I drove six hours and demonstrated how confident I was in good weather by only packing shorts in August. It happened to be the one cold day of pouring rain in Spokane as I pulled up to my aunt's house. Billie is my dad's youngest sister. Just this year the youngest of her twenty three children turned eighteen. I had come to talk with her about adoption and to hear stories. (If you've heard Billie tell stories you know that anyone would cross the Cascade Mountains for the experience).
It was surprisingly quiet at my Uncle Bruce and Aunt Billie's house. They are nearly empty nesters but when your twenty three children are young adults, they still have a way of filling up a house. In Tadema fashion, my Aunt Billie (though she is an intense woman with a full life) sat with me while the rain poured as though we had all day to discuss the things of God, the heartaches of this life, and for her to encourage my rained-on soul. In some strange time warp experience, we did end up spending nearly a day together with hardly an interruption.
Revelations from God kept rising to the top and I found myself thinking, if all of this gets organized into a book of some sort- great. If it doesn't, this is completely worth it just for me.
As we strayed from the adoption topic my aunt began asking about my life. I took a deep breath and cranked on the faucet to pour it out there in her living room for her ears and the ears of two inquisitive Great Danes.
We began talking about when God chooses to not take away the hard things. I was sharing some of my own experiences and fumbled to articulate, "It's the strangest thing, Aunt Billie. When I am at my lowest, those are also the points where Jesus meets me in a way I can't describe. It's like my senses are heightened and I'm aware of His presence in a way that-" I tried again. "Like I'll be pouring out my heart in the morning as the sun rises and I feel Jesus right there and- have colors always been that vivid? Somehow as things are hard, it comes with a rich sweetness and deep thankfulness for blessings that I'm pretty sure I'd miss if I was sailing through life."
Billie was nodding. She then shared about her rheumatoid arthritis which is at times debilitating. "There was a day, Shilo, that I was laying on this couch. I was laying on the couch and my body wouldn't let me get up. I knew I was there for the day, unable to do anything but cry out to Jesus. I could hear the wind chimes."
She signaled out the window behind me at the chimes that were swaying with the rain and wind on our August afternoon. "I've always had wind chimes. I love wind chimes. But laying on this couch unable to move, I heard them differently. As I was talking to Jesus and telling Him I'm not sure I can keep going this way, I heard the wind chimes. I heard the wind." Her speaking slowed as she quietly described, "I heard it come through the chimes and wrap it's way around the house and through the trees on the side. I felt the breeze through the open window graze the top of me. As I heard it, felt it, God brought to my mind Scripture about the Holy Spirit being like the wind." The Holy Spirit had reached her with His presence simultaneously as the wind reached her, sustaining and by some miracle carrying her to the end of yet another day.
My eyes filled with tears. I've never had wind chimes in my life and I don't fall into bed with aching joints, yet I knew exactly what she experienced.
"Shilo, if I were healthy and it was a normal day I would have been running laundry up and down the stairs. I would have been checking off my to do list. I can't say I would have experienced Jesus that way if it weren't for being laid flat, crying out to Him. I have never in my life heard wind chimes like I heard them that day. I heard Him."
Billie explained to me that she used to think God displaying His glory meant impressing people about Him. "If that's God's glory shouldn't every story end with a big fat miracle? Shouldn't everyone be healed, fixed, and put together again? Now THAT'S the glory I want to see!
But that isn't the only part to God showing His glory. He shows all the facets to His personality. He's always saying, "I want you to know THIS about me, too". I used to think His glory was at it's best when things turn out great. Instead, He wants me to know He is the God who hovers near the suffering." Her smile was slight. "I don't think I wanted to know that in the deep way I now know that to be true."
Wind chime moments. After our conversation I kept thinking about God going the long way around to establish us as His and to reveal who He is. He often walks close through circumstances that are not understandable... causing us to understand something of Him.
The next day on the drive home, after an amazing evening with cousins and a long breakfast with close friends, I came back to Billie's words. I began thanking God for the pains He takes for me and how He reveals Himself to me.
I thanked Him for showing me that He is a God who speaks in an "only between Jesus and Shilo" way as my pen hits paper. I'm so thankful to know THIS about hearing Jesus.
I thanked Him that He is a God of true love and instead of chiding my sentiment, uses creative ways to meet my needs- spoken or unspoken. I'm grateful to know THIS about who He is.
I thanked Him for His conviction that comes with deep comfort. Had I never needed His correction, I would have missed the mystery of how His discipline is simultaneously intimate and tender. I'm so thankful to have experienced THIS part of Jesus.
As I was praying, thanking, and driving, I came around a bend. Stretched out in front of me were hills of gold wheat, green grass, brown and brush in the distance, and a bright sun after rain reflecting on it all. It's true. The colors in Jesus' presence really are more vivid. I was spoiled and loved... coupled with deep, sobering humility as a favorite hymn began playing from my playlist. A wind chime moment.
I was at a thrift store last weekend and found wind chimes for $.99. They reminded me of Aunt Billie but I was about to pass them by knowing that God speaks to me in ways unique to me- not the way He shows Himself to Billie. As I looked closer at the wind chimes hanging awkwardly, I saw they were animals on Noah's Ark. It reminded me of God's promises. It made me think of how He uses symbols like rainbows and altars to commemorate when He speaks; when He establishes us as His own.
I thought about how God used the time on the ark to teach Noah about Himself as faithful, as a keeper of promises, as One with a redemptive plan, as a God who hovers near those in the belly of a boat with wretchedly stinky animals.
I bought them on the spot and am hanging the cumbersome, dull chimes proudly to remember this season of God's nearness and His constant revealing of Himself... whether I'm laid out on a couch or on my patio for another sunrise.
Just throwing myself out there a bit...