by Audrey on June 18th, 2017

​Father's Day is coming to an end. I'm grateful for my dad.  I am grateful for my children’s dad. And I feel great love and appreciation for so many men I know who are doing such a great job as fathers. I am grateful.
But at this stage of my life, I see Father’s Day in a new light. See, I’m old enough to have some boys who have grown into both husbands and fathers.
I spent a good part of my life raising daddies. I remember when these dads were little boys. I remember those days as if I am still living them. Partly because my boys trust me with their children and I get to spend time with my grandchildren. Every time I have them, it's like jumping into a time machine and traveling back into the '80's. My oldest son's little girls are little feminine replicas of their daddy. My second son’s children each have a different image of their daddy stamped into their being. It's no mistaking to whom each of these children belong.
Yet, my memory of raising daddies is as crisp and clear as a beautiful fall day. My grandchildren just bring it into sharper focus - if that's possible.
I love how they remind me that I can never erase seasons of my life from my memory. I love how, when I look into their faces, oftentimes I feel as if I'm staring into the faces of my boys. It's like having time with my little robust warriors all over again - except the girls hold dolls and tufted kitties rather than sticks and random car parts. But the boys? It's ALL the same. They're boys. I love, too, how they show me that some seasons of life are so indelibly etched, it's very easy to remember and go back as if no time has passed at all.
As far as these grown-up daddies are concerned, I can still hear their little voices and see their little faces. And sometimes when I look into their faces today, I stare at the strong jawlines when they read stories to their children, I study the broad shoulders on which their children sometimes sit, I gaze at the big masculine hands they use to wipe a tear from a child's face and I am captured by these tall adult masculine men - yet, I also see the little boys they once were.
The little boys who were sometimes afraid and wandered into my room at night and climbed into our bed - on my side. I think about the "nighttime" pallet I kept tucked away, yet close enough, because the two of them plus the two of us couldn't fit very well or very comfortably in a double bed. They were always in competition as to who would wake up first during the night - because the one who wandered in first got the bed - the other one got the floor. I slept many nights during that short season of life with my arm dangling from the side of the mattress holding a little boy's hand.
It's so true, some memories are as crisp and clear as a beautiful fall day.
And sometimes when I hear their voices today, I listen intently to the deep sound that comes out. Wow. Where did those baritones come from? And I hear, "Who's that trip-trapping over my bridge?"
I remember their little voices - the coos, the baby giggles - that grew into childhood squeals of rough boy-times and then of course, the I-sound-like-a-woman days. Oh the frustration in their voices when they answered the phone, "No mam, this is not Mrs. Broggi but I'll get her for you." Indelibly etched. I always told them that "sounding like a woman" preceded "sounding like a man." I told them it was a good thing because it meant sounding like man was coming soon – very soon. At the time, they didn't believe me.
Well now, they sound like men. They act like men. They look like men. Real men. Not the sissy types. Not the wimpy types. Not the metro types. Not the girlie types. Not the womanizing types. Not the carousing types.  Not the domineering types. Not the lazy types. No, they are real men.
They are the kind of men who know and love God. The kind of men who know how to sweat and work hard. The kind of men who knew how to find and pursue good wives. The kind of men who would lay down their lives for their wives and now, their children.
The kind of men who also knew how to leave their mother and father and cleave to their wives. The kind who know how to provide for and protect their families.
Happy Father's Day to my boys.  

by Audrey on May 5th, 2016

​​Five years ago, I went to a couple's home to look at a rocker they had posted on Craigslist.

When I met them, it seemed like we were old friends. I'm not sure of their age, but probably old enough to be my parents. I liked them right away. The wife told me all about the rocker, why she was selling it, how she really didn't want to sell it, but she knew she needed to begin now to get rid of things.

We talked about antiques and little towns and lunch and Beaufort and how much my daughter would love rocking her little baby in this chair. The husband was just as friendly as the wife. He followed me out to the car to help me with the rocker and then to guide me out of his driveway.

Before I left, he asked me, "Do you have other children?"

Oh yes, I do. Five. He seemed shocked. "But this is your first grandchild?"

