Sight Unseen

Today is bittersweet. The new book, Chicken Soup for the Soul: Grandparents, is released. It’s my first time contributing to a Chicken Soup book, but I hope it’s not the last. The bittersweet part: I wrote about meeting my grandmother (my birth mother’s mother), but she passed away last week. I don’t have the life-long memories shared by the rest of her family. But we did share some special moments.

I visited her twice last year, in January and May. I’ll never forget that first meeting. She took my hands in hers and stared at me, saying “It’s my Jeannie” (her daughter, my birth mother). It was amazing to spend time with her and hear stories of my mother and the rest of her family. My grandmother’s own story was quite astounding. She was one of fourteen children, had my mother at age fourteen, worked at the Navy yard on the USS Missouri (Mighty Mo) while her husband served overseas, and opened a restaurant that bore her name. Her favorite thing on the menu also bore her name, the Janet Burger.

You never know what will happen, what emotions will surface, when members of a birth family meet the adoptee. I was nervous about this meeting. But she was so warm and welcoming, as have been all the family members. It seems that at 92 years old, she was trying to make a good impression on me. I understood she was quite a character. I heard stories of her cursing and causing an uproar in public places when things didn’t go her way. But the woman I met was kind and patient, without a single curse for anyone. Her family suggested I hang around her more often.

Although it would have been great to spend more time together, I am so thankful for the time we had. I never thought I would meet any members of my birth families. But I have been blessed to meet so many. All of them have been open to knowing me. Perhaps my family warned them that I often say the wrong thing at the wrong time. I’ve been told my super power is making people mad (not exactly those words, but I had to write appropriately for a public blog). Maybe I have a little of my grandmother in me. Together we were on our best behavior.

All my life, if there was one feature about me I could change, it would be my neck. It’s thick with no chin. Certain ways I turn my head, my face disappears into it. I even looked into plastic surgery several years ago. But last year I found out where that neck came from. Looking at me, it’s easy to see my mother. And my grandmother was so thrilled when she finally laid eyes on me. She said it was like having a little bit of her Jeannie again, who passed away eighteen years ago.

Although my grandmother is gone, she has left me with aunts and uncles and cousins and a brother and so many more relatives. It’s so cool to have a brother! I look forward to getting to know them better and hearing more stories of this grandmother who loved me sight unseen.

How to Spoil a Grandchild

It comes naturally. Precious little ones look at their grandparents with those doe eyes and anything they want is theirs! We joke that, as grandparents, it is our right to spoil our grandchildren. Our children should just expect it. After all, they were spoiled by our parents. It’s our turn. But instead of spoiling them with candy and toys, I suggest we spoil them with time.

My kids had grandparents who did the same thing. Sure, they had candy on hand, but they also had special things to do, games that were only played there, but mostly, they were spending time together. I knew that whenever we asked the grandparents if they could have the kids for the day or overnight, they immediately made sure all of the kids’ favorite things were in the house and their favorite games ready. My kids have vivid memories of camping trips, wiffleball, and endless games of Hang on Harvey.

The specialness of the time spent with their grandparents was never as obvious as to me as the day my three-year-old took off for Grandmom’s house—on his own. I didn’t have time to read to him, so his three-year-old brilliant brain knew who did have time: Grandmom. He packed his books in a backpack and left. I was busy making a special dinner for overseas guests and didn’t notice that he was missing until I got a call from the Wells Fargo a few blocks away. The gentleman said, “Do you have a son named Nate?” My first thought was that Nate won a $100 CD or something. But no. After I confirmed I did have a son named Nate, the man said, “Well, he’s down here in front of our building trying to cross Broad Street.”

“What! Keep him there. I’ll be right over.” I arrived outside Wells Fargo just after the police. Nate had invoked his right to remain silent. I explained to the officer that I thought he was with his older brothers. They each thought their baby brother was with the other one. We were let go with a warning to pay more attention to his whereabouts. Whew! That day I looked forward to the time of life that I could drop whatever I was doing to read to my grandchildren. That day is here!

It is my great joy to spend time with my grandchildren. Yes, they know when they come to our house there will be candy and chocolate milk. But they also know that they will read books, bake with Mom-mom, and tackle Pop-pop. It’s a great season of life—when we can spoil our grandchildren with the gift of time.

