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Where do I begin? It’s Holy Week. I decided I would hold off on writing because I wanted to soak it in, not spill out. Well, this is probably one of the longest posts I’ve written in a while, in spite of my best laid plan.

I want to drink in these holy days ahead, fill my thirsty soul as if to receive what all took place over two thousand years ago for the first time.

I’d been thinking about Jesus and that donkey he chose to ride into Jerusalem on, which led me to think how there are really only two chapters to my life. Some say there might be three, others say four, I say two. Keep it simple, right?

There’s the first chapter where I chose my way that slowly, and rather devastatingly, unraveled. And now there’s the second—the rethreading of that tangled mess into something beautiful—that began after I chose to follow that guy, well, the Man, I mean, who chose to ride a donkey instead of a stallion.

For me, it’s clear. The first chapter did not have a lot of God in it. I always knew he was there, I felt his presence, but held on to the center stage role in the performance I was a part of. After performing that role, not very well, or really well, depending on your perspective, and watching scene after scene fall apart around me, I was released. The audience stopped coming.

It’s not that I was forced out so much as the realization came that I was in the wrong role and surrendered myself out of that performance, more or less.

That’s when the second chapter began. I let God take center stage. I realized it wasn’t about me, but rather the Man on the donkey. His is the amazing Story. And it’s pretty incredible that I still have a small part to play—after being “fired” and all.

These thoughts were interrupted yesterday by a call from my niece. You might know about Taylor, I’ve written about her this past year and the Wilson’s disease she is battling. We hadn’t talked in a while, but she is always on my mind and we always pick up right where we left off.

Who am I to receive this joy?, I thought as I heard the excitement in her voice. It’s a privilege to receive another person’s joy or tears or both, isn’t it? The conversation that followed was filled with both. But they always are with Taylor.

This week, more than ever, I want more of Jesus and less of me. So as I said, I decided to hold off on writing. Then Taylor called and the words I’d been trying to hold back, began spilling out as we spoke. “I hear you writing, Auntie Debbie,” she said a few times.

If you don’t know about Wilson’s, Taylor’s body can’t dispel copper. Just imagine the toxic effects of anyone with too much metal in their system, like lead, and you understand. It’s deadly.

We need a little copper, 60 to 100 micrograms to be specific. Taylor’s level was in the 2000s when she was finally diagnosed after years of thinking and doctors telling her that her symptoms were all in her head. Oh, how she has suffered.

The medication she has to take exasperates the symptoms, like tremors and depression, speech and brain functioning, so she had to leave the job she loved. She wanted so to have a huge impact on those kids she taught in her city.

At the time she had to leave it, she was impacting around a thousand students a year. They had special needs and were at risk of dropping out before they were even given a chance. She worked on the army base in Tucson at a government funded school that didn’t turn any child away.

This past year she has been isolated from the work she loved, unable to walk easily or hold her head still, use her hands and arms efficiently, speak clearly or drive, shop or take her son to school, or…

So what did she do? She drew near to Jesus. And the story that is unfolding is amazing.

She researched and qualified for a study, and now travels back and forth to Yale School of Medicine with her mom and dad and son to receive care from the greatest specialists in the field. She is a part of world research because the disease is rare and there are so many unanswered questions.

As Taylor has a way of doing wherever she is, Yale Medical staff has become a second family to them. I’ve said it before, she lights up any room. They love her and call her by name. “Taylor is here!” they say. She brings them great joy and news of her indomitable spirit and faith.

Prior to the last visit, she received the results of her blood work and copper levels. It took her two weeks to absorb the news so she didn’t tell anyone about it.

Maybe you can understand, after years of hopeless results, the seemingly unanswered prayers, the loss of the life she once loved, the friends who withdrew, the people who became angry because their prayers weren’t answered, the longing for her old life back, the having to withdraw from work and friends and even church, and then, to see the results that suggested she was getting better? She couldn’t believe it.

Her copper level was missing a zero, she thought. Could it really have dropped from 2000 to 650? When she finally realized, or accepted the news that it indeed had, she wept!

The doctors at Yale said they had never seen anyone improve as quickly as Taylor. It was a miracle. Taylor said, “I love you guys, you are awesome, but I have to give the credit to my Jesus, and all the prayers!“

Taylor said the prayers from people were so intense, at times, she literally felt a weight in her chest. “Have you ever felt that, Auntie Debbie?”

I had to stop and think. Have you ever felt a burden in your chest because of all the prayers being prayed for you?

“No, Taylor, I don’t think I’ve ever experienced that.” I thought of Jesus again, who says, ‘Come, all you who are weary and heavy laden…my yoke is easy, my burden is light…’ Could it be that sometimes God allows us to share the holy weight of others’ love and prayers?

Our conversation shifted then, away from the suffering of the disease to the joy of drawing near to Jesus.

Taylor had longed to have her beauty restored and God has given her a double dose. She is even more beautiful on the outside, but more importantly, the beauty inside her is something only God can manufacture in a person.

