I was first introduced to the idea that God leaves us breadcrumbs by fellow wife and mother, Ashlee Gadd. Through time and space she and I found one another in a world we refer to as Instagram. Perhaps it’s fitting that I found one of the first breadcrumbs to lead me down this path I’m on now through her as well…
This particular breadcrumb lead me to a bible study that combs through the story of Job in great detail. I’d been actively searching for a way to engage with the bible everyday — that would prove relatable and meaningful — when this specific study seemed to plop directly in my lap. After a few days of reading about Job and mulling over the great despair that had fallen over his life, I realized I was ultimately struggling to relate. I began feeling like I wouldn’t be able to take anything away from the series. I was easily able to accept the underlying messages: trusting and leaning into God during times of great suffering, of not feeling burdened with the great question of “why” or trying to blame it on my own sin. I found my own beliefs perfectly summarized with a quote I found within the study as well:
“If our blessing isn’t about us, our suffering isn’t either.” (Whitney Capps, first5.org )
As the study pressed on, I tried to dig deep, to not miss the message in store for me here. I knew God had put this specific study in front of me for a reason — I could feel it in my bones. Perhaps he wants me to be educated for conversations with others? I thought to myself. I know a few people in my life that are experiencing true suffering and I certainly don’t want to be like Job’s friends and speak false truths or for them to find me discouraging during this extremely challenging time. But how can I truly relate when, if I’m being brutally honest with myself, I’ve yet to experience anything remotely close to suffering in my own life?
I am privileged, I am blessed and I give that all back to God.
Would I still do the same if I was on the other side of the equation?
Still wrestling with this notion and seeking to unearth what God truly had tucked away for me here, a very distinct, italicized thought ran across my mind:
“What if He’s preparing me for something that is coming?”
“But how would you convey that to someone who doesn’t feel as content to not know why?” I ask my husband. I’ve brought up the lingering questions I have surrounding this bible study of mine and we continue to come back to this same question.
We lob the conversation back and forth several times. Each attempting to press each other past what we already readily accepted. We continue with this banter for a while until we eventually find a discrete pause. The quiet lingers a bit before I feel my skin feel prickle with goosebumps. They begin at my arms, grow up my back to touch my neck and then cascade down over my legs. That unmistakeable thought again floods my mind. This time I choose to speak it out loud.
“What if He’s preparing me for something that is coming?”
“I’m going to just check out your thyroid now, the thyroid lives here in your throat…” She gently presses her fingertips against each side of my throat, slowly moving them around to assess (what I assume is) the shape and size of my thyroid. After a few moments, the endocrinologist specialist (I’m now apparently seeing) pulls her hands away and makes her way back to her swivel stool and computer.
She rests herself gracefully at the front of the stool and squares up with me. “The thyroid perhaps feels slightly enlarged, I’m not overly excited about it — it could just be my hands.”
Excited? Could just be her hands?
She swivels toward her computer and begins typing away at the keyboard. “I’d like to go ahead and schedule you for a thyroid ultrasound — it’s such a simple procedure that it wouldn’t make sense not to.”
Her voice, demeanor, everything seems so calm. She alarms me in no way. I don’t notice the feeling creep in until I’m walking back out to my car. The feeling that something might not be right. The feeling that says that the ultrasound won’t come back free and clear. It sounds so melodramatic to say, but somehow that day I already knew.
There’s a story in the bible about a man named Elijah. In this particular story Elijah has prophesied of a great drought. He finds himself alone and stranded in a place without water or food, but God tells him that he will drink from the brook and that he will be fed by bits of food (perhaps even literal breadcrumbs) that ravens will drop to him from the sky. Ravens people…
After awhile the brook dries up and God again gives him his next step. Another breadcrumb, if you will. He tells Elijah to go to a widow, Zarephath, that she will supply him with food and water.
