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My First Blog Post

Hi!

I am Susan Simon, a lover of Jesus, Harold, David, Cullen, Russell, Jesse, Philip, friends, animals, reading, and writing! This represents my first attempt at blogging and I am excited about sharing some of my insights on Scripture, personal devotional time, everyday life situations, stories, grief, and child loss. Subscribe below to get notified when I post new updates. d I would welcome your comments and suggestions!

“Miss” Joyce

Not all adoptions are created equal, and our son Philip’s story is an exceptional one. Suffice it to say here, that we would have never had the privilege of knowing Miss Joyce had Philip not come into our family.

Miss Joyce departed her earthly home early this morning, July 1st, for her heavenly one. Philip had the privilege of participating in a face-time call to his biological great-grandmother last night with other members of his birth family. How precious is that?

During his college years he learned that Miss Joyce was his great-grandmother. Ever sensitive to our feelings, he always asked, “Are you sure you will not feel threatened if I try to find my birth family?” We continued to assure him that we would not, even encouraging him in his search and offering to help in any way we could.

He was so excited to learn of his “Gammy!” By that time in his life, both his adoptive maternal and paternal grandparents were deceased. Gammy invited him to come and visit her at her home, and he asked us to accompany him. Her kind invitation meant the world to Philip, and to us.

We had a lovely visit! Miss Joyce was warm, gracious, full of questions, and obviously delighted to meet her great-grandson. She was also relieved to learn about Philip’s upbringing in our home, about his adoptive siblings, and she very much appreciated meeting us as well. She indicated that she had always wondered about his adoptive family, how he was raised, what kind of young man he had become. After seeing him, getting to speak with him previously and in person that day, and meeting us, she expressed that she had experienced great peace of heart and mind.

Not so very long after our visit, Philip became engaged and invited his great-grandmother, his great uncle Les and his wife, Helen, and his great aunt, Douglas, to the wedding. I asked Miss Joyce to sit next to me as the great-grandmother of the groom, and Philip walked her down the aisle to be seated. Prior to the wedding, Miss Joyce and I had a few telephone conversations regarding her wedding attire. She wanted to do everything just right! I chuckled when she told me that sometimes she could be a pretty wild dresser! At the reception, she and Philip shared a dance! How often does a great-grandmother get to attend the wedding of her great- grandson?

The rehearsal dinner, wedding, and reception were wonderful! Philip met other members of his biological family for the first time and we all had the opportunity to get to know one another. We learned that one of Les’ and Helen’s daughters is married to one of Jenny and Ron Steele’s sons! Ron was an assistant pastor at Briarwood and their sons were little boys when we attended church there years prior to attending Third Presbyterian. The Lord often chooses to bring people together in the most unconventional ways!

I communicated with Miss Joyce on Facebook (she was pretty tech savvy!) and Philip and I went to have lunch with her on one of his days off from work. She was fiercely independent, lived by herself for many years, was never at a loss for words, and seemed to have a real zest for life.

The world needs more people like Miss Joyce; “Gammy” will be missed by her great-grandson Philip and his family, and by all who knew and loved her.

A Beginning, An Ending, and Another Beginning – Our Adoption Story

June 5th, 2020. Today, had he lived, Russell would have been 38 years old.

The day was June 5th, 1982; we had a new baby, a new member of the Simon family; a new beginning. I delivered our third son early on a bright, sunny Saturday morning. The “Smurfs” cartoon was playing on television, it was a perfect day, until it wasn’t.

You see, Russell was a full term baby, weighing a little over six pounds, but he was born with a diaphragmatic hernia. Because the herniation had occurred so early in my pregnancy, his left lung was severely underdeveloped. Minutes after his birth, he was incubated. I never held him, but when I put my hand into the incubator, he grabbed my index finger. The neonatologist informed us that while surgical repair of the herniation offered the best possible outcome, realistically, the likelihood of Russell’s survival was small. We gave our consent for the surgery and our son was immediately transferred to Children’s Hospital where the surgery was to be performed; my husband, Harold, went with him.

