"Are not 5 sparrows sold for 2 pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are more value than many sparrows.” Luke 12: 5,6
It is a beautiful spring day. The sun shines on the trees and their leaves reflect a new, brilliant hue of green. The smell of jasmine is delightful and intoxicating. The birds are swooning, flirting, and singing while they build their nests. I am surrounded by evidence that God, through Creation, reveals His Resurrection Story! After the winter (death), spring (life) is sure to follow. Yet, I have for six long springs, gripped this promise in my battle-weary hands.
“Arise my darling, my beautiful one and come away with me. Behold, the winter is past; the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing has come…” Song of Songs 2:10
This Spring and my song are new. It is different----because I am different.
I have for so long, secretly, not publicly, identified myself as a crushed and lonely sparrow who through suffering, lost her song. I have learned suffering is real. The emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual effects it has on you are also real on you and your relationships. I now know what suffering is and believe me when I say, it was NOT on my spiritual to-do list.
To give proper perspective, I’d like to rewind the time to the spring of 2016. I was healthy and my family and I were doing great. I had for almost two decades been walking in my calling--teaching the Word of God to women of all ages. I had tasted the goodness of God and seen with my very own eyes, the transforming power of the gospel. These days felt fulfilling and busy and I had no idea of what was ahead of me.
We are taught and trained by the world to believe that our plans will have the outcomes we intend and that we can control so much in our lives, however, Jesus clearly reminds us otherwise when He said, “In this world, you will have trouble but fear not, I have overcome the world.” We can settle for a little “trouble” but we cry for Jesus to hurry up and overcome it---NOW.
Trouble, from God’s bird’s eye perspective obviously looks way different than ours. God assures us that “suffering produces glory.” He also promises us that refinement by fire, chaff getting separated from the wheat, grapes being crushed to produce fine wine or an olive getting squeezed to the point it produces oil---are all beneficial, and God is always right.
We are also trained to think our getting to the other side depends on us. Suffer like a servant, persevere, and don’t you dare complain or cry. It is in the crushing we find out in that tiny, narrow sieve that it was God and only God ---His faithfulness that would see us through to the other side. He is, after all, The Resurrection and the Life and His life is all we need.
Still…suffering manages to catch us by surprise, has the ability to shatter our dreams, and wreak havoc on our planned outcomes.
Prior to “trouble” hitting this sparrow’s life, I would say that the majority of my outcomes were turning out as I had expected and planned. After all, I was a resilient, hard-working sparrow in my family, friendships, and ministry. A common bird thriving in its community. A nest builder whose nests birthed success. My belief system at the time was, “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you…” the outcomes I expected. RIGHT? Here comes the necessary unraveling of my incorrect theology.
In the Spring of 2016, I soared into the Benjamin Moore paint store with the goal of having a beautiful, sparkling white home interior. I purchased the paint and was flying out the door as planned when I bumped into someone dressed head-to-toe in all white. His eyes—oh, his eyes—shined right back at me and were filled with remarkable radiant light. As I struggled to carry the heavy box of paint out of the store, he saw me, opened up his arms, and remarked to me, “Here. Let me help you.”
Hebrews 13:2 says, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing so, some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” There was not a hint of “stranger danger” on my spiritual radar and later I would discover I had bumped into an angel. Yes—an angel! The man in white unloads the paint into my trunk and proceeds to tell me two very important things and thankfully I, at this time, have two ears to hear. He declares, “Satan longs to sift you like wheat, but Jesus is praying for you.” (I later reflect back thinking…Oh great! I thought angels brought good news?!) He pauses and says, “Has there ever been a prayer that Jesus prayed that the Father didn’t answer with a yes? ” I responded, “Yes, just one. And Jesus said, “If it be your will, let this cup pass from me.”
He smiles and responds, “I see you know the Word and Satan knows you. He longs to sift you like wheat but Jesus is praying for you and when you return to Him, you will turn and strengthen others.” I paused for a minute to digest this and then, the final words he spoke before he turned and walked away---"Jesus taught us a parable about the seeds….my question to you is, ‘What happened to all those birds who ate the Word of God?” That question remained in my heart unanswered until now.
I believe that a mystery lies hidden within every physical thing that God has made. Jesus taught by pointing to things surrounding his audience, in hopes they would press in and find the deeper, spiritual truth. It is important for us to pay attention to Creation. We, like the birds, eat the seed (the Word of God) and it goes in and the Word itself, the Lord says, “The word that proceeds from my mouth will not return to me void, but will accomplish what it is I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” Isaiah 55:11. God’s desires trump ours—as they should.
