Last week's events led me to a local Christian bookstore, Simple Goodness. I was there for two reasons, the first being, I was so to purchase a book, "Choosing to See" by Mary Beth Chapman and give it to a fellow sufferer.This book was also a gift. It was given to me by a dear friend,to help me understand that I was not alone, to help fortify my strength and my trust in God to preserver through this trial. The story was so similar to ours, when I finished reading it, I know we could do "hard" as well. Just as the Chapman's knew to find counsel in God's word, so did I. The days following the accident, the first few days of being at home are a blur, our families have yet to sit down and rehash those dark days. But, I do remember professing over and over again, that God would not forsake us during this tragedy. I knew we needed to seek Him first, I knew he was so very close to us. He promises not to forsake us but, we just had to look. I felt a profound sense of God's very presence with me then and I do on a continuing bases. God clearly states, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?’ ” (Hebrews 13:5-6) Also, in Psalms 46:1 it is promised."God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble." He is and continues to be.
So, I browsed for the book, found it and struck up a conversation with the salesperson/owner. As our chat progressed from the books to read, to why we chose to read them, I had the opportunity to confess that I was "the mom of the little girl in the boating accident over the summer." It's safe to say it that way, everybody knows, today I am thankful for that, because I truly believe that each and every person that knew, prayed for our families. I believe, that was the second time I spoke that confession out loud, I feel safe there, in a place where I will receive refuge and comfort from God's promises. So, then our conversation changes to Sam, her accident, the communities involvement, the children experiencing a sudden tragedy etc. Then I share my "real" story with her. I share one of my experiences with God, the one on the back porch of the camp, at Shell Beach, LA. She cries, she is in awe, she tells me it is special and to tuck it in my heart. I know she believes me and that she believes it's real. What a relief to speak with someone like this, another perfect stranger but immediately a sister in Christ. She has so much to share with me - she begins by telling me the story of the seed and how it is dry and placed in a pouch. The outside of the pouch holds a picture of the blossoms that are to be produced with these tiny seeds. The picture is the promise of abundance. But, in order for the seed to sprout, it has to be placed under the soil, in the dark, essentially buried for awhile (oh yeah, I do feel like I am buried under the soil, in the dark, all alone) but, then with nurturing and watering and light the seed sprouts, grows and blossoms. Occasionally, a weed sneaks in and tries to suffocate the roots and take over the growth, so its the farmers responsibility to pull the weeks out (doubt, fear,opinions and anxiety) , to cast them away so the seed is freed, to blossom to its fullest ripeness. I get it , I understand what she is telling me. She is affirming to me that my stories, my encounters with Christ, Hannah's encounter with Christ, the experiences shared with us by others claiming to feel God's presence during their walk through this trauma are real as well. She instructs me to hide these things in my heart so that they can prepare to grown and to blossom. As well, to protect them and to hold them dear.
Of course, I express my doubt, she firmly says, "No, Elizabeth they are real." Great example of "stinking thinking" on my part. Then she explains to me how to protect my heart, to protect these experiences, she begins to speak of "channels to your heart." Your ears are a channel to your heart, so watch what you hear because it will affect your heart. Your eyes are a another channel to your heart so, watch what you see, it will affect your heart. Another channel, is your mouth, what we speak will affect our hearts. Then, she prays with me, in the middle of the store, we are both weeping, she places her hand on my head and asked "that I be crowned with supernatural peace and healing." Now, my therapist has never done this before, but, I sure do feel better, I have been given what I need for that very moment by the mercy of God. Now I know why they call Him the "Great Counselor." This visit was beautiful and healing. I leave feeling renews and capable of doing "hard."
Sunday morning, I am teary - it's the beginning of Thanksgiving break and my home has a deafening quiet all throughout. Normally, it would be full of laughter and kids, excited about their school breaks, sleepovers and chocolate chip pancake breakfasts. It is not, this year. Sadness has crept in, and a bit of loneliness and uncertainty and long inactive evenings. These new features bring doom to me, I cry on the way to church Sunday am. I choose a pew closer to the back, which is unusual, so I don't distract the others, with my tears. I know, they will be in full swing this morning. The music is always painful for me, it touches the very place that emotion resides within me. So, I weep and weep - David tells me he loves me, Hannah looks at me with sorrowful eyes, Angela wipes her own tears away and Brooke is strategically place away from me so that we don't both collapse. Claire escapes with the loving excuse of bringing Conner to children's church. We begin to sing "Blessed Be Your Name." The lines:
"You give and take away
You give and take away
My heart will choose to say
Blessed be Your Name"
They cause a tremendous sting but, more than that, what I noticed was, that as I sang it, I believe it! I believe He does give and take away but, my heart will choose to say, "Blessed be Your Name." I smile, I have experienced it and I know it, my mouth is a channel to my heart. What I chose to say, what I chose to sing will affect my heart. So, again, I choose God's words and God's ways because I am learning that when I work with Him rather than against Him, I am more able to be the person I think He wants me to be. I share some of this story with (I'll call her "my back porch stranger" for now Until, I formally introduce you to her and to her willingness to obey God is a bold way. She supports me with these words:
Eternal God, in whom mercy is endless and the treasury of compassion - inexhaustible, look kindly upon us and increase Your mercy in us, that in difficult moments we might not despair nor become despondent, but with great confidence submit ourselves to Your holy will,which is Love and Mercy itself. And to that I say,