At Aspen Ridge Church we recently finished up a sermon series on the Old Testament book of Esther. The teaching series was appropriately called “Esther: Beauty & Courage.” Our preaching team is to be commended for the teaching they did on this book of the Bible that doesn’t even explicitly mention the name of God. In the series, I learned about the providence of God, things aren’t always what they seem, and that Esther was a foreshadow for the most beautiful and courageous person I know—Jesus!
Through the fantastic sermons and diversity of our teachers over the weeks, I experienced God in new ways. Thank you preaching team for the work you did bringing that book to life for us!
During the series on Esther I also experienced beauty and courage in a way I had never experienced it before and in a way you would probably never guess. My beautiful wife, going on 19 years of marriage, contracted COVID-19 and fell ill. Beauty and Courage are not words we usually use for a virus responsible for so much death, fear, and ugliness.
Early one week my wife Danielle had a fever, a horrific headache, and fatigue. I didn’t feel very courageous when I heard the news of her positive test a few days later. I was concerned for her health along with the health of the rest of my family including my 65-year-old Dad who was in town for a visit. That first day after the results came back, we isolated her in our master bedroom. We needed strength and calm, and for me, Philippians 4:4-8 are my go-to verses for such supernatural help. Studying those verses in a recent “Anxious for Nothing” small group brought them to mind during this concerning news.
Over dinner we read those verses together. First, we Celebrated God’s goodness (Philippians 4:4). We then Asked God for help, for her healing and the healing for all those suffering from the virus worldwide, and for nobody else in the family to get sick (Philippians 4:6). We Left our concerns with God, knowing that he is sovereign and trusting him to answer our prayers (Philippians 4:7). Finally, we Meditated on what is true, what is right, what is pure, what is lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8). I felt supernatural strength and peace after reading and working through God’s word for situations like this. Max Lucado’s C.A.L.M. acronym was just what the Good Doctor ordered. Please let me know if you are interested in joining an “Anxious for Nothing” small group where we learn how to reduce stress and replace it with God’s calm.
Feeling more courageous after praying, I knew it was time to get Danielle better. She was told to isolate for 10 days. I joked that she should enjoy her 10 days of room service during her medical isolation period! She laughed and I think felt a tiny bit better for a minute. Wholesome humor is a regular and restorative practice in our household, in sickness, and in health (Proverbs 17:22).
During her recovery from COVID-19, we experienced beauty from others. Friends, family, and school contacts (Danielle is a Wilmot school teacher) brought so much food and comfort items the first few days that we had to cancel a pick-up order from the grocery store with tears of gratitude in our eyes. Fellow believers regularly checked in with us on her progress and prayed faithfully for her recovery. One of Danielle’s co-workers gave her a gift of a Claude Monet water lily print piece of art. Monet is one of her favorite artists and the art brought beauty to Danielle as she immediately hung it up in the room where she would spend her isolation time. I bought a bouquet of roses and lilies to further add some charm to the room. They were partly to add beauty and partly diagnostic. I knew that once she could smell the wonderful aroma of the lilies, we could celebrate God’s goodness that her illness was all but done. Her sense of smell returned eventually, and we rejoiced in the beautiful fragrance of the Lord!
Over the course of her illness, we also experienced courage. After a few days of only being able to see Mom through our bedroom door, my youngest son Connor said “Dad, I don’t care if I get sick, I want to hug Mom!” With sad hearts and out of an abundance of caution, we didn’t allow it. Connor was courageous though and became my apprentice chef, helping me cook and craft healthy meals to get her well. He often asked if he could prepare her a drink or food so he could talk to her from the bedroom door as I delivered it. My son Andrew became the dog whisperer taking care of our dog with efficiency and the big smile he is known for on his face. My son Ethan became the expert “dish-washer-loader” and organizer of the house. My Dad was in town for a few days during this sickness and brought a great work ethic, humor, and calm to the household. Even our dog, Gracie, courageously bolted in the “doggie isolation door” to say “hi, hi, hi, mom” with her tail anytime we accidently left it open. I am so thankful for my courageous and hardworking family during this time.
Danielle was probably the most courageous during this time. She likely had moderate symptoms and took a solid ten days or more to recover from home. During that time, she fought hard to beat the illness while continuing to teach and encourage her Wilmot students over Zoom. After she had recovered, I asked her during a walk around the neighborhood “Did you feel fearful or anxious during it, especially when you first found out?” She replied “Not really. I was never afraid. I just knew I needed to pay attention to my body. I was more concerned that your Dad would catch it or bring it home to your Mom.” And for me, that statement, for our little situation, was the definition of courage. Trusting in God without fear while being concerned for others.
I want to thank all of you reading this; our family, friends, and neighbors for showing us beauty and courage while Danielle was sick. With a disease often marked by the very opposites of beauty and courage, we largely experienced something different even through the difficulties because of you. With the book of Esther and the recent sermons at Aspen Ridge Church as a reference, I truly know that this whole story we experienced was part of God’s providence. And, as the good God of the Bible likes to do, he used people like you to read it to us!
Love from us to you,
Director of Small Groups