Suffering is guaranteed. How we perceive it and allow God to use it is our choice. It comes in many shapes and sizes. Sometimes it strikes swiftly, mercilessly and without warning. Other times it taunts us. We know it’s coming and the wait is excruciating.
Watching my husband die of a terminal disease was a taunting suffering. It was my greatest fear-come-true. But I’m not very afraid any more. I’ve walked into the roar of the lion. And, like Daniel in the lion’s den, God sustained me in miraculous ways. But I didn’t know that when I wrote the following journal entry three months before Ray died.
June 9, 2015: Everyday Tears
“This is a season of anticipatory grief. I look at Ray and see a diminished body, sad eyes, and the ever present cannula protruding from his nose, symmetrical tubes looped over his ears as the oxygen concentrator huffs and puffs in the back ground, a white noise in our surreal life that delivers the breath of life - reminders that our days are limited - that we will not grow old together and that I will finish our journey alone. While I sometimes crave solitude, I cannot begin to imagine what life will be like without my best friend. What if I forget to tell him something really important before he dies? There are no do-overs. I get that. But I have no idea what it really means, or how I might agonize when faced with this reality…just one more thing, God. Like an afterthought as someone walks from the room. Tonight, I can’t stop crying.
Sorrow is my every day companion. It silences me - distances me from family and friends. I want to share my life and thoughts with them but I can’t utter the words without crying. Maybe someday. But for now I’m struggling to get comfortable with my everyday tears. Not as a burden to Ray. But as an expression of the grief that has begun to strangle my heart.”
During their growing up years our seven kids weathered the typical bumps, scrapes, and bruises childhood seems to require. If Ray was home he would scoop them up, carry them to the kitchen and set them on the counter to inspect the wound. Usually a “doctor daddy” did the trick…a hug and a piece of candy. Crying ceased, giggles erupted, and off they went. It worked because they trusted their daddy; they focused on him and not on their owie; and they expected him to deliver.
My pain needed a big “doctor daddy”. And my Abba Father delivered. He sent his peace that passes understanding; family and friends who weren’t afraid of my tears; texts, cards, phone calls and emails to let me know I wasn’t forgotten; books on grief, heaven, and spiritual formation; solitude; the beach; and two dogs who nestle into me when I cry.
Suffering is guaranteed. But allowing God to comfort us is a choice. For my young children hugs and candy did the trick. I needed something more substantial in this grieving season. What about you? Will you let God comfort you? He created you. He knows you. He loves you. And He longs to be your God of comfort.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”
I’ve struggled for weeks deciding how to write this blog. It’s not been easy. But I owe you an explanation after a nine month absence. This blog isn’t about adoption. But it is my authentic offering of life (and death) stuff that feels like I’m living someone else’s life.
Since my last post I’ve moved from Colorado to North Carolina. My husband, Ray, and my mother have died. Yet amidst my grief, the limitless details of a cross-country move, and the administration of dying I’m grateful; I’ve experienced strength and peace only God provides. And His grace, poured into every nook and cranny of my life, has been sufficient.
Ray was diagnosed with a terminal lung disease in 2014. A biopsy in 2015 confirmed our worst fears; there was no cure or effective treatment for his interstitial lung disease. Four months later he died in my arms at Duke Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina.
During the in-between time we laughed, loved and enjoyed our children and grandchildren. We helped prepare one another for his death and my widowhood. And we embarked on our final adventure together: we sold our Colorado home and moved to coastal North Carolina. This was our empty-nest-happy-place we grew to love through beach vacations. When Ray realized he could breathe at sea level without supplemental oxygen he wanted to move here. We thought he had more time. But Ray died from complications of his disease on September 12, 2015, just two weeks after our arrival in North Carolina. Exhausted from the move and his death, and needing time to heal, I have decided to stay for now.
I don’t like suffering. But lessons I learned in the trenches and on my knees through our adoption journey helped prepare me for these losses. God has strengthened, comforted, gone before me, and shown Himself to be tender and merciful in ways I had yet to experience. This “set-apart” season is a gift - a time to pray my good-byes, let go, and rest – a time to transition from being married to my solo journey.
One of my greatest fears was that my husband would die before me. The word “widow” gives me the creeps; it feels brittle, old, and drenched in suffering. I hoped I would never have to check that box to describe my marital status. But my fear of suffering was worse than suffering itself because my fears did not account for the presence of Jesus, the tenderness of God, or the strength of the Holy Spirit to soften the blows. His grace has been sufficient.
I think of each of you in the midst of your present trials and sufferings. I want to hug you, encourage you, and let you know it will be ok. God is for you! And He is for your children, your husband and your family. He is on your side. He is the God of comfort, peace, grace and rest. He will be the lifter of your head when you can’t. He is faithful. He is the sustainer. He is the Creator of heaven and earth. And we were created for heaven.
I have missed you. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to update me on your happenings…and your feedback. I look forward to this new season of our journey together.
“Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.” (Matt. 11:29 MSG)
Craving living water for your parched soul? Read on!
My sister has an incredible father-in-law. This elderly, retired pastor has no pulpit. But he continues to shepherd his flock…children and grandchildren who receive daily email reminders from grandad. Some get forwarded to me. And I wanted to share this one with you.
(Rev. Everett A. Hellmuth, Jr.)
In summer many of us like to go to the beach where we are enthralled by the waves moving in and out upon the shore. These are magic moments when the rolling waters are casting their spell. We see waves thrusting forward onto the beach until they are tumbling all over themselves and then receding back out to sea. This goes on endlessly. So from the boundless ocean we glimpse the fullness of God’s grace in Christ. The source of this grace is inexhaustible.
“In the beginning the Word existed…and the Word was God Himself. (v14) So the Word became human and lived among us. (v16) Of His bounty we have all received, grace for grace, spiritual blessing after spiritual blessing.” (John 1:1-16 Charles Williams translation 1937)
We live on the VISITED PLANET. The PRINCE OF GLORY came into this world to share the fullness of His grace. The Eternal has broken into our time. And this is no isolated action. God continues to come to His people to bestow His grace upon us. In Christ there dwelt the complete fullness of God. And from this fullness we have all received. Christ’s generosity is inexhaustible and never tires. He keeps heaping His offer of forgiveness and kindness beyond our measuring or reckoning. It is grace without end.
It is a decisive event in anyone’s life when he discovers for himself what grace really is. When you discover grace you have broken through to the living heart of Who Christ is and His message for mankind. Grace is undeserved pardon that cannot be brought or earned. It is JUST GIVEN! It is redemption in the face of hideous sin. In a world rebelling against God, God’s love goes out to a world which is hostile to Him. Under these deteriorating conditions, and while we were yet sinners Christ DIED for us. The LOVE OF GOD shown in CHRIST.