This year, I have been writing testimonies from within our church family to share at each Advent service. Some have missed hearing those stories so I will be sharing them here. (You can find them on Firm Foundation Ministries Facebook page if you prefer to watch them being read. The sermon series is entitled Against All Odds - you will be so encouraged!)
Advent Week 1
How is it that God would see fit to step into the normalcy of our everyday lives and invite us to experience Him in ways we least expected?
The interruptions are often unanticipated, and at times, unwelcome. Often, we struggle to see the hand of God inside the disruptions of our daily routine until we can turn around and look back.
After all, hindsight is 20/20.
While most tend to view this past year as one of struggle, pain and loss, we cannot deny that God has been with us.
So today we invite you to join us on a four-week journey through Advent as we choose to lift our eyes up and away from the chaos of what is easily seen to celebrate the moments where, against all odds, God stepped in.
We will not have to look far. The stories inside these walls are many with no time to tell of all the wonderful ways that the God of Heaven so graciously allowed the interruptions that would strengthen our faith and pull us closer to Him.
Jesus stepped in, friends. Against all odds, He stepped into our lives… over and over and over again.
Let your hearts be filled with JOY! These stories may not all end the way we would have wanted, but inside each one we will discover the heart of God for His children. And through it, you will be reminded that what He has done for others, He will do for you.
Rob and Mary Brumbaugh were choosing to see the good that had come from COVID. Enjoying family time with their 16 year old son, Landon, they watched movies, played legos, did puzzles and simply enjoyed much needed quality time.
And then came the first of many blessings, though at the time it bore no resemblance to anything good at all.
Plans to visit their oldest son, Tyler, in April fell through. Mary was devastated. She couldn’t have known then that this disappointment was actually a gift God was giving her for at the time, it felt nothing like a blessing whatsoever.
However, she couldn’t have known what lay ahead – but God did. And so, the first of many gifts didn’t seem like a gift at all and wouldn’t be viewed as such for some time.
Weeks passed by and with it came some redemption. Tyler called to tell her that rather than her coming to see him, he and his family would be coming to see them! Plans were quickly set in place for a three week visit over the fourth of July.
Mary turned in all her vacation days and began looking forward to cookouts and pool time with her family.
On June 28th, Landon picked Mary up from work. Both were excited to start their vacation, but something seemed off with Landon.
“Mom, I’m not feeling well.” he said, “I haven’t felt good all day.”
Mary bought him some Sprite and kept a close eye on him over the next few days hoping it was nothing more than a flu bug or a slight case of dehydration. But as the days passed and he didn’t seem to improve, she became more and more concerned.
One moment, Landon would seem fine and the next he would be slurring his words.
By July 3rd, Mary had had enough and wanted to take Landon to the hospital. He begged for one more night at home in hopes that he would feel better by the next day. But with no signs of improvement, Mary and Landon were headed to the hospital by 6:00 the following morning.
From there, things happened quickly. In short order, it was determined that Landon was diabetic and needed to be transported to Bronson Pediatric.
Alone, due to COVID restrictions, Mary stood outside the doors of her son’s hospital room broken by his cries for her to come to him.
A doctor soon came to update her on Landon’s condition. Landon was now in a diabetic coma. “I will do all I can,” the doctor was looking Mary right in the eyes, “but I can make no guarantees on what the outcome will be.”
Mary and Rob were in shock. How quickly life had changed. One moment celebrating family time and the next standing by their son’s bedside begging God for a miracle.
More uncertainties piled on top of the others – should Landon live, he would be facing possible kidney failure and brain damage. The fear and uncertainty was prevalent.
The next day was July 5th and in the quietness of his hospital room, Mary and Rob watched their son sleep through his 17th birthday.
Days ticked by slowly with few changes, but there in the middle of the uncertainty, Mary found the strength to pray the hardest prayer she had ever prayed.
It was a prayer of release.
In the middle of the not knowing, Mary released her son to the Lord, “He’s Yours first, God. I give him to You. And I will serve You no matter what.”
Could it be that another Mary once prayed this same prayer while watching her Son sleeping quietly in a manger? Did she too stand there wondering what His future held? Did she too have that moment of painfully sweet surrender?
God in His sovereignty often allows us to go down paths we didn’t expect to go. Sometimes by His choosing and sometimes by our own.
In this case, Mary, Rob, Landon, Tyler and the rest of the family couldn’t have seen this coming. But God did – and He stepped in.
He stepped in to disrupt their travel plans in April.
He stepped in and caused Tyler and his family to plan a three week visit at just the right time. The change of plans allowed Tyler to sit with his mom by his brother’s bedside through the difficult days of not knowing.
And God stepped in on that July day when Landon’s tubes were removed and he looked up at Mary for the first time in weeks and said, “I love you, mom”.
God stepped in when the MRI, the EKG and CAT scan all came back clear!
And even then, God still wasn’t done stepping in - because only two weeks after being told he would have to be on dialysis for the rest of his life, another miracle happened and Landon’s kidneys began working on their own!
Today, we celebrate with Mary, Rob, Landon and their whole family for the ways that God stepped in. And just like He stepped into their story, He will step into yours as well. Will it look the way we want it to? Not always.
But when we surrender our will and our way to God, He steps in in ways we could not have imagined.
This advent season, surrender it all to Him. Let God write your story and then watch how He steps in.