Monday, August 31, 2015

Walnuts and orange juice

“Why should I feel discouraged…
When Jesus is my portion? My constant Friend is He:
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me” 

“His Eye is on the Sparrow”— Civilla D. Martin

Over the course of my life, God has spoken to me in many varied ways. But the other day He sent me a message in a bag of walnuts given to me by my neighbor/ second mom. Usually neither she nor I even keep walnuts on hand and she had no idea that a couple of hours before, I had written them on my grocery list after reading that the omega three in them might help heal the damaged ankle ligaments that have plagued me nearly all summer. As I held the bag, I felt like Hagar who called the Lord “the God who sees me.” (Gen. 16:13)

It was an intimate moment with the Lord. He seemed to whisper that not only did He read my grocery list but He could bring to my door any item on it at any time He chose. And a God who is that interested in me surely sees and cares about the pain and frustration this ankle is causing me.

My friend’s gift reminded me of another friend who allowed God to use her seven years ago. While Mom was slipping away one agonizing day at a time, many friends and family members ministered to us through the gift of food. One morning, a longtime friend brought a feast of breakfast foods that included biscuits, pastries and orange juice. After she left I pulled the OJ carton from the fridge and tears filled my eyes. I went to Dad and whispered, “Daddy, who is the only person in our family who likes pulp in their orange juice?” A puzzled expression on his face, he looked up and answered, “Me.” With tears streaming down my face, I held out the carton and said, “Daddy, God just sent this orange juice as a message to you to remind you that He sees you. You are not alone in this.”

How grateful I am to friends who choose to act like God: who not only see our circumstances and needs, but who care and then involve themselves in our lives as the hands and feet of Jesus.  And how grateful I am that no matter how overwhelming life can become, God ultimately works all things for our good. (Romans 8:28)

Monday, August 17, 2015

It Is Well

Like me, Mom often sought comfort in music and one of her favorite sustaining hymns was “It Is Well” written by Horatio G. Spafford who penned the hymn in the aftermath of great personal loss. Maybe that’s why his words evoke such peace when I am in the midst of a trial. As the hymn has brought me great comfort through the years, I turned to it again tonight, two days after the seventh anniversary of Mom’s passing.

This year, her homegoing date, Aug. 15 brought more loss as dear friends moved three states away to Texas. These are friends who have become family to me as I cared for their son the last three years. We have shared many meals, many laughs, a few tears and more cups of tea than I can count. They have enriched my life in many ways and after seeing them nearly every day each week, their absence will leave a hole in my heart and in my life.

Just as God prepared me in advance for Mom’s passing, in His infinite grace, He began preparing me for this change long before it became reality. Still, as is the case with any great loss, every other loss compounds that grief and I do not know why the dates coincided this year, but God gave me the strength and the grace to handle both their leaving and the remembrance of Mom’s passing. He even led me to read a book author Cindy Woodsmall had given me when I met her at a writer’s conference in June. Her novel A Love Undone recounts the story of Jolene Keim who is grieving the loss of her parents and struggles to define herself without them. I identified with Jolene’s close relationship with her parents and how their loss upended her life. Still, the novel and Jolene’s life are imbued with great hope and peace given to her by the Lord; the same gifts He has given me.

Thanks to the constant reassuring presence of the Comforter, I know my friends and I will endure this change and will continue our friendship across the miles. And while each summer I will always think of Mom’s passing, I will remember the beauty of her life and rejoice in the new life she has now. So, even as new sorrow comes again this August, because of God’s goodness and grace, I can still sing with Mom and Horatio Spafford, “It is well with my soul.”