I found myself very much alone; I was angry at God, I was overwhelmed with sadness, and I had a thousand questions – none of which had answers. A dear friend, Helen, who had lost one of her twin boys with meningitis the previous year, came to sit with me; she passed up a day at the lake with her family to be there for me, and I will never forget her kindness.

After Russell’s surgery, Harold was able to see him, kiss him , and tell him goodbye for both of us. We were told of his death that afternoon around 4:30. His entire lifetime was less than eight hours. It was an ending which occurred all too soon after his life had begun.

Grief work is painful; it is physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually draining. For eighteen months, I seemed to be on autopilot; but by God’s grace, I managed to care for our four year old and two year old sons. I can remember as if it were yesterday when, upon finding me in a puddle of tears, they would say, “Mama, are you crying because you miss Baby Russell? Mama, he is with Jesus!” Truth, spoken from the mouth of babes.

“Yes, I know,” I replied. “I just miss him being with us.”

It was around this time that I felt God’s call upon my life to somehow be involved in the pro-life movement. I decided to do sidewalk counseling in front of the clinics on Saturday mornings. It was extremely difficult for me to do; I am not a confrontational person, and when I got home, I would review in my mind the conversations I’d had with clients – second guessing what I should have said, or didn’t say. I felt a sense of personal responsibility; I felt I’d failed if a client to whom I spoke went though with her abortion. Then one day, I met a lady who was expecting her fourth child. I told her there were people who would gladly foster parent her child until that child was adopted into his/her forever family, “OH REALLY?” was her retort. “Tell me, how many of these babies have YOU ever kept?”

Her statement changed my life! It was a new beginning. It was one of those BUT GOD moments!

You see, for some unknown reason, I always equated being used by God as having to be involved in doing something you have absolutely no aptitude for, or interest in doing. Why I had this mindset is a mystery to me, but nevertheless, I had it! I remember the song, “Please Don’t Send Me to Africa!” There is a line about “lions, and tigers, and bears, oh no!” I really have no desire to go to Africa with lions and tigers and bears! It never registered in my mind that God could use the abilities He’d given me, that He’d specifically gifted me with those abilities to use them for His glory; and finally, He never intended that I do something I was ill suited for or not equipped to do!

BUT I LOVE babies! I knew this was the avenue of involvement in the pro – life movement! I called Lifeline the following Monday and said, “Do you have a need for foster parents?” The receptionist who answered the phone was kind; I am sure she wanted to ask if I had recently come to planet earth from another galaxy!

“Oh yes! We always need foster parents!”

After completing the necessary paperwork, background check, and our home study, we got our first baby, a little boy. We called him Michael. He was the first of 14 foster children to come through our home over a period of seven years. We had Caucasian children, biracial children, African American children, and one special needs child. Each and every one of them added joy to our lives. By the time we received our first foster baby, we had had our fourth child, Jesse, as well.

When you foster parent, you sign an agreement with the agency that you will not try to adopt any child that you foster. Harold and I never considered adoption. We wanted four children, but with Jesse’s birth, we had four children; one of them lived in heaven. We decided that we would consider adoption only if 1) the agency came to us and asked us to adopt and 2) if for whatever reason an adoption failed and there was no home for that child, or the child was not placed, we felt that was the Lord’s will that we adopt that child.

I have a gazillion stories of our foster parenting experiences, but in view of all the racial tension in our world today, this is my favorite story. We had a little African American girl in our home for about seven months prior to her adoption. After she had been in our home for about four or five weeks, sweet Jesse looked at me one day and said, “Mama! Did you know this baby was black?!?”

“Yes, Jesse, I had noticed that!”

“Mama, I wish we could keep just one of these little chocolate babies!”

Was that precious, or what?

