Here’s to the diving board.

Perfect Love Casts out FearI’ve never been a “dip a toe in the water” kind of girl. I’d much rather jump right off the diving board and embrace the chilly jolt.

Everyone knows it’s easier to acclimate if you go all in, right?

I tend to face life this way also. Decisions are all or nothing, and apathy isn’t a prominent character trait. I’ve been known to rush in, yet most decisions are actually preceded by intense thought and prayer.

But when I jump, I jump.

My husband and I had dated about a month when I told him I wanted to marry him. Indeed it was a bold statement, but I knew he wanted the same.

I like taking risks. Recently, however, a latent fear rose to the surface; I didn’t realize I was still afraid of future suffering. I thought I’d dealt with that one long ago. Apparently it crept up again.

Sitting in front of a man who wants to date me and has embraced my widowhood with immense grace, I finally confronted the sin lurking in the shadows.

“What if I have to walk through death again? If I let this guy in, I could suffer more.” 

Through tears I admitted the fear. Pulling me close, he spoke life giving truth.

“You know God is good. You know He does all things well. He sovereignly leads and plans the best things for your life. You may be a widow again. But you may not ever be. Because of the gospel we don’t have to fear. There is so much joy.”

He’s right.

And just like that I decided to leap. I don’t know what God plans for this man and me, but it’s time to take a risk and see what could be. I need not fear future suffering or future blessing.

For “there is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” 1 John 4:18.

God loves me perfectly. Jesus loved perfectly, even to death on the cross. Therefore, I don’t have to fear.

In How People Change, Tripp calls all the pressures of this life “heat.” The trials, blessings, responsibilities, sufferings, joys, and challenges, temptations—all are heat that produce either thorns or fruit.

At the potential of something new, my thorny response was fear. And in this scenario, fear is sin.

It is a result of

  • forgetting who God is.
  • forgetting what He has done.
  • forgetting who He says I am.
  • forgetting that He has provided everything for a God-honoring life.
  • forgetting that He’s committed to making me holy.

Sometimes I cherish things more than I cherish Christ—

My comfort.

My expectations for a well-ordered life.

My temptations to compare a new relationship with the old.

Therefore, I turn from fear. However, to merely change my behavior would be counterfeit and superficial at best. I need radical heart change.

“At the cross God meets us in our sin and struggle with His heart transforming grace.” -Paul Tripp.

So, I ask. “Who is God and what does He say and do in Christ?’

God is good. He is working all things out for my joy and His glory. (Romans 8) Because Jesus had joy in suffering, when suffering comes I can meet it with a settled confidence— with joy, peace, rest, and even cheerfulness.

He gives Himself.

He provides.

As I view the transforming grace of Christ at the cross, thorns become fruit, and I trust my unknown future to a known God.

As for this guy?

Well, I’m a little giddy. I can’t wait to see what God does next.

Here’s to the diving board.


You might also like

Three Years: A Song of Praise

He Triumphs

Brave because He is Brave

For my Sister: Builder of Bikes

 

This post appeared first at anewseason.net

 

Rejecting Imaginary Days

There is no such thing as imaginary days.

By God’s grace, the barrage of lies has subsided. It used to be daily that I would awaken to immediate grenades and atom bombs, but now the attacks are rare. The truth of the gospel has continually defeated them. “It’s true, I am a wretch. But back off Satan. Jesus has defeated you.”

Yet, occasionally there is a different stealth tactic. Minor side note: I smile at myself for using military analogies when I know I’d be a blubbering mess at the first hint of a sharp command. But I digress.

Sometimes the stealthy lies are accusations, but sometimes they are questions. Recently the lie was “What if God took Jon because He knew Jon would flake out? Did He see future days where my husband wouldn’t have passionately pursued Christ?” You can imagine the sorrow surrounding those thoughts.

But God used a friend’s profound words to permanently defeat that lie. “There are no such things as imaginary days.” For imaginary days reflect an inaccurate view of God’s sovereignty.

Therefore, what ifs and imaginary days reside with Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy.

If God planned the last day of Jon’s life, then there were no more days! They didn’t exist. How quickly and how marvelously those words penetrated my heart. There were no more days. David had something to say about this in Psalm 139:

“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” (v13-16)

How freeing it is to reject the lie of imaginary days! I rest knowing that God chose the best for Jon and for me. I rest believing that God didn’t foresee some egregious failure, and therefore decided to “take him out.” I rest knowing God developed him into the man He wanted him to be. Jon dying at the height of his earthly walk with Christ was in God’s plan from eternity past. Even more beautiful to me is that Jon’s spiritual decline lies merely in the realm of the imaginary. In God’s sovereignty, it didn’t exist.

