help her finally get some rest. As she sat on the bed in her brother’s old room, tears began to course down her face. Like a tea pot releasing pressure and steam, she aggressively punched one of the pillows and then screamed into its softness. Finally….with her soul a bit more settled, Lilly layed her head on the pillow and cried herself to sleep.
I, too, had experienced personal wrestles in the nights since Lilly’s injury. Unable to sleep, I picked up my phone one very early Sabbath morning and looked up a song called “Praise You In This Storm.” I needed to hear its music and be fortified by its message. In doing so, I came across a you tube video of the actor Stephen Baldwin sharing his Christian conversion story. I watched for 15 minutes or so and then paused it before I fell back asleep.
When I awoke again later in the morning, I realized God had given me a message in a dream. I was shown a skydiver jumping out of an airplane. He was descending incredibly fast when his parachute was suddenly released. The canopy now filled with air yanked the skydiver back for a brief moment and then gently allowed him to float the rest of the way so he could safely land on the ground.
As I reflected on the dream, somehow I knew it was for and about my daughter. It was also for me as her mother. I needed to understand the higher plan the Lord had for Lilly so I could give her comfort and counsel to trust that all things were working together for her good.
When the Lord wants me to pay special attention to a particular message from Him, He often sends me a second witness. Shortly after I had awakened again that morning, I picked up my phone and watched the remainder of Stephen Baldwin’s video. Within minutes he began to explain how he had been an adrenaline junkie. He first expounded on his careless adventures of driving a motorcyle at 160 miles per hour, and then he said something that drew me in deeper because of my dream. He explained that he loved the thrill of skydiving - of free falling from a plane. In fact, he knew exactly how fast he descended through the air - 120 feet per second.
In his quest to know if God existed, Stephen asked the Lord to reveal himself through something more spectacular than the feeling of fast motorcycle driving or the exhilaration of soaring through the sky. In other words, Stephen needed a distinct and powerful sign before he would commit his life to the Lord. On the other hand, Stephen also sent a threat that if God didn’t reveal He existed through some extraordinary witness, then Stephen would boldly declare the gospel was all a lie. He would use his platform and influence as a Hollywood actor to be an unwavering witness against a God in heaven.
As I’ve contemplated the dream and the video, I’ve come to understand three important life lessons Lilly and I have both been learning.
1. In many respects, Lilly had been successfully soaring through life when she was suddenly yanked back by a spiritual parachute. I say spiritual because I see that the Lord has had a divine purpose in this difficult experience. Lilly had been pushing hard as a high achiever in school and sports and was not only burdened, but almost always very busy. Although she thrived in her various activities, Stephen shared an interesting perspectivie in his video when he stated that B.U.S.Y. can sometimes be defined as BEING UNDER SATAN’S YOKE. I had never heard that acronym before, but I understood the point. Being overly busy and primarily focused on our own will and goals can distract us from engaging in what is better or best in our lives, or keep us from slowing down or simply being still so the Lord can direct us to the better landing destination.
I learned this valuable lesson years ago from the life of Neal A. Maxwell, one of my favorite spiritual leaders. Neal loved basketball and considered it one of the first great disappointments in his life when he was cut from his high school basketball team. As a result, he said he immersed himself in the “world of words.” He eventually went on to become one of the great spiritual and intellectual orators of our day. He had a gift with words and used them to edify others throughout the world. The pull back of Neal’s parachute caused his feet to land in a completely different place than he had originally intended. His ultimate influence with words became far greater than if he had succeeded as an athlete on the high school basketball team.
2. While Stephen needed a sign to confirm God’s existence, Lilly and I already know God lives. We know He loves us and is involved in every detail of our lives. Lilly is able to continue to smile through this disappointing experience because she understands that although she holds a special place in the universe, she is not the center of it. There is a higher plan for her eternal happiness and her divine worth is not determined by stats or scoreboards. Even though it hurts to be held back, her destination is heaven and she trusts that her loving Heavenly Father is making sure she lands safely in that sacred place.
3. Stephen once held a prideful expectation that God reveal Himself else Stephen preach against Him. Stephen has since been profoundly humbled and is now a fearless advocate of a living God, but that original demand was never on the table for Lilly or for me. Rather than make demands, we know to be patient and surrender to God’s will even when the life experience hurts. At times it takes a great deal of courage to fully surrender, but that is often the only path to personal power or peace. Before Lilly went into surgery, I had her listen to the beautiful hymn “I Surrender All” as sung by CeCe Winans. The soothing sound and message set the tone for what would be needed for the surgery and the recovery process that followed.
Children and adults alike need to know when to surrender and when to emotionally, physically, and spiritually fight. We need to have the fortitude and skills to recover when life’s blows knock us off our feet. I know from personal experience, however, that sometimes those blows come with such repetition that we forget what it feels like to stand steady and strong. I once read a statement that resonated deeply within me. It said, “The adversary knows he will not be able to take you out, so He is determined to wear you out.“ Hence the importance of not becoming overly burdened or busy. We must have enough stamina and strength to emotionally, physically, and spiritually get up every time we are hit until we metaphorically no longer fall no matter how devastating the blow.
Although Lilly’s knee injury has created a considerable loss, as I listen to the distinctive sound of her crutches clang, creak, and thump across the floor, I am reminded of the blessing of Jesus Christ as the ultimate support system in our lives. He is aware of every sleepless night and tear stained pillow. He knows when it’s wise to let us soar or adjust the landing by slowing us down. He is ultimately in control and we can trust that all things are indeed working together for our good. As Lilly leans daily on crutches until her knee is healed and whole, I’m thankful we can all reach our highest potential by leaning everyday on our Savior as the healer of our souls.