Even with the many joys and delights of springtime and beginnings of summer ~ beautiful baptisms, baby chicks, backyard cookouts, blossoming trees, and a touch of warmth from the sun, I still found myself writing these words from my favorite book in a difficult-to-write card to an old friend of mine...
"God knows whom He can trust! He would not lay His hand thus on all His children."
Elizabeth Prentiss, Stepping Heavenward, p. 282
My friend's son took his own life a few short weeks ago. He was only 16 years old.
We weren't close in high school, but we really connected at our ten year reunion (14 years ago now), because she and her husband (also a high school friend) had become Christians sometime in those ten years post high school. It was fun to share our common walk of faith that weekend. Lots of Christmas cards have been exchanged in those 14 years with news and photos of their happy family, their ministry (on a church staff for a while), individual milestones, family vacations and more. Facebook messages of encouragement and prayer for our respective ministries have been shared, too. She oftentimes asked how she could pray for me, for us, for our church.
I've been waking up almost every morning with her on my mind. I have a 16 year old son, too.
How will she face this day, Lord?
Lord, strengthen her to face this day. Yes, you've entrusted her with this trial, but I'm certain it doesn't feel like a privilege. Lord, may she not harden her heart because of the extreme grief you have allowed. Rather, may she find comfort in you. May she glorify you on this painful journey, even in the midst of overwhelming pain. Pour out your grace, Lord. May she and her husband indeed be found trustworthy in this. Pour out your grace in abundance on their lives, on their marriage, on their college-aged daughter who loved her brother...
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
And there were other sorrows in May...
Another dear friend lost her relatively young mother last month. Her mom had suffered with physical and mental illness for many years. Because of her mental illness, she always functioned in extremes. One day she might be grateful for my friend, her daughter. The next day she was accusing my friend of her own version of schizophrenia, and spewing ingratitude and complaint against the daughter who has shown her patience and forgiveness for 30 years. This is the same friend of mine who cared for her grandfather in her home until he died, carries grief over her infertility and childlessness, and has spent literally hundreds of days in the hospital between a chronically ill husband and father, a dying grandfather, and a dependent mother.
Though He slay me, I will hope in Him.
For the good I want to do, I do not do, but practice the very evil that I do not want... Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!
Romans 7: 19-25
Another friend is grieving her beloved, senior-in-high-school, 17 year-old daughter, who decided to move out and into an apartment with her boyfriend recently. Both are seniors, from Christian and church-attending families. Reports of drug use by the rebellious couple abound, too. There have been tearful and angry confrontations, appointments with school counselors, sleepless nights due to anxiety, physical illness due to grief.
Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress, my eye is wasted away in grief, my soul and my body also.
We had to have a long devotion and debrief time with our kids after the recent baptism service at our church, because the testimonies were so full of the pain and effects of a fallen world. Rape, abuse, self-mutilation, suicide attempts, pornography, homosexuality, neglect, bullying, violence, promiscuity...you name it. It required us to check in with our kids, make sure they understood all of it, ask them if they had questions, make them promise to share any of these struggles they might have with us, assure them that we want to know, want to be of help and support. We made them promise that if they ever got to the very dark place of wanting to take their own life, that they would reach out to us for help. They did promise, but I know there are no guarantees.
In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.
Indeed, it is a life full of sorrows. There is no escaping of pain on this earthly journey. The unpopular truth, though, is that it could be worse. It should be worse. But it's not. Grace ~ extravagantly, miraculously ~ still abounds, and ALL of the above mentioned friends would testify to that truth. I know, because I've talked to each one in person or via message or real snail mail. All of them, while acknowledging the pain, the devastation, also acknowledge their grace-giving Savior.
Trouble and anguish have come upon me, yet your commandments are my delight.
I, the least of all of these faithful sufferers, can also testify to grace in the midst of grief, but I can only pray that when the seemingly unbearable and devastating blows of this fallen world come my way, I will still choose to see His grace gifts. Trying to practice this now...
For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, Who committed no sin, not was any deceit found in His mouth.
1 Peter 2:21-22
Grace gifts for May...
