Tag Archives: Grace

Lessons on Suffering


It was the Spring of 2013, and I was struggling with the myriad of difficult circumstances our family was facing and attempting to reconcile my spiritual beliefs in light of those circumstances.

Gracen and Katie had been diagnosed with ARSACS, a rare and progressive form of muscular dystrophy a year before. Their prognosis was not encouraging. We saw increasing deterioration in Gracen’s health, which seemed to be moving faster than we’d expected based on the limited amount of information available. Bethany had completed her freshman year of college at the University of Central Arkansas and was growing increasingly cynical toward the faith of her youth. And David’s job was in jeopardy. He is the sole breadwinner for our family and we were unsure if he would qualify for unemployment benefits. Needless to say, I was a tad stressed.

Funny how none of the things above was my personal problem. Each one was a battle for those I love most deeply and as a wife and mother, their suffering became my own. The curse of empathy is the ability to personalize another’s suffering as your own and that’s exactly what I did. Every physical setback Gracen and Katie experienced resulted in grieving the lost abilities for my daughters and for myself. Each time Bethany attacked a biblical truth, I ached and feared for her, for her future, for her eternal safety and for myself knowing her choices might lead me to endure painful consequences alongside her. And I was well aware how a man’s job impacts his self-esteem not to mention the burden of financial insecurity.

One morning I sat out on my back patio with my bible and smartphone and began searching the scriptures for what God’s Word said about suffering. This is what the Apostle Paul wrote about his own trials:

7 And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing, I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly, therefore, will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”  —  2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (KJV)

When Paul asked God to remove the thorn in his flesh, this was God’s response:

(2 Corinthians 12:9)  “My grace is sufficient for thee . . . “

“My strength is made perfect in weakness . . . “ KJV

Or in another translation

“My power is perfected in weakness . . .” NASB


Christ praying and sweating blood in the Garden of Gethsemane

In 2 Corinthians 12:7 Paul tells the reader the purpose of the thorn in his flesh. I find it interesting that Paul knew and understood why he was suffering, just as Christ did in the Garden of Gethsemane, yet both Paul and Christ asked for their suffering to be taken from them. That tells me that understanding God’s purposes doesn’t make suffering any easier to endure. Knowing why doesn’t make the hurt or the fear go away. The truth is that, in our humanity, we are desperate to escape pain in spite of recognizing God’s greater plan.

In this particular case, the purpose of Paul’s thorn in the flesh was to keep him humble. Paul understood that the normal human response to being singled out by the resurrected Lord—and receiving the sheer abundance of revelation he received—would commonly result in pride; a very destructive character trait.

Paul described the thorn in his flesh two ways:

1)  As a gift; well he doesn’t actually call it a gift.  He simply says it was given to him which implies to me that it was a gift and its purpose implies it was a gift from God (to keep him humble).  Funny how a message from the enemy to buffet a believer could be seen as a gift from God when it serves His purpose. And it was a good thing because it saved Paul from the pain and destruction pride brings. Maybe some of our sufferings are considered good from God’s perspective because it saves us from a fate that is far more detrimental to our overall well-being or damaging to our character.

2)  As a message from Satan to torment him.  It’s as if God allowed Satan to afflict Paul, just like God allowed Satan to afflict Job.  The Bible is riddled with such instances.  Satan intended this thorn in Paul’s flesh to hurt Paul just as Satan, via the conduit of his brothers, intended harm, even death, for Joseph.  Satan was also allowed to bring Christ to the cross, although Jesus laid down his own life in obedience to God.  Satan’s intent was to destroy God’s plan of redemption but again, God thwarted Satan through Christ’s resurrection which defeated the power of sin and death in men’s lives. It appears that two plans are being implemented simultaneously with very different goals. Satan’s goals are destructive but God is well aware that Satan has set out to destroy His children and God uses Satan’s own devices not only to thwart Satan’s plans but to triumph over them. Isn’t that the most satisfying form of serving justice and meting out righteous vengeance—to turn your enemy’s own evil plans against him? It’s pretty much the ultimate slap-down.

