The Mysterious Ways God Works

I have had an absolutely weird, surreal week.

As adults, my brother and I have little in common, other than our shared DNA.  To be honest, we are alike, but we are drastically different.  We have different interests.  We have very different personalities.  And for the last 8 years or so, we haven’t had much of a relationship, at all.

I am a firm believer that no matter what connection you have with someone, like being family, you do not have to keep them close in your life if they aren’t healthy for you.

For a long time, this was my brother.

Whether he realized it or not, something shifted in how he perceived me, and he started out just being cold or rude.  This came to a head at a family dinner, where my entire family, and his now ex-wife’s family were all in attendance.  He got drunk, and started yelling at me, and calling me stupid.

I was done.

My parents continued to urge me to try to work on things between us.  And I tried for a really long time.  I did.  I put all of the effort into it.

I got little to no response.  And it certainly didn’t get any better.

Holiday’s were awkward.

And I finally realized something huge.  I wasn’t the one that broke our relationship, so I couldn’t be the one to mend our relationship.

A year ago, he announced that he and his wife were getting a divorce.  So I once again tried.  I didn’t get much of a response.

But he did at least ask our parents about me sometimes.

I finally got over myself, and decided to go with my parents for a visit, something I had not done in 7 years.

And, though still awkward, things were getting marginally better.

He actually asked if I would be able to take a day off work to spend a long weekend with he and my parents in December for Christmas.  And because he was the one that actually asked, I did.

We have yet, even to this day, to discuss what has separated us.  But, for now, I’m letting that sit off to the side, and just try to be there for him.  Mentally, at this point, he isn’t capable of having those kinds of conversations yet.

But then, we’re getting to how God can just work in mysterious ways.  Ways that I don’t always agree with.  But I put a great deal of faith and trust in how God is making all of these things work, and I’m rolling with it.

So…get this.

He fell and broke his knee (patella).  Broke it badly enough that he needed surgery.

Initially, my dad planned to fly in to take care of him.  But he would need to fly back pronto, because they had appointments that needed to happen.  Being the fantastic daughter I am, I offered to fly to Florida to hang out with my mom while he went to take care of my brother.  He then told me he would rather I go to take care of my brother, and he stay where he is.

So, that’s a firm no on me going to Florida.

Drat.

I did tell my dad, however, that if needed I would go take care of my brother.

Fast forward a couple of hours, and we find out what day surgery is scheduled for.  Which makes it even worse for my parents schedule.  And my brother calls me.

We talk.  We talk about whether or not I would even be able to take time off work.  Which, thanks to a “family first” attitude with the school I work at, it was no problem.

So I agreed to go take my brother to have surgery, and hang out and take care of him for a few days.

I briefly thought that I had lost my mind.  Which, realistically, is possible.

But at the same time, he IS still my brother.  And I might not like him all the time, but I do still love him.

I didn’t really sleep well after agreeing to go.  And my nerves were so bad that I thought I really might vomit.

So I get that God works in mysterious ways and all, but THIS???  This is absurd.

Right?

But I went.

And it’s still rather awkward between he and I.  We literally had not spent ANY time alone, without our parents for some type of buffer, in many, MANY years.  But we managed.  We actually talked.  He finally got over trying to be a good host, and actually let me help him.  And we acquired some funny stories along the way.

Ok, one of them he totally doesn’t know about because I didn’t want him to worry.

You know how I told you that in some ways, we are alike?  Well, being a klutz is one of those things we have in common.  Last fall, he was making salsa, and sliced the palm of his hand open.  Last Monday, I sliced my palm open while un-packaging my new flatware.

We compared – though they are on opposite hands, they are identical scars.

The story gets better, don’t worry…

So…Thursday.  Surgery day.

He, obviously, cannot eat anything.  So I ordered take-out from the restaurant down the street.  I was walking across the parking lot to pick up my food, and I trip.  And I fall.  And I bust the cut open on my hand, and I knew I had done some damage to my knees.  I had so much adrenaline coursing through my body, I thought I was going to pass out.

I texted my dad, and told him.  But I also told him I wouldn’t be telling my brother about it.  I didn’t want to worry him any more than he already was.

Both knees are pretty torn up, road rash, bruises.  They’re pretty.  But fortunately, the damage ends there.

This literally was an HOUR before we had to leave for the hospital.

I slapped some bandaids on my knees, and away we went.

EVERYTHING IS FINE!

