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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!

How Do You Handle Life-Shattering Moments?

What is a life-shattering moment? I am not referring to disappointments here, but rather to what author Bruce Feiler in his book, Life is in the Transitions, calls “lifequakes”. These are the devastating, destabilizing, disorienting events of life. Like earthquakes, lifequakes are often accompanied by aftershocks. How do you go on?

Where do you turn when the biopsy reveals a stage four malignancy, when your spouse of many years walks away, when your child dies, when you lose a job you’ve loved and successfully held for years and can no longer provide for your family?

To be sure, I am no expert. But I have experienced one lifequake, twice; the deaths of two sons, thirty-one years apart. Honestly, the death of our infant son almost derailed my faith. When our thirty-two year old son died, I had learned something from my suffering.

What had I learned?

  • We have to have a reason to live, to keep on keeping on. Friedrich Nietzsche, a German philosopher once wrote, “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.”
  • ALL things work together FOR GOOD for those who love God and who are called according to His purpose. (Romans: 8:28) Not some things, not most things, but ALL things. How could the deaths of my sons be “good”? Death is not good; as a matter of fact it is the ultimate enemy. But the enemy has been defeated in the resurrection of Jesus. Jesus’ crucifixion and death were not, in and of themselves, “good” things, but this was God’s plan, not plan B. It was His plan before the foundation of the world. Upon His death, Jesus’ disciples and those who loved Him were devastated. They expected that He would be a political Messiah who would free them from the tyranny of Roman rule, but that was not the Father’s purpose for the life of His Son. Jesus came to earth as the God-man, to live a perfect life, and to die for the sins of His people. Why? He died and was raised from the dead, defeating death, in order to give eternal life – a reason to live both in this life and in the life to come. Certainly, as a mother, I would never say the deaths of either of my sons were good, but I can say unequivocally their deaths were used for good both in my life and in the lives of others. And if God could have accomplished His purposes in any other way, He would have done so. Some things can be learned only through suffering.
  • Satan is up to his old tricks; he works by establishing doubt in one’s mind; it is my responsibility to resist him by knowing God’s word, so that I might discern the truth. Just as he (Satan) said to the woman in the garden, ” ‘Did God actually say, “You shall not eat of any tree in the garden”?’ ” (Genesis 3:1) From early on after the death of our infant son, I read many books desperately trying to make sense of our situation. One of the books suggested was, “When Bad Things Happen to Good People” by Harold Cushner, a Jewish rabbi. The title was a little off-putting to me as a Christ follower, because none of us are “good people”, rather we are sinners who are made righteous only through the blood of Jesus. However, I forged ahead and found Cushner’s basic premise to be that God is not sovereign; He can control some things but not others. To this day, I can remember thanking God for the discernment given to me by the Holy Spirit to see this untruth, even in my overwhelmed state of mind.
  • Rejoice always. (1 Thessalonians 5:16) Not if I feel up to it, not if circumstances warrant it, ALWAYS, period. There are many reasons to rejoice, even in life’s bleakest, darkest moments. We take so very much for granted – physical heath, the ability to see, hear, taste, touch, and smell, the beauty of creation, the love of family and friends, the ability to think, a relationship with the Creator of the universe and that His thoughts toward me outnumber the grains of sand on the deserts and shores of the world. I am to rejoice even if, God does not do things my way, because His way is always best.
  • Pray without ceasing. ( 1 Thessalonians 5:17) No, I don’t have to be on my knees, 24/7, although posture in prayer is important, but rather I am to always have God in the forefront of my mind. He sees me, is aware of the desires, thoughts, and motivations of my heart, and knows every word on my tongue before I speak it. He knows me better than I know myself. I am to be in constant communication with Him regarding the happenings in my life and in the lives of those with whom I come in contact. And when I don’t know what to pray or how to pray, Jesus is interceding to His Father for me.
  • Give thanks in ALL circumstances, because THIS is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (I Thessalonians 5:18) Again, not in some circumstances, or in many circumstances, but in ALL circumstances, I am to be thankful. I can be thankful IN the deaths of our sons, but that is very different from being thankful FOR the deaths of our sons. I am thankful for what the Lord has taught me about Himself, about myself and my priorities, about what is truly important in life. I can be thankful that our baby was a covenant child, that our older son was a believer, and that I will see them again. God is in control of everything that touches my life, and yes, that includes the deaths of our sons. Their deaths were not accidents, God was not taken by surprise. Indeed, this was in God’s sovereign plan for my sons and for me before the foundation of the world.

Before their deaths, I believed that God was sovereign, but was He good? We are told that Jesus loved Lazarus and his sisters, Mary and Martha, but when they summoned Him to tell him Lazarus was sick, Jesus stayed where He was for two more days; this was the exact opposite of what they wanted Him to do! By the time Jesus arrived in Bethany where Lazarus lived, he had died, four days prior. And not surprisingly, Jesus was well aware of his death.

Both Martha and Mary said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here my brother would not have died.” (John 11:21, 32) Even the people who had come to console the sisters said, ” ‘Could not He who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying’?” Surely He could have, but He didn’t.

His reason?

Jesus said to Martha, ” ‘Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God’?” (John 11:40) The stone from the tomb of Lazarus was removed and Jesus said, ” ‘Father I thank You that You have heard Me. I knew that You always hear Me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that You sent Me…. Lazarus, come out’.” (John 11: 41-43) And Lazarus came forth from the grave.

Jesus knew exactly what He was doing; He was not uncaring, unloving, not good, in allowing Lazarus to die. He had a greater purpose in waiting to return to Bethany…that if Martha believed she would see the glory of God and that the people standing around might believe that Jesus was sent from God.

