The past year has brought a lot of feelings to the blog. I wrote a post about grief and rejoicing while I came to terms with the fact that a good friend was not going to win his battle with cancer, at least not on this side of heaven. That post was quickly followed by emotional posts saying goodbye to Tim, and then so long to his wife as she moved to be closer to their children and grandchildren. The grief was strong, but I rested on the blessed assurance that I will someday see them again, if not in this world, then when we all get to heaven. There is so much comfort in that thought.
This week, there has been a new kind of grief. Our family has suffered a great loss, and while the Pretty Players you've come to know in the blog are all ok, our extended family is not. There are many extenuating circumstances and details that I will not go into, but we are all grieving. We are holding onto one another, grieving as a unit, even though each of us processes our grief very differently. We have taken turns speculating about how circumstances could be...no, should be different, and we have done our best to wish lost souls back to us. But in the end we have had to accept the cold, hard, sad reality that they are gone.
However, even in this, Mr. Pretty and I have found great comfort in the same place we can always find comfort...in God, in our family and in our Christian brothers and sisters. I have read the 23rd psalm. I have quoted it. I have parts of it memorized, and these words have offered me some measure of comfort through the years. However this week, Psalm 23 has come to life for me in a new way. These verses are carrying me through this deep valley, often in very concrete and tangible ways.
"The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want."
I'll start by saying that I want for nothing right now. God has, through family, friends, neighbors and online buddies, provided for every need. There is an abundance of food, offers for help of any kind, and love. Even though there is a great void in my life, my heart and my pantry are full, and I want for no material thing.
"He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters."
Sleep has been difficult at best. There have been feelings to feel and sort through, details to keep track of, comfort to give and receive, and the process we are going through has caused frustration at times. Yet peace has come for me. Peace that passes understanding has overwhelmed me, even as the snow has blanketed the ground, covering all of its imperfections. Even though we don't have all the answers, and may never have the answers, I am finding peace.
"He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness."
Mr. Pretty and I have been so overwhelmed by grief, and also by prayers and comfort. Thank you to each of you that has reached out...with a note, a meal, a hug, a listening ear, and most of all your prayers. Talking about it (or not) in the presence of friends has restored our souls, and we know that this is God working through you to restore us. We are restored day by day, sometimes hour by hour, so that we can continue in this journey through grief without losing our faith (or our minds).
"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."
This is the valley. This is the deepest valley I have ever walked through, and I have to go through...it is the only way. If I try to go around, I will only have to turn back and go through later. So I keep putting one foot in front of the other, and I keep breathing...even though I don't know what the next hurdle will be. One day at a time. One hour at a time. One moment at a time. I know that God is with me. The prayers of his people remind me that we are counted in the flock, and we can lean on his promises even now. His rod and his staff, they comfort me.
"You prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows."
I have already talked some about the food. There is no doubt that God is taking care of our family by feeding us physically. He is also filling us spiritually. We face the enemies of uncertainty, fear, doubt and unbelief, yet he soothes our minds and souls. God knows what has happened. God knows where we are lacking, and he continues to provide for our physical, emotional and spiritual needs in such abundant ways. My cup overflows with God's love for me. I'm doing my best to pour that love over my family and all God's children. I continue to pray that even through this, those who do not know Jesus (including my "enemies," perhaps especially my enemies) would come to know Him, when the time is right. I am comforted that the time is never wrong.
"Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life,"
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. Against these things there is no law (Galatians 5:22-23). All of these have followed me, and I continue to reach for the fruit of the spirit in my life, especially now. I pray that I will love well, find joy and peace, have patience to be kind, faithful, gentle and self controlled, even in my grief. And just as He has promised, when I am faithful, these things DO follow me.
"And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever."
This last sentence always gives me pause when I read it...because I want to end it with an exclamation point. There is no thought more exciting to me than an eternity in heaven! No pain! No tears! No sorrow! No death! (Revelation 21) We will take our place at the feast in the kingdom of God. (Luke 13) We will appear with him in glory (Colossians 3), and we will worship together for an eternity...Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty! Amen! (Revelation 4)
The Lord is indeed my shepherd, and I am so very honored to be a part of His flock.
Thank you friends, for holding us up in prayer. Thank you for listening, for comforting, for being there. This world is not my forever home, and sometimes I wish I didn't have to stay...Jesus? Are you coming? Any time soon? Yes. I know the answer. He will come when the time is perfect, because his timing is perfect, because HE is perfect. Until then, I'm glad that I have you in my life to help ease the pain of living in this imperfect world.
If you are the praying kind, please keep our family in prayer. Send good thoughts. Whatever works for you. And if you are stuck somewhere in your own valley, let me know. I'd love to be there to pray for you, too.
Rest in peace, dear brother and sister.