In late July or early August of 1991, we had returned from vacation after having had a special needs little girl in our home for about nine months. She weighed just under two pounds at birth, was born at 28 weeks gestation, and we were able to bring her home from the NICU when she weighed four pounds. She had been on an apnea monitor which alarmed most every night, and when it didn’t, we awakened with an adrenaline rush, thinking something had happened to her. In short, we were pretty tired. I made the decision not to take another baby until we could get a little more caught up in the sleep department.

On Wednesday, after coming home on Saturday, Lifeline called and asked if we would keep a baby while another foster parent was on vacation. I declined.

On Thursday, they called and asked if we could keep one of the babies that would be transferred from Mobile on Saturday. I declined once again. I had the same conversation with Lifeline on Friday as well. Still, I declined. I was beginning to think I had this “Just Say NO” down to a science! On Saturday, alas, I was not at home: when Lifeline called, they spoke to Harold. They even told him they had been asking me to keep a baby since Wednesday, and I had refused, but they were desperate. Harold decided that of the three babies, we would take the oldest child, and pray he/she did not have colic so we could sleep!

You can imagine my shock when I got the call!

“Susan, you need to go by Lifeline and pick up a baby!”

“Huh? I what?”

“Go by Lifeline and pick up a baby; a biracial little boy who is three months old!”

“Really??? I told them we had to get some sleep; that we didn’t need to keep another baby right now!”

“Yeah, I know; they told me; we’ll just pray he doesn’t have colic. That’s why I picked the oldest one!”

When I arrived at Lifeline, the cutest little fellow you’ve ever laid eyes on was in his car seat in the backseat of the social worker’s car. When I started to pick him up, he grinned from ear to ear as if to say, “I know who you are, or at least who you will be!”

He slept all night…no colic!

Fast forward until April 1992. Shortly before his first birthday, he was adopted by a wonderful African American family who had two daughters. Very shortly after the adoption, the family contacted me and asked if I could come and get him; they did not feel the adoption was going to work out. I urged them to contact the agency. In turn, Lifeline contacted me and said,”Will you take him back?”

“Yes,” I said, “For some unknown reason, I have loved this child more than any other child we’ve kept. My brain is telling me this is an unwise move, but my heart won’t allow you to put him anywhere else.” He came back that day.

And finally, on June 3rd, two days before the 10 year anniversary of the birth and death of our third son, Russell, Lifeline called and said, “We went to every couple who expressed an interest in this child, and they have either become pregnant or have decided on another baby. We felt led to ask if your family would consider adopting this little boy?”

That was a no brainer! I called Harold at work and he was in total agreement. The conditions we’d agreed upon as confirmation from the Lord that we were to adopt, had been met. By this time, the “just one little chocolate baby” Jesse wanted to keep had been in our home for almost a year. We named him Philip Jordan Simon, and we have been blessed to have him for 29 years. Four years ago, he gave us another blessing, his wife Jeseka, our daughter in love!

While a child can never be replaced, had Russell lived, would I have become involved in the pro-life movement, with sidewalk counseling and foster parenting? Only God knows. Harold and I never planned to pursue adoption, BUT GOD. From Russell’s brief life, God gave us a new beginning and another member of our family.

Look at All the Susans on the Table!!!

Before Harold and I married, his mother would often invite me to their home for Sunday lunch. Mrs. Simon (I never could call her Mildred; I just couldn’t!) was an excellent cook and she would serve a main course and several side dishes with every meal. Harold had some MAJOR adjusting to do when we married, as I would serve a main course and one side, and if I really felt inspired, I’d serve a salad!

She served everything family style so you could choose whatever dishes you wanted, but I thought it so strange that she would have a plate at your place setting, but there were all these bowls you could use for your sides. I just put everything I wanted on my plate, not using the extra bowls. Why would anyone need all those bowls? Besides, the dish washing and drying was delegated to Mr. Simon (Dallas, and I always called him Dallas!) and me if I was there for lunch. There was no dishwasher in existence! I noticed that Harold and his brother, Mark, would put their sides in bowls, but I had no clue it had been a LIFELONG practice for both of them!