Oh no, I have four. This is my fifth.

"Fifth??"  I wish I could tell him that I now have twelve!

He seemed amazed and followed up with questions about my children. He wanted to know what they were doing and was it difficult raising them - and when he found out I educated them at home, he asked if I pushed them along or led them along. I answered, "Both."

"Explain," he queried.

I said sometimes they needed pushing when they needed to do something they didn't want to do. I told him how I had learned that it wasn't my job to be my children's friend when they were growing up - it was my job to be their parent.  I told him that I believed friendship develops as they grow and becomes so beautiful when they are adults.

But I not only pushed them;  I also, by the sheer mercy of God,  led by example.

But oh my,  I also told him how I prayed like crazy all their growing up years.  I prayed, too,  they would follow me in the good stuff and somehow not even see the bad.  

Then, in reference to home education, he asked, "Do you think you've been successful?"

Well, I didn't know if I was successful - but, I told him, "I know my children are successful."

He wanted to know more - about college and sports and maybe about things my children missed being schooled at home.

I said something like this, "Well, I guess my children missed out on some things. In fact, I know they did. But don't we all? We don't all get to go to the best schools, we don't all make the team, we don't all win the prize, we don't all become great musicians. We don't all have the best teachers or the best opportunities or the best anything, really. No, we just do the best we can."

He nodded. He said, "I hope your daughter loves the rocker." I know she will.

I drove away yet this man's questions followed me home like a lost puppy. They were nipping at me and forcing me to give attention to them. I began to think about lots of things my children missed because of our decision to home educate. 

But I also began to think ~ for all the things they missed and for all the opportunities they didn't have, there were countless other things they gained. It went kind of like this in my head, "They didn't have this, but they had that."

And isn't that the way it is in life? We missed this, but we gained that. And shouldn't our perspective be on what we have, rather than on what we missed?

So, in relation to what my children may have missed, I began to think about what they gained.

I've seen God's hand all over their lives. And I thought how God never misses anything. Just like He gave so much to me when I was growing up, He has given my children opportunities and shaped them in ways I'll never fully realize. He guided their steps whether I was successful or not. He stepped in and filled in the holes of their education with buckets of water when I was running dry and He pushed open doors that I didn't even know existed.

Faithfulness is all God requires.  I can be faithful.  I can cling to the Lord.

My new friend caused me to reflect and thank God for His faithfulness even though I self-doubted so many times.

The last thing I remember saying to this man about my children as I stood in his driveway was this, "My youngest child graduates in June and he'll be headed to college in the Fall."

And yes, when my new friend asked about college, imagine - I got to tell him about four universities and scholarships and graduate schools. It just hit me really hard.

See, I heard myself say, "My youngest child graduates in June . . ."

It was like my words hung in the air then made their way into my head where they echoed, but instead of fading away like most echoes do, they got louder and louder and louder. In my mind, I heard myself shouting me, "My youngest child graduates in June and he'll be headed to college in the Fall!"

That meant when June rolled around back then, I would have officially finished the home education of my children. And I did.  I finished the job that I never even thought I could ever do. (And by the way, that youngest child has now finished college and has launched his own career.)

So, questions loomed.  And sometimes they still loom.  Did I harm my children? Did I cause them to miss opportunities? Did I push them? Did I lead them? Did I inspire them? Was I successful?

You know, as a parent, you do the best you can. You follow the Lord through His Word and as He guides and directs, you make decisions that you really believe are in the best interest of your children. At least that's what we tried to do. There were so many times I self-doubted. So many times I wondered.

But when he asked me about my children, and particularly about how in the world did I not only raise five children, but also educate them, and did I push or lead . . . I had the chance to tell him. And I had the chance to tell him about the God Who helped me. The God Who did it.

Then as I drove away, I had the chance to thank God for His faithfulness.

And I thought I was just going to pick up a rocking chair for my daughter.

by Audrey on April 3rd, 2016

I wrote the following back in 1998: 

“Busy hands,” I heard my aunt whisper as we gazed into the coffin where my grandmother’s body looked so lovely, even in death. Both of us seemed to be alone with her although we were standing next to each other in a room filled with hundreds of people.

