After a long absence, we made our way to the Ocean City (NJ) boardwalk on a summer evening in June. There’s no place quite like the boardwalk for overstimulation; the aroma of funnel cakes, the flash and dash of kitschy storefronts, the mouth watering chewiness of Shriver’s saltwater taffy, the fireworks bursting over the end of the pier. At the end of the evening, we fell into bed exhausted, with visions of the Python (roller coaster) looping through our dreams.
We feel like we’ve been riding that roller coaster this past year, complete with twists and turns, flying head over heels, blind curves and that sense of weightlessness followed by heart-pounding drops. Throughout last fall, we had a growing sense that our ministry days at Gatehouse in the role of house parents were drawing to a close. By January, our board had agreed that we would take a sabbatical during the 07-08 school year. Last spring, we wrapped up our days of ministry in the house; over the last 8 years, we’ve had 42 young Missionary Kids live with us. As you may imagine, we were weary and in need of rest, but also sad at seeing a beloved chapter of our lives come to a close. So, began our season of transition.
It was a season of transition in a lot of ways. David and I each celebrated our 50th birthdays this past year. We also purchased our first home, an investment property on the WA coast in a resort community – a place we could rent out daily or weekly, but have available for our own family’s use as well. We anticipated it as a place where our family could gather – something we’ve been missing these past 8 years at GH, where there was no room to welcome our sons and daughter-in-law “home.”
Packing and moving was squeezed in and around other life-jolting events, beginning with an unimaginable fracture in a cherished life-long relationship in March, my step-mom’s death in June, my dad’s death in August and, in the final days of October, a call that David’s dad may not make it through the night. We are in daily contact now with David’s mom, as we continue in this season of waiting. Our comfort? All of these precious loved ones making their final transition from this life have that “sure and certain hope” in the reality of their home in heaven because of Jesus’ shed blood.
Especially during this season of sorrow, it would have been great to have a place to call “home.” We had arranged a house sitting situation in anticipation of being near my dad this fall. Instead, 3 days after our arrival in WA, Daddy passed away. Instead, since leaving Gatehouse last May, we’ve slept in 17 beds in 7 states. To be sure, we’ve been grateful for the generosity of so many, but we are weary and our longing for “home” has reached the point of ridiculousness!!
So, in this season of sabbatical, we have found ourselves homeless, parentless and jobless.
Truthfully, our summer has been a bit overwhelming. As we watched a storm come in along the California coast not long ago, I wrote these words “I feel like the sand, worked over and over and over by each crashing wave with no time to settle into place before another wave of sorrow or disappointment or hurt washes over me again, tumbling my world upside down.” Just like that roller coaster, we find ourselves topsy-turvy and wondering which way is up.
What do you do when the waves of life crash over you? Where do you turn? How do you muster up obedience in the difficult seasons of life? What prevents you from becoming completely undone, uncertain, at the mercy of the roller coaster of life? What lessons are to be learned from seasons of sorrow?
One big lesson for me has been that we reap what we sow. What we practice in the good times, serves us in the hard times. My relationship with the Lord tells me who (and whose) I am. Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” In this season when it’s been necessary to dip deeply from the well, I’ve found it full of life-giving water for my soul. Like any relationship – my relationship with the Lord is sometimes hard work! But as I commit to relationship with Him, I am strengthened (even when tired), joyful (even in sorrow) and hopeful (even when every evidence would indicate otherwise).
Ken Gire writes in Life As We Would Want It, Life As We Are Given It “so much is distilled in our tears… not the least of which is wisdom in living life. I have learned that if you follow your tears, you will find your heart. And if you find your heart, you will find what is dear to God. And if you find what is dear to God, you will find the answer to how you should live your life.”
On the breath-taking roller coaster of our recent months, finding ourselves in unimaginable places of grief (probably at least as much for the broken relationship as for the deaths of our dear ones), we have determined that we want an - “our God is able to save us, but even if he does not (Dan 3:17-18),” “you meant it for evil, but God meant it for good (Gen 50:20),” “though he slay me, yet will I hope in him (Job 13:15)” - kind of faith.
God’s promises are what we cling to – that safety bar on our roller coaster…
“Indeed, the Lord will comfort Zion; He will comfort all her waste places. And her wilderness He will make like Eden, And her desert like the garden of the Lord.” (Isaiah 51:3)
“But as for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more. My mouth will tell of your righteousness, of your salvation all day long, though I know not its measure.” (Ps. 71:14 – 15)
“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” (Heb. 10:23)
As you may imagine, we’ve been trying to catch our breath and gain our equilibrium. We’ve experienced God’s grace through your love and care for us. Thank you.
In His Grip,