Likewise, Jesus knew exactly what He was doing in allowing the deaths of our sons. Their deaths have changed my heart, my priorities, my way of thinking, my relationships, in short, my life. I too, one day will see the glory of God, and maybe, just maybe, some of the people who are “standing around” in my life will also believe in Him.

Yes, I have learned through suffering how to handle those life-shattering moments. I know to stay in the Scriptures so that I can discern truth, I know to Whom I can turn, even if His good and what I would have called good are two entirely different scenarios, I can find reasons to rejoice, even at my lowest, I can pray unceasingly, and I have so very much for which I am thankful, certainly more than I deserve.

What about you? Can you deal with the lifequakes of life?

Her Husband is Known in the Gates

Since Harold and I are currently recovering from COVID-19, we are experiencing a lot of “togetherness.” Come to think of it, our “togetherness” was probably the culprit in our present dilemma! Since we have been quarantined, he has done telemedicine from home, and I have had a rare glimpse into his “other” life. It has been an enlightening experience!

He addresses his patients like they are old friends, and he is genuine. He listens more then he speaks, but is able to draw out conversation when that needs to happen.

Since most of his patients are elderly, yes, more elderly than we are…it is not necessary for me to eavesdrop, because they are also hard of hearing! On both sides, it is rather like a shouting match, but while the volume of their respective voices is loud, their tone is compassionate, respectful.

He apologies for having to “visit them this way”, assures them that he is getting better, but that “right now, the powers that be won’t let him come into the building.” He always asks, “Is there anything I can do for you?”

Too, he gives them some responsibility, some input in their health care decisions. “How do you feel about our stopping the medication you are currently taking for high blood pressure? Let’s try that for a few days; we’ll be keeping a close watch on you, and meanwhile I will get in touch with your heart doctor. Do you remember his name? Yes, yes, thank you for reminding me; I will get in touch with him and keep him informed as to what we have decided. What do you think of that idea?”

He can see the patient from his computer screen and vice versa (like face time), and at the end of the visit he always waves to them as he tells them bye.

Yesterday, as he ended a visit, I heard him say, “Well, Mr. (patient’s name), I apologize again for having to have a visit like this, but it is good to see you.”

This gentleman’s response brought tears to my eyes. “And Dr. Simon, it is ALWAYS, and I want to underline ALWAYS, good to see you.”

Immediately Proverbs 31:23 came to mind, “Her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land.

Freedom vs. Responsibility

In today’s climate, there is much discussion centering around the perception that our freedoms, which many undoubtedly take for granted, are slowly but surely being taken away. Is that really the case, or is there a disconnect between my right to enjoy my freedoms and my obligation to my neighbor (as a Christ follower) to exercise responsibility?

Without law, there would be no order; everyone would do what was right in their own eyes. This has been the case since the beginning of time. In the Biblical account of Cain and Abel, Cain killed his brother. Verse 9 of Genesis 4 reads in the ESV, “Then the LORD said to Cain, ‘Where is Abel your brother?’ And he (Cain) said, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?'”

Yes, Cain. I am afraid you are. And so are we.

We have a son who struggles with alcohol abuse. He is aware that on occasion at dinner, or when were are at an event where drinks are served, his Dad and I will enjoy a glass of wine or a cocktail. He also knows that if he is present, we will give up our “freedom” to drink because we are all too aware of his temptation to do so.

Am I being hypocritical? No; I am not condemning drinking on the one hand and imbibing when given the opportunity to do so. As a Christian, I have the freedom to use alcohol in moderation. Rather, I am saying no to the opportunity, in order to help promote a greater good, the sobriety of our son.

There are all sorts of opinions being offered as to whether or not masks should or should not be worn in view of the current pandemic. There is no Biblical passage which addresses mask wearing. However, we are told that we are to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.

It is true that over 50% of people who contract Covid will not even know they have it. That would be the case for me and my husband who is a health care professional, and who tested positve for Covid 12 days after being exposed and while quarantined. On day 10 of his quarantine, we experienced many of the symptoms, but because we did not feel terrible, we thought little about it. Upon his testing positive, we both agreed that there have been times in our lives when we reported to work much sicker than we have been with Covid.

BUT, that is not the case with 20% of the population who will contract this disease from people, who like me, had no clue they were infected. These people will, at best, be adversely affected, and at worst, will die.

Because of my husband’s work, I have a very high probability of exposure, but we took every precaution we could have taken. We wore masks in public, sanitized/washed our hands, washed our groceries down in a solution of detergent and sanitizer, and my husband showered immediately upon arriving home from work. So do we conclude that since we contracted the virus, none of these measures were effective? And furthermore, since they appeared to be ineffective in preventing us from contracting the virus at this time, that all of these measures were indeed ineffective previously? How do we know that prior to our contracting the virus, these measures did not help to prevent an earlier infection?

Sure, I agree that masks are hot, inconvenient, not really comfortable, and I would prefer not to wear one, but they do have some rather fashionable ones available! I don’t imagine surgeons love spending hours gowned and masked, but obviously it seems to prevent or deter the possibility of infection in open wounds.

Christians should not have to be mandated to wear a mask in public; it is the Christlike thing to do as a means by which we can show love to our neighbor. In doing so, we concern ourselves less with our own creature comforts and look more to the needs of those with whom we come in contact. While we may never have the opportunity to say a word to them about Jesus, as we choose to relinquish our freedom not to wear a mask, and accept our responsibility to love our neighbor by wearing one, this may be the very witness of the love of Jesus they need to see. And who knows, it may save a life.

“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.