“For everything there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven” Ecclesiastes 3:1 (ESV)

Sisterchicks in San Diego

It’s always a blast when the Sisterchicks get together. But the frivolity is unsurpassed on our epic trips. Our latest adventure took us to San Diego, California. We boarded our flight in cold, dreary Philadelphia with the promise of flowers, flipflops, and fun.

This trip did not disappoint. Once we were settled into our bay side home-away-from-home, we strategically planned the events for the week. We had a lot of options and ideas: a harbor cruise, La Jolla, Coronado, the desert, Old Town, the zoo, and of course, lots of great food. The trick was plugging them into the days and times that would work best.

We decided to start off with a trip to the desert. San Diego had experienced an unusually wet fall and winter, resulting in the best wildflower viewing in nineteen years. After packing provisions consisting of water, apples, peanut butter, and celery (in case we got lost in the desert), we set our GPS for the Anzo-Borrego Desert Park.

We first saw the mountains we would cross just north of San Diego. Did they have snow on them? Maybe it was just rocks. The foothills were littered with boulders, which we decided could use some boulder holders to keep them in place. But that was only a half hour into our two-hour trek. We were definitely going over the big mountains in the distance. And they were definitely covered with snow. This really was going to be an adventure.

We turned onto a road that ran along the bottom of the mountains and something crossed our path. What was that? A small deer? No, it was a mountain lion! A real, live, not-in-a-zoo mountain lion! As we screamed, “It’s a mountain lion!” it stopped on the embankment and turned and looked at us. I imagine it had never seen Sisterchicks before and was not familiar with the different calls they make. Unfortunately, we were so excited and busy screaming, no one got a picture of the elusive cat. It took off up the mountainside.

On we went, a spectacular, but harrowing, ride up and over the snow-covered mountains, especially for one chick who is afraid of heights. It wasn’t much more than 4,000 feet to the top. And then 4,000 feet down. Sweaty palms and irregular heartbeats aside, it was no problem. Our bravery was rewarded with a desert covered with wildflowers. And we regaled the park volunteers with tales of our mountain lion encounter.

But we didn’t stop there. We wanted to see “the slot,” a section of desert that has narrow passages for about a mile. It’s always a different hike because they have three to four earthquakes a day there, which causes shifts in the rocks, ledges, and openings of “the slot.” Let me say, they always have earthquakes there. It was nothing the Sisterchicks did. We started our hike and knew immediately that we must be crazy. I am claustrophobic. Another chick is not fond of tight spaces. The other two were downright reckless. But Sisterchicks can do anything, as long as we work together. “Working” together usually means making each other laugh. The slot was no exception. I wished they had carved a bathroom into the rocks. Just saying, middle-aged women laughing while hiking; bad things could happen. We made it through our first day, without even needing our provisions, and were rewarded with a beautiful sunset at 4,000 feet.

I am so thankful for these ladies who help me get through life’s ups, downs, and tight spaces with laughter and renewed confidence. They are priceless and precious. And I can’t wait for our next adventure!

“As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.” Proverbs 27:17 (NKJV)

Selfless Love and the Sea Dragon Drop

Yesterday’s trip to Sea World in San Diego gave me a warm feeling. It wasn’t the sun, which was out and was warm. It wasn’t the impressive animal shows, although they were impressive. It wasn’t watching my granddaughters delight in their experiences, which were thoroughly heartwarming. It was the joy on the faces of two little boys and their parents.

I was sitting on a bench in one of the kiddie-ride sections, waiting for my granddaughters, as they moved from the Sea Dragon Drop to the Aqua Scout. As they exited the Sea Dragon Drop, I noticed two wheelchairs at the exit door, each holding a young boy. A man (I assume their father) spoke to the attendant. After a short discussion, the parents of the boys started undoing all the restraints and safety features of the wheelchairs. They lifted the boys, probably around eight years old, out of the chairs and stood by the exit.