“Busy hands,” my aunt whispered again as I turned to look at her. Her eyes were fixed on her mama before she focused on me. Then she elaborated, “You know, mama’s hands were always busy. Think of the hundreds of biscuits she made in her lifetime.” My aunt’s eyes were filled with tears, looking like a dam trying to keep a waterfall from overtaking her.

I said nothing as I looked at this child of the grandma I loved so much.

I had been so lost in my own grief but I was beginning to realize, more deeply, that all of us who loved my grandma were partaking in this grieving process together. It was a bond that unified us even in our silence.

Busy hands. That’s all my aunt needed to say to bring images of countless times I had seen my grandma knead dough for biscuits while I stood next to her, countless times I had sat beside her while she crocheted, and countless times I seemed to have just walked in at the right time to “lick the bowl” where the cake batter seemed to linger -- leaving extra for little hands to dip into. Somehow Grandma’s pound cakes never seemed to be bothered by missing batter.

Countless times, I had seen her sitting at her treadle sewing machine -- she never did get a new one -- mending old clothes or making new ones until the years crept up on her and it became too difficult for her to thread a tiny needle. Funny. Now I sit at an old treadle sewing machine that holds my computer. A place for busy hands.

And countless times, I had been grabbed as a little girl, running past my grandma’s kitchen, only to be stopped by her reaching into her apron pocket to pull out a handkerchief to wipe my runny nose. It was a handkerchief that all the cousins shared. I smiled at the memory of my Grandma’s laughter when countless times, as a grown-up mama, I would share the story of the “chasing handkerchief” from a little girl’s perspective. She had a grand sense of humor.

I sighed as I looked into her now stone-cold face wishing somehow she could laugh again and reach into her apron pocket for a handkerchief to wipe my runny eyes.

As I stood over her I understood more clearly that “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord,” -- this body was just an empty shell, but this was the body that carried my grandmother’s heart, this was the body that I knew and loved.

Scripture teaches that the body is important; that there is as much hope for the body as there is for the soul. Someday, Jesus will resurrect this body from the grave and reunite it with my grandma’s spirit. She will have a glorified body ~ without spot or blemish. Somehow, looking at her aged body lying in the coffin, I was comforted in the truths from Scripture. I knew that my grandma was enjoying His presence in a place where a handkerchief is not needed . . . because there are no runny noses there and God is the One who will wipe every tear from our eyes.

But if she could, my grandma would be right there with her handkerchief. Busy hands. Now they were still. I placed my hand on hers one last time.

In 1 Thessalonians 4:13, the Apostle Paul states:

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve, as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus . . . Therefore comfort one another with these words.

I’ve thought about these words a lot since my grandmother’s death in June. And I remembered how I felt when a close friend, who didn't know the Lord, died years before. I thought about the difference in the grief. I grieved for my friend; incredibly so, but I could not be comforted in the same way as I could with my grandmother’s death.

The difference? Hope. For the non-Christian, only eternal death awaits. In a horrible place called hell.  I grieved for my friend, because as far as I knew, he did not know Jesus Christ. Once he died, his eternal destiny was settled and there is no hope for him. I cannot hope for his salvation, I cannot pray him into heaven. It is settled. Non-Christians cannot “comfort one another with these words.”

For the Christian, though, eternal joy awaits! We shall always be with the Lord. There is a great reunion waiting for us. We will not only be reunited with those we love but we will see Jesus! The Bible teaches that we will live together with Him. And even though we grieve when someone we love dies, our grief leads us to the comfort found in the salvation of Jesus Christ. We do not grieve as those who have no hope. Our hope is in Jesus and we are to comfort one another with these words.

Sometime in September …

Jameson and I pulled into a parking space on Bay Street. For such a long time I had said I was going to get the jeweler to restring my pearls. And finally I had remembered to bring them. I put a dime in the meter and . . .

Walking into the Old Bay Marketplace, Jameson and I shared a coke and discussed jewelry. He didn’t know much about pearls but now he wanted to know everything.

