Kristen Strong was born and raised in Oklahoma surrounded by comfortable familiarity in the form of wide-open prairies and a deep well of extended family. After she met and married her military man, change became the theme of her life. Many of her transitions experienced were due to being part of an air force family. But different, hard-fought lessons from change were learned in other ways, like when she and her husband, David, discovered their daughter had a life threatening neck injury. Read on as Kristen gently encourages you to gather hope for the times of difficult change in your own life. It’s a grace to welcome Kristen to the farm’s front porch today…
I kissed my eight-year-old daughter Faith on the forehead as she drifted off to sleep, wishing like crazy we were in her cozy lavender bedroom rather than this sterile, mint-green operating room.
If only she were drifting off to sleep before a play date with friends instead of drifting off to sleep before a date with a surgeon who would operate on her spine to correct her broken neck.
I continued to whisper, “Jesus is here, Jesus is here,” long after she closed her eyes.
I said it for me as much as for her.
I carefully got off her gurney, thankful the children’s hospital in our town let me ride on it with Faith right through the swinging metal doors to the OR.
After the doctor and nurses gave gentle assurances about my girl’s care, I walked with heavy steps back through the oversized doors into the steady, open arms of my husband David.
We plodded along in a half hug down the hall toward the waiting room of the hospital.
After we arrived and David held the door open for me, I stepped in and quickly scanned the room.
And that’s when my knee-high brown boots stopped dead in their tracks. My eyes darted around the waiting room again, and I stood there slack-jawed while shaking my head back and forth.
David, noticing my frozen posture and expression, came up next to me. “What’s wrong?” he asked, following my eyes around to the room.
“What’s wrong?” I repeated, annoyed he was missing the obvious. “It’s . . . it’s this room, David!” I stammered, whirling in a circle and pointing.
“Just look! There are no windows in this room!”
His eyes swept the room again. Sensing what was coming, he began rubbing my back in short, quick pats while whispering quietly, “No but I think—”
I wheeled around to meet his eyes.
“What were they thinking to make a hospital waiting room without windows?
Who could have designed such a thing?
How are families supposed to wait out their babies’ surgeries in a room without any way to see outside?”
My hands flew up and down, up and down. “How is anyone supposed to feel hopeful in this . . . this tomb?”
David pulled me in close, mind going a mile a minute trying to figure out the quickest way to calm me down. I leaned against him, ignoring the overt stares of others.
I cried so hard my breathing turned shallow, and David said, “Baby, it’s okay. Why don’t we go to the cafeteria for a bit? Maybe it has windows. The doctor won’t call with a progress report for some time, so we don’t have to wait here right now.”
I slowly nodded up and down and let him usher me out of the room. Inside the cafeteria, my tired eyes found tall windows and my cold hands a warm cup of tea.
Before long, we walked back to the dimly lit waiting room. After going inside and finding two chairs in a corner, I set my mostly full teacup down and lowered my head in my hands. It was early morning, but the day had been long.
Still bemoaning poor building plans and the injustice of a windowless waiting room, I heard the Lord say to me straight out, “Gratitude provides a window to a windowless room.”
His words wafted over me as a kind reminder rather than a criticism of my complaining.
He stopped my downward spiral with plain truth: When change wipes all the natural light from the rooms of my heart, being thankful is the way to open bolted shutters and knock holes in thick walls. Being thankful is the way to usher the light back in.
In 1 Thessalonians, Paul tells us to pray continually and give thanks in all circumstances. Because when we offer up gratitude in all things, we show how we trust God to use all things too.
God asks us to show Him gratitude in the dark times of change because He knows that’s how we find Him in the dark. He knows that’s how we find the Light in the dark. The focus on what is missing blurs, and the focus on what is present sharpens.
The focus on Who is present sharpens, as does our awareness of his closeness to us.
I am reminded of this when I flip through Exodus to read of Moses.
He wanted to experience closeness with God, and his desires were met on an unimaginable scale.
He spent an extraordinary amount of time with God on Mount Sinai and wanted still more. But then again, isn’t that the nature of God?
The more time you spend with Him, the more you want to spend time with Him.
In Exodus 33, Moses makes what sounds like a mighty bold request when he tells God, “Show me your glory” (v. 18). But what Moses really wants is to be as close to God as possible. God grants Moses his request with one caveat. Knowing a straight-on view of his glory would be too much for Moses to take in, God tells Moses he may see His glory from behind. To protect him, God places Moses in the crevice of a rock and covers him with His hand while passing by.
I am not unfamiliar with the idea that says to know God’s glory, we are sometimes asked to sit in tight places.
But as I read this passage from Exodus, what I uncover is this: When change puts me in tight places, is it especially dark because God’s hand covers and protects me too? Can I believe it’s dark because of mercy and protection rather than abandonment?
Can I believe being thankful in all circumstances is important because it acknowledges that during the dark times of change, God is still covering me with His hand?
As I wait in the windowless waiting room, I am not abandoned. As my daughter sleeps under the care of the surgeon, she is not abandoned.
His hand—and heart—won’t abandon you, either.
Leaning against David’s shoulder, I felt the light of gratitude warm me in that windowless room. I said quietly:
Thank you, God, for an excellent pediatric neurosurgeon in our town.
Thank you for a husband not deployed and home to do this with me.
Thank you for the Petersens watching our other children.
Thank you for countless family and friends holding us all in prayer.
Thank you for this room where your presence beams, windows or not.
As the wife of a career veteran, Kristen Strong speaks from the heart of a woman who has experienced change in many makes and models. You can read more of Kristen’s writing at her blog Chasing Blue Skies and at (in)courage, the blog of DaySpring. Kristen and her husband, David, have three delightful children and enjoy their home under the wide blue skies of Colorado.
Many of her life experiences, as well as stories of others and stories from Scripture, can be found in her book Girl Meets Change: Truths to Carry You Through Life’s Transitions. In this hope-filled read, Kristen invites you to see all the ways you are loved and cared for in the midst of change. She walks alongside you as a friend, gently ushering you toward a new view of change, one that meets you at the crossroads of your own sense of anxiety and God’s sense of purpose. I’m grateful for the life-giving truth’s in Girls Meets Change. Anyone who has struggled to adjust to life’s transitions will welcome Kristen’s warm and personal perspective.
[ Our humble thanks to Revell and their partnership in today’s devotion ]