In this huge Bible is room on each page for notes, and by Psalm 37 I have written so many that I'm running out. My favorite passage in that Psalm is this:
"Trust in the Lord and do good;dwell in the land and feed on His faithfulness.Delight yourself in the Lord,and He will give you the desires of your heart."
Next to this passage, starting in 1995, I wrote out my deepest heart's desire, which may or may not have something to do with a charming Southern boy I'd met in college. I'll never tell.
And then in 1998, when I was looking for a teaching job, I wrote another little inscription with the date, and a second date a few days later, when I landed my first "real" job. And a tradition was begun.
Now that frail page is covered with petitions and dates. With just a glance I can see what was on my heart almost each year of the last decade, and when I'm anxious about something large and looming, I go back and read the second set of dates, seeing tangible answers to prayers about jobs, children, major decisions. I've only written down the "big" requests, and now I have just two that need answered dates on them. One has been sitting there, in tiny writing, since early 2006: "A country home." When our house failed to sell that year, I didn't cross out the writing but kept on hoping and praying, and made it my mission to be content no matter where I was.
On May 5th, I'll be able to write the answered date next to that little inscription. And I think I'll start a new tradition of including a picture with the answer. Because when we first went to the home we loved back in early March, it was the first day it was on the market, and ours wasn't even ready to list. I just "knew" that it was our home, but I also "knew" there was no way it would be ours. So imagine my surprise when I stepped outside the mud room door to find a little brick-laid stopping place, and noticed that the bricks had my maiden name inscribed on each one. No, my maiden name isn't Acme. Or any other brick company I've ever heard of. In fact, when we looked at the house the third time, we brought a house builder friend of ours, and asked him if he'd ever heard of the name on the bricks, and he hadn't. So I snapped a little picture of the mossy bricks with my name on them, and took it as a sign that the country home would be ours.
Yesterday, with the contract finally signed, I took the roll of film to be developed. I can't wait to put the picture in my Bible next to all the petitions and answers. The next time I'm anxious about something big in my life, I'll open it up to Psalm 37 again and see the reminders that God does, indeed, care about me. He cares about my loves, my fears, my dreams. He knew all the time we waited for our country home that He had one being prepared for us (Ironically, the owner of the home bought it in late 2005 and spent all of 2006 renovating it. Good thing we didn't buy it then! It was built in 1978 and definitely wasn't a keeper before she spent all of her money updating it! Now we can just move in and enjoy it, without having to scrape off popcorn ceiling paint or live with harvest gold laminated kitchen countertops.)
I'd like to say that each time I have a big desire, I read the passage of Scripture, see all His answers, and rest in the knowledge that His will is bigger and better than my will, and that whatever happens will be just great. But my husband reads this blog, and so do my mom and Bridget, and they'd put up a billboard announcing that I'm a big liar. I've been anxious, worried, fretful, dismayed, discouraged. I've been grumpy and unmotivated and negative and disappointed. All in the space of one day! I've had to pull out Elisabeth Elliot's book over and over, reminding myself that God's not going to leave us homeless, and that if the house sale didn't work out, it was for our best. I've taken many baths, drowning my sorrows in a good novel, all the while crying as I packed away the things in this house, wondering if we'd made a terrible mistake. That's what happens when I dream. I dream big, then fret that it won't happen, and then when it does, I still fret over a new set of worries. Like rat snakes in the barn or how on earth can I take care of that many flower beds, and am I crazy to put the boys in one room? You know, the stuff life is made of.
Someday I'm going to learn that He really means it when He says "fret not," because He knew all along, when that house was built 30 years ago, that the little square of bricks with my last name would find me. And that we'd finally get to live in our "country home," where we could put down roots and raise our children. So I'll write down May 5, 2008 next to the request, made a few years ago, and include that picture of the bricks, and know that the next time I need to write down a request, I'll have one more record on my list of God's gracious gifts.