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.

Picking Up The Pieces

Psalm 34:18 The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.

Crash!
Silence.
What happened?

Has this series of event ever happened in your life? It has definitely occurred in my house. But it happened in an unexpected place recently.

I have been helping the choirs learn their music at my daughter’s High School musical practice in the evenings. They have made huge strides and sound amazing. We are a month away from the performance of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”. Last night was our final night of just choir practice. From here on out, the singing will happen on stage during practices in the school’s auditorium.

As the chairs were being stacked one at a time on a metal rack, I heard something crash to the ground as if it was a ceramic object. As a boy from the musical was lifting his chair onto the rack, he accidentally bumped his chair into a small ceramic Disney character trinket that was sitting high on a shelf.  I’m sure that this character was on display due to the choir teacher having received it from a choral competition.  My heart sank.

As the character fell, the boy froze with the chair suspended in the air. He didn’t want to move for fear that he would hit something else. He showed major concern with his furrowed eybrows and a pale face. Then, silence fell over the room. Most of the students had left and I was talking with the Drama teacher. I walked near to the boy and others had already ran to the area to investigate. Thankfully, a glass trophy had not been affected but a small figurine had crashed and broken into many pieces.

The boy placed his chair on the rack then went to his choir teacher and apologized. He also had tears in his eyes. Truly he was sorry for causing the breaking of her figurine. The teacher assured him that it was okay. Another child brought the pieces to the teacher and laid them on her desk. She kept telling him that it was okay and not to worry about it.

I knew that the pieces could be glued back together with some care. It was such a moment, though, to see the boy crying and to see the pieces laying on the teacher’s desk as the teacher reassured him that it would be all right.  She even tried to make the mood a light hearted one by picking up the tiny nose and showing how it could be reattached.  Ultimately though, I think that the boy could only see the mess, the broken pieces and the disappointment that gripped him.

I woke up this morning with the image of messes that have happened in my life. I have picked up the pieces and brought them to God many times. His Holy Spirit has reworked the pieces even recreating them and causing a new feeling to happen, a new joy to spread in me and a grateful heart in knowing that He was the One who could fix the brokenness. In his hands, the broken pieces somehow are mended and brought to life again.

Just like the student, all I had to bring were tears and the pieces. It has happened over and over that God has restored and recreated what I thought could never be fixed. I am so glad to have hope in God who through His Holy Spirit comforts and doesn’t let me stay in tears. He dries the tears and lets me feel a blessed assurance that He is in control.

Psalm 147:3 He heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds.

God’s grace covers our mistakes. God is about restoring not destroying. When we sin, we have an Advocate with the Father whose name is Jesus. Jesus, through his shed blood on the cross at Calvary, forever paid a sin debt that I nor you could pay. So, as a Believer in Him and His Redemption, I am covered. When my choices, mistakes and decisions cause great heartache for me, I take them to my Savior who pleads my case before His Father and reminds Him that I am Redeemed. As one who has been covered by the blood of Jesus, I can choose to pray and bring my broken pieces to the Lord of all who hears always and who immediately knows that I want His help.  Or, I can choose to cry incessantly, wallow in the disappointment and ignore what only God can do.  But when I do choose to pray to find mercy and help, I know that immediately He begins the healing process.

When the student saw that his choir teacher offered forgiveness and hope, he had to choose to believe her.  He made a mistake and it was acknowledged but now it was time to accept the forgiveness and grace that she offered.  I was struck by the way God used her to be an example of how grace can work.  If the teacher gave grace, then God Himself is waiting for us to pray and give him our brokeness and our heavy hearts.  He will give grace.  Hebrews 4:16 offers encouragement to pick up the pieces and pray:

“So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.”

I just wanted to share that our merciful God is the one who restores with His Grace and brings hope.
He heals.

He helps.

He repairs.

He is able.

Will you bring your pieces to Him today?