By grace Jesus was the BEST thing to Jon, but my husband stilled failed. He was still a sinner, but a sinner covered by Christ’s righteousness and greatly loved by God.

The truth is that the completed work of Christ not only cancelled out the record of debt against him, but also imparted ALL of Christ’s righteousness to him. The $50 word for that is justification. God was also transforming Jon to become what he was already declared to be. And this is sanctification.

Another friend shared the imagery of a line graph. The line may have some zig zags, but over the course of time there’s always an upward and forward trend. I love that! A believer’s sanctification is ALWAYS forward. The idea of two steps forward, four steps backward is just heresy. Furthermore, God always completes the work He starts (Philippians 1:6).

And so at death, the work of sanctification in Jon had reached it’s proper perfection. He got to trade sanctification in for glorification. Never ending new. Spotless. Perfect. That’s  awesome.

All that to say, I’m learning to reject imaginary days. And not just the imaginary days of Jon’s life, but the what ifs and the imaginary days of mine.

I’m not guaranteed future days, but if they come, they will be the real days of God’s plan, rather than the ones I create in my mind. Of this I am certain, in joy and in sorrow, in trial and in triumph, God’s real days will be BEST. They will be ridiculously better than the feeble products of my imagination.

God orders my days. He knows His plans for me. Therefore, I rejoice in THIS day, a real day given by God.

Jon was supposed to die: A crossroads day

???????????????????????????????Jon was supposed to die. I know that’s a provocative statement and probably somewhat controversial. Some with differing views of God, may disagree, but this blog still remains just reflections through my personal walk with grief. It’s still about setting up signposts for myself, so that when I’m through the valley, I won’t forget how closely Christ walked beside me in it. Rather how He carried me through it. But, I do want to encourage you too. My intention isn’t to be controversial, but at the very least I know what I’m about to write will be thought provoking.

Last week I met with Jon’s cardiologist. I wrestled for awhile with setting up this meeting, but eventually realized I had to. My heart in meeting with the doctor wasn’t retributive in any way. I prayed a lot about my motives before I went. I just wanted to express to him my understanding of God’s sovereignty over Jon’s death, and see if he could shed any additional light on what medically caused Jon to die.

I’ve struggled with guilt since Jon died. Perhaps this is a a battle for anyone deeply grieving. But, for me I think the rapid events that led to Jon’s death have made the temptation toward guilt stronger than had he died, for example, from cancer. Does that make sense? With cancer we would have known he was dying. But the night Jon died, it didn’t register what was happening even when the doctor in the emergency room said, “It’s been over an hour. You have to tell us we can stop.” He meant giving the permission to stop CPR. How vividly I remember my near hysterical response, “Are you telling me my husband is going to die? How can this be possible? How can you ask me to make that decision?” I think I just kept saying, “How is this possible?” over and over. As I’ve mentioned before, God did give grace to finally say, “He’s yours.”  But the temptation toward guilt sometimes seemed unbearable. But maybe someone who’s walked through cancer with a loved one can tell me if there is also a battle with guilt.

“I should have taken him to the ER sooner. I should have pressed the cardiologist harder when we were there on Wednesday. Why was Jon so stubborn? I should have taken him straight to Rockford and not Kishwaukee. When he was in the hospital in December, why didn’t they do more tests then?” I should have. I should have. I should have. And why, why, why. Satan and my mind knew how best to buffet me.

But anyway, after I left the cardiologist last week I was astounded by how much God’s sovereignty at last “sunk in.” Like at the experiential, heart level. I’ve known and maintained God’s sovereignty throughout, but now it seems I really know it. One new piece of information the cardiologist had to offer was just how drastically Jon’s valve had changed in less than a month. Of course I never knew the results of the 2nd echocardiogram because Jon died two days after he had it. The doctor told me that he had reviewed the echo on Friday (the day Jon died), and had dispatched a note to his nurse saying that she needed expedite Jon’s angiogram and get it done first thing the following week. Let me rephrase that. He was shocked at how much more deterioration he saw, and knew Jon’s more invasive tests needed to be sped up. But, he wrote that note after 5:00pm on Friday, so no one ever saw it. Jon died that night. It was too late.