Although the message Satan wanted to communicate to Paul isn’t directly outlined, we can extrapolate it ourselves based on what we’ve heard other broken believers express through trials. Here’s a reasonable sampling:

1)  God doesn’t love you or He wouldn’t have allowed this bad thing in the first place

2)  If God really loved you, He would have healed you from this affliction

3)  God isn’t as powerful as He claims because He obviously can’t heal you or He would have

4)  God can’t protect you from me (Satan) – I’m more powerful than God

Just like Job, when Paul didn’t respond to suffering the way Satan expected, Satan added to Paul’s affliction.  2 Corinthians 11:23-27 says that Paul suffered more than any man for the sake of the gospel.  Paul:

1)  Received 39 stripes on five separate occasions at the hand of the Jews

2)  Was beaten with rods three times

3)  Was stoned once

4)  Was shipwrecked three times

5)  Spent a full day and night in the ocean on at least one occasion

Throughout his journeys to spread the gospel, Paul’s life was in danger from robbers, fellow Jews, Gentiles and false Christians wherever he went and however, he got there.  He suffered from cold, exposure, manual labor, sleepless nights, hunger & thirst all while shouldering the concerns of the churches he planted.

Satan uses affliction to:

1)  Discourage and torment believers

2)  Derail efforts to spread the gospel

3)  Cause believers to doubt God’s love, kindness, and power

I recently read a very interesting article about John 10:10, “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” The article examines the Greek words in this verse to aid in gaining a better understanding of the scripture. Click on the following link for an eye-opening read from the Renner Ministries Blog:

The Devil Has a Plan For Your Life!

God uses affliction to:

1)  To prevent us from becoming prideful — 2 Corinthians 12:7 (See above); Or maybe to prevent us from developing some other trait that damages our character or is personally destructive.

2)  To save His chosen people:

“Now do not be grieved or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. . . God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance.” — Genesis 45:5 & 7

“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” — Genesis 50:20

3)  To provide His children with the assurance of their own salvation:

The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” —  Romans 8:16

4)  Conform us into the image of Christ and share in the fellowship of His suffering, His consolation, and His glory:

“But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.”  — 2 Corinthians 3:18

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son . . . And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. — Romans 8:28-30

“And if we are children, then we are heirs: heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ—if indeed we suffer with Him, so that we may also be glorified with Him.” — Romans 8:17

“For just as the sufferings of Christ overflow to us, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. . . And our hope of you is stedfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation.” — 2 Corinthians 1:5 & 7

“But rejoice that you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed at the revelation of His glory.” — 1 Peter 4:13

5) To produce endurance, develop your faith, and lead to increased spiritual maturity:

“Be assured that the testing of your faith [through experience] produces endurance [leading to spiritual maturity, and inner peace]. And let endurance have its perfect result and do a thorough work, so that you may be perfect and completely developed [in your faith], lacking in nothing.” — James 1:3-4 AMP

6) Enable us to comfort and encourage others who are suffering:

“Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.” — 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

7) To display the works of God:

“His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus replied: “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” — John 9:2-3

crown-and-thorns8)  To earn eternal rewards that will far outweigh the temporal suffering we experience in life:

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” — 2 Corinthians 4:16-18


Why is it important that we understand God’s purpose in allowing His children to suffer?

I think it’s critical that we realize that God uses affliction for a variety of purposes and each trial a believer encounters may serve a completely different purpose.

One thing I have discovered through child loss is that fellow Christians often try to encourage the grieving by reminding them that their current suffering will allow them to comfort another hurting soul somewhere down the road.  This may or may not be true. Depending upon the circumstances, the level of trauma involved, or the personality of the bereaved, God may never intend that believer’s suffering to be used to minister to another. The experience may be so negative that the individual may not be able to support and encourage another. The pressure to minister may re-victimize the believer or the individual may not be able to talk about their situation without inciting fear in another thereby doing more damage than good.