When we married, I will never forget the first meal I prepared for Harold; I was so proud of myself! I actually went “all out” and served a meat, two sides, and a salad. I plated everything and set the plates on the table.

“Where are the bowls?” he asked.

“What bowls?” I replied.

“The bowls for the other food; I don’t like anything to touch!”

“Gosh, I don’t do bowls!!!!”

He calmly got up from the table, got a piece of loaf bread, and proceeded to tear it into quarters in such a way as to use it as “partitions” for his food!

I received this picture this afternoon from my brother-in-law, Mark, with the text message, “Look at all the Susans on the table!” It seems that his wife, Denise, calls all bowls, “Susans”, because of this story! And if you will notice, unlike her sister-in-law, Denise does bowls!!! Some things never change!

God’s Provision

Today I read a devotion by Lysa Terkeurst and realized something about myself; something that wasn’t pretty.

I don’t always want what God provides. I want more, or something different, or I just don’t like what He chooses to provide at all.

Yahweh-Yireh (Jehovah Jireh), is the name of God meaning “God will provide.” I recalled the scenario in Genesis 22 when Isaac asked his father, Abraham, “‘Where is the lamb for a burnt offering?'”

Abraham responded, “‘God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.'”

I wrote about this story in a previous post, but it was not until today I realized that while I did not come down from Mount Moriah with our sons as did Abraham, Yahweh-Yireh did indeed provide, but I did not want what He chose to provide.

Of course, no one wants to experience the death of a child, so in that sense for me to state, “I did not want what God provided,” actually sounds like a reasonable, rational statement. I don’t know about you, but I am an expert at “rationalizing” my sin!

But it goes deeper than that. He did provide, in SO MANY ways when our infant son Russell died, but because I was so focused on not wanting what God provided, I failed to recognize and be thankful for what He had so abundantly given.

But in God’s sovereign plan for my life, He knew what would unfold years later…the death of our thirty -two year old son. He knew the grief work I had to do, the anger and bitterness I had to confess and deal with before I could even begin to process the death of our second son. I have always said, “I would be in a very different place spiritually today had it not been for the death of our infant son.”

In spite of the spiritual growth I experienced as a result of wrestling with God over these unnatural, out of order deaths, the mother side of me still wants to have our sons with me. I love a quote by Fred Rogers. In speaking of parenting he said, “a large part of our emotional selves will stay with that person (our child/children) as long as we live.” Emotionally I am still very much tied to my children, when in reality, two of our children are no longer with us. Just this week, a friend said to me, “You will always be their mother.”

I am reminded of a story told by Reverend John Claypool in his book, Tracks of a Fellow Struggler, written after the death of his 10 year old daughter. He said that as a young boy, his family was gifted for a time with a washing machine. It seemed that the family who owned it could not, for whatever reason, use it at the time, and rather than have it just sit unused, they gave it to the Claypool family. Eventually, there came a time when they were able to use the washer once again, and they came and took it away. John Claypool remembered being really angry that the washer was gone. His mother wisely reminded him, “Wait a minute,son. You must remember, that washing machine never belonged to us in the first place. That we ever got to use it at all was a gift. So instead of being mad at its being taken away, let’s use this occasion to be grateful that we ever had it at all.”

And therein lies the key; thankfulness for each moment we are given with those we love, remembering they are our heavenly Father’s provisions, his gifts to us. We don’t deserve them, and have no “right” to them, because only God can breathe into a soul the breath of life; He is their Creator. They come to us with their unique personalities, a predetermined number of their days, their talents, their intellects, their physical characteristics, their strengths, and their weaknesses. We have them in our lives for a fixed amount of time in which we are to love them, nurture them, and point them to Jesus. In turn, they participate in helping us to become more Christ-like as they help us learn patience, humility, forgiveness, unconditional love, selflessness, dependence on the Lord, and generosity without expecting anything in return.

