|Publisher:||B&H Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.60(h) x 0.80(d)|
|Age Range:||3 Months to 18 Years|
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WHAT'S IN YOUR CUP?
Holding Tight to Permanent in a World That's Passing Away
Life began with a big sister, canning tomatoes, snapping beans, and learning to pump on the tall swings at the park down the street. Oversized lilac trees and grapevines grew wild in the backyard of our small-town Victorian, and the chipping paint on the wraparound porch provided endless satisfaction for busy little hands on long summer evenings. There were bicycle rides into town and the wounded bird we nursed back to flight and the giant mounds of construction dirt we slid down until my sister cut her foot and the fun was over for that day.
The little years were sweet ones. Uncomplicated. True.
When I was in kindergarten, our black lab Daisy would sometimes show up at recess to chase the girls and nip at the boys and when the bell rang to come in, she'd race home with some hat or scarf treasure I'd always have to surrender to my teacher at school the next day.
That was four, five, and six. A things-will-never-change world of walking to school, pints of white milk, pigtails and suntanned shoulders, and finally becoming a member of The Hundreds Club. Fireflies were my "yeses" and learning to ride a two-wheeler was my "amen."
Then came the Barbie wedding.
We'd been planning it for a week with our babysitter, Megan. My sister and I in our nightgowns and bedheads skipped breakfast in favor of picking just the right bridesmaid dress for Skipper. It was an important day, and everything was going to be just perfect. But before Megan could arrive, the phone rang. Dad's neck was broken. Another motorcycle accident. The Barbie wedding would have to happen another day.
It was right around then that our things-will-never-change world turned upside down for good. Dad's neck recovered, but the crash was a symptom of something much bigger. His self-medicated manic episodes caused by bipolar disorder were beginning to not only motivate reckless behavior (like racing motorcycles sitting backwards across train tracks), but he was becoming a danger to his family as well.
I remember watching confused and scared through the railing of the stairs as my mama endured the yelling and being flung across the room. I remember being picked up from kindergarten, loaded onto a motorcycle without a helmet, and riding a state away to check on the eggs in the nest at a rest stop we found a week earlier, or to visit an arcade six towns over. Endless tokens and soda and mechanical animals would rule my Tuesday evening into the night. Some nights, I would be awakened from a deep sleep to my dad telling me to get into the car, then driving to the grocery store to buy cigarettes and candy bars. I'd be tucked back into bed with a whisper of "don't tell anyone." We called them our "midnight rides."
By the time I was seven, the self-medicated mania became too much for my mother. The drugs within reach of children. The impulsive behavior. The yelling. So much yelling.
One first-grade afternoon, my mom picked us up from school. Instead of driving home, and without notice, we turned onto the gravel driveway of an empty house about a mile out of town. There we sat, engine still running, backpacks still on our backs, and our mom told us the thing I'll never forget.
I sat motionless in the backseat of the car, afraid movement would be taken as a reaction and I had no idea how to react. My eyes darted to my big sister seated next to me for clues. What does separated mean? Is this exciting or sad? Why is the back of the station wagon full of our things? Where are we going to sleep tonight?
That night we moved to a new town. That Sunday, a new church. That year, a new school. Everything was new. Temporary. Nothing was sure. Over the course of the next year we would sleep on a dozen different floors, on cots in the unfinished basements of classmates, then eventually we would move our cots to a one-bedroom apartment above the Main Street pub and the crisis pregnancy center. The thin walls were ineffective to quiet the arguments in the adjacent apartment. There was so much yelling.
Even though I didn't know how to express it then, I knew something was wrong about the life we'd left behind. But to a six-year-old, all-night arcade adventures fueled by Dr. Pepper and midnight motorcycle rides would always feel better than sleeping on cots in strange places. I didn't know which life I wanted more, but I soon understood I didn't have that choice. This was our new true. For a long time, nothing was certain except that life was uncertain.
FIGHTING FOR PERMANENT
We all have the same story, don't we? At least in some sense.
I may have gone first, but any one of you could go next and share in hesitant or colorful detail the moment you stood shattered as the most permanent thing in your life passed away before your eyes.
Maybe you didn't have a father with bipolar disorder and a drug abuse problem. But maybe someone you trusted very much hurt you very deeply. Or maybe your family packed up and moved away from the only home and friends you ever knew. Maybe this passing away was a physical death — a constant figure in your life whose slow or sudden death made you question the steadfastness of everything around you.
It's that first time, though, isn't it? That very first experience of our sureness undone. It shapes us forever.