I have also discovered that those who are called to minister to others generally are not capable of taking on that role until a significant amount of healing has taken place in their own lives. Discernment is definitely required before encouraging anyone to minister to another as a result of their trial and also required for the tested, the survivor, to know if God is really calling them to this type of ministry or to minister to a specific individual. Ministry is about more than shared experience. Personality and approach matter.

Of all the purposes of suffering I uncovered in my research, all but one can generally be confirmed in hindsight. The one that can’t—when God allows suffering in order to prevent something He deems more damaging to His child. There are some things we will never be able to understand or explain.

Suffering almost always leads to the why question. But ultimately, having a definitive answer doesn’t make the suffering less painful or even lead a believer to embrace the pain for the joy that lies before them. Knowing why is less important than the fruit God produces as a result of affliction. Understanding why may come in hindsight, but even if it doesn’t, I believe there’s always a purpose, whether I approve of it or not, and God allows it for our individual, eternal good.

As Ruth, my grief counselor, pointed out to me recently, at creation, God proclaimed everything He created “good” not “perfect”. Why would Adam be made caretaker of all of creation if there were no problems to resolve? Had there been no problems, Adams job would have been superfluous.

Perfect is a life without problems, without suffering. Good is a life that includes problems, inconveniences, and even suffering. It’s a life that matures through time and experience. It’s a life that includes overcoming adversity, recognizing our dependence upon God, helping our fellow man, bringing glory to God and earning eternal rewards. We don’t earn anything unless we work for it. And God’s grace is sufficient to enable us to live a good life in spite of trials, afflictions, and suffering.


Posted by on August 26, 2016 in Adversity, Faith, Grief, Muscular Dystrophy


Tags: , , , , , , ,

The Wrecking Ball of Grace

The Wrecking Ball of Grace

I hope one day, I will be able to minister grace to those I’ve hurt as I’ve licked my own wounds. I know it’s true that hurting people hurt others. I take no pleasure in the wounds I’ve inflicted in the search for understanding and validation as the waves of grief have flowed over me.

(Clink on the link highlighted in red below to read the article in its entirety.)  


In the aftermath of loss, relationships suffer.

Sometimes it’s because of harsh words exchanged in the heat of emotional moments.

Sometimes it’s due to disagreements about how to deal with ongoing issues.  Often, it’s because most people just don’t know what to say and don’t know what to do in the presence of great pain and suffering.

Days and weeks and months pass and one day we wake up and realize that a previously close relationship is now distant and strained.

I know that in my grief I have felt abandoned by people I felt sure would stand with me, would never leave me, would be my most stalwart encouragers.

And I know, too, that I have shut some people out.  Some were too chipper or too quick to offer platitudes and others just seemed intolerant of my ongoing pain and sorrow.

Walls have been erected.

My heart sectioned off…

View original post 146 more words

Leave a comment

Posted by on July 16, 2016 in Faith, Grief, Links



My Cup Overflows

“You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.” Psalm 23:5b

I remember standing in our field with my husband at sundown one day, thankfulness and grace and mercy and wonder flooding my…

(Clink on the link highlighted in red below to read the entire article.)  

Source: My Cup Overflows


Posted by on June 16, 2016 in Faith, Grief


Tags: , ,

How well did I understand grace before I understood grace? – Escape to Reality

magic-eye-3dHave you ever seen those Magic Eye 3D pictures that look random at first glance but then reveal a hidden picture? Maybe there’s a group of you looking and someone says, “Wow – look at that! It’s a …

(Clink on the link highlighted in red below to read the full article.)  

Source: How well did I understand grace before I understood grace? – Escape to Reality

1 Comment

Posted by on March 22, 2016 in Faith, Links


Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,


Another great post from The Life I Didn’t Choose (  The author, a bereaved parent, addresses issues of value to every committed follower of Christ.


For our momentary, light distress [this passing trouble] is producing for us an eternal weight of glory [a fullness] beyond all measure [surpassing all comparisons, a transcendent splendor and an e…

(Clink on the link highlighted in red below to read the complete article.)  