After I heard these things, I realized that Jon’s valve had deteriorated much more quickly than the cardiologist was used to seeing. Jon  went from “His valve looks ok. You can definitely wait till summer for surgery” to his body shutting down. And no one could see it. There was more stress on his heart than anyone understood. So here’s my new understanding of God’s sovereignty; Jon was supposed to die.

I may have believed God’s sovereignty this whole time, but last week was the first time I could say those specific words. God could have changed any number of factors leading up to Jon’s death, but He chose not to. He could have had the doctor review the echo the day we were there or on Thursday even.  He could have enabled us to see the cardiologist sooner. Believe me, we were on the phone with the office a lot! We also saw a nurse practitioner at the cardiology office the week before Jon died.

He could have stopped Jon from getting pneumonia or the flu on top of his valve problem. For it is very likely, that one of these was the case.

But He didn’t. And He didn’t allow anyone to fully see the severity of the situation.

And yes, there could have been mistakes made. But that doesn’t matter. Mistakes don’t change the fact that God is sovereign. God even uses human mistakes to accomplish His purposes. So there really is no one to blame.

So I recognize the controversy here. There are those of you whose minds are reeling. “So you’re saying God ordained Jon’s death?” Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying. Though we have live in an age of stunning medical technology, doctors still cannot see everything. They are not God.

Because here’s the truth. No person held Jon’s life in his hands, except Jesus Christ. The day and time of Jon’s death was ordained before he was ever born. Just as the day of your death and my death is already known by God.

And some might be thinking, “So how in the world is this comforting?” Well, because I also know that God is good. And because I know God’s character, I can trust His sovereign plan to be good.

So, I sat on my couch the day after meeting with the cardiologist writing and mulling over these things. And I penned the words “Nothing any human does can thwart your plans God. The ‘what ifs’ wouldn’t have changed anything. And God you do use horrible things for good. This is redemption. This is gospel.”

I sat there just talking with God and thought. “Lord I feel as I’m on the brink of seeing some truth in a magnificent way. I think I’m standing right on the precipice of something big in my heart. So you work God. Make your truth clear. And I’ll stay here with you till we hammer this out.”

With a rushing “holy stars and stripes batman” type of clarity, God flooded my mind with truth from Scripture. I don’t think I can really communicate the intensity of that moment with Him. Have you ever been there?  That place where you know you are at a cross-roads of belief where truth penetrates so deeply that it’s life changing? That place where it feels like you can identify with Moses when he took his shoes off because he was treading on holy ground?

How can one communicate these things? Feebly I think.

“I know you are working a reversal. In my eyes, Jon’s death was the worst thing that could have happened to me, but God you are changing it to something infinitely good!  Something I’ll look back on and say ‘That was good. God meant it for good. I wouldn’t change it.’ And I’ll say ‘God your plan is so much better!’ Death bringing forth life. Perhaps Jon’s death is bringing forth a life in me that I never imagined. You are using it to accomplish something great in me. And Jon would want that. Because he loved you far more than he loved me.

The theme of reversal is all over the Bible! Think of Job, Joseph, Daniel, Rahab, Ruth, Esther, the Samaritan woman, the prodigal son, and Paul just to name a few. They all experienced real, tangible reversal in their lives. Joseph was thrown in prison, but then exalted as 2nd only to Pharoah! Daniel was throw into a pit filled with lions, but his accusers were the ones that got eaten for dinner! Ruth was a barren widow, but she was redeemed and included in the line of Christ! The Prodigal squandered all of his inheritance, slept with prostitutes, and got so hungry he wished he could eat pig slop. But O how his Father looked for Him! And then exalted him and lavished grace on him when he returned. “Bring the robe. Bring the ring. Kill the calf. We’re having a party! My boy’s come home!”  And then there’s Paul. Shipwrecked, beaten, jailed, you name it, but the gospel went to Rome and then to all of Western civilization! Countless have believed as a result. Reversal.

Then there’s the imagery The potter smashes the clay and reworks it into something more beautiful. “Does the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’ or ‘Your work has no handles?’’ (Isaiah 45) Or “can I not do with you as this potter has done?’ declares the Lord. ‘Behold like the clay in the potter’s hand so are you in my hand?’’

There’s a beautiful sentence in Isaiah 29. “You turn things upside down.” And that’s just what God does.