After the last group of Sea Dragon riders exited, the parents carried the two boys onto the ride. They buckled them in and then took their seats next to each boy. I have been on that ride with my granddaughter. I know those “adult” seats are not much bigger than the “kid” seats. These two parents squished themselves into those seats so their children could have fun, like every other kid at Sea World. The ride started. It shot up to the top and then began the incremental free-fall drops. With each drop the boys giggled. Their faces lit up in pure joy. Their smiles covered all the space between their ears, and they squealed with delight. The parents smiled too, although I’m sure they were thinking sixty seconds was longer than they anticipated, being scrunched into those seats.

The ride came to a stop. Mom and Dad unwedged themselves from the seats. Each lifted a boy out of their seat and carried them back to their wheelchairs. Their smiles were still stretched across their faces. For sixty seconds or less, they were free. No wheelchairs. No significant restraints. Just that feeling of free falling that causes your belly to catch in your throat. Their smiles didn’t fade, even as their parents replaced all the wraps and braces that kept them safe and secure. Then they were off to the next ride to repeat the same process over again.

I wondered about those parents. Were they as excited when they woke up yesterday as their children? Did they think about how much effort it would take to get those boys in and out of their wheelchairs for each ride they wanted to try? Did they consider how tired they would be at the end of the day, pushing wheelchairs for miles and lifting the boys over and over again? Or did they wake up only anticipating the joy their children would experience in a day at Sea World?

Those parents inspired me. Their selfless love for those boys warmed my heart. A few tears may have escaped my eyes. Or it could have just been a reaction to all the flower pollen that my Pennsylvania eyes aren’t used to in February. Whichever it was, it brought me back to Jesus, as acts of selfless love often do. The Bible tells us that “looking to Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father.” Hebrews 12:2 ESV

Jesus endured the shame and agony on the cross that should have been ours. The joy that was set before him was our salvation. He did it all for us…for me. His pain brought about our peace with God. Now he sits on his throne, waiting to welcome us to the place he has prepared just for us. What selfless love!

Snow Day!

A snow day! I loved snow days when I was a kid. Mostly because I didn’t like school but also because I loved change. The routine of school, every day the same, was boring and drudgery to me. I liked anything that changed the routine, from field trips to film strips to snow days.

When I was a kid, we’d watch the news the night before the storm, hoping the meteorologist was right (or wrong, depending on his forecast). We’d awake in the morning and run to the window to check the snow amounts. Then came the moment of truth: listening to the radio for the magic words, “North Penn School District, closed.” The wait was excruciating. It went in alphabetical order. At least we weren’t in the Wissahickon School District. When the magic words were heard, there was a moment of glee, followed immediately by a return to a nice, warm bed.

After an extra hour or two of sleep, it was time to take advantage of the reason for the snow day, SNOW! We lived only a few blocks from the local park, which just happened to have the best sledding hills in town. Bundling up in long johns, extra socks, sweaters, snow pants, coats, hats, scarves, and gloves, it was a wonder we could walk the few blocks to the park, dragging our wooden Yankee Flyer sleds.

Arriving at the park, we found our friends, and the snow day shenanigans commenced. Our park had everything from gentle hills for the younger or less adventurous kids to some seriously steep hills for the older, crazier kids. And one notorious run dubbed “The Nutcracker” that had a jump between two trees. Only the craziest kids attempted that one. Sledding was the main event, but you could also expect to build a snowman and participate, however unwillingly, in a large-scale snowball fight. After several hours of playing in the snow, we would make our way back home, hang our wet clothes on the line in the basement and lay the gloves, hats, and scarves to sizzle on the dining room radiator. Finally, we would sit down in front of the TV with steaming cups of cocoa. That was a good snow day.

As an adult, I still look forward to snow days. When my kids were young, snow days weren’t much different than the days of my youth. But now that my children are grown, snow days are very different. I woke up this morning to a snow day. My morning meeting was canceled because the local school district was closed. Nevermind the fact that there was no snow on the ground and only a few inches expected in the late morning, changing to rain before school would end. This would never have qualified as a snow day when I was a kid. But, whatever, it’s still a snow day.

Nowadays a snow day does not include sledding or snowball fights. For me, a snow day means no makeup, hair gets to do whatever it wants, sweat pants, and work (tapping away on a computer is not affected by snow—real or imagined). There is still something about not needing to go anywhere and changing the routine that appeals to me. I started my day with a hot, Epsom salt bath, while finishing up an online class. Good thing I can see them, but they can’t see me. I’ll get a lot of writing done today, which will make me happy. And my day will probably end with a cup of steaming hot cocoa—some things don’t change. It’s gonna be a good snow day, albeit, minus the snow.

