Any attempt at writing has proved difficult lately. I think that’s why I’ve avoided sharing anything in this space for such a long time. Dealing with my own emotions is just … too much.. It’s easier to do nothing and say nothing, to just let time roll on without any acknowledgement of the things that have happened. Today I needed to muster up enough strength to record these personal reflections. I am in a time of transition again. But one unlike any other time before.
Over the past 5 months I have written countless thank you notes for condolences received from all across the country. First as an orphan, then as a widow. I can NOT begin to describe the grief. The suddenness of loss made me want to question God. I had such a moment, I admit it. In that instant I had to decide, either God is good or He’s not … either He’s sovereign or He’s not. Either He is who He says He is, either He is WHO I SAY I BELIEVE He is … or He’s not. It was a fleeting thought, but very real. I concluded that God’s goodness is not defined by my comfort or my circumstances. His plans and purposes are higher than I can comprehend. He never promised I wouldn’t lose my mom or my husband, but I can show you a list of promises that we can both take to the bank
I digress. Almost immediately, God showed up to offer consolation in a number of ways. It was like the Lord was confirming and validating my husbands ministry and our obedience as a ministry couple. It was both humbling and uplifting to hear story after story from people whose lives Mark impacted. People who love us made a point to come and pay their respects from as far away as Colorado, Virginia and Georgia. Through the words and actions of others, God gave me assurance of that thing that we all secretly desire, to KNOW that our lives really made a difference. Even now, I’ll get the occasional message that serves to remind me … someone will share a memory, a helpful comment, a prayer, or encouragement that he was to them. It really is a comfort to have this assurance, to know that in our decisions and sacrifices and service, we were in God’s will. Nothing can take that away from me. Mark is experiencing right now the future hope that we profess. Here’s a trustworthy saying : ‘If you will honor God, He will honor you’. That, my friend, is 100% accurate.
Here’s some real talk. It is natural and normal for the initial outpouring of care and concern to die down after a few weeks. Even if you haven’t lived through it yet, you know it’s true because we’ve all done it … expressed our sympathy and heartfelt condolences the best way we know how and then moved on with our lives. No judgement or hard feelings here, it’s just the way of things. I like to think of myself as more compassionate than the average person, but truth is I could not empathize with the widow until I experienced it for myself … the loss of a spouse is overwhelming to the soul.
If you are blessed with a church family, then you are blessed indeed. There are a number of extraordinary individuals, whose ongoing care and concern help sustain you. These people are the lifters of your arms, the ones who constantly check on you, encourage and pray for you and remain a part of your daily life. These are the friends who scripture says ‘stick closer than a brother’. They might live right next door, or 2 hours away, or 5 states to the west.. These faithful few, these true followers of Jesus Christ are your community, regardless of geography (and if you don’t have a faith community, may I encourage you to go immediately and do not quit until you get one, because one day you will need them.)
Like I said, I am in transition again. Soon, I will be going back to the place we considered Home. They say leaving is bittersweet but that’s too simple a word for such complexity of feeling. I experienced this most recently when we sadly said goodbye to our Calvary family in IL, but were also looking forward to serving Mark’s first pastorate back in SC with hopeful expectation. We were sad to leave but excited for the new thing God would do with us, in us and through us.
Even now as I prepare for this move, I wrestle with a very real internal conflict. Leaving Lamar, even for the good things of Home, is harder than I can put into words. This church, these people, were the ones who walked with me through the darkest, most difficult time of my life. For months they have held my hand and cared for me in so many ways. They have been both home and family for me. They have been extraordinarily generous and extravagantly kind. They have given me precious time to begin to heal and get my life in order, time to make decisions and plans, and even more time for those plans to come to fruition. Yes, leaving here is bittersweet and then some. I’m beyond grateful for this time and these people, yet I am hopeful for what God will do next with me, in me and through me.