After we dropped off the pearls and made our way back to the van, I noticed I still had 20 minutes left on the parking meter. Making a quick decision, Jameson and I headed into one of Bay Street’s gift shops.

We ooh-ed and ah-ed over all the cute stuff as we looked at little turtles, novelty socks, old-fashioned toys, stationary and doorstops. Jameson asked if I would purchase one of the little animals he had spotted and would I please help him decide which one? I took a quick inventory of my “cash money” situation; I didn’t want to write a check for $1.75 and besides I didn’t even know if they took checks. Yes! A five-dollar bill for a little momento of our excursion.

Before I paid for the turtle; however, I told Jameson I wanted to look at the back of the store. I still had about 10 minutes before the meter would expire. We made our way through the shop with Jameson holding his turtle, when suddenly I felt transported into another time. There across from me in this back room of the little gift shop was an old treadle sewing machine ~ one like my Grandma’s.

As I gazed at the machine and then around this little area, I saw that I was surrounded by cloth, lace, and crocheted things. Emotion gripped me. Funny how it hits you . . . in the middle of anywhere . . . when you’re not even thinking about sorrow or grief; in fact, you’re doing quite well. But when you least expect it, emotion reaches into your being, clutches your heart, forces its way up to your face and then drags teardrops from your eyes. Your wound, you thought, was healed. But here it is, open again. Sigh. It hurts and you really don’t want to cry. Not in this store.

And you wonder, "Does God have purpose in our emotions?" I know He says that He desires a broken and contrite heart; He loves to comfort the afflicted. God is attracted to our weakness and He wants to meet us in our sorrow to cause us to look to and learn from Him and then choose to trust Him . . . even while we cry. It's called faith.

I felt God’s gentle stirring through the pain of my heart and then I began to weep softly and quietly as my mind formed a picture of my grandma’s busy hands, working at her sewing machine and seeming to say to me as she did whenever she found me crying, “Come here and let me wipe your eyes with my handkerchief.”

I did go there, as my mind instructed. I walked over to the sewing machine in this little shop. And there, lying on the top of the workspace before my waterlogged eyes was a little lace handkerchief. My heart smiled through its open wound.

“You know, Mama’s hands were always busy,” my aunt had told me.

Yes, Grandma’s hands were busy. Busy loving me and everyone else God brought her way. My grandma had this way of making you feel that you were the special one -- because, in her eyes, you were. No matter your manners, your insensitivity to her schedule, whether you thanked her or not for all the things she did for you, no matter how long since she last saw you. She always seemed as if she had been waiting on her backporch just for you.

So, in September, it was only natural that I would think of her when I walked into a room that captured her essence. Seeing all the lacy blankets and crocheted gifts made me so aware of the eternal impact she made in my life. I couldn’t escape it and I knew God wanted me to be flooded with a keen sense of fresh grief. Just as He was when He wept for Lazarus, when He suffered on the cross, when He longed for the salvation of Jerusalem, when He was in anguish over my sin. The Scripture teaches that He Himself was a “man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief . . . Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried.” (Isaiah 53:3-4) He can and does sympathize with us.

Lace and crochet. These were a part of who Grandma was. Oh she didn’t keep the beautiful things she made -- she gave them away. To all of her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren and anyone else God brought her way. I can’t even fathom the hours she put into making blankets, Christmas lace heirlooms, and pound cakes. Busy hands.

And as I continued to look around the back room of this little shop, I was not only reminded of my grief but also that a heart spent getting to know God will express itself in giving to others. Whether in handmade treasures, in time, in preparing and teaching the truth of God’s Word, in “feeding the 5000,” washing the feet of the saints, encouraging others, or giving a drink of water in His name. Somehow while my parking meter was running out of time, I was running into an encounter with God while shopping on Bay Street. He met with me personally.

Jameson and I headed home.

When I drove into my driveway, I sat in my van for a long time. Jameson didn’t say anything as he sat with me. In fact, I didn’t even realize he was still there. I stared at the marsh and the water and then -- without warning -- the floodgates opened and the dam broke. I cried rivers of water . . . salty tears . . . enough to cause the tide to overflow its banks.