Foam Glow, Bubbles, and Color Bombs??

What in the world is a Foam Glow 5K? Whatever it is, it shared space in my inbox today with a Blacklight Run, Bubble Run, and Terrain Race. Clearly, they are all 5K races with some crazy twist that the organizers hope will get me to sign up. I mean who doesn’t want to run through massive amounts of bubbles? Maybe they should combine the foam glow and blacklight runs. That could be cool. Real runners might think this kind of gimmicky running is stupid. But people like me need a reason to run—something other than being chased by an ax murderer.

I’ve never done a 5K that was a straight road race, running for the sake of running. I need the gimmick, something to make it fun. I won’t run if there’s no fun involved, and I question the mental health of those who do. So, I’ve done color runs and mud runs, had fun, and even brought home medals. The best part was doing them with friends. You hardly realize you’re running when you’re giggling with friends and helping each other conquer obstacles. If you go it alone, who will tell you there is a clean spot on your back that is begging for a purple color bomb? We didn’t care about technique or bettering our times. We were just there to have fun and complete a 5K covered in color or mud. In fact, we felt more accomplished by the amount of color or mud than our finish times.

I can’t run anymore. Part of me is sad about that and part is relieved. I never really liked running. I liked the accomplishment I felt as I met or exceeded personal goals. I liked the feeling of pushing my body beyond what I thought it could do. The actual training-type running (you know, out of bed early, just me, my iPod, and step counter), though, was not “fun.” It was hard work. Dodging color bombs with friends made it fun. Making an arduous task fun is worth the effort (and the entrance fee) every time.

The Bible often uses running as a picture of the Christian life. We are to run to God (Proverbs 18:10), run to win (1 Corinthians 9:24), run and not grow weary (Isaiah 40:31), and run unencumbered by sin (Hebrews 12:1). Paul says that because of Christ we do not run in vain. If Jesus Christ did not live and die and live again and save us, then our running would be in vain. Trudging through life’s mud and obstacles would serve no purpose, with nothing to exalt in at the finish line. But because Jesus does live, and we do have new life in him, we run this race as the best race of all—color, bubbles, crazy terrain, obstacles—all of that plus the help and fellowship of friends running with us. This life is the greatest race we could run, but the finish will be even better. Jesus will be there personally to put the medal around your neck and say, “Well done.”

Christmas Surprises

Kids, food, lights, music, gifts, glitter, princesses, toys, snow, decorations, surprises, more food. This Christmas had it all. One of the things I love about Christmas is the surprises revealed every time a gift is unwrapped. I love surprising others, and I love being surprised. This Christmas is without rival in the area of surprises.

While prepping our traditional Christmas brunch early Christmas morning, the doorbell rang. “Who could that be?” I asked out loud. My local children had already arrived. We were getting ready to sit down to brunch before Skyping with our son’s family in California. I thought the doorbell must be the next door neighbor.

But when I opened the door, the biggest and best surprise awaited me. There on my front porch on Christmas morning stood my California son with his wife and two little girls. My heart about burst. I couldn’t believe my eyes. My brain was trying to determine if what I saw was real or my imagination. How could this be? We had plans to Skype. Becky was working Christmas Eve. They would have had to put a lot of plans in place quite a while ago. No one let on at all, and I’m really good at sniffing out surprises. I picked up my granddaughter and hugged my son. They were real, and they were here.

We quickly set four more places at the table (and still had too much food). I kept glancing at them, not completely convinced they were really here. Following brunch, we passed out the presents. In the mayhem, I didn’t see every gift being opened and missed the looks on their faces. Did they like their surprises or not? But I did watch the four mobile grandchildren tear into theirs. From the delighted squeals, I’d say their surprises were good. But I still win for the best Christmas surprise of the year!

Walk and Not Grow Weary

Another door slammed shut. As it closed, hope slipped out with it, leaving only darkness. After a really good visit with my family doctor, I thought we were getting somewhere. I was full of hope before I made the call to a neurology specialist. But then came the news that the specialist might not take me on as a patient. If she did, it would be ten months until she could see me. Ah, the ups and downs of living with a rare and mysterious illness.