I’m not sure if you know this or not, but someone with a broken patella, in a full leg splint, needs some help getting in and out of a wheelchair.  And with some laser guided precision, every single time he had to get up or down, he smacked my knees.

Still didn’t tell him what happened.

It turns out, surgery went great.  They were able to just remove some of the shattered bone, so he doesn’t have hardware in his knee (lucky guy).  I impressed his Orthopedic Surgeon with my vast medical knowledge.  Not because I’m in healthcare, but because I’m klutzy, and I have a lot of experience.

It was a very long day in the hospital.  And he spent the night.

But he realized that my experience and knowledge of having broken bones, and sitting around while other people have surgery, can actually come in handy.

He was able to come home the following morning.  And things were still going well.

I left after a couple of days.  He can physically get around just fine, fine enough, at least.  And I helped get things situated for him while I was there.  He relied on me to help him.

And, let’s just say, the whole helping him having surgery led to a greater sibling bond (because you have to do some weird, helpful things) that neither of us was really prepared for.  And we’ll probably never discuss ever again.

But here’s my big take away…

God works in mysterious ways.  In ways that we cannot even begin to fathom.  He works for people who don’t even believe in Him (like my brother).

I knew that many, MANY people were praying for our situation.  And throughout the past week, I have felt that prayer go with me each and every step of the way.

Life rarely goes the way that we think it should.  And bad things happen all the time.  But God truly does have a plan for our lives.  Though it often takes far longer and down paths we never expected to take, God can bring us through anything.

Is It Real?

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Is this real?

Over the past few weeks, I have asked this question a few times.  Once, even, to myself.  

In this social media era, it is often times difficult to tell what is actually real, compared to what people want you to believe is real.  

If you choose only to share the best part of yourself with the social media world, are you lying?  If you put a positive spin on things, are you really lying about what is going on? And if you DO choose to share some of the struggles you are going through, are you only looking for sympathy?  

Honestly, you can’t win.  No matter what, people will judge you.  

A couple of years ago, a major, life altering, huge, horrible thing happened to my best friend in the whole entire world.  Her husband type person died. We are far too young to need to deal with something like this. Yet, there we were. We dealt with it.  We did the days in the hospital, the tears, the fear of the unknown, the memorial service. We dealt with it all.  

A week ago, she and I had dinner.  And I asked her the question. “Is it real?”

Because the woman that deserves all of the wonderful things in life is in the midst of getting them.  6 months ago she started dating a new fella. And, being their 6 month anniversary, all of the mushy, lovey, vomit inducing posts started.  So, you wonder, is it all real? Are things really going this well?  

And with a gigantic smile on her face, she tells me “yes.”

That’s all I need to know.  Because let me clue you in on a little secret.  Her husband type person that died, things weren’t good with them when he died.  In fact, most of their relationship hadn’t been good. I knew it. Because there were times she came to visit me, that I didn’t want to let her leave.  

But, when someone dies, how do you publicize that?  

My pastor recently read an obituary, written by the man’s daughter.  The obituary was full of brutally honest details of how horrible the man had been.  That type of brutal honesty is rare. 

And for my friend, it wasn’t appropriate.  Yes, their relationship wasn’t good. But the grief that she felt, that she experienced, the grief was absolutely real.  

Months later, she honestly exposed her heart about that grief.  About the days she couldn’t get out of bed. The days she still struggled to move forward.  But that day, she had taken care of herself. Forced herself to shower, and to eat.  

And because I know her heart as well as anyone’s, I knew her intent was to be brutally honest with the world.  She wasn’t looking for sympathy, or condolences. She was simply being honest.

One of the conversations she and I had in the midst of her grief revolved around social media, and how difficult it is to look at when you aren’t in a good place.  Because everything is sugar coated. You see the best of everyone’s lives.  

Looking at everyone else’s seemingly perfect lives makes the ugly green headed monster of jealousy rear its’ head.  We want what all of those other people have.  

So once again, is it real?

In my completely un-scientific opinion, maybe 50% is accurate.  But, which 50%?  

Are people completely, all out lying?  Are they merely glossing over things? Are they sugar coating life for their own benefit?  

Yes, yes and yes.  

Maybe it’s just one of the three.  Maybe it’s all three.  

I honestly couldn’t tell you, because, I’m not them.  

Now, let me ask you the real question.

Is that wrong?