I sobbed from my innermost being. If anyone had seen me, it might have appeared like I would never recover. But I must say that I did not grieve as one who has no hope. That afternoon on Bay Street was a reminder to me that a heart spent getting to know God will overflow into the lives of others. Jesus said “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water.’” It was clear that my grandma believed in Him. Her life was an overflow of her relationship with Christ. So it was natural that the sorrow in my heart would overflow in rivers of water escaping from my eyes. The tears were cleansing my soul.

And when I seemed to be overtaken with grief on that September afternoon, God reminded me too, how a heart that loves deeply will hurt deeply. Paul described it as “sorrow upon sorrow.” He told the Philippians that his friend and fellow worker Epaphroditus “was sick to the point of death, but God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow.” God is moved through our distress and He is the One who either ministers to us personally or He sends someone with tangible “flesh and blood” to help us bear our burdens. And in so doing, we “fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2) The tender memory of my grandma awakened a further passion within me to make my life count for Him. Our sorrow needs to propel us toward the Savior, not away from Him.

Oh how much I’ve learned and have yet to learn from my grandma’s life. She gives me hope! But more than the hope her life gives to me, it is because of her Savior that I can really have hope. Oh how I want God to use me to make a significant eternal impact in the lives of my family and everyone else God brings my way.

My grandmother wasn’t perfect. She was the first to say so. And I don’t want to portray her as anything but an ordinary woman who walked with God in the everydayness of life. That was the essence of who she was -- she made God bigger by her life.

Since she has gone home, I miss being able to audibly hear her voice, but her legacy to me is seen in the tangible things she made with her hands. And although I can’t hear her anymore . . . when I wrap myself up in the blanket she made for me . . . I feel the love and the legacy of her busy hands.

And you know what? On that September afternoon when I was unaware of Jameson’s presence in the van, I suddenly felt a hand touch my arm.

Carl had obviously left one of his handkerchiefs that he uses to wipe his brow on Sundays on one of the seats. Jameson had seen me crying, no doubt he felt compassion for me so he picked up the handkerchief and in a 5-year-old way, thrust it before my eyes. Then he said, “Are you sad? Here, do you want me to wipe your eyes?”

It was as if I sensed the Lord Jesus seeing me, having compassion on me and saying to me just as He did to the widow of Nain, “Do not weep.” I went on in the strength of God’s care the rest of the afternoon.

by Audrey on March 22nd, 2016

​Once, when my children were young, I experienced a long, discouraging day. I guess I had stretched myself a little too far in the preceding weeks and I was feeling the effects.
First, I had been bothered by some things over which I had no control and was misunderstood. Then, I had surgery on my arm which threw me for a loop because it was much more painful than I had anticipated.
Then, more discouraging news. I was down and it showed. Then two of my children got into an argument and so it seemed to be the perfect time to deal with that. Bad timing for them. So, as can be so typical for mothers, my children’s spat became larger in my eyes simply because I was stressed about things that had nothing to do with them.
Well, tension filled the air as I ranted. Then as quickly as my little tornado blew through the room, I walked away leaving confused children who weren’t sure what to do next.
It was evening. Time for the children to get in bed. Before I could do that however, I had to go get my two oldest boys from the farm where they had been cutting grass. I drove in silence feeling rather alone and miserable. As I pulled up, Jordan looked in the window and asked, “Mom, what’s wrong? You seem upset.”
Those words stung. I offered no answer. Somehow the fury in my tornado died with Jordan’s question. I slithered down in my seat like a worm trying to hide in the dirt. We drove home in almost the same silence as I had driven in earlier. I didn’t say much because I couldn’t be trusted. But I thought. For some reason the words of the old hymn “At the Cross” came to my mind.
Alas, and did my Savior bleed? And did my Sovereign die?
Would He devote that sacred head For such a worm as I?

Was it for crimes that I have done, He groaned upon the tree?
Amazing pity! grace unknown! And love beyond degree!

Well might the sun in darkness hide, And shut his glories in,
When Christ, the mighty Maker, died For man the creature’s sin.