 

Featured Image Credit:  https://www.pinterest.com/pin/299137600229061160/

 

Comfort and Connection – My Blog Goals

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First of all, I am celebrating that I found my way out of a corn maze last Friday night.  A group of fourth graders and some moms tackled it as a part of a friend’s birthday party.  The darkness had fallen so we were equipped with flashlights.  I scanned a QR code with my phone to help us navigate through the maze, but after 15 minutes, my phone died.  We were left with our instincts and a paper map.  Mist rose from the patch causing the light from the flashlights to break apart and distort my line of sight.  I was shorter than the corn but could see the blackness of night very well.

The girls and moms trudged along hopping over corn and dodging mud patches, but at one point, one of the girls became very scared, not of the corn patch, but of the sounds outside of the patch.  An ambulance blared as it raced down a nearby road and a helicopter hovered nearby for a few minutes.  I calmed her, gave her a hug and let her know that we were okay.  The helicopter was probably observing a nearby high school football game.  It was really a moment, though, when I realized that I was helping by coming alongside of her and comforting her.  She recovered and relaxed then moved on through the patch.

The Holy Spirit of God also comes alongside of me.  Earlier in the afternoon, I had dealt with a stressful situation.  At first, I was like that child in the corn maze, feeling like I was bombarded with confusion.  My day had been great, then came a phone call which can be compared to the sounds of the ambulance and helicopter in the maze.  I felt like crying but also felt aggravated about the message on the phone.  I made another phone call which began my calming process.  God’s Spirit stayed right near me and even allowed me to feel peace as I stopped being aggravated and began to find a solution.

I shared the whole problem and its resolution with a friend at the start of the party.  I am so thankful to not only be comforted, but to also comfort another all within the same day!  As I have reflected on the comfort theme, I have realized that the purpose of my blog is to offer messages of comfort and a feeling of connectedness to my readers.  As I share how I’ve spent time in God’s word and received inspiration, I want to share it.  When I share how God has touched a situation in my life, it is my hope that readers of my blog will also be encouraged and view my words as my testimony.  My words testify of the truth found in God’s word.  I am not a theologian nor do I wish to be perceived as “churchy”, but my goal in writing about my life publicly rather than in a personal journal, is to allow a glimpse into how God is at work in me and through me.

Another reason that I want to blog is to connect with people about what I enjoy and my memories of my family and neighbors.  I have written in this blog about times spent with my family, Mrs. Oliver (a dear neighbor while growing up) and plan to continue to share memories of time spent with loved ones.  I grieved when my friend, James, passed away and shared the moments that I spent around his bedside near the end of his life.  I process my feelings by writing about them so having a blog is helpful to me so that I can share and make sense of life’s events.  It is through my blog that I also hope to celebrate and spread hope.  We hear such discouraging news in the media so my blog should be a place of refreshment as my readers hear about life through my lenses.

I have had some moments in the evening during the past week when I was able to read for a while before bed.   I wish that I had time to read each book quickly, but have decided that I will allow myself some time to read when I can and enjoy.  I met Sarah Jakes a few weeks ago at a Women of Faith conference where she signed her book for me.  It is such a joy to read when you have connected with the author as she spoke and shared her life story.  I am already hooked just from reading the first few chapters of her book and Shelly Pearsall’s book, “The Seventh Most Important Thing”.  I can hardly wait to hear more from both authors!

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Getting to hear the real life and realistic fiction stories of people is a way that I study words.  It is my goal that during my blog posts in the coming year, I will be able to share books that I have read and discuss them with readers of my blog.

I am also a fan of food so I like to read food books, magazines and blogs.  I want to keep learning and sharing ways that I am living a life with a proper blood sugar level.  I never blogged about it before, but will let you know that I was diagnosed with diabetes in March.  I can reverse diabetes if I make the right choices.  I think that I will dedicate some of my future blog posts to celebrate successes and share struggles that I have with food choices.

Everyone is walking through the maze of life.  My blog is meant to be a place along the way that you look forward to visiting, a place to see how God is at work in me.  I enjoy coming alongside of readers of my blog and sharing what I have noticed.  It gives me great pleasure to be in your company.  I hope to blog every other week and post my new blog entry at the same time every other week.  I plan to post by Sunday.  I hope you plan to subscribe and read the new blog posts.  I enjoy linking up with Ruth Ayers and her weekend celebrations like I did today.