Pain. Never-ceasing. Never-ending. Unrelenting. Unyielding. At times, it’s as if a giant fist smacks you in the gut, blasting the breath right out of you. It doubles you over, and you curl up in the fetal position (ironic considering the source of the pain). You become completely incapacitated. Then an amazing thing happens. Your almost-three (June 15th)-year-old gets out her prayer-book that’s in the shape of a purse. She opens it up to a page with a huge cross right in the middle of it. She’s sitting on the floor next to you, and she says, “God’s carrying mommy and daddy.”
That’s exactly what happened at my house last night. I’ve wanted to write another post for awhile now, but to be honest, I haven’t really felt like it. Simply getting up out of bed is a challenge these days. However, I told myself a long time ago that this blog was about quality and not quantity. Whenever God wanted me to write something, as He has been my guide in this since it’s inception, He would let me know. What Emma did last night was the first of two encounters that just lifted my spirits enough so that I got His message loud and clear.
The second was absolutely stunning. As I was on Facebook last night around 11pm, my doorbell rang. Usually, the first thing you think of when that happens at such a late hour, is that either something’s wrong or there’s someone at your door that really shouldn’t be there. When I got up and looked through the frosted glass panes to either side of the front door, I could see that it was my neighbor, Jessica. Lena and I immediately thought the former and opened the door asking if everything was okay. She said that they were fine, but she and her husband, Carl, wanted us to come outside for a minute.
We followed her next door to stand in their front yard. Carl said that he had been outside talking to his mother for the last ten or fifteen minutes, and that’s when he noticed it. He first directed us to look up, which we did. It was almost a full moon (I think it was beginning its waning stage), and the sky was lit with a soft glow, as though the moon were a softly glowing candle. There were pinpoints of light circling the aura around the moon…stars. Not a cloud in the sky, or so we thought.
Carl then pointed to a star directly over our house. I can’t tell you what direction we were facing. What I can tell you is that it was brighter than all the rest. It also had a kind of flicker to it. That’s when I noticed the cloud formation. It was almost centered on our roof, and Carl and Jessica saw an angel floating in the night sky. I saw something entirely different. There, as though waiting patiently for us, was the profile of a butterfly. I could make out the long tubular body with wings swept back as if in mid-flight. After looking at it through eyes clouded with tears, it simply dissipated. It’s purpose fulfilled. It’s meaning unmistakable. We thanked our wonderful neighbors and went back inside. I told Lena that was awesome, and, though it still hurt a great deal, I felt oppression’s hand lighten just a little bit more.
Last week, a brother-in-Christ and fellow blogger, Sebastian, at faith1stministry told me that he felt led to share with me the phrase “beauty from ashes”. He explained that was one of God’s promises to us as it’s written in the bible. I googled it, and it came back to Isaiah 61:3…
“…to all who mourn in Israel, He will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, a festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for his own glory.”
There wasn’t an explanation in the study guide, but there was a cross-reference. It led me to Jeremiah 17:7, 8. It seems as though Jeremiah and I are destined to become close friends…
“But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit.”
The next day, I was talking to our pastor’s wife (our co-pastor) about what Sebastian had given me. She told me that she was meditating on the very same scripture (Isaiah 61:3) the previous night. I knew then what God was trying to show me. The study guide had this to say about Jeremiah 17:7, 8…
“Two kinds of people are contrasted here: those that trust in human beings and those who trust in the Lord. The people of Judah were trusting in false Gods and military alliances instead of God, and thus they were barren and unfruitful. In contrast, those who trust in the Lord flourish like trees planted along a riverbank. In times of trouble, those who trust in human beings will be impoverished and spiritually weak, so they will have no strength to draw on. But those who trust in the Lord will have abundant strength, not only for their own needs, but even for the needs of others. Are you satisfied with being unfruitful, or do you, like a well-watered tree, have strength for times of crisis and even some to share as you bear fruit for the Lord?”
I’ve had so many people come to me and say what an inspiration I and my family are to them…how they look up to us and admire our strength and faith. Truth be told, I would trade all of this in for one more hug and kiss from my Baby Butterfly. I know that may be selfish, but I’m her earthly father and a human being. What I tell those that share these thoughts with me is this: It’s not me, it’s God. He’s the one giving me the supernatural strength to put one foot in front of the other. He’s the one carrying me now as He did when I carried Mia out of the chapel. He’s the one that is helping me to see beauty all around me in spite of the ashes that are in my heart. And if someone out there reading this story, and the story of how God is touching our family in the midst of this crisis, is blessed and strengthened themselves, then to God be ALL the glory and ALL the praise.
Though the pain is constant and at most times unbearable, I will continue to be the well-watered tree planted along a riverbank. For that’s when I’m the most at peace…when I’m sharing what God is doing for me and my family and what He can do for you if you’ll allow Him to.
I couldn’t find a good video for this song, but I do have the audio track. Please give a listen. Shane and Shane give an amazingly touching rendition. I pray you’ll be blessed and find strength in your time of need.