Each spring our local homeschool support group hosts a Moms’ Tea. Attendance is kept small and intimate – around 25 moms attend. A theme is chosen to minister to the moms’ hearts - this year’s theme was “"What Cup Have You Been Given? (Seeking the Lord through Trials)”.
I’ll admit when the e-mail announcing the tea arrived, I paid little attention. That sounds like something a mom does for herself, and I don’t have time for those things these days.
Then a second, separate e-mail arrived – one asking me to be one of the three speakers for the tea.
My first instinct was to respond “No!”. God has a sense of humor, though. He reminded me that each week in co-op my girls are required to give a class presentation. When they get nervous about it, I remind them that “it’s no big deal.” Those words came back to haunt me.
It did feel like a big deal to me, but I realized if I declined simply on the basis of fear of public speaking, my credibility with the girls would be damaged.
After much prayer, I accepted the invitation to speak, at least in my head – I didn’t officially notify the group until later. And I began praying about what He would have me share. I have many struggles, but one particular thing kept popping into my head.
No, Lord, I can’t talk about that without crying. I don’t want to get up in front of a bunch of moms that I don’t really know and try to talk while crying. Besides, who truly cares about how we’ve dealt with Sarah’s eczema?
Do it. It will minister to more than you know.
So I began writing. I sent a “prototype” of the first few paragraphs to the organizer of the event, who reaffirmed I was on the right track. Secretly I think I was hoping she’d respond “that’s not at all what we wanted!”, but I took her approval as confirmation that my topic was what God wanted me to speak on.
I avoided preparing the rest of that speech for as long as I could. I came up with every valid excuse I could find to postpone. I found myself finishing the night before the speech.
Somehow, I found the writing process cathartic. I had never fully communicated to anyone what the struggle was like. People think, “oh, it’s just eczema”. That can be said for kids who just have a little itchy patch behind their knee or in the bend of their elbow – but the degree to which Sarah suffered with eczema was extreme.
I intended to post a picture, but they hold such traumatic memories that I decided against it. I don’t want a history of Sarah’s struggles out there in cyberspace.with
I volunteered to go first on the day of the tea. I knew if I sat and listened to the others, I’d compare my speech to theirs. As I suspected, I couldn’t get through even the first few minutes of the speech without tears. But as I looked out over those other moms, somehow I felt kindred spirits, and even saw a few others crying along with me.
And it turned out giving the speech wasn’t as bad as I feared. Since that day, I’ve received several e-mails from moms in attendance indicating that the speech ministered to them.
I’ve also received several requests to read the speech, so I’ve decided to post it here. I pray it ministers to one of my readers.
We were asked to speak on our “cup” and how God has walked with us through our trial, and how we have sought God during it. My testimony is not only that I sought God during my trial, but also that God patiently sought me. And just a fair warning – I may need to simply read part of it. Evidently I wrote too much from the heart, because I can’t seem to get through it without crying – so I ask for your forgiveness in advance.
We’re heard the verse a million times:
Psalm 23:5 : Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
We’re heard this one too:
Luke 22:42 "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done."
Two different scenes. Two different cups. One peaceful, the other filled with strife. One filled to overflowing with blessings; the other holding suffering and sacrifice.
I’ve had both cups.
For the most part, my cup has seemed (at least to me) to be the one filled with suffering and sacrifice. Not on my part, but on the part of my sweet, innocent child. I have a daughter with a chronic illness. Not a life-threatening illness, but one that affects the whole family nonetheless.
My cup runneth over.
My 11-yo daughter has suffered from severe eczema since birth. Eczema which covered her head-to-toe, to the point where even her eyelids would crack and bleed.
My cup runneth over.
I have watched my child being ostracized and avoided – by both children and adults. I have held her as she sobbed – gut-wrenching, body-wracking, heart-breaking sobs – because her soccer teammates called her “germy” girl and “eczema girl”, and laughed and pointed. A 7-year-old child should not feel such heartbreak.
My cup runneth over.
I have watched her in the shopping cart at the grocery store, head down, blonde hair hiding her face. I pushed her in the cart because the backs of her legs were flared so badly she couldn’t walk. She never peeked up and looked around. When I noticed and asked why, she cried and said she didn’t want to see everyone staring at her.