Source: Perspective – thelifeididntchoose

Leave a comment

Posted by on March 5, 2016 in Adversity, Faith, Grief, Links


Tags: , , , , ,

Faith & Faithfulness


You know, there’s a big difference between faith and faithfulness.  I think, at times, I confuse the two. Two years ago in March I posted, “A Mother’s Musings” on the blog site my sister-in-law, Sandy, set up after the car wreck our family was involved in.  It’s also the first blog post I published on Boxx Banter.

In March of 2014 I had things to say, things I wanted others to know or understand, and misconceptions I wanted cleared up.  In the months between the collision and that blog post, my Facebook had become filled with comments about my strong faith.  That was the biggest misconception I wanted to clear up.

I was bothered by those comments for several reasons.  One reason is that I feared people were placing me on some spiritual pedestal I knew I was completely unworthy of, and once there, well, it was only a matter of time before I fell from it in spectacular fashion.

Let me give you an example.  Last summer I took Gracen to one of many medical exams. That particular day the doctor had a medical student in tow.  During the course of our visit the doctor asked me how Gracen was doing emotionally; how we were all coping with the events that had so drastically changed our lives.  Among other things, I commented that humor (dark though it may be) was playing an unexpected role in our recovery.  At that point the well-meaning physician interjected something along the lines of, “And faith. Faith has helped you.”  While this was true, his comment served as a verbal rebuke. You see, as a fellow believer he knew faith was our anchor.  He had an ulterior motive when he asked his question and I failed his test.  He wanted a testimony before his shadowing student, and frankly, I missed the cue.  Had he said, “I know you are a Christian, has your faith helped you to cope?” or “Have you seen the hand of God in the aftermath of your accident?” he would have received much different response.  However, in my own little grief bubble, I didn’t realize his intent.  And that quickly I fell from the pedestal he’d erected and as a result set myself up for criticism and judgment – not that he did either of those things.  But such is the nature of elevating the faith of any Christian because every single one of us will fail.

But even more worrisome than the exposure of my all too human faults, was the idea that people assumed I had some great faith at all.  I felt in failing to correct that misconception, I was sinning by omission.  And this is the place where I think my mind blurred the lines between faith and faithfulness.

Faith is being confident of something beyond the reach of total fact.

Faithfulness, on the other hand, is the consistent repetition of an act.  People live their lives doing many things faithfully, from the tasks required for their jobs to exercise.

The thing is, a believer can become a Christian (by grace through faith – Ephesians 2:8) without becoming faithful and also without faith becoming an integral part of who they are.  Faith can be something we put on and take off in situations we deem appropriate when we continue to feed on the milk of the Word (basic Christian teachings) instead of moving on to the meat of the Word (more challenging Christian doctrines).   In other words, if we don’t commit ourselves to learning and growing in our faith, then our faith simply won’t grow to any significant degree.

Quick Sidebar – I love the way these two translations render Ephesians 2:8!

Aramaic Bible in Plain English
For it is by his grace that we have been saved through faith, and this faith was not from you, but it is the gift of God,

GOD’S WORD® Translation
God saved you through faith as an act of kindness. You had nothing to do with it. Being saved is a gift from God.

Okay, back to business!

When I conceived my first child, I became a mother.  However, conception didn’t initially alter the way I thought and behaved.  In fact, even after I brought my first daughter home from the hospital, I didn’t think like a mother all the time.  One occasion in particular comes to mind; an evening when my husband wasn’t home.  I recall thinking, “Ok, after I get the baby to sleep I’ll put a load of wash in then run to Walmart . . . Uh, what am I thinking?  I can’t put the baby to bed and run to Walmart!”

It took time for motherhood to become ingrained into my being to the point where every decision I made was filtered through my love for my children and my responsibility as a mother.  At that point, I didn’t have to remind myself to think about my children, it became second nature.  The more I behaved like a mother, the more motherhood became enmeshed in my daily life, in my very being.