Like John Claypool’s mother, I remember those I love are not really mine at all; they are on loan to me for a season. When those gifts I expect to keep much longer are taken away, the Lord does provide. He answers the prayers of His people. He intercedes for us when we can’t pray or don’t know how to pray due to shock and confusion in our minds. He provides His peace of heart and mind in the midst of indescribable circumstances. He provides comfort, strength, and a desire to understand more of Him and His ways, even when His ways, painful as they may be, are the last thing I think I desire to understand.

One Small Child

I think it was sometime last week in my “read through the Bible in slightly less than a year” plan that I came across a reading in 1 Kings 14 that I’d either never read previously or that for the first time, the Holy Spirit impressed this particular passage on my mind. As I continued to ponder over these words for several days, I keep coming back to these words spoken by the prophet Ahijah to the mother of Abijah, the son of king Jeroboam. “‘ For I am charged with unbearable news for you… Arise, therefore, go to your house. When your feet enter the city, the child shall die. And all Israel shall mourn for him and bury him, for he only of Jeroboam shall come to the grave, because in him there is found something pleasing to the LORD, the God of Israel, in the house of Jeroboam‘” (1 Kings 14: 6b, 13-14, bold print, mine).

It seems a little background should be given here. We know from other Scripture that Israel had its share of wicked, corrupt kings; Jeroboam was among them. A former servant of king Solomon, he made calves of gold, constructed temples on the high places, and appointed priests from the people rather than from the Levites. He urged the people not to return to the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem to worship. His motive was to establish his government; he was greedy for power. Because Jeroboam did not follow in the way of the Lord and encouraged the people of Israel in idol worship, the Lord vowed to destroy the the house of Jeroboam. Not only would the members of the Jeroboam’s household die, but their bodies would be consumed by dogs or birds. The only person in the family who was spared this ignominious end was Jeroboam’s young son because “in him was found something pleasing to the Lord in the house of Jeroboam”.

To learn of the death of your child is indeed “unbearable news”. But even in death, the Lord extends grace. Jeroboam’s young son went to his grave untouched by the dogs and birds which devoured the bodies of the household of his father. He was mourned by all of Israel because in him “was found something pleasing to the Lord” despite the wickedness in his father’s house. The people of Israel mourned upon learning of the death of Jeroboam’s young son not because he was well known, nor because he had established a name for himself, and not because he had great wealth; but “because in him was found something pleasing to the Lord”.

When at the end of our lives the Lord looks at those of us who call ourselves His children, may He find something in each of us that is pleasing to Him, that is, the righteousness of Christ which conforms us to His likeness, despite our proclivity to sin. Perhaps Jesus in Matthew 18: 3 says it best, “‘ Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.'” In and of ourselves, we are unable to “turn and become like children”; it is all of grace.

That grace is extended to us only because of the life and death of another small child who was born 2000 years ago, about whom we sing at His Advent,

“One small child in a land of a thousand/One small dream of a Savior tonight/ One small hand reaching out to the starlight/ One small Savior of life.” Song by David Meece, “One Small Child”

One small Child who changed His world, and ours.

God’s Peace and His Presence

There have been a few times in my life when the overwhelming presence and peace of God filled my heart. On April 8th of this year I experienced this, and as only the Lord can do, the experience was uniquely tailored to my circumstances.

First of all, you need to know what April 8th means to me. It was on this day, seven years ago, that we learned of the death our 32 year old son, Cullen, who died as a result of an accidental methadone/heroin overdose. At best, it is a difficult day….always. And it is significant I think, this is the seventh anniversary of his death. In Scripture, the number seven is viewed as the number of completeness, of perfection.

