Monday, June 4, 2012

joy in the journey

He looks positively green.  The flight from Cebu to Singapore was only about 3 hours, but it was not a pleasant trip for Michael.  “I’m sick with hunger,” he moaned.  Another guilty mom moment.  I should have had the forethought to bring snacks on this trip.  Out the front of the plane, up the gangway, into the immigration check stations.   We are next in line for immigration when I hear my cue, grab Michael’s hand, and head him at full speed toward the bathrooms.  He barely makes it, but when he comes out he’s not so green.

There’s no likely food in the terminal, but Eleanor (our exceptionally hospitable relative of a relative) has met us with her car, and a bag full of breads and drinks.  Michael slowly downs a croissant as we make our way over the smooth, gorgeously landscaped Singaporean roads toward the center of town.  

Once Eleanor kindly delivers us to our tiny 3-bunk hostel room, he collapses in a heap.  With no energy to speak of, he and I stay in the room while Mark and the girls head out to find some dinner and a few needed odds and ends.  A voltage adapter, Singaporean SIM cards.  Michael rests, I browse maps, hopeful that by morning he’ll be back to his energetic self, and we’ll be off to explore this new place!  

Mark and the girls bring me back a glorious Wendy’s grilled chicken salad; I couldn’t imagine a better dinner!  It’s then Mark discovers that his US driver’s license is missing. Hearts sink as we watch him mentally process when he last saw it; where it was? As I lean down to pick up Mark’s fallen reading glasses, I hear a ‘pop!’ where my elbow weight meets my Kindle screen.  With a sickening feeling, I turn it on to find myself faced with the bitter fact.  An unrelieved pattern of black lines shouts its grim truth in my face; ‘you’ve broken it.’  I feel hot tears leap to my eyes.  I do love my Kindle.  And now what have I done?

We turn out lights early. Weary, discouraged.  Just when deep sleep has washed oblivion over our minds we’re jolted back to consciousness by Michael’s heaving.  In the jet black of the hostel room he found no receptacle, and it’s in places we can’t ignore.  I walk him down the hall to the communal bathroom area where he showers and changes while I shower out what I can from his bedding, and lace it dripping over the outdoor staircase where it trickles on three levels of stair below.  Will it be safe there? I’ve no other choice.
In God’s goodness we’ve paid for the sixth bed so we could have a private room, and Mark has switched out the mattresses and bedding.  Michael climbs back into a clean bed, with a plastic cup close by this time.  I stretch out on my mattress, fists clenched, grieving, angry, confused.  This was supposed to be so good.  I was poised to fully enjoy this, to give thanks in all the goodness of this stop in Singapore.

I begin to rehearse what I know to be true.  God is good.  I slowly open my tight fists, lay my hands face up, open to receive.  This, all of this exactly: sick boy, staring blackened Kindle screen, lost license, red swollen rash on my shoulder, loss of my hopes for exploring this city together…I will choose to receive, not to reject.  Because all of this is gift from Your hand, and can I reject Your gifts?  It is exactly what You ordained for us today; the very best You had for our eternal blessing.  I admit, Lord, I don’t really like it all, but I will choose to thank you; I will receive.  And I fall back to slumber, heart at peace.

As morning light filters in the hostel window we realize that this will not be a day of exploring for Michael.  He looks as if all the starch had gone out him, lying limply on his bed, quiet, hollow-eyed.    He needs a day to recover, and that’s okay.  Mark and the girls head out to do some exploring.  The stamp museum, a local park, the harbor.  Meanwhile Michael lies quiet, reading, sleeping.  And I lie quiet too, maybe exactly what I need after all the busyness of packing and planning and preparing for this seven month trip away from home.  A day of rest.  I read, I doze, I give thanks.  I am content.  

And increasingly hopeful!  Michael seems well all day, seems to be gathering strength.  We challenge him in the evening to walk out with us…just up to the MRT station and back.  Just to get out.  You can do it!  By the time we get back he’s exhausted.  Another quiet evening, early to bed, and another waking to hearing his frame heaving again.  Hearts sink.  I don’t understand.  Yet I will trust You, the sovereign, good, unchangeable, faithful, trustworthy God Who will never leave or forsake us.  

By morning he seems more chipper, but hesitant.  We sift through maps, looking for something close.  Mark discovers his missing license, and we all rejoice!  Michael downs three pieces of dry toast, cool water.  But while we plan out options for the day, his normally energetic body cries again for rest.  So once more I unclench these fists; these hands holding tight to MY plans, MY hopes, giving it back to Him, and accepting again the better gifts that He has chosen for us today as I kiss Mark and the girls goodbye wishing them a wonderful day of exploring.

What was I hoping for after all?  Time together as a family, experiencing a new beautiful place?  But what was at the root of that?  I’m pretty sure it was a hope for joy.  A hope for contentment in goodness.  Is it in the gorgeous scenery of Singapore then, that joy is to be found?  Is it in the fabulous birds at Jurong Bird Park, or the fun rides at Sentosa, or the colorful orchids of the Botanical Garden?  Is that where I’ll find contentment?

Or is joy right here in this tiny hostel room with my sleeping twelve year old son?  Could it be that right here with these burgundy swooshed walls, grimy carpet and chipped wooden bunks is where the majestic, holy presence of the Lord is to be found?  Did You want me first to recognize You now, in this very ordinary spot where I am?  To be willing to find my joy and my contentment in YOU, not You plus something else?

It’s awfully easy to say ‘the nearness of God is my good.’  But do I live it?  Do I find joy and contentment this moment because You are near?  Not because things are going well, or because everyone is healthy, or because we get to have fun as a family or because my Kindle is working or because my expectations have been fulfilled?  

It’s now the fifth day of our travel, and Michael’s fifth day of not being quite well.  Yesterday we wound our way to Hong Kong where we are staying in a guest house for folks like us; a quiet, restful spot.  And yes, there’s joy here, too; there’s good even when Michael wakes us all again in the wee hours of the morning; because God is here with us, and because His nearness is our good.

We really appreciate your prayers for Michael, and for his healing.  We’re pretty sure this is just some sort of intestinal bug from something he ate or drank before we left.  We have so many reasons to give thanks today, but we’d sure give thanks for healing, too!

Elise and Michael waiting at a Hong Kong wharf for our ferry


evidentgrace said...

I'm SO sorry to hear of all these things going on. Praying for Michael's recovery and that you'll rest up and enjoy your time there, and then when you get home. We miss you already!

Rosalie said...

So sorry you and Michael have had these disappointments Barb!

Becky B said...

Thanks for sharing, Barbara. I'd been checking your blog the past few days, but saw nothing and assumed "no news is good news"--but not true! This morning I found an email in my Inbox--Donna forwarded your latest entry to me to make sure I saw it--so "now we know!" :( So sorry for all the hassles and disappointments you've had. Reading of your experiences reminded me of some of the crazy circumstances Mary Beth wrote about in the book you lent me. :) Maybe someday you'll write a book too. Anyway, this is a long way to say I appreciated your blog entry and will try to remember to read it again especially on days when nothing seems to be going as I'd planned. I hope and pray today is a better day for you all!

us5 said...

thank you, my sweet sisters, Donna, Rosalie & Becky! ♥ how i thank God for such love and care. and today IS a better day! Michael seems much better...finally! :D

Elysa said...

Oh, sweetheart. Praying for you but rejoicing that God is reminding you to find the joy and contentment in HIM, not in the circumstances. What a hard but priceless lesson to learn.