This is probably not the cloud you are thinking of. This past weekend in Michigan, was filled with many fall clouds and rain, as the Sterks became more and more antsy to get outside. I sometimes wonder how we get through the long winter months! But I’m not talking about actual cloud cover. I’m talking about YOU.
If you read this blog or have anything to do with our life, you are part of that great cloud. That great cloud of friendship that has been hovering over us, in such a time as this. That great cloud of witnesses that has extended the arm of Christ to us, in a time that hasn’t always been easy.
I have started and re-started, and even deleted this post. A woman of many words, has had very few. Not in the sense of having a lack, but how does one begin to talk about the great cloud of witnesses that has surrounded us, cheering us on, from all corners of the world?
Sixteen years ago, I laid on an operating table for 6 1/2 hours, as a surgeon repaired a congenital heart defect. In 3 days, I will once again, lay pretty lifeless on an operating table, for about 3-4 hours, as a surgeon repairs my mitral and tricuspid valves. My heart stopped, my lung collapsed, as the rest of my body is held together by a heart-lung machine. From the time I woke up from my first surgery, to this time now, we knew I would need another surgery. We were first told that maybe it would be within 5 years of the first. We are now SIXTEEN years later. Is that not a little miracle in and of itself?
Heading into a major surgery, I have asked myself, “why am I not nervous?” I am not nervous AT ALL. And in fact, I remember feeling this exact same way, 16 years ago too. And I firmly, FIRMLY believe it’s because of this great cloud of witnesses – friends and family – who are surrounding us. It’s NOTHING of my doing. Nothing.
It is all God.
If there is one thing I want to portray and try to get across in blogging, it’s that God deserves all the glory. This life is not my own, but I belong to Him. Even this week. Even during that minute when I look up and am lying on the operating table, right before I am put under. Even that minute when they stop my heart and lungs. Even that minute I walk out of the hospital. I will always belong to Him. Both body and soul. Even in the difficult times too. And the easy. God deserves the glory.
The texts. The calls. The emails. The comments. The meals. The cards. The anonymous gifts. The prayers. The financial support. It is nothing we deserve or feel worthy of, but deflect them all right back to God, for choosing to work in our life in such a time as this. Oh do we feel undeserving.
Money, well, I don’t talk about it a lot. Why, I am not sure because really, if anyone wanted to know how much we made, they just have to look at the church budget that gets handed out each year. We have lived our whole life that way and honestly? We love it! We are an open book and the more people know about us, the more they hopefully understand us. So really, why do I shy away from talking about our finances? Well, I have. Yes, I still carry some pride in my heart and God is clearly chipping away at that. It’s a tough lesson, folks!
A few weeks ago, as I sat on our couch with our stack of medical bills, I held the calculator in hand, as I ran a total. I looked at what we had to our name, and the numbers did not match up. The total was FAR greater than what we had to our name. We were going to take a large portion out of my retirement account that we thought was doing nothing (we were proven quite wrong at that point), and then God inserted our best friends. Our friend happens to be our financial advisor and after asking him to help us pull a large sum of it out to pay our bills, he asked if he could call us. Not an utterly strange request, but he lives in Minnesota, but sure, why not?
After speaking with him, he expressed how him and his wife desired to start a Go Fund Me account. I completely lost it. I became a blubbering mess. For you see, I was praying and praying to God, to help me believe that He’s got control of our finances too. I was trying to do it on my own, but the month had just turned over and we were receiving new bills daily. Bills from Minnesota and Michigan. I will be completely honest with you – I didn’t have faith. The numbers weren’t there and sure didn’t add up.
Insert you. Thank you for praying for our faith. Thank you for praying for God’s will to be done. Thank you for praying that God would give us peace. Thank you for praying that we would just “be”. Thank you for praying. God has answered our prayers in ways we NEVER could have imagined. Today, if someone asks me how we are making it through, I try to always say it’s God and the prayers because I am fully convinced, it’s because of this great cloud of witnesses that has supported us.
The journey has been incredibly trying at times. The journey has been long. The journey to this next open heart surgery has been quite the journey, really. From one open heart surgery, to years of being told I couldn’t have children, to experiencing a miracle, to having Mazy Grace, to experiencing severe heart failure after her, until this moment right now. An open heart surgery. But a surgery that really has little to do with my physical heart, but more with the work of what God is doing in my spiritual heart. Isn’t that the case in any trial? Yes, God sustains our physical bodies, but oh is His love so grand when it comes to our spiritual lives?
I am just left in tears as I type this. To those who have sent me texts. To those who have given meals (yes, we have already dove into them). To those who have supported us financially. To those who have said a prayer for us. To those who have done it anonymously. Thank you for lifting us up to God. We truly feel we are standing in the clouds, unwavered by the fear of what is to come.
THAT is all God.