My cup runneth over.
I didn’t want the bad cup anymore. I wanted the good cup – the one with the sweet, refreshing, spring water. Not the one where my child had to suffer and pay the price.
I would guess that I poured that cup out and filled it a million times with my tears. My heart cried out to God, begging him to heal my baby.
The answer? “Not yet, my child.”
Years pass. My plea remains the same. “Father, I’ll take her suffering. Please give the eczema to me so she doesn’t suffer anymore. She’s suffered enough. Heal her, Father.”
“Not yet, my child.”
I continue to knock on God’s door, pleading for Him to intervene. How much longer would He wait? How much more could my baby endure? WHY was he allowing this?
“Not yet, my child.”
I’ll admit at some point I simply stopped asking. I wish I could say I accepted God’s answer, but I stopped asking because I was angry. Angry that God would let a little one suffer like Sarah had suffered. Angry that he’d let her suffer so long. Angry because I felt He ignored my pleas for her healing. I’m not proud of being so angry with God, but at the time it was my coping mechanism.
Over time, with much prayer, my anger slowly turned to acceptance. Acceptance that I was stuck with this cup – and that there wouldn’t be a miraculous healing of my child.
That acceptance also eventually resulted in me not trying to “fix” it anymore – not trying every single new lotion and cream that came out; not taking her to this doctor and that doctor; not spending every possible moment reading about eczema and every little thing that might help; not constantly having my radar up in case I happened to overhear something that might help. I learned to treat it as a chronic disease – something that must be managed, not cured.
In other words, I took my eyes off the bad cup.
When I did that, little things started pointing to a second cup – one I either hadn’t noticed, or one that I had been purposefully ignoring. I noticed something glinting in the background behind the cup of suffering. What was that shiny thing back there, behind the bad cup? It was a different cup - one beginning to show signs of holding blessings.
And I started to notice those blessings.
I noticed that Sarah is a kid magnet. Little kids gravitate to her, and she to them. Little kids are safe – they don’t judge, they just take you as you are. I believe if there were little ones in our neighborhood, she could earn her college tuition through babysitting.
I noticed that she loves the elderly - another group that are slow to judge. One of her favorite service projects in Awana has always been taking trips to Garnet Hill Rehab Center in Wylie. She ministers to the residents, but at the same time they minister to her. Acceptance is good for the soul.
Sarah has a hearty respect for life for all creatures. She doesn’t even want me to kill bugs! You’ve heard of catch and release fishing? Our house is a “catch and release” zone for all living things. (Well, there may have been one or two bugs that I’ve flushed down the toilet without her knowing…)
She has a talent for ballet. We’ve been blessed by her ballet studio – it’s another place where she’s been completely accepted, no matter how much her skin was flared. Her ballet teacher doesn’t tolerate anyone saying anything to her. She is encouraged there to be her best – and she is flourishing - flourishing so much that she is going to NYC this summer to train for three weeks in a classical ballet studio on Broadway with a famous ballerina.
One of the biggest blessings of all is that her eczema and allergies are what led us to homeschooling – and now I can’t imagine our life without it.
Those are just some of the blessings I noticed at first.
More and more as I took my eyes off that bad cup, the blessings cup began to shine and sparkle – and start to overflow.
The Lord provides ample water, even in the desert. I had been in a desert. What I didn’t realize was that I didn’t have just one cup – I had two. I had the one filled with suffering and sacrifice, but sitting just behind it was the cup of cool, refreshing water, overflowing with blessings. While my focus had been on the one cup, it obscured my view of the second.
John 7:37-38 says: “Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’”
Let Him be your cup. You may feel like you are in a dry place, but the Lord can still quench your thirst.
The Lord can give you water even in the midst of a spiritual desert.
Jeremiah 29:11: For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
I don’t know what God’s plan is for Sarah, but God knows.
But what I do know is that He will use her suffering and sacrifice to His good. And the blessings will overflow her cup.
I’ll close with recommending that when you are focusing on the horrible thing happening in your life – your trial – take your eyes off that cup and look around, and you might be surprised what blessings surround you.
Psalm 23:6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
Thank you for allowing me to share.