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On the Side - June 2012

At Arms Length
by Shelly Wyrick

I climbed up the fence, and with my stomach impaled on the chain-link and hands cupped around my mouth, I screamed as loud as I could. My jugular was bulging, my brow was furrowed, and my saliva was flying. I was watching a track meet under the lights, my sister was running- she blazed the mile. I had walked around to the back stretch before the race, where I knew my cheering would be heard. I watched her run the way some men watch football, I was insane about it.

Twenty years later, my prayer life became a bit like a spectator sport. My quiet time with the Lord mostly occurs in darkness, under the lights, before anyone wakes, because I can hear my own voice. And that image, of yelling my heart out, came to mind as I screamed at God. Mind you, this was all in silent prayer, I was as quiet as my son in mischief, lest I have two little prayer warriors at my side.

Why all the passion? It was my mother-in-law’s cancer I wailed about.

It took me eleven months to arrive at that crazy-prayer stage. At first, the news was doom-and-gloom followed by out of this world peace and strength. Then, there were the good months of angst reprieve, amazing vacations and quality family time. But even while basking in the sun, there was a rather gloomy side of my heart. There was an inclination to buffer myself and to guard my kids, to hold Grammy at arms length.

The relationship I have had with my husband’s mom for the past twelve years has been one to be envied. She’s a hall-of-faither. My dark side wanted to consider, just for a moment, backing off. Maybe call less, avoid the C-word, send fewer happy texts, all with the justification that somehow being less involved in her life would prevent me from becoming more smitten with her. That, said the Eeyore in me, would make the thought of loosing her somehow bearable. And as for my kids, this delusional plan would protect them by not exposing them. It’s brutal, but real.

Fortunately, the cruelty of Plan A nixed it. But it makes me wonder who else I am holding out there. Who are you holding at arms length? Perhaps because they are high-maintenance, because they want to talk for twenty minutes when you have one, because their problems quite frankly annoy you? Plan B is certainly not easy; to pour your heart into those you are called to love. But at least I won’t be living in the fear that God himself can’t handle me should I get swallowed up in the sorrow that surrounds death. Plus, I won’t be teaching my babies to live in a cage rather than trust and all-powerful God.

See God could have healed her. He’s done it before, I’ve heard of His great deeds. Nothing is impossible. He has healed others, He could have healed her. I believed it as much as I believed my sister would win just about any race she entered.

But He didn’t. Instead, He took her home. To His credit, God miraculously kept her alive and vibrant far, far longer than any medical estimation. Even so, when she entered the Promise land weeks ago, it was too soon. She’s there and we are here, longing for every aspect of her beautiful self. But there is something else here. After allowing my sensitive heart to love her socks off, God has rewarded me with strength. I still cry my heart out in prayer, but as I cry out, I fully sense He’s got me covered. The resonating lesson in all of this has been to let my guard down. Let it down in prayer, and let it down when I love others. Letting it down gives God the chance to pick me up.

Shelly Wyrick is a Physical Therapist turned stay-at-home-mom living in Spokane, Washington. She can be reached at shellywyrick@hotmail.com and for more of her writing, check out her blog at dearmimifrommama.blogspot.com.

by Jenny Pruitt

I set out on my run tonight. I was full of joy from this weekend after a wonderful time spent with family. I'm already heavy from the load of the week, the laundry, the groceries, the sleep deprivation and it's only Tuesday! My legs resist, but I make it a mile and a half and walk. Just two weeks ago, I ran a half marathon and I am amazed by the power of the mind over the body. I told myself I was going to keep running no matter what; I did and it was so hard. I wanted to cry, but I kept going. I kept running. I couldn't breathe so I forced myself to stop crying. I suppressed my emotions and focused all my energy into continuing that long gruesome trek to the finish. And I finished.

But tonight, I don't have it in me. Or, I'll say, I've decided to allow my mind to ease up on the body. To give up. To give in. To give over to emotions. I rest and I cry. I notice the beautiful purple orange sky, the swirls of puffy white dancing between scarves of pink, and I lift up my eyes. I breathe in His glory. The question arises. The same question David asked long ago, "From where shall my help come?" (Psalm 121:1, NASB).

I am so tired, Lord. I am so tired. I am always running. Running everywhere. Where is my rest? I just want to stop sometimes and catch a breath. I question my strength. I question my stamina. I need help.

My help comes from the Lord.

I am reminded of the story of King Asa in 2 Chronicles when he looked out over the valley and saw enemies drawing together in battle formation. "Then Asa called to the Lord his God and said, 'Lord, there is no one besides You to help in the battle between the powerful and those who have no strength; so help us, O Lord our God, for we trust in you, and in Your name have come against this multitude...'" (2 Chronicles 14:11, NASB).

...the battle between the powerful and those who have no strength... There is NO ONE besides YOU to help...

This is me tonight. So many seemingly powerful forces pressing in on a woman who feels she has no strength. Not even enough strength to complete a run. Not even enough to complete a walk, for I have stopped and now sit. Then again, rest is good. Rest is remembrance. I need to stop and remember I am HIS daughter.

My help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to slip; He who keeps you will not slumber.

You need no sleep Lord, so I may rest. You stay awake and alert, guarding your daughter. You and you alone are my HELP; my help in ALL things. I can rest because you fight for me in the battle between all of those powerful forces and my weary state. You strengthen me.

I glance to my right and gasp in awe. My path brings me to an open space among trees. Fireflies sprinkle illuminated glitter low above the grass. Is it already time for them? Who knows how they know. How they know it's warm enough. How they know when to bring the light into darkness. Perhaps they are always there, glowing in and out, and only when our day darkens are we able to see this gift.

Hmm. I smile. A tear pools. As the blinking yellow glow of fireflies whisper "summer's coming...summer's coming...," my Heavenly Father reminds me my help isn't just on the way. It's always been here. Sometimes I haven't seen it.

Sometimes I've had to go looking for it. Sometimes I've had to wait for it. And sometimes I've been surprised to find it glowing in breathtaking beauty in the midst of darkness. And it has taken my breath away.

My help comes from the Lord.

Jenny is married to a physician and currently resides in Birmingham, Alabama where she is a stay-at-home mother to their four children. When she isn't completely overwhelmed with carpools, grocery shopping, laundry, classroom appointments, choirs, call schedules, cheerios EVERYWHERE, toddler meltdowns, coffee spills, shepherding hearts, repenting of her OWN heart and other various circumstances, she is fighting hard to believe and live out what her ultimate purpose is in life: to KNOW and GLORIFY God!