But drops of grief can ne’er repay The debt of love I owe:
Here, Lord, I give myself away, ‘Tis all that I can do!

At the cross, at the cross where I first saw the light,
And the burden of my heart rolled away,
It was there by faith I received my sight, And now I am happy all the day!
Isaac Watts must have felt the weight of his sin to be able to write such a hymn. To think that my Savior was quite aware of all my “tornadoes” when He died upon the cross is truly amazing to me. Mr. Watts is right, my feeling terribly guilty can never repay the debt I owe -- my debt was paid by Christ at the cross. And just as I received the free gift of salvation, I must receive His gentle rebuke, confess my own sin, and restore the relationships I had broken.
I didn’t respond so quickly. I wanted to feel sorry for myself a little longer I guess. When we got home, the children were quick to do everything I said. I had no trouble with disobedience.
Time passed. I did the mom stuff. But I had no joy and I was not “happy all the day.”
The lights were out in the children’s rooms. I walked down the hall and then peeked in GraceAnna’s room.
Normally, she would have said something to me -- but not tonight. I guess if I had been a young girl of eleven who had just been treated unfairly, I wouldn’t have said anything either.
As I stood in the doorway of her room, I wanted to go in and hug her but I felt so unworthy. How could she want to receive a hug from a mom who had treated her so unjustly?
“Well might the sun in darkness hide, And shut his glories in, When Christ, the mighty Maker, died For man the creature’s sin.”
The words of Isaac Watts echoed in my mind.
She spoke. “Mom, would you come kiss me goodnight?’’
Now why in the world would she want a kiss from me? I didn’t deserve it. I hadn’t even asked for her forgiveness. But she forgave without a request.
After that I walked to Grant’s room. Even before I got there, he said, “Mom? Is that you? Will you come in here with me?”
Wow. I said, “Sure, I’ll be there in a minute.” I knew I had to apologize to everyone first.  And then I went to tell my son a story before he fell asleep.  I’ve never regretted it.
As I confessed my sin to each of my children, I thought of how undeserving I was for their gentle and gracious spirits.
But even more than that I thought about how undeserving I am to find grace and mercy at the cross. Why would He devote that sacred head for such a worm as I?
But He did. My Savior bled and died for this worm. He died, not so that I could wallow in self-pity, but so I could receive His forgiveness and then move on.
All these years I’ve mothered, I have so wished to be the perfect mom. I have so wished I could make every right decision and so wished I would never ever blow it. Perfection. Seems like such a noble goal.
But I am still learning that Jesus is the only perfect One. He is the only One Who will never ever blow it, Who always makes right decisions. And He is the Only One Who can enable me to live in such a way to please Him. I could have called out to Him when I was stressed. I could have received His help when I was burdened. I could have rested in His grace when I was misunderstood. I could have allowed Him to defend me when I was misunderstood. I could have trusted Him to help me deal fairly with my children. But I didn’t choose His way of escape, I didn’t choose to please Him.
And you know what? He would have helped me had I run to Him when I really needed Him. But He was still ready to help me after I chose my own way. And when the guilt of my sin was crushing me because of my own doing - He was the One right there rolling away the burden of my heart. He’s just that good.
The next day, GraceAnna, Jameson, and I enjoyed lunch together at Subway. As we were sitting in one of the yellow booths, with the sun shining brightly through the window, I said to GraceAnna, “I don’t want to be a mean mama like I was yesterday. I’m asking the Lord to help me. Will you pray for me?”
She agreed to pray but then she gave me a deliberate focused gaze, as if to make sure I really understood her point. “Mom, do you really believe that just because of one time I would think you’re a mean mom?”
One time. She said one time. I knew there had been lots of times but she said “one time.” Her words seem to slap me in the face. I am a sinner. I know that I am not and neither will I ever be perfect. No matter how hard I try, I will mess up but . . . how much will I mess up? What will be the pattern of my life? What direction am I heading? Am I learning from my sins and moving forward? Am I messing up more and more or less and less? Did I want to continue having outbursts or did I want God to purge this sin from me?
No, I didn’t want the pattern of my life to be one of outbursts. I had prayed for this. I had asked God to help me. And I thought about how distraught I was over this particular sin with my children. God was showing me how good it is to be grieved over sin because that’s how a saved and growing Christian feels when he sins.
It’s proof positive that God is working and perfecting and molding and shaping.
And that girl - GraceAnna - through her simple observation so encouraged me! Now, if only those people in Subway knew the joy of such a slap in the face made by young fresh-cheeked girl with a dorito in one hand and a sandwich in the other.
OK, I really did feel like dancing in the middle of the Subway line.
But I didn’t.
So many years later, I still think about the lessons of my outburst. I’m not perfect, I’ve had some more, but God in His grace is still working on me.

