When We Get to Philadelphia

“Is something bad going to happen to me when we get to Philadelphia?” she almost whispered the question. It’s like if she said it too loud the horror of it all might really come true.

“No, honey, no. Not this time,” I assured her. How could such a small girl carry the weight of so much? I wondered what else she feared behind those old soul eyes.

She pressed again, “But when we land are you taking me to the hospital? In Philadelphia you always take me to the hospital. I don’t want any pokes this time, Momma. I don’t want my eyes and tummy to be fat and sick again this time. ”

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I don’t think either of us believed that we really weren’t going there this time to be sick, to get pokes, to be cut open, to live in the ICU and beg for life for another day until we landed in Philadelphia and headed to our hotel in the opposite direction from CHOP.

The first morning there the four of us followed suit with our Saturday breakfast tradition. Except with no Chick-fil-a in sight, we chose a restaurant across the street from our hotel parking lot.  Mine and Matt’s coffee mugs brimmed with warm brew. The girls’ plates dusted sugary sweetness atop warm French toast. We laughed. We talked. We hoped. We dreamed.

We finally believed that on this trip to Philadelphia we didn’t have to be afraid. Audrey confirmed our family’s general ease when she, usually quite feisty and resistant to change, suggested, “I have a good idea! Can this restaurant be our new Saturday tradition when we move?”

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But as our house hunting adventure exhausted us and we actually went about picking out a new life in a faraway place, Annie’s question loomed.

A place with blizzards in the middle of March isn’t exactly top ranked in my desirable locales. Pennsylvania isn’t really on my list of can’t wait to live there. Giving up living our best life to start over in an unfamiliar place isn’t really how I would’ve planned it.

I kept silently asking God, “Is something bad going to happen to us when we get to Philadelphia?”

I asked God to confirm His plans for us. To confirm His goodness to us. To confirm His voice of direction that I’ve clearly heard from Him too many times to keep denying (and too many times to keep asking for reconfirmation but Hey Philly isn’t an easy yes in my book!).

I love when God answers. And I love when He doesn’t wait to answer. And when He doesn’t halfway answer.  The first house we looked at on our tour had a shocking God message hanging on the basement office wall.

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The chances of that house being for sale during our single weekend of house hunting in that city on that day in the order that we saw it with Annie’s exact insanely rare congenital heart defect plastered across it are completely impossible. But not to God. Not to the one who is orchestrating His perfect plan for our best life whether we feel like it or not.

As we narrowed our home tour list to a single perfect option for us, still I continued to ask, “Is something bad going to happen to us when we get to Philadelphia?” Essentially I was demanding to know: Are you really going to drag us here and leave us all alone???

I love when God answers. And I love when He doesn’t wait to answer. And when He doesn’t halfway answer.

The next morning I wrestled awake much before my weary family. I couldn’t rest. I needed to demand some reconfirmation that we were really going to do this. That God was really going to pull all this off.

In the dark hotel room with a half-hearted snorer snuggled into my back, I opened my devotion for Monday’s reading.

“Abram had no idea what God had in store for him. His mind couldn’t imagine what God was going to do. Yet he packed up his camels, his turbans, and what have you, loaded up the family and headed toward a strange land. What made him do it? His faith. His faith that God wasn’t going to do him wrong. His faith that God wasn’t going to lead him to a place with no provision for him and his family. His faith in God’s promises.”

Read through sobbing eyes:

“Tracy had no idea what God had in store for her. Her mind couldn’t imagine what God was going to do. Yet she packed up her kitchen, her closet, and what have you, loaded up the family and headed toward a strange land. What made her do it? Her faith. Her faith that God wasn’t going to do her wrong. Her faith that God wasn’t going to lead her to a place with no provision for her and her family. Her faith in God’s promises.”

I think what I’m seeing is that the steps toward God’s will are the hardest because they require me to leave the familiar, to give up the hope that I can pull this whole thing off because it’s so obvious that the task is so enormous that I most certainly can’t.

And let’s remember the honest reality: We’re moving 10 miles away from CHOP because our child is SICK! So again I demanded, “Is something bad going to happen to us when we get to Philadelphia?” Isn’t that the whole point? To be down the road from the hospital when Annie needs emergent care? When Annie isn’t stable anymore? When Annie’s eye and tummy get fat and sick again?

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So the most logical answer to whether or not something bad will happen when we get to Philadelphia is a resounding YES!

While that might be a viable answer, it isn’t the biblical truth. By faith I can follow a God who keeps His promises. By faith I can trust a God who’s good. By faith I can move my family into a new city, a new home, a new community,  a new climate, a new school, a new church, a new reality and trust that what God has for us there is provision.

I don’t know if it means that Annie won’t get sick; in fact, science says she will. Science says she is. I don’t know if it means we’ll make new best friends and get along with everyone we meet. Accents and sub-cultural norms suggest that it’ll be hard to find our fit. I don’t know if it means we’ll have health and wealth and abundant happiness.  In fact, the process of relocation has put a steady leak in our bank account.

But I know that it means I can hope. I can be expectant for God’s continued provision for our family. For His continued glory and story of redemption to be written in the face of my newly flexible 5-year-old bubbling about her upstairs bedroom. To be beaming in the face of my incompatible with life little girl  who celebrates turning 4 with a Barbie party next week.  To be marked in the wrinkled foreheads and dark circled eyes of parents who stayed up way too late praying to hear the clear direction from a good God just one more time.

I’m not sure where life is headed but I know God has a plan. I know that I’m brave enough to follow it.

So we’ll make this sweet house our home in the end of May. And take excited steps toward a God who continues to write this story, and that makes it good.

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