Ultimately, the answer to that question lies in the person’s intent.  If they’re intentionally lying about something to hurt others, yes that’s wrong.  If they’re sugar coating something because they’re trying to make themselves feel better about a situation that isn’t all that sweet, yet isn’t doing any harm, maybe that’s ok.  Maybe they’re trying to remind themselves about all of the good things that are in their life. Not to gloat. Not to rub it in your face. Maybe they’re just trying to remember and focus on the good things that they have.  

Honestly, I have no idea.  I could be wrong about it all.

Maybe I’m just trying to see the good in other people.  

If you recall, earlier, I told you that I asked myself the “is it real” question.

Right now.  Right this very second, I know that God is working on something.  I’m starting to see things happening.  

And in my own brain, I see how things could be working out.

But is that really God’s plan?  

So while I totally understand that things aren’t always as they seem, what we perceive to be reality, really isn’t reality at all, I’m taking a step back.  I’m praying. And I’m giving it all over to God.  

Because right now, I have no idea….

I Am Positive…

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I survived.  

Barely.

But I survived.

There were definitely tears.  

But I survived.

Sometimes, people suck.  I honestly don’t believe it is intentional.  But just the reality of life. People suck.  

Let me give you an example:

Last night was youth group.  And one of the other leaders and I had previously agreed that we would swap birthday nights to bring snacks.  She brings snacks on my birthday, I bring snacks on her birthday. Yesterday morning at 6am, I get a text, asking what kind of snacks I like.  And any type of sweets that my high maintenance digestive system could handle was out. Ok, that isn’t exactly what was said.  But that was the gist.  So I do give options.  

But then, she brought birthday cake.

And made an announcement that there was birthday cake.

That I couldn’t eat.

She announced that.

No birthday cake for me.

Maybe (definitely) I was already in a slightly emotional state of mind.  Because I just hate this day so much. And as my dad sympathetically told me last night, it always will.  Because nothing about my birthday being difficult will go away. Because the root cause just can’t be changed.

So I was already in an emotional state of mind.  

And then I don’t get birthday cake. 

And I have to watch everyone else eating birthday cake.  

Yes, there was chips and salsa.  Very delicious chips and salsa.  

But it isn’t birthday cake.

If your digestive system isn’t high maintenance, you probably don’t understand.  This is torture. Absolute torture. This isn’t the “oh, I’m on a diet and I shouldn’t eat that.”  This is the “my digestive system is going to try to kill me if I try to eat that” kind of a thing.  

Tor.  Ture.

Beyond that, I have a lot of friends and family with small kids, where life just gets in the way sometimes.  I get it. So sometimes it’s difficult to remember birthdays and other important dates. I get it.  

I really do.

Most of the time, I try to make sure important dates and things get recognized.  I’m a cheerleader for life for everyone. I try to send birthday cards to people close to me.  An actual through the mail paper birthday card. I want to see other people succeed. I want good things to happen to other people.  I’m genuinely happy for everyone else when these amazing things happen to them.

But over the past 24 hours, I had a pity party.  A selfish, downtrodden, pity party. I’m even going to be selfish enough to say that it was warranted.  

Because life gets in the way and people suck sometimes.

Do I think that any of this was intentional?  Absolutely not. My friend honestly was trying to do something for me when she asked what kind of snacks I like.  Not thinking about how I might take it without getting to have cake. And within this same group of friends, another friend keeps telling me that we need to have a night where they all have to eat a “Johanna friendly” meal.  So there is understanding there. It just went a little sideways for a bit. 

And do I think my friends and family purposely didn’t wish me a happy birthday?  

No. 

I don’t.

So I understand that it wasn’t a personal attack.

But the pity party still happened anyway.

I started to question why I do some of the things that I do.  Why I’m always the smiling, friendly, outgoing, happy person that I am.  Why I’m the life cheerleader. Why I go out of my way to do the things that I do.

Is it even worth it?

Not that I do the things that I do in hopes that people will return the favor.  That isn’t why I do these things.

But, sometimes it would be nice.

I honestly started wondering who would even notice is I stopped doing the things that I do.

And then God chuckled, and answered my question.

A coworker, and one that I’m not extraordinarily close to, emailed me this morning, and apologized for not realizing that it was my birthday.  And then thanked me for always sharing my smile with her.  

Ok, God.  I get it.  

I don’t want to give you the impression that I had ever intended on not doing those things.  I might whine and complain about it a little.  But that’s all.

In one belated birthday wish this morning, a friend told me that he hopes today is the start of my best year yet.  My friends, I cannot tell you how much I hope and pray that is the truth.