by Audrey on March 18th, 2016

A number of years ago, at the close of a long day, I drove up to our little neighborhood post office to get the mail. It was dark, I had a rare headache, and I was alone. After I pulled the letters from our box, I got back in the car but before driving the quarter mile to our house, I decided to go ahead and open one of the letters. The words from a missionary friend captured my heart:

"How different is God's view of pain from ours. My instinct is to avoid or grumble underneath it. His is to embrace it for what it will produce in us. When I was in the first stages of labor with my son, a woman we had briefly met through our organization came to see me in the hospital. She shared Hebrews 12:2, and said that just as Jesus endured the cross for the joy of the salvation of His people, she wanted to encourage me to receive the pain for the life that would be entering the world. I thanked her politely, but I confess, I thought she was a little presumptuous. She had never been pregnant. What did she know about having a baby?! Well, in the middle of a long labor, as I felt myself tense up with the onslaught of a contraction, the Lord used this woman's words "receive the pain" to call me to relax into the contractions rather than brace against them. 

'Receive the pain' has often been my mantra for choosing to press through life's unpredictable and painful circumstances these past fifteen years. And just as my son was the wonderful result of that brief time of pain, I am trusting that God will not allow this and future pain to be without purpose and result, as my hope grows in resting on His character and not my circumstances."

I sat in my car while unexpected tears quietly dropped from my eyes splattering on her letter. She had written James 1:2-4 from the Phillips translation in her letter:

"When all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into your lives, my brothers, do not resent them as intruders, but welcome them as friends. Realize that they come to test your faith and to produce in you a quality of endurance. But let that process go on and you will find that you have become men of character, full of maturity, with no weak spots."

God's word and her application of His words penetrated my heart. See, at that time in my life, I realized that I had been carrying around some pain for quite some time - praying, yes, but more than praying or trusting, I had been bracing against it.

I don't like feeling pain. But at times there have been circumstances sorrow in my life that have brought great pain, heartache, and asking God to show His face through them - stresses He brought to me and still, I struggled with it.   I struggled so many times by asking God for wisdom and grace, what to do and say, how to feel, how to guard my own heart, seeking Him about what He wanted to teach me through the trials, what not to do and say.

And just as recently, on that particular morning during my quiet time, I had asked God for some very specific words of encouragement. While waiting for His encouragement and longing for it, I still carried my burden all day. I fasted. I prayed.

Then as quietly as the evening came, God sent His message to me through a missionary friend on the other side of the world. God revealed to me in just a few seconds that I needed to receive the pain of life.  I was reminded that all of the pain of this life is temporary. And I can smile with assurance through, yes, even the greatest wailing in the deepest part of my soul, knowing God is at work.  

I learned that evening that I needed to relax in Who God is and to stop bracing against what God was doing.

Even now,  I sometimes forget that God is working in ways that I cannot see. His work, His surgery, often hurts. I sometimes forget that He cares more than I do. I sometimes forget that He wants to use my pain, not as some intruder, but as a welcomed friend who will help me grow to maturity.

It is my prayer that I will always receive the pain and allow God to accomplish what concerns me.

I don't know but when I got to my home, I felt lighter, my headache was gone, and my attention was turned away from myself to my missionary friend. I had allowed the friend of pain into my life.  So I prayed for my missionary friend and asked God to send her some very specific words of encouragement, as He had done, through her, to me.


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