And what about the vineyard? The vinedresser prunes every branch that it bear more fruit. Sometimes he must strip it down till it looks barren. Till it seems that there will be no more fruit. But the branch is still very much alive on the inside because it is connected to the vine. (John 15) I learned this astonishing thing about wine grapes the other day. The vines that struggle the most, produce the best, most high-quality grapes, and therefore, the best wine. The most intense, lovely flavors come from the vines that have had to push their roots deep to get to the water and the nutrients, in essence to struggle for their very existence. So winemakers will intentionally create “distress.” It’s true. Do a google search. So on the heels of that thought, my brain took it a little further. Wine grapes are a lot smaller, more compact, and bundled more closely together than table grapes. Therefore, the flavor is also more saturated. So here is this lovely thing in of itself. But how does it become a much more valuable product? You’ve got to crush the grapes first.

And I think about Jon. God already did the most spectacular reversal in his life… death immediately turned to life. No more faulty heart valve. No more weakness. And no more struggle with sin.

And all these people, and all the imagery points to the ultimate reversal!  On the cross Jesus reversed the curse of sin and death. He reversed the ledger of debt taking all of it on Himself, and canceling out the record of debt against me. He made himself to be sin for me, so that I might be made righteous. It looked like He was defeated. Yet He rose again! So in His is death and resurrection He triumphed openly over His enemies making Satan truly a naked dog on a leash. The serpent doesn’t believe it yet, but Jesus has already crushed his head. The reversal has been made. The victory is accomplished. He will one day reverse even the curse on creation. And there will be no more death.

Can you see me just about leaping as I type this? Don’t you just want to shout with me? “Hallelujah! What a Savior!”

So God really did hammer it all out in my heart that day.

“O Lord there have been several crossroads days on this journey with grief, and I think this is one of them. You literally, truly are making a reversal out of the “worst.” And the greater the “worst,” the greater the reversal of good! You give back more than you take. The good is always in ridiculously larger proportion than the bad. Jesus was made the lowest, and now He is exalted, supreme, in His rightful place. O God if you love me enough to reverse the very curse of sin, then surely you are reversing the ‘badness’ of Jon’s death!

I can expect something beautiful. God is working a reversal–A real, physical, tangible transfer of bad to good, not just a nebulous concept. Some things I’ll not see till eternity, but I can also expect God to do immensely good in this life.

I don’t know how God’s working, but I can anticipate that He is.

So when guilt stealthily creeps in, I can look back and say, “God you illumined my heart to these things in a radical way. I know your lessons are true.” Satan tries to sift me, but I don’t have to be sifted.

And when I think of my Jon, though he would have wanted to stay, he would have wanted Christ more. And now he would not want to come back. He’s more alive than any of us. Perhaps there was a time of surrender where he said, “God do what you want with me. Do what you want with Ami. Do what you want to make us more like you.” In fact, I know there was.

“O my soul praise you! Lord I just humbly bow and worship. That seems to be the only response I can give.”

untitled-20

Love Stories and Weddings

atkins-109 My mind is filled with weddings and love stories this morning, prompted by the upcoming wedding of some great friends. I’ll be honest, over the last couple days I’ve thought, “Maybe I won’t go. I just don’t know if I can do it. I don’t know if I can do this without Jon.” But God’s gracious gift to me today was reminding me of our love story, and then of the greatest love story…

Love Stories

Our story is the stuff that movies are made of. I’ll never forget the first time I actually met Jon. We were with our church singles group at a blue grass “ho-down” in Pumpkintown, South Carolina. Yeah, pretty awesome, huh. Jon was wearing the most hideous, peachy-orange Hawaiian shirt possible.  I was dating someone else at the time. Jon walked up to me, and said “So, are you with him?” When, I said yes, he shook his head in dismay and walked away without another word! As I watched him interact with others that night, I remember thinking how obnoxious he seemed.

So fast forward through many details- I got engaged to that other guy. That other guy broke my heart.  (I’m so thankful he did!!). Jon also understood a broken engagement, so our friendship was cemented. But then he asked me out merely two months after the break up! My heart was still healing. Of course, I see pain a lot differently now. At the time, the loss was deep, but it really is nothing compared to death of my husband!  By the way, here’s a little tangent, this loss is different. People keep saying I will heal. But I don’t get that. My heart is not broken! I’ve been there, done that, and this loss is different. My Jonathan loved me and would have done anything to stay with me. It is not the same as a broken heart. I can’t quantify it, but losing your husband is a depth of sorrow I didn’t even realize existed.  So I know that God is carrying me, and will continue to carry me, but I don’t know if “healing” is the right word. Perhaps it’s not healing, but happiness. Perhaps God will someday restore happiness and delight. I have joy now, but maybe life will be a delight again some time. I mean, I think someday He’ll take me again out of the valley. But I’m ok being here as long as He wants me to be.