Prior to the spring of 2016 and my run-in with the angel, I was not at ALL impressed by birds. Suddenly, I become a “twitcher”, yes, look that up---a bird watcher! I thought…hmmmm…If God’s eye is on the sparrow, maybe my eye should be there as well.
Did you know that on the 5th day, when God created “living things”, He blessed the birds?
On the 6th day, God put His hands down in the dirt and He formed us. He breathed His life into us. He put His hands on us….get this…IN the dirt! Proving that God makes masterpieces out of our mud (our sin, our shame, our weaknesses). Our amazing GOD is not the least bit afraid of rolling up His holy sleeves and getting His hands dirty. I personally need this and I LOVE this! God’s Love is not based on our cleanliness but on His holiness. “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
Knowing that God “blessed the birds,” I see so many parallels linking us to sparrows!
Sparrows are common birds known for their productivity--known for working hard. They thrive in community, are social birds, and known for their ability to sing. They are tiny but strong and are extremely resilient, even able to withstand high winds and turbulent weather. Can you see any of your attributes in a sparrow?
However, as resilient as a sparrow maybe, if a human being were to take one of these tiny, resilient birds into the palm of their hand, they could crush it, breaking every bone in its little body.
And this bids me to ask you the question:
~Who or what has crushed you?
~Who or what has stolen your song?
~How did the people in your life respond to your crushing?
Did they tell you:
~ You were a warrior not a bird? That you were strong, not weak?
~ Don’t give up but persevere? To practice what you preach?
~ Don’t you dare give the enemy this much glory.
~ Or, just drink a margarita!
~ Or, quit whining…there are people enduring far worse troubles than you.
I received SO much Christ-like encouragement in my crushing, so why did my mind hang on the few imperceptive evaluators instead of the majority of affirmers? Because… I have a “curable” condition known as the approval of man.
Months later, again in Spring, 2017, (are you sensing a pattern), I was on a plane flying to see my Mom. I exited the plane and I felt “off”. My vision was blurry and my ear suddenly was blaring like a cyclone. I struggled to get to baggage claim and by the time I did, my world was spinning round and round on a very sickening merry-go-round. Instinct told me to hit the ground. This was my first battle with vertigo and suddenly, I felt as if I had landed in a very evil hand that slowly….began to squeeze the life out of me.
Over the next few months, I scheduled appointments with four different ENT specialists who all diagnosed me with Meniere’s Disease: an incurable condition involving hearing loss, tinnitus, and vertigo. The first two symptoms were not debilitating to me, however, the vertigo was. Let me just say, I have learned from the experts that every case of Meniere’s Disease is completely unique. I want to emphasize that because it is not my intention to scare anyone.
Over the next few years, my attempts to avoid vertigo attacks seemed fruitless. I had some of the most faithful, powerful, and gifted men and women lay their hands on me and pray. I believed and I was not angry with God. Well, honestly, maybe a little---but I knew that this was somehow a “path of righteousness for His name’s sake” and so I continued to faithfully press on, just as I had for years preached for others to do.
For the years that followed, I maintained a strict, regimented diet, had local steroid shots in my inner ear, MRI’s, a plethora of medications, acupuncturists, chiropractors, hormone doctors, neurologists…you name it, I tried it and all proved to be futile. Still, I believed that GOD gave us seasons to show us that seasons end and begin anew; however, 20 seasons had passed and I was morphing into a weary sparrow, suffocating in an incurable disease’s hand. In June of 2021, I miraculously got an appointment at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Bill and I, filled with so much hope, pulled into Mayo and my battle cry song, “Battle Belongs” by Phil Wickham came on Christian radio. The testing I was about to undergo had me gridlocked in fear. The song practically fanned my faith and instilled the courage I was lacking.
At Mayo, a team of doctors performed many tests for days. Finally, I was diagnosed with clinical depression, Meniere’s Disease, and my vertigo was labeled “traumatic vertigo” due to the fact each episode lasted over 7 hours. I received a shot of Gentamicin in my inner ear and told me I would be very sick for six weeks while the remaining nerves in my sick ear died and it would take every bit of that time for my right ear to recalibrate. It was a cruel, cruel summer just as the band Bananarama claimed. I was devastated and curled up in a ball of lost hope when three months later, the vertigo returned with a new pattern. I was now spinning, upside-down in a narrow, black hole for countless hours and the medications prescribed to knock me out were no longer working.
In October of 2021, I had a repeat dose of Gentamicin, and not only was I down for six weeks it again proved to be unsuccessful. Christmas came and went and I had clocked 240 hours that year in traumatic vertigo. I was battle-weary, to say the least, and on January 1, 2022, that evil hand would hold me in its clutches one last time.
