The Last Sunday of January

Psalm 84:5-7 5 Blessed are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion. 6 As they go through the Valley of Baca they make it a place of springs; the early rain also covers it with pools. 7 They go from strength to strength; each one appears before God in Zion.

On the last Sunday afternoon in January of 1999, the phone rang and a voice asked me if he could speak to my husband.  At that time, my husband was in Veterinary School and played in a Sunday afternoon InterMural ball league at NC State University.  My papers lay spread out over our dining room table like a patchwork tablecloth where I had been working on lesson plans for my National Board Certification.  

The male’s voice on the phone spoke words that I never expected to hear:  my brother-in-law had been killed by a drunk driver on the previous night on an interstate in Georgia.  He could not reach my inlaws by phone so I was the first family member to receive the horrific news. My eyes poured tears into soft white tissues as I stared out our kitchen window waiting to deliver this news once my husband got home.  Gripping my Bible and the kitchen counter, my knuckles turned white as he arrived. The car door slammed shut, the front door opened and our lives would never be the same.  

When my husband entered our house, he recognized my red splotchy face immediately and inquired, “What’s wrong?”  I told him the news, then he collapsed on my chest and fell to the ground.  

This scene has replayed in my mind now for 21 years.  Prior to it, we were newly married, in our honeymoon phase and new townhome owners.  After that day, tears and silence became our pattern through this valley of weeping. Family and Friends comforted us with cards, food and prayers.  The Holy Spirit held us and my husband’s parents. We now have our new normal without our beloved family member but had to go on a long journey to get to the other side of grief. 

In Psalm 84:5-7, we see a picture of travelers on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to worship but they traveled through the Valley of Baca or Valley of Tears.  This area was a dry and desolate place where there was no water. They had to get through this hard trip but at some point, there was a need to pause and dig until they discovered water. 

There was a way through the valley by the travellers making it a place of springs.  They had to dig down into the ground until they hit water to provide for their physical need to drink and be nourished.  They didn’t just sit around and hope for the best; they took action. They needed to get through the valley of weeping to get to the venue of worship in Jerusalem.  

Not only do we sometimes walk through stress, whether it be relational, financial or spiritual, but we need to always keep in mind that we’re on a pilgrimage, a journey.  We will get through this. But, we’ll get through it by recognizing the power of pausing, praying and pondering truth. It’s taking time to let the healing water flow then he’ll send His Spirit to be our comfort and strength.  Tears will flow, but the rains will eventually come and fill the pools that we dug in the dry valley. The God who always makes a way where there seems to be no way, will help us.   

During my family’s devastation, I decided to listen to encouraging Christian songs, go to church, read my Bible and pray.  Like the traveler heading to Jerusalem through the Valley of Weeping, the outward circumstance caused stress; there were inward feelings of strain and irritation concerning how we would survive the life changing event.  The darkness seemed to last forever but God was with us. His Holy Spirit heard my prayers for the light to return as I saw my husband and his parents weep until they had no more tears. Even through two court trials in Georgia to hold accountable the drunk driver, His presence was there hearing every desperate cry as we endured the details of how Eric died.  

This was a season unlike any other that I have experienced.  In our valley of weeping, we prayed, we cried and we waited. This pause in our lives caused us to dig deep into our life long faith in Jesus.  We had no where else to go but to Him in prayer and by reading His Word. The Spirit of God comforts us in our suffering and in that valley of the shadow of death, He never let us go.

We came out of this time with the knowledge that we’ll see my brother-in-law again in heaven which gives great hope and comfort.  We miss him at every holiday and special event. I know he would have loved our little girls and showered them with love. I’ll never really understand why it had to happen to him, why I’ll never be able to see his face on earth, or why my husband, our marriage and his parents had to endure such turmoil, but I know that God in his great mercy helped us all experience His peace and comfort which strengthened us during our journey through the sadness.

What looks like an impossible journey can provide a reason to stop, pray, read the Word and be refreshed recognizing that God is in control.  He is with us. There is a place of refuge on the other side of the grief. We still are sad and miss our loved one but can function and live our lives to the fullest because God was with us through the valley of weeping. 

This week on January 31, it will be 21 years since Eric left us to be with Jesus. He had wished his precious mother “Happy Birthday” on the day before he passed. Thank you, friends, for your prayers and positive thoughts as this week is always just a bit more difficult.

Conceived

Matthew 1:20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.” 

This Christmas season has been different. Our year old cats have broken ornaments after climbing our Christmas tree. They pulled off red ribbon that I had wrapped around the tree so I had to strip the tree of all of its ribbons which circled from the bottom to the top. Apparently, the cats had a party while we slept and jumped on the tree so much that when we awoke on a Saturday morning, we found ornaments strewn on the floor.

I feel like I’ve always known that the true meaning of Christmas is not in a Christmas tree, but I have enjoyed placing special ornaments on the tree. I knew that it would be unwise to decorate the tree this year with anything of sentimental value because there was a pretty good chance that the tree would experience drama from the cats. Sure enough, I was right.

After stripping the red ribbon from the tree and rolling it up, I began thinking about how Jesus had to strip away His will and follow His Father’s perfect plan to come to Earth. His mission was clear: save the world from sin. He had to come and be a part of humanity, cry as a baby, be held by Mary, taught carpentry by his earthly father, Joseph, then go about his heavenly father’s business. His willingness to come required careful planning from God. The Holy Spirit of God orchestrated the entrance of the Jesus into the world.

The Savior of the world came into the world as a human baby after He had been conceived or created in Mary’s womb. I read the words that an angel spoke to Joseph in a dream and accept, by faith, that God who knows all things knew how to place Jesus into Mary’s body. The angel shared words that echo throughout history: “that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit”. The miracle of Jesus being created in Mary’s body is incredible and it teaches me principles of how God carries out His perfect plans.

  1. He thinks though details but doesn’t always share the specifics.
  2. His Holy Spirit will accomplish His perfect plan.
  3. Whatever needs to be created will happen by the power of the Holy Spirit.
  4. By faith, we must accept God’s plans and trust Him with the outcome.

The power of the Holy Spirit accomplished the will of the Father. Jesus left the glory of heaven to come to the Earth with the purpose of saving the world. I know that God provided Jesus in the body of Mary and that he had to have a human birth to become Emmanuel, God With Us. I am grateful that Jesus humbled himself to leave His heavenly home to do what only He could do.

My plan to have a tree decorated with all that made me happy had to change this year. I have come to realize that my plans must be in submission to my father in heaven. I need the power of the Holy Spirit to conceive in me the ideas that I need to function and succeed in my life. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit continues to bring about needed changes in my life and keeps me in tune with the perfect will of God. The word of God, prayer and the work of the Holy Spirit create an environment that helps me focus on the truth and on Jesus who has saved me from my sins.

Thankfully, I will ask him to conceive in my heart the plans that he has for me and for my family. I want to be ready to receive whatever He conceives in me. His Word tells us that God has prepared “things” for those who love him that we haven’t ever seen, heard or conceived. I can count on the Holy Spirit of God to do the work in my heart and in my circumstances to bring about His will in me.

1 Corinthians 2:9 “However, as it is written: “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived” — the things God has prepared for those who love him– “