Raising an Ebenezer or Two or Three

Wednesday, November 20, 2019
"Samuel took a stone and set it up . . . and called its name Ebenezer; for he said, “Till now the Lord has helped us.”   (1 Samuel 7:12)
At this season of thankfulness, I want to take a few minutes here on the blog to 'raise an Ebenezer'.  If you're not familiar with the term, you're not alone.  Until my Pastor's sermon this past Sunday, I wasn't either.  The meaning of Ebenezer originates more than 1000 years before Christ.  It means stone of help. "To commemorate God’s mighty intervention on behalf of his people, Samuel wanted the people to remember, not just for a few days, but for years, for decades, for generations, how God had come to the rescue of his people when they humbled themselves before him. They were vulnerable, with their enemies approaching, and they did not deserve God’s rescue, having been chronically unfaithful.  And yet, God intervened to help."  (https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/here-i-raise-my-ebenezer)  Pastor Lee encouraged the congregation to take a stone from a bowl on the altar and use it as a reminder of times in our life when God was there to help.  He took the task a step further and encouraged everyone to write the story of such incidences and then share the story with someone....and raise an Ebenezer to forever memorialize those times God has helped.
I think most of us, whether we're regular church attendees, whether we believe but don't practice in an organized way, and even those who don't regularly think about God....all of us can honestly admit that God was present in our lives at some time of need.  We can probably all agree that He was there even when we didn't think to ask for His help, when we may not have deserved His help, when we have strayed from our commitment to Him.  Let's face it....life is full of challenges.  We are constantly faced with circumstances that put us to the test, challenge our resolve, test our faith.  There are times we are so caught up in them, that even when we are past them....we are too tired, too drained to notice that we didn't get through it on our own.  God was there...helping us even when we failed to notice.   I know I have a number of those times in my life, times when God was at work for me, times when I asked and times I didn't.  

All of us could probably write a book about such times, and certainly there were many prior to this first one I'll share, but this may be the first really big one for me.  It was in March 1981, John and I were in the happy season of our young married lives, living the joy of being first-time parents.  Our beautiful daughter, Katie, 10 months old, was happy and healthy.  She fulfilled my dream of having a daughter.  Suddenly our idyllic life took a turn, a turn that would forever change her life and ours.  Katie was diagnosed with Type I, insulin-dependent, diabetes.  Her blood sugar was over 800.  After a couple days in ICU (Katie was nearly in a coma in diabetes ketoacidosis), we spent two weeks at Ellis Hospital and a week at Joslin Clinic in Boston learning everything we could about managing diabetes. Thirty nine years ago, treating a baby was somewhat of a medical mystery for the average medical professionals. Our carefree ten month old was no longer carefree.  Our job as parents just expanded to include multiple finger pricks a day, two insulin injections, treating low blood sugars, fretting that she'd eat enough to use the insulin we'd just injected and so much more.  The only diabetics I knew till then were a friend of my dad's who was blind and had lost both of his legs.  John's grandma, now gone, had also lost her sight and legs....so you can imagine that this diagnosis was filled with fear, and did not paint a happy future.  Somehow though, John and I found the strength to face diabetes head on and embraced it with gratitude that the diagnosis was not cancer or meningitis (which my brother died of) and chose to deal with diabetes matter-of-factly, doing what needed to be done without self pity or 'why me's?'   God was there.

Years later God once again answered our prayers for Katie.  From almost the day of her initial diagnosis, among the litany of complications we feared, pregnancy topped our list.  I wondered if Katie would be able to get pregnant.  Would she have miscarriages like so many woman with diabetes did back then?  Would she be victim to delivering a stillborn as so many diabetic women did?  And if she were fortunate enough to get pregnant and carry a child, would that child be healthy and full term and would the impact of pregnancy cause harm and stress on her organs which were already at risk from diabetes?  While I knew motherhood was a dream of hers, a dream I hoped was feasible, the mom in me was scared what that dream would mean for Katie's overall health.  Well, God heard prayers, from us and so many who know Katie and He answered those prayers. Katie conceived quickly and delivered a healthy baby boy just a few weeks early with only short-term complications and no lasting damage to her body.  Now God was there for Katie.  He was also there for me because while I spent 30+ years fearing these 9 months, God intervened and miraculously calmed those fears and made it possible for me to find joy and excitement and share this blessing with my daughter, pretty much worry free.