New Year’s Day, I was walking into my kitchen and suddenly saw my husband, who was sitting in a chair, flying up to the left and the right in a V-motion. The furniture in the room was also flying in this configuration. I began screaming, hit the ground, and crawled towards our stairs. My family carried me to my bed and my sweet team moved into action with our familiar vertigo drill: meds, water, and a small trash can to purge the contents of my stomach into.
That night, a familiar nursery rhyme was loudly and repeatedly playing in my head: “Around and round the mulberry bush, the monkey chased the weasel, around and round the mulberry bush…” and when the word POP would come, my neck felt intense pain. As the angel had prophesied over me all those years before, I knew with all my heart, Jesus was still praying for me. I cried out His name over and over. I was not unafraid yet, I felt His presence so tangibly. I saw Him in my husband Bill as he knelt beside our bed, praying for me while gripping hold of my hand. He never let go. The enemy’s mocking was silenced when I finally passed out.
Are you going through a dark season and HOPING for some good news? Good grief! I am. The good news is Jesus never let go of my hand. When I cried, “Why, Jesus?”, He lifted my chin to behold the “Who” I was made for, by, and through. Yes, Satan, the defeated foe, was allowed to sift me like wheat, but I have returned and I will spend the rest of my days encouraging and strengthening others through me—you will know of His grace, mercy, love, and faithfulness.
I have a new song in my heart and I will not stop singing. “In Jesus Name” by Katy Nicole. It is sung in the third person. A woman praying for another child of God’s healing, for circumstances to change and for the fear inside them to flee in Jesus' name.
Just two weeks after that painful New Year’s Day, on January 18, I believe I was finally set free. With the skilled hands of my Spirit-filled doctor, Dr. Loren Bartels, I underwent a Labyrinthectomy. My nerves and hearing were cut and the enemy, I believe was cut off as well. I am now almost four months—a new record for me---free of vertigo. Praise Him! Genesis 50:20 says, “As for you, you meant evil against me but God made it for my good.”
This I write to you---what I learned with just a little bit of hindsight. As I lay in bed for six weeks after the labyrinthectomy, I had lost all strength, felt so weak, and as people that I loved cheered me on with the words, “You are a warrior”---I felt like a wimp. I related to the Psalmist who cried, “I lie awake; I am like a lonely sparrow.” Psalm 102:7
I knew that JOY came from the LORD yet I couldn’t muster up an ounce. I was so sick, fully dependent on others and I honestly didn’t think I could make it one more day. With God’s mercy and grace, I am here to testify, I got through it. I gained valuable wisdom that I would not have known without experience. I now know how to encourage a weary sparrow with a Word---one Word—THE Word: His name is Jesus.
Winter passed and I saw Spring come to life through my bedroom window. Through blurred vision, I watched the birds, heard their songs, and carefully observed God’s glory. My strength was sapped. I was lonely. One day, a close friend came over and she walked me outside to sit on my bedroom patio. I began to tell her how I saw myself in the sparrow. That I felt crushed. I had lost my song. I said it—out loud and suddenly, years of holding back “hard-cry” tears overwhelmed my entire soul.
Those tears were the beginning of my healing. Two things began to evolve that I want to share with you in hopes that you too will begin to rise and sing again.
A believer who is enduring long-suffering must know that the enemy’s greatest lie is to tell you to feel forsaken and to forget your faith. After all, IF God truly loved you, He wouldn’t have allowed this. Feelings must be acknowledged but we must realize they are NOT facts. The Word is fact.
Wait. Jesus said, “Wait” 89 times. He knew it would be the hardest thing for a busy, productive sparrow to do. As Isaiah 30:18 reads, "Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore He will rise up to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!" Psalm 27:14 - "Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord."
- Remember. Not one of all God’s promises have failed. Not one.
Our God is fond of sparrows but He LOVES His children. Ecclesiastes 12:1, “Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, “I have no pleasure in them.” Proverbs 10:7, “The memory of the righteous is a blessing, I remember the days of old; I meditate on all that you have done; I ponder the work of your hands.” And lastly, remember God gave us seasons to show us that seasons have an end. You, however, do not. If you have confessed with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead---you will be saved. You will never die but live. This world is simply your passage---not your portion. Heaven is home and when we get to heaven we will see, we will know that God answered every one of our prayers just the way we would have wanted him to---if we knew ALL He knows.
And after you have suffered for a little while, our God who is full of kindness through Christ, will give you his eternal glory. He will personally come pick you up, set you firmly in place, and make you stronger than ever. (1 Peter 2:21, 4:12,13, 5:10).
I pray that if you have been or are being crushed that you will begin to LOOK UP, RISE, and find your SONG again! You have eaten good seed and it WILL accomplish what it is God desires in and through you.
Jesus’s eye is on you---He sees you. He loves you. Start to sing little sparrow.
With all my love,