Such a long, cold, hard winter. My winter-loving soul delighted in this. I love the cold and the snow and the dark mornings and early sunsets. I love a winter so long and harsh that, at the end of it, my whole being is panting for spring.
Ahhh . . and then, that morning in early April when the sidewalks were finally completely free of icy patches and piles of shoveled snow; when I could be sure of walking in the dark pre-dawn without the risk of slipping and falling. . .
Saxon and I had really – really – missed our early morning walks. We were both giddy just to be back out there again.
I walk to clear my mind, to fight the many natural consequences of aging, to prepare myself mentally for the day. I walk for the solitude before my brood is awake and needing my attention and the emails start pouring in. I walk for an uninterrupted hour of prayer.
Saxon walks because it makes him happy to be with me and to protect me from all those evil shadows he’s convinced are out to get me.
I stood in my driveway under the fading early-morning stars, slowly and deeply drinking in the cool air; the silence. Then we walked.
As my little flashlight guided me along my way and illuminated each crack in our neighborhood sidewalks, I thought about how many years I’d been walking pretty much this same route. And I started to pray. I like to use this hour to pray through our long list of children, one at a time; to intercede on behalf of dear friends in need; to present my own personal petitions to the God of the universe—the One who has promised to meet all of the needs His children bring to Him.
When my light hit the next sidewalk crack up ahead of me, I was instantly reminded of a morning a couple of years before.
I had been walking and pouring out my heart concerning the financial crisis that our non-profit, The Shepherd’s Crook Orphan Ministry, was facing. As a small non-profit, we have struggled just to survive for our whole twelve years of existence, and this current crisis was the worst to date. We were very rapidly approaching the point where we would have to begin the process of shutting down. And then Scott would have to find a job—somewhere.
I cried and shared my thoughts and requests honestly with God, reminding Him that He had promised in Scripture to equip us to do any work He called us to.
I talked to Him about how much we loved the work involved in running this organization, how our hearts beat with the desire that we be allowed to keep touching the lives of orphans and bringing families together.
I acknowledged that this was His work—not mine—and that we had always asked Him for the strength and courage to walk away if there ever came a time when He, for any reason, was ready to move us on to something else.
And I confessed that I didn’t have that courage on my own as I shared my fears about the unknown.
Then, panic! It struck so suddenly that it took my breath away. What would we do if we reached that point—just a couple of weeks away now—where we actually had to leave behind the life we had come to know so well and love so much over the past twelve years?! Where could Scott possibly find a job at his age and after being away from engineering for so long???
At that moment my flashlight beam had hit the next crack in the sidewalk, and the words, “Do you see that crack in the sidewalk? You aren’t to it, yet. Why are you worrying about things that are still ahead of you? When you reach that crack, I’ll be with you,” passed through my mind and settled comfortably into the deep places of my heart.
I was able to release the fear. I wasn’t able to face losing our ministry and job. But I was able–for that moment–to stop being afraid; to leave it in God’s hands; to wait quietly for Him to show us the future in His time.
Such freedom accompanied that release!
And God did send financial help just in the nick of time; a breathtaking rescue for TSC; we are still plodding along today, doing the work we love so much.
From that moment on, I tried to think about—watch for—those sidewalk cracks every time I walked and prayed about our needs, the desires of my heart, my worries for our children.
As the years passed, those cracks also began to represent answered prayers:
I remembered how, for almost two full years, I had walked that path, crying and begging God to bring Shannen home from Guatemala. When adoptions there began sputtering in 2007 and eventually stopped in 2008, her process became hopelessly stuck, we were forced to face the probability that she was never coming home. I would pound along those sidewalks in the dark; begging God to reach into that place of sadness where my baby was being held and snatch her out; whisper-singing the special song we had chosen for her—If You Were Mine, by Fernando Ortega. Every time I got to the lines:
. . . And I would fight for you with all the strength that I could find.
I would lead you home by your tiny hand
If you were mine, if you were mine . . .
. . . the tears would flow so freely that I would have to stop singing. I was never able to do more than whimper my way through those lyrics.
And then . . . suddenly . . . unexpectedly . . . the miracles fell into place and God answered those hundreds of prayers. Shannen Mariana came home to us!
Now, instead of worrying about surviving each day, our little former orphan girl worries about important things like growing her wild hair out to look like Merida from “Brave.” This is one of her greatest desires in life, and she’s well on her way.
I remembered praying for Colin—terrified about how I could ever teach a blind child math (and about a billion other things). “Do you see that crack in the sidewalk? You aren’t to it, yet.” At that moment, I only had to focus on teaching him how to take himself to the bathroom and to make his bed.
And now . . . through the miraculous provision of necessary tools and an aide to help daily with his school, Colin is able to solve complicated equations on his abacus . . . and play chess and do chores and use a pogo stick (and about a billion other things).
I remembered praying for our oldest son as he struggled to keep seeking God’s plans for his life and trusting God with the timing and circumstances of bringing him a wife. So many, many prayers for this unknown girl. So many, many pleas that God would prepare their hearts for each other; bring them together soon.
And then Nicole came out of nowhere. Such a perfect fit for the waiting places in our son’s heart.
Prayers for our next son. His struggles. His questions. The need I sensed for a soulmate—although he seemed unaware of this need.
Anna. Unlooked-for; beautifully created for this particular son. God’s timing in bringing her to him was so right.
How will we pay for curriculum this year? Where will we go for the neurosurgery our children will need? What will we do when we really outgrow this house and the addition still isn’t built?
“Do you see that crack in the sidewalk? . . .
How will we ever reach this wayward child if her heart never softens? What happens when Kathryn is so heavy that even Nathan and Scott can no longer lift her into her carseat and we still don’t have a van with a wheelchair lift?
” . . . You aren’t to it, yet. Why are you worrying about things that are still ahead of you? . . .
— if we don’t have all the money needed for this or that child’s adoption when it’s time? — if we can’t buy spring (or winter) clothes when they are needed? How will we ever get them all through college if they want to go?
” . . . When you reach that crack, I’ll be with you.”
Thousands of steps.
More whispered prayers; shared fears; cries for help; expressions of gratitude than I could ever count. On and on and on . . .
So many cracks in the sidewalk. Each one a reminder of God’s faithfulness. All of them gentle encouragements to let go and trust God with all of my heart’s desires and needs and scary unknowns.
Walking is good for the soul; the body; the mind; the heart. When I walk, I’ll be watching for those cracks in the sidewalk.
“It is not the cares of today, but the cares of tomorrow, that weigh a man down. For the needs of today we have corresponding strength given. For the morrow we are told to trust. It is not ours yet. It is when tomorrow’s burden is added to the burden of today that the weight is more than a man can bear.” ~ George Macdonald