Her love for her students and doctors and church family in Tucson has burst beyond the boundary lines of her city, into the country, into the world as only God can do.

“Do you know why Jesus rode a donkey that day?” she asked at the end of our conversation, surprising me.

“Taylor!” I said. “I was just thinking about Jesus and that donkey when you called!”

“Well, if he had chosen a stallion to ride instead, he would have been above the people. The donkey allowed him to meet them at eye level so they could see him, his love for them, and he could see them, their joy and excitement!”

“I’d never thought about it that way before…”

“Well, I can’t take the credit, I go to this little church I have grown to love on Saturday nights. The preacher there talked about it.” She goes to a different church on Sunday mornings. “He said how the people praised and celebrated him, they rejoiced at their King as he entered.”

She continued on. “People think the Cross was high up on a hill. But the vertical beam was only 6 – 8 feet tall, he said, and then it had to be dug into the ground. Jesus was eye level on the Cross, too, so that people could see him and he could see them. Can you believe, just five days later, after all their cheering and excitement, those same people mocked and beat and crucified him? He wasn’t the King they expected though. Can you believe that change in temperment in just five days?”

Again, I had to think about what Taylor was saying. We are a fickle human race, aren’t we? I suddenly felt empathy for the crowd I had always hated for killing Jesus. They were people, disappointed, they thought they’d been tricked and they were angry.

I thought of the people who had been praying for Taylor and how some became angry when they felt God wasn’t answering their prayers. How some withdrew then, and the pain she felt because of that, and the pain they must have felt. Suddenly, I felt empathy for all of us.

From moment to moment, how quickly we choose the wrong chapter to be living in. We choose our emotions over trusting God. “Why do you allow this, Lord?” we cry out thinking our way is better. In a moment we stop trusting and become part of the angry, mocking crowd that crucified Jesus.

We might think of Judas and say, he betrayed Jesus, what a scumbag, or of Peter who denied him and say, we would never do that. We might think of the masses hurling insults at the Cross as Jesus hung in the shame of torture and nakedness and say, I would not have.

Well, are we sure about that?

Our hurt and disappointments are channels for fear and doubt, hatred and anger. When the life of a loved one is suddenly stolen from us, or a disease unexpectedly takes hold, do we betray God? When we choose despair, aren’t we mocking? Aren’t we thinking in those moments that our way is better?

Aren’t we?

Our minds and hearts love something one day, then turn to hate the next. Power and pride, the need for acknowledgement and possessions step in and steal the spotlight. People expected the stallion. They were expecting a king and their expectations weren’t met. They felt lied to and tricked, and they took it out on Jesus. Do we? Their hope was crunched. Is ours?

God is higher than us, his ways are not our ways, his thoughts are not our thoughts, he is high and lifted up, but he came to earth to meet us at eye level, allowing his Son to be forsaken so that we could be lifted up. That stops me cold.

Still, I may see him as King one moment and in the next be disappointed, doubting and not trusting him. We mock, we hate. And we need a Savior. Oh right, we have one!

I suppose it’s no surprise my conversation with Taylor ended with talking about Job. Job’s battle is the battle of all of us. The battle to trust in the Lord, always. If God allowed Job to be tested and tried, why wouldn’t we be?

Because that’s where things change. We’re refined, we change. God was saying to Job, I trust you, Job. God has been saying to Taylor, I trust you to choose me over despair, Taylor. And when she recognized that, suddenly, her situation was turned upside down.

“If Jesus trusted me to endure and withstand this disease, that’s the biggest blessing I’ve ever received,” Taylor said. “And honor!” We were coming to the end of our two hour and twenty minute conversation.

As I recall my center stage days that took me away from my home and family and church, I think of myself as the black sheep. Since then, I’ve returned and know I am deeply loved, but shame creeps in. It loves to cling, I admit it.

I face it when I walk into church and cringe at my first chapter and all that I squandered. Usually, the feelings return when I’m getting close to completing something I feel God has called me into, like the one-to-one care training, or writing the book about the founders of said church.

It comes then as I near completion. The vulnerability, the doubts and fear. Self-hatred returns in a flash and I want to run. But I’ve learned to stay, to move through the pain and shame. I’ve learned to wait for it to pass because I know Jesus is eye level with me.

He never leaves us, he does not forsake us, even though he was and is.

To that, Taylor said, “Jesus trusts us all the more because of the suffering and struggles we push through. He holds those who endure and still trust high and lifts them up.”

There’s so much more that was astounding in the words we shared in that conversation, in the new insights we received as blessings from God to each other and, hopefully, by writing this, to you too. But for today, this Maundy Thursday of Holy Week, I’ll end with a question. Which way will I/we choose today?

What will this Holy Week mean to us? Will we choose despair and mock our KIng? Or will we repent our pride of thinking we know better than God? Will we still take center stage or will we give him his rightful place in our hearts?


Photos: from Taylor’s collection

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