I won’t shut them out.

Okay, let me be real with you. I am well. Life and ministry thrive. God has provided a sustainable, flexible career. I get to disciple others, be involved in Kingdom work, and I have deep friendships. My daily needs are met, and my emotions feel stable. I laugh often.

There is much beauty.

But there are moments when still his “absence is like the sky spread over everything,” and missing him is a little more poignant. Certain occasions still create the now familiar heaviness. It’s not debilitating pain of the early days, but rather a slow, dull ache. It’s an undercurrent of longing that shifts the tide and returns my heart to a place of introspection.

absence

Let me set the scene.

“The past tense of three!”

Laughter erupts at the ridiculous clue. Past tense of three? A shouted answer, a round disc passed, voices intense, and an intermittent beeping creates a fever pitch as it hurtles toward the timer’s end. Groans mix with whoops, and the guys leap from their seats. High fives all around, one would think they won the Super Bowl rather than a round of Catch Phrase.

Laughter comes in rolling wave upon wave. It’s a perfect moment frozen in time. But Jon’s not there, and it feels like he should be.

I’m one of the “lucky ones” (though luck is truly a myth) who has always adored her in-laws. I fell in love with Jon’s family immediately. And in death they have still counted me their own. I am so very thankful.

But this time it was hard to be with them. To me his absence was a startling contrast to the laughing family around me. Lies crept in.

They’re done missing him.” 

I guess we’ve exhausted the storehouse of shared memories.”

He’s being replaced.”

Without realizing it, I retreated to the safety of my thoughts.

“Ames, are you okay? It seems like this trip has been especially difficult. Sometimes it seems like you hurt more when you’re with us.”

“I do hurt more.”

And given the opportunity to process aloud, my words came in a flood. “It feels like he should be here. When I look at Ben with Holden, I see what Jon would have been like with a son.”

“I’m so excited for another brother to come into the family. (My youngest sister-in-law is headed toward marrying a fantastic guy) “But sometimes I think–‘a new adopted son to replace the old.‘”

“We’re not done missing him. You know there are lies among those thoughts, right?

“Yes.”

“We’re your family. You don’t have to put the walls up.” And then I understood she was right. I had begun to shut them out.

But I need them. And I have a sneaky suspicion that they need me too.

The heaviness lifted. I don’t have deep theological truth to share this time, just simple thoughts. An emotional wall is the opposite of grace.

  • Grace gives permission to handle things differently.
  • Grace remembers the dull aches of others.
  • Grace does not steel itself against hurt.
  • Grace loves and cherishes.
  • Grace does not believe lies.
  • Grace laughs.
  • And grace arrives with open arms.

So as long as they’ll have me, I’ll have them. I’ll keep my heart open. When the missing is more poignant, I won’t shoulder it alone. For grace recalls its family.

“I hold you in my heart.”thank


“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace”

Philippians 1:3-7a 

For more about adoption, in laws, and grace check out these posts:

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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.