Christianity (faith) works much the same way in a process known in theological terms as “sanctification”.  Sanctification is a fancy term that means to be made Christ-like. Sanctification is a three phase process.  When a person chooses to accept Christ as their savior, they are deemed “positionally” sanctified, or set apart for a holy purpose.  The new believer then embarks upon a process of “progressive” sanctification.  Every believer stays in this phase for the remainder of their earthly lives.  It is the place where the Holy Spirit in cooperation the believer, changes the believer’s heart, mind, attitudes, motives and behavior in progressive holiness.  The final stage is known as “perfected” sanctification which describes what takes place at death or Christ’s return when the believer is actually made fully Christ-like, completely holy.

I became a Christian long ago and while I was positionally sanctified I didn’t automatically starting acting and thinking like Christ.

images (31)Faith is an integral part of my life.  In many ways it defines me.  However, my true nature is that of a sinful human being.  Faith is second-nature to me.  My first nature, sinfulness, far too often drives me.  Yet, I committed to following Christ and over the years the Holy Spirit has been busy.  More and more often I find my initial thoughts ruled by Biblical truth.  I’ve been changed by God’s unmerited favor with increasing confidence and assurance (faith) that not only does He exist but that I can trust Him to keep His promises.

But regardless of my growing faith, my sin nature can and does lead me away from being faithful to the God I love and believe in.  Sometimes I allow human frailties such as fatigue, disappointment, selfishness and anger as an excuse to skip church, quit reading God’s Word, and avoid ministering to others.

672f1f67a5d29fd4f32305442dbed888I have discovered that I do have a strong faith after all; but that I am less faithful than I expect myself to be.  I don’t need Satan to denounce me as a fraud, my own heart and mind taunts me with that truth. However, the same grace that enticed me to faith, is poured from a fountain of unlimited supply.

Men of faith have shown themselves to be completely incapable of maintaining a covenant relationship with God since creation.  We have failed to keep our commitments, but God has consistently kept His in spite of our faithlessness.  Does God’s grace give me license to sin?  Of course not. But His faithfulness, His loving kindness, His gentleness, His mercy and compassion leads Him to fill my cup to overflowing with grace – grace that is greater than all my sins.

I’m not faithless, but I do fail to be faithful.  Hearing others say my faith is strong no longer makes me feel like a fraud; in spite of the fact that I am not as faithful as I want to be.


No, I neither lack faith nor do I fail to be faithful.  I know this because as much as I’ve wrestled with my beliefs, with God Himself, over the last two years, the foundation of my faith has not been shaken.  I continue to seek God faithfully, even if it is little more than trying to understand God and His ways in light of my circumstances.  And I think God is teaching me about the fullness of His grace and unconditional love.  I am thankful that God is forever faithful even when I’m not.


Posted by on February 17, 2016 in Faith


Tags: , , , , , ,

Conversations with Melanie – Part 2

download (3)A fellow bereaved parent and blogger, Melanie, recently asked me if I still struggle with feeling God’s love. The question came in response to a post I published several months ago entitled, “Uncovering Unknown Issues of the Heart”.  Yesterday I posted an edited version on my initial response to her.  Melanie replied back and here you will see how our subsequent conversation ended.  I should say, I’ve also edited my response after mulling over my initial off the cuff comments.  Here goes, and feel free to share your personal thoughts.  As Melanie recently reminded me, iron sharpens iron.  Weigh in with what God’s Word and personal experience has taught you.

Melanie:  “I can see what you mean when you place it in context of our relationships with other humans. You’re right–we can’t MAKE others FEEL love even when we know we are loving them. And I had honestly never thought to ask God to help me recognize and feel His love. Submitting to Him has always been the focus of so many teachings and sermons and it has become my default answer to myself when I can’t “feel” God–it must be that I am resisting Him–so I back up and try harder (kind of an oxymoron, isn’t it) to submit. And this losing a child–on the one hand I think I have submitted. I do honestly believe that my children are given me to steward, not to own. I mean, his name was Dominic–belonging to God–and I chose it on purpose because I believe it. But then the days and weeks and months that come after losing a child. The loss really never ends. Living with the constant reminders and the ever-new daily losses (like when his friends graduate law school and pass the Bar) just add up and cloud my vision. . . I will ask the Father to teach me how to recognize and feel His love. To unwrap the gift.”