I know something about difficult days. June 5th is another. It was on that day, almost 38 years ago, that we said goodbye to our full term, infant son, Russell, who died of a diaphragmatic hernia. Russell was born on a Saturday, his graveside service took place on the following Tuesday afternoon. Our pastor at that time read from 2 Samuel 12, the account where Nathan confronts David with his sin against Uriah and Bathsheba, telling him that the child born to him will die.

Everyone, yes, even our sweet, “innocent” babies, are born with “original” sin. It is the predicament of mankind and is as old as the events which took place in the garden of Eden. When Russell died, I knew he immediately went to be with Jesus; I had no anxiety about where he would spend eternity primarily because of the Scripture we find in 2 Samuel 12: 22-23 which reads, “He (David) said, ‘While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept for I said, “Who knows whether the LORD will be gracious to me, that the child may live?” But now he is dead. Why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me. ‘ ” (Italics, bold mine).

Then, at the time of Cullen’s death, we knew he had struggled for many years with heroin addiction, but in several months prior, he had made significant progress toward sobriety. He weaned himself from methadone, taken to curb the craving for heroin, assumed responsibilities he had previously neglected, worked on a regular basis, and had rented his own home. It seemed that his life was finally coming together; he was a changed person. Even the first responders who attended him asked us if he had heart problems or other medical issues of which we were aware.

Weeks after his death, we received the toxicology report indicating the cause of death as accidental overdose. We were stunned; naive maybe, but because we recently had seen a glimpse of our son as we knew him prior to his foray into addiction, it was difficult to come to terms with the reality of what happened.

Cullen made a profession of faith as a young child of eight years of age. He was raised in the Christian faith and seemed, as best as we could discern, to know Jesus in a personal way. There is a big difference in knowing about Jesus and knowing Jesus, and we felt he had a clear understanding of the commitment he was making in giving His life to Christ.

During his early years, Cullen was compassionate, kind, tenderhearted, forgiving, patient, respectful, honest, and loving; we saw fruits of the Spirit exhibited in his life. When addiction took over his life, he was angry, dishonest, impatient, untrustworthy, and seemingly had little regard for whatever chaos ensued as a result of his actions. It was a dark, dark time in our relationship with our son.

Before his death, he had come to us and asked for our forgiveness, and sought to make amends to us and others whom he had wronged. He indicated that above all, he wanted to regain our trust, and that he would never again almost destroy our family by his actions. We saw a real compassion and concern for his older brother, David, who also struggled with addiction.

So, when Cullen died, before we learned of the toxicology report, I had no anxiety about where he would spend eternity, Not that his “cleaning up his life” would allow him to enter heaven, but that the marked change in him, his exhibiting the fruit of a changed life, confirmed for me the fact that his profession of faith at the age of eight was genuine.

Enter Satan, the father of lies. When I saw the results of the toxicology report, doubt settled deep in my soul. Satan used the stigma and shame associated with addiction against me. The “what ifs” began to plague my thoughts. What if Cullen’s profession of faith was disingenuous? What if he was not in Heaven with his brother, Russell? What if I never saw him again?

For me it is significant, that Resurrection Day (Easter) fell this year on the day of Cullen’s Celebration of Life service seven years ago. As we know, Jesus died on Good Friday, was buried that day, and his body remained in the tomb. The time between His burial and His appearance to the women and His disciples is often called Holy Saturday. On the third day, (Sunday) we know that Jesus was raised from the dead. The sorrow of Good Friday is swallowed up in the joy of the Resurrection. For the bereaved parent, that span of time between their child’s burial and when they are reunited, may be a much longer period, not three days. For most of us, the sorrow of loss is not so rapidly mitigated by the physical reality of the resurrection; it lasts a lifetime, and the possibility of not being reunited with your child is paralyzing. After seeing Cullen’s toxicology report, that is where I found myself. Everytime I was encouraged, Satan would cast more doubt in my mind.

