(Just a kind warning, you may need to grab a box of tissues before proceeding, I needed some as I typed this).
I went to bed tonight with intentions of finishing a draft of a different post I had been working on, but I scrolled through my Facebook feed first. When I did, I came across headlines that wrenched my heart, and I felt led to write this post instead.
But first, let me go back to this morning. As I was driving to the commissary for our weekly grocery trip, I fought back tears as random thoughts entered my heart. For some reason the story of Joey and Rory Feek popped into my mind, I’m not sure why, maybe I had seen a story on my Facebook newsfeed this morning or some song came on the radio, I really don’t know what made me think of their story. But every time I see her picture or read another article or hear another piece of their story, I feel my heart continuing to break for people I don’t know.
In case you haven’t heard about their story, you could do a quick Google search and find out all you need to know I’m sure, but simply speaking, Joey and her husband are a talented young, married country duet, and Joey is at home on hospice, dying from cancer. The couple has a beautiful one year old little girl together named Indiana who has Down Syndrome. The pictures of Joey in her hospice bed with her daughter are breath taking, simply beautiful, and capture an amazing love that even a stranger can see.
My soul began to ache for them on this random Tuesday morning drive to the grocery store. Burdened for people I don’t know. My heart just falls apart at the thought of such a young little girl, a baby practically about to lose her mother. It shouldn’t happen.
If you ask me right now, I’m tempted to say my biggest fear is what’s happening to Joey, (it’s not losing my child, that’s what I would have said before losing my child, but after walking through that, that is no longer my biggest fear), it’s what happened recently to a young pastor’s wife, what happens to many others in our world, and that is me, a mother, dying while my children are young, a fear for them, what they will lose, the pain they will experience.
BUT. My story has taught me well to take every single fear and place it before the Lord. When I do that, I face it, I walk through what would happen, and with God, I know, everything would be okay. If I were to die, God would be there. That’s the answer. There would be heart ache and tears and pain yet, but He would catch every tear, He would be their comforter in their pain. He would be their healer, just like He has been mine. They would experience God, He would fill the void. And I am comforted in that. My fear subsides.
But my mind still drifts this morning as I’m driving with my one year old and four year old little boys in the car, eyes welling up with tears, taking a deep breath, reminding myself of all God is and who I’ve known Him to be, and still aching for children without their mothers.
Fast forward to later today when my boys and I celebrated a sweet homecoming with my husband. The emotional release that happens when you see his face when he walks in the door is one of the most wonderful experiences. So many things just vanish, burdens, worries, stress, fears. I posted a picture of my husband with our boys and dog minutes after he walked in the door. I captioned it, “all is right in our little world again.” And it was. It was right, it was perfect, and I took a moment to capture it and savor this sweet season. A sweet reunion that is never promised, it was ours. Rejoicing in my heart, swelling full. So thankful to God for what He has given us.
And then tonight before I went to finish my other post, with my husband sleeping soundly next to me in my bed for the first time in a long time, I read the headlines. The news about the soldier killed, the helicopter down, the dozens of soldiers caught in a firefight. My heart sinks. My first thought whenever I read a headline like this is, who is it in my Army family? Please Lord, no… My second thought is always, if it’s not someone in our Army family, if it’s not my spouse, if it’s not my friend’s spouse, it’s someone spouse, or son or daughter, it’s someone. It doesn’t matter if I will know the name when it’s released. It doesn’t matter, because they matter. Whoever it is, dying, fighting, they all matter. And my heart sinks.
And then I feel my mind wrestle. How the world is unfair. How my husband returned home safe again and someone else’s won’t. And my eyes are full of tears again today.
The Lord gives and takes away.
I have to pause and take a few deep breaths.
A baby loses her mother. A mother loses her baby. A soldier comes home. A soldier dies. A daughter loses her father. A father loses his daughter. And on and on and on. Lives, jobs, homes, health.
The Lord gives and takes away. Job 1:21
My first blog six years ago had that Bible verse as my tag line. It was my life verse after my daughter died. It was the worship song my heart clung to as I grieved and worshiped. It was a verse He breathed to my heart when she left. So lovingly and gently, He whispered, She’s mine, she always has been mine, I lent her to you to love and take care of for a little while. I have her now. She’s okay. You’ll be okay. You’re both mine.
This weekend my pastor taught on something that was on his heart. And it was very similar to all of this. Of course I was captivated in my seat listening to his sermon as he unknowingly connected my two worlds as I’m calling them, my heart from my very first blog to this one now. How he connected my season’s of life and how this verse is so critical to that. How I’ve hit rock bottom and lost nearly everything for a season and came out understanding nothing in this life is mine. My children are not mine. My home is not mine. My spouse is not mine. I am simply a steward over them. I’ve learned to let go of all that I want to cling on to. It’s one of the reasons we named our second baby Isaac – a symbol to show the Lord we understand our children our His before ours. But honestly, it’s a daily surrendering. It’s a surrendering, and an expecting (hence the new journey of having an expectant heart which is the inspiration behind this blog you’re reading). And expecting God to do what He promises, to be who He promises.
We all have our seasons. We all have our tragedies. We all experience great joy and we will experience great sorrow. The Lord will give and take away. Let us be reminded that the sorrows and tragedies we face, that break our hearts, they break the Lord’s too. He collects our tears, He weeps with us, He has righteous anger with us. Death was not meant for us. Sickness was not meant for us. There are so many evil atrocities in the world, many my husband and close friends face that you or I will never even know of…
We don’t always know the answers, or have an understanding, or know why or what His plan is or why things are allowed, but let’s focus on what we do know. We do know He will take our broken pieces and heal them, He will make the crooked places straight, He will make the utmost evil events and be at work in the midst of them. He will not always prevent suffering, but He will be there in it. He will heal, He will comfort, He will counsel, He will love, He will pour out His peace, He will move, He will work good things, He will bring light to dark places, He will do things we know nothing of this side of heaven. And in the very end, love and justice will win completely and perfectly for all of time.
Tonight I go to bed feeling so emotional. With a heart so full but a heart breaking. And I will pray for those hurting tonight. I will pray for those in harms way, our brothers and sisters across the world, soldiers, missionaries, and others. I will pray for those enduring suffering and loss, for them to experience and know God’s love and comfort and peace. I will pray for you and I as we navigate the sorrows and evils in this world. And I will be reminded of my own story of things given and lost. Tomorrow morning I will breathe in my sweet boys’ intoxicating smells and hold them close like I always do, but make sure just because I always do it, that it doesn’t lose the powerful effect on me or my heart. I will rejoice in my heart for my husband’s presence in our home. I will steal and stay in every embrace I can as we get to share life together again for this season. I will rejoice and I will mourn as the Lord gives and takes away. I will go to bed with an expectant heart to see us through every season.
*An end note. The photo for this blog post is of a sunset on the lake where my family’s cabin in Wisconsin is located. As my dad always called it, heaven on earth. Looking at it, or similar pictures of the beautiful sunsets on the lake, have always been used to bring my heart peace when in turmoil. So while it has nothing really to do with my topic at hand, it has everything to do with a personal reminder of God’s peace and presence.