I forced myself to remember the things I have already learned: I like roller coasters; only a strong person could handle this; God has entrusted this to me, so I need to do my best with it. Yesterday was much the same as today. Lots of knocking on doors, only to hear that familiar slamming sound. But then a friend shared part of Isaiah 40. She didn’t share it to me specifically, rather in a group for another reason. But God used it to quiet my anxious heart.

Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth
Does not become weary or tired.
His understanding is inscrutable.

 He gives strength to the weary,
And to him who lacks might He increases power.

Though youths grow weary and tired,
And vigorous young men stumble badly,
Yet those who wait for the Lord
Will gain new strength;

They will mount up with wings like eagles,
They will run and not get tired,
They will walk and not become weary.

Encouragement swelled. Like the heart of the Grinch, my heart grew and changed, and hope moved back in. My circumstances did not change. Throughout the day, there was good news followed by devastating news, followed by hopeful news, and so on. But my perspective changed.

I may never literally run again or walk without becoming weary, but I know I can trust God who never becomes weary and gives strength to those who wait on him. While I wait, I will keep knocking on doors until one opens, whether that door is a doctor’s office or the gates of heaven.

A November to Remember

For two weeks I have started a blog post only to scrap it. I wanted to write something incredibly funny, and I had a few ideas in mind. Each time I started to write, though, I couldn’t stop thinking about November 2016. It was the worst November I can remember. The pain from my damaged tendons was at its peak. And my dear father-in-law was nearing the end of his life. Sharing a funny story just doesn’t seem right, so I decided to share an excerpt from my book, Hidden with Christ, about my father-in-law. Sometimes getting the pain out is the best way to move on from it.

C. Lloyd Radcliff was my father-in-law, but my first memories of him are as the “old ladies” Sunday School teacher at church. As a youngster, I was a little afraid of him. He was intimidating. Not a big, imposing figure, but he was someone who commanded respect.

I soon learned that he was a much softer man than I thought. My first realization came when I was at the Radcliff home for dinner. Every night, he came home at six p.m. He walked through the door and, before saying a word to anyone, beelined to his wife and gave her a kiss. Maybe he wasn’t so hard after all.

On the day I went to the police station to tell them my story, Doug’s mom watched our two-year-old son. I had told her what was going on, but I didn’t feel comfortable talking about it with Dad. I wasn’t sure how he would react. Men of his generation didn’t talk about such things. But that morning, he was there when I dropped off my son. He gave me a big hug and said, “I love you. I’m proud of you. Anything you need, I will be here for you.” I lost my own dad in 1998, and my father-in-law stepped up and became a father to me, fulfilling his promise.

It was such an honor for me to care for Mr. Radcliff in our home during the last six weeks of his life. As he grew weaker from metastatic lung cancer, we spent a lot of time together. Every morning I would wait at the side of his bed until he was ready to sit up. Then we did our “dance” where I pulled him to standing and rocked side to side, moving to the wheelchair. Every time I would thank him for the dance, and he would respond, “My pleasure.”

There were times during the day when I would check on him, and without fail, he was sitting in his recliner with his Bible opened on his knobby knees. He was a regimented man and always had his regular quiet time, using two different devotionals. But as his time on earth grew shorter, his time in God’s Word grew longer. He was prepared to meet his Savior and left us all quite a legacy.

It’s been 20 years since I lost my dad and 2 years since I lost my father-in-law. Sometimes it feels like yesterday, especially at this time of year. The pain is right there, swelling up, threatening to crash over me in a huge wave, knocking me off my feet. But God brings to mind the good memories of their love, and the waters of my heart become still again. He also reminds me that unlike my earthly fathers, nothing can separate me from his love or his presence. He is always right here with me, calming the storms of my life.

Psalm 107:28-30 (NIV)
28 Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble,
and he brought them out of their distress.
29 He stilled the storm to a whisper;
the waves of the sea were hushed.
30 They were glad when it grew calm,
and he guided them to their desired haven.

There’s No Crying in Climbing

 

Sixty feet above the ground, tears welled up in my eyes. I literally shook them off while clinging to the rock face. “This is not the time, Radcliff.” I was just a few feet from the top of the cliff. I felt good during the climb, better and stronger than I had in years. Just one more pull from that finger-width ledge and a good push from the foothold just above my knee should put me over the top. If only I don’t cry.