I have been reading through the Bible with our church this year, a first for me, or at least a first in reading it systematically. The plan our pastor originally suggested we use, allowed the entire Bible to be read in 342 days as opposed to 365 days. However, he discovered the readings did not coincide with those in Tabletalk, and some folks went to the plan outlined in Tabletalk, lasting the whole year. I forged ahead on the shorter time frame, and on the 100th day of my readings, April 8th, the first assigned Scripture was the reading of 2 Samuel 12.

What an encouragement those words were to me! Before the foundation of the world, God planned this. It was not a coinicidence, it did not happen by chance. He knows my heart, my fears, my doubts, my strengths, and my weaknesses….and in that verse, He ministered to the depths of my soul. I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.” (Italics, bold mine).

Reflections

As I think back over the past month or two, I can’t help but reflect upon how very different life is today from what I expected it to be. Who among us would have thought we would be limited to being in the company of no more than ten people, sitting or standing at least six feet apart, or that we would be seeing empty shelves and refrigerators in grocery stores, or that we would be washing or sanitizing our hands multiple times everyday and being ever vigilant to wear gloves and or masks when and if we ventured out, or that we would be staying at home with our pets all day? From personal observation, my style may be cramped by all of this, but my pets are happier than they’ve ever been!

Today is Palm Sunday. This is the day King Jesus rode into Jerusalem seated on the back of a donkey, an unbroken colt. But as might have been expected, there was no chaotic scene as Jesus and this untrained donkey, unfamiliar with a burden on its back, walked amidst adults and children who shouted, “Hosanna!” and waved palm branches as they made their way through the streets of Jerusalem.

These people, much like ourselves, had a different expectation of what their lives would look like. After all, was not King Jesus their Deliverer? They sought a political figure, a King, who would free them from Roman rule. He did free them; He freed them from the tyranny of sin and death, and offered them eternal security, but this was not what they expected, nor was it what they wanted. Many of the same people who welcomed Him coming into Jerusalem that day, only a few days later, were clamoring for His crucifixion.

Unfulfilled expectations have a way of changing our thinking, and can be sources of great anxiety, can they not?

I think of all the people whose lives have been forever altered by the advent of the corona virus. They too undoubtedly thought life would be different; that it would not look quite the way it does now. Not only are they disillusioned, but they are profoundly sad, wondering why they have lost a loved one; why their loved one could not have been among those who recover.

I understand these emotions. This week takes me back seven years ago when I was faced with the accidental overdose of our son, Cullen. After years of struggling with addiction, his life seemed to be getting back on track. He had rented his own house, and had accepted the responsibilities associated with home ownership. He had asked forgiveness from us and from others for his actions while in the throes of addiction. He had weaned himself from methadone and the necessity of going to the clinic on a daily basis; on the outside, life looked good. The Christmas prior to his death, we enjoyed the best family time we’d had in years! All was well.

And then April came, and everything changed. Even though the landscape of our family had been altered years before due to the death of our full term infant son, Russell, that landscape once again was irrevocably shifted. Once again, life was very different from what I expected it to be. As Melanie DeSimone so wisely stated, “I didn’t want to remember my sons, I wanted to make memories with them.”

I too was disillusioned. Why would the God whom I love and serve allow this to happen yet again in my life? Why could my son not have been among the one to two percent of heroin addicts who recover and never relapse? So many questions, so few answers.

And yet I know that God loved Cullen even more than I do, or could. He had a plan and purpose for his life, and for the lives of those of us who were left behind; a good plan, in fact, the very best one. It was not my plan, nor would I have chosen this path had it been mine to choose, but it was not.

Cullen left us just eight days after the celebration of Easter in 2013. He knew Jesus; he not only knew about Him, but he trusted Him as his Savior and Lord. Because of his faith in Christ alone, I will see him again. Heaven is a real place, and I have treasure there…two of our five sons.

Yes, sometimes life looks very different from what I expected it to be. And yet as I yield my expectations to His good plan, I find great peace. The Scripture reading for one of the devotional calendars I have for April 8th, the day of Cullen’s death, captures that thought.