7 “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.
9 “You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? 10 Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! 11 So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.“
Somehow summer is upon us and we are hemmed in by the same cardboard boxes we packed just a year ago. We unpacked, folded them up, and settled them in for a year long reprieve while we walked through a season of watching and waiting, expectant for God to move in big ways but not sure what those ways would look like.
The boxes multiplied while they were sitting there in the dark. We kept feeling like we didn’t have much to haul along with us until we flung open the door to the storage unit and panicked. Watching you load every last one of them and secure them for the long journey into an unknown future made me think of Abram, and how he packed up all he had and left his homeland to a place the Lord wrote on his heart. How hard it must have been to leave, and yet, how easy it must have been to go when God gave him the green light.
Just a few nights before we finished transferring our things from storage to the house, and then from the house to the PODS, I felt fragile as an empty egg shell, and instead of tiptoeing around me, you clicked on our song and pulled me away from the dinner dishes and my tears fell freely as you spun me around the kitchen. My heart lilted with the lyrics as I watched thirty years of life swirl around me. The art easel my grandpa built when I was just a kid, decades worth of tempura paint layered to look like sunset, the piano my mom used to play as a little girl, chipped and out of tune; the blue couch we curl up on every night, now wrapped in layers and layers of green plastic; the breakfast dishes still piled high in the sink and the pink cardigan sweaters lazily strewn across the backs of kitchen chairs and the green onions I stopped chopping the moment you clicked on Ben Harper and beckoned me to dance; the afternoon’s orange light easing into evening blue and pouring in through the living room window making the empty house seem to sparkle as you spun me and I cried. I swear I could hear Addie’s first laugh and Mia’s first steps and Emery’s first big boy words echo down the hall as they played outside, self-sufficient and all-too-grown up for my heart to handle just then.
The song ended and back to work we went: you, drawing baths and calling the Goobies in from their daily after dinner scooter-racing; me, cleaning up the remnants of a “clean out the fridge” dinner of bean burritos, bell peppers and grapes, and I was tempted to be angry that we didn’t just move to Kansas City a whole year ago instead of going through the rigamarole of moving into my childhood home again only to live in the middle of a mess of renovations and remodeling as my parents prepared to sell their home. The weight of a year of waiting suddenly lifted off my shoulders as I realized the days left within those harried walls were numbered, and the emotion of it all caught me by surprise.
I won’t say I knew we would end up in Kansas City, but what I know for sure is God wrote KC on my heart several months ago, so when that’s where we decided to go, I wasn’t surprised. Waiting to see the way God would coordinate all the details was difficult. Trusting Him wasn’t hard; I knew He would come through because that’s what He does. Waiting was the hard part. Waiting for your heart to ignite with excitement; waiting for the right job; waiting for the right house; waiting for the Lord to deliver on the promises I stored up in my heart, the promises He seemed to give to me but not to you. It was hard to reconcile that discrepancy, but through it all, I carried the hope in my heart that there was indeed more to come.
At first, we wondered if Southern California might be in our future, so we packed up the Goobies and hauled them down south, telling them we were going on vacation while exchanging knowing glances chalk full of hope that perhaps San Diego would be the place to plant our family. We poked around lovely neighborhoods, scoped out orthopedic practices and visited friends and family–and yet, on the drive up to Disneyland a few days later, neither of us felt like San Diego was the best fit for us, so we held out hope that the offer we made on a house in Dublin would put an end to our questions and show us definitively where to go next. But on Thanksgiving Day while we waited in a slow-moving line, right in the middle of a daydream in which I was unloading dishes and arranging pots and pans in that kitchen in Dublin, God whispered to me, That is not what I have for you.
I felt it in my spirit deeply, and the door to that dream closed quietly as I watched you hold on to Emery, who was weary of waiting and clinging to you tight, letting you carry him through the indiscernible maze that led to where he must go. It was then that the Lord wrote KC on my heart. Not a whisper, but a knowing, a promise written deep inside, like a label etched on the fragile face of the future. The next day, after we received news that our offer on the Dublin house had not been accepted, I wasn’t surprised. But I buried my face in a hotel pillow cried hard, hurt tears in a dark hotel room later that night, grieving for the loss of a dream, and very much wanting to go home. I let myself feel disappointment, but I clung to the promise that something better was coming, and I lived in a state of expectancy buoyed by the hope hidden in the deepest places of my heart, hope that marked us for something different, but something good.