But of course, I digress.  Anyway, I told him I would go.  And at the end of our first date, Jon said, “So, where do you see this headed?”  And as kindly as I could, I told him nowhere! “No, Jon, I just need you to be my friend. We’re not going to date.”

I could fill chapters will all the details of following months. And they’re beautiful details that I’ll always treasure and love to talk about!  But the gist is that God slowly began to change my heart. At first I didn’t even realize it. And Jon did not give up pursuing me. When my eyes finally opened to the wonderful man before me, it was his pursuit that won me. He came after me, and wasn’t going to quit till he got me. And then when he got me, he still didn’t quit.  It reminds me of an even greater Pursuer.

About four months after our first date I went to a wedding in Arizona with my best friend. I had still given Jon no indication that there would ever be a future for the two of us. Jon had volunteered to take us to the airport two hours away, at 3:00am, however. And his ulterior motive was obvious. He and I had tremendous conversation all the way there while Yesenia was asleep in the back seat (well pretending to be- Ahem.) When we arrived at the airport, Jon parked and carried in our bags. As I watched him walk away, I had the strongest compulsion to hug him. “What!” I thought, startled, “Where did that come from? No way, I don’t want it!”  But whether I wanted it or not, he was on my mind, and I couldn’t shake it. And finally, as dense as I was, I realized I had more than just friendship thoughts toward him.

I spent so much time on that trip in prayer evaluating my heart and motives. Was it just infatuation? Was it just the desire to have someone because Yesenia did?  I told her, “I know all I would have to do is say the word.” But I was still nervous, so I kept praying. The wedding was on the day that would have been my wedding day to that other guy. But he was not on my mind at all! Jon was. There was no sorrow. Only joy. It was never the day the Lord intended for me. As I watched the bride walk down the aisle there was a series of extremely vivid images in my mind… me walking down the aisle to Jon, us serving in ministry… And they caught me so off guard that I gasped. So I prayed, “God I desperately need your wisdom.” The more I prayed the more God just seemed to say, “Ami I just want you to be willing.” So, by the time I got home from that week in Arizona I was willing.

Jon picked us up from the airport, and for some reason, we dropped Yesenia off, but not me (she and I were roommates). So here we are conveniently alone in the car. Of course, Jon asked about the trip and specifically about the wedding, for he had known that it had the potential to be a difficult day. I was so excited to say that God had officially closed that last chapter. I told him that I spent a lot of time in prayer. And as soon as I said it, I knew he was going to ask, “About what?” And he did. And here I faced a dilemma. “Do I tell him? Or do I figure out a way to weasel out of it?’  But what came rushing out of my mouth was, “You.”  And then his jaw just about dropped to the ground! “What? You can’t be serious!”  So I went on to tell him all that God had been doing, and that I was willing to see what where God “would take this.” We hashed out a lot that night, but there was one question I really had to ask. “Jon there’s one more thing I need to know. Why do you want this? Why are you interested in me?”

And the hugest grin spread across his face. “Where do I even begin? First of all, you are absolutely beautiful!” Then he launched into a specific, obviously well thought out paragraph about my character. “Ami I see your compassion for others, your servant’s heart, your desire to live the gospel, you have a heart for ministry, your life radiates Christ. The more I know you, the more I think ‘she’s godly’ and I want that…”

I was floored. He had been watching me for months. And he thought that highly of me? He knew why he pursued me, and was able and willing to tell me so. I was stunned. And so as they say, the rest is history.  Sometime I’ll tell you our engagement story. Now that’s the stuff forthe  romantics!

When we first started dating, there were folks who thought Jon wasn’t good enough for me. There were folks who slandered him and brought up elements of his past to others, and told me I was a fool. They were flat out wrong. I was the one who didn’t deserve him.  Jesus was transforming him, and already had transformed him. Most people however, could see what we saw, God’s hand orchestrating and guiding events to bring us together.