The gift Melanie refers to above is a response to this statement I made in yesterday’s post:

“I can ask God to help me not only accept His love, like a gift wrapped package and to receive it by opening the gift but also to open my heart so I value the gift as it was intended.”

Janet:  Melanie, I too have my default “theologies”. I think, and I say that because I’ve found there are often layers to my thoughts – layers of beliefs.  So I think I believe one thing but as I wrestle with it, I find it’s really the top layer to another more fundamental belief.  I’m pretty sure other people do this too.  A core belief gets layered over by insights (right or wrong) we gain as we assimilate Biblical teaching and life experience. In my post, “What is the Value of a Child’s Life?“, I included a brief prayer in which I asked God, “Am I so rebellious that the only way you can teach me is through suffering?”

Probably my biggest overall theological belief is that there are two over-reaching purposes for every experience (good and bad) we encounter in life. The first is to reach the lost with the gospel and the second is to conform the believer into the image of Christ. But really, is that true or just the theology that allows me to understand God whose thoughts and ways are higher than mine? We want so desperately to make sense of life’s tragedies but maybe the answers are far more simple. Maybe you aren’t failing to submit at all. Maybe I’m not too hard-headed to learn. Maybe someone’s free-will intersected with our lives; or when sin entered the world, mutated genes, deficient immune systems, or rogue cells were some of the consequences that affected all of creation resulting in genetic diseases, cancer, and other deadly illnesses, and God, in His wisdom, choose not to intervene in our individual lives, not because you or I needed to be corrected, but for some higher reason we can’t begin to fathom.


I’m not sure what your theological background is, i.e., different denominations teach different things. Baptist or Pentecostal. Nazarene or Catholic. Those affiliations influence what we believe about topics from salvation to grace and everything in between. I believe we are saved by grace not works. But you know what? On some levels a works-based theology is easier even though the opposite often appears to be true. I like to follow rules because then I don’t have to guess and possibly get my theology wrong. But those same rules, just like the Ten Commandments, scream conviction and condemnation when things go fall apart. I must have done something wrong and that’s why this terrible thing happened to me. I must be really bad because bad things, big tragedies in fact, not simple course corrections keep happening to me. Down deep inside I must be rebellious. And you and I keep trying to “fix” ourselves and another layer is added to a core belief that may have started out as simple and pure and is now buried beneath correct and incorrect assumptions and teachings.

But what of grace? Grace is harder for me. It’s like an endless open field and I don’t know what to do because there are no boundaries. Grace says, “You aren’t resisting me, Melanie.” , “You aren’t rebellious, Janet.” This open field is your green pasture beside still waters – rest so that I can restore your soul.” But this open field of love and acceptance, of unmerited favor, in spite of my failure to trust or be faithful, feels overwhelming to me and instead of appreciating it, I’m filled with anxiety as I try to figure it all out so that I don’t get hurt again.


Was Job failing to submit to God when Satan appeared before Him and asked, “Have you considered my servant Job?” No. Did Job learn a valuable truth about God by the end of the story? Yes; but did God set the events of the book of Job in motion in order to teach Job about His sovereignty? The book of Job never tells us that God allowed all those things to teach Job, or even his friends anything. Those lessons are an example of how all things work for good, but we seem to warp the meaning of that verse into saying God allowed certain events to happen for this greater purpose, thereby making God ultimately responsible for every tragedy that befalls us for the ultimate purpose of teaching us some lesson.

Maybe Satan still appears before God. Maybe God asked Satan, “Have you considered my servant Melanie?” Maybe you are the shining example God proudly draws Satan’s attention to for the purpose, not of correcting your failure to submit, but instead to once again show Satan, that you don’t love Him (that mankind in general doesn’t love Him) because He has richly blessed you; instead you love Him because He first loved you.