On the way home from Disneyland, after we scratched San Diego off our list, Emery began talking about his own dream: his very own Lightning McQueen race car that he could actually drive by himself, a gift he was absolutely, 100% certain would arrive on the doorstep for his birthday. After spending a few days at Cars Land, no one could convince him otherwise that a brown cardboard box bearing his “very own McQueen” would show up on the doorstep soon. So sure was he of this fact that he declared it to us daily with conviction, and he informed every willing ear that McQueen would indeed come.
He kept vigil at the front windows for months, his face lighting up when a brown package showed up at our doorstep. He’d practically faint with excitement, so certain he was that this was it. There were many days we dealt with disappointment, of course, days when packages carrying other things arrived, leaving Emery disappointed and wondering.
“Oh! There’s a package! Is it McQueen?”
“No, buddy, but it’s not quite your birthday yet.”
Emery got frustrated and confused when he watched Papa or Nyome open the box he thought was meant for him, but that disappointment never extinguished his hope. We encouraged him that soon enough his birthday would come, “Hang on a little longer, buddy,” we’d say.
We knew what we were doing, of course: we had a plan all along. As soon as he told us about his dream, we had ordered and paid for and hidden away in the garage the exact thing for which he pined, keeping it out of sight until the exact moment we chose to give the gift. We knew Emery’s hope would not disappoint because we knew how the story go would go, and it was with that knowledge that we encouraged him to continue to wait patiently, expectantly, full of hope.
Watching all this unfold even as we were waiting for our own hope to be realized was an ordeal that taught me about God’s perspective, and how He knows our hearts’ deepest desires. He doesn’t hold out on us but asks us to wait because he knows so much more than we know. He sees the day for which we wait. He sees it unfolding at the precise moment, and the day won’t arrive early because it’s appointed, it’s set up. It’s right. When Emery’s birthday finally came, when we finally released him to go see that Lightning McQueen was already there, waiting for him–he was not the least bit surprised. Excited, yes–but not surprised. The thrill of watching his hope realized was even better than surprise. And it was so much fun to watch his heart burst with joy.
He did not ask us for Lightning McQueen, really. He did not sweet talk us into it, bargain for it, or demand we get the thing for him. He simply knew a big day was coming and his heart declared that Lightning McQueen would show up. I think sometimes God asks us to listen to what our heart is already saying, and when that desire matches up with His desires for us, He asks us to wait in patient expectation for the moment He can whisper, “Now is the time.”
Waiting is not easy. Holding on to hope is not easy either because it’s risky. What if our hope is misplaced? What if it is deferred, dashed, or disappointed? What if things don’t turn out the way we think they ought to? Hope is a risk, but it’s a risk worth taking. If Emery had never told us how much he wanted a Lightning McQueen car, do you think it would have showed up? We would have gotten him something, of course, but we enjoy hearing our kids whisper the truth of what they most desperately hope for so we can do our best to make it happen in a fun, surprising way. I think that’s sort of what God is like. I think sometimes He waits for us to ask Him for what we want, instead of only ever giving us the things He thinks we need. If that’s the way He worked, our freewill, our choice, our individuality wouldn’t exist, would it? I think God always has a reason for saying, “Not yet,” and I think He gets a kick out of saying yes and giving us the things for which we ask.
I’m not sure we’ve ever been more excited to watch one of our kids open a present on their birthday–and I am certain it is because we watched Emery ask and wait and hope and believe for months before his birthday. Maybe that’s part of why God has us wait: because He enjoys watching our hearts explode with excitement at receiving our hearts’ desires. God gives good gifts, I am certain. Maybe not every moment of every day. And no, He does not give us everything we want (because like any good father, He knows giving us everything we want whenever we want it breeds selfishness and gluttony. How many times a day do I tell Emery No, you may not have fruit snacks?), but I know for sure that when He does give us good gifts, He smiles.
How do I know? Because I’m watching the Japanese Maple wave at me from just outside the front windows of our new home, surrounded by a glorious array of flowers planted here as if on purpose, just for us, waiting for you to come home from the new job I saw coming all those months ago, right here in KC, and my heart feels His smiling.