A Look Back

Call me nerdy, but I just love a good schedule. Give me some stickers, colored pens, and a blank calendar, and I’m a kid at Christmas. There is so much calm in the regular rhythm of planning—a chance to exert order and beauty and life over the chaos of time that doesn’t yet exist, an opportunity to mold the moments that make up whole seasons with purpose. Looking forward in anticipation is my jam.

Then there are the days that call for looking back. Because hindsight is 20/20, this practice provides perspective so I don’t rush from one experience to the next in an unending string of random events. When I sit down and quiet myself, God shows me what He’s been up to in the middle of, in the white space around, and in the interruptions to my beloved plans.

Looking forward is good for my brain, but looking backward is good for my soul. It allows me to reflect not on what I have to do but on what God has done and offers a beautiful reminder of Proverbs 16:9 (“We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps”). So every once in a while I schedule some time for evaluating. What are the highlights and low points God’s recently brought me through? How did He engage in creatively caring for me? Where did He correct my heart? What lessons do I need to remember?

The first day of autumn puts me in just such a mood, and I’ve been pondering the Spirit’s movement in my life lately. This summer was uniquely marked by a gospel arch, infusing the hours with so much more meaning than if I were simply looking at my circumstances minute by minute. If I had oodles of time and a great pair of pajamas, I might sprawl on my bed with a cup of tea and my journal, scribbling down thoughts about how my small story of the past three months fits into God’s big story. It would go something like this:

Creation: I mean, I birthed a baby. You don’t get a much clearer picture of the initial stage of the gospel than that. Nine months in the making, and now she’s here! Scripture says that we are formed and known by God even while we’re still in the womb. Looking at my firstborn freshly delivered into the world, I could almost hear heaven whisper that she was very good.

Fall: Just as there’s not a lot of time between the joy of Genesis 1-2 and the wreckage of Genesis 3, so ruin came crashing into our summer story hot on the heels of creation. Between laboring in a mask (thanks, COVID), birth complications, a serious choking incident, and the typical traumatized nerves of new parenthood, we were basket cases before we even got home with our baby.

And then there was the beast of cystic fibrosis. During her third week of life, we introduced salt, enzymes, Pepcid, a nebulizer, and chest physiotherapy into Pippa’s daily routine. A couple of weeks after that, we learned that her pancreas is severely insufficient. (How severely? Healthy people score between 200 and 300; Pippa scored a 23.) Then she was in the E.R. for salt-related dehydration. At her two-month CF checkup, the doctors discovered dangerous bacteria that we’d spend the next two months battling by sticking to a physically and emotionally strenuous treatment regimen. Wave after wave of brokenness as vast as the sea—no longer outside my door but in the body of my sweet girl. I’ve never dealt with such intense bouts of grief and rage before in my life.

(Don’t you just adore the fact that God wouldn’t let the story—His big story or our little stories—get stuck in the fall? It’s one of my favorite things about Him.)

Redemption: There’s a radiant beauty that only comes at the end of our rope. During those long (long, long) nights of late feedings and all the feels, the Spirit of God hovered over our home, applying gospel balm to my raw reality. As a bonus, we were gifted with tiny wins along the way: she gained weight! She pooped! She smiled! Little hope-lights scattered through the dark, bobbing and weaving like fireflies at dusk.

Restoration: Guys, I’m looking forward to heaven more than ever. To see my daughter draw breath deep and true, with no fear of germs or faulty organs, and death a distant memory… I can’t bear the weight of that much joy. But even more, knowing she and I will live each moment in the glorious glow of our Savior, celebrating all that He is and all that He’s done, is worth setting my eyes upon over and over again. We will stand with the saints and the angels, casting our crowns at His scarred feet, filling our lungs with praise, and crying out, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty!” Worthy is this Lamb who gave His last breath so that we could breathe Him in forever.

Every story is worth looking back on. What’s yours?

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