I sat on the sofa, my face contorted from crying. I didn’t have the scripture memorized but, I knew it existed and was well aware of the general gist of what it said. Statements stirred inside of me like, be glad you suffer, give thanks in every circumstance. There, sitting with my friend, I confessed I wasn’t able to, didn’t know how to, didn’t know if I could ever keep the commands God gives us in
Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.
even more so as stated in Romans 5:3-4
Be thankful in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.
Sitting together, I believe my friend saw herself sitting as me. Realizing, it impossible to bear the unbearable. Altogether impossible to be grateful for the grief. Samantha and her daughter were friends, sharing the same age and the same interests. Always compassionate and slow to speak, she gently said, “Oh, Elizabeth, I think it is a process.” I remember relaxing, having been given grace. She might not have known it but she gave me the gift of time to get to where I needed to be. The point where God calls me to be, for Him and for myself. In that moment that I mentioned, I was sinking in neck deep grief. The waves of emotions lapping all around my jawline often with salty splashes leaping into my mouth, making me choke and gag on the truths that I knew.
For me, the storm has settled from what it was, the ebbing of sad emotions have subsided and the flow of laughter and life have begun. Oh, definitely, there are still those stormy clouds that drift through but, the dark thick all covering ones have begun to break open to new light.
As Thanksgiving approaches, my thoughts turn toward a story I jotted down in my journal several months ago, noteworthy to the point that it needs to be retold and no better time than this.
I was asked to be the stand in mom for a sweet young little one. Her parents would be traveling for the weekend and they asked if she could spend some time with me. I accepted, looking forward to the life of little ones in my home as well, accepting the task to provide transportation for all of her outings.
My special overnight guest had awoken early, eager to share the day with me. When her sister arrived to spend a few hours with us, they really got involved in figuring what there was to do. I gave them free reign of the closet in the hallway that stored the treasures of childhood. They were in and out the door all morning, front yard, back yard, pantry and all over again. All the while, I enjoyed the familiar but almost forgotten sound of the constant opening and closing of doors. The traffic in my house is definitely not what it used to be.
Finally, the sidewalk chalk that sat unused in my closet was now being pressed into the concrete by sweet little fingers on my front driveway. Oh, how I missed these kind of Saturday mornings, uninterrupted, simple, imaginary play. I had my fair share of these times to enjoy but, that had come to a halt when the unimaginable happened.
Those first few sweet hours of freedom stopped when it was time for the first activity. Anna Kate headed to dance class and I was responsible for getting Shelby to school to rehearse for First Communion. This would be the tender part. It required a trip to Samantha’s school, Our Lady of the Lake. Nothing would have stopped me from doing what I was asked but, I knew I would need to shake off some emotions as I stepped into the gymnasium to ensure Shelby got to her proper seating assignment so she could practice.
Often, while out cycling, I consider about stopping at the school. My thinking causes me not to go, wondering whether it is a good time, will the children be outside or the gates closed? What will I do when I get there, cry, stare? Not sure of myself, it was safer not to stop. Up until this time, I hadn’t gotten there.
Knowing I was bringing Shelby, I surrendered to visit the fountain that is there in memory of Samantha.
With Shelby in the backseat, I drove the familiar carpool path, parked the car and begun my journey to the gym. I know they looked like simple steps, one in front of the other, then the next and then another.
My steps led me to the front doors, but my mind, replayed the day we dedicated
fountain to Samantha’s memory. We were gathered with family and friends, faculty and staff. Protected by white tents and prayed over by priests. I was in awe at the love and care that surrounded me by those at Samantha’s school. For the most part, I was without words. Until, someone asked me if I had anything I wanted to say. My focus was on the fountain and the dynamic flow of water and what that represented to me. I went on to testify that God’s word was living water to me. I was, in fact a recipient of what it can do for an individual. That scripture saved my soul. Grateful for the words Jesus left to us after His resurrection that filled my heart with hope for the future and to offer peace for the present. I prayed, before those present that the fountain, what it represents and the constant flow of water, would bring life to any that passed by.
After getting Shelby situated, I tucked out of the building and headed towards the fountain. Sneaking down the side steps with my back towards most of the people in the parking lot. I felt somewhat safe. If I fell apart, I had scoped out an alternate route, one not straight throughout the throngs of parents. Avoiding the possibility of others seeing the stream of tears down my cheeks.
Certainly, I could see the fountain in its entirely before I approached up close. I was doing ok as I walked. Shortening the distance, my eyes fixated on the dates. A plaque marked a beginning and an unexpected ending. A name all to familiar. When the water
in my eyes began to well, and the stinging was to much, to distract myself, I fixed my gaze on the flow of water. Immediately, I lowered my neck, closed my eyes, tucked my chin and rolled my shoulders, positioning myself for prayer. With this stance in place, I began to personally communicate with my Savior. Trust me, I hadn’t planned for the visit to go this way. A quick stop in and see how it goes was what I signed up for. Instead, I found myself in complete, shut out anything else, prayer. Asking God, for all those touched by Samantha’s life or death, that each of them have a closer walk with Him. Thanking Him and offering praise for the gift of the Living Water left to each of us.
At the very second my prayers were said, the bells of the church tower rang as never before. They pealed. The vibrations rung inside of me in such a way that everything about what had just happened became very special. With my head still lowered, a smile began to spread across my face, lifting my cheekbones high and causing my eyes to squint. I lifted my head, snapped a picture and walked away with a skip in my step, knowing my suffering was known to my Savior, I had been heard. Thinking, I had just rung the doorbell to Heaven.
On hindsight, a few months later, I believe that is exactly what happened. When we give thanks, in any and all circumstances our eyes are turned from our problems and ourselves to the Lord, that we might focus on Him. Being grateful delivers us from the domain of darkness.
I hope I don’t get a grade when I get to Heaven, wondering if I’ve done all that I am to do on a timely basis. I don’t have many answers nor, have it all memorized. I only know it works.
May all hearts be full of gratitude, opening the doors to Heaven in each of our lives. Giving thanks and praise to He who saves. Amen