Maybe you will unwrap that gift and think, “What am I going to do with this? I was hoping for something else.” And maybe, just maybe, at the end of our stories we will look back on that gift that so baffled us and appreciate it for the precious and perfect gift it really was because we will find it wasn’t about God’s sovereignty or how to submit, but instead it was the gift of God’s grace and peace – maybe peace results when the Holy Spirit enables us to comprehend, assimilate and experience the wonder of grace.  Maybe that’s when we will feel the fullness of God’s love for us.  Maybe that’s when we will fully rest in God’s love.



Paul’s Prayer for the Ephesians:  “…that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:16-19


Posted by on February 9, 2016 in Faith, Grief


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Mercy, Forgiveness & Testimony

Mercy, Forgiveness & Testimony

I received the county 911 dispatch calls from our attorney’s office last year around this time.

That very day I listened to every recorded call.  Two calls featured my shrill, hysterical, voice in the background, which was surprising only in that I was completely unaware of the people who were placing those calls at the time.  They had to have been close at hand but their presence did not register in my mind.

The call Onstar placed for the owner of the speeding silver pickup was interesting in that they only seemed concerned with possible injuries to their driver.  I guess that’s the guy paying them and yet you’d think the Onstar operator, after discerning the wellbeing of his client, would inquire about other injuries as well.  What if the accident occurred when the road was deserted and their call was the only one placed to 911?


10403417_816648245063764_3713033303821133814_n - Edited

Following my foray into the past, into bystanders reactions to the devastation of my life; immeasurably sad, I sprinkled burial-scented bath salts (Frankincense & myrrh) into my tub (not out of morbidity but because I love the fragrance) and sank into the warm water neck deep to process the emotions weighing so heavily on my heart.

And like so many nights before, my thoughts circled.  But this time the conclusions drawn seemed to contradict each other.  I found myself still firmly rooted in the belief that God will ensure justice is served since the legal system failed us to such a colossal degree, and then another, more sobering thought took center stage.  I faced the thoroughly discouraging knowledge that in truth, justice may never be served for my daughters because of God’s grace and mercy.  All that’s required for any one of us to receive forgiveness is that we seek God with a repentant heart and Poof! – our sins are forgiven – covered by the blood of the lamb, who so graciously covered my sins as well.


For the irrevocably injured this is a hard truth – an unpalatable truth, a bitter pill – and I found myself sobbing out my outrage, bath towel pressed to my mouth to muffle the sound from David and Gracen watching TV in the other room.

I found myself truly angry – enraged really – to consider that God will grant these men forgiveness full and free.  FREE!


I realize the key here is that the drivers, the prosecutor and the judge, each will first have to acknowledge and repent of their sin.  However, do they get to repent of a sinful lifestyle without specifically confessing the sins that led to the deaths of my daughters, the destruction of life as we knew it?  I know I never confessed each and every sin I’d committed when seeking salvation.

The possibility that mercy may be extended at such a great personal cost, without my consent or permission, is completely repulsive to me.  I’m not unaware of the irony of that statement in that that same grace and mercy was extended to me (although it should be noted that God, Himself did in fact grant permission).  This is not only an emotional battle but one I struggle with intellectually as well.

images (7)

Surprisingly, the idea of spending eternity with these men is not a such a difficult pill to swallow – only because the logical part of my mind is assured that is not a possibility. The Bible says at the point of salvation we become a new creature.  They may enter heaven with the same name but not the same nature and by golly, I will be made like Christ which will allow me to walk the streets of gold without stalking them and plotting to do them harm! For that I can be grateful as what kind of paradise would heaven be for me in I continued to harbor animosity toward any of these men and had to live eternally in their presence?

I hate this!  To forever and for all eternity be denied justice is a truth not easily accepted and one I know will require a considerable amount of excruciating personal struggle.  I have no desire to even contemplate the process.