Then there was what I call the Ides of March.  On March 1st, 2008 our son-in-law was badly injured in a rollerblading accident.  He and my daughter were practically newlyweds, married only 6 months and in their 20's.  Eric suffered a brain injury, a fractured skull and a ruptured ear drum from a freak fall at an indoor skate park.  He spent several days in ICU, doctors unsure about his recovery and his future, and then several days at Sunnyview Rehab relearning basic life skills.  To say it was a scary time for our daughter, and all the family, is an understatement.  Six days after Eric's accident while he was still in ICU, I got a call from my mom at 10:00 pm that my dad had died suddenly.  My dad had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's a few years earlier but was still quite alert and aware. He died of an apparent heart attack.  He'd had bypass surgery 13 years earlier after a heart attack.  This scare changed how he lived.  He not only quit smoking and drinking, he was religious in following a strict diet.  Now though, he had Alzheimer's, and when I got the call I was devastated.....but immediately felt blessed that God took him before the Alzheimer's had completely taken him from us.  He was spared the worst stages of a horrible disease and for that I was so grateful.  A couple weeks later our 11 year old Sheltie died of lung cancer.  They say when it rains it pours, and most would agree we were in the middle of a monsoon, but somehow we got through it...all of it.  Eric recovered and returned to his old self.  God was there lifting us and carrying us through, step by step, quietly but powerfully giving us strength, even through our darkest hour.
In December of 2011, I had just retired.  John was already retired and we were babysitting our then 2 1/2 yr old granddaughter.  I only worked part time so mid-December I decided to retire and babysit full time.  Not two weeks after my retirement, Laura announced she was offered a big promotion with her company, a promotion she'd worked very hard for, her dream job.  What an accomplishment.....but....that job would mean a move to Indiana.  Instantly my heart sank.  My daughter who never went on sleepovers, who called me everyday from college, my mini me, was moving to Indiana and taking our beloved granddaughter with her.  While this sounds normal and everyday to many of you, for me it was utter devastation and gut wrenching.  That first year was awful.  I didn't think I could go on.  I was sad beyond words, empty inside,  and so far deep in depression, I didn't know how life could go on.  We visited them and they came home a couple times that first year.  As the time passed, visits became more frequent but the goodbyes never got easier.  The goodbye when we had to leave them and our brand new, second granddaughter in Indiana just about killed me.  The 13 hour drive was a total teary blur, a sadness I didn't know was possible.  Laura and her family stayed in Indiana for three years. Eventually Laura decided it was time to come home but that meant she would need to find a job back home.  Again, God was there with His hand in the details.  Laura was offered a big job with the American Diabetes Association.  I don't know what you're thinking, but me.....I'm convinced that was absolute divine intervention.  Not only did He facilitate the perfect job considering her experience with a sister with diabetes, He kept me sane those three years and I believe was instrumental in helping me discover my passions in retirement -photography and blogging.  Those two things bring me so much joy and purpose; I know for sure I would not have discovered either had it not been for Laura moving away.  I'd survived and thrived what first felt like a devastating blow.  I know I wouldn't have fared so well without God's help.  To this day when I look at photos from those three years...photos taken in Indiana, photos from their visits home...I still get emotional and teary....5 yrs later.  That is how deeply I was affected.

There have been numerous, less monumental instances that God was there to help....some of those times I may have taken for granted, many that I understood and acknowledged.  I know He was there when I lost a job but found one more rewarding with better pay.  He was there when my life-long bestie beat cancer - three times.  He's been there guiding our travels, bringing people whose stories long to be told into my life.  He's there each and every day to listen to my prayers and concerns,  replacing the world-class worrier that I used to be with a calmer and more peaceful existence. .  And the list goes on.  By now, I'm pretty sure if I had raised an Ebenezer every time God was there for me....my pile would resemble this.

He does this and more....even when I'm not a dedicated, perfect church attendee, bible reader or notable Christian.  He is there for me and I believe He is there for you.  We fail Him consistently, yet His faithfulness to us is never ending.  Isn't it appropriate then for us to raise an Ebenezer to honor and recognize His help?  I encourage you to do as Pastor Lee challenged.  Think of some ways God was there for you.  Write a couple down and share them with someone.  At the very least the act of doing so will remind you that you have not traveled your journey alone...you will not travel it alone.  No matter what life dealt you, God has helped you..... thus far.  And He will help you again.  Isn't it time you raised an Ebenezer?  Maybe your Thanksgiving table would be a good place to share yours!


To hear Pastor Lee's full sermon, use this link: 
If you're looking for a church that will not only inspire you to raise your own Ebenezer but will be there to pray for you and support you during your difficult times...Shenendehowa United Methodist Church connects people to Christ and community. 



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