1. Kindness and care at the chiropractor (tasted)
2. Fellowship with God in prayer (tasted)
3. Roasted garlic hummus and raw veggies (tasted)
4. Beautiful bike trail to run on (flat)
5. Pretty new bookmarks from Karla (flat)
6. A laptop for work and fun (flat)
7. A photo card with an adopted daughter featured! (flat)
8. Invigorating six mile run (before 9am)
9. Spinach, garlic, and egg scramble (before 9am)
10. Tasks accomplished (before 9am)
11. Redeemed fatherhood signs on the wall (in a sign)
12. Latina smiles, love for Christ, acceptance of me (in a smile)
13. Almond butter with flax seed from Trader Joes (in a snack)
14. Joint heirs (in Christ)
15. Abba Father Joy (in Christ)
16. The making of all things new (in Christ)
17. Proximity to many things/places (about my home)
18. Financial provision that is lasting (about my home)
19. Red brick beauty ~ especially in the snow (about my home)
20. Keepsakes from treasured times (inside a closet)
21. Old journals (inside a closet)
22. New shoes (inside a closet)
23. Downton Abbey in bed with hubby (in the dark)
24. Peaceful sleep (in the dark)
25. Calls to prayer (in the dark)
26. New tree swing (outside)
27. Electric blanket (inside)
28. Baby chicks put down for a nap by Kayla ☺(upside down)
29. Desire to provide (about my dad)
30. Desire to spend time with us (about my dad)
31. His health and abilities (about my dad)
32. My camera (held in hand today)
33. Whole Foods bag (held in hand today)
34. Fajitas shared with Kayla for dinner (held in hand today)
35. Opportunity to grieve (about my mother)
36. Opportunity to mature (about my mother)
37. Opportunity to set healthy boundaries (about my mother)
38. Savings on produce for juicing (picked up)
39. Homemade chicken broth (put away)
40. Chicks in fresh paper shreddings (put back)
41. Salvation by grace alone (about me)
42. Many loving, joyful relationships (about me)
43. Happy home and family (about me)
44. He saved us, not on the basis of deeds... Titus 3:5 (in His Word)
45. He pours the Holy Spirit on us richly in Jesus... Titus 3:6 (in His Word)
46. Justified by His grace, we are made heirs... Titus 3:7 (in His Word)
47. New sandals to replace broken ones (in a box)
48. Emotional Purity's wisdom for my kids (in a book)
49. New dress clothes for Coop for mock trial and Stu's wedding! (in a bag)
50. Conservation land beauty (unexpected)
51. Notes of encouragement in my mailbox! (unexpected)
52. Mother's Day homemade booklet with prayers from my kids and husband (unexpected)
53. Loving and sacrificial grandparents ~ one still living! (from my childhood)
54. My salvation (from my childhood)
55. "Miss Riggs" ~ a loving teacher turned close friend of 30+ years (from my childhood)
56. Agave in my morning cup of hot tea (sweet)
57. Lemons and limes for summer drinks (sour)
58. Dark chocolate covered almonds with sea salt (salty)...and sweet, too! ☺
59. Snuggles during a nap (in little ones)
60. Their complete dependence (in little ones)
61. Their simple, easy joy (in little ones)
62. Tim Hawkins DVD re-runs (made me laugh)
63. Date with Izckra (made me laugh)
64. Double date with Ryan and Christie (made me laugh)
65. Encouragement of faith (in community)
66. Celebration of baptisms (in community)
67. Shared memories (in community)
68. A new dinner recipe (on a plate)
69. Rice Krispie Treats (on a plate)
70. Morning breakfast tea (in a pot)
71. New shoes (in a package)
72. Skepticism in a child (hard to give thanks for)
73. Confrontations (hard to give thanks for)
74. Chronic pain (hard to give thanks for)
75. Cross and garnet rings (worn)
76. White eyelet summer shirt (white)
77. His love for me (whispered)
78. Godly and inspiring people (at church)
79. A chance to serve and teach (at church)
80. A home and foundation for my kids (at church)
81. Provision for groceries (in today's work)
82. A home to take care of (in today's work)
83. Perpetual new relationships (in today's work)
84. A long run after being sick (8am)
85. Sunshine to soak and study in (12pm)
86. A cooling thunderstorm (8pm)
87. Anthropologie mug for my morning tea (blue)
88. A speckled robin's egg found by Kayla (blue)
89. Index card with names of new Bible study girls to lead and pray for (blue)
90. Letter to a grieving friend (given today)
91. Training and correction to a child (given today)
92. Prayers for Bible study girls (given today)
93. Lessons on what not to do (in difficult people)
94. Lessons in creative communication (in difficult people)
95. Lessons in prayer (in difficult people)