The day had started out with a question, “What should we do to celebrate your anniversary?” It was the fifth anniversary of my bariatric surgery. Bari patients don’t celebrate with a special dinner or dessert. That’s when I came up with the idea to go rock climbing. It was a beautiful, crisp, fall day, a perfect day to be on the rocks.

My husband and I had been rock climbers since our teen years. It started with him. Doug and a few of his friends learned the sport, and then I tagged along just to be close to him. It was terrifying. We started out rappelling down the sixty-foot sheer cliff. I hooked into the safety line and walked along the edge, heart pounding. Doug said, “I’ve got you. Lean back.” With a death grip on the rope, I started to lean back. “Who does this?” I wondered. Apparently, a girl who wants to impress a boy. Taking a deep breath and peeking over my shoulder at the ground, almost sixty feet away, I thought, “He’s got me on the safety line. Nothing bad will happen.” But that didn’t calm my heart. There was no turning back. I slowly let out rope until my body was in an “L” shape, feet flat against the rock wall. I inched my way down a few feet, then a few more. “Good job. Now let go of the rope.”

“What! Are you crazy? Why would I let go of the rope?”

“I want you to bounce around a little to get comfortable with being on the rock and to learn to trust the rope and your belayer.”

“OK. Don’t drop me.” The things we do to impress a boy! I released my top hand first, then the bottom, which was my braking hand. The rope jerked a little. My life flashed before my eyes. But it was just the slack coming out an inch or so. Once I gathered my courage, I started moving my feet right, then left, then I pushed off. Cool. I was dangling forty feet in the air, bouncing around without a care in the world. I retook control of the rope, and before my feet hit the ground, I was hooked. And we hadn’t even done any climbing yet.

Climbing was more of a challenge. It took more strength and planning moves. I wasn’t confident my fingers could hold my weight. And my short frame didn’t help any, some footholds were just out of reach. But after a few falls, battling “sewing machines,” (the shaking of fatigued muscles), and overcoming my own doubts, I reached the top. The sense of accomplishment was exhilarating. I loved rock climbing.

But then came illness and weight gain. The last time I tried climbing that same cliff, I failed, miserably. My stomach was too big. It was in the way. I couldn’t get my leg high enough to reach the very first foothold, so I never got off the ground. I had never been so embarrassed, and my spirit was crushed. I thought I’d never climb again.

Then surgery cured my illness and took the weight off. I was able to work out and build muscle. And five years later, I was about to conquer the cliff. The rocks are a lot more crowded than they were back when I first climbed. There were scout troops and college climbing teams on cliffs next to us. I hoped I wouldn’t embarrass myself again. On our ride there, remembering the last time I attempted a climb, I asked Doug, “What if I can’t do it?” He said, “You’re in the best shape you’ve been since your twenties. You’ll do it. And if you can’t today, we’ll try again.”

Doug set up the rope. I strapped on my harness and studied the cliff, looking for a good route. The first ten feet were like steps. Then came the sheer face. I searched for cracks and tiny ledges. It was when I neared the top that I heard one of the college boys say to Doug, “She’s got a good climb going.” He replied, “Yeah. Pretty amazing. She hasn’t climbed in about 15 years. Five years ago, we weren’t sure she would live. But look at her now.” That’s when the tears welled up. I shook them off, moved my foot up to a small crack at my hip and pushed. My hand reached up and grabbed the top of the cliff. Success. I had done it! I leaned back, letting Doug hold me there. Then he eased the rope as I hopped down the rock face. He met me at the bottom with a hug. I never felt so good.

That was six years ago last week. We didn’t go rock climbing this year, although I’d like to. I would have to pick a “good” day, one free of pain. There aren’t many of those. The last two years have taken away my strength and physical abilities but not my spirit. I still think “I could climb that” when I pass a rock face along the highway. And I know that my sufferings are just momentary, light afflictions.

Although my spirit has been redeemed, I await the redemption of my body. That day is coming, and I look forward to it. Like the top of that cliff, it may be a long climb and more challenging than I anticipated, but with perseverance, the reward will be great.

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:16-17 ESV)