As I (Joy) type, Sullivan, who has been in the hospital for four days, is resting quietly next to me. His surgery, for a seriously infected septum, that resulted from a very unusual sinus infection, appears to have gone well and he is finally on the road to recovery. After ten days of fever, an immensely painful headache, visits to the emergency room and pediatrician's office, and finally a hospital stay and surgery, it looks like he really is getting better this time. There is even talk of being discharged within another day or so.
I am amazed by the number of hours that I have spent staring blankly as I've waited in the emergency rooms and sat silently at Sullivan's bedside. At times I've told myself that I should be doing something productive with this time...catching up on paperwork, reading an instructive or inspirational book, or at least looking at a magazine. But something about a child's sickness causes my attention span to be amazingly short and my desire to accomplish things greatly diminished.
Maybe it is accentuated by the lack of sleep, but it seems the season in which our family finds itself comes into clear focus. It is our time for trials. Having been here before, we recognize that God has chosen a brief time of refining - for our good and His glory.
As I first suspected God had enrolled us for another course in His school of greater glory, I immediately searched for any area where He had called for obedience yet we had refused. I have found that when God prescribes a time of refining, it is much easier to endure if I'm certain I am not in a self-imposed season of discipline for my own willfulness. After inviting the Holy Spirit to do a thorough investigation of my heart, I have sadly submitted to enrollment in yet another semester in God's school.
Looking back over the last year, I can see that the classroom was being prepared for our entry when plans to work as a family building homes for resale were met with God's choice of farming instead. It seems the Lord desired to teach an advanced course on dependence and contentment through the unforseen change of plans.
Although we gave our mortgaged properties to the Lord's control over two years ago, the sale of the homes and relief from the debt, is yet to be seen. While our resources have been depleted, we have been fed by a food previously unknown and have relied on milk from the cows and produce from the garden as our primary dietary staples. As we've watched our once stable financial condition shift while in God's school of greater glory, we've become much better acquainted with our Instructor's ability to provide. We've been humbled and made aware that it never was our own cleverness that allowed for the once taken-for-granted provision - it was God and God alone meeting our needs.
Finding contentment in the constant, never-ending labor required with farming has not come easily. When recently commenting to Timmy that we shouldn't all be so tired, since we get a restful 7 hours of sleep every night, he reminded me that our fatigue is not related to the sleep but rather to the fact that every work day is 17 hours - from the time our feet hit the floor until we return to bed at night. With the exception of the 15-20 minute lunch and supper breaks and the much-needed refreshment found in reading the Proverb chapter for the day as a family, the farm requires everyone be working the remaining hours.
While in this season of refining, God has added a course on empathy for those around us who are faced with continual health concerns. Prior to this year, our family has enjoyed a truly unbelievable gift of wellness from the Lord. Only as we have faced sicknesses have I verbalized the phenomenal blessing of the past. In January, our family took turns enduring a terrible virus that was long-lasting and eventually landed Meredith in the emergency room. As I answered the many questions asked by the medical staff about her prior health history, I realized that she (age 20), along with Elliott and Oliver (ages 17 and 14), hadn't been to the doctor for sickness since they were ages 5, 3, and 1. They looked at me with disbelief and their puzzled expressions conveyed a suspicion that we were somehow neglectful parents. However, I assured them that God had blessed us with unbelievably good health and we've truly had no need for medical attention.
On the heels of our family's recovery from the virus, the Lord provided for Oliver to finally have braces for his teeth. While doing the panagraphic x-ray, the orthodontist discovered a mass on Oliver's skull that he said needed attention. Throughout the next several months of research and attempts to receive proper medical care, Oliver began to develop symptoms of faintness, shortness of breath and dizziness. Although the first emergency room visit proved alarming with the doctor calling the mass a brain tumor, the second emergency room visit and resulting CT scan assured us that the mass was benign. Yet still there was one more trip to Patient First that finally diagnosed the dark circles under Oliver's eyes, as well as dizziness and an increased white blood cell count, as symptoms related to a bacterial infection along with exhaustion and dehydration.
Now, as Sullivan is seen by a multitude of doctors and nurses, I rehearse the magnificent blessing that he (turning 9 in just a few days) and his little brother, Harrison (age 7) haven't been to the doctor since they were ages 3 and 1. It only compounds the doctors' confusion that a perfectly healthy little boy, with no symptoms of a sinus infection or even a common cold, would end up with surgery from an infected septum. Although not recognizable to the passive on-looker, I can hear the squeak of the chalk on the board as our loving and all wise Instructor teaches us new lessons in His school of greater glory. Without even the most remote hint of being unjust or unloving, God records these lessons in the notebooks of all our lives.
Every single thing has been, and is now, for our good and God's glory. Our season of refinement, our enrollment in God's school for greater glory - it is all for our good and comes to us from the hand of our most loving Creator. Although my flesh cries out and begs to graduate, my soul submits and, like a child, runs to the arms of the One who is all-knowing and is allowing this for eternal good in all our lives.
May God be glorified in His instruction of the Alexander family.