Yet months and months later, that’s exactly where I found myself – contemplating a lack of justice and prayerfully forgiving these men – not for their benefit but for mine.  I highly doubt I can ever look upon the unlicensed driver, the prosecutor or the judge with anything but contempt, but my hope is their power to hurt me has been forever laid to rest.  The speeding driver, I think I can actually look at with pity – unless I find he too lacks remorse and that he assumes no responsibility for his own actions.  But, for now, I know no such thing and I will deal with forgiveness again should the need arise – for myself and because it’s commanded of me by my Savior.  But mostly for my selfish self so I can find a way to live free – without nausea – to lay down the burdens I’ve chosen to carry and those thrust upon me.

Someday, I hope to find my life no longer defined by the accident that forever altered it.  I hope there comes a day where following the introduction to someone new, the aside “That’s the woman whose children were killed in that car accident and . . .”  is no longer is tacked on either in my presence or behind my back as if I’m a novelty in a circus sideshow.

I hope the day comes where there are more notable things to define me than the losses I’ve suffered and the disappointments I’ve endured.

Words like “Bright, Passionate & Generous”“Joyful, Imaginative & Compassionate”, or “Courageous, Sassy & Tenacious” – the words found on Bethany and Katie’s headstones and reserved for Gracen’s.  I told her she’s the only one to be gifted with veto power.

Words that proudly proclaim the content of their character and personality more than the circumstance of their lives.  Words that speak of their true essence. Words that reflect the supernatural work of their Creator, their Savior and the Holy Spirit at work within.  Words that glorify God and forever testify to the immeasurable value of their lives, in spite of their far too soon departure from this world.  And yes, I hope David and Gracen can easily distill my character and personality down to three simple words on a headstone the only testimony of a life lived, choices made, and relevance assigned/ordained – by my Creator. I’m hoping for something more impressive than “Total book nerd”!


Posted by on February 5, 2016 in Adversity, Faith, Grief


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Graceful Gratitude


Thanksgiving started early for me this year. 2:15 a.m. to be exact.  That’s the time my cell phone rang alerting me that Gracen was in need of some help.  Following her call, I hurried to the bedroom next door to find Gracen flat on her back, thirsty, hot and trapped under her covers with her knees bent and sore.

I peeled her covers back and removed the new knee-high AFOs (Ankle/Foot Orthotics) she now wears to bed nightly. Then I helped her to straighten her legs out by pulling her ankles toward the end of the bed and simultaneously pushing down on her knees one at a time before getting her some water.

Through all that, she accepted help without one complaint, in spite of the fact that I slept through two text messages before she called my cell.

Then I kissed her goodnight for the second time and crawled back in bed hugging my pillow to my chest; and I thanked God for Gracen’s attitude and for the grace she demonstrates in the face of debilitating disease.

As I lay still waiting for sleep to once again overtake me, I absorbed the most recent physical changes in Gracen’s body.  It hurts to watch her body continuously fail her.  And I thought about gratitude. One thing I’ve found in the face of the deaths of my oldest and youngest daughters, Gracen’s injuries and progressive disease is that others, in sincere compassion, try to make me feel better by reminding me of the many blessings in my life.  It’s almost as if people believe that counting your blessings negates your sorrows; which is categorically untrue.

Gracen’s diminishing physical abilities actually set the stage for thankfulness for it is in light her losses that I find myself grateful for much simpler things.  In the wee hours of Thanksgiving morning I found myself thankful for my graceful daughter precisely because she has every reason in the world to be angry and resentful.

The point I’m trying to make is that gratitude is experienced in contrast to those things for which we are not thankful.  Andrew Downs said it far better in his book  Alex Hollick:  Origins:

“To walk in the shadows is not a curse and to walk in the sun is not a blessing.  They are simply relative points of harmony, by which we can appreciate what we have, what we once had and what we hope to have.  The sun means nothing without the shadows, nor would shadows without the sun.”

So, by all means, count your blessings; but don’t beat yourself up for the normal emotions that arise from trials and loss.  God doesn’t tells us to suppress our emotions.  He tells us to bring our burdens to Him and when we do, gratitude will likely follow as we witness His care and provision.

1 Comment

Posted by on December 1, 2015 in Chronic Illness, Faith, Grief


Tags: , , , , ,

%d bloggers like this: