Draw the Circle

We were released from the hospital at 10:30pm after having a second MRI for little Finn and both tests coming back clear. While we might have stayed with our older boys another night in the hospital had we had the option {date night, right!? Our boys were with the grandparents and we had room service!}, this one was a little different. Despite it being late, them releasing us was good news. It meant the extremes were ruled out and our little guy was not in any imminent danger. We were tired and relieved and packed up for Finn’s first road trip. We were going home.

We walked through our front door minutes later, tired but thankful, to find a bag of groceries from our most thoughtfully wonderful next door neighbors, and a package from a dear friend. This particular friend I met four years ago at a Young Life camp while we were serving for a month together on a summer assignment; she is a strong and wonderful mom of four, having walked through health challenges and open heart surgery with one of her littles {who has grown to be a brave and beautiful little lady}. And she continues to be an inspiration and role-model from afar. There is something incredible that happens when you live in tight community with others for a significant period of time, such that even if you talk once a year or so, as we have, there remains a deep bond; they are friendships founded in the Lord and forged in the midst of sharing meals day in and day out and processing life as a mom and a spouse and a friend and a follower of Jesus beneath sunshine and surrounded by sweaty little bodies and sticky faced giggles and toddler meltdowns. the bonds are really sort of miraculous.

So when I opened the package from said kindred spirit, thoughtfully filled with ginger chews and smoothie packs {Juice Plus – so good} and a book entitled “Draw the Circle”, my heart swelled. Still standing in the entryway, backpack on my back, I opened the first page and read the inscription she had written exactly one week before.  I knew her words were directly prompted by the God who knows all, as how could she have ever known that these words were going to be exactly what I needed on that dark and tired night?

“…as you expand and welcome your newest member, may this prayer “challenge” be a gift that keeps on giving like it has been for me. You have a heart of gold and God is doing mighty things IN and THROUGH you each and every day. This new season will have challenges but also beautiful blessings. YOU’VE GOT WHAT IT TAKES! YOU HAVE ALL YOU NEED!  Be confident in Him who created you for this Life!”

I wept as I read the words aloud to Marshall and we both had the sense that this gift was significant. It struck me that earlier that day, in the midst of praying for Finn and processing all that was before us, a fleeting thought had skimmed across my brain that Marshall and I were being invited into a new and deeper season of prayer, that we would pray “around” this little boy as we have never prayed before. In that moment in our entryway, the thought from earlier that afternoon that had flitted through was highlighted, and I realized immediately its genesis was the Holy Spirit. That was an invitation from God, confirmed by this package, as He had just supplied the manual on how it was going to be done. See, this little book was a 40 day prayer challenge.

So that night, we opened to the first pages, and Marshall and I read aloud to each other and then began to pray. We “drew a circle” around Finn and prayed and listened and prayed more for his new little life. And every night since we have opened this devotion of sorts, and read aloud to one another, perhaps discoursed some, listened to the Lord, and turned our hopeful hearts and tired eyes and trusting souls toward the One who created us for this life.  The circle has expanded, in away, to surround all our 4 boys, our marriage, our dreams. While we have regularly prayed together before bed and throughout the day in our 10 years of marriage, this was different — there was greater depth, higher priority; it has become something we look forward to and plan around. Several days in, I turned to Marshall in the midst of a busy morning and said, “I think we are on the verge of the sweetest season of our marriage.” To which he smiled and gave a slow nod…. Yes. Yes I think we are.

There is something supernatural that happens when we align with another in prayer. “A chord of 3 strands is not easily broken”, scripture affirms. And there was something deep and mysterious taking place in our souls as we came together for that nightly appointment. Not only does walking through trial together have the potential to fortify a relationship, but prayer is what seals that process. We found that there was an abundance of grace available for one another throughout the day; any snarkiness {totally understandable with the fact that we were both significantly sleep deprived} that might have arisen in the newborn days of our previous 3 boys was absent. We were serving each other more effortlessly, laughing more easily, and despite having a newborn, we were dreaming together about the future…about ministry and business and book writing and travel.

In just fifteen days, I can affirm the promise on the first page of the book being fulfilled: “If you press into God’s presence like never before, you will experience God like never before. You’ll look back on these forty days as the best forty days of your life. They won’t be the easiest forty days; in fact, they may be the hardest. Don’t be surprised if you experience spiritual opposition along the way. But if you pray through, God will break through in new ways. It’s as inevitable as the tide coming in.”

I have never been more in love with my husband, or more thankful for his leadership and tender heart and strength and vulnerability… and above all his heart for the Lord. When you commune together with another in the presence of the One who IS LOVE, I imagine it is difficult to not be changed. It’s contagious after all.  And God has promised as much.

I have often shared with young people I mentor, “Don’t try so hard to BE good or loving or patient. Try hard to get near God and he will produce those things in you.” Our efforts are often aimed in the wrong direction – outward instead of upward. I have been guilty of those same misdirected efforts time and time again. And yet I am being reminded again just how good God is, just how sufficient He is, just how perfect He is… just how his presence is the answer, the gift, the prize, above all else. He is worthy. And He is worth it. 

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