I'll never forget my grandma Marvolene taking me out for lunch when I was a kid, quoting Ernestine Ulmer and winking as she leaned across the table and pointed to my menu, "Life is uncertain. Eat dessert first." I was terrified and exhilarated all at once at the sudden realization of all the uncertainties life held. Anything could happen! On the other hand, anything could happen.
By the time we're adults (and for some of us, even sooner), we understand that nothing will last forever. People change, seasons change, and the best and worst circumstances always eventually pass away.
This knowledge drives some of us to hold life loosely, kissing moments as they come, knowing they'll be gone before we know it. Others of us determine to manage our realities with a tight grip and an inflexible resolve. We record our lives with photographs and journals, not wanting a moment to pass without documenting, lest we forget it even happened.
Still some of us know all too well the pain of things passing, so we choose not to savor, not to record, and not to remember. We don't let people in because they will most certainly leave us, we don't take risks because something will absolutely go wrong, and we don't dare dream because dreaming leads to disappointment.
Whether we hold life loosely, with a tight grip, or at arm's length, adulthood has made every one of us keenly aware of how temporary life is. And to one degree or another, whether we like to admit it or not, we're all fighting for permanent.
Why do you think that is? What do we hope to find on the other side of permanent? And how do we hold tight to it once we've found it?
SAND AND STARS
A lot of men and women in the Bible were fighting for permanent just like us. And in most cases, their permanent passed away just as quickly.
Job's story is an obvious example of big life changes in a short time period, but the loss of his wealth and family is particularly dramatic. Job wasn't the only one. The same happened with Adam and Eve when they were sent out of the actual paradise of Eden into a newly fallen world. In Job's case, his loss was because of his righteousness, and in Adam and Eve's case, it was because of their disobedience. But they both lost their permanent in the blink of an eye.
Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers one afternoon, later thrown into prison because Potiphar's wife lied, and he was eventually elevated from prisoner to King's assistant overnight. Permanent was not a theme in Joseph's life, but God's favor absolutely was.
Dramatic life changes aren't exclusively an Old Testament theme. Think of the lame man by the pools of Bethesda. When Jesus healed him, he left behind the life of a crippled beggar he'd known for thirty-eight years. Mary and Martha suffered the loss and celebrated the resurrection of their brother Lazarus, all in a matter of a couple of days. Saul encountered God on the road to Damascus and went from being a chief persecutor of Christians, to temporary blindness, to being an impassioned apostle of Jesus, with a new name.
And what about the disciples? They were all minding their own business when Jesus called them to drop everything and follow Him. Fast-forward a couple years and they're dining at the Last Supper with Jesus, with nothing close to a clear understanding of what the next three days would hold. Life would never be the same for any of them.
Life changes in an instant. But even when that change is unwelcome, we can give thanks because God is good.
Take Abraham, for example.
Abram's permanent was his family's land and his wife, Sarai. (Later they would be known as Abraham and Sarah. Not even names are permanent!)
Sarai's permanent was that she was barren. This was life as they had known it for all of their married life. At the ages of seventy-five and sixty-five, a barren couple was their reality. Together they lived in the land of Ur and had a family lineage that included worshiping false gods (Josh. 24:2–3).
Well. With God, it turns out that you're never too old for your circumstances to change, not even worshiping false gods or staying in the only country you've ever known. God came to Abram and said, "Go from your country, your people and your father's household to the land I will show you" (Gen. 12:1 NIV). Just like that, their permanent passed away forever. Life would never be the same.
The land in which they lived and the God they worshiped weren't the only circumstances that changed. It turns out that barrenness in your nineties is not even a permanent situation when God ordains something else. God promised Abram and Sarai a son. Not just a son, but descendants so numerous, they would outnumber the stars in the heavens and the sand in the sea.
If you're keeping track, that's us, you guys. We're the sand and the stars. (And if I get to pick, I would like to be a star.)
God's promise to Abram (known to theologians and 1 in 100 pedestrians as the Abrahamic Covenant) meant He was going to make him the father of a great nation. God would bless Abraham (there's that name change!), make his name great, curse anyone who curses him, and "all the peoples on earth will be blessed through [him]" (Gen. 12:2–3). This one-time, never-broken promise began the history of the people of Israel.
From Abraham and Sarah's small-picture view, leaving their home country and trusting the call of a God they barely knew must have been a tough moment. In fact, the Bible tells us that they were zoomed in tight on the details of how they would possibly conceive in their old age and how they would know where they were going and who to take with them.