I could go on from there — to share with you how God made it so that they didn’t run out of flour or oil, how eventually Elijah would come to save the life of the woman’s boy — but really I think I’ll stop right there because: I don’t know a single soul that would go off of those breadcrumbs. Not one. I know no one that would drink from a brook everyday for the foreseeable future for their only source of water. That would eat food dropped to them by ravens as they find themselves stranded in a drought ridden land.
The trust. The faith. And then, despite the seemingly impossible conditions: the next step.
There’s a proverb that is a perfect bookend to this story of Elijah, perhaps you’ve heard it before:
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)
Straight. Not easy. Not trust in me, lean into me entirely and I will make your paths easy. He is saying that if you give Him all your heart and trust in His understanding and not yours, He will give you the next step. He will lead you by hand down that path, so that if you are willing to follow to the next step, your path just might seem straight.
He will leave you breadcrumbs, however full of majesty and mystery.
“I’m going to tuck a washcloth under your collar here so the gel doesn’t get all over your shirt.” the sonographer says thoughtfully. The room is dim with light, if I was more relaxed I would likely fall asleep. She smiles at me as I lay slightly reclined in a chair, gives me a few instructions to follow during the ultrasound and sets to work.
For a while I simply just stare at the ceiling, refraining from talking as she has instructed. After a little bit, she asks me if I am okay, to which I reply yes. I mean, I am, in the immediate sense — but my mind is also swimming with questions and what-ifs.
Keeping my head fixed straight at the ceiling, I strain my eyes to glance up at the screen, just barely in view at the top right of my head. I know better than to do this of course, but she has broken the silence and peeked my curiosity. And that’s when I see it, a distinct dark mass amidst all the fuzzy grey swirls.
I snap my eyes back to the ceiling, feeling somewhat bewildered at what I think I have seen. I remind myself that I am not an sonographer, nor a radiologist, nor medical anything. I’m not even remotely close to qualified to quantify what I think I may have just seen. I resolve to not let my imagination get carried away with itself.
She finishes up the ultrasound and, once we’ve both done our best to rid my neck of any remaining gel, I sit up. She flicks the lights on so it resembles more of an examination room.
“Well, congratulations on your first thyroid ultrasound.” She chirps.
I offer her a small smile and choose to say nothing as we part ways. Hopefully the first and last thyroid ultrasound, I think to myself.
It won’t be.
Days go by and I still haven’t heard back regarding the ultrasounds results.
I feel mostly impatient and pray to simply learn the next step. I want the whole story really, but I would be content (here in this moment) just to have my next step.
Later that day, just before 5pm, I receive a phone call from the doctor’s office. I am sitting outside on our back patio watching the boys play with their trucks in a pile of sticks and dirt:
“The results show a mild multinodular goiter with no dominant nodule. There are no concerns as this time, but your doctor would like to follow up with you in 6 months with another ultrasound.”
I was right. I was right?
“Mommy…” I hear Thurser’s little raspy voice as he approaches me.
Strangely enough I’m in more shock over the fact that the gut feeling I had wasn’t mere sensationalization. “Mooommy…” I hear him again .
I had still hoped for different news, but somehow I felt prepared for what I did hear. “Mommy!”
“Sorry bud. Mommy was some place else for bit there wasn’t she?”
Of course I had questions — so many questions. I would need to wait days more to get those questions answered. And then, between statements of “we’ll monitor the growth of..” and “only then would we want to do a biopsy” and “no, there is nothing you can do in the interim.” I found my next step — perhaps always the hardest one:
To wait for the next one.
I currently find myself in a strange state; I received neither good news, nor bad news that day. I was given no real reason to worry, but also no reason to assuredly put my mind at ease. It seems premature, even unwarranted, to feel any amount of grief or sadness about this ‘nothing’ news — and yet I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel each of those things at some point over the past few weeks.
But if I’m quiet, and if I am careful, I can clearly see the next step.
In my experience ‘the next step’ is never painted grandly in giant letters across the sky. Never punctuated bullets in a timely email. The ‘next step’ is almost always a tiny tug in your gut. Almost always gentle whispers that persist to fill your mind.
Breadcrumbs. However full of majesty and mystery.