The week I was hit with some waves of grief and emotion. Yet Jesus has given my weary and worn soul refreshing rest! Physically, I was weak; then emotionally I started to unravel at the seams without seemingly much. I began to sink into a sad spell with just an overwhelming deep sense of loss. Tears just kept streaming down from my eyes till I could taste them, and it was not just a few that I could wipe off my face and move on…it continued through the night, and into the next day or so. The Lord was gracious to provide friends to encourage me. Most importantly though he led me to the place of sweetest blessedness. He took me to a place of solitude, brokenness, quietness in mediation on Word of God, and heartfelt prayer. Jesus came to my rescue—the result was a beautiful time of communion with Christ and a sweet fellowship of suffering with him. Perhaps the Lord knew there was more healing that needed to take place. Now, I can genuinely be thankful for the work the Lord did through my weakness this week! I read a quote from a book by Elisabeth Elliot that sums up the blessing I received through my encampment with sorrow “Loneliness is a wilderness, but through it receiving it as a gift, accepting it from the hand of God, and offering it back to Him with thanksgiving, it may become a pathway to holiness, to glory, and to God Himself.”
“I will lift my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.” Psalm 121:1-3 ESV
God often uses difficult circumstances to lead us to Himself–times of uncertainty, loss, change, or a host of other trials We’ve been busy getting ready for yet another big change—a move. The reality of us leaving our lives behind in Oregon has begun to sink in. Especially as my walls are left bare and boxes have taken over every room. As we pack, I’ve had to think about what things I will need right away and what may be left in storage at my parent’s house, without really knowing how long. A sobering thought has been for me to ponder at how much stuff we accumulate…some which I hardly use and all of which I can’t take home to heaven. Some things I’ve had to let go of. Josh had quite a library of books; thankfully some of the local pastors were able to take a bulk of them for their studies. I did keep some for my own studies and writing. Ladies from our church have been coming to help pack and I’m so thankful for the practical demonstration of love from God’s people! This evening, our church had an open house to say goodbye to our family; I shared the direction the Lord has given us, and some of the elders prayed over us and our plans. Next week will be our last week; however, our church will be happily hosting VBS! I’m so glad for that! It helps lift our spirit when we can serve others and take the focus off ourselves. Praying for a blessed week serving our kids and as many in the community that Lord brings us and sharing with them the good news of Christ as the Way, the Truth and the Life.
In Christ, we have so much to share with the world that they unknowingly thirst for. We have true love and real living hope. This hope does not fall apart when life turns us in devastating unexpected directions. It is not shaken when our identities are shattered. I heard someone refer to me as the pastor’s wife and it just didn’t seem fitting anymore… Josh was good about making sure I did not get thrown into the role of pastor with him. We had a ministry family come to visit the other day and they referred to Josh and me as having been pastors of the church. My job as the pastor’s wife was always primarily to be Josh’s helpmate to free him up to do God’s work, and to keep our home. It entailed hospitality and of course we basically shared our lives with our church. The reason why Josh chose to stay in Oregon rather than move to LA for treatment and possible death; was that he wanted to share his life till death with his church. As his wife, much like being under someone in military command one of my privileged duties was basically to see to it that I carried along his wishes to the best of my ability. Now my identity can only be permanently rooted in Christ. I’m not a pastor’s wife anymore, I’m not a wife anymore. I’m now a widow. Over any title I may acquire, I will be Christ’s for all eternity.
As sad as it will be leaving our home, friends, and church family here in lush green Oregon, there are some reasons why it will be good to move. I love our church, but it will never be the same here. Sunday mornings are still hard sometimes…it’s difficult to see someone else preach from the same pulpit where Josh taped a quote from John 12:21 that read, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” It’d also be tough to stay and watch our church make decisions or take directions that may be different than what Josh would have wished for it. It’s teaching me a lesson in surrender to God. This is His church, my children are really His, and even this life is not really my own, it’s all His (Romans 11:26.) I’m finding solace in my ministry through prayer. Things may be completely out of my control, but God is sovereign and His ways are wise and higher than ours.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9 ESV
Inspired by a bold friend who did this, one of Josh’s last dying wishes was his desire to write a book during his cancer treatment. He had talked about it and started when he got out of the hospital after his transplant. While looking through his stuff recently, I found that he even titled and designed a cover for this book… unfortunately, he didn’t get very far past writing the introduction. Josh left this book unwritten. Yet, there are many other things he wrote including poetry, short stories, Christian articles, and sermons among which was his last sermon series on suffering and the sovereignty of God. It’s going to be an honor for me to complete this writing endeavor and to carry out his dream. The Lord has overwhelmingly made it possible for me to stay home with the boys this upcoming year and work on the book project.
Thank you all for your support, love, and prayers. They mean the world to us! The boys have their good and bad days. They still have bad dreams on some nights. It’s encouraging though to see how much Nathan understand even at age three. While I was on the phone I said something about how Josh had died three months ago. Nathan quickly chimed in and said, “Mommy, Daddy did not die—he’s in heaven—up there!” and pointed to the sky. Later, on his own initiative, Nathan made sure to tell our interim pastor that Daddy is in heaven and that if we follow Jesus we will see him again! The boys were glad they got to see Katelynn again while on her way to Washington to stay with her uncle and his wife who is undergoing treatment for breast cancer. She will be helping with their seven-year-old son. They are not believers so our prayer is that Katelynn will be a light to them and that she herself would get plugged into a strong church to encourage her. The Lord was so kind to provide many needed things and people including Katelynn. God is a mighty stronghold and abundantly rich to supply every grace we need for the hour; great is His love and kindness to us!
“How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord, Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word! Fear not, I am with thee; O be not dismayed, For I am thy God, and will still give thee aid; I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand, Upheld by My righteous omnipotent hand. When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie, My grace, all sufficient shall be thy supply; The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine. The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose I will not, I will not desert to its foes; That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake, I’ll never, no never, no never forsake!”