So as I sat here this morning reflecting on the almost 5 years we’ve known each other, 4 years together, 3 years since engagement, and 2 ½ years married, God reminded me that they were the most delightful and joy filled years of my life. I would rather have had 5 beautiful years with Jon, than to not have had him at all! I’d rather be going through the deepest valley of loss than to never have experienced what it is to love and be loved so thoroughly by another. Our story was masterfully designed and woven by God.  It was His goodness and grace that brought us together and formed two into one.  But our story reminds me that Jon and his love for me pales in comparison to God’s unfathomable love.  And now it is His grace that says it is good to take Jon away. That it is good for me to be a widow. It is part of that masterful design. He has not forsaken me. He has engraved me on the palm of His hands. He has not forgotten me. (Isaiah 49:15-16)

Weddings

Jon loved weddings. I mean, you don’t understand. He absolutely adored weddings! He loved going to them. He loved dancing at them. He loved rejoicing with the new couple. He loved everything about the most “special of days.” In fact, I’ve never seen a man who was more genuinely excited about going to weddings than Jon. One of our dear friends commented that she thought Jon was more excited about her wedding than she was! I think it’s true. And with our own wedding, Jon was intricately involved in every facet of planning. He wanted to help pick out the colors, the cake, the venue… He and I spent hours meticulously planning the program and music in order that our wedding would overflow with the gospel and Jesus. We sat on the floor tying hundreds of tags on party favors that said “I love you 1,000 red m&ms” or “I love you 1,000 blue m&ms”— You guessed it. The favor was red and blue m&ms. I know, all of this may seem really weird… So, before you start thinking my husband was a pansy, he also loved trains and airplanes. And the Bears, Cubs, Bulls, and Blackhawks. Let me explain.  I think the reason Jon loved weddings so much is that he really got the symbol. He recognized that for believers, earthly weddings are a miniscule foreshadowing of the Great wedding between Christ and His bride, the church.  He recognized that one day Christ will come for His bride wrapped in splendor and majesty. And that this destitute, dumb, lame, filthy, enslaved, scoundrel of a bride will be gloriously remade into what He has already declared her to be: spotless, clean, purified, redeemed, chosen, beautiful…  (Ephesians 5)

It was more than just weddings. Jon loved marriage. One of his primary passions was teaching men to love their wives and sacrifice for them. He desperately wanted our own marriage to reflect Christ. But, just to clarify, he didn’t worship marriage. He very clearly saw that marriage is but a picture of the gospel. It is not the end all in itself. But rather, Christ, the Heir, the One who is God, made Himself low.  He pursued a bride who hated Him. With His death on the cross and resurrection from the dead, He gave his life for her, purchased her, ransomed her, lavished His love on her…And this is the greatest of love stories!  And I get to be a part of it. Of course, we know that God does all things first and foremost for His own glory! His primary reason for sending His Son was not His love for me, yet His righteous desire for His own glory.  Yet, there was unfathomable love there as well. So as I contemplate the abundant gift God gave me in Jon, I stand in awe at the even greater gift he gave me in Jesus.

Epilogue

So I went to the wedding. It was beautiful, gospel-filled, and much harder than I thought. As with the wedding that started it all, I had vivid pictures of me walking down the aisle to Jon. Thoughts of our own beautiful day, and beautiful life flooded my mind. Though this time there was immense sorrow, I found it still possible to rejoice with others.  I shed lots of tears, but it’s ok that my church family saw the grief  and the ugliness of loss. I made it through most of the evening. I consider that a victory.

“Lord I realize that It was not wrong for me to love Jon so– to still love him so. It was not wrong to take great pleasure and joy in Him. For he constantly led me back to supreme love for you. He was your gracious gift. Thank you for the most joy- filled delightful years of my life. Through the difficult challenges of being newlyweds, you were faithful. Thank you God for the joy of loving and being loved.  Thank you for the intimacy, the silliness, the tears, the laughter, the arguments, the reconciliation, the sacrificial love… Oh God you dealt with me abundantly! And still you deal with me abundantly.

atkins-458 atkins-370 atkins-460

You have chosen me to be a part of the greatest story. Of your story. You gave your own Son. You will withhold no good thing from me. This I know. ‘Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand and marked off the heavens with a span… who has measured the Spirit of the Lord or what man shows Him counsel?’ Lord who am I to argue with you? Or to think that I know what is good? You are the One who knows all things. You are the One who gives life and being, and now somehow widowhood is your gracious gift to me. Somehow this is what will teach me to know you and love you more. I stand in awe that you would give me such a gift as Jon in the first place, but the comparison to Christ is overwhelming! That you would give me Jesus!”

There’s a song that sums this up I think….

Behold Our God -Sovereign Grace Music