But from God's whole-picture view, these complicated roadblocks were simply minor details. This was the beginning of a nation and a promise of faithfulness that would be kept and honored forever. It was a great blessing. In His goodness, God helped Abraham and Sarah take their eyes away from the lens of the telescope of their present circumstances to see the entire sky of stars, saying, "Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them. ... So shall your offspring be" (Gen. 15:5 ESV). Not just one son, but an entire sky's worth of sons and daughters.
There would be more to Abraham's story than he could ever imagine.
There's more to my story, too.
We left seven-year-old Raechel in a station wagon somewhere between Life A and Life B. And from the looks of things, I was either at the end of something terrible or the beginning of something unknown. But the truth is, it was neither. It was a continuation. Something great — something that was set into motion before I took my first breath — had always been underway. My small world was crumbling in chaos all around me, but all along, something bigger was happening. The rubble around First Grade Me was only proof that God was at work on a larger scale than I would ever fully understand.
One of the sweetest, most redeeming parts of my whole life story comes next.
My family fell apart after school on a Wednesday afternoon. That Sunday, in a new town, I woke up in a sleeping bag on a stranger's floor. My mom, sister, and I went to a new church. And even though I hadn't exactly met Jesus yet, this was the day I met my Boaz. My lowercase-r redeemer in more than a lot of ways.
I can't bring to memory much about that Sunday morning. I remember the first-grade Sunday school room with tables pushed together and metal folding chairs around them in the musty basement of an old, new-to-me, church. I remember our very tall teacher and his small, kind wife and the salt-and-pepper hair on both of their heads. They tried their best to keep a room full of enthusiastic seven-year-olds quiet. Most of all, I remember the wild blue eyes and curly blonde hair of the most unruly little boy I'd ever seen. He was the ringleader of the noisy bunch, and he fascinated me.
That image of Blue Eyes standing on his chair and waving his arms in excitement over who-knows-what will forever be burned in my memory as the moment I met my future husband. Of course, I didn't know it at the time. I probably thought I was meeting my nemesis. Everything I loved about order was the opposite of him. He was loud, and I felt quiet. Everyone was looking at him, and I'm not sure anyone even noticed me. I didn't know it that seven-year-old Sunday morning, but Blue Eyes would never stop being a part of my life from that moment on.
There is truth (our present circumstance), and there is truer Truth (the history of God's unwavering, faithful, covenant relationship with His people). Call it the "grand scheme of things" if you like, but I believe we make a big mistake when we trust God based only on what He's done for us today, or even in our own lifetime.
If a telescope zooms our gaze in on one particular thing, God's Word is like a wide-angle lens that shouts, "Remember! God is THIS BIG! He is a God of the big-picture!" When we're busy dialing in on legitimately important things like jobs and health and deadlines, it can do us a lot of good to remember what God did at creation, and what He promised Abraham. Remember how He kept His hand on Joseph, bringing Israel into Egypt and eventual slavery, then delivering them from slavery at the hand of Moses. All the while He promised on every page that an even bigger plan was unfolding!
This is what the Bible does. This is why we read Truth.
It's okay to study God's hand in our present circumstances. It's good and appropriate to move that telescope around to see what other people are dealing with too. But opening God's Word and studying His character is like lifting our eyes from the viewfinder long enough to remember that the God who calls us His people has been hanging the stars in the heavens since time began. Just as He was faithful then, He will be faithful now.
A PEEK AT REDEMPTION
Thirteen years after I met Ryan "Blue Eyes" Myers, I married him. (We were twenty-year-old babies when we got married. I'll get to that later.)
It still blows my mind to think that the wild-eyed little boy I met twenty-six years ago, the very week my family fell apart, would become the man who would ask for my hand and give me his name. God would use Ryan to show me what a husband can be, what a dad should be, and what a steady, loving presence really is. This friendship-turned-romance would continue to point me to Christ.
I told you he was my Boaz — a kinsman redeemer who God used to show me how all of the broken things in my family could look if they were made just a little more whole. Here's a brief recap of Boaz in the Bible. Ruth's relationship status went from married, to widowed, to near-homeless companion of her mother-in-law Naomi. And like Boaz for Ruth, the Lord provided family (and ultimately love and protection) for me in His way, and in His very specific time. Blue Eyes now picks our five-year-old daughter up from kindergarten, buckles her into her car seat, asks her how her day was, then takes her home and feeds her good things, helps her with her homework, and tucks her into bed at a reasonable hour.
I grew up with instability, but now, I get a front-row seat to stability. Our God is small-picture kind, and big-picture faithful.
Excerpted from "She Reads Truth"
Copyright © 2016 Raechel Myers and Amanda Bible Williams.
Excerpted by permission of B&H Publishing Group.
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